Thomas Calabrese–Garch Holman was born in Akron, Ohio, but he was far from being a normal Midwestern boy. His father Jacob ‘Jake’ was a true adventurer. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After his separation from the military, Jake traveled overseas and joined the French Foreign Legion and spent five years in North Africa and saw action in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
While on leave in Casablanca, he met Jocelyn Pelletier, a singer at Nick’s Café. There was an instant connection behind the seasoned warrior and the silky, sultry-voiced entertainer who was as fiery and strong willed as she was beautiful. They were eventually married and when Jocelyn became pregnant, Jake wanted his first child to be born in America so he asked for an early release from the Legion and it was granted. Jake and Jocelyn moved back to Akron, where Jake’s parents still resided. After the birth of their son Garch, whose name was a variation of the word garcon, which is French for boy, they prepared for their return to Europe.
Jocelyn’s theatrical agent, Maurice Campane called her from his vacation home in Saint Tropez. “There is a five-star hotel in Alameda, California and the owners saw you perform on the internet and are offering a lucrative five-week contract.”
“Jake and I were planning on leaving next week.” Jocelyn replied.
Maurice countered, “There’s no law that says you can’t detour thru the Golden State on your way back. It’s only a few weeks and a couple extra thousand miles. This will put a lot of money in your pocket and give me more time to book some engagements when you get back.”
“I’ll talk to Jake and get back to you. I won’t do it unless we both agree.” Jocelyn said.
When they arrived at the Oakland Airport, a stretch limo was there to meet them. Jake, Jocelyn and their young son, Garch were taken to a mansion on Shorepoint Drive in Alameda. Steve Nielsen and Gary Whittington made their billions on the Internet while working in Silicon Valley. This was their first venture into the hospitality industry and they spared no expense. Their palatial resort was built on the former Alameda Naval Air Station and appropriately named the Patriot Palace. It had a panoramic view of the Bay stretching from the San Mateo Bridge to the Golden Gate with the San Francisco skyline in the background. One entire wing of the structure was dedicated to the military with thousands of pieces of Armed Forces memorabilia on display. Various aircraft from America’s wars were suspended from the ceiling by cables and connected to an elaborate system that pulled them around the room like an amusement ride. A state of the art theater was constructed and hundreds of old combat newsreels were converted to 7D cinema. This unique cinematic development is a combination of 3D movie technology supplemented by simulated 4D environmental special effects. It included seats that rocked back and forth and moved side to side while emitting smoke and various scents. The experience was so realistic that the audience felt like they were part of the action instead of just being a spectators.
The Holmans stayed at the hotel while Jocelyn performed in the Grand Ballroom with Mimi and the Mystics as her back-up singers. The Rocking Rochelles, a female acrobatic dance group with former Olympic gymnast, Tamara Browning as the lead dancer was the spectacular opening act. Reservations were booked weeks in advance.
Jake was too restless to sit around while his wife performed so he approached Steve and Gary and asked, “This is a big opportunity for my wife and I appreciate what you’re doing for her. She’s doing what she loves and I’m happy for her.”
Steve responded, “Jocelyn is a very good entertainer and she is doing as much for us as we’re doing for her so it’s a mutually beneficial situation.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, the accommodations are great and if this was another time in my life, I’d probably be content to sit around and enjoy all the amenities. I need to be doing something. Does that make sense to you?” Jake asked.
Steve responded, “Absolutely, you’re a type A personality; competitive, ambitious, organized, don’t like wasting time and focused on your goals. Gary and I will discuss your predicament and get back to you. We’ve been pretty good about putting people and ideas together. It’s kinda’ our thing.”
Gary added quickly. “I’m not only a fast talker, but also a fast thinker.”
Two days later, Gary and Steve approached Jake with their idea. Gary spoke quickly, “An adventure website and blog. We’ll put a team together and you can go where the action is and film it. We’ll put it on the Internet and show it here on our hotel channel.”
Steve continued, “Local, national and international. If you think it’s interesting, we’ll back you up. We know your history and we trust your judgment.”
“I don’t see how I could turn down a deal like that,” Jake responded with a big smile.
It took a while to work out the kinks because Jake had to get used to working with a team, but eventually things came together. Steve and Gary kept their word about giving Jake a free reign and did not undercut his authority or quibble about operating expenses. Dave Bishop, Morgan Alcott and Bill Dexter were the technical team that traveled with him. They operated the cameras and sound equipment and were skilled professionals. Jake was learning as he went along and was willing to take advice and suggestions with an open mind. Having served in the Marines and the Foreign Legion, he knew the value of teamwork.
Julia Colton and Marco Barona were film editors. They stayed behind at the studio located inside the Patriot Palace while Jake and his team were on location. Dailies (day’s shooting) were sent to Alameda and Gary and Steve would look at the footage and make suggestions. Afterward, narration, sound effects and music were added and the two billionaires made more comments. When the final cut was completed to their satisfaction, it was placed on the Internet and also offered as one of the channels to hotel guests.
Because of the stunning success of her first engagement Jocelyn agreed to do three engagements a year at the hotel for the next five years. During the rest of the time, the Holman family traveled the world on various adventures that included mountain climbing in the Himalayas, whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River, space diving where Jake jumped from 136,000 feet. His descent lasted 4 minutes and 33 seconds and he reached a speed of 823 mph with a total freefall distance of 123,511 feet and set a world record. Jake also rode a motorcycle in the Paris to Dakar Rally. It had twelve stages and and was 2500 miles long. When Garch was a youngster, he would watch his father perform his stunts, but as he got older he asked to be more actively involved in the family business. The team filmed Garch, highlining over Victoria Fall, fast-roping in the inverted position out of a helicopter hovering at two thousand feet off the coast of Oceanside, wingsuit flying in the French Alps and cliff diving in Acapulco.
A life of travel and adventure became commonplace to Garch, who was even more fearless than his father. By the time he was old enough to begin high school, Garch had been around the world several times and spoke several languages fluently. Years of traveling had begun to wear on Jake and Jocelyn and they also came to the conclusion it was time that their son started socializing with boys and girls his own age,
Garch did not like the idea at all and protested, “I’m just getting into my prime…don’t stop me now.”
“You can still do things, but these years are important in developing your social skills.” Jocelyn reminded her son and he reluctantly agreed to give it a try.
The family decided to settle down in Alameda and bought a four-bedroom house on a lagoon in a gated community on Harbor Bay Isle. There were still enough things in Northern California to keep the younger Holman somewhat occupied. Yosemite Park was only 157 miles away and Garch would go rock climbing and base jumping. They would stop off at the Dust Bowl Brewing Company for an early dinner on their way back to Alameda.
Jocelyn couldn’t help but be concerned about her son’s safety, but she couldn’t realistically expect her son to be a studious bookworm or a computer geek especially after the way he was raised. Nature and nurture were a tough combination to beat even for a dedicated mother. Garch faced risky challenges with boundless enthusiasm that would leave others frozen in fear. Like all mothers who had children who were engaged in high risk endeavors or worked in dangerous careers, Jocelyn knew it was something that she would have to get used to if she didn’t want to alienate her son.
Jake was surprisingly happy and content to cut back on his travels and have a more normal lifestyle. He was also ready to take on a more traditional role in his son’s life. Garch started Alameda High School and his athletic talents, coordination and abilities soon became evident to the coaches. He became the starting running back and free safety on the defending champion football team during his freshman year and made all league. Garch quickly adapted to school and found academics to be just one more challenge to face and overcome. He easily made friends because he was extremely modest and humble about his abilities and took a genuine interest in others.
By the time he was a senior, Garch had accumulated numerous awards for his athletic endeavors. His closest friends were Dave Madison, Bob Porter and Woody Klingler. While hanging out at Krusi Park, the boys discussed their future.
Dave did not get any football scholarship offers so he said, “I’m going to Diablo Valley Junior College. I’m going to try out for the team and then transfer to a four-year university.”
“I’m going to Sacramento State.” Bob added.
Woody, the big all-league offensive tackle smiled, “They offered me a full ride at Cal, I can’t turn that down.”
Dave turned to Garch and asked, “What about you, Garch…made any decisions yet?”
“Yeah, you must have a hundred offers by now,” Bob smiled then added, “I wish I was in your position, but then I’d have to be as good as you for that to happen.”
“I’m going to join the Navy…see if I can become a Seal.” Garch said.
His friends looked at him in disbelief. Finally Bob spoke. “You can go to any college in the country and you want to join the military…that’s crazy?”
“It was good enough for my dad so I figure that it’s good enough for me.” Garch said.
Woody interjected. “I wouldn’t do it.”
Garch responded, “Nobody is asking you to.”
“You haven’t signed anything yet, have you?” Dave asked.
“I have no problem discussing military service with you, but you don’t know anything except what you see on the news. I’ve talked with my dad about his time in the Marines and the Foreign Legion. I’ve also read about people who had a lot more to lose than me and they still served.” Garch said.
Woody asked, “Like who for example?”
Garch shook his head in amazement, “That proves my point.”
“So we don’t know…sue us?” Dave snapped back.
Garch was obviously irritated and his anger grew as he spoke. “Here are just a few of the guys who were already stars in the movies and served in World War II; James Stewart, Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Glenn Ford, Henry Fonda. Don’t forget baseball Hall of Famers, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Willie Mays and Warren Spahn. That is why they were called the ‘Greatest Generation’. Back then, serving your country was a righteous and honorable decision. Nowadays knuckleheads like you guys look at military service as a last resort…or as Bob said… doing something crazy. This is your country too! Why should somebody defend your freedom?”
Woody hung his head down in embarrassment, “Sorry, you’re right.”
Garch followed through on his commitment to join the Navy and became a Seal. There are various designations in a Seal Team; special operations, direct action, counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense and hostage rescue. Because of his unique background, Garch Holman chose hostage rescue as his official designator. He quickly built a reputation as a Special Operator who had the skills and mindset to go into the most precarious situation to bring out a high value target.
A missionary was being held in a mountain hideout in Noshag, the second highest point of the Hindu Kush Ranges and lies at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The plan was beyond risky, but there were no other options. A thin rope would be shot across a five-hundred foot-wide canyon by a grappling hook cannon with enough force to imbed the diamond tip into the rock face. It would be pulled taut and from the other end. Garch would travel across the rope in the dark of night wearing one parachute on his back, with another strapped to his front for the hostage.
Captain Doyle Wheeler gave Garch one last chance to back out, “You sure that you want to do this?”
“Why…do you want to?”
“Not in this lifetime!”
Garch responded, “I’ve done some highlining before.”
“I bet you haven’t done it at night carrying a hundred pounds of parachutes and a weapon.”
“You got me there…first time for everything,” Garch responded.
Captain Wheeler ordered, “If you can’t make it across, dump the extra gear and parachute down to the canyon floor. We’ll have men waiting for you. That’s an order.”
“Roger that.” Garch replied.
It was 2300 hours when Garch stepped to the edge of the canyon and looked down. It was so dark that he couldn’t see the bottom.”
Randy Dalton, a teammate double-checked Garch’s gear and said, “You’re good to go.”
Garch pulled down his night-vision goggles and secured the carabiner to the rope. The other end was already fastened to his chest harness. Garch started walking very, very slowly, taking one steady and measured step at a time. When he got about half-way, his legs began to quiver from fatigue so he sat down on the wire and waited for five minutes until his strength returned then made it to the other end. Garch disconnected the safety harness and climbed up the rockface to the cave entrance. Where he heard people inside talking, Garch took his pistol with the noise suppressor from his shoulder holster, entered and shot four men in rapid succession. He found the hostage and told him, “I’m here to bring you home.
You’re going to have to trust me because things are going to get crazy from here on.” Garch strapped the parachute to the trembling missionary and brought him to the edge of the cliff. “Happy Landings!” and pulled the ripcord as he pushed the man into the darkness. Garch saw the chute open and prepared to follow. Suddenly, he came under fire from several more men and he shot back. One of the bullets ricocheted off the rocks and deeply grazed Garch’s skull and blood flowed into his eyes. He still had enough strength to jump off the ledge and pull his ripcord before he passed out.
A group of Navy Seals were waiting below for the hostage and Garch when they landed. Garch was given emergency medical treatment and a helicopter airlifted them out.
A neurosurgeon at Balboa Naval Hospital performed three hours of delicate surgery to relieve the pressure inside Garch’s cranium. It was touch and go for the first three days, but eventually Garch showed signs of improvement and on the fifth day he awakened.
Garch was watching the Andy Griffith Show while he sat up in bed. It was the episode where Opie shot a small bird. Garch began to cry as Doctor Chris Webster entered, “Something wrong?” she asked.
Garch responded, “I don’t know…a lot of things are affecting me emotionally.”
Doctor Webster endeavored to explain, “The injury you sustained might have affected the balance of oxytocin in your brain. This can blur the difference between fiction and reality when it comes to our expression of empathy.”
Garch asked, “What is oxy….what was it?”
“Oxytocin is an important hormone that controls some human behaviors and social interaction.” Doctor Webster said.
This injury ended Garch’s special operations career and he returned to Alameda. While his empathy had increased dramatically from the injury so did his pain tolerance level. He could exercise excessively without discomfort and then see something on television that would bring tears to his eyes.
Garch wasn’t prepared to give up his athletic endeavors so after careful deliberation, he decided to give professional boxing a try. With his current mindset, he developed a training routine that would make Rocky Marciano proud. The Undefeated Heavyweight Champion was well-renowned for his dedication to training, super human stamina and ability to absorb punishment and still fight harder in the tenth round than he did in the first.
After winning the heavyweight championship at Caesars Palace, Garch return to Alameda. While visiting with his family and friends, he went to the afternoon matinee at the Post Street Theater to see American Underdog, the life story of football player Kurt Warner. He was accompanied by his trainer Joe Fernandez, manager Jerry Riordan and sparring partner, Ray Gallagher.
Upon entering the theater, Joe asked, “You sure you can handle this, Mr. Sensitive?”
Jerry joked,, “Remember, Don’t cry in the popcorn, Champ.” The End.
– Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance
The Veterans Writing Group of San Diego County invites all writers to join us at our monthly meetings. Veterans and Non-Veterans are equally welcome. For more information go to our website: www.veteranswritinggroup.org