Monday, May 27, 2013

Just pull over for a second

In a culture where more often than not, all your neighbors are really just transients - they move in an out every few years, chasing whatever they are chasing.  Their families are scattered hither and yon; few really related to anyone.

I've wondered for awhile what impact the reality of the rolling, self-imposed Internally Displaced Persons has had on our nation - perhaps causing us to miss something. Is it a net-gain, or a net-loss? 

Well, perhaps I am projecting; I have always thought I was missing something.

Sure, post-military I returned to my hometown, the place I was born - and that is nice. Sure, my mother still lives in the home she built when I was five years old. I now have a smattering of relatives and people I grew up with who are still here - so I am starting to feel like I have what I have always wanted; a real sense of community.

Mrs. Salamander is a very rare creature in our boom-town; a third generation native, with another three to four generations going even further back an hour down the road.

Even though this was where I was born, it never really felt like "home" - as community was a different concept for me based on my cultural reference.

My mother was the first of her generation to move from our small town in Mississippi since our family helped found the county and the city in the first decade of the 1800s - she still calls it "home" in spite of the fact she left it six decades ago. 

We would go "home" a lot when I was growing up, I always got a kick out of everyone more or less knowing each other; heck - related to each other. Names had meaning, relationships had meaning - and perhaps a post for a different day; race had a huge meaning in a way in my sheltered color-free upbringing I had no concept of.

A few years ago when we traveled back to Mississippi to lay my father's remains to rest in the cemetery that has my relatives'  remains are going back two centuries, my oldest niece walked in to the local drug store that also has a barber shop and a coffee house in it. She had with her her youngest son and my sister. They just wanted to have a cup of coffee. The server brought it to them and then, not recognizing them, asked how they were and what brought them to town. Well, withing 5-minutes, there were 3-4 people around the table telling stories about my mom in High School, and as talking about that small boy's Great-Great-Grandfather shared some physical characteristics with not just him, but his mom and great-aunt; and how they remembered my sister when she visited during the summers.

In that small Mississippi town, history isn't abstract, it walks with you. Events of a century ago were still there, still waiting for you around every corner, it you look for it and have the right person with you to tell you about it. What your family did or did not do decades or a century ago still matter; still have an impact on the present.

I miss that, and think that we as a nation have lost a bit of something by not having that. At least in the faster parts of the nation, that is missing.

Winding down a decade of war and thinking about the above this weekend (I'm working on a post in an answer to Pawel about why the Civil War is much more than he thinks, especially on a personal level) - I though about community in the context of Memorial Day in a post I did the first year I was blogging.

I lived in Norfolk back in 2005, and I jogged by a hunk of granite all the time. It took me a couple of years until I decided to just stop and read.  I'm going to post in full that bit from 2005 and the follow-on and ask you to ponder your neighborhood; the few blocks to the left and right of where you live. How many of your neighbors have been lost in this war? As many as this small Norfolk neighborhood? Regardless of the number, would anyone have a connection strong enough to lead them to make a memorial for those lost?

Maybe yes, maybe no ... but a good thing to ask yourself today. I am.

Neighborhood Memorials; May 2005:

I have gone past by this monument countless times. As of late, it started to bother me more and more. What is it?

Being that this is an older neighborhood, and the eagle is hard to miss, I realized that this had to be a monument of some kind.

We have all been to the grand monuments. The large monuments. The understated monuments. The sublime monuments. The controversial monuments. The insulting monuments.

What could be more personal than a neighborhood monument that simply states, "These were our neighbors that fought and died for us."

How common are these little neighborhood monuments? I did a quick search for these names on the Internet. Inside a day I found out that in 1935, Robert L. Settle was an Eagle Scout, but that was about it.

I found out more about Sadron C. Lampert Jr. through has close relatives in the area that I managed to find. In a quick email exchange I found out some detail that, when you think about it, every name on every monument has. When you look at these men, struck down in the prime of life, you have to think about the lost potential. For you economists out there, the opportunity costs for a society of those lost in conflict is huge. Earn it we should. With his permission, the grandson of Sadron C. Lampert sent a quick background.

While I obviously never had the honor of meeting him, his father (Sadron Sr.) was alive until I was about nine. Sadron Jr. was killed when my father was just one or two.

He skipped two grades in high school and went to Yale, where he played football and graduated PhiBetaKappa. He went to work for a firm in New York, where he met my grandmother (boss's daughter, if I'm not mistaken).

Sadron Jr. was drafted into the Army in late 1943. He served as a communications officer in Europe. He, like all the Sadrons, had pretty poor eyesight and was constantly breaking his glasses. This may have contributed to the circumstances of his passing. He died in September, 1944 near Empoli, Italy. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart.
By going to the outstanding National Archival Research Catalog, I found out that Robert W. Jones was a 2nd LT in either the Army or Army Air Corps when he was KIA. Charles H. Ware and Carl T. Wood; in the digital age they are hidden.

The irony is, the Winona Garden Club no longer exists, but as you can tell, someone in the neighborhood is keeping the monument up. Somewhere, on microfiche I'm sure, is the story. The questions are still there though; did they know each other before they left overseas? Did their families know each other? Did the families stay after their death? Did they serve together?

I've been to the WWII monument in D.C. and this little neighborhood monument had much more of an affect on me. Perhaps it is the personal nature of it, or the depth that Sadron Lampert, Jr.'s grandson provided. Next time I see something like this hidden in a corner, I'm going to walk over and see. After all, that is what they were put there for. The former members of the Winona Garden Club succeeded. Decades later, people are still giving tribute to their neighbors.

Winona Memorial II: November 2005:

With Veterans Day, it is a good time to focus again on something I ran into this summer; something everyone has, I hope; a local personal memorial to those who died in service to their country. In this case it is a small little memorial in Norfolk, VA in an neighborhood called Winona Park.

As a byproduct of my original posting, the family of one of the men on the memorial, Sadron Lampert Jr., has been kind enough to send along some more details on Sadron Lampert Jr. that adds depth to the name. I'll quote from some of their emails below, taking out the names. A reminder that these were real people, with real families, real futures, real desires, real hopes. Everyone that leaves early, sacrifices a lifetime.

Nothing dramatic here, but next time you hear or see a name, remember each one has some kind of connection - some history - some grieving family. War is an expensive undertaking - and money isn't the currency.

Dear CDR Salamander:

I happened to Google Sadron Lampert and found your article on the WWII memorial in Winona. My name is XXXX. I live in Norfolk, and my father, XXXX, is Sadron's brother. I would like to add to and clarify some of your information regarding the five young men from Winona who gave their lives serving their country.

The only person among the five that my father did not know was Robert W. Jones. Three of the families literally lived next door to each other: the Lamperts, Settles, and Woods. In fact, my grandmother, XXXX Lampert, was next door consoling Mrs. Settle on the death of her son, not knowing that her own beloved Sadron had already been killed.

By the way, my grandparents had already lost a little girl, Doris, when Sadron died, and my father, who was five years younger than Sadron, had gone into the Army before Sadron and was in New Mexico training to go overseas when he heard of his dear brother's death. My father--my hero--went on to fly more than his share of missions over Japan, flying out of Tinian. The siblings had another brother, Ralph, who died at age 56 of a massive heart attack.

To clarify Sadron IV's e-mail, Sadron III was two when his father was killed. Sadron III, of course, is my first cousin.

Sadron, Jr. entered Yale at age 16. He graduated at age 20. He was on a special football team--the 150 lb. varsity team--because of his slender stature.

Sadron, Jr., .... met his wife, Edith, (while she) was working at Farmer's, Inc., my grandfather's company, as a secretary when Sadron, Jr. met her. She was from South Norfolk. ...... After Sadron and Edith married, they moved to New York, where Sadron was the manager of marine and war risk insurance at Johnson and Higgins on Wall Street.

Sadron and Edith were married at Rosemont Christian Church in South Norfolk. The church was on Bainbridge Blvd., the same street where Edith's family lived. Her maiden name was Edith Herbert. Again, Sadron and Edith were a lovely couple. My mother and father can still picture them attending their church, First Methodist, Edith dressed to the nines and Sadron perfectly outfitted in a gorgeous white summer suit.

Sadron, Jr. was actually drafted in early 1944. He was drafted as part of Roosevelt's Limited Service Act because of his nearsightedness. Instead of the Army using his vast intelligence and putting Sadron where he could have made a weighty difference, the Army sent him straight to North Africa and then to Italy. .... He died on September 14, 1944, three days before my father's 21st birthday, because he and a boy from Wisconsin caught a mortar in their foxhole at Futa Pass, Italy, which killed both of them instantly.

Although Sadron Lampert was at Futa Pass at Highway 65 in Northern Italy on September 14, 1944, several WWII websites list incorrect information. For example, one lists him as "Lambert" and another lists his date of death as Sept. 29, 1944. Both are incorrect. Sadron Lampert died on Sept. 14, 1944.

I know that the fighting between Sept. 2 and Sept. 25, 1944, along highway 65 through Futa Pass--known as the Gothic Line--was intense. Between Sept. 10 and Oct. 26, four U.S. divisions suffered over 15,000 casualties. Some sites even suggest that the Futa Pass activity in September 1944 was a diversionary sacrifice to draw enemy fire away from other strategic points.

Sadron was dashing and extremely intelligent; everyone admired him. My mother also grew up in Winona and remembers seeing Sadron and Edith together and thinking what a perfectly beautiful couple they were. They had the aura of movie stars. My grandparents continued to live on Morris Crescent until their deaths. My grandfather, Sadron, Sr., died in 1983. I was lucky enough to know him well into my adulthood. My mother's parents lived on Huntington Crescent until their deaths (with my grandmother living almost to age 97). My uncle and my brother and his family still live in Winona, so my attachment to the neighborhood is quite strong.

Charles H. Ware went by Hal. He and my dad were the same age and were on the high school football team together. My dad believes that he was in the Army Air Corps.

Carl Wood was drafted rather late in life. He was 6 or 8 years older than Sadron. He was the first husband of another long-time Winona resident, Winnie (Mrs. William) Scullion, who died several years ago. Her sons (by her second husband) are still in the area.

Robert Settle was an Annapolis grad. He took Naval Flight Training and was killed in a crash stateside.
Just last year, the Lafayette/Winona Civic League held a special Memorial Day service and dedicated the memorial site with new lights. My mother has photographs of the original dedication service, held in the early 1950s, complete with shots of Sadron, Sr.; his wife, Elizabeth; and their grandson, Sadron III.

To the family of S.L. Jr., thanks again for the email and putting the person behind the name.

Every name has a story like S.L. Jr. Every memorial is huge, even if smallish and in a small park; like the one that should be remembered on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th Month. Armistice Day.

UPDATE: Ninme has a nice tribute to Colonel Bolling from WWI.


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