Tag Archives: World War II

In ‘tat world,’ what is with those drawings you can’t read?

Popular culture is an ever-changing world that occasionally boggles the minds of old folks, such as me.

One element of contemporary culture involves the stunning proliferation of tattoos. Yep, damn near everyone seems to have ’em.  I want to discuss briefly an element of “tat world” that baffles me in the extreme.

We attended a Fourth of July party the other evening at Lake Bob Sandlin, a beautiful area about 90 miles east of us in East Texas. There was plenty of food, fun, fellowship — and fireworks.

I also saw my share of tats. Young folks were inked up. Some not-so-young folks were, too. One woman had a tat that caught my attention, and it brings me to the question of the day: Why put something on your body that contains text that you cannot read?

She had inked up the calves of both legs. One of the designs contained some sort of written message. I wanted to read what the message was on her leg, except that I had this problem that got in the way: She is a total stranger; I don’t know her from the woman in the moon. I couldn’t possibly feel comfortable asking this individual, “Pardon me, but what does the message say on the back of your right leg? May I stoop down to read it, or will you just tell me what it says?”

Look, I don’t begrudge those who ink up their bodies with tattoos. That’s their call. To each his/her own … that’s one of my mottos of everyday life.

I made a solemn vow to my late father back in 1968 while I was preparing to be inducted into the U.S. Army. Dad implored me, he begged me, to please do not get a tattoo. He wore a tat on one of his arms that he acquired in the Navy during World War II. As I recall his story, he was on liberty in Tunisia and decided to get a tattoo after consuming too many adult beverages one evening.

He regretted it every day of his life. Dad didn’t want me to scar my body. So I agreed then and I will keep that promise to him for as long as I live.

However, were I to get one I would want it to be recognizable from a distance so that I could avoid questions from perfect strangers.

Ahh, that element of pop culture will just have to evolve without me.

My new favorite holiday? Umm, maybe

The older I get the sappier I become.

My wife and I spent a glorious evening with Emma, our 6-year-old granddaughter. We ventured to the other side of Princeton, Texas — which isn’t all that far, to tell you the truth — to enjoy some Independence Day festivities.

The city put on its Fourth of July Spectacular at Caldwell Park, which happens to include a one-time World War II prisoner of war encampment where Nazi soldiers were kept near the end of the war.

Emma enjoyed some rides, sipped and nibbled on a snow cone, then sat with us as we listened to music superstar Lee Ann Womack belt out some country/western tunes before a large crowd gathered in front of the stage.

Then the fun really got started. The fireworks display — which I sought to capture with the photo that accompanies this blog post — was nothing short of spectacular.

I love the pageantry associated with the Fourth of July. The older I become the more I enjoy listening to the patriotic music while the rockets’ red glare lights up the night sky.

Truth be told, I’ve always been a bit of a sap about this particular holiday. My parents imbued it in me as a youngster. Perhaps it has something to do with Dad’s role in ridding the world of tyranny during World War II. He was proud of his Navy service, although he didn’t brag about. The Greatest Generation is not full of braggarts; it is full of heroes who did their job, answered their country’s call to duty, then returned home to start or restart their lives. That was Dad in a nutshell.

Mom, too, told me of how the Port of Portland, Ore., turned into a “liberty ship” assembly line, cranking out cargo vessels at a clip of one per month. You remember these tales of greatness in the face of international crisis.

So we watched the fireworks tonight. We listened to music. It was our way of saluting this great nation of ours.

What’s more, we did it with our precious little girl.

How in the name of all that is good can it possibly get any better than that?

Memo to AOC: Stop using ‘concentration camp’ reference

Read my lips, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: When you use the words “concentration camps,” it is quite easy for others to equate that terminology with what the Nazis did in Europe prior to and during World War II.

I get that you are a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. You represent a constituency that must believe what you say. However, even though you are a raw rookie congresswoman from New York City, your words have this way of resonating around the country.

Thus, I want to caution you about equating our detention of illegal immigrants on our southern border to “concentration camps.”

I understand your reaction to critics who suggest you are equating those detention camps along our Mexico border with “death camps.” I heard you say that death camps aren’t the same as concentration camps.

However, it is dangerously close to making that death camp equation.

There can be no way in the world that we can attach any moral equivalence to what we’re doing to anything approaching what the Nazis did in committing the 20th century’s worst crimes against humanity.

Now, I say this as someone who wants to support you, Rep AOC. However, your meteoric rise to the top of our public visibility is annoying. I prefer member of Congress earn their spurs before they appear before me every single day.

I also get that your ubiquitous presence on TV and in print isn’t your fault. It’s the fault of the media that are looking for stars. They have found one in you.

But take this bit of unsolicited advice: Just because the media are anxious to quote you doesn’t give you license to say things that your elders find offensive.

I don’t like the detention centers on our border any more than you do. However, I bristle at any notion that we are running “concentration camps” that to my eyes and ears reminds me too much of what the Nazis did during that dark and sinister time.

Be circumspect, Rep. AOC.

Mr. POTUS, your service now isn’t the same as it might have been

I want to visit one more — and I hope final — time the manner in which Donald Trump avoided military service during the Vietnam War.

He received medical deferments related supposedly to bone spurs. Young Donald received several such deferments while young men were dying in Vietnam, a country that was “so far away,” as the president noted recently in an interview with Piers Morgan.

He says that his time now as president is making up for his lack of service when he was of age to wear a military uniform.

I also recall Trump telling us when he was running for president that his military school enrollment passed as more or less the same as serving in the actual military. No … it wasn’t even close to the same as what many of us were enduring in the late 1960s. Really, I know what I went through in the Army and I am quite sure that Donald Trump didn’t experience the things millions of us did during that time.

Trump says now he would have been “honored” to serve. Really? Well, I don’t know how one can refute such a contention, except to remind the president that he could have sucked it up, locked and loaded a weapon and, well, served his country.

He didn’t do it, just as his father didn’t serve during World War II.

Instead, according to congressional committee testimony delivered by his former friend and lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump once said, “Do you think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam!”

Mr. President, I don’t believe my service in Vietnam was a “stupid” act. I also don’t think others of us who did answer our nation’s call believe they were acting stupidly.

We merely did our duty, Mr. President.

OK, on this matter I am out … I hope.

Two Trumps made the trip to Europe

Well, the world got a good look this week at two men who serve in one body as the president of the United States.

What the world cannot shake, though, is the appearance of the “real Donald Trump,” who spoke over the other Donald Trump posing as president.

I will acknowledge the obvious. The “fake” Trump did a good job of articulating our immense national pride over the heroism displayed 75 years ago this week on the Normandy coastline in France. American, British and Canadian men stormed ashore to take back a continent living under the tyranny of the Nazi conquerors.

The Trump who posed as president spoke eloquently about the heroism of that operation and the victory those men achieved.

Yeah, I have heard the criticism of those who said that Trump merely was reading someone else’s words, that he doesn’t actually believe them. I’ll just say that he isn’t the first president who has read a speech penned by speechwriters, nor will he be the final president. Ronald Reagan’s marvelous “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” speech in 1984 was the work largely of Peggy Noonan, although Noonan seeks to give President Reagan much credit for adding his own rhetoric to that address.

However, juxtaposed with the Trump posing as president was the “real Donald Trump,” the man who sat before those thousands of graves marking the final resting place for fallen American heroes.

That version of Trump took the occasion to blast House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a “disaster,” as a “nasty” politician and someone who cannot be trusted. He then blasted the daylights out of a former Vietnam War combat Marine, former special counsel Robert Mueller, as a “fool.”

If he had any semblance of understanding of the solemnity of the moment, of the place and of the event they were commemorating, that version of Donald Trump would have declined to answer the highly charged political question fired at him by the Fox News commentator.

But … he lacks all of that.

And that version of Donald Trump is the one that millions of Americans are talking about today.

Sad.

Here is what POTUS could have said

I am among the last people on Earth who Donald Trump would ask for advice, but I’ll offer a bit of unsolicited advice anyway.

Trump sat this week in front of rows of graves at Normandy, the site of the epic World War II invasion and battle that sealed the doom of the Third Reich. Fox News interviewer Laura Ingraham asked him some questions about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Ingraham was looking to push Trump’s hot button. He took the bait. He swallowed it whole and proceeded to dishonor the men buried behind him by offering a blistering partisan critique of Mueller and Pelosi. He said Mueller “made a fool of himself,” and called Pelosi a “disaster.”

Had the president asked me how to handle such a loaded set of questions, I would have counseled he say the following:

That’s a good question, Laura. However, I am not going to answer it now. Not here. Not in the presence of the men buried behind me.

I came to Normandy to honor the heroism of our brave fighting men and their comrades from Great Britain, Canada, France and many other nations involved in that great war.

I am going to speak very soon at a ceremony attended by some of the men who survived that horrible conflict on the beaches here. I don’t want to sully that event with a partisan commentary on matters back at home. 

It’s been said that “politics ends at the water’s edge.” A great Republican senator, Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, offered that bit of wisdom. I intend to follow it here.

Now, if you want to ask me about the commemoration we are offering here, I’ll be glad to answer that.

Politics? Let’s wait until we get home. OK?

The president didn’t say that. If only he could understand the solemnity of the moment and appreciate the sacrifice of the men who died in defense of our way of life.

POTUS manages to trample on his own high moment

Donald J. Trump is not without some political skill.

He did, after all, manage to win a presidential election when every pundit in America was predicting his defeat in 2016.

The president also is quite good on a more dubious level. When given a chance to shine, to speak with high-minded rhetoric on behalf of the nation — he manages to trample all over his own moment of statesmanship.

Trump went to France this week to honor the memory of those who died during the D-Day invasion of Europe on June 6,1944, 75 years ago. He delivered a glorious speech to the crowd at Normandy. He said the young men who stormed the beach to liberate a continent were the greatest people “who will ever live.”

But only moments before delivering those remarks, Trump managed to tape an interview with the Fox News Channel. There he was, sitting before a cemetery filled with the headstones of fallen Allied warriors.

That backdrop was the perfect antithesis to what came out of his mouth. Donald Trump managed to call former special counsel Robert Mueller — a former Marine who was wounded in combat during the Vietnam War, who received the Bronze Star for valor in combat — a “fool.” He said Mueller “made a fool of himself” with his report detailing the conclusions he reached regarding the 22-month investigation into alleged collusion with Russians who attacked our electoral system.

While speaking to Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham, Trump also managed to call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “disaster.”

My point is this: Presidents don’t normally resort to that kind of partisan bickering while in the midst of representing our nation on the worldwide stage. They damn sure don’t do such things while commemorating monumentally historic events such as the D-Day invasion, an event that many historians describe as the decisive battle of World War II.

Presidents are supposed to recognize the solemnity of these events and behave accordingly.

Donald Trump doesn’t play by those rules. He doesn’t play by any of the normal conventions associated with his high and exalted office.

His base adores him for the crassness he exhibits.

It sickens the rest of us.

Adding ‘the beach’ to my bucket list

I don’t have a lengthy “bucket list” of things I want to do before I check out. I’ve lived a good and productive and eventful life full of rare experiences.

I have traveled three times to Greece, my ancestral homeland; I have been able to walk on the soil in Vietnam where I served during a long-ago war; I have spent more than a month in Israel, visiting holy sites and learning how people live so close to their mortal enemies just across borders in almost any direction.

And of course my family has filled me with great joy and pride.

But this week, watching the events commemorating the 75th year since the D-Day invasion of Europe, I have added a destination to my bucket list. I want to walk along “the beach.” I want to see where young men fought and died to save the world from tyranny.

Let me be clear: I do not have a direct familial connection to D-Day. My father was a World War II veteran, as was one of my uncles. Dad saw his combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations; he took part in landings at Oran, Morocco and later in Sicily and then at Salerno on the Italian mainland.

Dad faced continual bombardment from German and Italian aircraft. While manning a 50-caliber deck gun, Dad was credited with shooting down a JU-88 Luftwaffe bomber, but then had his ship sunk when an Italian torpedo bomber found its mark off the Sicilian coast.

So, no one in my family met death on the French coast on June 6, 1944. Oh, how I want to see that place nonetheless.

The ceremonies we have seen over the past few days as U.S. and French presidents have heaped praise on the men who fought to save the world. Donald Trump called these warriors the “greatest men who will ever live.” Emmanuel Macron turned to the men seated behind and said, “On behalf of my country … thank you.”

American, British and Canadian soldiers stormed ashore on five beachheads: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword and Juno. Their names are etched in world history as the places that changed the course of what we all hope is the last great world war.

I want to see those beaches. So help me, before I kick the bucket, I’m going to make it happen.

D-Day veterans earned the world’s eternal gratitude

They’re old men who once — in the prime of their youth — stormed out of boats into too-deep water and onto a beach. They were greeted with merciless fire from an enemy force determined to keep what it had captured.

The young men fought their way across the beach. Their triumph was far from secured when they were able to maintain their hold on the small strip of land they had just touched.

They kept fighting. And fighting some more. They hailed from nations around the world. They were Americans, Brits, Canadians, French, Poles, Dutch, Danes, Greeks, Australians and New Zealanders.

Seventy-five years ago they sought to open a new front in the war in Europe. They landed in Normandy, France on a mission labeled Operation Overlord, aka D-Day.

These old men now are among a diminishing group of heroes who fought to save the world from Nazi tyranny. They would succeed eventually. The Third Reich that was supposed to last a thousand years crumbled under the might of the forces that fought their way into Germany from that beach in Normandy and from the east, where the Soviet Red Army was exacting its own brutal vengeance against the Nazis.

Today we honor the young men who answered their nations’ call. Dignitaries will offer high-minded salutes to those young men. A few of those young men will be there among the dignitaries. They have aged. They’re now well into their 90s, meaning that most of those who are still with us today likely won’t be around for the next landmark commemoration of the D-Day landing.

One day all those young men will no longer be among us. I have sought in recent years to shake the hand of World War II veterans when I see them wearing those ballcaps identifying them as members of the Greatest Generation. I want to thank them for saving the world from the monsters who sought to subject us all to their oppression.

But here’s the deal: Those veterans who saved the world from the tyrants quite often don’t advertise their heroism. They fought hard, earned the victory and then returned home to resume their lives. Their heroics? “We just did our duty,” they might say.

D-Day was a seminal event in world history. Those who are the products of those men need to understand fully what they did when they stormed ashore in the beach in France. Indeed, all of us who came into this world after that worldwide war should honor their forebears’ effort to save the world.

That’s what I want to do at this moment . . . and always.

Trump tweets insult to singer/actress during state visit? Wow!

I decided long ago that I wouldn’t lament Donald Trump’s use of Twitter as a policy bullhorn. I get that it works for the president, even though his tweets are so remarkably inarticulate, clumsy and, um, full of lies.

However, I cannot let pass a recent message he fired off while he is visiting the United Kingdom on a state visit at the invitation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

At a time when the president should be exhibiting solemn respect for the office he holds and paving the way to pay his respects to the valiant warriors who fell in battle 75 years ago while trying to liberate Europe from the Nazi tyrant, he does something truly astonishing.

Donald Trump decides to engage in a Twitter battle with Bette Midler, the noted singer and actress.

Midler dislikes the president. She said so yet again. So what does the target of her barbs do? He decides to fire off a tweet in response to Midler, calling her a “washed up psycho,” or words to that effect.

Good ever-lovin’ grief, Mr. President!

Donald Trump is managing to make the presidency a worldwide laughingstock at a time when he should be conducting himself with maximum decorum and dignity.

A tweet tirade with Bette Midler isn’t the way to do that.

Weird.