Sunday, June 17, 2018

Colonel Ayres retires

"Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” — Saint Francis of Assisi

MY BIRTHDAY was last month, May 6 to be precise. The goal is to be somewhere else when it occurs . . . as in nowhere around these parts. It's a personal tradition I started when I first moved back to Ankeny. Paul's birthday is also in May. When we became a couple, I attached a rider to the somewhere-else clause to include his birthday, too. 

It doesn't always work out. This year two events fell on my birthday and one on his, none of which we felt should be missed. 

The first event was a retirement party for Colonel Scott Ayres. For years Scott served as Construction and Facility Officer for the Iowa Army National Guard. He was an innovative, resourceful and highly-regarded leader. 

Scott is the one whose vision it was to create a series murals depicting the history of Iowa's military service to the nation, that we had the privilege of designing and producing. Of all the projects I've ever worked on, I'm most proud of that work, thanks to Scott. (Click here to read more about it.)

One of the dozen or so murals that track the history of Iowa's military service.
A panoramic of the inside of one of several facilities where we installed murals.

Brigadier General Steve Warnstadt presenting Scott
with just one of about a gazillion awards he received.

In the picture above, Scott is holding one of about 25 awards, certificates, commendations, medals and gifts he received in recognition of his retirement. Actually that might have been an underestimate. Not only were the accolades and honors piled high, it took no less than four retirement parties — two official ones and two less so — to do him justice. We attended the first and the last. Coincidentally, not only was the first one on my birthday, the last one was on Paul's

Scott isn't riding off into the sunset anytime soon. He'd already started work at Iowa State University as Director of Capital Projects for the Facilities Planning and Management Office by the time his first retirement party was held.

We salute you, Scott, but I have to say I think you owe us at least one  nowhere-around-here birthday trip.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Iowa Third District Democrat Convention

“You have to have been a Republican to know how good it is to be a Democrat. — Jackie Kennedy, formally, Jacqueline Lee Kennedy Onassis, wife of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, and the First Lady of the United States from 1961 until his assassination in 1963

I'VE FIRED UP the somewhat-behind machine again; this time about the quest to turn Iowa blue. 

I remain in shock and disbelief that Donald Trump won here — and nationwide. It's a wide-awake nightmare. I catch glimpses of him on CNN or in clips on The Late with Stephen Colbert, and each time I do, I experience this thunderclap of cognitive dissonance. I still can not believe it happened.

Following his non-majority 'election', Paul and I were temped to disengage entirely, burrow in and focus solely on ourselves. If the end result, despite our best efforts . . . and we did work hard to try to prevent this very thing from happening . . . is what we have now, why not cut our losses, stop investing so heavily in the welfare of the country and just worry about our own.

But we keep marching . . . literally and figuratively. 

Iowa is the first-in-the-nation caucus state, and Paul and I led our precinct's in February. Then in March we were delegates to the Polk County Democrat Convention. We both also serve on the Polk County Central Committee, and I'm a member of the Third District Central Committee. District convention was April 28 in Greenfield

Paul and I drove over the afternoon before to assist with convention set-up and prep. After assembling delegate packets, we ate dinner at the Gathering Table Restaurant, part of the Wallace Center of Iowa, located on the farm near Greenfield where Henry A. Wallace was born. His name might not mean much to those of you who aren't from this state, so here's a little about him: 

He served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1933 to 1941, U.S. Vice President from 1941 to 1945, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1945 to 1946. He founded seed corn company Pioneer Hi-Bred in 1926 and was an editor at Wallaces’ Farmer magazine. The Des Moines Register named him the “Most Influential Iowan of the 20th Century.”

(The meal was notable enough that I plan to write a separate post about it, the site and the chef.)

We stayed the night at the Hotel Greenfield which was built in 1920 and is listed on the National Register Historic Places. Well, I stayed anyway, Paul didn't exactly. 

This was to be the first night we spent away from home since our treasured little fur ball, Shiva, got sick. (You can exhale; we saved her.) 

Those of you who read Saving Shiva — Again already know this portion of the story, but I relate it once more because it speaks volumes about Paul

Shiva gets four kinds of medicine every night, and a fifth every other night. Even though we had to be up at 6:00 AM the following morning for the  convention, and we were staying the night before right there in Greenfield where the convention was being held, Paul insisted on driving all the way home, an hour and fifteen minutes away, at 10:00 o'clock at night to give Shiva her meds — before turning around and driving back to Greenfield. I've told you before that he's a stud. See what I mean?!?!

Above two: the Hotel Greenfield

Every convention needs a little hoopla and memorabilia, right?! To add to the spirit of the 'party' (a little double entendre there) and general ambience, I designed convention buttons, had them made and asked for donations from anyone who felt able to kick in a few dollars; any money beyond the cost of making them destined for the 3DD bank account. 

Success. We paid off the buttons and added an extra $200 to the treasury. Every little bit helps. The sole goal of 3DD is to get a Democrat elected to Congress from our district. At our last meeting our treasurer was able to hand over two checks totaling $10,000 to our 3DD candidate, Cindy Axne  to help turn Iowa blue.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Saving Shiva (again)

"We have more to learn from animals, than animals have to learn from us." — Anthony Douglas Williams, Canadian researcher and author

SOME OF YOU may remember that two years ago we almost lost our beloved little fur ball, Shiva. She became lethargic, limp and dull-eyed and stopped eating altogether — as in absolutely altogether.

A myriad of tests revealed nothing. Out of desperation, Paul started syringe feeding her, but he was having alarmingly little success, so we hospitalized her at the closest vet clinic under the mistaken assumption that they would do a better job of getting nourishment into her than we were. They put her on IV fluids which were beneficial, but when the head vet there said, "Not eating is incompatible with life," I said, "Well then. We'll be checking her out now. Yes, right now," and we took her directly to Iowa State University Veterinarian Hospital and admitted her.

ISU didn't have any more idea what was wrong with her than any of the other, by now, five vets at three clinics with whom we’d consulted, although pancreatitis was suspected. Now we know that's not what it was.

Three things happened to change the course of events. First, a vet student at ISU managed to tempt Shiva into eating a few licks of food of her own accord; second, when I went to visit her, she was crazy glad to see me, purred and purred and meowed and meowed at me, which I interpreted as Shiva for, "Get me out of here!" So I did.

Third, in the meantime, I was consulting via phone with Canna Companion in Seattle, a provider of legal hemp cannabinoids for pets. Useful for inhibiting cell growth in tumors, stimulating appetite, reducing vomiting and nausea, and providing pain relief, I had a supply overnighted to us. We started medicating her with it morning and night. Her appetite steadily improved, she gained back all the weight she had lost, and she remained robustly healthy . . . until this past December.

I had begun worrying about her again. To me she seemed less interested in eating, less lively and thinner. Paul was more sanguine; Shiva is prone to hairballs, and he thought that was the likely culprit. But on December 17 she threw up a weird, watery, milky-looking liquid, and we were back at ISU with her once again. 

Inflammatory bowel disease or lymphoma was suspected. Shiva underwent an abdominal biopsy to determine which one of the two it was, and unfortunately the results indicated she had intestinal lymphoma. We were devastated.

ISU prescribed Prednisone and referred us to the chemo doc, but our most trusted feline specialist tweaked the prescription to Prednisolone, a slight variation of Prednisone, but enough of a difference, she said, to be more efficacious. The chemo doc was rather more hopeful than we expected. She prescribed a daily, oral chemo pill, Chlorambucil, and obviously I immediately ordered CBDs for Shiva. I also put her on powdered turkey tail mushrooms combined with 17 other anti-cancer mushrooms, and three kinds of herbal extracts for lymphoma support from a Canadian pet medicinal compounder. 

It's painful to describe how very, very, very sick Shiva was. She was either not eating anything whatsoever or throwing up if she did. Her weight dropped to five pounds, she looked like a skeleton with fur and spent 100% of the time in the meatloaf, pain position hiding under the bed. 

We spent the next three months getting up three and four times a night to feed her and driving back from work in the middle of the day to feed her again in an effort to get as much nourishment into as we could, praying every time we woke up or came home that she was still alive. We made sure one of us was at home every evening and all weekend and never left her alone longer than three hours. Paul was medicating her morning and night with Chlorambucil, Prednisolone, CBDs, mushrooms and three different herb and vitamin liquids, and he was giving her B-12 shots once a week for a month.

We were extremely sleep deprived. But we saved her . . . again.

When we took her back to the chemo vet three months later, she couldn't believe it was the same cat. Shiva had gained more than two and a half pounds. Her blood work and vitals were perfect, and none of her lymph nodes were enlarged. Her improvement was so significant that we were able to cut her chemo to every other day and the Prednisolone to once a day. The doc wanted to know how we'd accomplished such a miraculous feat. We thought, "(Sigh) well, where do we start?"

Now Shiva only has to get meds before bed, and we are usually allowed to sleep through the night, although whenever Shiva says she's hungry, we're going to be up feeding her. 

Paul is the medicator, and he has been stupendously faithful and stalwart. Here's an example: In May we were finally going to get to spend a night away from home — in Greenfield, an hour and fifteen minutes away — to help set up for the Third District Democratic Convention. We drove over in the late afternoon and pitched in prepping for the convention the next morning, but it was a chemo night, and rather than postpone giving Shiva her pill for 24 hours, Paul insisted on driving all the way home at 10:00 o'clock at night to give Shiva her medicine — before turning around and driving back to Greenfield. I've told you before that he's a stud. See what I mean?!?!

Just in case you or someone you know ever has to face an intestinal lymphoma diagnosis in a furry loved one, I've listed the resources we employed. I'm not prescribing; I'm describing what we did.

Below that are recent pictures of the divine Miss Shiva and a little video of her tearing around the yard, happy and healthy.

CBDs: Canna Companion and Canna Pet. They're both extremely kind and knowledgeable and will consult with you over the phone.

Oral chemo: Chlorambucil, 1 mg.

Herbal and vitamin oral liquid support: Lymphoma Gold Support from NHV Natural Pet Products

Concentrated mushroom powder: Host Defense, My Community (17 species of mushrooms) from Fungi Perfecti. I've attached a Ted Talks video. Paul Stamets is a genius. Seriously. And the people in his company are all incredibly kind and will consult with you over the phone.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Barring Roseanne Barr

“I hope all jews leave UC Davis & then it gets nuked!” — Roseanne Barr, a 2/10/15 tweet

THERE'S NO WAY you could have missed hearing that ABC cancelled Roseanne Barr's self-titled TV show, Roseanne. On May 29 she released a tweet that described Valerie Jarrett, an African American, former influential adviser in President Barack Obama's administration, as the product of the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes

No question that Roseanne needed to be fired, but Paul doesn't give ABC any props. His point is that the network never should have put her on the air in the first place. Her essential nature has been patently obvious for years as evidenced by the despicable bile she's repeatedly spewed. 

I'm providing links to two articles, the first if from Voxand the second is an opinion piece from The New York Times, written by someone with firsthand experience of how nasty-mean Roseanne is at heart.

ABC cancels Roseanne's show over a racist tweet. Her feed’s been full of racism and conspiracy theories for a decade.
A semi-complete history of Roseanne Barr’s racist and conspiratorial tweets.theories for a decade.

By Jane Coaston
May 29, 2018

For many Americans, Roseanne Barr is “Roseanne,” star of the eponymous sitcom that ran from 1988 to 1997, and again in 2018. But Roseanne Barr is not her character — a quick-witted everymom. In real life and, more noticeably, on Twitter, she’s a conspiracy theory-loving, racist every-troll.

On Tuesday, her trolling came to a head when ABC canceled her show after she likened Barack Obama’s top adviser Valerie Jarrett (who is black) to an ape — a slur so extreme even Fox News called it racist.

This was not a first offense for Barr on Twitter (or in real life). Over the years, her language and ideas have weaved through all kinds of dark and bizarre territory. It’s not exactly consistent, either; it swings across the political spectrum, unified only by its extremity. She promoted Pizzagate. She believes 9/11 was an inside job. She flags vaccine conspiracy theories. She called Israel a “Nazi state” in 2009 and promoted a Holocaust-denying musician in 2013. Then she turned around and became a massive supporter of Israel (and a rabid opponent of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement).

Click here to read the entire Vox article.

Roseanne Barr’s Right to Offend and Our Right to Say No

By Lindy West
May 30, 2018

On Tuesday, ABC canceled its “Roseanne” revival, the network’s first No. 1 show in 24 years, after its star Roseanne Barr referred to Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, as the offspring of the “Muslim Brotherhood & Planet of the Apes.”

The decision prompted surprise, relief and schadenfreude from many on the left, who already regarded the sitcom — in which Barr’s character, like Barr herself, is a supporter of President Trump and his radical racist authoritarian ideology — as an alarming bellwether of Trumpism’s slide into normalcy.

Meanwhile, the right-wing backlash is unfolding as scripted: the usual cries of censorship, the usual recriminations about liberal celebrities who once said something mean, the usual lamentations about politically correct overreach, the usual free-market fetishists suddenly oppressed by the marketplace of ideas.

Barr attributed her gleeful antebellum-vintage racism to the sleep aid Ambien and played down her comment as a joke (yes, we know, a racist one). Trump — who himself referred to some immigrants as “animals” this month — predictably joined in, whining that Disney’s chief executive, Bob Iger, “never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC.”

Click here to read the entire New York Times article.

Monday, May 28, 2018

James Weldon Lewis and the greatest generation

"The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." — Douglas MacArthur, American five-star general, Field Marshal of the Philippine Army and Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s, who played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II

TODAY, MAY 28, is Memorial DayOriginally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War to honor those who died serving in the US military. It became an official federal holiday in 1971, observed on the last Monday of May. Over the years, it has evolved to be a day to honor all loved ones who have passed away. 

I'm paying tribute to the day by saluting Paul's uncle, James Weldon Lewis, who fought in and survived some of the most horrific Pacific battles of World War II, including the battle for Saipan. He died last year at the age of 96, and was without question a member of what Tom Brokaw calls "the greatest generation." 

Uncle Weldon was blessed with the sustaining love of a 70-year marriage to Aunt Bernice, one of the kindest women you could ever know — and the fulfillment of being a father to three: Barbara, James, who the rest of the world calls Jim, although his cousins, aunts and uncles still call him Jamie, and the youngest, Chuck

In addition to the horrors of war, Uncle Weldon knew personal tragedy. He and Bernice lost a daughter to cancer when she was still a young woman, and they buried a granddaughter

At the celebration of Uncle Weldon's life, Chuck, who like his mother Bernice became a writer and journalist, offered a touching, sad, funny, absorbing eulogy. He's an expert storyteller who adored his dad, and I want to share his remarks with you. And for those of you who are historians, he also wrote in detail about his dad's service in the war. 

In his eulogy Chuck said, "It’s possible the war burned away a part of him, but he remained loving." 
Paul's dad, Keith, who is Bernice's younger brother, knew Weldon before and after the war, and told us that indeed, Weldon wasn't the same afterwards. He was more closed, had a shorter temper and seemed to carry a permanent, unspoken sense of sadness. 

Now much more is known about the life-long trauma of the soul- and pysche-rending pain that war confers, but in those days, the men who endured it were expected to come home and go on with their lives as if they hadn't been to hell and back. However, as a society and a country, even now it seems to me that services available lag far behind the need. 

Below is Chuck's eulogy and the more detailed telling of what his dad survived during WW II. 

Weldon Lewis

By Chuck Lewis

Soon after we had to move dad to the Memory Care Unit at Oak Terrace in North Mankato, Jim and I were stopped in the entryway leading to the unit by a nurse who had got to know dad well when he and mom lived in the assisted-living wing. She said she would miss him there — that she got a kick out of him. I don’t think she was just saying these things to be polite — she meant what she said. And she used one word in particular to describe dad. She said he was “feisty.”

Feisty. Webster’s describes this adjective as one that can mean “full of spirit,” “lively” and “exuberant.” It also means “scrappy,“ “belligerent” and “quarrelsome.” I think all of these apply. Dad was full of spirit in a sometimes quarrelsome way. But unless he got really worked up, his feistiness was of the quiet variety. He didn’t care much for blowhards — those who many years ago were called blatherskites. For my father, actions always spoke louder than words.

I think he was always feisty, even as a child. He was never known by his first name, James; his mother called him Weldon, which was his middle name. His father didn’t even call him Weldon. He called my dad “Buck.” Maybe as in “buckiness,” because dad was feisty.

Born in 1920, he grew up in the Great Depression. His family had very little during those years. His mother and sister even had to share a winter coat. Money was tight, so dad even as a child had to work to help the family and provide for himself. One of his first jobs was to get up very early every morning before school and on weekends in order to milk by hand the neighbor’s six cows. It was just a short walk next door to the neighbor’s barn behind their houses, but the work was demanding for a child. If I remember correctly, he was paid 50 cents a week for this duty.

So one morning he was in that barn, milking as usual, when one of the cow’s kicked, and some milk was spilled from the bucket dad used. The neighbor saw this and yelled at dad for this mishap. Dad — let’s call him Buck for this story — Buck didn’t quite think this was fair, considering it was the cow that kicked the bucket, so he stood up, picked up the pail of milk, dumped it on the floor, and walked out. Feisty.

But that’s not the end of the story. Buck didn’t go back to the neighbor’s the next morning or the next several mornings, but he did get up early as usual, and he sat on the back steps of his house and watched the neighbor, who he knew did not want to milk those cows himself that early in the morning.

He’d watch the neighbor trudge out to the barn with that pail, and the neighbor, of course, watched dad sit on those steps. Buck didn’t say anything. He just watched. Within a week Buck had his job back, as well as an apology. Feisty. But a quiet feisty.

Sometimes the feistiness was less than subtle. He had one good white shirt as a kid, which he wore to school quite regularly. One day while sitting at his desk in class he felt something on the back of his neck and found the kid behind him was writing on the collar of his one good white shirt with a pen.

The kid was of the bully variety — one of those blowhards that dad never cared for. Dad turned around without saying a word and punched the kid in the face. The kid quit writing on dad’s shirt collar, but dad was suspended from school for a couple of days. However, the principal told dad privately that he’d rather give him a medal than suspend him.

Dad’s time for medals would come with World War II. He by then had graduated high school and was working as a dragline operator helping build military bases on the East Coast. His was essential war work, and so he was exempt from the draft — yet he joined the Navy anyway six months into the war, and then he volunteered for the very hazardous duty of serving as a corpsman — a medic — with the Marine Corps.

My father ended up participating in some of the most horrific Pacific battles of World War II. Take the battle for Saipan, for example, in the summer of 1944. Dad was part of the 2nd Marine Division’s 6th Regimental Combat Team. On just the first day of Saipan, the commander of the 6th lost to death and injury nearly all his officers and staff before noon, and more than 1,400 of the nearly 4,000 Marines in the 6th were killed or wounded before nightfall.

When the battle was finally over, U.S. forces had suffered more than 16,000 casualties. An estimated 52,000 Japanese troops and civilians died on Saipan. The psychic pressure to endure such an experience must have been intense.

Dad’s best friend on Saipan was such a wreck by the end of the battle that he could do nothing but collapse and sob when the Japanese artillery started coming in. Dad would hold him, just as he would hold the young, dying Marines whom he could not help mend. He said those guys would usually call for their mothers, but it was dad who was holding them.

One of the doctors dad worked with got so rattled by the intensity of the situation that he started to take the morphine that was meant to control the pain of the wounded. He was addicted in no time.

This doctor — an officer — would beg dad to give him the morphine that had been issued to my father to help the wounded. Dad respected the doctor, but he would not give him that morphine. This aspect of my father reminds me of a quote by Winston Churchill: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Feisty. Stubborn. Principled. He just kept going. And when he returned from the war, like so many of those veterans, he was a changed man to some extent. Rather nervous and rowdy. Then he met mom — who would be the love of his life for more than 70 years — and he started to settle down. He began a family. And he ended the rowdiness — he policed himself. I think he always had a strong sense of moral self discipline.

Of course, like every human being, dad was complex. He was more than scrappy. He was creative, smart, and as a child, it appears he was quite gregarious. As a teen and young man, he wrote poems — some humorous, some serious. He played drums in the band. He was on the school basketball and football teams. He boxed. He had close friends and hunted and fished with them often. I think he loved his childhood in Terril and his family — especially his mother.

It’s possible the war burned away a part of him, but he remained loving. And funny. He liked to play silly tricks. One of his favorites involved the passing of the butter dish at the dinner table. He liked to cram the dish into the waiting hand of the person next in line. The butter, of course, then ended up spread not on a roll, but all over the hand of the person who had been waiting for it. I know some of you here today have experienced the butter trick.

He once poured coffee all over the table and floor of his mother’s kitchen. His brother-in-law, my uncle Swede, had asked for a refill of coffee, which my father offered to give him. Dad told Uncle Swede to say “when” as soon as enough coffee was poured, but Uncle Swede said everything but “when” as his cup filled. He said, “whoa, stop, that’s enough!” But he didn’t say “when” — so dad kept pouring.

Dad liked to sing. He sang in church. He liked hymns, such as “The Old Rugged Cross.” He sang to himself at work. And he’d often break out in song at home. He was doing this right up until his last days at Oak Terrace. When I was a kid, I remember him impressing me by singing the low notes on Johnny Cash songs.

And he sang other songs as well — songs he picked up here and there, but I think most of those songs came from his days in the Service. These tunes were, to put it mildly, rather interesting ... in a suggestive way. I can’t repeat them here in church, but if you catch Jim or me sometime, we could sing a verse or two for you. Dad taught us some songs — after we were of age, of course.

Dad was caring and nurturing. I don’t think you could do what he did in World War II and not be a nurturing person. He took care of others throughout his life — even through his work. As a maintenance man for the county, he was diligent about making sure the roads were well-groomed, and that they were opened and safe after winter storms. 
He worked lots of overtime in the winters plowing snow — and more than once he missed Christmas with his family because he was working the plows during a snowstorm.

He took good care of his wife and children. He was always proud of his kids and downplayed our faults. And he taught us many things — how to catch a ball, win at cribbage, shoot a firearm, hook a fish, drive a car and plant a garden. He taught us to take good care of our possessions — wash that car and change its oil, clean that shotgun, water that garden.

He taught my sister to see the light — the porch light, that is. When she was a teen, she and her boyfriend would sit in the boyfriend’s car at night after a date, parked in front of our house. They’d be out there in that car a long time. When dad finally had enough of the situation, he’d flick the outside porch light on, and my sister knew she better get moving out of that car and into the house.

Dad made sure we always had what we needed, and as much as possible, what we wanted. He showed us that if you worked hard and “kept your nose clean,” as he put it, you could have a good life — a clean life. An honorable life.

But the truth is ... he was just a guy — a hard-working guy. He didn’t make billions of dollars. He didn’t invent something stupendous. He didn’t become a senator. He was just a guy, but he was raised during the desperation of the Great Depression, and he became a man during the devastation of a world war.

He gladly took on the responsibilities of family life and community service. He was feisty. And loving. And funny. And nurturing. We loved him, and we miss him.

Military Service

• Member of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps

• Corpsman with the rank of First Class Petty Officer by the war’s end 
• Earned five medals and one service-ribbon recommendation:
     1) Victory — World War II
     2) Good Conduct
     3) American Campaign (as a sailor on a minesweeper ship on patrol out of
             Pearl Harbor, Hawaii)
     4) 2nd Marine Division Presidential Unit Citation
     5) Asiatic-Pacific Campaign with battle stars (as a troop-ship corpsman
             during the battle of Tarawa, and as a combat corpsman during the
             Saipan and Tinian battles)
     6) Recommended for a Meritorious Service Ribbon by the Company D
             Second Medical Battalion company commander for assuming
             “responsibilities far above his years and experience” during the “heavy
             casualties phases” of the Saipan and Tinian battles.

Despite being deferred from military service because his work as a heavy-equipment operator was considered essential for the war effort, the 22-year-old Iowa native enlisted in the U.S. Navy on August 8, 1942, at Norfolk, Va. After Navy basic training, Weldon volunteered to serve as a combat corpsman (medic) attached to the U.S. Marine Corps and was transferred to the Marines. (Note: The Marine Corps is technically a branch of the Navy and uses Navy medical personnel.) In any case, lucky Weldon got to once again go through basic training — this time with the Marines.

After training at Parris Island, S.C., and Camp Elliot, Cal., he was assigned to Company D, 2nd Medical Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. Weldon was part of a reserve combat unit on a troop-transport ship off the shore of Betio Island during the battle of Tarawa in November 1943. Because of the overwhelming number of casualties, the troop transport soon became a makeshift hospital ship. Weldon and other Company D corpsmen helped take care of casualties coming directly from the battlefield. More than 1,000 Marines died at Tarawa and nearly 2,300 were wounded in four days of fighting. Only 17 of the more than 4,500 Japanese defenders survived the battle.

Next came the battle of Saipan in the summer of 1944. Weldon’s company was attached to the 2nd Marine Division’s Combat Team 6, the core of which was the 6th Regiment. He left the transport ship USS Bolivar and rode an LVT (A) 4 onto “Red Beach” on D+6. The young corpsman joined one of the most horrendous battles of World War II. For example, on June 15, the first day of the battle, the commander of the 6th Regiment lost nearly all his officers and staff before noon, and more than 1,400 of the nearly 4,000 Marines in Combat Team 6 were killed or wounded before nightfall. That first tough day would be followed by many more.

Weldon was a front-line corpsman and a battalion-aid-station operating-room technician throughout most of the battle, which stretched into mid-July. He saw much action. Saipan was a fierce struggle — when it was over U.S. forces had suffered more than 16,500 casualties, of which nearly 3,500 were killed in action. Approximately 20 percent of the two Marine divisions’ medical personnel on Saipan were battle casualties. An estimated 30,000 Japanese troops died on Saipan, and more than 22,000 Japanese civilians committed suicide or were killed by Japanese troops to prevent their surrender. The naval and air battle that was part of the Saipan campaign resulted in a crushing defeat for the Japanese, who lost three aircraft carriers and around 600 aircraft.

In late July and early August of 1944 Weldon saw more combat during the battle of Tinian. On July 26, which was D+2 of the fight, he exited the transport USS J. Franklin Bell and joined his fellow Marines in another fierce struggle. U.S. forces suffered nearly 2,000 casualties during the Tinian battle, and more than 11,000 Japanese troops and civilians died. The island quickly became the hub of the U.S. bombing campaign against Japan. The B29s that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki flew from Tinian.

Because he earned the rating of Petty Officer First Class in January of 1945, Weldon qualified for “independent duty” and in July of 1945 he was transferred back to the Navy and served as the pharmacist’s mate aboard the USS YMS 119, a minesweeper patrolling the waters off Pearl Harbor. As the only medical crewman on the entire vessel and as the ship’s only combat veteran, he was well respected by his shipmates. This veneration made it possible for him to do things such as talk a drunken crewman into giving him a knife just after the sailor had threatened the ship’s commander with it. Weldon then talked the skipper out of a court-martial proceeding against the sailor, who was basically a lonely kid who drank too much during a wild night in Honolulu.

Although he could have stayed in the service and was scheduled for a promotion to Chief Petty Officer, Weldon decided to return to civilian life in late 1945. After a long train ride from the West Coast back to his point of enlistment in Norfolk, Va., he was discharged on December 28, 1945.

Weldon has always been reluctant to speak of his combat experiences, but he’s not entirely reticent regarding his service years. Through the decades he has usually been quick to present renditions of the many and . . . um, 
colorful . . . songs he learned in the military — classics such as “I Used to Work in Chicago” and “Little Piece of Whang.” However, because most of these songs are rated R, earplugs are recommended for some audience members.

During his time with the Navy and Marines, Weldon traveled across the United States more than once and was bivouacked in places from New Zealand to the “Big Island” of Hawaii. He stood review to (and managed to shake hands with) such luminaries as Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific fleet, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Of most importance, as a Marine combat corpsman he helped save the lives of many young men. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

NCVRW Des Moines 2018

"After a violent death, a healthy grieving process can seem nearly impossible. It's an ongoing battle." — Josh Hauser

I'VE HAD to fire up the somewhat-behind machine again . . . because I am. Bear with me.

Every April the Office for Victims of Crime — part of the US Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs — organizes National Crime Victims' Rights Week, and communities around the country, including many in Iowa, host events to honor victims. 

Led by Mary Roche, the Iowa Department of Corrections Victim Advisory Council held its event April 12.

Mary Roche does such a great job

Every Iowan who died in the last year as the result of a violent crime is remembered by having her or his name read while a tea light candle is lit for each one. It's always an extremely moving ceremony.

A Des Moines police officer reads names of Iowans
who died as the result of violent crime.

Guest speakers were Josh Hauser and his wife Beth. Josh is the son of Becky Hauser who was shot and stabbed to death by four teenagers in 1994. Josh and Beth spoke about the enduring trauma to family members when a parent, child, spouse or sibling is murdered. 

Josh and Beth Hauser. They've created a foundation to give
baskets containing support items to the children of murder victims.

In conjunction with NCVRW, the Department of Justice Northern and Southern US Attorney's Offices of Iowa jointly select someone to receive the Award for Excellence in Victim Services. This year that someone was Karl Schilling.

Karl and Peg Schilling holding his well-deserved award

Over the course of many years of service, Karl has done much for many, so I started a nominating campaign. In addition to my nomination, Mary Roche, Tiffany Allison, Bob Brammer, Marti Anderson and Candis Lockard and others wrote supporting letters. 

Karl received abundant praise: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller delivered opening remarks, and seeing Karl, acknowledged him for his past work, as did Commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Roxanne Ryan.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

Commissioner Roxanne Ryan

Karl also presented the John and Kay Egan Award on behalf of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance to Linda Molyneaux for her work on behalf of victims. As in past years, I arranged media coverage, and Paul provided and operated the sound equipment. 

Karl presenting Linda Molyneaux with
the John and Kay Egan Award

Karl and his award in front a new banner stand I designed 

Friday, May 25, 2018

What not to say

"The most frustrating thing about injuries is that they take so bloody long to heal." — Jason Statham, English actor, film producer and former model known for his action-thriller roles portraying tough, irredeemable characters

I DON'T REMEMBER how it was that I happened to read an article years ago about a tactic employed by a certain group of uber-famous theme parks that I won't mention by name. It stuck in my mind, though. Fortunately.

It described a purposeful strategy that all staff members were trained to employ as a means of avoiding being sued or at least mitigating the amount of damages the company could be found liable for. The truly amazing thing about this tactic is that not only is it so incredibly simple and easy to put into practice, it has the added advantage of 1000% seeming like the natural and right thing to do. The deliverer seems altruistic, a good Samaritan, a savior even.

What is it? I'll tell you, but I'm guessing at first blush, you'll be underwhelmed. Stick with me, though.

The employees are trained to be instantly there on the spot and immediately say to the injured person, "Are you okay?"

I told you you'd be underwhelmed. What's not right about that? How could that be a "tactic" to mitigate damages?

Here's how: Think about your own experiences of being injured. Once you realized that you hadn't been killed, weren't gushing blood from anywhere and seemed to have all your body parts intact, when someone near you asked if you were alright, you probably said, "I'm okay." 

Obviously, if it's a severe injury, the injured party isn't likely or may not be capable of saying they're okay, but barring that extreme, it's reflexive to say, "I'm okay."

The problem is that we very likely don't know whether we're actually okay or not, because in the immediate aftermath of an injury we're often in a certain amount of shock, plus the adrenaline kicked in the micro-second you hurt yourself, literally preventing you from feeling your pain. In that moment, we lack the capacity of knowing whether or not we are in fact okay.

Beyond our immediate, frequently unreliable self-evalutation, without being properly examined by a medical professional, we don't know if we are 100% okay — or what potential ramifications may manifest in the fullness of time.

In light of that, now consider this: if someone representing the entity at fault for your injury gets you to say . . . subliminally helps you to say . . .  that you're okay, documents that that's what you said, probably with witnesses, possibly has you sign something — there you are on record, with a list of witnesses, as having stated that you were in fact "okay." 

Later on if complications manifest such as headaches, back problems or recalcitrant pain, and you discover that you're going to need physical therapy or other interventions, possibly having to miss work, and you seek compensation for what it will cost to make you whole again, the statements you made at the time of your injury can be used against you. 

Of course what not to say, isn't just applicable at theme parks. Twice in my life I've been glad I remembered the point of the article I read.