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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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WWII

Day 14 – Rt 66 trip

Do you know the meaning of guide? We learned today that our EZ66 guide is just that. A guide meant to lead, but it is NOT professional exactness because businesses close, schedules change and volunteers choose not to do as they have said they will. Plus, the author of the guide is only able to drive the route every few years so the information isn’t always up to date. Keep that in mind as you go through each of our days.

This morning, once again, we had a little trouble finding Rt. 66 as we left Albuquerque, but once we did, we thought we were on our way. Wrong! We came to a spot where we should have turned, but we decided to go straight because there were no signs to direct us. We saw the sign that said “no outlet” and thought it meant no access to Rt 40 rather than dead end. Well, we ended up on a barely paved, narrow road that was like driving on a washboard. There was a silver Nissan that followed us till I told Bob to pull over and let him pass. It felt like we traveled 20 miles, but it was probably two, at 15 to 35 mph. Then we came to a fence and our only choice was to turn into a one lane underpass that went under Rt. 40. We didn’t like the option, but it took us back to Rt. 66 and then we drove for miles at 55 mph with little traffic coming at us and little behind us.

IMG_1286Above and below, typical scenery in New Mexico. Lots of buttes, and redness.

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And then you go around a huge curve and the “dirt” becomes black. Still beautiful, but different.

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An underpass, but a planned two lane one, very friendly compared to the one lane we entered earlier in the morning.

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Below, inside the graffiti covered underpass. This one wasn’t full of glass and debris.

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Coming out of the underpass into a big curve. After the one lane one earlier, this one was almost a piece of cake.

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More red dirt buttes. These pictures are being taken with my phone so you can imagine the beauty if I had had a real camera or you had seen them in person.

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Another butte, the train cars give a better perspective of the vastness.

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And then the Continental Divide. A note of interest. Along the highway, in Mew Mexico and Arizona, when you exited a work zone there was a thank you sign to the company that did the road work. Nice touch. There were also signs indicating a damaged guard rail ahead. If they did that in New York, you would see a sign every mile or so.

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The sign below is a bit of irony. Historic 66 lives in the minds of many, but it is actually only in existence in bits and pieces. We are surprised that the amount of money it brings in through tourism, that  more signs aren’t posted so it is easier to follow.

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Back to scenery, now in Arizona.

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We stopped in Gallup, AZ so we could visit the Rex Museum to learn more about the Navajo Code Talkers that served during WWII. Unfortunately it is not open on weekends. The picture below was hanging above our table where we had lunch. We did stop at the Gallup Cultural Museum which gave us a hint of creativity of the Navajo when it comes to sand painting and weaving. As we left there two teen girls approached us and asked if we wanted to take home a kitten. When they walked towards us we expected them to ask for money or the like. We explained we were traveling and they apologized for bothering us.

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Above, Jerry’s Cafe. We waited in line at 2 pm with the locals.

Below; chili rellenos. I knew I would get better Mexican dishes in this part of the country. Delicious.

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The other diners at Jerry’s. I have to admit a blue eyed caucasian is not the norm in Arizona. I am having to rethink my old belief that USA citizens all look alike.

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We moved on to Holbrook, AZ where we went to the Painted Desert Quilts shop. I was so taken with the quilt top below, I forgot to take a picture of the store sign. We got some more fabrics for our memory quilt.

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We checked in to our hotel about 4:30 pm then took a nap. Having had a big lunch, we decided to look for a bar to have a couple of drinks and a conversation. We tried the Empty Pockets Saloon first, then moved to the Corral. Roland was our bartender and we met Larry, who they soon asked to leave. He wasn’t a problem, but had been there too long. He was telling us all sorts of stories, so we were glad he left. Next, the young man that sat next to us was from England. Sit down if you aren’t….he was in the silver SUV that we let pass us this morning. He was also born in a town just a few miles from the town my daughter was born in, in Suffolk county, England. It is indeed a small world. We had a grand time talking with him, and then the band started and we got in some dancing to a live-music, country band. Side note, the band, us and maybe a third of the crowd was caucasian, the rest were Latino or Native American. We met Crystal who was doing a promotion for a specific alcohol distributor and she introduced us to the owner, Mark, who stood about 6′ 7″ and probably weighed close to 400 lbs. While we danced, he sat at an out of the way table and just watched the crowd. I imagine he could move fast if any trouble presented itself. We saw about seven cars pulled over while we were there. The rodeo was in town and the police were busy. It was a fun, fun evening and we didn’t want to leave.

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Below, a picture embossed under the shellaced bar surface. And only one guy in the whole crowd mentioned Bob’s mustache while we were there.

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Freedom Isn’t Free

This day is observed to honor the 3,500 Americans who lost their lives or were wounded on December 7th when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and gave the U. S. reason to enter WWII.  Continue reading “Freedom Isn’t Free”

A War with a Beginning and an End

I belong to a Veteran’s Writing Group in my local area. The group welcomes veterans plus their family and friends. I go as an ex-wife of an Air Force member and a staunch supporter of all veterans. There are nine of us that attend regularly. The effects of war, and the rationale of it, or lack-thereof, are common threads in our memoir writing.  Continue reading “A War with a Beginning and an End”

My Definition of a POW

I have a lot of connections to the military, both past and present.  I fly the American flag 24/7.  Yes, it is properly lit.  I went outside yesterday and switched out the American flag for my POW/MIA flag that I will leave up until Monday in honor of my friends, some of which I can tell you their names and most of which I can’t.  I have the privilege of writing this in a sate of freedom because of the military, not because of our government that no longer takes care of our veterans.  I won’t apologize, I’m very biased on this subject.

I believe in my heart there are three different definitions of a POW.  First: the military member that was/is actually held by the enemy.  John McCain is the one I think of first.  Second; the veteran that leads a “normal” life, but has nightmares about his tour of duty, maybe is getting some help dealing with PTSD, talks to his brotherhood, other veterans, about what he had to do and what he witnessed.  Third; the person sitting at a bar who talks about his tour of duty like he came home yesterday, and it was actually many years ago; he/she doesn’t identify with todays life, feels alone and contemplates suicide on occasion.  There are about 20 veteran suicides a day.  Some have sought help and couldn’t get it, some never sought because they couldn’t admit the tough guy needed it and others because they lived in too rural an area to have help available.

Any veteran that did as our government directed will never be free of the memories.  I know a WWII and Korean Was vet whose job it was to load bombs.  He has told me, “I have no idea if any of the bombs I loaded were ever used, but it eats at me day and night.”  He generally stays awake at night, and sleeps during the daylight hours.  Tears form just writing this.  He’s a really good guy,  a great poet and he has my utmost respect.

There is a 90 plus year old lady in my home town that still wears the copper bracelet with her sons name on it; James Moore.  It also has the date he went missing in Viet Nam.  She never forgets either, and neither does her family.

I know this isn’t my usual type post.  I’ll close asking you to remember any POW or MIA with respect.  And while we’re at it, the American Flag and what it represents is why our veterans suffer with their memories.

 

National Aviation Day

National Aviation Day was established in 1939 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to honor the originators of general aviation.  This date was picked because it was Orville Wright’s birthday.

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A couple of years ago my husband and I spent some time in Oregon.  A few nights in an ocean front hotel so I could hear the crash of the waves from my room was on my bucket list.  I had no idea that crash meant just that.  The waves were so noisy I had to shut our sliding glass door so I could sleep.

We stayed just north of the town of Tillimook.  One day we visited the cheese factory, which also has excellent ice cream.  Watching the modern cheese packing factory in operation was informational and fascinating.  We didn’t need to stop for lunch before we went into town to the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center.  This relatively small old school house is packed with a visual feast for anyone interested in any sort of textile.  One room was full of weaving looms, another had a display of quilts like I had never seen (they were two sided), and the third was a classroom where ladies were doing hand embroidery.  I could have stayed much longer than we did.

Once back in the car we drove south on Rt. 101.  Long before we got to it, we could see a huge building that said AIR MUSEUM on its curved structure.  It was a blimp hanger, that housed seven blimps, during World War II.  It is the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world.  My husband works in the construction field so he was fascinated with how the structure was built and the fact the cement floor didn’t have any cracks in it.  We walked in the doors that were three stories tall, in awe of the building’s size.  We didn’t have to just tilt our heads back, we had to stretch them back as far as they would go in order to look up at the center of the ceiling.  In one corner of the hanger, there is an area turned into rooms with lots of pictures of  blimps, their makers, and pilots; in the vast inner building there are antique WWII airplanes.  The building is so big, that the far end was being used as storage for RV’s, boats, and other things.  We talked quietly as our voices carried like over a lake in the still of night.

The next time you watch a sports event that has a blimp being used so camera shots from above can give you an aerial view, think about the originators of aviation, and the size of seven blimps (all in one structure)!

 

National Purple Heart Day

The first Purple Heart was created by General George Washington in 1782 to be presented to soldiers for “any singularly meritorious action”.  Since 1917 it has been awarded to any soldier, in any branch of U.S. service, when they are wounded or killed in action.  I happen to believe it should be awarded to every service member because of the wounds they receive to their psyche; the ones that another person can’t see.

I attend the local Veteran’s Writing group in the city where I live.  We met yesterday morning and I asked who had a purple heart.  Out of the three Viet Nam Vets, One WWII Vet, and three Iraq/Afghanistan Vets, no one had been awarded a Purple Heart for a visible wound to their body.  But, I know they all carry the wounds of being deployed.  Each one of them has lost a close friend, or wartime “brother” or “sister” during a combat related experience.  Each one of them admits to nightmares about something they were ordered to do, something they saw happen, or sometimes about the fact they couldn’t make a difference when they thought it was their duty to do so, or the fact they came home alive when their buddy didn’t.

I made the comment, “I was just a dependent wife,” because in my mind, that’s all I was.  I never had to face being shot at in a war zone, or hold my friend’s mortally wounded body while he took his last breath.  One of the Vets, Steve, told me after our writing session that if I left my childhood home to be the wife of a military service member, I too was a veteran.  If only for the fact I understand what sacrifices they make so the citizens of the United States can enjoy the freedoms they do.  I wish I had the capability to make eveyone understand what it does to any past or present military service member when they see someone disrespect the flag of this country.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am all for free speech and freedom of expression.  I just wish everyone could understand those freedom’s come with a heavy price for our service members.  Another point Steve made today is that military personnel are expected to be tough.  They go through a rigorous training to make them that way.  So when they realize they need help with some of their unseen wounds it is hard for them to admit it and seek help.

I have come to respect every person I’ve met in the Veteran’s Writing group, if not love them.  If it were up to me, they would all have a Purple Heart.

 

 

 

 

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