1918 … at “the eleventh hour on the 11th day of the 11th month,” an eerie stillness fell across the battlefields of Europe.
Armistice Day, officially recognized by President Wilson in 1919, is still observed throughout the world with many stopping for a moment of silence at the 11th hour of this day to honor those who brought about the end of the “Great War.”
In 1954, after the return of veterans from both World War II and the Korean War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill rededicating Nov. 11 as Veterans Day and encouraged Americans to commit themselves to the cause of peace and to honor America’s veterans for their courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice.
— Amistice Commemoration, National WWI Museum
via We Veterans Thank You
Two score and four years ago, my uncle returned from the Vietnam War to being ‘cursed, ridiculed’ and possibly assaulted because we blamed the soldiers for our government’s execution of foreign policy. And I do mean ‘our’ government, since, for better or worse, our government is of, by and for the people. We did this. There is no one else we can blame.
In the intervening decades until his retirement in 1998, he returned from other wars to a very different homecoming. For that, I’m eternally grateful. By the time he returned from both Gulf Wars, I was no longer in the second grade where I was oblivious and sheltered from world events, but during a time when I had children of my own in grade school whom I wanted safe and sound.
For his service and sacrifice, he has my gratitude. As do all his contemporary veterans.
War is an unpleasant business. Some wars are necessary; some are not. Regardless, it is terrible to send our sons and daughters to kill or be killed. But, until we learn not to practice war anymore, I’m happy that America has learned not to blame those sent for being sent.
— Col. Ronald Andrea, USAF, Retired
This morning I woke early, as I nearly always do, but with a melancholic mood fogging my mind. Two Hallmark movies and a cup of hot tea later and I still could not shake the malaise. I turned off the television and grabbed the closest half-finished book handy and continued my perusal of Cosmic Discoveries with David Levy. The subtitle for chapter nineteen was a quote I’ve heard many times but which I had never read the original source. Since the chapter also started with another quote from the same work with a byline to the poet, I decide there’s no time like the present to read the original poem.
My tablet was charging across the room so I grabbed my smartphone and searched on the phrase and poet and got a crazy amount of hits – no surprise. I read the Wikipedia article first to get some background on the poet and the when and partial why he wrote his now famous and often quoted poem. Next, I returned to my results (from Wikipedia) and selected the first hit that contained the complete short poem.
I read it three times, because I read somewhere or was told by someone you should always read a poem three times. I didn’t make it through the third stanza of the first reading before I couldn’t see my screen for the tears. Damn poets! And at one point in my life I actually aspired to be a poet. But life pretty much crushed the creativity out of me so I just enjoy those who had more courage than I to pursue their creative spark.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
— Dylan Thomas, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night‘
Reading this poem today reminded me of the sometimes quiet, always courageous sacrifices willingly given to us by our military service men and women. Their continuing fight against the dying of the light allows me, my family, my friends, my acquaintances, my coworkers – all of us living in this great country that is the home of the brave and the land of the free – because of them.
Thank you, veterans, for your service.
Thank you for not going gently into any night and raging against the dying of the light to keep us safe and free.
Thank you to all the Veterans who have served with honor and courage.
God of peace,
we pray for those who have served our nation
and have laid down their lives
to protect and defend our freedom.
We pray for those who have fought,
whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war,
whose nights are haunted by memories
too painful for the light of day.
We pray for those who serve us now,
especially for those in harm’s way.
Shield them from danger
and bring them home.
Turn the hearts and minds
of our leaders and our enemies
to the work of justice and a harvest of peace.
Spare the poor, Lord, spare the poor!
May the peace you left us,
the peace you gave us,
be the peace that sustains,
the peace that saves us.
Free to the public. Opens this Friday at 2:30 pm staying through Memorial Day.
Posted from WordPress for Android via my Samsung smartphone. Please excuse any misspellings. Ciao, Jon
The Railway Man (2013)
Watched via Netflix BluRay February 2015
3.5 out of 5 stars
Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia):
During World War II, Eric Lomax (Firth) is a British officer who is captured by the Japanese in Singapore and sent to a Japanese POW camp where he is forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway north of the Malay Peninsula. During his time in the camp as one of the Far East Prisoners of War, Lomax is tortured by the Kempetai for building a radio receiver from spare parts. This is apparently due to his falling under suspicion of being a spy for supposedly using the British news broadcast receiver as a transmitter of military intelligence. His only intention, in fact, had been to use the device as a morale booster for himself and his fellow prisoner-slaves. The torture depicted includes beatings and waterboarding.
Years later and still suffering the psychological trauma of his wartime experiences, with the help of his wife Patti (Kidman) and best friend Finlay (Skarsgård), Lomax (Firth) decides to find and confront one of his captors who had escaped prosecution as a war criminal. He returns to the scene of his torture after he has tracked down Japanese officer Takashi Nagase (Sanada) “in an attempt to let go of a lifetime of bitterness and hate”.
I believe I put this movie in my Netflix queue upon finishing the book Judy back in late November. The book told a more horrific story of the British POWs held by Japan after the fall of Singapore, but Continue reading “Movie Review: The Railway Man (2013) 3.5 Stars”
The Lansing Community Library completed a successful Big Read of O’Brien’s The Things They Carried with a writing memoir workshop led by the same professor who moderated the panel discussion back in December. I took copious notes, but sadly no group photos. The workshop was well attended and I recorded the audio portion (as I can’t always take notes fast enough) and include it here for your enjoyment. In fact, I’m not sure where I put my notes.
Raw Recording of Memoir Writing Workshop
And, just for completeness’ sake, I’ll include the raw recording of the second group discussion led by a local English professor from the University of St. Mary:
Raw Recording of Second Big Read Book Discussion
I attended all the events and enjoyed all of them. I’m looking forward to the next adult reading program the library cooks up.
American Sniper (2014)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Watched with husband in theater on Monday January 19, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Synopsis (via Wikipedia):
American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall. It is based on Chris Kyle’s autobiography American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. With 255 kills, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Defense, Kyle is the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history. His widow Taya Renae Kyle was heavily involved with the making of the film.
To be completely honest, I did not plan on seeing this movie in theaters. We recently upgraded our home entertainment system (by remodeling the family room which spent nearly ten years as a rock band rehearsal studio) and find it less compelling to spend nearly $50 to ‘enjoy’ a movie in an actual movie theater. I hadn’t even seen any trailers because I rarely watch television and when I do, I fast forward through all the commercials. But an eye-catching Tweet popped up in my newsfeed that piqued my interest. It was the one penned by Michael Moore espousing that ‘snipers are cowards.’ I particularly like Newt Gingrich’s quick reply that Michael should spend some time in terrorist controlled zones to better appreciate our defenders (see CNN’s article for more on this controversy).
Continue reading “Movie Review: American Sniper (2014) – 4 Stars”
The second Big Read book discussion of The Things They Carried by O’Brien starts tomorrow evening, 6:30 p.m., at the Lansing Community Library, 730 1st Terrace, Suite 1, Lansing, Kansas.
Questions to think about:
- In the list of all the things the soldiers carried, what item was most surprising?
- Which item did you find most evocative of the war?
- Which items stay with you?
Leading the discussion: Sister Rosemary Kolich, English Professor, St. Mary University.
A 1980 Saint Mary College grad, Sr. Kolich never dreamed as a student she would one day be teaching at her alma mater.
“I had excellent teachers as a student at Saint Mary. They truly engaged us. What was so transparent was their love of teaching and their commitment to us as both students and individuals. I hope I model the same for my students.”
I plan on attending the discussion tomorrow evening and I hope to see you there.
I had the pleasure of attending the Big Read Veteran Panel Discussion this past Tuesday at City Hall in Lansing, Kansas, a signature event for the Lansing Community Library‘s “The Things They Carried” Big Read. Continue reading “BigRead: Veteran Panel Discussion Video”