D-Day Anniversary- 68 Years Later

English: President Ronald Reagan and President...

English: President Ronald Reagan and President Francois Mitterrand of France attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the American cemetery at Omaha Beach. The ceremony is part of the 40th anniversary of D-day, the invasion of Europe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this day in 1984 President Ronald Reagan spoke beautifully of the importance of the Allied invasion of Europe and the defeat of tyranny imposed by the evil Nazi regime.

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Memorial Day is For ALL Americans

Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery.

Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My family’s history includes very little military service. But that doesn’t change the fact that Memorial Day is for all Americans, even those like me who can’t point to any known fallen war heroes.

It’s easy to dismiss this weekend as little more than the starting gun for Summer, like I did through most of my youth. My memories of Memorial Day weekend include no particular traditions or events of noteworthiness. A camping trip some years, a home BBQ others. But as I’ve grown older I felt I might be missing something. I feel such respect and appreciation for servicemen and woman I selfishly craved it for myself and my family.

I never served. It’s something I have regretted my entire adult life; sort of a “Why didn’t I put my money where my mouth is?” regret. I almost enlisted. When I was 18 a high school friend and I decided we would. We then decided to cheer our decision by downing a few shots of my Dad’s Canadian Club Whiskey. While thoroughly buzzed we then jumped in our cars and drove to Redmond to the nearest Army recruiting office. Only, we couldn’t find it. After driving around a short while (remember no GPS back then. No Mapquest either. And asking directions is just something we guys never do) we decided we would sober up and make our commitment to serve official the next day. The next day came and went, as did the next, and the next and the next…on and on.

My Uncle Wayne Schuett and I were driving North to Blaine, WA last November 30 on a mission to spread my father’s ashes at Birch Bay when my Uncle enlightened me on his own service. I never knew he was a Marine. It’s something he simply never talked about in all the years of my life. Turns out there wasn’t much to talk about. He served between the time of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, so he had no conflict in which to fight.

My Papa (Grandfather) Arthur Anderson, on my Mom’s side of the family, served in World War II; as did Harold Lilly (my Step-Grandfather on Dad’s side). To my knowledge the only blood relative I had to serve in World War I, WWII, Korea, or Vietnam was my Great-Uncle Wilbur Schuett. He survived service in WWII. His gravestone says PFC 4 721 Field Artillery Battalion WWII. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know what that means. Wilbur, who was known as Bill, survived the war, but not the drinking and carousing life he led in Bellingham, WA after the war; dying at age 42.

Gravestone of Great-Uncle Wilbur Schuett at Lacey Cemetery, Lacey, WA

Civil War Veteran A.C. Mathis

Photographed in approximately 1880, my Great-great-Grandfather Augustus C. Mathis.

My Nana’s (Dad’s Mom) Grandfather Augustus C. Mathis is honored in Polk County, Arkansas with a Confederate Civil War headstone for serving in the 12 Tennessee Cavalry during the war between the states. He spent most of the war as a prisoner of the north. Too me, it seems odd to honor service for those who fought for the dissolution of this country and the continued life long imprisonment of slaves, but I’m not from the South. Down there the memory of Confederate veterans is held in very high esteem.

Headstone in Polk County, Arkansas of Private A.C. Mathis

Headstone of Private A.C. Mathis, Polk County, Arkansas.

Perhaps the ancestor for whom I’m proudest is my Great x 4 Grandfather, on my Mother’s side, Jesse P. Starkey 1780-1830. At 32 years of age he fought for the United States in the War of 1812 against the invading British. Like others who served, the Virginia born Starkey was awarded a land grant in 1814 in what is now southern Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri.

The Gateway Arch, part of the Jefferson Nation...

Populating the soon to be established state and paying the soldiers of the U.S. military was a goal of the James Madison administration. By the time Illinois achieved statehood in December 1818 only 35,000 inhabited the whole state. And thanks to my Great-great-great-great-Grandfather my family was well represented. 128 years later my Mom was born only a few miles away from the original Starkey family land grant, in Alton, IL. In the 21st century Starkeys widely populate Madison and other neighboring counties across The Big Muddy from The Gateway to the West.

My research has determined that branches of my family tree on both my Mom and Dad’s side resided in what is now the United States dating back to nearly Jamestown. And while ancestry.com has sent numerous notices to me informing me I have several ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War and make me eligible for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution, I’ve not found the time to confirm these proud connections.

Indulging me a trip through my ancestors military service was all for the purpose of arriving here. I am damned proud of those who wore our countries uniform whose DNA I share. But I am equally proud of the many hundreds-of-thousands  in our nation’s history who spent time in their lives devoted to the strength and lasting endurance of this country and the ideals embodied in that document presented for signature in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

In looking back to my youth at why I never penned my name to a military commitment to serve my nation in one of the branches, I have to admit fear prevented me from following through on that desire. Not necessarily fear of dying in a war; just fear of the unknown, fear of the commitment required, and fear that it wouldn’t take me to where I wanted to ultimately end up. I wonder how many others never serve for similar reasons. I can’t be the only one.

So I salute those who had the courage that I did not, and helped shape this country. We all benefit from YOU overcoming whatever fear you possessed. Thank you.

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War on the Middle Class is all Friendly Fire.

“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”- George Santayana, 19th Century writer, philosopher

Have you ever driven through an old neighborhood where the houses were mostly constructed in the 1920’s?

Old Neighborhood

Seattle's Queen Anne Hill

What did you see? What you saw from that era of American consumption is very large homes; Bungalow styles, Colonial revival, Ranch style and others. In Seattle the Leschi neighborhood and the area east of Franklin High School give adequate representation of the kind of opulence home owners enjoyed in the time of Prohibition,

Calvin Coolidge, President of the United State...

President Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge, and a rising stock market.

History being our teacher we look back on that time and know what followed; a record stock market crash, increased taxes from the Federal Government and a depression that shook the foundation of our country. So what do you see in the neighborhoods where the houses were constructed in the 1930s? The answer is nothing. There are no neighborhoods built in the 1930s. Like today construction ground to a complete halt because of the depression leaving nothing to look back on.

World War II took us out of the depression, but because of the diverting of resources home construction didn’t recover in this country for five more years. When it resumed in the late 40s and continued through the 50s and 60s what was being built? The Lake Hills community in Bellevue, WA is a fair representation of late 50s early 60s construction. I grew up there.

Small homes from 1950s

With very few exceptions it’s a community made up almost entirely of ramblers with a size seldom exceeding 1200-1500 square feet. They were easy to construct and inexpensive. And the Eisenhower and Kennedy 50s and 60s gave America a universal image of happiness and wealth. In my case I thought my house was a palace growing up. After my parents divorced our single parent home, led by my Dad, became a 1100 square foot rented duplex. The whole neighborhood was duplexes, so once again I didn’t feel deprived.

Slowly through the 70s the houses got bigger, introducing the God-awful split-level

I always hated Split-levels

. But even these were generally no more than 2000 square feet.

By the time the 90s come around everything has exploded.

A 1990s McMansion

Newly constructed homes have to have a minimum of three bedrooms, laundry room, office, play room and foyer. The home I grew up in would be swallowed by my current homes downstairs alone. And with the added size came an awful lot of opulence too. Granite countertops now are staples in even the most humble abode. In the past 20 years we’ve furnished these McMansions with leather furniture and tile floors. And if our home didn’t have the amenities we desired we would refinance our mortgage or get a second mortgage, taking equity out of our personally largest investment. Taking equity out of your home was something our parents and grandparents wouldn’t dream of doing except in the most dire financial emergency. Now we do it to finance a trip to Cancun.

The 2008 financial collapse was largely caused by an increasing number of Americans failing to pay their mortgage; mortgages for big, opulent homes too many flat-out couldn’t afford. But creative financial instruments were put before us and Presto! We could suddenly afford these ridiculous houses. The dreaded ARM loan became a buzz word and the source of all our consternation. Nobody put a gun to anyone’s head asking them to sign these unwise financial documents. But like lemmings lining up for our own fatal plunge Americans from every corner of our nation made the dive.

The expenses our parents faced on a monthly basis included a rent or mortgage payment on a fixed-rate 30 year mortgage. They included heating bills, water, sewer, life insurance, car insurance, phone, food and gas. It included little else. Today all those expenses have exploded. Gas prices have doubled just since Barrack Obama became President. Also now our monthly expenses include all of what’s just been mentioned PLUS cable tv, internet, DVRs, cell phones

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

, workout-clubs or gyms, video game networking, 50 inch TVs and more. And these are just regular monthly expenses. These are expenses earlier generations couldn’t fathom; nearly all of them unnecessary extravagances. Can you say with a straight face that you honestly NEED 200 different television channels? Is it really necessary that each individual in the household be available for a telephone (cell phone) call 24-7? We have five different telephones in my four person home. We could have six but I fought my wife against getting our 13-year-old daughter her own phone.

When dollars are tight and the bills aren’t being met too many enviously scream at those who have more and shout “No fair!”. But when you look around at what even the poorest in our society enjoy compared to our forefathers, and compared to the rest of the world, for that matter, shouldn’t the finger of blame be pointed at the man or woman in the mirror when cash flow is not there for you? Doesn’t history show us that when you build up and up and up and live beyond your means a correction is inevitable? And doesn’t history tell us that living humbly coincided with happy times and progress for our society?

I don’t wish anyone to live uncomfortably. I want us all to have a rich and fabulous existence. I want us all to thrive. I’m just saying thriving could be a lot easier if we look back from whence we came.

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