Monday, May 31, 2010

The Ladies of Arlington

Paula McKinley walked out through Arlington National Cemetery seeking out a specific stone. After a brief walk she finds it, briefly touches the grave and moves on. The grave was that of a naval officer who accidentally died at 25. McKinley received a phone call from the officer's mother, who lived in California. She asked her to place a flower on her daughter's grave stone, which happened to be her daughter's birthday. McKinley still visits the grave from time to time paying her respects to that naval officer. McKinley is one of the members of the Arlington Ladies.

Their mission: to ensure no soldier is buried alone.

They are a small group of volunteers, mostly wives of retired military officers, whose purpose is to attend every burial of an armed service member held at Arlington National Cemetery. With nearly 30 funerals every weekday it can be a daunting task for Margaret Mensch and her 66 ladies. From the basement of the Arlington administration building she handles the scheduling of every funeral, ensuring that every burial has a lady present.

The group was originally formed in 1948, when Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg and his wife Gladys noticed airmen being buried without any family members present. Saddened by this fact she immediately formed a group of women from the Officers Club to start attending these ceremonies. Throughout the years other service branches formed their own groups. Today, 66 women and one man volunteer their time to attend and pay respect to the men and women who have served our country proudly. Desiring to make their visit seem more official the Arlington ladies are escorted to every burial by members of the Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment.

The Arlington ladies try to be present during a moment that can feel distant and sad. Being a military ceremony is has a lot of pomp and circumstance with very little of the human element addressed. One young woman was observed holding her toddler son, accompanied by a few family members burring a 27-year-old sergeant killed in Pakistan. The young woman seemed overwhelmed with emotion staring at her husbands casket. At that moment a stranger walks up to her, whispers a few words of condolence into her ear, handing her two cards, and saying "If there is anything you need..."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Civil War Soldier Receives Medal of Honor

After 147 years, 1st Lt. Alonzo Cushing is receiving the Medal of Honor. Cushing was a leading an artillery battery which sat atop Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg, 1863. Despite the massive bombardment which preceded Pickett's Charge and being shot twice, he commanded his men to continue the fight and move his remaining guns to the front line. Cushing fell after a Confederate bullet struck him in the head.

His leadership and courage during this battle have gone unrecognized for generations. Finally family members and citizens of Cushing's home town in Delafield, WI have petitioned for his recognition since 1987. A facebook group was even created by 27-year-old Air Force captain, Phil Shapiro. " We need to honor those people who got our country to where it is," stated Shapiro, who lives in Arkansas.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Student Mistakes...

As a teacher I try my hardest to make history come alive. To make it as interesting and compelling to the student. I want them to have a passion for history in the same way I do. Unfortunately that does not always pan out and more times than I would hope students pay nearly no attention at all. Here are some great misses by students who obviously were not paying attention in class.

These are not from my classroom:

  • The inhabitants of Egypt were called mummies. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and traveled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere, so certain areas of the dessert are cultivated by irritation. The Egyptians built the Pyramids in the shape of huge triangular cube. The Pyramids are a range of mountains between France and Spain.
  • Without the Greeks, we wouldn't have history. The Greeks invented three kinds of columns - Corinthian, Doric and Ironic. They also had myths. A myth is a female moth. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intolerable. Achilles appears in "The Illiad", by Homer. Homer also wrote the "Oddity", in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Acutally, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name
  • Eventually, the Ramons conquered the Geeks. History call people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long. At Roman banquets, the guestes wore garlic in their hair. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March killed him because they thought the was going to be made king. Nero was a cruel tyrany who would torture his poor subjects by playing the fiddle to them.
  • During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discoverd America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Fe. Later the Pilgrims crossed the Ocean, and that was called the Pilgrim's Progress. When they landed at Plymouth Rock, they were greeted by Indians, who came down the hill rolling their was hoops before them. The Indian squabs carried their cabooses, which proved very fatal to them. The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the setters. Many people died and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all things
  • One of the causes of the Revolutionary Wars was the English put tacks in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their pacels through the post without stamps. During the War, Red Coats and Raul Revere was throwing balls over stone walls. The dogs were barking and the peacocks crowing. Finally, the colonists won the War and no longer had to pay for taxis.
  • The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West. Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. Her reclining years and finally the end of her life were exemplatory of a great personality. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.

This one did happen in my room:
  • "Do you even know what Woodstock was", response... "of course I do he's Snoopy's friend"

Friday, May 14, 2010

State Loyalty in Colonial America

For the American people today we find ourselves very loyal and patriotic to the United States of America. We wave our flags and sing the anthem and celebrate the greatness of this country. However, before 1865, many Americans were loyal and patriotic first to their state, something that is a bit of a foreign concept to us today.

Sure we love the state we grew up in but how many of us still live in that same state, root for the professional or collegiate teams from there, or have aspirations of one day moving away to someplace "nice". When this country was first founded the citizens that lived here found themselves apart of a unique community of individuals. With similar religious beliefs, similar jobs, and a similar economy they remained in that general situation their entire lives. It is from this close community that strong loyalty to colony or state grew.

I came across an oath for the State of Connecticut, dated 1640, which reminded me of this colonial or state loyalty that the American people once had. The very idea of of having an oath to the colony and not the country itself speaks volumes to how people felt and where their loyalties first lied. The initial sentence from the oath jumps off the page to me, "being by the Pruidence of God an inhabitant wthin the Jurisdiction of Conectecotte, doe acknowledge my selfe to be subject to the gourment thereof". It means that through God's graciousness or God's divine will one becomes a citizen of Connecticut. Such pride and honor is bestowed upon a citizen of Connecticut. By taking this oath you are agreeing to the idea that God made me a citizen of Connecticut as a privelege.

The oath also pledges "boath my Prson & estate thereunto, according to all the holsome lawes & orders that ether are or hereafter shall be there made". When one takes this oath they are not only pledging themselves to the laws of the land but also their property. Everything about yourself is pledged to the colony. Notice here and throughout the oath it never mentions mother England. At this time a Connecticut citizen would have been a British citizen. The oath speaks nothing of that connection.

This oath seeks for the individual to be apart of the community. Without their loyalty and participation in the community it will falter. It seeks for them to vote at all necessary times and pursue what is good and right for the people of Connecticut. One might have seen oaths similar to this one throughout the American colonies. It really gives one a glimpse into the mindset and interests of Colonial Americans.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Secrets to Monopoly

Monopoly has been around since the depression. It was invited by a resident of Atlantic City whose game was originally rejected because it was considered way to long to play with no clear objective. Charles Darrow began making the game by hand out of his home and selling it to friends and acquaintances eventually getting purchased by Parker Brothers in 1935. We all remember playing the classic game for the first time and realizing we are now old enough to play an adult game with our parents. Monopoly has been played by millions of people of all ages throughout the world. Little did British soldiers in World War II realize that it could be the game that saved their lives.

John Waddingtons Ltd had received exclusive rights to reproduce the Monopoly game in the United Kingdom. In 1941, the British Secret Service approached Waddingtons with a proposal to aid the war effort with their Monopoly game. The goal was to hide various escape tools such as a compass, small metal tools, a silk map, and even money. Completed games with the various escape items were indicated by a special mark to let soldiers know in enemy camps that this game was "special".

Planning and executing an escape from a prisoner of war camp was a difficult task and required discipline, patience, and know how. It is difficult to determine the exact impact Monopoly had on the successful escape of nearly 35,000 troops throughout World War II. What we do know is that in some way this classic board game had a role in the events of the World War II. Remember this the next time you pull the "get out of jail free" card, I bet it brings on a whole new meaning.
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