Tag Archives: veterans

What Is On My Mind Today? Memorial Day Hymn…I Vow To Thee My Country

 

Pat
Introductions in Capitol Rotunda

I spent almost two decades working for the State of Minnesota.  Mostly, at the State Capitol.  I worked for a Senator in the Republican Senate Caucus, As a Constituent Writer and Committee Administrator for the Republican House Caucus, and as Press Secretary and Assistant Communications Director for Democrat Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

I also spent several years working for the Minnesota Department of Veteran’s Affairs as Assistant Director of Communications and Management Analyst IV.   I was the project manager for Minnesota’s World War II Memorial Dedication ceremony.  Over 25,000 people came to that event.

I experienced a lot of diversity during those years of employment in both political parties, but one thing was always the same.  Whether in my office or tacked to a wall in a cube there was a copy of this hymn, “I Vow To Thee My Country.”

The words to this song always remind me of my Uncle Wendell and the thousands of young people just like him who gave their lives for our nation, freedom….and you and me.  Their sacrifice was not abstract it was real and personal.

The words to this hymn captures the power of love and sacrifice. Just reading the words would steel my spine on days when:

  • it seemed like every taxpayer in the state had yelled into my ear about the senator that was my responsibility.
  • frustrated political or bureaucratic leadership got snarky, because they made a dumb decision and felt it was their sworn duty to take it out on staff.
  • try as hard as I might there was just no helping a veteran or the family of a veteran.
  • an entire nation and world is watching a recount between two senators and, lucky me, got to answer press calls….and calls….and calls.
  • Surprise!  The complete crash of a neither internally, externally or user-tested new business services online filing system which was foisted on an unsuspecting public and untrained staff the weekend that sales taxes were due. I was instructed keep the issue from the media and help the “really angry” business folks…because I was good at it.
  • you are told to go fix the business services online filing system disaster.

During those times and many others, I would read the words to this hymn to remember why it was that I decided to be a civil servant. In my case, it was because I love my country, people and wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, and the military had rejected this girl with the equivalent of one working lung.

Then, I would remind myself that there is no crying in baseball or at the State Capitol and that at least I wasn’t getting shot at.

The people that this song was written about were shot at in World War I.  Cecil Spring Rice wrote this poem sometime in either 1908 or 1912.  It describes how a Christian’s loyalties are to their God and country.

In 1912, Mr. Rice was appointed Ambassador to the United States of America.   He successfully lobbied President Woodrow Wilson to join Britain in its war against the German Kaiser.  Before he returned home to Britain, he re-wrote the first verse to emphasize the love and sacrifice of soldiers.

This beautiful patriotic poem was privately distributed among friends and acquaintances for years before it was set to music by Gustav Holst.  It was first published as a hymn in 1925 in the Songs of Praise Hymnal.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful patriotic song.

 

I Vow To Thee My Country

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,

That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,

And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

God Bless all of our soldiers and their families!  Thank you! 

 

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What Is On My Mind Today? A Soldier, Priest and Courage

World War II Soldier

There was a soldier on an island in the Pacific during World War II wishing he was home and anywhere but there.  His military unit had been on that beach for over a week. They were staging for a big offensive against the heavily dug in Japanese.

This wasn’t the soldier’s first rodeo.  He had been in several tough fights and knew that this one was going to be no different and probably worse.

Engrossed in his thoughts, the soldier didn’t see the army’s priest walked up to him.  The priest had sought him out knowing that the soldier was a Christian, practiced the Catholic faith, and would soon be ordered to advance into battle.

The priest took his pastoral role very seriously and always tried to visit with soldiers before they were ordered into a fight.  This day was no different and by the pale anxious face of this soldier, the priest thought that the kid could use some company and sat down.

The priest looked at the boy and asked him if he was ready for confession.  The young man’s head reared back from the force of his laugh as he responded, “Father, I have been on this beach all week, I have had no opportunities to sin.”  Well, the priest thought about that and asked the soldier if he was sure.  The soldier was certain that the tally sheet of his soul was clean, at least for that week.

The priest wasn’t born yesterday, nor did he look like it, and knew that there were plenty of ways for young men to offend God when they were all gathered together far from home with nothing to lose and no promise of tomorrow.  The priest nodded and asked the soldier, “Is there anything that I can do for you?”

The priest did not have to wait long for the soldier’s answer. The young man blurted out that he feared his luck was running out.  He’d seen too many friends die. Soldiers that were stronger, smarter, better-trained and more faithful than he, had, had their numbers called.  He explained to the priest that with each battle, gun shot, artillery or grenade blast his fear grew.  Battles were becoming harder not easier. His courage had been used up and was gone.  So, yes, there was something the priest could do for him…could he have some courage?

The priest thought about the young man’s request.

He told the young man that everyone is afraid to die…even priests and good Christians.  Only the untruthful would say otherwise and bearing false witness is a confession-able sin. The priest reminded the soldier about the many times he had seen the priest under fire in harm’s way on battlefields ministering to the wounded, dying and performing last rites for the dead.  Right out in the open.  The priest told the soldier that there are times when he is practically paralyzed with fear.

Everyone feels fear the priest told the lad. Especially in situations that are dangerous or life-threatening. If someone tells you they are never afraid….they are lying. The brave and courageous are not fearless, they have just learned to control their response to fear.

The priest then told the young soldier how he finds courage in the face of death.  He repeats the Bible verse, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” 

The soldier took the priest’s advice.

During an interview on television sporting a lopsided grin the soldier remembered repeating that biblical phrase hundreds, if not, thousands of times before the end of the World War II…which he survived.

The Twenty-third Psalm, that the priest provided to the soldier, is probably one of the most well-known verses of the Bible.  It was written thousands of years ago by King David…a brave and courageous soldier.  King David knew what it was like to be young, on a battlefield facing death.  However, the circumstances do not matter, King David’s poetic words have given generation after mortal generation peace, reassurance, hope and courage.

Psalm 23: 1-6

23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

 

 

 

 

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!

bomb

 

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…

View original post 1,745 more words

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

stan
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!

nascar

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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oreo-bar.jpg

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.

************

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

Elvis-Presley-alive-787852

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.