Saturday, December 3, 2016

Day of Infamy

Not many had heard of these places in December of 1941

On  December 8th of 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt advised the world that the United States had been attacked by the Japanese. The prior day at 7:55 (HAST) a surprise assault had taken place at a far off island chain sending the U.S. Navy scrambling and suffering. Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu seemed an unlikely place to start a war but it was. This war was already raging in Europe but on this sleepy Sunday morning the tragic event would encircle the globe and awaken a slumbering giant.

World War II was on.

On the same day of the announcement President Roosevelt declared war on Japan and then on the 11th against Germany and Italy.

Millions upon millions of military personnel and civilians would die in the next four years - it was a horrible time for humanity.

Every year homage is paid to those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor - with 2,403 service personnel dead, another 1,178 wounded and let's not forget the 68 civilians killed and 35 wounded. A strange encounter for death and mayhem in such a peaceful and beautiful setting.

Yearly gatherings of remembrance
Sometimes war is like that - changing landscapes horribly both physically and emotionally.

But what were some of the other tragic stories on that day which would go down as a day of infamy - per Roosevelt? What were the behind the scene actions that make the use of a box of tissues necessary.

For example: Just on the USS Arizona - the entire 22 member band, U.S. Navy Band Unit 22 lost their lives. The only time in American history such a tragedy had occurred - not a single member lived through the morning of the attack. They had been getting ready on the deck of the Pennsylvania-class battleship for the daily flag raising ceremony when the attack took place. There was no where to hide on the 608 foot long ship - in an instant they were dead running to their respective battle stations.

USS Arizona under attack - artist rendering
How about the fact that there were 37 pairs or trios of brothers assigned to the Arizona on that fateful morning? 77 brothers awoke on that sunny day and within hours 62 were killed - 23 sets of brothers were no longer. It hadn't been the practice of the Navy to not allow siblings to work with each other even on war machines - that came into question after Pearl Harbor and the final straw was when all 5 Sullivan brothers were killed in November of 1942 when their light cruiser - the USS Juneau was sunk during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

Pearl Harbor hadn't been enough - it took another loss of an entire family of siblings before the Navy put a stop to it and would not allow siblings to be in harms way together.

Sullivan Brothers

A somber and gorgeous memorial is placed above the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor - where it was anchored with 1.5 million gallons of fuel freshly injected for the long awaited trip to the mainland within the month. The ship was battered by shell after shell with her and all the brave men doing their best to remain above the water line - to no avail unfortunately. The great ship who had served with distinction since her first day in service back in June of 1915 sunk along with 1,000 who had been trying to protect her on that early morning of December 7th, 1941.

She's still there - easily visible with her hull and two gun turrets in plain sight - though below water. It's an eerily surrealistic place to visit - a hush of the tourists is automatic and reverence is the call of the day. J and L have visited together - held hands in silent prayer for those still there - who never went home.

USS Arizona - 9 quarts of oil still seep out daily - as though she is crying

It's a place to visit and to remember those who sacrificed so much for those of us still breathing freedoms sweet smell.

In 1958, President Dwight d. Eisenhower allowed for the creation of a national memorial dedicated to those who had fought and died on the Arizona. The monument was opened on May 30th of 1962 and more than a million people visit it every year.

Elvis Presley in March of 1961 did a benefit concert for the construction at Pearl Harbor's Block Arena and raised over fifty thousand dollars - more than 10% of the total cost.

Presley had just finished a two year stint in the U.S. Army and felt the need to assist.

Gotta love a man in uniform!
We at J and L love to research and write about it - though sometimes it is painful to hit the keyboard but as this day - December 7th comes and goes each year we must never forget those who have gone before us.

Some of the names of the fallen

The 75th anniversary of that dark Sunday is no different - we take off our hats, place our hands over our hearts and say thanks.

Thanks to all those at Pearl Harbor that day but especially the USS Arizona. A Day of Infamy - for sure.

We won't - we promise!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thanksgiving Wishes

It's almost that time again - where families and friends sit around a crispy golden bird and tell each other all the things they are thankful for.

Every year it arrives with lots of food, drink and company. Some company desired and some not so desired.

Guess who is around by the time the Godfather sequels run their course?
It's Thanksgiving - a holiday many people love and hate at the same time. Some tables are full of people who are thankful they are alive - for the time being.

Okay - who is really happy to be sitting with Chevy so close with a knife?
And there are those around the table who wish they didn't have to be there. Smiling faces, inane conversations and dumb expressions - ah, what dinner parties are made of.

Johnny Carson may have got it right after all.

Of course there are many things to be thankful for in our daily lives - like good health, good fortune, and not having to see certain people again for another year. 

Thanksgiving started as a harvest festival to celebrate the bounties of food stuffs that would maintain the settlers through the cold winter months. 
Of course, the Native Americans helped a lot!
President George Washington proclaimed it should be observed yearly in 1789. It wasn't every year the giving thanks day was celebrated - no, that didn't occur until 1863 when President Lincoln declared it a federal holiday. 

At J and L we do appreciate our family and friends but realize that is not always the case for others in our society.

Perhaps Thanksgiving should be looked at as a time when friends and family visit - put away past troubles and look to the future. A momentary respite from a hectic year when we all look into our fellow humans eyes and say we are thankful they are with us. Life is often too short so this year, as every year we should make an effort to be thankful for all we have.

Is it too difficult to say thanks to those around us, really?

So what if the turkey is a bit over done....  

Don't wake him - he's boring

...or the mashed potatoes are not smooth as butter or even if the dinner table looks like this.

Don't worry - you can always hope for and be thankful for  . . .

May this blog of Thanksgiving bring you a smile and a laugh.  We truly and joyfully wish everyone a wonderful and happy

Let's do it again next year - uh, maybe not.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Armistice, Poppies, and Peace

Tower of London
awash in a sea of poppies
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, it was finally all quiet on the Western Front. An armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, for a cessation to the hostilities for the war to end all wars. So it was that November 11, 1918 became a national holiday among the allied nations, and dubbed Armistice Day.

Compeigne, France 1918
Since then, after the war to end all wars became World War I, and it appeared the term "armistice" sadly held true its original definition, and had become merely a temporary truce, the name for the date has changed. Still a national holiday, it now commemorates the veterans of the wars which followed. Britain, France, Australia, Canada and the United States all set aside this date to honor and remember the sacrifices of our veterans, living or dead. Now known as Remembrance Day in Canada, and Remembrance Sunday in Britain (so the date flexes with the calendar, the 2nd Sunday of November), we know it as Veterans Day.

There are many ways citizens have, over the past century or so, chosen to honor and remember those whose sacrifice have won for the rest of us the freedoms which we enjoy.

In South Africa, a toast to fallen comrades is observed by not only two minutes of silence, but two minutes of utter and complete darkness, lit only by the Light of Remembrance.

In the Commonwealth Nations, including the United Kingdom, Canada, India, much of the Caribbean and a number of African Nations, the date commemorates veterans of both World Wars, as well as the fallen, both killed and injured servicemen, in subsequent wars. Its symbol is the poppy. But, why the poppy?

A Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, lost a friend in the spring of 1915, and was inspired by the poppies growing in the battle-scarred fields in Ypres, West Flanders, Belgium. He writes:

Flanders Field
An American and Memorial WWI cemetery in Belgium
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who dies,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

McCrae's poem inspired an American teacher, Moina Michael, to make and sell silk poppies to raise money for ex-service members. From there, the poppy made its way back across the pond to become the symbol of Royal British Legion. And still you ask why? The poppy is an incredibly resilient flower. It managed to grow, to bloom, to flourish in fields otherwise destroyed by war. It is the symbol of the strength of resilience of humanity to grow from adversity and flourish.

This is the lesson to take away: there will be conflict. But life finds a way. Love finds a way.

So, as you go about your very busy lives, doing those everyday things which take up so much of our time, stop and think on these things. Whether you are satisfied with the election results or not, you have the freedom to cast your vote and make your opinions known. Whatever liberties you enjoy, you do so because of the sacrifice of service of our veterans. Sometimes, they spend their entire lives defending our way of life. Sometimes, they lose theirs in the process. And sometimes, they return with visible, or invisible, scars. Remember, appreciate, and thank a Veteran. And not just on November 11, but every precious moment you breathe in freedom's air.
Anthem, Arizona
At 11:11 on 11/11, the sun shines through the ellipses of  pillars representing the five armed services to form a perfect solar spotlight illuminating the Great Seal of the United States,