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.

18869887986_c8364ac695_z
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

 

Old Hickory – 30th Division U.S. Army WWII


My son has been a World War II re-enactor for several years now. The unit of his liking is the 30th Army Division who was a North Carolina National Guard unit serving in WWII from D-Day through the end of the war.

The 30th Infantry Division was ‘nick-named’ after Andrew Jackson, who was a tough old Indian fighter and backwoodsman of the Revolutionary War era, and was consequently popularly called “Old Hickory”. Later, his decisive victory as Major General of the U.S. Forces in the Battle of New Orleans against the British, then, storming Pensacola (Florida), and driving the British permanently out of this area, gave him great national recognition and popularity.

Immediately after the purchase of Florida from Spain, Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson was appointed the first Federal Territorial Governor of Florida, then went on to become a U.S. Senator in 1823, and then became the 7th President of the United States, including Florida in 1828, and was re-elected again in 1832.

The 30th Division was created on July 18, 1917, and was formally activated into Federal service in August 1917 at Camp Sevier, South Carolina, and was composed of National Guard units from North and South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Division was named after the famed and illustrious soldier and President, Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson, who was born near the North/South Carolina border, and rising to fame in Tennessee, where he provided some regional flavor to the tightly knit group of soldiers that he led there during the Indian Wars.

The Division’s logo is an obvious link to this heritage, being represented by an “O” and “H” with the Roman Numeral “XXX” in Royal Blue on a background of Scarlet Red in the center. During World War I, the shoulder patch (logo) was worn horizontally, which actually was the incorrect orientation, which was not discovered and corrected until the mid 1920’s.

The 30th Division served overseas with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, and on 29 September 1918, distinguished itself in the Somme Offensive by smashing its way through the famed and so called impregnable ‘Hindenburg Line’, a victory that hastened the end of World War I. It also participated in the Battles of La Selle, St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne, and during these battles, its men were awarded twelve (12) Congressional Medals of Honor.

After World War I, the 30th Division was deactivated from Federal service and reverted back to its National Guard role in its respective States.

Again in September 1940, the 30th Infantry Division, composed of the National Guard troops of North & South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia, was inducted into Federal service at Ft. Jackson, S.C., also named after Andrew Jackson. Here it spent over one year in organizing and preliminary training.

Later, the 30th Infantry Division received a major part of its advanced training at Camp Blanding, near Starke, Florida, to where it had been transferred in October of 1942, and remained there until the summer of 1943, after losing most of its trained Officers and Men to cadre new divisions throughout the country. After receiving replacements from nearly every State in the union, the Division continued its training during 1943 at Camp Blanding, Florida, Camp Forrest Tennessee and Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where it made its final preparations prior to moving overseas up until February of 1944.

Old Hickory Poster

On 12 February 1944, the 30th Infantry Division sailed for Europe, and settled on the south coast of England to participate in further training for the coming invasion of the Continent “at some time in the future”.

In June of 1944, after being fully trained and prepared for the greatest invasion of all times, the 30th Infantry Division started crossing the English Channel to France on 6 June, D-Day, to replace some of the units of the 29th Infantry Division which had become almost immediately lost during the initial attack of the invasion, and then the balance of the Division went into the beaches of Normandy, Omaha Beach on D plus 4, the 10th of June and up through the 15th, and was almost immediately committed into combat against the experienced German Army.

During combat, the 30th Infantry Division was known as the “Workhorse of the Western Front”. It was also familiarly known as “Roosevelt’s SS Troops”, so named by the German High Command because of the consistent vigor and terrific pressure the 30th Infantry Division brought to bear on Hitler’s ‘elite’ 1st SS Division. The German ‘elite’ 1st SS Division was the main force of resistance just prior to the breakthrough at St. LO, and again at Mortain, which the 30th Infantry Division literally tore to shreds, thereby allowing Gen. George Patton’s armored forces of the U.S. Third Army to go forward and race across France, thereby shortening the war by many months. The German 1st SS Division was then reorganized over the next few months, and was again faced by the 30th Infantry Division in the “Battle of the Bulge”, during the great Ardennes-Alsace Offensive, near Malmedy, Belgium, during the winter of 1944-45. Again the 30th Infantry Division tore to shreds this ‘elite’ enemy division, which was never again to return to battle.

The 30th Infantry Division was initially organized and engaged in its early training under the command of Maj. Gen. Henry D. Russell, followed by Maj. Gen. William Simpson, who later became the U.S. Ninth Army Commander, to which the 30th Infantry Division was attached. Later, the division spent the rest of its training days under the command of Maj. Gen. Leland S. Hobbs, and it remained under his command throughout the entire war, including the days when the link-up was made with the Russian Army at Magdeburg, Germany on the Elbe River in April of 1945.

Immediately following the end of the war, the 30th Infantry Division spent the next two months in Occupation on the border of Czechoslovakia and Germany.

Shortly after the end of their Occupation duties, in early August 1945, the 30th Infantry Division returned to the United States on the Queen Mary and the USS General Black, and was soon deactivated at Ft. Jackson, S.C. on 25 November 1945. Thus ended the illustrious service of the 30th Infantry Division in WWII.

Frank W. Towers © 1985

Pictures Below: 30th Div Shoulder Patch – General Leland Hobbs, Commanding General 30th Div – 30th Div troops march through Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge – Pvt. Paul Oglesby of the 30th Div stands before the altar of a damaged Catholic Church at Acorn, Italy, 23 Sept 1943 – Jeep at the Battle of the Bulge – 30th Div Malmedy Headquarters

On this Memorial Day weekend lets pay a special tribute to all the folks who fought and died in battle during all wars… This year I wanted to remember those from our own state who served in the Big War… especially the ones my son seeks to emulate.

Salute to the Old Hickory – 30th Army Division for a job well done.

Grace and Peace

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