At long last continued

May 29th, 2008 by John Morris

This Memorial Day marked the end my eight year journey. I was part of a small and dedicated group of average citizens including an auctioneer, a lawyer, a landscaper and this salesman. Our small cadre was buffeted with other citizen-volunteers who were always there at just the right times. I was honored to have served with them all.

 Collectively, what we did was create a Veterans Memorial in our borough’s park. Today there now stands black granite slabs with the names of our borough’s citizens who served during World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War.

This accomplishment is my greatest one. It will be in the lead section of my obituary just after my wife’s and children’s.

I am proud I was able to help create such a lasting tribute. I didn’t do it to impress people, but it pleases me when they say they’re impressed.

To you, I hope an opportunity like this will cross your path. I wish you will see it as the adventure of a lifetime. Find a way to do it.

For more information about these memorials, go to www.dvmf.org.

OD

May 22nd, 2008 by John Morris

Remembering names is easy for Soldiers. We just called each other by our last names. To make it easier, the Army put our names on uniform labels.

After basic training, I went to Fort Dix, NJ for radio operator training. It was here where I made friends with a few New York City types. One named O’Donnell was from Queens. The platoon tagged him “OD” – pronounced Ohhh Deeee – which was GI speak for the uniform color of the day: Olive Drab.

OD was quiet and withdrawn. He seemed slow but was not. He didn’t make friends easily but was a good one to have.

Radio operator school ended and a number of us were sent to Radio Teletype school in Georgia. I went and OD didn’t. He was assigned to an Infantry company in the States. Saying our goodbyes, I worried about what lay ahead for him in Vietnam with such a crumby job.

Fast forward about a year, and I’m pulling 16 hour work shift at the Cu Chi base camp. At breakfast, a guy from another section said a grunt was in the day before looking for me. He handed me a note saying its writer would be at the EM club at 8:00 p.m. It was signed “OD”.

That night, my old radio school buddy came in. OD looked like he had a hard life since radio school. He talked about his assignment which was mostly carrying a backpack radio on night patrol. There was a saddest in his voice as he told me he spent as much time away from his platoon as he could. He was again an outsider.

I asked OD how he found me. He learned first that we were both stationed with the 25th Infantry. His other lead was I was with some super-secret communication company. He had visited all of the companies fitting the description until he found my company. I’m glad he made the effort.

Our reunion was short lived because OD was transferred one month later. Saying good bye again was more poignant since I knew how bad it would be for him after we parted this time. I hoped he found a good friend wherever he went.

Thinking of OD reminds me about the many and varied friends I’ve had. I hope he and all the others remember me in the same warm way. Once another friend asked me if being friends was a problem. I responded that I have many friends but none to spare.  

Seeing an old friend after decades of seperation is one of those great moments life gives us all. 

Maybe OD will read this; contact me and we’ll meet again.

Italian was the way to go today

May 4th, 2008 by John Morris

The “Growing Up Italian” soiree went well today and about how I predicted. (May 3, 2008 posting: This I explain often.)

I decided to offer up a story and thought my chances rivaled a pork chop at a pitbull ranch. I just started walking to the lectern as the MC searched for speakers. Lucky me, I got the nod from him and then wired up by the lady doing the taping.

My story was about the year our Veterans Memorial committee dedicated its World War II memorial. Our committee didn’t want this magical day to end so we stuck around to act as tour guides. I hooked up with eight or so out-of-towners and did my usual shtick when a woman mentioned the large number of Italian names listed. She said we must have a large and vital Italian community. I told her that we did indeed have such a community and how it had contributed to all our nation’s war efforts. Note: 11% of the names on the WWII memorial are Italian names.

I challenged today’s gathering to take their little ones to the memorials to see the names of every family member resting on the surfaces. Allow them to understand their family’s tradition of service to America. The memorials are meant as a history lesson for future generations. They also serves as reminders of the sacrifices made by generations of town folks.

When our town’s older citizens stare at the memorials, they see familiar names. They also remember names  they haven’t thought about in a handful of decades. They get quiet and start to well up from the memorials stirred. It makes me proud of the work done by the committee.

Today, I felt extra pride in the men and women who left for war from a train station located near their Italian neighborhood.

At long last

May 3rd, 2008 by John Morris

Eight years ago, I joined a committee to erect six Veteran memorials in our borough’s park.

Step one: Find the names of all local Veterans who served during the times of World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.

Step two: Have these names etched on large granite slabs

Step three: Install the slabs on concrete footings.

Step four: Dedicate them on Memorial Day to the grateful community.

Even though we were all in our 50s, we were somewhat naive. We figured it would take two years to harvest the names and money. It took six more years than planned.

On this Memorial Day, we will dedicate the last of the memorials. It will be heady times for our committee even though there is still a lot of work ahead. We’ll find the time and energy one more time. We always have.

It’ll be great to finally make good on our promise. It’ll be great to finally be able to put this project behind us and get on with the rest of our lives.

One committee member dubbed our project as “The Last Detail”. This term describes how four aging baby-boomers will always remember their magnificent obsession.

I hope your life will bring one to you.

This I explain often

May 3rd, 2008 by John Morris

I’m Italian! Well, okay half-Italian.

Mom is an Italian woman who married an Irish man. She avoided her countrymen because she grew up with three and knew too many others to consider them quality prospects.

My first seven years were spent in the Italian section called Johnsontown. It was the late 40s and early 50s. The area was still rich with the traditions brought over from “the old country”: Hard work, shared belongings and strong friendships.

The little ones could play safely any where. The other Moms & Dads would watch over us, feed us and yes when needed, discipline us. Misbehaving was detected by the the many eyes of the elders.

And of course, the food was memorable.

I didn’t know then how special this time was or much it would influence my life.

Tomorrow, the local Italian-American club is hosting an event dubbed, “Growing up Italian”. The buzz from this event is assuring a grand turnout. I’m imagining about 600 people crammed into a banquet hall meant for 400. I can also envision a noise level ranging from deafening to almost able to hear the speaker. Check “cacophony” in the dictionary. It applies here.

Stories of the old days will ring throughout the hall. Most of them true even with different versions.

Most Italian folk do not suffer from shyness. I expect a storming of the microphone by some, and the planned end being completely ignored by most.

And all there will love this day.

about


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.

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