Category Archives: Iraq

Pause to Reflect

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I have had a wonderful day, half of it working. It went by quickly! The other half

of this beautiful June 6th day,  I spent walking around the unique and incredible

“Schnormeier Gardens.” This is a place to feel peaceful and harmonious with

nature. The owners allow people to visit only a short time every year. They have

a lot of Asian influences in their sculptures, the beautiful gardens and pagodas.

There is a Japanese garden house, a Chinese pavilion and 75 acres to explore!

Ted and Ann Schnormeier say this simple welcome to people,

“It has been said that a garden can have a soul… but only if it is shared with others.”

While my friend and I sat and reflected upon D-Day today and its being 70 years

ago, we thought: we are so lucky. We don’t have this drama, the horrors and

conflict of that particular WWII to live through. The honest, serious show of

strength that young men and women who were participants in this war is

amazing.

The fight to save our integrity and defend our freedom from the tyranny of

Adolf Hitler is one that cannot be easily comprehended.  The French people

still praise our efforts in the invasion of Normandy. We left a positive mark,

at least in this corner of the world!

Out to eat, with my good guy friend, Bill, he mentioned that I should include

President Eisenhower, then General, during this period of time. Bill considers

Dwight D. Eisenhower the ‘mastermind’ behind the WWII invasion of Normandy.

When I asked my good friend who had driven me to the special gardens

what she would have done, had she been alive during this time.

We were silent, watching the fountains of manmade waterfalls, splashing and

filling the air with its negative ions.

Breathing deeply and serenely relaxed, despite the serious subject at hand.

When the silence had lingered on for quite some time,  I decided to say,

“I would have volunteered to work on the home front, making factory life

my choice of supporting the war effort. I don’t think I have the fortitude or

inner strength to fight and kill people, even if my family’s lives were in danger;

or my own. I would try to talk my way out of death. I would have wanted

Peace to be the result, but not been brave enough to fight.”

While at work, I asked Melvin what his favorite movie about the D-Day part

of history would be. He reminded me that his overall favorite movie with

war is, Clint Eastwood in, “Heartbreak Ridge.” His second favorite is,

“Flags of our Fathers.”

After thinking for a few moments, Melvin replied, “Patton.” He reminded

me of some of Patton’s character and personality traits were. He also

explained that Patton had a grasp on historical wars, including the Romans.

He also said that while stationed in Chicago, he saw at Fort Sheraton,

a huge portrait of General Patton. He felt that George C. Scott did an

excellent acting job.

He also introduced me to another fact I did not remember or comprehend

its significance. This was that Omar Bradley was the last of the Five Star

Brigadier Generals. There had been only eight others. He led millions of men,

been the head of the United States Army and was a fine and outstanding

example of service to our country. He lived to age 88 years old, a life well led.

The two Generals , Patton and Bradley, had been important to WWII in so

many ways, but hearing Melvin wax on about them, filled my own pacifist

heart with pride.

I am so glad that Melvin was able to remind me, on a personal level of

the impact that having good men to lead the armed forces, meant the

difference in winning the war!

Melvin,  having met General Bradley, when he was older at an Army event

said he took the time to shake many men’s hands.

Melvin also told me that he would have liked to have been involved in

the war in Europe. He was blessed to have been a cook, in many places

traveling the world, from Hawaii, Germany, other jaunts in Europe with

day passes, along with asking to be in a quiet place in the Mid West to

complete his Army time, before retiring.

As we were on the subject of military service, Melvin shared that his older

brother had served during the Viet Nam War. He had been stationed in

Thailand, where his mail was postmarked. But, later, the family found out

he had been in Cambodia, in the ‘thick of things.’ It was not a pleasant time,

not many memories have been shared between the brothers. Melvin has

asked him to tell him more, one retired Army man to another, brother to

brother.

Melvin was so surprised that he and his family were never allowed to know

exactly what his brother’s experiences had been.

Melvin says that his brother was in Special Operations, in the Army. He

had sworn an “Oath of Secrecy.” The fact that he continues to be silent

about his participation in the Viet Nam War, along with being vague about

where he was during most of his time, impresses Melvin.

It also made a big impression on me! I know, for a fact, that I would not be

able to make a promise of keeping a secret from my loved ones, like his brother

did!

I would not recommend “Celebrating D-Day.”

The word “celebrate” doesn’t seem like the right choice.

I would hope that you would take time to pause and reflect.

If you were active in any military service or married to a member of the

Armed Forces, I salute you!

I hope and pray you did not lose a member to any war or skirmish.

In that case, I sympathize and honor the dead.

And, sincerely thank you.

Letters from Our Soldiers

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A man who collects letters from those wartime men and women

who died, gathered them together to donate a huge amount to

a university. Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times

best-sellers, “War Letters” and “Behind the Lines,” donated

his collection of 100,000 letters to Chapman University in

Orange, California.

For those of you who liked “Reader’s Digest” magazine and

their equally valuable reading place, “Reader’s Digest

Condensed Books,” I would like to share that I dreamed of

having a position and getting paid for working for one of

those highly esteemed reading sources. I always thought

what an interesting job it would be to ‘cull’ and ‘sort’

through newspapers, magazines and newly published books to

discover which ones would be worthy of being condensed and

read by millions of readers.

After all my days in doctor’s offices and hospitals with my

youngest daughter, (who has lived with JRA since she was 11,

diagnosed at age 13) I would like to nominate those special

and easily read magazines for some kind of Pulitzer Award!

The books were ones I could take to a babysitting job, while

12 and up, read one or two of the ‘books’ encased in those

esteemed volumes and feel I was ‘in the know’ for a time, on

what was considered popular literature, nonfiction and other

kinds of writings. They sometimes led me back to the library

to get the complete book, wanting more details.

What I am doing today is presenting you with an article and

a lead on some books, which may ‘whet your appetite’ for more!

I am considering myself, ‘duly elected’ to this position and

consider finding these ‘gems’ to share with you. In each letter,

there is a story.

Had my cousins written during their Viet Nam War experiences and

shared the letters with my mother, she would have kept them. I

wish I knew more of their experiences.

I will always remember when my twin second cousins, Johnny

and Eddie, came back from the Viet Nam War. My cousin, Ed, went

back to being a pharmacist at Tuck’s Pharmacy, located in the

small, notable town of Rockport, Massachusetts. My cousin, John,

came back to California, briefly found out that his wife had

been unfaithful, and left the West coast permanently. It was my

16th summer, the one my parents let me go work at the candy

counter, learning how to be independent since my Great Aunt Dot

and Great Uncle George, gave me working hours, dinner hour and

the curfew of 10 p.m. during the week, 11 p.m. during the weekend.

I learned firsthand about PTSD, through deep and dark discussions

with Johnny. He was not happy with his war experiences. I wish now,

that I had written notes down, during that three month period.

His life irrevocably changed, whereas his twin brother, who had

been in the ‘medic’ field tents and not in direct contact with

weapons. No, he just handled their aftermath results, seemingly

unscathed.

Andrew Carroll has collected letters from the Revolutionary War,

the Civil War, WWI and WWII, Korean War, the Gulf, Afghanistan and

Iraqi skirmishes, too.

1. A Revolutionary War letter~

Writing from father to son, James Williams began a letter to Daniel,

on June 12, 1779:

“This is the first chance I have had to write you. I am, by the cause

of Providence, in the field in defense of my country.” He describes

missing his children and wife. I love the way he shows his emotions

about her,

“Your mother, who sits like a dove that has lost its mate, having the

weight of the family on her shoulders.”

Sadly, James died at the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina.

He had written these foreboding words,

“The uncertainty of life ought to induce every man to prepare for

death.”

2. A Civil War letter~

When a soldier has been mortally wounded, their words are even more

heart-breaking, since time is slipping away from them. Here is a part

of a letter from John Ross Wallar, who volunteered to be a drummer boy,

in the Civil War. This is most sad, since he was only 15 years old.

He dictated these words in a short letter, sent to his family:

“Dear Sister, Father, Mother and Friends,

I received your letter, but I don’t think I ever shall see another

that you write. This is Friday night. But I don’t think I will live

to see morning. But my kind friends, I am a soldier of Christ. I

will meet you all in Heaven. My leg has been taken above my knee. I

am dying, at this time. So don’t mourn after me. For I have bled and

died for my country.

May God help you all to pray for me. I want you all to meet me in

Heaven above…

My wound dresser is writing this letter.

Write to Alexander Nelan, for I won’t live till morning.

So goodbye, my friends. May God be with you

all. God bless my poor Soul.”

3. A WWI letter (in France)~

On September 11, 1918, a Columbia University student who had volunteered

for service, leaving school. Sgt. David Ker sent a letter to his mother

the day before the attack on Saint-Mihiel, France. He wanted to keep his

family’s spirits up:

“Tomorrow the first totally American drive commences, and it gives me

inexpressible joy and pride to know that I shall be present to do my

share….Should I go under, therefore, I want you to know that I went

without any terror of death and my chief worry is the grief my death

will bring to those so dear…”

4. A WWII letter~

Tommie Kennedy, 2nd Lt., only 21, knew he would not come home alive.

He was captured by the Japanese at Corregidor and spent nearly 3 years

as a P.O.W. He was ‘fatally malnourished and incarcerated on a ship.’

Kennedy scribbled a farewell message to his parents on two family

photographs:

“Momie & Dad:

It is pretty hard to check out this way without a fighting chance

but we can’t live forever. I’m not afraid to die, I just hate the

thought of not seeing you again.

Buy Turkey Ranch with my money and just think of me often while

you are there… make liberal donations to both sisters…

I guess you can tell Patty that fate just didn’t want us to

be together…

Hold a nice service for me in Bakersfield and put head stone

in new cemetery…

Loving and waiting for you in the world beyond.”

This letter was smuggled from one POW to another and it was

finally mailed, getting there in late 1945. Four years after

Tommie had left home to be in the service.

5. A Vietnam War letter~

Lt. Dean Allen wrote to his wife, Joyce, on July 10, 1967.

“…Being a good platoon leader is a lonely job…” Pondering his

position and not being able to discuss things with her, he said,

“I guess it (writing a letter) helps a little though because you

are the only one I would say these things to. Maybe sometime I’ll

even try to tell you how scared I have been or now… Sometimes,

I wonder how I’ll make it. My luck is running way too good right

now. I just hope it lasts…”

He tells his wife, “I love you with all my heart.” Four days later,

Dean stepped on a land mine.

6. An Afghanistan War letter~

Mainly during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, service members have

usually ‘Skyped’ or emailed letters. There have been some exceptions,

for which it helps for posterity’s sake, to have them as examples of

this period in wartime. Sgt. Josh Harapko, with the 10th Mountain

Division, preparing to be part of coalition forces, for Operation

Anaconda, was 23 years old. A major assault on the Taliban and al-Qaida

was planned, before advancing into one of the worst Afghan campaigns,

he wrote this letter to his mother dated March, 2002:

“Dear Mom,

I’m writing this letter before I leave. I couldn’t say what I

wanted to over the phone. First I want to say I love you so much.

You were always there for me even though I would never talk about

my problems.

Second you gave me the options to be a man, giving me slack in the

rope to try to make the right decisions. No matter what you always

believed in me, no matter how much of a punk I was to you…

I don’t want you to worry about me. (I know you will cause I’m your

son.)

Mom, I’m not afraid to die for something that is right… I just hope

that I made you proud… I’ll always be with you…”

This young man, Josh, survived combat in Afghanistan but died exactly

one year later, on March 11, 2003. His Black Hawk helicopter crashed,

during a training mission at Fort Drum, N.Y. Shortly before he died,

he had given his mother this letter. She cherishes it.

The words of the nearly dying and the ones who fought for our country

are very brave and sure in their convictions. I am in awe and amazement;

there is such selfless-ness through their written correspondences.

Andrew Carroll’s words are good ones to close this article and to give

a summarization:

“On a more personal level, these correspondences provide a tangible

connection to the past and humanize our men and women in uniform,

capturing their distinct personalities, experiences and aspirations.

Through their words, we see them as more than just soldiers, Marines,

airmen and sailors. They are a parent, a sibling, a child, a spouse,

a fiancé or a best friend.”

May this fine and early tribute, through Andrew Carroll’s words,

to all of our servicemen and women, living and gone ahead, a week

early…

for Memorial Day, 2014.