A Military Brat (a poem by Hudson Phillips):

Born in a Hawaiian paradise,

I expected it,

accepted it,

and carried it with me

on large ocean ships

that rolled and delved and climbed

but always went forward

through, and over,


dependent on the Captain

on deck,

lulled by the vibration

from the ship’s motor


curious about the surface

we sailed upon,

I tasted the ocean,

as it

let  me taste

lifting itself

in mountainous swells,

teasing and then pulling back,

then flinging itself in the air

with such joy.

Fish would sometimes follow,

flying over the bow and swimming along side.

Sometimes I would drop an orange

to mark my spot,

but always we moved beyond,

leaving a wake of churned water

and cream bubbles

as we sailed toward our next port of call.




The Nagasaki Man (a poem by Hudson Phillips):

People were still negotiating their body space

Or ‘Centering’ as our church calls it,

so that God and souls could find one another

in the web of pew materials,

When a old man stood up and faced the people

with attention to the anniversary

of something that we did to others,

in what seemed like yesterday to him

at a place where there were cherry trees

and children and a cloudless sky

and hardly the place where one would

stop time and turn it all to clay.

“Today is the day that we bombed Nagasaki

Why, a second time?” He emphasized with a sigh.

We sang and we prayed

about the strange question

of the ‘Nagasaki Man.’

I told him later that I never

thought of it that way.

A Return to Fort Davis 2005 in the former Panama Canal Zone

by Hudson Phillips

Fort Davis is referred to as “Davis,” or in local dialect, “Dah-vees.” (Roads into Davis are unmarked.) The former military base is still “present,” but, to keep this in military terms, it is “not accounted for.” Former officer and non-commissioned quarters are now the homes of Panamanians and some new homes and condos have been constructed on the former military base. Local residents are, generally, very helpful in giving travel directions but it is always important to remember that you are a stranger in what is now THEIR neighborhood. Our visit included 88 year old Col. Ernie Nelson ret. (A former Post Chaplain at Davis in the ‘50s), and his daughter, Karen. I represented, my father Col. Hudson Phillips, now deceased. (former Protestant chaplain at Davis at the beginning of World War II) and his family. Fort Davis experienced many changes during and since the periods that we had lived on the Post and it took us some time make adjustments.

The old post theater was our beginning point. The movies that I saw there as a child are now hailed as “cinema classics”: Beau Geste, King Kong, Citizen Kane and so many others. The classy art deco building is recognizable today, though in a terrible state of neglect. Some of us remember the days when a special bugle call summoned people to the evening feature from all points of Fort Davis. Most walked to the movies and that path is ingrained in their minds. Karen realized that, when she lived at Davis, she could see the theater from her house. Though doctored and embellished by landscapers and carpenters, the location of the house is apparent. Chaplain Nelson got out of the car and straightened up to his full 6’2. It was clear that he was becoming a colonel again. With a little more effort we found Karen’s other home and the Post swimming pool. The gym was around the corner. Karen had been in some kind of competition at the time she had lived there so we both peered in and imagined the thousands of basketball games and the oceans of sweat. We continued to push for MORE, MORE. Read the rest of this entry »

Life at the Statue of Liberty

IOutlay of the Statue of Liberty and Bedloes IslandMG_20141123_0014_NEW-3by Hudson Phillips

People are skeptical when I tell them that we were quartered for a short time at the Statue of Liberty in l935 that was then Bedloes island. This image of the Statue indicates the structures that on the island at that time. Part are the remains of an old fort and some housed people who work there. The long flat roof building to the lower right had two story apartments. They are consistent with what I remember.Though my dad was stationed at Governors Island, I spent my days with my mother and grandmother in the proximity of the Statue. I was four. My memories are broken up into what I have been told I did and those that I clearly experienced. I remember the arrival of some of the great passenger ships. We had a wide window on the second floor and we would all lie on the bed and store the moments. The ferry rides were frequent and also made a lasting impression. I rather took the statue for granted. When I played with my chums I assumed that other children had statues like this next to their houses.

Medal of Honor History and the VA

The Medal of Honor (MOH) for distinguished soldiers of the Army’s Regular or Volunteer forces was authorized by Congress 152 years ago on July 12, 1862, nearly seven months after the nation’s first Medals of Honor were established for the Navy.


Special awards to recognize bravery in battle began during the Revolutionary, under General George Washington, but not until the Civil War was one named the “Medal of Honor.” Congress established the nation’s first Medals of Honor during the first year of the Civil War, on December 21, 1861, for Navy petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and marines who “shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war.” Notice the anchor on the early Navy medal shown below.

Eventually, Congress authorized Medals of Honor for all branches of the military services:
· 1862 July 12 – Medals of Honor authorized for enlisted men of the U.S. Army and Volunteer forces.
· 1915 March 3 – Medal of Honor eligibility expanded to officers and men of the Coast Guard (they receive the Navy Medal of Honor)
· 1956 August 10 – Medal of Honors were authorized for the Air Force; Air Force had been
an independent branch since 1947, but prior to 1956, recipients were given the Army’s medal. Read the rest of this entry »

The Wives’ Clubs

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 7.17.05 AMIn1948 the NCO and Officer’s clubs offered opportunities to learn and practice military protocol. Meetings such as this one, sought to reduce the pressures of living within the structures of rank and of maintaining poise and a sense of purpose.

 Every spouse is aware that even slight mistakes, such as not cutting one’s lawn, can effect an efficiency report.  These women have made an effort to wear ‘just the right clothes’ and not make social mistakes. The ‘career ladder’ is on everyone’s minds and it effects where they are sent and how they live.

Hudson Phillips


by Hudson Phillips

While we searched through Atlases and encyclopedias to find Panama, my mother asked plaintively if they had a PX at Fort Sherman. Her newly purchased piano would not make the trip. Movers arrived with large wooden barrels filled with wood shavings and they packed my lead Finnish ski soldier, along with a toy auto gyro, Electric Flyer train set and remnants of games and playthings that I had already outgrown. It always seemed, in our moves, that things would be broken or misplaced.

When the barrels were filled and the house was empty, we gave our Cocker Spaniel, “Judy Wings,” to Major George (a family friend who would later serve with distinction in the defense of the Philippines and be killed in a training accident in Australia.)


We drove through long stretches of farmland and small villages and towns, from Selfridge Field, Michigan, to New York: with three fidgeting children, mom smoking Pall Mall cigarettes, and dad lighting up an occasional White Owl cigar.  To while away the hours, we sang popular songs and listed to the car radio.  Politics was gearing up for the 1940 Presidential Election. Indiana Senator Wendell Wilkie’s high pitch, nasal, accent struck us funny. When he used the phrase “Razor blade of good will,” it sounded like he said “rahzer blad.”  We took turns imitating the expression, and used it, not only for miles, but for many years to come.  At journey’s end, dad swapped the Nash for an old Hudson. There was little use for a new car in the Canal Zone.

After two nights, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, dividing up two small government mattresses between five people, we boarded the brightly marked liner, American Legion, I had, already been on ocean ships before. [Born at Schofield Barracks, Territory of Hawaii, I sailed back and forth on the military transport, Republic, three times.] The smells were familiar: tar, oil, hemp, food preparation and the ocean. The great moan of the ship’s horn signaled the beginning. Down a stairwell I saw the face of a girl my age looking up. We waved, smiled, and never saw one another again – typical of military Brat life experience. From the ship’s rail I watched tug boats nudge and push our ship into the harbor. We sailed past the Statue of Liberty, where my family had lived just two years before..  The great lady stood near my playground and the small two-story row of gray cement apartments.   It was then known as Bedloes Island. We had been part of the overflow of dependent families assigned to Governor’s Island.  We had a front row seat for  the dramatic arrivals of the Normandy and Queen Mary liners. My father often reflected on how Liberty’s torch had caused the bedroom windows to have to be blackened because the light was so bright we couldn’t sleep. I remember, very clearly, the time that older boys had left me at the base of the seawall after they climbed to escape the rising tide. Water had climbed to my shoes, and it was clear that I faced serious trouble.  I saw onlookers, on their way to Ellis Island, and a seagull that flew close by; but, I could not see above the wall. I had no promise rescue.  Fortunately, the Ferry had arrived from Governor’s Island.  My dad was notified by one of the boys and pulled me to safety.  He may have forgotten about the incident, now, but I could not look at the Statue without thinking of it. Read the rest of this entry »

VA History: VA’s Department of Medicine and Surgery established

Sixty-nine years ago, on January 3, 1946, Public Law 79-293 authorized the Department of Medicine and Surgery at the Veterans Administration. This law transformed the Federal veterans health care system in many unprecedented ways, but most notably: established a medical residency affiliation program, allowed VA to hire the best qualified physicians and medical staff outside of the civil service system, made medical research a top priority, and built new VA hospitals in urban areas near medical schools. Many new VA programs, including Voluntary Service and VA Canteen Service were established to support the new department’s efforts. Dr. Karl Menninger, a leading American psychologist, was just one of countless medical professionals attracted to work for the “new VA” at the time.

In January 1946, when the law was enacted, VA employed 2,300 doctors of whom 1,700 were still on active military duty from World War II. By the end of that same year, VA employed 4,000 full-time doctors with fewer than 400 on active duty. In November that year, VA hired its first women doctors to oversee care for women veterans. At the time, VA operated 109 hospitals in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Read the rest of this entry »

Between Stops

a poem by Hudson Phillips about growing up in the Military.

I lurch from side to side carried forward

by the force that I have grasped,

Does it have a face?

I am bonded to the flow of strangers,

circuited to an energy

of destinations,

all drawn


hands placed

close enough to show the differences,

some tired and turgid, telling of their toil,

and others marked by manicured and selfish haste Read the rest of this entry »


 by Bill Hudson

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 7.19.07 PM

Senorita was given to me by a navy family much earlier in the year upon their orders to return to the United States. Several of the Posts and Bases had stables to serve a variety of purposes.  At Fort Davis, mules were used to pull heavy equipment, horses were used by the officers for personal use, such as Polo competition and recreational riding.  My mother belonged to a riding club and most of the children learned to ride.  There was an expectation that boys would learn good riding form in preparation for later careers as officers. Senorita was spared the usual military hair bob on mane and tail because of my objection.  She was smallish but she was able to hold her own among the much larger horses and  mules at the stable.  It was my job to see that she was fed, to keep her groomed and to bridle and saddle her properly. I have just learned that, like all of the other families, it is our turn to leave Panama and leave our pets behind.  This will include my Capuchin monkey, Chi Chi, whom I had found in a tree.  I was eight years old. This was hard to take and understand. We just had to follow orders. We would leave four weeks. Our fathers had to remain on duty and stay behind.  Being military, we had no permanent residences in the States to go to.  The expression on my face says it all.  I was the oldest sibling and in the third grade and was leaving in February.