Monday, September 23, 2013
So back around Memorial Day of this year, while my husband and I were shopping at our local Giant, we ran into an elderly man who was wearing one of those black hats with his war service stitched on the front. I walked over to him to shake his hand and tell him thank you for his service, when I realized that his man's generation will soon be gone forever. His name is MSG. (R) Howard W. Wickert, and I will forever be proud to have shaken his hand. He took the time to speak with me for about 25 minutes for a phone interview recently. This is his story:
Mr. Wickert was born on September 24, 1923, in West Point, Nebraska. There were 9 children born to Penrose Wickert, and Clara Moody, Mr. Wickert's parents. Six boys and three girls. One child, Marvin, died at the young age of 1 1/2. Howard and the rest of his siblings grew up during a time when the balance of the world teetered on the head of a pin. Hitler was rising to power, and the world would soon know the atrocities of the death camps in Europe. Howard and his brothers Lloyd, Irvin and Arnold, all left for the military to serve during World War II. Their brother Richard tried to join, but was not medically cleared because of a leg injury.
While neither their father, mother, nor sisters served in the military, an uncle, Sam served during WWI. So with the horrible attack of Pearl Harbor not far from their memory, on October 9, 1942 Howard and his brother Lloyd both enlisted. Irvin enlisted in November 1942, and Arnold enlisted January 1943. All brothers served during WWII, and all returned home.
Mr. Wickert continued his service, and was eventually assigned to the USS Bataan (CVL-29) in the Yellow Sea during the Korean War (June 1953). While there, the carrier would carry out missions and drop napalm on the North Korean soldiers, and in one particular incident, were helping a company that was surrounded by NK soldiers. They were out for 15 days at a time, at the 38th parallel, and would be relieved by part of the Royal Australian Navy to refuel and resupply so there was always someone there for cover support.
Howard returned home shortly after the Armistice was signed that effectively ended the fighting in North Korea and South Korea. He stayed in the Marines, and retired a Master Sergeant in 1969 after 26 years of service. Lloyd Wickert went on to continue service as well, going on to serve during the Korean War, where he was awarded the Bronze Star, and then served in Vietnam. Lloyd recently passed away at the age of 92. Arnold, Richard, Evaline, and Grace are all deceased. Mr. Wickert's siblings Irvin who is now 91, and Dorothy Fenske (née) Wickert, 80, are still alive as well.
Mr. Wickert met a lady named Margaret Wickert (née) Peters while he was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Oakland, California. Margaret happened to also have an uncle that served during WWI in Germany. Soon after meeting they were married on April 4, 1948. This year they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary! They were blessed with two sons, Howard (64), and Michael (58).
I have always made it a point to reach out and personally thank a veteran or service member, especially the older generations, by shaking their hands. Their honor and sacrifice is something that can rarely be matched. The men and women that lived and served between The Great Depression and the Korean War were called "The Greatest Generation", not because of fortune or fame, but because they sacrificed everything to fight evil, to keep this world safe. Mr.Wickert and those of his generation, have a caliber that I think we as a nation have lost for the most part. Young men who were 16 and 17 years old were lying about their age to enlist back then. There was a sense of shame and failure if you did not at least try to go and fight. Today many in that same young age group are too busy playing Grand Theft Auto and not caring about history, past or present.
I asked Mr. Wickert what drove him and his brothers to enlist. This was his answer. "We were at war. We had been attacked at Pearl Harbor, and we wanted to help. We all enlisted. One brother, Richard, could not serve because of a leg injury."
"We were at war" still rings in my head today. We now face a new type of enemy where there are no front lines, and the cost is more than we could have imagined. I pray for Mr. Wickert and his family, and those of his generation. We can only hope to measure up to what they laid down for us, and we must be willing to give our all if it means freedom for the next generations.
So next time you see a veteran, esp. one that is of that great generation, please go and shake their hands and tell them two simple words: Thank You!
Great history of the USS Bataan
Posted by Danielle Hollars at 1:14 PM
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
9/11/01: I was working at the C.I.D. (Criminal Investigative Division, Fort Belvoir, VA) when the first plane hit the first tower. My coworkers and myself all looked at each other and wondered how a plane could hit that big towering building. We thought maybe someone had a medical emergency, and we said a quick prayer that since it was still early in the morning that maybe there wouldn't be too much death or damage. As we heard screams from the adjoining office when the second plane hit the second tower, I looked at my boss who was a 23 year Army vet, and told him we were under attack. Except for three of us who were veterans, everyone else in our offices were civilians and thought we were overreacting. I told them they were fools if they thought that it was an accident, and started getting my things together to head home. As I was calling my daycare provider, the third plane hit the Pentagon. I turned to my boss, told him I was leaving before the highways were shut down, and ran as fast as I could to my car. As I thought of how many people that I possibly knew who might be at the Pentagon, a horrifying realization hit me. I was supposed to be in the Pentagon working on Donald Rumsfeld's staff. The contract that I was trying to be added to fell through, and I was assigned to C.I.D. instead.
As I raced up Route 1 and crossed the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, I looked to my left across the Potomac River, and could see the Pentagon on fire. Tall billowing columns of smoke rose above the horizon, and I felt sheer terror as I passed Andrews Air Force Base, and saw the jets and helicopters overhead. The signs northbound on I-95 read: "Stay out of New York" "Imminent Danger!" I don't know what the southbound signs read, but I can guess they were saying to stay out of D.C. The rest of my drive was a blur until I pulled into my daycare provider's driveway where she met me with my baby girl, who was only 4 at the time. I stayed at the daycare for a couple of hours, just holding my child, and leaning on my daycare provider and crying. I then went to my dad's house, where I anxiously awaited to hear from anyone. Since my dad is a 21 years Army vet, he had many friends that work within the government esp. in D.C., and I knew many of my Army pals were in the area, so later that night I tried finding where everyone was. It was an agonizing week while waiting for identification of the bodies that were being taken from the buildings that were attacked that horrible morning.
I felt a sense of rage that I found difficult to get rid of, especially when driving past the Pentagon. I know that if I hadn't been medically discharged, I would've went right back to active duty. President Bush was strong in the face of our enemies. He and our troops kicked ass and took names.
Since that history altering day, I have made a point to have my children watch the documentaries each year, so they will never forget how we got to where we are today. I know my painful memories don't come close to what those that lost loved ones feel every year, every month, every day.
9/11/12: I went to bed that night hearing about an attack on our embassy in Libya, and prayed as I went to sleep that everyone would be ok. When I awoke the next morning, I was mortified to find out that our Ambassador and some of his staff had be killed. Our Ambassador! I thought, "How did that happen?!?" As the days went on I began to feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, as it seemed more and more people within the administration were hiding what happened that night, leading all the way up to the President. The people in charge all claimed that they needed time to figure out what happened, when anyone with a basic knowledge of how the military works knows that their initial statements saying that they didn't have the knowledge on the ground to scramble jets was a bunch of B.S. Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died on a rooftop lazing a target, fighting for their lives. Why would they do that if they didn't think that someone was nearby? We know that Charlene Lamb and others were watching real time. We know that there were drones in the area.
We train our SEALS to think independently, and to imply that they wouldn't be able to relay what was going on down below, to guide where to bring forces in to help defend the annex, makes my blood pressure rise to dangerous levels. If these idiots in D.C. are saying that they can't rely on information on the ground, then they need to bring all of our troops home until this inept administration is out of office! They are a deadly threat to our troops, our civilians, and our government employees and their families, and they have no business being in charge. They don't give a damn about us, and I am ticked that so many people ignored Benghazi, or didn't even know what it was even after the elections.
Where was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who admitted she didn't talk to anyone from the DoD that night? Where was Vice President Biden, who was supposed to be this international genius, after having the initial meeting with the President? Where was the President of the United States, as our men died waiting for help that never came?!? WHO GAVE THE STAND DOWN ORDER??? THEY HAD A CHANCE TO LIVE!!! Was Obama even in the White House? Or was he too busy getting ready to go to Las Vegas, because you know, campaigning must be more important than our Ambassador being under attack?
I am furious that this administration just wants to sweep Benghazi under the rug, and then hope that we will forget what happened over there. Or at least don't make such a big deal about it. WELL TOO DAMN BAD!!! We will never forget the betrayal of them not helping them after three requests were sent to the State Department. Hillary Clinton sucks as a friend to Christopher Stevens, if that is how she treats her "friends". She can scream her perceived righteous indignation about "What difference does it make?!?", all she wants. She has blood on her hands, and she is finding it quite hard to wash it off.
And now we are looking down the rabbit hole once again, but this time into Syria. The Nobel Peace Prize recipient of 2009 is about to inflict a "pinprick" to the Assad regime using rockets. Really. A pinprick? The President talks of the deaths of all of those children when he addressed the nation tonight, while thousands are ripped from their mother's wombs every day here in this country. So apparently I am only supposed to be outraged over Syria, but ignore the government sanctioned death of millions here on our shores? No thank you. Both make me outraged. Only one is celebrated and touted by our own government, abortion. Sorry Mr. President, but good luck trying to convince people to be moved by images of children killed in a civil war, when those same people aren't moved by images of unborn babies that were ripped from their mother's womb.
We cannot afford to go into Syria, just to hand over more weapons to the terrorists. I don't trust who is the the White House, or any of the higher ups in government today. They have been shown to be incompetent, so while our enemies laugh at us, our allies cringe at our weakness. You cannot appeal to a society to feel mercy towards children killed by chemical weapons or any weapons for that matter, and then turn around and show no regard for the weakest among us.
Mr. President, you cannot appease evil. You cannot possibly think that if you're nice that everyone will all of a sudden get along, and the terrorists won't want to kill us. To think that is dangerous and deadly; just ask those that survived the 9/11/01 attack, and the Benghazi attack...
R.I.P. to all of those that lost their lives at the hands of terrorism...