Tag Archives: veterans

What Is On My Mind Today? Buying a Bomb at a Garage Sale

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/01/06/active-world-war-ii-style-mortar-shell-turns-up-in-all-places-oregon-womans-shed.html

This story from Foxnews about a live World War II shell in an Oregon’s women’s shed  reminds me of when I bought the bomb at the garage sale.

Yup, I bought a 90 mm solid brass artillery shell at a garage sale in Shoreview for $3.25 to use as an umbrella holder in my entry way.

It looked like a huge solid brass 22 shell. The fellow had brought it home from WWII. The shell had been in his living room for over 60 years.

When I got it home, transported of course in my red Corolla with my daughter in the car, a neighbor boy looked in it and said, “Pat, there is shit in there!.”

So, we got a flash light and sure enough, the detonator was still in there and when I flipped it over the percussion cap was still intact on the bottom.

My neighbor, the one who has the brain tumor now who is a veteran, happened to be outside and hollered to keep that thing away from his house.

That was when I realized, I was $3.25 and a bang away from paradise.

I went indoors and called an army surplus store to see if it was dangerous. The nice fellow that answered the phone gently and calmly explained that explosives explode. Large explosives explode largely.

So I called the police, who called the bomb squad. It’s just how things go some days.

They told us it was safe as long as it was laying on its side. We all took a step back.

A discussion commenced. It was pointed out that I had no fear of the thing when I was driving all over with it in the trunk of my car.

Reality changes perspectives.

I tend not to lose arguments, if I decide to take one on. As former Secretary Mark Ritchie once complimented me after I learned that I was too short to be a Civil War soldier, without missing a beat and with a big smile on his face, he responded, “Oh, they’d take you, you’re a fighter.”

Recognizing when a cause is truly lost is a gift. The gifted officer, a true credit to his department, demonstrated an exemplary commitment to public service and bravely, and as soft as a feather, laid it on its side. He put it into the trunk of his car and hauled it away.

I arrived back in the house just in time to hear a television news station announce that a woman in Centerville had bought a bomb at a garage sale. My ever dignified and quiet husband said he was going to his room as the phone rang. It was his grandmother from Pine City who just said, “It was you, wasn’t it!”

The bomb squad had to blow it up and I never got back a single piece of brass. A shame! It was a nice piece of brass. It had 3-5 dynamite blasting caps worth of powder still in it.

After that I did see more bombs for sale at garage sales in Shoreview,. People had stolen them from the Arden Hills arsenal. I never purchased any more, not even the homemade dumb bells made with large live artillery shells, much like the one pictured below, duct taped to each end. A situation that clearly illustrated the difference between a dumb bell and a dumb ass.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but DAMN!

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Grandma Pat Letters: Cat Warfare….The Battle of the Bulge

A short history of the World War II December Battle of the Bulge.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

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Dear Kids,

Well, it is cold outside.  Our yard is like a muddy pig sty and my dogs have become the pigs.  Oliver is just loving digging in the mud.  Truman digs right alongside of Oliver and yet stays perfectly white, when Oliver the pup comes in looking like a filthy black bear.   He’s still always so cute…just like you.

Your grandma has started baking Christmas cookies for the holiday festivities.  Well, that and I give lots of cookies away to folks who otherwise wouldn’t get their favorites.  Many of my friends who are World War II veterans have already put in their requests.  Their favorites are my old-fashioned gingersnaps and Grandma Esther’s Spritz Cookies.  I will start the baking this week and fill my freezer with treats to be delivered before Christmas.  Don’t worry I will save plenty for you and your folks.

Of course, with a house filled…

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What Is On My Mind Today? The Passing of Stan Kowalski, Professional Athlete, World War II Veteran, Life-long Veteran Advocate and Great Friend.

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Stan Kowalski (on the left) during a World War II Honor Flight to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC in 2009. 

On Friday, October 20 this world said goodbye and heaven joyously welcomed a great man….Stanley Kowalski.

Stan was born with a larger than life personality.  There was no forgetting Stan once you met him.  If he knew you, you were his friend. A more loyal and loving friend a soul on this earth could not have than Stan.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by local television station KARE-11 about Stan.  Their interview does a great job telling the story of this wonderful man.  Here is a link to their story about Stan.

http://www.kare11.com/news/stan-kowalski-fought-for-fellow-veterans/485484737

Throughout his life Stan was always one hundred percent devoted to the people and causes he cared about.   He will be greatly missed!

God rest his soul and bring the peace that passes all understanding to his family as they mourn his loss and celebrate a life well-lived.

What is On My Mind Today? What to serve for the next big……NASCAR Race!

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Here are some stand-up recipes for race day.

Best Lasagna  Recipe Ever

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Prepare a one pound box of lasagna pasta according to package directions.  Drain, and rinse pasta with cold water and set aside.

Meat Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
½ cup carrots, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
2 pounds ground beef
½ cup tomato paste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 cups red wine
4 cups diced canned tomatoes

Cheese Mixture:
15 ounces ricotta
½ cup basil, chopped
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 egg
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Toppings:
Mozzarella cheese, grated
Parmesan cheese, grated

PREPARATION
Into a large skillet, on medium-high heat, add olive oil and butter.  Into the melted butter and oil add carrot, onion, celery and garlic.  Cook until golden brown.  Must be stirred occasionally.

Add the ground beef, salt, pepper and tomato paste to the caramelized vegetables. Stir to combine. With a wooden spoon, break up meat into small pieces and continue to cook until meat has browned.

When the sauce is a deep brown and beginning to stick slightly to the bottom of the skillet, add the red wine.  With the wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen all of the brown bits.

Bring wine to a simmer, then add the diced canned tomatoes.  Stir to combine, bring to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine ricotta, basil, Parmesan, Parsley, egg, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Cover the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch baking pan with the meat sauce.  Top with a layer of pasta.  On top of the pasta spread a layer of the cheese mixture.  Repeat.  Meat sauce, pasta, cheese mixture.  Cover with remaining meat sauce.  Garnish with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, to brown the cheese on top.

Cut into serving-size rectangles and enjoy!

Serves 12.

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beer bread

What goes with lasagna and Nascar?  Warm beer bread.

Beer Batter Bread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Grease a loaf pan with butter and dust bottom of pan with corn meal.

In a large mixing bowl combine:
3 cups of flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

Once dry ingredients have been mixed together add:
1 (12 ounce) can beer.  Bland is best.

Stir just until all of the ingredients are combined.  Do not over beat.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from oven and drizzle two tablespoons of melted butter over loaf.

This bread slices best when cool, but tastes wonderful warm.

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Somethings in life really are black and white.  Oreo Cookies are a wonderful example of this phenomena.

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Preheat oven to 350º and line a 9-x-13″ pan with parchment paper. Spray parchment with cooking spray.

Crust:
1 box fudgy brownie mix, plus ingredients
15 whole Oreo cookies

Make brownies according to package directions.  Spread batter evenly in pan and top with the Oreo cookies.  Set aside.

Cheesecake filling: 
3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
15 Oreo cookies, crushed

In a large bowl, beat together until fluffy sugar and cream cheese.  Add eggs, vanilla and salt.  Beat until combined.  Gently fold in crushed Oreo cookies. Pour cheesecake mixture over the brownie-Oreo cookie crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  When done the edges should be set and the center of cheesecake will be slightly jiggly.

Let cheesecake cool completely in pan.

Topping: 
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted

Drizzle with melted chocolate and white chocolate and serve.

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I hope you enjoy these wonderful recipes.

Now, my husband and I are off to the races…..just saying.

 

 

 

 

What is On My Mind Today: El, Elvis and A Prison Break

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I have this friend, of many years, whose name is El.

El is a 93-year-old World War II veteran, who still carries the bullets in his body from a surprise attack during the battle for Luzon. One of our first conversations was about this very battle and how he’d been a Japanese prisoner of war for four hours.

I thought he was jesting with me, as nobody was a Japanese prisoner of war for just four hours.  The Japanese just did not operate that way during World War II….except in cases like his.

Not yet twenty years old with bullets in his back and legs, he spent over four hours laying on a jungle battlefield, as Japanese soldiers poked him and his fellow American soldiers with bayonets, to make sure they were all dead.  As he laid there, every once in a while he would hear a gunshot, and know that another boy would not being going home. El will tell you the only reason he survived was that he fell face down when he was hit and how hard it was not to flutter his eyelids when poked with a bayonet.

He and his fellow survivors, made it off the island and were given medical aid. Unfortunately, there was only one small plane to evacuate the boys and it seated four. So, El and one of his buddies were put into body bags, used for the dead, with only their heads sticking out and tied to the wing of the plane.  His only request was to be tied face down so that he could see where he was going.

As they flew over the Pacific ocean, at about 1000 feet, he could see the whole Pacific naval fleet, whirling around in the ocean waters beneath him.  He says he often wonders what their plane looked like on radar and is amazed that they were not shot down.

By the time he reached medical care, just a day or so after being hit, his leg was already black from infection.  He did not lose the leg, but he has scars the entire length of that leg that tell the story about how hard it was for him to keep it.

El is a very well known, popular, active member of the City of Forest Lake, MN.  He has been a fixture on their city streets for many years as he cruises town in his “scooter”, with a big American Flag flying behind him.

Winter, spring, summer and fall, regardless of rain, sleet, snow, fog, heat or cold, not much could stop El from getting where he wanted to go on that “scooter.” He was even given a special permit, by the city,  so he could legally drive on city streets.

El’s health had been more of a challenge as of late and he was recently moved into a nursing home. Today when I arrived for a visit, and to deliver several dozen of his favorite cookies, homemade gingersnaps,  I found him sound asleep, with his ever present”scooter” parked right beside his bed.

I always enjoy El, and again today we had a great chat.  I announced to him that I have decided that Elvis was murdered with codeine by Ginger Alden, and that Lyndon B. Johnson was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  He gave me a broad smile, and I got the look I always get for my foolishness. Then, I was told to write a book.

I then asked him if he was still cruising around town on his “scooter.”  “No!”he fairly shouted. “They won’t let me out of this place without someone with me!”  His response surprised me some, knowing the man as well as I do.  And, I told him so.  I went on to explain that find it hard to believe he could not evade capture by mere nursing home staff.  After all, he has, under dire circumstances, escaped capture many times before. Then, I remembered that he was incarcerated…once.

During World War II, after El recovered from his wounds, he was sent back into service. By this time, the war in the Pacific had ended and El was sent to Japan.  He and his unit were on guard duty near one of the towns that had been blasted off of the face of this earth by atom bombs.

El and his buddies had a pretty great time in Japan. They were young, had survived the war and had money in their pockets.

In those days, when in a United States military uniform in Japan and you had too much fun, you would end up in a military prison.   The commander of this prison was a proud, obnoxious, arrogant, peacock-strutting of a man, who continually boasted that no one had or ever would escape his fenced stronghold of character development and repentance.

So, one night, after having enjoyed a goodly portion of fun, frivolity, frolic and fermentation, El and a buddy decided to break into the prison.  The success of their venture was made known to the hilarity of all the very next morning when there were two extra soldiers during roll call.

Well, the prison commander became positively apoplectic!  Both El and his commanding officer received their due portion of this man’s verbal wrath.  When the prison commander finished his tirade, El’s commander turned on El  threatening all sorts of dire consequences.  El was then marched to his commanding officer’s  jeep.  When they got into the jeep, the officer turned to El and said, “Ewert, you are such a dumb ass!” Then, burst out in laughter.

El and his commanding officer returned to their camp, went into the officer’s quarters and proceeded to spend the remainder of day consuming more than their share of beer toasting the success of El’s prison break-in.

And, yes, El has met Elvis

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El and I with matching hair-dos, during my cancer battle. 

 

 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? Memorial Day and Cupcakes

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I was watching the news this weekend and there was a segment where a baker was demonstrating how to decorate cakes.  At the end of her demonstration, she showed off cupcakes that she had decorated especially for Memorial Day.  They were bright red, white and aqua blue.  Then, with chipper voice she joyously explained that the cupcake icing design resembled fireworks.

Memorial Day is not a day to hold celebrations, in truth, it is a yearly national funeral for our military dead.  It is a day of remembrance….of loss…not victory, freedom or national pride.  It is the day to think about all of those young men and women whose lives were cut short and whose beautiful bodies were torn, mutilated and so grievousness wounded that they could not survive their injuries.  Their trauma and deaths were horrific.

I have been reading the book, “Unbroken”.   This book is about World War II soldier Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, who spent much of World War II as a Japanese Prisoner of War after his plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean.  The brutality of his war experiences are so vividly described as to, at times, seem to be frankly unbelievable.

I do believe them, because I have had the privilege of knowing many veterans both personally and professionally and their stories were oftentimes very similar to Mr. Zamperini’s.

For instance, take my friend El.  Now in his nineties, he is the last man left on this side of the turf from his army unit.  I first met El on a World War II Honorflight.  I was his caregiver and he was one of my folks.

That day as we chatted together, he mentioned that he had once been a Japanese prisoner of war for four hours.  I chuckled and said that nobody was a Japanese prisoner of war for a couple of hours, how did he manage that?

He then told me how this happened. His platoon had been ambushed, all of them were killed outright or wounded.  For the next several hours Japanese soldiers walked among those American boys, stabbing them with their bayonets to see if anyone was left alive. Any groan that was heard, was quickly followed by a gun shot. El always says the same thing, “Thank, God, I fell on my stomach and that my eyelids never fluttered.”

Then, there was Sid Schmuckler.  What a great name! Sid was quite a guy, at over 90 years of age, he still worked every day and drove himself to his office on Minnesota’s freeways in his station wagon.  Sid was a navy man and fought in the Pacific. He was a beach commander.

The night before an invasion was launched, he would go ashore to scout the position and help radio our soldiers ashore.  He was a beach commander on Iwo Jima and was in a few other very notable battles.

Sid could tell me about boys, who were just his age, that he had seen blown to bits just as matter of fact as if he was describing restaurant menu.  He did have this sad chuckle about the ironies of war that he had witnessed.

He once told me about this chaplain that was walking right down the beach on Iwo Jima as it was being heavily shelled and under constant fire by the enemy.  From behind their fortified breastworks, he and the soldiers with him screamed at the chaplain to get down!  The chaplain, as calm as if he was taking a Sunday stroll, just kept walking down that bomb pocked beach, stopping to check on each wounded, dying or dead soldier in his path.

As they were yelling at the chaplain, the boy next to Sid took a bullet to the head.  Still alive, it was immediately determined that his wound was mortal.  When the chaplain was much closer to Sid, he was grabbed and thrown behind the breastworks. Sid pointed at the young dying soldier and asked the chaplain, to give the Catholic boy last rites.

The chaplain quickly went about his business.  Just as he concluded, the young soldier breathed his last. As he closed the boy’s eyes the chaplain said, “I hope his Catholic mama never learns that a Ra bi administered her son’s last rites.”  Before anyone could detain him, the chaplain quickly leaped from relative safety of the breastworks and continued his mission of mercy on that beach.

However, there was one war story that brought instant tears to Sid’s eyes.  He was back on his ship, the war nearly over, and they were smack dab in the middle of the entire Pacific armada with vast air power protecting the fleet.   American air superiority was so complete that even Kamikaze’s were no longer considered much of a threat.  He finally felt safe from the enemy.

The ship next to his was a hospital ship.  That evening, the deck of the hospital ship was brightly lit as the nurses and doctors operated feverishly to save the lives of wounded soldiers.

Sid was on the deck watching the hospital ship when one lone blip showed up on his ship’s radar.  It was determined that it had to be an American plane….it wasn’t. The Kamikaze pilot targeted the hospital ship.  His plane crashed onto the ship’s deck and burst into flames as it skidded across the top of the entire ship. I can still hear the despair in Sid’s voice as he described the horrific scene, “He killed all of the nurses, those girls, those girls, they all died!”

Memorial Day is set aside for us to think about human cost of war and to solemnly remember and honor our nation’s military dead and their families.

It is not about ……cupcakes

Just saying…..