Tuesday, January 17, 2017
What Do You Remember? (Part 1)
I was thinking about the events that have happened in my lifetime. There have been 12 presidents for our country and another is about to take the oath of office. The Catholic church has had seven popes. So far I have had 69 birthdays. Wow.
So then I thought I should chronicle some of the things I remember. For the sake of posterity you know.
Some memories might be about me and my family while some will have affected a lot more people. They could be good or bad or somewhere in between. I am certain I will leave out some. I am more certain that some people will remember them differently. But they are my own memories.
I am a child born of the baby boom after World War II. That means also that the Korean War happened in my lifetime. I do not remember that one either.
I do remember the Viet Nam War. I know President Kennedy addressed the fact that we had troops in Viet Nam in a sort of oblique way. But it was so far removed from us then. We had no idea what we were in for.
As the war escalated so did the need for troops. The draft became a hot issue. Those for it believed that it was the duty of every able-bodies male to fight to protect the country. Those against argued that only the less fortunate were being required to serve while the more fortunate could choose whether or not they wished to go.
I knew many young men who served our country during the time of the Viet Nam War. Most came home alive but none were whole. Physical injuries were only part of the problem. The emotional and psychological injuries often took longer to heal if they ever healed.
Two of my brothers were drafted in the 1960's. The older one was stationed in Korea. You may not realize it but that war had never been resolved. So he was a military policeman at the border between North Korea and South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone known as the DMZ. Theoretically there is no fighting but in actuality shots are often fired. It is a dangerous place to be.
The second brother went to Viet Nam. He wrote to tell us some of the terrible events he experienced. He was killed in Viet Nam. It was the only time I saw my father cry.
Our family was fortunate because his body was quickly recovered and returned to us for a funeral. Not all families can say that.
A military funeral is a beautiful ceremony. It is also extremely painful. The pageantry and precision is astounding. The sounds of the gun salute and Taps is heart-breaking.
It seems there has been a skirmish or war happening ever since then. How I long for peace.
Of course I have not mentioned the Cold War yet. Russia and the United States emerged after WWII as the two most powerful nations of the world. Both were vying to be number one. The tension that resulted prompted political actions and animosities.
Because the atomic bomb was considered to be the greatest peril to the world huge military systems were built. There were Air Force bases set to be in the air at a moments notice. Missile sites were strategically placed to both launch offensive weapons and defensive weapons.
Air raid drills were commonplace. In school were we taught to duck and cover. That meant that if an atomic bomb was headed our way we were to get on our knees under our desks and clamp our hands behind our heads to cover them and place our foreheads on the floor. That would protect us from the bomb?
I have heard of people who claim they were traumatized by duck and cover. I thought it to be a fun interruption of the day.
Fire drills were also an interesting diversion. When the bell went off we knew where we had to go outside so the teacher could get a head count. We would stand in a line on the sidewalk of the next block until the all clear was sounded.
One time we were out in the middle of the winter. There had been a heavy snow overnight and many sidewalks had not been shoveled. It was very cold. Of course we were not allowed to go to our lockers for coats so we felt the cold.
We were out there for probably about 45 minutes. The had been a call that there was a bomb in the school. We had to wait until the police and fire department made sure it was a hoax.
The race to space was something to see. Spurred by the cold war the Americans and the Russians were each trying to beat the other into space.
The Russians Launched Sputnik. It was the first satellite to successfully orbit the Earth. Then they launched Sputnik II with Laika the Dog. Laika died in space.
Not to be outdone the US launched Explorer I. Our first satellite discovered the Van Allen Belt. We followed with animals usually monkeys. They also died either in space or on impact returning to Earth.
Then came manned flights. We sent a man into space and more or less successfully brought him home. The Russians and Americans were running neck and neck.
We were encouraged to watch all the launchings on television. We did not need encouraging. They were thrilling to see.
The most thrilling of all was when They landed on the moon and actually got out of the space capsule and walked on the moon! Can you imagine?
During this time there was one manned capsule that caught fire on the launch pad. The three astronauts inside died. Later on another ship was launched with seven crew members. It exploded after take-off. There were no survivors. If there any such accidents from Russia we have no evidence that I know of.
More next time.