CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the tag “World War II”

Honors to the Military

First, I must confess to being an unabashed Conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan.  I have been, since High School.  And for those counting, that’s at least thirty-seven years.  In fact, I invited President Ford to my High School graduation (I still have his “thank you” around here somewhere).  And I have always loved the military.  Understand, as a career police officer, I have known guys that love to hang around cops, are dazzled by cops,  gravitate to cops.  So I’m not like that with those that serve, or have served in the military.  But I respect them and honor them (and their families) for their service.

My Father was drafted into the Army in WWII.  He never talked about his time in the Army much, but every now and then I could get him to tell a story or two.  I know he was in France.  I know he was tapped to go to Officer Candidate School but turned them down.  I know he was a foot soldier under Patton’s crew for a while.  I know he shot at people, and (I presume) was shot at in return.  One of the things he was happiest about regarding his time in Europe was that he could honestly say that “he didn’t know if he ever killed anybody,” which, if one reads between the lines, meant he was in some engagements somewhere.

I remember as a kid finding the few mementos he kept; some collar brass, a compass in a leather pouch, shoulder stripes.  I played with them endlessly, imagining myself to be in the middle of “the action.”  Of course, like most American kids, I had no idea what that meant.  I only knew that at the time, I thought my Dad, my uncle, and everyone else that I knew that had served was a hero (of course, that has not changed.  Ever.).

I had always wondered what medals Pop might be due, but it wasn’t until after he died that I actually looked into it.  There was an address that I found that would supply those medals earned and awarded, so I sent the required information, and promptly forgot that I had done so.  A few weeks later, a rather stuffed package came in the mail from an address that I didn’t recognize.  Upon opening it, I discovered that it contained my Father’s medals from World War II.  He had earned several, including Victory in Europe, Occupation of Germany, things like that.  However, he also had gotten a Purple Heart (he would have said that was for trench foot).  The largest I saved for last.  I opened it up, and my heart nearly broke.  My Father, as a rather low-ranking Sergeant drafted as a farm boy into the Army, had been awarded the Bronze Star.  Included with the medals was the paperwork citing what he had done to earn the medals.  However, there was a problem.

Many years ago, there was a rather extensive fire in a government warehouse that destroyed many, many of the records of military men and women.  My father’s was one of those.  The only thing salvaged of my father’s records was the page listing what he was due, with nothing saying what he had done to earn them.  Even the page with the medals awarded him was scorched and incomplete.  So, with Dad dead and buried, there is little I know to do to find out what he had done to be awarded the Bronze Star.  But I was right.  My Dad is a hero.

So I have always loved and respected the military.  I graduated High School in 1975, and close to my graduation date I called the Army recruiting office to see what I needed to do to enlist.  I remember my heart was pounding, and I was as nervous as I could possibly be.  At that time, I didn’t immerse myself in politics as I do now, and was only partly aware of stuff, although I think I knew more of what was going on than I might think I did.  Anyhow, Viet Nam was pretty much the defining event of my generation, and that was in my mind as I called the recruiter.  And I got  the oddest response I have ever had, and certainly not the one I expected.   He told me, “Don’t bother, kid.  The conflict’s over.”  And that was that.  I still looked into enlisting, in order to pay for college, but my folks insisted that they would pay for school.  As I had posted earlier, it wasn’t until years later that I learned that when I was adopted, my parents promised that they would get me an education, a promise that they were determined to keep, and did.  Even so, I went to Behrend College of Penn State and was one of the founding members of the ROTC program on Behrend Campus, learning under Captain Small (later promoted to Major), and Sergeant King.

These were two very interesting guys.  Captain Small was one of the first Cobra pilots in Viet Nam.  He was a good commander of the ROTC unit, good sense of humor, definitely a leader.  He had an odd habit, though.  He chewed on his hands.  He would kind of nip them all over until there were small scabs all over both hands; they would heal up, look great, and then a while later he would do it all over again.  I figured it was due to his time “in country,” but never asked about it.

Sgt. King was my hero.  I have said that he is the second heroic man who influenced me in my life, my Dad being the first.  Sgt. Don King was a large man, quiet, and a Green Beret.  He had been field grade Captain in Viet Nam, but due to the fact that he didn’t have a college degree was rolled back to Sergeant after the conflict.  I learned a lot from that man.  As far as I know, he retired to his home state of Texas, and if anyone knows of his whereabouts, I would appreciate connection, address, anything.  When I finished up at Behrend, and transferred to main campus, I opted to not continue the ROTC program there, and not enlist upon graduation.  One of the hardest things I have ever heard in my life was the words that Sgt. King said when he learned that I would not continue.  He looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “I’m disappointed in you, Clark.  You would have made a fine officer.”

But even though I did not serve, I have honored the military and those that have served, throughout my entire life.  And this is where I get “political.”  Politically, if you are liberal and get irritated easily, I would not be hurt if you stop reading here.

See, I just don’t understand how one can serve in the military and still lean liberal.  I hear liberals voicing honor to the military and my first inclination is to get irked.  Ok, I know many liberals that honestly appreciate the military, and are sincere in their voicing that appreciation.  My problem comes from having lived through the 60’s.  I remember how the military, and those that served then, were treated.  I remember seeing troops getting spat upon and called “baby killers” in public.  I remember the shame that was heaped on them, and that at a time that, as always, I loved the military.  From my perspective, the “traditional” liberal attitude is one of contempt for the military, including the Clinton years in the Presidency, when a General, upon saying good morning to one of the Clintons’ top staffers, was told, “We don’t talk to uniforms.”  The attitude of liberals may have changed to the point that younger liberals honestly see no inconsistency between being politically liberal and appreciating the military.  As I said, my perspective has been shaped by the 60’s, which by the way, I hated when I was in ’em.  And I simply do not believe liberals of that generation, say anyone older than 40 or 45, when they say that they like, love, or simply appreciate the military.

I seem to recall that during the Presidential election in which George W. Bush beat Gore, that the military vote was suppressed.  I didn’t hear howls of protest from the left about that, and if the military vote had been properly counted (as I recall that it was not), there would have been no doubt of the outcome.  Same with the current Presidential election.  Oh, I hear screaming from the left about this group’s vote being “disenfranchised,” or that group’s vote being suppressed, but the military?  Not a word.  Personal opinion?  Theirs is the only vote that should be taken early.  If you’re not in the military and can’t vote at the appointed time, on the appointed day, too bad, so sad.  There are absentee ballots for those with legitimate reasons for not getting there on time so use them!  If you forget, if you don’t have a legitimate reason to cast an absentee ballot, forget it.  You don’t vote.  In fact, voting is a constitutional right, I understand.  But I think it is a right that is also a privilege, and if you don’t show a certain respect for that right and privilege, then I would have no issue with denying that vote.  Liberal or Conservative, there is no reason that one should not understand the basics of our system.  I would personally institute a test that one must pass prior to voting.  The test would consist of something like the following questions:  first, what is our type of government?  The answer would be Democracy, Representative Republic, something like that.  Second, what are the two major political parties with candidates running for office (Democrat and Republican).  Third, define the difference between Capitalism and Socialism.  Fourth, what are the names of the Democrat and Republican Presidential nominees and their running mates.  Simple.  And if you don’t pass, you don’t vote.

Anyway, back to the military.

I read a Robert Heinlein story once in which the only eligible voters in that society were currently in the military or veterans of the military.  I was intrigued by that concept, and I would almost (emphasis on almost) support giving up the right to vote under that condition.  I would probably add police officers, fire fighters, nurses, and perhaps even something like the Peace Corps.  My thoughts are that if you aren’t willing to serve, do you really have the right to decide the course of the country?  Of course, I know the answer to that, and I support our country, the Constitution, and the intent of our Founding Fathers.  Even so, it’s an intriguing concept.

And I know of liberals that have served in the military.  Several I worked with on the Erie Police Department, and several that I have met along the way.  But I guess I am kind of puzzled, since generally speaking, it is the more conservative political party that appreciates the military.  The liberal side?  Not so much.  I remember John F. Kerry running against President Bush.  Kerry wore his service on his sleeve, and my personal opinion is that he joined, not out of patriotism, but cynically so he could utilize his service after he got out.  Even so, I appreciate his service.  At least he joined.  It’s what he did while in there and after that I despise, and acts as an example of what I believe is the general opinion that liberals have of the military.

I was prompted to write this blog after seeing a post on Facebook.  One of my liberal friends posted an article written by one that had served in the military on why that person was voting for Obama.  My friend stated that because of the author’s service, he should be taken seriously.  My friend and I are in what I would call the beginning stages of friendship.  We respect each other and our opinions, even though they often conflict.  But I am a good judge of character, and I believe that Steve is sincere when he vocalizes support for the military.  But I can judge his sincerity because I know him.  It is much more difficult for me when it is someone I do not personally know, and cannot read their character enough to judge their sincerity.

So, to all in the military, to all that have served, and to all that shall serve in the future, my undying thanks.  You have my appreciation, my admiration.  Your political persuasion is irrelevant to this, and I thank you.  As a right-winger, as an American, I applaud you, even if you are a “leftie.”  Your service is admirable, and this country would not, could not be what it is without your service, and your sacrifice.  May you be blessed and honored for your service.  May we who are protected get it right.  May you never have a moment’s time in which you are not certain that the vast majority of Americans are grateful for what you did, what you do, what you will do.  May God Bless.

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Not Saint, not Satan. She was my Mom. Part II.

When Dad died, Mom immediately packed her stuff and moved closer to us.  We had counseled her to wait a while, but she was determined.  In retrospect, I think she had always had a man to take care of her (she did, after all, grow up in that era), and it seemed she wanted me to kind of take over Dad’s position in her life.  I think she was always a bit bitter that I would not do that; I had my own family, my own life that I had to take care of.  On the other side of the coin, she was proud of the fact that she did so much that she didn’t know she could on her own.

But try as I might (and I tried a lot), I couldn’t get Mom to integrate into our lives.  Multiple times we asked her to bring her crocheting or knitting (she was phenomenal) to the house and just spend the evening, but she couldn’t do that.  So, as time went by, I think our relationship suffered.  There was never any doubt of my love for my Mom, nor of her love for me.  It’s just that our worlds didn’t seem to ever mesh.  The “Dillaman guilt” definitely had a field day with me.

And it was difficult.  As Mom aged, she got more “old lady-ish;” set in her ways, demanding, and a bit mean.  Everyone loved Mom, and I frequently heard how sweet she was.  But I think it’s often different for close family.  I’m not saying she wasn’t sweet, she was, but I didn’t always see that side.  Being my Mom, she never hesitated to criticize me, or let me know I wasn’t calling or stopping in enough.  But from my perspective, I was doing what I could.  It’s just that Mom had never made a life for herself without her family.  To Mom, (and I suspect the Dillaman family of Oscar and Inez), family was everything.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my extended family, but I also have a life; full, busy, interesting.  And it was hard to reconcile the two.  When Beth and I would go on vacation, I would always call my mother to let her know we were on the way, having discussed our vacation plans in advance with her.  She always said, “Have a great time, don’t even think about me.”  No manipulation there, boy.  It took a long time for me to realize that what she was actually saying was, “I depend on you, you’re all I have.  What if something happens to you, who’ll take care of me?”  It made me sad, because Mom was capable of so much more, she just didn’t know it, believe it, or try for more.

And as she got older still, it got more difficult still.  Beth, having the more flexible work schedule, bore the brunt of Mom’s doctor appointments, dentist, eye doctor, whatever.  Beth was fantastic with Mom.  And as much as Mom loved Beth, it was me that she talked about.  Kind of hurt Beth a bit.  But when Mom was with me, I only heard critiques of my driving, handwriting, whatever.  And “the old days.”  She talked a lot about when I was young, but did not much talk about her memories as I got older.  I think when I got to about age ten, it became so hard for Mom to let go that she just treasured the earlier years and pined for that “golden time.”  She used to say that I was “their whole world.”  A lot.  I just wanted to be their son, not their “whole world.”

Her dying was no less difficult.  Age 90, she fell and cracked her pelvis.  The doctor said that structurally, she was no weaker than Beth or I, but that the pain associated with walking was terribly intense.  Mom had been living in Brevillier Village in Erie, PA for a while, in independent living up to this point.  However, after the fall they moved her into nursing care for rehab.  She tried, but the pain was so bad that she had a hard time coping.  And this was a woman who even at her age could handle pain like no one I’d ever seen.  No matter what, Mom was no whiner when it came to personal pain.

She also had a problem with her white blood cell count; Strike two.  We had known about this for some time, but she had refused any treatment, deciding to let it run its course.  I wasn’t really happy with this decision, but it was hers to make.

After the injury, her white blood cell count went through the roof.  Additionally, due to the fall, Mom had a section of her bowel go necrotic.  Strike three.  The doctor said Mom would need an operation to remove that section of bowel, but with her white blood cell count in the stratosphere, it was pretty much a done deal that she would not survive the operation.  With these problems, the doctor said it was just a matter of time, that she could not come back from this.  I took as much time off work as I could, and Beth and I sat by her bed, playing music she would like, talking to her, and just being near.  As she slipped away, she could only rouse herself when company came, especially her granddaughters.  She loved them dearly, and smiled for them, enjoying their company like nothing else.

As time moved, Beth and I got exhausted, and Mom’s sister, my Aunt Phoebe, came to the hospital to spell us.  I cannot say how helpful that was, that Beth and I got a chance to sleep in our own bed at home.  But my Mom was slowing down, like a grand old clock who’s spring was tired, and simply could not be wound up again.  Mom slipped more, seldom rousing for anything.  It was hard watching my Mother die, but this was the last thing I could ever do for her on this earth, and I would not have been anywhere else in the world.  Beth and I sat by her bed, twenty-four seven.  We took turns sleeping; the staff at Ball were amazing, and more helpful than I can describe. They would make sure that we had coffee, snacks, juice.  Beth or I would get tired, and one of us would go to the library and sleep as best we could on the sofa, and then switch off so the other could get a few hours sleep.  Somehow, at some point, a hospital bed appeared in the library, and we took advantage of that.  It felt so good to stretch out.

There is a cat that prowls the halls of Ball Pavillion.  She is friendly, but not overly so.  However, as we talked to the staff, they told us of one of the cat’s peculiarities.  It seems that, although she was friendly with many, when one of the residents were failing, the cat spent a great deal of time in that resident’s room, often being there for hours on the day that the resident finally died.  Not one to put a ton of stock in stuff like this, I did notice on this one particular day that the cat was in Mom’s room quite a bit; rubbing on Mom’s bed, jumping on my lap and staying for quite a while.

That night, I was beat and at one point went to the library, just down the hall from Mom’s room.  I might have been asleep for half an hour when Beth woke me and said that I better come to Mom’s room, something had happened.  Getting out of bed, I staggered down to Mom’s room, and found that as Beth had observed, Mom’s breathing was ragged and irrhythmic.  We watched her breathing slow, and finally stop.  The grand old clock was tired and had run down.  I closed my Mother’s eyes as I had my Father’s, and we mourned.  We stayed with her for a while, and walked down the hall with her to the funeral home vehicle, where she would ride to get prepared for her funeral.  The staff and Mom’s best friend at Brevillier lined up and sang farewell as Mom was escorted out to the waiting vehicle.

A number of relatives and friends came to Mom’s viewing, and Mom had been made up beautifully.  Beth had picked out one of Mom’s favorite dresses and jewelery, and she looked at peace.  We got through the day, as all do who have to lay a loved one to rest, and went home.  The next morning, I got a lawn chair and a cup of coffee and drove up to the cemetery where my Mom and Dad were once again side by side.  I opened up the chair and sat there, watching the sun come up.  I talked to Mom and told her how beautiful she had looked, that her hair was done just like she would have wanted, that Beth had picked out a wonderful dress.  I told her that I missed her, and wished that things had been different.  But I was glad for how nice she looked on her last day.  Weird, but right then a shooting star arced its way across the sky.  I don’t know if there is that kind of communication from “the other side,” but it was nice.

I sometimes wonder what Mom said to relatives and friends, if she praised me or pounded me.  But I guess in the final analysis it doesn’t matter.  I did the best I knew how with what I had.  I loved my Mother the only way I could.  We were who we were.

I still miss my Mother, no surprise there.  I think of her, and although I am sad for me, I am happy for her.  For years all she professed was that she wanted to be with my Dad again.  Now she is.

A lot of people hated their mother.  Due to abuse, neglect, whatever, they are cursed with memories of evil incarnate instead of a loving mother who did all she could to raise her children.  Others put a photo of their mother on an altar, elevating their mother to near deity, refusing to remember any blemish, any imperfection that their mother may have had.  My mother was neither saint nor satan.  She was a flawed human that loved her family with everything she had.  She raised her children, loved them, and cherished them with her whole being.

May God bless you, Mom.  I owe you and Pop everything that I am, all that I turned out to be.  I hope you are proud of what I have accomplished, and I hope to see you someday again, when we are all exactly what we were created to be.  I can’t wait to look into your eyes again, and see the Mother that raised me, loved me, taught me.  You were the best.

Not Saint, not Satan. She was my Mom. Part I.

My Mother grew up during the depression, getting married just before World War II.  Dad was drafted, and Mom bore my sister while Dad was fighting in France.  My sister is what is now called a “Special Needs” child, and Mom took the brunt of caring for her without Dad for a while, in a time when such children were viewed with suspicion; my Grandmother, Dad’s Mother, told Mom once when JoAnne was little that, “Nothing like that had ever happened on Dad’s side of the family,”  not so subtly indicating that it was Mom’s fault that JoAnne had the problems she did.  In reality, when JoAnne was born, Mom had a doctor that believed in “letting nature take its course.”  JoAnne was born after an extremely long labor with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.  Not Mom’s fault, but I wonder if she harbored guilt over that the rest of her life.

Actually, that’s not much of a stretch.  Guilt was one of the driving forces in my Mother’s life.  She felt guilty for everything.  I once observed to her that she felt guilty when the sun came up in the east.  She didn’t really get it, but it is near fact.  For some reason, she always felt guilty about something.

Mom was the second youngest of five born to Oscar and Inez Dillaman, the oldest being a boy, the rest girls.  Certainly not uncommon for the time, she grew up on a farm.  They were located a few miles north of Meadville, PA, and the daughters did chores just like the men.  When she became of age, she got a job at Talon, met my Dad, fell in love, got married, and got pregnant.  With Dad off to war, she lived with her folks, taking care of her ailing mother (and handicapped infant daughter) for a time.  Once, Mom used to tell, JoAnne had a seizure.  In the dead of winter, they didn’t plow the roads as they do now, and no vehicle they had would get through the snow.  JoAnne wouldn’t come out of the seizure, so Mom bundled her and JoAnne up, along with Mom’s father and brother.  They carried JoAnne for miles until they could get someplace (Coon’s Corners, PA, I think) where they got a ride and got JoAnne to the hospital.

Another story she liked to tell was when she was thirteen.  Mom developed appendicitis, and it got bad.  They called the doctor, who gave no hope that she would live.  I believe it actually burst, as they opened her up and rinsed her out with salt water, leaving a drain in her to drain the nastiness out.  Of course she lived, growing, maturing, and becoming the woman she was.

Mom was “made of stern stuff” we like to say.  Strong genetic material, shaped by the hardness of the life in which she grew.  Mom was also blessed with beauty.  As a young woman, she was gorgeous, and Pop got quite a catch when she “hitched her wagon” to him.  Mom was aces with family stuff, but not so much with studying and learning.  Growing up in a time when school wasn’t mandatory as it is now, Mom got a ninth grade education before having to drop out; she never did get her high school degree.

After the war, Mom and Pop moved all over this part of PA, Dad taking different jobs here and there.  He was so disillusioned with having to take orders in the military, he swore he wouldn’t work for anyone again, and used the GI Bill to learn animal husbandry, becoming a farmer, like his ancestors before him.  Sidenote: Pop was extremely smart.  Up to his late 70’s he could do algebra in his head.  I asked him once why he didn’t take accounting with the GI Bill, and he said that at the time he didn’t even know such a field existed.  I wonder how life would have been different sometimes.

Mom and Pop settled down near Springboro, PA, where Dad bought a dairy farm.  And that’s where I enter the picture.

After the war, Dad couldn’t have any more kids (I never did  learn what that was about).  I think they had disagreements over adopting, as Dad apparently didn’t think he could “love someone else’s child as much as his own.”  However, they cared for a young kid, and Dad grew to love him.  When he went back home, Pop allowed that he could, indeed, love another’s child.

My biological mother had her own issues.  Married with six kids, she lived in Ohio until her husband was killed in a trucking accident.  Moving back near her folks outside Springboro, she took up with a jerk who got her pregnant but refused to be honorable about it; she threw him out, a pretty gutsy move in 1956.  However, she was in true dire straits.  Six kids, including the youngest a pair of twins still in diapers.  Recognizing that she couldn’t give her new child the life she wanted to give him, she approached my parents, and asked if they would consider adopting her child.  Timing is everything, and my parents said that yes they would.  Three days after I was born my bio Mom walked down the hall of the hospital and handed me to my Mother.  How poignant was that moment?  I cannot even imagine the emotions from each mother.  Another sidenote:  I looked up my bio family several years ago, and that will, I’m sure, be a blog post sometime in the future.

My early years were on the dairy farm that my parents lived on until I was six.  I remember Mom doing all the Mom stuff, and canning everything that could grow.  I remember her holding my head when I was throwing up; holding me when I had bad earache(s).   Giving me waxed paper for the slide in the back yard; giving me fresh peaches in season.  I remember her being Mom.

Just before the dairy farmers in PA got their act together and actually started making money, Pop sold the farm and we moved into Springboro, where he bought a gas station.  And Mom still did all the Mom stuff.  I remember picking dandelions for her in the spring, and how she would always “Ooh” and “Ahh’ over them, like they were the most beautiful bouquet she had ever seen.  I remember coming home from school and popping my paper lunch bag; she pretended to be startled and scared every time.

Of course my relationship with my Mom changed over time.  I grew more independent, and Mom got older.  She helped teach me to drive, and held me when I cried, but as I grew and tried to establish a relationship with her, she would shift me to my Dad.  I’m not sure what that was about, but I don’t think I ever knew my Mother, adult to adult.  It was about this time that things got a more difficult.

…con’t. next time…

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