01 September 2011


Chief Petty Officer Jon Tumilson, U.S. Navy, was a son of the mid-West. From the landlocked heartland, like so many men before him, he joined the Navy. Two weeks ago, this warrior was one of the men who were killed in action when his SEAL Team was shot down in Afghanistan. He was returned to his hometown in Rockford, Iowa to rest eternally until the Lord returns.

At his funeral, one of his cousins, Lisa Pembleton, took a photograph of CPO Tumilson’s dog, Hawkeye, laying beside the flag-draped casket.

I hope that Chief Tumlison, a son of Iowa and Senator George Graham Vest (1830-1904), a son of Missouri, get a chance to be together in Heaven. Both know the truth about dogs.

Senator vest was justly famous for a closing argument he made in a case tried in Warrenton, Missouri, in which he represented the owner of a dog, Old Drum, who had been shot by a sheep herder. So powerful was his closing that the it is said that the jury returned a verdict for the owner of $500, ten times the jurisdictional maximum of $50. A statue of Old Drum now stands in front of the Courthouse in Warrensburg.

In his closing, Mr. Vest said

Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.

Gentlemen of the jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.

So here’s to Chief Petty Officer Jon Tumilson, loyal son of Iowa, squared away North American bluejacket, and Hawkeye’s shipmate.