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June 19, 2009
The Power of LegacyBy Mrs Greyhawk
Just when I'm set to write a post recommending Horse Soldiers as a Father's Day gift, into my email pops something better - an entry by author Doug Stanton himself. Enjoy...
This Father's Day Consider the Power of Legacy
By Doug Stanton (Author of Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan)
Horse Soldiers is the untold story of a victory won by U.S. Special Forces and other Americans, alongside Afghan counterparts, at a critical time in our recent history. Part sociologist, diplomat, part foreign policy expert, the men in the book enacted a nuanced campaign that is a template for the way future conflicts can be approached, and a window to where we are in Afghanistan today. And, according to those who know, their ethos is simpatico with emerging national policy concerning Afghanistan. In other words, these guys got it right. One of the reasons I wrote Horse Soldiers was to understand the world my children would inherit after the events of 2001.
When I was writing my first book In Harm's Way, I witnessed the sense of sacrifice that those WWII veterans possessed. I was surprised that sometimes their grandchildren hadn't talked to them about the historic events of that night in July 1945, when the USS Indianapolis went down. With some modest means, I started a scholarship program for the grandkids of the survivors, one of the requirements of which was that they write an essay about their grandfather. This project was meant to foster a legacy in these young people of the sacrifices made by those who had come before them.
Recently, then, I was startled and more than saddened, after hanging up the phone with Betty McCoy, of Palm Coast, Florida, the wife of Giles McCoy, of the USS Indianapolis, who told me that Gil had just passed away after a battle with cancer. My son and I had visited Gil and Betty, making a last trip to say goodbye, although I didn't want to admit that at the time.
Gil, a WWII Marine, having survived Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and the sinking of his ship, devoted himself to a life of helping others. He was about as resilient and strong a character as you could meet, and yet alongside his own steely self-awareness he possessed real powers of empathy. He never used phrases like "everyone agrees with me so I must be right."
This idea of legacy, of being bound together around the campfire or kitchen table of shared experience, is important, because it's in those moments that we move to the heart of solving problems, global and local, big and small. And of all people, I have learned that the people I write about in Horse Soldiers, the modern soldiers of the U.S. Army Special Forces, are trained to walk a selfless mile in another's shoes during often dangerous journeys meant to create change. And as with McCoy, when I call their actions heroic, I'm using a word they are too humble to use in describing what they accomplished.
©2009 Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan. Originally published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle, May 5, 2009
You can read an excerpt from the book here.
Posted by Mrs Greyhawk / June 19, 2009 2:54 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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