rest and relaxation

1024px-Seeking_valuables_in_the_wreckage,_Galveston,_Texas 1024px-A_big_tip_in_Galveston2Eight years ago, Bob and I took a trip to Texas, during which we visited Galveston. Like my Dad, who visited Galveston during his Rest and Relaxation period during World War II, I found that I absolutely loved Galveston. For Dad and for me, the Galveston area was like taking a step back in time, to when life was much less hurried. People fished before going to work, and it almost seemed like the time to get to work was even a little flexible. That is almost like the old west…basically unheard of for the most part, these days. And, maybe it wasn’t really like that, but nobody seemed stressed!! How could that be? For whatever reason, they all seemed to have an attitude of gratitude that they were still here on this earth. It was amazing.

I don’t imagine that Galveston was always that way, but maybe it was. Nevertheless, I have to wonder if that attitude of gratitude came to Galveston after the 1900 hurricane that practically destroyed the city and killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people, with most official reports listing it at 8,000. The hurricane made landfall in Galveston on September 8, 1900 with winds estimated at 145 miles per hour…a Category 4 hurricane. It was the deadliest hurricane in US history and second only to Hurricane Katrina in total cost. The city of Galveston was all but destroyed by this hurricane, which occurred before names were assigned to hurricanes.

It was after the 1900 hurricane that it was decided that Galveston must have a seawall to better protect it from these devastating hurricanes. At the time of that hurricane, the highest point in the city of Galveston was only 8.7 feet above sea level. The storm surge was 15 feet, and it washed over the entire island. Over 3,600 homes were destroyed. Only a few buildings survived…mostly the solidly build mansion and houses along the Strand District. Those are tourist attractions today, and I am here to say that they are beautiful.

The story of the 1900 hurricane has left me in a bit of a state of wonder, especially when I think of the seawall that I saw. It didn’t look like something that could stop the surge of a hurricane, but over the years, Galveston Picture 498Picture 500has been mostly protected from the hurricanes that have come through. I have thought of the people of Galveston, and what a virtually stress free place it is, and it occurs to me that when so many of the people a town housed are gone in an instant, it would leave you with a different perspective on what is important and what isn’t. You would also think twice about getting upset about things that really don’t make any difference in the long run. Maybe that is what gives the people of Galveston an attitude if gratitude, and maybe it is what makes it such a peaceful place to visit.

Dad and Gene FredrickUncle LarryBeing far away from family, is only one of the many hardships of being in the service. It is strange to think of feeling lonely with so many people around you all the time, but that is just how a soldier feels…probably more than they will ever admit. It doesn’t matter if they are married or single. There are always family members that they miss. We would have a hard time understanding their feelings, even if they are our own family member, because we are not all alone in a foreign country, with enemy fire all around us, wondering if we are ever going to get to go home to our life again, and they are.

A lot of times, these men are on long shifts that seem to never end, and in war situations, their bed can be a hill of dirt, sleeping among the bugs, with one eye open, and carefully listening for the sound of guns or explosives, or more importantly, footsteps. It doesn’t make for an ideal sleeping situation. Yes, they are afraid. Bravery has nothing to do with the lack of fear. Bravery is standing your ground, in spite of the fear. That kind of situation takes its toll on the men and women who find themselves in it, and the need for occasional breaks is vital. Unfortunately, trips home are not aways possible, so when they can they explore the area they find themselves in. Many times, these men will not come this way again, so it can be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Sometimes the area they are stationed is of great interest to them, as it was to my dad. A big part of his ancestry has its roots in England, so being stationed in Great Ashfield, in Suffolk, England, he had the rare opportunity to see where his family came from. I don’t know how much he was able to see of it, but to me, just knowing that my feet might have walked in some of the same places as so many of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, would be awe inspiring.

When we think of our soldiers, we get a picture of a man in camouflage, holding a gun, and taking cover behind whatever shelter they can find. We see them as fearless, brave and courageous. We never picture the man behind that facade. The man with hopes and dreams for the future. The man with loved ones who are constantly on their minds. The man who wants to do his duty, because he knows it is necessary, but beyond that, he just wants to go back home to his family…to kiss his wife and kids, or marry and have a family to love, and to return to his parents and family, who can’t help but jump every time there is a knock on the door…praying that it isn’t men in uniform, who are there to tell them that they have lost something of great value to them…son, daughter, husband, or wife. He just wants to make it home.

There is so much heaviness on the hearts of these men, and no way to change what is. It Unknown friend of Dad's_editedRestingbrings a great need for some down time. You can’t continue on, and do a good job, without it the ability to set aside the stress and fear of combat, for a just little bit of fun to take your mind off of it. So, the men and women, our soldiers, look to the countryside that they find themselves in, hoping to find a smile or two, and something to smile about. They do the fun things they can find so that after a time of rest and relaxation, they can go back and do their duty once again.

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