Friday, June 4, 2010

In Memory

Like rays of sunshine
The memory of their smiles
Warmed your weary soul:
Something golden to treasure,
Recalling motive
Life in the land of death,
Hope in the ache of despair.

Lonely in the cold and dark,
And longing for home,
Your bloody footprints marked snow
At Valley Forge.
Surrounded by pain and death,
Despair took its hold
As support left in Vietnam.

Closing your eyes to escape,
The fear still remained.
Death and life vied for control
Amid the gunfire.
Friends fell; you almost forgot
All the reasons why
You endured pain, tempted death.

Red stripes signify
The price that you bravely paid.
Blood flow is the debt
Liberty always demands.
Proudly raise the flag
And hope they will remember
All that love cost.

America, Land of Contradictions

In America we breathe free
In America we breathe pollution as American SUVs spew out their poisonous gases.
In America we speak freely
In America we rarely speak.

In America we live in the land of opportunity
In America you only have opportunity if you're name if Rockefeller.

In America we declare, give us your poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free
In America we cry out close the boarders, your kind is not welcome here.
In America we embrace your different skin color, religion, and culture
In America I suggest you assimilate, melt into the pot.

In America we have religious freedom for all
In America we are a Christian nation, you heathen pagans need to respect our beliefs.

In America we love democracy, freedom and equality for all
In America our representatives represent their own agendas.
In America Jefferson said, "All men are created equal"
In America did Jefferson mean to include his slaves?

In America we have freedom of the press
In America the press is controlled by a few like a communist nation.

In America we provide for all of our citizens equally
In America you need to get a job, stop living off my tax dollars, bum.
In America you're free to be lefty, or a far righty
In America those liberals are sending this god fearing, gun toting, freedom loving nation to hell in a hand basket real fast.

In America we stand strongly erect, proud like the steel framed skyscrapers planted across our cities
In America our foundation is cracking faster than the rotten buildings littering our ghettos.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Roses of Arlington

The lost order of the sons of liberty
Lies in the neat tally of white stones,
Where the chaos of destruction
Becomes the order of memory.

Cold marble to mark a life passed
Adorned with wreaths of dying roses,
Cut from stem to serve their dues,
To flourish as a symbol and die.

No one sees a rose in death,
They wilt and fade to dust;
A rose is always full and pure,
Always blooming in the face of love.

This emblem of the bravery of love
Lives forever as a symbol of unity.

Haunted By Guilt. Safe At Home

I blink, my heart beats thick with blood and sin,
Wiping sweat drenched brow, tears pour out my eyes.
The gun grows heavy in my hands, I sigh
It mocks and laughs as my knees touch the earth.

But the gun is gone, I awake in town.
The Clearwater sun never shined so bright.
Still, darkness takes hold of my every thought
I can't escape the things I leave behind.

I turn and see her brilliant eyes shining,
They glimmer in the radiant sun rays.
I blink, she is gone again from my sight.
If only I could run, escape her reach.

My rack is made, I set off with ALICE
Get ready, grab my cover, and stand by.
Pass inspection, and see a great abyss,
Unconscious thoughts surface, I can't go back.

I blink, I suppress her pretty image
Innocence can never be forgotten.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Russ Miller

Russ Miller lives in a modest home in Marysville, Ohio, where he spends his days much the same as most retirees do; catching the latest football game, making minor repairs on the house, and doing the occasional landscaping and gardening. The difference is, Russ has been retired for thirty years and has lived his entire life with cerebral palsy, a disorder caused by an injury to the spinal cord during or after childbirth. From day one, he has had to overcome daily struggles with muscle coordination and speech and adapt into this ever changing world, but one conversation with this man will show you the power of the human will. Intelligent, kind, and gifted with the collected wisdom of many battles won, Russ is a model for anyone who has obstacles in their life, which happens to be all of us.

I grew up in a big family. There were seventeen of us kids, and the older boys and girls kind of helped the younger ones as they got older. When I was young the doctors diagnosed me with cerebral palsy, and that caused a lot of struggles for me, but I overcome them for the most part. I owe a lot to my family. With my problem they would pitch in and help me walk and do different things at the time. In fact, they went so far as to stretch ropes between the windows, and that’s how I learned to walk. I walked between the ropes to hold my balance, and my brothers and sisters were always there to catch me if I happened to take a tumble. I had leg braces from my shoulders down to me feet.

When I was six years old, the National Easter Seals Society, a charity for disabled children at the time, provided funds for my braces and shoes, and the state helped pay for my operations. Without those braces, I’d hate to see where I’d be now. They helped stabilize my legs while I built up the strength to walk. As I got older, they took the braces away from me, but they took them away too soon and my legs couldn’t hold me up. I was walking on my knee caps at one point. Not long after that I had to have my first surgery. My hamstrings were drawn up so tight that I just couldn’t hold myself up, so they had to go in there and cut the hamstrings behind the legs and put twelve inches of new muscle in there so I could straighten my legs out. That was an experience. You know, let me tell you a little story about that. I had a friend, a young lady that I went to school with, had the same thing I had. Her name was Judy Carter. She had the braces, had the crutches, had it all exactly the same as me. She had the same operations as I had, too. Me and a buddy of mine, we went to visit her one time, and here she was in a wheelchair. She didn’t have any braces on, she had three kids that she had bore, and she was married, of course. We got to talking about old times, and I just stopped to ask, I said, “Judy, I got something to ask you.” I said, “You got the same surgeries I had, why aren’t you up and around?” And she said, “I couldn’t take the pain.” I said, “Well shame on you.” It was very painful. I had that first surgery, and I was in casts for six weeks. They took me to the hospital and took my casts off, and I had a little bit of infection, so they kept me for about a week. Every day they would put my braces on me and they’d make me get up and walk, and that was the toughest thing I had to do because the pain was so intense. They had a pan in front of me, and every step I’d take I’d get sick. Up to the second day it got easier, and the third day it got easier, and I kept on going, you know? It was another challenge, another challenge that I overcame.

Wearing the braces and going through the pain of therapy was always hard, but it was very rewarding at the same time. Just knowing the fact that I had to wear them, and they were gonna help me along to be able to overcome a lot of my spasticity, I was able to look at it a different way and say, “These things are bad, but I’m gonna wear them anyhow.”At one point the doctors told my mom and dad to put me in an institution. Parents were different back then, they couldn’t deal with this, so they would put some of the kids in a home. Some of these kids were just like me. They had a brain, they could function, but their body just couldn’t do what they wanted them to do. A lot of them went into an institution, and my mom told the doctor, she said, “You know, I’ve had fourteen children, this is number fifteen. I didn’t give up on them and I won’t give up on this one.” I always felt bad for the other kids that couldn’t overcome the trials and tribulations. I would look at them and see the ones that just couldn’t overcome, and I would think, “There’s always someone worse off than you are.” You get what the good lord gave you and that’s what you have to live with.

Dad and Mom didn’t make a lot of money back then, but we managed. We were all taught self reliance, and everyone was expected to do their share. At one time we had eight kids living at home, and that was a pretty good group. I got treated equal. There was no favoritism. I got my rear end thumped a few times. [laughs] I was expected to do all the normal things that my brothers and sisters did. I would get up, and first thing they’d do is one of my brothers would put my braces on me, and that was a challenge in the winter time because they were so cold. I didn’t really want to wear them at times, but they’d put them on me and wait for my bus, which was a taxi cab by the way, that took me to school and brought me home. I’d do my lessons and chores when I got home and that’s about it.

Of course, I liked to have fun, too. There were several things I couldn’t do as a kid, so I kind of reinvented baseball. I could pitch and catch, and I could hit the ball. Of course, I couldn’t run, but somebody would always run for me. I had a tricycle that I like to ride around the yard, so that helped too. I kind of had to reinvent life. I had to adapt on a daily basis to keep up with my brothers and sisters. I saw how they go and go and do and do and I told myself, “I can do this. I just have to do things a little differently.” We’re all the same, really. Just do things a little differently, that’s all.

I was always different, of course, and people weren’t as accepting back then. One of the hardest things was go to the grocery store. I hated it, but my mom and dad made me go anyhow, because they said, you know, look, you gotta be out in the public. Whether you want to or not, you’ve got to. Don’t let that bother you. So it did bother me, for a few years it bothered me, and then I kind of got used to the idea, you know, it’s just the way people are, that’s all. You just have to rise above people sometimes. Looking back, I’m glad they made me do that.
After I got out of school I had a hard time finding a job. At the time there were laws and companies wouldn’t hire the handicapped. Insurance wouldn’t cover them, I guess. So that went to my mentality and discouraged me a little, but eventually they changed the laws and my brother in law got me a job working for the county at a water pumping station. I would watch the gauges and keep the place clean. It was a good job, I really enjoyed it. I did that for a couple years, then I got a job at the county courthouse as a parking attendant. I met a lot of good people there. I worked there for seven years until I retired in ’78. I took a fall and I was out of work for about a year, so my bosses decided it was time for me to retire. They threw me a big party and there was a big write up in the paper. That was a good time. Now I’m just enjoying my retirement. My wife, Virginia, retires in a few years, so I’m looking forward to that so I can spend more time with her. I’ve been retired for a long time, can’t hardly believe it sometimes, but the way I see it I’m about to start whole new chapter with many more to come, God willing and if the devil don’t care. I’ve seen a lot, I’ve done a lot, and I’ve overcome a lot. That’s what life’s about, seein’, doin’, and overcomin’.

For those people out there with dreams, I would say once you set your goal, keep after it. Don’t give up, just keep right on it. You know, you’ll have your downfalls and your pitfalls, but just keep right on goin’. If you want something bad enough, you’ll get it. You just gotta keep punchin’. Sometimes you get knocked down, but you gotta get back up, no matter how much it hurts.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Holding On-esque Profile

I had never met Virginia Davis before, as far as I am aware. She had only been in the Heartland rehabilitation and retirement community she now calls home for a few days, and was clearly more than a little unsettled by her sudden loss of some independence. She is an old woman, and looked rather withered and feeble in her chair, like she didn’t move much. But her mind is as sharp and quick as her body isn’t, and as her thoughts raced from idea to idea, I had a hard time keeping up with her. Her eyes lit up with excitement as we began talking, as she shared with me some of the more important and life-shaping memories of her life. She bristled with pride as she spoke of her beloved country and the things she had seen while assisting in its defense, and the defense of others.


Virginia M. Davis. Tomlin Davis. You want my maiden name, I imagine. Virginia M. Tomlin Davis. I’m from North Lewisburg. I lived there seventy-some years. My mother was raised out over by where the Honda plant is now. My father was born in Saint Paris, [in the] western part of Champagne county. Out somewhere on route thirty-six. My father was a rail welder, so… my father took his training in Saint Paris, and then when I was older we lived in Kent. Then my father got a job down in North Lewisburg… ‘cause that’s where my mother was from, and my grandmother lived there, and all my relatives lived there. So, I’ve been there ever since.

Do you feel like as you were growing up, and going through life, that you had a really strong role model, or a family member that really shaped your life?

I had an aunt that was awful good to me. My mother’s younger sister. And I yet to this day haven’t figured out why. She used to do so much for me. She told me one time that I was more like a sister to her, because she was thirteen when I was born. And she was always doing things for me. Up until she passed away. And she had a family of her own. And she still took care of me.
Oh… what do I want to say? The world’s more, you know, inventions and things, it amazes me what they can do now, what I couldn’t, ‘cause I was on a little switchboard with the plugs. Today it’s all computers. I started operating when I was seventeen and all the rest of it. I was on that switchboard when Pearl Harbor was bombed. And I had the switchboard, and all of it dropped, so that I couldn’t answer them; I didn’t have enough plugs. I was talking to everybody. But the ironic thing about that was that I was in England on the switchboard, with the Eighth Air Force, when they went in on D-Day. In the morning.
It was scary, but I knew that, when I went to work that night, that something was up, because the switchboard was full with operators and the supervisor was there. And she didn’t work at nights. But she was there that night. And we had no relaxing at all. We worked constantly all night. When I got up, and when I got off work, it was still dark, and we were walking back to the barracks, and we could hear the radio, and the Germans were yelling “Invasion, invasion!” to their troops.
I’ve been back twice. The first time I went back, we went back to the estate where we had our headquarters, and there were people there to meet us and greet us, to take us back where our barracks used to be. Well, when I used to work, I would walk to work in the morning after breakfast, and once in a while we’d get an orange. And I was walking down this walk, and this little five-year-old boy came out and asked “What’s that in your hand?” and I said “An orange.” He said he’d never seen one. So I gave it to him. Well, when I went back in ’87, there was a young man and a woman that met me to take me back to the barracks, and we were walking back that way and I told them about the orange, and that man said “Well, I was that little boy!” And I went back in ’93 and saw him again. Well, I’ve lost contact with him. His wife wasn’t well. I don’t think I’ve lost his address. Anyway, I knew that I had done something for somebody,
I flew over Germany and France in a B-24 after the war was over. The sight was not good. It’s where they bombed all the places. I came back on a hospital ship. [I gain strength from] just knowing that I’m in good health, and that I have a good place to live. I have a good family. I think at my age I’m very fortunate. I’m eighty-eight years old.
This girl wrote to me and said thank you for my service. A little girl from Texas. Wrote a real nice letter. So I wrote back to her, sent her a few of my pictures. Sent her a picture of me when I was in the service. Well, I wouldn’t want her to see me now! [laughs]

Is there anywhere else in the world you would like to visit?

I’d really like to go to Africa. I’d like to roam the safari. Have you heard about the Bucket List? Well, I have a bucket list. I got to do two things. I didn’t get to go on a safari, because, well [laughs] I just couldn’t afford that. But my sister and her granddaughter took me to the Wilds. Up in the eastern part of the state, and I did go up there, so I’ve been on a safari.
But I would like to meet the President. Yes, I would. I would like to shake his hand. The reason is, when I was growing up in Kent, Ohio, I had a really dear friend. Her name was Rosalie Peoples. She was a black girl. Well, those people, they didn’t live down where I lived. They lived down at the other end of the town. And do you know, it never dawned on me, in all my years, to be prejudiced. And I thought a lot of Rosalie. Some people didn’t. But I have never been that way, never. Yesterday, I’m sitting here [motions to her chair] and a black friend of mine came to the door. She came here ahead of my one sister. She came to see me. She said “I had a hard time trying to find this place, but I found it.” But I just admire the man, for trying what he did, and doing what he did. I didn’t think it would ever happen in this country. I didn’t think it would. I just don’t think that they’re giving him time to do what he wants to do. They’re just fighting him all the time, and that’s not right.

When you think of being an American, of being from America, what do you think that means?

Well, it just means freedom. And I have great respect for my flag. I put flags on the cemetery in town for the veterans, from when I was sixteen years old, and this is going to be my last year, I mean, I’m not going to put them on this year. It’s going to be seventy-three years. The two and a half years while I was in the service, I didn’t do it. My grandchildren help me now, but there was a conflict with somebody, so we gave it up. But I’ve always had great respect for our flag. When I see it hanging wrong, I tell them about it.
I would like for you to feel proud that you are an American. Because if you have to go somewhere else in the world to live, you will not have the opportunities that you have in this country. I’ve seen too much of the strife, and poor people, and things like that that I just I can’t imagine. And we have a wonderful country. We should be proud of it. That’s the way I feel.

From Rachel, Sharee, Kelly

1. Individuality
2. Dedication/Determination
3. Humanitarianism
4. Education
5. Hope