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Growing up in the late 1960’s, I was surrounded with many familiar words, or terms…

DMZ (demilitarized zone)

KIA

MIA

Viet Cong

Cambodia

POW

Tet Offensive

Ho Chi Minh Trail

On the evening news there were television images of helicopters and jungles.  I was glued to these images – not by a macabre force – but by the hope of seeing my uncle, Garry Jolliff, in those jungles or riding around in one of those nifty helicopters.  I can remember the thrill of having Uncle Garry’s letters read to me allowed by my parents.  I had a little rubber American GI doll that I called, ‘Uncle Garry.’  I watched the Bob Hope Specials, and sat close to the television set so I could search the crowds for Uncle Garry.

I was sure he would be there to see Bob Hope.

One night during one of the Bob Hope shows, I remember turning to Mother, who was standing behind the ironing board while the sweet smell of Spray Starch filled the air.

“Will I have to go to war?”

Since I was a very small boy, I am sure she was relieved to answer, “I hope not.”  However, there was also an expression on her face that was seared into my mind, and still vivid forty-odd years later.  I know that expression well.  My nineteen year old son is finishing up basic training, and the possibility of going to battle for an uncertain purpose looms in the near future.

Now, it is my turn to say, “I hope not.”

This evening, my sixteen year old son and I sat in my sitting room to watch GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM.  I knew most of the Vietnamese War jargon would be over his head, but I was certain he would enjoy Robin Williams’ portrayal of Adrian Cronauer.  And he did.  He asked how old I was when the movie came out…  twenty-three years old.  Did I like the movie when it came out?  Most certainly!  Robin Williams was a box office draw, and I returned to watch the movie several times while it was still in theaters.

Tonight, the movie was still hilarious, but I truly saw the movie for the first time.  It cried out to me like the musical, MISS SAIGON: ‘those living reminders of all the good we failed to do.’

Sunday, the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I did not post anything on Facebook in regard to the modern day of infamy.  The same rhetoric was appearing over, and over on status updates, and nothing really spoke to me.  I am not saying I was not moved by the heart-breaking scenes that were linked across many of the television channels, I simply chose to remain silent.

Always remember… 

Never forget…

Tonight, when I finished watching the movie I thought back to my early youth when Vietnam was nothing but a very long, drawn-out, agonizing form of 9/11.  The dark foreboding of families fearing “the news” might be delivered seemed to linger, and in our own home, as well.  The nightly news tallied the number of soldiers killed that day.  Images of bombings, fires, tanks, helicopters, wounded soldiers blazed from the television set each night.  News of distant family and friends losing a loved-one in combat stuck in the air like the repetitive-scratchy sound of a record player that has run its course in playing a record.  There were scenes of destruction, scenes of a young spy being executed, scenes of Buddhist monks being engulfed in suicidal flames, scenes of… always, more scenes.  The day of 9/11 I saw the scenes live – much like scenes broadcast during Vietnam.  The days following 9/11, the scenes were repeated with numbness.

During 9/11, and especially this Sunday I heard about one hero after another.  As a young child, I do not recall hearing about heroes of Vietnam.  I remember Uncle Garry’s stories on the battlefield, and the story of the fellow soldier beside him on the helicopter who placed his own St. Christopher’s medal around my seriously wounded uncle’s neck – my uncle survived, but the soldier did not – but I cannot recall ever hearing anyone from that era referred to as a hero.

As I sit here in my study, typing out my thoughts of the movie, a National Geographic documentary on Henry Kissinger is rolling.  That voice, coupled with so many photos and video clips of the Vietnam era seems to be a sign that I will be conducting more soul-searching, more research.  For what purpose, I do not know.  Too many God-winks all in one evening.

The scars of WWII and the Korean War have all but vanished.  The scalding scars of Vietnam are healing, but will probably not be entirely extinguished in my life-time.  Two other wars have occurred since Vietnam.  But these wars talk openly about heroes.  It seems as though the Vietnam war had its own ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy but obviously nothing to do with Gays in the military.

I knew one particular hero who served in the Vietnam War.  He died nine years ago, physically crippled by wounds received in Vietnam, but a spirit that rose far beyond the jungles in which he fought.  When completely crippled veterans were only receiving 10% disability funding, Uncle Garry embarked on a mission far greater, far nobler than the mission he was coerced to serve as a twenty-one year old young man.  The veterans – those oft ignored heroes of ‘that’ war – now have full disability coverage.  However, I am confident they still live with those scars.  May God bless them, and aide them in their continued healing.

“And I think to my self, ‘what a wonderful world.'”

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This has been an amusing several days for news.

  • Lindsay Lohan is sentenced to jail and rehab…
  • Mel Gibson has been acting up, again…
  • Touch Down Jesus will be rebuilt – full body from Indiana limestone…
  • The Barefoot Bandit has alluded authorities several times this past week…
  • And the big item this week… Lebron James…

Hmmm….

First off, I had no idea who Miss Lohan was. In fact, I almost thought they were talking about J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez). I did a quick search and found out she was a supermodel, an actress and a singer. OK… cool.

For several days I read, or heard about this mysterious announcement to be made by Lebron James. Since I do not follow sports, and only half listen to television news I figured someone was getting ready to announce their candidacy for the 2012 Presidential Election. I mean, isn’t it about time for the campaigning to begin?

The comments on Facebook, and Twitter, are downright hilarious to me! You would have thought this young guy was discovered to be one of the ten spies returned to Russia yesterday. It reminded me of the night the Baltimore Colts were whisked away in a bus to Indianapolis – fans appeared furious that a sports team leaving their community! You would have thought Michigan and Ohio State University had switched fight songs (if you are from Ohio, you would understand the blasphemy, and severity of such an action!).

The Barefoot Bandit, whose real name is Colton Harris-Moore, now has his own Wikipedia site, and has 55,587 followers (as of this Saturday afternoon) on Facebook. Darling Facebook fan, Eddie Smith of England, who could probably stand to gain from a basic grammar class, writes, “Man your a legend, your story is everywhere in England… Everyone thinks your great!….. Keep going man never let them catch you!!!”

These items seem to be plastering the media landscape, and I have to scratch my head, and ask, “Why the hell should any of this really, and truly matter?”

People are furious with Lebron James for switching to tennis, or marrying Tiger Woods future ex-wife, or trying to steal Morgan Freeman’s contract for the upcoming Broadway production, DRIVING MISS DAISY, or whatever it is he does (yes, I know he is a basketball star from Ohio).

I don’t know why THE TODAY SHOW was so concerned with talking to doctor’s, psychologists, lawyers, and fellow celebrities to dissect Ms. Lohan’s ordeal. Are ya serious, Meredith Viero? An Oregon boy is missing, we have a major oil spill, people are suffering from the heat wave hitting the East Coast, and so many other items of greater importance – and yet the focus is on a celebrity’s legal battles. So what else is new?

When it was announced in The Dayton Daily News that Touchdown Jesus would be rebuilt with Indiana limestone, the critical, even cruel, comments began pouring in! People are furious that Solid Rock Church is spending their OWN money for a blasphemous structure (like cathedrals throughout Europe and here) to glorify God.  “But we don’t even know what Jesus looks like?” wrote one complaining comment. Well, neither did Leonardo da Vinci nor Michaelangelo, or so many other great artists. Should we paint over their masterpieces, or chisel away at the sculptures? I am certain the complainers have

  1. attended, or still attend churches with Christian icons, or set dressing
  2. never attempted to do as much for charity as the parishioners of Solid Rock Church
  3. have no church affiliation, or
  4. a new GPS so they no longer need TDJ as a landmark to tell them when they are closer to Traders World or Kings Island

Why are these particular topics so valued by the masses?

Why is the nineteen year old Barefoot Bandit more an international focus and Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda groupies are not?

While waiting to put some groceries on the conveyor belt at Kroger last night, I glanced over at the Rag Mags, and learned:

  • Laura Bush is divorcing George W. Bush because he is having an affair with Joan Rivers
  • Justin Bieber really has begun puberty
  • Billy Ray Cyrus is a much better actor than many believe, and will be cast in the title role of HAMLET in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth
  • Will Prince Charles have to pin back his ears to wear the royal crown when he becomes king?
  • Television’s Sister Angelica is secretly carrying Pope Benedict’s love child
  • Donna Summer has been cast to play Michael Jackson in the television rock-u-drama about his life?
  • Broadway’s newest production of LES MISERABLES welcomes Great Britain’s star, Susan Doyle, to play Young Cosette

OK, those were actually headlines I made up, but we all know that those do seem to be genuine from the Rag Mags on shopping store racks.

I wonder how many readers will read the above items and take them to be true?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Declaration of Independence

(Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776)

The Unanimous Declaration of the

Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

……………………….

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

I discovered this incredible video by one of Dayton’s own young celebrities – Ryan Vallo.

I am adding Ryan’s text for those who may not have Facebook accounts.

“It’s 2010 and change is EVERYWHERE: our government, our environment, our economy, our culture. I’m Ryan Vallo, a 24 year-old from Dayton, Ohio. Join me as we travel around the globe to see how these changes affect our lives, our families, our communities, our nations, and our world. Welcome to…WE THE PEOPLE!”

Recently, Oprah opened a competition in search of a host with a concept for a new television show she will produce on her new network, the OWN Network. Now, I never send out these vote online for this that and the other email requests, however, I firmly believe in this television show concept. If you find yourself with a free moment, please follow the link below to view and vote for my video that explains my concept.

My apologies in advance for the poor image quality – it appears Oprah’s techs were unable to translate the web video file I sent, but the audio is at the least somewhat intact. Hope you are all well, and I SINCERELY thank you for your time and support as it is greatly appreciated!!! Vote for my video online at by 11:59PM on July 3rd!!!

OPRAH LINK:
http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&response_id=17418&promo_id=1

To view a better quality of the video, please visit YOUTUBE, but don’t forget to vote on Oprah’s website: COMING SOON!!!

Many Thanks,
Ryan Vallo

* A special thanks to my good friend David Sherman – without his assistance this video would not be possible!

Well, not exactly…

This is the date in 1829 that James Smithson of England died (and not because Germany beat them in the World Cup in 2010).

Here’s the story…

How our country built The Smithsonian Institution

From HISTORY CHANNELS: This Day in History

May 31: General Interest
1859 : Big Ben goes into operation in London

The famous tower clock known as Big Ben, located at the top of the 320-foot-high St. Stephen’s Tower, rings out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, for the first time on this day in 1859.

After a fire destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster–the headquarters of the British Parliament–in October 1834, a standout feature of the design for the new palace was a large clock atop a tower. The royal astronomer, Sir George Airy, wanted the clock to have pinpoint accuracy, including twice-a-day checks with the Royal Greenwich Observatory. While many clockmakers dismissed this goal as impossible, Airy counted on the help of Edmund Beckett Denison, a formidable barrister known for his expertise in horology, or the science of measuring time.

Denison’s design, built by the company E.J. Dent & Co., was completed in 1854; five years later, St. Stephen’s Tower itself was finished. Weighing in at more than 13 tons, its massive bell was dragged to the tower through the streets of London by a team of 16 horses, to the cheers of onlookers. Once it was installed, Big Ben struck its first chimes on May 31, 1859. Just two months later, however, the heavy striker designed by Denison cracked the bell. Three more years passed before a lighter hammer was added and the clock went into service again. The bell was rotated so that the hammer would strike another surface, but the crack was never repaired.

The name “Big Ben” originally just applied to the bell but later came to refer to the clock itself. Two main stories exist about how Big Ben got its name. Many claim it was named after the famously long-winded Sir Benjamin Hall, the London commissioner of works at the time it was built. Another famous story argues that the bell was named for the popular heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt, because it was the largest of its kind.

Even after an incendiary bomb destroyed the chamber of the House of Commons during the Second World War, St. Stephen’s Tower survived, and Big Ben continued to function. Its famously accurate timekeeping is regulated by a stack of coins placed on the clock’s huge pendulum, ensuring a steady movement of the clock hands at all times. At night, all four of the clock’s faces, each one 23 feet across, are illuminated. A light above Big Ben is also lit to let the public know when Parliament is in session.

On National Geographic Channel I am watching SEARCH FOR NOAH\’S ARK. I can remember as a child watching a documentary on Noah’s ark being discovered at the movie theater in my home town around 1973. Of course, I also went to see another movie on Bigfoot.

So far, this movie is unfolding nicely, and I hope there is evidence of an actual ark.

Here is one website: NoahsArkSearch.Com

Another article of a more recent find this past April is: ARTICLE: Noah\’s Ark Found!

Some photos:

This morning, I rose late (7:45am) having spent a late night watching DVD’s on the history of New York City. I chatted with Mother and ventured into the front yard to trim, edge the walk, trim the shrubs, and blow away the debris.

Jose is with the neighbors to visit their family in Xenia and fish. I am taking the opportunity to write on the Wright Brothers musical, and watch (as I write) Wallis & Edward, a 2005 British motion picture about the romance between American born Wallis Warfield Simpson and Britain’s King Edward VIII. Edward, the son of King George and Queen Mary, was the uncle of the current queen, Elizabeth II. In 1936, Edward abdicated the throne due to opposition from his ministers that he could not marry Wallis, finally divorced.

Video:  Duke of Windsor reads his 1936 abdication speech in 1968

King Edward, known as “David” to the family, was adored by his two nieces, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, daughters of The Duke & Duchess of York, the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum). Despite the adoration of the nieces, Elizabeth of York despised Wallis Simpson.

I can remember mentioning this to my grandfather one night as we were eating at Jim Dandy in Elwood, and he remembered their romance vividly. Grandpa said the newspaper banners read for weeks, “What Will The King Do?” He said that the night of the abdication, the entire family, and neighbors and friends, piled around the radio to listen to King Edward’s speech. I learned later that the rest of the world knew about the romance more than the citizens of Great Britain where the media had been silenced.

After the abdication, Edward left England for France, with the title HRH Duke of Windsor. Even after their marriage the following June, the new king, George VI, Edward’s brother (Queen Elizabeth’s father) refused Wallace the title of HRH, though she was referred to as Duchess of Windsor.

The story following the abdication was just as delicious as the romance leading up to it. One of my favorite books is Royal Feud by Michael Thornton – a fantastic book:

Although they were contemporaries with only six years between them, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Wallis Warfield were totally unlike in personality and seemed destined to lead very different roles. Elizabeth was the daughter of a Scottish earl and married the Duke of York, second son of King George V. Wallis had emerged from a childhood of financial security in America and had already been through one divorce by the time she met Edward, Prince of Wales, heir to the throne.

The Duchess of York never trusted Wallis, who became Mrs Simpson on her second marriage, and like the rest of the family she resented her for her increasing domination of Prince Edward. He became King in 1936 on the death of George V, but his refusal to give Mrs Simpson up after her second divorce resulted in his abdication and the succession of the Duke of York as George VI.

Edward and Mrs Simpson were made Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but she was denied the style of Royal Highness – something for which she and the Duke always blamed Queen Elizabeth. The latter always refused to receive the Duchess, and when George VI died at a comparatively early age, the widowed Queen Mother referred to her as “the woman who killed my husband’. It was a feud between two determined women which continued until they came face to face in 1967, for the first time in over thirty years.

The first meeting of the Royal Feuders – Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the Windsors. In this photo: (L-R) Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth, Duke of Glouchester, Duchess of Glouchester, Duke of Windsor, Duchess of Windsor. This particular cast was gathered for the dedication of a plaque commemorating the centennial of Queen Mary’s birth.

One of my favorite stories: In 1972, the dying HRH Duke of Windsor, living in France, was visited several times by his great-nephew, Prince Charles of Wales. Several weeks before succumbing to stomach cancer, the dying former monarch was visited by his niece, Queen Elizabeth. Doctors and nurses spent hours dressing the Duke so that curtains and clothing would conceal the tubes and machines. The Duke insisted on sitting in a chair to greet The Queen, but was under strict orders to not rise. He agreed. Wallis greeted the Queen, Prince Phillip and Prince Charles on the front steps, bowing to the royals – something she refused to do for Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Upstairs, the doors opened and The Queen entered. HRH The Duke of Windsor rose from his chair, unaided, and bowed to his niece – something reported to have touched Elizabeth greatly – her dying uncle, once The King of England, rose painfully, yet steadily, to acknowledge his monarch.

During this meeting, Queen Elizabeth shared with her beloved uncle that she was granting him permission to be buried in the gardens of Frogmore House, near Windsor Castle, and near his family. This infuriated The Queen Mother who could never let go of her animosity for Wallis.

When The Duke died, The Royal Air Force brought home his remains from France, and some 60,000 people filed past his coffin at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor over two days. The Duke was buried at Frogmore, and The Duchess was invited to stay in a suite at Buckingham Palace, and was appreciative of the many kindnesses shown her by The Queen. During the Trooping of the Colors, Wallis watched The Queen – her niece – pay tribute to The Duke of Windsor.

Wallis watching the Trooping of the Colours from her Buckingham Palace suite.

In 1986, Buckingham Palace put on a low-key ceremony for the Duchess of Windsor, the former Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry in 1937.

While she had been ostracized by the royal family in life, after her death the duchess’ body was brought back to England by the Royal Air Force for interment beside her husband at Windsor Castle. The funeral was marked by a period of formal royal mourning. In attendance was HRH Diana, Princess of Wales.

He was buried at Frogmore, the private family cemetery at Windsor, but some of the trappings were absent. For example, there was no gun carriage processional, as is planned for Diana funeral.

Once the Wright Brothers’ musical is completed, I would like to finish Love Is Eternal: Abraham & Mary Todd Lincoln, and then consider writing a musical on Wallis & Edward.

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