D-Day

It is an anniversary today. A terrible remembrance of sacrifice and courage. It is D-day, June 6th, the storming of the beaches in Normandy, France in an operation called “Overlord”. I was there on the June 6, 1999 anniversary with six veterans who had not been back since they fought and crawled on those beaches in 1944.

“Lest we forget.”
© 1999 Rolland G. Smith

It was the day and the month the warriors returned
To the place where many died, the dawn the beaches burned.
The hard of then, now softened by the passage of the years.
It freed again the feelings that surfaced with the tears.

The mind and step would falter returning to the scene
Their bodies now are different. The beaches now pristine.
So many came to witness the warriors return
And wondered if their courage was something they could learn.

Valor comes in time of need, for courage is within
When tyranny oppresses it rises once again.
Old warriors we thank you, for life and limb you gave
To hold the sacred honor of the free and the brave.

You came from planes and gliders and from the ships at sea
And moved across the beaches to free French Normandy.
You now return to see, the place of battle fears
The combat dead now hold you and wipe away your tears.

The world too rejoices in thanks for how you fought
It weeps for lives that lost and too for lessons taught.
And if there is a legacy, besides long rows of white,
Let it be a world call, never the need to fight.

Cancer Diagnosis

Some more thoughts on the entrapment of Cancer.

A wonderful friend of mine recently told me of cancer in her family and asked I not tell anyone. I understand and respect that request and I would also offer another way to think about it to all who go through the announcement of Cancer. Cancer affects all of us. It is a disease that seems to be the common denominator of all of us these days. I share some experiential truths in dealing with this insidious disease that have worked for me and my family.

Illness always gives new meaning to each life. Granted, what I am suggesting may not work for all, but for some it will help. First of all, talk about your feelings and fears. Ask the tough questions to the doctors and then hear and hear and hear the answers and do not hold back your fears to the one diagnosed and especially let them talk about their fears, and worries and things they want to say. Yes, it is tough, and it is freeing in the long run.

If the diagnosis is terminal, even though it’s couched in possibilities, talk about that too. Denial is detrimental to the understanding of life and for its closure. Have truth in all conversation, for it is the pathway to internal peace for those who are dealing with the possible ending of their lives. Saying what is true does not mean giving up the fight, it means fighting what you know with knowledge and understanding. Honesty starts the physical and spiritual healing process.

Rejoice when you can. Laugh when you can, dance when you can and know that it’s OK to cry.

footnotes:

If it’s a child it so much harder, but be honest.
If it’s a spouse it is equally so, but be open and share worries and fears and listen.
If it’s a parent, be strong, be truthful, and listen and listen some more
If it’s you, listen only to your heart. It will tell you where you are and what you need to do.

People Watching


I sat a mall lunch table recently and watched the passersby. There were young mothers and their babies in a stroller usually two by two. There were old folks with canes who kept to the aisle sides for they walked more slowly than the rest. There were several groups of youngsters. Boys and girls together most in their early teens and others a little older, but they all walked and looked and shopped in packs like wolves all the while playing, running, and teasing one another.

The energy of the little walkers was wonderful to watch. The little one’s, the toddlers to the seven year types. Their energy was astounding and infectious. One little girl, not only kept up with her fast paced Mother, she twirled and leaped and danced as she kept stride.

I’d forgotten how educational it is to watch people. Most of us don’t have the time to spend to do that anymore. If you watch long enough, you see yourself at every age you can remember and at every age you can imagine.

If we ever need an example of our oneness and our interconnectedness to each other, go to a mall. Just sit and watch.

Graduation and Beyond



I wasn’t there today, but I was there years ago to see the pomp and celebration of four years of accomplishment for the young men and women of West Point. I have also lectured at the Air Force Academy and was impressed with the collective as well as the individual dedication of the cadets and instructors.

All of the service academies graduations engender a spectacular ceremony that wells with emotion and precipitates deep patriotic pride and a foreboding bellicose prognostication.
Pride because these new spirits of the American dream have spent hard physical and mental hours over that last four years to honor their dream of an education and of service and commitment to the everlasting ideals of America. The bellicose possibilities exist because many of these 950 men and women West Point graduates will be heading to Iraq or Afghanistan as platoon leaders and officers in the field of war. It is their destiny determined by the times.

This will be a longer post because I have other observations to make about the way our Nation treats these young warriors. It has nothing to do with whether you think the war is just, or right, or wrong or should be ended. It has to do only with the warriors we, as a nation, send into harms way.

Many of the men and women we designate as warriors and send to battle have families and all the needs that go with that responsibility.

Too many of them cannot afford to care for their families on what pay they take home, even with allowances that vary depending on rank, duty, and dependents.

It is not uncommon for young military families, in all the services, to need food stamps to exist. We ask them for sacrifice, not only of their lives if need be, but the sacrifice of extended time away from family closeness at seasonal and personal celebrations, yet we seem to forget them at budget time.

The lower ranks, after taxes might have a spendable income of maybe 18-thousand dollars a year and it does not get proportionally greater for the upper ranks or years of service. If we are to continuously ask the peacekeepers to risk their lives, then we need to provide peace of mind at home.

It starts with public awareness and goes way beyond the meager pay raises that congress occasionally approves.

When we send our men and women into battle we think of them as warriors, as skilled fighters, as cohesive units trained to win. They are that and so much more for no matter where they are the dichotomy of trained soldier and the tenderness of human nature abounds.

I have seen pictures from the AP and from Reuters that shows American soldiers at their best. I’ve seen a soldier on patrol, weapon at the ready, kneeling for a moment to pet a kitten. I’ve seen a soldier teaching a little Arab boy to slap a five. A smile on all their faces is a lasting victory. I’ve seen a soldier, maybe a father himself, sitting on the ground cradling a wounded child in his arms.
You can have the best technology to fight a war, but you also must have the best of heart to win one.

Now to the hard part of war!

In Vietnam, I covered the war and the coffins coming home. I’ve seen the dead in Croatia and I’ve reported on the nightly news the mortality count in numerous wars and conflicts since the sixties.

What governments have always failed to acknowledge is that once a warrior is dead, politics end. The dignity of a name is important to the validity of service, not only to the family, but also to the social and patriotic permanence to our society. Heroes are honored, not hidden.

Hang the politics of hiding the death count. These are our dead. We directly and indirectly sent them where harm could happen. They serve and served by choice and honor. They die by circumstance and the hatred of another. Let us acknowledge their remains with honor and names and bugle calls in public. And let us congratulate the new warriiors who choose to serve and pray they are kept from harm.

More in a later post.