Honor To Our Brothers 3

I wrote this article four years ago, and believe that it is time to republish. Honor to all my brothers.

Gonna' Say It

Today, I want to memorialize two 19-year-old men who were killed in wars, my brothers Charles and Jimmy.

Charles was the first-born in the family, and was born into a poor, rural household. The year was 1923, and the Great Depression was just around the corner. The entire South was in poverty in the early twentieth century, not having gotten over decades of discriminatory Reconstruction, depression, and destructive farming techniques.

On February 4, 1941 Charles enlisted in the Army at Ft. McPherson, GA. He was radio operator, and was sent to the Hawaiian Department.  That was before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 of that year. He got there in time for the attack, and eventually wrote a letter to his younger brother, Ray, telling him of the experience. We still have copies of that letter.

After the attack, personnel were confined to the base…

View original post 547 more words

Advertisements

Where Did Our Country Go? 7

This last week we took a trip to the rural setting of my parents’ origin. People with my surname have been in a couple of those counties since long before the Civil War. Several of my ancestors fought in the War of 1812 against the Creek Indians, and against the British at the Battle of New Orleans.

Today, very few of the descendants of those early settlers are left in that country side. The old family farms are now growing trees. In the early twentieth century one could drive down those dirt roads, passing one farm after another. That’s not the case, today.

The farms have disappeared, sometimes replaced with double-wide mobile homes that would look better in a junk yard.  Sometimes, junk cars litter front yards. The old home county is getting to be a mess.

My cousins who remain there tell me that meth amphetamines are a huge problem with the younger generation. They worry about gang wars in some of the larger towns. Still, many country people send their kids to college so that they can do better than to stay at home where there are few jobs outside of the timber industry. If the younger generation forsakes education, they are doomed to lives of uncertain income, and even poverty.

There just aren’t enough jobs to go around, not even burger flipping jobs.

Those of us whose parents left that part of the world have prospered in today’s cities. Hope is disappearing from rural America. The scenes I have projected above are repeated throughout the rural south and Midwest. Unless there is a factory or other industry local to the rural scene, what are today’s rural youth do do?

They country farms of our youthful vacations and trips are gone. Family farms are almost extinct. Populations have been shifting since the mid twentieth century, and they are still moving away from rural America.

There are TV shows where rich people are buying horse farms, or large tracts of land. I don’t see where this will bring back rural economies. They have changed forever.

 

The End Is Nigh, Losers! 17

Yesterday, I got this terrible feeling that the end was near. It was like I wanted to get one of those sandwich-board signs and advertise this emotion in downtown Atlanta. Nobody would pay attention, but at the least I would be warning the world of the coming catastrophe.

Leaving the imagined catastrophes to the alarmist climate dupes, I thought about writing a short science fiction story of how things were going wrong, and how we are all hearing voices of doom. Then, reality hit me.

What is coming to an end is the American dream.

I am living the dream, as millions and millions of others. When I was a kid, my American dream was learning enough stuff in school to get a good job. Then, I could leverage the good job to get a good house and a good car. Somehow, the great looking wife and kids would just naturally fall into place.

Be that as it may, it has all worked out. At the basis of my American dream was the idea that I could work hard and achieve my dreams. That’s how I did it. Millions of men and women have made that dream work. So, how is this coming to an end?

My dream is not the dream of millions of others. Their idea of the dream embodies not work, but free government services like health care, generous and unlimited unemployment compensation, free food, etc., etc., etc. Some people want everything without working for it.

In some cases I agree that we need to take care of some people from cradle to grave. My Down syndrome niece is one example. Private charities can only go so far in helping families cope with Down syndrome or other disabled children.

Those with poorly paying jobs at the bottom of the pay scale have a different American dream. They just want stuff. Many are not capable of rising through the ranks to hold good paying jobs. I don’t know what can be done for these people other than keeping the economy vibrant and healthy so that these people can have jobs. Just giving people stuff should not be the goal for any society.

With the advance of technology, things don’t look so good for the welfare child. How can this child, born into a single parent household and supported by welfare even try to compete in the economy?  It is not a problem of race or politics. It is cultural problem. It is a problem of differing values and goals as more people chose welfare as their way of life.

Those with solid values and lofty goals tend to work toward those goals. Those without values and goals tend to not work for anything except survival. Since they can get a welfare check, they depend on everybody else for their survival.

Is the American dream ending, or just changing? I was fortunate to have been born into a stable family, and have a father with a serious work ethic. Our welfare children are cheated out of these basic sociological aids.

The welfare culture is a culture of losers. The larger the welfare rolls get, the harder the American dream becomes for those at the bottom.

We are turning into a nation of losers.

Mrs Garmin Messes Up 4

pictureof Washington Monument

Washington Monument Easily Identified From Mrs Garmin’s Route

Our Garmin GPS device is one of those that talks to you, letting you know when to turn, or when to go straight. One of those things about the Garmin I bought is that I get new maps whenever they are available, and the price is included in the base price of the GPS device.

One of the features of course is a feminine voice that can give you directions as you drive. I believe the instruction book calls the voice, Jill. I give my GPS’s voice great honor by calling her Mrs Garmin.

Occasionally, Mrs Garmin will pick a horrible route to a destination. On this trip, I entered the address in the Baltimore area for the wedding we were going to attend. With my brother and our wives in the car we were counting on Mrs Garmin to navigate us through the North Carolina and Virginia countrysides, and to find a way to dodge the crushing traffic in the Washington, DC area.

We were moving along pretty well, with Mrs Garmin estimating our arrival in Maryland at about 4:30 PM. Hoping to miss the rush hour traffic in the DC area, we decided to delay our arrival for a couple of hours by doing some shopping.

The Potomac Mills Shopping Outlets in Woodbridge, VA are known far and wide as some of the best. We pulled off I-95, parked at the huge outlet mall, and shopped for a couple of hours. I bought a pair of New Balance shoes, and my wife found more clothes for our grandchildren at Gymboree, a famous store for kiddie clothes.

Getting back on I-95, we soon figured out that Mrs Garmin was taking us through the middle of Washington, DC. The traffic was still in the rush hour phase, and we started and stopped pretty much all the way through DC on I-395. It was brutal. The only redeeming thing was being able to see the Pentagon right next to the freeway. From that vantage point, the Lincoln and Washington Monuments were easily seen, too.

Expecting to eventually find our way back to I-95 we were disappointed. Mrs Garmin routed us to Baltimore on the Washington-Baltimore Parkway. This was the long way.

To make matters more interesting, my brother pulled out his ten year old map of the area, and was constantly arguing with the signs as we passed opportunity after opportunity to change our course. I was caught in the middle of an argument between my brother using his ten year old map, and the recently updated maps of Mrs Garmin. My brother of course was right even with the ancient map, but I would not give him the pleasure by admitting it.

Somebody told me there would be days like this. Thank God it’s over. We are now safely encamped at a motel in Maryland having arrived at 8:30 PM. We are looking forward to the festivities this weekend.

 

Sunday Blessings Reply

picture of Saint John's Episcopal Church in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

St Johns Episcopal Church, Ocean Springs, MS – A Blessed Place

Being grateful for our blessings just on Sunday is not the message I want to deliver. Because today is Sunday, and I happen to be watching a popular television preacher preach about our blessings, the subject just seems to be appropriate. Indeed, it is appropriate anytime.

Today, as always, the sun rose and the world turned to gold. Sunrise is the most beautiful sight in any location. With the sun, our feelings rise and we feel good, ready to face whatever comes in the day ahead.

Recently, we were blessed with a visit of two young men, one of whom is our great-nephew. He and his partner have stayed a few days with us for the second year in a row as they attended a business conference in the Atlanta area. Joe, the nephew, is in the fitness business, and is always looking for ways to improve his business in exercise approaches, marketing, and management. It is refreshing to see a young, ambitious man tirelessly pursue his dream.

Being around these two is like a tonic. Sure, we had to prepare for their visit, but even though they spent most of their time at the conference, we really enjoyed them.

As a person ages, life changes. One’s body changes, but our Joe makes a business of helping senior citizens extend their active days. When around people like Joe, you just soak up his enthusiasm. It is catching.

So, today I thank God for the wonderful extended family I have, and for God’s work in our family. Soon, we will go to a wedding of one of Joe’s cousins. We are looking forward to celebrating life with our loved ones.

We have showers of blessings.

 

When God Comes To Visit 9

Recently, my brother suffered a “brain bleed”, or in the popular parlance, a stroke. He lived through it. Like all strokes, it does affect the brain, including motor functions, how he speaks, and other sensory functions.

It happened sixteen years ago when this same brother, a minister of God, was preaching our mother’s funeral and had a similar stroke. He couldn’t speak or read well for years, but with hard work overcame the speech problems, and continued to preach and teach. He is a wonderful, brave, and devout man. He knows his reason for living.

Of course, the minute the rest of the family heard that our brother had, once again, experienced a stroke, we were extremely apprehensive that this might be the one that either kills him, or causes him to be miserable for the rest of his life.

I don’t know what his thoughts are in this case, but I can tell you that he probably doesn’t see things like the rest of us. Knowing our brother, he was simply wounded in the course of doing his duty in a ministry helping people get their lives straight, and bringing them to God.

He can speak now, somewhat, and he knows what is going on. At first, he had trouble speaking and remembering people’s names. He has progressed a lot since then, and we are all hoping for a full recovery.

It is tempting to say that God is not through with our brother. Just as importantly, God is not through with us.

When God comes visiting, we need to be busy doing the Lord’s work. That is more important than sitting around and arguing about the Second Coming.

 

The Goldilocks Generation Reply

That’s us!

We have always heard about our Goldilocks world. Goldilicks was the little girl in the story of The Three Bears. There were always three levels of things, and the middle one was “just right”. Our earth is positioned in the solar system at a point that is not too close to the sun, nor too far away from the sun. The earth’s position is “just right” for life. We live on a Goldilocks planet.

The baby boom generation is easily a Goldilocks generation. We were born right after a great World War in an America destined to become the world’s richest country, and a nation that whose populace were the most free in the history of man of any major nation.

Our parents doted on us, and encouraged us to learn a trade, get an education, worship our Lord and Savior, and show compassion to those who were not as gifted as the rest of us. We were  taught to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Some of us were luckier than others in that some parents could afford first class private schools and universities for their kids. The rest of us had to go to public schools and universities. Some of us were lucky enough to work our way through school in spite of our parents not being able to afford us that education.

Things are different, now. Thanks to the current administration our nation is declining in international standing, and we have a moribund economy because of government taxes, regulations, and social programs. Even though our generation has spent trillions of dollars to educate our children, it is all going for naught.

Our government is destroying the middle class with disincentives to entrepreneurs. High taxes and state, local, and federal laws work against someone who wants to start a business, or who already has a business. The government’s anti-business policies are anti-people policies. The most obvious of which is the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Obamacare is a real drag on the economy, and a big disincentive for people to start businesses. There are other ways to improve access to healthcare, but Obamacare makes sure that everybody pays more, gets less, and the resulting healthcare is of lower quality. More people are hurt than are helped.

So, baby boomers have lived their lives in relative freedom and prosperity compared to what our children are facing. Our kids have less, have lower paying jobs, and have to pay higher taxes with the cost of living rising everyday due to the actions of the federal government.

Yes, indeed! Us baby boomers had it lucky. We were the Goldilocks generation. It was all just right.

The Valley 8

Washington's HQ

Washington’s HQ at Valley Forge

All have read about George Washington’s army spending the winter of 1777-1778 at the village of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. At long last, I got to see the famous place, and get an idea of what our ancestors had to do to survive in that environment.

Crossing the Delaware River the day before, and putting-up with the incessant commands from Mrs Garmin, our aptly named GPS unit, we wound our way across Southeastern Pennsylvania to the location just northwest of Philadelphia. The country side is beautiful, and Valley Forge National Park is a natural beauty in itself, showcasing the beautiful, green rolling hills of the rich Pennsylvania countryside.

We were transported to the late eighteenth century to a time when my North Carolina ancestors, Jeremiah and Henry, were encamped with George Washington’s army. The film at the Visitor’s Center at the Park told the story of what transpired. Most of the men didn’t have shoes or boots, and many of the approximately 12.000 encamped there were without adequate clothing. Their officers described their state as being virtually naked in the winter elements.

Over 2,000 men died that winter of sickness, and most of those were the ones sent to local hospitals to receive medical attention. It was no accident that more men died while under medical care than those who refused medical care. Such was the state of medical science in 1777.

All the units built log huts to weather the winter. It was not a particularly hard winter, but it was a wet winter with snow and lots of rain, compounding efforts to bring in food and other supplies. According to the introductory film at the Park, the best equipped soldiers were from Connecticut, where the colonial government was able to collect supplies and money for their care.

North Carolina Regiments Marker at Valley Forge

North Carolina Regiments Marker at Valley Forge

The worst supplied men were from North Carolina, the colony of my ancestors. The men were cold, hungry, naked to a good extent, and had no shoes. Their guns were not adequate, and their food was touch and go all winter.

As spring came to Pennsylvania, George Washington started training the army with a newly arrived professional Prussian soldier, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. von Steuban taught the men to handle rifles, bayonets, field drills, and general soldiering. With the help of interpreters, he also wrote a training manual. When the soldiers left Valley Forge in the spring, they were a new army.

Log Huts Similar To Those Built By American Continental Soldiers

Log Huts Similar To Those Built By American Continental Soldiers

The British army decided to vacate Philadelphia, and Washington pursued them into New Jersey. The Brits were not in a mood to fight, but were moving their army to New York. Washington’s army caught up with the British rear guard close to Monmouth, New Jersey, and attacked. It was a hot and deadly chase. It was also the first time an American army had fought the professional British soldiers toe-to-toe with rifles and bayonets, and did not back down. The British were the ones that left the battle field.

The Battle of Monmouth was a victory for the Americans, and I had two ancestors in that proud army.

As we celebrate another anniversary of the founding of our country, we cannot forget what George Washington and his army of men from the American back-woods managed to do. It was by the will and perseverance of those men that we became a country.

I pray it is God’s will that we can spread our message of freedom to the world for another 237 years.

In Memorium 4

ArmyPicIt was a cold January day when the doorbell rang at our little house on the dead-end of Netherwood Street. My father answered the door, and a lady presented a telegram from the War Department. There was anguish in his voice when he alerted mom, “Mother, Jimmy is dead”. My brother, Jimmy, had been killed on December 24, 1951 in Korea.

I remember these things as if it were yesterday. Everyone in the whole house went into screaming fits of crying, with my mother and father retiring to their bedroom with their grief. It was not their first son to die for his country. Their first-born, Charles, had been declared dead after missing in action in the South Pacific during World War II.

It was what every soldier’s parents fear the most. Their child will come home, no more.

Jimmy was a big guy, standing about six feet, two inches tall. He would come home from school, or delivering newspapers and throw me over his shoulder, rough-housing with me like big brothers do. He was the guy everybody liked, and he sang bass in a gospel quartet. Somewhere in our family keepsakes is a small vinyl record he and a group of soldiers cut while on leave, singing a gospel song titled, “Keep On The Firing Line”.  It was appropriate for a singer of Christian songs, and a soldier.

While in high school, Jimmy talked our parents into signing for him to join the National Guard in Memphis. This was supposed to keep him out of the war in Korea because the Guard was not expected to be called-up for active duty in that war.

The National Guard was federalized, and units from all over the country were used to bolster the fighting units having a hard time in Korea. The Memphis unit was the 196th Field Artillery. It was a battery of 155 millimeter howitzers. Those are the really big guns.

At times he would send home pictures, and one set showed a field littered with the bodies of dozens of Chinese soldiers. I don’t know how Jimmy got these pictures past the censors, but we still have them.

The 196th had been firing their howitzers for over 24 hours when it happened. Jimmy was the crew leader, and they loaded a defective round. It exploded in the gun’s breech, killing the entire gun crew. Years later as I was graduating  from college with my engineering degree, I interviewed with a unit of Sperry-Rand out of Louisiana that had manufactured ammunition for 155 mm howitzers. The interviewer told me that there had been a problem with defective ammunition they had manufactured during the Korean War.

If you remember I spoke of two brothers dying while in service to their country. I never knew the brother killed in World War II. He was also much-loved, and it was years before my father stopped going to the train station in Memphis, looking for a son who never returned from the war. I am writing about Jimmy because he is the one I knew.

Some people don’t understand why we honor our war dead. In my opinion those who don’t understand this just don’t understand honor. Honor is not something automatically given, it has to be earned. Just living a life and dying does not generate honor in and of itself. Honor is given to those who serve others.

It is this service to others we honor, and do so in memory of those who gave their lives in battle for things some people don’t understand.

Traveling But Not Blogging 2

I have not been blogging, but have been tending to personal duties. Plus, we have traveled a bit, also. This past week we drove from Atlanta to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to visit relatives. Up until three years ago, I had not seen those people since our Uncle’s funeral several decades ago.

It was good to have seen them, and catch up on our families. Time has been good to all of us, well, with the exception of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. We heard all the stories, and toured the coast where people are rebuilding, depending on the restrictive, new building codes.

My cousins are brave people, and since they have grown up on the coast, will not let a few hurricanes drive them away. After seven years, they have all rebuilt and refurbished.

Life is good.