Our library has a lot of stories from Brats, Spouses and Teachers

Please us your story to: militaryfamilymuseum@comcast.net

Mulling Over Service In Different Contexts

Recently, I sat in on a Bernalillo County Commission meeting in Albuquerque. It was fascinating to learn how the county works, and as speakers addressing different topics stepped forward with presentations and requests, it was refreshing to see people communicating civilly. The public comments were well-controlled and timed; yet people got to say exactly what they wanted to say, and the others listened respectfully.

During the meeting, the Bernalillo County Manager called up six people and explained why they had been chosen as employees of the month. She shared some personal things about each recipient, which really drove home that these employees are real people—not just job titles. The details were small and intimate: One employee likes to build Lego sculptures with his son; another loves Disney; another reads voraciously.

That reminded me of a rewards and recognition committee I once chaired at the VA. We honored employees of the month, too, and also gave out a “Shirt off Your Back” and “Supervisor of the Quarter” award.

Whereas the presentation at the County Commission meeting was brief and formal, our VA’s town hall is very lively. One committee member bakes hundreds of cupcakes for every single one of the town halls. It’s her way of giving back to her fellow employees. She does it on her own time and uses her own resources.

I remember when I decided to become a board member for our homeowner’s association. Years ago, at one of the meetings, there were several angry homeowners venting and raging at the board. Suddenly one of them said, “I should join this board because you guys suck!” At that point, although I had not planned to, I stood up and volunteered to be on the board. I figured I could do a better job than that guy. Whether or not it’s true, I’ll never know, but I did get a healthy respect for what it’s like to serve on a board of directors. (Please be kind to your voluntary homeowner’s association board!)

When I was a young army wife, all of us wives in the regiment were invited to the Commander’s town hall meeting. We knew something significant was going to happen because of the wording on the memo.

Once we assembled, the Commander informed us that our husbands were going to be deploying to the Middle East. Everyone sat quietly, processing the news. Some women wept; others talked with their neighbors. The Commander had a difficult job. He wanted to reassure us, but also wanted to stress that whether we liked it or not, he couldn’t prevent the deployment. His wife walked around reassuring us that we could handle this. Her soft-spoken words and quick smile did more for us than any number of “official” assurances did.

My son, when he was a PFC, attended a mandatory town hall meeting at which a suicide prevention training was presented. Like many of the young people in attendance, he viewed the training as merely something to be endured. Yet, a few days later, he was confronted with a distraught fellow soldier who expressed that he wanted to die. Having not unpacked his rucksack from the town hall, my son used the handouts from that training to work through the situation and to determine the next course of action. And, following his own instincts, he ordered them both a pizza to share.

What all these town halls have in common is an element of “service.” County commissioners, federal and local employees serve the public. Citizens choose to serve voluntarily on boards or committees to make their slice of the world a little better. People check in with each other to make sure they’re doing okay.

It’s obvious that the military members serve, but so do their spouses and kids. They share their service member with Uncle Sam; they lend him or her to the mission, and many of them choose, while waiting for their loved one to come back from wherever the military has sent them, to serve by volunteering—in spouse or chapel support groups, in school programs, or any number of voluntary positions on or off base.

When I look around our own East Mountain community, I’m awed by how many people—despite their very busy lives—volunteer. Our food pantries, service organizations, animal shelters, and schools would not function nearly as well if dedicated volunteers didn’t step in to help.

Our museum also depends on volunteers to serve on the board and to act as docents. To many non-profits, large and small, volunteers—or the lack thereof—can make or break an organization. Volunteers are vital.

So, to all of you wonderful volunteers out there—I thank you for your service!

Remembering a Brat At Pearl Harbor

Joseph Condrill

Brat Friends,

Got three interesting bits of information to share here:
1) The story of Navy Brat, Bill Free, on December 7, 1941.
2) Why is December 7, 1941 so important to us today as Brats?
3) Ten Amazing Facts About The Bombing of Pearl Harbor?

The story of Navy Brat, Bill Free, on December 7, 1941.
Bill Free looked up to his father. As a boy, Bill enjoyed listening to his father, a sailor serving in the U.S. Navy talking about his experiences. Bill looked forward to the day he could join the Navy, and hopefully join his father onboard a ship somewhere. His dream came true, but with tragic results.

On December 7, 1941, U.S. Navy Seaman Second Class William Thomas Free was killed on board the USS Arizona when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. His father, Machinist Mate First Class Thomas Free, was also onboard the USS Arizona that morning and was also killed.

Today Bill Free is remembered on the OVERSEAS BRATS (OSB) Brats Memorial at: www.overseasbrats.com . He is the oldest Brat listed on the OSB Brats Memorial and the earliest date recorded of a Brat whom died while serving his country on that memorial.
Why Is December 7, 1941 so important to us today as Brats?
In the cruise industry I give a couple talks related to this.
December 7, 1941 is so important to us today because:
*The war in Europe had stalemated. The Japanese were on the offensive in the Pacific. U.S. entry would change all that.
*English replaced French as the language of commerce and diplomacy.
*The U.S. would emerge as one of the Super Powers of The World.
*Gave birth to a new generation called The Baby Boomers.
*Would set in motion a number of things that would eventually make us all Brats.
The following comes from one of my talks in the cruise industry.

Ten Amazing Facts About The Bombing of Pearl Harbor
1) This may come as a surprise but which nation came up with the idea of Pearl Harbor?
The British! A British journalist first wrote about it in 1925.
Then in 1940, the British attacked the Italian naval base at Taranto with torpedo bombers that crippled the Italian fleet. A Japanese naval attaché stationed in Berlin was sent to investigate.

2) The USS Arizona had actually been part of an aircraft carrier task force attacking from the north that as part of a training maneuver, had attacked on a Sunday and on the 7th! (February 7, 1932).

3) How is it that the Americans fired the first shot at Pearl Harbor?
This happened when the American destroyer, the USS Ward fired on an unidentified submarine and sank it in a restricted area in front of the entrance of Pearl Harbor at 6:30 a.m. on December 7.

4) What major objectives did the Japanese fail to accomplish on December 7 which would come back to haunt them?
A couple things here.
When Admiral Chester Nimitz did an inspection of the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 25, 1941he commented that:
-The Japanese picked the wrong day to bomb. It being Sunday, nine out of every 10 crewmen stationed on board the ships were on shore leave.
-The Japanese pilots got so carried away trying to sink battleships, they didn’t touch the dry docks near the ships. As it was, since the ships were in shallow water and the dry docks went untouched, meaning the ships could have been quickly repaired.
-The oil storage tanks that had 4.5 million of gallons of oil in them that were located nearby at Hickam Airfield and a few miles away went untouched in the attack. The oil from those storage tanks fueled the aircraft carrier task forces that went on to bomb Tokyo in April 1942, stop the Japanese advance in the Coral Sea in May 1942, and decisively defeated the Japanese at the Battle of Midway in June 1942.
Last but not least: The major mission of the Japanese was to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers. None were at Pearl Harbor at the time the Japanese bombed it.

5) What other ship was sunk at Pearl Harbor that has sailors entombed aboard it other than the USS Arizona?
This is the USS Utah.

6) What allied ship came to the aide of the Americans in Honolulu on December 7?
This was the Dutch merchant vessel, the SS Jagersfontein, which was berthed at a pier in Honolulu. When the attack began on Hawaii, the crew came to the aid of the Americans when the ships’ anti-aircraft batteries fired on Japanese aircraft that flew by it.

7) Why is Torao Migita’s Pearl Harbor story unique?
He was a Hawaii National Guardsman. On December 7, 1941, as a Private stationed with D Company, 298th Infantry at Schofield Barracks, he was killed while returning to his post. When we think of American servicemen who were killed in Hawaii on that date, we usually think they were all Caucasians, Private Migita was of Japanese ancestry.

8) What aircraft at Hickam AFB that was destroyed by the bombing, was actually preparing for a secret mission against the Japanese?
On December 5, 1941 a B-24 bomber flew in from the mainland and upon landing was placed under a lot of security. What we know is that some very sophisticated camera equipment (for that time) was being loaded on board, according to one of the guards assigned to protect it. The aircraft was being prepared for a special mission, but on December 7, 1941 the bomber was destroyed in the attack and two crew members were killed trying to save it. Speculation? The aircraft was to be flown to either Wake Island or Guam to use as a base to launch photographic missions on the Marianas or Marshall Islands, then under Japanese control.

9) What were some of the classic statements made about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
“Rising sun, attacking early in the morning from a northerly direction.”
Quatrain 91, Century II,
Michael Nostradamus, 16th Century.
Returning home from a ball held at the Schofield Barracks Officers Club on Saturday night, December 6, 1941, the top Army commander in Hawaii, Lieutenant General Walter Short saw the bright lights of the ships in Pearl Harbor.
“Isn’t it a beautiful sight?” he commented to his wife. “And what a target they would make.”
In early December 1941 the main job of Pearl Harbor’s Station Hypo, a highly secret intelligence unit was to listen and locate Japanese naval radio traffic. On December 2, the call signs for most of Japan’s carriers disappeared from the air waves.
When Admiral Kimmel’s intelligence officer told him this, Kimmel replied, “Do you mean to say they could be rounding Diamond Head and you wouldn’t know it?”
In a letter to his wife dated December 6, 1941, the Captain of the USS Arizona, Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh wrote his wife, “By this time next week,” he penned, “We will be on our way home for Christmas.”
When he discovered that the that the diplomatic ultimatum from Japan to the U.S. was delayed in being delivered to the U.S. State Department until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (instead of being delivered before the bombing, which was the plan), Japanese Admiral Yamamoto commented solemnly to his staff, “We have awakened a sleeping giant and instilled in him a terrible resolve.”

10) The second bombing of Hawaii happened on March 4, 1942 by two Japanese flying boats from Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands. There were no casualties and little damage done.
Thank you for remembering December 7!



If You Care About It, Support It.

by Circe Olson Woessner

Recently, our local public radio station had its spring fundraiser. Each day, I swore I’d call in or pledge online, but then I got busy and forgot. An artist friend of mine on the East Coast put out a call for donated building supplies, and for people to help her refurbish her new art gallery—and lots of people liked her Facebook post—but no one stepped up to help. A large group booked a special event at a local space—and then no-showed, never considering that the owner of the space had cleared her schedule to accommodate them.

Many small nonprofits depend on donations to do their work, and with the new tax laws and a volatile economy, they fear they may not survive if the incentive for people to donate goes away…So, if you love, love, love a special cause, please show them your love by supporting it. Read the rest of this entry »

Boy Scouts-Trying to Make the World Better

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.

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Museum of the American Military Families is on “Legendary New Mexico”

To view the news clip, please click on the link:

Legendary New Mexico: The Museum of Military Families and Learning Center