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Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

I have two brothers, both Vietnam Vets, who will not be marching in a Memorial Day Parade tomorrow. One step-brother Eric, a dentist in St Louis, has been involved with the “Take Me Home Huey” traveling helicopter memorial and documentary film:

Steve Maloney’s mixed-media sculpture Take Me Home Huey is composed of a transformed boneyard U.S. Army Huey helicopter that served as an air ambulance during the Vietnam War.  The historic helicopter was shot down in 1969 during a medical rescue in Vietnam. The serial number of the Huey is 67-17174; the aircraft is commonly known as #174.  The crew chief Gary Dubach and the medic Stephen Schumacher died bravely during the medical rescue attempt.  https://takemehomehuey.org

Eric had returned home to the states for a one month leave when his Med-Evac helicopter was shot down. Two men lost their lives; in fact, my brother, who was the Aircraft Commander/pilot, and a Gunner are the only two from his unit who are still alive.

Dr Jim, my psychologist brother in MN, told me this morning he was over there (in Vietnam) “Keeping us safe from Communism,” while Bob and I were protesting the war and trying to get him back home – and NOT in a body bag. It was our modern day Civil War, re-electing Richard Nixon nearly killed me. I can imagine Jim smiling as he recounted this – he was a First Lieutenant, an Intelligence Officer. He spoke a few languages and was stationed in Saigon. Jim rarely talks about the past and will be preparing a spare bedroom tomorrow for his sisters’ visit in the near future.

And although they didn’t grow up together as brothers, they have grown closer over the years partially due to their combat brotherhood. Our older brothers, Mike, a Korean Vet and Brian, career Air Force, have been gone for a few years now.

In our hometown, Great Grandma Ada’s husband, Hudson Favell, will be sitting in the lead Jeep for the Memorial Day Parade. A Navy Vet, he served in the Pacific during WWII; 92 years old now, he was the only grandfather my children ever had. And he’s been a doozy! Always carving wood totem poles and helping us out on any half-baked renovation project we could think of. They married when the Bride turned two under the same tree as our wedding, in the same parking lot, in front of Ada’s house.

Everywhere he goes people thank him for his service. In an elevator in the rehab a woman shouted into his ear that she’s a history teacher and was just teaching her kids about WWII. She bent down to his wheel chair and shook his hand. Vietnam Vets never really got a thank you, the Korean Conflict wasn’t even considered a war, I wonder what our Afghanistan and Iraq Vets are hearing.

On this Memorial Day, I will toast all those who served honorably and less than honorably. Those who committed suicide and those who died in combat or at the side of a road, those who came home with scars we can see as well as the scars we cannot see.

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Christopher Nolan’s new movie Dunkirk will open in July, but you can watch the trailer now. The Rolling Stone called it “Gripping,” and said the trailer moves forward with, “…white-knuckle intensity.” Seeing as the Rocker composed the music and sound design for this one, I can understand why:

Nolan wrote and directed the movie, which takes place in 1940, when 400,000 Allied troops were surrounded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, caught between the English channel at their backs and the German army on land. Civilian sailors joined the English navy and air force for an all-hands-on-deck evacuation operation. http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/see-gripping-new-trailer-for-christopher-nolans-dunkirk-w480901

I’d never heard of this story, about simple Sunday sailors and fishermen setting sail across the channel to rescue their British troops. If Hitler had turned his army toward that edge of sand, the war might have been over before we got our chance to jump in after Pearl Harbor.

Great Grandpa Hudson remembers seeing kamikaze pilots in the Pacific even after Hiroshima. He was retelling some of his war stories this week while we were visiting, and Great Grandma Ada told us some of her frustration with the VA. She’d been trying to get her WWII Vet a new set of hearing aides for months.

Hudson just turned 91 in April. He is one of two men left from the ship he served on in the Pacific. The Navy made him the cobbler onboard when he was a teenager, which probably sparked his interest in woodcarving. Totem poles abound around their property that he has painstakingly carved over the years. He is starting to slow down now, but still has a twinkle in his eye!

I was struck again at how profoundly deaf Hudson has become, and how isolating that can be for him and all our seniors. He and Grandma waited months for a new set of hearing aides to arrive, making calls to no avail, until finally Ada wrote to the Administrator, the Boss of the whole operation. All of a sudden, she received emails and calls tracking the package, a semi-apology, and supposedly the hearing aides are actually in the mail and on the way.

Did the package actually ship? Was their address correct? Who knows, but not many 90+ year olds are married to such a feisty 93 year old!

It’s Memorial Day weekend and if you’re not traveling, you’re probably barbequing something. But let’s not forget our Veterans, the men and women who risked life and limb only to return home to staggering “wait times” in order to see a doctor at their local VA. The proposed new budget from Mr T’s administration may look good to some, but is in reality a typical GOP move to outsource services:  “We are very concerned the administration’s request to make the Veterans Choice Program a permanent, mandatory program could lead to a gradual erosion of the VA health care system,” the VFW stated Wednesday in written testimony.'” It’s kind of like eroding the public school system by pushing charter schools. http://taskandpurpose.com/veterans-groups-criticize-proposed-va-budget-cuts-elderly-vets-benefits/

Funding for medical research will be reduced by 30 Million, and the new priorities will be Gulf War Vets and opioid and suicide prevention. This is all well and good, but let’s not forget our elderly Vets. When I found out that Medicare doesn’t pay for hearing aides, or audiology testing, I was dumbfounded. Bob told us that soon enough we will be able to purchase hearing aides over the counter. Ada said, “But will they be any good?”

A feeling of not being heard would land me into a state of deep despair. It’s such an important sense, not just for communicating by phone that a set of hearing aides have not yet arrived, but for our ability to connect with others.

When the call went out to send as many sea-worthy vessels as possible to evacuate the British soldiers from Dunkirk, 933 ships responded including battleships from the Royal Navy and a 14 ft open-topped fishing boat. They brought back 338,226 Allied soldiers over eight days while being bombarded by Nazi planes.

What if they never heard the call?

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It’s a weekend for sales. It’s a weekend for barbeque. And it’s a weekend to remember our fallen soldiers; only this time instead of waxing on about our military might, and the bravery exhibited by countless men and women in uniform, I thought I’d take a different tack.

I have to say I’m a bit embarrassed by: 1)  the crop of sexual harassment charges popping up in all forms; 2)  I’m super-shocked at the continuing hunger strike that is going on at Gitmo. But now I have to think that the pint-sized para-militray operation known as the Boy Scouts of America is taking one tiny step in the right direction. So it came as a bit of a shock to read that 3) Justice Antonin Scalia, a weekend scout leader for decades, has resigned!

“Some of the happiest memories of my adult life have been as a scoutmaster. Huddling under blankets around the campfire, and so forth. But now, all of that has been ruined.Ruined.” http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2013/05/scalia-resigns-post-as-scoutmaster.html

Let me be clear. I always wanted to be a Brownie. My foster mom didn’t drive, so it was a given that I couldn’t join those coveted ranks and wear that precious uniform with the beauty pageant-like ribbon decorating my chest. I had to sit in sacred Heart Church, in the noxious maroon uniform of Catholic school girls everywhere, bow-tied tight, and just watch as the Brownie troop entered, marching in time, stage to the right of Mary Mother of God. It was unnerving.

And except for finding out that the youngest little Girl Scouts now have a troop called “Princesses” in Cville, I’m delighted to find out that this largest of all organizations dedicated to All-Things-Girl has always had an all-inclusive policy when it comes to their members’ sexuality:  “Girl Scouts of the USA and its local councils and troops value diversity and inclusiveness and do not discriminate or recruit on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, national origin, or physical or developmental disability,” reads a statement on the organization’s blog. http://www.advocate.com/youth/2012/12/19/3-big-differences-boy-scouts-versus-girl-scouts

Hurray for Girl Power! Now, I’m not sure about that SCOTUS article, since it did seem rather tongue in cheek. But if Scalia did resign, well that is his right. I personally, on this chilly May morning, couldn’t imagine cuddling with him around any campfire, ever!

Thank you President Obama for having the courage to send out the message that this war on terror is not sustainable. That our military needs to be focusing on other things, and that terrorists throughout the world are better caught by intelligent spying and good old fashioned police work. Self-radicalizing nut jobs are becoming much more of an issue world-wide. If a soldier can be hacked to death in broad daylight in a London suburb, why did it not surprise me that a woman, who is a cub scout leader, talked him out of killing anyone else? She said it was better her, than her child who was on the bus with her. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2329236/Woolwich-attack–Moment-heroic-woman-tries-remonstrate-knife-wielding-soldier-killer-police-arrived-scene.html

Now that’s what I call courage.

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On this Memorial Day weekend, we are going to the beach, firing up our grills, or strolling through the mall to check out the sales. So many forget what the holiday really stands for. A quick Google check finds that it was formally proclaimed a national holiday by General John Logan, “…the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.” So it started up in this country a few years after the Civil War, honoring the war dead, trying to reconcile the horror, the madness of war with reconciliation; and now it’s all about parades and sales and the start of the summer. I remember being handed small red flower pins on the street with my Dad, by old men in beards who honestly scared me a little.

On this Memorial Day weekend, I’d like to bring to your attention a small protest at the NATO Summit; one that got little if any media coverage. Last Sunday a peace march was held in Chicago and a group called the “Iraq Veterans Against the War” held a ceremony where nearly 50 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan “…discarded their war medals by hurling them down the street in the direction of the NATO summit.” If you watch the video you will hear them talk about their brothers and sisters with head trauma, and PTSD, the 18 suicides a day of returning soldiers, the orphaned children of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the lies that were bought and sold in the run-up to war. If you watch the video, you will be moved. “No NATO, No War!”
http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/21/no_nato_no_war_us_veterans

On this Memorial Day weekend, I think about my 2 brothers, both Vietnam vets, And I think about my other 2 brothers, one from the Korean theatre and one who served in Germany. I think about my Father-in-Law, the Officiant at our daughter’s wedding, who served in the Pacific during WWII. One brother, the psychologist, is actually working with his state’s National Guard to help those returning soldiers facing multiple deployments. Families suffer in silence; the military culture is not one to seek help. Not only are our current vets suffering from major physical trauma like lost limbs, they are suffering from mental health issues like combat stress, substance abuse, broken marriages and more. If we say that we value their service, if we stand when they board planes before us and clap, if we march with our children in a parade, do we really understand what these wounded warriors have to face when they are returned to us?

On this Memorial Day, instead of visiting a grave with a wreath, or throwing a hamburger on the grill, let’s all decide to make our veteran’s lives just a little bit better – I think of my new Son-in-Law. He is about to end his year as the Chief Resident at Vanderbilt’s Veteran’s Administration Hospital, and become a Fellow in Pulmonology. He is an incredible physician, an outstanding human and healer, with a way of making my daughter smile. I think of Bob, who will always hire a vet, believing their experience in combat makes them particularly able to handle a busy Emergency Department. And of course my own brother, working with the National Guard. I will continue to work for peace.

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