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Archive for May, 2010

ROWDY YATES

Eastwood turns 80 today.
Wow.
I remember watching him as “Rowdy” on “Rawhide” when I was standing to my daddy’s knees in the fifties.
Wow.
Eastwood. He’s showed us how to age gracefully.

“Once you get in the 70s, several things happen,” he said in December last year. “One is, you stop celebrating birthdays. I’ve forbidden my wife. I said, ‘Please, no birthday things!’ I don’t need to pretend to open a gift and say ‘this is just what I wanted!’ I said, ‘Don’t get me anything. We’ll just have a glass of wine’. Seventy-nine is not so bad. I might savor it for a while.”

Keep them doggies rollin’, dude.

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War consumes everything in its path.

— Homer


This was a complex young man and a rough-and-ready Marine.
I know his kind well. (See the prior postings here from May 30.)
Another heartbreaking story of war’s disaster . . . .
:

Texan was 1,000th deathBy PAUL J. WEBER
Associated Press
KERRVILLE — The 1,000th American serviceman killed in Afghanistan had already fallen once to a hidden explosive, driving his Humvee over a bomb in Iraq in 2007. The blast punched the dashboard radio into his face and broke his leg in two places.
Marine Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht didn’t survive his second encounter with a bomb this week. The death of the 24-year-old Texan born on the Fourth of July marks a grim milestone in the Afghanistan war.
Leicht, who spent two painful years recovering from the Iraq blast, was killed Thursday when he stepped on a land mine in Helmand province that ripped off his right arm. He had written letters from his hospital bed begging to be put back on the front lines, and died less than a month into that desperately sought second tour.
An Associated Press tally shows Leicht is the 1,000th U.S. service member killed in the Afghan conflict. The first death — nearly nine years ago — was also a soldier from the San Antonio area. The Department of Defense lists Leicht as from College Station because he enlisted in the Marine Corps at the College Station recruiting office when he lived here briefly, said Jessie Leicht, his younger brother. Officials at Texas A&M said there was no record of him attending classes there.
“He said he always wanted to die for his country and be remembered,” said Jesse Leicht. “He didn’t want to die having a heart attack or just being an old man. He wanted to die for something.”
The AP bases its tally on Defense Department reports of deaths suffered as a direct result of the Afghan conflict, including personnel assigned to units in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Uzbekistan.
Other news organizations count deaths suffered by service members assigned elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes operations in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Leicht’s brothers told the AP that the military also told the family that his death put the toll at 1,000.
When military officers went to tell Leicht’s parents that their adopted son had died in combat, sheriff’s deputies had to help navigate them to the 130-acre family ranch tucked impossibly deep in the Texas Hill Country.
It was here that Jacob Leicht chopped thick cedar trees and hiked the rugged limestone peaks, growing up into an imposing 6-foot-5 inch, 200-pound Marine with a soft heart. He watched Dora the Explorer with his brother’s children and confided to family that he was troubled by the thought of young civilians being killed in battle.
But for Leicht, born in a Lemoore, Calif., Navy hospital, the battlefield was the destination. He threw away a college ROTC scholarship after just one semester because he feared it would lead away from the front lines.
“His greatest fear was that they would tell him he would have to sit at a desk for the rest of his life,” said Jonathan Leicht, his older brother.
When Jacob Leicht’s wish finally came true, it didn’t last long.
His first deployment was to Iraq in 2007, but he was there just three weeks when Jesse Leicht said his brother drove over two 500-pound bombs hidden beneath the road.
One detonated, the other didn’t. The blast tore through the Humvee, shooting the radio into Leicht’s face and knocking him unconscious. He felt something pinch his thumb, and the gunner’s face was filleted so badly by shrapnel that medics couldn’t keep water in his mouth.
None of the five people inside the vehicle died. Jesse Leicht said an Iraqi interpreter, the only one on board who wasn’t seriously injured, dragged his brother from the mangled vehicle. The blast snapped Jacob Leicht’s fibula and tibula, and the recovery was an agonizing ordeal of pins and rods and bolts drilled into his bones.
But all Jacob Leicht could think about was going back. He launched a campaign for himself at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, writing letters and making phone calls about returning to combat. More than two years later, he was finally healthy enough to serve again.
Nine days before his brother stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan, Jesse Leicht enlisted in the Marines. Using Facebook to reach a friend stationed at a base not far from his brother, Jesse asked the soldier a favor: If you see Jacob, let him know I signed up like him.
“Hopefully,” Jesse Leicht said, “he got the word.”
In addition to his parents and brothers, survivors include a wife, Leslie, also of Kerrville.

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VALERIE THE PEACE SCHOLAR


A different, and interesting take on Memorial Day from that always interesting peacenick Valerie Elverton-Dixon:

Memorial Day
by: Valerie Elverton-Dixon

The dead do not need us. They do not need our visits to their gravesites where flesh and bone feed the earth. They do not need our flags, flowers, work of grave maintenance or the libation of our tears. They do not need our pilgrimage to their mausoleum or to the place where we scattered their ashes.

The dead do not need us. They do not need our war movie marathons, super sale days, parades, picnics, concerts, fireworks or a moment of silence at 3 pm.

The dead do not need us. Their soul, spirit selves walk in green Elysian Fields with a gentle sun shining on their faces. All the battles for them are over. They feast in Valhalla, eating their favorite foods, drinking their favorite drinks that reappear new every morning. They have already paid the boatman, have crossed the river Styx and now commiserate with Hector and Achilles about the vanity and the futility of war for glory or plunder or territory or will to power. They talk of the foolishness of blindly following orders to kill and to die.

The dead do not need us. Some have chosen Hell itself where they play marathon games of bid whist and pinochle now that Stagger Lee has deposed the devil, installed air conditioning, has the barbeque grill going, the good liquor flowing, the music grooving, the dance floor jumping, and has got the party started.

The dead do not need us. Some are resting in the arms of Abraham or living in a bejeweled city where every tear is wiped away, where there is no sorrow or grief or pain. The old things have passed away and everything is new. They stand around the throne of God with Jesus singing praises world without end. Or they rest on cushions in paradise in the arms of beautiful men and women.

The dead do not need us. Their hearts have already been weighed on the scales of Ma’at and they have flown to their eternal justice. Some have already been reborn according to their karmic necessities. Some have disappeared. Others are a light gone out. Their end is the end they imagined.

The dead do not need us. They have been gathered to their people, have joined the ancestors and now are witnesses and guardians of the living.

The dead do not need us. We need them.

We need to carve the time away from our busy-ness to make the trip to the gravesite, mausoleum or place where we scattered the ashes to re/member. We need them so that we may reconstitute ourselves with full knowledge of the past that lives in us, that lives in the now.

The dead do not need us. We need them to help us think and think again and know that life is hard and painful and sweet and beautiful and too too short no matter how long we live.

We need to go to them and feel the winds of eternal time upon our contemporary, temporary faces. In a minute, our bodies and souls will separate and become water, air, earth, fire and mystery. And how will the world be better because we have lived?

The dead do not need us. We need them to encourage us to change the world for the sake of those who will one day make the trip to the place where our bodies lie or where are ashes flew on the air back to the earth or the waters of the earth. We need them to remind us that war is stupid, that greed is useless, that fear and hatred and vengeance and anger are a waste of thought and effort because when all is said and done it is love that compels us to come to them. It is love and justice that bring peace.

The dead do not need us. We need them. We listen to their silent secrets and they tell us that there is no tribe, nation, race, religion, class, ideology or identity in the world of the dead. They tell us to savor every moment, to eat slowly, to laugh too loud and too often, to taste the salt of our sweat and tears, to love deeply, madly and truly because death is an awful finality.

The dead do not need us. We need them. We need their deathless radical love.
*Valerie Elverton-Dixon
Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar studying ethics, peace theory, public discourse, and the civil rights movement. She reads these subjects through the lens of womanist, postmodern, and postcolonial thought.
She received her Ph.D. in Religion and Society from Temple University under the direction of womanist scholar Katie Cannon. During her nearly ten years as full-time faculty in theological education, Dr. Dixon taught Christian Ethics at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH and at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, MA. While teaching at UTS, she served as faculty advisor to the Social Crisis Doctor of Ministry Group and as mentor and faculty advisor of the Church and Society Doctor of Ministry Group. While teaching at Andover Newton, she was a faculty member of the Ph.D. seminar in ethics at Boston College. The classes she has taught include: Womanist/Feminist Ethics, Ethics of Peacemaking, Letter From Birmingham Jail and Deconstruction in Public Discourse: Reading the Iraq War.
Also while teaching at Andover Newton, she served on the executive committee of the Interreligious Center for Public Life, an interfaith organization begun by Andover Newton and Hebrew College.

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CIVIL WAR PHOTO: SEE CAPTION BELOW

IN THIS PHOTO: After Civil War battles, remains often were placed in mass graves. This 1863 photograph from the National Archives shows one of the unusual instances when coffins and individual graves were prepared following the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg. Memorial Day began weeks after the Civil War ended in 1865, when thousands of freed slaves risked their lives to properly establish a cemetery in South Carolina.

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This is from readthespirit.com (which you longtimers know to be one of our favorite Web sites here)–a story that purports to have the real story of our first Memorial Day:

Here’s why it’s important to remember—and spread word—about the real story of Memorial Day. Yale University historian David W. Blight undertook the groundbreaking research that is changing the way this milestone is understood. He published his findings in a 2002 history, “Race and Reunion.” Even the History Channel’s current “History of Memorial Day” video ignores the stirring 1865 chapter of U.S. history that Blight finally uncovered. (Over time, scholars expect that our collective “history” will be restored to include the 1865 event. Wikipedia’s version already includes this 1865 revision. Or, really this represents a restoration of the record.)

The first Memorial Day was marked by former slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, who created proper, individual graves for fallen Union soldiers who had been buried en masse near a Confederate prison camp. For most of the 20th century, however, the “first” Decoration or Memorial Day was credited to Waterloo, New York, mainly because the freed slaves of Charleston, South Carolina, didn’t have the connective clout enjoyed by the men promoting Waterloo’s ceremonies. News of the Charleston effort never spread across the U.S. and eventually vanished from our national memory. Of course, the Waterloo effort was noble, too, but its claim as our “first” now must be qualified as perhaps a “first in the North.”

According to Blight’s research: On May 1, 1865, 10,000 former slaves gathered at the cemetery site they had rebuilt and elaborately decorated in Charleston, South Carolina. Their courage is inspiring, because they were making a large-scale public demonstration of their love and respect for fallen Union soldiers—within weeks of the end of the war. Their brave actions easily could have brought their families into harm’s way from white neighbors who still strongly supported the defeated Confederacy.

Preparing for that first Memorial Day was an expensive, back-breaking effort in which a proper cemetery actually was built from the ground up by African-American volunteers prior to May 1. On a spiritual level, these freed slaves were intent on starting their new lives by literally digging up and reshaping a key part of their past. The site of this first Memorial Day, once a local race course, had been a Confederate prison camp where Union soldiers’ bodies were heaped in a mass grave. Volunteers prepared for May 1, 1865, by digging up the discarded remains, burying them properly, adding a wall around the cemetery, plus a proper arched entryway for visitors. The site, today, is Hampton Park. If you know Charleston, you’ll realize there is no Civil War cemetery there now. Eventually, these remains were moved again to a new U.S. national cemetery in Georgia.

The words “Memorial Day” were first used in 1882, although Memorial Day was not officially declared in federal law until 1967.

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In 2005, Vanessa Woods accepted a marriage proposal from a man she barely knew and agreed to join him on a research trip to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Settling in at a bonobo sanctuary in Congo’s capital, Vanessa and her fiancé entered the world of a rare ape with whom we share 98.7% of our DNA. Vanessa soon discovered that bonobos live in a peaceful society in which females are in charge, war is nonexistent, and sex is as common and friendly as a handshake.

A fascinating memoir of hope and adventure, Bonobo Handshake traces Vanessa’s self-discovery as she finds herself falling deeply in love with her husband, the apes, and her new surroundings. Courageous and extraordinary, Almost French meets The Poisonwood Bible in this true story of revelation and transformation in a fragile corner of Africa.

— from book blurb in Vanessa’s mighty fine book. Read on . . . .

VANESSA WOODS: TERRIFIC WRITER, ADVENTURIST, GIRLY GIRL

Vanessa Woods comes across in interviews as some kind of Australian Valley Girl, only more giggly and bubbly and naive than any Valley Girl.
But boy, what a writer and what an important writer she is–about as far removed from naive as a young woman can be. She’s ventured into the deepest, darkest corners of the real world and has something to say about it–a lot to say, actually, and a lot to teach us.
She’s a writer who actually has something to say and you know that one of our pet peeves here at JFJ.com is the overwhelming number of artists and writers and actors and music makers and politicians and people of all kinds of professions and creative fields who produce a lot of stuff with nothing much really to say that’s original or creative or fresh or significant or important.
Who knew that the bloodiest war since WWII is in the Congo–where Vanessa, with a man she hardly knew when she married him, went off in search of Bonobos.
Who even heard of Bonobos till Vanessa Woods shone a light on them?
Check her out at her web site with the link below.
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*Vanessa is an award winning journalist and author. She has written three children’s books; It’s True! There Are Bugs In Your Bed (2005), It’s True! Space Turns You Into Spaghetti (2006), and It’s True! Pirates Ate Rats (2007). It’s True! Space Turns You Into Spaghetti won the Acclaimed Book award from the Royal Society, UK.
Vanessa is also the author of the travel memoir It’s Every Monkey For Themselves (2007) about her experiences chasing wild capuchin monkeys through the Costa Rican jungle. Her books have been sold in the US, Australia, Korea, Israel and the UK.
Vanessa is an internationally published journalist and has written for various publications including the Discovery Channel, BBC Wildlife, New Scientist, and Travel Africa. In 2003, Vanessa won the Australasian Science award for journalism.
Vanessa is currently a Research Scientist at Duke University and studies the cognitive development chimpanzees and bonobos at sanctuaries in the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Vanessa is on the Board of Directors for Friends of Bonobos, the US charity that supports Lola ya Bonobo. Part of her author profits will go to Friends of Bonobos to help bonobos in Congo.
Contact
Go to Vanessa Woods’ website: www.vanessawoods.net

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AMERICAN TROOPS FREEZING, FIGHTING, DYING, AT THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE

U.S. Marines in Afghanistan

Anyone who had a childhood worth remembering had an Aunt Rainie and Uncle Ruff, the aunt and uncle who seemed larger than life and made the growing-up years the wonder years.
Uncle Ruff had a deep and I’m talking very deep voice, and a laugh that came out of deep place within him as well. He had a slightly roguish air about him and was always grinning a mischievous little grin, and he loved a good joke, and the bluer the humor the better.
But he bore the scars of war his whole long life. He was in heavy combat at the Battle of the Bulge and suffered what used to be called “shell shock.”
In my growing-up years in the fifties, my grandmother and I would take the Greyhound bus to Corsicana where Uncle Ruff and my Aunt Rainie lived and spend a few weeks with them. (We then went on to Rockdale to spend days with Uncle Ledell and Aunt Newell, but that’s another aunt and uncle story for another day and I’ve writ about my very Pentecostal Aunt Newell’s deep Christian faith here before.)
Aunt Rainie and Uncle Ruff never had children–Uncle Ruff’s war “scars” were such that Uncle Ruff couldn’t have handled the chaos of little ones around him at all times. But he loved kids and he and Aunt Rainie lavished love and generous gifts on me and my brothers and then lavished love and gifts on our children too.
I remember a curious thing about my Uncle Ruff. One Fourth of July when I was staying with them, Aunt Rainie bought me and a neighbor’s kid who was my age, and who lived a few houses down, enough firecrackers to keep us entertained for a week. Aunt Rainie warned us, though, to confine ourselves to a certain area a good ways away from her and Uncle Ruff’s house. Many years later, when Uncle Ruff was gone to his reward and I pumped Aunt Rainie for more information about Uncle Ruff and his war experience, she told me that he hated holidays that involved fireworks because he didn’t like the banging noises because, well . . . the war and all that. I pointed out that he carried a pistol in his truck for protection because he and Aunt Rainie had a vending machine business and carried enormous amounts of cash. And Aunt Rainie said yes, they’d both been robbed before and Uncle Ruff would have used the pistol to protect himself and her (and me and us all) in a heartbeat. But gunfire, cars backfiring–even firecrackers going off too close to him unexpectedly–such blasts were hell on his war nerves, she told me.
She actually called them that.
His “war nerves.”
He just didn’t want some kid setting off a firecracker behind his back or something, unexpectedly, because it wouldn’t have been a pretty scene once he got over the shock of it.
All of his life, Uncle Ruff’s hands shook without ceasing. I used to marvel at how he could drink one cup of coffee after another, with it filled almost to overflowing every time, and not spill a drop in spite of the shaking hands. (Well, most of the time there was no spilling anyway.)
Uncle Ruff was one of the happiest and most well-adjusted and stable of men, his “war nerves” notwithstanding”–a model of a husband and provider and a joy to his nieces and nephews and all of his family and extended family and friends and their kids too. And like Aunt Rainie, about as generous as generous can be, not only to the family members, but to his war buddies in Corsicana and nearby Athens, Texas where he grew up. And a lot of his war buddies didn’t readjust to civilian life as well as he did and were extremely needy men, some of them to the point of being way down and out. They knew they could count on my Uncle Ruff for money or an empathetic ear or both, any time.
Uncle Ruff was a combat survivor and a living witness to Sherman’s assertion that war is hell.
That’s something we should never forget in this country, but we have forgotten it, and we do forget it.
Below is the posting from yesterday which I’m going to post again tomorrow as a reminder that war is hell and that we have two wars going on while we in this country argue over a lot of stuff that’s silly and not really even arguable.
But I suppose that’s why we have Memorial Day.
In order to remember.
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The latest warrior killed in Afghan is a 24 y.o. Marine from College Station, Texas, the hometown of my son the former Marine and Iraq War vet Adam McKay, who (thank you God) made it back to College Station where he’s living a good civilian life. Let’s not forget the reason for this holiday weekend.

Dept. of Defense Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht, 24, of College Station, Texas, died May 27 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Also, this is the report from Associated Press in the Bryan-College Station Eagle:
AP: 1,000th U.S. death in Afghanistan is CS man
Associated Press

An Associated Press tally shows that the 1,000th U.S. serviceman killed in the Afghanistan war is a 24-year-old Marine from College Station.

The Department of Defense announced Saturday that Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht died Thursday.

His brother Jesse Leicht says the Marine had been in Afghanistan for only a few weeks when he stepped on an explosive and was instantly killed.

The AP bases its tally on Defense Department reports of deaths suffered as a direct result of the Afghan conflict, including personnel assigned to units in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Uzbekistan.

It was Jacob Leicht’s second overseas tour. His first one in 2007 lasted only a few weeks after his Humvee drove over an explosive, breaking his leg.

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U.S. Marines in Afghanistan

The latest warrior killed in Afghan is a 24 y.o. Marine from College Station, Texas, the hometown of my son the former Marine and Iraq War vet Adam McKay, who (thank you God) made it back to College Station where he’s living a good civilian life. Let’s not forget the reason for this holiday weekend.

Dept. of Defense Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht, 24, of College Station, Texas, died May 27 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Also, this is the report from Associated Press in the Bryan-College Station Eagle:
AP: 1,000th U.S. death in Afghanistan is CS man
Associated Press

An Associated Press tally shows that the 1,000th U.S. serviceman killed in the Afghanistan war is a 24-year-old Marine from College Station.

The Department of Defense announced Saturday that Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht died Thursday.

His brother Jesse Leicht says the Marine had been in Afghanistan for only a few weeks when he stepped on an explosive and was instantly killed.

The AP bases its tally on Defense Department reports of deaths suffered as a direct result of the Afghan conflict, including personnel assigned to units in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Uzbekistan.

It was Jacob Leicht’s second overseas tour. His first one in 2007 lasted only a few weeks after his Humvee drove over an explosive, breaking his leg.

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