Friday, June 14, 2013

Flag Day!

Flag Day ~ June 14

O'er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave


Fort McHenry
The sight that inspired Francis Scott Key
to write the poem
The Star-Spangled Banner







Iwo Jima - Marine Memorial





The Flag at Arlington House
Arlington National Cemetery





The Flag at the National Archives





The 50 Flags of the States
Washinton Monument





Fredricksburg National Cemetery





The Flag at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine
The site where he died.


Flag at Petersen Gardens in Oregon
Mr. Petersen scoured the desert for rocks and glass and built some incredible stuctures from them. This flag has 48 stars.



World War II Memorial



Flag at Fort Meade Parade Grounds




Flag at Vietnam War Memorial
Pueblo, Colorado


Flag at the Painted Hills
John Day National Monument




Flag at Home
Summer and Winter


Photos from my personal collection and travels

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Memorial Day.  A solemn day.  A reflective day.  A sad day.  But, only for those who have a personal tie to it.  The rest of the country calls it picnic day and beer day and camping day and a few think it is Veteran's Day.  But, it's not.

Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead.

For some of us, it is personal.  We have lost a loved one or a friend.  In modern America, few know anyone who has served or fallen, and they have very little patience with those of us who have.  They often turn a cold heart towards those who grieve.  Others are just insistent that it is Veterans' Day and want to thank people and buy them a beer.

For some of us, we will go to the cemetery, be it in person or virtually.  Some of us have a short distance to go and some of us a very long distance.   Some of us look at the pictures we have taken, reaching out ever so gently to touch the image of those far away places in order to feel closer to the person we lost.  We will do the same with their pictures.  We will remember.

For some of us, we will reflect on the life of the person we have lost.  We will remember what was and the dreams of what might have been.  Our memories will briefly comfort our loneliness.  

For some of us, we will tuck away that inconsolable loneliness for another year, except for those many moments every day and especially at night, that are always with us.

For some of us, decades will pass and we will still feel the same as we did that very first year.

For some of us, it breaks our heart just a little more when you say "Happy Memorial Day."  Forgive us for not finding anything to be happy about.  Forgive us for being disgusted with your lack of knowledge of the meaning of one of our country's most important holidays.

I will go visit the cenotaph of a young man who never made it back from a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines.  I will view the picture of the headstone of that sweet young man from my youth, I will think of those friends I can not visit, and the son of a lady I care so much for, and through my tears, I will call up their headstone pictures and remember them and their precious lives.  I will think of the neighbor boy - and the boy who pumped my gas who was tortured to death by Islamists - and the young man I met and prayed with at the National Day of Prayer that died in Iraq a few years later.  I will remember those that personally touched me.  I will remember those I never knew.

Then, when I am about cried out, I will remember a nation so ungrateful that they can't even be bothered with the meaning of the holiday.

Don't wish me a Happy Memorial Day - it's more than I can bear.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Farewell, Sarge Charlie....


Sarge Charlie
Saigon - 1968




Sarge Charlie
Retirement!!!




Farewell, Sarge Charlie
 
When I first started blogging all those years ago, one of my first blogger friends was Sarge Charlie.  All of these years, I visited his blog - I laughed, I smiled, I even cried once in a while.  I loved so many things about "the Old Sarge"... none less than the love he had for his wonderful wife, Miss Bee, and his family.  Sarge had a way of sharing his personal stories that made you feel you were part of the family.  In some way, he touched the inner spirit of us all.  He left a blog full of stories and pictures that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have for years to come - the only way they won't know Sarge is if they choose not to.  
 
Sarge loved his time with the Army - the good and the bad of it, but mostly the America of it.  No one could ever doubt Sarge's love of country.  But, he also had a gift of reaching out to others.  When my friend was killed in Iraq, no one comforted me more than Sarge.  When a young woman lost her fiance in Iraq, it was Sarge who reached out to her - who introduced us all.  She is a friend today.

I have so many friends because of Sarge Charlie.  People I probably would never have met.  People who add so much to my life.  One of whom is one of the closest friends I have.  We got to know one another at the party that was Sarge Charlie's!
 
Sarge loved his politics.  Whether you agreed with him or not, there was never any doubt that he had thought it out and hecould defend his position.  He was always open to disagreement, but resistant to disagreeable at all times.

Keeping with who he was, Sarge wrote his own epitaph.  "If you are reading this, I have finished the race."  You can read his last words here:  Sarge's last words  -  I advise that you take Kleenex.

Sarge asked that we send his beloved Miss Bee hugs -- I have sent her virtual hugs and will everyday.  But, I think we should also hug those around us - and, hug those we care about today, even if those hugs are virtual.

Charles Cordle, I thank you for the gift of love and friendship that you brought into my life.  You were one hellofaguy!  I miss you already.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Remembering James Craig

Remembering my friend - Four years gone

************************************************

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.

-Psalm 144:1


This is my friend, James. We 'adopted' James after he received a Christmas card from us in 2005 and wrote to thank us for it. We wrote and sent packages through out that year of his deployment. James sent long and fascinating emails. He was a character with a spirit as loud as it was kind. He was devoutly Christian and not afraid or hesitant to talk about it. At his mid-term leave in Fall 2006, James met the love of his life, Natalie. They married in July 2007. And, now, James is walking with God. Please feel free to join me in my wandering memories of James. I want you to know this wonderful young man who just gave his life for our country, for us.

When James recently returned for his third deployment to Iraq, he sent this email from Kuwait:

"Please write to me and pray for me. I would love to get letters and updates from all of you. I look forward to 2010 when I will finally be out of the Army and can carry on a regular life and can be a bigger part of your lives. You are all loved by me very much, that's why you are getting an email. I hope this letter finds you all in happiness and Christmas cheer."


James, 27, was killed on January 28, 2008, in Mosul, Iraq, along with four other soldiers when the unit encountered an IED, followed by an ambush from a nearby Mosque. They were members of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

Also killed were (click on their names to read their stories):

Staff Sergeant Gary W Jeffries, 37, Roscoe, Texas

Specialist Evan A Marshall, 21, of Athens, Georgia

Private First Class Brandon A Meyer, 20, of Orange, California

Private Joshua R Young, 21, of Riddle, Oregon


James served with the following units:

C Company 1/17 Infantry, Ft Wainwright, Alaska, Infantryman - Grenedier/Rifleman, 172nd ~ 1 Dec 00 - 10 Apr 02

HHC 1/17 Infantry, Ft Wainwright, Alaska, Sniper/Scout, 172nd ~ 11 Apr 02 - 18 Sept 03
B Company 1/8 Infantry, Ft. Carson, Colorado, Infantry Team Leader, 4th Infantry Division ~
19 Sep 03 - 28 January 2008


James loved being a soldier and wrote about that frequently.

James attended Cusick Jr/Sr High School in Cusick, Washington from 1992 - 1996, and the Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston, South Carolina where he graduated in 2000. He was involved in Football and Wrestling, excelled in English and Creative Writing and was member of the National Honor Society.

James called the northwest his home - specifically the area outside of Spokane - growing up 'riding horses and going camping.' He looked forward to eventually settling down somewhere in Washington. He was close to his family and spoke of his parents with great love and pride, and of his sisters and aunts, uncles and cousins. His DOD announcement and press reports list Hollywood, California and South Carolina as his home, but he considered the Spokane, Washington area his home.

I was touched by his love for his soldiers. He would send names of those he didn't think were getting enough (or any) mail and have me find people to write to them.



During his second deployment, James received a medal for some of the action he saw. Of couse, this went along with the "I got shot - don't tell my parents" email! Fortunately, the ammunition cartridge below took the brunt of the shooting!


There was also profound sadness on the 2nd deployment. James has this listed under 'Heroes' on his My Space page : Real American Heroes SPC Grant Dampier and SSG Marion Flint are the biggest heroes I have ever met who died in combat on 15 May 2006. I miss you and I will never forget you. See you on the flip side brudda' You can read their story here.

There are so many things about James that I admired. He was 'loud' and funny and articulate and sweet - even calling himself 'Sweet Soldier' - and brave and tough. He was a devout Christian and more comfortable with telling people he was than anyone I ever knew - he had a enviable, easy comfort with this faith. It would be so easy to write and write about James, but let me share some portions of his letters - his long and articulate letters.

"...I am very much looking forward to this war being over. However, I fully support everything that is going on over here ever since I saw first hand what the real situation was. Our media doesn't portray the truth of this operation or the necessity to the people here. The need freedom and desperately cry out for someone to help them. ... I know one thing, God wants me here."

"The war here is stating to come to an end. It will be a slow transition period where the responsibility of the battle space is handed over to the growing Iraqi Army. It all depends on the Iraqis if we are able to leave them with it safely."

"...it is a tale of my wonderful journey where I made memories I will never forget and stood up for something that I believe in...that sweet taste of freedom when the day is done and the knowledge that I have done something to ensure the positive future of my loved ones. And, you should know that it comforts me the most that what I do protects wonderful people like you."





"I just got back from my R&R around the 15th (september 2006). I spent a lot of time with family, wne on a couple of adventures, and met a very special Christian womand named Natalie who I have begun a relationship with...just wait until you meet her. I have included some pictures in this letter."

"I know the Bible says not to be anxious, but it is so difficult not to be when we only have a few weeks left of this deployment and I have met a wonderful Christian woman... Natalie. She is the kind of woman that God would want me to have, so we are going to take things slowley and keep our relationship pure. I am very excited about her."

James and Natalie were married in July 2007!!! It was a joy to watch their love grow and mature.


When I think of James, I always see that brilliant smile. I think of the love he had for life, for the Army, for his fellow soldiers, for his family, for his beloved Natalie, and for his friends. Dear James, you will be missed by so many people. You have touched so many lives. Many will have a difficult time going forward without you. I know God will provide comfort to them. The world will be a little less without the brightness that you brought. Farewell, my friend, and walk with God.

The Patriot Guard Riders will be at the funeral and memorial events Which will take place on the 9th in the Spokane area at the .at Fourth Memorial Church, 2000 N. Standard St., Spokane

News Reports on James:

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

December 7 ~ Pearl Harbor

December Seventh, 1941





Seventy years ago, December 7, 1941, the United States was rocked by the radio announcements that told of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Many historical and remembrance pieces will be written today: stories of history, stories of personal experience - though those will be fewer each year, stories of the reaction in the United States, Japan, the world, even a conspiracy theory or two. Most of the men and women who were old enough to know what was going on are no longer with us. Hopefully, we have heard their stories and remember their messages. I am re-posting my remembrances.

Pearl Harbor Day. A Day That Will Live in Infamy.

What I always will remember is growing up in the shadow of Pearl Harbor - the ever present reminder of how ugly war was. There was nothing noble or gleeful about the awful day. I grew up with the stories of those who were there, stories of people I knew, stories of people who lived through it. As I get older, I can 'see' and 'hear' the stories come alive.

Each Sunday before Pearl Harbor Day, Puna would take us to the Arizona Memorial. Armed with the leis we had strung from the plumeria blossoms on our trees, the family went together. It used to be rather low-key to visit there, and once you got there, quite unusual to have anyone else at the Memorial. There wasn't a Visitor's Center yet. There was no evidence of the Park Service then. Just a guy at the dock that grabbed the little shuttle boat, a Boston Whaler, tied it up and helped you off.

We would walk through the Memorial - our steps echoing in the cavern of the Memorial. Halfway through, we would stop and look at the ship resting beneath us, still leaking oil into the lapping sea, and carrying it ever away, like the spirit was still escaping the doomed craft. We would toss our leis into the water. Eventually, we would end at the Memorial wall, carved with all of the names of the men who died on the Arizona, most of whom were still entombed within.

Puna, this large mountain of a man, would clasp his hands behind him, dip his head in prayer, then focus on the wall and in a hauntingly beautiful, tenor voice would chant the names of the fallen. His voice would echo in the chamber. A more beautiful prayer I have never heard. Once, I looked at his face and saw the tears streaming down, but his voice never wavered. His eyes seemed to be closed, yet he never missed a name.

When the chanting was finished, we would walk back to the overlook on the ship and Puna would tell us about that Sunday morning. He spoke of the noise and the fear and the chaos. He spoke of curfews and rationing. He spoke of the increased military presence on the island. He spoke of the sorrow. And, he spoke of the fear of another attack. Then, he would talk about the uniting and the supporting and the belief in America.

Always, he finished with a warning. America will never be safe from people wanting to take away what we have. They will always want to destroy us, to conquer us, to marginalize us. If you don't believe me, come here and look - open your eyes and look - at what can happen, and will again.

I believe I only saw Puna serious twice a year - Pearl Harbor Day and Memorial Day. On those days, he spoke of bravery and heroism and patriotism. The rest of the year you could depend upon those laughing eyes and the aroma of his pipe. The parents are gone now, but the stories and the emotions remain. I am so grateful for what they shared and what they taught.

I'd like to say that I absorbed it all then, but I didn't. When we used to hike into the mountains and came across some of the crashed Japanese planes, mostly pirated shells, I still didn't get it. When December Seventh was marked at school by people telling their personal experiences, I didn't get it. Oh, I heard it all. I believed it all. I just didn't get it.

It wasn't until I was older and watched the world and global politics that I saw it, that I truly understood the lesson he was trying to teach all those years ago. On September Eleventh, one of the first thoughts I had was of standing in the Arizona Memorial with Puna and hearing his words.

I hope Americans have the resolve to fight for our country as we did in 1941, but I fear for us, now, more than ever.

This is my annual post on Pearl Harbor.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Do You Remember?

I remember where I was the day Kennedy was shot.
I remember where I was the day an American set foot on the moon.
I remember where I was when Apollo 13 was snatched from the ocean and, against all odds, they had made it home alive.
I remember where I was when Saigon fell.
I remember where I was when the first Space Shuttle landed.
I remember where I was when Challenger blew up.
I remember where I was when Columbia broke apart.
I remember where I was on September Eleventh, 2001.
These are moments that paint the character of my country.
God bless America.

I invite you read my September Eleventh posts here.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Roger Sherman ~ Founder and Patriot


Roger Sherman
1721 - 1793
Representative of Connecticut to the Continental Congress
Signer of the Declaration of Independence
Signer of the Continental Association, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution
(He was the only person to sign all four documents)

Roger Sherman was born in Massachusetts, but moved with his family, by foot, to New Milford, Connecticut in 1743.  He and his brother opened the towns first store.  Despite his lack of formal education, he was admitted to the Bar of Litchfield, Connecticut in 1754, during which he wrote A Caveat Against Injustice and was chosen to represent New Milford in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1755 to 1758 and from 1760 to 1761. In 1766 he was elected to the Governor's Council of the Connecticut General Assembly, where he served until 1785. In 1784 he was elected Mayor of New Haven, which office he held until his death.  Additionally, he taught religion at Yale College.

Sherman is responsible for setting up the House of Representatives (representative government) and the Senate (equal representation for the states) in the US Constitution.

Robert Treat Paine ~ Founder and Patriot


Robert Treat Paine
1731 - 1814
Representative of Massachusetts to the Continental Congress
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Robert Treat Paine came to the cause of Independence early.  Born in Boston, graduating from Harvard College as a teacher and returning to attend Law School, Paine was actively involved in resistance to the British in the 1760's and early 1770's, against the hated Stamp Act and Townshend Acts, and quickly became a patriot for the cause of independence. In 1770, Boston hired him to prosecute the British soldiers involved with the "Boston Massacre," and while he lost his case to opposition council John Adams, he became quite popular with the patriots.  In 1775, he was elected to the Second Continental Congress as a delegate from Massachusetts, and supported the move for independence.  One of his most important jobs in the Continental Congress was to secure gun powder for the troops and assist in starting the manufacture of salt peter to do so.

He helped write the Constitution of Massachusetts and served as a Supreme Court Justice in Massachusetts.  He was respected as a scholar and was known to be devoutly religious, a firm believer in the divine origin of the Christian religion.

Signers of the Declaration of Independence


The Signers of the Declaration of Independence


Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas M'Kean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carrol

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Thomas Lynch, Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Click on the links to read their stories.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day ~ June 14

Flag Day ~ June 14

O'er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave


Fort McHenry
The sight that inspired Francis Scott Key
to write the poem
The Star-Spangled Banner







Iwo Jima - Marine Memorial





The Flag at Arlington House
Arlington National Cemetery





The Flag at the National Archives





The 50 Flags of the States
Washinton Monument





Fredricksburg National Cemetery





The Flag at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine
The site where he died.


Flag at Petersen Gardens in Oregon
Mr. Petersen scoured the desert for rocks and glass and built some incredible stuctures from them. This flag has 48 stars.



World War II Memorial



Flag at Fort Meade Parade Grounds




Flag at Vietnam War Memorial
Pueblo, Colorado


Flag at the Painted Hills
John Day National Monument




Flag at Home
Summer and Winter


Photos from my personal collection and travels