Bloggers Unite for Peace

What better way to fight horrific evil than with words? The power of words cannot be denied…evil regimes from time untold have always begun with censorship, from disallowing people of kindness and goodwill to speak the truth of goodness and love. It is right and fitting that we speak out against the horrific deeds of DAESH with words of peace. LOVE ALWAYS WINS IN THE END.

Uncle Spike's Adventures

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil
is for good men to do nothing.”
Edmund Burke

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We are normal, everyday hard-working people with a common hobby, blogging. We hail from far and wide. We reside in different lands, on different continents. We speak different languages, eat different foods, and are of varying ages, professions, and religious and cultural backgrounds.

We do have one thing in common…

We believe that terrorist attacks, wherever they may be perpetrated; whether in France, Tunisia, Canada, Iraq, or in Denmark, Turkey, UK, Algeria, Yemen, USA, Lebanon, or in the skies over Egypt, or in India, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Kuwait, Libya, Bangladesh, Syria, or Mali are nothing less…

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Why the Pope’s embrace of the disfigured man is so powerful

I haven’t been up to posting much lately (occipital neuralgia has been kicking my butt)but this one I had to reblog. It’s from one of my favorite writers, James Martin SJ, and it’s about what God’s love is like. Unconditional. Tender. And beyond our wildest dreams. This love is reflected in certain people, like Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day…and Pope Francis.

 

Letters – a Bloggers for Peace post

I’ve joined Bloggers for Peace and discovered this post from last month. I love this writer’s playful creativity! (It’s the post I wish I had written.) Read and enjoy–it’s too good not to share.

Becoming a writer

This month’s challenge was to write a letter about peace, or send a letter out to peace, or imagine a letter coming back from peace or any and all variations of the above.

Well, I’ve interpreted this a little differently.  It’s not a letter to peace, but letters of peace: an A-Z of peace-related words.  Well, almost – I couldn’t find a x that I liked!

I always thought that ‘actions speak louder than words’ – that is, you can say you feel something, but if you don’t show that through your actions it has no meaning.  There should be a follow-through of some sort.

But I also realise that words have power (which is lucky for a writer!).

Words can wound and heal, words can be barbed and get stuck inside you, or they can  break through a wall you’ve built up.  The problem with words is that we…

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d-day plus 62 years

US troops attending mass as they embark on their journey across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy.
 

62 years ago this morning, my father, along with other young men–just boys, really– from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, stormed the Normandy beaches to begin the Allied assault on Nazi-occupied Europe. When Eisenhower said the hopes of freedom-loving people everywhere went with them, he wasn’t kidding; WWII historian Stephen Ambrose called D-Day the definitive day of the twentieth century because it became the turning point in the European War and gave Hitler his first real taste of what he had so underestimated, what Eisenhower called the “fury of an aroused democracy.” If the landings had failed, there would have been no Western Front to relieve the pressure on the Soviets in the East, and it would have been at least another year before the Allies could have attempted another invasion of Occupied Europe.

Troops in their Higgins Landing Craft, minutes from Omaha Beach

A few of the troops landing in Normandy that day had some combat experience, primarily in North Africa and/or Italy. But the majority, like my dad, had never heard a shot fired in anger. For them, Omaha Beach would come to represent a hellish loss of innocence. There were five landing beaches: Gold, Juno, Sword (British and Canadian), Utah, and Omaha (American). Of the five, Gold, Juno, Sword, and Utah went relatively according to plan; Omaha, however, has been known as “Bloody Omaha” ever since. The first assault waves sustained tremendous casualties, as soldiers were mowed down by German mortar and artillery fire. Many drowned, wounded by German fire and loaded down by over 60 lbs. of gear, before they ever made the beach. The beach itself was a slaughter, littered with the bodies of the dead and wounded. There were body parts, blood and gore everywhere, along with the never-ending sounds of artillery fire and the screams of the dying. One soldier famously described landing on Omaha that day as a “descent into hell.” Did you ever see “Saving Private Ryan?” The opening scenes were set on Omaha Beach. According to WWII veterans who survived Omaha, the movie was horrifyingly accurate.

This, then, was what my dad, a farm boy from Minnesota, saw in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944. An artilleryman, he came ashore with the Third Assault Wave, which took 50% casualties and lost all of their jeeps and trucks and howitzers, etc., in the bloody chaos on the beach–if they managed to get any artillery equipment of their landing craft at all. I don’t know very much about what he experienced, as he wouldn’t say much about it and, like all children of combat veterans, I instinctively understood that there were some things one simply didn’t push dad to talk about. But he did tell me a few things: he was in the third assault wave to hit Omaha; in response to my question “what was it like” he said vaguely “…well, you know, gettin‘ shot at a lot…bullets in the air, everyone in the boat was seasick goin‘ over….” Actually he got quite graphic about the the depth of the vomit; apparently not everyone made it to the side of the boat.My mom asked him once what he thought about while crossing the English Channel on his way to France, and after he reflected for a while, he said that he mostly worried that he might be a coward, that he’d let his buddies down, and the family back home.

After he died, my Aunt Marie told me a story about my dad and Omaha Beach. After he finally worked his way on to the beach, a lieutenant (I’ve read that most of the young lieutenants that day were useless idiots; for the most part it was the enlisted men–the noncoms–who saved the day) grabbed him and barked, “Soldier, dig me a foxhole!” To which my dad replied, “Dig your own goddamn foxhole!” And thank God he did…

 

Injured troops awaiting evacuation to England, sheltered by the bluff.
Dead and dying soldiers on Omaha Beach

Because as Colonel George Taylor yelled to the soldiers crouched on the shingle, “There are only two kinds of people who are staying on this beach, those who are already dead and those who are gonna die. Now get off your butts!” The rest, including my dad, somehow got off the beach–and won the day by knocking out the German defenses from high up on the bluff. That was their job. Pinned down on the beach, the men would have had no hope of survival.

WWII historian Stephen Ambrose wrote this about D-Day:

D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the climactic moment of the twentieth century. The outcome of the war in Europe was at stake. If Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s forces had thrown back the invasion of Normandy, Nazi Germany might well have won the war. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the American, British, and Canadian forces, was prepared to resign his post if the attack had failed.
Operation Overlord, as the invasion was called, had superb planning, training, and equipment. But no matter how good the commanders had been in preparation, it was the men on the beaches at Gold, Sword, Juno, Utah, and Omaha who counted. At Omaha Beach, the infantry was pinned down at the seawall, taking fire from German mortar, artillery, and small arms fire. The U.S. First Army Commander, Gen. Omar Bradley, was at one point ready to pull them off the beach.
But they were soldiers of democracy. They were not as good as the German soldiers at taking orders [as my dad so amply proved], but they knew how to take responsibility and act on their own. What happened along the seawall–over there a sergeant, down the line a corporal, over there a lieutenant–they all came to the same conclusion: if I stay here I’m going to die, but before I do, I’m going to take some Germans with me. So he would yell at the men on his right and on his left, ‘I’m going up that bluff. Follow me,’ and start out. One man would follow, then another, soon a dozen or more. They got to the top of the bluff to begin the drive inland, toward Germany…
Their triumph that day against the best the Nazis had to put against them, ensured our freedom. There were eleven months of hard fighting ahead, but once the Allies got ashore in France, neither the skill nor the determination and the fighting abilities of the Germans could stop them. They put the Nazis where they belonged, in the ash can of history.  (From D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, by Stephen Ambrose.)

In 1994, the year after my dad died, I remember watching the 50th anniversary celebrations from Omaha on TV. What I remember most, and what I wrote in my journal later, was what President Bill Clinton said to and about the veterans of D-Day that day:

They may be older now, and grayer now, and their ranks are growing thin. But when these men were young, these men saved the world.

My dad never wanted to be a hero, and certainly didn’t think of himself as one (I was just doing my job, he said once to sum up his service during the war) but a hero he was. As were they all, those boys who became battle-scarred men on the beaches of Normandy that day.

And as for me, my father has long since gone to his peace, and memories of D-Day have no more power to torment him. This I know. I know, too, that the beaches of Normandy have been quiet and still for 62 years and that Hitler’s Nazi regime and all of its evil was soundly defeated. But it still breaks my heart to think of my dad, a sweet, gentle farm boy from Minnesota, facing that beach the morning of June 6, 1944.

***********

Postscript:
In Normandy, they have not forgotten. After 9/11, the French left thousands of notes and flowers at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in CollevillesurMer. Many of the notes read, simply, We Remember.

The American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach

prayer for peace


Sometimes we learn of our loved ones deepest feelings by the things they leave behind, particularly if they have traveled lightly. My dad, unlike me, was a person of few words, not inclined to wear his emotions on his sleeve. He didn’t talk much about the war, except to share a few bits and pieces here and there, mostly funny stories; in fact the one time he really opened up to me about his experiences was the Memorial Day I wrote him the letter, when he told me about a good buddy of his who was blown up by a land mine in France–the only time in my life I ever saw my father cry, other than when my grandma died.

So, after he died, when I discovered the following prayer–along with an old missal, his rosary, my letter, and assorted old photographs, including a number from the war–it told me a lot about the the scars the war had left.

God of power and mercy,
In the midst of conflict and division,
we know it is you who turn our minds to thoughts of peace.
Your Spirit changes our hearts:
enemies begin to speak to one another,
those who were estranged join hands in friendship,
and nations seek the way of peace together.

Protect us from violence
and keep us safe from the weapons of war.

This we ask though the Prince of Peace,
our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.
(Based on the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation II)
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

My dad was once a crack shot; he qualified as a rifle expert in the Army and, being a farm boy, hunted frequently before he was drafted into the service. Yet after he came home he never picked up a rifle again. As he told me, “Once you’ve seen what a gun can do to a human being, you just don’t want to ever look at one again.”

It’s good to remember that all combat veterans sacrifice for their country; it’s just that in some cases, the wounds aren’t visible on the outside. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and that the suffering isn’t real. My father had nightmares and insomnia all his life, and when I was a chaplain intern I worked with WWII vets who, more than 50 years later, still had flashbacks of concentration camps and landings on Normandy Beaches, desolate Christmases in the Ardennes and firey Pacific Islands, haunted by unimaginable horrors that could not be put to rest.

So if you (if anyone is actually reading this) happen to meet a WWII vet–or any vet at all–say thanks. Believe me, it will mean the world to them.

 

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