I am an amateur radio operator licensed by the FCC since 1993. Most people know us as “ham” radio operators (NOT to be confused with CB). Each year, on the last full weekend of June, most operators participate in Field Day, sponsored by the American Radio Relay League. The League is the hobby’s national organization for development and continuance of the hobby. During Field Day we literally take to the fields across the nation to practice radio communication in sparse and austere environments as a readiness exercise to prepare for disasters and emergencies.
Field Day, however, is more than just an exercise. It is a weekend of fellowship, joy, good times and just plain fun. This weekend was the first Field Day that I have participated with my radio club since 2007. I went on leave, headed up to Connecticut and made a surprise visit to the Field Day site. My were they ever surprised! I was clean shaven, had a conservative haircut and looked fit — a far cry from five years ago! We had a great time trading notes, stories and rekindling friendships. Oh, we also did a lot of radio.
Each Field Day since 2004, though, we have had moments of sadness and grief. One of our great friends died just before Field Day that year at the age of 49. He dropped dead in his garden. Jim was a great radio operator, a great friend and he LOVED Field Day. We joked that he was the General who organized our campaign every year. A month before Field Day he would start calling people on the phone to arrange for radios, antennas, tents, wire, rope, cable and the like. When he called you he never said, “Hello”. Instead he would yell, “Field Day!” In 2004, the phone went silent.
For two years after that, we all would meet at midnight during Field Day around one of our antenna towers and toast Jim and our memories of him. All of us would shed a tear for the loss of our friend far too soon, far too young.
Today, as I left the Field Day site, I looked up into the beautiful Connecticut sky which was punctuated with the outlines of antennas of aluminum and copper. I whispered, “Jim, I think I feel you are here. Have a good Field Day.” I started my car and then looked up. Standing next to my door had suddenly appeared another ham I had not seen in years. I stopped the car and reminisced with my friend, Bob. As we talked, Bob and I spoke of Jim. Then Bob reminded me that he was the only club member who had used Jim’s FCC license call sign on the air since his death and was the person who handled all the contact information for Jim’s call.
I smiled. Jim had found a way to let me know that indeed he was enjoying the radio this weekend.
Jim . . .