Quaerendo Invenietis, Vladimir Solaratov

I had to do just one more post in honor of fellow blogger and soldier Vladimir Solaratov, who passed away earlier this month after living his last few months at the Grunt Ranch in Colorado among friends.  He was sent off with good whiskey and toasts from a whole house full of people on the day of his passing, and I exhort him with his own favorite Latin plea: “Seek and ye shall find,” from the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount.  It seems appropriate for him.  His whole life was lived in pursuit of understanding of what this life was all about.  He read more books of philosophy than I could count.  And his favorite movie was the 1999 Israeli western “Purgatory,” which was about old warriors trying to find their way into Heaven.  I know he’s figured out much of it by now.  Enjoy the knowledge, Bill, and resquiescat in pace, dear friend.

It’s no longer necessary to keep his identity a secret, but I don’t spill the beans on Bill Burtnette gratuitously, rather for the purpose of finally showing this photo of his esteemed war hero father, Claude Burtnette, who was even more a badass than Bill, if that’s possible.

31_Lt_C_Burtnette_-_Giving_the_bird

1st Lt. Claude S. Burtnette flew primarily P-40 Warhawks during WW2 in the Pacific, getting a few shot out from under him, including one downed by Japan’s infamous fighter ace, Saburo Sakai, I think, who made such a close pass by him during a battle over Port Moresby, as “Burt” was hanging from his parachute, that he could see the gold tooth in the ace’s grinning mouth while he saluted an honored but defeated adversary.  His most esteemed decoration, however, came as a fighter-bomber, dropping a bomb down the snoot of a Japanese ship and single-handedly sinking her, despite the almost suicidal danger of doing so with all the ships guns blazing away at him.  Here he is getting the Distinguished Flying Cross pinned on by Lt. General George C. Kenney (below).

Dad getting DFC

Bill, himself, served three tours in Vietnam during the earliest days of that conflict, where he wore the beret as an Army Airborne Special Forces hunter and sniper.  During those tours he fought and killed Viet Cong in close combat and through scopes on M-14s and the earliest M-16s, earning Purple Hearts along the way, but refusing to wear or acknowledge the ones earned from personal mistakes (i.e. John Kerry moves), like getting perforated by particularly well-hidden punji sticks.

For the same reason that most don’t speak of their experiences in Vietnam during the 60s and 70s, the secrets and politics and incomprehensible bloodshed of the Indochine conflicts rendered many of Bill’s stories of his time there untellable.  But, that can’t completely be said of his later exploits on other continents.  Rather than the grim picture of pointlessness painted by Hollywood and the American Left, the reality of Vietnam inspired a vision in Bill that made him take the war on Communism very seriously.

During the next few decades, he hunted American, African and South American communists and assorted terrorists with gusto.  This caused him to fall into the company of some shady characters, such as Bill and Bernadine Ayers and Pablo Escobar, as well as world leaders, like Anastasio Somoza Garcia, 21st President of Nicaragua, for whom Bill enthusiastically shed blood, not just because Somoza threw world class parties for the people who served him.  It was chiefly because Somoza hated Communists, and also, perhaps, because he and Burtnette had both attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia.

At some point, Bill ended up, as often happens in his line of business, working out of the Nation’s Capitol, doing some form of “intelligence” schtick.  Also not unnaturally, he managed to get married a few times during those days.  Lots of times, actually.  But his fate seemed to run against any of that type of life enduring for long.  That’s a shame.  I think he would have made a damn good father.  He was a good father to me, actually.

During later years, his decision not to work for people who would find themselves at odds with American soldiers extended his life but kept him more or less humble in means, except when it comes to important things, like dogs, ammo, shooting hardware and good Bourbon.  In this very recent photo, all four of those things are close by, since my Aussie shepherd is sitting under the pub table hoping for a few scraps after working hard to break Bill out of a physical therapy center for a drink and a few smokes. You may note the white hospital band on his wrist, indicating that he was in that bar against the rules and after breaking several local statutes.

In this shot, he looks a little worn, but he was really in pretty good shape considering the cancer surgery a few years back that replaced much of his spine with titanium.  That didn’t keep him from hitting the high power range every once in a while, as he is here, shooting my M1A at a 600 yard gong.

Since he passed away earlier in July, I’ve been going through his effects.  There was nothing that shocked me, much to my surprise.  Except perhaps that there was nothing that shocked me.  With tales of missionaries’ wives and nuns in the Congo and Southeast Asian comfort girls, I expected worse.  What he left behind was surprisingly erudite, classy and honorable.  And that’s coming from the guy who was given the normally dirty job of erasing his hard drive.  Weird.  One thing that struck me was the written correspondence that testified to the number of people he touched deeply.  Well done, Bill.  You sucked at marriage, but you sure kept cupid busy with those arrows, and you had many good and faithful friends.  The world will be a more boring place without you.

Hey, what is that in the blue box?  A rosary?  Huh.  Probably never been used after Sunday school, but who knows?  There are all sorts of weapons in this world.  So long, Bill.  May your purgatory be short and your legacy in St. Michael’s army be glorious.


Bill Burtnette now resides at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

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About GruntOfMonteCristo

Fearless and Devout Catholic Christian First, Loving Husband and Father Second, Pissed-Off Patriot Third, Rocket Engineer Dork Last.
This entry was posted in 'Murica, Bloggers, War. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Quaerendo Invenietis, Vladimir Solaratov

  1. JCscuba says:

    This is absolutely amazing. Don’t know how or why you sent this to me but I’m certainly glad, Will post on my site and link back to you tomorrow.

  2. Wonderful tribute, Grunt, to a guy I never knew but now feel I do… terrific photos… especially the one in the bar… all making for a lasting legacy. Thanks for sharing.
    On a personal note, you say “just one more post” — are you bugging out of the blogosphere? That would be a loss in itself. I’ve been wondering where you’ve been these past months. Guy

    • Thank you, Sir! Yes, I have bugged out, but articulate truth-tellers like you do the job much better, after all. I’ve always admired and valued your perspective and skill, Guy. I still read your blog religiously, but I’m sorry I hardly ever have time to comment much these days. Please keep up the good work, and thank you for it!

  3. Jules Smith says:

    That was beautifully written and you did him proud. May he rest in peace.

  4. papabear1950 says:

    Sounds like one of my favorite patriots, Mad Dog Mattis, ‘I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.’ (politico posted it)
    BTW, send me your new e-mail please… how else am I expected to bug you.

    • LOL! Good to hear from you, PapaBear! I’m sorry about killing that email, but I had to consolidate, and getting rid of Comcast was a choice well made. You can reach me at the same email address, except with the number 7 (instead of 8) after my name, followed by gmail.com rather than comcast. I hope you’re enjoying the heat down in the wild Southwest.

      • papabear1950 says:

        I live in Pinetop, AZ, Pinetop Country Club neighborhood. My house is at 7,385 feet elevation, has 90 ninety foot Ponderosa pines, and the hottest its gotten here is 92°. Phoenix is 189 miles south of me. I’ll try and send you a photo.

  5. Terry says:

    Though Bill and I have many things in common such as the exact same cell phone, Zippo, and pocket knife, seems as though he was the kind of man I always envisioned myself growing up to be when I was a child with a vivid imagination. But he actually lived it. What a fascinating life he led.
    And what a wonderful tribute you have written for him, Grunt.

    Go With God, Rest In Peace, and may you find a Lady Angel that can put up with you in Heaven, Bill.
    SALUTE !

    • LOL! Not so sure about that lady angel, but we can hope! That’s a great toast and salute, Terry. Thanks! I’m sure Bill really appreciates it.

      BTW, you forgot to mention that you and Bill have the exact same hair! Same with me, too, unfortunately!

  6. Hardnox says:

    Excellent tribute Grunt. R.I.P. Bill. What a warrior. Hand salute!

  7. freedom1781 says:

    R.I.P. Bill.

    DD and I shed a few tears when we read this but we know he’s in no more pain. I’m glad that he got to spend his last few months surrounded by friends.

    Great tribute, Grunt. He sure was a tough soldier.

    • It pains me to think of little G crying, but there’s nothing wrong with shedding some tears for our friends. You and DD were especially mentioned when Bill credited bloggers’ prayers with him getting through the cancer surgery in 2014. He wanted me to thank you for that.

      When going through his stuff, I paused to read G’s card and drawings that he’d kept. That was really sweet of her. And you.

      Thanks for the comment about Bill, Freedom! I’m glad you stopped by. We were thinking about you last week when we took the boys to the Water Street Grill and did a tour of the Battlefields and the Victory Monument. Jim was really geeking out about the history of the place.

      The house in Poquoson is all set up now, and the Marine son, Noah, and his buddies hang out there much of the time when we’re not there. Would you folks mind coming over for dinner soon?

  8. Brig says:

    Well done Grunt. Thanks for sharing Bill and some of his story. Blessed be Bill.

  9. trailbee says:

    Hi, Grunt,
    May I?
    Requiem for Bill
    In hindsight, we all fight our battles the best way we see fit. Let the chips fall where they may. This was a life lived exactly that way.
    Thank God for friends who recognize us for what we are, and do not try to change us.
    Thank you for being Bill’s friend and home.

    • Not entirely. I miss him, and that’s not an entirely sad thing, to me. But I’m sorry for your loss. I know you followed him for years, and as you were born in Vietnam, the two of you shared some kinship. Take care, good MC.

  10. Adrienne says:

    Somehow Feedly missed this post (or I missed it in Feedly.) That was a very good thing you did for Bill. May he rest in peace.

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