Category Archives: Memorial Day

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.

May Flowers

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May, 2014

Monthly Calendar Time is Here Again!

Sending you bunches and bouquets of May flowers.

Flavia, poet and artist shares these words with all of us,

“Our time on earth is woven of infinite moments,

Each holding a promise and its own exquisite beauty.”

The flower for May: Lily of the Valley

The birthstone of May: Emerald

How appropriate that one of the sweetest, yet most delicate

flowers, with its tiny cups give us the fragrance for the

month! The color of green, is bursting in every direction

which makes the gem of the month, Emerald, also appropriate.

May 1st-

May Day is celebrated with live flower baskets or little

braided, woven paper baskets with tissue flowers, placed on

the porch of someone, a neighbor, possibly elderly… then,

press the doorbell or knock on the door and run! If you are

old enough to have been taught this custom, let me know!

(Oh, did you ever wrap ribbons around a May Pole?)

This is also, National Day of Prayer.

Also, in Mexico, it is considered their celebration of

Labor Day.

May 2nd-

This is in memorial to the first major protests of the

Viet Nam war or skirmishes. This took place 50 years

ago, today in:

New York Times Square, over 1000 people gathered.

San Francisco, Calif. over 700 protestors gathered.

The other locations where there were reports of this

were in Boston, Mass., Seattle, Wash. and Madison, Wisc.

May 4th-

Orthodox Easter

May 5th-

Get out and celebrate with a margarita, Sangria

or Cerveza!

!Cinco De Mayo!

The Battle of Puebla Day (Mexico) remembered.

May 8th-

Victory in Europe.

Veteran’s, we salute you for your service!

May 11-

Happy Mother’s Day!

I have composed a humorous, but respectful list

of what some may consider qualities or ‘jobs’

or the many “hats” that mothers wear:

1. Sit down at the kitchen table and ‘shoot the breeze.’

2. The kitchen smells like “home.”

3. The beloved story teller and keeper of traditions.

4. Lunch, snacks and dinner-maker.

5. Chief ‘bottle washer.’

6. Big giver of hugs and kisses.

7. One who gets ‘away with’ licking her fingers and

smoothing your hair!

8. Singer of bedtime songs, teller of bedtime prayers.

9. Source of unconditional love.

10. Hemmer, mender and sewer.

11. Nagger: “Don’t forget your boots, lunch…”

A nicer way of putting it, “Reminder” of things.

12. Rules maker and enforcer.

13. Chores list maker and giver of allowances.

14. Tooth Fairy and other magical moments.

15. Phone home.

16. Homework Officer.

17. Schedule Secretary.

18. Nurse.

19. Taxi service.

20. Knows our flaws and bad habits, but would

be our defender till the end!

May 14th-

Full Flower Moon.

May 17th-

Armed Forces Day.

Raise your flag, salute veterans and our current Army,

Air Force, Navy, Marines and other Armed Forces personnel.

Delaware Arts Festival. Downtown, for about

four crossroads and two blocks, art, music,

fun and neighbors circulate, purchase and

admire original artwork. Creativity abounds!

Festival food is also available! Yummy!

The Delaware County District Library takes

advantage of the large crowds and has their

Annual Book Sale, fundraiser on this day, too.

May 18-

Whit Sunday, Pentecost.

May 20-

Victory Day in Canada.

Victoria, Canada.

May 22- National Maritime Day.

May 26- Memorial Day

In the United States, we celebrate by having a three day

weekend, filled with parades and memorials for the ones

who have gone before us. We honor not only the military,

but go to the gravesites of our loved ones who have passed

away. We place plastic, silk or living flowers on those we

have loved’s graves. We put flags on the graves of ones who

served our country. I remember enjoying being in the Marching

Band, playing John Phillip Sousa marches. The song, “Taps,”

sometimes is the final, somber song at the cemetery played

on this Memorial Day.

In the United Kingdom, they celebrate with a Spring

Bank Holiday.

In the small book, with precious illustrations by

Joan Walsh Anglund, called, “Love Is a Special Way

of Feeling,” (1960, Harcourt Brace and World, Inc.)

“Love is a special way of feeling.

It is the safe way we feel

when we sit on our mother’s lap

with her arms around us tight and close.”

Flavia adds a quotation,

“Love lives forever and belies the passage of time.

It is what we take with us, wherever we go.”

I like to include a few thoughts along with the calendar,

which I hope makes this post both meaningful and interesting.

I also am aware that the world celebrates many more holidays

and welcome some suggestions or additions in the comments’

section. Thanks for contributing to May’s Monthly Post!

Fun in the Sun!

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Memorial Day is meaningful for remembering those who have given

their lives for our country. For parades and gravesites decorated with

wreathes of red, white and blue. For waving flags and remembering

to take them down at dusk. For the trumpet which sounds, “Day is done,

gone the sun…” that etches a memory for me of my Dad. His sensitive eyes

would fill up when he heard the mournful first notes.

Along with the serious side of Memorial Day, there are the wondrous

buffets of picnics, fishing and playing games with family. I am always

thankful for the sight of my Dad rounding the corner of their little

retirement cottage on the cliff of Vermilion on Lake Erie. He would

have a life preserver over his shoulder, a handful of those styrofoam

multi-colored “noodles” my kids loved, along side of him would be

the croquet set up or a badminton net all for my three children who

didn’t realize every grandpa was not so playful and fun loving.

I am excited about staying up in Cleveland to see my mother in her

senior apartment. Last year, it was the “Attack of the Flies” story that

made my blog. This year, who knows what mischief, malaprops said,

or other adventures Mom and I will get into? We usually sit in our p.j’s

and have wine, we enjoy Hallmark or the Clue channels! Always there

are memories and a midnight walk with her little dog, Nicki.

I will be traveling with her to the grocery store, we go to the bank and

often she wants to drive past our home in Bay Village. We may go over

to Huntington Beach and stop in for an Italian meal at Vento’s which

I mentioned last summer. It is a restaurant that Patricia Heaton and her

sister own. Patty is known for “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle”

comedy shows’ fame.

She was a resident of Bay Village and would have been grade wise between

my youngest brother and my other brother who is only 18 months younger

than I am.

Her brother, Michael Heaton, was in my graduating class of 1974. He

writes in the Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer. His column’s title

and his famous persona is “The Minister of Culture.”

I wrote last year around Christmas that he wrote a true story that was made

into a Hallmark movie (Dec. 21, 2012.) This touching movie is about a

heart transplant that transforms several peoples’ lives. It is called “The Christmas

Heart.”

Vento’s has a black board listing the specials along with the choices available

On the patio are tables with umbrellas where the view is a beautiful setting

where the Huntington Playhouse currently have live theatre productions. The

Huntington Arts used to hold outdoor watercolor classes, for example.

Vento’s serves light fare along with a delicious variety of the Italian pasta

dishes you would love to eat. The desserts are also varied and includes

cheesecake and a fresh fruit salad. I am not sure what else would be served

since it has been a year.

My mother likes to look around this neighborhood that was the one

I lived in from my 7th grade until my senior year of high school. From

BGSU, I would come home from college on breaks, got married and then,

my parents retired. They spent the rest of their time together traveling

around in their RV. They went from Maine to Florida and then from Ohio

across the West to California to a NACA reunion (what NASA was called

when it first began.) Then they would follow their travels by stopping to see

their grandchildren, my kids, in Delaware, Ohio. At last starting summer

in their Vermilion home with their Memorial Day weekend extravaganza!

We won’t go to Vermilion with Mom because that is where she remembers

Dad the most and she cries and wants to stay there. It is not a safe place

anymore for her. Last Spring, we made a family decision that is difficult.

I want to take her there but I remember it is for the best not to.

Thus, I will venture there while Mom is sleeping in on either Saturday

or Sunday mornings. I will visit her neighbors, let the air into the house

and wander around the cottage. I will walk the beach looking for the blue

glass and special little rocks that we always loved to bring back and drop in

the rock garden.

I may weed a little and hope that it won’t take too long. Our man who mows

will have weed whacked and hopefully, there will be potential buyers this

Spring and Summer! Neighbors may wave and cross the street to talk.

They usually ask about my mother who was there on her own for 11 years

with a lot of neighborly love and friendship going both directions.

My brothers will have a barbecue with Susan and I doing a minimum

of preparation and sitting with my mother on their sun porch. They are

fortunate to have a place across the street from where they placed Mom.

My sister in law and younger brother have a beautiful “century home” that

is a pretty yellow with black shutters. Adorning my  brother’s large yard is

a Randall Oldrieve (other brother) sculpture that brings cars to a halt or

slowing down at least to see!

I will bask in the sun at some point in time, be it on a walk at the beach,

sitting on a large rock or on the pier at Showse Beach in Vermilion. I may

choose one of the benches at Huntington Beach in Bay.

My favorite place to perch is on the steps my Dad built down the cliff. This

was a place that no matter how high the water was, we could count on them

to be able to survey the lake. I can look out and almost see Canada on a clear day!

The sun setting or the sun rising are gorgeous to view there. From this perch, the

clear, ‘no city lights’ deep, dark night sky is heavenly!

This Memorial Day I will think of my father who really loved retiring from

what was a challenging career. He worked hard at NASA as a rocket scientist

or an engineer in the lab working with the mechanical arms testing the metal

that would produce a part on the space shuttle.

What we remember is sitting in a simple rowboat looking at the stars and casting

out a fishing line.

Those times were filled with the great expanse of water and sky filled with stars

and we didn’t have to talk to know we were loved.

Happy Memorial Day to everyone!  Feel free to share your favorite memories, too!