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

Scrutiny, reviews, restrictions… I get it… but…

We seek for truth in ourselves; in our neighbours, and in its essential nature.
We find it first in ourselves by severe self-scrutiny,
then in our neighbours by compassionate indulgence, and, finally,
in its essential nature by that direct vision which belongs to the pure in heart.

Saint Bernard


(ariel view of a portion of the American Cemetery in Normandy, image courtesy of the White House)

For years, long before it became chic or before it became social or before it launched its
commercials with its very own spokes-owl and long before it was pitted against a growing
plethora of similar agencies…I had been writing reviews on Trip Advisor…
way before travel sites were “a thing.”

I have relied on Trip Advisor and its review offerings for everything from restaurants
to hotels to worldwide attractions as well as to the vast array of travel services,
all of which they’ve freely provided…
for,
you guessed it,
for years.

I have been in the top 1% of all Atlanta area reviewers…once again, for years.

I am well aware that each review written and submitted is in turn reviewed by a
TripAdvisor team member before it is allowed to be published…
just as it should be.

Integrity and truth are the driving forces behind companies such as TripAdvisor
that supply the general public with much needed and honest information.

I’ve never had a problem…
that is until yesterday.

I had written a review yesterday regarding the tour group we had used for our D-Day visit
while in Normandy.

I had written the review regarding the guide we were assigned along with an overall
review of the group we had used for this most memorable tour.

I sang the praises of our guide.
I sang the praises of the tour service…and…
here is where I ran into a glitch,
I also included a personal observation…

I wrote why I thought it was important for every American to visit Normandy.
An improbable probability yes, but still something I felt to be very important.

I wrote in my review of how a self-absorbed younger generation…
a generation that seems bent on division, socialism, anthem protests, violence,
all-inclusiveness, etc…
why a history lesson ‘in the raw’…
one such as walking through the American Cemetery in Normandy, would and could be beneficial.

One youthful generation looking out over thousands of crosses and Stars of David of
the sacrifices made by a previous youthful generation.
The lessons from those who went before…
lessons long lost on today’s youthful progressive generation.

TripAdvisor sent me an email about a need for ‘action request’ regarding
my review.
They told me not to include other URLs…
Yes I confess that I did have a link to my D-Day post that I had written here at WP
as I thought it could offer further, and some more in-depth
information, for those who might be seeking more or who were curious about such a tour.

“Okay”, I thought…they’re telling me to cut and paste what I wrote, edit it,
then reload and resubmit.
Okay, I’ll cut out my link.
No biggie.
I get it.

Yet a bit of a problem arose when I figured out that they had only sent me a small portion
of what I had previously submitted. Actually only about 1/3 of what I’d written.
And I quickly discovered, much to my frustration,
that there was no way, not even by going into my history, was I to find the full body of text.

So as I cut out my link, I had to rewrite, as best as I could remember,
what I had previously written.

I cut, edited, rewrote and resubmitted.

10 minutes hadn’t passed before I received the same ‘action request’ email with an added note
that they did not want reviews to include “personal opinions on politics, ethics, religion,
or wider social issues.”

Is this about those so-called trigger alerts?

Okay, I thought…
I’ll try to rewrite it again…rewriting again because they hadn’t provided
the full body of text again…
so I’d be relying on my fading memory, one more time…

But as I thought about this, I said to heck with it!

I opted to write just a bit more in order to finish out the first thought..the portion of the
text body that they had sent back in the email before I proceeded with my new thoughts.

I then proceeded to write that TripAdvisor had asked me to keep my personal observations to myself.

I continued my review by asking how does one write about visiting such powerful places
as the beaches, the various locations, the churches, as well as those overwhelming cemeteries
of that fateful June day in 1944 and not offer thoughts that include “wider social issues?”

Normally I would have kept my review informative with a general sweeping overview…just like
all the hundreds of previous reviews I’ve written…
however, for this particular review, I chose not to do so.
I couldn’t do so.

I didn’t know how I could.

How could I be simple and concise given the sacrifices freely made by all those thousands
of individuals who died that fateful June day?
Those individuals who, unbeknownst to them at the time, died for both you and me?
Do they not deserve more than some simple, generic, sterile, and broad sweeping travel review?

Maybe it’s the impending Veteran’s Day remembrance.
Maybe it’s the craziness currently sweeping our Nation.

No matter what the reason…I just couldn’t keep it simple when talking about
what I saw and what I experienced there in Normandy.

Something very powerful happened that June day in 1944.
Something that greatly affected how each of us lives our lives to this day.
Keeping one’s personal opinion quiet when taking in the raw emotion while visiting
those beaches and those cemeteries is…well…an injustice really.
An injustice to each one of those crosses and stars.

So I suppose it’s all a matter of context…or maybe its a matter of perspective…

No matter what it is…there are just some things that deserve our full attention and our
full voice.

(images from the National Gaurd Memorial of Omaha Beach / Julie Cook / 2018)

We, too, born to freedom, and believing in freedom, are willing to fight to
maintain freedom. We, and all others who believe as deeply as we do,
would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

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

humble past

“You may delay, but time will not.”
Benjamin Franklin


(a bible sits open on an old pulpit in the Shoal Primative Baptist Church /
Talladega National Forest / Julie Cook / 2017)

A long time ago, before cotton was ever king…


(a rural cotton field, Rabbit Town, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2017)

Or 13 colonies fought to form a new and perfect union…
the Nation of the Creek Indians called the lands of what is now Georgia and
Alabama home.

It is estimated that these native Americans had lived and thrived in this region
before the year 800 AD, as they were descendants of an even earlier people, from
what is known as of the Mississippian period.

In 1733 Captain James Oglethorpe landed in the what is known today as
Savannah, Georgia.
He claimed the land south of the Carolinas and north of Spanish Florida,
in the name of King George…as the New Georgia.

In 1752 Georgia became officially the 13th colony.
However despite the British crown’s claim to this new land,
the Creek indians continued to be the majority inhabitants and land owners
of this young colony.


(James Ogelthorpe /Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016

However that all began to change in 1760 with the continued exploration
and expansion westward by the British, Spanish and French.
Native Americans were quickly being squeezed from their ancestral lands
by a deluge of European exploration and subsequent settlers.

By 1800 the Creek Nation ceded all of their lands to the state of Georgia
and were forced to move westward…

This time they moved deep into the lands of what is known today as
the state of Alabama.
But in 1819, with Alabama being recognized as the 22nd state
in the Union, once again the Creeks were forced to relocate.

In 1830, following the orders by President Andrew Jackson,
the once proud Nations of the Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw
tribes were forced from their traditional lands,
and were relocated to reservations west of the Mississippi,
as Scotch/ Irish settlers made their way
south and west, down from the Carolinas, claiming these once tribal lands as
their new homesteads.

Around 1835 to 1840, deep in the back woods of the Alabama foothills of the
Appalachian Mountains, a small community of European settlers found a home
in a rugged area of Alabama.

These settlers were farmers, hunters, loggers and even moonshiners.

At the heart of their community these hardy settlers erected a log hewn church
to serve as an anchor for their community.
It was a building that would serve their community needs, their spiritual needs
as well as the educational needs of their children.


(Shoal Primitive Baptist Church, originally built in 1845 / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today both time and Mother Nature have each reclaimed this once small community.
Long forgotten are the voices of those first Native American inhabitants…
as well as the voices of those early European settlers.

Yet hidden deep within a mix of virgin forest and replanted pines,
resting at the end of a long forgotten rutted, single dirt lane road,
a lone wooden church remains ever vigilant…
standing the test of time.

She is a far cry from the great Cathedrals and Churches of big cities or
of far away lands.
She possess neither stained glass, gleaming silver or brass nor
ornately carved wooden fixtures.

For hers is a humble yet strong and determined example of faith.

Her small cemetery of unmarked graves whispers tales of those hardy souls
who once called these lands home…those individuals who worked the land
living and dying in the shadow of this church.


(the unmarked graves of Shoal Creek / Julie Cook / 2017)

The Shoal Primitive Baptist Church originally erected in 1845,
with the building we see today being rebuilt in 1895, is listed and recognized
as an important historic building on the National Registry.

It remains a lone sentinel of the early American pioneering spirit in an area
that is now known as the Talladega National Forrest.
This area was bought by the Federal Government and made a national park
by President Franklin Roosevelt in the early 1930’s.

The church is one of 6 remaining log hewn churches scattered throughout the state
of Alabama and still hosts special events such as Sacred Harp singings.

Inside this lovely and lonely darkened church, resting atop the single black pulpit,
sits a worn and tattered bible.

It is open to the book of Psalms….

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

a day lived in infamy to our endless gratitude

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy —
the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces
of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and,
at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government
and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific….”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Addresses the Nation following the attack at Pearl Harbor

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(image of the USS Arizona after it was bombed)

75 years later…we still carry a heaviness on this December day.

During the course of World War II, there were many atrocities, unspeakable brutalities
and a loss of life that is nearly impossible to wrap one’s head around.

Pearl Harbor was but one horrific moment in a long line or horrific moments during the
duration a war steeped in the abominable.

For whatever reason, I do not feel as if this generation grasps the full significance of the
tremendous impact WWII has played in the history of mankind…
nor do I feel that they particularly seem to care.

The loss of life was staggering.
It is estimated that 80 million people lost their lives during the course of the war,
between 3% and 4% of the world’s population at the time…

Add to that those lives of the many more who were dramatically wounded or whose
family’s survived loss and destruction…those who were affected and are considered to be secondary casualties…
Those such numbers are simply left to our fading memories.

The USS Arizona, one of the 8 battleships bombed that fateful December day,
lies as a silent haunting specter on the floor of Pearl Harbor
as she is the lasting tomb of 1,548 servicemen…those whose bodies were never recovered.
A visual tomb which rests just below the surface of the sea.

But my thoughts however today are not merely with those individuals who lost their
lives that fateful December day 75 years ago, but rather my thoughts
gravitate to the collective family of all Servicemen and woman
who have continued putting themselves in harm’s way for those of us who
simply go about living our lives, day to day, as if nothing has ever been different.

I think of a young entitled football player who opts out of sharing in his country’s
national anthem prior to his taking the field of play…
to participate in a game in which he earns millions of dollars.
A game he can play in safety because there are Service men and woman
making certain that he is free to opt out of his country’s national
anthem and to simply play a game.

Lives put on the line every day, as well as countless lives lost,
all for a young man to be able to
make millions of dollars while playing a footbal game…

The balance of those two thoughts will never equal one another.

And it was just yesterday that I finally sent an item home
to it’s rightful serviceman’s family…
45 years after the fact.

A single stainless steel bracelet worn by a young Georgia elementary school girl…
worn as a reminder and a tiny link to a man who was living, and had lived,
for 7 years in captivity, held by the North Vietnamese in a land that
seemed to be lifetime away.

Three years ago, as a Fourth of July tribute, I wrote a post about the POW bracelet that
I wore so very long ago.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/an-overdue-thank-pow-lt-col-james-young/

It is a post that I still occasionally receive comments on to this day…
by those individuals who also wore Lt. Col. James Young’s POW bracelet

Lt.Col Young was taken prisoner in 1966.
At the time his daughter Denise was just an infant.
For almost 8 years her father was simply a name and a face in family photographs…
because she had no recollection of the man who was currently in a prison camp
thousands of miles away in a remote Asian country.

Not until 1973, when most of our prisoners were released with the signing of the
agreement to end the war, would Denise be formally introduced to her father.

Denise met her dad for the very first time when she was 8.
Eight birthdays and eight Christmases came and went before Denise was to meet her dad.
A man who was not the same man who left his infant daughter in the arms of his wife
as he went to fight a strange war on a foreign land.

Those of you who know me know that I do not participate in social media.
It has always been my thought that if God wanted someone to see or read my blog,
He would bring that person my way….

He did just that this past summer.

Out of the blue in June, on Father’s day actually, I received a comment on the post
I’d written about Lt Col. James Young…
the comment however was not by someone, who like me had worn his bracelet during those dark days of the war, but rather the comment came from his youngest daughter, Denise.

There was even a comment that I had made to others who had reached out to me
about wearing the bracelet that I had hoped that one day one of his daughters
would see the post and then I could actually send them the bracelet.

And on Father’s day of 2016, almost 45 years after the day I took off that bracelet,
a now grown daughter received word that piece of her dad,
who had passed away years earlier,
was still very much in the minds and hearts of many other individuals across this nation.

As life has a way of getting in the way, it wasn’t until this past weekend that I finally
retrieved the bracelet out of the safety deposit box,
packed it up and sent it across the country to an anxious daughter.

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(a collection surrounding the bracelet, photos of the family upon his return as I had written to the family when I learned of his return and the letter I was to send but never did with the bracelet, until finally this past week)

I could never give back to Denise those nearly 8 years she lived without her dad.
Nor could I have offered her help during those unimaginable days of adjustment that a
family endured at the return of a long lost member…
a time of reacquaintance and simply getting to know one another again…
or in the case of Denise, getting to know for the first time…

Nobody can give any of that back to a family of a Service member.

But we can however unite as a Nation..
uniting when it comes to respecting our flag,
uniting when it comes to our National Anthem
and uniting as show of solidarity for our collective Service members and their families…
as they give,
have given
and continue to give more than any of us can ever repay….

And so I thank Denise, her family, and her father, Lt Col. James Young,
for the sacrifices they made for not only this Nation as a whole,
but to me and all the other individuals out there who make this county who and what she is…
even to those young entitled individuals who simply don’t get this whole mindset of sacrifice….

Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:12-13