Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Two for the Price of One!

We've settled into the hot part of a South Texas summer. Temperatures are running in the mid 90s every afternoon with the heat index hovering around the 110 degree mark. Most of the day it's just too hot do be outside.

Patrick continues to recover from his knee replacement surgery. This is his third week back to work. He mostly sits at a desk all day so the doctor let him go back after three weeks instead of the usual four. He has to set an alarm on his phone and get up and walk every hour to keep his knee from stiffening up. He's doing really well and walks without any assistance and with much less of a limp than he had before surgery. He goes for a two-hour therapy session after work three times a week. The therapy is a little painful, but he says it really helps. The hope is to achieve much more mobility than he has had previously in that knee.

Katy, Travis and Our Little Princesses visited us before and after their recent vacation to South Padre Island. They were here for the Fourth of July celebration. We went down to the bayfront to watch the fireworks. It's a very nice place to go for fireworks. There is always a breeze off of the water. This years show was supposed to start with a light show on the Harbor Bridge. However, thanks to some illegal fireworks that were shot right under the bridge, the light show did not go. After that we were a little disappointed. The fireworks show was less than fifteen minutes long. The City of Corpus Christi had all on-street parking blocked off so we had to pay $10 for parking on an unpaved vacant lot. All in all, it was a disappointing evening, but the fireworks were beautiful.

We have some very big news that I've been dying to share with you since we found out. I've just been waiting for the okay from the Aggie Engineers. Nick and Marie are expecting ... TWINS! We are beyond excited. They have been trying to conceive for several years so this has been a long time coming. They waited until they were sure that the pregnancy was viable to share the news outside the family. Here is how they announced it.


Their due date is the first week of February. However, we've been told that with twins we should expect an early arrival. We won't know for a few weeks whether they're boys, girls, or one of each. We're just hoping for healthy babies.

Marie is a twin herself and is just taking it all in stride. Nick is a little bit freaked out about having two babies right off the bat. These two are "our little overachievers." I'm not at all worried about them being able to handle two babies. Besides, Nick has assured me that they're getting my room ready so I can come for frequent long visits. All I have to say about that is "I'm in!"

I'll try to keep you as up-to-date as I can about the progress of the pregnancy while still respecting the Aggie Engineers' privacy. In the meantime, here are our first baby pictures.


More soon! Stay cool and have a great summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Here and Now

It has been a while since I've been able to dedicate as much energy to writing this blog as I would like. I've reached a place where "life" has been getting in my way. Now that it's summer, I would like to think I'll have more time, but somehow, with everything that's going on I doubt it. Maybe I should just close it down under the circumstances, but I don't want to do that. Sometimes writing this blog feels like my lifeline. So, for the time being, I will just go along as often and as well as I can and hope that you will stick with me.

Here's what's happening here and now.

Both of our little princesses played soccer this spring. They played in a YMCA league and in their very young age groups, they didn't keep score. Both girls did very well. Ezra took to soccer much better than I thought she would and kept a smile on her face the whole time she was on the field. She had a great coach who gave lots of positive feedback to everyone and made sure every child played and had a good experience. We need more youth coaches like him. June was really good at soccer. She's very well coordinated for a four-year-old. She scored several goals in every game. Her coach was a little less organized, although I appreciate her efforts. Trying to coach a group of four year old kids is like herding cats. At best, it's organized chaos. We made a trip up specifically to see them play and we were able to catch another game when we had to go to San Antonio for a business dinner.



Last weekend I went to San Antonio for Ezra's first dance recital. While I really enjoyed it, it was really long. We sat through 28 performances of ballet, tap, tumbling, jazz, hip-hop, and a few other things I don't even know the names of. The performers ranged in age from 2 to approximately 60 (which included some grandmas). Ezra was in the 20th group. It was so long that my knees hurt when I finally stood up.


I think Ezra's favorite part of the whole thing was that she got to wear stage makeup. It was her very first time to ever wear makeup and, as you can see, she was thrilled and cute as a bug. It also didn't hurt that her friend Arabella was right next to her through the entire performance. Arabella's mom, Andi, and Katy were stage moms for their group. As you can see from the group picture, Ezra is the tallest in her group. It's a position she will need to get used to, just as her mom did. I was particularly pleased with her willingness to perform in front of such a large audience. The recital was held in the Lila Cockrell Theater in the San Antonio Convention Center in front of a packed house.

I was very impressed with what a good audience June was. For a 4 year old, she was amazingly well behaved and patient throughout the entire performance. Did I mention it was long?


There were a couple of reasons that Patrick didn't make the quick trip to San Antonio with me. One of the things that has been keeping us busy is his mother. Friday was her 85th birthday. She has been having health problems for a while now. I have not written about them before because she is a very private person and would not want details of her life on the internet. But, the family has given me permission to share at this point.

Mama Ruthie, as I've called her since our marriage almost 40 years ago, has been in frail health for about two years. On Valentine's Day this year she fell in the entry of her house while opening the front door. As a result of the fall, she broke her pelvic bone in three places. After about two weeks in the hospital, she was moved to a nursing home/rehabilitation center near our home. She made very slow progress and since then has only been able to walk with a walker and someone to assist her.

About three weeks ago, an alert nurse noticed that she seemed confused and unresponsive. She contacted Mama Ruthie's doctor on Saturday morning. The doctor immediately had her transported to the hospital emergency room. At the hospital, they confirmed that she'd had a stroke. After about a week she was responding well to treatment and therapy so was transferred to the rehabilitation center of the same hospital. During the transfer, Patrick noticed that the side of her face started to droop again and she exhibited weakness on one side and seemed confused. He called it to the attention of the nurse who immediately called the hospital's crash team. They were able to intervene quickly and prevented more extensive damage. But, back to the hospital room she went.

After a couple of days, they started therapy again. This time she was not cooperative. Some days she would do part of the therapy, but then she would say she was too tired or just say she didn't want to do any more. Eventually, she completely refused to do any more therapy. After she refused therapy four days in a row, they discharged her in accordance with hospital policy. She declined to return to the nursing home/rehab center, so she went home. She is very weak and can not walk nor take care of her personal needs. The two strokes have damaged her short-term memory. She can't remember things like who has visited or when she last ate.

She has two adult daughters and a teenage granddaughter who currently live in her home. They have assumed the role of caretaker. With very few exceptions, since Valentine's Day one or both of us has gone to the hospital or nursing home daily. Now we visit her at home every few days. She is the last of our parents and I can feel her slipping away a little more every time she falls or has a medical incident. This is going to be tough.

The other reason Patrick didn't go to San Antonio for the recital is that he is having knee replacement surgery today. He is actually in surgery right now and I'm writing this from the waiting room outside the OR. He will be in the hospital at least 3 days and then he will start daily therapy. I will have to drive him to therapy and take care of everything at home. We have told his family that we are out of taking care of his mom for the foreseeable future. I expect that he will be able to return to work in about a month. I really hope that nothing more happens to his mom while he is recovering.

We are also dealing with some issues with our home. When our drought finally broke earlier this spring, we had about 3 inches of rain in less than two hours. It was early morning on a work day and we were having coffee in the living room. Patrick got up and went to the kitchen. I heard him ask me if I spilled something. I replied that I had not and got up to check. We quickly realized that water was coming into the house around the baseboards. Fortunately, we were still at home and were able to use towels and mops and keep the flooding somewhat at bay. Also luckily, we do not have any carpet. All our floors are vinyl planks that look like hard wood. Two or three days later, on Friday night, it happened again. Basically, a cloudburst stalled right over our neighborhood. Again, we had 3-4 inches of rain in just a couple of hours and water came in around the foundation. This time the power failed and we were trying to hold the flooding at bay in the dark. This time every room in the house had water except for the front bedroom.

Last summer, when Patrick lost his job, we seriously considered dropping our FEMA flood insurance. The policy came due right in the middle of his unemployment and it was seriously on the table. We've lived in this house for 30 years and never had any problems with flooding, so we didn't think it would be much of a risk. I feel so lucky that we didn't drop it. Who could have known that we would have so much rain so fast so many times this year? We have not yet received our settlement, but the preliminary paperwork shows that it will pay an amount adequate to replace all the floors. We feel very blessed.

After the second big rainfall, we had a french drain system installed all around the back yard. Again last Friday we had almost 4 inches of rain in under two hours. The drain system worked well except for one drain which was too high. As you can see in the photos below, that one drain allowed water to pool on the patio. We have since had it lowered so it should work in the future. It didn't quite keep up last Friday, but it kept up well enough that we did not get water in the house.


Later this summer, Katy and I will go shopping for new flooring. After Patrick recuperates adequately from his knee replacement, we'll be getting new floors.

So, please forgive me if I don't post more often. As I think you can see, my plate is full. I really enjoy blogging and love hearing from all of you. Please stay in touch. I will do my best to keep you up to date.









NOTE: I just spoke with Patrick's doctor. The surgery took exactly as long as expected and went well. There was much less damage to the knee than he expected. He'll be in recovery for a while yet, then moving to a room. He will be in the hospital until at least Saturday.

Monday, May 11, 2015

June's Birthday

Last month we celebrated June's Birthday. I can't believe our littlest grandchild is 4 years old. At four years old, June is so much fun. She will charm you with her kindness and tenderness one moment and blow you away with her larger than life personality a moment later. She loves Iron Man and Queen Elsa and she thinks Captain America should be President. She sings enthusiastically with very little prompting and has quite an astonishing memory.


Her birthday party was at the world-famous San Antonio Kiddie Park. The Kiddie Park is America's oldest children's amusement park. It first opened in 1925 and they have worked hard to preserve it's 1920's style while renovating it over the years to maintain safety standards. I remember going there when I was a kid and it has hardly changed at all. It's like stepping back in time. It's such a great place for a birthday party.


The party featured popcorn, pizza, lemonade, cupcakes, and birthday cake. It was an overcast day and, thankfully, the rain held off until the party was over.

June's friends from day care came to celebrate with us. And, of course Omi, Pa-Pa, Pop-Pop, and Grams were there to help with the party and celebrate.


Our beautiful Queen Elsa cake and Olaf cupcakes were made by my friend Marta. They were beautiful and delicious. As  you can see above, cutting a doll cake is interesting. When we got to the point you see above in cutting the cake, a guy from the party next to us leaned over and said "Queen Elsa is showing the goods." It cracked me up, so I snapped the picture.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Can You Believe It?

Our eldest granddaughter, Ezra, turned six years old last weekend.


We celebrated with a birthday party at Artworks Art Studio. As the children arrived, the party started by everyone joining in coloring a banner that said "Happy Birthday Ezra."


Party favors were small buckets full of crayons, tablets, pencils, stamps, and other art supplies. Ezra and June splatter painted the buckets on their patio at home.

There was a choice of sandwiches - peanut butter & jelly or ham & cheese.  For snacks, Katy had a popcorn bar with Reece's Pieces, M&Ms, and honey roasted peanuts to mix in with popcorn.


I absolutely adored what Katy served in lieu of a big birthday cake. Each child got a cupcake served on an artists palette. The cupcake was frosted with seven-minute frosting and surrounded with a variety of colored M&M minis, gummy beads, jimmies, and Swedish fish. The kids had a whole lot of fun decorating their own cupcakes.


The party was organized in art stations including collages, record player art, stenciled lace, and several others. When they booked the party, Ezra got to choose which stations her guests would do. There were twelve kids in all including Ezra and June. Katy invited all the students in Ezra's kindergarten class. More than half of them came to the party. I was happy to see that several of the boys were there. This "art party" was the quietest party I have ever seen. The kids were genuinely captivated by all the art activities.


As you can see from the photos above, the party was a group family effort. Everyone had something to do. All four of the grandparents who were present played a role in making the party work. Katy and Travis greeted guests, met other parents, took photos, and kept everything running. It was truly a group effort and a lot of fun.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Daddy's War

Today is Veteran's Day. The first thing I want to do is say thank you for your service to all veterans, reservists, and active duty military personnel. I am grateful for all the blessings bestowed on our country and acknowledge that, without your service, they would not be possible.

I'm going to do something a little different on my blog today. 

My dad, James Oran Skelton, served in the US Army during World War II. Although he was very proud of his service, he rarely spoke of it. I know he talked about it when he was with other veterans, including my brother Charlie, my brother-in-law Mack, and my cousin Rod. But never with us kids.

When we cleaned out my mother's house, we found a file folder that held some of the papers related to his service including his discharge papers. I brought it home, stuck it in a drawer, and promptly forgot about it. I found it again last summer when I was doing my annual sorting and cleaning of paperwork. It looked interesting so I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down to sort through it. What I found was a handwritten account of Daddy's service from his induction to his discharge. I believe it was written in the late1960s when he was trying to get some disability through the VA.

I think you might find it interesting, so I'm publishing it today in honor of Veteran's Day. It's kind of long but I wanted to post it all. I did not verify the spelling of the European cities and the grammar is as he wrote it.

PART ONE - INDUCTION
I received my draft notice in January 1943 to report to Linden, Texas, on February 23, 1943 for induction into the United States Armed Forces.


I reported to the Induction Center as ordered and there I ceased to be a civilian and became a member of the Army. I will never forget that day back on February 23, 1943. I guess there were close to 5,000 of us boys there. We were sent into a large tin building and ordered to take off all our clothes. Evidently the building did not have any heat because soon after we disrobed we were all shaking from the cold.

We really got a good examination from head to foot. I was found to be in perfect physical condition. They asked me which branch of service I wanted and I told them Air Corps, little good that did for I was sent to Camp Walters, Texas Reception Center where I received my uniforms and vaccinations, and I do mean vaccinations. We would have to remove our shirts and line up and it seemed we got vaccinated for every known disease and some that did not exist, I know I had an awful sore arm for several days.

I left Camp Walters, Texas on March 5, 1943 to go to Fort Knox, Kentucky. I arrived at Fort Knox on March 7, 1943 and was escorted to the barracks of the 740th Tank Battalion just in time to see one of the old dilapidated barracks go up in flames. (I am sure they were condemned in World War I.)

PART 2 – BASIC TRAINING
I began my basic training on March 15, 1943 and soon learned the penalties for unbuttoned shirts and un-shined shoes. I also learned to love the Fort Knox weather which read rain, snow, and sleet. Then freeze at night, but if I thought that was bad I had more to learn about it, for when I started driving instructions and had to bivouac in Area 19, I found that it was really rough. I still don’t know why we could not have stayed in the barracks and gone to the driving range each day.

My training instructions went something like this:
  • 5 a.m. Reveille 
  • 5:30 a.m. Breakfast of either burned eggs and raw bacon or raw eggs and burned bacon 
  • 6:30 a.m. Police the area 
  • 7:30 a.m. Warm up the tank 
  • 8:00 a.m. Start driving 
  • 8:15 a.m. Get stuck in the mud and spend the rest of the day getting out of the mud 
  • Spend most of the night cleaning up the tank 
  • Repeat the same operation the next day.

On May 12, 1943 the Battalion was relieved from Assigned to Special Troops Armored Forces, and was assigned to the 8th Tank Group under the command of Colonel Fad D. Smith.

Sometime around the end of May or the beginning of June of 1943, I was hospitalized for what they thought was an attack of appendicitis. I was in the hospital for a few days. I now know that it was appendicitis because I suffered from the same symptoms for several years and then had surgery for appendicitis.

How I lived through basic training I will never know. I worked all hours of night and day in all the bad weather for which Kentucky is noted and believe me a G.I. rain coat was never meant to keep a person dry. We suffered a lot of exposure and hardships in basic training which left us all tired and fatigued.

I completed my basic training on June 14, 1943. The Battalion then entered in Unit Training which in reality is a continuation of basic training. In fact some of the outfits called it Advanced Basic.

On the July 5, 1943 we were in the field as usual, and we underwent a simulated gas attack from the air. Although I had my gas mask it did not keep the gas from getting on my ears, neck, hands, and all the exposed part of my body. I really burned and itched for a while.

PART 3 – DUTY AND ASSIGNMENTS
During Advanced Basic Training I fired all the small arms, revolvers, rifles, sub-machine guns, 30 caliber machine gun, 50 caliber machine gun, and the 75 mm tank gun. I did well with them all.
While all this was going on someone in Washington was cooking up great things for me. On August 7, 1943 I was granted a furlough, along with half of the battalion. Of course, I am sure if we had known what was in store for us when the furloughs were over, we would probably have told them that we didn’t want a furlough.

When we returned to Fort Knox after our furlough, we found that we were again to undergo a change. Our battalion had been chosen to participate in one of the Army’s most closely guarded secrets. Because many of the boys could not pass security checks, there were considerable changes in our personnel. I received my top-secret clearance and moved from the main post to “Area X” where we were confined. We were, you might say, prisoners of the United States Army.

The thing we were to train with was so secret that we received no orders through the mail; all were brought by special carrier directly from Washington.

No one was allowed to leave “Area X” for any reason for fear that somehow this closely guarded secret might leak out.

During the time we were receiving Technical Training at Fort Knox “Area X” a group of high Army Authorities were in Arizona to set up a camp for us to train in. They chose a valley about 10 miles wide and 40 miles long, completely surrounded by mountains.

No man having joined up with our outfit could be dismissed for any reason so there had to be a hospital constructed along with our camp so it took some time to get it set up.

We received orders to leave “Area X” Fort Knox and go to train to Bouse, Arizona, but when we reached the railroad station there was no train ready for us, so we bivouacked near the Gold Vaults for about 5 days, until we could secure transportation.

We boarded the train on the October 12, 1943 and arrived in Bouse, Arizona on October 15, 1943. Trucks were waiting to carry us to camp; this was my first introduction to the desert of our far West. I was soon to learn that everything had a sting or bite to it. The area was filled with such things as rattlesnakes, sidewinders, Gila monsters, tarantulas, and scorpions.

On my way to camp I passed an ammunition truck which had blown up, and scattered duds for about 200 yards in all directions. I began to wonder just how realistic the desert training was to be. I was soon to learn that it was to be plenty real.

I still suffer from the hardships I went through in desert training. Prior to the time I was in Arizona, I had never been bothered with hay-fever. Now I have it all the time. It was caused by so much dust.
While in the desert some of our restrictions were lifted. We were allowed to go to town once a month, but there was a catch to this, we had to go five on a pass. All of us had to stay together and watch each other so there would not be a chance to make a slip as to the kind of training we were getting. I still cannot reveal the training or what it consisted of. Although it was never used, it is still top secret, and will probably revolutionize tank warfare if it is ever put into use.

On March 15, 1944 we received orders that we could no longer draw supplies from the desert training center, so we would have to look elsewhere for clothing and equipment to fill our overseas quotas. By this time we had completed our training cycle so all that was left for us to do was police the area and salvage as much of the camp as possible, and then go to Fr. Knox, and draw clothing and equipment in preparation for the excursion to Europe.

We bade goodbye to the jackrabbits and rattlesnakes and on April 24 we boarded the train for Fort Knox, Kentucky.

When we left the desert we knew that we were scheduled to go overseas, but as we neared Fort Knox we wondered if the orders would somehow be changed and we would sit out the war in the “Headmasters Office.”

We arrived at Fort Knox on April 28, 1944. It was standard operating procedure at Fort Knox to entrain and detrain in the rain and our unloading process did not violate the regulation, we were soaked to the skin when we reached our quarters, which by the way, turned out to be the same old dilapidated barracks which we had occupied during our first stay at Fort Knox.

We expected to be in Fort Knox no more than two weeks but it stretched into several before we left and as usual we spent most of our time in the field.

Although we were far from combat zones, we got a taste of what it would be like when one of the boys picked up a 37 MM dud and brought it to Observation Point 6, where our company was taking instruction. He began hammering it on a rock and it exploded killing three men, and wounding nineteen others. I was lucky I was not wounded, but my nerves were shot to hell. I will never forget that day, June 6, 1944.

Finally we received orders to arrive at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey not before July 20 and not later than July 21, 1944. On July 19 we boarded the train for Camp Kilmer. Needless to say it was raining.

PART 4 – OVERSEAS AND COMBAT
At Camp Kilmer we were given another physical examination for overseas duty. We left Camp Kilmer on July 24 and by noon we were aboard the USS General William Mitchell. On the morning of the July 26 we sailed from New York. A few miles out of the harbor we joined a convoy of 15 other troopships and 16 fast tankers. At last we were off to war.

The USS General William Mitchell was a new type ship, she had no port holes and we soon found out, no ventilating system. It was stiflingly hot and everything smelled so bad. I was really seasick all the time. The ship although new, left a lot to be desired.

The only excitement during the trip occurred one evening. A small speck appeared off our left on the radar scanning disc. Everyone thought it was an enemy submarine. The fact that we were in “Hell’s Corner” which is about a day’s run from Northern Ireland added to this belief. We were really relieved when it was discovered to be a school of fish.

We landed at Liverpool, England on August 6, 1944. At 3 o’clock on the August 7, we left the ship and boarded the train for Glynderwen, Wales.

We arrived at our new Camp Rosebush to find it nothing more than a windswept side of a rocky hill. When it wasn’t raining, the wind was blowing and most of the time it was doing both. There we became a part of the 9th Armored Group.

While in England, I had the misfortune of getting my ring finger, right hand, almost cut off. I was inspecting Tank Guns on M-3 Tanks. Someone had left the spline shaft out and the breech block fell on my finger causing a compound fracture. I stayed in the hospital for several weeks. I am still bothered with this, as it did not grow back straight. It also caused me considerable embarrassment the rest of my Army time, because it was impossible for me to salute properly. It took lots of chewing outs because of it.

We stayed in England until the 29th of October 1944, I will never forget that date when at Waymouth, England we loaded on the L.S.T. boats and crossed the English Channel. It was a rough passage.

We landed on Utah Beach on the 30th of October 1944. It was raining and sleeting. We bivouacked for the night and soon learned we had no orders for our movement East. Believe me, Utah Beach left a lot to be desired in the way of cleanliness, comfort, and facilities. It was an expanse of mud which had been churned into a fine soup by thousands of vehicles.

We left Utah Beach on November 2, 1944 and bivouacked that night in a field near Brecy, France. As usual the bivouac area was knee-deep in mud and it was raining.

We resumed the march the next morning to Brecy, St. Hilaire de Harcourt, Sees, Maulins le Marche, St. Anne, Longny, Leferte, Vidame, Senouches, Chateauneut, Maintenon. We bivouacked for the night at Maintenon, went through the outskirts of Paris the next day and bivouacked that night on the Eastern edge of Paris at Clichy, Sous, Bais. We again resumed the march on the 5th of November and followed the “Red Ball” route.

I can’t remember all the towns we went through, but I do remember that it was just one big rain storm. I think we spent more time pushing trucks out of the mud holes than we did riding in them. It was awful cold.

We finally arrived at Neufchateau, Belgium which was to be our headquarters for a while. The camp consisted of an apple orchard in which we pitched our pup tents.
By this time winter hd really set in in Europe. We really suffered as each man had only two blankets, one for a bed and the other for cover.

It was here that I got my first taste of the German V-1 flying bomb or Buzz bomb as we called them. Shortly before dark, one came over at an altitude of about 300 feet and the engine cut off directly over the camp. Boy was I scared, it landed about one-half mile from my tent. After the bomb had crashed we really enlarged our foxholes or “wells” we called them because they were always full of water.

The first night at this camp there was at least 50 buzz bombs passed over our heads. Apparently headed for Antwerp, Belgium. Our camp was directly in line with Antwerp which was the target.

Later in the month when the Germans attempted to destroy Liege, Belgium with buzz bombs a good many of them malfunctioned in flight and landed quite close to camp. Some days we counted 103 buzz bombs. Today, looking back on what I encountered during the war, I still consider the buzz bombs as one of Hitler’s most terrifying instruments. In addition to its destructive power, the noise it made was very deafening. It also had a habit of playing tricks such as passing over the camp and them make a complete turn, dive, and then explode. I still think that perhaps the Germans had some kind of control over them and was trying to bomb our camp. If I live to be a hundred years old, I’ll never forget Belgium and the buzz bombs.

While at this camp we turned in all our tanks to the United States Army Reserve. We spent most of our time day and night patrolling the area and hunting out German Paratroopers which was being dropped behind our front lines. We captured quite a few.

On the 17th of December 1944, we received orders that the Germans had made a breakthrough and that we would probably be called on to fight with what weapons we had. This consisted of our personal weapons which was mostly of 45 automatic pistols, with a few carbines and sub-machine guns. We really felt let down as we were tankers and not foot-soldiers and had never had the fundamental training of a foot soldier.

On the 18th of December our Battalion received orders to send a company to an Ordnance Vehicles Depot at Ayniaille, Belgium and draw any kind of vehicles we could and then get into combat. The company I was in was chosen, “Company C.” When we reached the Ordnance depot we found that they had very few tanks which were suitable for combat and none had combat loads. We worked all night and finally pieced up about fifteen tanks.

We entered combat the 19th day of December. It was really rough, I remember that I got very sick just from seeing the dead and wounded soldiers along the road. I think I vomited up most of my insides that first day. I’ll always remember those men begging for help that we just had to pass on our way to the front.

We were attached to the 119th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division. In our first thirty minutes of combat we knocked out three German tanks and killed many German infantry boys.
We had stopped the German breakthrough, better known as the Belgium Bulge, but could we hold them back? We had been well trained and were too scared to retreat. We dug in for the night and moved out the next day.

The Germans had regrouped during the night and we really caught hell the next morning, but we continued to advance.

At about 4 o’clock on the evening of the 20th of December the tank I was riding in ran over an anti-tank mine. It stopped us cold. It split the tank bottom from end to end. I was blown against the top of the tank and rendered unconscious. I don’t know how I got out of the tank. I came to at an aid station where I was treated for a head wound. My ears hurt very badly and I was nearly dead with a headache and my lungs felt like they would burst.

Nevertheless, every man was needed for combat. On the morning of the 21st we continued in combat and I continued to feel worse.

On Christmas Day 1944, we were trying to cross a railroad. The Germans had it zeroed in so we called for Air Support to knock out the German tanks so we could get through the underpass and continue our attack. Some way or other they got us mixed up with the Germans and bombed hell out of us.

When it was over we found that out of a Company of Infantry boys that was with us, only 19 were able to fight and out of seventeen tanks we only had five left. When the US planes started bombing us, we had all left the tanks. I don’t know how, but somehow I swam across a river which was nearby and got up against a cliff. I was wet all over and it was so cold my clothes froze on me. Somehow I recrossed the river and rejoined my outfit.

We really sweated that night because we knew that if the Germans realized how few men we had left we would be overrun.

My head and chest still bothered me. I had heard of blast concussion but I did not realize it was so bad. My throat felt dry and sore and I had begun to talk with a hoarseness.

We continued in combat day and night. There was no such thing as sleep while in combat. By this time I was really fatigued and under a great strain. I felt weak all over. I did not know it then, but I did not have many more days left in combat. Somehow I managed to keep going until the 4th day of January 1945. By then my throat was so sore that I could not talk, my ears so bad I could hardly hear, and my head hurting so badly I could hardly tell what I was doing. I don’t remember going to the hospital. I have been told that elements of the 82nd Airborne picked me up and took me to the hospital.

I must have gone through several field and station hospitals, but the first I remember was in Paris, France. I don’t know how long I remained there, but I was sent from there to England. I was not able to be flown to England because of my ears, so I had to go by boat. I had pneumonia, bronchitis, laryngitis, and fatigue. I know now that it was caused by the blast I received when my tank ran over the mine. I am still bothered with my head, ears, throat, and chest. Before concussion I could holler as loud as anyone. Now I can’t. I have spent several weeks out of every year since then not being able to speak above a whisper. From the first cool weather, my voice bothers me most of the time until warm weather the next Spring. My neck and head hurt all the time.

I did not see any more combat, as I stayed in the hospital until about two weeks before the end of the war in the E.T.O. When I was discharged from the hospital, I was sent back to my Company. I was on my way back, at a replacement center in France, when the war ended. That was the happiest day of my life.

I don’t know just when I rejoined my company but it was two or three weeks after the war was over. After the war, we more or less relaxed. Of course we still had duties such as guard and check points to perform, but we were not under the strain we had been during combat.

I came back to the United States in December of 1945 on the USS Cald Dail Victory. The voyage was quite different from the one I spent going over, although I did get seasick. My head, throat, ears, and chest were still bothering me but by now I had accepted the fact that I would have to live with it.

I landed in New York and went to Camp Miles Standish. From there I was sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas where I received my discharge. While there I did not make an application for compensation as I wanted to get home as soon as possible.

During the time I was in the Army I received the following awards, American Theater Campaign Ribbon, E,A,M,E, campaign ribbon with three bronze stars, Good Conduct ribbon, two overseas service bars, and the Distinguished Unit Badge, (Presidential Citation) Go 9 Hq. 740 Tank BN, and the Purple Heart.

I received my discharge on the 9th of December 1945 and returned home. Soon after my discharge I found that I was so nervous that I had to have treatment for nervous indigestion. Every year since then I have had to have treatment on my throat and chest.

I have held down steady employment since my discharge with liberal sick leave and annual leave being used when I have had the winter attacks. Until April 29, 1960, when I became so ill with the same symptoms as I have had for the past 15 years that I have been unable to work most of the year. I spent from April 29, 1960 until June 13, 1960 in hospitals for treatment for my head, neck, and ears and from August 12, 1960 until September 12, 1960 in the hospital for headache, neck and ears, which I believe is caused by post-concussion.

As I write this my neck and head hurts to bad that I can hardly stand it.

I certify that to the best of my knowledge that this is a true history of my Military Service as a soldier in the United States of America’s Army.

That's my dad's story. I know there are millions more like it.

Out of curiosity, I did a web search for Bouse, Arizona. I had never heard of it and did not know anything about it. There is not a lot of information about it, but I found this. I could not find anything about what my dad called Area X in Kentucky.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Anniversaries, Birthdays, Dirty Dancing, Cathedrals, and The Saga

On Saturday, Patrick and I celebrated our 39th Wedding Anniversary. We celebrated by spending the weekend in San Antonio. We didn't really have any plans except to attend the matinee performance of Dirty Dancing on Sunday afternoon.

On Friday evening, Ezra and June went to parents night out at Junie's day care center. That gave us the opportunity for a grown-up dinner out with Katy and Travis. We ate at Tong's Thai which is near their home. I had Honey Pecan Shrimp. It was absolutely delicious. I would order it again right now. Patrick had Pad Thai which he said was delicious too. After dinner, we went with Katy to pick the girls up from Night Out. I love walking in and watching them interact with the other kids and waiting for them to notice us.

On Saturday, we had a family luncheon for my sister Kay. Besides being our wedding anniversary, it was Kay's 65th birthday. We met at Chuey's for a long, family lunch.  We had so much fun, Bylinda brought Kay and two of her teenage grandchildren, McKinzey and Connor. Her son Zack also came. Katy's family and Patrick and I made ten of us. We ate and talked and, instead of cake, we had sopapillas with honey. Yum! Kay had fun and we sat and visited for more than two hours. It just proved that we need to get together more.


Saturday night, we didn't have any plans. Travis went to his monthly poker night and we decided to go downtown to the Main Plaza at San Fernando Cathedral to see one of  San Antonio's newest attractions, San Antonio/The Saga. This is a video art installation by French artist, Xavier De Richemonte. It is AMAZING! The 25-minute show is free and plays at 9:00, 9:30, and 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

First, a little bit of history about the Cathedral which serves as the "screen" for the show. The San Fernando Cathedral was built between 1738 And 1755 and is still an active Catholic parish. It is the oldest operating sanctuary in North America. It faces the Main Plaza which is one of only four colonial plazas remaining in America. We have attended Mass in this cathedral several times. It is known as the burial place of the heroes of the Alamo. The remains of Davy Crocket, William B. Travis, and Jim Bowie are interred inside.

On Saturday night, we paid $1.80 for a parking place about two blocks from the cathedral. We took lawn chairs and blankets along with mugs of hot chocolate.  There was not a large crowd. I would guess less than 150 people were there. There was a wedding party exiting the cathedral just as we arrived. As you might imagine, Our Little Princesses were very excited to see the bride and groom.

The show is accompanied by music and a little narration. It is fast-paced and bright and will hold the attention of any age. Every one of us enjoyed it. Our 3 and 5 year olds loved it and sat attentively on our laps for the entire show.

My new camera takes most excellent nighttime pictures so I snapped a bunch. Enjoy.











On Sunday we were treated to a matinee performance of the Broadway Road Show of Dirty Dancing at The Majestic Theater. My friend Heather bought the tickets and then wasn't able to use them, so she gave them to us. The show was awesome, one of the best I've seen. The singing and dancing was outstanding. It was a great show with a great cast. If you are a fan of the movie, you will definitely enjoy the play.

San Antonio is such a great city to visit. We love it for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that Our Little Princesses live there.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

11th Annual Valenta Family Golf Tournament

The family golf tournament has become a tradition and a fun family outing. As I told you in an earlier post, for the second year, the tournament was at Lost Pines Golf Club in the Bastrop State Park.

The tournament is officially known as AVAT which stands for the Adolph Valenta Annual Tournament. It was named in honor of the family patriarch. It is mostly a family fun day. There are a few serious golfers in the family, but far and away, most family members are not golfers. The purpose of the tournament is just to get the family together and do something fun in memory of Grandpa. He would have loved it.

Uncle Johnnie, Mike, Gary, Uncle Paul
Pictured above are the people who are most responsible for starting the tournament and keeping it going through the years. Mike and Gary are first cousins who handle all the logistics of the tournament every year. Uncle Johnnie and Uncle Paul presented them with the first Adolph Valenta Memorial Award. The presentation honors someone each year who embodies the spirit of the Valenta family.

Individual awards are given for closest to the pin and longest drive.
This year's tournament had approximately thirty players. Some of the teams had four players and some had five. Many of the players are beginners and it's all in fun anyway.

The tournament is a scramble and teams play best ball, best position. I'm pretty sure that the scorekeeping is creative. Once again, the point is to spend time with family and to have fun.
As you can see, players come in all ages and sizes. Everyone is welcome regardless of skill level.

Those of us who don't golf just cruise from hole-to-hole visiting and taking pictures. We all enjoy it, especially Our Little Princesses.

We end the day by gathering at the picnic area for sandwiches and chips followed by homemade cookies and rice krispy treats.
Then awards are presented.

I would be remiss if I did not share with you my single favorite moment of this year's golf tournament. There is a gas station that sits just across the highway from one of the holes. We were there taking pictures when Chase and Thomas realized that they could buy beer there. That's exactly what they did. The allowed the next team to play through and they made a beer run ... literally. Here is photographic proof.

I thoroughly enjoy each year's golf tournament. It gives us an opportunity to spend time getting to know each other. It seems like life goes so fast and we live so far apart that time gets away from us.