Omaha, Utah, Sainte-Mère-Église

Re-post for the observation of D-Day…


(view from one of the myriad of German bunkers that covered the Normandy coastline /
Julie Cook / 2018)

Several years ago, one Sunday afternoon I found myself flipping through the television
channels in hopes of finding something of interest.
I stopped on what was obviously a dated war movie.
Yet having never seen the movie, I knew immediately what it was…
It was the 1962 film The Longest Day.
A big screen depiction of the lead up to and the event of
the Invasion of Normandy…D-Day.

The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Richard Burton along with a host of
other big-name stars of the day.

Despite not particularly wanting to watch a war film on this particular sunny Sunday afternoon, I
hunkered in, none the less, ready to endure a long afternoon watching a long film about
about a truly significant long day.

My purpose here is not to retell the historical events of that infamous day now 74 (now 75) years ago.
but rather to offer a glimpse into what was and what is.

(*This trip was the bucket list gift for my husband upon his retirement from 50 years spent in business.)

Our day for the D-Day tour couldn’t have been much worse.

As I noted in a post from the other day…there was rain, lots of rain…blowing wind and
bitter wet cold.

And yet the peaceful ebbing ocean that greeted us this day,
was anything but peaceful 74 years ago


(a parasilor enjoys the surf that was once red from the blood lost by those
soilders who never got to shore)

Rain blew sideways, winds gusted 35 to 40 MPH, umbrellas turned upward and a Patagonia
rain jacket that hails as an H2No…proved to be no match as I might as well
have been wearing a paper bag.

But the weather didn’t seem to matter on this particular September day as it seemed
almost fitting.
I knew that the weather on this northwestern coast of France, a coast right off the
often chaotic English Channel is famous for its squalls and unpredictability.

A predicament that proved crucial 74 years ago as the Allied forces needed a window to open.

During the course of our tour, I learned that the movie The Longest Day,
along with other similar movies such as Saving Private Ryan, are actually more movie
than truth.

John Wayne’s character was not the pivotal commanding officer that decisive day but because
John Wayne demanded the most airtime, his character came across as such.
The true leader of the offensive that day was a mere blip in the movie.

And the real tale of the Ryan brothers was not what Tom Hanks offered us as viewers…
And the currently hanging mock paratrooper who perpetually dangles from the bell tower
of Sainte-Mère-Église did not actually fall on that side of the tower at all.
Today’s manikin hangs from its current wall because it simply offers a better view
for visitors arriving into town.

John Steele, the unfortunate soldier whose parachute got hung up on the church tower, in the tiny
village of Sainte-Mère-Église survived his predicament but unfortunately went deaf
that fateful night—
It was the night that he, along with hundreds of parachuters jumped on a moonless night
out of hundreds of planes sent behind enemy lines just prior to the following day’s
infamous landing.

It just so happened that a fire had broken out in town and the church bells were ringing…
endlessly ringing alerting the villagers and occupying Germans that there was a fire and
that all available hands were needed to assist in putting out the fire.
Steele, having been shot in the foot, had to “play” dead so the Germans would not continue
shooting at him.
He hung for hours beside those ringing bells.

Other soldiers fell into the trees, getting tangled up in the limbs…many broken bones
and suffered traumatic puncture wounds…
those lucky enough not to be shot while falling from the sky, hunkered in to fight.

Many who were shot as they helplessly floated in the night sky were killed long before
even hitting the ground.

One soldier that fell into this particular tree worked frantically to cut himself loose
from his shute, cutting off his thumb in the process.
Once he fell free to the ground, bleeding profusely, he managed to
get to a secure location in order to engage the enemy

Bullet holes remain in the rod iron fencing around a home once occupied by the
German commanding officer of the occupying army.
The scars of a small village which are the remaining physical reminders of
a battle fought so long ago.

From Utah Beach, we climbed down, in and around the now chared bunkers.
Soldiers who managed to survive the initial assault after storming the beachhead
and then scaled the rocky cliffs, tossed grenades into the bunkers or used flamethrowers
to render the giant guns, used to fire at the Allied Naval ships just off the coast,
inoperable…


(one of the large guns remains in its bunker/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(the stone base where one of the “big” guns was once postioned)


(the hedgehog, that giant steel x shapped barrier, is origianl)

These particular beachheads were chosen in part due to the fact that the sand is
extremely dense and compactable.
Not a soft fluffy sort of sand but rather a hard packed sand, hard enough to allow
heavy equipment to be brought ashore.

Beachgoers today continue finding remnants of that fateful day.

What appears to be a grassy covered dip in the landscape is actually a bomb crater…
the shoreline is covered with such craters…

Sheep have been brought in to assist with ground maintenance as mowers cannot traverse
the pockmarked landscape

Bunkers and beaches have been transformed and are now somber memorials…

Eventually, we moved inward, driving a few miles from the beaches,
making our way to a tiny village and its cafe Cafe J. Phillippe….a cafe
that once greeted war-weary soldiers just as it greeted us this cold wet afternoon.

Mike holds a photograph of Allied troops making their way to this same village.
Stopping just as we did for a needed bite to eat…
the cafe remains just as it did 74 years ago–preserved and frozen in time…

Following our late lunch, we made our way to the final leg of our day which seemed most
fitting as it was indeed the final leg for upwards of 9400 men and women.

Yes, there are actually four servicewomen buried here in the cemetery.

The trees that line the cemetery are all capped off at the top…cut off as a purposeful
and a visual reminder of all the fallen whose lives were cut short.

As visitors to the cemetery, we noticed that the names on all of the markers appeared
to be turned around as if backward— facing away from arriving visitors.
However, we were told that there was a purpose here as well… all 9,387 markers face west…
as in they face home…a homeland that these brave men and women would never see again.

Seeing a sea of impeccably white and neatly aligned stars and crosses standing in silent
attention, each turned so as to face the United States which was nearly 5000 miles away
was almost more than my heart could bear.

Oddly the number of the buried in the cemetery continues to fluctuate.

Modern technology now allows for DNA testing on remains that are still being discovered.
As well as for those bodies that, for all these years, have gone unnamed and unknown.
The families of those Americans now being identified are afforded the option to either bring
home their loved one or to allow them to remain in France…buried in the American Cemetery.

The United States has vowed that it will identify all unknown soldiers buried in France.
Thus the number of buried now changes yearly with the latest body
receiving honors this past summer.

There is even one soldier from WWI who is actually buried in this WWII cemetery.

President Theodore Roosevelt, cousin to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had 4 sons.
All four sons served in WWI. The youngest son, Quentin, was a WWI flying ace who was shot
in the head during a dogfight and whose plane eventually crashed.
Two other sons suffered serious injuries during the war but
it was Quentin who remained behind as he was buried in Belgium.

Years later his older brother Teddy Jr, who was at this time a grown man with a successful
business and political career was also a soldier.
Teddy Jr was actually a brigadier general.

By 1944 Teddy Jr. was in poor health suffering from both a serious heart condition and
crippling arthritis.
Knowing of the impending invasion, Teddy Jr. requested to be assigned as a
leading commander.
Yet due to his health, his initial request was denied.
Undeterred, he petitioned the high command and was allowed to serve as leading commander.

Teddy Jr. bravely leads the assault on Omaha Beach.
Four days later, Brig Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr died from a massive heart attack.

The Roosevelt family was asked if they would like for Teddy Jr’s body to be brought home for
burial at Arlington—however knowing that Teddy would want to remain with his men,
he was buried in France.
The family then asked if Quentin could be exhumed from his grave in Belgium and moved to be
besides his brother.
The request was granted.

And so when I hear of the stupidity, yes stupidity, about over-payed Football players, athletes,
and even now cheerleaders, who are all wanting to kneel during the singing of our National Anthem…
claiming that the flag of the United States does not represent them…
I am incensed.

Those kneeling individuals such as Colin Kaepernick, who is the poster face for
all things disrespectful, are no heroes.
It is not a risk to life to kneel rather than stand at the start of a ballgame.

He and his ilk are certainly entitled to their feelings and thoughts…
Kaepernick may even speak out and state his peace as to why he feels the flag does
not represent him or who he is—and who he is is a young man of mixed heritage
who happened to have been adopted as a child and reared and raised by a white family
who afforded him all the privileges and comforts of middle-class family life…
He attended and played football on scholarship at UNLV–in part because that was the
only school, as reported by his mom, who would give him a scholarship.

And yet the irony in all of this is found in the lives and eventual death of those
young men from a previous and different generation who were actually the ones who
stormed those Norman beaches…
They were fearful and nervous as to what awaited them on that fateful June day in 1944—

Young men…some who prayed, some who smoked, some who whimpered through tears
and those who sat stoically before they were given the call to charge…

They raced into the sea which turned red with their blood, racing into a hail of
machine gun fire, grenades, and bombs blasting all around them…
they did so for the likes of Colin Kaepernick and his NIKE sea
of followers…they did so as well as for you and me…for those of us who are humbled
by their bravery and for those of us who prefer to show disdain for the same flag these
young men proudly carried and quickly died under…

https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery#.W8j6f6eZP2Q

Omaha, Utah, Sainte-Mère-Église


(view from one of the myriad of German bunkers that covered the Normandy coastline /
Julie Cook / 2018)

Several years ago, one Sunday afternoon I found myself flipping through the television
channels in hopes of finding something of interest.
I stopped on what was obviously a dated war movie.
Yet having never seen the movie, I knew immediately what it was…
It was the 1962 film The Longest Day.
A big screen depiction of the lead up to and the event of
the Invasion of Normandy…D-Day.

The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Richard Burton along with a host of
other big name stars of the day.

Despite not particularly wanting to watch a war film on this particular sunny Sunday afternoon, I
hunkered in, none the less, ready to endure a long afternoon watching a long film about
about a truly significant long day.

My purpose here is not to retell the historical events of that infamous day now 74 years ago.
but rather to offer a glimpse into what was and what is.

Our day for the D-Day tour couldn’t have been much worse.

As I noted in a post from the other day…there was rain, lots of rain…blowing wind and
bitter wet cold.

And yet the peaceful ebbing ocean that greeted us this day,
was anything but peaceful 74 years ago


(a parasilor enjoys the surf that was once red from the blood lost by those
soilders who never got to shore)

Rain blew sideways, winds gusted 35 to 40 MPH, umbrellas turned upward and a Patagonia
rain jacket that hails as an H2No…proved to be no match as I might as well
have been wearing a paper bag.

But the weather didn’t seem to matter on this particular September day as it seemed
almost fitting.
I knew that the weather on this northwestern coast of France, a coast right off the
often chaotic English Channel is famous for its squalls and unpredictability.

A predicament that proved crucial 74 years ago as the Allied forces needed a window to open.

During the course of our tour, I learned that the movie The Longest Day,
along with other similar movies such as Saving Private Ryan, are actually more movie
than truth.

John Wayne’s character was not the pivotal commanding officer that decisive day but because
John Wayne demanded the most airtime, his character came across as such.
The true leader of the offensive that day was a mere blip in the movie.

And the real tale of the Ryan brothers was not what Tom Hanks offered us as viewers…
And the currently hanging mock paratrooper who perpetually dangles from the bell tower
of Sainte-Mère-Église did not actually fall on that side of the tower at all.
Today’s manikin hangs from its current wall because it simply offers a better view
for visitors arriving into town.

John Steele, the unfortunate soldier whose parachute got hung up on the church tower, in the tiny
village of Sainte-Mère-Église survived his predicament but unfortunately went deaf
that fateful night—
It was the night that he, along with hundreds of parachuters jumped on a moonless night
out of hundreds of planes sent behind enemy lines just prior to the following day’s
infamous landing.

It just so happened that a fire had broken out in town and the church bells were ringing…
endlessly ringing alerting the villagers and occupying Germans that there was a fire and
that all available hands were needed to assist in putting out the fire.
Steele, having been shot in the foot, had to “play” dead so the Germans would not continue
shooting at him.
He hung for hours beside those ringing bells.

Other soldiers fell into the trees, getting tangled up in the limbs…many broke bones
and suffered traumatic punture wounds…
those lucky enough not to be shot while falling from the sky, hunkered in to fight.

Many who were shot as they helplessly floated in the night sky were killed long before
even hitting the ground.

One soldier that fell into this particular tree worked frantically to cut himself loose
from his shute, cutting off his thumb in the process.
Once he fell free to the ground, bleeding profusely, he managed to
get to a secure location in order to engage the enemy

Bullet holes remain in the rod iron fencing around a home once occupied by the
German commanding officer of the occupying army.
The scars of a small village which are the remaining physical reminders of
a battle fought so long ago.

From Utah Beach, we climbed down, in and around the now chared bunkers.
Soldiers who managed to survive the intial assualt after storming the beachhead
and then scaled the rocky cliffs, tossed grenades into the bunkers or used flamethrowers
to render the giant guns, used to fire at the Allied Naval ships just off the coast,
inoperable…


(one of the large guns remains in its bunker/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(the stone base where one of the “big” guns was once postioned)


(the hedgehog, that giant steel x shapped barrier, is origianl)

These particular beachheads were chosen in part due to the fact that the sand is
extremely dense and compactable.
Not a soft fluffy sort of sand but rather a hard packed sand, hard enough to allow
heavy equipment to be brought ashore.

Beachgoers today continue finding remnants of that fateful day.

What appears to be a grassy covered dip in the landscape is actually a bomb crater…
the shoreline is covered with such craters…

Sheep have been brought in to assist with ground maintenance as mowers cannot traverse
the pockmarked landscape

Bunkers and beaches have been transformed and are now somber memorials…

Eventually, we moved inward, driving a few miles from the beaches,
making our way to a tiny village and its cafe Cafe J. Phillippe….a cafe
that once greeted war-weary soldiers just as it greeted us this cold wet afternoon.

Mike holds a photograph of Allied troops making their way to this same village.
Stopping just as we did for a needed bite to eat…
the cafe remains just as it did 74 years ago–preserved and frozen in time…

Following our late lunch, we made our way to the final leg of our day which seemed most
fitting as it was indeed the final leg for upwards of 9400 men and women.

Yes, there are actually four servicewomen buried here in the cemetery.

The trees that line the cemetery are all capped off at the top…cut off as a purposeful
and visual reminder of all the fallen whose lives were cut short.

As visitors to the cemetery, we noticed that the names on all of the markers appeared
to be turned around as if backwards— facing away from arriving visitors.
However, we were told that there was a purpose here as well… all 9,387 markers face west…
as in they face home…a homeland that these brave men and women would never see again.

Seeing a sea of impeccably white and neatly aligned stars and crosses standing in silent
attention, each turned so as to face the United States which was nearly 5000 miles away
was almost more than my heart could bear.

Oddly the number of the buried in the cemetery continues to fluctuate.

Modern technology now allows for DNA testing on remains that are still being discovered.
As well as for those bodies that, for all these years, have gone unnamed and unknown.
The families of those Americans now being identified are afforded the option to either bring
home their loved one or to allow them to remain in France…buried in the American Cemetery.

The United States has vowed that they will identify all unknown soldiers buried in France.
Thus the number of buried now changes yearly with the latest body
receiving honors this past summer.

There is even one soldier from WWI who is actually buried in this WWII cemetery.

President Theodore Roosevelt, cousin to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had 4 sons.
All four sons served in WWI. The youngest son, Quentin, was a WWI flying ace who was shot
in the head during a dogfight and whose plane eventually crashed.
Two other sons suffered serious injuries during the war but
it was Quentin who remaind behind as he was buried in Belgium.

Years later his older brother Teddy Jr, who was at this time a grown man with a successful
business and political career was also a soldier.
Teddy Jr was actually a brigadier general.

By 1944 Teddy Jr. was in poor health suffering from both a serious heart condition and
crippling arthritis.
Knowing of the impending invasion, Teddy Jr. requested to be assigned as a
leading commander.
Yet due to his health, his initial request was denied.
Undeterred, he petitioned the high command and was allowed to serve as leading commander.

Teddy Jr. bravely lead the assault on Omaha Beach.
Four days later, Brig Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr died from a massive heart attack.

The Roosevelt family was asked if they would like for Teddy Jr’s body to be brought home for
burial at Arlington—however knowing that Teddy would want to remain with his men,
he was buried in France.
The family then asked if Quentin could be exhumed from his grave in Belgium and moved to be
beside his brother.
The request was granted.

And so when I hear of the stupidity, yes stupidity, about over-payed Football players, athletes,
and even now cheerleaders, who are all wanting to kneel during the singing of our National Anthem…
claiming that the flag of the United States does not represent them…
I am incensed.

Those kneeling individuals such as Colin Kaepernick, who is the poster face for
all things disrespectful, are no heroes.
It is not a risk to life to kneel rather than stand at the start of a ballgame.

He and his ilk are certainly entitled to their feelings and thoughts…
Kaepernick may even speak out and state his peace as to why he feels the flag does
not represent him or who he is—and who he is is a young man of mixed heritage
who happened to have been adopted as a child and reared and raised by a white family
who afforded him all the privileges and comforts of a middle-class family life…
He attended and played football on scholarship at UNLV–in part because that was the
only school, as reported by his mom, who would give him a scholarship.

And yet the irony in all of this is found in the lives and eventual death of those
young men from a previous and different generation who were actually the ones who
stormed those Norman beaches…
They were fearful and nervous as to what awaited them on that fateful June day in 1944—

Young men…some who prayed, some who smoked, some who whimpered through tears
and those who sat stoically before they were given the call to charge…

They raced into the sea which turned red with their blood, racing into a hail of
machine gun fire, grenades, and bombs blasting all around them…
they did so for the likes of Colin Kaepernick and his NIKE sea
of followers…they did so as well as for you and me…for those of us who are humbled
by their bravery and for those of us who prefer to show disdain for the same flag these
young men proudly carried and quickly died under…

https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery#.W8j6f6eZP2Q

ideologues verses heros

“In a room where
people unanimously maintain
a conspiracy of silence,
one word of truth
sounds like a pistol shot.”

Czesław Miłosz


(image of Alejandro Villanueva, the lone Steeler player who opted to stand and
acknowledge the National Anthem prior to the Steeler / Bear game / courtesy Miami Herald)

This was not the post I intended to write today.
This was not the post I wanted to write today…
but this is the post that I felt necessary to write today.

Alejandro Villanueva is a professional football player who plays left tackle for
the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He is also a former US Army veteran.
Add to those facts that he was the only player…. the only player…
let that resonate in your head for a minute…the only player who emerged from
the shadows of the Steelers locker room to stand for Sunday’s pregame
National Anthem.

Coach Mike Tomlin had decided to keep his players in the locker during the National
Anthem so as not to join in the latest political ruckus.
But what message did Tomlin send by hiding in the locker room…?

And if you’re wondering why any of this is of any significance to a football game,
well then you have most likely missed out on the latest minutia brouhaha percolating
to the surface between America’s favorite pastime…
that being her sporting events, verses the President of the United States.

Now let that little notion sink in…slowly.
Professional sports verses, not an opposing team, but rather the
President of the United States of America.

Really.

For there seems to be a war of words escalating beyond average comprehension.

Yet tomorrow morning’s headlines won’t consist of Alejandro Villanueva’s image
and name…
And you most likely won’t be reading the columns of sportswriters touting the
story of a lone act of patriotism….

You won’t see the National news explaining what’s wrong with grown men being paid
millions of dollars to simply play games yet who insist on using their various playing
fields to make political commentary….
their choosing to be ideologues rather than what they’re paid to do, and that is to simply play ball.

No you won’t see or hear any of that.

What you will see are the images of player after player locked arm in arm, across the league, kneeling in disrespectful protest.
You will hear the angry defiant words spewed from the mouths of players, coaches
and even the Commissioner himself, Roger Goodell.

You will hear NBA greats like LaBron James calling the President of the
United States of America a “bum”.
You will read how Stephen Curry has said that it once was an honor to visit the
White House…that was until Trump got in……

All of this latest mess coming on the heels of a speech delivered Friday evening in Alabama, when President Trump responded to the the current trend of professional
football players who are opting not to stand for the National Anthem,
preferring rather to kneel or raise a defiant fist….
his comments were swiftly met with some rather harsh criticism.

A now never ending tit for tat stemming from the poor decision made last season by Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick opted to use his very public platform as the QB of the San Francisco 49ers
to express his thoughts that the National Anthem was not an anthem of equality.

Oh really?

Trump told the crowded arena Friday night that such behavior is a “total disrespect
of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”
He went on to say that those “Sons of a Bitch” who persist with such defiance
should be fired.

I happen to agree with the President.

However do I think the President of the United States needs to jump in this fray?

I don’t know.
But when we have blatant disrespect for our very National Anthem, who better then the
President to say, “hey wait a minute, something is wrong here….”

But at the same time I am now absolutely sick over our professional athletes using
their various sport as one more link in an increasingly brittle chain of
toxic politics.

I don’t watch football or any other sport because I want to deal with politics
or because I want to be reminded that our country is swirling down the tubes of
self absorption, ignorance and hate.

I watch sports to forget all of that.

I quit watching long ago any other sort of entertainment because it all had
become nothing but overtly violent, immoral and political while reeking of utter disrespect.

When I was still in the classroom, I can remember a growing sneering mantra offered
by one too many a defiant high school kid who butted heads with a teacher or administrator…
“I don’t give respect unless I get respect.”

Oh Really?

Here were kids claiming that if a teacher got on to them for their behavior
that they in turn could respond with vehemence and defiance.
A gross lack of respect for an adult who in the mind of the student had actually “disrespected” them and therefore deserved no respect–a twisted thought process.
And sadly many a parent and even a growing number of administrators
found themselves, albeit for some begrudgingly, in agreement.

The writing was then on the wall….the inmates were running the asylum.
And where might these inmates be getting their life examples….??

It takes little men to stay back in a locker room trying to avoid a glaring issue.
It takes little men, who make millions of dollars for simply playing games, to act like
disrespectful selfish and childish ideologues.
But it takes a real man who will go the journey alone in order to stand up for what
is right when no one else will….

—we call those kinds of men, heroes……

Honour all men.
Love the brotherhood.
Fear God.
Honour the king.

1 Peter 2:17

Can’t shake a tiger

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.
Joseph Campbell

unknown
(Clemson Tiger Paw)

As you may remember I am a faithful member of the Bulldog Nation.
Win or lose, I am a bulldog.

That’s what we call a fan…
a person who is there in both the good winning times…
as well as the bad losing times…
And might I add that this Bulldog season is proving to be a challenging one,
but remain a fan I do, none the less.

It’s what we do as fans, we cry for joy and we cry in defeat..
We celebrate and cry…
or we cry while dusting ourselves off as we roll up our sleeves…
all in order to ready ourselves as we do it all over again, and again and again…

Maybe the American populace needs to be reminded of the life of a fan.
But I digress…

Today’s story is about a fan,
a fan who became a hero.

A hero by definition is:
he·ro
ˈhirō/
noun
1.a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements,
or noble qualities.

And before all the women out there cry foul, the woman version would be heroine…
but today we looking at a hero…so hold thy wrath…

I am hard pressed these recent days, as I survey this great land of ours,
casting my sight while I seek a hero or heroine…

Heroes are not our political leaders…a far far cry.
Nor are they our sports stars…
They are not our entertainers nor are they our news personnel.

They are the quiet ones among us.

They don’t march, rally or protest.
They don’t scream or yell at others.
They don’t name call or throw insults.
or even stones…

They square their shoulders and tuck their heads as they trudge forward doing what is expected.

They don’t question,
they don’t argue,
they don’t whine,
they don’t demand do overs

They don’t harbor bitterness,
they don’t disregard their fellow man or woman
and they don’t seek accolades, applause or recognition…

Clemson University’s William Funchess, age 89, is an example of both a fan and a hero…

In 1944, while America was embroiled in the throws of WWII, Funchess entered Clemson
at the tender age of 16.
He graduated four years later from his beloved Clemson, which at the time was a male military college.
He was commissioned as an officer, 1st Lt. in the United States Army.

Funchess was sent to Korea to join American forces who now found themselves fighting yet another war.
After a harrowing clash between Chinese forces, Funchess, who had been shot through the foot
and having lost his entire unit to either battle or capture, was taken prisoner of war…

His unit had been told to hold their position, so they hunkered down to defend the area which in turn allowed 700 fellow soldiers to retreat.
Yet his unit paid the ultimate price for standing their ground.

Funchess shot by a machine gun, was captured, beaten, starved, tortured, humiliated
and held for an endless 34 months by Chinese forces…two months shy of three long hellish years.
Almost 3 years cut from life that Lt Funchess would never be able to get back…
No re-dos,
no re-votes,
no-replays…
Funchess had a young wife back home who did not know whether he was dead or alive…
but it was to this young woman whom Funchess was determined to return.

During his time as a prisoner, Funchess was befriended by a fellow prisoner, Father Emil Kapaun…
an Army chaplain from Kansas.

Fr Kapaun’s tale of complete self sacrifice and bravery is a story unto itself
as the Vatican is currently working to bestow Fr Kapaun with the title of saint.

After 3 months of having to eat snow in order to survive, it was Fr. Kapaun who had
given Funchess his first actual drink of water. And later is was Funchess who would care for
Fr Kapaun and all his physical needs during the devastating illness that would
eventually lead the Chinese to remove Kapaun from the prison,
taking him away to die totally alone.

http://fatherkapaun.org/father-kapaun

The story of Lt. Funchess as a solider is sobering.
Yet upon his release, it was his love for Clemson that eventually led him back
to his beloved school where he earned a second degree while
spending the next 30 years working for Clemson.

In 1997 Funchess finally decided to put his war experience to paper, writing about his
time as a prisoner. When he finally put down his pen after filling yellow legal pad after pad,
it was only then that the years of never-ending nightmares…blessedly stopped.

A book was published in 2002 “Korea POW: A Thousand Days of Torment

Both these men remind us what it is to be a hero…
These men, who despite the evils of war and what such can do to the human soul…
demonstrated the ultimate in endurance, selflessness and sacrifice…
as their lives continue to be reflections of everlasting hope…

Please click on the link to read Lt Funchess remarkable story:

The Unbreakable Tiger

a humble heart

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

St.Bernard

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(a humble snail near the Cliffs of Mohr / Country Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s hard balancing a humble spirit when one is living in the land of the free and home of the brave…
Whose fighting force boasts “the few, the proud, the marines”…
We are accustomed to being a world power, a superpower, a leader among nations…
When others run away, we rush in….
We are stivers, fighters, winners.
If we’re ever knocked down, we get back up.
We love those come from behind stories of triumph.
We are like the cream, always rising to the top.
We prefer being accomplished, polished, knowledgeable as well as rough, tough and scrappy…

That’s just how we are and we like it that way.

Yet at times we forget that we are not the be all to end all.
We forget that we have come to and by this rather lofty position of ours by hard work, toil, suffering, bruising and bleeding by digging our way out from under plight, oppression, depression, aggression…doing battle——battles we have considered as necessary, right and just within our purist of freedom for all.

We speak of unalienable (or inalienable depending on what you’re reading) rights given to us by the Creator–meaning that such “rights” cannot be taken away as they have been pre and hard wired within our being as human beings, granted to us at time of “creation” by the Creator. A Creator we now no longer have much time to listen to let alone give any sort or credit or credence to…

Some of us see that from time to time it can be hard to remain humble of heart and spirit when we’re accustomed to being large and in charge. Sometimes arrogance slips in along with haughtiness.
As we grow proud over and by our accomplishments and endeavors, we tend to gloat and boast more than we should. We pride ourselves in our self-efficiency, our knowledge and in our very “freedoms.”

Yet I fear we lose sight of our humble beginnings.
We begin to take things both tangible and intrinsic for granted.
We puff up our chests while resting on the laurels of our predecessors–forgetting that it could all be taken away tomorrow, or today…leaving us where we started, with little to nothing to call our own.

We assume perhaps more than we should.
Many of us have forgotten what it is to “go without”
We place our actors, sports figures, entertainers, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, slick talking religious leaders and leading officials in the limelight and up on pedestals, touting them as heroes–forgetting what a hero actually is and that these individuals are merely fallible human beings as we seem to sickly marvel and oddly enjoy watching them fall. Funny how that is with human beings.

Yet we continue to yearn and covet what it would be to “be like them” for we too want to be in the limelight and one of the “beautiful people” as we want the glitz, the glitter, the money the success—as we rationalize that we would handle all of the “pressure” of being famous far better, not allowing it to go to our heads while giving “x amount” to charity…

How many of us rationalize that if God would just let us when the lottery, we’d be so good with the winnings by giving a designated share to charity, we’d remain just a plain and simple are we are…yet deep down, we feel as if it would be the money, the abundance of which, which would make our lives so much easier and better…and perhaps for a while it would as we would set off in the pursuit of paying off only to obtain and to have…new cars, new homes, new vacations, new clothes…

We must be mindful that there are those around this planet of ours who don’t rationalize about winning a lottery…rather they dream of escaping their lot in life and fleeing to America because that is the land of freedom and of choice and of abundance and of safety…

It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose…

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(seagull rest on the head of a statue / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

And yet it is those voices of ancient wisdom and those voices of the past— those who were able to see through the haze of brilliance, pride and self efficacy–who understand that it is the humble heart which is the true attainable goal.

Being able to yield to the one who is always Greater–as we are the ones who are finite and it is He who is the infinite.

I fear we have lost sight of our own humility of being as we have forgotten that it was the king of Kings whose birth was predestined to take place in a lowly stable, of lowly parents in a small and lowly village of insignificance. . .seems this humility business is not an underlying theme by random chance.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 28-29

Often all it takes in order to knock one down a notch or two is for a bird to rest over or simply fly over ones head, doing what birds do– reminding one of one’s place in life…as the birds neither discern or discriminate as to whom is better than another–

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(a seagull surveys the city of Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Achilles heel

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

I like the fact that in ancient Chinese art the great painters always included a deliberate flaw in their work: human creation is never perfect.
Madeleine L’Engle

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(our resident mockingbird / Julie Cook / 2015)

Achilles had his heel.
Hercules was tripped up by a lack of common sense.
Samson was lost without his hair.
David faltered over lust.

Many a great hero, real or imagined, throughout history have each possessed one foible, one glaring flaw, one true weakness or ailment that. . . more often than not. . .proves to be, if not the ultimate downfall, a true precursor to an often catastrophic stumble or hinderance.

And even if these said flaws of either body or character do not topple said hero, they can certainly allow others, those mere mortals, to see that even the greatest among us, on occasion, stumble and fall or at the very least struggle. Yet it is the mark of a truly great individual who can get back up, admit a frailty, battle on often publicly, all the while moving forward.

My achilles heel has always been my “gut”. . .
At 10 the doctors told my mom I had a “nervous” stomach.
Spending many an outing that should have been full of adventure and fun,
I sought the refuge of a bathroom while “dying” from sheer stomach cramps and the ensuring
disaster which usually followed suit.

Later it was called a spastic colon—a true medical term if ever I heard one, wink, wink.

By the time I went to college, it was given a fancier name, IBS.
A catchall phrase used by the medical community to tag patients who suffer from the unexplained and often debilitating bouts of the gut. My southern genteel ways prevent me from offering overt descriptions which border on the periphery of TMI, but trust me, it is not pleasant and can truly, for some, be life altering—in a not so good way.

My pediatrician sent me off to college with a bottle of Paregoric, a foul tasting liquid of the opiate family which, when I was young, was the go-to treatment for colicky babies and childhood stomach viruses. A most unpalatable teaspoon of Paregoric nipped the debilitating cramps, pain and subsequent visits to the loo, rapidly in the bud.

Sadly the FDA took Paregoric off the market years ago.
Funny that. . .the one drug that seemed to provide the best relief for suffers also was a most abused drug by those not exactly needing the drug for medicinal purposes. . .
Today there are a handful of prescriptions out there but they pale in comparison and 9 times out of 10 don’t always work for sufferers as each sufferer is not the same as the next with symptoms swinging and varying in opposite directions—this is not a one size fits all ailment.

However this post is not about guts, IBS or drugs. . .rather it is an observation concerning the flaws, weaknesses and “issues” all of us face on a daily basis, while, to the best of our abilities, putting all aside, in order to trudge forward in our lives attempting to make our worlds a better place.

For some of us it is the battle of addictions. . .for others it is the daily turmoil of physical impairments and handicaps. Others of us struggle with life altering medical conditions while others fight an endless war of weight. Some of us are hampered by mood swings and temperamental demeanors, while others find leaving the safety of home almost unbearable. The list is ad infinitum.

Each of us has an Achilles heel, an ailment, a weakness, a struggle– with some of us suffering from multiple ailments, weaknesses and flaws, which simply put, is our cross to bear throughout life.
Each “cross” is every bit aggravating, debilitating, painful, life altering, socially unacceptable, destructive, draining, exhausting, never-ending, frustrating as the next. . .yet for the most part we all work to get through them, one step at a time, one day at a time- – – just to make the most of our lives as well as for those lives that have been entrusted to us.

For a fortunate few, there maybe a remission, a cure, a healing, a conquering of these “afflictions”. . .yet for the majority, it is a life long struggle of adapting, praying, dealing, suffering, accepting, fighting. . .

The task is never easy. . .
often fraught with pain, lethargy, impairment, discomfort, embarrassment. . .
but we press on, always with our sights resting just on the horizon of possibilities. Maybe it is our nature as we are hardwired to move ever forward despite any chain or weight we carry shackled to our bodies.

It is hard.
It is exhausting.
It is lonely.
Yet we mere mortals, who are all heroes hidden in disguise, press forward. . .
it’s just what heroes do. . .


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Adversity; Hooray for the human spirit

“Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

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(images of a very hungry and grateful blue jay / Julie Cook / 2014)

Everyone, ehm, every living creature, needs a helping hand at some time or other.
Just as in the case of this blue jay enjoying a welcomed piece of cornbread as his world, in the now icy white, is offering little in the way of sustenance.

And so it is, on this, the day after the winter storm debacle in Georgia—more specifically, Atlanta, which is the witness to the offerings of kindness from one to another. . .
such is today’s tale.

Poor Georgia.
Poor Atlanta.
Oh I am certain we could add to the dirge of woesomeness, that of Alabama and most likely Mississippi, but my news world has been exceedingly limited during the past 36 hours due entirely to the misery of my state—and in particular the capital of this gracious state, Atlanta.
Has anything else been taking place outside of the state in the last 36 hours other than a winter storm? Seriously, we haven’t heard.

Oh the anger.
Oh the blame.
People stuck in the snow and ice impacted gridlock for hours–12 hours, 16 hours, 20 hours, 24 hours only to abandon their gas deprived, ice immobile vehicles to walk the treacherous interstates in search of home, a safe haven, help. . .

Both Mayor and Governor now battling the media.
The Department of Transportation battling the media and now the public.
The National Weather Service battling the media and now the Governor and Mayor.
School Systems defending the decision of holding school despite the news of potential, repeat potential, winter weather to the parents who are now beyond irate as children were stuck on school buses for 12 to 16 hours, or had to remain at school over night.

Sadly on this now sunny, potentially thawing day, the blame game begins.
The finger pointing.
The deflections.
The denial.
Is the rest of the country thinking us to be idiots?
I hope not, we do the best we can.

Yet in the midst of all the negatives, all the seemingly poor choices, the failures, the lack ofs— emerges the best of human beings.
The stories which will no less continue for weeks to come— but it is those stories which are first appearing, the stories needed to act as the soothing balm for our negative weary souls.

The stories of:
The firefighters who welcomed in the cold, lost night wanders who arrived unannounced, all on foot, having long abandoned cars in search of a safe haven. They gave up beds and food for the strangers–offering warmth, protection, assurance.

The truckers who aided the young pregnant woman stuck in her car for 12 hours without food or water, let along a bathroom break. Aiding her in climbing over a 7 foot tall highway wall to an awaiting rescue vehicle. They took tool boxes from their big rigs, stacking them up to create a makeshift stairway up, over and down the wall.

The tales of the babies born in the gridlocked cold cars all through the icy night–delivered by total strangers.

The two strangers united with the one intent of service. They meet along the side of the highway, one pulling a sled and cooler full of food– the other caring a cooler full of sandwiches–distributing food, water, and kindness to frightened weary travels.

The news reporter, who was prepped to report on the gridlock, finds a family–mom, dad, and their 2 year old and 6 month old daughters, all who had been in the family van overnight without any food or drink. The reporter, an avid backpacker, had foods suitable for both children.

To the teachers and bus drivers who put their own families, lives, safety, comfort aside in order to care for their students, not only during the school day, but all through the night, as kids were either stuck in a bus in the midst of the slick icy nightmare or hunkered down for a long night at school.

Would you like to entertain 600 teenagers who can’t go home, who are tired and of ill disposition all night long? Would you want to comfort the elementary kids who just want their moms and dads, their beds, their warmth—all night long? Would you want to sit, huddled with a bus load of kids on a dark icy road hour after hour. . .all night long?

Perhaps it is the adversity, that which is life’s counter balance, which serves as a reminder to us all of our humanity, our capacity to care—to care for complete strangers. Echoes of “when, when did we see you naked and cloth you, when did we see you hungry and feed you. . .?”

All along a cold icy interstate–all through the rages of a winter’s storm—-that’s when.

Is it the calamity of life, those times of trial which test our fortitude, our sanity, our souls? Are these the types of situations which reach down to our very core–those which speak to our true humaneness and our ability to connect with other living beings? Is it during such times when we are the better, not the worst? When we shine and are not shattered?

In the coming days as Atlanta, and really the entire State, attempts to defend the choices of actions taken or not. . .as a State tries to explain to a Nation why 3 inches of snow, coupled by a sheet of ice, can put an entire region on hold, as officials hem and haw, as visitors vow never to return. . . may we all be reminded of the good which, just as the soon to be blooming bulbs breaking forth out of the cold barren ground signals to us all that wonder and joy can come from a long bleak cold winter, that it is in the depths of adversity and calamity where our realness and our goodness—our true identities, resides.

As those of you who have no doubt seen and heard the stories of “Snow Jam 2014”– of what seems to be the ineptitude of another Southern State which can’t seem to get its act together in winter weather, you must know that there was and is much more happening than mere gridlock and state and city officials scrambling for explanations—human beings were / are shining, goodness was / is taking place, kindness was / is the real issue at hand.

Perhaps we may not be able to handle ice and snow, but we will be there for you in a pinch, in a crisis, in a disaster as our Southern hospitality and tenacity, which are forged in the depths of the southern heat and red clay, is not only intact but it rises to the occasion in order to rescue, to comfort, to reassure, to defend, to care for–we will give you our beds, our food, our graciousness. . .but most importantly—we will give you ourselves.