Archive for May, 2010

Memorial Day’s Proudest

Monday, May 24th, 2010

It is delicate, shades of orange and red catching the sunlight. Its outermost parts so soft and nearly transparent that they defy anything man can manufacture. Too often these marvels of the floral world are associated with heroin, but to a generation gone and one rapidly aging, they mean far more.

In 1956 while a sixth grader at Thomas A. Hendricks School, it was a joy to walk down the hall from to the art room. There, Frances Liles always had a project for us. To this day, I use many of the methods she taught. Our civic projects were varied, but the one that sticks in my mind is the poster contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

My generation, born in the 1940s, heard whispered comments about “The War to End All Wars” (World War I). Later, when adults, we would learn the horrors of mustard gas and the trenches. But, as innocent children, we learned the simple respect for the American soldier that would follow us for the rest of our lives.

In the spring, the blackboard (and it was black at that time!) would remind us of the Poppy Poster Contest and our minds would whirl with ideas. I made my last entry in sixth grade and I can still see it in my mind’s eye.

A white cross centered on the paper, a metal US Army helmet draped on the top and a spray of poppies at its base. I wish I had saved it. Even after 55 years, I feel the power of its message.

The VFW will be selling its poppies this weekend across America in anticipation of Memorial Day. I knew it as Decoration Day and it dates to
5 May 1868, and General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and his General Order No. 11. Its beginning was 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The name changed in 1971 and is celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May
(The Congressional National Holiday Act of 1971).

Watch for flashes of red and smiles from men holding them this coming weekend. They will be there, as devoted and dependable as ever. Veterans will stand in malls, outside big box stores and groceries, on street corners and along thoroughfares. The locales are varied. Sleepy hamlet or large city, the message is the same. Honor our veterans. They fought proudly around the world to safeguard strangers. They won your enduring freedom and put your lives before theirs. Teach the children. We have lost the fervor once felt for the military and that is a sad commentary on the public condition.

The small paper flowers, made by disabled and needy veterans in VA hospital facilities across the nation, help fund worthwhile efforts. Monies from their sale finance the maintenance of state and national veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs as well as partially support the VFW National Home for orphans and widows of our nation’s veterans. It only takes a moment to stop and pay respect to those selling the poppies. Won’t you help them in this time-honored effort?

The tiny flowers reflect a promise began in the 1920s. Here is the precise history taken from the VFW website:

The VFW conducted its first poppy distribution before Memorial Day in 1922, becoming the first veterans’ organization to organize a nationwide distribution. The poppy soon was adopted as the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

It was during the 1923 encampment that the VFW decided that VFW Buddy Poppies be assembled by disabled and needy veterans who would be paid for their work to provide them with some form of financial assistance. The plan was formally adopted during the VFW’s 1923 encampment. The next year, disabled veterans at the Buddy Poppy factory in Pittsburgh assembled VFW Buddy Poppies. The designation “Buddy Poppy” was adopted at that time.

In February 1924, the VFW registered the name “Buddy Poppy” with the U.S. Patent Office. A certificate was issued on May 20, 1924, granting the VFW all trademark rights in the name of Buddy under the classification of artificial flowers. The VFW has made that trademark a guarantee that all poppies bearing that name and the VFW label are genuine products of the work of disabled and needy veterans. No other organization, firm or individual can legally use the name “Buddy” Poppy, and partially supports the VFW National Home for orphans and widows of our nation’s veterans.

Why the poppy? It quickly became associated with war after the publication of a poem written by Col. John McCrae of Canada. The poem, “In Flander’s Field,” describes blowing red fields among the battleground of the fallen. Flanders Fields is the name of World War I battlefields in the medieval County of Flanders, spanning portions of southern Belgium and northwest France.

And so, among all the flowers that evoke the memories and emotions of war we recognize the red poppy. After nearly 90 years, the poppy reminds us of a war that cost millions of lives. Touted to be the last of the wars that man would see, it was not. The VFW has raised millions of dollars to support of veterans’ welfare and the well being of their dependents.

Be a patriot. Buy a poppy. Then, take a little time to read the poem that inspired it all.

In Flander’s Field
by John McCrae
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.

Faith and our Founding Fathers

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

From time to time over the past eight years, I have dipped into the inkwell of the past and recounted great stories of the men who put their hearts and minds into the founding of this great nation.

Drawn from all professions, they had one thing in common above all others and that was faith in the Almighty. King George and his national church had spewed forth enough venom and exerted enough control to push the colonists over the edge and push them to revolution.

In the midst of all the chaos was the genuine belief in the freedom of man. When debate ground to a crawl in the Constitutional Convention, what did they do? They took three days off to pray.

Our national monuments bear not only images from Scripture, but text. Murals, sculptures, friezes on buildings, great passages from the Bible — all these and more can be found in Washington, D.C.

What amazes me is that of the 535 members of the US Congress, so few publicly avow the sacred principles that wrought the very government that they serve. Don’t they see what is around them on a day-to-day basis? Can’t they take in the not-so-subtle messages underscoring the close relationship between God and Man?

Oh, there are the blowhards. They step to podia and expound colorful rhetoric, but their core message is anything but God-fearing. The few Congressmen and Senators who openly proclaim their faith in public find themselves labeled as belonging to “the Christian right” by detractors — as if faith in God is a weakness.

If any one event has shocked me over the past two years, it is the behavior of many of those in Congress. Despite spirited town hall meetings and inundations of mail and e-mail messages, countless members vote in direct opposition to their constituents’ wishes.

Tyranny is not the American way. You will hear many claim that America is a democracy. It’s not. We are a republic — a representative republic, but a republic nonetheless. In essence, representatives pledge to vote on behalf of their constituencies. Sadly, that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

The operative question here is “Why?” We may never get a single answer, but the response is looming. You see, the answer will come in the results of the November elections.

Your job as a voter is to keep track of how you are represented. This applies equally for all levels of government — municipal, county, state, and national. I know it is difficult to maintain equilibrium between personal life and being a responsible citizen, but it is a precious freedom.

It is interesting to note that among the current 25 top selling books on, 17 of them are on Founding Fathers, Founding Principles (faith among them), and The US Constitution.

Well, it’s about time. As an author, I’m happy to know that more and more people are reading books. Computers are fine, but the relationship between a reader and a book is more personal than a lit screen.

Go get a Copy of the Federalist Papers. Read about the Founding Fathers. I think they would be appalled at what we face today. Think about it.

Technology bites the dust…

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Well, I knew it would happen. It was just a matter of time. Responding to the encouragement of younger people, I joined Facebook in March. It didn’t take long to understand why I didn’t need another complication on my computer.

I use my computer for my business and to keep in touch with friends, but I don’t want to connect to perfect strangers just because we happen to know person or persons in common. It became perfectly clear that the social network was able to access those who regularly e-mail me and offer them — in my name — an “invitation” to be a friend.

Friends don’t need an invitation. Give me air. I had no idea that so many “special offers” were in the wings for me. The sheer number of inquiries from a glut of companies increased by the day — and it was very apparent that it coincided with the date that I decided to avail myself of the social network’s services.

It’s not that I’m against meeting new people. I am capable of striking up a conversation with just about anyone. What I don’t need is someone else making the decision to do it for me.

The World Wide Web offers users a wide variety of topics for research, news as it happens, and weather radar to aid in our safety during the stormy season so common in a Hoosier spring. Price comparisons are easy and shopping is a breeze, although I must warn you that opening an account with an online vendor can put you at risk. The best strategy is to shop as a New User or Guest. That way, no credit card information is saved.

Speaking from experience, that information can get out. I have spent the better part of two and a half weeks to respond to letters from nearly a score of vendors wanting me to complete a “purchase” after the credit card was declined. Well, it wasn’t declined, folks. It was canceled. Somehow, some little scoundrel managed to get the credit card number, my address and phone number and used it at will.

My first clue came when a company called to inquire about “pet jewelry” to be shipped to me. It seems that the web thief had given the right billing address, but the wrong mailing address. I assumed that it was a gift, since Mother’s day was just around the corner and told the caller to contact the purchaser and tell them to call me to confirm the gift. A call four hours later informed me that I was the purchaser. Wrong! The mental image of my 135-pound Newfoundland wearing jewelry prompted me to laugh out loud. Asking more questions, I found that the items had been charged to me that they amounted to hundreds of dollars. Right. I would outfit a dog in something that expensive….

A subsequent call that evening sent up a big red flag. Someone had my credit card number. I immediately called the company and canceled the card. There are safe ways to shop on line and ways that expose you to risk.

Play it safe. As for me, technology still has a lot of uses. Yes, one element bit the dust, but I consider that a rarity. Use your computer, but be careful. If you are not, you may be sorrier than you can imagine. Think about it.