Thousands of Clay Figures in Aptos Cemetery Memorialize Dead

Standing in a sandbox on the lawn of the cemetery at Resurrection Catholic Community in Aptos are thousands of figurines representing Americans and Iraqis killed during the war that began in March 2003.The installation's creator, artist Kathleen Crocetti, started the project 41/2 years ago...the figures stand for victims Iraqi and American...

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Vietnam Veterans Reconciliation Day, May 2008 (Three Poems by Robert Gauldie)

Naval Air station, Moffet Field, California.
A peaceful demonstrator protesting the war in Vietnam displays his sign at the main gate of the station, 02/11/1971.
Photograph courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

1. On Parade

This is how we shall parade.

Leftwards, the Opposition to Apartheid,

Glorious veterans of Halt All Racist Tours.

Three rows. Please. Keep in line.

You are each allowed a piece of fruit.

No coffee, tea or Coke. Otherwise you may have to pee.

Rightwards, the Protest Battalions Against Vietnam.

Please keep with your collective.

Those of you who fellow-travelled with the Reds

Have a special pink-enamel button you can wear.

No. You do not get a second line.

It does not matter what you thought that you would get.

Everyone can have sandwiches. Stop complaining.

Yes. You can eat at any time.

No. No hand-wrought signs and banners.

You have to have the proper printed ones.

Swearing at me doesn’t help. I don’t get paid for this.

Yes. The fruit is an orange.

The Central Committee wants to keep it all symbolic.

The order of the service is on the printed cards.

No yelling is allowed. The lead protestors in the green hats

Will signal when to chant. Remember this is reconciliation day.

No-one will call out pigs when the cops file past.

Likewise the Vietnam Vets. No baby-killers or spitting.

In the centre please the feminists. No. Heroic Gays

Will be at the back. Remember the Central Comm decision

That only the long Aids quilt can be paraded.

Not the square one.

And it cannot be raised above the shoulder height.

Yes. You can wear the condom medals.

Now, women, please remember, you can link arms

But rocking side to side is not allowed;

At least until we picnic in the park.

There are spare oranges if you lose the one you have.


A machine gunner and a rifleman from the 5th Marine Regiment fire at the enemy near the Demilitarized Zone in Vietnam. (May 23, 1967)

2. Brown, David Samuel

David Samuel Brown, Lance-Corporal, Infantry,

Died twenty-seven times on June the fifth, nineteen-seventy-one,

At Duc Thoi.

Each death a bullet taken from his body.

His mum kept all his medals wrapped in a wrinkled envelope

Marked “Army,” inside a re-used Woolworth’s plastic shopping bag.

Junee her niece, she gave them to the Sallies when the old dear died;

Still inside the stained oak sideboard bought back in nineteen forty-one.

Some collector from the US bought them for a song.

Boy, did he ever think himself the lucky one!

Duc Thoi wasn’t even in the deep green.



3. Envoi

Titch Kilroy was properly fucked off, as I recall.

The Cong had cut her throat an hour before.

“Nice kid like that.” He said. “Bloody shame. Shouldn’t happen.”

Her earring fell off because her head was wobbling around so much

When we shoved in her in the body-bag.

It was a sad end alright for a pretty teacher’s wife.

For him, they’d had more time and disembowelled him up against a Tree. Must have known we were coming.

Titch started off with Jimmy Sharman’s boxing troupe.

Fourteen years old he was; a hard little bastard.

But good-hearted though. The old gins in the pubs just loved him.

Fucked him all around the back-blocks, so the story goes.

They say he kept the earring till he tracked him down.

That’s the way with boongs, so they say.

The buggers just never will forget.

He caught up with him, at least that’s what I heard, and cut

His head right off; stuck it on a stick, so they say.

With the earring nicely hooked into his ear.

I only saw him once back home in Oz,

In the Hasty-Tasty at the Cross.

The bouncer had him down;

“Hey digger!” Titch sung out. “Could use some fucking help down here.”

Jacko Lubeski the big Serb kid from Parramatta

Punched the bastard in the neck.

Christ! I thought, he’s killed the fucking sod.

Nah. He just got up and shook his head.

But all of us was off, ran up the road like robber’s dogs.

“Good on yer mate!” Yelled Titch.


Robert William Gauldie publishes in the science literature as R. W. Gauldie and in the business literature as Bob Gauldie.

He has been married for 39 years to his wife Gail and they have three adult children.

His website:

Poems copyright 2008, Robert Gauldie

Posted with permission of author.


Vietnam War: Four Poems (Gary B. Fitzgerald)

UH-1D helicopters airlift members of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment from the Filhol Rubber Plantation area to a new staging area, during Operation "Wahiawa," a search and destroy mission conducted by the 25th Infantry Division, northeast of Cu Chi, 1966. Source: Wikipedia

Body Count


It's over now so who, I wonder, is going to count

------the arms, eyes, toes and almost bodies?

------Who's going to plant flowers this year

------to grow in the craters like little

------valleys? Who

isn't too busy finding the members of his family

------(and will try to bury them as one)


------The tall defenders are going home.

Goodbye, Big Brother. We will wave goodbye

to you, smiling our thanks for your help

------as we sweat and bend,

------stooping with our little baskets, picking

up the remains of our dead.


------Disturbing not the victor who

is totaling the sum of broken,

destroyed and dead bodies, bled

of all fluids, white and cold like

clay---.---infected---.---at the sores

with necrophiliac worms, bacteria.

War is not half so bad, me buckos,

------as is the counting of the winnings.



Slaughter Your Dog-faced Sisters

Slaughter your dog-faced sisters,

-----shred viscera and slice livers.

Pool blood.

Sickening yellow lymphous over under leaves,

-----soak the soil with intestine juice.

Rid earth of them forever.

-----You are the zealous, but you're right;

-----your ways must prevail.

Butcher the human flesh

as though swine hung dangling on silver chains

in speckled abatoirs.

-----Your ways must prevail.

-----A threat to freedom cannot be


Rid the earth of them forever. And that leaves us

only you.



Woodstock: "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die," Country Joe, 1969


My Ears Have Ached

-----My ears have ached

-----with the thundering of bombs

-----& lifting, falling buildings,



-----the screeching of the rockets

-----at night

-----& the instant flash.

-----My brain has rocked

-----with the explosions of war

-----& the howling

-----of the torn and maimed,

-----but the loudest sound

-----to bear

-----is the silence following

the dawn.



I Saw the Lonesome Soldier

-----I saw the lonesome soldier

-----coming home from war at last,

----------to his luscious-green and

----------sleepy-eyed hometown

---------------(however humble) home

-----from war at last, to his boyhood dreams

----------and Mom & Pop. Home to

----------Alice down the street.

----------He was dressed in greenwood

-----with 10 Penny cufflinks

-----and when I saw him,

-----being lowered off the Santa Fe freight,

I thought he was a box of radio component parts.



From: Evolving: Poems 1965-2005, by Gary B. Fitzgerald, Copyright 2005.

Posted with permission from author.


World War II: Hiroshima Atom Bomb Impact

The following documentary depicts (in graphic detail) how the impact of the A-Bomb looked and felt to the citizens of Hiroshima.

This documentary offers a mix of real footage, re-enactment, and interviews with survivors and Pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets and Co-Pilot Captain Robert A. Lewis, the men who flew the Enola Gay and dropped the bomb, code name "Little Boy."

Not for the feint of heart.


The Vietnam War: Photos and "The End," by The Doors


UbuntuBird says,

More than 60 original pics about the VietNam war. I made this video by Windows Movie Maker. The music is by THE DOORS.


Great Falsehood About Military Service (Charles Pinning)

Today, in another country -- our own -- another false truth is being spread: that most of our military personnel and our troops in Iraq are bright, motivated young people, who, with eyes wide open are defending our country from terrorists and spreading democracy.This falsehood was publicly challenged last week by Sen. John Kerry...

read more | digg story

World War II: War Reporter Ernie Pyle's Death

(WARNING: This post may be inapropriate for young children. User discretion is advised.)

Ernest Taylor Pyle (August 3, 1900 – April 18, 1945) was an American journalist who wrote as a roving correspondent for the Scripps Howard newspaper chain from 1935 until his death in combat during World War II. His articles, about the out-of-the-way places he visited and the people who lived there, were written in a folksy style much like a personal letter to a friend. He enjoyed a loyal following in as many as 300 newspapers.


In James Tobin's biography Ernie Pyle's War, the following excerpt "And So it is Over" describes the scene after Pyle, a popular war correspondent, was killed by a Japanese machine-gun bullet on Ie Shima:

APRIL 18, 1945

Ernie Pyle's body lay alone for a long time in the ditch at the side of the road. Men waited at a safe distance, looking for a chance to pull the body away. But the machine gunner, still hidden in the coral ridge, sprayed the area whenever anyone moved. The sun climbed high over the little Pacific island. Finally, after four hours, a combat photographer crawled out along the road, pushing his heavy Speed Graphic camera ahead of him. Reaching the body, he held up the camera and snapped the shutter.

(Army photographer: Alexander Roberts)

The lens captured a face at rest. The only sign of violence was a thin stream of blood running down the left cheek. Otherwise he might have been sleeping. His appearance was what people in the 1930s and '40s called "common." He had often been described as the quintessential "little guy," but he was not unusually short. In fact, at five feet eight inches, his frame precisely matched the average height of the millions of American soldiers serving in the U.S. Army. It was his build that provoked constant references to his size -- a build that once was compared accurately to the shape of a sword. His silver identification bracelet, inscribed "Ernie Pyle, War Correspondent," could have fit the wrist of a child. The face too was very thin, with skin "the color and texture of sand." Under the combat helmet, a wrinkled forehead sloped into a long, bald skull fringed by sandy-red hair gone gray. The nose dipped low. The teeth went off at odd angles. Upon meeting Pyle a few months earlier, the playwright Arthur Miller had thought "he might have been the nightwatchman at a deserted track crossing." In death his hands were crossed at the waist, still holding the cloth fatigue cap he had worn through battles in North Africa, Italy, France, and now here in the far western Pacific, a few hundred miles from Japan.

A moment later the regimental chaplain and four non-commissioned officers crawled up with a cloth litter. They pulled the body out of the machine gunner's line of fire and lifted it into an open truck, then drove the quarter-mile back to the command post on the beach. An Associated Press man was there. He already had sent the first bulletin:

COMMAND POST, IE SHIMA April 18, (AP) -- Ernie Pyle, war correspondent beloved by his co-workers, G.I.s and generals alike, was killed by a Japanese machine-gun bullet through his left temple this morning.

The bulletin went via radio to a ship nearby, then to the United States and on to Europe. Radio picked it up. Reporters rushed to gather comment. In Germany General Omar Bradley heard the news and could not speak. In Italy General Mark Clark said, "He helped our soldiers to victory." Bill Mauldin, the young soldier-cartoonist whose warworn G.I.'s matched the pictures Pyle had drawn with words, said, "The only difference between Ernie's death and that of any other good guy is that the other guy is mourned by his company. Ernie is mourned by the Army." At the White House, still in mourning only six days after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, President Harry Truman said, "The nation is quickly saddened again by the death of Ernie Pyle."

One of Pyle's editors at the Scripps-Howard newspapers, George Parker, spoke on the radio. "He went into war as a newspaper correspondent among many correspondents," Parker said. "He came back a figure as great as the greatest -- as Eisenhower or MacArthur or Nimitz." Parker spoke of "that strange and almost inexplainably intimate way" in which Pyle's readers had known him. Indeed, people called newspaper offices all day to be sure Ernie Pyle was really dead. He had seemed so alive to them. Americans in great numbers had shared his life all through the war -- his energy and exhaustion; his giddy enjoyments and attacks of nerves; his exhilarations and fears. Through Pyle's eyes they had watched their "boys" go to distant wars and become soldiers -- green and eager at the start, haggard and worn at the end. Through his eyes they had glimpsed great vistas of battle at sea and they had stared into the faces of men in a French field who thought they were about to die. So no one thought it strange for President Truman to equate the deaths of Franklin Roosevelt and a newspaper reporter. For Pyle had become far more than an ordinary reporter, more even than the most popular journalist of his generation. He was America's eyewitness to the twentieth century's supreme ordeal.

The job of sorting and shipping Pyle's personal effects fell to Edwin Waltz, a personable and efficient Navy man who had been working as the correspondent's personal secretary at Pacific Fleet headquarters at Guam. There wasn't much to go through -- a few clothes and toilet articles; books; receipts; some snapshots and letters. Here was Pyle's passport, stamped with the names of places he had passed through on his journeys to war -- Belfast and London; Casablanca and Algiers; and on the last page, "Pacific Area." Waltz also found a little pocket notebook filled with cryptic jottings in a curlecue script -- notes Pyle had made during his last weeks in France in 1944.

9 killed & 10 wounded out of 33 from D-Day to July 25 ...

... drove beyond lines ... saw orange flame & smoke -- shell hit hood -- wrecked jeep -- dug hole...with hands -- our shells & their firing terrible-being alone was worst...

Blowing holes to bury cows -- stench everywhere.

Waltz also found a handwritten draft of a newspaper column. Knowing the war in Europe could end any day, Pyle had collected his thoughts on two sheets of paper, then marked up the sentences with arrows and crossings out and rewordings.

"And so it is over," the draft began. "The catastrophe on one side of the world has run its course. The day that had so long seemed would never come has come at last." He was writing this in waters near Japan, he said, "but my heart is still in Europe...For the companionship of two and a half years of death and misery is a spouse that tolerates no divorce." He hoped Americans would celebrate the victory in Europe with a sense of relief rather than elation, for in the joyousness of high spirits it is easy for us to forget the dead.

...there are so many of the living who have burned into their brains forever the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world. Dead men by mass production -- in one country after another -- month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer. Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous. Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them. Those are the things that you at home need not even try to understand. To you at home they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went away and just didn't come back. You didn't see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France. We saw him. Saw him by the multiple thousands. That's the difference.

For unknown reasons Scripps-Howard's editors chose not to release the column draft, though V-E Day followed Ernie's death by just three weeks. Perhaps they guessed it would have puzzled his readers, even hurt them. Certainly it was a darker valedictory than they would have expected from him. The war had been a harsh mistress to Ernie. First it had offered him the means of escaping personal despair. Then, while his star rose to public heights he had never imagined, the war had slowly driven him downward again into "flat black depression." But he kept this mostly to himself. Instead he had offered readers a way of seeing the war that skirted despair and stopped short of horror. His published version of World War II had become the nation's version. And if Ernie Pyle himself had not won the war, America's mental picture of the soldiers who had won it was largely Pyle's creation. He and his grimy G.I's, frightened but enduring, had become the heroic symbols of what the soldiers and their children would remember as "the Good War."

Copyright © 1997 by James Tobin (Review of Ernie Pyle's War)


Other Resources:

Books by Ernie Pyle

"Death Photo of War Reporter Pyle Found"

"The Death of Captain Waskow," by Ernie Pyle (one of his most famous and reprinted columns).

"Death Photo of WWII Icon Ernie Pyle Surfaces."

Ernie Pyle Page

IRAQ WAR (2003-Present): Jeremy Hoel, Currently Serving in Iraq


Photo by Jeremy's good friend PFC Nikki Denham. She is in the same platoon.

Deb Staley, the English and Humanities Department Administrative Assistant at York College of Pennsylvania, uses the above photograph of Jeremy Hoel as her screen saver.

When I first saw this extraordinary image, I stopped in my tracks; I was immediately drawn to the picture of a young man just taking a nap--a very ordinary activity for a 20-something man.

Yet the circumstances are anything but ordinary; Jeremy, using an old tire for his pillow, is snoozing. I remember my own son Eric, years ago, flopping on the sofa to grab a few winks, but he did it in the comfort of our home, not in a war zone.

Fifteen years ago, Jeremy may have been napping with a teddy bear. Certainly that rifle across his chest represents, in a war zone, a sense of security.

I have never met Jeremy, but according to Deb, Jeremy is proud to be serving our country and has no regrets about joining the Army and being stationed in Iraq.

Drop Jeremy a line and let him know how much you appreciate his putting his future on hold for you and our country:

PFC Hoel, Jeremy

377 Trans Co

2nd Platoon Camp Taji, IRAQ

Unit #2026

APO AE 09378


IRAQ WAR (2003-Present): "Little Boys Were Sent to Fight," by Yvette Analla

From conniving tongues, lies were flung
to pave the way for war.
Little boys were sent to fight
to return again no more.

He used a country’s broken heart
to mastermind the plan.
He kindled their very real fear
all across the land.

In ancient far off cities
different lies were told
lines were drawn upon the sand
and prophecies were told.

A child lost his father,
a mother’s lost her son
thousands of times over
since the war begun.

Our infrastructure is crumbling
beneath the weight of debt.
Families living on the street
more not less the threat.

Five years ago it began,
with the invasion of Iraq.
Though many of us wish we could,
we cannot take it back.

This infant country is so great
so expansive is our power.
yet we cannot make it right
twice burning of the tower.

Revenge is not an option
without the doer of the deed.
Does anybody feel better
watching those that didn’t bleed?

In six years soldiers will be scarce
and my children will be of age
will they be told they must bear arms
in this dirty war you wage?

I will never dig my child’s grave
because they fought a war
that lined the pockets of those oil men
whose kids stayed safely on our shore.


(Today is the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq.)

(Art work copyright by the webmaster)

World War I: Frank Woodruff Buckles

Frank Buckles at 16

Frank Woodruff Buckles (born February 1, 1901) is, at age 107, the last known surviving American-born veteran of the First World War.

Buckles is the last living WWI U.S. veteran to finish basic training and be stationed overseas prior to the end of the war. The US Library of Congress included him in its Veterans History Project that has audio, video and pictorial information on Buckles' experiences in both World War I and the Second World War, and which includes a full 148-minute video interview or the same interview in 11 segments. [1]

He was born in Harrison County, Missouri, and enlisted at the beginning of the United States' involvement in World War I in April 1917. Before being accepted into the army he was turned down by the marines due to his weight. Also, he was only 15, so he had to lie about his age stating he was 18. Yet, he actually had to be 21. Soon after he visited his aunt in Florida and came back and stated he was now 21. During his time in service for the United States Army, Frank was stationed in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France. Buckles was sent to France in 1917 at age 16, where he was a driver; after the Armistice was signed in 1918, he escorted prisoners of war back to Germany. In 1919, after the war had ended, Frank Buckles was stationed in Germany, and he was discharged from service in 1920 having achieved the rank of corporal. In the Second World War, in the 1940s, Buckles was a civilian working for an American shipping line. He was captured by the Japanese, however, and spent three years in a Japanese prison camp during most of that war. [2]

Frank Buckles at 103

Buckles has at least one interview on a daily basis. He has stated in many interviews that he doesn't understand why people in the twenty-first century are in such a rush. He commented "What's the hurry?" Also, he does not own a television and has stated that people today watch too much television. He has said the worst president in his opinion was McKinley. Once asked about Nixon, he replied "He said a few bad things here and there." When asked on how he could live so long, he replied "Hope." On a daily basis he lifts 2-pound weights and does stretches in the morning. He does, according to his care taker, do around 50 sit-ups before he gets up in the morning.

Buckles was awarded the l├ęgion d'honneur by then French president Jacques Chirac, and he currently lives in Charles Town, West Virginia. His story was featured on the Memorial Day 2007 episode of NBC Nightly News. He was also at the 2007 Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C., riding in a buggy. Buckles stated in an interview with The Washington Post that he feels that the United States should only go to war when "it's an emergency." [3]

1., May 29, 2007, Library of Congress, Veterans History Project.

2. "'One of the last': WWI vet recalls Great War",, March 27, 2007, Andrea Stone.

3. 106-year old WWI veteran speaks on the Iraq war

Other sources:

Over There — and Gone Forever (New York Times Op-Ed about Frank Buckles, written by Richard Rubin and published on November 12, 2007)


This article is from Wikipedia and has been reposted here under its GNU Free Documentation License

Afghanistan: Cpl. Ciara M. Durkin

The Department of Defense announced on October 1, 2007, the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Cpl. Ciara M. Durkin, 30, of Quincy, Mass., died Sept. 28 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident. She was assigned to the 726th Finance Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard, West Newton, Mass.



Read more about Ciara.


IRAQ WAR: Eulogy to Army Spc. Luke S. Runyan, a Fallen Hero

(The Department of Defense announced on February 19, 2008, the deaths of Spc. Luke S. Runyan, 21, of Spring Grove, Pa., and Spc. Chad D. Groepper, 21, of Kingsley, Iowa. The two soldiers were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died February 17 in Diyala Province, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their dismounted patrol using small arms fire. They were assigned to 2nd Battalion 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.)

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

A eulogy to Luke S. Runyan, a local man who sacrificed his life for our country, was published in the York Daily Record [York, Pa.], February 25, 2008. It is reprinted here with permission.)

Army Spc. Luke Runyan lived life on his own terms and died doing it.

To all of those he left behind, Luke Runyan will forever be frozen in their memories.

They will recall the energetic child who was described as being more animated than the Cartoon Network. They will recall the thrill-seeker, the guy who liked to ride motorcycles, fast. The guy who loved to surf. The guy whose devotion to his nation and his comrades could not be measured.

To his daughter, 1-year-old Brynn, he will live only in the memories of others. Her father may not be physically present, but he will be there in spirit, handed down moments at a time to Brynn by those who loved Mr. Runyan.

His wife, Courtney, asked him once to write a letter to Brynn, something that could be put away should he not return from the war. Mr. Runyan told his wife not to worry about it, that wasn't going to happen. He was young and tough and smart and had that sense of invincibility that comes with youth and confidence.

He was a thrill-seeker. He put this quote in his high school yearbook: "If you want to be able to experience the ultimate thrill, you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price."

Prophetic words.

Mr. Runyan was doing what he wanted to do with his life when he was killed last Sunday in Iraq. His unit was ambushed in Diyala Province. Runyan and another soldier, Spc. Chad Groepper of Iowa, were killed. He was the 20th soldier with York County ties to die in the war.

Mr. Runyan was only 21.

His biography may be slim, only spending slightly more than two decades among the living, but he lived a lot of life in his time here. He loved life. He loved Courtney. He loved Brynn.

And he loved the guys he served with.

His brothers.

They had a special bond. They witnessed the horror first-hand. They witnessed the worst inhumanity you can imagine. They also witnessed the best humanity, evidenced by the story of Mr. Runyan saving the life of an Iraqi child.

When young men die at war, the word "hero" gets thrown around a lot.

Mr. Runyan was a hero, to be sure. He died so others could live. There is nothing more heroic.

But he was also just a man. A husband. A father. A son.

And no matter what you think about this war, its purpose or lack thereof, its execution or lack thereof, its conclusion or lack thereof, you have to respect Mr. Runyan's service and sacrifice.

"Now . . . it kind of leaves a hole in your heart," said his high school guidance counselor Margaret Mummert.

For now, and forever.


WORLD WAR I: Harley David Semple

(Harley David Semple, circa 1973)

Harley David Semple, known by family as "Dee Dee," was born in Bronson, Iowa, on January 6, 1901. He died on March 16, 1974, at 73, from a condition similar to Lou Gehrig's disease.

Harley was my grandfather; I was seven years old when he and my grandmother took me in permanently and raised me until my high school graduation at 17, so, of course, I'm slightly biased--and why I'm featuring him on this blog.

(Harley, Jennifer, and Olive Semple, circa 1954)

Dee Dee joined the Army when he was just 16 or 17; by the time he was 17 (in 1918), he was serving in France, just before Armistice, which effectively ended World War I. I'm not sure if he served in actual combat because he never talked about his war experiences, and I was too young to ask the right questions. At his passing, I was just 23, by then married and living away from Iowa and in Pennsylvania--besides, from my perspective, World War I was just a piece of history.

I would love to read his letters home to his family, but I'm not sure that they exist anymore. Dee Dee had not yet met my grandmother, so I suspect that most of his letters went to his mother in Bronson.

I can't imagine Dee Dee engaged in combat, but war is funny that way; war yanks ordinary young people, mostly boys, who still have one foot in childhood, from their normal lives and asks them to make life and death decisions. War demands that young men carry arms and kill other people--how can that not inform someone's future life?

I don't know if Dee Dee ever killed anyone in the war--he never said. Even if he had been asked, he probably would have dodged the question. I always had the feeling that he would have rather forgotten that war.

I don't know what Dee Dee did directly after the war; he probably went back to Bronson and tried picking up the thread of his youth. According to a Bronson Town History, Dee Dee, in 1916, was one of the first Boy Scout members in a new troop founded by a Mr. Erkman, a list which noted,

"Harry Oertel, Ray Johnson, Allan Talbott, Harley Semple, Roy Johnson, and Ernest Johnson. When Mr. Erkman left, in 1918, the troop was forgotten..."

--Possibly because of the war?

Imagine: in two years, from Boy Scout to soldier.

But how can one return home and pick up the youthful thread of his life after experiencing a soldier's life in a foreign field?

Harley spent most of his adult life in Sioux City, Iowa; in 1924, he married Katherine Olive ("Mo Mo") Quirk, and they raised four children: Richard, George, Mary Lou (my mother), and Colleen.

And one grandchild: Jennifer.

This is what I remember about Harley Semple: he was a quiet and gentle man who loved to tell stories. I, a troubled child, often sat at his knee to listen to his "Old Sport" stories. Old Sport, a mongrel with a curly tail, thought he was a person and acted accordingly, such as wanting to attend school and sleeping in Jennifer's bed. These corny tales offered an obvious moral (and I knew it even back then), but I didn't care; I still loved them because Dee Dee made them exciting and fun.

Although I don't have any of Harley's war letters, I do have two of his "Old Sport" letters, written just before I moved to Iowa to finish out my childhood, and I would like to share them here:

Thursday [1958]

Dear Angel Kisser:

I haven’t seen you for a long time. Maybe you and Mo can come home soon. I looked all over the neighborhood for Old Sport and can’t find hide nor hair of him. Maybe he doesn’t live here anymore. The other day, I saw a spalpeeny dog around Otoe St. with a round ball on his nose and a curly tail. He was jacking around and following a little girl. He was acting like Old Sport but his feet were dirty and his hair wasn’t combed and he hadn’t washed his teeth so I knew it wasn’t old Sport. I asked the little girl to tell me his name. She said it was Old Ortspay and that he was always following her. She said he followed her to school and wanted to sit in a seat just like Old Sport and pretend to read and the teacher hit him on the bare rudy and run him out. She said she didn’t want an old dirty dog like that in her school. Then he went all over the neighborhood and tried to get in the houses and nobody would let him in. He was cold and wet and hungry but he was such a spalpeen nobody cared. Then he saw a little dirty girl who lives in a dirty house and her name is Efferjay and he followed her home. What do you think? Her mamma let the dirty old thing in out of the cold and fed him some Pard out of a dirty dish and gave the old jerk a dirty pillow with the name “Ortspay” on it to sleep on. And do you know what? The old spalpeen liked it. I was glad the dirty old thing found a place to live. But I’m kind of mad at him for pretending he was “Old Sport.”

Colleen has a dog named Speenart. He is big as a mule but you will like him. And when you come home you can visit them. Saw Timmy the other day–he had a cowboy hat on. It is warmer here now. It has been awful cold. Not much snow. The streets are all dry. See you soon.


Dee Dee


(Harley and Jennifer, circa 1955)

Saturday Nite [1958]

Dear Angel Kisser

I looked all over and I couldn’t find Old Sport anywhere. Maybe he went away to school. I’m getting the house nice and warm and clean for you and Mo so all you have to do is move in. There is some snow out side and is snowing a little now. The weather is nice and fresh. Tell Mo that I finally went to work. I made a door hood to-day and Monday I have to make 10 awnings. Your bed is still here–it didn’t run away. Why don’t you have Mo tell you about the bed that ran away?

Did Mo ever tell you about the lazy cat she had when she was a little girl? When Mo was a little girl she had a pretty cat but it was lazy. The other cats all went out to the field to catch mice and caught themselves a nice mouse but Mo’s cat was just too lazy. She just laid around in the sun and was hungry all the time and she kept getting thinner and thinner and skinny but she wouldn’t go out to catch a mouse. Mo tried every way to her to go out and work for her dinner but she was so lazy she would rather be hungry. Finally she got so skinny and weak she couldn’t even catch a mouse if she tried. So do you know what Mo did? She went out to the field herself early in the morning and worked all day and finally caught enough mice for a nice mouse dinner and brought them in to the lazy old thing and her cat gobbled them up. Just like Old Sport with his Pard. And every day for a long time Mo went out and caught a nice mouse dinner for the lazy old thing and finally the cat got big and strong and fat and healthy and Mo said, “Now look here, cat, you are strong again and if you want to eat from now on you will have to catch your own mice.” After that she went out every day and hunted mice with the rest of the cats. She had learned her lesson. Ask Mo she will tell you all about her lazy cat.

Hurry up and come home and you can meet Colleen’s dog–his name is Speenart.

Love Dee Dee



You bet.

But this is how I prefer to remember this man who was so important in my life. I adored him. We had our issues, of course. The late 1960's intervened, and I rebelled in a rather spectacular manner. The double generation gap drove a wedge between us.

(Jennifer and Harley, circa 1965)

I now understand how the psychedelic 1960's might have bewildered and saddened him; he came of age during a time when mores were set in stone and good folks behaved in certain prescribed ways; the late 1960's turned that truism on its ear when my generation questioned the values of Harley's generation.

Just before he died, we came together again and put our differences behind us--for that, I am grateful.

Journalist Tom Brokaw refers to the World War II generation as "The Greatest Generation," but I believe that that honor should go to the World War I generation.

In terms of technological advancement, Harley and Olive's generation might have well spanned 500 years. This generation was forced to accept tremendous technological adjustments in a relatively short time. In 1901, automobiles were in their infancy, certainly out of reach for Iowa farm families. The Wright brothers were two years away from their first historic flight at Kitty Hawk. Radios were not in every home. TV was just a fantasy.

By the time Harley died, just about everyone had a car, ordinary people were jetting across the country, radio was practically passe, and television was nearly 30 years old. He missed the internet (although Olive, who died in 1987, did know about Apple Computers, PC's, and Bill Gates). All that advancement must have made Harley's head spin, but he seemed to take it all in stride; we owned all the major gadgets of the day. Still, it must have been a major adjustment for a child born into an agrarian society, who grew into a boy who had trudged through the fields of France, and the man who tried to make sense of a troubled world on the edge.

The older I get, the more I marvel at the accomplishments of the World War I generation, who set the groundwork for what we enjoy today. My sitting in front of this computer and blogging about my grandfather so that the world can know him and, perhaps, others like him is possible because his generation accepted and even embraced technological advancement and change.

(Olive and Harley Semple, circa 1972)

Perhaps if some Semple family members read this post, they can fill in the gaps, and I will update this entry.

If you knew Harley David Semple, please post something in the comment section of this post or email me, and I'll post any additional information and memories about our Dee Dee.