This is what I think of on Memorial Day

by Debby Stinemetz Caulfield

When I was fourteen, I moved into the Marine Barracks and fell in love with many handsome Marines. My father was the commanding officer of the Marine Barracks, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Our quarters were literally one end of the barracks. On the other side of my bedroom wall was “the head” where I could hear the Marines showering at reveille. Our front yard was the parade ground and our backyard was the servicing area for the mess and laundry. There was also a brig. There was no better place for a coming-of-age young woman to be where opportunities for flirting abounded, if kept out of the Colonel’s watchful eye. My younger brother and sister developed friendships with the off duty Marines too, riding skateboards together down the back service road.

Sometimes our Marine friends moved away and we never heard of them again. But some came back in the form of bad news as our father would tell us at the dinner table that our friend Lurch or Tom or Bob had been killed in action in Vietnam. It wasn’t just the Marines at our barracks home who were dying. My father, being the senior Marine in Maine, was tasked with officially notifying the families of Marines killed in Vietnam. I’d wait for my father to come home and see the emotion on his face, as he’d tell of fathers fainting in his arms or mothers screaming inconsolably.

We moved out of the Marine Barracks and my father moved to Vietnam. We continued to get more stories of Marines dying as my father shared his experiences as the commanding officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in Danang.

Before I was 18 years old and started developing any political sense and ideology about wars, I had become keenly aware that war and service to country is about death. This is what I think about on Memorial Day.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13


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VA History Tidbit – Joseph H. Freedlander, Architect – Beaux Arts architecture – Mountain Home – National Preservation Month

In celebration of National Preservation Month

VA’s earliest hospitals were built as branches of the National Home for Disabled Volunteers Soldiers. In the aftermath of the American Civil War, Congress established the National Homes to provide medical care, rehabilitation, and a “real home” for thousands of Union veterans who survived the war, but whose disabilities or lack of family prevented them from finding suitable jobs and housing. The National Homes were purposely designed to be beautiful and welcoming and many notable architects were involved in creating that first generation of national veterans hospitals and homes. They were built in spacious, park-like settings which provided lots of opportunities for veterans to take relaxing strolls, get fresh air, and commune with nature. The National Home’s Mountain Branch, which opened in Johnson City, Tennessee, in 1903, was designed by renowned Beaux Arts architect, Joseph H. Freedlander, and is unique among VA’s early hospitals.
image001Joseph Henry Freedlander was born on August 18, 1870 in New York City to Jewish immigrants who migrated from Germany. His father was a hat wholesaler and his mother was a homemaker. He attended public schools and was later accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he graduated in 1891 with a degree in architecture at the age of 20. He then became one of the first Americans to attend the prestigious Écoles des Beaux Arts in Paris and graduated in 1895. Beaux Arts was a distinctive design style that embellished classical revival architecture with lavish and ornate details. The Écoles des Beaux Arts was regarded as one of the superior fine arts school in the world, at the time, and its artistic influences spanned from the early 19th century until the mid-1930s. Read the rest of this entry »


Living at the Statue of Liberty

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Friends who lived with us at the Statue of Liberty in 1937. It was then referred to as Bedloes Island. Military families, who lived at nearby Governors Island were sometimes quartered in homes st the Statue. Though only four, at this time I do have memories of playing with my friends and riding the ferry boat. I have seen the Statue many times, when traveling overseas and visiting New York. It always feels very familiar to me. Not many believe me when I tell them I once lived there. —Hudson Phillips


VA History: Soldier’s Homes

One hundred and twenty-seven (127) years ago, on August 27, 1888, the cooperative relationship between federal and state soldiers’ homes was formalized in a Congressional act “to provide aid to state or territorial homes for the support of disabled soldiers and sailors of the United States.”

image001A handful of states established soldiers homes during the Civil War, well before the Federal system of hospitals-homes was authorized in 1865. The earliest state home was established near Boston, Massachusetts, in 1862. Before the Civil War ended, on March 3, 1865, Congress authorized the first Federal system hospital-home–known as the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS)–specifically for veterans of the U.S. (Union) volunteer forces. The National Home was the ancestral origins of today’s VA health care system. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »