About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Memory Lane and the Reconciliation with Time

Copyright ©2013 by Ralph F. Couey
except quoted and cited portions.
There are moments in life that can be either dreaded or anticipated. Or both.  Next week, I will travel cross-country to revisit those three years encompassed by the words "high school."
I (along with some 350 others) graduated on a humid May night in 1973.  Yes, I can count.  That's 40 years.  I told one of my co-workers where I was bound.  He whistled and exclaimed, "You've been out of high school longer than I've been alive!"
Like I needed to hear that.
It's a common thing to compare the past to day in economic terms.  In 1973, the average American income was $12,900.  Out of that, people still managed to afford the average-priced home at $32,900. One of the hottest cars was the AMC Javelin, priced at $2,999, which swallowed 40-cent-per-gallon gasoline at a precipitous rate.  That, of course, changed in October when OPEC embargoed all crude oil going to countries that supported Israel. 
The Yom Kippur War, the fourth and largest of the Arab-Israeli wars, was fought.  Unfortunately for the Arabs, Israel won again.  Richard Nixon was inaugurated for his second term, but throughout the year saw his administration, his reputation, and his legacy trashed through the Watergate scandal.  He would resign the Presidency in 1974.  Lyndon Johnson, Nixon's predecessor, died in Texas.  Abortion became legal by the Supreme Court's ruling on Roe vs. Wade.  Members of the American Indian Movement seized the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee and held it captive for two months.
The Miami Dolphins capped a perfect season by defeating the Washington Redskins in Superbowl VII.
And in an event that provided a breath of relief for all draft-eligible young men, U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

9/11 and the Spinning Wheel of War

Flight 93 Memorial, Shanksville, PA
Copyright 2013 © by Ralph F. Couey
Photos and written content

Time, as they say, is the healer of all wounds.   In most cases, this is true.  But for some events, the healing is never complete.
On September 11, we commemorated the 12th anniversary of the terror attacks. In New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and in the rolling countryside near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as well as hundreds of other places across this country people gathered, bells tolled, names were read aloud, and memories resurfaced.
There are a few people who, for whatever reason, would be happy to see this day pass without notice.   But for the vast majority, this is a day of remembrance, a day when we realize that while the wound may have closed, the ache remains.
Thanks to digitized video, the images of that desperate day will live in shocking clarity, preserved for generations to come.  Children not yet born to parents yet to meet will experience the record of that awful day much the same as we did. 
Yet, we should not only remember those who were lost, and their surviving families and friends, but also those who survived; those who carry scars, both seen and unseen.  Their legacy is a daily struggle with survivor's guilt, forever asking the unanswerable question of "why them and not me?"
September 11th is a date which will never need an explanation, or a memory jog.  There have been other dates of significance, November 22nd, for example.   But 9/11 will always live side-by-side with December 7th (and shame on you if you don't recognize that one).   In both tragedies, it was not just about the tremendous destruction and loss of life, but instead about the profound shock those events inflicted upon the American system.  In the transition from the day before to the day after, life was completely and permanently altered.   On both days, war was thrust upon us.  Young people volunteered and shipped out.  Some never returned; others came back with horrendous physical wounds.  Others, even nearly 70 years later, still carry invisible scars inflicted on the soul and psyche.  Similarly, both generations have been reluctant to speak of their experience in combat.   As one World War II veteran told me, "I can't tell you about war.   If you've never been there, you'll never understand."

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Civil War: Events of September 1863

In Scott County, AR on September 1, 1863 Union forces under James G Blunt fought a Confederate brigade commanded by William L. Cabell.  Cabell had just abandoned Ft. Smith, which was occupied by the Bluecoats without a fight.  Cabell fought a retiring action while crossing over Devil’s Backbone in the Ouachita Mountains.  Despite being outnumbered and saddled with a command filled with deserters, conscripts, and jayhawkers, he managed to get his command out of the area mostly intact.  The battle itself was pretty much a draw, but with the Union possessing Ft. Smith, they now controlled the Arkansas River Valley.
The next day, troops under Union General Ambrose Burnside occupied Knoxville, TN.
Southern hopes for naval support from Great Britain were broken  on September 5th when Lord Russell ordered that two ironclad warships bound for the Confederacy from Liverpool to be detained.
The Siege of Charleston took another bad turn for the South on September 6th when General P.G.T. Beauregard ordered the evacuation of Batteries Wagner and Morris Island.
In the Second Battle of Sabine Pass on September 8th, US Navy Captain Frederick Crocker entered the Sabine River in Texas near the Louisiana border with four gunboats and 5,000 Union soldiers.  The pass was defended from Ft. Griffin by 46 Rebel soldiers and six guns of the Jeff Davis Guards under Lt. Richard Dowling.  Surprisingly, the Rebel fire was accurate and deadly, forcing the Union fleet to withdraw, losing two gunboats and 200 sailors.