My Father’s Memoir

In the last years of his life, my father wrote a series of emails to my oldest son, the oldest grandchild in the family. Dad copied me on his emails. He told me he would like for all of his grandchildren to read them when they became old enough to appreciate the stories. I assured him I would see to it.

The stories Dad wrote describe his experiences in World War II. They are not stories of combat, intrigue, high adventure, or tragedy. Instead, they tell about ordinary aspects of the life of a soldier. He wrote in a matter-of-fact tone, his voice pitched to a young reader, but aware that others might read as well. Only on further consideration does a reader appreciate the context in which a citizen-turned-soldier earned such stories.

Dad grew up going to the movies. They provided a major form of entertainment during the Great Depression. On Saturday afternoons in the 1930s Dad enjoyed cowboy westerns and space adventures and other action films. Each movie had a hero, and each story implied something about heroism. The concept of heroism Dad learned from the movies led him to title one of his WWII stories “Never A Hero.” He believed he didn’t do anything special during the war. I believe he was wrong.

What the movie heroes in the 1930s all had in common at the beginning of each film was an unsure outcome. The heroes proceeded with partial knowledge at best, and they encountered various perils. Most prevailed; some did not. They all accepted great risk. As my father and millions of his contemporaries embarked on periods of service in World War II, none of them knew the outcome of his or her experience, the peril they would face, or whether or not they would prevail. In the face of great risk and an unknown outcome, simply doing one’s duty is a form of heroism.

I saved each of the emails Dad sent to my son. To honor his wishes, I have shared them with his younger grandchildren. However instead of simply forwarding the emails, I compiled them into a book and have given a copy of the book to each grandchild. They can read it now, and again many years from now when they might have a different understanding of their grandfather’s role in one of the major events of the twentieth century. Whenever they read it, I hope they hear a familiar voice.

The book I compiled for Dad’s grandchildren may be of interest to others. A hardback version is available from the self-publishing site, Blurb.com, and a softcover edition is available on Amazon. Whether a reader knew my father or not, one who enjoys memoir, a description of life in the first half of twentieth century, or an inside account of enlisted army life in World War II might appreciate his story. I’m grateful he shared it.

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Reading in the Barn

It was a great experience attending The Frost Place Poetry Seminar in Franconia, New Hampshire in early August. This was my second time at the seminar, and second time reading poems in the barn behind Robert Frost’s house. See one of the poems I read, “Right of Way,” which first appeared in The Timberline Review.

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In addition to writing, learning, and reading, I worked in a morning of trout fishing on the Ammonoosuc River in White Mountain National Forest. Not a bad way to spend a week in late summer.

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Another Essay on Gun Control

Do we need another essay on gun control? I don’t know, but none of the ones so far have done much good. Here’s my contribution to the subject: Risk Management, Tyranny, and Guns.

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Another Eulogy

The first eulogy I had the honor to deliver was for my uncle. It was hard. On the way out of the church sanctuary, my father told me I had done a good job. I thanked him and said, “Just wait ’til you hear yours.” He got a good laugh out of that.

Dad passed away in December, 2015. Over a beautiful April weekend we held a memorial service to bury his ashes next to his parents’ graves in Atlanta. Twenty or so family and friends got to hear the eulogy I wrote for Dad. He never heard it, but I did tell him how I felt about him before he passed away. He and I had a very good understanding of each other’s opinions, and strong mutual respect. I’m sure he knew how I felt, yet I am thankful to have told him. Never miss an opportunity to tell someone you love how you feel about them.

Dad’s eulogy was even harder to deliver than the first one I presented, but it was a pleasure to write. I share it here for those who were not able to attend the service, or those who just want to read it and think of Charles Marsh. He was a good man. Maybe someday I will find out he got to hear his eulogy after all.

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Thoughts on Controversy

We’ve had an awful lot of controversy over a variety of topics for quite a while. A few of the subjects transformed almost overnight in light of recent events. An essay I wrote this week, Stand in the Light, tells what I think about all the controversy. No one subject in particular, just controversy in general, why we get drawn into supporting some things against our better judgment, and encouragement to think about how we think about things. Maybe it can help us deal with other subjects better than we have dealt with those that have dominated the news in recent weeks.

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Use Your Own Voice

When I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy in the 1980s, my classmates and I had to memorize the Academy’s honor concept. It has changed over the years due to scandals and periods of thoughtful reflection that followed those upheavals. In it current form, the honor concept includes a passage that says of Midshipmen: “They ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented. ”

That is a more explicit statement about plagiarism and originality than we had to memorize in my day. Nevertheless, we got the point. I thought it was almost common sense. My high school teachers had emphasized the importance of original work and the need to give proper attribution to the work of others.

Like so many things, I have come to learn that respect for the work of others is not common sense. Some unfortunate people who have made it quite far in the workplace will seize upon the work of others if they believe they can get away with it. I encountered someone like this in the course of an interview process. The resulting essay describes the experience.

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A Few Poems

Exactly a year has passed since my last post in this blog. Fortunately, three online journals have given me some news to share. Four of my poems –“Cold Truth,” “Lost Things Are,” “Disappearing Ways,” and “Museum”—appeared in the Fall/Winter 2014 edition of The Tower Journal. My poem “Thermodynamics” appeared in a November 19th post in The Penmen Review. And just this week, a poem titled “Lucky Place” appeared in the December 2014 edition of the web journal The Lake, published out of England. I am grateful to the editors of these fine publications for selecting my work. Please take a look, and spend some time enjoying the other writing featured on these sites. My poems are in good company.

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Radio Essay

I was pleased today to hear our local NPR affiliate broadcast my story of a flight I piloted to the North Pole. The recording experience at the WFDD studio was fun, the producer coached me well and edited the story nicely, and recounting the experience brought back good memories. Please follow this link to hear the story for yourself.

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Two Poems

The Spring 2013 issue (issue #8) of Muddy River Poetry Review is out. I am pleased to see two of my poems in the online journal. Moment of Silence and Motion both made the cut. Thanks to Editor Zvi A. Sesling at Muddy River for selecting them. Read them here, or better yet, go to the MRPR site and check out the work of other poets while you’re there.

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An Essay about an Essay

Off and on for thirty years I have thought about one particular essay I wrote in college. Here’s an essay about that essay. Prior to our current age of rampant self-help books and pop-psychology talk shows and an actual profession called “Life Coach,” my original essay described a different source of advice.

Help yourself to the short piece titled Self Leadership in the Essay section of my blog.

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