Currahee!

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Last week the girls and I were up in Toccoa, Georgia, for Currahee Military Weekend. 

In my experience, Toccoa is one of America's most delightful hidden gems. It's one of the only places I can think of in our country where you can literally walk in the footsteps of the WWII Paratroopers and (for a brief time), re-live how it was during the war.

Local veteran, Dewitt Loudermilk holding a newspaper clipping about his service as an Engineer in WWII.

Local veteran, Dewitt Loudermilk holding a newspaper clipping about his service as an Engineer in WWII.

If you are up for it, you can run the mountain where our boys trained; visit the original barracks (currently being rebuilt), the depot where the fresh young men arrived, the museum with remarkable and historical artifacts; and talk to the wonderful folks who were kids at the time and grew up watching the paratroopers make their arrival, train, and depart for overseas... for some of them, never to return.

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The hospitality and genuineness of the people and the wonderful celebration they host each year remembering the paratroopers who trained at Camp Toccoa comes together to make it one of the happiest weekends of the year for me.

Faith and 101st Airborne Veteran, Vince Speranza.

Faith and 101st Airborne Veteran, Vince Speranza.

Thank you to all our Toccoa friends who work so hard to put on such a splendid event!


Recap in Photos

"The War That Was Almost Forgotten"

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In June, we were treated to a special surprise by Battle of the Bulge veteran, Buck Sloan. From his thick Texas accent down to his shiny black cowboy boots, Buck is the real deal. At 94, he can pluck the guitar and sing a tune that takes you back to the days of the old Westerns. 

Buck and his adorable wife serenaded our group with old classics such as Rag Mop (Ames Brothers), and a few that he had written himself.  


Support Operation Meatball

Long Ago & Far Away: and Other Songs from WW2 by Faith Evangeline (limited supply)

Long Ago & Far Away: and Other Songs from WW2

20 Songs from the World War Two era, performed by Faith Evangeline. Run time 59 Minutes.

Long Ago & Far Away / Fools Rush In / It Had to Be You / I've Heard That Song Before / Embraceable You / Blues in the Night / A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square / Singin' in the Rain / Lili Marlene / When the Lights Go On Again / Stormy Weather  You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To / Under the Bamboo Tree / I Remember You / Night and Day / I'll Be Seeing You / You Go To My Head / Smoke Gets In Your Eyes / begin the Beguine / Que Sera Sera


"Long Ago & Far Away" CD Order Form

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Korean War Armistice Day

63 years ago today, Armistice was declared and the Korean War came to an end. Our friend, Mr. Thomas, was sent over to Korea in 52' and spent a long six months on the front lines directing artillery fire. Triangle Hill, Old Baldy, and Pork Chop Hill are a few names he'll never forget.

We had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Thomas during our October Honor Flight. We spent many hours on that trip talking with him about Korea, the combat, the cold, and his favorite old-time radio programs. Mr. Thomas was the first Korean War vet we'd really had the chance to talk to at length. At one point he said, "You ask a lot of questions. And you've made me think about things I haven't thought of in 50 years... But that's all right." It was evident with Mr. Thomas that he loved his country, the men he served with, and was happy to fight if it would prevent communism in the world. At the Korean War Memorial in DC, he choked up looking at the life-size statues. "It's so real." He said. "They look so much like the guys I knew." It was a short war that many of us have forgotten. But for soldiers like Mr. Thomas, they'll always remember days like July 27, 1953 when peace was finally declared to war-torn Korean.

Happy Birthday National WWII Memorial

Yesterday was the 12th birthday of the National WWII Memorial in DC., and though we're a day late, we had to just wish it a belated happy birthday. Some of our fondest memories have taken place at this memorial where worlds come together for one purpose: honor and remembrance. It is here that in a space of time so short, we have met some of the most wonderful friends you could ever ask for. It is here that the walls of the memorial hold the echos of songs we have sung with gray-haired heroes. The pavement boasts tears that have dropped from our eyes at the loved ones gone forever but always in our hearts. And the wind rushes through it all whispering tales of bravery and honor, the like that is hard to find. Happy birthday dear WWII Memorial. May you continue to show gratitude and honor to those who so nobly served our country. 

Singing for a Veteran

One of my favorite parts of meeting and talking with veterans of the Second World War is hearing my sister Faith sing to them and watching their responses. Some sit thoughtfully, others tear up, but the best is when they sing with her. Recently, while we were in Conneaut, Ohio, for the D-Day Reenactment, this happened several times. Faith would begin White Cliffs of DoverWe'll Meet Again, or some other classic from their time, and suddenly out of nowhere we would hear a wonderfully rusty voice chiming in, singing along with her. 

One such veteran was Mr. Arthur Engelberg. At the ripe age of 99 1/2 (he made sure we didn't forget that extra half), Mr. Engelberg is the very picture of the engaging, robust, World War II veteran. He told us that he rises every morning, looks at himself in the mirror and says, "Thank you, God, for a new day, -and thank you for making me better looking everyday." There was a sparkle in his eyes and a bit of a leprechaun in him as he signed my newspaper, "Brad Pitt." He said that his key to life is a grateful attitude. 

Moments like these are really quite thrilling to me when they occur, bringing us back briefly into a bygone era. Today there is not much connection with the WWII generation. My generation listens to different music, wears different clothes, and has entirely different interests. "Fun" used to mean playing outside, even if that was just marching around with paper hats for crowns and sticks for scepters, or kicking a ball in the street with friends. Not so today. Now, fun means chatting every spare moment on a smart phone or playing the latest Playstation or Xbox game.

All of this does not help to bridge the gap between our generations, and it is easy to forget that yes, they were once young like us, too. We may think their music is out of date or old-fashioned, but it isn't for them. The music that is considered old fashioned or retro was at the top of the charts in their day. The movies that are labeled out of date,  or not interesting enough, were the box-office hits of their time. 

Mr. Arthur Engelberg teaches us to sing, Doodle-li-do, a delightful little ditty. He was by far the best singer in our group!

All this to say how important it is for us to understand the time they grew up in, the culture that formed their identity, and all that made them who they are today.  WWII veterans are some of the most interesting people I have ever met. They have richness of experience and perspective from decades of life that we would be wise to learn from.  We have found that when Faith sings to them, a gap is bridged and a connection is made that goes deeper than what an ordinary conversation could do. It seems to say, "I want to identify with you because I care about you; because you are valuable." And they appreciate it so much. Not every one can sing the songs of WWII (I can't for sure), but there are so many ways to show that you are interested in their life, that you want to learn from them, and that you are grateful for their sacrifice. Whatever effort you make is paid back ten-fold when you see their faces. Life is just so much richer for both.