previous post next post  

Carroll "Lex" LeFon: The Goodbye (and it was good).


Yesterday, Captain Carroll "Lex" LeFon was sent to his reward with all the honor due him and the warm and happy memories of those who knew him. Even the weather seemed to cooperate, as it was a crystal clear but crisp day, and you could see for miles from the top of the hill in Rosecrans where the service was held (picture taken prior to the ceremony).

I'm terrible at estimating crowds, but there were nearly three times as many people as seats to sit in. Most of those in uniform waited for others to sit and when the available seats were filled, stood in neat rows in the back, as if the chairs delineating those rows were simply invisible. It created a beautiful column of people with their Navy and USMC covers sparkling in the sunlight.

Every person involved honored Lex without any misstep I could see. The bagpiper who played for at least 10 minutes before the service was absolute perfection to my musical ear. The Chaplain obviously knew of whom he spoke, borrowing paragraphs from URR's post at the USNI blog  and other tributes, and receiving murmurs and exclamations of agreement when he invited the assembled to affirm that Lex was indeed a gifted writer.

The wind was quite intense, and the flag unfurled and furled in honor of Lex whipped and snapped violently in the breeze, but the two sailors completed their task with precision and perfection as they battled the gusts. The female of the pair turned precisely and knelt in front of Lex's wife, obviously offering her more words than the standard, "Please accept this flag on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Navy," though the wind prevented her quiet words from carrying.

In an amazing "coincidence," moments before the honorary rifle shots and the playing of Taps began, a single Hornet took off from nearby Naval Air Station North Island. It appeared over the treetops in front and to our right just as the first notes sounded. It could not have been more perfect--the always-haunting Taps floating through the wind-whipped air as the plane most-associated with Lex's career faded into the cloudless sky.

There was then a very brief delay as we waited for the fly-by, and the Rosecrans attendant who had guided people through protocol for the military honors invited us to sit "in quiet contemplation." But as soon as Lex's wife heard the roar of the jets, she leapt to her feet, still clutching the folded flag in one arm as she stood on tiptoe in the center aisle, a tiny pixie of a woman reaching to the sky and waving in huge, wide arcs as a two-ship passed directly overhead. It was an F-18 Hornet with a Kfir tucked up very close on its wing, the bookends of Lex's flying career.

As the service closed, attendees were encouraged not to dally, but many took the time to pay their respects to the family. And others had a very long walk, as vehicles were parked down both sides of the road for quite a distance, such was the crush of people.

Following the service, we apparently had ATAC, Lex's employer, to thank for a great reception on Point Loma right next to the water and overlooking the San Diego skyline. Walking in the door, one instantly encountered the following display:

Sharp eyes will know what is in the upper left corner of the table, and as for myself, I was so gratified to see two of the pictures brought to the Shakespeare's March 9th get-together by SoCalPir8 and me front and center. Lex's wife had asked us for permission to take them with her, which we had gladly granted, so it was very touching to see them make a re-appearance.

The reception itself was near-perfection, with only one flaw that was soon rectified. As SoCalPir8 and an unnamed former naval officer stood at the bar, they both discovered there was not a drop of Guinness (for strength!) or Jameson (for courage!) in the facility. They instantly teamed up to solve the problem, cleaning out the Naval Exchange of all but one six-pack of Guinness and procuring two large bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey as well. The bartender was a bit perturbed when they returned with Guinness and Jameson in hand, but graciously allowed the drinks to be placed on a corner of the bar for all to share. A number of Naval Officers and Marines alike were later spotted joining the formal toasts with a Guinness in one hand and a shot of Jameson in the other.

The most poignant moment of the reception relates to what is in the lower right hand corner of the above picture. It was an informal moment, and I felt tremendously blessed to happen to have been close enough to see it develop. A distinguished naval officer in uniform was struggling with a tri-folded flag that was threatening to unravel its neat triangle when several of our troop of blog readers jumped to assist him. In the course of helping, it was discovered that he was the current CO of TOPGUN and he was bearing a very special gift, which he then instantly turned and presented to Lex's son and wife (click to enlarge, and note the date).

Yes, it was the flag flying over TOPGUN when Lex's plane went down.

I wish I could've somehow recorded every single detail and conversation of the reception, for it was truly the balm our souls needed--to be among those who knew and loved Lex as the great man he was. As the toasts began, I could hear Lex's voice in every story, see mannerisms and expressions described by family, friends and fellow pilots. And it was a joy to see the happiness and affection with which he was remembered.

It would not surprise most to hear that Lex was supremely competitive, and one pilot spoke of how over the years they'd end up in a wrestling match each time they encountered one other, including when they met up again as employees of ATAC. A female voice piped up from the back, "He's not kidding. Right there in the hallway, giving HR a heart attack. The liability!" The original speaker added that since he always had about 30-50 pounds on Lex, he could win in the first 15 minutes, but that "he'd beat you 45 minutes later." He never, ever gave up.

Lex's nephew was only two years younger than him due to Lex's sister being significantly older, and reported the same kind of story. He also put a poignant spin on another event, one I had never considered in that light. As Lex had written on his blog, he rolled his old Jaguar convertible his senior year at the Naval Academy (giving him the nickname "Car-Roll").  But the nephew added some information, pointing out that Lex had landed upside down in a ditch with the car suspended by the sides of the ditch, a configuration that surely saved his life. "I look at every year after that as a gift from God," the nephew said, "And Carroll made the most of that gift." He added that we shouldn't so much be sad that we lost Lex relatively young, but be joyful that we had him for far more years than we had every right to expect.  I was reminded again of Patton's admonition that we not mourn, but rather celebrate that such men lived.

Others told great stories about Lex's wit, including one involving a sister squadron smuggling a live rooster aboard ship that insisted on crowing at inopportune times because it was kept in the dark 24/7 until they were far enough out that it chouldn't be sent back on the COD plane. Unfortunately, that hiding place was next to Lex's stateroom. One day Lex spotted a leader of that sister squadron and went storming down the ship's passageway, reporting, "Your damn J.O.'s brought a barnyard alarm clock aboard and the damn thing's broke. It keeps going off at 3 o'clock every damn morning!"

One particularly delicious story involved someone who had spent time with Lex in staff work, noting the cutting wit Lex fortunately kept sheathed most of the time. I suspect those who watched Lex engage trolls on his blog know exactly of what his fellow officer spoke...

Thanks to Lex's son (SNO), we also got the full story of Lex's reaction to SNO's decision to go into helicopters instead of jets. SNO said that the thing he'll always remember his father saying was "nothing." After SNO made his aviation choice, he had called his father. "What did you get?" Lex asked. "Helicopters," SNO replied. There was dead silence on the phone. As the silence extended, SNO became concerned. "Are you still there, Dad?" he asked. "Yes," came the calm reply. "I just thought you said 'helicopters.'" SNO affirmed the accuracy of his father's hearing and received the response, "Did you not get jet grades, or something?" He had, but had chosen helicopters and soon explained why. SNO reported to the assembled crowd at the reception that once Lex recovered from the shock, his father made it clear how proud he was of SNO going his own way, something that Lex had always celebrated and for which SNO expressed his deep appreciation and gratitude in his toast.

The most hilarious moment was supplied by Lex's two beautiful and equally-poised daughters. They referenced the PX90 video workouts Lex favored when he needed to return to fighting shape for the ATAC job, describing them as great for "using to work out, or watch for tips, or just to listen to as your father pants in the next room." It absolutely brought down the house.

Kat, his youngest, said that for 17 years it had been her life mission to tease, harass and generally humble her proud, competitive and driven father, a role she obviously relished. She reported that one day recently she had heard two thumps coming from the 2nd story of her home and called out, "Dad, are you okay?" He reported from his upstairs room that everything was fine but she knew better, running to check on him.  "I arrived to see a yoga video still running," she said, "and my father laying on the floor just like a tipped cow. I said, 'Did you fall over doing yoga?'" She giggled, and then perfectly imitated his resigned tone. "Yes. I think I broke my hip." She looked down with amusement as she must have that day. "Would you like me to help you get up?" she asked with laughter in her voice. Again with the resigned and monosyllabic reply, "Yes."

It was delightful to see those two girls in action, full of such love and affection, and so very obviously their father's daughters, marked with not only his features but his wit and playfulness. And of particular delight to me was to discover that they spoke just as quickly as their father did. Comment was later made by the CEO of ATAC that some people in his employ had trouble understanding a word Lex said because at times he spoke so fast. As a fast speaker myself, I loved it!

Lex's family made him proud yesterday with the strength, courage, poise and warmth they exhibited through what was surely a wrenching day for them. And those who have been concerned that the family continue to have the support they need will be gratified to know that Lex's son was sustained by a number of squadron mates in attendance, as well as several Marines from his ROTC days. The girls were well-accompanied by a table full of their young friends, and the room was awash in love and support. During the toasts, Lex's wife was hailed as a mother to the military base neighborhoods they inhabited, and honored for her mentoring of the younger military wives. His children were honored for their military service in SNO's case, and the strength and resiliency the daughters displayed in theirs.

The family has a long road ahead, as anyone who has lost a loved one knows, but they will be accompanied on that road with a large and dedicated team of brothers in arms, coworkers and friends who will never allow Lex (or those he loved) to be forgotten.

He lives on in so many...

Update: ATAC has really gone above and beyond what could be expected, for both Lex and the family now left behind.  Just one in the multitude ways that above-and-beyond was expressed was in ATAC's creation of a 100 memorial challenge coins, a couple of which--gifted from Lex's wife herself--graced the hands of a few military bloggers and readers by the time the reception was over.  One side of the coin displays the ATAC name and logo.  The other appears below. 

Lex's very civilian neighbor of 10 years was in awe, telling us that his coin would now be used as a placemarker on golf outings, since when he and Lex went golfing the day would end with drinks. "I would turn around and there would always suddenly be two drinks in front of me," he recalled with tears welling in his eyes, "a Guinness and a shot of Jameson. That's what Lex always said, 'Guinness for strength, Jameson for courage.'"

To Lex!


An excellent account of the day, well written with all the love of a dear friend...  Thank you Fuzzybear...
Thank you,

My Aunt, a retired Captain, Navy Nurse Corps,  was recently laid to rest at Rosecrans and it is a magnificent site.  If you can see from your grave location then Rosecrans is one of the places to be.  It is usually breezy and always has a magnificent view in any direction. 

Lex should be at peace there.
An excellent narrative FBL! How apropos it is for a fellow long time follower of Neptunus Lex to provide the story! Thank you...


Lovely writeup, Fuzzy. You hit upon the whole of it perfectly. Thank you.

I can't tell you what rules I'd have broken to get to Sandy Eggo yesterday, but there is the day after. I'm grateful the family was able to have so many friends surrounding them, that the weather cooperated (clear and crisp was our Captain!), and that Lex' spirit was there for all to bask in.

Now, the day after, it's time to put it all in perspective and get back to to its fullest. With all of our friends from the mothership, of course! ;)
Thank truly captured the day...
Did you get to Shakespere's afterwards Fuzzy?
Unfortunately I didn't, Quartermaster.  By then it was 5:00 and I was hungry and exhausted.  Without any thought on my part, my dear BF took me to a quiet dinner near Sunset Cliffs and we watched the sun go down before heading home.  It was exactly what I needed.  Shakespeare's didn't even occur to me until late that night and I felt terrible about it, but I honestly can't imagine how I would've managed it.

Thanks for the compliments, all.  I tried to remember as much as possible, wanting to share it all with those who couldn't be there.  I'm glad you think I succeeded.
 Lovely summation, FbL, greatly appreciated it. Unfortunately, I pranged my car badly up on the hill and missed the reception down at SUBASE, and after your description I truly regret that.

Later that afternoon/evening, I made it down to Shakespeare's for a pint or few, but I don't know that anyone else made it; in their defense, I wouldn't actually have recognized anyone, outside xbradtc, who I met up at the Fort yesterday. The pub was quiet, even peaceful, which permitted me to be alone with my thoughts and prayers for a few hours and to hoist a few " for strength, and for Lex".
A wonder filled telling of the day, FuzzyBearLioness, and much appreciated. Deep breath, and onward.

Wonderful description, Fuzzy.  Seeing that TOPGUN flag certificate caused the eyes to moisten up a little. 
Thank you SO much for that account of yesterday's events.  It was so wonderful to read.  And I especially appreciate the mention of his daughters as I worry about them.  Thanks for drawing a great picture for us.
FBL- Thank you ever so much for your superb reporting! 

The flag from TOPGUN ("One word, ALL CAPS...")  is an especially meaningful touch of thoughtfulness that was totally unexpected.  A really class act, the type of detail that I am sure would have occurred to Lex, had the roles been reversed. 
Thanks Fuzz - If I'd still be in San Diego, I would have made it.  Rosecrans, trully is a site befiting our most esteemed friends and heroes.
 Thank you very much for these details .  Tuesday was a sad day.   I feel better knowing that the family is resilient, his friends gave him an Irish wake, and the services were conducted with a great deal of class.
Thanks for that complete and engaging recounting of the memorial service. It means a lot to those of us who were unable to attend.

My Regards to all.
Thanks FBL...I didn't know Lex that well...I now know him better.
Thanks, Fuzzy.  I feel better now.
Outstanding synopsis, FBL. I learned more about him in that piece than from reading two years of him on line. God bless all here!
 Thank you so much FbL.  I still cannot believe it, but I guess I have to.

Wonderful writeup, FbL. Thank you for the details, it almost feels like I was there. Well done.
Thanks for your wonderful rendering in words what this signifigant turn in life's wheel was yesterday. For those of us who could not be there, it is deeply appreciated.
Thank you so much for a beautiful recap!

I thought the worst of it was over for me. It was until I read this. Thanks so much for posting, FbL. We've been getting little morsels here and there from others but this was ... Thanks. Just thanks.
FbL, I just soaked that post up. Best shot in the arm I've had for 3 weeks. Cheers mate. First one's on me. (In the event we do meet up, best print this off to prove I said that - and bring i/d)
Thanks for sharing that.
I'm glad it went so well and that his family has a large support base.

RIP Lex.

Thank you so very much for your posting. Tears in the eyes again. I am so glad the Capt. was honored in such a great but deserving manner. May GOD bless his family as they move on in life with the memory of this service in their minds.

Concur on the best news in weeks. Very nicely done FBL!
Thank you, FbL. It is good to hear that Lex got a proper send-off, and that so many are looking out for his family.
 Thank You.
Thanks so much for this account, Fbl. Well done.
Thanks, FBL. I couldn't be there...but you made me feel really close to it ;)
What to have been there! Thank you for such a vivid and poignant description. I'll greet you one day Lex. Cheers!
Simply outstanding, and a narrative worthy of Lex - he would be proud. Bravo Zulu.
What Comjam said.  Wish I could stop my tears -kind of.

Thanks FBL,

Thanks Fuzzy. I really hoped someone would capture the event for us and you did an outstanding job. It helped bring some closure to those of us far away.
Thank you, FBL, for a beautiful report, I felt like I was there... 
well, now my screen view is just as fuzzy misty as the narrator could make it....

you done wrote it up well, and a deed well done.

All, Thanks again for the kind words. I can't tell you how glad I am for those of you saying that it brought you peace or made you feel like you were there. It did me so good to be there, so I hoped to somehow bring all of you along with this post. You were all certainly there in spirit, and I told Lex's wife I had hugs for her from hundreds and hundreds of people.

Oh no, Chris! My horrible luck with cars recently must have rubbed off on you upon our meeting. I'm so sorry. I'm glad you found some peace at Shakespeare's, though.

Pogue, it was so wonderful to finally meet you! I wish we'd had time to reminisce--amazing to think we have known each other online for at least seven years and never met before! One of my first readers, IIRC.. ;)

Fishmugger and Dust, I barely scratched the surface. To know him, go and start at the beginning of his blog. Or even better, go to the old site and be sure to read the comments:

Hogday, I know that you know my driver's license doesn't say "FbL." And I know you're an honorable man. Thus: I'm counting on that drink! ;)

Oh, Todd... Lex was one of my blogfathers (I got it from all directions, haha!), so that hit home. I'll accept that he might be proud, but I cannot match his gift for narrative. Thank you for the compliment, though.
What I would like somebody to explain to me, is how the Guinness Widget works.  It's been 20 years or so ago since I last bought a can of Guinness, but I think The Widget was different back then.  The one I found, on cutting open the can tonight, was spherical and about the size of a ping-pong ball.
Absolutely beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing.
Just wanted to add my thanks, FbL, for providing such a wonderful account of the ceremony for all of us who were unable to be there.  The strength and grace shown by his family leave me at a loss for words.

Kris is organizing a memorial get together for the widely scaterred New England contingent in mid-April.  I'm told Guiness will be available.
 FuzzyBear, it was great to meet you and the BF. I too found some quiet time in order an hour after the reception, and for some time even afterwards.

He was loved by all. I will cherish the coin that made it into my hand as I gifted Mrs. Lefoy with the aircrew wings on behalf of all Tailhook SENSOs and other aircrewmen. I almost broke down with that simple gesture of unexpected gratitude.

Thank you Fuzzy. I am not sure how much more sad I could be than I have been.
Thank you for giving me an eye into the final...
 I had a hard time at the Memorial. 
I tend not to do well at these things.
I blubbered a bit. I admit it freely. 
There were a few there who I have been connected to in the blog world that helped me through it.
I did receive a coin.
I delivered a message from an mutual blogger friend and onetime former shipmate to Mary Lefon.
That was a thing that made my knees go weak..............................
Buck Pennington at Exile in Portales simply titled his post on the loss of Our Good Captain........Tears.......................................
A perfect play-by-play of the day. It was as wonderful a day as possible. Lex would have been proud.

As a side note, I talked with Chaplain Modder after the services about his remarks and if I could post them for all to read. I just finished a 'formal' request which I expect to receive a copy. I will find appropriated online sites to post so that all can feel they were there.

Always...Strength and Courage.
FB, Many thanks for your beautiful and inspiring post. Long time Lex fan but never posted before his unfortunate departure. My heart has been very heavy when considering the burdens and grief his family, friends, and associates face now. Due to your excellent post, my burdens have been lightened immensely. May yours be also. V/R :)

Thanks for this.


Thank you so much for the narrative. I desperately wanted to be ther. However, distance and the lack of funds kept me from attending. Your narrative more than made up for my abseNCE. Again, thanks so much.

Guy C


Thank you for so beautifuly putting in words the experience of being at the service and reception.  It was nice to meet you and I'm sorry that we weren't able to chat more.  Did you see (meet?) flit at the reception?  For me that was a treat.

Thanks again,
Paul L. Quandt
An excellent account FbL.  As noted, I was shanghaied to Daytona Beach for work and all I could do was observe a few moments of silence.

And those were touches of class - the flag from NFWS and the coins from ATAC.

The good Captain is gone but not forgotten.  And as long as we remember him, he will never die. There is no doubt that he is organizing things for the great reunion we will all have at judgement day.

My heart aches, but it will get better.  Time heals all wounds, but they never go away completely.

..."From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

Godspeed Captain.  We have the watch.
Thanks for your kind words describing the ceremony.

'We have the watch' - probably the most honoring words there is, but a deep sadness each time I read them posted - because of what it means.
Thanks that was a great after action report, it was almost as good as being there. I can only hope that when I make my final landing I get half as much.
Thanks for the AAR.  I've been without internet, except when I can get to the library, for a few months now, I was sick (literally) when I read about it.