History in the making.

November 17, 2009

Recently, in my War and Peace class, we’ve been discussing the importance of storytelling in times of war and how that has changed over time. “Since You Went Away,” a compilation of letters written during WWII by army wives and loved ones, shared the story of those at home during WWII that might not have been shared otherwise. Now that we are living in this technological era, not as much precedence is placed on the writing of letters. In class, we had a discussion/debate about if we thought these stories could still be told in years to come if we don’t have these letters to document it. Instead of writing letters, soldiers are now blogging, e-mailing, or even video chatting with their loved ones. And it’s possible that all of these could be lost at any given moment unless the emails are being printed out and saved or all chats are recorded. There’s no way of knowing if these are going to be preserved and could possibly be used in the future to tell the story of those involved in the war. Storytelling has played a huge part in our class. We’ve read other memoirs and autobiographies such as “Maus” by Art Spiegelmen, “Testament of Youth”, by Vera Brittain, and “Survival in Auschwitz”, by Primo Levi. All of the texts we’ve read and compared have all shared two themes, war and storytelling.
So this got me thinking, originally in class when we were debating about the chances of storytelling continuing even with the lack of letters, I said I still thought things would be documented and our children would still have original e-mails and other memories from the Iraq War. But after realizing this major theme and how these were compiled, I began to question if this could or would actually happen. Than I came across a heading when I was looking through my news feed on my googlereader account. “Are you a Military Blogger with Storytelling Skills? Interested in pitching Film ideas? A Hollywood Filmmaker Thinks He can Help” Film Producer Larry Meistrich is on the search for milbloggers who think that their story could be a film. He claims, “Military bloggers are natural storytellers.” I wondered, how many troops would be honored by this post and how many would be offended. At first it seemed kind of intrusive but then when I really started to think about it, it brought me back to that discussion we had in class. There is hope for stories to continue being told. As long as we don’t run out of Larry Meistrich’s we will hopefully still have a solid historical reference for the Iraq War one hundred years after. I’ll be interested to see how many movies made from milblogging make it to the big screen. I’d definitely want to go see one.

Full Blog Entry

30, May. 2009

Support Our Troops?

November 11, 2009

We see this saying everywhere. Magnets or bumper stickers for cars, signs in the front yards of our neighbors, but what does supporting our troops mean. Some might think it’s to support them and their choice to go to war, keep sending them care packages and make sure they know they are appreciated. But others, even families of soldiers believe this support to mean ending the war. Personally, I’m torn between what to think. But I think if I had a close friend fighting overseas, I would be able to make up my mind quickly. I’m currently reading “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, and near the beginning of the book, we meet a wife of an old war friend who believes the latter of the two opinions on support. In response to the war book Vonnegut is planning to write, Mary, the wife, says this:

” But you’re going to write it that way, are you.” This wasn’t a question. It was an accusation.
“I — I don’t know,” I said.
“Well, I know,” she said. “You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs.”(pg. 18)

I can understand where Mary’s coming from. Especially when her husband is a WWII veteran and all of the struggles they must have faced once he came home and had to be reintegrated into a normal lifestyle again. But, I never realized the amount of families fighting to bring their troops home, I guess I associated that opinion with the hippies who stand in downtown Grand Rapids, saying “honk for peace” and “support our troops, end the war.” In the blog I am subscribed to, “Military Families Speak Out”, I found a recent blog dedicated to the reasons they oppose the war in Afghanistan. The following are sub-topics of their discussions,

“Bring my loved one home now. Don’t send my loved one (back) to Iraq or Afghanistan. (Tell your MFSO story)”
“If it was wrong when Bush did it, it’s wrong when Obama does it. Military occupation is wrong.”
“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are exacting a terrible toll from our loved ones in the military, our country, and the Iraqi and Afghan people.”
“Our loved ones are being ordered to fight to prop up a corrupt Afghan government. This doesn’t keep us safe.”

This really made me start to think. The ending of World War II was such an amazing day, especially in the United States. The Iraq War has been going on for so so long, and these are all perfectly legit reasons for ending the war. But it seems that we’re in too deep. We’ve gotten ourselves involved and we can’t just cop out now. Is this war ever going to end??

Full Blog
MFSO Background Information:
Opposing the War in Afghanistan
November 6, 2009

Making it Work.

November 5, 2009

Photobucket

The United States has a very sad 50 percent divorce rate. Keeping that in mind, imagine not seeing your loved one for days, months, even years, and maybe only getting to hear their voice once or twice a week, if you’re lucky. Unfortunate circumstances like these are extremely common in a military relationship. And although we are fortunate enough to have the internet and things like skype and iChat, the struggles military couples face today are similar to those faced during World War II. Communication is and always has been a key factor in keeping these relationships together. In World War II it was writing letters and today it’s more often speaking to each other or communicating via e-mail. Writing letters to their soldiers was the highlight of most women during WWII. Some would even write letters once even twice every single day. Letters were full of “I love you’s”, “come home soon” and other terms of endearment. But these letters served a purpose more than just to remind the soldiers that they were loved. These letters were full of encouragement, hope and of course, details of all the happenings at home. In the following excerpt from “Since You Went Away- World War II Letters from American women on the home front”, Flora writes to her husband Erman who is over seas,

” Our letters mean a lot to us, do they not darling? Somehow, by telling you everything just as it happens each day and reading your letters over and over again i have a feeling of continuity so that when we are together again, even if it is only for a few hours we seem to resume our relationship on a physical basis without any feeling of separation having preceded those hours. It is a glorious state and is one of the precious things about our marriage.” (pg. 114-115)

It was also said that “men in combat often remarked that receiving a letter was like a ten minute furlough.” (pg. 128) Which I believe would be the same today with an e-mail or phone call. Some might argue that making a long distance relationship is very difficult in itself, then add a war, financial struggles, being a single parent and the stress of the distance and you have a recipe for disaster. The truth is, it would be very easy to let a relationship like this go. Instead of trying so hard to make it work and having both people equally trying, you might just rather give up. But their are many ways, especially today that military families can get help in these areas and be given the support need to actually make it work. I found an article entitled, “Set Goals to Keep Marriage Strong”, based solely on military families. In this article, I found out that the military actually offers different kinds of support groups and counseling geared specifically towards keeping marriages healthy and strong during times of distance, and reintegration. According to Mike Schindler, who is the founder of Operation Military Family, an organization dedicated to helping strengthen military families, publisher of a book called, “Operation Military Family: How Military Families are Fighting to Preserve Their Marriages,” and creator of a web site devoted to military couples, there are a few specific things to keep in mind when trying to make a military relationship work.

“…he discovered two key concepts for a successful relationship: Have a strong vision and create a support network. Schindler said it’s important to set goals. If the vision is to be married for 50 years, then figure out how you see yourselves getting there. “If you don’t have a common vision, where you’re taking your relationship, it’s easy to get off course,” he explained.” (Family Matters Blog, By: Elaine Wilson)

Everyone just assumes, well I’m getting married, that means I’m going to be married forever. But discussing things like this on a regular basis is needed when you’re in a relationship like this. Schindler also talked about how important it is to know when to talk about issues or conflicts you’re having and when not to. If that time isn’t a good time, try and schedule a good time for both of you to talk about it. And, don’t shut down in times of conflict. One husband got mad after a fight with his wife and shut down communication for several days. Can you imagine how worried and scared that wife was while trying to get a hold of her husband overseas, in the midst of fighting in a war? I don’t even want to experience a smidgen of what that felt like.

Although times have changed, the strength and effort it takes to keep a military relationship healthy has not. I commend all relationships that stay strong and true through times like these. I hope to never personally experience it.

Barrett Litoff, Judy and David Smith. Since You Went Away. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1991.


Full Blog
September, 28. 2009.

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October 30, 2009

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The Forgotten

October 30, 2009

JENKINS: At the moment, I’m really rather thirsty. (pause) I don’t suppose…
(LEWIS smiles and reaches into his trench coat, pulling out a bottle of whiskey. He places it in front of JENKINS. JENKINS looks overjoyed.)
JENKINS: Lewis, you are a gentleman, and a scholar sir. In fact I would go so far as to say, you are a thoroughly decent chap. ( pg. 7-8 “The Ghosts May Laugh”) full play

Above, is a quote from a script I’m currently reading called, “The Ghosts May Laugh.” The plot involves a few men all involved in World War I. Jenkins, one of the men is obviously a heavy drinker as continuously throughout the script, he is taking swigs from a bottle of whiskey. Most people would say that it’s common for a soldier to drink, and some may even go as far to say that it’s ok. Drinking among fellow soldiers can be a common event to in a way, get yourself away from the war, or forget about it for a period of time. But nowadays, there’s a lot of support given to soldiers while they’re fighting and when they return home to steer them away from developing bad habits in ways of coping with the experience of war. But, others are sometimes forgotten. People who might not be fighting on the front, but experiencing their own war in their hearts. These people are the children of those fighting. The rates are getting higher and higher for children of military moms and dads to develop substance abuse problems, and something needs to be done about it. This is a problem I don’t think enough people are recognizing, because a lot of the emphasis is put on the soldiers specifically. But, we can’t forget those other family members who are also very negatively affected by the war as well. Kimberly Hefling from the Associated Press stated in her article, “Anti-drug Campaign Targets Military Families”, that,

A key risk factor for children in military families is that teens are more likely to experiment with alcohol or drugs during times of transition — and many military children have experienced multiple transitions as their parents mobilized for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan on top of ordinary military re-locations, which happens on average every three years.

Steve Pasierb, the president of the New York-based partnership for Drug-Free America, also described how every time an adolescent has to move, it’s a new transition that is introduced thus creating another time when a child can fall into substance abuse.
So what can you do? As a parent, communication is key. If you can’t talk to your kids or vice versa, you’re gonna have problems. A women, Amy Garcia, had to leave her 14 year-old son at home for a time while she went to help her wounded husband heal enough to come back home. While away, Jim (her son) seemed very happy and ok, she said. Come to find out, he had developed an addiction while she was away and is currently in a 12-step program and on his way to getting healthy again.
The point is, we can’t forget about the children, the wives, the husbands or the parents of soldiers fighting for our country. Even though they aren’t the ones fighting in the war, each and every one of them has their own battle to fight every day while their loved one is away.

“Ant-drug Campaign Targets Military Families”

Kimberly Hefling– The associate press

Full Article

Can you hear me now?

October 29, 2009

Currently I’m reading a memoir titled “Survival In Auschwitz”, by a man named Primo Levi. He was an Italian Jew captured and sent to Auschwitz during World War II. As most would be, he is extremely confused about the whole situation and struggles to find a reason why this is happening to him. He dreams of being home and spending time with his family, which one may think would be an escape for him, a chance to remember what life used to be like. But for Primo, this is not the case. His dreams are as follows:

“It is an intense pleasure, physical, inexpressible, to be at home, among friendly people, and to have so many things recount. But I cannot help noticing that my listeners do not follow me. In fact, they are completely indifferent. They speak confusedly of other things among themselves, as if I was not there. My sister looks at me, gets up and goes away without a word.”(pg. 42)

I’m a firm believer in dreams having major symbolism and that they help you to see what you’re actually thinking if you’ve maybe been pushing something away. I saw this as Primo feeling like no one is going to hear his story, or if they do, they aren’t going to believe the horrific things he’s going to tell them. I know the Holocaust is a fact, and I still have a hard time believing some of the things that went down in these camps. I started looking through my google reader to find something, anything about soldiers or people involved in the war speaking about how they enjoy the fact that they can share their story through blogs and came up empty handed, until I came across a post entitled, “Worlds Oldest Known Military Blogger…” A man by the name of Solomon Fein, is a World War II veteran, and has a very lengthy blog full of war stories. I was immediately intrigued, clicked the link and found this:

“I am stationed in Ghent, Belgium.
It’s May 1945.
Hurray!
The War is over!
It’s August,1945!
We get leave to go to Paris.”(full post)

I found a ton of different posts, all leading up to D-Day. Posts full of first hand accounts by Solomon Fein. I know, we have milblogging now so we’re able to see soldiers accounts straight from the source all the time. But I have never come across a blog from a World War II veteran. I started to think, what if we had milblogging during WWII? Would the concentration camps gone as far as they did? Would the war have gone on for as long as it did? I don’t believe it would have. But maybe. Looking back to the early 1940’s, some Americans might have looked at a milblog from someone fighting over in Europe, and not believed a word they said about the awful treatment happening to the Jews. Although blogging probably wouldn’t have been accessible to prisoners of a concentration camp, if it was available after release, Levi, and others would have been able to share their stories immediately to the whole world, and in mass. Countless accounts all having the same gruesome details would have definitely caught people’s attention.
Yes, we are hearing their stories now. But does it really matter?

Solomon Fein’s Blog

Guilt Ridden

October 20, 2009

I just finished reading the graphic novel, “Maus,” By :Art Spiegelman. This novel tells the story of Art’s father, Vladek and how he survived the holocaust, and Auschwitz specifically. Through countless interview type conversations with his father, Art is able to tell the whole story from when Vladek was a young man to his death. After trying to cope with Vladek’s death, Art goes to visit his psychiatrist who starts to discuss with Art why he might be feeling so upset. After realizing that he can only remember arguing with his father, rather than looking up to him, Art’s psychiatrist, Pavel, suggests this:

“Maybe your father needed to show that he was always right — that he could always SURVIVE– because he felt GUILTY about surviving.”

This comment made me start to think about myself and recent situations with our country. This feeling of guilt after losing a loved one, or friend is a fairly common issue and actually quite serious. I came across an article from the New York Times that explained this issue very well for me. In the article, “After a Death, the Pain that Doesn’t Go Away“, a Dr. Shear, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, explains just how serious this can be and has been for numerous people around the country. The name for this extreme form of grieving can be called, complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder. Being affected with this disorder can cause a person’s life to be put on hold, for many years even. Some might not be able to leave the house, go to work, or even celebrate birthdays, in the belief that because their late loved one cannot celebrate their birthday, why should they? This disorder has become so prevalent in our society over the past few years that it’s one of the few disorders being considered to be added to the DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association’s handbook for diagnosing mental disorders, come 2012. This is crazy to me because in doing so, this would be a disorder that someone can be evaluated for and required to be given services through the state in which they leave. Just like someone could be diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, someone could be diagnosed with, and given treatment for Prolonged Grief Disorder.
In trying to figure out a way to connect this to current issues, I thought about how many people could be affected by this in terms of 9/11 or the Iraq war going on right now. Those people who called in to work on September 11th and weren’t killed in the attack. To think about what must go through their heads when thinking about this. The constant question of Why? Why not me? Why was I spared?
I also started to think of a personal connection to this disorder. After losing my Mom when I was 16, there was a constant question of Why? Why did this happen to me? Why couldn’t have been one of my friend’s mom’s who to me, wasn’t as good of a mom as mine. All of these questions, constantly running through my head. I could have easily fallen into this path of grieving so enormously that I didn’t go to school, I didn’t socialize with me friends, and didn’t want to do anything that would remind me of my mom. But for me, this just wasn’t an option. I was lucky to have amazingly supportive friends, and a wonderful family that pulled me through and helped keep me strong. I believe that having that amazing support system is why I made it through as well as I did. From my experience with grief, I definitely agree that Prolonged Grief Disorder is a real disorder that can be helped with treatment, if anything just support. If someone loses a loved one and has no one to talk to, or no one forcing them to talk about the loss and deal with it, then there is no guarantee that this person is going to make it through. Vladek shows clear signs of Prolonged Grief Disorder, probably not only affected by surviving Auschwitz but from the suicide of his wife as well. It is my belief that if this was a recognized disorder back in the 1940’s that survivors of WWII and the concentration camps would have had a higher rate or recovery. This disorder needs to be added to the DSM-V so that people can start getting the help that they need.

Full Article

Maus
By: Art Spiegelman

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October 9, 2009

Almost one hundred years ago, Vera Brittain wrote to her lover Roland,

“This is grand, but still it isn’t enough for this world, whatever it may be like ‘when we’re beyond the sun.’ The earthly and obvious part of me longs to see and touch you and realize you as tangible.” (pg. 174)

For Vera and Roland, letters, or “snail mail” was the only way for them to communicate with each other. days, weeks, months might go by before someone got a letter back. And this was the same story for all the other girlfriends, wives, mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons, who had family fighting in the war. During World War I, this was the only choice anyone had to stay in touch with their soldiers. But, today, that is not the case. Not only do we have e-mail, which can be sent and received in a matter of seconds, but we have skype, iChat, facebook, twitter and blogging. You would think that these would all be wonderful advances in our ways of communicating, being able to see your loved one, face to face can make such a difference versus seeing their words down on a piece of paper. But to some, these advances aren’t all that great. There’s a valid argument for both sides, I think at least. In a recent article by Federal Computer Week, Ali Manouchehri, a chief executive officer for MetroStar systems stated,

“Adversaries with poor intent can target federal workers by knowing their routine through following them through a social media outlet.”

Privacy would be a popular concern among government and military officials. You don’t want a soldier spilling information over a nationally read Twitter update. But does this mean we have to eliminate a soldiers use of any of these tools altogether? The defense department doesn’t think so. Although some services have banned these types of sites, they say they’re going to allow it for their soldiers and families to communicate. Personally, I think soldiers have the right to use what ever kind of communication they see fit, and, if they feel like writing something that might not be “okay” by their officials, so be it. It’s probably something people need to hear anyways.

Federal Computer Week Article

Defense to allow troops, family members to use social network sites

Major Mom

September 24, 2009

The rights of women have been changing for decades, but their roles in a family have not. As time has gone on, women have gained rates in government ,the work force, and daily life. But the responsibilities one has at home has not changed. One huge change in rights for women was the choice to join the armed forces. So is there a choice to be made? Is it black and white? If you want to serve in the armed forces as a woman, having a family is not an option? But what if your pregnancy is a surprise? Or you’ve been off duty for two years and all of the sudden get a deployment notice with a 1 year-old at home. It’s a sticky situation that I was able to get some answers on.
Women have been involved in some way with every war in history, but their occupations have taken a turn. Currently, I’m reading, “Testament of Youth” an autobiography by Vera Brittain. Taking place in World War I, Vera becomes involved in the nursing side of the war. Having a loved one, and family member in a war can encourage someone, man or woman to get as involved as they can. Making them feel supportive, and in a way, closer to that loved one. Vera states in a response to a letter from her parents,

Nothing – beyond sheer necessity – would induce me to stop doing what I am doing now, and I should never respect myself again if I allowed a few slight physical hardships to make me give up what is the finest work any girl can do now. I honestly did not take it up because I thought you did not want me or could not afford to give me a comfortable home, but because I wanted to prove I could more or less keep myself working, and partly because, not being a man and able to go to the front, I wanted to do the next best thing.

Although Vera is not a mother at this time, it shows the clear difference in the rights and expectations brought onto a women during that era vs. today. But now, this day in age, women are able to “go to the front” and fight in our wars. Something that didn’t need to be compromised during WWI for women was the care of their children. It was always the father who was off fighting and mom was at home with the kids, raising the family. In the present, mothers could be forced to leave their children at home to fight for our country, but the debate being, Are they obliged to do this even if they have children and disagree with the task at hand. In the episode ‘For Family, For Country’ Military Moms Do It All on NPR, three military moms were interviewed on how they balanced work and family, and also their thoughts on military mom, Lisa Pegan, who got out of returning to fight after fighting the fact that she now had two children and couldn’t return to the forces. Petty officer Pilar Arteaga stated that she thought “Lisa Pegan’s decision brought women in the armed forces down a peg. And that being a woman in the armed forces, you find yourself proving yourself a lot more.” Arteaga is a single mom who has had to leave her son with friends and family on numerous occasions because of deployments. All of the mothers in the interview continued to work in the armed forces until they were able to retire, while raising children. And all believe that it can and needs to be done by all women across the board.
But the debate still runs, should women be obliged to fight or not? Especially if the government isn’t going to provide caregivers for the children if the woman doesn’t have any. Is it really that simple?

NPR 2009

Tell Me More

“For Family, For Country’ Military Moms Do It All

PTSD. What’s it all about?

September 17, 2009

“Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?”

Disabled By: Wilfred Owen

I could have put this whole poem down for my entry, but I didn’t want to fill up with my blog with only that. But, in this poem, if you start from the beginning, describes someone sitting in a wheelchair, waiting for dark to come. This one vivid picture comes to my head. An older man, sitting on a street corner, possibly in one of his army green jackets, his medals and awards arranged on the breast pocket. Scraggly looking, not well taken care of or showered. and without legs. Owen describes, “Legless, sewn short at the elbow.” I also immediately consider this man to be just out of WWI, WWII or Vietnam. To me, Owen is describing a veteran, going through the really crappy part of coming home from war, experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), when we didn’t know too much about it.

PTSD is a scary thing. A lot more veterans are affected by it then we will ever know. I listened to a podcast through my spouseBUZZtalkradio feed and learned a lot about PTSD and what it means for the veterans and their loved ones. One of the huge differences between previous wars and our current, is numerous deployments. Meaning a soldier could come home for the war and could be deployed in a year, then home for another year and gone for two. This can be extremely hard on the soldier and their families.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder and similar to depression, can be treated easier if caught sooner. Soldiers have a hard time reintegrating into life back in the states, not being at their base any more but at home. Some will still check the perimeter of their homes nightly, constantly looking through the house to make sure things are as they should be and most commonly will have awful nightmares about the war. One women said, after her husband was deployed from desert storm and they were staying at Fort Bragg, she woke to him choking her in his sleep. Talk about scary!

My basic point of my entry is that a lot of the poems written by British poets of WWI could easily be connected to PTSD. But at the time, no one knew what that was.