On Memorial Day, Remember Those Who Served and Died

John Starrett, Veteran of the Revolution

Memorial Day, or Remembrance Day, is the time to remember those who lost their lives while serving our country. Too often, we see this weekend as the beginning of “summer,” when what it represents for military families is the end for someone they loved.

Big cities, small towns, and everything in between, they honor today with parades, members of the VFWs traveling in their cars, on motor cycles, on foot, waving to us. Or maybe it’s like in Gahanna today, where veterans fired their twenty-one gun salute from the bridge overlooking the river. A Gahanna High School band member played taps, while another echoed that taps from a distance.

Missing in Action; Prisoner of War

We shoot our pictures, capturing the moments like the presentation of colors (our flag). I stood too far away to hear what was said, but that twenty-one-gun salute cracked through the air, the muzzles flashing. When the band prepared to march to the cemetery, the service members who gave the salute walked past me, and I thanked them for their service. I wondered which friends they’d give anything to see again.

Presentation of Colors has concluded

I owe who I am, this lover of words, of nature, of the beauty of our country, to my parents who raised me, the school system, my friends. But I am also who I am because of those who fought, foreign and domestic. They paid this price for me without my asking, sacrificing time with their loved ones, the career they intended; they came back whole or scarred, whether visible injuries or not. Too many have come home in a coffin draped with the American flag. I owe every one of them.

On this Memorial Day, please think of those who served and are no longer here. Send a prayer out to them, their families, their descendants.

Those Who Might Not Have Served

Gahanna’s Veterans Memorial

stories we don’t learn in school can be the most telling of the history of war. Was it fought for freedom? To keep power? To wrest power away from a megalomaniac like Hitler? Ironic how in the very fight for freedom, some are denied the chance to serve, as if this country did not belong to them, too. Those denials hint at the way power too often sits on the backs of inequality.

Think about when African Americans and others who were not of Caucasian European origin were finally allowed to defend this country that is their home—World War II. Think about the women who were finally allowed to fly in defense of this country that is their home.

Have you heard of the Tuskegee Airmen? They were an experiment during World War II to determine if African Americans “had the mental and physical capabilities to lead, fly military aircraft, and the courage to fight in war.” (Source, the URL above).

Private First Class Robert Strait

I had heard of the Tuskegee Airmen, but I hadn’t realized a host of military personnel formed it—from the folks who cooked and cleaned to the navigators, parachute riggers, mechanics, all the way up to the pilots; nor had I known it was an experiment. I owe them my freedom as much as I own any other service member.

Then there were the women pilots, not seeing airtime until WWII as well. The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, caught the United States by surprise. Without enough male pilots to both be in the war and serve in domestic capacities, twenty-eight women aviators took to the sky to deliver aircraft to the flight schools, forming the first female squadron, even as “Rosie the Riviter” encouraged women to work in the factories,

Bricks in the Gahanna Veterans Memorial, Gahanna, Ohio

Pilots Nancy Love and Jacqueline Cochran formed the two programs that eventually became known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Their duties expanded, and by war’s end they transported personnel, flight-tested aircraft after they’d been repaired, towed targets, and more. From those 28 women, they grew to a corps that served at more than 120 bases in the states.

But wait, did I mention—they did this all as volunteers? That’s right, they were not recognized as members of the military. In June of 1944, Army Air Forces Commanding General “Hap” Arnold asked Congress to recognize the WASP as members of the US military.

The 1,102 women who served in WASP did not receive that recognition until President Carter in 1977.

On this Memorial Day, I hope you’ll take a moment to bow your head in silence, and thank those who have lost their lives in the pursuit of our freedom.

Leo Starrett, Veteran of WWI

Learn More:

  • To learn nine excellent snippets about the Tuskegee Airmen, visit this link.
  • Visit the Tuskegee National Historic Site in Alabama. It’s part of the National Park Service.
  • Visit the WASP Museum. Read about the WASP in the words of Sarah Byrn Rickman, WASP author and historian.
  • Follow WASP on facebook.
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Saveet: The Mother of the Shooriistas

Best intentions aside, another month’s flown by without a Saveet Saturday. Since I’d spent pieces of the past four evenings weeding, and Friday evening settled quietly around me, I channeled Saveet for freewriting. That means I sit my butt down and write without editing. It doesn’t mean the cats don’t sit on my hands, kick the keyboard from my lap, or skewer my toes after I haven’t realized Xanth has dropped the mouse there, begging me to play. Yeah, writing at home means distractions galore.

Last month, I’d left Saveet on the heels of a vision of the birth of the world as she knows it, the river in which her mother would have drowned her had an acolyte of the goddess Neeshnaet not drawn water. The beast who has asked for Saveet’s help has more of a story to tell, methinks. With Mother’s Day approaching, and me having named the great shooriista approaching her as the mother of the race, an idea took hold.

Enjoy.

As I reach for more—more understanding, more of the vision, more tears to understand why she chose me, the mother of all shooriistas steps away.  My “lub” and “dub” drum on, still in her rhythm as steady as the river.

Understanding floods through me. “You cried alongside the Goddess, didn’t you.”

Purple eyes swirl. Norneepashaforena blinks, except she tries to hide that pain from me by keeping them closed. Her chin lowers to the ground, making it rumble with her heartbeat. But she nods, a thud eclipsing the lubs and dubs until that echo fades.

How could I not have seen her clearly before? Her wings shimmer under the stars. Black, those powerful wings sing with strands of the same silver scrawled along the top and bottom of the First Scroll that hangs above the alter. When she flaps them, another round of peace tickles at me, or maybe it’s the pelting sands and swarm of ganoraads flitting back and forth, disturbed at being raised from slumber.

I sneeze on the dozen that seek cover in my nose.

 Norneepashaforena opens her eyes. A film of tears turns the purple into a lavender as enchanting as her wings. Although she could crush me with one of her toes, her power feels gentle and loving.

“I’m sorry for the children you’ve lost,” I say.

The eyes blink again. A tear splatters me from knees to toes, but this time, no pain follows. Not from the water, that is. The loss in her eyes cuts me harder than any whip I’ve bourn.

“I will help you,” I say. “Whatever you need, I will do it.”

“Save my children from the harbingers,” she says. “In Neeshnaet’s dreams, you are the one who might find the way to work between the harbingers and my children’s spirits, those who have not lost them to time, breaking their ghosting hold.”

Even if Avaareet whips me dawn and dusk, I’ll steal provisions and follow the mother of all shooriista’s. As she saved our world with the Goddess, I owe her my life. Perhaps then I can atone to my failure in the last one.

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Experience AQS QuiltWeek in Paducah, Kentucky

a huge quilt-themed welcome sign

AQS, thanks to generous sponsors, hosts QuiltWeek

More than 30,000 visitors attend AQS QuiltWeek annually. Hosted in Paducah, Kentucky, the home of the National Quilt Museum, the event ran from April 26 to 29, 2017. This international show featured more than 400 quilts by artists representing 40 states and 14 countries. I’m not a quilter, but even I stood in awe of the winners. My hands-down favorite is Celtic Fox by Kathy McNeil, which won its division in wall quilts.

A log-cabin quilt

Digging in the Dirt, by my sister, Patricia Heinrich Hechler. The tulip design is incorporated with that artist’s permission. I’m standing next to it. Photo credit: Patricia Heinrich Hechler

My sister Patti’s own quilt, “Digging in the Dirt,” made the rigorous judging to be a semifinalist in the “First Time Quilters” division, competing against some forty others. Check out her website if you need a talented longarmer to match the beauty and skill of your quilt. Unlike a sewing machine, where the seamstress pushes the fabric beneath the stationary machine, the long-arm glides along a range, moved by the seamstress. Upon completing that section, the longarmer rolls up the quilt to expose a new section of the quilt.

QuiltWeek offers hundreds of vendors across the fabric arts, from fabrics to threads to sewing machines to longarm machines to yarns to Swarovski crystals to whatever your heart’s after. In

Celtic Fox by Kathy McNeil won its division at AQS QuiltWeek 2017

addition, dozens of experts teach techniques or offer projects—I came home with fabric art I made in one such class, with silk the instructor hand dyes. The show’s so huge that it fills the Expo center plus a “bubble” tent set up across the way. The National Quilt museum, a popular attraction with its ever-rotating stock of quilts, hosts extended hours. If you’re the show’s grand prize winner, the best quilt of all the quilts, you receive the highest sum if you release your quilt forever into the keeping of the National Quilt Museum.

Trolly car pulled by horses

Quilting icon Eleanor Burns, Quilt in a Day, sponsored the trolly

The city of Paducah takes fantastic care of you, providing transportation across the venues. The owners of the businesses, their workers, everyone I’ve met seems to go out of their way to welcome you to their city. And with 30,000 extra folks, that means long hours (and extra cups of coffee that the manager of Shandies restaurant bought for his morning crew).  My sister and I loved to start our day at Kirchoff’s, the historic German bakery going back five generations. The year of the great flood in 1937, one of the Kirchoff descendants baked for three days straight, knowing food would be scarce. He then delivered his loaves, via canoe, through second-storey windows. After the floodwaters receded, grateful residents inundated his doorstep with flowers. If you want baklava, pastries that flake in your mouth, brownies and other “bars” build on a foundation of butter and sugar and fresh ingredients, drop by

A bike rack shaped like a pedal and gears is the foreground of a floodwall mural

The floodwall stands ready to protect the city

any day but Sunday. And if you’re there late enough on a Saturday, you might stumble upon their “buy a loaf, get loaf” special.

For exceptional coffee, visit Etcetera Coffeehouse. Smooth coffees and a host of inventive combinations offered up by the barristas. Our favorite became the Israel, a salted caramel coffee, delicious hot on the cold day, and iced on the hot day.

red brick building with arched windows

One of the many buildings in the historic downtown

You’ve got to be fast on your reservations, or call after the Various “Quilt Week” deadlines pass.  My sister and I love to stay at Auburn Place, a few miles out from the downtown. Pride in ownership means carpet that looks brand new, lemon water waiting for you downstairs, a selection of fresh fruit available all day, and coffee always available.

I hope you’ll visit Paducah, hiding in western Kentucky, whether during

quilting in feathery swirls echoing around each other in 3 to 5 layers

My sister Patricia Heinrich Hechler doodled on an Innova at the Accomplish Quilting booth

QuiltWeek (the next one is September 13-16, 2017) or any other time. A city whose roots go back to water trade, and a textile town because of it, the historic downtown offers shops to pull you in and make you stay a spell, those eateries, and a mural along the floodwall.

 This was my third visit to Paducah, and it won’t be my last.

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