by Circe Olson Woessner
Recently, several former DoDDS teachers came to visit the Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF). They had such a great time going through it, pouring through our yearbook collection, admiring the artifacts collected by fellow teacher Dorothy Cox, and swapping stories of their own years of teaching at various schools around the world.
Since having moved to Albuquerque, I’ve run into several DoDDs teachers who live here. One of them, Betty Follett suggested there must be more living in the state.
She says, “I’d like to find teachers, aides, students–anyone connected to DoDDS in New Mexico who might want to get together once in a while to share our experiences overseas.”
I thought that it would be great to host the first get-together in the Museum’s garden on April 28, 2018 from 1:00-3:00. Light refreshments will be served.
MAMF is located at 546B State Route 333 (Old Route 66), right next to Molly’s Bar, in Tijeras.
Please RSVP to Betty Suva Barron Follett at (505) 565-2451
Silver Lake, (Harrison), New York, a small town located just 20 miles north of Manhattan holds much American history. The Battle of White Plains during the American Revolution was fought there. This small hamlet was a stopping ground for the Underground Railroad, and in a small secluded area there is a well-kept cemetery for those who fought in our nation’s Civil War.
WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran’s names are proudly displayed on the Honor Rolls in town. Patriotism runs deep; our families give rise to the Ninth Fold and proudly we give up our children to serve.
Just as our forefathers did on this sacred piece of American history, each generation, in their way, feels the desire to ensure the rights and responsibilities of its citizens. Some become police officers, social workers, firefighters, doctors, librarians, authors, uniformed military personnel– all called to serve.
On May 23, 2015 a young man, from zipcode 10604 graduated West Point. His name: Stephen F. Ricciardi.
Stephen’s childhood was filled with the joys of small town living. He played sports, went to summer camp, breathed fresh air and knew the love and camaraderie of family and kin. In his early years, Stephen learned to run to keep up with his two older sisters. Beautiful and bright as both are, he rose to their sparkle.
High school was successful. He graduated his way into West Point. Another townsman called to serve. Stephen Frederic Ricciardi was chosen to attend West Point. His mother proudly shared videos and photos of Stephen’s journey there. As a community, we rejoiced.
Stephen graduated, and as a community, we watched. Some in person; some in front of their TV sets thousands of miles away. We cheered. Stephen traveled home after his graduation to see a football game at his old alma mater, Harrison High School. I remember the day clearly. Read the rest of this entry »
by Circe Olson Woessner
This time of year, New Mexico is cloaked in a shroud of hazy wood smoke from hundreds of fireplaces. As I walk by certain houses, I smell creosote, or uncured wood, or the wonderful piñon—this is the smell of winter.
Cocooned under my thick down comforter, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting down the hallway is the thing that rousts me out of bed.
Smell is something that can transport us back to a particular space and time—to bad times and good.
When my son was six, we took him to see Jurassic Park at the post movie theater. Later that night, he came screaming into our bed; he was sweaty and trembling—and for the first time, I smelled terror. His entire body oozed it from every pore.
Veterans tell me that they remember vividly the odors of war—even 50 years back. Vietnam had its distinct smell. Read the rest of this entry »
The Silver Star is the third-highest honor for gallantry in the U.S. Armed Forces. Previous recipients include Audie Murphy, Chuck Yeager, and Norman Schwartzkopf. But few people have heard of Magdalena Leones – she was a Filipino woman that served as a guerrilla soldier under U.S. command in World War II.
Leones was in her 20s when she joined the Philippine-American military effort. She is part of a small group of women – and is the only Filipino woman – to receive the award for her heroism. She died on June 16th in Richmond, California at 96-years old.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recognized her on June 28. “We are diminished by the passing of Corporal Magdalena Leones, Silver Star Filipina World War II veteran — the only Asian to receive this honor,” Supervisor Jane Kim said. “Corporal Leones has paved the way for many…
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In 1952, I left, to attend a Boy Scout jamboree with other scouts to spend two weeks in Blair Atholl, Scotland We were the sons of American military personnel who were stationed in a southern Germany as part of the allied occupation force. It had only been a recent practice to participate in any form of group activity with local people, due to the disparity of living conditions and the after shock of the war years. We traveled on an olive drab military bus as far as the coast of the English channel at Ostend, Belgium.
All along our route we saw the terrible evidence of the war that had just been fought. Our presence, for some was their first contact with American youth. As I look back I remember how hard we worked to leave a good impression:
When we rode on the ship to England, we found a group of touring middle age women who had been visiting loved ones buried in the military cemeteries. Some of us, with guitars (Tony Phillips and David Murphy, I believe) led them in songs.
At the train station we drew the attention of the BBC, who noticed that we were going down the aisles passing out small packages of marshmallows. We learned that few of them had not seen or tasted a marshmallow before. At the beginning of our trip. each of us packed a can of Hormel ham to share with our host families. We realized that the British were still under a strict food rationing system. At the Tower of London, we were told that the only ones in England who were given a daily ration of meat were the ravens who populated the large courtyard.
We were awakened from our tents, in Scotland by the thrilling sound of bagpipes. I even accomplished a ‘l rounder’ in a Cricket game. I think, for all of us, that we so wanted to make the battle scarred world whole again.
By Hudson Phillips.
by Circe Olson Woessner
On October 1st, 2017, Brett Bruckner was hanging out at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas with a dozen or so of his friends. They were enjoying the music and had just been joined by a young lady from another section of the crowd when gunshots erupted.
“I just thought it was firecrackers or static from the speakers,” Bruckner said. “About 15 seconds went by—maybe less—and it started again—but it didn’t stop. When I realized it was gunfire, I told everyone to get down. I grabbed the girl who had joined our group, and threw her on the ground and got on top of her.”
And so, began an extraordinary night for one Navy veteran and 22,000 other concert goers.
By phone, I heard Bruckner’s story.
Bruckner and his companions decided to run toward the nearest exit. As his friends took off, Bruckner noticed that the lady he’d sheltered was frozen in fright. At that moment, he realized that she, and probably others, were too terrified to move—and he needed to help.
“It wasn’t a drawn-out thought process—it was instant action. I said, ‘come with me’…we’re still being shot at.” I told her to run toward a silver van [parked about 75 yards away] and not to stop till she got there.”
Once she was safe, Bruckner ran toward a sound booth and took shelter behind the equipment. “I had a few seconds to see where the shooting was coming from—I peeked my head up and saw it was from Mandalay Bay—I couldn’t see what floor; I could only see flashes. There were a bunch of people hunkered down near me, and the only thing I could think of to do at the moment was to call my dad. It’s weird, really strange but I wanted him to let everyone know that I love them and it’s going to be okay.”
In the thick of the chaos, a woman who identified herself as Robyn, ran up to Bruckner, screaming that her husband had been shot and she couldn’t find him.
The only thing I could think of to say to her was, ‘Are you all right’?” She wasn’t hurt, and Bruckner got her to safety.
Bruckner says that any time he told anyone that he was prior Navy—be it the civilians or law enforcement– they latched onto that. They knew that they could rely on him to help them; for instance, when he came across a woman who’d been wounded by a gunshot to the chest. “People were kinda standing around, not really doing anything. They kept saying, ‘she’s shot, she needs to go to the hospital.’ I picked her up and I carried her about a hundred yards out to where I could put her in the back of somebody else’s car. I ran back in, and I saw a fence that was down on its side. Because I was exhausted—and I’m a pretty big guy — I saw so many people trying to carry others, dragging them— I looked at the fence, and thought we can use this as a gurney.”
All of this while the gunfire was still going on.
He tried to reassure those around him “…It’s tough, you try not to think about what’s around you, or who you might trip over…and you have a split second where you think, ‘what am I doing…but then instinct kicks in…I’ve never been in this kind of situation—and I reacted. Some people run, freeze, or they help. I’m happy and proud that I responded by helping.”
This doesn’t come as a surprise to him. “I’ve always put people before myself. Even before I joined the Navy.”
A triage site was hurriedly set up in one of the bars, and Bruckner and others got the injured there. After a while, a second triage opened further down the street. They continued to take the wounded to triage, using the fences as stretchers.
Bruckner thinks that some of the training he had in the military helped him that night. “The military teaches us to be aware of our surroundings and to move with purpose. I once took part in a mass casualty drill and we did it near the hangers, and the fire department and paramedics participated. We were simulating an air show and a plane had crashed into the crowd. Some of the people had fake blood squirting out of them, and all different kinds of injuries. What it taught me was the triage process: prioritizing who needs medical attention first. It also taught me how to handle seeing countless, motionless bodies on the ground. Even though it was a simulation then, it was that one thing that kept flashing through my mind while everything was going on at the concert. After a while, you just do what you have to do: run and get people onto the fence and you move them to where there’s help.”
Despite the horror of the circumstances, there was also good: “People came together. When you see a community come together –people from other countries and from across our country… they are all on vacation, but they are waiting in line for six hours to give blood …. Las Vegas strong …community and humanity.”
Bruckner still keeps in touch with Robyn Wolfe, who did lose her husband Bob that night. “My mom’s company “adopts” a family each year, and this year their family is Robyn’s. She has two boys. It means the world to me to be able to do something to bring her some happiness, especially for her kids.”
One of Bruckner’s friends, Brennan Stewart, was also shot and killed at the concert.
With so many shootings in the news, people might think twice before going to a concert, or to church, or sending their child to school. I asked Bruckner if he had any thoughts about that.
“You can’t let these events define who you are for the rest of your life. You can’t let them win. You have to be able to move on, and not just from the event, but move on with your life and continue to grow, and not let these people take away what beauty and peace you find in life. The moment that you let them win is the moment that you’ve given up hope.”
The people who go to church have hope because they believe in whichever God they believe in and go there for the faith, love, and community. We go to concerts because music brings everyone together in a community. You have to continue to do things that bring people together, to give them that community and happiness. There’s more good in life than bad, but it sucks because it’s the bad that always stands out. You can’t let evil people win, because you give up so much more: a sense of love, hope and peace.”