(c)2012 NPT PHOTO BY DAVID POPIEL Newport Kiwanis welcomed Lt. John Bockmann, US Army helicopter pilot, December guest speaker for the club. From left are Katherine Bockmann holding daughter, Emily, age one; her husband, Lt. John Bockmann; and Emily's grandfather, Reid Bailey at the Newport Kiwanis Club, Fox & Hounds banquet hall.
Friday, January 04, 2013
(Last modified: 2013-01-04 14:45:13)
Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

The New Year began with a cold rain that seemed like it would never stop in our hometown, yet the temperature was not cold enough for snow except on Smoky Mountain tops.

Would it flood, I wondered? A call to the Newport wastewater treatment plant on Wednesday answered the question of how much rain did we get? Employee Shannon Hunley said it was .87 inches during the 24 hours of Jan. 1.

It finally stopped raining Wednesday morning and a good thing as I walked east from Boone Kelly's garage along highway 25/70, eventually making it to Rusty Wallace Ford where I chatted with Chris Messer and general manager Robert Wolford. In between I stopped at a nearly-empty Huddle House for coffee and a waffle. After all, the newspaper stated that people slightly heavy lived longer. And I'll share this tidbit learned from Chris: more farmers are abandoning diesels for gasoline engine trucks.


Looking to the lights of 2013


By now you know that Ralph Valentine is doing well after treatment for cancer last year. I will finish our talk for now, as he is taking down his Christmas lights until Oct. He credits radiation, chemotherapy and God for his cure.  Ralph said radiation lasted only five minutes and at first were not troublesome. Yet the more of them the "tougher" it was to take the daily ride to Morristown. He was also getting chemotherapy through a port hooked to a pump for 24-hours per five-day week administration of medicine. Ralph said his nurses with Smoky Mountain Home health Care made all the difference in how well he handled the difficult therapy. And in addition he received "chemo" at Dr. Akbar's office each Monday for three weeks. "These treatments did not even make me sick," he said, relieved.

Here again, Ralph credits Dr. Akbar's skill. "My entire family is fond of him. . . . Dr. Akbar told us to keep praying for God to heal me and to pray continuously." Ralph remained nervous and worried about the outcome as he lapsed into weakness but this passed. At age 77, on Nov. 12, Ralph is stronger and had been in better health than most. Last week I met another 75-year-old whose health has been under siege for the past two years and he also was diagnosed with cancer recently. Johnny Burnett was having lunch with Buddy Don Ramsey and Gray Graves at Cracker Barrel when we chatted. Burnett had surgery and treatment for thyroid cancer and is doing well. Unfortunately, your heard by now our friend of many years, Buzz Brooks died of lung cancer on the last day of last year.


We are in this together


Ralph said his friends and family get great credit for helping maintain a positive attitude. "I talked with two men, Tom Inman and Rob Myers, who had been through a similar case. Just talking to them helped me a bunch." His friend at Smoky Mountain Home health, Tammy Francis, answered many questions and gave him hope. Many of you read about his struggle on Facebook. "I read all the comments everyone had made; all the thoughts and prayers from each and everyone." These made him feel loved and had a strong affect. "I felt God's hand on me through all the prayers of each person and all the churches that had me on their prayer list. I could not believe how many people cared about me and prayed for me!"

After many months, recent PET scans showed him to be cancer free but he will continue to be monitored. It was a difficult journey facing the unknown, getting food through a feeding tube for weeks, and cancer. But at his annual fall decoration in Oct., tens of thousands of Christmas lights illuminated the darkness and have cheered so many because of this hometown Santa Claus, the community repaid him in their thoughts, prayers, and deeds. Ralph credits his daughters Lisa and Cindy and their husbands, respectively, Jackie Shelton and Steve Owen, and the Valentines' son, Bryan, his new wife, and special nurse, Janet Brown. But most important still, said Ralph, is his wife of 55 years, his angel, Shelby.


Early interest in all things flying


During a December Newport Kiwanis Club meeting I got to meet an interesting military pilot with Newport ties. Maybe it was my youthful interest in aviation and flying that made we want to know more about Lt. John Bockmann. Many a youngster flew model airplanes, gliders or gas powered ones they bought or built. I can't recollect if many females ever got interested in this hobby or wanted to fly a helicopter. When this Army helicopter pilot with Newport ties trained years ago he most likely never imagined his skills would be tested in combat zones not firing weapons but on mission of mercy.

Lieutenant Bockmann is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot who is on active duty in Pakistan and Afghanistan and he described his duty to the Newport Kiwanis Club during a December program at Fox & Hounds banquet hall. One of the largest rescue missions he was involved in was the massive flooding in August/September in Pakistan, a country wedged between Indian on the east and Iran on the west. The flood affected 20 million people or about one-fifth of the nuclear-power nation's people. 

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