Two Marines, Two Generations, Two Wars.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2009 by pitschwm

I received a phone call yesterday from my Uncle, a Marine during Vietnam and I couldn’t help but marvel at the similarities than and now.  It was unlike any conversation I have had with him in the past, and yet I couldn’t help but feel this connection with him that only a bound of brotherhood in the Corps could explain.  Throughout the conversation Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried continued to enter my thoughts. We have had conversations where we’ve joked about the good times in the Corps, bitched about the bad times, poked fun at other branch’s of the service, and celebrated important dates in the Corps’ history, but this was a different conversation.  This one was more serious, it had more meaning, it was an event that changes you for life.

O’Brien’s book talks about his experiences during Vietnam and the struggles that he has gone through coping with the things that he saw, the things that he did, and how sometimes there are no words to describe it.  One idea that kept re-entering my thoughts as my uncle and I talked is O’Brien’s fixation on a single event.  How he remembers every detail of that single event.  The weather, his surroundings, every detail of the 15 seconds of that event are burned into his mind forever.

We talked about the difficulties in explaining to individuals what we had seen and done who have no idea and can only imagine the things that we have experienced.  It was easier to not talk about it at all unless it was someone who could relate, a fellow service-member.  It’s not that we were trying to be selfish or rude, there are just certain questions that always arise during a conversation of this nature, and you don’t want to answer them, You are then perceived as being standoffish or rude.  That is why it is easier to just not talk about it to others and give them the shortened version minus most of the details.  The details that have been burned into your mind, the ones that don’t go away, the ones that you feel guilty if you forget them, as if somehow you are giving that event some great disservice.

When the conversation ended, it did not end in typical fashion.  The conversation reached a point where words no longer were needed.  I understood.  No questions of why were ever brought up.  It ended with never forget or dwell on the holidays missed,  always remember your fellow brother and sister Marines, and we will leave it at that.


The Importance of Letters.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2009 by pitschwm

The importance of letter writing to document war experiences is something that carries as much weight as the fighting of the battles themselves.  Throughout war it seems their has always been letter writing.  In the modern age the art of letter writing as shifted from a paper, handwritten letter sent via mail, to emails now sent through the internet.  Their impact and importance to the men and women who serve have the same effect.

December 7, 1941 as we all know is the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked and thrust America into the second World War.  I came across this article about Clifford Barrett who has a collection of letters that he as procured throughout many years, detailing the memories of famous actors, actresses, governors, presidents, first ladies, etc, of how they came to be aware of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and their reactions upon hearing this news.

We read a collection of letters from Women on the home front during World War II that gave some insight into what it was like to be hear on the home front for the women of the Serviceman fighting overseas.  Since You Went Away by Litoff, Judy, and David Smith, is a collection of these letters and it is an interesting read.  Barrett’s collection offers and insight into a different side of war.  Reactions and  memories upon hearing of the attacks is just as valuable in documenting wars as personal letters from home assuring everything is alright and that your efforts are important.

While reading this article I could not help but wonder about my whereabouts on a similar event in history, September 11th.  This date is my generations Pearl Harbor and it is an eerie similarity to the events the transcribed on Dec. 7th.  I can still remember where I was on that day, what I was doing, how I felt after hearing the news of the attacks on the twin towers and how I will never forget any of it.  How surreal would it be to have documents that give you insight into how others felt on the same day is for me unimaginable.  He would be something that would be priceless to own.

Mr. Barrett states in the article that he did not do it to make money, just to have for his own personal reasons but I hope that he considers the request of his niece and thinks about publishing these letters to share with everyone.  Information like this and at such a personal level like a letter is invaluable to appreciating the service of so many man and women throughout history’s wars.

When is one not enough?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2009 by pitschwm

After recently reading this article, this question was my first immediate thought.  One family, two sons lost, and not by the hands of insurgents or IED’s, or suicide bombers.  They were killed by accidents State side.

Family loses 2nd Marine in noncombat incident

The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Dec 7, 2009 11:01:28 EST

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — A Minnesota family has lost a second Marine in a noncombat incident.

Ron and Shar Pape received visitors at their home in East Grand Forks on Sunday and mourned the loss of their 23-year-old son Ryan Pape, a Marine Corps corporal. He died Thursday from injuries suffered during a parachute training exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Ryan Pape graduated from high school in May 2005, a day after his older brother, Marine Cpl. Riley Pape, was buried in a cemetery near the family farm. Riley Pape survived fighting in Iraq’s Anbar Province, but lost his life in a motorcycle accident after returning to California.

The Star Tribune reports Ryan Pape followed his brother into a Marine reconnaissance battalion and served two tours in Iraq.

This also got me thinking about a topic that we have to write about for the final paper on what makes a hero?  Does there death’s make them hero’s, or does the mere fact that they served their country make them hero’s?  This I would think all depends on who you ask.  For many just the fact that they served their country makes them hero’s.  They could never have deployed, and yet to many they would have been hero’s.  Some would argue that until you are proven under combat you are just like everyone else who has served.  I think that most veterans would be appreciative of the service they had done, but without combat they would not have considered them hero’s.  The Pape brother’s did have combat experience, and under this criteria that makes them hero’s.

So now here is the big question, you serve your country,(hero), you engage in and survive combat situations,(hero), and then you come home and are killed in an accident that is non combative,(?),?  What is the hero criteria for that?  Is their precedence that takes place, is it a matter of opinion, or does the manner in which it happens have an effect on the so-called word hero?  Personally I think that while the Pape brother’s are hero’s by every criteria, the real hero’s are the Pape family themselves.  To have two son’s join the service and to lose both has to be one of the hardest things any family will ever endure.


Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2009 by pitschwm

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Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2009 by pitschwm

I found an article on CNN’s website about a Holocaust survivor found dead after being strangled and then robbed to be upsetting.  Here is a man that survived the worst possible conditions imaginable, only to be murdered for money.  Materialistic possessions that no one should be killed over.  Felix Brinkmann, a native of Latvia, was a Holocaust survivor who escaped death for a year while he was in the Mauthausen, Ebensee and Auschwitz camps. He had been slated for the gas chambers five times, but each time, used his fluency in German to talk his way out.   The victims son speculates that this was a random act, and yet I still can’t help but think why?

A interesting dynamic comes to mind in regards to the why.  Was it envy, a crime of opportunity, or survival.  The victim was a survivor of Auschwitz, and the similarities of the theft of this mans possessions to the same sort of system that was in place inside of the camp are eerily similar.  Primo Levi’s book “Survival in Auschwitz – If this is a Man” describes this sort of survival mechanism in detail.  What little possessions that a prisoner had they guarded with every ounce of strength they could muster.  Everything from a piece of string to a button was viewed as important, and the prisoners routinely stole items from where they worked or from other prisoners in order to survive.  It was an important part of surviving the camps.

Now granted the situation in the article is very different.  The situation was not to the degree as in the camps during WWII but this act of stealing from another for whatever your reason does hold some similarities.  A tool used to survive the death camps over 60 years ago, ultimately is the the very reason for his death.  It makes me wonder why people feel the need to take from others rather then work to achieve it?  A tragic loss no less.

Graphic novels have a profound impact on teaching history.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2009 by pitschwm

Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus I and Maus II is my first introduction to any type of graphic novel.  I had never really given them much thought or meaning when it comes to learning about history.  I had always been under the notion that it was just like any other comic book that I had read, fictitious and only useful for an escape into an unbelievable adventure.  I was so wrong.  I never would have guessed the importance of using it as a tool to reach readers on a whole new level in helping them understand history.  Maus changed the way I look at graphic novels.

Now granted most of them are just made up stories and ideas, but Maus uses the real life events of Vladek Spiegelman’s experiences during WWII in occupied Poland and the Nazi concentration camps to tell the story of the Holocaust in a whole new way.  I came across a website that has an awesome collection of information on the Holocaust and the Nazi death camps.  This website has everything you would ever want to know about the Holocaust, in the traditional way of learning about what happened.

Maus I feel may appeal to more readers who want to learn about the subject  but may be apprehensive because it is such a depressing topic to learn about.  By no means am I saying Maus makes it fun, I am just under the belief that it is a piece of literature that uses both the text and visual representation to tell the story.  The artwork speaks in a way  that would take pages to explain and the emotion captured in the frames may be better left to the interpretation of the reader.

Bottom line, use every resource possible to learn about history.  Maus is a piece of literature just as important as any other source out there.

The Power of Images.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2009 by pitschwm

After recently watching a documentary done by Alfred Hitchcock on the Holocaust, their are just certain things that words cannot describe.  This subject is one that should be taught so as the atrocities of the Nazi’s during WWII are never repeated.

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I can’t help but think back to a scene in the “Band of Brothers”  HBO mini series when the U.S. Army first encounters the Nazi concentration camps.  Granted this is Hollywood’s version of what really happened but it offers some incite as to what the American, British, and Russian soldiers would have gone through when first encountering the camps.  The Hitchcock documentary shows how the British and American troops walked the German citizens through the camps that they lived next to,and  how they tasked the German guards to do similar chores that they themselves subjected the inhabitants of the camps to do.

It’s hard to imagine the scale at which the Germans exterminated the Jewish people, and the treatment that they were subjected to in modern times.  The documentary I feel does an exactly job showing the viewer what went on and allowing the viewer to formulate their own emotions to what they are viewing.  There is not all of the dramatic music that you see in so many documentaries, or the dramatic narration either.  The images speak for themselves and because of this are more powerful then any words could describe.   Such a dark stain on the history of man kind should never be forgotten, and this documentary released years after it was filmed is a testament to the truth that everyone should remember.