Archive for the ‘paterfamilias’ Category

Along the bumpy path, a Dad stumbles upon brief, sunlit clearings in which it is right to look to the sunny sky and feel satisfaction’s warmth. The IMG_2168soldier on the right is my son, a soldier among four soldiers that have surprised us in this generation. He stands with a college buddy at my son’s graduation from the U.S. Army’s Pathfinder School. (more…)


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On Friday evening I sat on the patio of my favorite Italian restaurant and listened to my son’s stories.

Little more than a year ago, he and his older brother successfully completed the U.S. Army’s Ranger School, often considered the most difficult thing the Army can throw at a young man outside of actual combat. As though that were not enough, this strapping son had just come through the Army’s other elite training program, the Sapper Leader Course (a.k.a. ‘Sapper School’). (more…)

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I am, today, a statistical outlier in the most unlikely of ways: I may be the only father in this country with two sons in the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at the same time.

I stress the word unlikely.

My sons are warriors. I am not. They wear a uniform I did not at their age choose to wear and have now lived too many years to put on. For these reasons and others, I take no credit for what they are surviving and conquering in Georgia’s mountains and Florida’s swamps. I look on in wonder, admiration, and paternal concern, asking myself ‘How did this happen?’ (more…)

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James Scott Wheeler’s workmanlike narrative of the First Division’s storied legacy begins with the unit’s July 4, 1917 parade through Paris en route to bloodier encounters along the line that would soon yield to the American bolstering of the Anglo-French defenses. It ends with the Division’s performance in the First Gulf War.

In between, Wheeler chronicles engagement after engagement with phenomenal precision. One thinks with gratitude of the after-engagement reports that became the dull but immensely valuable stock-in-trade of American infantry and the relentless effort required of historians like Wheeler in processing these and other sources. (more…)

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(This brief talk was prepared for a knot of men, mostly from Indianapolis’ Church at the Crossing, who refuse to stop meeting at a Perkins restaurant on Thursdays at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m. for no discernible reason except to sing one song badly off-key, drink more coffee than is good for them, and hear talks like this one.)

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This coming Sunday is Father’s Day and I’m a father, so I’m claiming this one.

I’ve not only got two sons, I’ve got two sons in uniform: ‘C’ is an infantry officer at Fort Benning, Georgia; ‘J’ a combat engineering officer at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Both will likely be deployed to a hot spot next year.

But my wife’s car now has four stars on the back of it. Her ‘T’ recently finished up his time in the Army and is re-entering civilian life. ‘R’ will be deployed to Afghanistan this year.

Together, we’ve got skin in the game, both as father and mother and in the geopolitical sense: we watch the news out of the world’s hot spots with a little more attention because of our connection with this country’s military through four sons who serve. (more…)

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When the moment came, I chose not to stand.

Out with friends and a raft of new acquaintances with their arms full of food they were hell bent on sharing with everybody, I take in for the first time an Indianapolis ritual that—frankly—until this year never held much appeal. (more…)

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My paternal ancestor Salome ‘Sally’ Hoy married William Jacob Leicht in Killinger, Pennylvania, the picturesque valley where I was to walk naively past the gravestones that memorialized—for those more attentive than I—the many Hoys whose remains were lovingly interred in that picturesque place. Alas, I was not among them.

I come only lately to the task of remembering.

There were many Salomes, a.k.a. Sallies, in my family. They included my grandmother, who died when I was nine years old. I have only the dimmest memory of her Pennsylvania German baking and cooking and of the way my grandfather lovingly took her hands in his as he and I shared an uncharacteristically private moment before her open casket in Millersburg, the town of which Killinger somehow manages to style itself a remote outpost.

Alas, none of Salome’s children were to be buried with her husband’s name. They became ‘Lights’, leaving behind the Germanic ‘Leicht’ under which they, presumably, were born.

The Leichts were adventurous in more than just this way. They were among the Hoys and hangers-on—the words seems both cruel and appropriate—who moved west.

Born in Killinger’s rolling, fertile environs, the Leichts cum Lights lived out and finished their days nearly four hundred miles west of that cradling valley in a place called Sulphur Springs, Ohio. It lies midway between Columbus and Cleveland and, except for the lack of hills, might have reminded Salome and William of Killinger, whence they came.

By the time the Leichts had accomodated themselves to their new, level, surroundings, their children were trotting off to school and responding to roll call under the family ‘Light’. Germany was a distant memory.

America had not yet been called upon, twice, to save Europe from herself. The migration of a family name must have obeyed more prosaic rhythms. Perhaps Salome’s ‘Dutch’ dialect had no cachet with the young folks. They were American. They were Ohians. Pennslvania, Killinger, David’s Church … these were memories of the old folks.

Something was lost in the exchange. Something was gained. Few noticed either.

It is ever so.

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