The Simple Gesture has Deepened my Patriotism

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 »

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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.


     WHEN DAD WAS SENT OVERSEAS

There were those times when Dad was sent overseas without us, usually to a war zone.  My earliest memories of this happened when Dad was in Korea.  Mother would send him a box from home.  One time Dad wanted a pipe and some tobacco.  Remember, this was around 1952, and nearly all adults smoked.  Mother had a very strict weight limit for anything mailed to that distant part of the world.  She took her kitchen scale, weighed the box with the pipe in it, and then wrapped some of the tobacco in tissue paper before stuffing it into the box to provide some padding for the pipe.  Finally, the desired low weight was achieved, and the result mailed to Dad in his tent in Korea.

Towards the end of his time there, weight restrictions were eased a bit.  Mother, with the ‘help’ of a three year old me, would bake cookies, put them in a coffee can with crumpled wax paper to cushion the precious cargo, and mail it to Dad.  (This was in the era of metal coffee cans, and the lids did fit snugly onto the top of the can.  All Mother had to do to it was to tape it down with electrical tape, wrap it in brown paper so she could write the address on it, and mail the result.) I asked Dad about those cookies, and he said they were the best crumbs he ever ate!  (So much for the cushioning of the crumpled wax paper…)

I was a freshman in college when Dad was sent to Vietnam.  Letter tapes were the in thing then, although there were some traditional paper in envelops letters as well.  Still, those tapes were wonderful!!  We could actually hear Dad’s voice, and he could hear ours.  Which sounds really old-timey in this era of face to face conversations via iPhones or tablets and computers with Skype.

Mother and I would send him boxes of things- frequently edibles.  Evidently we over did the sweets, as he complained he had enough to cause diabetes.  Again, there were cookies baked.  Dad loved oatmeal about the best, although he didn’t complain at all about the Christmas sugar cookies and ice box cookies we sent, along with crackers- in small packages so the humidity wouldn’t ruin them.  Small cans of ready to eat ham.  Maybe canned shrimp.  Once, someone sent him a box of raisins.  But, it was summer time, and mail sometimes had to wait a while before apace was found for it on a plane.  The long and short if it is, the raisins were ‘inhabited’ by the time they arrived.  Oops!!

There were things we couldn’t send him though.  The local paper advertised a willingness to send daily papers to local guys in Vietnam.  Sadly, when the paper listed the names of those being sent the paper, those frustrated with the war took it out on some of the listed families.  When Dad came home, we met him at the gate!  It was obvious that he was back from the war zone, and that we were his family greeting him.  Some manner-less wonder glared at him, and flipped him the ‘bird’.  Sadly, Dad remembered that rude gesture as much as he remembered his joy at being reunited with us.

Years later, he was invited to a “Thank You Korean Veterans” dinner by the local Korean American community.  After a dinner, including kimchee and other Korean delicacies, he was given a crystal-looking commemoration.  Never mind that it was the earlier conflict, receiving that thoughtful token meant a great deal to Dad, and it eased his annoyance with the airport incident when he returned that last time.

I learned an appreciation for even simple gestures. Even back in the world of the 1950s, sending a coffee can of delicious crumbs could reach a loved one across the world, and take that person back home, even if that connection lasted for only a few minutes.  I remember Dad telling me just how much mail from home meant.  Even if the post office had closed for the day, Dad could see if he had mail waiting for him.  And if there was something in that little cubbyhole, he could savor the knowledge that there was something waiting for him to open in the morning.  To men overseas, wealth wasn’t, and still isn’t, measured in money.  The wealthiest soldier is the one whose mailbox, literal or e-mail, frequently has Facetime/ Skype  and packages from home; the poorest person, even if he or she is high ranking, is the soldier who gets few or no messages or packages.  Mother and I made sure Dad always felt a wealth of love from us.

 

Jan Wertz


The Long Journey Examining the Past: Heartache & Happiness

I wrote a humorous book a couple of years ago called ORLY. The title is slang for “Oh, Really”. That is what people say after they read the stories. I’ve lived a very full life and it has been filled with unusual events. Many of my readers are convinced that most of the stories are embellished or straight out fantasy. I have received many requests for an ORLY 2 but unless you know Oprah Winfrey personally, selling a book is next to impossible. When Circe Olson Woessner, a brat that is involved with the Museum of the American Family found out that I’m an author, she offered to share the book on her blog to see if maybe she could get some sales for me. At the same time, she asked me to write a little bit about my brat history to share with the Museum. She said they are looking to hear our voices. I’m disappointed that what I have written is a little bleak. I wish I could have been just a little bit more upbeat but my voice needed to be honest for the words to ring true. Here is my story.

I’m an Army Brat and have just started the long journey of facing the past. I’ve been reading about other military brats and our stories are all the same. The thing I find strange is that none of them would change their childhood. There are parts of mine that I remember fondly but, overall, what I remember from mine is one heartbreak after another. Read the rest of this entry »


Operation Footlocker Memory: Where Are You From?

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Military families have front seats to history

Circe Olson Woessner

Recently on Facebook, a friend mentioned the difficulties of talking about her military childhood because people think she’s bragging when she speaks about having lived overseas. She admits, “I rarely bring it up any more.”

As the Director of the Museum of the American Military Family, I tell people that in order to understand history, one needs to see it from all perspectives. Military families have often been present during historic events, but much of the time, their experiences are not widely shared.

My husband was overseas conducting multinational exercises on September 11, 2001. I was driving to work listening to the radio when the news of the attacks came over the airways. I remember initially thinking it was a remake of that old radio show, “War of the Worlds.” As it sunk in that it was real, I realized I’d better pick up my kids from their off-base schools, as the base we lived on would go on lock-down. Our lives were about to change. Read the rest of this entry »


1st Lt. Adela Lutz

image0021st Lt. Aleda Lutz

Twenty-six years ago, on August 15, 1990, Congress enacted Public Law 101-366 to name the Saginaw, Michigan, VA Medical Center after World War II flight nurse, 1st Lt. Aleda E. Lutz. Saginaw was the second VA facility to be named after a woman. There are currently two VA medical centers named for women.

Aleda Lutz was born in Freeland, Michigan on November 9, 1915 to German immigrants, Fred and Margaret Lutz. She graduated from Saginaw Arthur Hill High School in 1933 and shortly afterwards entered the Saginaw General Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated in 1937 and worked at the hospital as a registered nurse until February 10, 1942 when she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps. She was initially assigned to Selfridge Air Field near Mt. Clemens, Michigan.

In December 1942 she was transferred to the 349th Air Evacuation Camp at Bowman Field near Louisville, Kentucky, where she was part of the first group of women to train as specialized flight nurses. The first class of Army flight nurses—then called “air evacuation unit nurses”–graduated on February 18, 1943. She was then assigned to the 802nd Medical Air Transport Squadron, the first of its kind activated in the Army Air Corps, and deployed to North Africa.

She served as a flight nurse through the Tunisian, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns and logged over 800 combat hours flown. She was killed while evacuating 15 wounded soldiers to Italy on November 1, 1944, eight days shy of her 29th birthday, when her transport plane crashed near Lyon in southern France. It was her 197th mission.

She was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, the Oak Leaf Cluster, Red Cross Medal, and Purple Heart, posthumously. In addition to the VA Medical Center name designation, a U.S. Army Hospital Ship and C-47 airplane have been named in her honor.

Aleda Lutz is buried in the Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan, France, which is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Historian, Veterans Health Administration