Stop… Look What’s Going Down!

This past weekend our nostalgia went deeper and wider than just remembering those who died in service to this country. Our thoughts turned to the happenings of the sixties. We tuned our car radio to the sixties… wow!!! With Memorial Day preparation softening our hearts, the music came in to help us remember the stuff we use to sing with… that beat which caused us to dance. Our thoughts returned to a young married couple riding around Norfolk Naval Air Station, Ocean View Beach, and Greensboro in our blue, Rambler American Convertible. We loved that car… ran air in the summer with the top down and heat in the winter with the top down.

I remember standing quarterdeck duty at Armed Forces Staff College…  loved that duty. It sure was plum after standing gate duty at NOB or NAS… cold, wet, hot, dry… we had it all out there. I remember standing duty at Destroyer and Submarine Peers late one night when a sailor’s cab pulled up to the gate. As I approached the cab the sailor leaned out of the back window and threw up… then the cab sped off. What a mess.

I remember the mid-sixties at Parris Island hearing all that good music as we spent our week on KP duty at the Staff NCO Club while all those tests we had been taking were being evaluated. Our days were spent… washing all those dishes and hearing all those songs… and getting prepared to do our duty in Vietnam. Not many of us knew all that much about that place… but we were finding out more than we really wanted to know. As the times went by and 1965 turned into 1968, I found myself smack dab in the middle of the Red Zone sector of the Perimeter at Khe Sanh Combat Base. Late 67 and 68 had its own expressions back home.

Image 5-30-17 at 8.39 PMYou see, back there everyone was saying what Shirley and I were reminded of yesterday listening to the old sixties songs. Buffalo Springfield put out a song back then reminding people that “There’s something happening here… I think it is time we stop… Children, what’s that sound? Everybody look – what’s going down?

“We better stop Now, what’s that sound? Everybody look – what’s going down?” this quote comes from “For what it’s Worth”, a popular single released by Buffalo Springfield in January 1967, this song quickly was known as a “protest song” symbolizing confrontational feelings arising from events during the Vietnam War. Many lyrics from this song have a strong resemblance of events from the war that took place not in Vietnam but in the United States, events like the draft the United States Military had to aid the troops by sending American Citizens to fight in Vietnam. People began protesting the draft and due to the conflict, there had been many reports of incidents between American Citizens and law enforcement nationwide. In relation to those events these lyrics present those conflicts:

“Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away”.

Other than the Draft Americans began demanding the government to bring our troops home:

“what a field day for the heat (Hmm, hmm, hmm)
A thousand people in the street (Hmm, hmm, hmm)
Singing songs and carrying signs (Hmm, hmm, hmm)”.

These lyrics made people think of the many anti-war groups that occupied parks, schools, and streets protesting the war and demanding to bring our troops home and put a end to the fighting going on across seas.

After hearing that song my thoughts were not quite as happy. It weighed me down with the reality of that day. I realize that the protesters probably shortened the war, but I often wonder how many men were killed because the government cut everything after some of these protests… when the politicians decided the war was not one we could win.

The thoughts I have for today is a word of caution for every generation of thinking, caring people. That word is found in this song but with a different view: “Everybody look what is going on.” To me it means that everyone of us should pay attention to everything that is going on in this country and around the world with a supportive, respectful and cautious eye. Remember the past behavior of all politicians and government officials… ask questions… What? Why? When? and Where? When something gives off a foul odor, there just may be a reason. Pay attention to what is going down… look around.

You do not have reason to listen to me… I certainly am not schooled in politics by any stretch… Don’t play that game but do sometimes recognize when I am being conned. I am paying attention because I know how politicians have acted in the past… I know most of them are looking out for themselves… but you should listen to me because I have a grandson who is approaching draft age. I don’t want him in a war because some politician got his feelings hurt or wanted to make some sort of political point. I know you care as much for your children and grandchildren as I do… pay attention… look what is going down… Children, is it time to stop something? Look Around!!!

Grace and Peace
Steve


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Back To The Real World

In Vietnam we had a saying we would tack onto the end of our hope and dreams. We would say; “When I get back to the “real world.” I believe that we must have seen Vietnam as some sort of suspended reality… you know, a place where natural laws don’t work anymore. It was a place where some Leviathans were loose and running all over the place wreaking havoc wherever and whenever they could. At a time when least expected it would zap young soldiers in their tracks… blow them to pieces and steal them from their families, their lives, their futures. In a movie I would expect to see fog all over the place in this fantasy land… to depict how unreal this place has become. Things happen here that don’t happen anywhere else in the world… unreal things!

The “Real World” is home where you love and are loved, where your real family resides… where you feel safe. You grew up there… know the people… the streets and shops, churches, schools and ball parks. Where you spent summers playing ball or up at the lake with all your friends. It is a place you know and love and understand… where hopes and dreams are lived out… you fall in love, marry, have kids, build a home and a career… become part of the community. It is a place that matters to you and you matter to that place. The real world is a place filled with vivid memories of relationship formations – you becoming the person you now have become.

Image 5-29-17 at 8.34 PMThe problem with being over there is… in the unreal monstrous world of Vietnam… with its Leviathans running amuck… what happens over there affects what happens back in the real world. If you get blown apart over there you don’t come back to the real world alive. If you see too much, do too much or have too much done unto you… you just may bring that evil back home in the form of Post Traumatic Stress. If you were in areas where agent orange was used to defoliate the jungle you just may bring back to the real world some pretty bad health problems… which may not show up for several years. Some put it like this: “I was killed in Vietnam. I just haven’t died yet.”

Yesterday we remembered those who fell in battle… who gave their lives for this country. Today we are back to today’s real world circumstance in which we are living. Some of you guys are facing pretty serious things here in the real world. Sometimes we would just love to live in a fantasy fun-time Disney movie… but that is not the real world either. The real world is where we live, move and have our being. It is where we love and are loved. It is where we are surrounded by the love and the grace of God.

I pray you will experience God’s real presence here in the real world.

Grace and Peace

Steve

Memorial Day Deals???

I was doing a little research into Memorial Day and in my google search one of the first items which appears is Memorial Day sales in store and online begin at midnight. As International Business Times reported in past years, shoppers can expect to save big in-store at department stores like Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, J. C. Penney and big box retailers like Walmart and Target. According to a ChargeItSpot study published Wednesday, 76 percent of shoppers at malls across the country who planned to shop on the holiday said they’d opt for brick-and-mortar locations over online shopping.

Other search items produced have to do with what to eat – BBQ – Hot Dogs and Hamburgers… what beer to drink, or what to say and what not to say on Memorial Day… that it is not a day to say “Happy” because it is a day of remembrance of those who died in battle for this country. So, a lot of the findings were about Memorial Day etiquette… how to be politically correct.

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My brick is between the bottom front center steps up to the fountain and the white rectangular Field of Honor Identification stone.

I believe today to be a day to ponder our thankfulness for all those who served with all they had… gave all they had in the face of unbelievable circumstances. Our local community… Guilford and Forsyth Counties of Piedmont North Carolina have built the Carolina Field of Honor to honor those who served and those who died. It is a beautifully inspiring place which is indeed a peaceful place of honor.

IMG_1120I enjoy an even greater honor by having my brick just below the brick of a Horse Calvary soldier, William McBryar who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. This wasn’t just any U.S. Horse Calvary soldier… this guy was one of the famed Buffalo Soldiers. How Cool is that.

Sergeant William McBryar was the sole member of the Tenth U. S. Cavalry to receive the Medal of Honor for bravery during the Indian Campaigns. Enlisting in 1887, two years after the Tenth left Fort Davis, McBryar was more educated than most recruits, having attended three years of college and being proficient in Spanish. In the spring of 1890, McBryar was a member of a small detachment tracking a band of Apaches in southeastern Arizona Territory. As the troopers entered a canyon near Fort Thomas, the Apaches attacked. The ensuing conflict was short but decisive for the army. Sergeant McBryar was honored with the Medal of Honor for demonstrating “coolness, bravery, and good marksmanship” under extremely difficult circumstances. William McBryar Buffalo Soldier

When I think of the Horse Soldier or the Horse Calvary, my mind goes back to all those old Calvary pictures we saw growing up. Seventh Calvary with Randolph Scott, John Wayne in the Horse Soldier or Fort Apache, and tons more. Sgt. McBryar was not an actor but an educated Calvary Sergeant who was singled out for his bravery and honor in the heat of battle. I just think it is so cool for me to have my little brick next to this CMH winner.

Today if you get the chance take a little time searching the names and circumstances of men and women who gave their lives that you and I could have the opportunity to live in freedom… they are all around us.

In the WWII Armed Forces Prayer Book I found this prayer I would like to share with us this morning. It is the kind of prayer that gives us strength as we go into battle.

FOR A DAY OF BATTLE

Heavenly Father, on a day of battle I commit myself body and soul to thy keeping. When I am in peril of life give me courage to do my duty. When I am tempted to sin give me strength to resist. If I am sick or wounded grant me healing. If I fall, of thy mercy receive me to thyself, forgiving me all my sins. Bless all who are near and dear to me and keep them in thy fatherly care. And in thy good providence, out of this evil bring a lasting peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Steve

Face To Face With the Wall

This weekend seems to always draw my thoughts back to Vietnam, my time there, what I went through, what we all saw and did… and those who were killed in action, many in the prime of life, in that far away place.

I wasn’t over there (in Khe Sanh) long enough to know the names of many people – I was so new and so scared I am lucky to even remember my own name. I can check out some of the many web sites for our unit (Lima Co. 3 Bn 26 Marines, 3rd Marine Division) and learn the names of those killed in action in Feb – April 1968.

There were two Marines whose death caught my attention. One young Lance Corporal had thirteen days to go before heading for home. He had spent almost thirteen months in combat and he was killed in action just before heading for home… hit by shrapnel from an artillery shell. That was a mind blower and a heart breaker.

vietnam-veterans-memorialThe second was a sergeant who was the team leader for a 50 Cal bunker just down the way from our M-60 bunker. He was married with a young child. One afternoon, while standing atop his bunker scouting with field glasses the terrain in front of his bunker… where the enemy spent a lot of time. Standing there, doing his duty as best he knew how, he took a direct hit from an NVA rocket. There was not enough of him left to send home. Man, that tore me up inside. I cried for his family and their loss. He was such a good man with so much of life ahead of him. During the high point of the Tet Offensive we were receiving around 1,200 rounds of incoming fire daily. We knew where they were coming from, what distant booms caused us to hit the dirt, and which one we could ignore. In early April we started getting artillery rounds from Laos… these booms sounded from far distant guns. We got down, waited, waited, got back up and then BOOM… a six-by size hole opened up not more than 50 feet from our bunker… between us and the next position.

I heard other stories of men wounded and killed in service to their country. I remember, like many others, wondering why were we there, and what were we doing? Was this legit or were the rumors about South Vietnam’s oil rights true. We still did our best to do our duty in all things… but we still wondered. Why in the world were we taking hills – losing men – leaving the hill – taking the same hill again – losing more men. Same thing with Khe Sanh… we fought to defend that piece of red dirt – lost a lot of men doing it – and then the brass leaving it and then taking it again. Folks, I am not a war planner… but this was just downright stupid. Sometimes I wonder if the brass ever wanted to win this war – they sure didn’t act like it, plan like it, or give us all the tools needed to do the job. Some say we could not have won this war…. Not one Marine in the field bought that load of “stuff.” We knew we could have won had they given us want we needed and had they really wanted to win.

While we were over there people of our own age were protesting in Washington and other places around the country… saying that we needed to end the war. I know some of the protest was simply from people who didn’t want to end up over there, while others were protesting because they had lost family members. Back then I didn’t care to much for the protesters and the affect they were having on the war. Years went by and I finally came to the point were I didn’t really blame anyone for going to jail or to Canada to escape the war.

7a64df70b4792971862be979cce91c76I didn’t go to the Vietnam Wall until 2010. I had no idea what affect it would have on me, seeing all those names of people who gave their lives for some ideal over there… they were honorable even if their country was not all that truthful or faithful, or honorable to them. When I see that wall now I have such mixed emotions: Forgive me, but it represents to me honorable, courageous sacrifice on the part of all those who gave their last full measure of devotion… while representing our governments failure to support those they called upon to fight and die for the political will of this country. I am a General Colin Powell fan… a General who says: If you send them to war make damn sure to give them everything they need to win… especially the political will. Don’t be quick to send our young men and women to die on foreign soil with no plan to win or care for them when they come home. (Paraphrased)

Today… this weekend I honor all those who died due to the evils of war, thanking them for the honor, courage and valor they exhibited for all all to see. God bless you all!!!

Steve

 

Happy Birthday John Wayne & Stephen!

It really is a funny thing that I exploit every chance I get; John Wayne and my son were born on the same day… the 26th of May. My son’s birthday was not in the early 1900’s like that of Wayne, but in 1968 while I was recovering from injuries received in Vietnam the prior month. I was working in the baggage facility  (where we would check the baggage of all Marines heading back to the states to make sure there was no contraband included in their belongings) and the Red Cross office in the headquarters building right across the parking lot from us couldn’t find me. Finally, on the 28th of May they called me to my company office and handed me a telegram informing me of the birth of my son – “mother and son doing well.”

I’ve got to tell you that being a Marine, most of us really do like John Wayne’s straight shooting, hard charging, take no prisoners approach to life and combat. I didn’t care for some his off screen beliefs, but I sure did appreciate the integrity and courage of the characters he portrayed on the screen. Most of us probably see that screen personification as the real John Wayne. Nevertheless, thank you Mr. Wayne for the portrayal of courage and integrity you and John Ford shared with the rest of the world.

My son is a John Wayne type; that is he is a man of honesty, integrity and courage. He is fair, serious when he has to be, and full of laughter when it is appropriate. He is one of those modern day dads and husbands who are involved in the running of the home and sharing the household chores with wife and kids. In my day that was just not seen – not that I saw anyway. Dads worked hard, long hours to provide for their families. That was the understood way of a man caring for his family… he was a “provider.” I look at my son and I just don’t know how he does all he does. I am so proud of him and the way he lives his life.

He, his wife (Joy) and children (Noah & Abby) are active in their church and community and in the lives of extended family. He is all the time going … going… going to a meeting at the church, planning the IT side of worship at church, helping neighbors and friends, taking kids here, there, and everywhere, being involved in the school, recreational and social life of his kids. He knows a lot of the parents and kids at the school, on the soccer field, and other places around the community. He and his family help wherever they can. I believe they are a good examples of how to be an involved community person. He is not political, so you will not find him involved in that side of life… he will vote and live out his beliefs… being a good citizen, but you will not find him standing on some street corner or in some town hall espousing why we should vote for one candidate over another… that is just not him.

18192447_1380663458654097_4042440863959885168_oHe was always a good kid growing up… going to church every Sunday and helping out wherever he could. I remember back then we were concerned about a friend of his who was known for using drugs. We were afraid that this guy would have a bad influence on Stephen… but guess what… Stephen had a positive influence on him.

Happy birthday, son. You continue every single day to make us proud that we have been blessed to be your parents. Keep the faith!!!

Mom & Dad

Being Hung Out To Dry?

I have often heard that sometimes we are all wet and that sometimes we are hung out to dry. You know, I can say: “Been there, Done that!”

I have found that some say it could be based on the practice of hanging an animal that has been killed in a tree so its meat can dry, or it could mean to get someone into trouble, especially by making them take the blame for a bad situation (When the department got into difficulties, his bosses simply hung him out to dry). So it is to abandon someone to danger, as in The squadron withdrew and just let us hang out to dry. This expression alludes to hanging wet laundry on a clothesline.

“All Wet” can men completely wrong about something or you don’t have enough information to come in out of the rain. It also refers to being stupid, to be ineffective, non-athletic, socially inadequate, etc, etc. So it is someone who cannot get the job done… whatever that job may be… they do not have the “right stuff” to complete their mission.

379_10156671904895324_987263482948793362_nI remember this “hung out to dry” feeling from my college days. I was serving a student appointment (that means I was a college student while serving a church). It was a church that I was sent to in order to help them build a parsonage, since I had help rebuilt one church from the ground up and renovated another not long before this. Well, the building process (committee and commitments) was moving rather slowly. On Saturday, I received a phone call from my District Superintendent (this is an Elder in the church appointed by the Bishop to supervise a group of ministers in a certain area known as a district). He said: “Steve, I want you to tell that building committee at ???? church that if they don’t get this parsonage underway quickly, I will not send them a pastor next conference year.” I replied: Ok, ????? I’ll do what you ask.” Sunday morning I relay his statement to the building committee and the chairperson asks me to call this DS and set up and appointment for him. I called the DS to inform him of the request and his reply was: “I didn’t say that. If you say I did, I will have you in the Bishop’s office by noon tomorrow and have your job.” Hung out to dry would have been an understatement of how I felt.

This setup and threatening style of leadership almost caused me to leave the ministry and the church. I never told this DS how demoralizing his behavior was, how deeply he hurt me, or how unChristian his actions were. I never trusted that man ever again.

In his little political one-up-man-ship manner of doing things to those under his charge, I felt “All Wet.” No, I did not know what game he was playing, how to play it, or why to play it. I was stupid, inadequate, not up to the political task before me. Why can’t we just tell the truth? Why can we just be honest with one another? What I needed was not a lousy intimidating General… I needed a pastor, a mentor, who would seek to help me become a pastor – not another politician.

I believe the church fails badly at mentoring new, young pastors in training. We have inserted the term “mentor” in the process of becoming ordained, but I don’t believe we really have mentors (real mentors) who are trained, compassionate mentors who care to make sure pastors are built from the inside out. What we have, most of the time, are mentors who are politically in line for some kind of recognition – and this gets them recognized by the Conference photoBoard of Ministry – which most clergy want to be appointed to, because it says I am on the right track to be one of the fair haired boys/girls (the ones chosen to be pu on the fast track).

We are called to be servant leaders not CEO’s of the Church. Our present day paradigm for leadership is the corporate one and not the servant one. I am sure I would have been a better pastor had I had a real mentor/pastor rather than a CEO/General.

My word for all the young pastors is don’t let the CEO leadership style drive you from the ministry or the church. Ask for… seek out a mentor you know who has a shepherd’s heart and a mindset to lift you up and help fit you for service in the kingdom.

Grace and Peace

Steve

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Mean As a Rattlesnake – War Stories

For many soldiers, the war didn’t end when World War II was declared over. There was still the imagery of what they had seen and what they had done to stay alive.

They had had to survive in a foreign land while their families had had to wait and pray for their return.

A date in a history book might define a time for a country’s surrender or victory, but the battles continued for some like Earl Gonzales.

The war changed Gonzales, like most young men his age. He left to fight at just 17, and when he returned, he found himself struggling to come to grips with what he had seen.

Gonzales served in the Army, assigned to the 935th Field Artillery Battalion. He spent the war pummeling the Nazis with artillery shells. That’s what he was about to do in May 1945 when the war ended suddenly. His unit had a full volley of shells ready to fire when they were interrupted by a frantic officer.

“Hold your fire! The war is over!” the officer shouted.

The unit erupted in joy. Several days later, he took a joy ride on a discarded German motorcycle.

img6“It was beautiful,” Gonzales said. “It had camouflage and a sidecar. I used to have a Harley, so I knew how to ride. I said to my buddy, Charlie, ‘Get in that sidecar, and let’s take a ride.’ “

The pair zoomed off on a German highway traveling up to 190 km per hour, Gonzales said. That was, until they rounded a turn to see what appeared to be an endless column of soldiers marching in their direction. The soldiers were Germans, and they were armed to the teeth.

“You couldn’t see the end of it, there were so many of them,” he said. “It scared the hell out of me. I turned that motorcycle and shot back to our company to tell the captain.”

What Gonzales didn’t know was the column of soldiers was coming to surrender. He spent the remainder of his time in Europe guarding prisoners, including a German officer who demanded Gonzales carry his suitcase like a valet.

“I kicked his suitcase and told him if he didn’t get off that truck, I was going to blow his head off,” Gonzales said.

The end of the war was perhaps the most difficult time in his life. He returned to his native Southern California, living with his parents for a time but never far away from what he saw.

“I was nervous and mean as a rattlesnake,” he said. “I didn’t trust anybody. I didn’t want to be around anybody. I carried a pistol that I took off a dead German private everywhere I went.”

Gonzales had become so paranoid he couldn’t stand to have people walking behind him on the street. When he went to a restaurant, he couldn’t sit with his back to the door. He assaulted a man who simply asked him for a cigarette and a light.

“I said, ‘You want me to give you a cigarette and you want me to light it for you? Do you want me to kick you in the chest to get your lungs going, too?’ ” Gonzales said. “Then, I just whipped up on the guy.”

He also became a drunk, consuming up to a fifth of whiskey a day. If not for the well timed words of his father, his life might have taken a different course.

“I got up one morning and reached under the bed and pulled out a bottle of Wild Turkey,” Gonzales said. “Just about then, my dad peeked into my room and saw me getting ready to take a swig from that bottle.”

His father’s words were simple and cut him deep.

“He said: ‘Son, you see what you’re doing there. That’s the first steps to becoming an alcoholic.’ He walked out and shut the door. I went over to the sink and poured that bottle out and didn’t take another drink.”

Gonzales, now 89, eventually settled down and opened several businesses in Southern California. He married and had two children.

When Gonzales’ wife, Christine, was diagnosed with breast cancer, the family moved to Oklahoma to be closer to her family. She died at 39, and Earl never remarried.

He ran an upholstery business in Oklahoma City and still lives in the same home he moved into with his wife more than 40 years ago.

“I don’t think anyone ever got over what they saw over there,” he said. “But, I eventually settled down and made a life for myself.”

I realize that we are all wounded in some way by the happenings of war. I really don’t think human beings were ever meant to participate in the horrors of war… what we experience… what we see, smell, and feel… what we do and have done to us… well, it just has a way of getting into out psyche and I am not sure it ever gets out. It may get better. We may learn how to cope… but it is always there… the wounds of war continue to bleed.

On this Memorial Day weekend, I salute all my brothers and sisters who served… those who are still fighting the battles from over there – every day over here. I pay special honor to those buddies who gave their all in the battles of war. Your courage and sacrifice will always be remembered.

Semper Fi

Steve

THE HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

Local Observances Claim To Be First
Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

Official Birthplace Declared
In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

Some States Have Confederate Observances
Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day.

National Moment of Remembrance
To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Take the time to stop remember and be thankful the the last full measure of devotion these people gave for America.

Semper Fi

Steve

PS: Shirley is having cataract surgery this morning. Say a little word for her.

“The Last to Let You Down”

On the way to pick up the kids today the windshield wipers were making the sound of a slow drum cadence. It was haunting and thought provoking. My mind turned to the slow, respectful march of Marines carrying the coffin of a brother fallen in combat.

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend… a time when we remember all the men and women who have given their last full measure of devotion in defense of their country. In my thoughts on this I found this article in The Washington Post by T. Rees Shapiro. Please take the time to salute these Marines who are, indeed, ‘the last to let you down.’

In the dim light of a subterranean parking garage, the Marines gather before dawn to train beside the flag-draped casket and a black coffin lid on the wall bearing the inscription: “The Last to Let You Down.” They are the Body Bearers, an elite unit that carries Marines to their final resting place.

To ready for the arduous work – they perform three to five funerals each day at Arlington National Cemetery and the caskets they lift can weigh up to 800 pounds – the Marines come together every morning for pulse-thrumming drills. But they cannot prepare for all aspects of their graveside ritual, as the most difficult moments come when they least anticipate: the sight of a boy at his father’s funeral dressed in the fallen Marine’s oversized uniform, or the sound of a K-9 service dog whimpering as the Body Bearers interred its handler.

“Each funeral takes a part of you,” said Cpl. Salvatore Sciascia, 21, the most experienced Marine among the Body Bearers. He has performed 550 funerals. Sciascia said the unit trains for “flawless funerals,” noting that while a Marine can mistakenly lose grip of a rifle, the Body Bearers can never drop a casket.

“Selfish people don’t make it here,” said Cpl. Jamen Miller, 25, who traded toting an M-240 machine gun to carry coffins. “It’s not about my temporary pain. It’s about the families.”

Of all 182,000 active-duty Marines, there are just 10 Body Bearers, making the unit based at the 8th and I barracks in Southeast Washington one of the smallest of the Corps. To join, Marines must be at least 5-foot-11 – to ensure the casket remains level when carried – and they must be capable of lifting more than 200 pounds. As part of their training, the Body Bearers learn to breathe only through their noses so as not to give the appearance of exerting themselves as they walk with the coffins elbow high. In addition, the Marine Corps prides itself as the only military branch to use six pallbearers for all funerals rather than eight.

“It’s about making it look effortless,” Sciascia said.

The training regimen is tougher than boot camp, and the Body Bearers who succeed stand apart. Sciascia – who weighs 255 pounds – said their imposing frames are unmistakable around the barracks. A metal pullup bar in their practice area is bent from their weight, and they are not permitted to sleep in bunk beds in the barracks as a safety precaution.

To build the requisite strength, unit members take part in drills carrying trash cans filled with cement and practice with caskets loaded with weight plates. (They also eat to gain muscle: one Body Bearer swears by salmon burgers; another said his secret is tuna and orange juice smoothies.) While they train for the inevitable they must also brace for the unforeseen. During one ceremony, the horse-drawn caisson broke down, so the Marines had to carry the casket all the way to the burial site.

As they perform funerals, the Marines step toe-to-heel to ensure they walk steadily on the cemetery’s uneven soil. They wear modified uniforms with the underside of the arms of their wool coats stitched with mesh so that the bulky cloth does not inhibit the Marines from executing a stiff salute. And as a solemn reminder of the frequency of their task, the Marines must periodically change out their white leather gloves, which take on a red tint from folding flags.

The Body Bearers’ final maneuver is a ceremonial raising of the casket to eye-level, holding the fallen Marine high for up to 10 seconds for a full honors funeral before lowering the coffin to the ground.

“It’s a sign of respect,” Miller said.

The graceful movement is where the Body Bearers earned their motto: “The last to let you down.” But to Sciascia, who joined the Corps “to serve a greater purpose,” it’s more than just words.

“It’s anything that we do,” he said. ” ‘The last to let you down’ to me means we’re going to do the job and do it perfect every time, and we’re not going to fail.”

Nowhere else is the Body Bearers’ dedication more apparent than when they fold the flag to be presented to the family of the deceased. During a recent funeral at Arlington, the Marines stood at attention as a leaf-rustling breeze chilled the autumn air. Standing opposite one another, the Marines unfurled the flag in a choreographed finger ballet. With their gloved hands, the Body Bearers kept the flag taut and creased with a flick and a snap. Finally, the Marines gently passed the flag to be presented to the next of kin.

“We provide families with possibly their last look at the Marine Corps,” Miller said. “We want to show them how much honor we put into it and care and love for our brothers and sisters in the Marine Corps.”

The funeral ended with a 21-gun salute and a lone bugler playing taps. The Body Bearers then marched solemnly away from the grave.

Semper Fi to all my brothers and sisters in all branches of service to this country.

Steve Martin


The Last Full Measure of Devotion with Donny Osmond

“Fire At Will”

I got to tell you that I just love the new Geico commercial with the pigeons on the wire talking about “Firing at Will.” Some think there is a person or pigeon down there named Will who will soon be shot at, while another said; “It is just an expression of speech.” This commercial got me to thinking about what are some of the expressions we use regularly and where did they come from. So, let’s see if we can find some of these. Tim Lambert helps me to discover the meanings below.

Bite the Bullet:” Means to grin and bear a painful situation. It comes from the days before anesthetics. A soldier about to undergo an operation was given a bullet to bite. (Count me out of that one).

Bee Line:” In the past people believed that bees flew in a straight line to their hives. So, if you made a bee line for something you went straight for it. Been there, done that.

Baker’s Dozen:” Usually means thirteen. It is said to come from the days when bakers were severely punished for baking underweight loaves of bread. Some added a loaf to a batch of a dozen to be above suspicion. Don’t you just love the thirteenth doughnut?

Beyond the Pale:” Originally a pale was an area under the authority of a certain official. In the 14th and 15th centuries the English king ruled Dublin and the surrounding area known as the pale. Anyone beyond the pale was seen as savage and dangerous.

The Bitter End:” Anchor cable was wrapped around posts called bitts. The last piece of cable was called the bitter end. If you let out the cable to the bitter end there was nothing else you could do, you had reached the end of your resources.

Born With a Silver Spoon in Your Mouth:” Once when a child was christened it was traditional for the godparents to give a silver spoon as a gift (if they could afford it!). However, a child born in a rich family did not have to wait. He or she had it all from the start. They were ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouth’.

Cold Enough to Freeze the Balls off a Brass Monkey:” A brass monkey was a brass rack on which cannonballs were stacked. If it were very cold the brass rack would contract faster than the iron balls. Therefore, the balls would fall off.

Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth:” Means don’t examine a gift too closely! You can tell a horse’s age by looking at its teeth, which is why people ‘look a horse in the mouth.’

Dyed in the Wool:” I just used this yesterday – Wool that was dyed before it was woven kept its color better than wool dyed after weaving of ‘dyed in the piece.’

Flash in the Pan:” Muskets had a priming pan, which was filled with gunpowder. When flint hit steel, it ignited the powder in the pan, which in turn ignited the main charge of gunpowder and fired the musket ball. However, sometimes the powder in the pan failed to light the main charge. In that case, you had a flash in the pan… but no musket ball fired.

Hobson’s Choice:” Means to have no choice at all. In the 16th century and the early 17th century if you went on a journey you could hire a horse to take you from one town to another and travel using a relay of horses. (That was better than wearing out your own horse on a long journey over very poor roads). In the early 1600s Thomas Hobson was a man in Cambridge who hired out horses. However, he would not let customers choose which horse they wanted to ride. Instead they had to ride whichever horse was nearest the stable entrance. So, if you hired a horse from him you were given ‘Hobson’s choice’.

Humble Pie:” The expression to eat humble pie was once to eat umble pie. The umbles were the intestines or less appetizing parts of an animal and servants and other lower class people ate them. So, if a deer was killed the rich ate venison and those of low status ate umble pie. In time, it became corrupted to eat humble pie and came to mean to debase yourself or act with humility.

My dad use to have a couple of phrases I believed he used as cruse words. One was: “I’ll be John Brown” and the other is “What in the Sam Hill?”

Sam Hill: Sam Hill is an American English slang phrase, a euphemism or minced oath for “the devil” or “hell” personified (as in, “What in the Sam Hill is that?”). Etymologist Michael Quinion and others date the expression back to the late 1830s Also Sam Hill was a mercantile store owner who offered a vast and diverse inventory of goods. People began using the term “what in the Sam Hill is that?” to describe something they found odd or unusual, just like the inventory found in Sam Hill’s store. The original Sam Hill Mercantile building still stands on Montezuma Street in Prescott, Arizona, and is listed on the register of Historic Place.

 John Brown was an American abolitionist who believed armed insurrection was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. During 1856 in Kansas, Brown commanded forces at the Battle of Black Jack and the Battle of Osawatomie. Brown’s followers also killed five pro-slavery supporters at Pottawatomie. In 1859, Brown led an unsuccessful raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry that ended with his capture. Brown’s trial resulted in his conviction and a sentence of death by hanging. Brown’s attempt in 1859 to start a liberation movement among enslaved African Americans in Harpers Ferry, Virginia electrified the nation. He was tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty on all counts and was hanged. My dad saying: “I’ll be John Brown” simply meant: “I’ll be hanged!”

What kind of sayings are you using? What do you believe them to mean? Or do you even know or care what they mean… they just seem to flow well and sound cool. What would be cool would be that once said those who heard it will not be brought down, insulted or embarrassed. Perhaps we could all turn our cherished sayings into words that uplift and encourage.

Grace and Peace
Steve


 

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