Today is a very important day. It is not about having a three-day weekend, a barbecue, picnic, or even a holiday camping trip. It’s not that these things are bad, or even wrong. It’s really just a matter of remembering and showing respect for those men and women who went to war and didn’t come home alive. Those men and women gave their all, their very lives to keep us and so many others around the world safe. They could have stayed home. There isn’t a draft anymore, although many were drafted, because in a war the likes of the world wars, and others, the men and women were dying so fast that the volunteers couldn’t keep up. So, they held a draft, and those men, because at that time women weren’t drafted, did their duty, and went to fight the war, many losing their lives in the process.
I happened to watch a movie the other night, called “The Lost Battalion.” It was a true event from World War I. It was called “The Lost Battalion” because of the heavy losses incurred by the nine companies of the US 77th Division of roughly 554 men, who were isolated by German forces during World War I after an American attack in the Argonne Forest in October 1918. Of the 554 men, roughly 197 were killed in action and approximately 150 missing or taken prisoner before the 194 remaining men were rescued. These men were not lost. The US Army knew where they were…pretty much, but they were lost, because it was expected that all would be lost, and that was almost the case. During the battle, the men had to leave the trenches and run, almost completely unprotected at the Germans entrenched on the other side of the hill. The battle was gruesome, and the movie was quite graphic. I’m sure many people would say that they shouldn’t have shown so much blood and mutilation, but if they “sugar coat” it, do we really understand how horrible war is?
The battalion was led by Major Charles W Whittlesey who survived the attack, but refused to be transported out ahead of his men, choosing instead to walk out with them. When the attack began in the Argonne, the 77th Division was under the belief that French forces were supporting their left flank and two American units including the 92nd Infantry Division were supporting their right. Within the 77th sector, some units, including Whittlesey’s 308th Infantry, were making significant headway, but unbeknownst to Whittlesey’s unit, the units to their left and right had been stalled, and actually retreated. Without this knowledge, the 77th Battalion moved beyond the rest of the Allied line and found themselves surrounded by German forces. As I watched the movie, my first thought was, why don’t they stay and fight from the trenches? Of course, I quickly realized that you can’t take the hill from the trench. These men had to dig deep within themselves, and leave the safety of the trench, knowing that they would most likely die right there, if the Allies were to have the victory. That is giving your all!! That is what Memorial Day is really all about…the men and women who charged the enemy, accepting their fate of almost certain death, to win the war and protect our freedoms. These men and so many like them are the heroes of this day…a fact that we must never forget. I thank every fallen soldier this day, because you gave your all…selflessly and willingly, and you will never be forgotten!!
As each birthday comes and goes, I am amazed that our grandpa, Walt Hein could have been in Heaven as long as he has. Grandpa was born on May 29, 1906, which means that this is the 117th anniversary of his birth. I so enjoyed spending time with this man on our many trips to Forsyth, Montana over the years. He was so funny and was a ruthless card player. He wasn’t mean…just determined to win. That was similar to my own card playing style, so we invariably played as partners. That left the other two players, one of whom was my husband, Bob and the other who was most often grandma, Vina Hein, to play as partners, and most often lose. Grandma and Bob didn’t really care. They knew that for Grandpa, the win was a big deal, and for them, since it didn’t really matter so much, they decided that it was all in fun anyway.
Our trips weren’t just about cards, however. There were many things to do on the ranch, and sometimes the men would go out and take care of the animals, or sometimes, Grandpa would bring our girls out to the corral and lead them around of one of the horses. They had a blast riding the horses. We lived in the country, but in a much more urban kind of country area…or at least because it was subdivided, the places were smaller, and we didn’t think that our five acres could handle horses and the two cows that we raised. We felt like the beef was more important than riding horses. We also didn’t have chickens, so being around Grandma and Grandpa’s chickens was a fun experience for the. I’m not sure what the chickens thought about it, when my girls began chasing them the first time, but I know they didn’t hate that, because they would often stop and look back to see if the girls were still coming, and when they saw that they were, the chickens were off again. I think they got a kick out of it. Grandpa also had a bathtub in the yard…long before that was a thing. When the summer days got hot, Grandpa would fill that tub with water, and the girls got to go “swimming” in that tub. They had a great time, and all of these things really endeared Grandpa to them. It was that Grandpa’s heart. They were always ready to go to Forsyth to visit the family.
When I think about the fact that, if he were still alive, Grandpa would have been 117 years old, I am rather stunned. It’s so strange to think that I could have known someone who is now 117 years old. I shouldn’t be surprised, because that statement applies to all of my grandparents, and one would have been even older…one 144 years old. I suppose that as we grow older, having known people from our childhood, it will become more common to know people who are almost 200 years old. Nevertheless, it will probably never cease to amaze me. Today is the 117th anniversary of Grandpa Walt Hein’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandpa. We love and miss you very much.
My grandniece, Brooklyn Killinger is such a sweet little girl, and she is growing up so fast. Today, she officially hit the double digits in age, reaching the age of 10 years. While she is growing up, she is still a little girl, and as such, she loves her dolls. In reality, the dolls are probably an interim replacement for the real thing. Brooklyn loves babies, and while she plays with her dolls, she would much rather have the “real” thing when it comes to babies. It helps that she has a baby cousin…Maya Stevens, because while Maya lives in Sheridan and Brooklyn lives in Casper, she gets to see her quite a bit, and when she does, everyone else might just as well understand that Brooklyn will be holding Maya as much as is humanly possible. In fact, I’m told by her bonus mom, Lacey Stevens, that Brooklyn is “still obsessed with Maya.” She will let her little brother, Jaxon Killinger hold Maya, but he must understand that she will be supervising this process and giving him pointers on how to properly hold a baby. So, Jax has to get used to hearing things like, “make sure you hold her like this” or “you’re not doing it right.” She’s very motherly, and Jax is a pretty good sport about it…understanding that being motherly is her thing. It’s super cute, and it helps that Maya seems to be obsessed with her too. Maya doesn’t let a lot of people hold her, but Brooklyn is always allowed to hold her, and that is totally ok with both of the girls.
Brooklyn really does love babies, and since she can’t always be with Maya, she chooses to improvise, by giving her dolls the very best of care. Brooklyn has two baby dolls that she treats like real babies. The dolls are named Navy and Seth. Brooklyn has car seats, highchairs, and strollers for them. She gets up to get ready for school, but she needs to be up in time to allow for feeding them before she leaves and making sure they are set for their day before she leaves. She is just a loving and motherly toward her little brother, Jaxon. Like all siblings, she sometimes gets annoyed with him, but she does not get overly angry or speak harshly to him. That is just not in her nature. She is a sweetheart who is so kind and gentle.
For the Memorial Day weekend, Brooklyn’s dad, Chris Killinger, took the family to Denver. They are having a wonderful time. It is the very first visit to Denver for Brooklyn and Jaxon, and as a very cool sidenote, her first visit included her birthday. Chris and Lacey took the kids to the Denver Zoo, and they had a great time seeing all of the animals. Brooklyn liked the elephants, but she was a little bit scared of them too. They are, after all huge!! Thankfully, there was a safety divider between the elephants and the people. I’m sure that…and the ice cream…eased Brooklyn’s jitters a little bit. Nevertheless, she was pretty wide eyed while they were watching the elephants. They are having lots of fun, and I’m sure she will have lots to tell everyone about all the animals they saw, and I’m sure Chris and Lacey have lots more super fun plans for the weekend. Today is Brooklyn’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday Brooklyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
It’s a difficult thing to discover that, as a nation, with a naval fleet, what you thought was strong, is simply not enough. This was the position that Russia found themselves during the Russo-Japanese War, when the Russian Baltic Fleet is nearly destroyed at the Battle of Tsushima Strait. The defeat was devastatingly decisive. Only 10 of the 45 Russian warships were able to escape to safety. The Russian leaders had to face the fact that further resistance against Japan’s imperial designs for East Asia was hopeless. They could not do it alone.
The Japanese wanted to divide Manchuria and Korea into spheres of influence, but the plan was rejected by the Russians on February 8, 1904, following the Russian rejection of a Japanese plan to Japan launched a surprise naval attack against Port Arthur, a Russian naval base in China. With that attack, the war was on. The Battle of Port Arthur on February 8 and 9, 1904 marked the commencement of the Russo-Japanese War. The Japanese, in true Japanese style attacked when all the ships were still in port, but I guess that is how war is. It reminds me of Pearl Harbor, of course. The attack was a surprise night attack by a squadron of Japanese destroyers on the neutral Russian fleet anchored at Port Arthur, Manchuria. They continued with another attack the following morning. The fighting would continue until May 1904. While the attack on Port Arthur ended inconclusively, the war was without a doubt, a Japanese victory. The Battle of Port Arthur was the first major battle of the 20th century, and the Russian fleet was decimated. During the war that began then, Japan won a series of decisive victories over the Russians, who underestimated the military potential of its non-Western opponent. In January 1905, the continued attacks resulted in the fall of Port Arthur to Japanese naval and ground forces under Admiral Heihachiro Togo, and by March Russian troops were defeated at Shenyang, China, by Japanese Field Marshal Iwao Oyama. Then came the Battle of Tsushima Strait, fought on May 27 and 28, 1905 (May 14 and 15 in the Julian calendar that Russia used at that time) in the Tsushima Strait located between Korea and southern Japan.
While hope seemed lost, Russian Czar Nicholas II still hoped that the Russian Baltic fleet under Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky would be able to challenge Admiral Togo’s supremacy at sea. Unfortunately, during the two-day Battle of Tsushima Strait, more than 30 Russian ships were sunk or captured by the superior Japanese warships. Japanese superiority was made abundantly clear. By August, with a stunning string of Japanese victories, Russia became convinced that they would have to accept the peace treaty mediated by US President Theodore Roosevelt at Portsmouth, New Hampshire…a treaty that won Roosevelt the Nobel Peace Prize for this achievement. In the Treaty of Portsmouth, Russia recognized Japan as the dominant power in Korea and gave up Port Arthur, the southern half of Sakhalin Island, and the Liaotung Peninsula to Japan.
Japan emerged from the conflict as the first modern non-Western world power and set its sights on greater imperial expansion. Japan would have to be dealt with another day, and by another power. As for Russia, the military’s disastrous performance in the war sparked the Russian Revolution of 1905.
Captain John Mason was an English-born settler, soldier, commander, and Deputy Governor of the Connecticut Colony. While most people want to be remembered for the great things they did during their lives, Captain Mason will always be remembered for something else…being the leader of the massacre of the Pequot Tribe of Native Americans in southeast Connecticut. The group, led by Mason was a group of Puritan settlers and Indian allies, who combined to attack a Pequot Fort in an event known as the Mystic Massacre. The Mystic Massacre took place on May 26, 1637, during the Pequot War, when Connecticut colonizers and their Narragansett and Mohegan allies set fire to the Pequot Fort near the Mystic River. With the fire raging, they shot anyone who tried to escape the wooden palisade fortress, effectively murdering most of the village. In all, there were between 400 and 700 Pequot civilians killed during the massacre. The only Pequot survivors were warriors who were away in a raiding party with their sachem (chief), Sassacus.
Prior to the massacre, the Pequot tribe were the dominate Native American tribe in southeast Connecticut, but with the massacre, came the end of an era where that was concerned. The massacre was brutal and heinous and should have been met with severe punishment, but at that time in history, the Native Americans were not particularly valued among the people of the colonies. In fact, the Native Americans were probably viewed as the intruders, and not the natives. As more and more Puritans from Massachusetts Bay spread into Connecticut, the conflicts with the Pequots increased. The tribe centered on the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut, and by the spring of 1637, the Pequot tribe killed 13 English colonists and traders. That was when Massachusetts Bay Governor John Endecott organized a large military force to punish the Indians, who were only trying to protect what they saw as theirs. On April 23, 1637, with pressure mounting, 200 Pequot warriors responded defiantly to the colonial mobilization by attacking a Connecticut settlement, killing six men and three women and taking two girls away.
Then on May 26, 1637, everything exploded when, two hours before dawn, the Puritans and their Indian allies marched on the Pequot village at Mystic, slaughtering all but a handful of its inhabitants. Following that attack, Captain Mason attacked another Pequot village on June 5, 1637, this one near what is now Stonington, and again the Indian defenseless inhabitants, were defeated and massacred. In a third attack on July 28, 1637, Mason and his men massacred a village near what is now Fairfield, and the Pequot War finally came to an end. Most of the surviving Pequot were sold into slavery, though a handful escaped to join other southern New England tribes.
My niece, Cassie Franklin is a great mom. She now has three children, following the birth of her youngest daughter, Allison Winter Burr. Allison joined siblings Lucas and Zoey Iverson on January 6, 2023, and they are so in love with their new baby sister. Cassie and her partner, William Burr are so perfect for each other. Cassie needed a kind and gentle, loving man, and that is exactly what William is. Their home is filled with peace and love.
Cassie has always reminded me of her mom, my sister-in-law (now in Heaven) Rachel Schulenberg, but the older Cassie gets, the more she is her mom’s “mini-me” for lack of a better term. I guess adults can’t really be a “mini-me” since they are all grown up. Nevertheless, Cassie grew up looking like the mirror image of her mom, and that is a lovely look to have. Cassie also has two brothers, Riley Birky and Tucker Schulenberg, who are quite a bit younger than she is, because for many years, it was Cassie and her mom. Two of a kind. I don’t know is Allison will inherit her grandmother’s looks, but the other children really didn’t. It would be cool is Allison did, so they could be three of a kind. I know Rachel would be smiling down from Heaven to see that. Of course, she is smiling down from Heaven to see all of her grandchildren right now. Cassie’s brother has a bonus son named Jace and a new baby son named Ryder, so Cassie’s kids have cousins too, and that’s always nice.
Cassie is very resourceful. She has always had her own business. In fact, she tried several things before she settled on her current business called Moonlight Naturals, which is a bath and spa company, specializing in candles, bath salts, and body washes. Cassie forages many of her herbs herself, and then turns them into the most beautiful items imaginable. You should check them out. Cassie also sells some used clothing, resin trays, and a little bit of jewelry, but her handmade spa items are her main products, and they are worth having a look at.
Cassie is a great cook, and she likes to make a variety of foods that are healthy and delicious. With her son, Lucas having some health issues, she has learned to get creative with food…cooking gluten free and staying away from other food allergens that could aggravate his conditions. While things are made in special ways, I can tell you that it all looks amazing. I’ll bet it tastes great. As a stay-at-home mom, Cassie works really hard to take great care of her family. Today is Cassie’s birthday. Happy birthday Cassie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
These days, we expect that our president will be familiar with the internet, texting, Facebook, and many other forms of technological advances, but we think of presidents in our past as having to deal with the ancient “technology” of the past, and we even find ourselves almost giggling when we use the term “technology” when speaking about such presidents as Abraham Lincoln. Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln was a “techy” president…maybe not in the way we use the term today, but since technology often advances at the speed of light, he was quite advanced for his era.
Lincoln had always been a “cutting edge” kind of man, but during the Civil War, his “techy” prowess really came to light. Lincoln was quite taken with the new technology, which he called lightning messages. The federal government had been slow to adopt the telegraph after Samuel Morse’s first successful test message in 1844. Prior to the Civil War, even the federal employees who had to send a telegram from the nation’s capital, had to wait in line with the rest of the public at the city’s central telegraph office. Then, after the outbreak of the Civil War, the newly created US Military Telegraph Corps undertook the dangerous work of laying more than 15,000 miles of telegraph wire across battlefields, at Lincoln’s orders, so he could transmit news nearly instantaneously from the front lines to the new telegraph office that had been established inside the old library of the War Department building adjacent to the White House in March 1862. He was so interested in the telegraph, in fact, that he sometimes slept on a cot in the telegraph office during major battles. Of course, his main objective was to be able to get information to and from his generals as quickly as possible, but another major objective, that was just as important, was to be out ahead of his Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis, who didn’t have the same kind of access. In this way, Lincoln became the first “wired president” nearly 150 years before the advent of texts, tweets, and e-mail, by embracing the original electronic messaging technology…the telegraph.
President Abraham Lincoln, who was our 16th president, is best remembered for the Gettysburg Address, as well as the Emancipation Proclamation, both of which really stirred the Union, but it was the “techy” side of the man and the nearly 1,000 bite-sized telegrams that he wrote during his presidency, that really helped win the Civil War. It was those telegrams that truly projected presidential power in an unprecedented fashion, for that time anyway. The fact is that many people tend to be very slow to accept change, especially something as “new-fangled” as the telegraph was at that time in history. It took a man with foresight and wisdom to see that this was a “weapon” of sorts, that would explode our highly divided country into a place where the side of personal rights and personal freedom could propel it into a great nation, instead of two mediocre nations. The person who did that had to be cutting edge!! He had to be ahead of his time…and that is exactly what President Abraham Lincoln was. It is a sad injustice that he was murdered before his full potential could be realized. I wonder where we might have been today, if he had lived out his term.
It is not usually my habit to talk about the spectacular ships built by our nation’s enemies, but IJN Mikasa might be a worthy exception. The Mikasa is a “pre-dreadnought” battleship built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in the late 1890s and is the only ship of her class. I didn’t know what a “pre-dreadnought” ship was, so I looked into it. “Pre-dreadnoughts were battleships built before 1906, when HMS Dreadnought was launched. Dreadnoughts were more powerful battleships that followed the design of HMS Dreadnought and so made pre-dreadnoughts obsolete.” The ship displaced over 15,000 long tons, with a crew of over 800 men.
While she might not have been as powerful, IJN Mikasa was nevertheless a well-built ship, that was able to withstand more than most ships of her time. Named after Mount Mikasa in Nara, Japan, she served as the flagship of Vice Admiral Togo Heihachiro throughout the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905. That war included the Battle of Port Arthur, which occurred on the second day of the war, as well as the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Tsushima. Just a few days after the Russo-Japanese War ended, Mikasa’s magazine (a ship’s magazine is where the powder and shells are stored) suddenly exploded and sank the ship. The explosion killed 251 men. Shortly before the Mikasa’s fatal accident, the ship had been involved in the Battle of Tsushima (May 27, 1905), during which she had shrugged off over 40 shell strikes from heavy Russian naval guns! In that battle 113 of her crew were killed or injured. While such an event would usually mean the end of a ship, IJN Mikasa was salvaged, and while her repairs took over two years to complete, she went on to serve as a coast-defense ship during World War I, and she supported Japanese forces during the Siberian Intervention in the Russian Civil War. Ironically, in 1912 a despondent sailor among her crew tried to blow the ship up once again while the ship was anchored at Kobe. In the end the ship served until 1923, after being pulled up from the drink, repaired, and recommissioned.
IJN Mikasa was decommissioned on September 23, 1923, following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. At that time, she was scheduled for destruction, but at the request of the Japanese government, each of the signatory countries to the treaty agreed that Mikasa could be preserved as a memorial ship. The agreement required that her hull be encased in concrete. On November 12, 1926, Mikasa was opened for display in Yokosuka in the presence of Crown Prince Hirohito and Togo. Unfortunately, the ship deteriorated under the control of the occupation forces after the surrender of Japan in 1945. Finally, in 1955, American businessman John Rubin, who had formally lived in Barrow, England, wrote a letter to the Japan Times about the state of the ship. His letter served as the catalyst for a new restoration campaign. The Japanese public, who were widely onboard with the idea, supported the project, as did Fleet Admiral Chester W Nimitz. The ship was once again restored, and the museum version reopened in 1961. On August 5, 2009, IJN Mikasa was repainted by sailors from USS Nimitz, and she is now the only surviving example of a “pre-dreadnought” battleship in the world. IJN Mikasa is located in the town of its construction, Barrow-in-Furness, near Mikasa Street on Walney Island.
My grandnephew, Xander Spethman and his partner, Alli Simpson moved into their own place this past year, and they have been figuring out life as they go along. Xander still loves to go hunting and feels really good about filling his own freezer with meat to last them through the winter months to come. Xander is becoming a responsible man, preparing to take care of his partner and himself. Xander and Alli were high school sweethearts, and their love has continued. They are very happy together. Alli is a sweet girl, who is perfect for Xander. She is gentle and kind, as is he.
Xander and Allie have their own place, but they still spend most evenings with Xander’s family…parents Jenny and Steve Spethman; brothers Zack and Isaac; and sister, Aleesia. The Spethman family is a very close family, and since Jenny and Steve love to entertain, it is the “happening” place to be. Xander has always known that, and that hasn’t changed, just because he has his own place. People always want to hang out where all the fun people are, and the Spethman kids know that the fun people hang out at their parents’ house.
Last June, Xander and Alli decided to expand their little family, so they became “fur” parents to a sweet dog named Rocky. They love their sweet pup and take Rocky most places with them. They know that taking Rocky to Xander’s parents’ house is ok, because Xander got his love of animals for his parents, and most especially from his mom, who is an animal fanatic. Over the years, Xander and his siblings have had just about every type of pet, from lizards, to fish, to cats, to dogs, and even for a time, a raccoon who lost its mother. So having a dog of his own was a completely natural next step for Xander.
These days Xander works at Walmart, as a stocker. He was working for a pipe company called Tubescope, but Walmart pays better, and when you are a responsible family man, you have to take that into consideration. One thing about it, Walmart would also be a less dangerous job to have. Working with pipes and such is a dirty job, and it can be dangerous around heavy pipe. That said, I’m sure Alli likes this job much better for him. For Xander, it’s all about what is best for his family and that is what makes him a responsible man. Today is Xander’s 20th birthday. Happy birthday Xander!! Have a great day!! We love you!!