Politics

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Georgia is a small nation that borders Russia, and in fact, was part of Russia at one time. The two nations had been at odds for a long time, and tempers just seemed to be simmering, with a deep heat that threatened to boil over into an all-out war. On August 8, 2008, the conflict finally hit the boiling point. What followed was a shooting war that while brief, was the most violent episode in a conflict that began more than a decade before.

As the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was breaking up in 1991, the nation of Georgia decided that it was time to declare their independence. A group of pro-Russian separatists decided that they were going to take control of two regions a short time later. The regions were composed of a combined 20 percent of Georgia’s territory, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That, being unacceptable to Georgia, created a stalemate. In addition, in 2008, President George W Bush announced his support for Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, something that should never have happened, and a move that Russia viewed as tantamount to putting a hostile military on its borders. I would have to agree with that assessment, and I think we are seeing the continued effects of that move to this day. I’m not saying that the people of Georgia and Ukraine are bad people, but the governments are questionable, causing Russia to take the steps it has taken.

With relations between the two nations already tense in 2008, and the aggressive nature of Vladimir Putin, who is in power in Russia, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, declared his intent to bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under Georgian control. This didn’t go over very well. Putin and Saakashvili accused each other of acts of aggression throughout the spring and summer of 2008. On August 1st, South Ossetian troops violated the ceasefire by shelling Georgian villages. Sporadic fighting and shelling ensued over the coming days, until Saakashvili declared a ceasefire on August 7th. The separatists refused to honor the cease fire, so Georgia’s military launched an attack on Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. Russian troops had already illegally entered South Ossetia, and so they responded quickly to the Georgian attack. The fighting spilled over into Abkhazia when Georgian troops seized Tskhinvali. The initial Georgian advance was pushed back and within a few days Russia seized most of the disputed territory and was advancing into Georgia proper. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in the early hours of August 13th. While the war was short lived, it was fierce. During the five-day conflict, 170 servicemen, 14 policemen, and 228 civilians from Georgia were killed and 1,747 wounded. In addition, 67 Russian servicemen were killed and 283 were wounded, and 365 South Ossetian servicemen and civilians (combined) were killed.

After the war, Russia formally recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, but stayed in occupation of them, in violation of the ceasefire. They took similar action concerning Ukraine in 2014, when they annexed the Crimean Peninsula, backing separatists in the west of the country. The Russo-Georgian War displaced an estimated 192,000 people, many of whom fled ethnic cleansing of Georgians in the separatist territories. The situation remained tense, and then once again came to a boiling point in 2022, as we have all seen.

Construction began on the White House on October 13, 1792, and was finally finished on November 1, 1800. Construction was slower in those days, because they didn’t have the equipment we have today. The current White House has 132 rooms. The original White House had 100 rooms. The White House has 54,900 square feet. The White House sits on 18 acres of land. It all it is an impressive building, but there is more to it than just that.

There have been a number of rooms that began as one thing, only to become something else later on. One of the rooms that has had a couple of identities is the Press Briefing Room. These days it is the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. It was so named after White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was shot and permanently disabled during the assassination attempt on President Reagan. That room, located in the West Wing of the White House was not always such a necessary room, mostly because press briefings are really more of a modern-day thing. The room has always existed, however. In 1909, it was the White House laundry, and during President Truman’s time in office (April 12, 1945 – January 20,1953) it was the White House pool.

By 1950, the White House was 150 years old and in a serious state of disrepair. In order to make is inhabitable again, the entire building was gutted and rebuilt to make it more stable. It also seemed like a good time to improve on its design, so some improvements and additions were made. White House architect Lorenzo Simmons Winslow designed and built an air raid shelter under the East Terrace on the orders of naval aide Rear Admiral Robert Dennison. There had been a bomb shelter before, but it was built in 1942 and with the invention of the atomic bomb, the old shelter was not strong enough to withstand such an assault. Because little research had been conducted into how to withstand such an assault, construction of the shelter took more than two years and required the removal of the East Terrace entirely. Unfortunately, the 1952 shelter was rendered obsolete when the first test produced a force of 10.4 million tons. This shelter was designed to withstand a force of only 30,000 tons, so this would never work.

In addition to the new nuclear shelter, a tunnel was added. These days those tunnels are big in the news, but back then, they were probably a little-known addition. This reinforced concrete channel ran from the West Wing to the East Wing. Though not enough to stop a nuclear incident itself, the tunnel allowed quick passage from one end of the White House to the other, as well as access to the new air raid shelter. The presence of the tunnel demonstrates just how concerned the Truman White House was about securing itself against air assaults at that volatile time in history. That first tunnel inside the White House isn’t the only underground feature. In 1987, a second tunnel was built under the name Project ZP. That tunnel, accessible from a secret passage within the Oval Office, leads to the basement of the East Wing and on to the Treasury Building. Its construction, which was largely secret, created a large sinkhole in the White House rose garden. The tunnel was reportedly built to quickly get the president out of the office during an incursion, but it was also used at least once to sneak former president Richard Nixon into a foreign policy meeting. I’m sure there are other changes to the White House, that we are not privy to, and may never know, because there are always secrets in this kind of building.

There have been many firsts that our United States Presidents have been able to celebrate. One such first was “the first president to ride in a helicopter.” That particular first honor went to a well-known general turned president…Dwight D Eisenhower. On July 12, 1957, President Eisenhower became that first United States president to fly in a helicopter when a United States Air Force H-13J-BF Sioux, serial number 57-2729 (c/n 1576). The helicopter was piloted by Major Joseph E Barrett, USAF. It departed the White House lawn for Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. Of course, no presidential trip happens without a Secret Service agent, also on board. On that same day, a second H-13J, 57-2728 (c/n 1575), followed the first, this one carrying President Eisenhower’s personal physician and a second Secret Service agent.

While that first flight was really a pleasure ride, the main purpose of the helicopter was to rapidly move the president from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base where his Lockheed VC-121E Constellation, Columbine III, would be standing by. This was intended to be a way of escape to Andrews or to other secure facilities in case of an emergency. Major Barrett was selected as the pilot because of his extensive experience as a combat pilot. They needed someone who was a capable pilot under pressure, a skill that Major Barrett proved he possessed during World War II, when he flew the B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bomber. Major Barrett was credited with carrying out a helicopter rescue 70 miles behind enemy lines during the Korean War. For his heroics, he was awarded the Silver Star.

Not only was the helicopter a great way to quickly secure the president, but that original pilot was the perfect person to make sure that the president was safely transferred to that secure location. The President of the United States is always in a degree of danger. It goes with the territory I suppose. It is the job of his security details is to make sure that no threats are ever able to be carried out. They are very loyal and would die to protect the president.

The Bell Helicopter Company of Fort Worth, Texas, manufactured two of the helicopters. They were delivered to the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on March 29, 1957. The two presidential H-13Js were nearly identical to the commercial Bell Model 47J Ranger. They were capable of carrying a pilot and up to three passengers. An enclosed cabin was built on a tubular steel framework with all-metal semi-monocoque tail boom. The main rotor was 37 feet 2 inches in diameter and tail rotor was 5 feet 10.13 inches, making the helicopter an overall length of 43 feet 3¾ inches with rotors turning. It stood 9 feet 8 inches and weighed 2,800 pounds.

It seems to me that with each Independence Day, the fight for our freedom grows more and more fierce. Our current political situation is not a matter of Republican against Democrat, but rather, Good against Evil. I suppose one might have their own opinion as to which side is which, but those who know me, know exactly where I stand. I am a firm believer in this statement by Thomas Jefferson, “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” The good news for the good people of this nation is that we know how to pray, and we know how to fight. What we don’t know how to do is to give up. It may take us a little while, but with God’s help we will prevail…and God is on our side.

Pretty much every year, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I go to the Black Hills for the holiday. The fireworks display in Custer, South Dakota is one of the best we’ve ever seen. The amazing thing is that Custer is a really small town…in fact, it has a population of only about 2,314 people. That said, for them to put on such an amazing fireworks display is really cool. Pageant Hill starts filling up early, so if you are driving up there, you need to go well before dusk. Bob and I would rather walk up there, because it’s easy to find a place to sit when you don’t have a car, and when the show is over, we don’t have to wait for all that traffic to get back to our room. That fireworks display is one of the main highlights of the trip.

Of course, the fireworks display is not the only thing Bob and I like to do in the Black Hills. Our main focus is hiking. There are so many beautiful trails in the area. We take a different one each day that we are there. There is no better way to experience freedom and liberty, than a hike in the woods. It is so peaceful out there, and absolutely beautiful. There are many places that you just can’t see driving down the road. Wildlife, mostly birds, because the bigger animals make themselves scarce…thankfully for the most part. I like seeing deer, but I draw the line at the mountain lions. There are no bears in the Black Hills, except at Bear Country USA, which is a wildlife park, and the bears don’t run free in the Black Hills. Bears don’t run free there, but we definitely do. Happy Independence Day everyone!! Let Freedom Ring!!!

In a city, there are sometimes people who become the influencers of the community. These people are the ones who shape the city into what it is today. These people are considered the “pillars of the community” and are well liked and respected. Many of the city’s most influential people have streets, parks, and even buildings named after them to honor them.

In Casper, Wyoming, where I live, that “pillar of the community” was a man from Iowa named Samuel W Conwell. Conwell was that “man about town” socialite who was well liked and respected. He really cared about his adopted community, and he helped to shape it into the city it is today. The people of Casper totally agreed that Samuel W Conwell was an amazing influencer in Casper, so they named a 19-block street after him. Conwell Street begins at the East 1st Street intersection where Conwell Park is located. Conwell was born on June 26, 1866, in Iowa, the Hawkeye State, but he moved to Casper around 1895 and immediately began to make his mark on our little town. Over the next four decades, he worked at a number of jobs, including as cashier at the Richards and Cunningham Bank and the Casper National Bank, and later he was the Secretary-Treasurer for the Nicolaysen Lumber Company. Samuel Conwell was a man who wore several hats in his life. He was also an early Casper Fireman.

Some of his other notable milestones achieved while living in and influencing the growth and progress of Casper include serving on high school and district school boards for three decades and helping to build the high school (now known as Natrona County High School, as well as shaping Casper’s educational progress during his time on those boards. Conwell was a county commissioner from 1911-1914. In addition to being a fireman Conwell helped organize the Casper Volunteer Fire Department and then served as its Chief, too. He was the past president of the Casper Chamber of Commerce, and also served as chairman of its traffic committee. In 1921, he was appointed by Governor Carey to the State Highway Commission, where he served the rest of his life. His many contributions to our community, definitely earned him the honors he was later given.

After a long illness, Samuel Conwell died at his home on 241 West 9th Street, on January 31, 1933, at the age of 66. Conwell Street and Conwell Park were not names given randomly by the developer who was just trying to come up with the names, but rather they are names given to represent a pillar of the community, and a man whose spirit lives on in the city.

Seventy-five years ago, people began seeing and having an interest in seeing Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). A place called Roswell, New Mexico became famous for UFO sightings, and the Air Force found itself denying any sightings. People who saw the UFOs maintained that they “know what they saw!” Roswell, New Mexico is located near the Pecos River in the southeastern part of the state. Roswell became a magnet for UFO believers due to the strange events of early July 1947, when ranch foreman W.W. Brazel found a strange, shiny material scattered over some of his land. It was like nothing he or anyone else had ever seen before.

I’m not one to believe in UFOs, but I must admit that these were unusual sightings. Public interest in Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs, began to flourish in the 1940s, when developments in space travel and the dawn of the atomic age caused many Americans to turn their attention to the skies. Brazel turned the material over to the sheriff, who passed it on to authorities at the nearby Air Force base. Not unexpectedly, the Air Force officials announced they had recovered the wreckage of a “flying disk.” A local newspaper put the story on its front page, launching Roswell into the spotlight of the public’s UFO fascination. I’m sure the newspaper was beyond excited to get the story, because a good story is great for selling newspapers…especially when it is unbelievable.

Of course, in typical government style, the Air Force took back their story, saying the debris had been merely a downed weather balloon. After that, the general public lost interest in the UFO, except for the die-hard UFO believers, nicknamed “ufologists.” With that, the “Roswell Incident” faded into oblivion…until the late 1970s. Then, claims surfaced that the military had invented the weather balloon story as a cover-up. Of course, these would be considered the conspiracy theorists of their day. Believers in this theory insisted that officials had retrieved several alien bodies from the crashed spacecraft, which were now stored in the mysterious Area 51 installation in Nevada. Now, the Air Force had clean-up to do. Seeking to dispel these suspicions, the Air Force issued a 1,000-page report in 1994 stating that “the crashed object was actually a high-altitude weather balloon launched from a nearby missile test-site as part of a classified experiment aimed at monitoring the atmosphere in order to detect Soviet nuclear tests.” Then on June 24, 1997, US Air Force officials release a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier.

Many people have heard this story, of course, and Area 51 remains a mystery to many people to this day. Most think that the whole thing was a hoax or a weather balloon, but now…suddenly, NASA has decided to take up the study of UFOs…seriously!! See, that, to me, seems more like a conspiracy theory or at the very least a way to take our minds off of other events going on in our world today, than it is a legitimate search for UFOs or anything else. According to a story by The Sun, on May 27, 2022, “NASA has reportedly confirmed it will officially join the hunt for UFOs after a groundbreaking UAP Congress hearing earlier this month. Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) and official sightings were recently discussed at a public US Congress hearing on May 17. Nasa had previously said it “does not actively search for” or research UAPs.” What a way to spend our money…and why now, after all these years.

Some heroes are forever unknown, and the hero of Tiananmen Square remains unknown to this day. I’m not sure how they can manage never to tell anyone about their heroic act, but then in 1989 Bejing, China, being able to keep your mouth shut was tantamount to staying alive.

The summer of 1989 found Tiananmen Square in Bejing overtaken with pro-democracy protestors…a situation that the communist government was not happy about. Students, workers, soldiers, and teachers had joined together in peaceful protest, seeking democracy, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. As the protests progressed, they were joined by more, and more…and still more people. At the height of the protest, an estimated one million people were milling around in the square, and their efforts were becoming known worldwide. In fact, the world was becoming inspired by the efforts of the protestors.

The Chinese government, however, was becoming highly agitated by what was going on, because they felt like they were losing control. So, on June 4, the Chinese government cracked down on those protests in the most horrific way. They sent in armed military and tanks. The inevitable result was that the government killed hundreds, and even thousands of protestors, even shooting them in the back as they were running away.

The killing continued into the next day, and just after noon on June 5 a line of eighteen tanks began rolling down Avenue of Eternal Peace. The tanks, representative of a corrupt government power, came lumbering down the street…impenetrable, unstoppable, and fully able to squash a person like a bug. The show of force continued its parade down the Avenue, toward Tiananmen Square…until one lone man stood in their way. The unknown man, dressed in a simple white shirt and black pants, holding two shopping bags, strode into the Avenue and stood directly in front of the lead tank. Amazingly, it stopped. Then the tank moved right, but the unknown man countered. Then it moved left, and he countered again. The standoff drew national attention, and the unknown man became known as “Tank Man.” The interaction lasted just a few minutes, it proved that one “everyday person” can accomplish a lot, by standing up to tyranny. One report suggested that he was the son of factory workers…a blue-collar guy growing up in a blue-collar family in a blue-collar neighborhood. And because of censorship restrictions in China, he may not even know about the images of him, or that Time Magazine named him one of the century’s “top revolutionaries.” The reality is that he wasn’t a revolutionary…at least not in the sense that he went out and fought with the resistance. He was just a guy who saw something that was horribly wrong and decided that it was enough!! His stand said simply, “No More!!”

This everyday citizen managed, single-handedly to stop the killing that day, and he intended to do it even if it cost him his life. That is inspiring, because it tells us that if we see something wrong and decide to take action, we too can change the world. If we sit idly by and do nothing to stop tyranny, then we are no better than those who are bringing tyranny.

We are seeing movements just like this one man since the 2020 election. People who have never run for office before, suddenly are. People are showing up at school board meetings, city council meeting, and other such governmental meetings. People are taking a stand and proving that we are a voice to be reconned with, and we will not be bullied anymore.

In the Battle of Trafalgar, on October 21, 1805, the British Royal Navy took on the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies during the War of the Third Coalition (August–December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), and soundly defeated them. As the French and Spanish Navies came into sight, Admiral Horatio Nelson raised one set of signal flags. His orders were simple and direct, “England expects every man to do his duty.” His men knew exactly what he meant and what was expected of them…fight, and if necessary, die for their country!! Without hesitation, Nelson’s ships closed in on and destroyed their enemy. The victory of this battle has been called the greatest naval victory in history, and for the remainder of the century, the British really had control over the oceans and the world. In the years following that victory, the British grew lackadaisical about keeping a strong military force, and 111 years later, that issue would be evident for the British Royal Navy when they went up against the Germans in the Battle of Jutland.

Apparently not understanding that things were no longer what they used to be, a British naval force commanded by Vice Admiral David Beatty confronted a squadron of German ships, led by Admiral Franz von Hipper, approximately 75 miles off the Danish coast, just before 4:00 on the afternoon of May 31, 1916. In what was later called the greatest naval battle of World War I, the two squadrons opened fire on each other simultaneously, beginning the opening phase of the Battle of Jutland.

Following the Battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915, the German navy knew that they were, at the very least, numerically inferior to the British Royal Navy, so the Germans chose not to engage them in a major battle for more than a year. During that time, they began pursuing a new strategy for their naval warfare…namely, its lethal U-boat submarines. Biding his time, Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer waited until May 1916, when the majority of the British Grand Fleet was anchored far away, at Scapa Flow, off the northern coast of Scotland. Then Sheer, the commander of the German High Seas Fleet, believed the time was right to resume attacks on the British coastline. The unique coding system of the U-boats made it very difficult for the British to know what was coming. Scheer ordered 19 U-boat submarines to position themselves for a raid on the North Sea coastal city of Sunderland while using air reconnaissance crafts to keep an eye on the British fleet’s movement from Scapa Flow. The first planned raid was scrapped because of bad weather, and Scheer instead ordering his fleet, consisting of 24 battleships, five battle cruisers, 11 light cruisers, and 63 destroyers, to head north, to the Skagerrak, a waterway located between Norway and northern Denmark, off the Jutland Peninsula, where they could attack Allied shipping interests…hoping to punch a hole in the stringent British blockade.

Truly, the only thing that saved the British Grand Fleet that night was that unbeknownst to Scheer, a newly created intelligence unit located within an old building of the British Admiralty, known as Room 40, had cracked the German codes and warned the British Grand Fleet’s commander, Admiral John Rushworth Jellicoe, of Scheer’s intentions. So, the night before the planned attack…May 30, 1916, a British fleet of 28 battleships, nine battle cruisers, 34 light cruisers, and 80 destroyers set out from Scapa Flow, bound for positions off the Skagerrak.

Then, on May 31, 1916, at 2:20pm, Beatty, leading a British squadron, spotted Hipper’s warships. The squadrons quickly maneuvered south to get a better position, and shots were fired at about 3:48 that afternoon. They fought for 55 minutes, the British losing two British battle cruisers, Indefatigable and Queen Mary. Over 2,000 sailors lost their lives in the battle. At 4:43pm, Hipper’s squadron was joined by the remainder of the German fleet, commanded by Scheer. The British were out gunned, and Beatty was forced to fight a delaying action for the next hour, until Jellicoe could arrive with the rest of the Grand Fleet.

Once both entire fleets were there, they faced off. It was a huge battle of naval strategy between the four commanders, and particularly between Jellicoe and Scheer. As the fleets continued to engage each other throughout the late evening and the early morning of June 1, Jellicoe maneuvered 96 of the British ships into a V-shape surrounding 59 German ships. Hipper’s flagship, Lutzow, was disabled by 24 direct hits, but was still able to sink the British battle cruiser Invincible, before it sank too. Just after 6:30 on the evening of June 1, Scheer’s fleet executed a previously planned withdrawal under cover of darkness to their base at the German port of Wilhelmshaven, ending the battle and cheating the British of the major win they had envisioned.

The Battle of Jutland…or the Battle of the Skagerrak, as it was known to the Germans, involved a total of 100,000 men aboard 250 ships over the course of 72 hours. The Germans, claimed vistory, and the British had to agree…at first anyway. The German navy lost 11 ships, including a battleship and a battle cruiser, and 3,058 men lost their lives. The British losses were heavier, with 14 ships sunk, including three battle cruisers, and 6,784 lives lost. The only thing that made the British losses seem less was that ten more German ships had suffered heavy damage, and by June 2, 1916, only 10 of the German ships that had been involved in the battle were ready to leave port again. Jellicoe, on the other hand, could have put 23 British ships to sea. On July 4, 1916, Scheer reported to the German high command that further fleet action was not an option, and that submarine warfare was Germany’s best hope for victory at sea. Despite the missed opportunities and heavy losses, the Battle of Jutland had left British naval superiority on the North Sea intact, but if they had been better prepared, they might have held a place of domination over the Germans then. When a nation decides to sit back and ride on its reputation, rather than continue a practice of a strong military force, that nation can find itself in a tough spot when the enemy attacks. The British could have had a very different outcome, but maybe better aim or the favor of God held the German High Seas Fleet at bay. They made no further attempts to break the Allied blockade or cross the Grand Fleet for the rest of World War I.

Most people, these days, have probably never heard of Marion Robert Morrison, although I’ll bet that most people have seen at least one of his movies, or at the very least a commercial advertising one of his movies on some of the old movie channels. Maybe if I said that his name was John Wayne or even The Duke (his famous nickname), more people would recognize the famous American West actor. John Wayne actually became the epitome of the American West. Wayne was born on May 26, 1907, at 224 South Second Street in Winterset, Iowa, to Clyde Leonard Morrison (1884–1937), who was the son of American Civil War veteran Marion Mitchell Morrison (1845–1915), and the former Mary “Molly” Alberta Brown (1885–1970), who was from Lancaster County, Nebraska. He weighed a whopping 13 pounds at birth. Wayne claimed his middle name was soon changed from Robert to Michael when his parents decided to name their next son Robert. That fact, if it is a fact, cannot be confirmed even with extensive research, because no such legal change was found. Wayne’s legal name remained Marion Robert Morrison his entire life, but he often went by Marion Michael Morrison…before becoming John Wayne.

When he was six years old, Wayne’s family moved to Glendale, California, where he like many teens in those days, had a paper route that got him up at four in the morning to deliver newspapers. After school, he played football and made deliveries for local stores. After high school, he had big ambitions to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, but his dreams were dashed when they rejected him. Then, he accepted a full scholarship to play football at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, which is quite likely the very thing that led to his entire future, and not in football or academics.

For most football players, having a job isn’t an easy feat, because of the football and study schedules, so in the summer of 1926, Wayne’s football coach found him a job as an assistant prop man on the set of a movie directed by John Ford. Ford saw something more is the handsome young football player, and he started to use Wayne as an extra in his films. It’s strange, maybe, that I think that John Wayne became more handsome as he got older. The younger verson, while handsome, lacked the character that really defines some men. That led to larger roles, and in 1930, Ford recommended John Wayne for Fox’s epic Western, “The Big Trail.” Wayne won the part, but the movie did poorly, and Fox let his contract lapse. That didn’t deter John Wayne, who had by then been bitten by the acting bug. Over the next decade, he worked tirelessly on a number of low-budget films, to improve his acting abilities, and in the end, his old friend and mentor, John Ford gave him his big break, when he cast him in the 1939 western, “Stagecoach.” The rest is history, as John Wayne starred in more than 77 movies. Including my favorites, “Maclintock,” “True Grit,” “The Sons of Katie Elder,” and “Hell Fighters.” While John Wayne got his start in Westerns, he also did a number of military movies. It wasn’t hard to transition from a valiant cowboy or cavalry soldier to the brave WWII fighters of films like Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and Flying Leathernecks (1951). John Wayne was deeply conservative in his politics, and he used his 1968 film, The Green Berets, to express his support of the American government’s war in Vietnam.

Unfortunately, by the late 1960s, some Americans had tired of Wayne and his simplistically masculine and patriotic characters. I simply cannot understand that at all, except that people had started to look for the increasingly sinister in movies. Sadly, western movies began rejecting the simple black-and-white moral codes championed by Wayne and replacing them with a more complex and tragic view of the American West…not a good move for the people. Nevertheless, John Wayne proved more adaptable than many expected. True Grit (1969) allowed him to escape the narrow confines of his own good-guy image, but still remain basically “the good guy” in reality. Nevertheless, John Wayne was entering the final years of his life, whether he knew it or not. His final film, The Shootist (1976), proved once and for all that he was an actor who had earned the right to be called elite, when he won over even his most severe critics. At the time of the filming of “The Shootist,” John Wayne was battling lung cancer, while playing the part of a dying gunfighter whose moral codes and principles no longer fit in a changing world. Three years later, Wayne died of cancer. To this day, public polls identify him as one of the most popular actors of all time.

Firefighter and Benjamin Franklin…not usually thought of in the same sentence, but really, they should be. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin was already a young man of influence, but his ambitions didn’t stop at just a few. Most of us think of Benjamin Franklin as a scientist, inventor, founding father, prankster, and writer, but firefighter…hmmmmm, not so much. Nevertheless, Benjamin Franklin was a visionary. He saw a problem and decided to fix it.

By 1736 Franklin had adopted Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as his home, but during a visit to his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, he witnessed a fire, and his mind went into overdrive. What he saw was that the safety precautions to keep fire from spreading seemed to be far more advanced in Boston than in Philadelphia. At that time, Philadelphia’s infrastructure was basically a maze of wooden buildings and houses squeezed together in such a way that it was almost like kindling for a bonfire. Franklin saw this decided that something needed to be done. So, he published his findings in his own Philadelphia Gazette. In doing so, he turned up a different kind of heat. Before long, he was able to round up about 30 of his friends and fellow business owners who were interested. So together, the founded the Union Fire Company. Franklin made sure that The Union Fire Company was a non-profit organization…run completely by volunteers. What made this attractive to these business owners is that it was essentially a promise, to always have each other’s backs, if a fire broke out on or close to one of their properties. Not only were they promising to help extinguish the flames and save homes, but each member was required to keep a heavy-duty bag in which to smuggle out any possessions they could salvage as well. It was a code of honor to try, in the midst of disaster, to salvage whatever they could of the lives of the occupants. The Union Fire Company quickly became the biggest fire relief company in the Colonies, or as they later became, the United States.

Never being one to just sit back and tell others what to do, Benjamin Franklin became a volunteer firefighter himself. Soon, there were six volunteer corps established in Philadelphia. This fire company was the first volunteer fire company of its kind in the United States. When people saw how well the system worked, volunteer fire companies sprung up across the city and soon all over the country. We think of Benjamin Franklin as many things, but in reality, we should maybe think of him as much more than we do. He was the brainchild behind the Great Compromise, which created the Congress we still have today. He was also the first fireman in another way. He “put out the fiery debates” and created a sense of compromise and peace among the founding fathers of our nation too, but he was an actual firefighter in that he actually fought the fires in his city.

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