Long Time Passing

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 “All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades,…

Isaiah 40:6b-8a

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September 18, 1960

My father’s life was taken…in the prime of his life, 46, a Navy doctor, a career spiraling upwards, a lovely wife, 3 daughters(12, 10, 7).  The Navy was so special for and to him.  He served in WWII in the Pacific Theater as surgeon, infection control medical officer, doctor, user of Penicillin in its early days to cure Syphillis.  From 1946-1951, he became a part of the after-war Manhattan Project, serving as a Radiological Safety Officer, while he continued to practice medicine in the Navy.  He was on Bikini Island for Operations Crossroads in 1946, then on Eniwetok for Operations Greenhouse in 1951.  By early 1960, he was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer…a death sentence and now connected with radiation poisoning.

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Mama raised us girls and we cared for her in her old age.  January 30, 2013, Mama died of cancer coupled with vascular dementia and diabetes.  She was 98, never remarried.  Daddy was her true love.

We buried her ashes in Arlington National Cemetery (just this past Sept. 9, 2013) with the remains of her beloved Ralph after 53 years…an honor and a privilege to have our parents buried on such hallowed grounds as these.

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My mother was a hero too.  Not only was she a Navy officer’s wife, but worked during the war for the Naval Supply Depot, keeping the Navy in food and other supplies. She became a Gold Star Widow as we became Gold Star children.

     “They are the Gold Star children, war’s innocent victims, and their pain shimmers across the years pure and undimmed. They pass through life with an empty room in their hearts where a father was supposed to live and laugh and love.  All their lives they listen for the footstep that will never fall, and long to know what might have been.”  **

Yes.  That was me…still is.

My husband served in the Army 1967-1970 in the 101st Airborne, an Infantryman in Vietnam…1968-69.  Kenneth came home safely.

Heroes!  These parents of mine, my husband, and ALL the others who have fought to protect this nation over many wars and many years.
They each have a story, yet so many stories are quieted by death.  War is a terrible thing.  The gain is often so small.  The loss is so huge.

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Just prior to Memorial Day weekend, members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place American flags at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, “Flags-In”… in memory and honor of these heroes.

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We remember…in many ways…flags, wreaths, flowers, small tokens, a poem, a song. 

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A poem from WWI, written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918, Canadian Army:

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In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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When will we ever learn?  When will we ever learn?

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?  by Peter Seeger

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the husbands gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone?  Long time passing.

 

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The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The voice said, “Cry out!”
And he said, “What shall I cry?”

“All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:5-8

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One hundred fifty years ago in May 1864, the first military burials took place at Arlington National Cemetery, one month prior to its establishment as a national cemetery. The burials took place in the oldest section of the cemetery – section 27. 

Commemoration of this 150th anniversary as a national cemetery began this past week, May 20, 2014, with an Army wreath-laying ceremony at the gravesite of Army Pvt. William H. Christman, the first military burial at Arlington.
Pvt. William Henry Christman, 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, was the first military service man interred in Arlington.
Pvt. William H. McKinney, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, was the first to have family present at funeral.
Pvt. William Reeves, 76th New York Infantry, was the first draftee interred.
Pvt. William Blatt, 49th Pennsylvania Infantry, was the first battle casualty interred.
Privates Christman, McKinney and Reeves were interred May 13, 1864. Pvt. Blatt was interred May 14, 1864.

 

I am still…

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Caisson @ Arlington National Cemetery (Photo Courtesy: HBO, http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/section-60-arlington-national-cemetery/index.html)

Memorial Day Flags @ Arlington National Cemetery: http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/FdngYNPGdDt/Arlington+Cemetery+Decorated+250+000+Flags/FloG7f1oqSA

** Quoted in We Were Soldiers Once…and Young by Lt. General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, no credit given.

In Flanders Field: the story behind the poem @ http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/flanders.htm

Painting of Poppies between crosses in Flanders Field: unknown

Poppies @ Sunset:  http://viewedfromanotherangle.blogspot.com/2012/07/in-flanders-fields-poppies-grow-by-john_25.html

Last photo: Arlington National Cemetery/Cherry Blossoms dropping upon the graves http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=cherry+blossoms+dc&view=detail&id=2C08990B96757DE3E5C9DB4AF4A29A02FFD83B3F&first=181&FORM=IDFRIR

Remembering This Day Fifty Years Ago – President Kennedy

Where was I, this day, fifty years ago?

I was sixteen.

I lived in a suburb of San Diego, California.

I was in the high school band practicing after school for a marching competition.

Our band director stood atop the hill above the practice field with his megaphone, signaling the drum major to call us to a halt.  He announced that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas and had been killed.  We stood there numb.

I can still see me there and feel the deep sorrow, the horror that a President of the United States, President Kennedy, was assassinated.

As a thirteen year old, I was living with in Arlington, Virginia, with my parents and sisters.  We were stationed in Washington, D.C. as a Navy family.  On January 20th, 1961, on a very cold day, after a blizzard, my mother took us three girls on a city bus, and we went to Washington, D.C. to see the Inauguration Parade of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  It had snowed terribly the night before and was still snowing in the morning, but the Inauguration was not being cancelled nor was my mother going to be deterred.  Although we were cold, we were excited about being there because our mother was.  She wanted us to be a part of history in some small sense, even as a observer of an historic parade.  She wanted us to remember this day.  We all have.  We especially recall the extreme chill to our very marrow…”Weather…Snow into the early morning left 8 inches on the ground.  It was sunny but cold the rest of the day.  Army flame throwers were used to clear snow from Pennsylvania Avenue.  Estimated noon temperature was 22 degrees F.” 

I feel a strong sense of connection even after all these years.  We were just at Arlington National Cemetery in September to bury my Mama with Daddy.  We went to the Kennedy grave and stood there knowing that we had been a part of the American experience with this President and his family.  Words from the end of his Inaugural Address are engraved along the low walls as one faces Washington, D.C.  with one’s back to the Kennedy grave.  They are profound.  From his Inaugural Address, President John Kennedy said, “The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.  And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.  My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. … With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

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As funeral arrangements were being made, and whether President Kennedy would be buried in Massachusetts, all was tentative until Mrs. Kennedy made her wishes known in a simple statement, “He belongs to the people.”  Thus Arlington National Cemetery became the place of burial for this beloved President.  Today, Mrs. Kennedy and two of their children are buried there.

 


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quote from:  http://www.inaugural.senate.gov/swearing-in/event/john-f-kennedy-1961

Words from Inaugural Address on walls near grave:  http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres56.html

Veterans’ Day 2013

To all who have risked their lives, laid their lives down, for the sake of the United States of America and our freedom, I say, Thank you.  You deserve and receive my deepest respect by your service.  I honor you every day even though you may not know that and I especially remember you on Veterans’ Day.

When we went to Arlington National Cemetery this past September to lay my Mama’s ashes to rest with Daddy, I was solemnly reminded of the high cost of war, of all those who have served this nation through the military in one way or another.   Everywhere I looked were gravestones, white marble, of those many, many fallen ones who have been buried there from the Civil War forward.

Thank you.

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For those who die for the call of their country but we know them not… The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a stark reminder that some warriors are never identified or even found.

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For all who serve, I honor you…

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We, as a nation, honor you…

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My father served as a Navy doctor in World War II in the Pacific Theater.  He continued to serve as a career Naval doctor.  He loved the Navy.  After the war, he became a part of the peacetime Manhattan Project/Atomic Energy Commission when atomic bombs continued to be tested mostly in the Pacific Ocean and the state of Nevada.  He died young, age 46, from pancreatic cancer, in all probability due to the radiation exposure from those tests.  Yet, in a letter to his brother, dated July 1, 1946, while at Bikini Island for Operation Crossroads, he wrote how proud he was to be there, to be serving his country in that manner.   I imagine that, even as a doctor, if he did have any inkling about the risks and dangers, he would have gone anyway because that was who he was.  He was serving his country under an oath he took mighty seriously.

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I honor those who served in the Vietnam War that brought so much heartache to this country in the 1960s and 70s.  You did not receive the gratitude owed you then.  I speak for many who now say thank you.  We are sorry for the way we treated you upon your arrival home… to your country… which you were serving.  You did not deserve that.  I am grateful that this nation has honored you in Washington, D.C., both for the living, for those who died, and for all who did not return from the Vietnam War.

I am blessed to have my husband who served in the Army in the Central Highlands of Vietnam as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.  He was infantry, in the line of fire.  I am ever so grateful that he came home and is married to me.  I honor you, Kenneth.  I thank you.

For those who did return home from any war zone over all generations and live with the scars of war, we honor you in our hearts and, hopefully, show kindness somewhere along your life’s pathway, saying thank you.

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I am grateful for the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, for Merrill Worcester, for he and his company lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington National Cemetery each December.  The project has grown so large that wreaths are laid in Veterans’ Cemeteries in every state across this nation as well as 23 cemeteries overseas where our soldiers are buried.

Their mission is “To Remember, Honor, & Teach about the service and sacrifices of our veterans, active military, and their families. We will Never Forget.”

The history of this is @ http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/about/history/   The website is @ http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/

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I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  Romans 12:1-3

In the Name of Christ, I pray with gratitude for these special people who have served this nation.  I pray for all of those who live this day with the thoughts and memories of war.  LORD, please clear their minds and hearts that they focus on You and You alone.  LORD, I thank You for the service of so many that have stood for freedom and truth in this land.  May you bless each one.  LORD, please care for those who need You now, whether they be the soldier, the nurse, the sailor, the family, the young child who has lost a parent, all and each one.  Hold them near healing their hearts and minds.  I thank You for creating them and for loving each one.  Amen.

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Home from Arlington National Cemetery

Home from five days in Washington, D.C. to lay my Mama’s ashes to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with her dear husband of almost twenty years, our Daddy, who died fifty-three years ago.  It was her wish to be buried there with him.  It was an honor, not only to have her buried there, but to receive a spouse’s military honors in burial.

Yes, it was hard, sad, but wonderful all at the same time.

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Our small family was there from Hawaii, California, Texas.  The 98 year old remains were laid to rest at last and at the same time we are blessed with the beauty and vibrancy of a 16 month old, the only great grandchild of our mother.  Mama would have just adored her.  Life continues and we move forward.

We had to wait over seven months to fulfill Mama’s wishes to be buried in Arlington, but closure can truly begin even though we have been grieving for many months.

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LORD, we thank You for blessing us with such a fine service, a lovely day, and for family.  Thank You for bringing us together and giving us special times to reminisce, reflect, and digest all that has gone before.  May the honor that was bestowed upon our parents at Arlington National Cemetery remind us of the qualities that made them the parents they were to us.  I thank You that one of my sisters was able to come, to spend time, just the two of us, together a couple of the evenings, a day journey to Mount Vernon and Alexandria, and especially at the cemetery our last day when we cried, laughed, cried some more, and reminded each other what family is all about.  And I am so very grateful for the caring staff at Arlington.  We have truly been blessed.  Thank You for prayers lifted high from so many people, even women I have never met person-to-person, yet they are friends.  LORD, You kept us all safe and brought us to and from nestled in Your arms.  I pray that the words spoken by the Navy Chaplain will touch each one there, giving pause for reflection upon those words which are Your Words.  You used him, LORD, to bring Your message to us, possibly to some who needed to hear it.  Praising You with all that I have to praise!  I also thank You, LORD, for bringing this new sweet life, this little child, into our family who is truly a joy.  May the peace that prevailed on that day continue to flow all around us in these days and months to come.  I love You, LORD.  I pray in the Mighty Name of Jesus.  Amen.