By BILL SHARKEY III
Martinez News-Gazette Columnist
VETERANS DAY (Armistice Day) was nicely observed in our community this past week. As was pointed out at services and in the press, this was Armistice Day, initially observing the end of World War One, “the war to end all wars”, on that November 11, 1918 day. How little did most of the world know that was wishful thinking by optimists. Who knew that there were those who could not handle peace, and had other ideas? We soon began to realize that world peace was not easily achieved, or maintained. We had Hitlers and Mussolinis stirring up trouble out there in nations which were smarting from defeat. They were convincing in their rallies getting their citizenry to follow.
Fast forward through a number of wars since that time and the tragedies for the victims of war, the military losses and those left behind. One very personal involvement is told in the letter my wife, Jeanne, found recently, and we print here as a reminder of human loss. The letter was to her and her ‘First Bill”, a First Lieutenant ROTC grad from UC Berkeley, dated August 5, 1964 from Bradford, Arkansas.
“Dear Jeanne, Bill and Children,
I am so ashamed of myself for not writing you sooner, but it seems I’ve had so much to do. This isn’t too much of an excuse, but it’s all I have to offer.
Thank you so much for your concern for me during my time of need. It helps so much to know you have friends who care so much. Thank you so much for your wonderful hospitality to Jim while he was with you. He called me just before he left Travis and said you both had been just wonderful to him. It is nice to know that his last days in the U.S. were with friends, and were happy ones.
Slowly I am adjusting to the fact that Jim is dead. It is the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do in my lifetime. Somehow it just doesn’t seem possible that he won’t be coming home next June. I know that June ’65 will be the hardest to take. However, I do have one consolation, that Jim had made the choice to be a professional soldier, and he was doing what he wanted to do.
I had a letter from the A.G in Washington that Jim was killed by direct action by enemy forces. I don’t know just what caused his plane to crash, but it was Viet Cong. He is to receive a Purple Heart which will be presented to me soon. He also got the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and two more. I’m not sure which the other two are because I haven’t received a list of the awards yet.
Jim was buried in the National Cemetery in Little Rock with full military honors on the 2nd of July, which was our 4th wedding anniversary. It was a little hard at first to know that was the date of the services, but after all, I would not have had much of an anniversary, so I guess it was just as well.
I am going back to college this fall. I hope I can do well. I’ll give it “the old Army try”. Maybe I can get through and get a degree.
How are the children? Jim said they sure had grown. I would love to see them again. Maybe soon.
Thanks again for your concern. Write when you can.
P.S. If I’ve depressed you, don’t be sad. Jim would want us all to be happy. Just had to write what I was thinking.”
(End of letter)
Jeanne and ‘First Bill’ were friends with Jim and Barb Cartwright at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Bill and Jim were Army ROTC grads who, upon graduation, became Army officers and sent to active duty.
Prior to his departure for Vietnam, Jim spent some time with Jeanne and Bill. They then took him up to Travis AFB for his flight to Vietnam.
They never saw him again. He was killed in a plane crash shortly after his entry into the battle zone.
THE STORY of Jim and Barb has been ‘replicated’ all too often over the decades as one war after another seems to occur, usually not for the right reasons, if there could ever be one. And always leaving millions of people as victims, so many innocents who got in the way of the warring factions. How to stop the needless international tension is a goal which seems so elusive. Guess it could be a lack of will? Could it be too much ‘nationalism’ bravado that drives some leaders who want to be authoritarian’ leaders because of self-importance, or lack of self-assurance? The world needs strong leaders who have true love and concern for their nations, and their people, not self-satisfaction.
Time is closing in on our democracy. The wrong people are working their way into our nation’s government. We need help from every citizen to be mindful of those who ignore what the Constitution says and make harmful decisions…say scary decisions…without much, if any, pushback from a Congress seemingly mesmerized.
To paraphrase a long quote from someone…“when they came for me, there was no one to save me”. Do we have enough of ‘the good guys and gals’ to get us back on the right track?? It’s not easy work. It takes guts and a selfless determination.
Just before deadline time, the latest is that the Oval Office Occupant is becoming very isolated and very moody. With so much at stake for our nation, what will t take to send him back to Trump Tower to be the big guy who can’t destroy the country? Where is his staff? They seem to be bailing out (kicked out?) and leaving him with ‘the kids’.
SORRY TO HEAR about the ‘ice rink’ challenge. If there is more than a parking lot issue, we should hear about it. If it is finances, let the community know. Letters to the Editor from a bunch of people seem to say they want it agan. Could it happen with some more thought?
GLAD TO HEAR about more street work underway. Yaaaaa!
OH, YES, what is this new law suit stuff re: the new district election situation? Is the infamous attorney from Malibu, who is building his retirement fund with threats of suits against cities, school districts and others, causing the trouble? Why now? Let’s give it a chance, and not make nonsense trouble with so little apparent interest in our community. We certainly do not have ghettos of neglected citizens. We have a happy community which would like to remain such without a few malcontents causing problems. Settle down. Join the happy folks.