Honoring Our Veterans

Veterans DayThe past few days I have been thinking on what to write to about for Veterans Day. Most of know the history of Veterans Day or Armistice Day and in case you do not just click on this link: Veterans Day for the history of how we came about to celebrate this day.

There will be poems and articles of our brave men and women who over the years served this country, either on the battle fronts or behind the lines. I read somewhere today that over 48 million served in our armed forces since 1776. Most not seeing combat, for every combat soldier there are 5 or 7 soldiers serving in supportive roles.

So, what better to way honor Veterans Day than to honor the men and women I know personally who served?

Many of you know I am an Army brat, that khaki green runs in my blood.

Today I would like to honor the veterans that I have had the privilege to know

My grandfather served in the Army during World War I; My father served in the Army in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, only seeing combat in WWII in France, Belgium, the Rhineland and Germany; my brother enlisted just as the Vietnam war was coming to an end; my husband enlisted in the Navy and served in Europe with the NATO Forces in the middle of the Vietnam War, then after college re-enlisted in the Army serving with Joint Services in CENTCOM (Central Command), Gulf War and the War on Terror, retiring from the PA National Guard with over 30 yrs service; my son served proudly with PA National Guard in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

One cousin served in the Army doing 2 tours in Vietnam and another cousin some of you may know served in the Marine Corp retiring after a few tours in Vietnam and 30 yrs of service. My two brother in-laws served, one in the Air Force in Europe and one in the Army also doing duty in Vietnam.

I have had the honor to work with one lady who served as an Army nurse on one of the hospital ships in the Atlantic during WWII. There was the young man who was a close friend of my fathers who served in Korea but tragically took his own life, suffering from shell shock or what we call today PTSD. I have worked with men serving on board air craft carriers and one gentleman who retired from the Navy was on the first sailors to serve aboard the USS John F. Kennedy, the only ship of her class and the last conventionally powered carrier built for the United States Navy.

There is my neighbor, a retired Korean War Veteran, who for years he served on the military honor guard at funerals of many veterans. Now retired from the military honor guard and no longer being able to get around he put on his uniform one last time to serve as part of Tom’s honor guard.

One gentleman at our church comes every year in his old Army uniform for our Veterans Day service. Another gentleman who served in the Army during WWII has not been able to attend church, came out Sunday to be a part of the service. He spoke at our youth group one Veterans Day and told us he did not do too much during the war. He served in what is now Iran, keeping the supply trucks moving along making sure the troop’s supplies were getting through to places like North Africa – no he did not too much did he, he only made sure food, supplies and letters from got through to the men on the front lines.  Like many Veterans he doesn’t see himself as a hero.

My friend’s husband, whom I never met, passed away over 30 years ago from cancer, served in the Coast Guard. There are sons and daughters of friends of mine serving in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Husband, Wives, Brothers and sisters of friends over the years that choose a career in the military leaving the comforts of home to serve in places like DMZ zone in Korea, the Middle East, Iceland and submarines or battleships.

Who is your Veteran or perhaps you are the Veteran? Please add them to my list – let us honor them by remembering what they did. No matter when, where or how our Veterans served, they are our protectors and defenders of freedom.

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In Remembrance

* I along with my DH wrote this for Memorial Day 2011. I would like to post it again in honor of an American solider who died serving his country in Vietnam.  Ray was one of my husbands best friends –  every Memorial Day my husband’s thoughts went to the boy he grew up with and to the letter he received telling of his friends death.  Ray was an all American young man who left behind a special legacy to all who knew, respected and loved him.  Today – Memorial Day let us remember Ray and all of the special young men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation. ~ Patty May 27, 2013 *

Decoration Day officially became a holiday May 5, 1868 to honor those who had died in both the Union and Confederate Armies.  Prior to that, one of the many stories of that first Decoration Day was that a group of children somewhere in the south started to put flowers on the graves of the soldiers. In 1868 mourners honored the Civil War
dead by continuing the tradition started by the children by decorating the soldier’s graves with flowers.  

After World War I – which was the war to end all wars, observers began the tradition of honoring the war dead from all the wars and the name was changed to Memorial Day sometime after World War II.

Today my husband Tom and I would like to remember SGT Raymond Paul Kurtik July 3, 1949 to July 7, 1969, who served with the 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, USARV  in Vietnam.

Tom remembers the young boy that grew up to save the lives of many men.  He remembers meeting Ray in the first grade and from that first day they became very good
friends.  Ray was a normal all American boy, doing all the things boys from the 1950’s and 1960’s did.  Both of them grew up and graduated high school together.  Ray volunteered for the US Army and Tom volunteered for the US Navy. Both of them stayed in touch as Ray left for combat in Vietnam. Tom remembers how dirty the letters were when he received them.  Then the day came when Tom’s last letter sent to Ray was returned with a note from a Major informing him of Ray’s death.  Tom stated that when the news hit him it was unreal.  The thought of his good friend dying at the age of 20, even if he is serving at a combat zone, did not cross his mind.  The reality of it was made more difficult knowing he could not attend Ray’s funeral because Tom was also serving overseas and would never see Ray again.

For years Tom had many unanswered questions and had always wanted to know about his friends Vietnam service.  Special thanks go to Dave one of the brave soldiers who served with Ray that provided Tom with much information, and to his Squad Leader who posted this on June 26, 2000 from a Vietnam Memorial website:

Ray was the Bravo Team Leader on this one particular day.  And as his Squad Leader
stated they would become not just comrades in arms but they would become friends, and “that is the best you can say about a fellow infantryman”. 

“Several other soldiers don’t know it, but he (Ray) saved our butts, at LZ VIVIAN. One whole side of the LZ came under full attack, 15 minutes of Mortars, then Sappers,
followed by Infantry.  When the Sappers and Infantry broke through the wire in front of our bunker, Ray hopped up onto the bunker at a full height and threw a helmet full of M26 fragmentary grenades into the enemy, turning them back from our position.  He then proceeded to successfully help me, through small arms fire (M16) and frags, fighting from the berm next to our bunker, drive back the (enemy) attacking the next bunker. Today, I still vividly remember that long night and my friend Ray.”

Dave wrote to Tom explaining what happened on the fateful day of July 7, 1969

“…The day Ray died was supply day or LOG day as we called it. 
The area we were in was triple canopy jungle and there were no clearings
large enough to bring in the supply helicopter. The most open area we could find had several large trees the needed to be removed.  The trees were prepared and
blown. Unfortunately one tree was larger than anticipated or it fell the wrong
way, and Ray died instantly….”

 “Those serving in the infantry were the fewest of any MOS’s in the Army”, Ray’s Squad Leader went on to tell us, “at the height of our involvement in Vietnam, there were 500 thousand US Army troops stationed there but of those only 10,000 were infantry.”   

Ray was the boy next door, just like many other thousands of young men who fought and   died over the centuries to preserve our way of life or to liberate the oppressed from other countries.  There was nothing remarkable about Ray – he was a son, a brother, and a best friend.  He went to church, to school, and lived a life of a young man growing up in Pennsylvania, looking forward to his future.

It is the everyday people who become heroes by the extraordinary things they do.  Ray
saved the lives of many men.  His death was not in vain.  His purpose for being
there in Vietnam was fulfilled.  His life can be summed by this bible verse:  “I have fought
the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 

Guest Blogger!

A few weeks ago I was asked to be a guest blogger for Future.Flying.Saucers. This was the first time I had ever been asked to write an article, outside of school that is and I did not even have to worry about being graded! It was an honor and a challenge and loads of fun!

I admire the author of FFS, she is a woman of many talents.  She is a stay at home mom who home-schools her children, teaches a woman’s bible study, and is involved in children’s ministries.   Her writing is about life, families, and her love for Jesus.  I must admit when I first saw her blog I was fascinating with her title, and was curious about her blog. Then as I browsed through her articles I knew this was a place God led me.  So I invite you to “pull up a chair, take your shoes off and stay for a few minutes” getting to know FFS, she is after all a “kindred spirit”. 

My article “Military Families Are Never Alone” is how we dealt with the long separations of deployments and TDY (temporary duty).  May  you be encouraged in knowing that you too are never alone.  Jesus lives in each of us.

I would like to thank her again, for allowing me to get out of my comfort zone to soar like a “flying saucer” to new heights. 

From Letters To Emails

The other day I had emailed a fellow Blue Star mom who also has a daughter and son in law in the Army.  We mentioned the wonderful world of technology and the ability to be in constant contact with our loved ones deployed.

I started thinking back to  30 years ago when my husband re-enlisted in the Army.    His MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was in Communications.  At his duty station at MacDill AFB, Florida, he would go often for TDY (Temporary Duty Assignment) which meant his duty would take him to destinations across the globe to train in all types of climates and regions.  He was always gone long enough to miss, but not long enough for letters.  We did not have home computers, internet, and emails, nor did we have cell phones. I  learned to live with the motto “no news is good news”.

I was actually one of the lucky ones, because of his job at setting up communications, he always had access to a phone line.  And they were sometimes allowed to call at least once during their TDY.  At one time he called home and said, “guess what I am calling on”?  They had to test the White House lines – which we called the red phone and were giving permission to call their families.  So I can honestly say I got a call from the White House infamous red phone!

Other than that time, we would correspond through letters.  25 years later our son would leave for his first deployment and my husband for his last deployment,  emails would replace letters and talking via internet was introduced.  At first the families made appointments with the unit to speak with their husbands and sons through an  internet link set up by their command. By time our son was deployed again Skype was common and now families were able to talk with their loved ones via the internet from the comfort of their homes and often.  So much had changed in just 20 years in how we would write our deployed loved ones.

Can you imagine sailing from Europe to the new colonies knowing you will never see or hear from your family and friends back home ever again.   Today we travel the globe and call, text and email our loved ones from one destination to the next.

Since 1776 when our country fought for their independence to the first pioneers heading west to the Civil War most ordinary citizens were illiterate and usually could not afford the postage to  mail a letter through the official post.  For those that could read and write they would send letters by way of an acquaintance traveling near the letters’ destination.

During WWI the post office had a challenge to get mail to the troops to France.  Mail would need to go to a central point in NY then shipped by boat to France and from there transported with supplies to where the units were.  So mail was slow at its best and often  would get lost as troops continued to move.  WWII saw an improvement with the introduction of air mail but most mail was still sent by ship transport and then on to where the troops were all over Europe.  Visit NotsofancyNancy to read the letters from her dad to her mom during WWII.

With the organization of the Military Postal Service and the APO (Army/Airforce Post Office) and the FPO (Fleet Post Office) mail would now be easily sent to and from military posts all over the world in peace and war.  Through the Korean Conflict to the Vietnam War and to the conflicts our soldiers have been engaged until recently, letters and packages were sent regularly – but still the soldier’s mail would take days and maybe weeks to make its destination. 

Image courtesy of http://www.Daily Clip Art.net

Today we have email, cell phones,social networks, and talking via Skype.  Although it is not that same as having your loved one home, it is the next best thing. 

Communication has come a long way since the time the colonists first arrived on these shores. Letters have become a thing of the past from a bygone era. But as both my husband and son said, there is nothing like hearing your name during mail call and receiving that letter from home.

{pictures courtesy of google search}

The Story of a Common Soldier

The Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War, 1861-1865 by Leander Stillwell

Leander was born on September 16, 1843 in Illinois and raised on his father’s farm.  When he was not yet 18 years old he enlisted in the Union Army on January 7, 1862 and mustered out with the rest of his regiment on September 8, 1865. 

He started as most men did as a private and by the end of the war he earned the rank of Second Lieutenant.  His autobiography begins when he enlists into the Union Army and tells an interesting story of life as soldier during the Civil War.

His regiment was assigned to guard railroads, and often they would ride the railroad and steamships traveling across the south to Shiloh, Corinth, Murfreesboro to Little Rock, AK. His description of the battle of Shiloh and his last engagement; a running battle with confederate cavalry as his unit tried to defend a supply train to Murfreesboro in December 1864, is an honest account of how one soldier observed it.

He eventually would be elected as a Judge in 1883 serving in the  Seventh Judicial District in Kansas.  To read more of his life after the Civil War you can go to this website: Leander Stillwell

Judge  Leander Stillwell
Born ~
Sept. 16, 1843
Died ~
Sept.10, 1934
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
{Pictures courtesy of Google search}

Independence Day

July 4 a day off from work, and for fireworks, picnics, a day at the beach and department store sales.   Today is not about our pleasures; it is about men and women who were tired of living under the iron hand of British rule.   They wanted their voices to be heard and to live in a more just nation.   It all began years before the important signing the Declaration of Independence that ultimately formed the United States of America.

By the middle 1700’s, there were only 13 colonies the New World that were a part of England’s vast empire.   The ruler was King George III of England.  In 1767,  the King imposed unfair taxes on goods with the Townshend Act.  The discontentment of the Colonies began, to prevent serious disorder, the King dispatches 4,000 troops to Boston in 1768, which quickly proved a mistake, as the soldiers’ presence in the city only made the situation worse.

Tensions continued to mount until March 5, 1770, when a protesting mob clashed violently with British regulars, resulting in the death of five Bostonians.  The event became known as the Boston Massacre. Eventually, this incident and other conflicts convinced Parliament to repeal the Townshend Acts. The tax on tea, however, remained in place as a matter of principle. This decision led to more violent incidents.

One of those confrontations happened December 16, 1773, when the Sons of Liberty boarded ships in Boston Harbor and dumped chests of tea into the harbor; later, in 1834 it would be known as the Boston Tea Party.

In 1774 the First Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia and the Boycott of British goods begins.  On April 19, 1775 American forces win the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which would later be known as the “Shot Heard Around the World”.  The Second Continental Congress then extends the Olive Branch Petition (A petition to avoid war) to King George III but King George refuses the petition and declares the colonies in a state of rebellion and the Revolutionary War begins.

It was not until July 2, 1776, that the Second Continental Congress presents and debates a second draft of the list of grievances.  On July 4, 1776, the  Second Continental Congress adopted and signed the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.  On July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell (although not known as the Liberty Bell then) rang to mark the occasion.

The war went on for the next 8 years and we won our Independence on April 16, 1783, becoming the United States of America.

There is so much more to the story.  So many names of people who became heroes, some we know like George Washington, John Hancock, and Paul Revere, to name a few.  There are others whose names we will never know, but we will always remember their courage and sacrifice.

Today, July 4, is a day to remember with gratitude those men and women who, 236 years ago stood up for what they believed in and who created acts of treason against the crown to shape a new nation –The United States of America – a nation under God “created by the people for the people”[1].  Let us carry on that same tradition to turn this country back to the dreams and hopes of  our founding fathers, a nation created to “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[2]


[1]Part of the Gettysburg Address
[2] Taken from in part from the
United States Declaration of Independence