Category Archives: rehab

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 fiancĂ© 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.

Slurred Speech

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The Dark Side of Comedy

While laughing and coming up with a wide selection of old time shows

that were either variety and/or talk shows, we came upon a somber

moment. My coworkers and I had listed The Jackie Gleason Show, which

included a funny character named, “Crazy Guggenheim.” We had also talked

about how many of the talk show ‘hosts’ or ‘hostesses’ held cigarettes

in their fingers or had a amber colored beverage in their glasses.

Who doesn’t remember Dean Martin, for example, having a drink in

his hand?

By the way, Frank Fontaine portrayed Crazy Guggenheim on both the

Jackie Gleason and Jack Benny shows. He died of 58 years old, about

to donate a check for heart disease studies. His heart attack was

a shock to those who loved him. He knew how to sing well, having

filled a whole album of the songs he sang, while Jackie G. portrayed

his famous alter ego, “Joe the Bartender.” Frank F. was famous for

his slurred speeches, his drunken behavior and his bug-eyed look

and facial expressions.

We thought that it was interesting how times ‘had changed’ and

decided there were “pro’s” and “con’s” to the past.

Let me insert a famous line from the movie, “A Night at the Opera,”

(1935):

“Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and

necking in the parlor.”

This line was spoken by Groucho Marx, in his portrayal of the film’s

character, Otis B. Driftwood.

We know now that famous people are just like us, in many ways.

We also realize that, although there were “Time” and “Newsweek”

magazines trying to bring to the forefront of the population,

the downfalls of alcohol, drugs, gambling and smoking, there were

many disregarding the after effects, side effects and we did not

have such a stigma attached to these ‘bad’ habits. Two of us at my

lunch table on Thursday, became rather sad and quiet. They were

reflecting on recalled deaths of family members due to smoking and

cancer. One of us had experienced abusive, “mean drunks” for parents.

We decided that addictions, such as these, are still not considered

as ‘big of a deal.’ Society, in some ways, continues to ‘brush them

under the table.’

Even the subject of rehabilitation has had its lighter comedic film

moments. People either laugh, due to the antics and situations that

don’t seem real or out of being uncomfortable. It is hard to explain

why we laugh when someone runs into a wall, falls off a roof, or

trips and does a pratfall.

Treatment for the addictions, in the form of actually facing that

these ARE diseases, is important. Still, we felt a little sad

about the fun we had, when young and felt ‘invincible’ and our

lives, for the most part, had been impermeable to the aging

results of sometimes almost impossible challenges.

Slurred speech, in the ways a person sometimes cannot help it,

while in persons who have had a stroke, live with the challenge

of disabilities and speech delays are NOT FUNNY! We would not

laugh, hopefully, when someone has a speech ‘impediment!’

We still felt a little ambiguous, as we thought back upon the

variety of comedy skits that made us roar with uncontrollable

laughter. Melvin admitted to sometimes, while in the armed

forces, being drunk and thinking it was funny when his buddies

and he pulled pranks while drunk. It is considered a serious

offense, and if caught, these days, you could be court-martialed!

Melvin remarked, that in the ‘old war stories’ of the past, often

there would be stories of men ‘letting off steam.’ We also agreed

that the Viet Nam war movies, seemed to include a prevalent use

of drugs.

Who can forget Crazy Guggenheim’s humorous lines, his leaning

into a person, while breathing out his alcoholic breath? Who

cannot forget when there have been famous movies, with drunken

scenes, sometimes with innocent types of sloppy behaviors?

Who can forget the drunken orgies in “Animal House?”

Who has seen and enjoyed some teenaged or college-aged

movies (or personal memories) where it was very funny being

drunk or being around people who were high?

Who did not laugh (if they are above 40 years old) at Cheech

and Chong’s movie, “Up in Smoke?”

Adding, “Arthur,” with Dudley Moore and The Benny Hill Show,

to the mix, we had international connections of drinking in

movies and television shows.

I have seen Doris Day, Sandra Dee, Humphrey Bogard, Elizabeth

Taylor, Richard Burton and other classic actors and actresses

who have done scenes where they portrayed alcoholics. Some

were quite dramatic and serious roles with “mean” and “sloppy”

drunken roles as their focus. Yet, some were fun ‘romp’ movies

where the drunks were silly.

A lot of comedies include either drugs, alcohol or addictions,

going over the top in their portrayals.

There are also famous movies with the dark and angry side of

the picture:

“Days of Wine and Roses” and “Leaving Las Vegas” come to mind.

We have moved forward in some ways, then stepped back, too.

After all, we still have three “Hangover” movies…

I still will watch comedy sketches with the Saturday Night

Live crew, some who are great at making me laugh, acting

silly while stumbling around and falling down drunk.