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Posts Tagged ‘the Kennedys’

Like many other Americans, I turned on the TV this past Saturday and watched–with fascination and sorrow–as the Kennedy family journeyed to Arlington Cemetery to bury another esteemed member of their clan–Ted Kennedy, the beloved senator from Massachusetts.

Watching the ceremony brought back memories of my own visits to Arlington, the beautiful and sacred grounds where at least seven members of my family are buried, including my parents and maternal grandparents.

The following excerpts from my book, A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham, describe a visit I made to Arlington many years ago with my father:

       I will never forget the summer day a few years after my mother’s death in 1963 when my father and I visited her gravesite. While we were walking down one of the many pathways, he pointed out the names of a few of his friends, whose names were neatly carved in the granite stones. These men were members of his generation and, like him, had served in the army during World War II. A few were West Point classmates of his, joined by wives who either predeceased them or died after they did. Those men had always seen him as a leader. When they were cadets, Howard Peckham was selected as first captain of his class, the highest rank in the cadet chain of command. The title gave him the privilege of speaking to the administration on their behalf and directing their training.

There was a matter-of-fact tone in my father’s voice as he spoke their names—nothing forlorn. He was well aware of his own mortality and knew that one day, maybe not too far in the future, he would be laid to rest on those same hallowed grounds. Although Howard Peckham was a realist in regard to his inevitable demise, he was also optimistic. Ever since his boyhood years, he maintained a strong religious faith and a belief in an afterlife. He was convinced that he would one day see his deceased family members and good friends again.

           Howard Peckham and his army compatriots would see each other at different places over the years and during changing circumstances. They would meet during catastrophic wartimes that shook America like ponderous earthquakes—World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. During those dark days, my father and his army friends resembled ships that pass each other in the bleak nighttime of world conflict. All of those wars affected them in one way or another, especially those men who came through World War II unscathed but who lost sons in the fighting in Korea or Vietnam.

When the storm clouds of war finally drifted away, and tranquility again temporarily hovered over our land, the men resembled travelers who greet each other during the bright daylight of peace. Those are the days they especially treasured.

       Ever since the end of the Vietnam War, which is the last major conflict discussed in A Salute to Patriotism, the drumbeat of United States Army history has continued to move steadily forward, and other soldiers have answered the call to duty and country in faraway, dangerous lands.

In 2008, as I complete my writing of this book, American young people are stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, helping to keep us free.  A Salute to Patriotism is dedicated to them.

Note: A Salute to Patriotism is available on Amazon. com. Click this link to look inside the book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

 

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