Wednesday, June 30, 2010

America The Beautiful

The photo assignment this week at The Pioneer Woman’s site is “America”. Folks are submitting their interpretations of what America represents to them. The images submitted have been just wonderful. There are mountains and plains and monuments and lots of red, white and blue.
When I clicked on her site this morning I was excited to find that one of my pictures was chosen as a contender for the finalists to be announced later this week. I jumped up, shook my tail feathers and shouted, “Hallelujah!” You’ve heard of air guitar? I did the air chest bump with no one in particular and hurt myself. It’s incredibly flattering to be singled out with the other submissions because I’m tellin’ ya, there are some great pictures in the running, and it’s only day three of this contest.

This is my picture:

It’s one of my favorites of the ones I've taken since I started dabbling in photography. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy and patriotic whenever I look at it, and it’s actually one of about fifty I took of flags last July Fourth. I like the simplicity of it.

The other image I will submit tomorrow is this one:

I captured this fellow during the local Veteran’s Day parade. He quietly flashed the victory sign to veteran after veteran as they rolled by him in the parade. They knowingly returned the gesture. He never knew I was behind him, shedding tears for the unspoken emotion in that hand sign between elderly men and women still feeling the scars of battle. The gesture drowned out the bands and crowd noise around me.

These images and others at The Pioneer Woman remind me of the sacrifices of so many, including my grandfathers. Grandpa B. fought in World War II and was highly decorated. He brought home from the war a huge Nazi flag he tore down from a pole during fighting in a German town, and he would sometimes bring it out to show us grandkids and tell us about war stories. We were too young to really understand the significance of the flag or his service. I regret now that I didn’t listen more, since he passed away twenty four years ago.

Grandpa M. served in World War I, and I never heard him discuss it. Perhaps because he was so old and I was so young. He died when I was ten years old, and he mostly shared fond memories of the family farm in the last years of his life. He was such a gentle man it’s hard for me to imagine him in battle. I don’t really know the full details of his time in Europe, but I do have a memento of his war service. It’s a copy of a letter he wrote to his mother at the end of the war. It was included in the family history book one of my aunts compiled several years ago, and I found it recently when we cleaned out the attic at the old house. It makes me smile to read it and imagine what a poor farm boy from rural Illinois thought about his travels to another part of the world.

In keeping with the July Fourth theme, and in recognition of him and all the others who saved our freedom over the years, I share the letter with you today. And I encourage you to visit the photo contest and check out the shades of America. It will make you feel good and remind you that behind all of the political fussing and congressional shenanigans, this country is still a wonderful place to be.


Aven Ville, France, November 25, 1918

Dear Mother,

Will write you a few lines tonight. I am well and hope you are the same. I got a letter from sister and one from Almus today. Well, Mama, I think by the time you get this I will be on the way home. We are drilling now and getting in shape for a big parade in New York. It has been five months today since I saw you, but it won’t be that long until I see you again.

Well mother, I will tell you a little about my trip. We got on the train at Camp Upton, New York, about five o’clock in the evening the same time at Montreal, Canada and took the ship and sailed up the St. Lawrence River to Quebec and around the gulf to Sydney, Nova Scotia. We laid there four days and nights and then sailed back to Quebec, landing there at five o’clock on September 2nd. We then took another ship and sailed for England and in thirteen days we landed at Liverpool, England. We boarded a train there and rode until the next morning and got off and went to a rest camp and cleaned up and had dinner. Then hiked back to town and took another ship and sailed for France, landing there the next morning. We were again put aboard the train and rode for two days and nights and landed where we are now. I never got sea sick one minute but believe me there were some sick birds out there. Mama, I have been working on the railroad building roads. I have seen some great things.

Well, brother, how are you and Old Bob (a mule) making it? Sis said he was mean as ever. Don’t let him hurt you. I will give him what he needs when I get home if I can get the land to work. Tell Alta I made her a nice silver ring today out of French money. I think I will get there in time to take a good possum hunt. Well, Mama, we boys are all together yes and we have lots of fun. Have you ever got any of my allotment? If you haven’t, write and tell me and I will look into it and see why you don’t get it.

I will close for this time. You all keep writing until I get home as my mail will follow me. With best wishes to you all and hope to see you in the near future.

Your son,

Private John M., Co. I 22nd Eng., 3rd Batn. A.P.O/ A.B.F.


Trailboss said...

My father served as a medic on the front line in WWII. He never would talk about it. He finally told me that he doesn't like to talk about seeing his friends splattered all over the place when they had just been beside him. It really made me pause and think. I cannot imagine what he saw and experiences during his service time but I do know that after that day I never asked about the war again.

the parishioner who doesn't do anything said...

I've often thought of Great Grandma sitting on the porch and catching her first glimpse of him hiking a short cut across the fields when he returned home. It's just an imagination of mine. We go to Paris tomorrow, and I'll think of him there.

J.G. said...

Gosh, it really comes through that although he has seen "great things," he'd rather talk about home and what it will be like when he comes back. That letter is a treasure. Thank you for sharing it.