Norfolk veteran’s second burial leaves family no doubt

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Virginian-Pilot
© January 19, 2013

Bill Parkinson was only a kid – a long-haired hippie just out of high school – the day they buried his namesake.

He stood silently as a caisson drawn by six chestnut horses carried two flag-draped coffins that were said to contain the remains of his uncle and nine other men.

Nobody really knew for sure.

Three decades had passed since the men’s B-24 bomber inexplicably vanished into a Southeast Asian jungle. By the time natives found skeletal remains among rusted, scattered wreckage, the ravages of time and weather had taken their toll.

The discovery of a few dog tags was enough evidence to ease the hearts of loved ones gathered that day in 1974 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Surviving mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers wiped away tears; nieces and nephews too young to know the World War II dead stood by their side.

A squad of riflemen fired a three-shot volley; a bugler sounded taps, and the ground swallowed the caskets.

More than 30 years after his death, William R. Parkinson – Norfolk native, strapping young husband, 22-year-old bomber pilot – was laid to rest Oct. 18, 1974.

Soon, he will finally come home.

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‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ from a Navy SEAL’s perspective

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Virginian-Pilot
© January 13, 2013

The theater was quiet as a stealthy helicopter carrying sweaty Navy SEALs and the body of Osama bin Laden lifted into darkness over Pakistan.

It was the climax of “Zero Dark Thirty,” the Hollywood movie that painstakingly details the epic manhunt for the world’s most-wanted terrorist, beginning with crackling 911 recordings from the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and ending nearly three hours later with the 2011 mission to kill the man who orchestrated them.

On screen, a few of the Virginia Beach-based SEALs who had just carried out the raid were hooting and hollering as they tossed a black bag holding bin Laden’s body onto a gurney.

One of the film SEALs let out a celebratory “Wooo!”

I could sense patriotic pride swelling inside the crowded Norfolk theater.

“Nah,” the steely-eyed guy sitting next to me said later, dismissing the moment of triumph. “That wouldn’t have happened.”

He would know.

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Life, liberty and the pursuit of milk

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Virginian-Pilot


It’s a scorching summer morning, and David Crane is standing with arms stretched wide in the middle of a pasture.

He steps cautiously toward a stubborn cow, cajoling her to move out of the heat and into a shady patch a few hundred feet away.

“Come on, girl,” he says quietly, almost whispering. “It’s OK.”

The cow bucks suddenly, knocking the husky middle-aged farmer off-balance and onto the ground in a cloud of dust. Crane hops back up, pats the dirt from his blue jeans and moves in again, arms wide, toward the cow.

“She’s bigger,” Crane says, smiling. “But I’m right.”

The offhand comment might as well be tattooed across his chest.

This soft-spoken husband and father of nine has made a life out of standing up to authority in defense of his beliefs.

Two decades ago in Norfolk, Crane earned a reputation as one of the most ardent abortion protesters in Virginia. So wedded to principle, he once spent 45 days in jail after refusing to honor a judge’s order to stop picketing outside a clinic.

His name had long since faded from the headlines by the time he moved his family out to the Tidewater countryside in 1999 in search of a quieter lifestyle.

Quieter, yes. But, as it turns out, no less controversial.

When David Crane bought a milk cow a decade ago, he didn’t expect to start a business. And he wasn’t looking to pick a fight.

But that could be exactly what he gets.

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Navy jet crash hero to make a fresh start

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Virginian-Pilot
© January 1, 2013


As the final hours of 2012 ticked away, Earl Mawyer loaded the last of his belongings into the back of a pickup. He handed over the ring of keys he’s carried the past 12 years. As he drove away, he watched the Mayfair Mews apartment complex disappear in his rearview mirror.

This is where Mawyer, 57, found a fresh start after years in and out of prison. It’s where, as the complex manager, he made some of his best friends. And it’s where, on Good Friday last spring, the meaning of Mawyer’s life finally came into focus.

Mawyer played a crucial role after a malfunctioning fighter jet dropped from the sky on April 6 and slammed into the apartments off Birdneck Road. City officials and military brass praised the maintenance man, whose intimate relationship with his elderly tenants helped keep them calm and informed in the hours and days after the F/A-18D Super Hornet came down.

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