Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2017 – A link to the past, a link to the future

I’ve been away awhile.  Academic pursuits demanded my writing time.  Today, though, it seems appropriate to remember.  It will be enough, to just remember.

He was a grizzled fellow, as if he’d been at sea his entire life.  He walked like Popeye, but lacked the character’s bulky forearms.  Still, this ancient mariner strode confidently off the bus in crisp cracker-jacks with his first-class machinist’s rating badge and across the parking lot toward the cemetery grounds.  He was one of many thousands returning to Normandy for the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, or rather, as the French say, the Liberation of France.

I was there as part of a joint military honor-guard.  We were the ‘visible’ sign of a modern military presence and ‘security force’, meant to respond to the needs of the veterans visiting.  Off shore lay a joint fleet of NATO allies, thirty-some ships centered around the USS Eisenhower.  President Reagan was coming, along with a dozen other world leaders.

There was a familiarization session at the Omaha Beach Cemetery and Pointe du Hoc the day before.  We spread out to look over the several acres of memorials and the walkways down to the beach.  We were looking for obvious points of concern that would cause physical difficulties for the returning veterans.  This 40th anniversary was likely to be the largest crowd ever for the event; most old enough to want to come back before they were too frail to do so.

visiting Omaha Cemetery   This day, I happened upon two men traveling together.  I walked with them down toward the stone stairs that went to the beach.  They began recounting the routine; who they were, what their ratings were, what the tasks were for that infamous day so long ago.  That five minutes was a gift to me and only a warm-up for them.  When they began recounting who they were with, the larger of the two men broke into tears.  It wasn’t long before he was in full on remorse and remembrance.  His friend could not console him.  They were back at D-Day.  I said a simple thank you and stopped walking.

I was late getting back to the bus and the Army sergeant in charge and the Embassy officer in charge were none too happy with me.  My ‘punishment’ was to be assigned to the Pointe du Hoc location the next day.  Well, sometimes ‘punishment’ is a gift.  That evening, in the nearby French village in Saint Pierre du Mont, my Air Force roommates and I had the pleasure of the company of Rangers who assaulted the Pointe on D-Day.  Sixty-seven of the two-hundred men that came ashore that day returned to honor their brothers.  They wore uniforms close to what their class ‘A’s were in 1944; khaki trousers and ‘blouses’, with the unit insignia on the shoulders.  They wore long, narrow caps with ‘Ranger’ on the side and their VFW/American Legion insignias on the other.  They were survivors, and they were there to meet with their French civilian count parts who also survived.  What an honor to be there with them! It wasn’t the only one I’d be part of that weekend.

Rangers-pointe-du-hoc

 

W-Rangers-4C-LW12

Walter Cronkite was a war correspondent during WWII and he was imbedded with the troops on D-Day.  He was flying in the nose of a B-17 observing the landings. On this 40th Anniversary, he was broadcasting for CBS from the bluff above the English Channel at Pointe du Hoc.  After the festivities and a mock rush of an old blown out bunker, I was able to make my way over to the tables where he and others were wrapping up their equipment.  Shaking Mr. Cronkite’s hand was an unexpected honor.

 

I have one more person from WWII to remember each Memorial Day. My Uncle George was an aviation flight crew chief.  After the war ended, shuffling the fleet of planes became routine work for the air corps and the Navy was no different.  George was crew chief on a cross-country route from Norfolk to San Diego, ferrying a patrol observation plane from one coast to another.  Corpus Cristi TX provided a refueling stop for the crew and the bird.  The pilot took on an extra two passengers the morning of launch for the second part of their trip.  He, his passengers, and my great Uncle died that morning when a malfunction occurred and the plane crashes after lifting off.  Uncle George was our family’s military hero.

USS-Enterprise-Launch

Before my own service, I learned of Korea in history books and I watched Vietnam on the television news from Mr. Cronkite.  My own service saw shipmates and associate crewmen die on active duty.  Just after I retired from the Navy, the United States suffered the 9-11 tragedies and entered the Second Gulf War.  My son, nieces, and nephews have accomplished their service.  They’ve lost their comrades.  We each are links to the past and the future, with our chain of memories of family, friends, and shipmates to remember and to honor.

300px-USS_Mississippi_(CGN-40)

Will you join us, this Memorial Day?  Before the picnics, before splashing the boats or starting out on the project for the camping trip, before striking the BBQ grill, will you pause with your own family and friends, perhaps visit the military memorial in your local cemetery, or join the parade, or go to church, will you stop for a moment and pray the souls who have gone before us, having given themselves to service for our country, will enjoy the blessings of heaven and support us as we continue defending our nation’s people.  Please.

May the Grace and Blessings of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be carried to each of them, and to all of you, by the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

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We Become the Stories we Read – III

I began writing on LinkedIN about management and how what we read builds our corporate climate.  If Twitter, Instagram, Snap-Chat have supplanted Email, and all have diminished our use of policies and procedures to train and adhere to, then we are building our businesses on sandy and shifting grounds.  Not good training policy for long-term business strength.

This line of thinking brought me back to how we have shifted the stories we embrace about our country over the last century.  Without getting into a great deal of social science, here’s a ‘story’ to consider in review of the divisiveness that appears to be more and more prevalent. 

Flag Day 2013

It is true.  We do become the ‘stories we read’, whether those stories are read in a book, a magazine, on a tablet, through a gaming video monitor, or on the ‘silver screen’.  Those ideas enter our minds and become part of our thought processes.  This is the first step in education psychology.  Teachers tell a story, exercise the story, and then test on comprehension of the story told.  It is fundamental learning.

Let’s just look back a century when the U.S. was coming of age as a world power.  Our predecessors were taught about how Admiral Columbus ‘discovered’ America, and how Signor Vespucci (Amerigo) gave the continents his name (he was the first successful map-maker of the continents).  They were taught that America (these United States) is a great nation, to honor the flag that represents it.  How many stories do we hear of people coming through Ellis Island, looking at and learning “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor…”).  “America, the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” were songs newly written and still to come to popularity.  Broadway was filled with Mr. George Cohan’s plays celebrating America.  Little of our bigotry and our struggles were emphasized, especially after the Second World War and with a Bicentennial celebration approaching.  These United States were strong and the People were of one mind and purpose.  Or were they?

The social revolutions were already underway.  Our country never really recovered fully from that Civil War in the mid-1800’s.  Jim Crowe laws kept the Negro (Spanish for Black), no matter where s/he came from, and a second class citizen.  A reminder of the 1890 Indian massacre at Wounded Knee, SD came in 1973 when Russel Means and the American Indian Movement had a standoff with federal officers.  We were reminded that there were other people oppressed in our land and by our Law.  Mr. King and two Mr. Kennedy’s were assassinated.  Scientists found it was Leif Erikson, a Viking, who discovered this continent, not Admiral Columbus.  Then, Admiral Columbus became a villain, a bringer of disease, and a murdering tyrant.  History stories about Ellis Island and the poem became eclipsed by current events on immigration and modern slave trade.  New musicians write about ‘killing cops’ and the Viet Nam War’s ‘military industrial complex’ tarnishes the sacrifices by both combatants and civilians through two World Wars.  The Nation’s People are divided.  Minorities of all sorts become ‘special interests’ and ‘special laws’ are written to ‘protect’.  One political party claims to embrace everyone while it supports all the ‘special interests’ and another political party is shown to really only ‘protect’ business interests.

We become the stories we read.  And we read in school, in the news, and in what was called ‘jingo’ now called ‘tabloid’ presses just how terrible our lives and our country is.

The Truth is somewhere in between.  Life was never as rosy as we were taught a century ago.  There were oppressed peoples and there were successful ones.  Life isn’t as terrible today as we are told.  There are people who are continuing to find success and there are those who still flood to our country no matter the laws that work to restrict them.

The Truth is somewhere in between.  We can find it if we follow a simple guideline most of us would call ‘common sense’ for our own lives and families.  We celebrate our successes.  We lament our known errors.  And somewhere, each of us hides ‘sins’ of some sort in the closet.  Our relatively young nation has successes to celebrate.  Viking Erikson may have discovered the continent, but the Admiral brought it to the attention of Europe.  Institutionalized slavery took us a century to fully overcome in Law.  But we have overcome it.  Our country was a bastion of Freedom through two World Wars and helped the world recover.  We should still be teaching and singing “God Bless America”.  And, we should be working more as partners with other nations rather than ‘saviors’ who are owed allegiance.

We become the stories we read.  Let’s shift the balance back to center, and read more to celebrate our successes than exalting our failures, watch more about real heroes, and less about destruction, talk more about what we have in common than those things that make us different.  Let’s choose to become a united, “We, the People…” and stop letting some play us against each other for their own profit.

 

We Become the Stories We Read – III

hand waving flags

It is true.  We do become the ‘stories we read’, whether those stories are read in a book, a magazine, on a tablet, through a gaming video monitor, or on the ‘silver screen’.  Those ideas enter our minds and become part of our thought processes.  This is the first step in education psychology.  Teachers tell a story, exercise the story, and then test on comprehension of the story told.  It is fundamental learning.

Let’s just look back a century when the U.S. was coming of age as a world power.  Our predecessors were taught about how Admiral Columbus ‘discovered’ America, and how Signor Vespucci (Amerigo) gave the continents his name (he was the first successful map-maker of the continents).  They were taught that America (these United States) is a great nation, to honor the flag that represents it.  How many stories do we hear of people coming through Ellis Island, looking at and learning “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor…”).  “America, the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” were songs newly written and still to come to popularity.  Broadway was filled with Mr. George Cohan’s plays celebrating America.  Little of our bigotry and our struggles were emphasized, especially after the Second World War and with a Bicentennial celebration approaching.  These United States were strong and the People were of one mind and purpose.  Or were they?

The social revolutions were already underway.  Our country never really recovered fully from that Civil War in the mid-1800’s.  Jim Crowe laws kept the Negro (Spanish for Black), no matter where s/he came from, and a second class citizen.  A reminder of the 1890 Indian massacre at Wounded Knee, SD came in 1973 when Russel Means and the American Indian Movement had a standoff with federal officers.  We were reminded that there were other people oppressed in our land and by our Law.  Mr. King and two Mr. Kennedy’s were assassinated.  Scientists found it was Leif Erikson, a Viking, who discovered this continent, not Admiral Columbus.  Then, Admiral Columbus became a villain, a bringer of disease, and a murdering tyrant.  History stories about Ellis Island and the poem became eclipsed by current events on immigration and modern slave trade.  New musicians write about ‘killing cops’ and the Viet Nam War’s ‘military industrial complex’ tarnishes the sacrifices by both combatants and civilians through two World Wars.  The Nation’s People are divided.  Minorities of all sorts become ‘special interests’ and ‘special laws’ are written to ‘protect’.  One political party claims to embrace everyone while it supports all the ‘special interests’ and another political party is shown to really only ‘protect’ business interests.

We become the stories we read.  And we read in school, in the news, and in what was called ‘jingo’ now called ‘tabloid’ presses just how terrible our lives and our country is.

The Truth is somewhere in between.  Life was never as rosy as we were taught a century ago.  There were oppressed peoples and there were successful ones.  Life isn’t as terrible today as we are told.  There are people who are continuing to find success and there are those who still flood to our country no matter the laws that work to restrict them.

The Truth is somewhere in between.  We can find it if we follow a simple guideline most of us would call ‘common sense’ for our own lives and families.  We celebrate our successes.  We lament our known errors.  And somewhere, each of us hides ‘sins’ of some sort in the closet.  Our relatively young nation has successes to celebrate.  Viking Erikson may have discovered the continent, but the Admiral brought it to the attention of Europe.  Institutionalized slavery took us a century to fully overcome in Law.  But we have overcome it.  Our country was a bastion of Freedom through two World Wars and helped the world recover.  We should still be teaching and singing “God Bless America”.  And, we should be working more as partners with other nations rather than ‘saviors’ who are owed allegiance.

We become the stories we read.  Let’s shift the balance back to center, and read more to celebrate our successes than exalting our failures, watch more about real heroes, and less about future zombie destruction, ‘talk’ more about what we have in common than those things that make us different.  Let’s choose to become a united, “We, the People…” and stop letting some play us against each other for their own profit.  Let’s become the story we really want to BE!

Flag-Waving-Children.