Sunday, November 13, 2016

Honoring Veterans and Encouraging Those Serving Today

     Remembering those who have served our country is not just "a tradition", it is important for us as a nation.  It reminds us, and more importantly it challenges us to also bring dedication and service to whatever we do today.

     My Dad did not talk in great detail about what he did during his service during WWII.  But his honoring of those who served, his taking us to the Memorial Day parades, his marching in them with the other veterans, all instilled in me as a child a respect for our country -- that our country is worth sacrificing for.  My Dad did share some stories about his time in the service.  Some were funny and made me laugh. Some I really didn't understand until I got older.  And some challenged me about "what type of person should I become?" -- the stories help mold my character.
     At my Dad's funeral I shared some of the things he said that I remember as a child which challenged me and help direct my character.  One was a story about his time in the service.  Dad signed up after the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor.  He went off to basic training and during that time he got involved in the Army band at the base because they found out he was a talented baton twirler.  Back home in upstate New York he had won some honors in his high school for his talent.  Dad was offered the chance to stay in the states and become part of the Army band to help with the war efforts.  Dad's answer:  "I didn't join the Army to play in a band, I joined to defend my country."  Dad passed up an easy way to serve for one that he felt more directly helped achieve the goal of defending our country.  That example of not taking the easy way, of being willing to step up and do the more difficult/dangerous, of not being "political" but "practical" helped shape my attitude toward life and how I would do things.
     When we honor our veterans, when we listen to their stories, when we remember what they stepped up and did -- it will shape our lives if we only listen.  Yes times and challenges change, but the need for character and courage never ends.

An example of how creative children can be.
Kids have drawn pictures of flags, sunshine,
flowers, stick figure families, submarines,
airplanes, stick figure soldiers, rainbows.
Young children just scribble colors, and the
parent adds a "Thank you" note.

    As we have reenacted at Civil War events as the U.S. Christian Commission over the years, I have watched how "remembering history and sacrifice of soldiers long ago" has helped shape my children's character for the better.  Their exploration of history has given my kids a foundation to better appraise current events.  Add to that they have also grown up interacting with some of the veterans who are involved in reenacting.  One very influential veteran was Capt Keith Howell, a retired military man who led the unit we were with out east, the 66th OVI.  Not only did he teach the boys (and the unit) drill, but also helped them learn discipline and respect for following orders.  For us as a family reenacting (i.e. exploring history and getting to know veterans of our time) has been a good thing to develop love of country and willingness to serve in whatever my kids choose to do in life.  (For an illustration of how doing "living history" helped my children learn see the picture that my daughter drew at age 11 in the post of Nov.16, 2013 "Remember" Honoring Civil War Soldiers by Learning History.  When she handed me that picture, I still remember how proud of her I was, that she was developing a grasp of how the bravery and sacrifice of previous generations needs to be honored.)

     Recently I have started offering to the spectators who come by our USCC tent the option to take a moment and write a simple Thank You Encouragement note to be passed on to a modern soldier.  I explain that just as the USCC back during the Civil War did what they could to encourage the men serving back then, we should be encouraging the men and women serving our nation today.  To those willing to take me up on the offer I give a photocopy page of a Civil War patriotic letter to write on.  I also have colored pencils on hand so that younger children can write or draw a picture.  It is very heartwarming to see the creativity of young kids in "writing/drawing" a note to be passed on.  I am always encouraged when I can get families to do it together.  In some small way I hope these notes do reach out with encouragement to those serving and protecting our country today.  May God bless those who are serving in the armed forces today.

A young man takes me up on the offer to draw a picture
to be passed along to a soldier.  He took the challenge
very seriously drawing a picture.  His parent helped him
write out a note of thanks under the picture.
     I have offered to come to a church or group and make a presentation in "first person" as a USCC delegate from 1863 sharing the challenges and opportunities of helping the soldiers serving in that war.  My goal is to show from history how "little things" can encourage others.  The application of the "history lesson" is to challenge "us today" to get involved in passing on God's love to others in "little things".  As a practical example I would offer the opportunity for those in the group to write a simple letter to be passed along to service men & women today through Hugs for Soldiers.  Haven't had any one take me up on it yet.  Probably it sounds too strange.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

In Honor of my Beloved Wife Vicki Lynn Rowe

An Observation about "Hair Strands" -- Reminders of love
    Hair strands can bug you at times.  Guys, you know, that strand of hair in the lunch she packed or the cake she baked, that strand of hair randomly appearing on the shirt just put on.  Vicki would always apologize for the hair strands as she picked them off my shirt or coat.  I would sometimes "pick on her" about finding "evidence" she had been there.  Other times I would just laugh and say "see, it says you love me".
     Guys, value those hair strands you find.  Treasure them as evidence that God has given you a woman who loves you, puts up with you, works with you, and blesses you with her sharing her life with you.  I am still finding hair strands around the house.  Reminders that God blessed me for over 41 years with a woman who made me a better person than I would have ever been on my own.  Guys, if you still have that woman in your life, thank her for the reminders she leaves around you.  And always remember, she is God's gift to you -- on loan -- treasure her.  (written March 11, 2016)

     Vicki went home to be with her Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ, March 3, 2016.  She let the love of Jesus flow through her life to others as she served and fed them.  Our involvement in reenacting
Vicki Lynn Kammeyer Rowe
Born:  Sept.8, 1953
Went Home:  March 3, 2016
the United States Christian Commission came from her heart that she could feed the reenactors as we shared with them the history of the USCC and showed them the love of Jesus.  Her servant's heart changed our involvement in reenacting from an enjoyable interest in exploring history into a gentle ministry of love and encouragement for Jesus' honor.
     She was always concerned if we would have enough food to give away, and if it would taste good enough for the men coming to our tent.  "Some how" we always had plenty to share and it always tasted good.  The soldiers would come in under the tent fly and always find enjoyable variety to go along with a tin can of refreshing lemonade or mint tea.  For lunch we would put out slices of cheese, pepperoni & crackers -- a simple lunch for many a soldier who came by because Vicki did not want any of the guys to go hungry for lunch.
     The sign we hang on the tent reads "Free Food for the Soldier.  God bless You" and we mean it.  If any reenactor hesitates or asks "how much?" our answer always is "God's love is free, so is this soldier! Come on in!  Want something to eat?  Some lemonade or mint tea?"
     Vicki would spend days before an event baking and preparing.  Some things could be baked ahead a few days.  Other items had to be baked the day before to "taste just right".  She would often stay up late baking.  Or sewing on projects to be put out on the gift table for the men -- like draw string comfort bags or pocket handkerchiefs.
     Set up was directed by her doing and giving directions at the same time.  She was always thinking about how to do things efficiently while having room for the kids -- then grand kids -- in the tent and still be organized to feed the troops.  She would periodically upgrade the coverings we would use to cover the serving tables, hay bales, food tables to get them to fit better/ look better.  She enjoyed the challenge of being creative with sewing.  But all that she did was for the goal of better serving those who would come to our tent;  that they would feel welcome, that they would enjoy coming; that we would represent well the USCC delegates who served the soldiers during the Civil War.
     Our children grew up learning to serve others at reenactments as well as in the churches we served in.  They learned a lot from their mother's example.  Vicki was an example to all who came to our tent of what the original Christian Commission Delegates were to the Civil War soldiers -- servants of others as they served Jesus Christ.
     Through Vicki's love and compassion reenacting the USCC has been for us a positive family experience of serving others while exploring history.  She has fed thousands of strangers over the years on many a battlefield.  As I said at the Reenactor Memorial Service:  "Vicki loves you guys, and Jesus loves you even more."

What Christ Means to Me
a poem written by Vicki in High School

What Jesus Christ means to me,
I would like to share with thee.
Remember how he lived to die,
To serve each one -- you and I.

He created the heavens and earth,
Including the pearls beyond all worth.
How could I help but love him so,
He left heaven for a world of woe.

Now he wants me to serve Him always,
He's promised to give me the right words to say.
With the pierced ear of service,
I serve him always.

I've told you in brief what He means to me.
Now tell me sir;  What's He to thee?

She loved me enough to marry me August 24, 1974.  She is not here today for me to tell her I love her and thank her for her gift of love to me.  So I write this as a way of honoring her and her love for Jesus and her love for me.  I look forward to the day I get to see her again in heaven, not because of what I've done, but because of what Jesus did for me on the cross -- dying in my place so I could be forgiven of my sins.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Captured Yankee Envelope Used for a Confederate Letter Home

     I have heard of Southern Soldiers using "captured" Union stationery to write letters home.  I recently ran across a reference to an actual historical incident of a confederate soldier doing this.  I pass along this anecdote to give you "support" for doing this in your living history presentations:

When the sun came up the next day, Hotchkiss could see more clearly what had happened at the Battle of McDowell.  "The Yankees abandoned a large quantity of stores here, baggage, etc -- I got quite a number of things and enjoyed plundering them, retaliating for Rich Mtn," he wrote Sara in a letter mailed in a captured "Yankee envelope."  Despite the victory, Hotchkiss admitted that "this country is a scene of desolation.  Living scarce."  
             [pp.262-263 In the Presence of Mine Enemies:  War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 by Edward Ayers 2003]

     The letter writer is Jedediah "Jed" Hotchkiss, cartographer for Stonewall Jackson in the Valley Campaign of 1862. Ayers cites the above quote coming from a letter Hotchkiss wrote to his wife dated May 10, 1862. Ayers lists the letter as being part of the  "Jedediah Hotchkiss Papers" collection in the "Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division, Washington DC." 
     I wish I had a picture of the captured Yankee cover, but Ayers does not supply it.  But the citation of Hotchkiss' letter to his wife at least gives a specific instance backing up what I've heard happening from time to time.  Such use of captured stationery makes perfect sense -- "you use what you have" to write home on.  Plus in this instance you can sense the satisfaction Hotchkiss has in sending home some evidence of victory over the invading Yankees.

Some suggested teaching points for integrating this historical practice into your Southern living history presentation:
     1) Shows the frugality of the times:  Soldier's used what they had.  Letters -- staying connected with loved ones back home -- was very important.  You can also share how especially in the South as shortages became more severe, they would reuse envelopes by turning them inside out;  use wall paper to make them, use any sort of paper they could find to make up an envelope.  So obviously using a captured stationery set just makes sense.
     2) Sent home as a Trophy:  Yes, it's a Yankee cover, but hey, they ran leaving spoils of war behind for us.  Using it to write home brings a bit of satisfaction to show our folks back home that we beat them Yanks!
    3) Write over/ change the Northern political message to reflect Southern Pride like I've done on this reproduction cover:

Illustration of how to use a captured Yankee cover
to show Southern Pride
Remember that patriotic envelopes were used to reflect political opinions.  I like to tell people to look at them as "1860s bumper stickers".  So have some fun being creative taking a captured Yankee cover and reversing the message to reflect Southern perspectives like I did with this 1861 Union cover.  By letting family see the Union message being "reversed" it serves as both a trophy and an encouragement for "our southern cause".  At the very least, you could cross out the Northern message to show victory over their aggression.  I trust you can see how you can have some fun with this practice and also help your listeners learn more about Civil War history.  Keep teaching history by making it interesting to your listeners.

     Brief biography of Jedediah Hotchkiss:  born Windsor, NY Nov.30, 1828; died Jan.17, 1899 Staunton, VA.  Was a teacher in Lykens Valley, PA.  Then relocated to the Shenandoah Valley/ Virginia area. He signed on as a Confederate teamster, then as a map maker for various campaigns.  His map making skills helped Stonewall Jackson immensely in defending the Valley.  He continued to serve on various command staffs, including General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, throughout the remainder of the war.  Almost all of the Confederate maps in the Official Records by the US War Department were his.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Enjoying Reenacting is a Matter of Prespective

    A miserably cold rainy Civil War Reenactment day reminded me why I enjoy reenacting.  We spent last Saturday at the reenactment at Cantigny Museum [I wrote this post in Oct 2014, but it got lost in life's details; I post it now in 2016 because it's still a good summary of my view of reenacting].  It was windy cold & rainy most of the day.  The kind of damp cold that seeps in clinging to you even though you keep moving to ward it off.  Even before leaving the homestead early in the morning, while finishing packing up it was sleeting so we had warning. . . but we loaded up and went anyway, hopeful that things would improve during the day.  The sleet changed to a cold misting rain.  The day was not the most busy.  Spectators came, but not as many as would come on a nice fall day.  Couldn't put out the usual historical displays to attract spectators.  Reenactors came, but we couldn't put out the gift table with mail kits and such for them to browse and enjoy.  The cookies and goodies we put out under the fly kept getting sprinkled as the wind would whip in the rain.  The layers of clothing did only so much good to keep us warm.  Vicki especially shivered with the cold.
    But at the end of the long day I had a renewed sense of satisfaction over having gone.  In spite of, or better through the miserable weather of the day, I was reminded again why I enjoy this "odd hobby" of remembering and reenacting history long gone.

    When we arrived, we were welcomed and helped to set up things by people glad we had come to be with them.  At the end of the long day, we had help packing up things.  One good friend not only helped take down the tent, but even gave Vicki an extra coat so she could have additional warmth as she packed up things for the ride home.  There were other instances of help here & there during the day.
    These friends, typically only seen on the reenacting field, would never have been known apart from our involvement in this hobby.  Our paths would not have crossed in the normal travels of life.  I count each "reenacting friend" as a blessing on my family.

Honest heartfelt encouragement.
    All through the day, the reenactors would stop by the tent.  Over and over again, in various ways, they offered thanks and encouragements about our being there to offer them good food and drink.  One joke that became the saying of the day to those stopping in was "help yourself . . . we have ice cold lemonade and mint tea".  We didn't use much ice.  But the guys did enjoy the lemonade, mint & sarsaparilla teas anyway.
    Now the guys are always appreciative, but on this day, because of the cold and rain, they seemed to express "thanks" a little more energetically.  Maybe it was because the day was so miserable that each "thanks so much for doing this" comment stood out to me.  No matter.  On the way home, I was grateful that we had had the opportunity to go and remind those reenactors of the servants of the U.S. Christian Commission who had served under far harder conditions soldiers far more hungry.

    Our son Joshua shared the day with us, pitching in hard to get things up and running and going.  Our other son Justin was also able to come and help setup and brought Jonas our grandson along.  With the kids getting older now, our reenacting events become an enjoyable "family event".
    Jonas learned an interesting "life lesson". He had watched Uncle Joshua push up the fly to drain the water off it.  Jonas tried to do the same on the other side, couldn't reach up that far, got a stick and pushed up the fly and sure enough the collected water poured off.  One small minor detail Jonas didn't understand:  you stand facing out, you don't stand facing in.  The water poured off the tent and right on to him as he was looking up.  And too his credit, he didn't whine or cry.  He shrugged it off and kept going.
    For over twenty years now, reenacting has given us special "family stories" and memories.  I'm grateful for that.

Honoring those who served our country.
    Cantigny Museum remembers the First Division.  Through-out the day I had opportunity to talk to Veterans who would stop by.  To listen to their stories and thank them for their service.
    I also choose this event to honor my father, Robert Rowe, a WWII vet who died in July [2014].  I walked the camp handing out to the reenactors Civil War patriotic covers in honor of my dad who stepped up to serve his country when it was needed.  He taught us as a family to love our country, to do good to others, and to love Jesus Christ.  He was not famous to others.  But to me he remains an example of service and sacrifice.

    So, for me, the Cantigny event was a good reminder of why I have enjoyed doing this hobby for over twenty years now.  Yes, it was a wet, cold, windy day that chilled you to the bone.  But the chill didn't reach the heart.

Your humble and obedient servant,
Glenn Rowe