I love to read. Since discovering Dick and his sister Jane, I’ve spent a goodly amount of my life in libraries, bookstores and resale shops whenever possible. I’m a research addict and proud of it but I do go through spells where the bulk of my reading is mostly confined to novels, then maybe I’ll switch to how to books or then again, memoirs or biographies. There’s usually no rhyme or reason as to my choices except what catches my eye at a particular moment. Yes, cover copy and illustrations lure the strongest of us.
Lately, my tastes have run to biographies. A while ago I read one about Eleanor Roosevelt and her many contributions to such causes as the Civil Rights and Women’s Equality movements through both her writings – she was the first, First Lady to write a daily newspaper column - and her feet on the ground, hands on, person to person volunteerism during both World Wars. She was also active in improving working conditions in rural mining areas and farming communities during the depression. Eleanor had a genuine concern to help all who needed it even if it meant voicing her opinions which were sometimes contrary to her husband’s. She did not want Franklin to become president but was able through her platform as First Lady to become a world leader, working with organizations throughout the globe to secure the theme of universal human rights.
I’m now reading another Roosevelt biography, this one though deals with Ted Roosevelt Jr., the oldest son of Teddy. Ted spent his life having to live in his Rough Rider father’s shadow, never certain if he was good enough to carry on the legacy. Reading this book should convince anyone that he was more than up to the challenge and was a man of great courage and moral conviction.
He served in France as one of the first Americans to go over during WW1 and received honors for his bravery and leadership. He became an American hero. Ted was one of the founders of the American Legion which promoted the supposition that all veteran soldiers were comrades, regardless of rank. He did well in business and, like his cousin, Franklin, was involved in political activities, holding various offices which included Governor of Puerto Rico. Funded by the Chicago Field Museum, he and his brother, Kermit travelled to faraway locations, bringing back exotic animal specimens for study and display, trekking across the Himalayas through India and China. At the age of fifty-six, Brigadier General Ted Roosevelt was the oldest soldier landing by sea on D-Day, the only General hitting the ground with the first attack wave on Utah Beach, one of the first off the landing craft, and the only man who had a son, Captain Quinton Roosevelt III, who was also part of the invasion, landing on Omaha Beach. I think he did more than just living up to his old man’s expectations, he rose far above them. The name of the book is HIS FATHER’S SON THE LIFE OF GENERAL TED ROOSEVELT JR by Tim Brady.
Segueing from World Wars One and Two, I’d just like to remind everyone that this summer officially marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War; timing varies depending on when we officially entered the conflict versus sending numerous “advisors” over there unofficially. Most will agree that this was not a popular war and many Americans protested or chose not to go. Unlike earlier wars that were sometimes romanticized with deeds of honor and chivalry, we at home were now able to see war up close and personal via our televisions, seated in our living rooms, perhaps eating our dinner on a tv tray. We watched people get blown up, executed, homes burned, bloody children crying, lying next to dead bodies. After a while, seeing this day after day, a different village with different people but the scenes the same, we grew desensitized. The number of dead or wounded became just numbers.
But what about the 2,709.918 Americans who did serve? Most came back to their homes and families and carried on with their lives. Some did not. 47,378 died. Sixty-one percent of our men killed were twenty-one years old or younger. 75,000 came home severely disabled. Many, having been exposed to Agent Orange, came home seemingly healthy only to later suffer and many times die from COPD related disorders, heart disease, lung cancer and kidney failure. Some soldiers would and still do suffer from mental disorders and various other types of debilitation. Some veterans just disappeared. And the worst blow given to these war veterans was the utter disrespect and downright hatred shown to some of them when they returned home.
We’re all older now. We’ve seen young men and women leave home for yet another conflict, most returning, some not. Let’s remember our veterans who are now gone, and hold dear and respect those with us now
“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." Theodore Roosevelt