Bless The Echoes Of Those Boys

Eisenhower National Historic Site

The following is a story I penned for some local newspapers back in the fall of 2009. It’s the story of Harry Adams, an Army Veteran who served in World War 2. Harry passed in 2016, but his life, and the difference he made, will never be forgotten by this humble writer.

Thank you, Harry.

It has been more than sixty four years since the ultimate sacrifice of the Allied forces helped to forge a nation’s new mandate while ridding the world of a ruthless tyrant. Harry Adams doesn’t have much use for rhetorical definitions though, being that he lived the most expansive war in the history of the world from the front lines.

The eighty seven year old Adams owns a much more human perspective,
speaking the moments of that time with his eyes and bringing it into clear focus as we sit at his dining room table. The Lititz High School graduate had worked his way into a plum job at Armstrong while at the same time preparing for a possible call to duty. “I started out working in a shoe factory, a summer job . . . I made twenty five cents an hour. And then I doubled that when I went to work at the chocolate factory. So when I got a job with Armstrong making sixty nine cents an hour? I had it made!”

This good life was interrupted when Adams was called into the war by President Roosevelt. There were no draft numbers to pull for a twenty year old, according to Adams. “We just reported for duty when we were told.” So he did. He began his training as an army medic in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He then moved across Texas before finally being stationed at Fort Hood. It has been seven decades worth of calendar since he shipped out across the Atlantic via French ocean liner with ten thousand troops strong and landed in Glasgow.

His recall is lockstep in nature. “We were told not to worry, that the ship would be able to outrun u-boats,” He laughs. “We were under General Hodges’ command when we got to Europe, and it wasn’t until we arrived in England that we found out we were going to be fighting under General Patton. “I remember him coming out to speak to us when we arrived (in England). He told us we were going to keep the German army on the run. He said they couldn’t shoot if they had their backs to us . . . and he was right about that.”

As a medic in Patton’s Third Army, Adams quickly learned the relentless pace of the legendary commander as they devoured targets before their bombers could even arrive to provide cover. They moved at a breakneck pace that would earn Adams a Silver Star for having marched and fought through five campaigns- From Normandy through the Rhineland and up through the mountains of Ardennes into Central Europe. The march into the Bulge was hard and unforgiving. The troops lived on K Rations which Adams refers to as “Cracker Jack Boxes” which consisted of canned meats, cheeses, hard biscuits and cigarettes. They couldn’t build fires since this carried the risk of giving away their position to the Germans so they borrowed invention through necessity by heating their food on the manifolds of their Jeeps. Showers were an infrequent luxury, as was a good night’s sleep.

Winter was a grim odyssey of hard snows and excruciating cold snaps where frostbite and hypothermia accompanied the troops across the rugged, unforgiving terrain. Adams says the survival skills they adopted helped to borrow a modicum of comfort. “You couldn’t get warm, it was impossible. We had our uniforms and a blanket and that was all we had. So we made something out of anything we found. We became good at scavenging. And let me tell you, those silk parachutes . . . they were warm.”

There were close calls, such as the time his Captain tabbed him for a reconnaissance mission of a nearby village. The thought was to bring along a medic in the event the small group of men found any wounded soldiers. He decided against the need for Adams before walking into a nest of gunners. Adams met them later on at a hospital. The driver had been taken out. The Captain was shot in the back and the Colonel had lost his forearm in the firefight. “Another time we were moving through a town that hadn’t been liberated. We had no idea until a Colonel told us we had to get out of there, fast.”

And then there were the sober testaments to the mission they had each undertaken. He will never forget coming upon a camp with no idea as to what awaited him on the other side. He presents me with the pictures he brought back; grainy black and white photos out of hell. They are pictures from the Dachau concentration camp. One picture shows a couple of skeletal survivors standing next to a wooden cart piled high with the dead. There is one picture I can’t figure out. It appears to be a huge mound of sawdust, several feet high. I learn they are cremated remains. “I know there are people who say the Holocaust never happened, I say look at these pictures and then tell me it never happened.”

There is one other picture I have to ask him about. It is of the twenty two year old Adams being flanked by Generals Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower. He tells me it was taken at the tail end of the war when his company was marching through Luxembourg. “I remember telling one of the fellas I was going to get my picture taken with them and he didn’t think I had the nerve to ask.” Adams says. “As it turned out, Patton was in a good mood. He told Eisenhower to ‘let the kid stand in the middle’. Later on when I was in Germany I sent that picture to General Eisenhower’s headquarters, requesting his signature and I received a letter from his secretary.” It is a typewritten response from Lt. Kay Summersby dated September 20, 1945 and it includes the autographed photos from the future President of the United States. Adams would later procure Patton’s signature for his photograph after meeting his niece, who worked for the Red Cross.

His voice still cracks at the thought of those bombers overhead. He can still smell the death of those prison camps. His eyes still tear when he recalls the long days and endless nights. His selfless dedication across thirty eight months in Europe leaves its impression on each and every American who puts him or herself in harms way. But Harry Adams doesn’t consider himself special. “I’m no hero . . .” He says simply. There is a proper reply to this statement, and it would lean to the contrary. Because he is most certainly just that; a hero. They all are. Not in the past tense, but in the strongest sense of our best hopes. The better understanding of our national identity comes from the link these voices of a greater generation have gifted us with. But I figure that a retort would sound contrived, and there is no time for clichés as we sit in his dining room surrounded by the memories of the men he stood with and the time he stood within. Adams repeats his belief as the sun sets on a late fall afternoon, and as with everything else, he does so firmly and with little hesitation.

I owe him the silence of this moment. I owe him a lot more than that, actually.

We all do.

Heroes: A Frank Reprise

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Yanno. I learned something. I must be careful sending Marc suggestions for Friday Heroes because he just may ask me to write about it. He’s one sneaky fella – but hey – because he doesn’t know what’s in his future, what the hell – so be it – here’s another edition of Friday Heroes.

First of all, you’ve got to sit back and watch this one (about a minute) because you will be smiling. Plus, it is proof that people in the UK also have too much time available.

Believe it or not, I found a story about a politician who doesn’t lie or intentionally misleading anyone. Click here to get the full story.

Imma keeping this post to a few stories because the video versions of the stories are a little longer – but they are worth your time.

This weekend is a 3-day holiday weekend in the USA – Memorial Day – the holiday commemorating soldiers who died while serving. I know other countries do something similar. For those needing a salute to fallen military fallen heroes, click here for a rousing rendition of one of my favorite military salutes.

Stephen Wall is an opera singer in Seattle. For those who solely get their news from Presidential Briefings – BREAKING NEWS – this virus thing affects opera because the people involved in the productions plus the audience is more than 10. For not being a plumber, the man has some serious pipes – and he puts them to good use for humanity during these crazy times. This report is worth 7 minutes of your time. Here’s a written story about Mr. Wall.

My peeps know I have a soft spot for genuine goodness – and this story was my top pick of the week. During the housing bubble recession 10+ years ago, 60 Minutes did a story about a man and his two kids that live in a van. I’m not a regular watcher of that show, but I saw and remembered the original story. Dad died and the 2 kids bounced around foster families – but damn – these two kids are making it. She graduated from college and on the Dean’s List – and she’s giving back! Autumn Hope Johnson – you are my Hero of the week. A special shout out to the President of Stetson University who got the ball rolling.

PS: Viewers: Don’t let the speedway beginning confuse you – but it is a cool extra. For those who want to read the story about Autumn, click here.

BREAKING NEWS: Yes kids. . . it’s me, Sundance (Marco). Interrupting this Frank approach to Heroes Friday in order to tuck in a couple stories that were gifted me by fellow bloggers.

First up is Renaissance Man Mark Paxson‘s soulful get. It involves the band Colt Clark and the Quarantines– comprised of a father and his three kids. Every morning, they go into their domestic “recording studio” and record a different song, which they later post to a social media site. As Mark noted in his email, “They aren’t saving the world, they’re just offering up wonderful, clean fun for people to enjoy during these strange, strange times,”

Thing is, when you teach your kids to face the worst of times with a constructive, positive approach, it changes the world. For the better.

And then there’s the lovely Dale who chimed in with a beauty of her own.

When a priest makes it into a meme, the results are usually regrettable . . . until now. Father Tim Pelc of Detroit Michigan figured out an ingenious way to bring Holy Week service to his flock. Pelc took a page from our drive-thru world when he decided to bless his parishioners as they drove up in their cars by using . . . a water gun. The images have become a global sensation, with hits coming from every corner of the world, including the Vatican. The Good Father says he’s happy to bring some much-needed fun to these trying times, and if he can get the job done in the process? All the better.

The man upstairs would be proud.

And now? Back to Butch Cassidy . . .

Thank you, Sundance. It’s been a pleasure working in your sarcasm-free space.

The pandemic has not only increased awareness of the goodness around us, but it has also increased opportunities for goodness. I end this post by saluting the countless many who have done the little things – like making masks to give away to those wanting one – checking on neighbors to see if they are OK or need something – contacting someone out of the blue to say hi and to check if all is well – going to the grocery for someone who isn’t as mobile – and the list can go on. A tip of the cap to those performing the little things that go a long way. May their light continue to shine and spread to others while delivering a sense of hope.

Keep smiling, have a good week, and thanks for reading. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Things That Made Me Go HmmMonday

I’m not sure who my mind thinks it is, inviting these thoughts and observations over at all times of the day and night. But I’m not going to complain, since that wouldn’t change things anyhow. Instead, Imma serve up a sampling. Please . . silence your phones during this post so that the voices in my head don’t get all pissy with me.

The Russians Are Coming!- Is it just me, or do these peeps end up in every conversation? From fixing Presidential elections to laundering money in London, playing a dangerous game of Chess in Syria and using Reddit as a propaganda machine. Talk of the Russians has become so insidious that some are even accusing them of playing one side against the other in the NFL’s anthem debate. And don’t go reading the Drudge Report to get the latest lowdown, because that Matt Drudge guy is a Russian agent.

So what’s fake and what’s worth being concerned about? Hard to say, seeing as how there’s so much Russian chatter out there. Which really, is the point. Because the Russians have found their time; a time when highly sensitive information is bought and sold at breakneck speed and mysteriously shrouded third parties are privy to plenty of our ‘mo. The Putin’s World watermark is deftly crafted conjecture, gone viral. To wit, the Russian Question is a thing. And it’s being peddled with street corner privileges that never mind the placebo effect. Our imaginations will pay retail, and that’s all that matters since we’ll never know the whole truth.

We never do.

Major League Baseball Is Cheating Again- Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Baseball shattered the record for most league wide HR’s hit in a season last year whilst also setting a record for revenues. Well, if you lived through the Mitchell Report Era of the game where performance enhancing drugs laid waste to the sanctity of the sport’s most hallowed records, then you know where I’m coming from.

So what’s going on? Is this power surge simply a wonderful coincidence? Is it the baseballs that are juiced? Are hitters watching more Chuck Norris flicks? Or is better living through science having at it once again?

If I had to place a bet in Vegas as to where all this muscle bound intrigue is coming from, I’d go with data. The emphasis is weighted to this shit like never before. From a la carte pitching match-ups to shape shifting diamond defense to terms that seem to have been penned by Black Sabbath. Terms like WAR, Exit Velocity and Launch Angle. The science has overtaken the soul, the numbers have crunched intuition. As such, you have a bevvy of buff specimens whose mandate is all or nothing.

As much as I love the MLB, the truth is, they are being paced by every other league not named the NHL. So this boom or bust version of the game, it keeps the former national pastime relevant. Romance be damned.

Use Your Voice- A bunch of my fellow bloggers follow The Voice. And well . . they got me all curious and such. So I consulted YouTube for the final tabulations, and I found this little pixie, Brynn Cartelli. Those pipes are some hot buttah goodness, tell you what.

Light It Up- Watched HBO’s remake of the classic dystopian tale, Fahrenheit 451 this week. I knew the casting was going to rock the house, with Michael Shannon playing Captain Beatty and Michael B. Jordan in the role of Gus Montag. But I had NO idea I would love it as much as I did. The movie is thematically faithful with scenarios that eerily dovetail the realities of our technological day and age. It’s scary to think, but in some ways? We’re already here.

IPA’s- I’ve lambasted the craft beer craze for years, but truth be told, there is plenty of talent out there. They’ll never replace my starting lineup, but as a pinch hitter/substitution? Batter up!

The Meaning of “Me Too”- Is one of solidarity. And it only matters if the voices are heard. So the next time someone complains about “another one” coming forward, ask them if they would be so flip if that another one was a wife, girlfriend, mother, daughter or close friend. Personally, I hope every last voice that wants to be heard, is. There’s no expiration date for this kind of thing.

LeBron James is going to the NBA finals. Again. With these guys . . .

The Anthem Debate Gets Sillier- Which is exactly what happened when the league announced that any player who kneels during the anthem will incur a fifteen yard penalty for his team. Reprimanding peaceful protests isn’t very patriotic. But then again, this was never about patriotism. It was a workplace conflict of interest. Some of the players simply wanted to create a dialogue while some of the owners felt the protests would hurt their bottom line. The irony here is that the overwhelming majority of peeps on BOTH sides of this debate care deeply about their country. The nuances have created the chasm. And that, is silly.

In closing, here’s to our freedom to be silly. It is provided to us by the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every single day. So that we may have a place to debate and discuss and most importantly . . .