honor

Every year, my husband, Bob and I go to the Black Hills to go hiking and just to enjoy the area. It’s close to our home in Casper, Wyoming, and it just never gets old. Our favorite tourist site there is Mount Rushmore, and we try to stop in there every year. Mount Rushmore is such a special place, filled with patriotism and honor, but there are things I didn’t know about this, my favorite monument.

Gutzon Borglum was an amazing man. He designed and built Mount Rushmore between the years of 1927 and 1941. During the years of work, no one was ever killed, a credit to the safety measures put in place by Borglum. Originally the monument was planned as a tribute to the wild west, but Borglum had other ideas. Personally I like his ideas much better. A tribute to patriotism and honor is a much more fitting idea. The presidents Borglum chose were representative of specific aspects of history. His original plan was to carve the figures of these four men from head to waist, but with Borglum’s March 6, 1941 passing, came the beginning of the end of the monuments carving. Borglum’s son took over the carving, and at first it continued as normal, but the beginning of World War II greatly hampered things, and the monument was declared finished on October 31, 1941. Not only were the bodies of the presidents never finished, but Lincoln’s ear was also never finished. Somehow, Lincoln’s missing ear was something I never really noticed.

About 90% of the monument’s carving was done with dynamite. The dynamite stripped off the rough outer layers of stone, and then the minute details were finished by hand. In all, the workers blasted away more that 450,000 tons of rock. If you look below some of the viewing areas at the base of the mountain, you can still see the drill holes in the rock that was blasted away. It’s quite interesting to see how it was done. In all there were about 400 works who carved the mountain, being paid a modest wage of 45 to 75 cents an hour, for their extraordinary efforts. These days he probably couldn’t have hired any workers for that wage, but those were very different times. These men worked very hard doing grueling work and didn’t complain. I believe they could see the vision of their boss, and I think most were proud to be a part of such an amazing project. In many ways, I wish the project could have been finished. I think the final design would have been an amazing work of art. Nevertheless, I love the mountain monument, finished or not.

My great grandfather, Cornelius Byer was a kind and a fair man. He was generous and honest. It was these qualities that earned him the respect of the Indian tribes in the Gordon, Nebraska area. Great Grandpa passed away on October 23, 1930, but the celebration of life, really began before the day of the funeral, and even before he passed away. Over the years of his life, my great grandfather became a great friend of the Indians. He was invited to their pow wows, he was asked his opinions on things…and they listened when he spoke. He was helpful to the Indian tribes, and they, in turn treated him with great respect.

The Indians would often show up at his home…something that would most likely panic most people. Most often the women and children would stay outside, while the men went in to visit with Great Grandpa. It was another show of respect. The Indians often camped near the house when the men were visiting. I’m sure it was a very interesting lifestyle for my grandmother.

While all that was interesting, probably the most interesting thing happened as Great Grandpa was dying and after his passing. When he lay dying, the Indians came…long lines of them. Each one, including the women and children, passed by his bed. They spoke words of respect and admiration. I’m sure it took hours, but none were turned away. Great Grandma knew how much they loved him, and how much they needed to say goodbye. I would love to have had the chance to see that scene. These were two groups of people who normally didn’t get along, and yet they showed so much love and respect for one another. There was no warring with, no stealing from, no depriving of one another. There was simply love and respect. I’m sure it made my Great Grandmother Edna (Fishburn) Byer and their children feel very safe over the years.

My grandfather, George Byer arrived at the homestead on October 20, 1930. My grandmother, Hattie Byer stayed home with their newborn daughter, Virginia, who was just 4 months old at the time. Grandpa brought almost 2 year old Evelyn with him. His letter at the time said that all the children were there, or soon would be. Three days later, Great Grandpa Cornelius Byer passed away. I’m so glad my grandpa got to see his dad before he passed. When it was time to have the funeral, they would have to travel into Gordon, Nebraska. We would never think of transporting our own loved one to the funeral, but those were different times. Nevertheless, the Indians would not leave their dear friend to go alone. With the casket in a wagon, and his son driving, Great Grandpa went to his funeral. Little Evelyn sat in the back of the wagon, wide-eyed in wonder as a long line of Indians followed the procession to the cemetery. In death, as in life, their respect for this man, who was my great grandfather, was on display. I can’t think of a greater honor than this. Cornelius Byer was truly loved and respected by all who knew him.

For most people the holidays are all about tradition. Of course, for all Christians, Christmas is about Jesus, but it’s also about family time, family traditions, parties, and gifts…with the greatest gift being Jesus. But, one tradition concerning those parties, for me and my family anyway, is the traditional Byer Family Christmas party. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer’s parents George and Hattie Byer started the tradition years and years ago, when their house really got too small to handle their large and ever growing family. The party was moved to the Mills Fire Hall, and on the day of the party, we literally filled it up!! Grandma and Grandpa Byer were surrounded by their loving children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren…and they were so happy. With a family as large as ours, well over 300 now, of course, you might not get to talk with each and every one, but you saw them, and they saw you, and it kept the family close. Grandma and Grandpa wanted that tradition to continue, even after their passing, and so they charged their children with the task of keeping the tradition alive, and the family close. And they did a good job of it.

Now, there are several of those kids who have, themselves, gone on to Heaven, and sadly, our numbers are dwindling, because we…the grandchildren have failed to take the reigns, and keep Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s dream alive. It is so easy to look at the aunts and assume that this is their duty, and not ours, but is it…really? Aren’t we, the grandchildren old enough now to also take up the simple task and honor our grandparents, and our aunts and uncles, in such a way. There are, of course, a number of the grandchildren who still come to the party every year, and we find ourselves very blessed by the evening. It is fun, and if we take a few minutes to walk around the room and visit with our aunts, uncles and cousins, we will find that we have a pretty wonderful family, and that the traditional Byer Family Christmas Party is a blessing that continues to grow…needing really just the watering of more loved ones to join in. It saddens me to think that the day might come, when it no longer makes sense to rent the facilities, because so few have shown up in past years, but it could come to that I suppose. We all think there is a lot of time to visit with our aunts, uncles, and cousins, but every time one of them goes to Heaven, we find out that there was so little time, and we wasted it, by thinking that our presence didn’t really matter. They could do without us. And yes, the party did go on, and we all had a great time, but the family members who were not there…who could have been, because they didn’t have to work, or have anyplace else to be, the ones who simply stayed at home…believe me…yes, you were missed, very much.

Grandma Byer was a great cook, and she taught her children well, and they taught their children well, and I can tell you that we are a family of great cooks. The food last night was delicious, everyone enjoyed it very much. The children were able to run and play without being in the way, and their parents could relax, because no one was going to think they should make their children sit still. The party is one where everyone’s feeling are treated with care, and oh my…did the children have a great time. No one got hurt, and they got to get their wiggles out, and probably eat far too many sweets, but hey, what is a party for anyway? I loved seeing all the precious little ones, whose eyes danced with glee as they got to spend time with other children that they hadn’t seen in quite a while, and as you know, kids don’t need an introduction. The see another kid their size, and it’s an instant friendship. Oh, that we adults could make friends so easily. All too soon, the party was over, and for many of us, it will be the last time we will see each other until the summer picnic…the other family tradition. We all lead busy lives, and daily visits are hard, but Grandma and Grandpa Byer wanted us to continue the tradition. So to all of you who came, thank you. It was great to see you and I really enjoyed our time together. And to all who couldn’t be there, know that you were missed. Merry Christmas to all of you.

veterans-day-2016-blog-picture1In times of war, and even in times of peace, there is a group of people who stand always at the ready…prepared to go at a moments notice, into battle to defend this country and the freedoms we enjoy. They are not always treated in the way they should be treated. It’s incomprehensible to me that we can ask these men and women to protect us in times of trouble, and then protest them when we don’t like the war they have been asked to fight. Today is Veterans Day. It is a day in which to honor all who served, in all wars, whether they were killed in action, died later, are retired or discharged from service, or are currently serving. So many veterans have served this country over the years. Without our soldiers, we would not be a free nation. In fact, were it not for our soldiers, we would probably still belong to England, or worse.

Our soldiers sacrifice everyday. In a post my nephew, Steve Spethman posted today, was a good explanation of just what a veteran really is, and I liked it. The saying went like this, “What is a veteran? A ‘Veteran’ – whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserved – is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America,’ for an amount of ‘up to, and including his life.’ That is honor. And there are way too many people in this country today, who no longer understand that fact.” That really says it all. We think about our soldiers going into war, and fighting the what-is-a-veteranenemy. We even think about them losing their lives. We think about their loved ones back home worrying and praying for their safe return every day. We think about the irony and sometimes stupidity of war, and wonder why we can’t all just get along. People protest the wars, screaming at the soldiers because they did their duty and fought the war as they were ordered to do.

We think about and do so many things concerning war, but just how often to we really thing about the honor and integrity of the men and women who actually go into war, or even stand at the ready, just in case we need them. They know that every time they deploy with their unit, that it could easily end up being the last time they see their family, friends, or their country. They put their lives on hold, missing out on their children’s sporting events, school plays, holidays, birthdays, and even their birth, all to go out and put their lives on the line for people they don’t even know. Now, that’s honor!! Happy Veterans Day to all our veterans, and thank you all for your service. This nation and all it’s people owe you a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. We honor you today. God bless you all.

Aunt LauraIn every war, there are soldiers and there are those who serve in the background. Sometimes these people in the background have an astounding impact on the war effort. Such was the case, during World War II, when so many men were involved in the fighting, that it left very few people to work in the factories. It became obvious that the women were going to have to step up and help. Of course, it wasn’t all women either. My Uncle Bill Spencer did that work as well, because they wouldn’t take him in the service due to a hernia and flat feet. Uncle Bill, and his sisters, my aunts, Laura and Ruth Spencer, all worked at a job that would make the women famous as Rosie the Riveter. These people worked at jobs traditionally done by men, such as building bombers at Ford Motor Company’s Willow Run plant in Michigan, and the shipyards in Wisconsin, which is where my aunts and uncle worked. The work was different than work the women had done before, but they proved that they could do it. Their motto became just that…We Can Do It!!grandpa spencer125_edited (6)

Now, seven decades later, and after several memorials in their honor, 30 of the “Rosie the Riveters” were honored with a trip to Washington DC to visit the National World War II Memorial. These women are in their 80s and 90s now, and it was a wonderful trip for them to go and see the memorial, pose for group photos with the US Capitol as a backdrop, have lunch at a Library of Congress building and visit Arlington National Cemetery. All that was awesome, but the real honor was that at every stop, people approached them, shook their hands, and said, “Thank you.” So often we overlook the opportunity to thank those who have served our country. We might feel like we are intruding, or don’t know what to say, or we just feel strange, but sometimes we need to set those feelings aside, so that we can honor all those who served…no matter in what capacity they served.

Aunt RuthThese women symbolized the American spirit that made this country great, and it is a spirit that needs to be brought back to this country. We are a great nation, with great people. When we make up our minds to do something, we get it done. The was the attitude these women took to the bomber factories and the shipyards. They decided that they could carry the load of the homefront to make the fighting men safer…and they did. I’m very proud that my Uncle Bill, and my aunts, Laura and Ruth were a part of such an elite group as these women who were honored today, I only wish they could have been a part of this trip. Both of my aunts are in Heaven now, and Uncle Bill in in a nursing home with Dementia, so they could not be there. Nevertheless, I’m very proud of all three of them…and these incredible women who were honored today.

Duty, Sacrifice, and Honor1There once was a time when things like duty, sacrifice, and honor meant something. People were thankful for the service of our armed forces, who were willing to give all to ensure the freedoms we have in this nation. Sadly, these days, so many people think that our freedoms are somehow an infringement on the rights of others. They feel like freedom should be controlled by a select few…namely our government. I can’t figure out why they can’t understand that when the government controls your freedoms, you are no longer free. That’s living in a dictatorship, and not in freedom.

For as long as the United States has been able to form it’s own military force, we have been a people who fought for the rights of all people to think, speak, and believe as they choose…whether anyone else agrees with them or not. It was our soldiers who fought to give us those rights, and oddly enough, when people did not have the right to decide how others should think, there was far less hate and racism in this country. I realize that when people are allowed to worship, think, speak, and write as they choose, there will be disagreement with their opinions, and that’s ok. Disagree with me all you like, just don’t try to tell me that I have to think the way you think, and I will show you the same courtesy.

Our military personnel go to war whenever asked, whether it is a holiday or not. They can’t stop defending us and other nations just because it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas. They get up and they fight on. They don’t have the luxury of a 9 to 5 job, but rather must be prepared to battle well into the night and even into the next day, because the enemy doesn’t take a break. There has never really been a time in our history when things were in more turmoil. There are those, even within our own borders who hate this nation and all it stands for. Those people have no honor, no sense of duty or pride in our nation, and they certainly don’t understand the sacrifices our military personnel made to give them the freedom to be so hateful toward those who are just stating their opinion.

Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a day set aside to honor those who have fought for this nation and others. It is a day to remember those who gave their lives that others might live in freedom. In reality, we owe them so much more than we could ever repay, but most of all, we owe them respect. Veteran’s Day is a day to tell our veterans just how much they mean to us. Be sure to thank a veteran today, and to all Veterans, Happy Veterans Day. Thank you for your service. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Pearl Harbor IIAs the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor dawns, I have to wonder why it is that the United States always feels that the other side must attack us first, and only then can we attack them. I know this is not always the case, but it seems like that is often the case. We try to be the peacemakers, and going to war is never something that we take lightly. Killing people is a horrible step to take. So, we always give warning after warning before we finally move, and even then it is usually too late to be the first to strike. I understand that the one who strikes first often looks like the bad guy, but it also seems like so often we are given much advance warning that a strike is eminent, and yet we wait…usually until after the attack happened and many people are dead, and the rest of us, while really angry, are too busy picking up the pieces to think about an immediate retaliatory strike.

That was exactly where the United States found itself on December 7, 1941. We had warned Japan over and over, and with the Hull Note came the final warning. Even the fact that we knew that they would not comply, and we were in essence declaring war on Japan, we trusted them to move slowly…hoping for them to have a change of heart or something. They, on the other hand, acted almost immediately…or at least as immediate as they could back in 1941. They sent their strike force toward Pearl Harbor, while also sending a decoy strike force toward Thailand, in an effort to throw us off. Convinced that Japan was planning an attack on Thailand, President Roosevelt sent Emperor Hirohito a telegram, requesting that “for the sake of humanity,” the emperor intervene “to prevent further death and destruction in the world.” We were trying to be the peacemakers.

After sending the telegram, President Roosevelt was enjoying his stamp collection with his personal advisor, Harry Hopkins, and they were discussing the Japanese refusal to honor the Hull Note. Hopkins suggested that America should strike first, but President Roosevelt insisted that we could not do that. In reality, it was already to late for us to strike first. The Japanese were already on their way to attack Pearl Harbor, and a significant portion of the Pacific Fleet was there, anchored like sitting ducks, waiting for the attack. The ambush would take out 18 U.S. ships. Those destroyed, sunk, or capsized were the Arizona, Virginia, California, Nevada, and West Virginia. More than 180 planes were destroyed on the ground and another 150 were damaged, leaving only 43 planes operational. The American casualties totaled more than 3,400, with more than 2,400 killed…1,000 on the Arizona alone. The Japanese lost fewer than 100 men.

It seems to me that it is so often the side that strikes first…swiftly and with the element of surprise…that fares the best in the end. The side who was unaware, or didn’t heed the warning signs was slaughtered. We have one of the greatest military forces on the face of the earth here in America, so should we really ever be taken by surprise like that? I don’t think we should. I believe that if the strongman gets so sure of his might that he forgets the need to be watchful and wise, then when he least expects it, the strongman is caught unaware, and can be taken…even if his might should have prevented it. The United States has long been that strongman, and yet it seems that because of our hesitation to strike first, we are attacked over and over without warning. Then and only then, it seems, will we attack them in retaliation.

It is a dilemma I suppose, and maybe that was where President Roosevelt was coming from. We are the bad Pearl Harborguys with the world if we attack first, and we are the bad guys with our own nation if we do not attack first. And, to top it off our intelligence isn’t always as reliable as it needs to be, so sometimes, such as on December the 7th, 1941, we are caught off guard, and completely by surprise, when we trusted an enemy to be as honorable as we try to be, and they feel no such obligation to honor. I guess that while we don’t like it when we are attacked without provocation, we must nevertheless, do the honorable thing, and not attack just because we anticipate an attack on us. If we were to do that, we would be no different than the nations we have to go to war with because they have invaded some other nation. Still, it is so hard to always be the nation that does the right thing, when we really don’t trust our enemies…because we know better.

Four GeorgesFour GeorgesThere is something about naming a child after yourself, or your parent, that appeals to a lot of people. My dad was named after his dad, and my Uncle Bill Spencer was named after his grandfather. Sometimes it’s the first name that came from the parent, sometimes it’s the middle name, or sometimes it’s both. For my Uncle George Hushman, who didn’t know his own family until much later in life, life presented him with a perfect plan for a namesake. When Uncle George married my Aunt Evelyn Byer, he became the second George in the family, because his father-in-law, my Grandpa George Byer was the first George. Since Uncle George didn’t know his family at the time he married my Aunt Evelyn, he pretty much adopted her family as his family.

I don’t know if their first son, George was named after Uncle George or Grandpa George, or if it was both, but I kind of think it might have been both. Then, when he had a son, my cousin George, named his son George. Suddenly there were four Georges in the family. Of course, with the four Georges came the need for nicknames to distinguish between the three and then the four of them. My cousin George became Bub, and his son, my cousin once removed, George became Hush. It seems like anytime a child is named after a parent, nicknames are inevitable, but the parent truly still has a namesake. I’m sure that my grandfather felt honored to have so many named after him, even if he shared that with Uncle George, and I think they both liked the whole thing enough to want a picture of the four Georges as a keepsake. And now, there is a fifth George, with the addition of Tuff.

My husband, Bob was named after his grandfather, Bob Knox, and so my Bob became Bobby to his family…but that was not allowed by his wife, mind you. I can’t say as I blame him, really, I mean it is a little juvenile when you think about it. My nephew, Rob was also named after his dad, and we all called him Robbie, but his wife, Dustie was not allow to use that either…again, too juvenile. Naming a child after someone else can be a little problematic for the one being named, when they grow up and the name seems far too young for them.Namesake

For my Uncle Bill, being named after his grandfather was the greatest honor that could have been bestowed on him. He wore the name with pride…often mentioning the connection in the family history along with his signature, as a way of honoring his grandfather. I think that is what having or being a namesake is all about. It is a show of love for the person who had the name first, as well as for the child named after someone very dear to their parents. Maybe it began as a tradition, but even then, it is a show of honor, love, and great respect, and it is a cool thing to do.

Every year for as long as I can remember, my mom’s family has held a Christmas party for the entire family. There is no way all of us could even consider getting together on the holiday itself, because there are around 300 of us now. Of course, we don’t usually have that many who are able to make it to the party, but we always have a great turnout. One of the things my grandparents asked was that we not stop the tradition after they were gone, because they wanted their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to know each other. In their honor, the Christmas party continues.

Yesterday was the party for 2012. We had a good turnout, and as always the food was amazing. On thing I can say for our family…we are good cooks!! Many of the traditional dishes were there, but some had a new and modern twist. Family traditional dishes for many families, blended together to form a different type of tradition…but then, that is how traditions get started. Someone brings in a wonderful dish, and someone else gets the recipe, and uses it at their next gathering, and a new tradition begins. The family Christmas party has seen its share of recipes exchanged and passed along.

Every family or group of families who put on the Christmas party every year, always add their own touches. Centerpieces are one of the big attractions, and are often given out to those who attend. This year the centerpieces were made form candy canes and peppermint stars. They were very cleverly designed, and caught everyone’s eye. They were beautiful, as I’m sure you will agree.

For me and many others in our family, it just isn’t truly Christmas until we all gather together and celebrate together. Our thought drifting back to the ones who started it all, and hoped we would continue it through the years, both during and after their lifetimes. Merry Christmas to all my family, and to those in Heaven who are celebrating with Jesus this year. I love you all!!

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