An American Gem

Going to the Blue Ridge Parkway is always a special treat for me.  Every curve along the mountains gives you a beautiful view, especially when you are on a high elevation.  It is hidden below these majestic mountains that a national gem resides.  In a little town named Bedford in Virginia is where this treasure lies.

The National D Day Memorial was created through the vision of one of the Bedford WWII survivors, Bob Slaughter.  This memorial tells the story of the D Day Invasion through a series of different monuments, statues, plaques and very well versed tour guides.

Why is this national memorial located in such a small town instead of somewhere more prominent?  Bedford is a rural town located in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  During WWII, the young men of Bedford answered the call to defend their country.  Most of the young men were boys that were in their teens, which is why they are called the Bedford Boys.

At that time, Bedford’s population was 3,200.   Thirty of these young men made up Company A of the 29th Infantry Division of the National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment and were a part of the assault on the Omaha Beach.  There were Bedford Boys in other Companies that took part in the D Day Invasion.  By the end of the day, 19 men of Company A were dead.  Two more soldiers died in Normandy and another 2 died from other D Day companies.  Bedford’s loses were proportionally the largest casualty for D Day loses of any community in the US.  Establishing this national memorial here was to recognize Bedford for its D Day sacrifices.

The beginning of the tour starts at the Bedford Visitor Center where you can view a short video that tells of the D Day Invasion and you purchase your ticket.  Then you drive up a top of a hill and follow the memorial road to the Quonset hut where you park and meet your tour guide.  The tour guide takes you through the memorial via golf cart.  The first stop is the bust of Bob Slaughter, a Bedford survivor of WWII who was involved in the D Day Invasion.

Next you are taken to the area that was designed after the D Day Patch and has busts of the officers who served Eisenhower during the invasion strategy.  Inside the ceiling of the folly where Eisenhower’s statue stands is a mosaic copy of the invasion map.

The next level has very graphic statues and sculptures that depict the beach invasion.  There are also plaques and a huge open area that is to represent a quarter of the distance that the soldiers had to traverse due to the landing occurring during low tide.  There is a sculpture that depicts the two Army ranger groups that were assigned to scale the cliff and take out the German pillbox located at the top of the cliff.  There is a sculpture of what the landing craft looked like.

On the eastern edge outside of this area along the sidewalks around the memorial is the Gold Star Monument.  The center is a cut out of the soldier.  When the sun sets, it casts a shadow of a fallen soldier.  On the back side of this monument are pictures of the Bedford soldiers and their wives and girlfriends, the invasion and the burial during the invasion and afterwards.  The US is the only country in the world that lets families decide whether to bury their dead where they died or bury them in the US.

At the very top of the level is the Memorial Arch that stands 44 feet tall to represent the year of the invasion, has the word Overload embellished on the top crossbar of the arch which represents the name of the invasion and has the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.  In an circle around the base of the arch are the names of the beaches where the invasion took place.  Down the sidewalk toward the entrance is a couple of statues, one that depicts two soldiers and the other is a replica of a French statue that has part of its face blown away.

This national memorial was dedicated on 6 June 2001.  President George W. Bush stated in his dedication speech “Fifty-seven years ago, America and the nations of Europe formed a bond that has never been broken. And all of us incurred a debt that can never be repaid. Today, as America dedicates our D-Day Memorial, we pray that our country will always be worthy of the courage that delivered us from evil and saved the free world.”

If you are ever on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Peaks of Otter Lodge, take State Route 43 South into Bedford and follow the signs to the D Day Memorial to explore this national gem.  Touring this site will definitely give you a special appreciation for the sacrifices that were made to keep world free from tyranny.

 

 

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The Beauty of Summer

This summer has been an awkward one for me.  I had to have surgery that required 6 weeks of recovery.  I love gardening, but my ability to maintain my gardens after my surgery would be severely limited.  Nevertheless I planted several plants  and well watered them up to the day before my surgery.  My first couple of weeks after surgery would restrict me to no driving, so I decided to make sure I had something pretty to look at while reclining on my front porch swing.

Despite the high heat and humidity, my flowers have been thriving.  My bare flower beds have become a gorgeous landscape of flowing colors.  It has been wonderful to walk along the beds and see new flowers blooming.  My prairie flowers have really outdone themselves.  The Joe-Pye Weed is fuller than it has been in previous years with its dainty light pink and warm darker pink.  The prairie coneflower and tall prairie coreopsis has transformed the green prairie into radiant yellow.  The pink star shaped flowers of the common milkweed provided a sweet welcoming scent and the chance to see monarch caterpillars.

After the second week, I finally received permission to drive again and do some hiking (alas not the long hikes that I enjoy). My first hike was to the boardwalk at Carriage Hill Metro Park, where I looked for turtles and frogs while crossing the boardwalk at Cedar Lake. It was fun listening to the “out of tune” banjo string plucking sound of the green frog. The sun was kind of hot, so I decided to take refuge in the woods. The trail was short, but provided me a small preview of the tall grass prairie. Here I spied some thistle, rattlesnake master, monarda and some other prairie flowers.

Although I longed to hike through more prairie, I took the trail to the left that headed back into the woods. As I took my first steps in, I was greeted by the coolness found under the tree canopy. A gentle breeze made the shade of the woods even cooler. Along the trail scurried a chipmunk. From the branches came the afternoon chorus of songbirds. Nothing is so special as a walk in the woods on a hot day.

The second hike I did was at Dog Wood Pond. I wanted to hike in the woods to see the flowing natural springs, but the trail was too impassible beyond the first spring. While walking along the path at the pond, I was treated to the sweet chorus of green and bullfrogs. Stopping at the bridge that crosses area of the pond where the water tumbles down a manmade waterfall, I looked for turtles. Instead I saw two large mouth bass swimming among the blue gill. One of the wooden swings was open, so I spent sometime enjoying the scenery while swinging in the shade.

Summer tends to be a very busy time. We rush off to work, spend afternoons barbecuing, enjoy outdoor festival and concerts and other fun things. Next time life gives you a chance to pause, make sure to take in the beauty of Summer.

 

Brown-eyed Susan
Brown-Eyed Susan
Daisy Fleabane
Daisy Fleabane
Hole in Tree Stump
Hole in Tree Stump
Monarda
Monarda
Pretty Pink Flowers along the trail to the woods
Pink Flowers
Raspberries
Raspberries
Rattlesnake Master
Rattlesnake Master
Sunflowers in the Prairie
Sunflowers
Thistle
Thistle

 

Lending a Helping Hand

Spring has always been a time for new beginnings.  The blooming of flowers and trees change the muted colors of winter into a colorful bouquet of Spring.  Working for Facilities Management, I usually receive phone calls about issues that are occurring at the various facilities that my division manages.  The recent calls I have been receiving have been about air conditioning issues.  Today’s call was different.

I received a phone call from a police facility that needed help with some baby birds.  Did I have someone who could handle this?  Having worked with wildlife during my park career, I decided to take on this issue.  When I arrived on scene, I was led to a small electrical closet where there were three baby starlings on the floor.  They had apparently fell out of their nest.

After checking them over, they were too young to be on their own and needed to be placed back in their nest.  The woman who had called me helped me get a box to carry the babies in.  They kept opening their mouths for food.  She was able to get me some tuna which the babies gulped down quickly.  After they were done eating, it was time to put them back in their nest.  I decided to feed them because we didn’t know how long they had been out of their nest.

Some other staff helped us get an extension ladder so that we could reach the hole where the nest was located.  I carefully climbed the ladder and placed a baby bird one at a time back into their nest.  After they were safely back in their nest, I suggested that the staff cover the inside hole with some cardboard and duct tape to prevent the babies from falling out of the nest again.  I would send some staff to make a more permanent cover.

You never know when you are going to be asked to lend a helping hand.   When that call comes, be prepared to make a difference

 

 

A Leap of Faith

At the end of 2016 I was really feeling extremely tired.  Little did I know that I was going to take a leap of faith… one full of twists and turns and unexpected revelations.  Work had become so all consuming that I didn’t have much energy to do anything.  My personal life was suffering, though no one knew this because I always kept up a happy demeanor.  I felt like I was being swallowed into the depths of darkness that I couldn’t not escape.  One day I remember saying to myself that I wished I could have a year off from work.  Little did I know someone was listening.

At the beginning of 2017 I had to find a new church as the church I was attending had disbanded after Christmas Eve Service.  I spent the month of January attending different churches looking for one that I felt God really was there.  I went to David’s United Church of Christ on the third Sunday in January.  The members there were so welcoming that I decided to come back the next Sunday.  After worshipping there two Sundays in a row, this church just felt right to me.  It also didn’t hurt that I received two welcome bags (one each Sunday) that contained a loving message from David’s and a box of homemade buckeyes.

The beginning of 2017 was very rough for me.  I had sunk into such a low funk due to all of the stress.  Finding this new church was my first leap.  I was invited to join an evening Church Study group that would be meeting for four weeks.  I was a little bit nervous at the first group since I wasn’t a member of the church.  However, the people at this group made me feel welcomed and I was starting to make new friends.

One night as I was heading home from the church study night, I saw a license plate that had a frame which read “No Worries… God’s got it covered!”  I wondered if this was a message from God to me about the struggles I was currently going through.  It was an extremely really tough time… one with fears of not just losing my house but also everything I owned.  It felt like my world was collapsing before me.  Was this God letting me know that He was there with me and that He had my back?

At the beginning of my vacation around the end of Spring, I was walking in the woods.  I thought about what I was going through and wondering what my outcome would be.  I prayed later that night asking for an answer to my dilemma.  The next day as I was driving down the interstate highway a car passed me whose license plate frame read “Be Ever in Your Favor”.

I had been reading some books.  One was by Max Lucado, one of my favorite Christian authors, called “Traveling Light… Letting Go of the Things You Were Never Meant to Carry”.  This book is about how we tend to take on burdens that God never intended for us to carry.  It gave some great advice on how to start letting go of those burdens.  Another book I read was “God Winks” which talked about how God communicates with us through things that we think are coincidences.

During my turbulent summer, I prayed that God would grant me success and provide me with an opportunity to do what I like to do and that was more suited to my skills.   Having almost a year off from work was very scary.  I wanted to be happy again and feel like I was making a difference.  Towards the end of the year this prayer was answered… I was offered a new position that was exactly what I had asked for in my prayers!

God truly answers prayers.  It may not occur when we want it to.  He is always there in the good times and the bad.  He never leaves us.  If you are ever in a quandary… sitting on a ledge… take that leap of faith.  God is there … waiting to catch you.

 

 

 

 

 

A Haunting We Will Go

Fall holds a special place in my heart.  Maybe it is due to the fact that I was born in October.  The heat of the summer melts away to the cooler, crisp air of Fall.  The landscape transforms from the festive colors of blues, pinks and yellow to the vibrant hues of gold, burnt orange and deep reds.

The cornfields have transformed from deep green to golden brown.  Virginia creeper looks like red leg warmers on the trunk of trees.  The aroma of fresh picked apples and squeezed apple cider fill the air at the local fruit farms.

People would gather around a bonfire roasting marshmallows and sipping on hot mulled cider while listening to ghost stories shared by family members and friends.  Each story added to the intensity of the season, making one look around them to make sure there weren’t any ghosts lurking about.   Another fun tradition was the singing of fun Halloween songs to sing like “Have you seen the ghost of Tom” and “Don’t you know it’s that time of year”.

Dad really liked Halloween.  It gave him the opportunity to show off his artistic talents as he transformed an ordinary pumpkin into a grinning face.  Every year, he would change the look of the face.  The eyes and mouth would look different.  We waited with baited breath to see what design he came up with that year.

Halloween time brought great childhood classics as Disney’s “Mr. Toad and Ichabod Crane”, “Witch Hazel”, “Pluto with the Kitten” and “Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” and Charles Schultz’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”.  We would gather in our pajamas cuddling under a blanket in front of the TV in the living room.  Mom would have a bowl of buttered popcorn and glasses of cold apple cider for us to enjoy while watching these classics.

Growing up in the inner city, Halloween was always a fun time.  There were many houses to go trick-or-treating.  Neighbors dusted off their confectionary cookbooks which kicked off the beginning of homemade candy making that would last through New Year’s.

Nothing was more fun that going door to door and greeting our neighbors with the chorus of “Trick-or-Treat”.  The neighbors obligingly dropping a sweet treat into our pillow cases… we didn’t have fancy candy holding containers like they do today.  Everybody knew each other so receiving homemade candies was completely safe.

The best treats of the season were the homemade candies.  The gooey caramels and sticky popcorn balls were some of the favorite treats we would receive.  Living in a very diverse ethnic neighborhood, we would collect an great assortment of homemade candies.  Next door to our house was a German family who made German candies.

Homemade costumes would get the last final touches before the witching hour would begin.  All of my friends took pride in their costume choices.  Each one would try to out do the other in creativity.  We would all meet at my house, then head out into the neighborhood as one big Halloween troop.  After an hour or so, we would all head back to our own homes for a final candy inspection and sorting by our moms.

Heading upstairs to bed, we would take one last look at the bounty of homemade candy we had received nodding with approval at the size of our booty.  Once in our room, we took one last look to make sure there weren’t any ghosts or goblins ready to grab us as we prepared to settle in for the long night’s sleep.

As Halloween approaches just remember, “when ghosts and goblins by the score, ring a bell on your front door.  Better or not be stingy or your nightmares will come true.  BOO!”

Patriotism vs. Nationalism… Why Nationalism will not make America Great Again

There has been a lot of talk these days about “Nationalism” in the United States.  This word has almost become synonymous with patriotism, yet they are two distinctively different words.  According to the dictionary, Patriotism is the act of love, support and defense of one’s country.  Nationalism is exalting one’s nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interest as opposed to those of other nations.  As you can see by these definitions that either word is not interchangeable.

Nationalism is more synonymous with isolationism.  Isolationism is not a great thing for the United States, especially if we want to grow our economy and make this country stronger.  Shutting one’s self off from the world will only harm the United States.  It will lead to an economic downturn due to limited resources and knowledge.  Being non-team players is not who Americans are.  We are strong, independent people who learn and grow by sharing our ideas and resources with others.

Let’s take a look at how our country was created.  We started off as a group of British colonies.  As such, these colonies relied heavily on world trade, otherwise known as the global market, in order to spur their economy.  In fact, the American colonists were such shrewd world traders that we were nicknamed “Yankees”.   The first colony, Virginia, spent several years shipping wood ashes to Britain for Britain to use in their soap making industry which Britain turned around and shipped their soap back to Virginia.  Virginia wasn’t equipped to do mass production of soap, so it relied on Britain to provide this commodity to its citizens.  There were several other commodities that the colonies had to purchase through trading.

During the American Revolutionary War, the colonists experienced additional hardships through restricted trading because of the war.  Even fighting for its independence, the colonists reached out to France for assistance in defeating the British due to their limited knowledge of warfare and lack of supplies.  Our forefathers also used the principles of other great men, such as Edmund Burke, when setting up the framework for why the colonies should be an independent nation.

Patriotism is a great thing.  It is a love for a country that is so strong that you give your all in order to make your country greater.  Patriotism is what the colonists had.  They had vision and foresight to understand that in order to create a new nation, they could not succeed in isolation.  They would need assistance from others which was the main purpose for the writing of the Declaration of Independence; a document to explain why the colonists needed to separate from Britain written in such a way that other countries would understand these reasons and why the colonists were seeking their assistance.  It was due to Patriotism not Nationalism that won independence for the colonies and the birth of the United States of America.

Although George Washington voiced his support for Nationalism, he would not have been so successful in the American Revolutionary War without the help of foreigners.  It was a foreigner named Baron Von Steuben who made Washington’s rag tag army into a disciplined fighting force.  Before that Washington struggled to maintain an army that could efficiently engage the British, thus causing Washington to lose many battles.  Again, it was a Frenchman named Comte de Rochambeau who convinced Washington to leave New York and fight Cornwallis at Yorktown which became the fatal blow to the British army leading towards the end of the war.  Without the help of world neighbors, we might still be British subjects.

It was the spirit of Patriotism that brought both the French and Baron Von Steuben to the aid of the American colonists.  This new found pride of country caught on around the world that other countries would also seek their independence.  Patriotism spurs creativity, innovation and shared knowledge and resources which in turn supports strong economies.  The flow of ideas and sharing of resources helps to build up nations, not tear them down.  Nationalism does none of this.  Nationalism is what creates dictators and hardships.  It suppresses the opportunity for growth due to limited resources.  Only the wealthy get richer while the rest of the population suffers leading to chaos, unrest/distrust and destabilization of a nation which is a boon to economic growth.

The world has been a global society for thousands of years.  The Egyptians traded with the Greeks, the Greeks traded with the Romans and so on.  Think of all of the newer technologies that could benefit the US if we stayed a global partner.  Our democracy has survived due to being a global partner.  During WWII, it was a foreigner who helped the US develop its atomic bombs that were used on Japan.  It has been foreigners who have helped create new innovation in the US to keep us strong in the world.  If we want to truly make America great again, then we need to be stronger world partners not isolationists.  We need to be seeking out beneficial partnerships that can create more economic strengths for this country.

As you listen to the redderick of today, ask yourself are you a Patriot and want real economic growth or are you a Nationalist and don’t care about economic growth.

 

Walking Through Fire

How do you redeem yourself when your character has been attacked?  How do you get back the respect that you have earned when someone continues to drag your reputation through the mud?  Does it all really matter?  These are all thoughts that are going through my mind this year as I am experiencing some of the most challenging times of my life.  Although I have done nothing illegal or morally wrong, I have had to endure endless assaults about my ethics.

What gives someone the right to pile dirt on someone else’s character?  Do they think that they are superhuman and above any reproach?  Maybe they haven’t heard of the Cheyenne saying “Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his mocassins”.

We, humans, tend to be very judgmental without thinking.  We make false assumptions and hurt others without blinking an eye by our words and our actions.   I would be a liar if I said that I had never been that way.

I had joined networking group called Crucial Conversations.  This group would send articles on various topics.  One article really gave me pause.  The author was retelling about a situation he incurred while riding on a train.  There was a man who had young children that were acting like children act (loose and carefree).  It appeared that this man was unaware of his children’s actions.  The people on the train were getting really annoyed with the man because he was letting his children run loose and wild on the train.  Finally the author of this article took it upon himself to go up to the man and tell him what he thought about this man’s lack of attention to his children.  He told the man in a huffy manner “why can’t you keep your children under control!”.  The man looked up blankly at the author and said “I just came from the hospital where my wife died in my arms.  I don’t know how I am going to tell my children their mother is gone”.  The author felt extremely embarrassed and bad about approaching this man.  It left him speechless.

This article totally changed the way I view my fellow humans.  No longer do I let my first thoughts dictate how I feel about the person I am seeing.  I do not know what that person might be going through.  It does take some practice to do this, especially after all of the years of going on just first impressions.  The saying first impressions are important needs to be changed to “Don’t judge people by your first impression”.  First impressions are always deceptive because you can’t really know a person by just meeting them once.  They could be having a wonderful day or their world could have been turned upside down.

The true character of a person can only be found by spending lots of time with that individual.  It takes time and patience to really get to know someone.  You have to be dedicated and willing to do this.  Judging someone on just a first impression is like trying to identify someone you only saw for a very brief moment.  It would be very inaccurate and false.

Whether you are walking through fire or someone else is, before you jump on the bandwagon of assumptions, take the time out to reflect on your actions and what affects they have on others.