Since beginning Life is History in 2017 I’ve tried to write something at least weekly. However, sometimes unexpected life events happen that alter our priorities. This week my mother-in-law passed away and my wife and I are in route to North Carolina to attend her funeral. I’d like to express my appreciation to those of you who follow my weekly posts. I hope to resume them as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding.
Although Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, the theme is universal… giving thanks for the many blessings in our lives. Often we’re so caught up in the hectic pace of our daily existence that we forget to take a moment to reflect on those gifts that God has bestowed upon us. It isn’t the material possessions that we own or the status we’ve achieved that matters most, though we seem to gauge life by wealth and celebrity. It is the love of family and friends that should be the measure of our worth, for without them all the money in the world cannot buy happiness.
Today, in the midst of celebrating the holiday with parades, football games, television specials and food, way too much food, pause long enough to express your gratitude in thought or prayer for the people around you and those that may be separated from you because of physical distance or even death but remain close in your hearts. The bonds that unite us are our greatest blessings regardless of our circumstance or situation.
Give Thanks. Happy Thanksgiving!
These five words are imprinted on a wristband that I’ve worn for almost two years as a former high school classmate and fellow brother-in-arms fought against the ravages of brain cancer. Colonel Emil “Mickey” Meis lost that fight July 8, 2019.
I have no words to adequately express my feelings at this moment. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and they are certainly in my prayers. I also find myself reflecting on my own situation and the loss of other friends and family to cancer.
Everyone at some point in their life either as a patient, friend, relative, or caregiver has been affected by this devastating disease. I was diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer in 2014. Five years later (after chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery) my cancer remains in remission, while so many others passed away – Don Kirkland, Rick Wilson, Alex Calderon, Al Billington, George Cichy, and now Mickey Meis. Their deaths will stay with me forever, and anyone reading this post can substitute or add names that reflect their own personal experiences. The pain and suffering are universal.
Everyone who died deserved better. They deserved to live out their lives cancer free experiencing all the joys and sorrow that life has to offer. Instead, in spite of courageous efforts to beat the odds, the disease took them away.
As a survivor, I’m left wondering… why them? My faith sustained me as did the well wishes and prayers of countless individuals in my corner, and I had excellent doctors and nurses at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Yet the same can be said for the victims listed above. They had comparable professional care and they were devout in their religious beliefs. So, how is it that I’m here pondering their loss?
I’m left with a lot of questions that I cannot answer. Faith is a mystery and medical research has yet to fully comprehend the disease or come up with a cure. This year alone, just in the United States, The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 deaths.
I intend to continue wearing my wristband in memory of Mickey and all those who have died, in support of everyone currently undergoing treatment, and as an advocate for everyone just learning of their diagnosis. The words Strength, Hope, Courage, Faith and Love lift me up. Let them also be the bywords that sustain you and yours in this ongoing struggle.
For those of you who follow this site on a weekly basis, you would normally expect to find a new entry today commenting on the latest book or tour at Lone Star Literary Life or one of my own publications. However, my focus has been on preparations for our son’s wedding tomorrow which my wife and I are hosting here at the house. Needless to say, with friends and family coming in there has been a lot to do, and concentrating on writing a review or other post (much less finding the time to so) just hasn’t been possible.
Look for me to get back on schedule next week. In the interim, catch up on previous posts or go to LSLL’s website for all the latest literary happenings in the state of Texas, and congratulate the happy couple!
Brian & Karolina
The Lone Star Book Blog Tours (LSBBT) Blogger Team has announced its 2018 Bloggers’ Choice Awards.
To be eligible for a 2018 LSBBT Bloggers’ Choice Award, a book must have been featured on an interactive book blog tour in 2018. Many authors (myself included) showcased their work on tour, providing readers over sixty titles to choose from in genres ranging from romance, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, spiritual, western, memoir, and historical fiction.
The LSBBT Blogger Team wrote nearly three hundred book reviews of the 2018 titles, and the winners in twelve different categories were determined by a combination of the reviewers’ average book ratings and team member votes.
Recently the nation watched as our 41st President, George H.W. Bush, was laid to rest in College Station, Texas on the campus of Texas A&M University. As a graduate and former cadet I was especially proud to see the student body and citizens turn out along the route and witness the Corps of Cadets render honors as the hearse carrying the flag-draped coffin passed by.
The news coverage had me wondering which of our Presidents also located their libraries on college campuses. Surprisingly, there were only three; Lyndon B. Johnson (The University of Texas in Austin, Texas), Gerald R. Ford (The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan), and George W. Bush (Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas). *While the Gerald R. Ford library is located in Ann Arbor, the museum is a separate facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
These four are among the fourteen Presidential Libraries federally maintained and administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The facilities not only provide a broader understanding of the Office of the Presidency but information specific to the individuals who aspired to and achieved the highest office in America. They house their memos, letters, policy decisions and ceremonial/personal artifacts.
This formal Presidential Library System didn’t exist until 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated his belief that the historical records and artifacts associated with his presidency were a part of our national heritage and needed to be preserved for future generations of Americans. Prior to that time these items might have been sold, lost, deliberately destroyed, or subject to ruin because of poor storage conditions by other libraries or private collectors.
FDR was the first to raise private funding for the construction of a library and museum and ask the National Archives to be responsible for its administration upon completion. In 1950 President Truman followed suit, and in 1955 Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act establishing privately funded and federally maintained libraries.
Because the facilities are built with private funding each President is allowed to choose the location. Additionally, up until President Reagan’s administration, access to and inclusion of personal property was at the discretion of the former President. Since then any records created or received in conjunction with constitutional, statutory, or ceremonial duties are considered property of the United States government.
For further information on all fourteen Presidential Libraries I recommend visiting the official website at: https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries
Finally, this post comes just before the holidays so I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas!
The Thanksgiving holidays and the recent Lone Star Book Blog Tour of Gratitude: The Art of Being Thankful by Vickie Phelps has me reflecting on the many blessings in my life and how I or anyone expresses one’s sincere gratitude.
It is not enough to say “thank you.” That expression is used daily, often without thought, as a polite response to something said or done on our behalf. It reflects civility and manners but no deep introspection. Sincere gratitude on the other hand requires effort. It is a conscious choice to acknowledge that every event, every person is a gift.
I sometimes struggle with my feelings over the loss of family and friends and the holidays only accentuate those emotions. It never gets easier to accept that there are empty chairs at the table. The premature loss of my two boys and my godson will always weigh heavily on my heart. Neither it is easy to reflect on dear friends and family members who succumbed to cancer while five years after my own diagnosis with the disease I am cancer free, nor to reconcile the combat loss of fellow brothers-in-arms while I somehow remained unscathed.
It would be easy to allow grief and acrimony to outweigh other considerations. However, while I’ve no doubt that in quieter moments I will shed a tear or two and ponder why everything occurred as it did, I thank God for every moment that I shared with each and every one of them. We can’t alter the past but we can choose to remember how blessed we are that our lives were forever impacted not only by events but by every person with whom they were shared.
Tomorrow is the appointed calendar date for public acknowledgement and celebration of divine goodness. Yet, because we live in an increasingly secular world where the presence of God in our lives is diminished, questioned, ridiculed, or rejected outright, the holiday observance too often consists of little more than watching parades and sports on television and consuming the Thanksgiving meal without a moment of silence or prayer wherein we acknowledge the many blessings given to each of us.
As you gather with friends and family consider your own circumstance and pause long enough in your celebrations to sincerely express your gratitude with a thankful heart.
Duty, Honor, Country is not a mere slogan to the men and women who wear the uniform. It is the creed by which they live.
The oath of enlistment or oath of office for commissioned officers states “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” These are not mere words either, but a promise to serve and protect the country and its citizens in peacetime and war.
Sunday, November 11th is Veterans Day; the national holiday will be observed on Monday. It will be a day in which the President of the United States places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery, usually followed by speeches from various dignitaries honoring the men and women (past and present) from all branches of the military. All around the country schools and organizations will celebrate by flying the American flag, singing the National Anthem and renewing the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. And in just about every American city people will observe of the holiday with parades, barbeques and Veterans Day sales.
In quieter moments those that truly understand the commitment and sacrifice required of military families and service members will reflect on loved ones currently deployed in hot spots around the world and those who have died fighting for their country. In many instances the thoughts of aging veterans like me will be of brothers and sisters in arms with whom we had the privilege to serve. These were individuals we trusted to always have our backs and whom we stood beside in good times and bad. Because time erases memories the names and faces of everyone we knew may have faded, but we remember time and place and circumstance and long to rekindle those bonds. I served twenty-four years in the US Army (1973-1997) in assignments that spanned the globe. In each of those postings I was thankful for the men and women, enlisted and officer, who served alongside me. Some became lifelong friends, many I lost track of, while others succumbed to the passage of time or never made it home.
To each and everyone of you… a heartfelt Thank You.
Author Barbara W. Tuchman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1963 for The Guns of August. Fifty-five years later her book remains one of the best sources for understanding the prelude and first thirty days of what would become known as the Great War.
We are all familiar with the horrors of World War I – trench warfare, the ebb and flow of Allied and German advances across no man’s land using outdated tactics in the face of barbed wire, withering fire from machine guns and heavy artillery, and the inhuman use of mustard gas. Combat related casualty figures were a staggering 8.5 million killed and 21 million wounded. Civilian casualties exceeded six million from food shortages, malnutrition, and disease. The ensuing influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 even exceeded these figures with an estimated fifty million deaths worldwide.
How this conflagration began is the subject of Tuchman’s book. It suspends what the reader already knows about the war to focus on its genesis. Historians point to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as the event that lead to four years of slaughter, but this was but the excuse to launch the German Army (700,000 men) through neutral Belgium toward Paris. The Germans had put together a timetable for victory known as the Shclieffen plan that they began executing August 4, 1914. The two front battle plan had been developed and proposed by the chief of the German general staff as far back as 1905.
The French also had developed a plan to counter the German attack which was known as Plan XVII. Rather than rely on defense it envisioned a bold strike into the heart of Germany to recapture the territories of Alsace and Lorraine that had been lost in the Franco-Prussian War. It relied heavily on French courage rather than sound tactics. Mounted cavalry attacks and bayonet charges failed to take into account how warfare had changed.
The first twelve days of the war came to be known as the Battle of the Frontier. During this period it was all but certain that Germany would prevail. The next eighteen days would become known as the Miracle on the Marne with retreating allied forces regrouping and turning the tide. However, German forces had penetrated so deeply toward Paris that the war would drag on for four more years.
Tuchman recounts the momentous decisions that lead to the stalemate and the military commanders behind them. It is a testament to her ability to fully humanize these historical persons that we find ourselves fully immersed in the times and events, and learn what really happened as well as what it felt like for the people involved.
This is a great read for any historian or reader who seeks to understand history!
I’m pleased to announce that I have again signed with Page Publishing, Inc. of New York to publish and distribute my latest book, Tarnished Brass. A release date has yet to be determined, but I’m hoping everything will be completed either by the end of this year or the beginning of 2019. There is much yet to be done. In the days ahead I’ll be working closely with a Publication Coordinator regarding editing, page formatting, and cover design.
Tarnished Brass looks at America’s involvement in El Salvador’s ten-year civil war (1980-1992) and its consequences for both countries. Today, twenty-six years later, socio-economic conditions remain unchanged for the vast majority of Salvadoran citizens while gang violence has replaced and, in many ways, surpassed the brutality of both the Salvadoran military and the guerrilla factions during their prolonged conflict. Though a work of fiction, the book also speaks to the current divisions in our own country over immigration policy and the rise of gang violence (notably MS-13.) Tarnished Brass will definitely resonate with readers looking to understand current events in the context of history.
I want to thank Page Publishing for its continued support of me as an author. Writing is a craft that requires many things, not the least of which is someone willing to represent your efforts to potential readers. Name recognition greatly aids such consideration, and many books found at book stores, retail outlets and online are by writers or public figures whose fame ensures sales. But for the aspiring author, it is the willingness of those within the industry to take a chance on your book and go through the publication and marketing process with you.