Saturday, May 26, 2012

"...Those Who Went West Have Seen Him": A Memorial Day Story

Memorial Day is nearly 150 years old. During each of those years, families and towns have new reason for remembrance, have new graves to tend on "Decoration Day". American freedom is bought dearly by men and women who gladly stand up and push back against threats to liberty.

In our household, we remember these men of the 3rd LAR,seven Marines and their Navy medic, who served with my son, Sgt Ethan D Arguello, and paid for our freedom with their lives in 2006 in Iraq:
Seaman Chadwick T. Kenyon
Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus
Lance Cpl. Anthony E. Butterfield
Cpl. Adam A. Galvez
Lance Cpl. Jason Hanson
Lance Cpl. Shane P. Harris
Lance Cpl. Randy L. Newman
Sgt. Christian B. Williams

I've written about them before. In many ways, their stories are unique, and each brave member of the US Military has their own story to tell. At the same time, there is a kind of courage that is renewed with each generation of Americans, and these men shared that courage with those of older times and other wars who, like them, gave their all for God and country, for liberty and freedom.

The story below, "The Beloved Captain", is the second of Donald Hankey's stories I've shared here. It was published in 1917, painting the heroism Hankey witnessed during The Great War, as WWI was then known.When I read it, the story didn't seem like something from a hundred years ago, but instead, it sounded like the kinds of things I was hearing people say about Doc Kenyon, Adam Galvez, Tony Butterfield, Jason Hanson, Randy Newman, Phillip Baucus, Chris Williams, and Shane Harris. 

The man who wrote this story, Donald Hankey, is himself numbered with them. He was killed in action in 1916, in the battle of the Somme. May God bless us to meet them all in the joy of the Resurrection at the end of all strife, and the final, victorious coming of the Lord.

The Beloved Captain

"He came In the early days, when we were still at recruit drills under the hot September sun. Tall, erect, smiling: so we first saw him, and so he remained to the end. At the start he knew as little of soldiering as
we did. He used to watch us being drilled by the sergeant; but his manner of watching was peculiarly his own. He never looked bored. He was learning just as much as we were, in fact more. He was learning his job, and from the first he saw that his job was more than to give the correct orders. His job was to lead us. So he watched, and noted many things, and never found the time hang heavy on his hands. He watched our evolutions, so as to learn the correct orders; he watched for the right manner of command, the manner which secured the most prompt response to an order; and he watched every one of us for our individual characteristics.

"We were his men. Already he took an almost paternal interest in us. He noted the men who tried hard, but were naturally slow and awkward. He distinguished them from those who were inattentive and bored. He marked down the keen and efficient amongst us. Most of all he studied those who were subject to moods, who were sulky one day and willing the next. These were the ones who were to turn the scale. If only he could get these on his side, the battle would be won.

"For a few days he just watched. Then he started work. He picked out some of the most awkward ones, and, accompanied by a corporal, marched them away by themselves. Ingenuously he explained that he did not know much himself yet; but he thought that they might get on better If they drilled by themselves a bit, and that if he helped them, and they helped him, ey would son learn. His confidence was Infectious. He looked at them, and they looked at him, and the men pulled themselves together and determined to do their best. Their best surprised themselves. His patience was inexhaustible. His simplicity could not fail to be understood. His keenness and optimism carried all with them. Very soon the awkward squad found themselves awkward no longer; and soon after that they ceased to be a squad, and went back to the platoon.

"Then he started to drill the platoon, with the sergeant standing by to point out his mistakes. Of course he made mistakes, and when that happened he never minded admitting It. He would explain what mistakes he
had made, and try again. The result was that we began to take almost as much interest and pride in his progress as he did in ours. We were his men, and he was our leader. We felt that he was a credit to us, and
we resolved to be a credit to him. There was a bond of mutual confidence and affection between us, which grew stronger and stronger as the months passed. He had a smile for almost everyone; but we thought that he had a different smile for us. We looked for it, and were never disappointed.

"On parade, as long as we were trying, his smile encouraged us. Off parade, if we passed him and saluted, his eyes looked straight into our own, and his smile greeted us. It was a wonderful thing, that smile of his. It was something worth living for, and worth working for. It bucked one up when one was bored or tired. It seemed to make one look at things from a different point of view, a finer point of view, his point of view.
There was nothing feeble or weak about It. It was not monotonous like the smile of " Sunny Jim." It meant something. It meant that we were his men, and that he was proud of us, and sure that we were going to do jolly well” better than any of the other platoons. And it made us determine that we would. When we failed him, when he was disappointed in us, he did not smile. He did not rage or curse. He just looked disappointed, and that made us feel far more savage with ourselves than any amount of swearing would have done. He made us feel that we were not playing the game by him. It was not what he said. He was never very good at talking. It was just how he looked. And his look of displeasure and disappointment was a thing that we would do anything to avoid. The fact was that he had won his way into our affections. We loved him. And there isn't anything stronger than love, when all's said and done.

"He was good to look on. He was big and tall, and held himself upright. His eyes looked his own height. He moved with the grace of an athlete. His skin was tanned by a wholesome outdoor life, and his eyes were clear and wide open. Physically he was a prince among men. We used to notice, as we marched along the road and passed other officers, that they always looked pleased to see him. They greeted him with a cordiality which was reserved for him. Even the general seemed to have singled him out, and cast an eye of special approval upon him.

"Somehow, gentle though he was, he was never familiar. He had a kind of innate nobility which marked him out as above us. He was not democratic. He was rather the justification for aristocracy. We all knew
instinctively that he was our superior - a man of finer temper than ourselves, a "toff" in his own right. I suppose that that was why he could be so humble without loss of dignity. For he was humble too, if that is the right word, and I think it is. No trouble of ours was too small for him to attend to. When we started route marches, for instance, and our feet were blistered and sore, as they often were at first, you would have thought that they were his own feet from the trouble he took.

"Of course after the march there was always an inspection of feet. That is the routine. But with him it was no mere routine. He came into our rooms, and if anyone had a sore foot he would kneel down on the floor and
look at it as carefully as if he had been a doctor. Then he would prescribe, and the remedies were ready at hand, being borne by the sergeant. If a blister had to be lanced he would very likely lance it himself there and then, so as to make sure that it was done with a clean needle and that no dirt was allowed to get in. There was no affectation about this, no striving after effect. It was simply that he felt that our feet were pretty important, and that he knew that we were pretty careless. So he thought it best at the start to see to the matter himself. Nevertheless, there was in our eyes something almost religious about this care for our feet. It seemed to have a touch of the Christ about it, and we loved and honored him the more.

"We knew that we should lose him. For one thing, we knew that he would be promoted. It was our great hope that some day he would command the company. Also we knew that he would be killed. He was so amazingly unselfconscious. For that reason we knew that he would be absolutely fearless. He would be so keen on the job in hand, and so anxious for his men, that he would forget about his own danger. So it proved. He was a captain when we went out to the front. Whenever there was a tiresome job
to be done, he was there in charge. If ever there were a moment of danger, he was on the spot. If there were any particular part of the line where the shells were falling faster or the bombs dropping more
thickly than in other parts, he was in it.

"It was not that he was conceited and imagined himself indispensable. It was just that he was so keen that the men should do their best, and act worthily of the regiment. He knew that fellows hated turning out at night for fatigue, when they were in a "rest camp." He knew how tiresome the long march there and back and the digging in the dark for an unknown purpose were. He knew that fellows would be inclined to grouse and shirk, so he thought that it was up to him to go and show them that he thought it was a job worth doing. And the fact that he was there put a new complexion on the matter altogether. No one would shirk if he were there. No one would grumble so much, either. What was good enough for him was good enough for us. If it were not too much trouble for him to turn out, it was not too much trouble for us.

"He knew, too, how trying to the nerves it is to sit in a trench and be shelled. He knew what a temptation there is to move a bit farther down the trench and herd together in a bunch at what seems the safest end. He
knew, too, the folly of it, and that it was not the thing to do - not done in the best regiments. So he went along to see that it did not happen, to see that the men stuck to their posts, and conquered their nerves.

"And as soon as we saw him, we forgot our own anxiety. It was: "Move a bit farther down, sir. We are all right here; but don't you go exposing of yourself." We didn't matter. We knew it then. We were just the rank
and file, bound to take risks. The company would get along all right without us. But the captain, how was the company to get on without him? To see him was to catch his point of view, to forget our personal
anxieties, and only to think of the company, and the regiment, and honor.

"There was not one of us but would gladly have died for him. We longed for the chance to show him that. We weren't heroes. We never dreamed about the Victoria Cross. But to save the captain we would have earned it ten times over, and never have cared a button whether we got it or not. We never got the chance, worse luck. It was all the other way.

"We were holding some trenches which were about as unhealthy as trenches could be. The Bosches were only a few yards away, and were well supplied with trench mortars. We hadn't got any at that time. Bombs and air torpedoes were dropping round us all day. Of course the captain was there. It seemed as if he could not keep away. A torpedo fell into the trench, and buried some of our chaps. The fellows next to them ran to dig them out. Of course he was one of the first. Then came another torpedo in the same place. That was the end.

"But he lives. Somehow he lives. And we who knew him do not forget. We feel his eyes on us. We still work for that wonderful smile of his. There are not many of the old lot left now; but I think that those who went West have seen him. When they got to the other side I think they were met. Someone said: "Well done, good and faithful servant."

"And as they knelt before that gracious pierced Figure, I reckon they saw nearby the captain's smile. Anyway, in that faith let me die, if death should come my way; and so, I think, shall I die content.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Nook eReader: Make Room for the Library of Alexandria

Where have I been all week? Wellllll.....Devin and Sandy gave me a Nook for Mother's Day. Oh my!

Here was a gift I didn't know I wanted until I got it! I had been thinking I might "have" to buy an eReader to read some of the new indie work out there, self-published by writers who offer eBooks only.

The connection I had not yet made, though, is that despite a lifetime of avid, eclectic reading, there are still so many great books I have not read.

Among my favorite genres are exploration and true adventure. Many of these books were previously available only in expensive originals, or in hard-to-find reprints. Most of my reading in the subject has been serendipitous as a result. With my Nook, suddenly hundreds of truly good books can be at my fingertips, for free!

After downloading a Bible,  I searched the Barnes and Noble Nook site for "Exploration", sorted by "Price, Lowest First" (to bring up the free books), started with "A", and the first book I downloaded was a gem previously unknown: "A Handy Guide for Beggars", published in 1918 by Vachel Lindsay.

In school, I was exposed only to Lindsay's Jazz Poetry. I did not know he had written his own version of the Great American Road Saga. Like Travels With Charley or A Walk Across AmericaA Handy Guide for Beggars records his impressions of the people who sheltered and fed him as he walked around the United States in the opening decade of the 20th century, paying his way with chapbooks and spontaneous lectures.

Among my favorite stories in the book are "House of the Loom" and the beautiful "Lady Iron Heels".  Politically correct? No. Incomplete? Maybe, but far less judgmental - and far more human - than most 60s anthropologists. Naive? Only the bored think that naive is a bad thing. I'll take naive over global sophisticates every day.

Arctic exploration fascinates me, probably because I shiver at 70 degrees. Peter Fruechen's books are favorites. When my grandson did a research paper on Matthew Henson this year, I gave him some Henson memorabilia I had collected: one of the cigarette trading cards printed in 1912 to honor Henson's achievement when he accompanied Peary in the race to reach the North Pole, and a school library book from 1957 that had a whole chapter on Henson.  Now, thanks to my little Nook, it is easy to read Matthew Henson's own 1912 book "A Negro Explorer at the North Pole".
Still in the "A's", I've added "Australia Twice Traversed" by Ernest Giles, 1880; "A Summer in Alaska" by Frederick Schwatka, 1893;  "An explorer's adventures in Tibet" by Henry Savage Landor, 1897; "Across the Everglades: A Canoe Journey of Exploration" by Hugh Willoughby, 1898, and "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains" by Isabella Lucy Bird, 1879.  

When going through the list to download a book, be sure to scroll or page through to get to the free version - sometimes Barnes and Noble will mix in "for sale" versions that require payment.

I am still learning to use it, and still prefer to read an actual printed book when I can, but the e-reader is lightweight, and easy to carry in my purse. Sandy said she loves hers when traveling. I can see why - when I used to fly, I often carried 4 or 5 books in one of my carry-on bags, but today's weight and volume restrictions, that is no longer practical.

Reading free volumes on the Nook is like having a lending library next door that is open 24 hours a day. This is definitely a place where technology has its perks.

Heh! While I waited for Blogger to wake up from its Sunday afternoon nap so I could post this, I saw a similar post at "Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated". I'm guessing the time is not far distant when even the most passionate reader will no longer argue with the interior decorator over "merchandising" the book shelves!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Texas Primary: Sarah Palin Endorses Ted Cruz for Senate

Josh Painter, posting at Lone Star Conservative and at The Sarah Palin Journal, breaks the good news: Sarah and Todd Palin have endorsed Ted Cruz, Texas Republican candidate for Senator!There are a lot of people interested in this Senate seat, that was held for too long by a woman who finally retired. Ted Cruz is a good candidate, with solid conservative credentials, and will make a good Senator for Texas and for America.

UPDATE 8/3/12: Ted Cruz won the runoff by a whopping 13 points, and is now the Republican candidate for US Senate!

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Real Life Julia

President Obama's campaign film "Julia" is getting a lot of attention - and ridicule right now. Here's a true life parallel. Name/identification is of course omitted but this all really happened with one single woman - not a
"composite" or a "fictionalized representation".

Once upon a time I worked in the subsidized housing field, and we helped a lot of people have better living conditions - a private/public partnership that worked very well. But while we served many people who had been fully self supporting most of their lives, there were also other situations.

This event really happened:

A public housing tenant went out on a frosty morning very early, before the posted time when sidewalks would be de-iced, fell and hurt herself. It was what once would have been called "an accident".

Because she hit her head when she fell, she went to the doctor to be sure she didn't have a concussion.  Fortunately, she wasn't injured other than a couple of bruises.

But she called her lawyer anyway.

Now, this pleasant lady had serious health problems that prevented her from working, and her total income was from SSI. The health problems arose at a young age, and she had not paid in enough to draw Social Security Disability, which would have been an "earned" benefit in the same way we pay for our own Social Security or IRAs.  SSI, on the other hand, is a welfare program - necessary and important to help people - including this lady who really did need it - but not earned in any way.

She also lived in subsidized housing where her rent was based on her (government paid) income, and her utilities were included in her rent. The government paid the bulk of the actual cost of her apartment and utilities. And of course, she paid the rest with money the government gave her via SSI.

Being on SSI, this nice lady's medical needs were covered by Medicade, which at that time prohibited doctors from billing anything to their Medicade patients, so she had no copayment. Her doctor visits, tests, and medications were all free to her. The government picked up the cost for all of it.

To recap, the government gave her money, a place to live, food to eat, and  medical treatment. And now, she thought she'd see if the government would pay her even more money for being injured.

When I got the letter from her lawyer, I just picked up the phone and called him. I told him we were very glad this nice lady had not been hurt in her fall, that had occurred before daylight, before our posted ice-removal time, and that if he needed anything further to please contact me.

Never heard another word from him, and she and I continued to have a pleasant professional relationship.

She really was a very nice person, pleasant to talk with, kept her apartment clean, and got along with her neighbors. She didn't seem or act selfish or demanding. She was someone you'd never think of as milking the system.

But she didn't really comprehend that the government was paying for everything in her life. I really think she just thought she should take advantage of what was available since it would help her. She never thought
of herself as someone who would milk the system.

And I don't think she ever recognized that, despite the benefits coming from different agencies, the money all came from the same source: taxes paid by the rest of us.

 Many of the things President Obama wants to do are giveaway programs that will only benefit people who are already taking part in so many freebie programs that they can't keep up with them (like free internet & cable for kids getting free lunch, and free cell phones for medicade recipients), and other things are just gimmicks (like the free college tax credits) that will put tax dollars into greedy pockets without actually improving the lives of those who THINK they will be helped (like expanded food stamp programs). Still others are failed programs that exist only because they have been around so long (like Head Start)

It has to start stopping sometime, and that sometime is this November. When Barack Obama asks "Are you in?", just say no to "the In Crowd", and help America recover its self respect.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Sunny Skies are Aqua Blue...

 5/3/12 *Bumped*  (originally posted 4/30/12) Still time to appreciate Christopher's art with your vote! :-)

I love this image. It's a photo taken in Mozambique. Like all that is wonderful in traditional tropical art, it presents happy, healthy children in their own element: peeking through a doorway and laughing as their picture is taken, uncaring that their bright eyes and glowing faces are going to be shared with people far, far away.

The light, sea and sky are reflected in the worn layers of white and turquoise paint on the adobe house, with the sandy stucco showing through, in the whitewashed, hand-worn-smooth wooden door.

It is not a perfect paradise, but the photo reminds us that in the beautiful innocence of childhood, paradise awaits when we open our eyes each morning: it's the breakfast our mama gives us, the tree growing in our yard for us to climb, the warm comfort of brothers and sisters to play with: even in one of the most desperately poor countries of the world. 

Our wonder-full friend, digital artist Christopher Gaston took this amazing photo while visiting Mozambique, and titled it "Mozambique: Land of Hope". He has entered it in a contest, and he needs to get 250 votes for his photo to advance to the next round. Please visit the contest, and if you appreciate this image of giggling children peeking through a doorway, please vote for it by clicking here.

* Title comes from the Bob Dylan song that goes: "I'd like to spend some time in Mozambique... The sunny skies are aqua blue..."


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