Monday, September 30, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Kelsey Kathryn Rowden

I transcribed an obituary for Kelsey Kathryn Rowden back in March.  When I had transcribed the obituary for my great Aunt Lillian I noticed Kelsey's obituary.  It's always so desperately sad when a child dies and I had to share her obituary.

I created a memorial on FindAGrave for Kelsey shortly after that post and requested a picture of her tombstone be taken by a volunteer.  Recently I received an email letting me know that a photo was posted and the volunteer, Maribel Rivera, kindly gave me permission to share her photos of Kelsey's grave.

What surprised me when I saw the photo was that there was no permanent marker for Kelsey.  I wonder if something happened to the original marker or perhaps there was none.

In the second picture you can see an older temporary funeral home marker which would lead me to believe that no permanent marker was ever placed, yet there are flowers left behind for Kelsey.  Her first name is spelled incorrectly on the new temporary marker too...or is it wrong in the clipping I transcribed?

The dates are wrong as well.  Her obituary has her being born on March 9, 1976 and passing on May 3rd.  There seems to be a lot wrong with this new temporary marker.  It makes me lean toward the name being misspelled by the funeral home here rather than in the obituary.

Either way, I'm delighted that she is being remembered, but each time I see a grave without a proper marker I wish that I could do something about it.  I wish they weren't so incredibly expensive so that cost, at least, wouldn't be an issue for family wishing to place one.  Who knows the reasons.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Remembering September 11th

Tribute in Light (please take time to view the description and acknowledgement below)*

Today is a day of remembrance, not a day of celebration.  I don't celebrate Pearl Harbor Day.  I remember the tragedy of the day.  Some could argue that we celebrate who we are as Americans today because the terrorists that struck on this day 12 years ago didn't win.  They didn't destroy us.  I don't see this day that way though.  I see a day when life changed and when our innocence was shattered.  I see a turning point in my life as a mother, wife and Soldier.  I would see fellow Soldiers deploy and some never come home.  I see a day where our country was altered drastically and suffered a collective loss.  Who did not pray that just one more survivor would be pulled from the Towers or the Pentagon? Just one more.  That just one survivor would be found among the wreckage in Pennsylvania.  Just one. We lost so many innocent people that day.  There were so many brave acts of courage as well.  I want to remember them, because they should still be with us, but were taken too soon by senseless acts of stupidity and intolerance.  Let us never forget.

(This is a repost from 2011, but is worth sharing again)

September 11th, 2001.  The day the world seemed like it was coming to an end.  Where were you?  Where was I...

I was a Staff Sergeant in the Army.  Stationed with the 25th Infantry Division (L), 125 Military Intelligence Battalion.  We were in the field.  Training exercises.  It's what we did.  My husband was playing single dad with our almost 8 month old son while I played Soldier and got dirty for the week.  At least that was the plan.

The evening of September 10th (Monday) my squad and I got in our vehicles and went out to our site.  It was my first time as a squad leader.  I'll admit I was nervous.  I always wanted to impress.  To show people that I was good at what I did.  It didn't start out well.  It was dark and we were having difficulty finding the site we were supposed to set up at.  It took awhile, but we eventually got there and set up.

I jumped into the back of our "system" after it was set up.  I then proceeded to block all news and music stations that I could find.  Our job was to "Find the Enemy" and I didn't want people distracted and not looking for OPFOR (Opposing Forces).  We were a squad of 4, Newsom, Cash, Jefferson and me.  Newsom was my Assistant Squad Leader and he took first shift.  Jefferson took guard shift.  Cash and I racked out in the back of the chase vehicle (the vehicle that follows our system with all the gear in the back).

Around 4:30am I was woken up by Newsom.  He told me, "Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center and there were fears that other planes may have been hijacked."

I sat up straight and just looked at where his voice came from in the dark.  "What?" I said as I processed the information, although I really didn't need it repeated.  Then I asked, "Did you report it to the TOC (Tactical  Operations Center)?"


"Do it."  Newsom left and got on the radio.  I got on my cell phone.  I called my husband.  He had already been called by his oldest sister and his unit.  He was watching the news.  It was bad.  There was a lot of confusion in the news.  He was getting our son ready for day care and was taking him in as soon as it opened.  He was needed at work.  It was going to be a long day.  I told him I loved them both and needed to go.  I had to call my aunt and uncle that were living in Hawaii.  My Uncle Jeff's family was from New York.

I called and Uncle Jeff answered.  I could tell I just woke them.  "Turn on your T.V.," I said, "Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center and more may have been hijacked.  We're under attack."  He said he had to go and hung up.  I understood.  He needed to make sure his family was safe.

I got out of the vehicle and went to the system where Newsom was still listening.  I asked him what the TOC said.  He replied that they claimed it was all a part of the exercise.  When that happened however, Cushman, a team leader from one of the other dismounted teams, popped up on the radio with the reply, "Bullshit!" and explained that they intercepted it too and it was a news station reporting.  They were now reporting that another plane hit the Pentagon.  Then one went down somewhere in Pennsylvania.  My home state.  How many more?  That's all I could think of.

Eventually the TOC pulled their heads out of their asses and realized that this was real.  Another platoon member who was back at the TOC had brought a portable T.V. with him.  He was from New York.  Fiorelli was his name.  A good ol' Italian boy from the city.  He turned the portable on just in time to see the first Tower collapse.  I can't imagine what that was like for him.

All four of us were standing in or around our system.  There was no one pulling security.  We just weren't "playing Army" anymore.

"It's bin Laden," I stated.  Something that wouldn't be repeated on the news until later.  Most people in MI knew who Osama bin Laden was, even if we weren't "active" in the intel field. It was no secret that he hated America.  It was no secret that he would do anything within his power to strike at America if given the opportunity.  I had no doubt that it was him.  There was no reply to my statement.  There was none needed.  I guess we all already knew it was probably right.  Knowing doesn't make anything better.

Pentagon Flag **
One of the guys (I can't remember which one) asked me, "What's going to happen?"

"We're going to be pulled back in."  I don't know how I knew that.  Maybe it was because I wanted it to happen.  I needed it to happen.  I wanted to get home to my husband and son.  I was terrified that a military day care would be targeted.  He didn't care who he attacked.  Unrealistic fear?  There are no unrealistic fears to a parent.

I continued, "There are too many people that need to find out how their families are.  I can't imagine them keeping us out here much longer." And then there was the unspoken fact that we were now at war.  Attacked at home and would be needed to defend our home.  We didn't know how bad this was going to get, but we knew everything was about to change.

There was only one set of headphones for the system.  Only one person could listen at at a time, and we all wanted to be that person.  We did take turns and whoever had the headset would relay any new information to the rest of us.  Eventually my Platoon Sergeant, Stege, came out to the site to see how we were doing.  He told us to break down because we'd be going back in.  No surprise there.  It took several hours before we made it back to the company area.

Our company was in a quad.  Four buildings facing inward.  That's just pretty much how the majority of Schofield Barracks was set up.  When we returned to the quad it was surrounded by triple-strand concertina wire with a guard at each entry point checking IDs.  The entire post was like this.  Not only was the post at 100% ID check, vehicle inspections (complete with looking under each vehicle for bombs), but once you got on post you had to show ID to get into your quad.  If anyone doubted that this was serious, that ended any doubts.

I got home later that evening.  Talked to family back home and held mine.  We watched the TV until I don't know how late.  My husband worked one of those "active" intel jobs.  I knew he knew stuff.  And I knew he couldn't tell me.  I accepted that.  I understood.  I wouldn't ask.  Didn't really need to.  I mean, how bad is bad?  It already was.

My uncle's family was safe.  My family was safe.  Why then did it seem like none of us were safe and that we all had lost someone dear to us?  Was this how it felt after our innocence was taken at Pearl Harbor?  I was certain it must have been.

I was a Soldier.  I knew we were now at war.  We all knew it.  There was no cheering.  No stupid smack-talk about going out and killing bin Laden.  We all wanted him.  We all wanted to go, but this was an indescribable moment and there was no juvenile posturing like you see today.  No one prays for peace more than the Soldier that has to fight the war and lose their brothers and sisters in arms.

Looking back I find it amazing at how calm and incredibly somber we were.  There were no tears shed from my squad.  It didn't even occur to me to cry.  We were in shock.  Perhaps if we had seen rather than heard what was happening there would have been tears.  There certainly were many since.  There will continue to be many in the years to come.  Osama bin Laden is dead.  It damn well took us long enough...but you know what?  It doesn't lessen the pain.

Members of my unit experienced what I can only describe as Divine Intervention on September 11th, although we would not hear of it until later.  My former Platoon Leader, CPT Meyer, had left the military and was working at the World Trade Center. He was one of those insanely hard-core-ranger-tabbed-dudes that would walk 10 miles with a broken leg because it was "nothing big."  He'd never go to sick call.  He'd be in a hospital only if forced.  He wasn't at the World Trade Center on September 11th....he was in the hospital.  He was sick and his family made him go.

Writing this post was extremely difficult as I'm sure it was for many who have written posts for today.  I didn't see the original footage of the attacks with the newscasters talking when it first happened.  By the time I got out of the field all I saw were the sanitized images.  The footage of the images without any human reaction.  Just analysis.  I've seen the original footage since then.  There is something about seeing the video and hearing their reactions that is just so gut-wrenching.  It makes it feel as though it just happened.

The website I watched this video on is a page at the National Archives called "Understanding 9/11".  The video is toward the bottom of the page and they list a chronology and description of the footage you'll watch.  There are broadcasts from Mexico, Japan, Russia, Iraq and Britain as well as the U.S.  A unique international perspective, and you really don't need to understand the different languages.

I'm a disabled veteran of the United States Army, and I'm a hippie-chick to boot.  Crazy combination.  Crazy chick.  Hippie chick or not...I can't listen to Darryl Worley's, "Have You Forgotten?" without tearing up.  Some scars don't heal that easily, and these scars dug at our country deep.  It truly felt like the world was coming to an end that day.


*Tribute in Light - The "Tribute in Light" memorial is in remembrance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The two towers of light are composed of two banks of high wattage spotlights that point straight up from a lot next to Ground Zero. This photo was taken from Liberty State Park, N.J., Sept. 11, the five-year anniversary of 9/11. (U.S. Air Force photo/Denise Gould)

**Pentagon Flag WASHINGTON -- Military members rendered honors as fire and rescue workers unfurled a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon during rescue and recovery work following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The attack came at approximately 9:40 a.m. as a hijacked commercial airliner, originating from Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport, was flown into the southern side of the building facing Virginia Highway 27. (U.S. Navy photo by Michael W. Pendergrass )

Information presented on is considered public information and may be distributed or copied. Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credits is requested. 

8:01 am - American Airlines Flt 11 takes off from Boston heading to Los Angeles.  There were 92 people on board.

8:14 am - United Airlines Flt 175 takes off from Boston heading to Los Angeles.  There were 65 people on board.

8:21 am - American Airlines Flt 77 takes off from Washington D.C. heading to Los Angeles.  There were 64 people on board.

8:41 am - United Airlines Flt 93 takes off from Newark heading to San Francisco.  There were 40 people on board.

8:46 am - Flt 11 crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center

9:03 am - Flt 175 crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center

9:40 am - Flt 77 crashes into the Pentagon

9:59 am - The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses

10:07 am - Flt 93 crashes into a field in Shanksburg, Pennsylvania

10:15 am - Portion of the Pentagon collapses.  Approximately 200 people died in and around the Pentagon.

10:28 am - The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses

4:00 pm - CNN reports that their are indications that Osama bin Laden is responsible for the attacks.

5:25 pm - Number 7 World Trade Center collapses

8:30 pm - President Bush addresses the nation

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day - Labor in Our Family Trees

Coal miners  - Pennsylvania (Luzerne or Carbon County, Pennsylvania)

This is a repost from last Labor Day, but one that I think is worth remembering each year.  I hope you enjoy it.

Be thankful we live today.  The term "labor" certainly isn't what it used to be.  I come from coal miners and teachers.  My husband from farmers mostly, but also cheese makers, woodworkers, and my father-in-law was a truck driver.

To be a coal miner...well, I don't really like thinking about it too much.  Always wondering if your husband and sons come home that night?  If they came home, would they be broken and able to continue working?  I can't imagine sending my young sons off to work in the coal mines, but that's what my ancestors did.  Boys went to work in the mines as soon as they were able.  Girls helped mom raise the babies and do the housework (which was a LOT harder than today).  They had gardens and chickens in their yards to help feed their families.  They made their own clothes and had few tech-gadgets to make their lives easier.

Feeding her birds
I know my ancestors worked hard and hoped that some day their children wouldn't have to work in the mines. Around the turn of the century that started to happen and my grandparents and great aunts and uncles more often became teachers.

One room schoolhouses.  Teaching all grade levels at once, but eventually schools changed and became more what I remember as a child and teenager.  Teaching though is still a thankless job more often than not.  Where would we be without our teachers?  I get emails and comments about my grandfather and what a wonderful teacher  and role model he was (and strict).  I have obituaries that show how much my great aunt achieved in her lifetime and how respected she was (you can read about her here).

My father-in-law, like many truck drivers today spent the week driving and would come home on the weekends to see his family.  His wife took care of their 5 children while he was away.  Sacrifice and a strong and loving family.  He worked for Schneider United.  The "United" meant it was unionized.  Schneider busted that union by hiring new truck drivers that would work for a little more money up front, no pensions and diminished benefits.  They didn't fire the unionized drivers, they merely waited for them to retire.  Now Schneider National stands in its place.  Same company...less security for the drivers and their families.  My father-in-law was able to retire comfortably and when he passed my mother-in-law was able to receive his pension and continue to live well.

As for the farmers in our family, well I can only imagine how difficult working on a farm must have been.  I am so not a morning person and I can only imagine having to rise early to tend the crops and animals.

Feeding the chickens
My ancestors (and yours as well, if they held many of these occupations) had something that helped them make ends meet.  Helped them fight for better working conditions and to keep their children out of the dangerous mines.  Had someone to speak for them so they weren't driving truck longer than was safe for them and others on the road.  Someone that made sure that the teachers got the benefits they deserved for the hard work that they did...they had unions.

Labor Day hardly means what it once did.  What it must have meant to our ancestors.  Our ancestors that just wanted an honest day's wage for an honest day's labor.  To be able to live in dignity and raise their families from what was frequently an impoverished and brutally hard life.  Labor Unions fought for:

-Overtime pay
-A tolerable length for the work week and workday
-Minimum wage
-Paid vacation and sick days
-Safety standards
-Child Labor Laws
-Health benefits
-Retirement security
-Unemployment compensation

You would not have had Labor Day if there had not been unions.  Unions pushed for a day to celebrate America's laborers.  States passed laws marking the holiday, but it wasn't until August 28, 1893 that Labor Day became a National holiday.

Schoolhouse from an old family album
The word "union" and "unionized" seems to be the equivalent of a swear word today, but why?  Some unions were corrupt, but it's up to the members to fix that.  Not up to the employers and politicians to bust the unions that help keep our union workers safe and earning a decent wage.

I would not dishonor my ancestors to disparage what is a wonderful part of our American history.  The Labor Union and Labor Day will always be connected.  Even if people sometimes refuse to acknowledge the connection.  Our ancestors changed this country so that their children and grandchildren would be able to live a better life than they did.  Not a life of sloth as many wrongfully think of unionized labor, but an honest day's wage.  An honest day's work.

Today I celebrate Labor Day and my ancestors that helped make working in America better for everyone.  I will keep their hard work and intentions alive and I thank them for their sacrifices so that my life was better than theirs.  May we always be a country that values it's workers.