Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. To quote my friend Wayne who was a staff sergeant, i.e. a squad leader, "All I did was survive when others didn't. The ones left with the most combat experience got to be put in the leadership positions even if we didn't really like that responsibility. It really hurt when your orders got someone hurt or killed."

The above quote is from an email Wayne sent to me and makes me stop and think. He didn't want the rank. It was thrust upon him because one or more of his buddies had died. Think about your own job. Do you want a promotion or a raise? Sure, we all do. But would you want that to come about because someone had died? I don't think so. On this Memorial Day I hope you've been remembering those who served and those who are serving today.

Good night.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


So what is VBOB you have every right to ask? It stands for Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. The Battle of the Bulge was fought in World War Two and is the largest land battle ever fought by U.S. forces. I promise to elaborate but first a little background.

My dad fought in the WWII Pacific Navy aboard the U.S.S. San Francisco but refused to ever say much about his experiences. There was a Japanese rifle hanging on the wall in our basement. When I was about 8 or 10 years old I asked him about it. In the gruff tone that can only say that no more discussion will be allowed he said, "That's just a rifle I brought home from the war." Years later, when I was cleaning out the garage, I found Army ammo boxes and a collapsible entrenching tool. I thought to myself, "Why on earth would a WWII navy man not only have army equipment but hide it?" By that time I knew I would get no answer even if I asked. He died over 30 years ago, and it wasn't until after my mom passed over 10 years ago that I was able to obtain his service record. Now at least I know he was a fire controlman helping to project the trajectory of the shells fired from the big guns of the U.S.S. San Francisco. I also know what battles he fought in, but that's all. An internet search for any shipmates who knew him has proved fruitless. I am passionate about history and insatiably curious. I want details, but I've resigned myself to the idea that I will probably never know. So be it. My dad was a private and self contained man. So am I, but I hope not to the extreme that he was.

On the other hand, there's my friend Doug. His dad fought with the U.S. Army in Europe and in the Battle of the Bulge. When he came home, he couldn't seem to stop talking about his experiences. I think he probably told his young son far more than a kid should hear about the horrors of war. Then several years ago Doug invited me to a Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge meeting. He was an associate member because his dad fought in the battle. For me it was a revelation. Here was a group talking about their battle experiences in the conversational tones used among friends. No secrecy and no drama. I think going to these meetings has helped both Doug and I gain some perspective on our dads' experiences in obviously different ways. I am proud to know these vets and to count more than a few as friends.

So ... enough background. At today's meeting my friend Wayne gave the customary talk. He was wounded three times: once in the shoulder, once in the chest, and once in the back. He received three Purple Hearts and the Combat Infantry Badge, of which he is the proudest. Tellingly, those weren't the most memorable. That came when a bullet entered the left front of his helmet just above the webbing, blew it off his head, and exited out the back. His buddies thought he was crazy, but he considered that helmet lucky and wore it through the rest of the war. He has it to this day and brought it to the meeting today. He told this story not for applause. It was just his experience, and he knew that a lot of these guys had experienced similarly horrific things.

If any of you have a similar or related story I would very much like to read it. For now I will say good night.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A difficult day

Today is Mother's Day. My mother, who passed away in 1993, loved holidays; but she never cared that much for this one. She appreciated the gifts and cards, but her attitude was that she was just doing her job. Ironically, it wasn't until she was prematurely widowed in 1975 that my brothers and I began to encourage her to celebrate this holiday in earnest. We took her out to eat and showered her with gifts and love. I miss those times, and I miss her still.

Her two favorite holidays were Thanksgiving, which I usually spend with my work family and Christmas which I spend with my church family. So Mother's Day occupies both a special and painful space in my memory. If your mother is living I hope you did something special for her today. If she isn't I hope you have engraved a good memory of her into your brain. Although it's only early evening here, I will say good night.

Monday, May 7, 2007

evil vs good

Everyone who lived during that time and was paying attention knows that Idi Amin was a vile piece of human excrement. The things he did not only to political rivals but to those he had a personal vendetta with for having "betrayed" him were beyond evil. Forrest Whitaker's performance in "The Last King of Scotland" is masterful and deserving of the Oscar he won. Just under the jovial surface he presented to the people, Whitaker powerfully portrayed the volcanic personality lurking underneath. I made the mistake of watching this DVD alone. I'm not afraid to say it gave me nightmares for a couple of nights afterward. Amin's crimes rank right up there with Hitler's and Stalin's and any number of dictators. That's the evil side.

On the good side is the DVD "Seabiscuit". I watched it for about the fifth time as a sort of antidote to "The Last King of Scotland". It's about three people and a horse who came together in the worst of times, the great depression of the 1930's. The owner emigrated to California with only a few bucks and through hard work became rich. The trainer was a loner who preferred the company of horses to that of people. The jockey was orphaned during the great depression and was a failed prize fighter. The horse, nobody respected until he began to win and win and win again.

That's all for now. Good night.

P.S. For all things Seabiscuit I recommend

About Me

I work in health care, love books, love music, enjoy the internet, my friends, and my routine. 8-)