Tag Archives: veterans

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…..

 

 

 

Recipe: Toilet Paper, Spoon Cookies and Mounds Bars

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View out my patio window.  (December 12, 2016)

Minnesota really can be beautiful in the winter.  If only winter came the week before Christmas and ended the week after New Year’s.  Although, I am convinced that surviving long, snowy, freezing Minnesota winters is what gives our state’s residents a longer life span than the average American.  I am undecided on whether we are either naturally a very hearty determined sort or are just too stupid to move south and too ornery to die.

That notwithstanding, today Minnesota looks like a lovely Christmas card. We received about four inches in fresh snow yesterday and the trees and bushes are all draped with the sunlit pristine white fluff. It now truly looks and feels like Christmastime.

Today is the day that I am going to start my Christmas baking in earnest.  Which will commence as soon the butter softens up. Every year I struggle with which recipes to make, since I no longer make all of them as I did in my prime.

Of course in my prime, when I was working at the State Capitol, I used to make over 30 dozen cookies and deliver them each year to the Minnesota National Guard headquarters as a thank you for their service. In addition, I baked for many of my co-workers, friends, relatives and some very special shut-ins.

One year I had to start baking before Thanksgiving, because my National Guard friends had been deployed.  So, I boxed up dozens and dozens of cookies and shipped them to a war zone.

When I was getting the box ready to be shipped. I remembered some good advice shared with me by my World War II buddies.  They told me that you should never ship anything that is not useful to a war zone.

They also informed me that their cookies were always crushed and reduced to crumbs by the time they arrived. They called them, “spoon cookies.”  Those old veterans eyes just sparkled as they recalled eating those precious cookies sent from home with spoons.  To a man their response was always the same, “They sure tasted all right!”

When I sent my cookies off to our soldiers, I took the World War II Veterans’ advice. Instead of bubble wrap, I used nice soft rolls of Charmin toilet paper for packing.  Just in case the Charmin tissue turned out not to be as cushiony as advertised and my cookies got demolished in transit, I also sent along a whole package of plastic spoons.

As fate would have it my cookie care package arrived on Christmas Eve.  I still have the picture of our Minnesota soldiers enjoying those cookies on that Christmas Day when they were so far from home.

The cookies I make for gifts are the same as I normally make for my family such as, iced butter cookies, sugar cookies, gingersnaps, Snickerdoodles, Spritz, Chocolate-Cherry Bon Bons  and Swedish Creme Wafers.

Last but not least there are the bar cookies.  There are Oatmeal Caramel Chocolate Bars; Chocolate Marshmallow Bars; Mint Brownie Bars; red and green topped M & M Bars; powdered sugar dusted Lemon Bars; and two coconut filled confections…Dream and Mounds Bars.

At my house to become a favorite recipe more often than naught the goody must contain chocolate. Mound Bars have a graham cracker crust, coconut filling and are topped with semi-sweet chocolate. They really do taste much like their namesake candy bar.  These bars do not last long, because they are gobbled up quickly.  They last and freeze very well.

Pat’s Mounds Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust:
2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

In a small bowl, by hand, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter.  Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9 X 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven

Filling:
1-14 ounce package of shredded coconut
2-14 ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon almond flavoring.  ( I use imitation almond extract, due to my allergy to nuts.)

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, by hand, combine coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and almond flavoring. When completely combined spread evenly over the hot graham cracker crust.  Return to the oven and bake for another 25 minutes.  The filling should be very lightly browned when done.

Frosting:
1-12 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Remove from oven and evenly sprinkle chocolate chips over hot filling.  Return to the oven for about 2 minutes, or just until the chips melt.  Remove from the oven and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the bars.

Cool completely.  Cut into squares and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters to My Grandson: Cat Warfare….Pearl Harbor Sneak Attack Cats!

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Dear Grandson,

Well there is finally a thin layer of ice on the pond behind our house.  It is much too soon to go on any ice…so STAY OFF THE ICE…until your dad says it’s safe.

Well I have decided to eat healthy this holiday season.  So every morning I have been eating cottage cheese with pineapple.  I love pineapple.  It is sweet and sour all at the same time.  Its yellow color reminds me of sunshine and the tropical island of Hawaii where it is grown.  I have never been there, but I am told it is just beautiful.

I do have a cousin who grew up in Hawaii. He lives out in California now.  He never could get used to the cold, snow and ice of Minnesota.  He is about the same age as your Great-Grandpa Larson.  This guy was amazing at Judo and was once a coach for our country’s judo team at the Judo World Championships.  He has great stories.

Image result for Mel Augustine + JudoCousin Mel. 

One of his stories happened when he was just a boy…about your age.  In those days parents did not let kids sleep in, even on weekends.  So, it was bright and early when his friends stopped by to see if he wanted to go climb the hills and see the sun come up over the sea port town where they lived….Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

These boys loved climbing up to the high places outside of town to watch all of the ships in the harbor.  Pearl Harbor was one of our country’s biggest naval ports at that time and much of our Pacific fleet of naval ships were there.  Then, too, there were the air fields where American military planes would take off and land all day long.  What kid wouldn’t want to sit and watch that in the warm tropical sunshine?  It must have been beautiful.

So as my cousin and his friends were sitting there enjoying the view.  Several small planes flew over them a lot closer that the pilots normally did.  The boys all stood up and waved at the pilots and the pilots, as usual, waved back. It was only then, that the boys notices that the pilots were not Americans, but Japanese.  Then, without warning the bombs began to fall onto the great ships in the harbor.  Little did these boys know that they had just witnessed the beginning of World War II.

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Japanese plane that was used in attack. 

Japan, just like Hitler, began world conquest campaigns long before the American’s joined the fight.  The war began in Europe when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  The Japanese began their military march across Asia and the Pacific Islands when they invaded Manchuria in 1931.  For the next ten years Japan expanded its China invasion leading to a war with China in 1937.  The Japanese war machine was ruthless and cruel. It is estimated that in China alone about 7-11 million civilians died as a direct result of military action and another 3-4 million Chinese soldiers were killed.

Until the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 911, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the most deadly attack by terrorists on United States soil.  The casualties on 911 were 2,996 people killed and more than 6,000 wounded.  There were 265 killed on the four planes, 2606 in the World Trade Center and immediate area and 125 deaths at the Pentagon….but that is another story.

Picture taken from the cockpit of attacking Japanese plane of first bombs landing. 

Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor began at 7:48 a.m. when the first wave of 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers and torpedo planes attacked. These planes were launched from six aircraft carriers that were anchored just north of the island of Oahu.  The planes in the first wave were:

  • Forty-nine Nakajima B5N bombers armed with 1750 pound armor-piercing bombs targeted battleships and aircraft carriers.
  • Forty B5N bombers armed with torpedoes.
  • Fifty-one Aichi D3A Val dive bombers armed with 550 pound bombs targeted Ford Island the Wheeler Field.
  • Forty-three Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighters targeted Ford Island, Hickam Field,
    Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point and Kaneohe.


    Picture from cockpit of attacking Japanese aircraft. 

The attack only lasted for about 90 minutes. When it was over all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged.  Four had sunk. Three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer were also badly damaged.


Pearl Harbor immediately after the attack. 

American Military forces in Hawaii began the day with 402 airplanes.  Of those 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged.  A total of 155 planes were damaged or destroyed while just parked on the ground.  Only eight planes managed to get airborne during the attack.  Nobody in the sky was safe from the Japanese attack, in fact three civilian aircraft were also shot down.

In addition to the massive amount of damage done to the United States’ ships and planes, the loss of life was horrendous.  There were 2,403 Americans killed and 1, 178 wounded. On the other hand, by using a strategy of surprise, the Japanese losses were quite small. They lost 29 aircraft, another 74 were damaged, five midget submarines were sunk and 63 men killed.

At Pearl Harbor on that fateful day were members of Minnesota’s Naval Reserve. These sailors served on a ship call the U.S.S. Ward.  Before the attack on Pearl Harbor had even started they spotted a Japanese midget submarine and sunk it.  The Ward’s gun was known as the first gun to be fired by American’s during World War II.

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Members of the crew of the U.S.S  Ward standing by the gun that fired WWII’s first shot. 

The U.S.S. Ward may have survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, but she did not survive the war. On the morning of December 7, 1944, three years to the day after the ship’s shot was the first of the war, she was attacked by several Japanese kamikazes.  Kamikazes were pilots that used their planes as bombs and purposely crashed them into American ships.

These young Japanese men had promised their government to die in their planes. To ensure that they would indeed commit suicide in their planes and keep that promise, their government, for added incentive, removed the plane’s landing gear. One kamikaze hit the Ward badly damaging her.  Her crew was ordered to abandon ship and then she was sunk by another American ship.

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The gun that fired the first shot of World War II at the Minnesota State Capitol.

The USS Ward’s “First Shot,” gun had been removed from the ship when it had been updated earlier in the war.  When my friend Bob Hanson was National Commander of the VFW, he found out that this gun was in a junk pile and was going to be scrapped.  He got permission for the gun to be shipped to Minnesota. He showed me the actual letter giving Minnesota the gun. Today this very gun is on display on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall. It’s a big gun!  We will have to go see it sometime.

While the first two waves of Japanese attack planes created severe damage and loss of life.  Had a third wave hit Pearl Harbor’s fuel and torpedo storage, maintenance and dry dock facilities, the result for Americans would have been much worse.  Without these resources used to repair the damaged ships and aircraft it is estimated that the war against the Japanese in the Pacific could have lasted another two years.

Almost half of all the Pearl Harbor casualties occurred on the battleship U.S.S. Arizona. The Arizona weighed 31,400 tons and was over 608 feet long.  It was over 97 feet tall when in the water. This ship was hit by four bombs.  Its ammunition store was hit and over 1,000 pounds of black powder exploded.  The whole front part of the ship was destroyed. The ship sank, in less than 40 feet of water, taking over 1000 men to the bottom with her. Many of these men died slowly, trapped inside the ship.

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U.S.S. Arizona  on fire and sinking. 

In total 1,177 members of Arizona’s crew were killed.  There were 37 pairs or trios of brothers on the Arizona. Of these 62 were killed. Twenty-three sets of brothers died.  Only one set of brothers survived. And that was only because one was off the ship that day and the other survived his wounds. The ship’s only father and son pair were both killed in action.

All 21 members of the ship’s band died.  When the attack began, they were on the top deck of the ship getting ready to play music for the daily flag raising.  Immediately these brave sailors ran to their battle stations. This is the only time in our nation’s history that a whole military band was killed in action all at the same time.

Your Great-Grandpa Larson has been to Hawaii and seen the memorial for the Arizona. The memorial is built over the sunken ship. All these many years later this ship is still leaking oil into Pearl Harbor’s harbor.

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Memorial for the U.S.S. Arizona.  It was built on top of the doomed ship and crew. 

Interestingly, there was this very popular and handsome singer back in those days named Elvis Presley.  He got drafted and served in the Army.  When he got out of the military, one of the first things he did was play a concert in Hawaii to raise money for the Arizona Memorial.  He raised over 50,000 dollars which was about 10 percent of the total cost to build the memorial.  Elvis was the largest private donor to the memorial.  I have many of his CD’s if you ever want to hear him sing. Grandpa won’t let me get a poster of him.

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Elvis Presley in Hawaii for March 25, 1961 benefit concert for U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. 

Now, you may be asking yourself, where is the cat in this story?  Well the Japanese were certainly “Sneak Attack Cats.”  However, there is a famous Pearl Harbor cat and her name was Pooli.  Pooli was born on July 4, 1944 in the Navy yard at Pearl Harbor and with her mother set sail that very day on the attack ship USS Fremont.

This cat became the ship’s mascot and saw action in many Pacific sea battles from the Philippines Islands to Iwo Jima.  Whenever the call to battle stations was sounded this cat would sprint to the mail room and would fall asleep in a mail bag.  The guns blasting away did not bother her a bit. For her service this cat was awarded three service ribbons and four battle stars.  Pooli survived the war and lived to be a very old cat.

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Pooli  wearing her uniform and medals. 

Within days after the attack on Pearl Harbor our nation declared war on both Germany and Japan.  Fighting a two-front war is never a really good idea.  Which reminds me of during the Civil War when many politicians were pressuring Abraham Lincoln to fight a two-front war and declare war on England. …he responded by saying, “One war at a time….One war at a time!”

Nobody with a brain for survival would choose to fight a two-front war. A two-front war, which was what World War II was for America, was thrust upon us by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was tough war. Our country had to unify and everyone had to forget their personal differences and work together.  When we all come together as an American family, I believe we are unbeatable.

Lincoln was a wise old guy and, “One war at a time” is good advice for many things.  Staying focused on a job until you have successfully completed it organizes the mind and promotes excellence.  Now, I am going to go focus on Christmas present wrapping.

Lots of hugs and love,    Grandma Pat

 

Just Saying: Governor Dayton, No!…Civil War Paintings, Stay!!!

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The 3rd Minnesota marches into Little Rock, Arkansas in 1862. Notice the symbolism of having the African American child in the very forefront of painting. The artist was saying, “It is about him.” 

There is a movement in this nation to remove factual history from the schoolroom and public square.  This movement has gone so far a foul that Governor Dayton has been pushing, since before the Capitol restoration began, to remove the massive, beautiful original Civil War oil paintings from the people’s reception room in our state’s Capitol.  A commission just voted to in fact remove these awesome paintings.

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The 2nd Minnesota surges forward at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863

Whitewashing history does not change historical fact. It only encourages its repetition. Just as the French do not “update”  the art at Versailles, or the Egyptians do not redecorate pyramids, or the Italian’s do not remodel Colosseum , our leaders need to preserve history not replace that which makes them uncomfortable.

History is uncomfortable. Versailles was built by a king who bankrupted and starved his country through war and grandiose building. The pyramids were built by slavery. The Colosseum was used for mass human sacrifice for the amusement of a blood thirsty crowd, and yet, the Italian’s preserve it.

Our state Capitol was built by Civil War veterans who returned from our nation’s most bloody war, who pooled their limited resources together to construct one of the most beautiful Capitols and peoples reception rooms in our nation.  And, yet it is their honorable sacrifice and service to freedom, portrayed in period paintings, that is to be removed or moved.

What one generation builds, the next has a duty to preserve…not dismiss, hide or destroy.


The 5th Minnesota Regiment heroically fights at Corinth, Mississippi in 1862

I believe that removing the original Civil War art from the people’s reception room is an architectural travesty and another example of disrespect for all veterans.

First of all…it was our state’s Civil War veterans that were the first to answer Lincoln’s call to defend the Union and abolish slavery. That is why the famous regiment the “First Minnesota” was called “First”…Minnesota was the first! This regiment had the highest casualty loss in the war….during the Battle of Gettysburg. Those men gave their lives to end slavery, and preserve the Union.  It was the their fellow veterans who returned home to build and dedicate our beautiful Capitol in their honor.

Those paintings should always be front and foremost at our Capitol to teach people about the ugliness of Civil War, slavery and racism. The paintings should remain where Architect Cass Gilbert, and those who not only fought in the battles, mourned their lost sons, brothers, husbands and fathers and sacrificed further to raise the monies to build our Capitol, placed them.


2nd Minnesota at the Battle for Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863.

It is a shame that a few misguided people in political office can silence a whole generation that with their blood, tears and treasury saved our nation and ended the atrocity of slavery. Those paintings were meant to make visitors entering the people’s reception room at the Capitol uncomfortable. To think. To feel. To question.  To ask.

Those paintings were meant convey a message that needs to never be silenced. They are Minnesota’s Civil War veteran’s final battle cry of, “Never Forget!.”

Related imageMembers of the 4th Minnesota Regiment march into Vicksburg, Mississippi in July 1863.

It is time to stand up and insist that memorials to veterans be cherished, maintained and preserved in our public squares and in the people’s reception room at Minnesota’s Capitol. Our battle cry should be….call, text and email the Governor’s office! ,

Just saying….

Image result for Civil War Painting in Minnesota Governor's reception roomSoldiers of the 5th and 9th Minnesota Regiments assault Confederate positions at the Battle of Nashville in 1864.

 

Dear Grandson Letter: Cat Warfare…What is Veterans Day?

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Dear Grandson,

Well it has been quite a week with the election and all.  Politics are always interesting and elections always have winners and losers.  Since, I worked in politics for many years, I have been on both the happy and sad side of election outcomes.  The important thing is that regardless of who won or lost the election we always are kind, respectful and considerate of those who may have voted differently than ourselves.  Nobody likes an obnoxious winner or a sore loser.  In politics and sports….good sportsmanship counts.

I just cannot believe this beautiful weather.  I have spent most of this week outside playing with my dogs.  Oliver is getting bigger all the time and Truman is just perfect as always.  I also have been thinking a lot about what I should write to you about this week regarding Cat Warfare.  Yesterday as I was speaking to an old veteran at the Toyota Dealership as grandpa and I waited for our car’s oil to be changed, grandpa sure did eat a lot of cookies, it occurred to me that I should tell you about something all of these letters have in common….veterans.

I have had several very exciting jobs…being an aide to a State Senator, Press Secretary and Assistant Communications Director for Minnesota’s Secretary of State,  Committee Administrator for the House of Representative’s Committee of Government and Veterans Affairs, Acting Communications Director for the Minnesota Department of Veteran’s affairs and project manager for our state’s World War II Memorial Dedication.  That’s right your grandmother organized a party for over 27,000 people.

Of all the jobs I have had in politics and government management the ones I treasure the most were when I could help take care of veterans.  We have several veterans in our family.  As you know from a past Cat Warfare letter you had a Great-Great Uncle Wendall who was killed in action in Korea.  Well, his cousin Eugene was killed in action in that same war.  The young men were killed a month apart and are buried side by side in our hometown cemetery.  Your great-grandpa is a retired Navy veteran.  His other brother and brother-in-law were both World War II veterans.  Great-Great-Great Uncle Alfred…was a World War I veteran. Your great grandpa lives in Alfred’s house.

It is World War I where I need to begin to explain about Veterans Day.  As you may recall from your Sir Snaggle Puss letter, World War I was called the “War to End All Wars” and was fought in Europe.  It lasted from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918.  More than 70 million soldiers fought in the war.  Over nine million soldiers and seven million civilians died during this conflict.

All of the world’s great economic powers of that time period took part in this war.  There were two opposing alliances.  The Allies, our side, included the British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, Russian Empire and United States.  Our enemy during WWI was the Central Powers Alliance that consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire.

This war was fought on the seas and in deep trenches.  Trench warfare as a military tactic was first proposed during the American Civil War by Confederate General James Longstreet.  He figured out that battle tactics had grossly lagged behind the improvements in weaponry resulting in a horrific increase in battle casualties. So, by the time World War I came around men dug deep trenches for protection and defense.

Fighting in trenches had its own unique dangers such as poison gas attacks, and disease spread by the many rodents who took up residence with the soldiers in these filthy, muddy battle ditches.  To help protect soldiers from disease, over 500,000 cats were drafted into the service of their country and dispatched to the trenches.  Their job was to kill rats and mice.

Not only were cats sent to battle in the trenches they were also placed on navy ships. Whether they liked water or not, these sea bound cats took their duty seriously and worked hard to keep their ships vermin free.

Having cats on military ships was not new. The practice dates back to the times of the ancient Egyptians who already understood that cats would kill the rats and mice that spread disease and ate up their food during long voyages.  They also believed that cats were good luck charms.  During World War I cats such as “Togo”, “Pincher” and “Spark Plug”, became famous ship mascots.  One cat even became a hero by saving his soldier’s life…but that is another story.

The first Veterans Day was on November 11, 1919, and was called Armistice Day.  It observed the signing of the treaty that ended World War I, which took place in the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11 hour.  That is why Veterans Day is on November 11.

At that time, in both Europe and America this day was set aside to remember World War I war dead.  In 1926 Congress adopted a resolution proclaiming an annual observance with appropriate ceremonies.  A Congressional Act in 1938 made November 11 a legal holiday.  In 1945, Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran, organized “National Veterans Day,” which included a parade and other activities.  He held his event on November 11, which was still called Armistice Day.  Weeks is known as the “Father of Veterans Day”.  Later, U.S. Representative Edward Rees of Kansas proposed a bill that would change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In 1954, Congress passed the bill and President Eisenhower signed it into law proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.

Wearing a red poppy on your shirt in the United States is traditionally a symbol for Memorial Day, not Veterans Day.  If you wear a poppy it should be pinned onto the lapel of your shirt, over your heart with the leave pointing up to the position of 11 a.m. on a clock.  It is the symbol of war dead, because of a very sad poem written by a young military doctor named Major John McCrae.

Dr. McCrae was asked to conduct the funeral service for his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer who was killed by an artillery shell explosion. It is believed that the evening after his friend’s burial McCrae wrote the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow.”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

All of our nation’s veterans are heroes and have earned our gratitude and respect.  Veterans Day is a day to thank them for their service and sacrifice.  The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day is Veterans Day is when we honor both the living and the dead and Memorial Day is for remembering the brave souls who gave the lives on the field of battle.

Now, for the story about the hero cat of World War I who saved a soldier’s life.

Pitouchi was an orphaned kitten who was born in the battle trenches.  He was found and taken care of by Lieutenant Lekeux of the Belgian Army.  The cat and this soldier became inseparable.

One day Pitouchi’s human soldier was sent to spy on the enemy…the Germans.  The human saw that they were digging a new trench.  Pitouchi and his soldier hid in a hole made by a bomb explosion.  His human immediately began to sketch the new positions of the enemy, so he could warn his fellow soldiers.

The human become so focused on his work, he became unaware of his surroundings and did not notice that several German soldiers were coming up to his location.  When he finally saw them, it was too late to run away.  So, this cat’s human decided to lay very still hoping not to be noticed.

Humans are big and Pitouchi quickly realized that his human’s idea was sure to fail.  The cat jumped out of the hole and landed on a broken piece of a tree.  This startled the German’s who fired two shots at the cat.  Both bullets missed Pitouchi and he jumped back into the hole with his beloved human.  The German soldiers laughed because they had been scared by a cat. They turned and walked away.  Pitouchi’s human finished his drawings and gave his life-saving hero of a cat a ride on his shoulder back to safety.

See it isn’t just dogs that are man’s best friend, cats, too, are very brave pets…even in a war zone.

Have a great week and if you see someone wearing a hat that says they’re a veteran take time to tell them thank you for their service. It will make your day and theirs. Tell that to your great grandpa and just watch him smile.

Love and lots of hugs,

Grandma Pat

Children’s Story: Wendall, the Ghost in the Attic

Halloween is almost here. It can be a scary time of year. The goblins and ghosts come out on that night. To collect treats and give folks a fright. Here is a story from when I was young. When living in an old haunted house just wasn’t that much fun. Spooks are no joke when they live right with you. Especially when your parent’s don’t have a clue. So, as a young child my family I did save….from a ghost in our attic named Wendall the Brave….I hope you enjoy this Halloween story.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

Wendall, The Ghost in the Attic

My very first memory is of screaming for assistance in the night and staring at a light in the hall outside of my crib. I wanted out and apparently the rest of the world had gone deaf. Two things became clear at that moment; cribs are prisons, and prisons are not for me—I need freedom, and staring at lights made my eyes hurt.

I quickly dedicated my every waking effort to establishing a method to release me from physical limitations that surrounded me—I learned to climb out of that crib. This skill, learned so young, is of great benefit to any person born on a farm that housed a variety of animals kept in pens.

My bedroom was at the top of the wide oak staircase, on the second floor, at the east end of the big farm house built by my great grandpa…

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