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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo and a Little Thank You

This was sent to me in one of those round-robin e-mails by my daughter, mother of my grandson serving in Iraq. I can't credit it because the author was not given; you know how these webletters are! Somehow, I don't think that the author will mind being an anonymous writer this once, as long as it is getting the message out. In fact, in one of those tags at the end of the piece, he or she actually invites people to pass it on. I'm just doing what I'm told. I figure the message is worth it.

> Captain Kangaroo passed away on January 23, 2004 at age 76 , which isn't odd, because he always looked to be 76. (DOB: 6/27/27 ) His death reminded me of the following story.
> Some people have been a bit offended that the actor, Lee Marvin, is buried in a grave alongside 3- and 4-star generals at Arlington National Cemetery His marker gives his name, rank (PVT) and service (USMC). Nothing else. Here's&nb sp;a guy who was only a famous movie star who served his time, why the heck does he rate burial with these guys? Well, following is the amazing answer:
> I always liked Lee Marvin, but didn't know the extent of his Corps experiences.

> In a time when many Hollywood stars served their country in the armed forces often in rear echelon posts where they were carefully protected, only to be trotted out to perform for the cameras in war bond promotions, Lee Marvin was a genuine hero. He won the Navy Cross at Iwo Jima There is only one higher Naval award... the Medal Of Honor!
> If that is a surprising comment on the true character of the man, he credits his sergeant with an even greater show of bravery.
> Dialog from 'The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson':

His guest was Lee Marvin Johnny said, 'Lee, I'll bet a lot of people are unaware that you were a Marine in the initial landing at Iwo Jima ...and that during the course of that action you earned the Navy Cross and were severely wounded.'
> [he said,]'Yeah, yeah... I got shot square in the bottom and they gave me the Cross for securing a hot spot about halfway up Suribachi. Bad thing about getting shot up on a mountain is guys getting' shot hauling you down. But, Johnny, at Iwo I served under the bravest man I ever knew... We both got the Cross the same day, but what he did for his Cross made mine look cheap in comparison. That dumb guy actually stood up on Red beach and directed his troops to move forward and get the hell off the beach. Bullets flying by, with mortar rounds landing everywhere and he stood
there as the main target of gunfire so that he could get his men to safety. He did this on more than one occasion because his men's safety was more important than his own life. That Sergeant and I have been lifelong friends. When they brought me off Suribachi we passed the Sergeant and he lit a smoke and passed it to me, lying on my
belly on the litter and said, 'Where'd they get youLee?'

'Well Bob... if you make it home before me, tell Mom to sell the outhouse!' Johnny, I'm not lying, Sergeant Keeshan was the bravest man I ever knew. The Sergeant's name is Bob Keeshan. You and the world know him as Captain Kangaroo.'
>On another note, there was this wimpy little manwho just passed away) on PBS, gentle and quiet. Mr. Rogers is another of those you would least suspect of being anything but what he now portrays to our youth. But Mr. Rogers was a U.S. Navy Seal,combat-proven in Vietnam with over twenty-five confirmed kills to his name. He wore a long-sleeved sweater on TV, to cover the many tattoos on his forearm and biceps. He was a master in small arms and hand-to-hand combat, able to disarm or kill in a heartbeat.
>After the war Mr. Rogers became an ordained Presbyterian minister and therefore a pacifist. Vowing to never harm another human and also dedicating the rest of his life to trying to help lead children on the right path in life. He hid away the tattoos and his past life and won our hearts with his quiet wit and charm.
> America's real heroes don't flaunt what they did; they quietly go about their day-to-day lives, doing what they do best. They earned our respect and the freedoms that we all enjoy. Look around and see if you can find one of those heroes in your midst. Often, they are the ones you'd least suspect, but would most like to have on your side if anything ever happened.
>Take the time to thank anyone that has fought for our freedom. With encouragement they could be the next Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers

So! Thank you, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous. I'm taking the time to thank you.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence.

Monday, May 19, 2008

More Resources for Information on Iraq

For your information only: Here is an independent site that reports casualties in Iraq and related information:
Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How Iraq's Sand Is Like Iris--Mother's Day 2008

Below you will find the letter I sent to my grandson after receiving from him a bouquet of iris on Mother's Day. It seems very private but then it occurred to me that it is also very American, about generations and love and really, what our soldiers are doing over there or -- if that doesn't describe the way they're thinking about it now -- then it may be about what they thought they would be doing over there. He is serving in the tradition of his father, his grandfather, his Cousin Joe, his Great Uncle Bob, and Great Uncle Jim, and another Great Uncle he has never met, Doug. Veterans all.

Dear Travis:

How I loved the flowers on mother's day, though the sand you mentioned from Iraq's deserts--unblooming ones I must presume--would have been adequate. It's the thought.

As it turns out, the flowers were iris. So, if it's the thought that counts, they made me think.

Your great, great grandmother Ruth Howard (the one who is a main character in This is the Place) raised iris. Raising iris is different from planting iris or just having some in your yard. She had a patch of them just beyond the side yard where that huge Mormon family sat in Adirondack chairs. There were some 40s /50s style metal lawn chairs there, too, a tad rusted. And the clothesline. I think it was made so the ropes could be taken down during family parties but those ropes were supported by poles where wasps liked to build their nests. They were cozy homes for the wasps, hollow with nice little holes for them to ease into and out of. Good hiding places. One never saw the actual nests, only the comings and goings. Once I leaned against one of their entrances (or perhaps exits). Someone didn't like it much and he (or she) stung me in the armpit. That's the first time I noticed the holes were there. Before that they had just been good places to hang from your knees.

Anyway, beyond that yard, all nice and green and shaded by an apple tree that put out the bitterest, hardest, greenest apples of all time, was the iris patch. Beyond that the chicken coop. Chicken manure made very good fertilizer for the iris so it was nice and convenient. Grandmother putzed in that patch. She crossed iris with iris to see what she would get. A little pollen from this applied with her finger to the female organs of that. She also tried for size, I think, because her iris were huge, as big as the biggest California-grown grapefruit. And the colors. Some had mismatched petals, the top ones that curved up different from the ones that made a skirt. Some glittered in sun like mica. And not just the color of Van Gogh's irises. Oh, no. Much too plain. These came in pink and gold-orange, the color of sunsets. Blues and lavenders, the colors of Utah skies in summer.

Grandma liked to give tubers (for they are tubers, really, and not bulbs) to people who came to visit for she kept them nicely divided so they didn't lose any of their energy and life. By dividing them her iris she kept them forever young. It worked that way for Grandma, too. Because she was always busy and interested in something she remained feisty and fun until she died in her 90s. The olds woman in Hollday, Utah at the time.

Getting a tuber from Grandma was a treat. It was always a surprise the following spring to see what color would come of those roots that looked like giant rat turds. Grandma produced miracles with her iris.

You did, too. (-:

Grandma Carolyn

PS: You can see that iris have been influential in my life. The cover of one of my book's of poetry (co-authored by Magdalena Ball) is covered with iris, courtesy of an artist friend, Vicki Thomas.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence.