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Calendar >  Flesh And Gold – Thomas Calabrese

Flesh And Gold – Thomas Calabrese

By   /  August 8, 2021  /  9 Comments


24 Carat Warriors

Thomas Calabrese — Jack Anderson grew up in San Marcos, California and joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan and saw combat in both locations. Jack also did a West Pacific deployment to Marine Corps Base, Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, where he developed an interest in aikido, iaido, judo and karate. Throughout history, judokas (those who practice judo) have been known for having incredible athletic attributes, like strength, balance, and flexibility. Physically, Jack possessed these attributes, but also had the self-confidence and courage to face his fears.  Spirituality (the mind) of Judo comes from learning from one’s mistakes. When Jack discovered a mistake, he fixed it, and did not make it twice. He developed an aura of inner harmony that made him fearless in the face of adversity because he could accept any outcome, as long as he gave maximum effort.

When his six-year enlistment was coming to a conclusion, Sergeant Jack Anderson contacted Grand Master Yoshi, who lived in Yokohama and asked if he would consider taking him on as a student. His Okinawan instructor, Itosu gave him a glowing recommendation and he was accepted. Jack agreed to re-enlist for an additional four years if he could get Yokosuka, Japan as his next duty station and the Marine Corps agreed.

While at Fleet Activities Command, Jack became a self-defense instructor and was asked to join a special counter-terrorism strike force that consisted of Marine Force Recon and Navy Seals. During his free time, Jack studied under the tutelage of Yoshi. It was during his third year of this enlistment that Jack met and began dating Reiko Hirowada, a beautiful Japanese woman who transferred from Kadena Air Base to take over the duties as manager of enlisted base billeting.

They eventually married and had a daughter, that they named, Aimi. (Japanese for love beauty) Jack thought about leaving the Marines and getting a civilian job aboard base, but he had developed a strong camaraderie with his teammates and was reluctant to resign. He discussed his dilemma with Reiko and she said, “I’ll support whatever decision you make. I’d even consider moving back to the states if that is what you want.”

Jack quickly dismissed that idea, “Let’s not go down that road yet. I like living here, your family is nearby and you’ve got a good job. It’s easier for me to change than you. I’ll see what the Corps wants to do with me. If I like it, I’ll re-enlist. I live by the philosophy; God, family, country and corps. I won’t change my priorities now.”

Reiko kissed her husband, “I love you.”

When Jack met with Commanding Officer, Colonel Tim ‘Rip’ Curtis, the next morning at Regimental Headquarters, he was approaching 10 years in the Marines. He explained what he needed in order to stay in the Corps.

Colonel Curtis responded, “I’m aware of your living situation and your unique skillset. How long do you want to re-enlist for?”

            “I’m flexible on that, I just want be able to stay with my unit and this duty station.”

            “I’ll see what I can do,” Colonel Curtis said.

Three days later, Colonel Curtis called Staff Sergeant Jack Anderson to his office, “I just received communication from Division this morning, “Under the Tier 9 Bonus Program for special operators, you qualify for 81,000 dollars in a lump sum payment for a 60-month-enlistment.You will also get to stay at Yokosuka.”

            “Thank you, sir for your help.”

Colonel Curtis added, “I submitted your name for meritorious promotion to Gunnery Sergeant.”

While serving with his unit in missions all over the Pacific with emphasis on the South China Seas, Jack ascended to the levels, 4th degree black belt in judo and 3rd degree master in karate.

Gunnery Sergeant Jack Anderson was approached by Major Edward Simms of Yokosuka Public Affairs Office, “I did some inquiring about you trying out for the Olympics.”

Jack was surprised, “Excuse me, sir, but I don’t what you’re talking about.”

“The Olympic Trials for the American Judo and Karate teams are scheduled to be held at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego next month. The Marine Corps will give you permission to compete for a place on the team if you want.”

            “I’d rather not. I’m in Special Ops, it’s in the best interest of the team for me to keep a low profile,” Jack said.

Major Simms countered, “You’re a self-defense instructor, that’s all people need to know or will ever know. I’ve talked to Marines and sailors on base and they say you’re the best they’ve ever seen at martial arts. If you were to make the team, it would have special significance for our country. You’re stationed in Yokosuka and the Olympics are being held in Tokyo. It would be great for diplomatic relations. If you won a medal, you would also be the first active duty enlisted Marine to do so. Billy Mills, Larry James and Lloyd Keaser were either Reserve officers or Naval Academy cadets at the time they competed. Japan is number one in the world in Judo. To beat them on their home soil would be amazing…truly amazing, but I’m getting ahead of myself. All I’m offering, is the opportunity to compete for the privilege of representing your country…the decision is yours…obviously.”

Jack answered, “To qualify, I would have had to accumulate points through tournaments. I’ve been here instead.”

            “The Selection Committee has the authority to waive certain rules in special circumstances. I asked them to do so in your case because of your military commitment and they agreed. The bad news is that you’ll have to win more bouts at the trials than the other competitors.”

Jack was entered in the light heavyweight division. His first match in Judo was against the second place finisher in last year’s American Championships and his karate match followed six hours later against the bronze medal winner from the Rio Olympics. Nobody expected Jack to win. In fact, the organizers thought the Marine would be eliminated quickly.  They would derive good publicity for allowing a serviceman to participate and the trials would proceed as normal.

Ten matches later, Jack may have been battered and bruised, but he was also undefeated. What really separated him from the other competitors was his mental acuity and strong spirit. This wasn’t saying that the other fighters weren’t strong and tough, they had to be to get this far. Jack had the uncanny ability to meditate to a place in his subconscious where he could block out pain, discomfort and pressure. He would visualize his upcoming matches in intricate detail and imagine every possible scenario, so that he would never be caught off guard or off balance.  This mental exercise worked so well that a spectator watching the bout might think that Jack was reading his opponent’s mind. Was it the judo teachings of Grand Master Yoshi, his special operations training or maybe it was in his DNA, or a combination of all three? Whatever the explanation, Jack was a formidable warrior on the battlefield and in the sports arena.

After making the team, Jack returned to Japan with the intent of joining up with the rest of the American athletes once they arrived at the Olympic village. While waiting for the games to begin, military Intel intercepted communications that North Korea was preparing to transport a shipload of short range missiles to Iran. No doubt, they would be used against Israel and American interests in the Middle East.

Jack was given the option of standing down. Colonel Anthony Morenga said, “It’s your call, nobody is expecting you to maintain operational readiness and prepare for the Olympics at the same time.”

            “I appreciate the offer, sir. Competing in the Olympics is a great privilege, but being with my team is my sworn duty,” Jack responded.

Jack and his team used special equipment to climb up the port side hull of the freighter, Chang Dok while it was moored at Batangas International Port, the second largest port in the Philippines. The illegal arms shipment was being guarded by elite members of Iran’s 23rd Special Forces Brigade. The Americans knew that their adversaries were highly skilled, extremely motivated and would fight to the death. Moving methodically from the deck to the cargo area, Jack and his team eliminated the guards. Their mission was to secure the ship, then call for Navy personnel to take control of the freighter. It was a covert mission, so destroying the ship and its cargo was not an option. It would disrupt shipping in the port channel and cause an international incident.

The team carried Glock 19 pistols equipped with Banish 45 noise suppressors.  An Iranian guard stepped out from behind a metal container, Jack pushed his teammate out of harm’s way and exchanged fire simultaneously with the enemy. Both men went down, the Iranian with a bullet to his forehead and Jack with one to his left knee.

Three things ended in that split second; the Iranian’s life, Jack’s Olympic aspirations and his special operations career.

The navy orthopedic surgeon replaced Jack’s shattered knee and he started physical therapy as soon as he could stand up. Three months later, Jack medically retired from the military and Reiko put in for a transfer to Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in Oceanside, Ca.

 Jack’s father, Clyde owned several rental units in San Diego North County. When he was contacted by his son about his desire to move back to the states, his excited reply was, “I’ll do anything I can to help.”

Jack, Reiko and Aimi left Japan to start the next chapter of their lives in Southern California. Clyde Anderson gave his son the title to a recently renovated three-bedroom house in the Jeffries Ranch area of Oceanside, just off Highway 76.

Jack was visibly moved by his father’s generosity, “This is way too much.”

Clyde responded, “Not from my perspective. I’ve got my son and his family back. I get to see my granddaughter on a regular basis. I’m getting the best end of this deal. If you won’t accept this house because you’re my son, then accept it as token of appreciation for your military service.”

Reiko began work at Camp Pendleton base housing while Jack tried to figure out what to do with his life. He felt lost and confused. Jack was so emotionally invested in being a special operator that everything else seemed uninteresting to him.

Aimi sensed her father’s frustration and asked him while they shared breakfast one morning, “Have you decided what you’re going to do?”

Jack replied, “Your grandfather says I can work with him flipping houses and doing maintenance on his rentals.”

            “That’s not really your style,” Aimi said.

            “I’m going to have to change my style then,” Jack grinned.

Aimi smiled mischievously, “Not necessarily.”

            “I know that look, what’s on your mind?”

            “We’ll start a martial arts studio and I’ll be your partner. You’ve been teaching me since I was old enough to walk, not to mention what I’ve learned from Grandmaster Yoshi. We’d make a hell of a team. You’ll develop a program for guys wanting to get into special operations and I’ll teach the women self-defense classes. That’s just two options…so much more we could offer our clients.”

Jack beamed, “How can I pass up an offer like that…let’s do it.”

It took a few months to get their business plan together, but eventually Jack and Aimi found a commercial space in the Ocean Ranch industrial park and began their new business. Aimi was a tireless worker, she handled the paperwork, did the advertising and promotions, taught classes and competed in tournaments. Jack started classes for police officers, personal bodyguards and young men preparing to enter the military.

Jack saw too much of himself in his daughter and attempted to rein her in, “Take it easy… there’s such a thing as overwork.”

Aimi replied, “It’s not work if you’re doing what you love. I think that’s what you told me, wasn’t it?”

            “It’s not polite to use my own advice against me,” Jack smiled.

Several times a year, Aimi traveled back to Japan to visit her relatives on her mother’s side and train with Grandmaster Yoshi. Aimi won championships in judo and karate in every age group from the time she was eight-years-old. Anderson Martial Arts soon became synonymous with elite training. Bodyguards, law enforcement personnel and special operators could often be found at the facility honing their skills or learning new techniques. Jack and Aimi incorporated many of Bruce Lee’s techniques and philosophies into their self-defense and hand-to-hand combat classes. There were four levels; basic self-defense, physical conitioning training, intermediate and advanced techniques.

Aimi and her father would often spar together and even though Jack had an artificial knee, he still moved around the mat quite well. During one spirited session, Aimi reminded her father, “Do not take it easy on me.”

            “Since when do I ever do that?” Jack smiled and flipped his daughter on her back. She sprung to her feet and returned the favor. After twenty minutes of throwing kicks, punches and executing throws, Jack caught his breath, “Your mom is cooking dinner, she told us not to be late…again.”

When the Olympic Trials arrived, Aimi easily qualified in judo and karate, just like her father had done many years earlier. When one reporter asked, “Your father made the team, but never had the opportunity to compete because of an injury. Did he push you into competing to do what he couldn’t accomplish?”

Aimi made eye contact with the reporter and stated emphatically, “You don’t know my father, otherwise you wouldn’t ask that.”

            “That doesn’t answer my question,” The reporter persisted.

Aimi was much more mature than her seventeen years of age, “You can quote me on this. I love America and I am honored and privileged to live in this great country. It has been my lifetime goal to participate in the Olympics and represent our nation. Everything my father has done for me has always been in my best interests and to help me achieve all my dreams. The Olympics is just one of them. Jack Anderson doesn’t need to live his life through me…he’s got his own and it’s a good one. Does that answer your question?”

Security was tight at the Paris Olympics, especially after credible Intel indicated that there might be a terrorist attack. Jack and Reiko were in attendance to watch their daughter compete against the best in the world. His military training was ingrained into him so when he saw a dozen heavily armed French counterterrorism officers conversing outside the auditorium, Jack knew this wasn’t standard operating procedure. When he got back to the hotel, he made a call to his former commanding officer, Tony Morenga, who retired as a Lieutenant General and was now an executive vice-president with Lockheed-Martin, a multi-billion-dollar defense contractor.

Tony was aware that Jack was in Paris to watch his daughter, “How’s Aimi doing?”

Jack answered, “Undefeated so far.”

            “Give her my best,” Tony said, “You didn’t call to pass the time of day. What’s on your mind?”

Jack responded, “I’m noticing things that look out of place. Have you heard anything?”

            “No, but if you want, I’ll make some discreet calls,” Tony answered.

            “I’d appreciate it.”

Tony said, “I’ll be in touch.”

Two hours later, Tony called, “The French have received threats. They don’t want to alarm the athletes and guests so they’re working with other intelligence agencies to deal with the situation without going public and causing a panic.”

Jack responded, “I’ll elevate my alert status.”

            “Take care and come home safely.” Tony said.

Jack said, “That is my intent.”

Most people at the games were too interested in the events to be overly concerned with the increased security. Aimi won gold medals in her two events and would participate in the closing ceremonies before returning home with her parents. In the meantime, the Andersons decided to take in the sites. Jack seemed preoccupied at every place they went, and always scanned the area for suspicious activities.

His wife Reiko inquired, “Is something wrong?”

Aimi interjected, “Yeah, what’s going on?”

Jack responded unconvincingly, “I guess I’m just a little tired.”

            “That’s not it,” Reiko disagreed.

Aimi said, “You might as well tell us, we’re not going to let it go.”

            “This is just a report, the French received threats of possible terrorist attacks. Remember, it’s just chatter. From my prior experience, the majority of these reports turn out to be nothing.”

            “Which means the minority turn out to be true,” Reiko responded.

            “The terrorists only have to get it right once and we only have to get it wrong once,” Aimi smiled.

Reiko said, “Spoken like the daughter of a Marine.”

For the next three days, the Andersons enjoyed most of what Paris had to offer. Reiko admitted, “I’m going to need a vacation from this trip.”

            “We’ve got the closing ceremony, then it’s homeward bound. You’ll have four years to rest if Aimi decides to compete at the next summer Olympics in Brisbane, Australia,” Jack reminded his wife, “And then we’ll do it all over again.”

The French went all out, fireworks, light show and music for the closing ceremonies.  Jack was sitting in the front row watching his daughter prepare for the march through the stadium. He noticed several men in uniform attempt to enter the area. When they were questioned, one of them stabbed an officer. Jack gestured to his daughter, then pointed to the area where the four men were standing. Aimi left the American formation and walked over to where her father and mother were standing.

Jack turned to his wife, “We need to take care of something…if you hear gunshots, hit the deck.”

As Jack walked with his daughter toward the men, he cautioned her, “Don’t forget your training.”

Jack and Aimi came up behind the men and stood quietly. Aimi nudged her father and pointed to one man. The barrel of a weapon was barely visible beneath his jacket. Jack surmised they would open fire when the athletes walked past them.

The procession started and Jack and Aimi moved slowly forward in measured steps. Jack motioned to the two men on the left and whispered, “Mine …you’ve got the other two.”

 As soon as the terrorists began to raise their weapons, Jack and Aimi made their move. Jack hit two terrorists with consecutive well-placed blows from his lethal right hand that struck them at the base of their neck and severed their brain stems. They were killed instantly. Aimi kicked her targets in the back of their knees and their legs buckled. She slapped her hands over one man’s ears, disorienting him completely, then hit the other one in the Adam’s apple. French authorities rushed over to take control of the situation.

Jack turned to his daughter, “It’s not too late to join your teammates.”

Aimi kissed her father and rushed out on the track.  A member of the American team handed her a flag and she waved it proudly for the world to see.

This father and daughter combination were born to serve, compete and represent their country. The sunlight reflected off the medals hanging around Aimi’s neck, a perfect combination of flesh and gold. These were 24 Carat Warriors and nothing was ever going to tarnish their brilliance.

The End

Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


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  • Published: 2 months ago on August 8, 2021
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  • Last Modified: August 8, 2021 @ 12:53 am
  • Filed Under: The Back Page

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  1. Jeremy says:

    Very well done…I like the family aspect and patriotism and the way both father and daughter loved their country and made the necessary sacrifices.

  2. john michels says:

    Nice story Tom including the part about the future Olympics.

  3. Robert says:

    Very good story. Thanks for including me in your weekly distribution. Keep them coming.

  4. Clyde says:

    I liked the patriotic aspect of the story.

  5. WOLF says:

    Patience young grass hopper.

    I really enjoyed it. I knew Tom would add some terrorists to the mix.

  6. Tony says:

    When I grab a cup of coffee and read the Vista Press with one Mr. Calabrese’s great and entertaining stories. It certainly makes my Sunday a great day. This Sunday is not exception. When I read one of Mr. Calabrese’s stories I can not hel to think he lived some of these adventures or is very close to someone that has lived it.
    They grab my attention from beginning to end and makes me part of the adventure. His knowledge and research about places and equipment is astounding. I have looked some of it up from time to time if I have not heard of an item. I thoroughly enjoyed this Sunday story as I have all that I have read. Nice going and please continue to write your Sunday column.

  7. Cary says:

    My kind of Olympic story…action, excitement and patriotism.

  8. Tamara says:

    I just finished Flesh and Gold”!!!! It was a very good & heart felt story!

  9. Christine Marshall says:

    Awesome!! Loved Aimi’s response to the reporter. Great story.

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