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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

CURRAHEE'S 3 MILES UP, 3 MILES DOWN; THOUGHTS OF VETERANS' DAY

BY MICHAEL LINN JONES

Courtesy Currahee Mountain Farms

I'm sure most everyone who writes of things political undergoes a form of what I call blankness. It's not any form of "writer's block." It's more of a reaction to an accumulation of evidence that the political process has become so defunct, so corrupt, so self-loving that one can reach a point of asking, "What does it all matter, anyway?"

Of course it doesn't take but a day or two of looking at news stories to put fire in the gut, and a writer must walk that tightrope of venting their spleen without offending readers with the expletive language our "leaders" deserve.

A couple of times a year, though, I take a mental respite to dwell on other subjects that may not be exactly pleasant, but at least can leave you with a good feeling inside. Such diversions are necessary for a balance; we get to contemplate a different time, with different people who didn't talk all that much but definitely walked the walk.

A recent visit to Toccoa, Georgia brought home to me several things that frankly I hadn't thought of before. That always happens when visiting places with a history. You go seeking one thing and come away with a lot more than you intended.

Toccoa is a small town in the northeastern part of the Peach State. In the downtown area is the Stephens County History Museum and the Currahee Military Museum. I went there because after watching the "Band of Brothers" series I wanted to see what was left in place there from the 1940's.

Courtesy Currahee Military Museum

The museum is housed in the former train depot. It was at this spot that all the troops arrived by train, and also where they departed. The building was added on to in order to house the quantity of material available to the museum. Within the museum are the stables used for housing enlisted men in Aldbourne, England both prior to and after D-Day.

There is much in the museum pertaining to the "Band of Brothers" but also many individuals' items from around the country. One is quickly reminded that Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Regiment was but one of many, although now the most famous.

Seven or eight miles away is the site of the original Camp Currahee. Today the land is owned by the Milliken Company. The only remaining structure is the chow hall from the 1940's. Viewers might recall the scene where the sadistic Capt. Sobel ordered spaghetti for the men and then announced they were climbing Mt. Currahee immediately.

The road itself to the top of Currahee is still there. It's unpaved, and a fairly steep drive. At my age I was fatigued just by the DRIVE up there, and can only imagine....even with youth and health on your side....how daunting a chore it was to run those 3 miles up the mountain and the 3 miles back down.

Toccoa/Currahee is well worth the visit. The staff at the museum were as nice, polite, and helpful as could be.

As I left the area I thought about what I'd seen. On Veterans' Day we are supposed to remember veterans...that seems simple enough. World War II is the main focal point for such remembrance, but with the greatest respect not the only conflict. We all KNOW that but other wars don't hold the imagination like WWII.

And that's a shame, because even the Currahee Military Museum exposes patrons to items that date back further than the 1940's. There are World War I exhibits, as well as items from the Civil War, to mention a few.

It is perhaps proper that we focus on those who fought, and died, in combat. But, we don't let the light shine very brightly on the other people. I'm speaking of the service troops...the men who served even if not in combat. Or the ferry pilots who flew aircraft across the Atlantic whatever the weather...and many of those were women.

I extend my purview of Veterans' Day to those who served not in uniform at all, but did their duty....and still do. They are the invisible veterans...the wives and husbands, the fathers and mothers of those in the armed services who wait...and pray. Many times their prayers were not answered, but they carried on their lives anyway.

The spirit of those young men who ran up and down Currahee in the early 1940's can be found a century before, and a century after. Although as wars go Korea and Vietnam don't hold the aura of World War II, the men who fought and died in those places were no different than the men of Shiloh or the men and women of Baghdad.

Studying veterans...their actions, their motives, their way of thinking....is as fine an antidote to the grinding frustration of politics. We have to have faith in something earthly, a belief that people are at their core decent and good. Much evidence today indicates otherwise, and that is where one must be careful in discerning between fictional heroes and real-life ones.

Everyone who has served is human, with frailties and faults. But frankly, if I were asked to choose which gift is greater....a grant for billions from Washington, or the blood of a soldier who bought me and my heirs a little time to make the world right.....I'd have no hesitation in embracing the latter.

It's all well and good to thank veterans each year. It's wonderful and I applaud anyone who does.

All I ask is that you consider carefully what you're thanking them FOR.
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Cross-posted at Michael Linn Jones.com
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Kindly featured at MemeOrandum

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Tom said...

We have to have faith in something earthly, a belief that people are at their core decent and good. I agree. For me, I look to my family (immediate and extended) and my church (the one I grew up in). They give me confidence that people are good and that there is hope in the world...especially when things seem otherwise.

6:14 AM  

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