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Read Embedded Enemy and Look For Jackson Katz

September 20th, 2013

Read Embedded Enemy and Look For Jackson Katz

I am hoping for a response from my influential readers! The questions that matter are these:

Should soldiers or other military members receive the Purple Heart when they are wounded or killed by someone on the inside?

What about those killed or wounded in the Pentagon attack on 9/11?

What about Fort Hood?

What about Kuwait with the soldier who tossed a grenade into his commander and CSM's tent?

As you know, we here at Soldier Heart Central want to draw attention to the human side of war. There needs to be a national debate about it: The trauma of war and how it touches our lives. This is why Soldier Heart is running for President of these United States in 2016.

Last night I downloaded Bart Womack's book named "Embedded Enemy" and read it through before falling asleep. This book is highly rivetting, interesting, clear, and understandable. It is mainly his first-person account of having one of his soldiers interupt his peace by blowing up his tent and killing two of his other soldiers.

Buy the book.

Soldier Heart also spoke to Jackson Katz this week. Look him up on the internet. You know, this violence thing really does touch the soul. We have a tendency of saying none of it bothers tough folk, but it does.

I have been working on some videos that gets to all this as well. Soldier Heart made a pact with the big boys at the Rocky Mountain Veteran Home Foundation. Soldier Heart will be producing short videos to help their effort.

And finally, here is some art I have been working on of late. Soldier Heart is working on an image of Chesty Puller, the hardened Marine battalion commander on Peleliu. I think it will contrast the baby-faced battalion commander my dad served under on the island.

The image at the top right is of LTC Raymond Gates, the commander of 1st Battalion, 323rd Infantry Regiment, 81st Infantry Division. He was shot by a sniper in November, 1944 on Peleliu.

Help Soldier Heart spread the word. Join me on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/Soldier.Heart.MLeon

Hey Mom I made it to Facebook

May 12th, 2013

Hey Mom I made it to Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/Soldier.Heart.MLeon

It has been a while since updating folk on my book effort. It is Mother's Day, and that is probably appropriate for the note. If she were here for me to tell that I started a Facebook page, she'd loudly retort "What's that?" for two reasons. First, she wouldn't have known about Facebook. Second, she was hard of hearing.

The image in the header is my memory of my mom taking me to the first grade at Waverley Elementary in Albany, Oregon. It was the only grade I flunked.

In my galleries you will find images of my mom Betty Jean, her mom Viola who died when my mom was six and my dad's mom Crilly. She was my only grandparent I ever met.

I am plowing through the introductory part of my book. My editor Sam Sears is pounding my head with a stick, as editors do. This first part hits on a B25 Crash in 1953. This last week, I was able to round up five eye witnesses who are still alive (in their 80s and 90s). They've helped me quite a bit.

My older brother told me the other day that the stuff I am finding out is changing his perspective on Dad. My younger sister told me she learned to appreciate literature from the discarded books Dad would get at the auction. My older sister told me that the stuff is helping her as well sort a few things out.

At 11 a.m. California time on my birthday June 11, I have an interview with former Secretary of State George Shultz. I hope to learn a few things from him to go into the main part of my book. He was a hard-headed Marine attached to my dad's Army infantry division fighting on Peleliu in WWII.

I am working on getting an interview with our first President Bush who was part of the photo recon missions on Peleliu in July 1944. If you happen to know Mr. Bush, please let him know it is a good idea to help me out.

Besides that, I have about 3000 original letters written home from the Pacific by Sailor, Marine and Soldier boys in 1944 and 1945. I have learned that letters from officers were the best because they could sign-off as their own censors and tended to say the most.

If you haven't found or hit "like" on my Facebook page, please do! I am trying to draw attention to the important issue of war's trauma and could sure use the help!

The Personal Invasion

January 16th, 2013

The Personal Invasion

Top pick today?

“… War is War is War, and once it invades a soul, it doesn’t pay much attention … .” This quote was written today - as in January 13, 2013 - by a PTSD therapist working with combat veterans in the Veteran's Administration system. He was writing about the recent suicide of a psychologist who had served in Iraq in 2006. The therapist made the point that it is not a matter of understanding the trauma that helps but rather of making the honest emotional connection to the person who suffers.

It reminds me of something written nearly 200 years ago in an old book in my office. The writer speaks of a Revolutionary soldier who's wife and several small children struggled to keep alive with little money. They often had water mixed with a little molasses for supper. They asked their mother why she put a happy face on things whenever their father came home. Her response: "The soldier's lot is harshest of all; I do not want to do anything to weaken his hand or soften his heart."

The trauma of war has many faces. I posted the therapist's blog onto my Facebook page. I added to the good doctor's assessment my point that there are many entry points for this invasion to the soul. This invasion is personal and its effect needs compassionate care. His response: "So many people make therapy so complicated, when at its core, it’s simply unflinching humanity, done one hour at a time, person to person. ... We’re all injured treaters. The wounded can indeed give life-saving help to other wounded."

We are all wounded, he says, and we can help. So a friend from Israel commented: "This is so sad. As citizens, how can we help these brave soldiers overcome the trauma? How can we re-program them to know that they are valued, loved and that life is good? Are there any programs to which I can volunteer to assist in?" Her questions are the point.

Try to picture the poor old Revolutionary soldier Benson Lossing describes: "Isaac Rice ... . Like scores of those who fought our battles for freedom, and lived the allotted term of human life, he is left in his evening twilight to depend upon the cold friendship of the world for sustenance, and to feel the practical ingratitude of a people reveling in the enjoyment which his privations in early manhood contributed to secure."

Isaac Rice was 85 in the early 1800s when Lossing found him guarding the ruins of an Army post in New York - the same post he had served in as a young man in the 1700s. The "feeble old soldier" lived on handouts from from visitors to the site. "I am alone in the world," he told Lossing, "Poor and friendless; none for me to care for, and none to care for me. Father, mother, brothers, sisters, wife, and children have all passed away, and the busy world has forgotten me."

Isaac Rice, according to Lossing, then "brushed away a tear with his hard and shriveled hand, and, with a more cheerful tone, talked of his future prospects."

That is SoldierHeart. And it matches today's top pick.

* * * *

Please visit the Galleries, News, and Blog tabs on my website to get a better idea of what I am doing. If you think it is worthwhile, please pass on my note. I'd also love to hear back from you. Thanks.

The Personal Invasion

January 14th, 2013

The Personal Invasion

Top pick today?

“… War is War is War, and once it invades a soul, it doesn’t pay much attention … .” This quote was written today - as in January 13, 2013 - by a PTSD therapist working with combat veterans in the Veteran's Administration system. He was writing about the recent suicide of a psychiatrist who had served in Iraq in 2006. The therapist made the point that it is not a matter of understanding the trauma that helps but rather of making the honest emotional connection to the person who suffers.

It reminds me of something written nearly 200 years ago in an old book in my office. The writer speaks of a Revolutionary soldier who's wife and several small children struggled to keep alive with little money. They often had water mixed with a little molasses for supper. They asked their mother why she put a happy face on things whenever their father came home. Her response: "The soldier's lot is harshest of all; I do not want to do anything to weaken his hand or soften his heart."

The trauma of war has many faces. I posted the therapist's blog onto my Facebook page. I added to the good doctor's assessment that there are many entry points for this invasion to the soul. This invasion is personal and its effect needs compassionate care. His response: "So many people make therapy so complicated, when at its core, it’s simply unflinching humanity, done one hour at a time, person to person. ... We’re all injured treaters. The wounded can indeed give life-saving help to other wounded."

We are all wounded, he says, and we can help. So a friend from Israel commented: "This is so sad. As citizens, how can we help these brave soldiers overcome the trauma? How can we re-program them to know that they are valued, loved and that life is good? Are there any programs to which I can volunteer to assist in?" Her question is the point.

Try to picture the poor old Revolutionary soldier Benson Lossing describes: "Isaac Rice ... . Like scores of those who fought our battles for freedom, and lived the allotted term of human life, he is left in his evening twilight to depend upon the cold friendship of the world for sustenance, and to feel the practical ingratitude of a people reveling in the enjoyment which his privations in early manhood contributed to secure."

Isaac Rice was 85 in the early 1800s when Lossing found him guarding the ruins of an Army post in New York - the same post he had served in as a young man in the 1700s. The "feeble old soldier" lived on handouts from from visitors to the site. "I am alone in the world," he told Lossing, "Poor and friendless; none for me to care for, and none to care for me. father, mother, brothers, sisters, wife, and children have all passed away, and the busy world has forgotten me."

Isaac Rice, according to Lossing, then "brushed away a tear with his hard and shriveled hand, and, with a more cheerful tone, talked of his future prospects."

That is SoldierHeart. And it matches today's top pick.

* * * *

Please visit the Galleries, News, and Blog tabs on my website to get a better idea of what I am doing. If you think it is worthwhile, please pass on my note. I'd also love to hear back from you. Thanks.

A Touch of Soul

December 9th, 2012

A Touch of Soul

This year I have found numerous items to help inform my journey. An aunt found my dad's WWII Army dog tags, a cousin found a decorative pillowcase my dad sent his mother during the war, and friends sent me numerous historical items. These included a bloodied enemy flag captured on Peleliu, photographs and information about soldiers who made the cover of LIFE, and some battlefield notes - all from my dad's unit.

Benson Lossing wrote in his journalistic historical accounts of events forming our nation that his task is an unpleasant but necessary one. His overall point in his accounts of the Revolutionary, War of 1812, and Civil War battles was and is that the unpleasant events of these battles must not ever be forgotten. Forgetting or softening the terrible human tragedy of war diminishes the sacrifices.

I don't think Lossing's point is a pacifist's viewpoint - although he probably believed that slavery should've been abolished without the Civil War being made necessary. Instead, I take his point to be more along the lines of taking proactive steps that place war as the last resort. We need to remember how bad it really is so that we can take alternative courses of action in order to make every effort to avoid future atrocities.

A friend told me: "You paint with your soul. This is not art I would put on my wall. It forces me to think about things I would rather avoid. My thoughts on these are depressing." While all this may be true, my journey is not intended to either depressing or upbeat; it is meant to be an honest expression. To approach the story of war from any other perspective just seems more of the same avoidance that Lossing criticized.

My dad's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Gates, was killed in action on Peleliu on Nov. 17, 1944. I found a letter from his widow to the regiment's commander: “Ray was my whole world. I am convinced that God alone understands these things. ... I have elected to build a new life for myself and to do it with at least some measure of credit – the only course that the memory of such a fine man is worthy of."

I wonder what my dad thought? He would've buried - he did bury - any emotion about it and broken the ice with a joke. Another veteran, a 98 year-old WWII man, told me the answer the other day that I already knew. The man said he would never tell the story about what happened when he earned his Bronze Star in France. I asked why? He said that it's just combat stuff that only makes people feel bad when they hear about it.

That softening of reality is exactly what I plan to avoid.

Dog Tags and Letters and Things

February 25th, 2012

Dog Tags and Letters and Things

The 100-year-old sewing machine and its cabinet did not look their age, carefully cared for over the last 40 years by the original owner's last living child. There were five drawers, two on each side and one in the middle. Inside the drawers, everything appeared undisturbed since my grandmother Corillia died in 1971. My dad's WWII dog tags were in the middle drawer. They were both worn, bent and dented; one dirty with caked on crude and the other polished clean and shiny. I held them in my hand and could imagine while doing so my grandmother rubbing the clean one between her thumbs and fingers as she prayed in church in the years after my dad returned from the war. That lone dog tag was not polished by the discipline of a soldier while in service to his country but would have remained tarnished as its pair had it not been for being smoothed to a chrome-like shine by the worry of that soldier's mother in the after years of war. Corillia's daughter, now well aged and leaning on her walker, placed the dog tags into my hand.

With no success in my search, I was looking for clippings of Otis Howard articles he had written for the Granby News Herald in the 1940s. So far, these have been tough for me to find and finding them is a critical part of my journey. I had known since I was a boy about these articles written by Otis held a key to ancestor mystery. I never met the man, but always and strangely felt a connection through the writings I had never read. I guess it was that Otis felt he had something to say to a larger audience than those within earshot of his voice. Something caused him to get those thoughts down on paper and printed into a newspaper during the last decade of his life. Oddly, those writings were never well-preserved and are not easily found today. Even the newspaper archives of this small-town newspaper are scarce. So, some hope of finding a new clipping or two of Otis writing rested in those sewing machine drawers where my dad's dog tags remained all these years.

What I found was more of a treasure. There in the very bottom and far back portion of the top-left drawer was a stack of letters written with a pencil on ruled paper. My first intinct as I carefully unfolded them was that they were original writings from Otis, but they were not. These were letters written by Corillia to her mother Mary Ross during the 1930s and 1940s. Nobody ever spoke of my grandmother's writing, but there in my hand were letters she had written many years ago and somehow retrieved to keep hidden in a drawer. I read them each carefully. At first glance, nothing really special about these letters stood out other than keeping her mother informed much as we might do today with telephone, text and email messages. And, actually, that is what becomes very special about them. In the latest letter, she spoke of my dad coming home from the Army on furlough and having to return two days before Christmas 1943. It would be the last time he was home before shipping off to the war in the Pacific.

My search continues for the Otis articles and I am sure that one day I will in some way find copies. I am sure they will help in understanding the Soldier Heart story. But maybe, just maybe, I learned more from the sewing machine cabinet and the dog tags and grand mother letters.

He Did It

February 19th, 2012

He Did It

I showed this drawing to a World War Vet. He is nearly 90 years old. He knew my father before the war and after. He married my father's younger sister. She and he still live together after more than 60 years together, her just a few years younger and both using walkers but getting along well on their own. She is the only living sibling of my parents. There were three Howard boys and five girls in that generation. My father went off to war first, then my older uncle went into the Army in Alaska. Their youngest brother got onto the bus to the induction center with the man who would marry their sister after the war ... the Howard brother was turned away by the Army for physical reasons while the future brother-in-law was the only one on the bus to make it through. He went to Europe.

It was that man, my only still living uncle, who held the artwork at arm-length from his aging eyes and cried. "What are you trying to say here?" he said finally, hesitantly. He had remained mainly silent as my art passed before he and his wife on their kitchen table. The emotions finally got the best of him, though, as he had looked at images created by a boy he knew primarily through a man no longer living. "This says 'I did it - I did my job, I did what I was asked to do,' " he said haltingly as his eyes slowly watered and tears dampened his cheeks. He sat there silently looking at the image for several moments. "We all did what we were supposed to do and we came home to nothing. There were no jobs, nothing. That's why your dad left and went out to Oregon." His voice trailed off as I patted his shoulder. He finally let go his grip and I went on.

Later, he told me that he never heard my father say the word Peleliu - he learned that was where he fought from me years after my father passed away. He told me that he knew my father lived with tremendous guilt for what occured there. "I think you should change the name of your book," he said finally. "I think you should tell about what happened on Peleliu. Your book should be called murder at Peleliu." My uncle proceeded to tell me that my father had a favorite phrase for people who would talk too much without saying anything worthwhile: Don't get your hole a floppin'. My elderly uncle said that by hole my father meant mouth and that this attitude was pretty much why my father wouldn't talk about the war. My uncle then turned the phrase around on me. "Mike, you keep your hole a floppin'! We need to hear this story."




.

Quiet Peaceable Man

February 7th, 2012

Quiet Peaceable Man

“Otis is a quiet peaceable man" reads the self discription from a man I never met, my grandfather. Those who knew him spoke highly of the man, as if the comment about himself were true. I have a lone black-and-white photograph of him with my grandmother in 1942 the year my dad joined the Army to fight in the war. They were standing on the porch of the house he had built a few years earlier. He was wearing a dark suit coat with his bib overalls. I've heard that he always did that. I am not so sure he looked peaceable as he towered in the photo over his wife and had a tough old man's scowl.

Otis wrote articles in his later years before he died in 1951 for the Granby News Herald, a now-defunct weekly paper. He mostly wrote third-person folksy, almost nonsensical little articles explaining his slice of life. In this one, he spoke of driving a Model A Ford to another town in Missouri when he noticed that others were stopping in their cars to admire a light hanging over the street. When he drove on without bothering to stop, a nearby policeman became upset with him for not being more respectful to the town folk who were now able to afford such a nice light. He was so upset over the encounter that he considered complaining to the town mayor but was fearful the fallout would unintentionally harm others who depended upon the policeman's income.

I don't have much to go on. Being a writer myself, though, I am intriqued by the legacy of a man who wrote with a pencil into a little notebook sitting on a stool in his home. I suspect the home was payed for at least in part with money earned by my father serving in FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps and the Army. The photograph was collected by a younger sister who put together a photo album of family photos and her brother's Army days. The album found it's way into an old cardboard box of memories my parents stored in the attic and brought out to look at from time to time.

I guess it is good to look at these and consider who we are.

Thanks For Your Support

September 17th, 2011

Thanks For Your Support

Thank you for visiting my site to see my drawings and read my blog.

My plan is to populate the site with my drawings and notes about Soldier Heart over the upcoming months. I will create some galleries and include my thoughts in the blog section of the site. Through the titles of the galleries and topics of my notes, you'll get a sense of things. As we go along, I encourage you to share my website address, emails or drawings with anyone you want. If you think this stuff is worthwhile to look at and read, please pass it on, but if you don't, please tell me so that I don't embarrass myself too much!

Also, please let my know your thoughts. You can do that publicly by making comments, or just send me a note.

I will send out an email every now and again to let everyone know that I've finished a gallery or have met some milestone. If you would like to get the email, please let me know by subscribing through the tab above.

I have no idea what I am doing here except that I am trying to draw attention to Joe in the trenches in American history. And, maybe more importantly, show that these boys (girls too!) who survived, came home to lives and families and normal living.

The attached drawing is from the Army's Battle at Peleliu between 15 October and 27 November 1944. It is my personal drawing from an actual image in a few photographs my dad mailed home to his dad during the war. We found the photos after my mom passed away in 2006. I am placing my drawings that come from these images in the gallery called "If I Were a WWII Photographer."

At first glance, the photos do not appear to have much meaning other than sentiment. After studying them and asking an expert on the Peleliu battles his opinion, it is clear to me that there is a story here. For instance, Calling in Fire is part of a photo that shows an assualt on an enemy position. The Medic images are from a photo that shows American casualties at a position recently attacked.

This is a longer note than I intended to write. Again, please let me know your thoughts and also please help me spread the word about Joe in the trenches (my website!).

And please come back to visit!

If I Were a WWII Photographer

September 16th, 2011

If I Were a WWII Photographer

They killed Osama bin Laden on the first Sunday night in May.

It made me consider war and photography and my father and that moment of kill-or-be-killed in war.

If I were a photographer who had lived during World War II, I would have found a way to accompany the soldiers of the 81st infantry division, beginning when they formed in 1942 in Alabama until they disbanded in 1946 in Japan. I would have identified, early on, the 19-year-old man who would later become the squad leader for the heavy weapons squad in the division’s delta company, 1st battalion, 323rd regiment. I would have photographed the confident and cocky man learning to fight as a soldier, anticipating combat while on a Navy ship in the Pacific, and fighting in his World War II battles there. I would have photographed the war-seasoned 23-year-old soldier as he heard the news of the war’s end, stepped onto the homeland of his fierce enemy, and later returned to America.

Mostly, I would capture the changes in his deep blue eyes.

And win the Pulitzer Prize in photography for it.

Because I understand the emotion in those events as only a son can possibly understand them.

These changes in his eyes would build upon simple truth. Men die in war. Others live. Men kill. Many see the enemy die. They experience war’s extreme depths and heights – the despair of death, exhilaration of living, and the guilt from the two extremes. They witness decay and destruction and death and depravity. The consistent truth about war throughout history is that it is an extremely violent contest of wills. It does not matter on which side of opposing force they fight. Men on both sides fight for political will, honor of the cause, and love of country. No matter how sophisticated the society they represent, men arrive at a raw human condition of kill-or-be-killed during the course of war.

While the objective of war is for it to end with the root political cause resolved in the favor of the victor, the full impact of war’s carnage is the lasting human toll on future generations. Men who survive war return to their lives carrying the physical and mental wounds and scars. They marry and have children. Color photography cannot adequately depict this full span of war. There is something about the violent characteristic and clash in war that must be specially preserved for later recall. Color in photography somehow betrays the true nature of war. Color possesses an overwhelming optimism that does not belong there. Somehow, color covers the emotion and harsh reality of violence.

Since everything I know about my father pivots on many mental images of war, his portrait is in the black-and-white medium and is comprised of many black-and-white photographs. These are large, over-powering images I have created over the years and puzzled together from memory. Each image possesses emotion-stirring gray tone and technique designed to evoke the reality of the horrific World War II battles that took place on a string of islands in the Pacific a few hundred miles from Hawaii.

My father did not leave a single clear verbal clue that could help in understanding the war still raging in his head all those years later. His eyes pretty much told the story, though, of being clearly troubled. I guess that is where he failed – not so much in his contradictory and mean behavior that came from his mental state, but in his absence of an explanation for it. It’s hard to judge him. Strangely, though, it’s equally hard to not judge him. In any case, the war made him off-the-norm in an unpredictable sort of way and the only way to understand that is to see it through the eyes of war.

 

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