Friday, November 14, 2014

What Day is Veterans Day?

     If I might begin this short story with a collection of Googled historical facts, please allow me.  Fighting ceased in the "war to end all wars" between allied and German forces when an Armistice or temporary cessation of combat went into effect during the 11th month on the 11th day at the 11th  hour in the year of 1918.   Just a little over 7 months later, WWI officially ended on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.  The following November of 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day providing for parades, public meetings, and even the suspension of business across America at the 11th hour of the day.  It wasn't until June 4, 1926 that Congress confirmed November 11th to be a legal holiday with a resolution that was passed which required the Flag of the United States to appear on all government buildings on this day.  Finally on May 13, 1938, the eleventh day of the eleventh month with emphasis on the eleventh hour of that calendar year, Armistice Day was declared a National Holiday to be set aside for this country to celebrate World Peace.  The War that was to "End All Wars" was the catapult for not just America but the entire world to show tribute to the veterans, the men and women that participated in the last war as mankind tried to define it!  You see, WWI was not the first war this country had engaged, nor would it be America's last. In reality, this young republic had witnessed from the American revolution through WWI a total of 43 wars, campaigns, and military engagements, all of which helped define the word Veteran.

          While the United States Congress was busy giving us a paid Federal Holiday in 1938, the drums of war were already pounding in the far East as the Empire of Japan was aggressively engaged in China.  The Nazi Party had taken control of the Christian Nation of Germany with their socialist poison as these developing war machines too, were ignored by a passive nation suffering through the historic title we now define as the Great Depression.  Even as WWI ended, and the massage of Armistice Day to Veterans Day was modified but yet to be defined, this country involved it's countrymen in 3 more conflicts before we were forced to define yet another generation of American Veterans.  We know them today as our country's "Greatest Generation" not only because of the sacrifices of the fighting men and women, but the war machine that stayed behind to insure another victory in yet another war we came to know as WWII.  Now, our government no longer tried to resolve history's lessons by saying WWII would be our last war.  No indeed.  In fact, there were 3 more skirmishes that cost American lives before our Government tried to stop the halt of Communism in South Korea.  Following the Armistice that ended the Korean Conflict in July of 1953, America's Congress moved one more time on June 1, 1954, finally defining November 11 as Veterans Day.  It was then and is today our way of honoring the surviving American Veterans of her wars! 

          And these little wars, campaigns, and skirmishes continued to line up, one behind another as men and women did and still do to this day, write a blank check for their lives made payable to the elected leadership of the United States of America.  There we find the words, "All gave some and some gave all," ringing in our ears as the annual celebration of Veterans Day comes only to pass until the next year.  Just how many gave their today for your tomorrow?  From the end of the Korean Conflict until Vietnam, American played host to the cold war in the USSR and China.  Vietnam is what I define as "my generation's" war.  I wrote my check to the United States Government in November of 1971.  That oath I took, to defend the Constitution of the United States against Enemy's Foreign and Domestic,  Never Expires!  That same heart beat exists within the soul of every surviving veteran across this country.  We that have survived, lived, and prospered from the sacrifice of so many, recognize the "sanctity" of this day set aside for just us, Veterans Day.  Where Vietnam may have defined my generation's war, there were 18 more of those little wars, campaigns, and skirmishes that rounded out the 20th Century.  

          Let us move into the 21st century.  You see, I never dreamed that Veterans Day could ever be redefined or more finely focused as it became for me on September 11, 2001.  I was concerned in 1990 and 1991 when the liberation of Kuwait or Gulf War kicked off.  I remember my oldest adopted son was a sophomore in High School.  He came running into my Nursery and Landscape office all excited exclaiming we were dropping bombs in the middle east and kicking some serious butt.  I knew it was going to happen, just caught off guard by his excitement.  I looked at him, acknowledged his innocent excitement and walked into the dark night behind my office where I tried to fight back tears that came into my eyes.  In the darkness, I prayed for those kindred spirits of active duty military I knew would carry the title of veteran and share this holiday with me for the rest of their life if they came home.  Ten years passed in the blink of an eye.  I had three boys that I had adopted when Linda and I married and not once was I ever concerned about their involvement with the military.  What you, the reader should know, is that I was an Active Duty Army Reservist in the United States Army when the Gulf War started.  This war gave my National Defense Service Medal a gold star that complimented my Vietnam Era service.  Sitting in the second grade at this time was my own flesh and blood that thought his Dad helped God hang the moon.  I knew what being a veteran and active duty military meant to me and everything in his life from the day his mother left us when he was 16 months old, was geared into directing his path down a military avenue of some sort.   Then I find myself sitting at the foot of my bed watching hi-jacked airliners fly into the World Trade Centers.  Ten short years from the second grade I sat there realizing he had just finished his Tactical Air Control Party Training in the United States Air Force and Basic Airborne Training at Ft Benning, Georgia. He was home on leave before reporting to his first duty station at Pope Air Force Base, NC next door to Fort Bragg.  Oh that cocky grin as he looked at me, slapped my leg, and said, "Looks like my generation finally got our war too, Dad!"  I wanted to puke, and the next decade was yet to be defined.

          During this 10 year run, I sat back and watched my son progress through the ranks and hone his military skills through many schools offered in his career path as a professional NCO.  Along the way he added the distinguished Army Ranger Tab to his shoulder and became HALO qualified while attached to the 1/75th Ranger Battalion in Savannah, GA.  9 times I watched him go in and come out of harms way and will never forget the phone call from Germany when his voice told me, "Well dad, the war is over for me now, and I'm not sure what to do!"  Tears right now as I remember his words realizing WAR was the only thing he knew!  But he was my veteran now.  He had achieved every dream I ever had and both of us survived and I thank God.  I can define veteran now from every perspective and take it from me, that of a parent is the hardest, yet most cherished.  He is relatively safe now as his heart, soul, and mind heal in the Arctic cold of Alaska.  Veterans Day certainly has not lost significance to me, not at all, folks!  I started blogging in 2011 and this is the first time I've neglected to comment or share anything with my friends on this "hallowed day" set aside for Veterans. 

You see, this day did not slip by me this year.   As Veterans Day approached, I realized that I am surrounded by Veterans.  They are from every walk of life, every nationality, race, and gender.  They exist among my every day surrounds!  Those Veterans that a piece of legislation demands of us to take time off and rest only seems we are honoring "at" them instead of for them.  Once you write that check to Uncle Sam and you watch your own flesh and blood follow your lead with their own life, things change in your heart.  Songs like:

Radney Foster's, "Angel Flight,"

Billy Ray Cyrus', "Some Gave All,"

and "The Star Spangled Banner," 

Every one of them seem to take on an entirely new meaning!  Go ahead and click on each one if you wish to feel the impact of this short story. Tell me please, what did it do to you?  There is an entire boulevard at Louisiana College of Natchez White Crepe Myrtles planted by classmates and students of that institution in honor of  SSG Robert Sweeney, III.  He was one of the first to give all in this war against terrorism stating that, "Those people that died in those twin towers didn't sign their name on a piece of paper to give their life for this country, but I did!"  That young man gave that day so you could have this one!  I along with many others will never forget this young man,  yet the time will come that another generation will not know "why those trees exist," and simply admire their beauty and cool themselves under their shade during a future summer's heat.

          I did not suffer in the jungles of my generation's war.  I did write my name on that check made payable to Uncle Sam and he saw fit to use me as he did many others elsewhere.  I will not forget the footprints left on American soil of the men and women whose footprints were last left on foreign soils.  Those people, those would be Veterans had they lived, made my tomorrow possible and for that, every single day I live I will celebrate at Veterans Day.  Did you get that?  Every single day?  As I exited my city vehicle this very day to take the City of Pineville's deposit into the bank, I tilted my head against the 36 degree winds of global warming.  As I approached the doors, a lady that looked to be somewhere around my age held the door open for a frail gentleman, of many years, to exit.  Upon his head was a purple cap adorned with the Purple Heart.  I immediately knew him, a veteran of WWII, possibly Korea.  As I approached him gently, I told him that I wanted to thank him.  He asked me not to squeeze him too hard, thinking that was my intention.  I smiled and said I just wanted to thank him for his service to me and this country.  It was him that smiled and squeezed me.  He then asked, "what do you think of this cold weather?"  I couldn't help but reply, "I thank God for it this early.  It will make my peaches sweeter this spring."  He said, "enjoy one for me, son!"  I felt the meaning of his words.  I knew the meaning behind them.  He will probably not be with us this spring, but his memory will!  For me, this was just one more "Veteran's Day."  I am looking forward to the one tomorrow as well as that first bite into a big Juicy Peach this coming spring. 

          As of today, America's battlefields have yielded 1,321,612 killed, 1,531,046 wounded and the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery hold in honor our unknown and soldiers missing in action that total 38,159.  So remember this number if you have read this far.  2,756,150 reasons why we are where we are today.  It is there.  United States Military Casualties of War. 

Rod Ferguson
November 14, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Facebook Quotes for November 2014


          This afternoon's conversation resolved itself in the late evening after I started with a simple comment while walking laps at Pineville High School Stadium.  Only thing I hate worse than these long 24 laps at the high school track is being fat! Stab me in the neck!  Last lap!  With that said, my friends seemed to encourage my resolve.  My friend Linda in Shreveport encouraged me to "Keep up the good work," and Beverly in Monroe chimed in "keep up the good fight lol!"  Knowing she had just recently asked for prayer because of a health set back of her own, I responded to both saying, "I have to, ladies. I'm still fat! Not as, but still. Lol. Thank you for your encouragement. And Beverly? I have remembered you in my prayers. You do what you need to do, too!  Beverly told me thanks, and that she felt much better today.  And thus we began to share

          My high school friend Kent, in Baton Rouge asked, "Doesn't it feel good when you finish that last lap?"  I couldn't lie. I told the truth to the best of my ability!  "Absolutely, Kent! I get to eat more for supper when I exercise." He then encouraged me to be sure that I the right things.  He shared that he walks at least 3 miles a day and is still losing weight, stating he was down by about 65 pounds with only 15 pounds to go before he achieved his goal.  Of course I was surprised and told him that we are parallel with each other. I was down 70 pounds to 239. My goal is 225 and the closest I've gotten so far is 236. and that I had weighed 240 just a few ago after this workout...  Of course with our exchange on the facebook format there are the usual likes that basically acknowledges agreement.

          A friend I have grown close to over the last several months is a lady I refer to as my Conservative Yankee, Suzanne.  As she scanned mine and Kent's exchange, she chimed in stating, " I was fit and very thin years ago...all that exercise destroyed my knees, ankles and feet. Now my aerobic exercise is hoisting my considerable heft with two arms and one arthritic leg (due to dancing/aerobics) to keep from any weight on the torn ligament in my right foot. Sigh."  Why could I so easily identify from her statement from the suffering I alone experience from my abused left ankle  that has been broken four times?  Kent shared another tone of achievement and encouragement when he posted, " I am trying to get to 170. My A1c is good as well as cholesterol and triglycerides, but I think I would feel better at the 170 mark. I hope we can both keep it up. Diabetes is a terrible disease."  Feeling Suzanne's words as Kent's statement rebounded through my head, I had to share with them my feelings about what we were beating around the bush, discussing.  Old Age and the resounding effects it was having physically and psychologically on us.  It is going to happen to all of us, but here is my resolve and to the best of my ability this is what I chose for me.
          I will still not go gentle into that good night. What health challenges are presently laying dormant that will eventually raise its ugly head to torment me, I'm sure, in the winter months of my life.  I well know the feeling of those destroyed nerves in my feet, compliments of diabetes. The memory of angina attacks on my 43 year old system 20 years ago are not forgotten. And any day now, I am expecting my pharmacy to honor me with an Alaskan Cruise as I alone pay the annual salary's of two of their pharmacist! But still I will try to offset the inevitable until time expires... That time does approach and health issues have given me subliminal hints as to just how my demise might possibly be entertained. Still I will not rule out the possibility of a motorcycle crash, parachute malfunction or unfortunate snake bite in my back yard. Until whatever or whomever witnesses my last heartbeat, it is my intention to live life the very best I possibly can...

          Suzanne immediately responded and said, "Lovely post, Rod, my friend. And, as I used to say in the old days, right on,"  accompanied by an emoticon smiley face.  She finished by saying, "Isn't it good that, no matter what our bodies fail at, we are still young?"  And she was absolutely correct!  In our hearts, we are what we feel, thus my argument for none of us to go gentle into that good night. 
          So as to encourage Suzanne and myself, I felt motivated to add, Something is gonna get us, Suzanne... Just live life the best you know how! I try my very best to avoid liberals and keep Linda happy within the co-existence of our shared space. I deliberately shelve the choices and neglect I receive from the children I did my best to raise and enjoy my grand children the best I can until they grow beyond their need for me. The very best time for me and grandchild interaction is when they are potty trained "fully" without chance of accidents and before they reach puberty...   For you see, after puberty, it is well advised these brain damaged children heed the warnings of their parents as they caution them of the hazards/dangers this ageing old man could inflict on their present well being if they interject their untrained social skills on seasoned and expected protocols!  As long as they come into my presence, remember to bow low in humble humility and respect, might their promise of longevity increase.. 

          Even though I've not seen a picture of the lady, I could imagine Suzanne reading my statement in her late autumn Blue State somewhere up there in the Northeast, smiling as she remarked. "You are so right Rod.  I'd love to live my life over again, but I'm content with the way things are.  I'm ok with leaving.  And I love your assessment of grandchildren.  The best thing that ever happened to me, but I will let their parents, my children clean up the poop.  Love your assessment !!!!  You are so right Rod. I'd love to live my life over again, but I'm content with the way things are. I'm ok with leaving. And I love your assessment of grandchildren. The best thing that ever happened to me, but I will let their parents, my children clean up the poop. Love your assessment!!!!  She slipped in on private message the last of our evenings exchange saying, "
No need to reply. Love the way your mind works, Rod. God bless you. Kindred spirit.

          As our even closed and chatter diminished toward the 10:00pm hour, Suzanne slipped in her last note to me on private message saying, "No need to reply. Love the way your mind works, Rod. God bless you. Kindred spirit."  And I close this first blog entry in November praying just that.  May God bless us all...

Posted November 6 from my late evening home. 

          A photograph from an iPhone just doesn't capture the beauty Intelligent Design allows our eyes to process through visual stimuli. As my cold frosty morning became focused, I marveled at the glistening white frost as it blanketed the grounds. As the rising sun held my River hostage in her morning colors, the warm waters emitted tall towers of water vapor to distill in the 24 degree temperature. As I watched this unfold, I wanted to share it with you. It is beautiful here this morning but even still, I am not sitting here in my car with my windows down and motor turned off listening for my mockingbird! Thanksgiving should be like Veterans Day. Every day of our life.  I am speaking of thanksgiving to our Lord God...

Posted November19 from my early morning river

          It is a beautiful sunny 50° day here on my patio. As a high-pressure front dominates this fall day, I sit here and listen to the hiss of propane gas and enjoy the smell of my frying turkey as it completes its last few minutes before it's Thanksgiving day serving. As the winds of this dominant front Chills my shaved head, I reflect on the bright colors the leaves of this season's fall has blessed us with. The vibrant reds of the Bradford pear and the yellow tint of the fading Golden Raintree are just a few as my Red Oak drops leaves upon me from this steady breeze. For some reason I have heard the call of the wild geese this year on several occasions as opposed to others, turning my head in their direction to watch the choreographed Vee shape disappear from view. Thanksgiving day. I am content despite the turmoil that exist in our world. I pray all of my friends and acquaintances enjoy the blessings freedom offers and understand in your heart the reason we give thanks for those very blessings.

Posted Thanksgiving Morning November 27