Cool Stuff

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Old Breed

The Old Breed....1st Marine Division. It's also the name of a book written by Eugene Sledge, motorman with the 5th Marines (K/3/5) at Peleliu and Okinawa. I have read more military history books then I could ever count and this is absolutely one of the finest ever.  An incredibly moving and detailed account of those two battles from the grunts point of view.

Sledges story is also featured in the 10 part HBO Mini-Series "The Pacific" currently playing on Sunday nights at 9pm. I recommend it to every single person who lives in this country. No kidding, I really do. If you see it you will never look at one of our U.S. combat veterans the same way ever again. It will also bring new meaning to phrases like "They served our Country" or "Fought for our Freedom".

Most of us hear those phrase's all the time, mostly from politicians. But very few folks know what "fighting for our freedom" really looks and feels like. This film, in a very small way shows it...and it is horrifying. I watched the 7th episode tonight showing the last 20 days or so of the battle of Peleliu. I'm still in awe....

I also have to say something about guys like Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Those two have done more to portray as honestly as possible what World War II looked, sounded and felt like through film. At a time when our own history is being "revised", "White Washed", "Watered Down" and made politically correct, they have the balls to show it like it really was. And show the American Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman as they really were.

I attended my oldest nieces graduation today from E. Michigan University. I suspect that most of those students graduating today (accept those in and familiar with the service) do not have any realistic idea of the sacrifice that were made on all of our behalf. That also goes for a large part of our population today I'm afraid. I'm not sure that will ever change but shows like "The Pacific' do a great service in giving us a slight "glimpse" of what "sacrificing for our country" really looks like.....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Going back

My father turned 80 years old on Saturday. It was really a cool experience even though we were in Cincinnati at the U.S. Nationals Dance competition for High School girls. My sister's two youngest girls are both on a dance team from Dayton, Ohio.

I thought that I'd would hate the whole thing but found it interesting and was actually entertained by all the stage mom's (including my sis) hovering 'round living vicariously through their daughters. I sort of felt like I'd fallen into the Twilight Zone but then realized my father was there as too and all was well.

We took a break from all the dancing and went down to Dayton Kentucky, just over the river from Cincinnati and visited the neighborhood where dad grew up. Wow, what a cool place, just 2 blocks from the mighty Ohio River.

My grandfather was the superintendent of Dayton Public Schools and was recognized for two things he did for high school sports in the city. First of all, he hired a recent college graduate in 1933 to coach the boys basketball team and teach History. His name was John Wooden...yep, the same John Wooden who went on to become the "Wizard of Westwood" and lead UCLA to 11 National Championships.

The second thing he did was to install lights on the Football Field....Dayton High School was the first school in Kentucky or the Cincinnati area to have a lighted football field. Because of these achievements and many others educational as well as athletic, the school board named the field after him. Significant to me not only because my grandfather had a football field named after him but his name was unusual and it became my middle name: Olin.

I realize this blog entry is mostly for my own benefit (aren't they all really in the end?!) but I really have come to cherish my memories of the past. I've always loved history and that includes the history of my own family. It was a special way to spend a couple of hours with my dad on his 80th birthday.

Then it was back to the arena for another few hours of screaming high school girls, ach....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sitting in the dark....

Sitting here in the dark feeling frustrated because for the first time in my life I have a case of writer's block. I just have not been able to come up with anything worthwhile to write about lately. And I don't want to write just to write so I in the dark.

Actually it has been a rather rough time the last couple of weeks. Nothing serious, I'm just transitioning to a different way of living and there are frustrations inherent in that change...that's just the way it is. And of course things aren't happening fast enough to suit my preference so I have to be patient. Definitely NOT one of my strong suits though I have gotten a bit better in that area as of late.

I have to admit that I'm also dealing with a fair share of fear of the unknown. When I started working full time at 18 years old I can honestly say that I was not thinking about the prospect of retiring at 47 yrs old. I also hadn't planned on being seriously injured along the way and dealing with such a battered and beaten physical situation at this age either.

It's funny in a way but I sense things are working out exactly the way they are supposed to. I still have good health and it's getting better every day. Physically I do hurt a great deal but you adjust to it and frankly, there isn't much I can't do within reason. I can still enjoy my mobility to travel, exercise, hike, do some swimming and  kayaking, just getting outside everyday...things that have become more important to me as years go by. I just have to be reasonable in my expectations of things...not an easy task for a dreamer who also likes to dive into things w/out thinking about it first. But I'm starting to get it and 'ya know, life is getting really good these days as well.

Not many people get another chance in way I'll blow it off. I'm enjoying a new perspective, new opportunity and yes, new challenges. It does feel a bit weird but I like it. I never knew in the old life how much I was missing...sad but true.

Well, it's going to be in the 70's again today in Michigan after 2 days in the 80's so I have to get on with my day and get outside....

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Trudging a happy road...

Well, I have an interesting problem I'm working through right now. I need to plan what I'm going to do for the rest of my life or at least the foreseeable future. It's weird to be starting over as it were at 47 years of age but in this particular case, it's a good problem to have.

I almost hate to mention this but I just recently retired. It really wasn't my choice and initially I was not thrilled about it but life goes on so I got on with it. I know there are a ton of things I'd like to do and doing more reading, traveling and volunteering are all definately part of the retirement plan. Problem is I am already busier now that I "officially" don't work then I was before. Finding time to fit in other stuff is already a challenge but hell, that's what retirements all about, eh? It's cool because there is just so much cool stuff out there to do and after spending the last 30 years with the 'ole nose to the grindstone, it feels good to do work I enjoy so I'm sure I'll be able to figure this out....

I have given some thought to going back to college but frankly I've always found history teachers/profs a wee bit boring since I often know as much and often more then they do on any given subject. Plus I'd rather trudge a muddy battlefield in torrential rain then sit in a classroom on my ass any day!

I have a buddy who has led tours of Ypres and the Somme Battlefields of the Great War (yea he is a Brit) for many years and I'm thinking that sounds like a good way to spend some of my free time. I think he already senses I would like to tag along  this summer or maybe next if my beat up old buddy allows it. I may have to just do the driving, mostly...

Seeing those hundreds of Great War French, British and German cemeteries in N France and Belgium, some holding over 13,000 graves each just absolutely humbles me every time I've seem them. I've never seen so many cemeteries in my life...just unreal. The American WWII Cemetery at Omaha Beach  and Great War Cemetery at the Argonne are just as awe inspiring as well.

I have a sneaking suspicion that between trudging those fields in Europe and continuing to cover all the Civil War battlefields with my son Ian will keep me going for a long time to come...