5.31.2010

A Visit to the National World War II Museum on Memorial Day - And Best Wishes to a Friend of the Blog























My good friend Bob T of Wisconsin, a long-time friend of the blog, was in town this weekend, and we spent the afternoon down at the National World War II Museum here in New Orleans.  Before today, I've never had a chance to explore the museum and its many exhibits thoroughly.  And even after our visit today, more remains.

It was a moving experience and a solemn one - an orchestra played martial hymns in the main hall as we proceeded through the museum.  We focused mainly on the exhibits that chronicle the Normandy D-Day invasion.  The images and the artifacts get to you.  One photo in particular, which I'd never seen before, struck me.  It encompasses a slightly hazy shot of a single man on the Normandy beach close up against a cliff with the fighting raging off in the background on the shore and in the waves.  It left me almost numb - his eyes captured, more than any image of D-Day I've ever encountered, the sheer inhumanity, the horror, and the despair of war.

Hearing the Navy Hymn brought a great deal to mind.  I remembered the annual Memorial Day services in my hometown of Kiel, where for a few years I said the pledge of allegiance at a number of rural cemeteries before the main ceremony.  At each, a contingent of the Municipal Band would play the song for those gathered.  I recalled my ancestors who served in the Union army shortly after they arrived from overseas, my great grandfather who served aboard the USS Arizona before its demise, my grandfather who served in Korea, my friend Cully Goodrich who served aboard a ship in the Pacific in World War II, Ralph Meyer who was involved in Operation Market Garden, and most of all a man who was like a sort of third grandfather to me growing up, George Mathes, who landed in France immediately after D-Day and was part of the push toward Berlin.

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Despite the gravity of the day, Bob, I'm glad to say, was most concerned during our visit about the strategy and tactics involved in the exhibits - the nature of Omaha Beach versus Sword Beach, for example.  He was looking for lessons, thinking critically about the wisdom of the plans involved.  A good military officer.

About an hour ago, he departed for Fort Polk, Louisiana where he recently concluded training to be a combat advisor.  He ships out for Afghanistan in a few days.

On behalf of everyone here at Letters in Bottles, I wish him the absolute best of luck as he heads overseas.  I'm confident he will succeed honorably in any mission he's tasked with, and I have no doubt he will bring his infectious enthusiasm to bear.  We wish you the best, Bob, and we'll be thinking about you.