When I was young, my mother started working for the Department of Health and Human services here in our home town of Bakersfield, Ca. We had spent a couple years on Welfare when we moved to Bakersfield, but we actually used it for what it was meant for, and that was to help you get back on your feet.
When my mother started with the County, she made made friends right off the bat. She was just that kind of person, and over time, one of those friends was James Baier, or Jim as he liked to be called.
Jim had a way of letting everyone know that he had everything under control. That as long as he was in the mix, there was little that would or could go wrong. You see… Jim was a former Marine. Not just that, he was, in my opinion, a “Marine’s Marine”. When I think of the attitude that Jim exuded, I always think of a line from the movie “Heartbreak Ridge”… “Be advised. I’m mean, nasty and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round in a flea’s ass at 200 meters. So why don’t you go hump somebody elses leg, mutt face, before I push yours in.”
It would be hard for me to say that Jim was sweet, kind or gentle… I am sure he was to the right people. But at the point where he came into my life, I think that he understood that this was not something I needed. He saw that I was just on the verge of going in the wrong direction and needed my ass kicked a few times a week to get it back in line. This was something that my mother was no longer able to do. Though she tried, it was just not having the correct affect on me. I think that he saw this and took action.
At the age of 16, and on my own, with no real direction from my mother or father (when he made the rare appearance) decided to join the Marine Corps. Once Jim learned of this, it was all over. He pressed me, pushed me and drilled me every time he came by the house. It got to the point that, on a few occasions, I made sure I was not there when he came by. Not that I did not like him, just that I did not want to be ordered around.
At the time, I did not see what he was doing to me. I did not understand then, as is usually the case, that what he was doing was simply getting me ready for that which I needed to learn in the real world. That which I would soon be subjected to when I climbed off that van at MCRD in San Diego.
Jim was, from my memory, not without his problems. Like my father, he drank too much and he swore a little too much, even for me. I always thought of him as being a little on the self destructive side and there was always something about him that seemed lonely. That being said, there was never a better person to have on your side if you needed help or emotional support. There was also never a worse person to have as an enemy should you discover the place to his bad side.
I was always a little jelealous of his family. While they were people I knew, and I went to school with both of his children, I never “knew” them until later. In the short period of time that Jim was part of my life, he made a huge impression on me and my life. There is very little that I do today that does not occasionally cause me to think of him.
Jim passed away in, I think, 1996. With his passing, I feel that everyone that knew him or whose path he had crossed, had lost something special. There are even a couple people I know that did not like him, that felt a loss when he had died.
Because of the positive influence that Jim had on me, the lessons that he taught me, both directly and indirectly, and the effect he had on my family. For that, he is included in my list of personal heroes.
Thank you Jim… Godspeed and Sempre Fi!
Note: If you are reading this, and you are one of Jim’s family members, you are more than welcome to email me. I would love to talk to you.