40th Anniversary – Fall of Saigon: April 30, 1975

The Swinging 60’s and the 70’s Disco Era

vietnamwarmemorialAs a member of the Baby Boomer Generation, I have so many memories of  The Swinging 1960’s and the 1970’s Disco Era–specifically the years surrounding the Vietnam War. Many of my high school classmates either enlisted or were drafted immediately following graduation to serve their country in Vietnam. Some came home with no physical injuries, others lost limbs, and one, who I had dated briefly, came home to Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.  And, as we have learned over these 40 or so years since the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, many soldiers came home but were never again the innocent young men who went off to war for their country.

Meanwhile in the States–Civil Unrest Ran Rampant:

Watts_19651965 – Watts, Los Angeles:
A race riot erupted that left 34 people dead. This was the first of many riots that erupted across the country over the next four years. In 1967, devastating riots also happened in Detroit and in Newark, New Jersey. The following year, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. rioting erupted once again, including in the nation’s capital. Often sparking these riots was one incident, usually involving the white police force and an African-American resident. Yet, the root causes of these disturbances are much more complex.

Detroit_19671967 – Detroit:
A Detroit Police Vice Squad raided an after-hours drinking club in a predominantly black neighborhood:

Eighty-two people inside holding a party for two returning Vietnam veterans. The police arrested these people, and this resulted in widespread rioting. The riots began in the northeast section and spread to the east over the course of five days. Widespread looting, fires and killing took place, and the situation got so bad that the National Guard and the 82nd airborne division mobilized to quell the violence. When it was over, 43 people were dead, 1,189 injured and over 7,000 people arrested.

Newark_19671967 – Newark, Jersey:
The Newark Riot took place from Wednesday, July 12 through Monday, July 17,1967. It was sparked by a display of police brutality. John Smith, an African American cab driver was arrested on Wednesday July 12 when he drove his taxi around a police car and double-parked. A police report charged Mr. Smith with “tailgating” and driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street.  Smith was also charged with using offensive language and physical assault. By early Friday morning five people had been killed and 425 people jailed. Hundreds were wounded.  More than 3,000 National Guardsmen arrived later in the day along with 500 state troopers. Despite the presence of National Guardsmen and state troopers, rioting continued for three more days.  As the riot approached its last hours, 26 people, mostly African Americans, were reported killed, another 750 injured and over 1,000 jailed. Property damage exceeded $10 million. The riot, the worst civil disorder in New Jersey history, ended on July 17, 1967.

Chicago_19681968 – Chicago:

On 5 April,1968, in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, violence sparked in a poverty-stricken black neighborhood on Chicago’s West side. It gradually expanded to consume a 28-block stretch. Arson, looting and killing took place, and Mayor Daley banned the sale of guns and flammable materials. Overall, at least 10,000 police and 5,000 troops were sent to disperse the riot. In the end, 11 people were killed and over 125 fires had been lit.

April – May 1971 – Washington, DC:
“Power to the People” by UPI.com

DC_1971Forty-four years ago thousands of people were arrested in Washington D.C. as they clamored for an end to the U.S. war in Vietnam. There would be other national and local demonstrations before the war finally ended in 1975, but nothing would match the sheer size and intensity of this powerful drama that played out on the streets of our nation’s capital.

Just How Have We Fared Over these Years?

And, we Baby Boomers went on to raise families and lead successful lives and have now even entered the world of retirement. But, we will always remember and even cherish most of the decades that got us to today.  As for me, I now spend quality time researching my family histories and genealogies.  In fact, this avocation regularly puts me in touch with so many like-minded people.  And, it often turns out in discoveries of living relatives that I never knew I had.  And, upon communicating further, I find so many shared interests in common with them.  These discoveries of commonality make me wonder if DNA–our molecular instructions for life–or our demographic/socioeconomic status creates this basis for immediate connectivity and bonding with our newly discovered relatives? At any rate, my research and social media networks brought me and cousin, Lyle, together just over two years ago. And, over these two years we have enjoyed finding just how many of our daily life experiences intertwine just like the two double helix strands within each molecule of our DNA.

Among the many interests, characteristics, behaviors, and beliefs we share are our love of Christ, the importance of and commitment to our country, families, and friends; our views on community and good citizenship; our love of the arts, and music, and, our nostalgic respects, regrets, appreciations and affections for our past histories.

And finally, we find high among our often conjoined interests–the Vietnam Era.

It was 24-year-old Lyle, who served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Phu Loi, north of Saigon in southern Vietnam until his tour ended in November 1969. And, it was Lyle’s recent writings about his days in Vietnam, his fellow servicemen, and his friendships with the village people who helped me somewhat better understand our American soldier’s bittersweet times and how their memories can either sustain or haunt them.
Major Base Camps 1969

Major Base Camps as of April 23, 1969

Headquarters Building of the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division at Phu Loi Base Camp in Vietnam, where I served under the command of the 82nd in the base defense Tactical Operations Center (TOC) located in the back of this building in 1969 for my last 6 or 7 months in Vietnam.

Headquarters Building of the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division at Phu Loi Base Camp in Vietnam, 1969.

Lyle eloquently wrote of his quite unintended and highly improbable found love in the midst of the war. Hoa, was her name.  She was a hooch maid  who cleaned and ironed clothes, shined boots, made beds, and paid about $5 monthly from each soldier.  Hoa had an elderly father and children and was not allowed to leave Vietnam.  Hoa and Lyle exchanged some 40 letters each over the next 17 months until April 1971 before losing contact with each other.  It was about 10 years ago that Lyle started trying to find Hoa. But he has never found her nor any member of her family, or anyone who knows for sure what happened to them. It is as if they have vanished from the face of the earth.  Lyle promised Hoa he would never forget her. And he has kept that promise.

A Poem By Lyle Staples

I was a soldier in the Cold War
Stationed at Phu Loi in Vietnam,
Doing my duty for Uncle Sam,
Serving out an extended year’s tour.

You were from Phu Cuong working all day
To support your children and father,
Another child due in September,
Husband lost in the war’s disarray.

Lyle writes now that he sees, because of his advancing age and on-going family responsibilities, that he will never finish an entire book of poems.He dos, however, hope to complete 10 or 15 poems.

In 2007, Lyle decided he would create a poetic remembrance of Hoa and their relationship called:

My Beauty, My Hoa: A Remembrance.

The following excerpts are from letters he and Hoa exchanged:

“I’ve not received any letters from you for a long time (about one month already). I wondered that you forgot me….You do not know how much I was miserable. Any time I think of you, I can’t help crying and missing you….I miss you all the time. I will love you until my last breath.”—Hoa, 17 May 1970

“Darling, at present I have been sick (my sickness is crazy)….One lady who is wife of American major reads our letters….She took me to the hospital when I killed myself because I was hopeless when I think I could not be your wife.”—Hoa, 21 May 1970

“Hoa, what did you do? Did you say you were in the hospital because you tried to kill yourself? You must never, never do that. Your children would be heart-broken. You have such beautiful, sweet children….For them, you must be strong.”—Staples, 29 May 1970

“I love you, I miss you, I think of you, I feel very miserable, sad and tired….I could not explain to you how I love you. I seemed to be crazy.”—Hoa, 1 June 1970

“Dear Sir, I’m sorry that I must tell you something in this letter….I’m a lady who reads all your letters and her letters….If you could quit writing to her the letters, you should do it….If you still continue writing to her, it’ll be the way to kill her. She is very thin now. She has been sick all the time and sad all the time. She came to my home many times in order to translate your letters. I saw her crying always….I like her very much and her love to you has moved my heart….I understand that you can’t marry her, and her family status doesn’t allow her to get married with you. She could not leave them in order to go to America with you….One time, I came to her house, I saw her children and her father who is about over seventy years old. I like all of them very much….I told her sometimes that she should not love you so much….She must be strong as you wrote in your letter. But she can’t help–her face is unhappy all the time. She feel being tired of every thing in her living….You must help her to forget you.”—Lan, 5 June 1970

“I have received your letter. I do not know how to express the feeling in my heart….I thought that by writing I could make you happy. But I have only made you sad and miserable. Of all the people in the world, I wanted you to be happy….Please forgive me….I should never have written you when I came back to America. By now you would have forgotten all about me….Love from such distance can only be frustrating….Please take care of yourself and try to be happy.”—Staples, 11 June 1970

“Today I received the letter from your friend….Yesterday I mailed a letter to you which explains the feeling in my heart and my understanding of how you feel….I know I am not very good at expressing my love and concern for you….I knew you were sad…but I honestly did not understand how unhappy you were until the last few letters….Please forgive me for all the sadness I have caused you….I love you and my heart will never forget you.”—Staples, 12 June 1970

“I’ve received your letters….Your letters have moved my heart. Instead of you blame me, you blamed yourself. Darling, sometimes I was crazy, I can’t help, but in fact, I could not forget your image….I can’t understand how kind, nice you are.”—Hoa, 20 June 1970

“Remember that there was one lady who has been always unhappy without your presence. She has been falling in your love with all her heart….What is the strange love? I understand I could not, never, never, be your wife. But I can’t help loving…”—Hoa, 25 June 1970

“it has been a long time since I received a letter from you….I miss your letters so very much….Each night I cry myself to sleep thinking about you….The time goes so slow without you and I have nothing but your memories to live for.”—Hoa, 9 July 1970

“I have received three or four letters from you. Forgive me for not answering sooner. But I have taken a long time to answer so that I can think what will be the best thing to do. I understand your love for me and how it has made you unhappy. And I think you understand I truly love you….More than anything else in the world I want you to be happy….But…we must think about each other less often….The only way to do that is not to write as often….You will always be my love….We both have many wonderful memories. We must keep those memories and cherish them, but make a new life for ourselves, realizing that we will probably never see each other again….I hope we can both be happier in the future.”—Staples, 3 July 1970

“Having wrote to you three letters, I counted day to day in hope that I’ll have some replies from you….I was anxious and sad. But today I have your letter….Today, tomorrow, I am and I will be hurting without you. The sadness I have now in my heart I will have forever….But I have a great responsibilities to my children. And I must keep right on this….I get use to the sadness and you do not need to worry for me. I am sure that I am enough strong for bearing that.”—Hoa, 11 July 1970

“I want to tell you how much I still keep in my heart the love I have for you. But I think I better keep it in my heart. Because we will never have the chance for being together. Well, I should stop here. It hurts me very much whenever I talk about that. I’ll never forget the happiness you have brought into my body.”—Hoa, 5 August 1970

“I’ve received your letter….I’m very happy to hear from you. And it moved my heart that you still think of me….You are always a wonderful, kind man to me.”—Hoa, 30 September 1970

“I’m stronger than before so I’ll be happy even I’m thinking of you.”—Hoa, 12 December 1970

This poem is about the love, despair, and the binding ties of fate captured in the above quotes from our letters:

A Poem By Lyle Staples

When tears fall in drops upon your pillow
And run in pooled rivulets down your cheeks,
Dark night after dark day for weeks and weeks,
And all life’s promises seem so hollow.

When you lie curled in despair on your bed
Yearning and reaching for your heart’s desire,
Your stomach tied in churning knots afire,
Unable to resolve it in your head.

When the slow drip of pain upon your heart
Blots out all but the unforgetting pain,
And leaves you pining and nearly insane,
Body crying for the hurt to depart.

When with the awful cleansing march of time
Merciful resolution comes by grace,
And you can see the sun and lift your face
To once again join in life’s rhythmic rhyme.

Then there with a worried patience await
All the reasons for your existence there,
The permanencies in need of your care,
The binding, loving bounty of your fate.

Survivors of the 80’s – One Man’s Story


Easter 1977

Easter 1977

We were a young and struggling family in every sense of the word when our eldest son, Bobby, graduated from 8th grade parochial elementary school in 1980.  We had invested all our family time around various church associations, members and their families, sports and other community activities. Yet, there were two major events that caused us such great pain that they decimated our religious affiliation.  Thus, we took our family and fled from this religion, and too many years passed before we found a truly biblical community.   As a result, our children’s lives suffered in their own various ways.  It was about seven years later when Bobby, through his love of God and abiding faith, was first to transcend from those darker times.  This is his story.

20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History

The following article was published February 9,2015, by the New York Public Library. I have re posted it here because it best describes my blogging’s purpose, reasons, and experiences. The information I’ve gathered, the places I’ve been and the very kind people that I have come into contact with through my research and writing adventures has been phenomenally rewarding! If you have ever entertained researching and writing about your family’s history, then this may be just the push you need to help you decide to simply jump in and do it!

New York Public Library Logo

Author:  Carmen Nigro

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Milstein Division of United States History
Local History and Genealogy

February 9, 2015

Family History

Hungarian Family at Ellis Island, all of whom were deported. 1905. Image ID: 417071

If you have done any family history research, such as looking for records on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org or conducting interviews with older family members, you may have pondered writing about your genealogy research. Here are 20 reasons why you should cease pondering and start writing:

You’ll feel wiser.

From Ancestry.com, Global Study of Users, 2014,  one-third of online adults used the Internet to learn more about their family history:

  • 67% said that knowing their family history has made them feel wiser as a person.
  • 72% said it helped them be closer to older relatives.
  • 52% said they discovered ancestors they had not known about.

First person narratives and family histories are important historical documents. 

From The Story of You: A Guide for Writing Your Personal Stories and Family History, John Bond, 2014:

  • “You are doing a service by leaving a legacy, no matter how small or large.”
  • “The interesting stories in your life have become familiar to you… The novelty of these stories is most apparent to someone hearing them for the first time.”

You are an important person. You have things to pass on, to your children, to your local history society, to unknown future generations.

“The entire story of mankind has come to us from individual voices from the past.”  Family Focused: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Your Autobiography and Family History, Janice T. Dixon, 1997

You and your family are important to somebody, probably many somebodies.

“Just watch… ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to see how many ways one life touches so many others. The few families on the Mayflower probably produced more than 20 million descendants.”
The Story of You: A Guide for Writing Your Personal Stories and Family History, John Bond, 2014

Family trees are abstract. Stories add depth.

“It makes names into real, live people. Family stories help you and your family become more than a birth and a death date.”
The Story of You: A Guide for Writing Your Personal Stories and Family History, John Bond, 2014

Jeter Family
The Jeter Family in 1901. Image ID: 1235217

Memories over time become fragmented and distorted. People may not remember the things you told them but did not write down.

“I am not famous or rich, but I still want to be remembered.”
Family Focused: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Your Autobiography and Family History, Janice T. Dixon, 1997

Writing your family history gives you the chance to depict your ancestors how you see fit.

“You cannot write our story. You have no right.”
In 2004, Native Americans react to depictions of their ancestors in documents about Lewis & Clark.
History News, Summer 2014

There is a need for diverse family histories about those who have not been represented well in history texts.

“For members of marginalized groups, speaking personally and truthfully about our lives plays a small part in erasing years of invisibility and interpretation by others.”
Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Judith Barrington, 1997

There is a need for more family histories documenting female lines.

“The traditional descendants-of genealogy usually begins with the immigrant and follows descendants for some number of generations. Often they have a paternalistic bent and follow only male descendants who bore the surname….In the future we hope to see less short-changing of maternal lines and collateral lines in published material.”
Producing a Quality Family History, Patricia Law Hatcher, 1996

There is a need for more family histories about families who are not affluent.

“Genealogical publishing [in the past] was accessible primarily to the affluent…. Modern genealogists are researching ancestors who are relatively recent immigrants, landless, illiterate, living on the frontier or migrating. There seems to be a trend away from idealizing our ancestors.”
Producing a Quality Family History, Patricia Law Hatcher, 1996

Paiute Family in Yosemite, circa 1900. Image ID: 1690994

Family histories humanize the people you know or knew and remember for those who did not know them.

“The generations slipped away as I shared her grief for a moment. In reading her words I felt closer to my grandmother than I ever have.”
Family Focused: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Your Autobiography and Family History, Janice T. Dixon, 1997

Information raises questions. Genealogy research has brought new facts into your life.

“They research and write down when and where mom and dad were married. I don’t want to say accurate facts aren’t important, but I do question priorities here. The facts, or at least the important facts, of mom and dad’s marriage were not where and when it took place but what they made of it.”
For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History, Charley Kempthorne, 1996

It may help you understand your current family dynamics.

“I spent a year writing my story which is also my mother’s story and the story of our family. It was a most enlightening time for me, one I treasure, because it forced me to look at my life, re-shape it in many ways, and to laugh at things that I had taken so seriously before. I matured in many ways and became more tolerant and caring. It also freed me from some of my doubts and fears.”
Family Focused: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Your Autobiography and Family History, Janice T. Dixon, 1997

It will help you build or solidify a sense of family.

“I suggest that family history is more important than any other history simply because family is the fundamental, rock-bottom unit of society.”
For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History, Charley Kempthorne, 1996

Writing is reflective. Writing is investing in yourself.

“In writing your personal history, you put perspective and purpose in your life. You begin to understand yourself better than you ever have.”
Family Focused: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Your Autobiography and Family History, Janice T. Dixon, 1997

Cowboy writing
Cowboy writing in a notebook, 1909. Image ID: 5027900

It can be therapeutic.

“Studies show that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory…. Writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.”
New York Times, “Writing Your Way To Happiness,” Tara Parker-Pope, January 19, 2015

Don’t take for granted that the lives of your ancestors are lost. Evidence of the people they have been exists somewhere and is discoverable.

“Virtually all my finds have been made from old manuscripts in public repositories and have been of the family moving, not in the company of celebrities…, but among people as little known to fame as themselves.”
How to Write a Family History: The Lives and Times of Our Ancestors, Terrick FitzHugh, 1988

“It will have a wider impact than you might imagine.”

After publishing some of her family histories and donating to libraries and archives, author Penny Stratton heard from other researchers that they had found leads and data in her writings.
American Ancestors, Spring 2014

Family members and even distant cousins may become more forward in contributing documents, photos, and stories for your genealogical research.

“It’s cousin-bait.”
Genea-Musings, “Why Do You Write About Your Personal Research?” Randy Seaver, January 2015

You will be encouraged to archive and preserve the documents on which your family history research is based: certificates, letters, diaries, etc.

“These documents function within the family in the same way that important documents of our common history function within the nation.”
For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History, Charley Kempthorne, 1996

Writing Your Family History is a class offered by the Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy. Please check our website for upcoming dates. If you have a family history that you would like to donate to libraries, consider the New York Public Library (details on our FAQ) and the Library of Congress.

Man Executed on Friday Rises from the Dead on Sunday!

A Headlining Easter Service

Reviewing current hilarious accidental newspaper headlines is where Reverend Robert Hahn started.  And soon he became very serious, “Man Executed on Friday Rises from the Dead on Sunday! Yes, as millions of Americans traditionally do, we attended Easter Services yesterday at our church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Pew Research Centers reports church attendance will double this Easter.

Pew Research Centers reports church attendance will double this Easter.

Easter 2015 Church Attendance 1

More than half of America planned on going to church this Easter (about 159 Million people)!

Easter is typically noted as the most well-attended Sunday service of the year for Christian Churches.

And, without fail, (see for yourself in our fun video “Serve With Us,” below) our biblical leadership and 500 church community volunteers welcomed 3,000 of us at all four services with opened doors, arms, and hearts so we could participate in yet another truly joyous and powerful spiritual gathering in which we celebrated our Risen King, the One who gave His all for us!

Easter 2015 Chesapeake Church Attendance

As Rev. Robert Hahn reminded us this weekend:

Consider the World and times in which Jesus lived:  The World Circa 30 AD—technology was unleashing more change than the world had ever seen; international trade was booming; transportation had never been easier or faster; information was moving at a rate heretofore unknown. And yet, it was a time of intense desperation.

There was deep economic uncertainty.  People were restless about the future.  Government was oppressive.  Streets were dangerous.  Crime ran rampant.  Life was violent and children were not safe.  Virtually every war being fought at that time had at its core religious differences and people were divided.  They were divided by class, by religion, by wealth, and by power.

And into this world comes Jesus Christ—a man for his times—times that sound very much like our own today.  Consider this Jesus that we think we know so much about:  a child of peasants, he never went to college, he never wrote a book, he never owned a house, he never held an elected office, he never put his foot inside a big city, he never traveled more than 200 miles from the place he was born–he never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness. Yet, in the course of humanity no one else has impacted our world as has Jesus Christ!

More Relevant News

And, in startling news, he told us that pollsters show that over 40 percent of non-Christians believe as historical fact that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead!

We closed our service by listening to Chris Miller (music worship and young adult programs staff member) who passionately recited The Word by Isaac Wimberley, (a young husband, father, pastor, poet, rapper and music worship leader at The Village Church in Plano, TX). I didn’t have access to a recording of Chris, but his recitation moved so many of us to tears that I am including Wimberley’s recording of The Word that I found on YouTube.

Continuing Our Easter Celebration With Family

We then continued on with our celebration of Easter for the rest of a beautiful day with our ever-expanding family–including our youngest great grand children, 3-day-old Noah Antonio, 1-year-old Elaina Hazel, and 3-year-old twins, Sara Elizabeth and Brandon Scott and with our family’s patriarch my father, Frank Burton, 86, and his wife, my mother, Norma Florence, age 87.

I hope your Easter was as enjoyable and meaningful as ours.

When Do We Let Go and Let God?

You know life is getting real, when your doctor does this!

I’m sure among my many posts, this one digs the deepest and may give you pause.

cartoon doctorLast Monday we went to our primary care provider for our annual physicals.  As part of the visit, our doctor handed us a form that he said we should fill in and give back to him.  Lo and behold, it was an advanced directive form.  Could life get any more real than at this moment?

Bob asked the doctor quizzically whether we were in worse shape than we had thought.  Our doctor chuckled, then replied; “It’s always best for you and your family to make your desires known for life-sustaining treatments before an actual event occurs.” We surely couldn’t argue with this logic. But then he added I think to comfort us; “I already have my advance directive filed.”  I guess this was supposed to make me feel better, but it was him telling me his age and me knowing that I was 10 years older than him that really caused me more angst.

However initially, we said: “Ghee-sh, we both are very active and young at heart, but we must be getting really up there.”  So, we took our forms home with us.  Bob, being an emergency medical technician (EMT), and familiar with the form, filled his form immediately without any questions.  But, I pondered the meanings behind some of the questions and decided I wanted to research a couple of the questions about providing treatments indefinitely vs. “on a trial basis,” where I was supposed to define the trial period.  My thoughts went to “so my heart just stopped beating, but no one knows why yet, so if I can be resuscitated then perhaps I’m not dying yet, but rather, have some acute malady that can be fixed.” If this were the case, I know I would want some medical intervention until a clear diagnosis/prognosis could be fully developed.  However, if I were resuscitated and intubated and placed on ventilation machines, at what point does this treatment become too extreme and/or too expensive?”  Hence…I turned to the Internet and research.

The long and the short of it–my answer probably will be 30 days and no more life sustaining efforts.  But, my research led me to this story about a young man said to be brain dead from a 4-wheeler accident, declared dead after 36 hours, and his miracle story!

Let Go Let GodNow I ask you; “When would you let go and let God?”  Would you want life-sustaining treatments to begin, would you prolong your life until you were declared “brain dead” by medical professionals, or would you make no advance decisions and rely on your body to turn cold and your heart to stop beating before others advise of your time of death?