Posts Tagged ‘Military’

Bellicosis

September 22, 2014

Never heard of it? 

Well, bellicosis is a disease suffered by those who love war and like to see their country in one continuously. It is often fatal and has caused millions of deaths, quite often not to  those with the disease,  since many are quite happy to let other people fight those wars. 

So far, no vaccine has been successful in preventing bellicosis.

 

 

 

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A D-Day Vet Comments on IMAX Movie about D-Day

May 19, 2014

D-DAY

D-DAY  3-D: NORMANDY 1944 STARTS FRIDAY AT THE PATRIOT PARK IMAX

I’ll tell you what I thought  of the  film, but first,  here’s what 93-year-old Charles Maupin of Columbus, who was a 23-year-old 29th Division radio operator who landed on D-Day plus 1,  had to say about it.

D-DAY IMAX 002 (2)

“I thought it was real good. The only thing missing was the actual combat footage. That might have been too grewsome for most people. People ought to know, though, what  those guys went through, those guys that landed first…Those guys showed determination and courage.”

He said that when he landed there were row upon rows of bodies on the beach, covered with ponchos.

He is very concerned that today’s young people have no understanding of what service to country means.  He said, “All young people should serve their country in some capacity to get an appreciation of their country and what that country stands for.  Too many young people today don’t know and don’t care.  I think it’s sad. We’re losing our freedom.”

I would go a little further than “good.” I would say it is an extraordinary, visually stunning documentary. Broadcast journalist and historian Tom Brokaw, the film’s narrator says “What I was drawn to in this film is that it tells us the story of D-Day in a new way that gives such clarity to one of the most important events in the history mankind.”

Charles is also on target in being concerned that young people “don’t know and don’t care.”  We have to ask, though, whose fault is that? Parents? Teachers?  Our education system?  Perhaps it’s time to start emphasizing the importance of history in our schools again.

Since this movie uses the latest techniques in movie making, using animation, CGI, and live-action images, and since it is quite immersive on an IMAX screen, and has a wonderful musical score played by the London symphony orchestra, I would think it would have a high impact on today’s young people.

In my view, every 9th grade high school student within a hundred miles of the Patriot Park IMAX should be bussed to the National Infantry Museum to see it.  It’s a very effective history lesson.

 

 

The Real Meaning of Memorial Day

May 28, 2013

I saw a sign that said, “Happy Memorial Day.”  And that’s all right.  Nothing wrong with the day being a happy one.  It should make us happy that we have brave men and women who give their all for their country. However, it should not be a frivolous happy, but a serious one.

It’s really a solemn occasion.  It’s not the same as Veteran’s Day.  Veteran’s Day is a day to honor all who have served in the American military. Memorial Day is a day to honor those who President Lincoln said “gave the last full measure of devotion.”

I heard a veteran say this morning on C-SPAN that on every Memorial Day he makes sure his grandchildren know why we celebrate Memorial Day.  No, it’s not just a day to cook out and have a beer with friends and family.  It’s a day to reflect on the costs of war and honor those who have paid the ultimate price.  

 

Retired Ranger Col. Ralph Puckett Gets Top Columbus Rotary Award

April 25, 2012

It’s not the top award he has received, since he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, second only to the Medal of Honor, twice, once for valor in Korea and once in Vietnam.  Among his other combat medals are multiple Purple Hearts for his battle wounds.  The honor retired Colonel Ralph Puckett received today, the Mary Reed Award for Service above Self, at the Rotary Club of Columbus was, however, the highest one that can be bestowed on a member of the club.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett and former Sec.of the Army Howard "Bo" Callaway

He was surprised that he had been selected and was visibly moved. He was being honored by his peers, peers that include  not only some of the top  business and professional leaders in Columbus, but also a number of retired Army generals, and the highest ranking veteran in the room, retired Secretary of the Army Howard “Bo” Callaway, who was a fellow classmate  at West Point.  Both were members of the class of 1949.

Mary Reed, veteran Rotary Club secretary for whom the award is named, Ralph Puckett, Jean Puckett (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

He was also surprised when his wife Jean was escorted to the dais, because he thought she was out of town.  He said, “She is my hero, the wind beneath my wings. I would be nothing without her.”

This proven Army Ranger hero is no friend of war. I have heard him say more than once that war is insane and stupid, but there are times when they simply have to be fought to preserve our country’s freedoms.  One of the freedoms, the one I put at the top of the list, freedom of speech,  is courageously practiced by Col. Puckett.  He is not happy that our soldiers are being deployed too long and too often, and that  less than one percent of the country’s population is fighting our wars, while the rest of us are shopping in the malls. He made all of this clear in a talk to the Unitarian Univeralist Fellowship of Columbus. You can read my blog post about it at this link

He was given the most thundering and prolonged standing ovations I have ever witnessed at a Rotary Club meeting.  And, in my view, deserved them.

He continues to  give his time freely and makes many trips to Fort Benning to support our soldiers. And when he is honored as he was today, he quotes President Eisenhower’s comment on humility:  “Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”

I can’t think of a person more deserving of the Mary Reed Award than my fellow Rotarian Ralph Puckett.

A Graduation Ceremony Worth Flying Almost a Thousand Miles to Attend

October 10, 2011

Brand new Airman Ben McMichael standing in front of the Alamo at San Antonio, TX. We had just left a small theater that showed a movie about the history of the Alamo. During the introduction the volunteer docent looked at Ben and thanked him for his service to his country which caused everyone in the audience to applaud. Then, on the way to the van a man walked up to Ben, shook his hand, and thanked him for his service.

It is always moving to see families coming from all over the United  States to see their progeny graduating from basic training at Fort Benning. Not just  the ceremonies, but in the restaurants and shopping malls around Columbus.  I got a taste of what  it means to those families and their military service members last weekend when I went to San Antonio, TX to see my grandson Ben graduate from U.S. Air Force basic training at Lackland Air  Force Base.  I was there with my son Rick, daughter-in-law Marian, grandson Christopher and his wife Kristen.

Not only did Ben go through the basic training course, but on top of that, he played first trumpet in the 323rd Training Squadron Drum and Bugle Corps.  When he introduced me to the lt. colonel commanding the 323rd,  he told him, “That’s my granddad. He was a drum major of an Army Band.” The colonel said, “Well, this must be really special for you, even if he only did it for 8 weeks.” Indeed it was.  I was a full-time bandsman,  but, even if he was only in an Air Force band for 8 weeks, we can both say we were in American military bands.  Ben is now at  Sheppard Air Force Base at Wichita Falls, TX, where he is in training to  be an ordnance supply and maintenance technician.

The 323rd Training Squadron Drum and Bugle Corps marching and playing for the 323rd graduation ceremony, Lackland U.S. Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX..

For someone who was a young boy during World War II, the graduation ceremony was quite impressive.  Surrounding the graduation pareade grounds were the  great fighters and bombers of that time.  Among those historic war birds was a P-51 “Mustang” – Ben’s training squadron is called the Mustangs, and there is a mural of a Mustang on his barrack’s wall – and there was a P-38 fighter, and a B-29 bomber, a B-17 “Flying Fortress,” a B-24 “Liberator,”  and the transport work horse of World War II, the C-47.

P-51 "Mustang" World War II fighter.

You take all of that, add the 323rd Drum and Bugle Corps playing “The Air Force Anthem,” you know, the one that starts with “Off we go into the wild blue  yonder,” and “America the Beautiful,”  an Air Force general welcoming the new Airmen into the “most powerful air force in history,” and the 600 graduates and their instructors passing in review, and you get a lot of cheering in the stands from moms and dads, sisters and brothers, granddads and grandmothers, and even aunts and uncles. (I met a lady from California who had come to see her nephew graduate.) You also get a lot of moist eyes, including mine.

Me and Ben following the 323rd Training Squadron Retreat and Coin Ceremony. Even though family were allowed to come over and talk with the graduating airmen, the drum and bugle corps members had to stay in formation. Why? Don't ask me.

After the Retreat and Coin ceremony was over, we went to a base store where Ben bought a coin just like the one he was given by the Mustang association, put it in the palm of his hand, and shook hands with me leaving the coin in my hand. It's the most valuable coin I will ever have.

Ben and his proud dad, my son Rick.

Off He Goes into the Wild Blue Yonder

August 1, 2011

This is a personal blog, the most common type .  And today I’m getting really personal.

Ben McMichael, my grandson, who took time out from his going-away party at his parent's home in Cumming to pose for this picture..

The wars America is fighting right now have lost their abstractness. I am a member of a very small percentage of our country’s population, people who have a relative in the armed forces. My really fine (yes, when it comes to my progeny, I am biased) grandson Benjamin McMichael heads for San Antonio, Texas tomorrow to begin his United States Air Force basic training.

Just as I told my step-granddaughter Caitlin Champion, when she joined the U.S. Army, that her life would  never be the same, I know that the same is true for Benjamin, and for anyone who goes into the military.  Life in the barracks is definitely different from being at home with mom and dad, as anyone who has ever been in the service can tell you.  I wasn’t in for very long myself since I was a two-year draftee, but that was long enough to have some understanding of the military experience. It does , to different degrees for different people, toughen one, but it also gives insight into what the term “band of brothers” means.  My late brother Elbert, a World War II draftee, loved the Army. As we were standing in line at a cafeteria one day, we noticed a group of young soldiers in the line talking  and laughing with one another, and Elbert said, “The Army is the world’s biggest fraternity.”

There is a lot fo truth to that, I believe. On most of my trips to see some of the great European cities, places like Venice, Rome, Naples, Isle of Capri, Lucerne, Zürich, Augsburg, I went with some of my Munich, Germany Army buddies.  However, I decided to go to Paris by myself.  But, I wasn’t by myself for long.  When I got on the train, I sat in the compartment with three other young soldiers who I had never seen before in my life. By the time we got to Paris, we were all friends and did most things together. They were really fine young men. We had a great  time. Paris lived up to its party-town reputation.  Every now and then I then I reflect on how the three of them, all in the same unit, accepted me, who was not only not in the same unit, but not even in the same town.  But, we were in the same wonderful fraternity. Of course, people are people, and even fraternity brothers don’t always get along. That’s true anywhere.  However, for me, the good experiences outweighed the bad.

Now, it is my grandson’s turn.  Like those three Airborne guys, Ben is a fine person, always outgoing, friendly and witty, but, underneath his sunny personality there is steel.  He has always possessed a quiet confidence.  But, most of all, and the thing that makes me really proud of him, he is simply a good man. And why wouldn’t he be? His father, mother, and older brother are all good people. Then, there is me. Well, four out of five ain’t bad.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence Band Gives Excellent Christmas Concert

December 6, 2010

My Army band memories came flooding back yesterday afternoon as we sat in the mezzanine of the Bill Heard Theater.  The Fort Benning band, now called the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band, was delighting an almost-full house with its annual Christmas concert, “Ringing in the Holidays!” ( Bill Heard is a 2,000-seat theater.) The band also packed them in again for the evening performance. It got a long, standing ovation at the end of the concert, and, I am sure it was not just because Columbus is an Army town, one that continually shows its appreciation for the Fort Benning troops, but because it was an excellent concert.

Ft. Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Band's "Ringing in the Holidays" concert, Bill Heard Theater, River Center, Columbus, GA

30th Army Band, Munich, Germany, 1955

The 30th Army Band, the one in which I was a percussionist and drum major in 1954-55, no longer exists, and a Google search produced no history of it.  It was located at McGraw Kaserne, Munich, Germany, which was headquarters for the U.S. Army in southern Germany. 

We also played some concerts for civilians, but our main function was to play for review parades, not only at McGraw Kasern,  but for Army posts all over southern Bavaria.  Every week we would board a bus and travel to other kaserns and posts.  The views could be spectacular as the bus would wend its way to some remote posts high in the Alps.

World War II Street Comes Alive Oct. 16th and 17th

October 16, 2010

World War II Fort Benning barracks, World War II Street, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

The World War II Street at the National Infantry Museum comes to life with reenactment groups showing us what it was like for a soldier to start his Army life during the World War II.  On October 16 and 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  you can see volunteer reenactors drilling, doing calisthenics, eating in a mess hall and doing all of the things they did in the 1940’s.

As I checked out the Street as a member of a tour, I, along with other vets with a lot of years on them, had to reflect on when we slept in those wooden barracks and did all of the things that basic trainees do. 

Ah, the memories of SOS and KP that this mess hall brings. (No, this SOS is not Morse code. Anybody not know what it means?)

I wasn’t in the Army until 1954, 9 years after World War II ended, but  being eleven-years-old when the U.S. got into the war,  I remember vividly what Columbus and Fort Benning were like then.  Soldiers were everywhere in Columbus and Phenix City, filling the sidewalks, restaurants, movie theaters, and U.S.O. facilities. Wikipedia says the post had billeting space for more than 90,000 troops during WW II.  That meant the population of the post was larger than that of Columbus. 

A lot of famous soldiers served at Fort Benning, including General George S. Patton, whose sleeping quarters and headquarters building are part of World War II Street.

Chapel

The only building on the street that you could call beautiful is the chapel.  It shows what can be done aesthetically with simple wooden construction.

M1 rifles in WW II barracks

Yes, it did bring back memories, with the most powerful being how glad I was to move out of that environment and be stationed in Munich, Germany, where I had a private room in a former SS barracks building and where German civilians replaced military KPs.  Solders gladly chipped in a few bucks a month to pay the KPs.  Germany was still recovering from World War II and civilains were glad to get the jobs.

The Tradition Started with Armistice Day

November 11, 2009
Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1477

National Infantry Museum on Veterans Day, November 11, 2009

A lot of folks showed up on this Veterans Day at the National Infantry Museum.  The fact that 280 members and guests of the Rotary Club of Columbus held their weekly meeting there today certainly contributed to the heavy volume. 

Rotary Club of Columbus meeting at the National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GAThe program for the Rotarians was to tour the museum.  Since I had already done it about four times, I decided to concentrate on a new exhibit that just popped up in the lobby.  It contained artifacts from World War One. 

Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1470

Matt Young demonstrates U.S. Army World War I gas mask

Matt Young, educational director for the museum, and Jack Reed, weapon’s curator supplied most of the artifacts from their own collection.  The light machine guns –  the British Lewis  and the French Chauchat – were furnished by the Army.

Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1473

French and British World War I light machine guns

Young Fort Benning soldiers found the exhibit especially interesting since they could compare the weapons, gas masks, toilet and mess kits, and other accoutrements of war used in World War I with what they use today. 

Nov 11 2009_V-Day Nat. Inf. Mus._1472

Matt Young shows young Fort Benning soldier trainees how World War I weapons and equipment differ from what they use

Matt, who is a very enthusiastic teacher of history using museum props – previously he was director of education for the National Civil War Naval  Museum, where he often wore Civil War uniforms – was continuing his tradition of making history live by wearing a World War 1 Uniform.  He told me that this one-day exhibit was so appropriate because it represents Armistice Day, the forerunner of Veterans Day.  Armistice Day celebrates the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. It was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. 

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Jack Reed wearing World War I Scottish uniform

As I surveyed the exhibit I had to reflect on the colossal carnage of that  war.  It just about wiped out a generation of Europe’s young men.  The United States did not lose a generation to it, because our country was only in it for a year.  But, it did cost more than 116,000 American lives.

(I took all of the pictures but the one of the Rotary Club meeting. Jim Cawthorne of Camera1 took that one. Thanks, Jim.)

The National Infantry Museum Experience

August 26, 2009

As you walk through the displays at the National Infantry Museum adjacent to Fort Benning,  it may seem incongruous, as you look at all of the representations of violence and mayhem, to reflect on love.  But, love is very much a soldier’s motivator.

Revolutionary War Exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Revolutionary War Exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

A grandmother told me that she was not sure she should take her ten-year-old grandson to see the museum.  “It is about war and all of the horror that goes with it. I am not sure his parents would like it if I took him to see it.”

A lot of people have no problem at all taking their children to see it. I have seen a lot of them there.  For instance, as I was viewing a case with weapons in it, a  little boy walked up and asked me, “Do you work here?”

“No.  I’m just going through it like you are.”

“Were you in the Army?”  

“Yes I was.” 

 Then,  remembering what the grandmother told me, I asked him, “What do you think of all this?”

“Cool,” he replied.  “When I’m old enough, I am going to join.”

Hermann Goering's baton, a gift from Adolph Hitler. Goering was commander of the German air force during World War II, and was Hitler's designated successor.

Hermann Goering's baton, a gift from Adolph Hitler. Goering was commander of the German air force during World War II, and was Hitler's designated successor.

Obviously, he was not traumatized by anything he saw or heard. Age could be a factor, because quite a few of the combat veterans who go through the museum say they are very moved.  One of  the World War Two veterans told Columbus TV commentator Al Fleming, who works as a volunteer at the museum,  that he couldn’t go through the World War Two section of the musuem.  “It would just make me too nervous,” he said.   He probably had seen some close friends killed in battle.

Dad and son viewing 1930's machine gun carrier called a "Belly-flopper," National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Dad and son viewing 1930's machine gun carrier called a "Belly-flopper," National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Do I recommend a trip to the museum?  Should children see it?  Yes.  It is an impressive way to present the history of the infantry to adults and chidlren.  

If you haven’t been, let me recommend that you watch the short movie at the end.  It is very well done and captures the one thing that,  more than anything else, according to a lot of combat veterans,  motivates soldiers to perform truly courageous acts: the love they have for their fellow soldiers,  people  they have lived and trained with for a long time, their “family,”  “brothers” in battle.   Many Congressional Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest medal for valor,  were earned by soldiers who gave their lives to save their buddies.