Five Hundred Yards

One afternoon over the December holidays while my young son and daughter were visiting for a week in Kerrville, together with my Mom and sister, Ethan and I settled into the living room couch and one of the recliners to begin watching the 10-part series by HBO called Band of Brothers. My daughter Tori (Victoria) and Ethan had gone in together to buy this incredibly excellent production and historically precise production as my gift as it had already won several awards.

My kids and family had known I had always been a history buff, especially military history buff, and more so a WW2 buff since my boyhood. They had heard on numerous occasions — actually tolerated — how much I praised the astonishing historical detail that HBO’s Executive Directors with historical-military consultants, utilized Stephen Ambrose’s bestselling book of the same name which went into the making of the final cut of Band of Brothers. Ethan had been looking forward to watching it with me. He knew well how passionate I was about personal authentic history. At that time, he was a bit of a military fan too. Where he may have got his interest I couldn’t say. But I would be lying, wouldn’t I?

When Mom and sister saw what we were about to watch, they rolled their eyes, a bit put out and both essentially griped, Dwain, why are you such a huge fan of war films, documentaries, graphic violence, and showing it to Ethan!? Do you love violence and war? Later that evening when he and I were done with parts 1-3, I hoped I had answered their question and deep concerns for my son.

But I’ll share that at the end of this post.

500 Yards badge-breaker

Seventy-five years ago this morning at 5:50am Caen, France time, June 6, 1944 the Allied invasion of Normandy began. To this day, it is the largest amphibious military force ever assembled in history. The Allied invasion force consisted of around 346,700+ souls, comprising of almost 7,000 naval vessels crammed into a tiny French Bay (Seine) off the coast of northern France—about 900 sq. miles of sea and only about 50-miles of flat beach. A flat, sandy beach 3-5 football-fields long at low-tide, from waste-deep water to land, when the first wave of troops landed; meaning nothing to hide behind to protect yourself except narrow, German-landing obstacles (many booby-trapped) until the first natural or German-made obstacles… 500-yards ahead of you.

omaha-beach-normandy-d-day-beaches

Omaha beach, Normandy, today — low-tide

Of the five different landing zones that morning at Normandy, Omaha beach was a slaughtering section on the first wave of the V Corp., 29th Infantry Division, 116th Regiment with Companies A-D, each with 230 men. Dog Green Sector where Company A of the 116th landed was the most horrific scene any human being could ever witness.

Much of the Allied’s intricate, precisely planned timing of Operation Overlord went wrong on many levels. For Company A (first wave) their section of the beach was nothing like they had been told or trained for back in England. With up to 60-75 lbs of gear, weapons, and ammunition to name only three, they had not trained for disembarking into waist-high or neck-high water with 200-yards in front of them until sand. Then the additional 200-300 yards on open beach and sand bars was supposed to have hundreds of bomb-craters from air force and naval bombardments to shelter for seconds or minutes to rally and organize before rushing forward to their objectives against a severely weakened or destroyed German defensive emplacements. None of this had happened when they lowered the landing-ramp of their LCI’s (Landing Craft Infantry) into 4-6 feet of water.

Omaha_beach_dog_green

What lay ahead for these 230 young men of A-Company was a superbly designed defense by one of Hitler’s most brilliant combat Generals, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. His objective was to inflict upon the Allied landing forces as many casualties as possible by slowing down landing craft and infantry getting to the beach, and then across 200-300 yards of flat sand before arriving at his first-line of gun emplacements, trenches, bunkers, and pillboxes. Rommel had 7-months preparation to build and reinforce this Atlantic Wall. He believed the only way to have a chance of repelling the invasion was to drastically slow the Allied forces at the beach making the losses so unacceptable for Eisenhower and Bradley the invasion would be unsustainable and abandoned. It almost worked. Against the 116th’s A-Company it did work, to appalling results.

Two of Germany’s most lethal weapons of WW2 and during D-Day were their 88-millimeter artillery guns and the MG-42 machine guns. All Allied combat soldiers and their commanders feared these weapons. In any engagement Allied units had to quickly disable or destroy them or they would wipe out entire platoons or more.

The earlier air force bombardments were suppose to pummel these German weapon units days/weeks before. The early morning naval bombardments were also suppose to pummel these targets. On D-Day the 116th Regiment and A-Company did not know they were still operational and waiting for them, particularly the combat experienced German 352nd Division defending Omaha Beach. Typically, each of this division’s 200 companies had a minimum of one or two MG-42’s per company, or about 250 deployed at Omaha Beach. This is a formidable slew of this weapon pointed at the incoming LCI’s landing-ramps when it opens and attempts to unload 36 men packed inside.

To get a proper feel for what the MG-42 (nicknamed Bone-saw by the Germans) could inflict on unsuspecting infantry, listen to this 1-min video. It is not graphic, just demonstrates by audio:

The MG-42 Bone-saw fired 900 – 1,500 rounds per minute. That is about two cartridges per second for 60-seconds when the barrel wasn’t overheated, fairly cooled, or just replaced. The 2-man crews usually had 4-5 barrels at their disposal to keep switching out.

500 Yards badge-breaker

Of the 230 men assigned to A-Company first wave of the 116th Regiment, 7 survived. These seven soldier’s narratives below, collected shortly after the day ended, tell firsthand what happened to 223 men in less than eight minutes. When the German squads located A-Company’s surviving commanders that had reached the shoreline, they had all their experienced snipers take them out with one, maybe two shots in a matter of 7-10 seconds per American officer. The 88-mm gun’s fragmenting shells ripping to separate pieces human body parts along with the MG-42’s mowed down the rest of A-Company.

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On this historic day 75-years later we remember, salute, and thank the veterans of D-Day still alive, but more importantly those who made the ultimate sacrifice to achieve victory. A victory that was enormously costly, particularly to the one Regiment that paid the most and one town, Bedford, Virginia of about 4,000 residents at the time, who lost 19 of their boys, more than any other town in America that day per capita, June 6th, 1944. Four more lost their lives during the remainder of the Normandy campaign. Director Stephen Spielberg was inspired by a book called The Bedford Boys which chronicled these 23 men’s sacrifice and it resulted in his multi-award winning 1998 film Saving Private Ryan. As most movie-goers know, the opening scene of the D-Day landings have been confirmed by most survivors of that day as ‘precise as any screen-portrayal ever made about Omaha Beach, June 6th, 1944.’ Some could never watch the movie again.

As the Allied forces proceeded inward through western Europe and toward Germany and Hitler’s Nazi Third Reich the next 11-months, started by the victory in Normandy, we’d eventually learn the horrid truth about their concentration camps. So now I have reached the point in my story where I answered my Mom, sister, or anyone who asks or questions me: Why are you such a huge fan of war films, documentaries, graphic violence, and showing it to Ethan!? Do you love violence and war?

500 Yards badge-breaker

I tell them if that ever makes me an advocate of war, a warmonger rattling his sabers or shooting off his personal arsenal of weapons on weekends, then please… you have my permission to shoot me.

No, on the contrary it is precisely BECAUSE it is so horrific, so insane, so life-damaging, and the worst of humanity’s behaviors—witnessed by combat soldiers returning home with PTSD, Holocaust survivors scarred for life by what they lived through—that I am stubbornly anti-war! I remind myself and any others I can by watching, reading, and understanding profoundly what really goes on at the front lines. And hence, I emotionally remember the harsh reality of what slaughtering looks and sounds like in order NOT to use war rashly and foolishly like many of our politicians or aggressively hyper-patriotic citizens—with no combat experience themselves—seem too ready to fight and too frequently oblivious of its cost! Its real and long-term human costs. Therefore, do everything humanly and diplomatically possible to avoid war before sending our men and women to exact it and pay with their lives.

As one of the scenes and parts in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers impart, after they had liberated one of the many concentration camps, it’s why we fought. Let us never forget how precious life is before a violent conflict breaks out. It is never the same after… for any of the soldiers and their families.

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Genocide, Abortion & Female Rights

I normally do not do reblogs, not because the blogger or the content may or may not be poor, inconsequential, or that reblogs are someone else’s ideas and composition. I like all credit, if not most credit, to go to the innovator. Secondly, I seldom reblog because I find refuge here in WordPress. Shallowness, uninspired, and overdone weigh my eyelids, smash my head onto my laptop, to then drool from the mouth as I snore. With the excessive saturated overabundance of “social” derivatives like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, (yawn) Pinterest, Instagram, and a number of others, they obesely inflate the world-wide-web with significantly less value. I don’t want WordPress or my blog to become another diluted derivative so I’ve never reblogged in five years.

Until now.

This blog-post and adjoined subjects from Allallt deserves republishing:

Can abortion ever be banned, while maintaining female rights?

Allallt logoAllallt was asked and in return he has asked his audience that these adjoined subjects of abortion, genocide, and female rights be broadcast among a wider atheist audience. Since I am not atheist and he has welcomed my visits and comments, I believe anyone can participate who feel these three topics are of great importance. However, a word of caution:  Though obviously the three subjects are paramount and controversial, and as would be expected some comments and Commentors get… umm, how can I say(?)… highly energetic with their word and grammar choices, try to see beyond the saber-rattling and contribute meaningful dialogue and discussion. I hope you’ll take the time to at least read Allallt’s post, and if inclined Madblog’s post for some context.

To encourage participation on Allallt’s post, I have disabled comments here.

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To Operate A Mechanical Edger

cell phone blueprintMy Mom and I have a chronic skit. Recently they are centered around the operation of her newest cell phone. The year before it was the operation of her new Dell desktop computer, the modem, router, printer, and the cosmic-concept of wifi communication. Before that, the new HD television and the list goes on.  In a repeating rhetorical exercise over the years, one of my first questions to her is usually, “Have you read the manual yet?” She knows it’s coming at some point, so she intentionally tries to sound smart, using big techy words (that are a bit outdated), to divert the inevitable question.  Numerous quippy comical jabs at each other follow, always ending in laughter. I’ve become comfortable and overly entertained with this predictable cycle. It’s always provided us several big smiles.

But that’s my mother. It doesn’t always go so well in the real world, does it?
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Understanding the mechanics has so many applications in life. One common and popular application would be with your automobile(s) and driving. To get from point A to point B it is important to understand the operation of your vehicle and traffic tips and laws. Many might say it’s critical, myself included. When instructing me on the extra tips, knowledge, and nuances of driving — the stuff the nearby DMV does not cover — my father would often preempt our lesson saying “a vehicle is a lethal weapon.” Stark perspective gained Dad, thank you. He used the same type of instruction about guns, rifles, firing them, and storing them.

1-cylinder combustable engineLike myself, most of us men grew up learning and doing the outdoor chores: mowing, edging, trimming, etc. In one particular instance when I was 13-14 years old, my father saw the perfect opportunity to teach me about the love-hate marriage between me and forces bigger than me; unseen misunderstood forces that can really hurt. I posted about this lesson (Click here) if you care to read about it in more detail. To earn a little cash I would sometimes do our next-door neighbor’s yard while they were out-of-town. I had to use their lawn equipment unless I wanted to pay rent to use Dad’s. No way! Profit, profit, maximize profits was my youthful M.O.!  Cha-ching!

Their grass-edger was mechanical, a 1-cylinder driven blade on the side, as opposed to our edger, a half-moon blade I’d have to step on every 8-12 inches in the gap between concrete and grass. Starting the neighbor’s mechanical edger was a breeze, as I imagined all the dollar bills being stacked in my hand.  You pull the string just like our lawn mower. Turning it off, however, was a mystery to me. I went and got Dad to show me how. With their edger you had to push this L-shaped piece of metal onto the spark-plug to short out the electric current to the cylinder. Pffft, easy. I reached down to that piece of metal, pushed it firmly onto the spark-plug…WHAAM! I was nearly knocked to my ass! With the biggest white-eyes I looked up at Dad, bewildered. “What happened!?” I had done exactly what he told me! Dad pointed at the still running edger, “Turn it off.” I thought to myself, maybe I didn’t hold it on the spark-plug long enough. WHAAM! Once again I was nearly knocked off my feet. Now with tears in my eyes I looked up at Dad’s unphased expression… “Turn it off son.” The third time I tried to hold the metal-breaker down even longer — only making the pain worse and my muscles begin to quiver. I was on the verge of bawling when I looked at Dad’s unchanged expression.

I could not bring myself to try a fourth time. When Dad realized I couldn’t, he calmly pointed to my other hand holding the metal handle-bar. “Move that hand to the rubber-grip,” he explained “then turn it off.” The damn beast died immediately.

Forces unseen, misunderstood, and bigger than me. Check.
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college studentsMedical doctors and EMT’s must understand the mechanics of the human body to prolong lives. Marriage, love, relationships are no different. In order to communicate well with our loved ones, not only must we learn the basics of language to be understood, equally we must understand the mechanics of how others use it.  Honestly, we should want to be experts at it, both parts, and not just to get by and leave it in the grey! The mechanics of parenting and raising children are perhaps even more important and more demanding than communicating and understanding adults, do you agree? Dad was a hardened cattle-hand and rice farmer, degreed in mechanical engineering from U.T. in Austin, former U.S. Marine, and well versed in precise communication.  In his own way, correct or not, my father also knew how to use non-verbal mechanics to teach me one invaluable (life-saving?) lesson about electricity that I can never forget.  There are times when simple words will not convey the magnitude.

So why, in the settings of community, conversation, love, family, SOCIAL-MEDIA, or government and politics, are we ever content with just the bare basic mechanics of dialogue which often fall into the fog of ambiguity?

A recent example…

A good friend of mine posted on a popular social-media website (FB) a picture I felt, and obviously he did to, conveyed the absence or ineptitude of federal legislation to stay on top of Wall Street and the activity of billion-dollar interest-earning corporations. The image is above.

The message resonates deeply with me because I am and have been an educator — 5th thru 8th grade Generalist and passionate about Social Studies and Science. Our young students, primary, secondary, and certainly college, are our nation’s hope and future.  They are the potential leaders for our own children and grandchildren! The image has a lot of truth to it.  This was my comment about it to my friend:

Many a wise man have stated correctly that you give a man too much power or money, sooner or later both WILL corrupt him. History has proven the same in organizations or empires, particularly those who grow obese and disengaged from the very hands who fed them. Perhaps it is time to promote the eternal value of collective virtues rather than beguiled individual “success” or wealth. Foolish is the CEO and 1-percent who believe their ivory tower was built solely by their hands alone. Everyone enters this world from the womb of need and then one day leaves it in hospice. Never forget your REAL place in this world.

That’s my version, the short one.

Then a complete stranger to me chimed in… from here forward named Cymbal:

Cymbal:  “So people aren’t successful because of their own efforts. Spoken like a true Marxist.”

Myself:  “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein

Myself:  “The difference between “success” and “value” is an ocean. Wouldn’t you agree Kelly?”

Cymbal:  “Lol.. project much?”

Jax Jacqueline:  “Most of the ppl now would be way better off going to one of the countries that now offers free college for Americans.”

Myself:  “Jax, which not surprisingly explains why many nations, particularly the northern European countries, are ranked ABOVE the U.S. in a plethora of educational and quality-of-life tables. For example:
http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/

Cymbal:  “Yea I’m sure life is so much better in Poland than in the US. Or by quality of life do you mean tax payer provided services?”

Cymbal continued his snippy semi-rude remarks despite my words. For the complete debate-dialogue (if it can be called that), click here.  Click the image to enlarge.

Whether someone had the more convincing argument or position is not my concern here. My point is the minefield created between foreign parties or people, including on social-media, when lazy content basic dialogue and mechanics exist. Furthermore, what vibrates and disturbs that minefield, making it more volatile, occurs when one or both parties fail to rebalance their talking with listening, or in this case reading the entirety. It follows that the level beneath a statement(s) on the conversation-blueprint if you will, is understanding the mechanics and dynamics of the whole machine to appropriately operate it. Or in my painful childhood case, knowing How To Operate A Mechanized Electrical Edger!

I could write several posts about the enormous importance of civil debate or dialogue. Its use carries over into a long list of daily, human interactions, and the acute awareness of self. But I will spare all of you the laborious hours (laughing permitted) and skip the list. I do, however, want to share some film clips from two Directors who more eloquently express what it is I am trying to communicate.  First, Stephen Spielberg.  The dramatic scene is in two separate YouTube clips, in the following order. I beg you, watch both fully…

Without a doubt, Thaddeus Stevens’ 1865 speech to the House regarding slavery is today a foregone conclusion: the majority of Americans prohibit it. Yet, almost 150 years later Americans and our judicial courts are still dealing with various forms of racism, e.g. Ferguson, MO., modern-day George Pendletons in the Lincoln clips. Representative Stevens might well exclaim today, “How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands…the gentleman from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior, endowed by their Creator with dim wits…” but in the end, even Pendletons deserve some dignity and respect (before the law) if one must rip it from the deepest abyss of their human decency… it must be done! Right there, THAT is why professional, refined dialogue and the fortitude to understand ALL the mechanics and dynamics of a message or issue, are paramount to the survival and civility of a species… a species which is expected to be superior on this planet. Verbal abuse, violence, or war can never breach that sacred articulation.

In colonial America there was never a more charged, igniting relationship between statesmen which evolved into an endearing lifelong friendship than between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. How did these two highly intelligent juxtaposed men coexist? By superb discourse and acute listening; skills requiring great effort, time, and exposure to diversity. Who is the other Director who so eloquently portrays this point? This is a scene from Tom Hooper of the HBO Mini-series and the Pulitzer Prize book, John Adams. Ben Franklin is played by Tom Wilkinson, John Adams by Paul Giamatti, and Thomas Jefferson by Stephen Dillane:

Adams and Jefferson were two gifted communicators and more gifted debaters, each giving deserved respect to the other.

When I happily watch this seven-part mini-series over and over, I sometimes ask myself, who else can I note with such remarkable oratory and writing talent? The late Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi come to mind. Another is former four-star General and Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Perhaps a no-brainer would be the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln. And not to forget great women, Eleanor Roosevelt and Marie Colvin, to name just two, stand out to me as superb speakers. How much more peaceful and enriched would our earthly experience be if 50, 60, or 80% of a population earned and acquired the same skills? Would more embarrassment or conflict be averted? I should think laughing would be more common, even epidemic, if human discourse were an art en masse and not an anomaly.
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It has become my impression since the dawn of the internet, especially now with social-media addicts and a world fast becoming more Wifi connected, that an increasing number of people (at least in Texas and parts of America where I’m exposed) are lazily content with quick elementary dialogue and mechanics. For some time now I have been one of those nauseated with my speaking and writing skills, and trying to advance them in earnest.  There is still much room for improvement.  And what of acronyms? Unless mankind has mastered infallible telepathy or they are the codes of action used in live military combat where half-seconds count, acronyms are the epitome of lethargy anywhere else. I would be thrilled if proven wrong!

In a routine of convenience, impatience, and fundamentalism, mastering advanced language mechanics cannot be understated. Why? One noble reason is to have the ability of recognizing immoral and/or unethical rhetoric and manipulation — remind you of anyone or group in a particular field(?) — then protecting the greatest good for the greatest number.  With each passing decade it is not enough to simply be free.

Two quotes I am fond of apply this idea…

“Patterning your life around other’s opinions is nothing more than slavery.” – Lawana Blackwell

“My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.” – Adlai Stevenson

Whether it’s good or not, we are inextricably tied to our fellows, our countrymen, our colleagues, our bosses, our coworkers, on many levels. Obviously we are inextricably tied to our spouses, our parents, our children, our siblings, even extended family.  But it goes further.  Modern genetics and DNA research has all but proven this: globally there is less than a one-percent difference in all of us; every living human being. In many contexts we are all connected. What we choose to do with those vast similarities and their interactions hinges on how well or how poorly we express ourselves and strive to understand what we hear or read. We will either be progressive and ingenious with dignity given and received, or we will be digressing, destructive, divisive, and impatiently ignorant, subtly devoid of common decency.  No matter how annoyed I might get with a “Cymbal,” I must strive to find the strength and patience to coexist with them, and the respectful (eloquent) dialogue vital in the temporary struggle, always.

Kids-Talking-on-Tin-Can-Phones1What sort of world do you live for, fight for, are willing to die for? Is your World Operator’s Manual small and unchanging, or perpetually growing? Let me put a different lens on the question: Is your Family Operator’s Manual small and unchanging, or perpetually growing? Do you have a library of manuals? Is the library designed to expand or remain stagnate collecting dust? The word for today is Impermanence! Actually, is it not 365 days a year? Maybe the question should be “Are you and I keeping up?”

I have on my bathroom mirror this sticky note: WOMS? It means World Operator’s Manual Status. I pronounce it “WHUM-s”; what’s my WHUM-s status, to remind me daily to find more strength, energy, and patience to understand the mechanics. Do I want to be slammed to the ground in tears by a motorized-edger, or would I rather learn how to wisely operate it and create a beautiful lawn and garden?

Can you use an upgrade in your oral and writing skills, beyond the high school level?  Name one or two specific areas and the context below.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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