shuttered and unplugged

When I was a boy, the priest, my uncle,
carefully inculcated upon me this proverb,
which I then learned and have ever since kept in my mind:
‘Dico tibi verum, Libertas optima rerum; Nunquam servili, sub nexu vivito, fili.’
‘I tell you a truth:
Liberty is the best of things, my son;
never live under any slavish bond.’

William Wallace


(the shuttered windows and doors at the Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland
Julie Cook / 2015)

Over the course of the following week I will be in and out of blog land—and  more out
than in…
for you see…
for the first time in history….
my husband is shuttering his business this holiday week in order that he and his employees
may all actually be off at the same time…
allowing everyone to enjoy a holiday’s festivities all at the same time.

And in light of this momentous occasion, I will disconnect myself from my electronics,
as it were,
in order to be more focused and more attuned to his first real taste of of freedom
in many many years….

May we all give pause this special July 4th week to remember why we are allowed the freedom
to enjoy such a special time of celebration…

And I will leave you with the immortal words of William Wallace ….

FREEDOM!!!!!!!

I always showed myself in the face of day,
asserting the liberty and independence of my country,
while some others, like owls,
courted concealment and were too much afraid of losing their roosts to leave
them for such a cause.

William Wallace

Happy Day of Independence

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4,
not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House
in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees,
the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.
You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

― Erma Bombeck


(my little lawn flag, it’s just a tad southern in its outlook / Julie Cook / 2017)

Here are a few thoughts to ponder this day of all things celebration as we recall the
countless acts of bravery and sacrifice offered so freely by those who have given so much
for each of us to enjoy not only this day but to savor our very way of life….

Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.
Thomas Jefferson

“I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder,
as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence,
for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of
mankind all over the earth.”

John Adams

“The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent,
tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example;
to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you;
to yourself, respect;
to all others, charity.”

Benjamin Franklin

It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God,
to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits,
and humbly to implore his protection and favors.

General George Washington

Bad men cannot make good citizens.
It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.
A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.
No free government, or the blessings of liberty,
can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice,
moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue;
and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

Patrick Henry

God grants liberty only to those who love it,
and are always ready to guard it and defend it.

Daniel Webster

Waning and Waxing

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the Creator.
Mahatma Gandhi

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(the waxing crescent moon of the end of August / Julie Cook / 2014)

A waning summer is soon to be written down in the annuals of time as just another volume known simply as the memories of a summer come and gone. . .

First it was June who offered her sheer joy of freedom and the simple recklessness of abandon which was to be found lurking in the heart of both young and old. Freedom whispered as Summer offered her enticing and welcoming warmth, coaxing all winter weary souls back into the light of day. The Days grew long and luscious as bare feet relished the cool tall grass. Soft laughter was heard across the evening skies as we gave ourselves permission to sit out just a little bit longer and a little bit later while savoring the perfume of gardenia and jasmine on a summer’s night breeze as we watched the fireflies dance with the stars.

Next came July, marching forth wearing her Red, White and Blue. Her night skies lit bright with the colorful displays of triumph and freedom. Reminding us of who we are and why we are and why any of that really matters. Children squealed with delight as the juice of watermelons and ice cold popsicles trickled down cheeks and chins. We packed our baskets full of fried chicken and potato salad. We gathered by lakes and ponds, casting our lines and pulling our skis–donning lotions and potions keeping sun and insect both at bay. Happiness and joy mingled sweetly together with the myriad of pitchers of lemonade, the bottomless bowls of homemade ice-cream while the smoke of a thousand grills and cookouts wafted heavenward.

Finally August arrived on a long hot summer wind. The sun bore down as a brilliant flame ready to bake a silent earth. The grass withered, the creeks dried as air quality alerts were sounding the alarm. Triple digits danced across the meters as we darted and dashed from house to car, from car to work in the maddening avoidance of the furnace blast of an unforgiving month. Our clothes clung to sweat soaked bodies as each breath labored under the thick stagnant humid air. Energies were drained as the heat of the day took its toll. Joy and pleasure took a nap along with the brilliant colors of flowers and blooms which gave way to dried crunchy browns. The cicadas sang their endless song under the blanket of a hazy heavy night.

And here we are again, preparing one last time, ready to offer up one more final “Hooray”–one last chance to capture the elusive siren known as Summer. One more opportunity to grab with gusto a little summertime enjoyment before the page turns, waxing toward a hopeful new season and time. A refreshing Fall is waiting in the wings, ready to offer her brilliance of color, intoxicating warm woody scents, and rich full heady flavors—but until that time comes, we must give Summer her due and pay her homage one last hot and humid time. . .

Liberty

“A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
― John Adams

“I am an American; free born and free bred, where I acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

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(sparkler at home / Julie Cook / 2014)

At some point today during all of the festivities— the picnics, the skiing, the watermelons, the cutting of the grass, the road races, the swimming, the time in the ocean’s waves, the parades, the fireworks–may we all take pause to offer up our thanks for the ability to enjoy those very things—may we be mindful of and grateful for those who bore the struggles and the battles–for those who lost their lives, all to ensure that we, both you and I, may do those very simple fun and patriotic things that we do to “celebrate the 4th of July. . .
May God Bless the United States of America. . .

An overdue thank you to P.O.W. Lt. Col. James Young

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I am a tail-end baby boomer. Seems as if most people 45 and up equate their existence with being some sort of post war child…. be it WWII, Korea- as in my case, or Vietnam. An entire new generation will, no doubt, look to Desert Storm and the continued “wars” on terror as defining birthing moments of their own.

I grew up in the shadow of a deepening Cold War which helped to spawn the Korean War—oh, let’s not forget to call it by it’s politically correct name shall we…”Police Action”…hummm…a war is a war is a war…. no matter how you try to paint it, but there I go digressing…
Which then spawned the Vietnam War; oh pardon me, Vietnam Conflict…and so forth and so on…

When I was in the 6th grade, it became a popular trend for us (as I suspect it was for the adults) to all buy and wear POW bracelets. The one pictured above is mine, the one I wore for almost two years—never taking it off. If I remember correctly, one could pay $3.00 (I found the receipt for my bracelet in the box mementos…it was $2.75) to whom and where the money went evades this memory of mine—- in return you would receive a stainless steel “bracelet” / band engraved with the name of a serviceman who was currently being held captive by the North Vietnamese. You might have received the name of a POW or the name of a serviceman who was currently MIA / missing in action. It was just kind of the luck of the draw as to the serviceman’s name, rank and branch of service you received.

I received the bracelet of a Lt. Col. James Young who had been a prisoner since 1966, taken captive just two days following the 4th of July—already imprisoned 6 years when I received his bracelet. To me and my young mind, the best way to comprehend that length of time was to think of how many Christmases he must have missed being from his family…. which was something, to me, absolutely inconceivable—a true affront to all I considered sacred—Christmas with your family. How dare they keep our American soldiers like that!! It truly struck a chord deep in my young impressionable heart.

Every night, for what seemed most of my young life and of the memory of that time, as we ate supper, we watched a small black and white television set perched in our kitchen of the nightly news conducted by the deans of nightly news, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Those were the days of real news and real reporting…none of this stuff of today’s biased argumentative dribble passed off as news—no hokey sappy feel good “anchors” who seem more concerned with lifestyle choices, entertainment and droll government bickering than what truly constitutes real news. It was delivered professionally and basically unemotionally. Eric Severid or Charles Karualt would report from Vietnam.

The journalist would give the number tally of the day. Staggering numbers, unheard of numbers, the numbers listing each day’s deaths, those taken prisoner, those simply missing—ours, theirs, both. By the time I was in the 7th grade the newspapers were running the lists of names of those killed, wounded, or missing. Each day of our 7th grade year we would all scan the newspaper in search of word of our “soldier, airman, marine or sailor”—I suppose our teacher saw this as what is known as a “real teaching moment” something far more lasting than the lesson at hand, as she allowed us the time to scour a paper, to hope and perhaps even mourn.

I can remember very clearly, as if I am back in that classroom standing over the desk pouring over the paper, the day my friend found the name of her “soldier” on the list of those declared deceased by our government. We were all of the age of 11 and 12 and yet we felt a tremendous burden—a heavy sadness—rooting and cheering for men we had never met and most likely would never know personally, and yet how devastating it was to “lose” them to a death that was so foreign to us– as this drama played out so very far away from our sheltered world. The bracelet would then come off.

I also remember most vividly the day it was announced that this “war” was declared “over” and a peace accord was being signed by both our country’s two governments. On Valentines Day, most appropriately, 1973 the many American prisoners, many wounded and on stretchers, would slowly begin to transition from captivity to freedom, being loaded in batches of approximately 40 or so onto air force transport planes which were to carry them all, finally, home. Seven years just past the first day he was taken prisoner, Lt. Col. James Young headed home.

Warm tears are welling up in my eyes as I type this recalling, all these many years later, these most heartening of events. The bitter sweetness of the moment still very real, very palpable, very emotional. Coming home.

Our teacher checked out a television from the library, the ones perched on top of carts pushed to the room by the boys who volunteered to go get the carts long before this practice was deemed unsafe. She set the cart in the front of the room so we could all see the special news reports of those first prisoners landing at Clarke Air Force Base. I can still see, in my mind’s eye, Capt. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., the first POW to disembark the plane—his wife and daughter running, arms outstretched, to embrace him as he made his way down the ramp–now home on American Soil.

My POW, Lt. Col. Young, also came home—home to his family in Hollywood, Florida. Once he had returned, I wrote to Lt. Col. Young and his family. I can’t remember how I found his address. I in turn received two letters complete with pictures of Lt. Col. Young and his lovely family. His eldest daughter, Carrie, who was in her early 20’s when her dad finally returned home—she was but my age (at the time) when he was captured. She asked if I could have my name engraved on the bracelet that I had worn those two years, sending it to them as they were going to make a plaque of his bracelets.

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My mom took me to a jewelry store where I had my name engraved besides the name of Lt. Col. Young. I placed the bracelet in a zip-lock bag, writing one more letter. However at the last minute, I just couldn’t mail it. Something inside my young heart wanted to hold on to this tangible reminder of what this war had meant to me—a young 7th grade girl in Georgia.

All these many years later, I still have the bracelet, always knowing where it is. I recently did a Google search, attempting to discover where Lt. Col James Young was now—Sadly I learned that he had passed away a few years ago, a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. A tortured prisoner of war, Lt. Col. James Young had seven years of his life stolen, only to lose his final battle to a cruel and unseen enemy. Life never seems quite fair.

On this 4th of July, as this country of ours has troops spread out all over this globe, risking everything they have to protect, defend and serve each of us here back home…as we enjoy a slice of watermelon, swimming or watching baseball, spending time with our families, enjoying the fireworks this evening—may we all give pause this day in order to say a silent prayer for their safety, for the comfort of their families and a grateful thanks to all the veterans, past and present, who have sacrificed so very much for the one important thing that makes us who we are—our Liberty.

Thank you Lt. Colonel James Young.

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