Thursday, January 31, 2013


The dog tag was invented by a military Chaplain during the Spanish and American war during the time he worked at the Manila morgue. He was concerned that a deceased soldier would not be identified.

"You rarely give them a second thought when you're wearing them. But, when someone is killed in combat, the tags are removed. It's a very traumatic experience to take the tags off someone else...if I return the tags to a deceased soldier's family, I wear them, take them from around my neck and present them."

Elias Krakower recovers lost dog tags and returns them to the owner or to the family.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Emotional Support For The Grieving

The Sunday NY Times profiled a Lieutenant Colonel killed in Iraq and his three daughters and what an untimely death does to people. If you know it is coming, one thing, i.e., a terminally ill patient. If unexpected like In war, (even though there's danger), something else altogether as it is unexpected. A car wreck, accident--unexpected. A suicide.

Supporting someone in grief is often very hard, regardless but a death, "out of the blue" is even harder. "Being there" is all that can be done. Helping those experiencing grief feel comfortable is very big. Many people going through grief not only have to deal with the emotion of "loss" but with the issue of those around them who want them to "get over it" or to "move on." So, the answer. There is no answer. Just "Be There" as best you can.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


The battle I waged against this vile disease in 1985 was a successful one that brought me 15 years of contended life, but the illness finally won the war. Everyone must keep up the struggle, for it is always likely that you will win the war. William Styron, Darkness Visible

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Al Skinner

Albert Cameron Skinner, "Al," age 80, died on July 2, 2012. I found out only recently. Al and I were in Vietnam together. He was a terrific combat chaplain. What I always liked about Al was that he was irreverent, meaning he couldn't stand pious, hypocritical, "holier than thou" attitudes. Al was the first chaplain that I'd ever known who cussed. Now, this may not seem like a biggie to most but to me, it was colossal. I cussed all the time but it was always in my head. Al actually cussed out loud. We are not talking heavy duty stuff, mainly damns and hells and on occasion, f..k. It was always appropriately placed. For me, I could say damn or hell and it sounded out of place (I admit that I've learned. I call this my cussing blog). I just couldn't learn how to do it. Al had it dialed in. Where Al and I really hit it off was the year we were together at the Chaplain's School at Fort Hamilton, New York. (in the old days, the military sent career officers to a year of specialized training)
As part of our "Course", we took "masters" work at Long Island University. Al could never get over the fact that LIU was in Brooklyn. He loved Brooklyn and hanging out on Flatbush Avenue. We had this one deli where we would get these giant kosher pickles. When I started talking, Jacob, the Jewish owner always laughed. Al loved it and always said something like, "don't you know that Yankees think you Southerners are dumb." He belly laughed. We had the most fun.

Al and I were both country boys and Al, had grown up in upper State New York, on a dairy but was schooled in the ways of the world. He could cuss for goodness sake. But, I didn't have a clue about many things. Al delighted in telling folks his Southern buddy thought gay meant happy. Al Introduced me to the White Castle hamburger place. We had some great discussions sitting and watching traffic on the Verranzanos Narrows Bridge. I was in a Masters program in Sociology and Al was in one on Counseling. We laughed about the classes and the instructors. One female Prof. In particular gave me a hard time. I am going to use some of Al's language, "The problem you are having with her is simple, she simply doesn't like your sorry ass." We would die laughing. Al should have retired a Colonel. He never sucked up and was always his own person and was without a doubt, the most authenic human being that I've ever known. Al, thanks for the memories.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Short, short story

We were High School sweethearts. She was two years older than me and she tells me that she picks me out at a basketball game. I am sitting on the bench. I knew who she was. A cheerleader, had a car. She was something. Fast forward, our lives take different turns. She is for a bit, an airline flight attendant, begins to date a local boy who is at best a Neanderthal type. Why she would do it, I don't have a clue. I'm out pursuing whatever a guy like me pursues when away at college. But, she is always in my heart. One day I'm at school and my best buddy who is still hanging around my hometown, calls me, "Bernie, you'd better sit down. Olivia got married." What! I couldn't believe it. Somehow, I thought she'd always wait for me. She didn't, raised a family, loved her life and the sort of persona that one lives. In our little town, everybody knew her. She could light up a room just by walking into it. I visited from time to time, her husband was a good guy, worked for himself, made a good life. But, in our hearts, we always loved her. She taught me how to kiss. Her lips were soft, just imagine a small baby's fingers and touching them to your lips. And, here's where this tale is focused. We rendezvous in the sunset of our lives and after a couple of years of sporadic wonderful enlightened love making, she dies of breast cancer. I am heartbroken but move on as I have another life. Here's where it may get dicey with all but me: With regularity, I am awakened with her soft lips touching mine in the tenderest of ways. No questions or secrets revealed, merely in the first hushed mornings light I am blessed with the softest of kisses.