CNN… Remember how you got to where you are.
Support the military… instead of giving brave heroes low blows.
Well thought out words fully capturing one essence of Memorial Day… Beautifully written.
Over the past few weeks, I have taken a little time to focus on other priorities such as my primary job (I don’t write on a full-time basis), my family and my fitness (not necessarily in that order). In response to that focus, my attention had shifted away from militaria and the various aspects of collecting during that period of time. Now that we are in the latter half of May, I need to bring my thoughts back to my passion for military history as one of the most important holidays (in my opinion) draws near.
Turning on the news this morning, my interest in the weekend forecast is piqued as the meteorologist begins to discuss the cooler than normal temperatures, the risk of rainfall and how these conditions will impact camping, boating and backyard barbecue plans. The statement really struck me as my only considerations for this weekend surrounded…
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History repeats itself… Indeed.
“Oberlin Offers a Friendly Welcome to Seventeen Japanese-American Students”
Oberlin News-Tribune, October 1, 1942
This community will be host during the coming college year to a group of approximately 17 students who, though they are all American citizens, are of Japanese ancestry. Five of these young people have previously been enrolled here, but the others are new to Oberlin. Eleven will arrive here this weekend who are evacuees from the Pacific coastal areas and who have been living in the evacuation camps of the West.
True to its best traditions the Oberlin community bids these Japanese Americans a completely friendly welcome. They were all born in the United States—in California, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey and Hawaii. They all have excellent records for scholarship, character and citizenship. They have been excellently recommended by friends of Oberlin, and Oberlin College vouches for them.
Oberlin residents will look upon these students, certainly with…
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Such honor and reverence in these humbling words…
Because you died for me
I will do my best
To be my best.
I will not squander my chance,
To live free.
To live with choice.
To honor your service and your memory.
Because you died for me
I will appreciate
The full life I have.
I will not belittle your sacrifice
By belittling my country
Or spoiling the greatness you believed in.
Because you died for me
I will learn what I can
Of what you went through,
What you suffered,
And what your family lost.
I will not turn my eyes from the lessons before me,
Or behind me.
Because you died for me
I will live in my country with gratitude for it’s very existence
Owed to you.
And your duty and your honor.
Because you died for me
Thank you is not enough.
Because you died for me
I must live with dignity
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So my littlest needed an MRI yesterday.
Nothing serious. Something wrong with her growth plate in her knee plus “osteochondroma of the medial tibia”.
So she’s been on crutches for a couple weeks plus a knee brace…and for the MRI, I reassured her there was nothing to worry about. It would be just some noise and “a shot”.
But after the MRI yesterday, she was a tad upset with me. Well, a mild rant, really…lasting over three hours.
She basically implied that I withheld valuable information from her…regarding the “shot”.
Well, she was right.
It was really an IV…and she said there were TWO injections of dye.
And that the IV needle was in her arm for TWENTY minutes (she exaggerated – of course)…unlike the flu shot three months ago ” that I tried to kill her with and (she) still got sick”.
And that the dye injections made her mouth taste like ocean water and it smelled like garbage.
But she survived.
Well, she got back at me this morning…because she claims I withheld valuable information from her.
I had to muscle her out of bed and whoo-ee… Was she grumpy or what. But she immediately reminded me while flailing her good arm in no particular pattern “her arm hurt (because of the shot)”. She stopped flailing her good arm just to point to the injection point.
We were running late (on account of she wouldn’t get out of bed, of course). I told her to get in the car while I changed my slacks. (They were too tight. It must be how Halle Berry felt in her Catwoman outfit.)
Hurried to the car and about a half-mile down the street, I looked at her and noticed something. So I asked.
“Buru (my nickname for Brooke), where’s your OTHER crutch?”
She then said with her “give me sympathy” tone of voice, “But Papaa-aaa…” You know. When the voice drags on and goes up and down.
“But Papaa-aaa (she said it twice)… I was too tired this morning so I didn’t want to go look for it…”
So I said, “So you were gonna walk around all day at school today with just one crutch?” to which she just makes a small giggling sound while smiling so innocently back at me.
Had to turn around to get the dang crutch; found it at 6:44 AM.
She got back me all right, that sneaky little thing.
Oh, we-ll-ll-ll (as my voice goes up and down).
In the 2012 limited release movie, “Memorial Day”, children are playing at their grandparent’s home in a rural setting. It is Memorial Day weekend. A 13 year old boy stumbles across a dusty box in a barn.
The box is his grandfather’s WWII Army footlocker, emblazoned with the unit insignia of his famed unit, the 82nd Airborne. It is filled with “souvenirs” he had brought home from war.
The young grandson probingly asks the grandfather for the stories behind the souvenirs to which he curtly answers no – and bitterly orders the boy to take the footlocker back to where he found it.
“It’s Memorial Day…” says the grandson.
“Damn straight it is,” barks back the grandfather.
The young lad digs in, not wanting to fall short in his quest for answers, and pushes the footlocker even closer to his grandfather.
The grandson then doggedly asks, “What is it I’m supposed to remember?”
In essence, a day to remember, honor and pray for those nameless souls who were KIA (Killed in Action).
To remember those that didn’t return from war. Young boys. Young men.
But as the young boy in the movie asked, “What is it I’m supposed to remember?”
Do YOU have an answer to that boy’s question?
I didn’t…and perhaps still don’t as I was not shot at, bombed or strafed…nor killed.
The only thing I do know is that WWII combat veterans do NOT want to talk about “it”.
And that’s our problem, I feel. Because these combat vets are unable to share with us the horror they lived through 70 years ago, it helps diffuse the essence of Memorial Day.
They are unable to share for their own sanity’s sake.
As WWII combat survivors (a.k.a., now collectively known as “vets”) would bravely crack open their bottled abominations to talk about “it” with me, I will venture to blurt that possibly – just possibly – they feel unbearable guilt and shame for what they saw…or did…or did NOT do… but that they survived to talk about “it”.
But their buddies didn’t.
(Note: World War II is the focus of this story. WWII was a cataclysm of never to be matched magnitude again. There was wanton destruction of entire cities and civilians. Inflicting casualties on the enemy was expected and accepted by the majority. This is not to downplay Korea, Viet Nam or our current war on terrorism. There are different rules of engagement now with much different social expectations by the “good guys”.)
Perhaps you will let me take a chance with trying to bring to light some of the “it” things you may or may not know… If you can at least read about the combat experience, perhaps it will help YOU appreciate Memorial Day even more… and of those that are not with us today.
I’ve collected these personal observations, comments and facts from talking with several bona fide WWII combat vets and just plain reading. Nothing scientific, of course.
So here goes:
These next images, to be politically correct in today’s world, will be very upsetting to some so a warning to you… But these must be seen to help comprehend why many combat veterans don’t want to talk about “it” and therefore, the difficulty in helping us answer, “What am I supposed to remember?”:
Perhaps some of the other “it” they saw involved civilians.
So why these gruesome photos of carnage and violent death?
Are they REALLY necessary for you to see?
I believe so… and the preceding photos were relatively tame to be quite honest. There are much more gruesome ones in private collections. Old Man Jack had a collection but I only got a glimpse of ONE picture early in our relationship and it was of a severed Japanese head. He never brought the photos out again.
But it’s important that Americans today understand “it” went to the hundreds of thousands of now silent US military graves… and “it” also remains tightly bottled up in the few surviving combat vets from WWII.
They have a right to keep “it” bottled up. Vacuum sealed. To keep their sanity although they relive and suffer horribly through “it” each night.
Thousands of graves on a “stinkin’ island”… all killed in action.
To remember those killed.
But without seeing, understanding or accepting the horrible demise these young fighting men encountered ending their short lives, the true meaning of Memorial Day is lost.
It is not truly about the combat vets alive today or who passed away since war’s end… but they sure the hell are part of it. Those alive mightily grip a key to their secrets – preventing your entry into their private internal hell.
I will remember this when I visit the graves of Old Man Jack and Mr. Johnson this Memorial Day and will think of their fallen comrades.
And I will thank them and their unnamed buddies when I enjoy my barbequed hamburger this Memorial Day weekend and a cigar.
They died for me.
So I could enjoy my hamburger and cigar.
And I shall
A final, short tribute to those resting in graves today:
Hollywood has helped blur reality…
I’ve checked and double-checked my ERB and ORB. There is no category to record my “confirmed kills.” The term “confirmed kill” gets thrown around a lot, especially in sniper circles. The whole idea of a “confirmed” kill suggests there is some process or that there is a forensics team that descends on a body after a shot was fired to confirm unequivocally who gets the credit.
That doesn’t happen.
As far as I understand, there is no way of keeping track of individual kills. Individual soldiers may ‘confirm’ to themselves that they are responsible for a kill – but there is no official way of tracking that, no process. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some award citations out there where you might find the term ‘confirmed kill,’ but that is a reflection on how pervasive the term has become, not an indication of…
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An incredible writing of a bona fide WWII combat vet still amongst us today…
In December I shared a short story about a veteran. I’ll refer to him as “Our Veteran“. I think we should feel possessive about men and women who put their lives on the line, literally, to defend us. Once he or she has served an entire country, I think the country should be dedicated to their well being.
So many of you have sent me messages and emails asking me how he’s doing.
He has had a rough winter.
Today when he saw me he hugged me, started to let go and hugged me again. The last time I was there he was too sick and concerned for my well being to hug me. Ever the gentleman.
He told me that the last time I was there, he didn’t think he was going to make it.
Today he was full of smiles. And still incredulous that people…
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