Friday, September 11, 2009

Project 2996: LCDR Robert Randolph Elseth

by Smitty (re-posted from 07Sep09)

A privilege none will know again,
But this writer once enjoyed:
Knowing Robert Elseth.

A God-fearing man,
A noble father,
An excellent Naval officer.

The epitome of grace under pressure,
When I knew him, unflappable:
Though we worked for a taskmaster.

The Crown of Life Bob wore,
Invisible yet ever present:
Worthy of Christian striving.

The unfathomable Will of God,
Placing him in the Pentagon
On that day is joyous and bitter.

Calling him home so soon
Immortalizes his memory
Without hugs for the remaining.

Though my wife would object,
At the time, I, a bachelor,
Would have cheerfully traded places.

Meditating on Bob brought up another memory to share. Very early in 2001, while we worked in Crystal City, Virginia, there was a requirement to conduct a classified briefing. We briefed early and often on that project.

Conducting this briefing involved some gymnastics, to acquire an appropriate system and set it up in the desired space. This task fell to me.

I connected all the cables and the projector. One should always ensure that the software is properly installed, so I opened PowerPoint, and wrote a bit of doggerel onscreen:
  • "Life is to brief, to brief is life,"
  • Or so someone once said.
  • But my belief: "Too brief is life,"
  • As PowerPoint bullets my head.
Bob came in the room to verify that the setup was completed for our taskmaster boss. He had a character trait that I completely need to emulate: he could do the silliest, most inane tasks for the pointy-haired boss in a positive, thorough, uncomplaining manner. His body language never let on that he though a task beneath him: he simply carried out the to-do list with an unfeigned cheer that, even today, gently chides my own negative, cynical attitude.

I pointed to my joke poem, and went into an over-done, academic explanation about the humor of the ambiguity of whether 'bullets' in the last line is a third person singular verb, or a plural noun.

"We worry about you, Chris," said Bob. I laughed in reply.

Oh, Bob: life is indeed too brief. I can only guess the depth to which your family misses you, and cherishes every memory. God rest your soul, and have mercy on all that perished that day.
Part of Project 2996
Graphic: Carol at No Sheeples. Thank you.

The Reganite Republican Resistance rounds up the somber actions to ensure that the memories of the fallen retain their proper place, despite efforts to the redirect matters.


  1. Chris, I was lucky enough to lock in Charles "Chic" Burlingame for Project 2996. As a rookie blogger, I'm looking forward to doing my part on 9/11. That, and going to DC to be a part of the Mob.

  2. Smitty - that is lovely. Thank you!

  3. @Adrienne,
    And yet that is some tragically expensive beauty.

  4. Thank you for remembering Robert Elseth.

  5. What a beautifully written and heartfelt tribute.

  6. Thank you for a lovely remembrance of a friend.
    It is beautiful!

    (Trying to make the rounds to the Project 2996 pieces, please stop by my place, too.)

  7. Thank you for remembering Robert.

    We will never forget.

  8. "We worry about you, Chris,"

    Not to make light of a terrible day, but that phrase has been repeated by more people in more places than is probably comfortable.

    I think I first heard the esteemable Dave Dewitt utter that, circa 1985.

  9. This is a wonderful tribute. Thanks for never forgetting.

  10. Bob was a neighbor in Vestal as we grew up. We used to pick on him as he was the new kid. He always took it good naturedly. Bob, you are missed.