Category: Biography

James Garner – Actor, Poker Player

BretMaverick
The Young, Dashing Bret Maverick

I’ve been distracted of late, it isn’t the first time but this blog is never far from my mind. I’m always conflicted on what to write about and how long these entries should be, not to mention finding the time to concentrate on whatever subject it is I finally choose.

Realizing I post regularly to my Facebook page on a myriad of subjects I got to thinking today: Why not just expound on some of those same things here within my blog? After all, each entry doesn’t have to be a lengthy epic of paragraph after paragraph of astounding, deep-thinking commentary. It just needs to be a sharing of a single thought or two on my interest of the day, something I hope worthy of sharing with you my regulars. Something “compelling” would be a word a friend often uses. So, here goes!

By-the-way, thanks as always for stopping by!

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Young Love: War Interrupted

Stories of young love are often remembered as the folly of our youth. They are the stuff that is part of growing up. A few sometimes strike our youthful, tender spirits with the sting of heartbreak, just as it can in adulthood. Such is puppy love and the price we pay for being teenagers. But few young romances are enveloped in the drama of war, surrounded by a devastated world. This is the story of Anne and Peter Schiff and of a missing image that took more than 60 years to be discovered. (more…)

When Lincoln Spoke

Lincoln-1860-Preston-Butler
Presidential Candidate Abraham Lincoln, August 1860, Springfield, IL

“I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?” ~~ Abraham Lincoln, after being called ‘two-faced’ in a debate

It’s common knowledge Abraham Lincoln was not a handsome man, nor was he esteemed on first notice as graceful or socially adept. Described as homely, uncouth, rough-looking, a tall 6′ 4″ angular, awkward man in clothing that didn’t seem to fit, Lincoln was even said by some to be ugly. His remarkable face, height and flat-footed, springless walk never failed to make a powerful impression. As a London Times correspondent wrote: “It would not be possible for the most indifferent observer to pass him in the street without notice.”

But Lincoln, a dirt-farmers son was ambitious and determined to succeed. From the time he was a boy he was self-educated, an avid reader of any book or newspaper he could find. His stepmother remembered he was unusual, he had to understand everything, repeated facts to himself until they were “fixed in his mind.” With little formal education he left home at age 22. “I was a friendless, uneducated, penniless boy… a piece of floating driftwood.” (more…)

Bradley Kritzer – An American Hero

Pfc. Bradley Kritzer

Today* would have been his 27th birthday. An all-American boy from small-town America. Bradley G. Kritzer, like many from the small boroughs of central Pennsylvania’s Clearfield county loved the outdoors and someday hoped to work there with an organization like the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Brad is a lot like many of my cousins with hunting and fishing a favorite pastime.  It is said that he grew up with a rifle in hand, hunting turkey and deer with his father and going fishing every chance he got. Brad is a distant cousin whose life I was drawn closer to by the tragedy of his death. (more…)

The Weaker Sex and The Separation of Powers

“Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Baron De Montesquieu (1689-1755) was an 18th century French philosopher, political thinker and social commentator.  He was the first of the great French scholars associated with the Enlightenment a period in which the power of reason was brought to bear against the intolerance of religion and social norms.

Baron de Montesquieu

His ideas about the separation of powers had an enormous impact and became the basis for the United States Constitution.  Despotism he said was a danger for any government and he believed absolute power could be prevented by a system divided among the executive, legislature and a judiciary.

Despite Montesquieu’s belief in the principles of a democracy, he did not feel that all people were equal.  He approved of slavery and thought women were weaker than men and had to obey the commands of their husband. (more…)

Private Eddie Slovik: An Example Who Never Was

It happened 67-years ago this January. It was an occasion that few people take note of or know much about. It was an event meant to be seared into the minds of every American combat soldier serving at the time. It was 1945 and in France the fighting of a World War was fierce.

Eddie and Antoinette Slovik
Eddie, a Polish-American born in 1920, had grown up during the depression on the mean streets of Detroit. A petty thief when 12-years old he was arrested several times and incarcerated twice as a teenager. Released from reform school after a short-term for breaking and entering he was sent to prison for stealing and crashing a car while drunk at 19. Three years later in April 1941 Eddie was once again released. He found work in Dearborn, Michigan and at the age of 22 married Antoinette Wisniewski.

Originally deemed unfit for military service because of his criminal record Eddie was later reclassified and drafted in the Army in January 1944. Times were tough in those days, America needed every able-bodied man it could get. Even an ex-con would do with war raging around the globe. Eight months later, described as frail, timid and somewhat a misfit, definitely not military material, Eddie joined the troops in France as part of the historic 28th Infantry Division.

Two things would play a major role for Eddie and his future. One, he was familiar with prison life and running afoul of the law. And two, he did not want to fight.

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War’s Death Watch, Part 3 of 3

The following is the third and final installment of what was originally titled A Burial at Sea: Remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer.USMC Eagle, Anchor & Globe  It was written by Lt. Colonel George Goodson, U.S.M.C. (Retired) and published in the Marine Corps Gazette in September 2007.  Because of it’s length it was divided here into three parts.  Part 1 was published Tuesday, part 2 yesterday.

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More Notifications and Funerals

More notifications and funerals followed.  My staff and I were numb.  The tension was palpable.  My marriage was affected; it ultimately failed.  My corpsman was so alarmed that he insisted on taking blood pressure readings on everyone–twice a day.  My staff and I ran 5 miles daily trying to reduce the stress.

My Last Notifcation: A Burial at Sea

One day while I was running, Sergeant Jolley stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth… I never could do that… and held an imaginary phone to his ear.  I waved acknowledgement and went into the office.  Jolley handed me the phone.  It was another call from Headquarters Marine Corps.  I took notes and said, “Got it.”  I hung up.  I had stopped saying “thank you” long ago. (more…)

War’s Death Watch, Part 2 of 3

The following is the second installment of what was originally titled A Burial at Sea: Remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer.USMC Eagle, Anchor & Globe  It was written by Lt. Colonel George Goodson, U.S.M.C. (Retired) and published in the Marine Corps Gazette in September 2007.  Because of it’s length it was divided here into three parts.  Part 1 was published the day before while the final Part 3 was published the following day.

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Notifications and Funerals

Over the next 18 months I notified the families of 18 Marines killed in action, 2 missing in action, and 30 seriously wounded in action.  Despite the controversy that existed about Vietnam, I received sympathy and affection from virtually every family.  Once a mother said to me, “I’m so sorry you have this terrible job.”  With tears in my eyes, I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  When I presented the flag to the father, mother or wife, I always said, “All Marines share your grief,” instead of, “On behalf of a grateful Nation.”  I didn’t think the Nation was grateful so I wouldn’t say that.

Flag Presentation U.S. Marine (more…)

War’s Death Watch, Part 1 of 3

The following is the first installment of what was originally titled A Burial at Sea: Remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer.USMC Eagle, Anchor & Globe  Written by Lt. Colonel George Goodson, U.S.M.C. (Retired) it was published in the Marine Corps Gazette in September 2007.    Because of its length it’s divided here into three parts.  Part 2 and part 3 will be published here over the next two days.

This story is a personal one, but shared with many from a unique perspective.  It is one Marine officer’s 18-month long experience as he notifies the families of soldiers killed in Vietnam when casualties were on the rise.  In 1967 — when this story begins — the U.S. saw the number of its soldiers killed increase from the year before by 81% to more than 11,000.  The following year 1968 would be far worse.  16,592 American G.I.’s were killed that year.  By the end of the Vietnam war nearly 53,000 would die.  Unbelievably those numbers pale to those lost in the Civil War, but by today’s standards they’re difficult to comprehend.

Someone once said: A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of ‘up to and including their life.’  That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

What follows is shared in remembrance of all our veterans who have served our country faithfully.  We especially honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and to the families they left behind.  Thanks to Colonel Goodson for sharing his story.

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Roots’ Kunte Kinte, Fact or Fiction?

Those of you who’ve seen the award winning T-V miniseries Roots will recall it follows the life and the descendants of Kunte Kinte. Adapted from the groundbreaking Alex Haley novel it begins with Kinte’s birthKunte Kinte in a small village in Gambia, Africa in 1750. The story develops as the 15-year old Kinte is ordained a Mandinka warrior.  Shortly after, while searching for wood near his village to make a drum for his brother, he is captured by slave traders. Ruthlessly snatched from his family and home, never to see either again, Kinte is put on a slave ship and brought to America.  After his arrival at Annapolis, Maryland his name is changed by his slave owner to Toby.  The proud Kunte resists the change and is beaten until he submits to his slave name, but never forgets.

During Kunte’s/Toby’s lifetime and the generations that follow, we are told an amazing story of family, hardship, suffering, struggle for identity, and ultimate triumphs. The story spans nearly 120 years of family history and ends with the memorable character Chicken George, his son Tom Harvey and granddaughter Cynthia.

When the series was originally aired, over eight consecutive nights in January 1977, Roots - Alex Haley it reached an audience of 140-million people.  On its final night 71% of all television viewers were watching Roots.  It would win nine Emmy Awards as well as a Golden Globe. The series revived interest in genealogical history among both blacks and whites. Roots ends with the narrative voice of Alex Haley who, with a montage of family photos, connects Tom Harvey’s daughter Cynthia, the great-great-granddaughter of Kunta Kinte, to Haley himself. (more…)