I was honored to interview Major Eric King (Retired), US Army, for a recent story about Unite for Troops and the City of Irving’s Veterans Day ceremonies.
As usual, I did some background research, and found out that Major King was the recipient of a mortgage-free home, with land donated by the City of Irving, along with Winston Custom Homes, the Dallas Builders Association and NEC Corporation of America. [Read the Article from Dallas Builders Here]
Video Courtesy of Dallas Builders Association
According to his biography:
Major King, a native of Marianna Arkansas, joined the Arkansas Army National Guard in June 2000 and enlisted as a Combat Engineer. He then enrolled into the Golden Lion Battalion Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Arkansas At Pine Bluff. After receiving his Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice in May 2003, Major King was commissioned Active Duty as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in the Quartermaster Corps and branch detailed into the Infantry Corps as a Second Lieutenant.
Major King’s outstanding and stellar military career begins with his service as an Infantry Officer from October 2003 through November 2008. Throughout Major King’s service his responsibilities continued to increase. Major King served as a Rifle Platoon leader, Company Commander (CO) Supply and Services Officer, Battalion S4, Battalion Executive Officer (XO), Instructor, Writer, and a Brigade Operations Officer. These positions reinforced Major King’s strong leadership abilities and his uncanny willingness to learn new skills and abilities. Major King’s oversight of Soldiers ranged from a platoon of 75 to an entire brigade of 3,500 men and women. During Major King’s military career, he was deployed on four overseas missions in service to our country. Major King’s first combat deployment was in 2004 through 2005 to Iraq. Major King entered this mission as an Infantry Rifle Platoon Leader overseeing 75 Infantrymen.
His platoon received multiple Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks, ambushes and gun battles. This deployment was followed by his second combat deployment in 2007 through 2008 to Iraq as a Company Commander. His responsibility as the CO was to oversee 5 platoons of over 250 Soldiers and their direct health, welfare and their operational responsibilities. During these two deployments, Major King witnessed and experienced heavy fighting causing casualties to his troops, himself and coalition forces. These losses have weighed heavily on Major King and he has never taken his responsibilities as a Soldier, Leader, Commander, and Field Grade Officer lightly.
In 2013 through 2014 Major King was deployed to Afghanistan as the Brigade Operations Officer, BDE S3 OIC. During this deployment, Major King exhibited his leadership skills yet again by overseeing brigade operations for the entire Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan (CJOA-A). During this combat tour, Major King was responsible for overseeing and leading every aspect of his brigade’s tactical operations across the CJOA-A of 3,500 Soldiers and civilians.
Major King’s final overseas deployment was to Liberia West Africa in 2014 through 2015 in support of the fight against Ebola as he deployed his battalion as the acting battalion commander. During this humanitarian mission, Major King and his battalion provided aid and assistance to the African nation during a health crisis in which Ebola was ravaging the region.
Major King’s leadership and organizational skills were essential during this global crisis.
After 16 years of service and sustaining multiple injuries and a distinguished career, Major King was honorably and medically retired on 28 June 2016. However, prior to his retirement, Major King amassed the following awards and decorations and he is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt from Prude University:
Bronze Star Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal with one Star, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, Iraqi Campaign Medal with one Bronze Star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral two, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Airborne Badge, Air Assault Badge and Parachute Rigger Badge.
Major King is a great American who has sacrificed greatly for this nation. He is a man of tremendous faith who has a powerful voice for those who are suffering and in need. Major King is passionate about military Veterans who like him might be suffering from PTSD and other health issues resulting from combat.
Major King recently spoke on the Glenn Beck Radio Show and revealed his desire to speak to others about adversity, leadership, conflict and hope. Major King very much looks forward to spreading his message of encouragement for many years to come.
There are so many Veterans in the world with a story just like Major King’s. His only goal and vision now is to restore, replenish, and revive his fellow brothers and sisters so they can enjoy the present, let go of the past, and prepare for a better future by helping them to reclaim their lives which is why he founded his nonprofit corporation, VetsWhatsNext.
To learn more about VetsWhatsNext, please visit their website – and stay tuned for the imminent launch of the VetsWhatsNext mobile app! King said that its purpose is, “To empower all veterans, with emphasis on Millennials and Generation X Vets. They have the most trouble figuring out where to get help.”
I think we all share some level of appreciation for our active troops and veterans, but it’s not often that some of that appreciation comes “home” to them. Congratulations, Major King, and thank you for your service!
By Stacey Doud
If you live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, then you probably know about Lockheed Martin and their role as a leading defense contractor for the government. What you may not know is that their reach is far and wide, from encouraging STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students to stay on track, to their annual Armed Forces Bowl, which shows the deep respect that the company has for our country’s military and veterans.
The company’s major project has been the design and manufacture of the F-35 Lightning II.
Lockheed Martin is always proud to bring a veteran on as an employee, as long as he or she qualifies. Joe Williams, who served our country in the Navy for 20 years, is one of those people.
A native of Odessa, Williams said, “I’d always see planes on the horizon leaving Midland International Air and Space Port. I remember thinking how neat it would be to jump on one of those planes and leave the desert behind. So, I decided to pursue a life and vocation that would have me on planes and in a place where there was water and not desert.”
Williams enlisted at age 17 and served as an aircraft mechanic during his four tours: Kosovo (1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2002) and back to Afghanistan (2003), mainly working on the Lockheed P-3 Orion, which has been in existence for over 50 years and still flies today. The P-3 took the place of the P2V/SP2 Neptune as the newest (at the time) modern, land-based maritime patroller. During the Cold War years, this aircraft was tasked with finding and tracking Soviet ballistic missiles and attack submarines.
“I was a customer on the other end [in the Navy, not yet a Lockheed employee] while I was with P-3s. I learned the importance of what is needed, how it’s needed, and the quality that is required to operate at what we refer to as the “Tip of the Spear.” Now that I’m on the production end being with Lockheed Martin, I use that experience to ensure quality is passed on to those Sailors, Marines, and Airmen who are needing something in the field that provides the greatest, and most powerful, protection then what I ever got to use while I was on active duty. The F-35 is paving that way,” Williams said.
“I was discharged in July of 2016,” Williams said. “I had a hard time finding work, but then I discovered Texas Veterans Outdoors (TVO). Members of the organization helped shed some light onto my experience, and it eventually led to where I got an interview with Lockheed Martin. TVO has been amazing for my family and I.”
Williams has now been with Lockheed Martin for almost three years and serves as a Multi-Function Manufacturing Supervisor for the F-35.
“I plan and manage the application and finishing of low observable coatings, the installation and testing of avionics components, and the installation of major flight control surfaces and their actuating components,” Williams said.
In layman’s terms, he makes sure that the F-35’s coatings are effective when dealing with an enemy, that its electronics and computer components work reliably and he also supervises the installation of important flight electronics that pilots use, along with the equipment that those electronics control. He also oversees a large portion of the assembly line for the F-35.
“We could have only wished we had the F-35 before 9/11, but at least we now have tools to prevent something like that from happening again. The F-35 is 5th generation and is the most advanced fighter in the world,” he added.
Williams is very proud to be working for Lockheed, which he says is, “the number one defense contractor in the world.”
He finds his work “extremely satisfying,” mainly because of the advancement of the F-35, which has already saved lives and will continue to do so.
“So many people have died before us. Their sacrifice is what allows us to do what we do today,” Williams said.
To pay it forward, Williams seeks out opportunities to help other veterans as they transition to civilian life. He volunteers at TVO as a staff member, he’s a cabinet member of the Military/Veterans (Mil/Vet) employee resource group, and he’s on the AeroCARES board of directors.
“Organizations like TVO, Mil/Vet and AeroCARES can and do make a difference for veterans, and I say that confidently from experience. I’m so thankful to have the chance now to guide fellow veterans as they walk down the path I once did,” he said.
Happy Veteran’s Day to Joe and all of the men and women who have fought for our freedom! THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!
Unite for Troops, a grassroots non-profit organization, held its 8th Annual Veteran’s Day Celebration on Saturday November 9 in Porter’s Army Navy store parking lot in Irving.
Unite for Troops was founded two days after 9/11 by Cindy Porter, who felt moved to do something to show support for our troops, domestic and abroad.
Volunteers were present to pack donated supplies into boxes to ship around the world. The boxes are decorated on the inside by helpers and kids for an extra morale booster.
“We are shipping supplies to our troops worldwide,” Porter said. “They are asking for more help because, right after 9/11, everyone was supporting them, but very few supplies go over there now. These supplies are going to the most desolate and desperate areas. We are free to do things like this and to live our lives because of our troops.”
The most popularly requested supplies are toiletries, various snacks, socks, batteries, puzzle books, flip flops and over the counter pain relievers, such as Advil and Tylenol.
Four colors of ribbons were available at no charge to pin on attendees’ shirts: Red signified an active soldier, Blue represented a retired member of the military, White indicated a family member or a friend of someone who is or had served, and Golden was a special ribbon for veterans of WWII.
There were plenty of things to do for people of all ages. Musical entertainment included singers and bands on the big stage playing songs that were supportive of all military. BBQ, hamburgers, hot dogs and homemade ice cream were offered.
Kids enjoyed their own area, which featured a petting zoo, crafts, face painting, a bounce house, games and even a reptile exhibit. A bull ride machine was available for all ages who were brave enough to take it on. Canine Companions and the DFW Humane Society also brought both service dogs and dogs available for adoption.
Santa Claus even made a special trip to the event to show his support.
“Santa usually doesn’t come out this early in the year, but he wanted to come out and support the troops. When he heard about it, he said he wanted to stop by in his camos [camouflage] in order to take the love and good wishes back to the troops as he heads back to the North Pole,” Porter said.
Irving Police Department brought vehicles out for kids of all ages to take a look at, including an official city car, as well as a Citizens on Patrol car, a half-track MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle and a drone.
Veterans were encouraged to bring flags they had that needed a proper retirement, and a ceremony was held to do so in the afternoon.
The Troops of St. George had several fun offerings.
“We are a Catholic scouting organization here in the North Texas area,” said volunteer Paul Thies. “We represent a number of different Catholic parishes in this region. We are out here today to help support our troops in the field and to participate in the [Unite for Troops] Veteran’s Day event.
“With this tent, we are doing a number of things. We have a flag retirement booth, so when people bring their flags in, we will make sure they are properly disposed of [based on rules outlined in the Constitution]. They will be disposed of in the ceremony this afternoon. One of our leaders is raffling off a ride in a M*A*S*H Vietnam/Korean War era Bell 47 helicopter out at the Cavanaugh Air Museum in Addison. The lucky winner will get a 30-minute ride. We’re doing paintball as well. All of these things are to generate donations and 100% of everything collect will go to our troops via Unite for Troops,” Thies explained.
The helicopter was true to the TV show M*A*S*H down to its 4077 tail number.
Vietnam Veteran John Rose had his own booth, as he took over for Santa Claus when Santa had to go back to the North Pole. He said that he enlisted into the Army at age 26 and got sent to Vietnam for a year as part of a reconnaissance effort. Rose and four of his platoon mates lost their radios, so they hunkered down and learned Morse Code as a last-ditch attempt at communication because no one knew where they were. They were stranded for ten days. They finally received directions to a fire base and made it there on foot, where their commanding officers arranged transport home.
“What we started doing after we lost our receiver was to start going to Charlie’s [the enemy’s] supply depots and we started re-supplying ourselves with weapons, ammunition and a lot of rice. When we were done, we left a message for Charlie: We blew it [the supply depot] up,” Rose recalled with a grin.
“We made it to the fire base and we had long beards and nasty hair and we had hardly any sleep. I’m sure we were the sight. But they were happy to see us and we were sure happy to see them!
“After we made it to the fire base, we were all laying on the floor. One of the guys said, ‘Lieutenant, are those guys asleep? They aren’t paying attention.’ The Lt said, ‘They’re asleep, but make sure you don’t make any loud noises because they’ll wake up real fast and be ready to fight!” said Rose.
Fortunately, Rose does not suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) like so many of veterans do. There were several booths at the event collecting donations for programs to help with the transition to “normal” life as well as to fund programs to provide mental health services to veterans who need it.
For more information, visit UniteForTroops.com.
Grapevine Police Senior Officer RJ Hudson is returning to full duty for the first time since being critically injured in the line of duty more than two years ago.
Monday, November 4, 2019 is Senior Officer Hudson’s first full day back on his own in the Traffic Unit. Since the accident that nearly claimed his life, Ofc. Hudson has undergone 11 surgeries and hundreds of hours of intensive rehabilitation therapy.
On October 19, 2017, Senior Officer Hudson was traveling south on SH-121 near Hall-Johnson Road when an SUV swerved into his lane and hit his motorcycle. Sr. Ofc. Hudson was transported to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Grapevine with dozens of broken bones, lacerations, and internal injuries. He was released from the hospital on November 22, 2017, where he continued his recovery at home. Hudson ultimately returned to work on light duty, but still faced several obstacles and setbacks in his recovery, including the need for additional surgeries and therapies.
On September 17, 2019, Officer Hudson was released from medical care and allowed to return to work in full uniform. He then spent the next several weeks re-acclimating and re-certifying in all aspects of his job duties as a motorcycle officer.
Throughout his journey, Hudson remained positive and focused on his recovery. The Grapevine Police Department recognizes the sacrifices, dedication, and determination by not only Senior Officer RJ Hudson, but his entire family for their unwavering support and positive attitude. Congratulations to Senior Officer Hudson, and thank you to everyone who assisted in his recovery along the way.
[ Author’s Amanda McNew’s Note: I’m including a list of Senior Officer Hudson’s injuries, but keep in mind it will not account for multiple breaks. For example, his broken hand will count as one injury, but in fact he shattered the bone into dozens of pieces. I’m counting that as “one” because not even the doctors could count up all the breaks. His injuries were so extensive, some of the breaks were not even discovered for several weeks due to swelling.]
- Both orbital bones broken
- Broken nose
- Cracked teeth and filling knocked out
- Ruptured ear drum
- Diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.)
- Multiple lacerations
- Multiple contusions
- Puncture wound right tricep
- Bursitis in left hip
- Broken left clavicle
- Left scapula fractured
- 8 broken ribs (7 left, 1 right)
- 4 ruptures in lungs
- Arterial bleeding & spleen injury
- Bruised kidneys
- Torn right rotator cuff
- Multiple compression fractures of vertebra
- Fractured L-4
- Left wrist broken
- Left thumb broken
- Right wrist broken
- Right thumb, index finger and knuckles broken
- Shattered bones in right forearm
- Nerve damage to right hand
- Ligament damage to right wrist
- Tibial plate fractured in left leg
- Torn meniscus in left knee
- Ligaments & tendons torn in left ankle
- Talus bone in left ankle fractured
- Shattered bones in left foot
- 11 surgeries
- 26 different broken bones
Peace Together is an inclusive interfaith organization based in Tarrant Country, whose mission is to build relationships among people of all beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds. The Peace Together Walk is a public activity and event that encourages people to put this into action by linking individuals from diverse communities with a public walk designed to build and strengthen relationships between member organizations and the general public.
Attendees from all faiths, religions and even those absent of religion, gathered together to fellowship with each other and to promote the idea that people from all (or no) religions CAN come together for the bigger picture and benefit the community with interfaith peace.
Folks wearing hijabs ate with folks wearing yarmulkes, as well as others who had no outside indication of their faith. There were also several atheists present, as Peace Together has no restrictions about who may attend the Walk. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker gave a tour of the Beth Israel synagogue and explained the items on the altar to the people in attendance.
Peace Together was founded in 2017 by Howard Rosenthal, a resident of Southlake.
“In August of 2017, there were some horrible things that happened in Charlottesville, VA. I became very disturbed by what I saw there. I saw people marching and carrying torches, wearing Swastikas, yelling out anti – Semitic and anti-Muslim lines,” Rosenthal said. “I just felt like maybe, in society, there was some kind of turning point. I had no idea what to do, but I just felt horrible. I started thinking that there must be something that folks, such as the people you see out here today, could do,” he said.
“And so I started talking to people and meeting with people from different institutions, some religious, from the Grapevine, Southlake and Colleyville areas, but I also met with some with no religious ties whatsoever, including Humanists, Free-Thinkers and Atheists. We started gathering, and we all felt as if we had a very important, but rather simple, singular mission of building relationships with our neighbors,” Rosenthal explained.
“We just started from there. We held what we call, ‘The Big Event’ down the street at United Methodist Church here in Colleyville in February of 2018. I thought, ‘Maybe we’ll get 30 or 40 people,’ but we got 300 – 400 people that came that February day. We had speakers from all different belief systems, and then we decided to put on a Walk. We did that in November of last year and found that it was successful. People did want to come together and have an opportunity to meet new people and to share their peaceful thoughts about the state of the world,” said Rosenthal.
“We don’t encourage or allow people to ‘witness’ to people of other faiths. That’s not who we are at all. As an example, a year ago, after the terrible killings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we held a vigil here at this synagogue and the Peace Together community was here in large numbers. It was standing room only,” Rosenthal added.
“After the things that went on in Christchurch in New Zealand, we held a vigil at Town Center in Southlake and people knew that we would be there to support each other, and because we have built these relationships, that we could count on each other. Those kinds of times are so meaningful, along with the peaceful activities like the one we are able to do today, define what we are about,” Rosenthal explained.
“There’s a lack of tolerance and understanding in today’s society, and we want to try to keep with this mission. Throughout the year, we will have some smaller events, like we had at First Presbyterian with Pastor Ashley. We are open to other things that will bring people together for this common mission.
“We have received some information about something coming up at White’s Chapel. I think there’s some information being handed out about an event in February. We just want to continue this message. We may not look alike or think alike, but as long as we are peaceful, then why should I impose my history or background on somebody else?” Rosenthal said before he was called away to make a presentation.
Peace Together is currently made up of the following organizations/faith communities:
- Baha’is of Northeast Tarrant County
- Bear Valley Community Church
- Brite Divinity School
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
- Congregation Beth Israel
- Daughters of Abraham
- Euless First United Methodist Church
- Fellowship of Freethought – Dallas
- First Presbyterian Church of Grapevine
- First United Methodist Church of Colleyville
- Good Shepherd Catholic Community
- Islamic Association of Mid-Cities
- Islamic Center of MOMIN
- Islamic Center of Southlake
- The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth & Tarrant County
- Missional Wisdom Foundation
- Multicultural Alliance
- Professional Good Doers
- St. John Church
- White’s Chapel United Methodist Church
A special THANK YOU goes out to Deb Hinton for inviting us out!
Enjoy these photos from the Peace Together Walk held on November 2, 2019:
We want you to have a safe and fun Halloween! Here are some tips provided by SafeKids.org:
- Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.
- Put electronic devices down, keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.
- Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
- Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
- Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
- Join kids under age 12 for trick-or-treating. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, tell them to stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
Costumes for a Safe Halloween:
- Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
- Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
- Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
- When selecting a costume, make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.
Drive Extra Safely on Halloween:
- Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
- Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
- Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
- Get rid of any distractions – like your phone – in your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
- Turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
- Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Be especially alert for kids during those hours.
By Chris Daigle
It was a baseball story that sounded too weird to be true. It supposedly happened 40 years ago, yet the evidence was scant that in my 61-year old mind, I thought it happened in about 1972 or so. The tale was about a 25-year-old guy living in a tent for 10 days on top of one of the most famous sports venues in the world: The Astrodome.
That’s all much as I remembered. After all, I was 23 years old at the time, just out of college, and the Astrodome was where everything went on. Like Shea Stadium or Yankee Stadium, everything was “At the Dome.” Yet I kept coming back to one question: How was this man allowed to do this?
The story went something like this:
In October of 1980, as the city of Houston reveled in the Astros’ first post-season berth in franchise history, a radio station general manager at FM 100.3 KILT named Dickie Rosenfield came up with a promotional idea. As the hometown team chased a pennant and walked that yellow brick road to the World Series, the station would send an employee to live on top of the Astrodome – the heart and soul of Houston.
The man would eat, sleep, and pass the days on a roof platform and inside a circular steel gondola that hung from the ceiling. He would not come down until the Astros won the pennant. Somebody at the station, most likely Rosenfield, thought up the name “Astroman.”
The promotion was modeled after the flagpole sitter stunts of an earlier era, when somebody would climb atop a pole or raised platform and sit there as a test of endurance meeting a taste of publicity. Sometimes the sitter would not come down for weeks.
Nonetheless, this Astrodome stunt seemed different. Somebody lived atop the “Eighth Wonder of the World” during the classic five-game NLCS series against the Philadelphia Phillies! Somebody relied on a rope system for food! He had a landline phone for radio interviews! Really??
“It was a different time,” says Denver Griffith, the man at the center of our story. Griffith was 25 years-old then, a native Texan with a high school diploma and a sales job at KILT radio. He handled the accounts of Houston’s music venues and rock clubs, using the gig to score concert tickets and establish relationships with promoters. To those that knew him, Griffith had a nose for a good time.
That is partly why he was chosen for the Astrodome assignment. He was young, single and a little bit adventurous. “Back then, in the 70’s, life around the radio station was pretty wild,” he says. “It was pretty much anything goes.”
For decades, Griffith has carried the memories of those 10 days atop the Astrodome. A lot of time has gone by, and almost nobody else recalls the stunt. Contemporary news accounts from back then are spotty. Archived video is hard to find. You can find traces of Griffith’s sit-in on internet message boards and there’s a brief synopsis on Wikipedia with no citation.
Zoom ahead to 2017 when the Astros not only made it to the World Series for the second time in franchise history, but won the whole thing this time. The town of Houston was engulfed in baseball fever. KTRK Channel 13 (ABC in Houston) tracked down Griffith and ran a short piece. The story was just two minutes long and mentioned the usual details: 1980, NLCS and a man atop the Astrodome.
But was it true? I tracked down Mike Acosta, who is an historian-authenticator for the Astros (which is an extremely cool job to have as your team is about to see World Series number two), who pointed me to the KTRK story, and with the name Denver Griffith firmly established, Facebook led me right to him. Yes, he is real, and he answered.
Before we go any further in this story, we must establish two things. If you did not grow up in Houston in the 1960’s or 1980’s, you cannot understand what the Astrodome meant to our city. Not just as a sporting venue, but as a symbol.
Once billed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” the building was finished in 1964, eight months ahead of schedule, and opened in April, 1965 on the birthday of Roy Hofheinz, the genius behind the idea. It was the first stadium with a roof and the first stadium with air conditioning. Tickets were $3.50 for mezzanine seats and parking was one dollar. Just being there was a big deal.
Housing the Houston Astros and the NFL’s Oilers since 1968, the stadium was pioneering in more ways than one. At age 7, my memories of smelling fresh paint, along with hot dogs and popcorn, seem like yesterday. The place was known around the world. Anywhere in Europe, if you mentioned Texas, you’d be asked about the Astrodome.
The second point to be made is that the Astrodome was Houston’s “Coliseum.” The Astros were its original “gladiators.” From 1962 to 1978, the team had little success, with three winning seasons total. I remember them being called the “Lastros” for their dismal record. So, when the team finally got to the NLCS, we took notice.
Denver Griffith couldn’t wait to talk. “Astroman lives!” he told me. Griffith was a Houstonian and a little adventurous, just like his father, who owned many of the drive-in movie theatres around town. One sales job led to another, and he eventually landed a sales job at KILT, the rock radio station at the time. Rosenfield convinced the higher ups at the Astros to allow someone on top of the Dome for the entire series. “I had a knack for these crazy promos, and I wasn’t married, so it was on,” Griffith said.
Nearly four decades later, Griffith has only one photo from his adventure. He is standing on a wooden platform on the Astrodome roof, a tent set up behind him and a pennant attached to a pole. He is wearing jeans, a cap and a white t-shirt with four words: I Love You, Houston.
He remembers the setup vividly. One night in September of 1980, the radio station held a party at an Astros game. “I was hoping to come out in an Astros uniform, but the owner of the station [at the time], Gordon Mc Clendon, put me in a Scottish kilt, because, after all, the station was KILT and he had a Scottish background, and that was it,” Griffith explains. He went up the long catwalk and the final door was like a spring-loaded submarine hatch.
On the roof, Griffith had an eight-man tent and access to a landline phone. He did interviews with the station DJ’s just about every hour. He spent the first night in a sleeping bag inside because of heavy rains outside. The other nights he spent outside, as the weather, the altitude and the views were that pleasant.
The other logistics were less appealing. Griffith was given a makeshift Port-A-Potty. “My food came in bags and left in bags,” he said. He never showered, instead using a powder to wash his hair.
The process of getting meals was tedious. At first, the Astrodome supplied a long rope, left over from a construction project, and a basket. But Griffith had to manually lower the basket from 18 stories up and haul the food back up, which was a taxing chore to do every day. “Talk about a workout, it was just crazy,” he said. “So I finally thought, ‘Forget this! I’ll just meet people at the end of the catwalk. They’ll hand up boxes of food, and I’ll just walk back up to the top,’” he said.
By the fourth or fifth day, Griffith was shouting out to restaurants on air and getting free meals delivered to his Astrodome lair. The assignment came with other perks, too. He could watch Astros games for free from 200 feet above the field, watching Cruz track fly balls. His memories are flooded with other weird instances.
“One day, my mom arrived at the Astrodome with food, and interrupted a practice run by Oilers coach Bum Phillips,” he said.
In the hours before he took his perch, a veteran Astros pitcher had one request: Could he pee on Tom Seaver’s head?
At night, when the games were over, Griffith would move from the roof to the gondola. For a moment, he would take in the silence and serenity of an empty Dome. “You’d come down inside and it was total darkness,” he said. “You couldn’t see a damn thing, and I sure knew I was 18 stories up.”
It was an incredible story, and it was incredibly weird. I asked whether this could be done today? “Probably not. There’s too much liability today. I told the Astros that if they wanted to do it again, I’d be there,” Griffith said.
A few years ago, “Astroman” pieced together a retroactive log of the stunt. First, he needed to remember the day it started. He found weather records of the day it stormed. He started on that day and counted forward. The Astros did not lose game 5 of the NLCS until 18 days later. Details were fuzzy, but he didn’t remember THAT many days on the Astrodome roof.
There were some newspaper articles, such as the Austin American Statesman, which printed, “Astros fall to Atlanta: As part of a ‘back the Astros’ night, sponsored by a local radio station, Denver Griffith, an employee of the station, climbed to a gondola inside the roof and vowed he would not come down until the Astros won the pennant. From the looks of things, Griffith may be up there a while.”
The story mentioned fans braving heavy rains to attend the game. Two days later, a Dayton Daily News reporter Hal Mc Coy mentioned Griffith again: “With another howling throng stuffed into the Astrodome, including local radio personality Denver Griffith peering through the roof from his temporary girder residence, the Cincinnati Reds quickly jumped on Houston’s Joe Niekro Saturday night.”
Griffith’s final day on the roof was September 30, 1980. The Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3 to 2. They finished 89-73, 1 and ½ games behind the Reds. It was, at the time, the best season in franchise history. But the city would have to wait one more year for playoff baseball and until 2005 for a shot at the World Series.
On his final day on the roof, the boss asked Griffith if he wanted to make his departure an event. Astroman said no. “I just wanted to come down. It was over,” he said. Almost 40 years later, Harris County has tentative plans to renovate the Astrodome and it has been declared a Texas Historical landmark. There were political fights and public votes. The city didn’t want to leave its history behind.
The Astros, meanwhile, went back to the World Series. They gave it a good shot, but lost game 7 against the Nationals. There’s always next season. The games weren’t in the Astrodome, but we take what we can get. Denver Griffith is in Austin now, in the communications business. His tenure as Astroman is kind of funny and kind of weird, but it’s another exhibit of why we love this building. Kids growing up now will never know quirky things like this today. I’m still stunned it happened, which is a tribute to my 61 year-old memory.
“Houston was booming then,” Griffith said. “It was still coming up, still finding its way, and it was a looser atmosphere. Of course, it was also the 1970’s.” Thanks for the memories, Denver Griffith.
Doesn’t it make you feel powerful to gain an extra hour in your day as you “Fall Back” on Sunday, November 3? Yeah, me neither. Maybe if everyone in the country (except for those lucky souls in AZ and HI) weren’t doing the same, I’d feel like a mediocre time traveler. Alas…it is not to be.
COME AND SEE:
- Nativities from Around the World – December 6-8, 1:00-9:00 pm each day
- Community Christmas Concert on December 7 at 7:00 pm
- Christmas Devotional Broadcast with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square December 8 7:00 pm
LOCATION: 500 W. McDonwell School Road, Colleyville
COST: Free, Families welcome
The Colleyville Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will present “Come and See,” an exhibit of nativities from around the world December 6-8, 1:00-9:00 PM each day. In conjunction with the exhibit, there will be a live nativity dress-up activity for patrons, a free Community Christmas Concert on Saturday, December 7 at 7:00 PM, and the broadcast of a Christmas Devotional Sunday, December 8 at 7:00 PM, which will include music from The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. All are welcome! The event will take place at 500 W. McDonwell School Road in Colleyville.
Peace Together, a Tarrant County interfaith organization, will be holding their second annual Peace Walk on Saturday November 2, 2019, 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm.
“I can think of no more important work than building bridges of understanding between my neighbors,” said Pastor Mike Dawson of First United Methodist Church Colleyville.
The Peace Walk will include participation from local Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and other communities who focus on and promote love and caring for their neighbors to the exclusion of hatred, bigotry, discrimination and intolerance.
Brother Sajid Shaikh from the Colleyville Masjid said, “The Peace Walk is a great opportunity to come together to share our thoughts and common bond, celebrate our diversity and honor our commitment to make a better society.”
Free parking will be provided by Good Shepherd Catholic Community, 1000 Tinker Road, Colleyville, TX. Opening ceremonies will be held at the Colleyville Masjid at 2:00 PM. The Peace Walk will follow an approximately 2.5 mile route to Congregation Beth Israel, also in Colleyville. Food vendors and music will be available at the end of the Walk, with closing ceremonies taking place at 4:30 PM.
“Our Peace Walk is about people connecting with people. We come from different backgrounds, different experiences, different perspectives, and when we meet each other and get to know one another we truly feel that connection,” said Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, of Congregation Beth Israel.
Over 400 people participated in 2018 and this year with the help of many participating organizations and the City of Colleyville, twice that number are anticipated.
All are welcome, and registration is free at peacetogetherwalk.eventbrite.com.
Peace Together is a nonprofit organization founded in 2017 whose mission is to show that hatred, bigotry, discrimination and intolerance can and should be replaced by the development of strong relationships among individuals, despite their different backgrounds, appearances and beliefs.