…but on the bright side

So much time is spent negatively talking about, writing about, thinking about, debating about, and snarking about, our country in the last several years, that many folks forget what it feels like to be proud of who we are, where we live, who we cry for, and what we die for. Perhaps forgotten too, that the generations before us fought and died, lived and dreamed, for the same things we are fighting, dying, living, and dreaming for today.  And the generations after us will do the same.

I, for one, am taking a moment to remember that we do have a brighter side.

For this one moment, as bittersweet tears softly track the history of my life in the wrinkles on my face, I’ll remember how they got there.  This facial road map of my life’s joys and sorrows distinguish me from anyone else, just as our country’s road map is like no other.  And as I look at her wrinkles, I’ll remember how they got there too.

I love my country, wrinkles and all, and invite anyone needing a reminder of what that feels like, to read about and listen to others who felt the same.

The history of a special song, written for a special place, sung by a special woman, needed by a hurting people…

Frank Sinatra considered Kate Smith the best singer of her time, and said that when he and a million other guys first heard her sing “God Bless America” on the radio, they all pretended to have dust in their eyes as they wiped away a tear or two.

Here are the facts… At the bottom of this post, you’ll see the link to the video showing the very first public singing of “GOD BLESS AMERICA“. But before you watch it, you should also know the story behind the first public showing of the song.

The time was 1940. America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we’d have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.

This was the era just before TV, when radio shows were HUGE, and American families sat around their radios in the evenings, listening to their favorite entertainers, and no entertainer of that era was bigger than Kate Smith.

Kate was also large; plus size, as we now say, and the popular phrase still used today is in deference to her, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Kate Smith might not have made it big in the age of TV, but with her voice coming over the radio, she was the biggest star of her time.

Kate was also patriotic. It hurt her to see Americans so depressed and afraid of what the next day would bring . She had hope for America, and faith in her fellow Americans. She wanted to do something to cheer them up, so she went to the famous American song-writer, Irving Berlin (who also wrote “White Christmas”) and asked him to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country. When she described what she was looking for, he said he had just the song for her.

He went to his files and found a song that he had written, but never published, 22 years before – way back in 1917. He gave it to her and she worked on it with her studio orchestra. She and Irving Berlin were not sure how the song would be received by the public, but both agreed they would not take any profits from God Bless America. Any profits would go to the Boy Scouts of America. Over the years, the Boy Scouts have received millions of dollars in royalties from this song.

This video starts out with the news, then Kate Smith coming into the radio studio with the orchestra and an audience. She introduces the new song for the very first time, and starts singing. After the first couple verses, with her voice in the background still singing, scenes are shown from the 1940 movie, “You’re In The Army Now.” At the 4:20 mark of the video you see a young actor in the movie, sitting in an office, reading a paper; it’s Ronald Reagan, the future 40th president of the United States, and at 69, the oldest president ever elected.

To this day, God Bless America stirs our patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Back in 1940, when Kate Smith went looking for a song to raise the spirits of her fellow Americans, I doubt whether she realized just how successful the results would be for her fellow Americans during those years of hardship and worry… and for many generations of Americans to follow.

Now that you know the story of the song, I hope you’ll enjoy it and treasure it even more. Many people don’t know there’s a lead in to the song since it usually starts with “God Bless America …” So here’s the entire song as originally sung… ENJOY!

Today, I exercise my right to remove the flag from underneath the flag-stomper du jour and wave it proudly in the air.

God Bless America…and all who stomp on her.

Guarding the Unknown

ARLINGTON CEMETERY

Jeopardy Question:

On Jeopardy awhile back, the final question was “How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns?”   All three contestants missed it!

This is really an awesome sight to watch if you’ve never had the chance.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

1.)  How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?

Answer:  21 steps – It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2.)  How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?

Answer:  21 seconds – For the same reason as answer number 1

3.)  Why are his gloves wet?

Answer:  His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4.)  Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and , if not, why not?

Answer:  He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5.)  How often are the guards changed?

Answer:  Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

6.)  What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?

Answer:  For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5′ 10′ and 6′ 2′ tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30 inches.

They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives.

They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way.

After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn.

The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.

There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.  Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty..

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.  A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred.

Among the notables are:
President Taft,
Joe Lewis {the boxer}
Medal of Honor winner Audie L. Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WWII and of Hollywood fame.

In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC , our US Senate/House took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, “No way, Sir!” Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person.

The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.

ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

tomb-sentry-sunshine-henry-kass-2005-photo-01

Do you know why?

In preparation for Memorial Day, May 26th, I’d like to share with you an event that happened in September 2013.

In France.

An event that was not overly (if at all) publicized in the US, though it should have been.

Thankfully, we have friends here and abroad who believe we need to see.

To visualize…just what it is we are memorializing.


Excellent History Lesson  

A large percentage of our country doesn’t know of (or therefore, care) about Normandy during WWII.

Has it been removed from the History Books?  Do they still teach about D-Day?


British artist Jamie Wardley, Andy Moss, and nearly 600 volunteers, took to the beaches of Normandy with rakes and stencils in hand to etch 9,000 silhouettes representing fallen people into the sand.

Titled:   The Fallen 9000 [http://thefallen9000.info/]

The piece is meant as a stark visual reminder of those who died during the D-Day beach landings at Arromanches on June 6th, 1944 during WWII. The original team consisted of 60 volunteers, but as word spread nearly 500 additional local residents arrived to help with the temporary installation that lasted only a few hours before being washed away by the tide.


9,000 Fallen Soldiers Etched into the Sand on Normandy Beach to Commemorate Peace Day on September 25, 2013

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

A visually stunning reminder of why.

Don’t you agree?

Save a moment during the upcoming ‘Holiday’ to say a word of thanks to all who have, do, and will…serve their countries with one thought in mind…

Our Freedom

God Bless and Godspeed

R