Christmas in the Military

Midway Island

The Museum of the American Military Family is compiling stories for a book reflecting on war…


Attention New Mexicans, who are serving in the military, are military veterans, are members of a military family, and would like to write about your experience in that capacity…

 Paul Zolbrod, Writer-in-Residence for the Albuquerque-based Museum of the American Military Family is seeking stories for its anthology “From the Front Line to the Home Front: New Mexicans Reflect on War.”

This anthology will include first-hand stories from all perspectives—service members, family members and friends who share their perspectives and experiences. Submissions can be about the recent Middle East campaigns, Vietnam, the Korean War era or World War II—and everything in between. All branches and ranks of the military should be represented.

How you can contribute:

Your story can be as long or as short as you choose. Just make it heartfelt, honest and interesting. We are looking for stories of trial and triumph and loss, stories that demonstrate the warmth and humor of military family life along with its inevitable tensions, offbeat stories that illustrate the variety that accompanies military life in war times–in other words– anything you want to tell of.

You don’t have to consider yourself an accomplished writer to participate. We will provide editorial services to sharpen your contribution.

The book will be arranged by stories of:

  • Pre-deployment,
  • Deployment
  • Post-deployment
  • Legacy & Aftermath

For more information or to submit a story, please e-mail Writer-in-Residence Paul Zolbrod at

The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2016. Tentative publication date is scheduled for the fall. All stories become part of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collection Library.



Leaving Panama (1941)

by Hudson PhillipsChristmas 1941_Ft Davis Panama Canal_Ann_Bill_HudsonOur evacuation from the Panama Canal was a terribly sad and sudden thing.  As we approached the time that we were to leave, my father’s demeanor changed to a terse and commanding presence. It was time to be soldiers.  When I think back now, it explains why he acted this way. A barrage balloon hovered over the house, tethered not far away.  Piles of sand were placed near our back door to help extinguish fire from incendiary bombs. The entire family was issued gas masks. I was informed of a stash of emergency items in a compartment in the kitchen (in case my parents were out of the house during an attack.) Read the rest of this entry »

Pearl Harbor

by Steve Sparks


“Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A small boat rescues a seaman from the 31,800 ton USS West Virginia (BB-48), which is burning in the foreground. Smoke rolling out amidships shows where the most extensive damage occurred. Note the two men in the superstructure. The USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard.”
Date 7 December 1941 photo: Wikipedia

Honoring my father and his shipmates who were aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) on the morning of December 7, 1941…Also honoring the spouses, family members, and loved ones who waited for many weeks to learn of the fate all those who served America on that fateful day…

My Dad’s own account of what happened on that fateful Sunday morning, December 7, 1941…

National Park Service   Survivor Questionnaire – Persons Present December 7, 1941, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii

Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Battleship USS West Virginia, Coxswain

Hometown: St. Paul, Mn

Brief Account of What Happened to You Before, During, & After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I was on the 3rd deck heading for the anchor windless room when the first torpedo hit the USS West Virginia.  From there, more bombing and torpedoes-when all hell broke loose.  Men in the brig were screaming for help.  I could not respond, there was no time…to check where the Marine guard was with the keys to the cells.  Evidently, he had already been hit.  The men in the brig were engulfed in water and perished.  I worked my way up to the2nd deck with water up to my waist.  By this time, I came to a hatch with the manhole still open leading to the main deck.  I barely made it out of the escape hatch and was ordered by Lt. Stark to close that hatch.  The men were still down there but it was too late for them.  That was the first time I heard that the Japs were attacking our fleet…and the whole island.  I watched one of my best shipmates get himself killed-Roy Powers.  He stuck his head out the portside close to the ship-fitters shop; and about that time another torpedo hit and the concussion blew his head off.  His body fell back on deck headless.  After that it was a matter of surviving.  There was no defense, the ship was already listing to port at about 35 degrees angle.  I worked myself up further on the deck and observed the Commanding Officer, Captain Mervyn S. Bennion heading for the bridge.  The strafing and bombing was still on.  When I arrived on the main deck going forward to the number one turret…strafing still going on…I dived under the overhang of the turret.  Communications was out, so by word of mouth heard the order, “all hands abandon ship.”  Note: Capt. Bennion was lying on the wing of the bridge mortally wounded…He asked the doc, “What kind of chance he had?”  And was told, “Not much Captain.”  Then, Captain Bennion said, “Leave me on the bridge and this is my last order, ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!”  He died right after that order…  After that order I jumped over the side to starboard and swam to Ford Island…Us guys that made it were standing on the beach watching the USS Arizona blow up sky high…what a helpless feeling.  I had torn my white uniform up to use as emergency treatment bandages for the wounded.  Anyway, to make a long story short, we dashed across the field under strafing conditions to shelter.  In the BOQ, we were able shower in there and salvage clothes from the lockers, and helped organize the Harbor Patrol.  And was with that duty for a few months – then assigned to new construction with the 5th Amphibious Force hitting the beaches of the South Pacific, all the way, then finally Iwo Jima, & Okinawa until the Peace Treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri in Toyko, Japan.   People like myself could go on & on…but that would take a book…”

Vernon H. Sparks, December 7, 1941, Battleship USS West Virginia

From Ship’s Crew Muster:

Sparks, Vernon H.       328-41-29     Cox.        13   Jan. 36   10/12/39

USS West Virginia (BB48) 2013 Reunion…  Click on this website for update…

The heroes who have passed away since the 2012 reunion..

Alton Wiggs

Walter Christiansen

Scott Coulson

Howard Gist

Leonard Gilbert

Virgil Reeve

Harold Lacy

George Geci

James W. King

Sylvester Puccio

Adolph Krenn

Bernard Brown

John Holt

Louis Balbinot

Robert Christy

Stanley Idzerda

Ed Matlock

Richard Robinson

Author’s note…My Dad, Vernon, passed away in 1998 at age 79.  I have faith that he knows his son did write the book he thought should be written…”People like myself could go on & on…but that would take a book…”  Dad served America with honor and pride for all of his adult life and career including the US Navy for 22 years, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons for 18 years before retiring.  Dad’s US Navy service included combat duty for all of WWII in the Asiatic Pacific Theater, and almost a year during the Korean War.  My father is a symbol of the countless numbers of veterans of all wars and the families who served too…  We honor veterans and military families every day of the year.  They paid a huge price for the freedoms we enjoy in America and around the world to this day…  We shall never forget the sacrifices and the debt that can never be repaid…

Steve Sparks

Families Living with PTSD and Moral Injury…Please support mission by ordering my book. This is a soul-healing forum for families who are or have lived in a home with a parent or loved one who served in direct combat or experienced traumatic events. Children in particular are at the highest risk of mental and physical abuse resulting from the legacy of war. Please support my mission by ordering my book…

Kids living with parents suffering from moral injury and PTSD are at risk from “emotional neglect.”

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD…symptoms of child abuse…

Emotional neglect is primary cause of C-PTSD…  Quote from this website…

“Pete Walker provides a convincing argument for the recognition and proper treatment of emotional flashbacks and complex PTSD, which result from childhood neglect and emotional abuse.”
Since researching and writing my book almost two years ago, I have stayed safely on the periphery of the global issue of PTSD and moral injury.  As my research has continued and becomes more focused on child abuse, I am learning much more about kids who live with parents suffering from the symptoms of PTSD.  Kids are often considered resilient…  Children can be easily ignored, and become isolated in their own home environment when parents are preoccupied with their own emotional challenges.  I know this well as a survivor of child abuse, including emotional neglect.  My parents were emotionally numb most of the time during the 1950’s following Dad’s deployment in the Korean War.  Dad also served in severe and extended combat all of WWII starting with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the rest of the war years in the Pacific, returning home finally in June of 1945.  My youngest sister was born in the late 50’s.  Dad was suffering terribly from too much war and trauma without any treatment options except alcohol…  Mom was sick physically and emotionally damaged from the affects of war on military families serving on the home front…  I call this period of my life…”the too terrible to remember 50’s…”
For the most part my postings are on the “healing and thriving” side of the global challenge of moral injury and PTSD.  Although I try to stick with a positive message, I know that children are often not discussed in the context of PTSD.  Parents do not like to think of child abuse and no doubt never intend to create a culture of emotional neglect for their kids.  But bad stuff happens!  I have been compelled of late to speak out more about the effects of secondary PTSD or C-PTSD in the case of children living in a toxic home.  The upside of  being more aware of my own childhood experience in a troubled home, really helps me with my own journey of healing.  I am starting to remember some painful events during that time that have been pushed to the back of my brain for much of my adult life.  Holding all this emotional baggage inside is not healthy.  But it is equally difficult initially to remember faded memories and connect the dots.  But once all this “bad stuff” is sorted out, we begin to heal and live a far better quality of life.  It is never too late!

I know most parents love their kids deeply, and as a community we embrace the health and welfare of our children.  If our children could only talk to us about how they feel without being scared, we could do so much more to stop child abuse.  I don’t know of a parent in my lifetime who would not respond instantly if they knew children would carry the baggage of emotional and physical abuse for a lifetime, and even pass the behaviors on to the next generation.  We must do better as parents and as a community to prevent child abuse…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  click to order my book…and start your own journey of healing… Steve Sparks blog can be found here

ARGO and how a young third culture kid became part of this story

The Movie Argo just won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama and a Golden Globe Director’s award last night.  When the movie ARGO was released earlier this year many of my closest friends knew how excited I was to see it. It’s the story of the rescue of 6 American Consular Officers who fled their posts and went into hiding after Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy on November 4, 1979.  What many of them did not know was that as a young 18 year old soldier I was a part of this story. As this operation is no longer classified, I can now share my part in it. 

Story by Thom McInnis from his blog 

This event happened over 30 years ago so to refresh my memory I needed to dig through boxes of old papers until I found a very special letter of appreciation given to me from Admiral Packard of the European Command Center for my service during the Embassy takeover in Iran. This is the story how as a young GI I found myself entrenched in a story of suspense and intrigue that was much larger than I could ever imagine. Read the rest of this entry »