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Archive for the ‘Veterans’ Category

A recent exchange on Facebook reminded me of a fond memory. Although my parent’s bedroom was their inner sanctum, sometimes after knocking, I was allowed in to drape across their bed and look through my mom’s pink jewelry box. It sat in a nook on her headboard.

Our family had been part of the Army of Occupation in Japan following World War II. Being a member of the Air Force, Dad flew all over the Far East and brought Mom home lots of wonderful jewelry from India, Siam (Thailand), and Hong Kong. Dad replaced Mom’s original wedding band, which had been purchased from Woolworth’s Five and Dime, with a band that sparkled when the light hit the row of shiny diamonds. Mom laughed when she told me the history of her original band, “I bought my own ring so people would know when I started showing “there was a bun in the oven”, that I was a married woman.” Mom promised I could have her ring when she was gone. “Don’t bury me with anything of value.” She urged.

Another ring captured my interest. A piece of carved jade about 1½” long a beautiful shade of green. My imagination worked overtime envisioning a Chinese carver searching for just the right s002-2tone to make this exotic ring. One day while strolling through the Perkasie flea market I found its twin. I bought it and grinned like a Cheshire cat.

***

Dad had passed away thirty years earlier so it was time Mom downsized from her farmhouse. I arrived three days early to help her get organized. On arrival I was flabbergasted. She hadn’t done a single thing.

“I mentally know what I want to save.” She replied.

“That won’t help the auctioneers when they arrive and they have nothing to hold up for bidders.” I replied more in frustration than anything else.

Soon she left for the supermarket to get every box she could fit in her van. Van? Yes, the lady sold on the flea market and to antique dealers. Her home consisted of a farmhouse with a basement and three floors, a barn, milkhouse, and several out buildings jammed with her stock. Friday night I collapsed on the sofa with a glass of ice tea.

Mom asked, “Do you want your dad’s coin collection?”

That jade ring visualized in my brain. I replied, “No, I would like a piece of jewelry.”

“Get something out of that drawer.” Dang! That drawer was where she kept her flea market scraps, with an accent on “crap”. A lot of the pieces were gold, but the majority of the items were pieces no one would buy so she kept them to sell the gold wholesaler. There in a box I found her wedding band. Two of the diamonds had fallen out and not been replaced.

“Mom, why is your wedding band in here.”

“It’s not.”

I showed it to her then climbed the stairs and put it in her pink jewelry box with the jade ring. That’s the last time I saw them. I took a piece of costume jewelry from the 1950s and a faux pearl necklace.

The years went by and Mom and I each had our own health challenges. Mom needed twenty-four hour care. My brother found a wonderful place for her. They allowed residents to bring their own furniture and what was left my brother stored in his basement.

Years later on a visit he asked me to see if I wanted anything from the basement. “No one else wants this junk so it’s going to be dumped.” He stated. There sat a cardboard box full of what appeared to be odds and ends. I begged my husband to make space for it in the car so I could take it home and look through it.

Six months later I had time to get into that box. What joy! Yes, the jade ring and Mom’s old wedding ring were thrown into an old mess of junk jewelry.

There were WWI letters from my great-uncles to their mother and an old postcard that my Great-aunt Margaret received from her beau, my Great-uncle Leo. He said he “loved” her. At a time when no one made public their feelings, Uncle Leo addressed his love for her. Being a postcard you know everyone in the county knew Leo loved Margaret before the postcard reached her. A stack of old pictures sat at the bottom of the box.

It’s funny but I never saw Mom wear any of the jewelry Dad brought home. An ivory set of a ring and bracelet from India and a silver belt with Siamese dancing girls on enamel went to my niece. Another niece had the same initials as my mom and my Great-great-grandmother Emma L. Thorn. Erin made the gold brooch into a necklace.

My daughter will inherit Mom’s two rings when I’m gone. Since I now had two jade rings that were twins, I took them to the jeweler’s to have them sized and the missing diamonds replaced in the band. He mentioned the stone I was sending to Trish had a better quality of jade. No matter. The one I kept Dad bought for Mom.

Some ancient Chinese carver picked out just the right stone for this striking ring.

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When the project started I really had no idea how it would morph into a binder containing over 600 pages, most double sided. It started innocently with a conversation with my grandson over American History being his least favorite subject. Horrors! My favorite subject. American History and PE were always an easy “A.” I heard myself saying, “Memorizing names and dates is not the way to learn history. I’ll put something together for you that shows how our family played a part in the history of our country.”

Since I am a member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), I knew I had lots of ancestors that served in the Revolutionary War. Being obsessed by genealogy I knew that one of their fathers had also served in the French and Indian War. After researching this branch I found their line fought in King Phillip’s War in 1675-1676.

Massachusetts has such wonderful records that I found the name of the militia group my ancestor fought in. This helped me determine the information to be contained in each chapter. First, a couple of pages on the causes of the war. Service units and battles they fought in followed. Some general information, like who started using gas warfare first or the occupation of Berlin and Japan after the war, which would probably not be taught in a classroom. At the end of the chapter was a genealogy report from that 8th great-grandfather down to my grandsons.

As you may guess the American Revolution and the Civil War were the easiest to write. During the Revolution we had people from New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia, just to name a few. Each soldier had a very different experience. All went to war to claim bounty land in a country they were risking their lives to establish.

During the Civil War we had relatives on both sides. One Yankee died at the Battle of Chickamauga, while a Reb survived the North’s death camp, Camp Douglas, Illinois. He and two other grandfathers left Georgia after the war and came to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Granddad Elder survived a POW camp to be shot in the back of the head by a neighbor and her brother in Chickasha, OK.

Not surprising the hardest for me was Vietnam. It’s hard to be neutral in the telling when it was a defining moment in my life. I still cry when certain events are shown on television. Volunteering for the National League of Families by selling POW/MIA bracelets still means a lot to me. As of this date my MIA has never been found. I often goggle him to get an update. John McCain is a hero in my mind. Jane Fonda will always be “Hanoi Jane.”

My brother and his wife supported Iraq. Yes, his wife. Women played an important from that point on. Ellen juggled serving while also being ‘mom” to a toddler. Sacrifice has many faces.

Our society has a way of re-writing history. Take a moment and write down your impressions and experiences for your family. There’s nothing like a first-hand account.John Owens

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It’s funny what we think about during our morning shower. Singing is a must, whether frowned on by other matters little. This morning while the hot water embraced me with its warmth my mind wandered to my childhood.

We lived on Cape Cod and the weather outside was cold with light snow. It was Saturday morning, which meant we were baking cookies and a cake or pie. My dad traditionally sat and watched sports on television. If his coffee cup needing a refill he yelled, “honey” and Mom either got his cup or sent one of us girls to do it; two sugars and a little milk. Little did I know then that baking was some kind of adult mating ritual. Love was expressed in flour, sugar, eggs, and a touch of vanilla flavoring or apples in a light crust, and served warm, topped with a slice of cheese.

Anyway, my sister and I were teenagers and my little brother, Bobby, was four years old. We never lacked anything, but we were middle class. Why this is important is because at our age we knew that Christmas existed for children, like Bobby, not for mature girls of seventeen and eighteen. We understood. Money was tight and we both had gotten new Sperry Topsider sneakers for basketball just a couple of weeks ago. They’d cost $10.00 a pair. Quite a hit on the ole budget.

Dona and I finished our chores and headed for the Barnstable Junior High gym to watch girl’s intermural basketball. When we got home Mom and Bobby were gone. Dad was napping in his chair, but not for long. The door opened and Mom headed upstairs with some bags and Bobby came on the run chanting “I know what you’re getting for Christmas.” Dona and I ignored him. Mom yelled at him from upstairs, “Bobby, it’s a secret. You better not tell.” With that he leaned over to Dona and whispered, “I’m not going to tell you, but it tells time and plays music.”

On Christmas day Dona had to act surprised as she opened her clock radio.

Memories. Aren’t they fun.

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One of the reasons I joined the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) was to be of service to my community. How I could do that was not defined. When the opportunity arose to salute veterans of the war in Vietnam it pulled at my heart.

The Vietnam War changed my life. Within a year I was no longer the young teenage girl only interested in fashion, dating and having fun. Young men my age were being drafted and sent to war in a nation most of us weren’t aware existed. Our generation never asked why. The government made that decision and you served. It wasn’t until later that the anti-war movement organized and men went to Canada rather than serve.

The face of war became that of Lt Cdr. Richard A. Stratton, an A4E pilot and the maintenance officer of Attack Squadron 192 onboard the aircraft carrier USS TICONDEROGA. On January 4, 1967, he launched in his A4E “Skyhawk” attack Aircraft for his 27th mission over North Vietnam. He remained a POW at the Hanoi Hilton until 1973.

It was his likeness that was on the bumper stickers and pamphlets that I distributed as a volunteer for the National League of Families. The sale of the POW-MIA bracelets paid for the League to keep their stories alive in the press and to be able to lobby North Vietnam officials in France.

Every night with our evening meal the national networks fed us films of helicopters unloading body bags of our young men. Body counts of the enemy dead became important news to offset our losses. How could it be that so many young warriors were dead and yet we weren’t gaining any ground? The army that beat the French was about to send us home defeated in mind and spirit.

There were no parades. No one cared if a soldier had developed a drug problem to ease the pain he carried inside. Take off that uniform and blend in. Don’t talk about the war. Move on.

The U. S. Department of Defense has declared 2015 as the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. After 50 years the grateful hand is being extended.
The DAR is honored to salute our veterans. Thanks for your service. Welcome home.

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