Van E. Harl


I have known Lt. Col Floyd Smith USAF Ret. since I was fifteen years old. I hung out in the gun shop he owned. During my high school and college days I used to shoot there all the time on his indoor pistol range. After college I worked there for over two years.

In all the years I have know Col Smith we have never gone shooting together. Last night I went shooting with Floyd Smith. The problem is the Colonel died over a month ago. It would appear this was not to deter me from enjoying my first shooting outing with the Colonel – I just have to do it in my dreams.

I know this is a little creepy but I dreamed the two of us went back to the old gun shop to go shooting. We went into the store and it looked extremely run-down. The dream was in black and white. Someone spotted us and motioned for us to open a door and walk into another part of the gun range. It was like in the old movie the Wizard of Oz were they passed from black and white into bold color. The new gun range we had walked into was high tech and extremely modern. I was confronted by the intimidating range-master who wanted to know why I thought I could shoot on his firing range. I had to give him a long list of my military and police service and my extensive background of firearms training I have, before I was allowed to shoot.

Then he looked at the Colonel and said you’re Floyd Smith, please come in and shoot sir. At that point the Colonel did not own any guns so we agreed to shoot the one I had with me, a Smith and Wesson .44 mag revolver. We shared a 50 round box of ammo that never seemed to run out of shells. I shot very well but Colonel Smith just could not miss. He kept putting six rounds in a circle the size of a quarter. There were children running around in the background making noise. I commented about their being a distraction. He replied “grand kids, their not bothering me, keep shooting.” So we kept shooting and he kept getting better. We talked about guns for a while and the Air Force and then he was gone and I woke up.

I usually do not even remember what I dream about. I know at this point some are wondering what is going on with me. I am sure if I paid a mental health professional to analyze me and my dreams they will find some deep rooted negative issue in my life. I think I just miss Colonel Smith. I have a long list of military veterans and active duty friends I call on Veterans and Memorial Day. I have been calling Colonel Smith for over thirty years on those days. For the past five years I have been calling him once or twice a month.

You see Colonel Smith was a WW II fighter pilot and was getting up there in age. We would talk current politics and then he would tell or more likely re-tell an old veteran story. I have lost two WW II veteran friends since last Memorial Day. Again I miss them, and this year I have two less veterans to call. I am always adding new military friends to my list of veterans to call but it is hard when you lose one. When I lose a veteran friend I make a point to add one of their family members to my list. I call the family to let them know someone is still thinking about their lost former military family member. The family list is getting longer every year. We are running out of WW II veterans.

While back in the Chicago area for Colonel Smith’s funeral I attended a Pearl Harbor Survivor luncheon with a new found WW II veteran friend. Some of the men at the dinner will not be there next year. Please take time to honor the veterans in your life. Pick up the phone and call them, better yet go talk to them and record their military history. Other wise it will be lost. The older veterans are finally starting to talk about their time in combat, something many would never do in the past. They served, they survived and they come home to their families. Remember them.

On a lighter note I think I finally got the shooting lesson from Colonel Smith I have been asking for, for thirty years. Thank a veteran and thank you Floyd Smith.