Day Trip to France

 

Have to admit, most of what I know about D-Day, which commemorates its 75th anniversary today, I learned from watching Saving Private Ryan. (A terrific movie, by the way.) I know it involved a lot of young men who knew they would probably die that day on the shores of Normandy, France, yet despite being scared out of their minds, courageously carried out the mission that ultimately saved the world.

And some of those young men are still alive today, and though they are much older now, the memories of that day are no less vivid, no less haunting. War stays with you your whole life.

It would behoove us all to take some time to read about the events of June 6, 1944, and appreciate just how historically impactful they were.

And to remind ourselves of just how undeniably horrible war is.

To all the remaining veterans of World War II and D-Day, I salute you, and offer my heartfelt gratitude. Your courage and heroism in the face of grave danger is why we are all here now.

Peace in Our Time.

The Biggest Christmas Gift


They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

“I Believe in Father Christmas”, Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Songwriters
GREG LAKE, PETER JOHN SINFIELD, SERGE PROKOFIEFF

Published By
Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, MUSIC SALES CORPORATION

 

Peace on Earth.

What a deceptively simple concept.

All the people of the world, living together in harmony and bliss. No fighting, no bullets, no bombs, no dead warriors, no bereaved families, no lying governments. (In this case, at least.)

It’s a concept many of us don’t even think about until this time of year. For much of the world, war is as much a part of our daily routine as breathing, whether observed from a distance or experienced firsthand. War is just another fact of life, and we tacitly accept it.

Then, our minds get pumped with almost nonstop Christmas music, from every store and every radio station, and we get a barrage of Christmas movies and TV specials, and everyone’s heart softens a bit. We gush about what a wonderful time of year it is and, by Jiminy, why can’t it be this way all the time? Why can’t we all be kinder to each other? Why can’t we show more charity to our fellow man?

Why can’t we have peace on earth?

If only the answer was that simple.

 

It’s not my intent here to debate the causes for war, or its reasons, or its inevitability, or its morality.

There are many facets of war about which many of us disagree, but I would think, and I would hope, that we could all agree on this: war is overwhelmingly, unbearably, heartbreakingly sad, due to the terribly high cost of human lives it always exacts.

And to our stubborn refusal to ever, ever learn from it.

 

We can all wish for peace, we can pray for it, we can sing for it, we can petition for it, and we should do all those things, as long as we have to.

But tonight, when I go to sleep, I’m going to close my eyes, and dream of it.

And what a beautiful dream it will be.

As the song goes, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

Merry Christmas, everyone. Love and peace to you all.

 

A Simple Request

 

James…earn this……..earn it.

Captain John Miller’s (Tom Hanks) last words to Private James Ryan (Matt Damon)

Saving Private Ryan, 1998

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Monday is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember all American servicemen and servicewomen who have laid down their lives in defense of the freedom we all hold dear.

Did they all have to die? Did they all even have to go fight?

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I’m sure we each have our own answers to those questions. For what it’s worth, my answer to both is no. I won’t offer any reasons; those of you who agree with me need none, and those of you who don’t are likely not interested in any.

But, if I could make just one request, lest the significance of the day get lost in all the barbecues and picnics and lake expeditions and huge blowout sales…

I would ask that every American who reads this, at some point on Memorial Day, observe a moment of silence in remembrance of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice while in the colors of the United States Armed Forces.

And, may we all, like Private Ryan, earn that sacrifice every day of our lives.

Have a safe and pleasant Memorial Day.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

 

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War, I despise ’cause it means destruction of innocent lives.

“War”, Edwin Starr

SONGWRITERS
Strong, Barrett / Whitfield, Norman J.

 

The classic Christmas ballad, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, was released around Christmas time in 1943, and became a huge hit for singer Bing Crosby.

The song, which speaks of wishing to be home with family for the holidays, complete with “snow and mistletoe, and presents on the tree,” wasn’t originally written from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas, but quickly took on that meaning, since it was released during wartime. For many of the servicemen, the only way to get back home for Christmas was “only in my dreams.”

Two years earlier, and 75 years ago today, Japanese forces made sure that over two thousand servicemen stationed at Pearl Harbor would not be home for Christmas. Any Christmas.

 

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Imagine how December 25, 1941 must have been for the families of all those lost just eighteen days before.

It’s a pain that has been experienced through our history. From the American Revolution to the present, over a million Americans have died in battle. That’s a lot of families through the decades, suddenly overwhelmed with an enormous loss. Their beloved soldier would not be home for Christmas…or ever.

Now, I know there are plenty of other people who, for whatever reason, are separated from their loved ones at Christmas time. I’m not ignoring them, or belittling their circumstances. (Not intentionally, at least.) That especially goes for all the victims of violence – gun violence, mainly – and their bereaved, devastated families.

But, on this somber anniversary, my thoughts go to all those who have been separated, temporarily or permanently, by the harsh reality of war. I’m not going to debate the rights and wrongs of war here, other than to say, I hate what it does to families.

And not just American families.

So, here’s a few Christmas wishes, from a grateful civilian:

To all of you military men and women, spending Christmas somewhere far from home, thank you for your service. I wish you were here, too. Come home soon, and safe. Merry Christmas.🎄 🎁

To all of you celebrating Christmas while waiting for your loved ones to come home, thank you for the sacrifices you make. May they return soon for a joyful reunion.

 

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And to all of you facing, again or for the first time, the unbearable pain of never seeing another Christmas with that mom or dad, that son or daughter, that brother or sister, that husband or wife, that special person…

 

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My heart goes out to you. You are going through grief of a magnitude many of us will never know. I am so very sorry. I wish you love and comfort in your sorrow.

And to everyone, Peace on Earth.

My Favorite Passenger

 

NOTE: In commemoration of Veterans Day November 11th, I’m pleased to republish this post, which originally appeared in April. A big, heartfelt salute to our men and women in uniform.

 

So, one Saturday, Summer 2014, I go to pick a gentleman up at the airport and drive him home. It turned out to be one of my most unforgettable trips.

Now, usually, unless it happens to be someone famous, or someone I’ve driven before, I don’t know anything about the people I pick up, other than the name and where we’re going. Which can sometimes be problematic, by the way; once, I was picking up a client whose first name was Erin.

His first name.

He walked right up to me and said he was my passenger. For a second, I didn’t believe him. Once he convinced me, and I apologized, he told me it was okay, he was used to it. I drove him a few more times after that, so I guess I didn’t make him mad.

Sure would’ve liked a heads-up before that first time, though!

Anyway, I go to meet this fellow at the airport, and I wait for him at the baggage claim with my sign bearing his name. He comes up to greet me; he’s a younger man, in a t-shirt, shorts, sunglasses and backwards cap.

Since he’s in shorts, I can see he’s got a prosthetic right leg below the knee. His left leg, arm and hand are badly disfigured. The sunglasses are pretty large, and I wonder if they cover any additional scars around the eyes. (They don’t, it turns out.)

I assume he must have sustained these wounds in war. I don’t ask.

We get his baggage, go out to the car, and head for his house. We talk about the heat (naturally) and other mundane subjects. He tells me he’s back in town for a Wounded Warriors event the next day. He tells me about the time he served over in Iraq, explaining his physical condition by simply saying, “Obviously, I had a bad day at work.”

I’m suddenly clueless on how to respond in that moment. I mean, what can you say? I simply muster a half-hearted, “Yeah.” I don’t ask for details, and he doesn’t volunteer any; I figure, if he wants to talk about it, he will. Maybe that’s wrong; I really don’t know.

We move on to other subjects: the anticipation of football season, which college teams we think will do well, the current state of the Dallas Cowboys, the gratitude and relief that Jerry Jones didn’t draft Johnny Manziel. (And has that man’s life turned into a tragic tale?)

Finally, we reach his house. I let him out of the car and get his baggage. He gives me a tip and says,”Thanks for driving me.”

“It was my honor, sir,” I said. “Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”

And you know what he says to me then?

“Hey, man, you’re worth it.”

 

That stayed with me the rest of that day, and it stays with me still. I couldn’t stop thinking about what he told me.

I’m worth his leg getting blown off? I’m worth all the other wounds he sustained? I’m worth all the pain he’s gone through, physically, mentally and emotionally since that “bad day at work”?

I’m worth it?

That was, without a doubt, one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I guarantee you, I won’t ever forget it.

It really is astonishing, the way life sometimes works. Had I not lost my machinist job, I’d probably never have become a chauffeur, and never met this outstanding soldier, this outstanding man.

And I would not have that remarkable encounter, which so impacted my life from that day forward.

Sometimes, the thought comes to my mind: while we’re busy running around, doing our jobs, socializing with friends, playing with the kids, planning and taking trips, etc., there are men and women in uniform, actively defending our country. They have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way to protect you and me. They do extensive, multiple tours of duty due to the troops being stretched so thin. They return home; some wounded, some suicidal, some in flag-draped caskets.

And many come home to this: No job, neglected medical needs, homelessness, untreated psychological trauma, uncomfortable stares from passers-by.

How often do they make it into your thoughts?

However you may feel about war, and those who wage it, and the reasons they do so, you cannot ignore the dedicated service and immeasurable sacrifice of the soldiers, the sailors, the airmen who go and engage in the battles the rest of us are unable or unwilling to fight.

I salute them all. Bless you, you incredibly brave men and women, and come home safely, soon.

And may your home country pledge anew to take care of you when you return; medically, vocationally, and any other way you need.

You absolutely deserve it.

Note: If you want to read more about this remarkable man I met that Saturday, and what he’s doing now to help fellow veterans, his name is Corporal Jacob Schick, USMC (Ret.). Read his story, or hear him tell it on YouTube, and be truly inspired. (Also, check out http://www.honorcouragecommitment.org)