“…He said nice things, which is always gratifying. To know you left a bit of a mark, even in the final laps…”
Carroll “Lex” LeFon
November 3, 2011
A Bit about Lex for Those Who Are New
Carroll “Lex” LeFon was one of the first milbloggers who, within a few years, developed a world-wide audience with thousands of readers. Only he really didn’t think of himself as only a milblogger. His blog was so much more – not only reporting on military news, but social discussions of the day, stories of his time in naval aviation, and insightful and inspiring essays on life.
Some of these stories are hilarious and some instructive. He encouraged people of various beliefs to join in the discussion. All that he asked was respect for one another and civility.
He was not only a good writer who loved Shakespeare and Yeats, but an accomplished Naval Aviator, eventually becoming an XO (Executive Officer) at the Navy’s prestigious Naval Fighter Weapons School, a.k.a. TOPGUN (as Lex would say, one word, all caps, don’t ask). He had seven carrier deployments, including several in support of Operation Southern Watch.
I actually had planned to do the airline thing after retiring as a commander at 20, but then 9/11 hit and we all got a little busy. One thing led to another and here I am a few years later finally ready to hang up my spurs.
…To make the rest of this story make sense, I should point out that I come from a part of the country where first names are optional – it was considered entirely appropriate to string family surnames together when christening a child. The result in my case being that my first name is Carroll, and my middle name Fairfax.
All of you that are enlightened, intelligent and superior will realize of course that to spell Carroll with two “R’s” and two “L’s” makes it, prima facie, a masculine name, regardless of the fact that it sounds Exactly Like a girl’s name. It’s all in the spelling, you see. The cruelty of course, is that if as a young man you feel burdened by the weight of a somewhat ambiguous first name, it’s difficult to fall back on a casual, “just call me Fairfax” on the playground without getting punched in the eye by the great unwashed. I was forced to grow up faster than the kids bigger than me, and hit harder than the ones my size.
…Lemoore, California for an FA-18 transition. Seven fam flights with an instructor – standards get higher at every step – and then a burner take-off for my first solo in the Hornet. Wheels and flaps up, climb angle set, strained around to look behind me in order to see: Not just an empty back seat, but no back seat at all. Me and a $35 million fighter climbing out at 10,000 feet per minute in full grunt, radar sweeping for air targets, gloved hand on the stick changing radar modes. Suppressing a whoop of joy, knowing that there was so much more to come. A great deal more to learn. But that I was on my way.
I think that was my first flight.
A few years after retirement from the Navy, he missed flying so much that he checked out in a Cessna, a plane with a top-end cruising speed, he wryly noted, that was less than the nosewheel liftoff speed in the Hornet.
He soon got a weekend job teaching tourists “combat flying” in the 150 HP Varga Kachina, “1200 lbs of twisted steel and sex appeal”. He was far happier in this job than his regular 9-5 job. A few years later, he got his dream job with a civilian contractor – again teaching Naval Aviators at TOPGUN the art of aerial combat.
Monday through Friday paid the bills, but my weekend job of puttering around in a 30-year old piston single, introducing people to the world of “air combat” at 110 miles per hour with a whopping 150 horses under the cowl for $25 an hour felt more like “me” than did my paying gig, complete with the 201K.
Something his wife – a.k.a. The Hobbit – told me years ago that always stayed with me. Lex was obviously smart and accomplished – but he had to work his tail off to achieve his goals. It was amazing to me to think that a man over 50 learned the systems – and flight – of that Israeli supersonic fighter. It could not have been easy. I believe when Lex had a goal he was motivated. He was so happy to get that job.
I have decided that I’m never going to be wealthy, so I might as well be happy. So I took a little pay cut, and it mayn’t surprise you that I’m just all right with that.
…And! Quite at a loss at where to begin, I took Gus the dachshund for his morning constitutional. Which he was desperately in need of, certain requirements of his own insensitive to the workload that has accumulated Chez Lex in hizzoner’s absence.
…Whereupon: I espied two Marine Corps Hornets launching off into the morning air, their departure flight path placing them but a little way above our heads before climbing into the sun-scorched blue.
Living as I have here in the Crushing Burden of Debt for nigh on ten years, such sightings have become commonplace. In the past I have watched them with a professional eye, coupled with a tinge of bittersweet regret. For I flew them aircraft once, and it has long felt as though I was watching my old girlfriend stepping out with a younger man, like. The temptation to stalk the old girl was strong. Maybe drunk dial her late at night, ask soddenly if we couldn’t get back together again, whether she’d reconsider. After all that we’d had together.
As I walked the sun-dappled park with my disemboguing dachshund in tow, that feeling was conspicuously absent, and I turned a wry smile to the retreating fighter section’s tail. See you around, I thought to myself. Check six.
It’s my sky too.
I only came to vicariously know him after his accident. All that I know of Carroll LeFon is what I have read here. But I believe that I came to know him.
FbL had a beautiful write up about him.
John, himself a leader of men, said it best: “He was the leader you wanted to be led by.”
I learned so much from him, about courage and perseverance, about leadership and compassion. He was an amazing mix of restrained ego and genuine humility, for I don’t think he ever forgave himself for his mistakes, and I have little doubt that his last thoughts included terrible guilt for what he knew his beloved family would shortly be experiencing… It was his passion for his family that truly defined him for me. His deep admiration for his wife as displayed on the blog was echoed “in real life.”…
…Like any passionate father, he shed tears of love, sorrow and fear for his beloved children. He marveled at their gifts and I know his heart broke over and over at their sufferings no matter the source of their pain. One of the few times our conversations were deeply revealing was when he shared his concern for his struggling teenager and I attempted to give him a bit of insight into a typical teenage girl’s mind—one of the few areas of humanity he didn’t seem to instinctively understand…
He was not only a blogger, but a friend to many. Some readers he had known personally, and some – “the best friends I’ve never met”. Lex wrote of his life experiences, and in that life he had a lot to offer others by those experiences. Plus, he saw a lot of humor in life.
A brief bio that he wrote is here.
A post for the children of fighter pilots.
A Lex primer
Never heard of Carroll LeFon? Want to meet him? After a read through the main index, you’ll get to know him and have a good understanding of Naval Aviation.
How We Got Here
If I remember correctly, his blog was only up a little over a year (or less) after his accident. An error would display and the home page wouldn’t come up. His family tried very hard to get it back. After a few months I traced his Internet host to a company in the Los Angeles area. He originally had both his domain name, Neptunus Lex, and the host with GoDaddy.com. He eventually moved the host to the Los Angeles area company.
I called them and explained the situation. They looked into his account and said that the fix “was something simple”. But they wouldn’t touch it without a legal document designating someone the ownership and authority over his blog. That was perfectly understandable for their legal protection.
Lex certainly didn’t expect his accident, and his family didn’t know his password. We met his son Chris at the last Shakespeare’s get together, and he was saying that he was trying every word he could think of to get into the account.
Of course, the English language has one of the largest vocabularies in the world, and the possibility of hitting the right word – well, I think he would have been more likely to win the lottery.
Later, thanks to the amazing Internet, and just before that get together I heard from a man who used to fly with Lex in VFA-94 and as a JO was “the squadron IT guy” at Lemoore for him. He said that Lex liked to use the NATO code words for Russian missiles. Upon hearing this, Chris laughed and said “Isn’t that just like him!” It’s a pretty short list, and he might have gotten access. That is, unless Lex used upper and lower cases, numbers, and/or a special character(s). Then gaining access would have been exponentially more difficult.
So Lex’s blog – the mothership as the Lexicans called it – faded away. And nearly 9 years of his heartfelt writing, of his Navy experiences and life, plus wonderful discussions of the day, would have been gone for good, remembered by an ever-dwindling few.
The Content of this Blog
“…this blog is a sort of journal, the record of my life and times, my testimony.”
January 31, 2005
We – the Lexicans – didn’t want the world to forget that record and testimony so easily! And what a life he had. To have that journal simply disappear so soon from such a good man was not acceptable to us.
Since I wrote the epilogue on December 8, 2017, I “assumed” I would do a quick read through the Wayback Machine to find any posts left out by advokaat – who saved for later reading about 70% of his posts – and consider my task finished. I think I have always underestimated Lex just a bit, because I ran into a lot of interesting additional reads. I added 600 posts from the Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine is a service that periodically sends “spiders” at various times to take “snapshots” of website data. You will see the web posts for a given day exactly as they were. But I didn’t start this task with a finish-by schedule. It would be done when I considered it done.
To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think reposting these was initially even my idea. Soon after neptunus lex went down, Todd, for one, took about year of his time and every day posted some of Lex’s posts under the title “The Daily Lex” plus the date. Between reading the mothership when it was up, Todd’s reposting and my reading advokaat’s archives, I came to believe that I vicariously “knew” Lex, with the self-described title of “lexologist”.
OldAFSarge had a nice post describing those dark days.
Fast forward, and 3 years ago someone in the Facebook group suggested to no one in particular that because there were many people out there who hadn’t read any of Lex’s work that we should recreate his blog.
2,353 of his posts have been reposted, both from advokaat’s archives and the Wayback Machine.
What motivated me was to enable Carroll’s life stories and essays to reach new people. That a good man not be simply remembered by a dwindling few. I couldn’t be happier with the results. People from all over the world have come to read his posts.
Lex led an exemplary life. Thoreau’s observation that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” certainly didn’t apply to him. Much of his writing is about his life, and I believe that so many of his stories have enriched the world.
Whenever I have talked about reposting Lex’s work, I always mention advokaat.
Without his saving most of the posts – about 70%, our collection of Lex posts would have been more of a skeleton. People would say “that was a great post, but do any of you remember….? And they aren’t saying that. And as advokaat told me some time ago, he didn’t save these with the thought of Lex’s site going down. He simply wanted to read them at his leisure at a later time.
So that is the core of our collection – choosing from 15 massive concatenated files sorted by original posting time – about 1.5 million words over nearly 9 years, plus the additional 600 posts from the Wayback Machine. I would estimate that with the Wayback Machine easily 2 million words were scanned in recreating this. Not all of them are back in; just ones I felt significant. And in 5 or 6 passes, I kept finding more “significant” posts! I started this project January 2016, and wrote the “epilogue” December 2017. I then believed before “signing off” that I would make a “quick pass” through the Wayback Machine and once more through the archives. So much for the “quick pass”!
Before I was done I added some smaller less-weighty posts just to give a flavor of the original blog. Even the smallest ones are informative.
There were a few that Lex had linked in his posts that were not to be found, either in the archives or the Wayback Machine. I noted those few in footnotes at the end, with Lex’s title and date written. There are a couple of dozen or so. There are some gaps where the Wayback Machine didn’t collect from Neptunus Lex for 2-3 months! And then there were times when the spider came 5 times in one day. No rhyme or reason to it.
As I was going through all of the posts, I thought it would be nice to have not only his posts about the Navy (voluminous by themselves!) but discussions of the day involving the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lex also wanted to honor people from those wars, the famous and not so famous, and they are again acknowledged and honored in the new blog. One can consider this work to be not only stories of his life, but a historical reference. Since there were so many that Lex acknowledged, here are a few more. I am satisfied that we have done the best with what we could get. I believe we have a substantial collection of what Lex wrote.
Would he would be a bit surprised and flattered at seeing this today? Or would he laugh and say, “Didn’t you all have anything better to do?”
I can’t answer that. It might be 50-50! But this was our own way of honoring and remembering him, and letting new people come to know him. I’d like to think that he’d be pleasantly surprised.
Lex’s Influences on People Today?
I have found that this iPhone WordPress app can yield some interesting information about Lex’s “new” blog.
Some nights after reposting I would retire rather late – way after midnight. And my WordPress app one morning told me that sometime between 00:00 Pacific time (when the count clears and resets to zero) and 06:00, 31 people read Emergency Sortie, the story of Po’ Lazorus, who missed his ship at Diego Garcia. Where were these readers? I’d like to think that at least some of them were on a US Navy ship or facility somewhere far from the West Coast. Whoever they were, I suspect some sent links to others via email. By the end of the day – my day – 46 had read that post. The next day, 10 more read it. And knowing stories of Lex’s life are again going around the world, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Night CQ, Night In A Barrel and The Helo Dunker come up most days. Are Navy people reading these to learn what to expect? As of tonight, Lex’s tribute to Navy SEAL Danny Dietz, Inappropriate, has been the most read, with 25,452 visitors. I believe every single one of Lex’s
2,353 over 4,000 posts has been read.
Will someone who is barely making it through flight school become one of the top aviators?
That to me is the wonder, beauty and mysterious part of this. Even small things can change people’s lives. And with his life stories back out there, we will never know who Lex has affected.
When the Navy announced that the 2 captains of the destroyers involved in separate collisions would be charged, the next day 60 people read Hobson’s Choice, his essay on the nature of a Navy Command. A day later another 30 or so read that post. It continued for a week or so.
A few readers most days seem to find USNA and Food Fights. There’s 1 or more almost every night (!?). Are these readers from Annapolis? Search engine capability has become amazing. I have learned that generally within a couple of hours, a repost is back up for the world to find.
And to think it started here over lunch with the 2 guys who would form that company.
I could give dozens of more examples like this on different subjects and different times.
I’d like to think that Lex would enjoy knowing his life stories are being used today both for enjoyment and as a resource. That he wasn’t forgotten, and that his life’s testimony is still affecting others.
Use of Indices
As this new blog was being filled with his posts, I thought it would be great if we could give an index to some of his best. People wouldn’t have to try and remember the title, or search on key words. And that became so big that another was created just for the “spillover”! And there are more than 1,700 additional not indexed. Some readers read from the indices to find what they want, and some get there via search engine.
We also gave people a quick primer on Lex via subjects. Even a post on his “Lexisms”, his own particular words and phrases, is here. Recently a subset of his posts (a very small subsection) was divided into 5 categories: Stories and Essays of the Navy, Leadership, Naval Aviation and Safety, Life, and Humor.
I don’t believe you will find a better description of naval aviation anywhere – from the flying, to life on a carrier, to the family life. All right here.
The Atmosphere of the Original Blog
I wasn’t around for that time, but I had always heard that the discussions among the readers – the commentariat – were legendary. The comments – records of the debates – were as good as the original posts. As advokaat recently said: “The comments on his posts were epic. From very moving to hysterically funny. It was the best “coffee kletch” you could ever imagine.
I miss it.
The only thing missing in the new blog, of course, are the original comments and discussions. Those who were there have lamented this.
Lex wasn’t just a writer but a friend who joined in those discussions. And in going through the Wayback Machine, I learned that he enjoyed those discussions too! He welcomed people of all political persuasions. He welcomed an open, polite discussion with all points of view. I read in one of the comments from Lex in the Wayback Machine that in the nearly 9 years he wrote on the web, he kicked off only 4 or 5 people.
For those who live in parts of Albemarle County, Virginia, one of its most famous residents was – and is – known not as a President, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, or the founder of the University of Virginia.
He is known simply as “Mr. Jefferson”. And Mr. Jefferson was known for some legendary dinners.
They were epicurean meals. Jefferson even introduced some foods that today we take for granted.
But these dinners were even more known for the wonderful discussions he had with guests during and after dinner. They are known as Jeffersonian dinners . Anyone can have one. A Jeffersonian dinner isn’t so much about the cuisine, but the company and conversation.
Mr. Jefferson also sought guests with varying beliefs, as he did not want all guests with the same opinions. Contrast that in so much of the blogosphere – or media in general – today. All are seeking their niche markets. Pick your market – left or right? Then mine it by demonizing the “other” side.
Jefferson used this type of dinner to resolve a bitter dispute between James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. The government was gridlocked (nothing new!) and over dinner they agreed among other things where the new national capital would be. Can you imagine that today?
See how a Jeffersonian Dinner compares with Lex’s blog…
“I have learned a lot along the way, and many of you have helped to teach me. I’ve made many friends, only some of whom I have met, or ever will meet. And only, I think, a very few enemies. At least one of whom I have come to think of as a friend, although we have not met and do not share many, if any, of the same opinions about practically anything. I have learned to examine unquestioned certainties.
One of the things I treasure about this site is the fact that we are all friends, even those I disagree with.
“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
April 22, 1800
It occurred to me that Lex, proud Virginian that he was, had through NeptunusLex created his own digital “Jeffersonian Dinner” with the “table” being the world and a topic of the day, with invited guests from all corners.
In looking at our own old posts after his accident, I came across this from our own krisinnewengland. She pointed to a now regretfully closed blog from DaisyMae – but here is a nice quote from DaisyMae on what it was like to be part of the “Lex Community”:
“…I lurked for about four months before I worked up the courage to comment on something Lex had posted, and I’m glad I did. My perspective was not well-received in some quarters, and Lex took the time to send me a private message encouraging me to post more. He explained some of the finer points of posting on his site, and I took his advice and waded in on more than one occasion. Several other posters were supportive, and I stopped feeling like I was tearing a hole in the universe if I took an alternate tack to what appeared to be the prevailing opinion….”
And from msgtbuck:
“…The man is about as prolific and perceptive a blogger as exists anywhere on these inner-nets and his commentariat is the BEST, period. The discussions at the Aviators’ Lounge are always erudite and it’s a rare person who won’t learn something by dropping in there on a daily basis. Speaking of the comments yet again… the environment is polite and civil, above all else. That’s a rarity of the highest order…
…That was just one o’ many such posts I put up over the years and why Lex was a Daily Read since 2005. I know I’m not alone in my respect and admiration for the community Lex created… and it’s the main reason I hope The Lexicans continues to fly. Soar, actually.”
One of the legacies of Carroll LeFon has been the community of people he brought together. The Lexicans. They come from around the world, with every occupation and background imaginable. And they periodically have get-togethers, with members flying in from around the country. Many are the former commertariat, while others, like me, are newer arrivals. Can you imagine any other blog with this comeraderie?
In reading over the condolence posts [2.7 MB .pdf file] tonight, I came across this from a young Frenchman, Guillaume. I think he spoke so eloquently about Lex and the atmosphere of his blog that it bears repeating:
It took me time to come to terms with what has happened, having read every single post written here over the last ? years. It is the first time I dare writing anything here, and most likely the last.
I had really not much in common with Lex, as a young French chap in Paris, not related in any way with US Navy nor, as a matter of fact, to the military whatsoever. I might even add that my political opinions diverge noticeably from those of the regretted host (and most people here). But what I found here (other than exciting flying tales) was robust, argumented and fair opinions, a mind always open, respect of all other beliefs and lots, lots, lots of passion and emotions combined with a tremendous ability to pass them to the reader in their absolute purity.
Make that blog read to the whole world (starting here) and I am sure USA’s understanding and appreciation would grow like (insert anything growing very fast in English – mushrooms in French), as did mine.
In a way, the fact that people so different like me – cause I certainly ain’t the only one – kept coming back, must be some kind of testimony to Lex’s incredible talent. This is a high-flying place, literally.
I feel sad, but privileged I had the opportunity to read an American heir of Joseph Kessel and A. de Saint Exupery. I will be watching if any book comes out one day. From the bottom of my heart, condolences to your family, Merci Lex, et adieu.
What Lex Accomplished With His Blog
Take a look at virtually every blog that has a national or international presence today. Virtually all have one thing in common that Neptunus Lex did not have.
Virtually all have multiple contributors. Other than a few posts by others, Lex accrued a world-wide audience all by himself.
“I started this blogging gig on a lark a little over four years ago and – as is all too often the case, impulsivity being one of the crosses that I bear – having no clear notion what I was getting myself into. I knew I had some sea stories I wanted to tell, and in between inspirations I thought it would be fun to talk about domestic politics and international policy a bit, just between us kids. Pretty airplane pictures from time to time. Apart from that, who knew?
What I didn’t know (but probably ought to have in retrospect, being a bit compulsive – OK, more than a bit compulsive) was that “this blogging gig” would in time become The Hobby That Ate My Life.”
No kidding, Lex.
I came to know the sources he would regularly scour from the BBC to the Daily Kos. His most-used daily “go to” website was this. I’d be willing to bet he easily had 10-20 regular web sources. He’d read them almost every day, 7 days a week. And of course make it interesting and stimulating every day to keep his audience.
I have wondered if Lex were here today would there still be a Neptunus Lex? If so, would it have multiple contributors? I discovered over the last few years that many Lexicans can write! Maybe more posts from his friends Beef? Whisper? Others?
It has probably not escaped the notice of the regulars that the quantity of posting has declined over the last several, and – if truth be told – the quality has prolly declined as well. Your correspondent is just about out of “there I was stories” from the old days, and things have ramped up aggressively at work. What with the job I had still going and two more full time gigs piled on, all of which are essentially divisible by one. …It’s just that I’m firing pretty much on all cylinders right now, working weekends too, and time is the fire we all burn in.
I really didn’t realize the work that was involved in producing this until I started reading through everything. And then in the middle of all the discussions on world issues one would find, say, an Icarus, Bones , Sport , Walking Gus, or a wonderful essay on life. There’s plenty of good blogs with great discussions on issues of the day but I can think of only one that would also have such wonderful essays on his Navy time, family life, and life in general. And seek people of all beliefs.
And he did this all by himself, while holding a job and family. And for awhile working on a master’s degree.
“You’re probably getting pretty tired of this, but I’m back up to Fallon for the week, and posting will be necessarily slow while en route.
I can’t do this all on my own (I’m no superman).”
A Few Final Thoughts
The other day, I had an epiphany. And it involved something so obvious about Lex – something hidden in plain sight.
Count the use of “I”, “me”, or “mine” in all of his writing. I went through his posts multiple times, and it is virtually non-existent. You won’t find much of “I did this” or “because of me”. To tell you the truth, I don’t think you will see any of those examples. The closest thing is Killing an Eagle, and even then, despite “shooting down” 4 F-15 Eagles in a war game, he had some humility.
“During the debrief, we had to struggle not to gloat. After all, sometimes you just get lucky. Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.”
Lex was a reporter on his own life who invited us to join him in the third person and look out his window. I believe that he had what I’d call a humble spirit and a warrior’s heart. I also believe that he was a man of deep personal faith.
I have two faiths: Faith in God, and faith in America.
NB: Religious/philosophical discussion follows. Those who don’t like that sort of thing, or aren’t capable of joining it in a civil fashion are encouraged to seek their entertainment elsewhere…
…I’m looking for a discussion here, not a fight. I don’t want to challenge anyone’s belief system, and I hope that we can keep the discussion civil, without any aspersions cast or offense taken. It is possible to argue in light of human advancement over the last two hundred years that ancient belief systems are necessary but not sufficient to a shared understanding of what it means to be a moral person, no argument there.
But I really do want to know: Given my assumption that secularists find Jennifer Petkov’s actions morally repellent, upon what foundation do they pretend to judge her? They have their community, she has hers. Granted it was a mean and awful thing to do: So?
I believe that this question could have been asked at a dinner at Monticello in 1800 besides San Diego in 2010.
His humility was shown in how he he related to and treated other people. And a mark of character is treating people who cannot repay you or benefit you in the same manner as others, when no one is looking. And they saw it in him. At my last visit to Shakespeare’s, a waitress told me, “He was a gentleman, he was. He used to always sit right over there (gesturing to a small table by the window). ” She still remembered him (then) 5 years later.
He acknowledged all those who formed a team that allowed him to catapult into the air.
He acknowledged even the 18-20 year olds with the lowest rank.
“Speaking of youth, the average age aboard a carrier is right around 20 years of age. Taking into account the old men of the ship, (admiral, the Captain, the several captains and commanders of the embarked staffs and air wing), that pushes an enormous responsibility on the shoulders of kids just out of high school. Responsibility for exceptionally expensive pieces of equipment and irreplaceable lives. And they do it brilliantly, under conditions convicts would not be forced to endure. Day after day, months on end. I’m very proud to be associated with them; they are the cream of American youth.
He appreciated and admired the people who maintained his jets.
Particularly illuminating for me was the concern evidenced in his response from an incident 20 years ago to a young Yeoman. From what I have learned about Naval Aviation (thanks to Lex) the Yeoman deserved the reply that he got. But Lex had handled a personal issue under the color of authority. Most of us in his position would either have forgotten it and brushed it off, or would vow to learn from it and move on. This weighed on him for all those years, and his sense of honor would not allow him forget it until he finally made a public apology.
While I believe that Lex had a humble spirit, there is also no doubt in my mind that if he was your CO and you had screwed up, you would witness his wrath. But it would be an official wrath, a “short and exciting” conversation! He certainly wasn’t a Seymour Milquetoast!
“…I’ve had an actual nervous twitch in my left eye for the last three days. Not that you’d notice, but I do. Which is so not me. Not to be dramatic, but I’ve cheated death a dozen times at least, and left him high and dry on the curb, thumbing for a ride. Stared the beast in the eye, just for the hell of it, to see who’d blink first. Done it all without the merest backward glance. And I’ve never had a nervous twitch before.”
Lex asked us, “So: How long do you think you’ll make it?
I left the throttles in full blower as a youngster, caring little for what might come along the path, determined to leave it all out there upon the field, to leave nothing in the bag:
I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms… (Thoreau, Walden)”
Lex was not afraid of failure in his life. He had his failures, being human, but he did not let that fear debilitate him from trying. He had his beliefs.
“I believe in playing hurt.
I believe in facing your fears.
I believe that while it is acceptable to try and then fail, failing to try is a different thing entirely.
I believe that success is a habit, and so is losing, and so is quitting.
I believe it’s better to be a loser than a quitter.
I believe in the power of small choices. That choices are actions, that actions have consequences, and that it’s not always apparent at the time how important those consequences may be.”
We honor him and celebrate his life by re-posting his writing.
It has been a concern of mine that some might have thought over these 3 years that I was deifying Lex. No, I was/am aware that he had faults like the rest of us. But I also came to believe that he was a good man to be respected and admired, and whose absence has made , as FbL said, “a hole in our world”. As unkawill said, “ Lex made us all want to be better.”. I certainly don’t deify Lex, but at the same time felt honored that I could play a part in re-posting so much of what he put his heart into.
I have another small confession to make. When I have written about Lex, I have always used the past tense, of course. He is gone from our realm. But when I have thought about him, I always think of him in the present tense.
I believe he is fine. Gone from our familiar realm but not really gone.
In my imagination, he finally had that dinner he wanted. Introduced by the host as a “fellow Virginian”, with a smiling Carroll then sitting down to have one of the most memorable and extraordinary discussions he ever had.
He loved life, and was not a passive participant. We were invited along for the ride with him for almost 9 years. Even on his last morning, early before his last departure he chose to let us know how things were.
It sounds a bit archaic today, but my perception of Lex is that of a “man of honor” who had human fallibility as us all but was a good man.
For such a man who thought and wrote so elegantly – wanting to share with us his life’s observations – the highs, and the lows, the trying times, and even the mundane days – to have that testimony and voice simply vanish like dust in the wind, was not acceptable. Regardless of your background, as someone said soon after his departure, “ Lex had a way of becoming your shipmate in a hurry”.
Or as xbradtc said back then:
“I only met him once, but I’ve known him my whole life. I grew up around Naval Aviators, and am the son of one. When we met briefly a couple years ago, the awkward introductory phase lasted about 2 minutes, and then it was as if we’d sat in that bar many times before, and just picked up the conversation where we’d left off.”
Thanks to advokaat, we had the means of reposting much of what Lex observed.
If you ask me why I wanted to do this, I wanted to give something back to Lex for all the enjoyment his posts gave me. How many dormant blogs that could be resurrected after 6 years still have people around the world wanting to read the original content?
That has been my reward.
Lex had a rich life, a life he lived to the fullest that he could. It was a life that can help others with stories many will enjoy. Can you think of anything nicer we could do to honor his memory than to allow new people to experience that life? He won’t be forgotten so easily.
It was an honor for me and a joyful task that has now been fulfilled.
“An untimely death, but a full life, and friends who mourn him left behind. A man could do worse.”
Carroll “Lex” LeFon, writing about the death of Navy SEAL Mark Metherell
April 16, 2008