Reminiscing

It has been 74 years since 17,740 Americans gave their lives to liberate the people of the Netherlands (often called Holland) from the Germans during World War II, and the people of Holland have never forgotten that sacrifice. For 74 years now, the people of the small village of Margraten, Netherlands have taken care of the graves of the lost at the Margraten American Cemetery. On Memorial Day, they come, every year, bringing Memorial Day bouquets for men and women they never knew, but whose 8,300 headstones the people of the Netherlands have adopted as their own. Of the 17,740 who were originally buried there, 9,440 were later moved to various paces in he United States by their families. “What would cause a nation recovering from losses and trauma of their own to adopt the sons and daughters of another nation?” asked Chotin, the only American descendant to speak on that Sunday 4 years ago. “And what would keep that commitment alive for all of these years, when the memory of that war has begun to fade? It is a unique occurrence in the history of civilization.”

The people of Margraten immediately embraced the Americans, who had come to their aid when they needed it most. The town’s mayor invited the company’s commanders to sleep in his home, while the enlisted men slept in the schools. The protection against rain and buzz bombs was welcomed. Later, villagers hosted U.S. troops when the men were given rest-and-recuperation breaks from trying to breach the German frontier defenses, known as the Siegfried Line. “After four dark years of occupation, suddenly [the Dutch] people were free from the Nazis, and they could go back to their normal lives and enjoy all the freedoms they were used to. They knew they had to thank the American allies for that,” explained Frenk Lahaye, an associate at the cemetery.

By November 1944, two months after the village’s 1,500 residents had been freed from Nazi occupation by the U.S. 30th Infantry Division the town’s people were filled with gratitude, but the war wasn’t over. In late 1944 and early 1945, thousands of American soldiers would be killed in nearby battles trying to pierce the German defense lines. The area was filled with Booby-traps and heavy artillery fire. All that combined with a ferocious winter, dealt major setbacks to the Allies, who had already suffered losses trying to capture strategic Dutch bridges crossing into Germany during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden.

Now, the U.S. military needed a place to bury its fallen. The Americans ultimately picked a fruit orchard just outside Margraten. On the first day of digging, the sight of so many bodies made the men in the 611th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company ill. The bodies arrived in a procession of trucks and trailers. Death hung in the air over the whole village of Margraten. The sight of so much death caused a few of the people helping with the burials to become ill. They suddenly made a break for the latrines. The first burial at Margraten took place on November 10, 1944. Laid to rest in Plot A, Row 1, Grave 1: John David Singer Jr, a 25-year-old infantryman, whose remains would later be repatriated and buried in Denton, Maryland, about 72 miles east of Washington. Between late 1944 and spring 1945, up to 500 bodies arrived each day, so many that the mayor went door to door asking villagers for help with the digging. Over the next two years, about 17,740 American soldiers would be buried here, though the number of graves would shrink as thousands of families asked for their loved ones’ remains to be sent home, until 8,300 remained, and still, the graves are cared for by the town’s people, as if the dead were their own loved one. Not only that, but they have taken it upon themselves to research the deceased, and learn of their lives as a way of showing honor to these fallen heroes.

On May 29, 1945, the day before the cemetery’s first Memorial Day commemoration, 20 trucks from the 611th collected flowers from 60 different Dutch villages. Nearly 200 Dutch men, women and children spent all night arranging flowers and wreaths by the dirt-covered graves, which bore makeshift wooden crosses and Stars of David. By 8am, the road leading into Margraten was jammed with Dutch people coming on foot, bicycle, carriages, horseback and by car. Silent film footage shot that day shows some of the men wearing top hats as they carried wreaths. A nun and two young girls laid flowers at a grave, then prayed. Solemn-faced children watched as cannons blasted salutes. The Dutch, Shomon wrote, “were perceptibly stirred, wept in bowed reverence.” All they do for these heroes is because they have vowed never to forget.

During World War II, it seems that there were a number of missed warnings about coming actions. Perhaps, if these warnings had been heeded, parts of the war, and indeed the length of it might have been different. One such event occurred when two German officers who were flying after consuming too much alcohol, became lost in the inky black night sky, when suddenly their plane began to nosedive. Maybe they thought, as their doomed plane plunged toward the ground, “Please let this be German soil we’re hurtling towards.” No matter what their thoughts were, they were definitely not headed for a crash landing in Germany, but rather they crashed in Holland.

The crash landing in Holland was a big problem for the officers, because they were carrying battle plans for Hitler’s coming invasion of Holland. The plans, which involved exotic strategies like flamethrowers, and using gliders to silently deliver troops behind enemy lines, all seemed so unlikely that the Dutch commanders refused to believe it. Just weeks later, it all unfolded exactly as the plan had foretold. Germany occupied Holland. It seems incredible but almost every daring German offensive was known well beforehand. Yet, in every case, those in power refused to see what was right in front of them. Hitler could have been stopped long before he was, if these botched early warnings had been taken seriously. In another such example, a German deserter was captured by the Russians. He gave up the plans to Hitler’s “Operation Barbarossa.” Yet, the Russian commanders found the 1,800 mile wide offensive too unlikely to believe. Then, just weeks later, they were caught off guard by the largest invasion in history.

But, perhaps the most chilling warning of all came far earlier: before the war had even started. The warning came from an analyst dispatched to Hitler’s Germany in 1938. In 1939 he delivered a sobering prediction: the worst conflict in history was about to begin. He reported: “War is coming to Europe, but not until September at the earliest.” On September 1, 1939, Hitler launched his attack on Poland. World War II had begun. That analyst belonged to a group that soon became part of the largest underground news and research network in the world. One that would go on to predict large world shifts with shocking accuracy: As early as 1987, this network predicted the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1989, they called the crash of the Japanese “miracle.” In the early 90s, they spoke out about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. In the mid 2000s, they predicted the 2008 financial meltdown. They also predicted Donald Trump’s improbable win in the 2016 Presidential race, which in my opinion was their best prediction. Sadly, this underground news and research group, was not taken seriously in the warnings they gave, and the world paid the consequences for those missed warnings.

Top secret military bases are common, and have been around longer than most of us would think, but few of them would have been like RAF Rudloe Manor. Most top secret bases had very restricted access, but RAF Rudloe Manor had a way of becoming almost invisible. I’m no expert on top secret bases, and I’m sure that several are underground, but this one struck me as being the best way to hide a military base…ever!! RAF Rudloe Manor is located south-east of Bath. It is just one of several sensitive military installations situated on the Spring Quarries, Copernacre Quarry, the villages of Hawthorn and Hudswell, and the town of Corsham. In World War II the Ministry of Aircraft Production built the Beaverbrook underground aircraft factory here for Bristol Aeroplane and other companies.

The area is home to vast caverns, encompassing some 2,250,000 square feet of space, divided into many smaller chambers. Other quarries in the area were expanded and linked together, thereby forming a huge network of tunnels and bunkers. Some parts these tunnels and bunkers were used for army storage purposes. An RAF Fighter group HQ (RAF Box), and a communications switching center were also set up, making the area an important military nerve center even then. The area also housed the so-called Corsham Computer Centre which while based in Wiltshire, has been alleged to house access to a secret underground city below this English county. Many attempts have been made to gain access to, or at the very least, to confirm of the nature of, this innocent looking facility. Finally, in September of 2000, Sky News was given unprecedented access to this underground city below Wiltshire. The access didn’t specifically mention the Computer Centre as point of entry, however, the news report identified Corsham as the location. As they entered, their camera crews were invited to descend 120 feet below the surface into the previously secret underground city. They saw 60 miles of tunnels, including underground railway stations. Pictures were taken of a recently decommissioned nuclear command bunker. Interestingly, a canteen, which operated in the Second World War, still had murals painted by manufacturing engineers working on the Wellington Bomber engines.

They were told that some 4000 personnel were engaged in this secret work at that time. Sky News also transmitted pictures of massive underground ventilation fans the size of modern jet engines. Why the Government has chosen this moment to disclose this information is anyone’s guess, but the report seemed like a complete U-turn by the military establishment in Wiltshire. Prior to this time, they had remained silent about the claims of underground facilities in this area. As if the act of not talking about it would make the suspicions go away. Still, the very fact that a work-force of 4000 people was able to keep this facility secret for 60 years goes to show how easy it is for Governments to hide their secrets away. And the base looks like just another country manor to this very day.

When my husband, Bob and I went to Alaska a few years ago, I was hoping against hope that we would be able to see the Aurora Borealis. The likelihood was slim, of course, because they are most often visible in the winter and we were there in the summer. The Aurora Borealis is caused by solar flares, which occur when pent up magnetic energy on the sun’s surface is unleashed in blasts of radiation and charged particles. The resulting explosions are equivalent to the force of millions of hydrogen bombs, and the solar winds they create have the ability to wreak havoc on Earth’s atmosphere. That was precisely what happened in late August and early September of 1859, when the planet was bombarded by the largest solar storm on record. The so-called “Carrington Event” was named for the British astronomer, Richard Carrington, and it made the skies glow with shimmering, multi-colored auroras as far south as Hawaii. In Colorado, it was so bright that one witness reported people “could easily read common print” at night. And that was in August and September!! Why couldn’t I have been around to see that one?

Most of us have seen pictures of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. The scene is unforgettable offering an entrancing, dramatic, magical display of dancing lights that are varying in color and fascinate all who see it. It’s hard to believe that an explosion on the sun that sends out radioactive magnetic particles into the atmosphere is responsible for this dazzling natural phenomenon. Of course it is quite complicated. If all those particles were able to just hit the Earth, the event would be disastrous. “The aurora is caused by the interaction of high-energy particles (usually electrons) with neutral atoms in earth’s upper atmosphere. This process is similar to the discharge in a neon lamp, or the fluorescence of a television screen. The strongest auroras are quite bright, comparable to moonlight. At the center of the sun, the temperature is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). As the temperature on its surface rises and falls, the sun boils and bubbles. Particles escape from the star from the sunspot regions on the surface, hurtling particles of plasma, known as solar wind, into space. It takes these winds around 40 hours to reach Earth. When they do, they can cause the dramatic displays known as the aurora borealis.” However it all happens, is pretty much irrelevant to most of us, we just like the beauty of the Aurora Borealis, and we will continue to be mesmerized by them.

For most of this last year, my niece Lindsay Moore’s life has been a whirlwind of excitement and activity. With the birth of her little girl, Mackenzie Rose, Lindsay and her husband, Shannon have been enjoying every new experience that comes with parenthood. Mackenzie is a happy, and sometimes goofy girl, who keeps them on their toes. Mackenzie is starting to walk these days, and getting into anything within reach, so her parents have to keep a close eye on her now. Lindsay has been a work-from-home wife for some time, employed remotely by South Dakota State University, and now she is also a stay-at-home mom to little Mackenzie. For Lindsay, life doesn’t get any better. she is just living the dream that she has had for a long time. Lindsay is a health and exercise advocate and always keeps herself in excellent shape. Of course, these days that exercise is easier, because Mackenzie keeps her mommy running.

Lindsay’s husband is the tight ends coach at Eastern Carolina University, and so during the football season, Lindsay and Mackenzie spend Saturdays at the games cheering on Daddy’s team, and hanging out with friends at the game. Lindsay has always been a football fan, especially if it’s Shannon’s team playing. When Shannon married Lindsay, he married his biggest fan, and now they have added another member to the fan club. If you ask me, Shannon has the cutest cheerleaders ever. Lindsay is a very social person, so they are always joined by friends at the games, while they are cheering the team on. It’s a good thing that she makes friends so easily,since they have moved around every so often. It is a common thing with coaching.

Lindsay and Shannon were in Wyoming visiting family this summer, which is a fairly common occurrence for them. His job and her work-from-home job make it easier for them to come home in the summertime, so the family gets to see them more than the average kids who live far away. They family went to the Black Hills, where we joined them for the 4th of July festivities in Custer, South Dakota. Then they went on to the Big Horns. It’s a blessing for my sister, Allyn Hadlock and her husband, Chris, and the rest of the family. It’s hard to have a grandchild who lives far away, and having them visit often makes it a little bit easier. Today is Lindsay’s birthday. Happy birthday Lindsay!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand-niece, Aurora Hadlock is growing up so fast. She is a girl of many talents. Of course, having a big brother, Ethan, who loves his sister and hangs out with with her, helps Aurora to diversify in her choices of activities. Ethan has taught her to play Minecraft,and they play together. Also,having a big brother who likes football has made Aurora like the game too. So it seemed only logical for her to decide to sign up for Flag Football. I know that she will have a great time with that. She is athletic,and while she has a girly side, there is a little of a tomboy in her too.

Aurora still loves to read and has since the day she learned how. Reading has always been a big part of her life. Her parents and grandparents read to her, as did her big brother. Books have long been a highlight of Aurora’s life. She also likes art…a trait that she gets from her mother, who is very crafty. They love to make beautiful things for their home, and as in her mother’s case, selling them. I don’t think it will be very long before Aurora’s mom can include some of her artwork for sale too.

Something I was not aware of is that Aurora is actually a chip off the old block…or as in her case, two blocks…her dad, Ryan Hadlock and her grandpa, Chris Hadlock. Both of the men play the guitar, and now I have learned that Aurora plays too. She is learning from them, and loves to have jam sessions as a threesome. Really, that is pretty impressive for a 7 year old girl. Of course, when you look back in her genealogical line, she comes from a long line of guitar players, that include her great grandpa, Allen Lewis Spencer, and 2nd great grandpa, Allen Luther Spencer. With all that talent (and maybe more for all I know) in her lineage, it’s no wonder that Aurora is a guitar player at the tender age of 7 years. I think it is sad that her other grandpa’s didn’t get a chance to jam with her too, but maybe they can in Heaven when we all get there.

Aurora is such a sweet little girl who is always smiling. She is getting ready to start 2nd grade this year, and I know she will do very well, because she is a good student who loves to learn new things. She has enjoyed her summer, and has done some great things, including a family vacation to Disneyland, where she met lots of Disney characters, and especially loved the rides…if I know her. But then, the princesses and mermaids were probably highlights too. Aurora has had a great year, and I know the coming year will be even better. Today is Aurora’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Aurora!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Josh Griffith is a hard working man, who loves his family, and would do anything for them. He is constantly doing things to improve their home,and he is always able to fix the things that break. Their house is all electric, but they are planning to change it to a gas furnace this year. For now, the family needs 4 trailer loads of wood a year to heat the home without using the electric heat. Josh spend a lot of his free time chopping and splitting the wood so that the family can stay warm all winter. My niece and his wife, Susan helps too, but chopping wood is a tough job for most women, and so Josh does most of it by himself. Josh also spends a good deal of his time keeping the family from being snowed in. He plows snow almost constantly…and does it all without complaint…because he is the provider, and it’s for his family.

Josh has spent a lot of time teaching his girls to ride horses. Susan didn’t grow up around horses, and so she wasn’t too sure about riding horses.Josh worked with her, and before long, Susan has a good time with it. Their daughters, Jala and Kaytlyn have grown up around horses, and so they will be naturals at it. Josh and Jala go riding quite a bit and have even hunted together. Susan says that Josh is definitely the more hands on parent. I suppose that is because Susan has always had such a soft heart. She parents in a different way. Nevertheless, Josh taught Jala to drive more than Susan did because she said, “I was so scared.” It can be scary to teach a child to drive. It seems that usually one of the other parent has the right temperament for it, and the other doesn’t. Clearly, Josh will be the driving instructor for their girls.

Josh does work very hard, but work is not the only thing we do for our families. There is the all important quality time as a family too. This year, Josh and Susan took the girls to the Billings Fair, in Billings Montana. Living in a small town like Powell, the girls don’t usually have a chance to ride on some of the cool rides that they have in bigger cities. This year, the big deal was the Black Out. It is a totally crazy ride, that I would personally never ride. Susan said that all the rides at the Billings fair were so nice, and just seemed safer. Susan doesn’t have to worry about the girls being on the rides, because Josh always rides rides with the girls. Susan stands by holding everyone’s things…sounds like the place I would want to be too. Thankfully for Susan, Josh takes care of that for her…and she is so grateful for that and everything else Josh does for them. Today Is Josh’s birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

With the invention of the automobile, came the need to make improvements on things like speed, reliability, and looks. Most of the improvements that were made seemed to make sense and improved the automobile, but its been said that, “The line between visionary or eccentric, between progressive thinking, and outright insanity is often quite thin.” During the years when the American automobile industry was rapidly forming, the “unbridled manifestations of a creative imagination” blurred that line on thousands of occasions.

One such “blurring” involved the number of wheels on a automobile. Oddly, that is something that is still under debate today, with the dually pickup. I guess I can see how four wheels on the rear of a vehicle, set side by side, might give more traction, but some of the extra wheels designs of the vehicles in the past, simply made no sense to me. One of the more eccentric of those designs was the eight-wheeled Octoauto. It sported an astounding 180-inch wheelbase. Another example was the six-wheeled Sextoauto, devised by Milton O. Reeves. At the very least, these cars were goofy looking, and the designs seemed to have no exact reason or purpose for the placement of the wheels.

Another example, of the visionary side of the inventive line would be the optional swing away, electrically heated steering wheel available on the 1917 McFarlan. I guess I can see the value in that, especially on a cold winter day. There is nothing worse than toughing a freezing cold steering wheel, except maybe a burning hot one. Benjamin Briscoe of the Jackson, Michigan, based at Briscoe Motor Corporation, straddled the line quite nicely when he built the 1914 models. The 1914 models sported a single Cyclops headlight mounted dead center in the upper radiator shell and laminated paper-mâché body panels…that’s right, I said paper-mâché. The 1916 models sold with four cylinder engines and a promotion proclaiming, “Buy the Four. Use it a month. If then you decide you want the Eight, simply pay the difference and a small installation fee.” Sometimes, what appears to be eccentric today was innovative technology during the first decades of the industry. Promoted as, “The Friction Drive Car” was the 1907 Lambert, a vehicle that served to pioneer the type of transmission capitalized on with the patented developments of Byron Carter.

Between the creation of the first experimental models by William Lambert in 1891 and the companies’ closing in 1917, a wide array of “interesting” vehicles rolled from the companies manufacturing facilities in Anderson, Indiana. They had engines mounted in the rear, the front, or middle, and came in two-cylinder and four-cylinder configuration, providing power to one or two wheels, dependent on if it were a three-wheel or four-wheel model. I’m sure that along the way there were a number of other interesting and even strange ideas concerning the automobile, but I guess that’s progress, and some of them weren’t progress at all, but a step backward.

My grand-niece, Adelaide Sawdon is her mother in just about every way. She looks a lot like her mother, my niece, Jessi Sawdon, and she definitely has a lot of Jessi’s personality. She is learning to be a little bit sassy, which is quite cute, since she usually has a very good sense of humor and is a well behaved little girl, who is quite loving. Nevertheless, like her mommy, Adelaide is quick to learn things, and it doesn’t take her very long to learn things like no-no, I’m the mommy and you are the kid, and other such boss phrases. Then she proceeds to use them on her parents. Of course, it doesn’t get her any further that the laughing of her parents, but I guess that is one way not to be in trouble. I think her parents would be hard pressed to be angry at Miss Adelaide very much, because she is just their favorite person on Earth, and I can’t blame them for that, because Adelaide can wrap you around her little finger pretty quickly,and she doesn’t even have to try hard to do it.

Of course, in Adelaide’s world, other than her parents, there is simply nobody that can compare to her Aunty Kellie Hadlock. I can understand that, because Kellie is very sweet, and lots of fun, but it still surprises Kellie to think that this sweet little niece has chosen her to be the favorite, but Adelaide is, nevertheless, a girl after Kellie’s heart. While Kellie is singing at church, Adelaide can hardly wait for her to come off the stage, so she can climb up on her lap and just enjoy her company. They love to send time together…laughing and giggling, and Adelaide would have Kellie live with her and her parents if she could. They are just that close.

Adelaide take her personality traits from both her mom, Jessi Sawdon, and her dad, Jason Sawdon, and that makes her a very special girl. Adelaide’s mommy and daddy are two fun loving people, who are very social, and they are passing that on to Adelaide too, although she isn’t always too quick to warm up to people she doesn’t know well. No matter, that will come in time, as she gets to know our large family better. In the meantime, we just keep talking to her so she will get more familiar with us. we look forward to watching Adelaide grow and become the wonderful little girl that we all know she will be. Today is Adelaide’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Adelaide!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Steve Spethman has always been the kind of man who takes the matter of protecting his family very seriously…so seriously, in fact that sometimes he has found himself in some…interesting situations. One time after having a birthday party for one of their children, the family had gone to bed. All was quiet in the house and everyone was sleeping peacefully, when suddenly, Steve felt a presence in their bedroom. Steve bolted out of the bed and came up punching. Now, I know what you are thinking…that he punched one of the children. Well, you couldn’t be further from the reality of what happened. As I said, Steve came up punching, but what he hit was…a helium filled Mylar balloon. That episode has been a laughing matter to Steve’s family since the night it happened. Some good deeds, you just never get to live down.

As I said, Steve’s family is very important to him, and protecting them is his top priority. A few years ago, while the family was sleeping, which is the main time that families need protecting, you know. As the family was sleeping, a very large explosion was heard outside their home. Steve jumped out of bed, and ran to the door. Everything in their neighborhood seemed fine, but there was an eerie glow in the sky. It almost seemed like a doomsday event. In reality, it was a transformer that blew in the middle of a power substation. Of course, the situation was quickly handled by the power company and the fire department, along with the police department to keep people at a safe distance. Nevertheless, had the situation been serious, Steve would have been there to protect his family and his neighbors. It’s simply the way Steve is. Always thinking of others before self.

Steve is an excellent marksman, and takes his family out to practice on a regular basis. He not only wants to be prepared to protect his family, but he is training his family to protect each other and themselves too. Steve is a great protector of his family, but he is also a realist, and he knows that he can’t always be right there beside them to protect them, so he prepares them, which is the next best thing. Steve and his wife, Jenny have three boys, Xander, Zack, and Isaac, and all of them can shoot. They are well prepared to handle whatever comes along, as is Jenny, and soon their daughter Aleesia will be too. Steve is a good man with a funny side to him that makes him a great guy. He is always making people laugh. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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