LTJG Alton L. Grizzard.

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LTJG Alton L. Grizzard.

Mensaje por doc_breacher el Lun 21 Feb 2011 - 15:33



From contemporary press reports:

Tears belied the stoic military front and prim Naval dress uniforms this gray morning as the remains of a star athlete from the United States Naval Academy were carried into the Roman Catholic church where she had once hoped to be married. Her old boss from Cook's pharmacy, teachers from her high school and coaches and half the woman's track team from the Academy cried until they ran out of tears over a Naval officer killed not by a foreign enemy but by one of her own – an Ensign she once pledged to marry - in a murder-suicide that took the lives of three officers last week. Mourners lines up four-deep in the bitter cold at the wake here to pay their respects to 21-year-old Ensign Kerryn O'Neill, some leaving the closed, flag-draped coffin with their hands cupped over their faces, others sinking to chairs and staring into space. People in the military know how to prepare for the sudden loss of a fallen officer. But not this way or this soon.

Early last Wed morning, George Smith, a 24-year-old Ensign distinguished in his own right, showed up at the door of Ensign O'Neill's apartment at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California, with a 9-millimeter Ruger, distraught over their recent breakup. When Lieutenant (jg) Alton L. Grizzard, 24, a former Navy quarterback and mutual friend, answered the door for Ensign O'Neill, Ensign Smith fired four shots, killing Lieuenant Grizzard. Ensign Smith then shot Ensign O'Neill in the head as she cowered behind a chair. He then turned the gun on himself. He died on the way to the hospital. All three Naval officers had graduated from the United States Naval Academy, and were assigned to Coronado. The shootings occurred a day before Smith was scheduled to go off to sea in a submarine, and friends said they figured he must have wanted to resolve his relationship with O'Neill one way or the other. The two were buried on the same day on opposite coasts, she just outside Wilkes-Barre and he in his hometown of Huntington Beach, California. Lieutenant Grizzard's remains are to be buried on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.

"It makes you want to put glass domes over your children," said Marion Rosenfield O'Neill, a cousin of Ensign O'Neill's from New Canaan, Connecticut. "I don't know what we do to fix it. How do we fix the world?" The three Naval officers were the cream of an elite and insular corps. The gunman was an electrical engineer and specialist in nuclear submarines, who crewed on the Navy sailing team, threw he javelin, and was voted "best all-around senior" in high school. Ensign O'Neill, the fiancee he feared he had lost, was an ocean engineer and Captain of the woman's cross country track team who set three track records at the Naval Academy, scaled the school's Big Bertha Hill with ease and left half the men trailing behind her in the freshman obstacle race.

The friend who got caught in the middle was one of the best quarterbacks Navy ever had. Lieutenant Grizzard was the team's career leader in total offense with 5,666 yards. The son of a retired Chief Petty Officer who served 28 years, he was a Navy SEAL commando and had served in Somalia before being assigned to Coronado. The two men were handsome, the woman beautiful and any one of them could have made admiral one day, friends said.

"It's a shame and a waste," said Ed Shedlock, a friend of the O'Neill family, standing on line to pay his respects.

"All three of them," said Elizabeth DePasquale, a co-worker of Ensign O'Neill's father, Edmund.

Naval officers have sent their condolences from ships in the Pacific and from bases across the country. An admiral called from Guam. To her colleagues at Coronado, Ensign O'Neill was the woman who ran every day along the Pacific Ocean at sunset, did not believe in elevators and always had a smile on her face and the candy jar filled on her desk. To her former classmates, she was the one who helped Navy beat Army every year she was on the team. To the father, a guidance counselor, who was so devoted he took notedsat her high school track meets and dictated the stories to the local newspaper on deadline, she was "an angel."

Lighting a cigarette and fighting a periodic burst of tears, he expressed no anger toward his daughter's former fiancee. "George was a driven kid, a nice kid," Dr. O'Neill said.

"He was the kind of guy I thought could and would make a good father and husband." Karen Boyle, the woman's cross country coach, said of O'Neill: "She was the most perfect person any of us had ever met." Of Grizzard, Keith Goganious, linebacker for the Buffalo Bills and a former Navy teammate said: "He had the world at his fingertips. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

His high school football coach, Thomas Rhodes said: "I thought he was the kind of kid the whole country would read about one day, but not like this." There were equally high expectations of ENS Smith, who friends say had been a rock for his family since his father's death four years ago. Friends and colleagues said his actions were out of character.

Lieutenant Commander Frank Thorp, the Public Affairs Commander for the Surface Forces in the Pacific, said about Smith: "There is an incredible amount of sympathy for him. All indications are that he was a wonderful individual. What he did was a total surprise to those who knew him." It is against military regulations to carry guns onto military bases unless conducting operations. The military does not routinely issue guns except for that purpose. Ensign Smith brought two guns to the base, the Ruger and a 9-millimeter Walther pistol that was fully loaded but never fired. The only clues to his torment were a 13-page letter to Ensign O'Neill in which Ensign Smith implored her to reconsider her decision to end their engagement, another letter found in his apartment, torn into tiny pieces, and a heated argument between the two in the hall outside her room at about 7:30 Tuesday night. Witnesses said she was crying and he was shouting. He went home and returned to her quarters at about 1:45 AM Wednesday morning. Friends say that Lieutenant Grizzard was the type of man who would step in to help if Ensign O'Neill had expressed concern for her safety, and the friends say that the two were not romantically involved. Nonetheless, when Smith saw him at the door, he fired.

"Someone was in the room with her, and he must have snapped," Said Todd DeStatte, who friends said would have been best man at the wedding. "It has to have been pure emotion and pure love. It's just a disaster. It doesn't make any sense. It's not George at all. He was so secure and so level." This weekend there was an outpouring of sympathy and disbelief in Wilkes-Barre. Ed Kalley, a mourner who knew neither Ensign O'Neill or her family drove in from Scranton to show his support, as he had driven to Washington, D.C. after President John F. Kennedy was shot thirty years ago. The funeral home here had flowers crammed against the walls -lilies from her Aunt Gail, carnations from Representative Paul E. Kanjorsku, who nominated her to the Academy, mums from her Navy Company, the 21st. There were even flowers from former opponents, the track team at Cornell.

Saturday in East Rutherford, New Jersey, a cloud hung over the Army-Navy game, the 94th meeting of the arch rival academies. The Midshipmen wore stickers on their helmets that said "GRIZ" in memory of their beloved quarterback. Navy missed a field goal in the final seconds. The team lost the game 16 to 14. Most everyone could understand. As outsiders continued to try to make sense of the inexplicable, some blaming guns and some blaming a troubled soul, Ensign Smith's mother, Lorraine, had little to say. "I'm too devastated to talk about this," said Mrs Smith, reached by telephone. "Say a prayer for him. Yes, say a prayer."

Lieutenant (jg) Alton L. Grizzard. July 1, 1969-December 1, 1993. He was buried Friday, December 10, 1993, in Section 59, Grave 1192.

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Re: LTJG Alton L. Grizzard.

Mensaje por doc_breacher el Lun 21 Feb 2011 - 15:33




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