Posts tagged war

In Honor of Veteran’s on their Day-We are Here Because You Were There

To Honor All Veterans:

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Today, I am thinking of my father, Ken Culbreth, who served in the Navy in Guam-at the end of World War II, I later helped him write a book about his experienes there along with collections of stories about their experiences in the Pacific Theater during that time.  My father passed away in August of 2014. It remains difficult to be unable to ask him to tell me more about his experiences.  There are so many friends and family who have served our county.  Among them,  my Uncle John Gardner, who fought through the worst of World War II from N. Africa to Germany.my Uncle Harold Garland who was in England during WorldWar II, my Uncle Jack Garland who served in Hawaii during  World War II. There were those who served in Korea during the early 1950’s.Then there are all of my friends and family who fought in Viet Nam during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. I think of my husband, who served in Germany and many of the young men of the Post-Viet Nam Era who served around the world during that time.

I would like to honor my Great Aunt Bettie Rayburn Bryant, one of the first WAC’s to retire with more than twenty-two years service and her husband Howard Bryant who met and married her while in Germany right after World War II. So often the women who have served our country in many capacities are ignored.  I inherited my Aunt Bettie and Uncle Howards Photographs , Journals and Memory Books of their time in the sevice and was enlightened to the vast roles women have played in protecting our country and supporting our troops. Included in her memiors were [hotographs that she took of Dachau Death Camp near Hamburg, Germany when the remains of the camp still stood. A sign ouside a gate warns people  not to trespass, that a memorial to all who died here will be erected in ther memory.

There are those who kept our country safe during the “Cold War” era, and those who have fought for our country in recent years from  Iraq to Afghanstan and beyond, and continue to do so today.  Many members of our Armed Services have served  right here at home. Many have served during “peace times” at our Miliary Bases around the world.  I could not possibly mention all of the places these Americans have been, what they have risked, what they have lost or come home to live with.  All I can do is say, “Thank you!”  We are here because you were there. Bless you all!

I would like to share one personal experience that occured in my younger days.

My mother’s sister, (my Aunt Phyllis’s husband), John Gardner, didn’t want to talk about his days in World War II. I had heard my dad’s stories  about his days in Guam when the worst of the war was over and I couldn’t understand why my beloved “Uncle John” wouldn’t talk about his Army days during that time with me. One day, when I was in college, he took me by the arm and lead me to his back porch, motioning for me to sit down.

I saw the moisture in his eyes as he told me of fighting seven major battles and campaigns from North Africa to Germany, and showed me the silver arrows, gold stars and Campaign records to prove it. He told me about Gen. Patton riding in the tank that he drove, of having to pick up enough pieces of his friends to constitute “bodies” when the tanks in front and in back of him were blown up by the enemy. He told me of seeing Mussolini and his mistress hanging (upside down, I believe) when they drove one of the first tanks into a liberated Rome.

There were more gentle memories like seeing the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” , the once lovely country side of the lands they liberated, and so much more. Of course, by then I was crying, begging him to forgive me for opening up his wounds. He just put his strong, weathered arms around me, and quietly said ,”That’s alright, I guess I needed to get it out some time”-he took a deep breath and turned my head to look into my reddened eyes and dried a tear from my cheek. “Just don’t ever ask me to speak of this again,” he whispered as I nodded and mumbled, “OK.”

I kept my word. I was humiliated that I had opened those wounds that he had kept private for so long, yet I have always been proud that he chose me to finally open that box of unspeakable pain with. Though his widow has shared his Campaign Records and showed me the box filled with Silver Arrows and Gold Stars several times, I have always felt great honor in both his sacrifice and strength in sharing his story with me. He will always convey the meaning of “Hero” in my mind.

I ask you to join me in, again, remembering that if these brave heros had not been there, with lives and dreams in constant danger, we, the Americans who enjoy our freedom today, would not be here. If you get a chance, volunteer at a Veteran Hospital or Home.  Serve meals at Centers for our Veterans, listen to their stories, or respectfully remember that they may not wish to speak of the horrors they witnessed.  Never forget the sacrifices so many have made. Lastly remember the words of our National Anthem as we honor our Military, not just today but every day-while thinking of the words of our National Anthem, “Oh, say, will that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, o’r the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

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Every War Has Brought Us Here

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The times and experiences of today may differ, however, when we take a close look, they often easily add up to the situations we find ourselves in today.

The Revolutionary War was a victory for the obvious underdog-US-the United states of America. There were celebrations all along the East Coast of the Colonies, now States of a new Country. No doubt, the world found its self in a bit of shock. Citizens shouted that we were free. We were of one soul, one mind-freedom. We read the declaration of Independence, the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even with the knowledge that the fight was far from over, we felt victorious. But who among us, was really “free.”

Women? People of color? The poor, illiterate immigrant? No. On paper, we had freedom of (or from) religion, freedom of taxation without representation and so much more. The document that stated these things was beautifully written. Unfortunately, those old prejudices lived on. Many still do.

We had another war with Great Britain in 1812-again, the United States of America “won”.

About 85 years after the Revolutionary War,, we were fighting amongst ourselves. Was it about “states rights” or“slavery” . Most likely, it was about much more. A new and restless nation, part which had become a leader in world industry and another which had become an agrarian based society with little modern industry. It had found itself dependent on slave labor to make the growing and harvesting of it’s crops profitable. In Europe, such differences in culture and life-style generally produced a new “kingdom. Here, many saw the power of a nation of such size being “one country” as vital to being a world power. Among these men was Abraham Lincoln.

My great-grandfather spent three years without this “freedom”, as a Confederate Officer during the War between the States. He was called up to serve, went with quite a few family members to sing up and was later captured in what was written up as a cowardly surrender by his superior officer near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The letters that he wrote to his wife and children are still tucked in a drawer in my mother’s cedar chest.

This man did not have slaves, he fought for hearth and home, as the average Southern man did. He, in fact, went to court to support a “black” woman’s claim to freedom, and helped her win. He was not wealthy. Neither was the common Northerner who got caught up in this horrible tragedy. My Southern family had its homes burned, crops destroyed, women raped, cattle stolen. Does this make slavery right-absolutely not. Brothers were fighting cousins and uncles. Neighbors, who had gone to church together were suddenly enemies.

Over 500,00 Americans killed-still, we have to pay attention to the question that brought our country into being-are we free yet? The Civil War, The War Between the States, which ever one might call it, it was a tragedy that was not healed by the war, not necessary by any means and set our country back decades from what we should have been doing-upholding the constitution that we fought the British Empire to gain.

It is 1918. World war I has just ended. The Unitted States had tried to stay out of the war, sending supplies, money and support but not troops. Finally, seeing Great Britain and France falling, we were forced to enter this war with our troops. Then, as the war ended, our troops come home to confetti parades, electrically-light arches built in cities across the country to celebrate the end of “The War to End All Wars”. Were we “free” yet?

A terribly written and enforced “Peace Treaty”, The Treaty of Versailles” humiliated Germany, Italy and its neighbors, setting the stage for yet another unthinkably horrible war, only 30 years later. These people were ripe fr anyone who would help them regain their dignity and place in world power. Unfortunately, the “men” who showed up to help with this cause were those like Hitler and Mussolini.Even our “Allies”, such as Stalin were to become a scourge to freedom very soon after a war we fought on both sides of our country was ended in a most unthinkable way-the race for the creation of the atomic bomb. We “won.” Were we now “free?”

I think of slogans, some made popular in earlier wars, that each war fought was “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”. Throughout history, the poor, the weak, slaves, simple farmers have fought and died while the wealthy, for the most part, sat it out, making plans that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

There were wars across the world, the Greek Revolution, the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union, the chill of the Korean war, the steaming jungles of Viet Nam, they all haunted the concept of freedom. The violence over human rights and dignity here at home have only gradually began to find some answers. We still have a long way to go. Again, the idea of freedom for all is more a hope than a reality, even in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”.

I look at the use of religious beliefs as a cause of war. It is not a topic that many like to address. Yet, it is true,historically, many battles have been fought over religion, many people tortured and killed for holding the “wrong” beliefs at that particular time. There are fanatics in every faith. That makes no sense. If we are Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Catholic, Judaic or any other in our belief, why can we not just live in peace and have respect fr the views of others? Will we every find this illusive “freedom” as long as fighting over just about any difference of opinion continues?

How many rows of graves, or ancient crypts will it take to obtain peace? This is a question without answer. I humbly remember and deeply respect all of those who gave their lives in the quest for what some leader demanded was necessary to finally procure “peace’. I will never understand how we can, “fight for peace”. What a horrible oxymoron. There has been so much loss, over and over. This essay may be too long, but it barely touches the history of war.

Why can we not coexist-live in a world where everyone is free from war and hate? The first step is to simply live our lives in a way that is respectful of others, moral, and honest . To continue to repeat the mistakes of the past is entirely useless.

 

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The Winds of Time

photo by dawn Q. Landau

He stood silently offshore, staring at the remnants of an ancient lighthouse. After hours upon hours of research, he had traced his great-times-3 grandfather to this place. He had been the last lighthouse keeper. That had been in the early 1800’s-during the war of 1812, in fact. He spent weeks here, alone as his family waited on the mainland. During fierce battles and raging storms, they were terrified that he would never come home. But he did, and though the lighthouse did not survive to love he passed on to his family was alive and well.

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The Beauty and the Truth

They anxiously took a seat at one of the rather luxurious tables on the ferry. Feeling humbled, the listened to the announcer on the television screens mounted all around telling about the battles that had taken place at the Civil War fort that they could see ahead as they traveled across the bay.

 Copyright - Ted Strutz

It seemed irreverent, a bit foreboding, to ride, in luxury, to a place where hundred died and the history of a nation changed. She grasped the family history book that told of her ancestors’ death at this fort, then wiped a tear and traveled on.

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Worth Fighting For?

He limped slowly down the sidewalk towards the bus stop. His breathing was hard, his chest pounded from overexertion. There was a fear inside him that he may miss the bus and have to wait another half-hour.

As he stood there, gasping for breath, the leg that he’d shattered in the war throbbed. His hearing was not so good after the bombing had damaged it. But he had learned to be determined long ago.

Next to him, he heard a boy sneer, “Look at that fat man!”. He cringed. “This is what I fought for , he thought.”

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Women and Children in the Face of War

She walked out in the cold of winter, faded dress blowing in the wind, torn shawl clutched to her shoulder. There was no term “Civil War” to her. The soldiers had conscripted her husband, leaving her with three young children and a belly swollen with child. The war was old, many soldiers had deserted. She had no slaves, many slaves ate better than she and her children did.

The ham was gone from the barn loft where she had hidden it. The Yankee soldiers had stolen it. She was lucky she hadn’t been beaten and raped. She remembered the quote she had read in the newspaper, “It’s a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”. “What,” she cried, “ about the women and children?”

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The Silence was Deafening

I took my two teens to see “Lincoln“, the new Steven Speilberg movie today and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves history and appreciates a well made and researched movie.  I had an experience there that I had never had at a movie theater.  When the movie ended, and the list of actors came up with the movie theme in the background, the entire audience, sat quietly and watched and listened.  The silence was deafening.  Always before, the minute the movie ended, the theater has been filled with noise and chatter, people quickly leaving their seats and going home. Everyone there seems to be spellbound by the impact of the movie.  It was quite impressive!

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