For years my father wore around his neck a "silver" bullet on a silver chain, which was actually a 45-caliber bullet. Whenever any of us asked him what it was, or what it signified, he would answer cryptically, "It's a silver bullet given to me by the Lone Ranger." I knew that it had quite a bit of significance for him, but I didn't know precisely what significance it embodied. Upon learning of his impending death, my father and I began talking about some of the highlights of his life. The silver bullet is one of those highlights. The following story, which should hardly be called a "story" since it is true, is an interlacing of accounts I have heard from my father and from fellow coworkers. In the process I have learned quite a bit about my father as viewed from his coworkers' perspective as opposed to a daughter's perspective. In all, I believe that this is the most inspiring part of my father, the part of him I discovered leading up to and following his death.
My father's most rewarding period of his career took place when he participated in the HELIP program at Raytheon Company. He was transferred to the Netherlands for this particular program when I was barely in grade school. At the time I was not aware of what my father's career was, or really where the Netherlands was. I was, however, aware of his absence, and I missed him immensely. I have since learned that he was one of approximately 120 engineering employees who were overhauling and upgrading the entire HAWK Missile system, comprising the ground equipment and the missiles themselves, for the European countries (NATO) who were purchasing them under government contracts for their respective militaries. When speaking of this group of people, my father fondly related to me the team spirit that was evident among them. Many companies now have lost this precious treasure of real team work where the people involved work together to "complete the mission" no matter what - helping others complete a task whether or not it falls within the parameters of their job descriptions. The work that was done was both gratifying and challenging to him. It is not very often that a person can honestly enjoy one's work, and my father was blessed with this enjoyment during this period of his life.
Harvey Diehl was the leader of my father's team. I have never met him, but he has been spoken very highly of by people I have talked to, including my father. The story that was related to me was that Harvey was a "straight-shooter" who always hit the bulls eye. Whenever the NATO team would come to have a conference about certain problems with their missile systems, Harvey not only had foreseen the problem and developed a strategy to fix it, but had already begun working on it. The Europeans were so impressed by his abilities that they dubbed him the Lone Ranger, and it stuck. On a subsequent visit to El Paso, Texas, Harvey saw the bullets and decided to buy some, I suppose with the idea that he would give them as "badges" to people on his team. When he returned overseas, he started giving out a very few to certain members of the team. When other people on the team asked why "so and so" got a bullet and they didn't, Harvey would tell them that they had to earn it, but he refused to tell them what they had to do to earn it. He would just reply, "you'll know you have earned it when you get one." When anyone would receive one, there was no fanfare, he would simply hand it to the person who earned it, and the recipient would never know exactly what he did to earn it. My father received one, and I was with him when he went to a jewelry store to buy the silver chain for it. He was very proud of this token, and I know that he wore it around his neck for quite a long time, until his failing health forced him to take all of his jewelry off. His friend, Ed Heinecke, told me that the day he received his own, he put it on a chain and wore it with pride. Out of the entire team, only about 20 people received a silver bullet. One of the men that received one was a NATO member, and I've been told that he cried when he received it because it was such an honor. My father also told me that there were some people from the Andover plant who would say derogatory or flippant things about the silver bullet that he wore, and one or two who were aware of this "honor badge" would tell them not to speak about it that way because it was special and was nothing to be made fun of.
When I asked my father who he wanted to have his silver bullet, he told me that he didn't see why anyone would want it since it had no value except to himself, and he said whichever one of us wanted it could have it. After my father passed away, my sister-in-law told me that she and my brother had discussed it and even though they really wanted it, they thought that more than anyone else that I alone deserved it because I had earned it by taking care of my father as his health was failing and then finally when he was totally bedridden. More than anything, I feel very proud to receive this "badge." It certainly means a lot to me to receive such a compliment from my brother in acknowledgment of the heart-wrenching "work" I did as my father was dying. Furthermore, even though Dad thought it would be of no value to anyone, I am honored to have a memento which will forevermore remind me of what a superb man he truly was.