Freedom Rock

My eye kept being drawn to something colorful under the huge flag at North County Park.

The weather geeks had been promising stormy weather for Saturday, which included 70 mph winds and golfball-sized hail. When the radar started looking nasty, I decided to go mobile to get the car under cover if the hail really did arrive. That gave me an excuse to cruise by the park, but still stay close to my hidey-hole.

Work done by ‘Bubba’ Sorensen II

The Freedom Rock artwork was done by Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II on a 32-ton limestone boulder that came from the Buzzi Unicem quarry. He painted his first rock in 1999 in his home state of Iowa. This will be his 59th creation, only the second in Missouri. All but three of the 59 are in Iowa. You can get the whole story in a Southeast Missourian piece by Mark Bliss.

Click on the photos to make them larger.

Back depicts avenue of flags

The back of the stone has a rendition of the veterans’ flags donated by their families and displayed on holidays.

Battleship USS Missouri

The Battleship USS Missouri appears on one end of the stone. It was on the deck of that ship that the Japanese signed the surrender that ended World War II.

Cox and Willard

Prominent Missouri military men are recognized. Maj. Gen. John V. Cox was born and raised in Bevier, Mo., in Macon County. He joined the Marines in 1952, and served two tours in Vietnam, where he flew 200 combat missions, and logged 4,000 accident-free flying hours.

Vice Adm. Arthur L. Willard’s career almost ended before it started when he and 15 other cadets were expelled from the U.S. Naval Academy over a hazing scandal in 1888. Missouri Congressman William M. Hatch interceded with President Grover Cleveland to get him reinstated. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, he led a shore party under fire to raise the American flag over a Spanish blockhouse in Cuba. The Missouri legislature presented him with a jeweled officer’s sword for his efforts. (The New York Herald gave him a $100 prize for being the first U.S. serviceman to raise the American flag on Cuban soil.) He received the Navy Cross for being able to solve logistical problems during World War I.

Gen. McKee was a Cape boy

Gen. Seth J. McKee, graduated from Cape Central High School in 1934, and attended Southeast Missouri State College from 1934 to 1937. At the time of his death at 100 in 2016, he was the oldest survivor of the D-Day invasion of France in World War II. He ended his career as commander of the North American Air Defense Command. It is said one of his retirement gifts was a replica of the red phone he would have used to notify the president that the country had come under nuclear attack. Mark Bliss wrote an obituary that contains more details.

Stephen W. Thompson was born in West Plains, Mo., and joined the army when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917. On the way to Virginia for training in the Coast Artillery Corps, he saw his first airplane. After his first flight, he switched to the Air Service. Even though his squadron had not yet begun combat operations, Thompson and a buddy hopped aboard French aircraft to serve as gunner-bombardiers. On that flight, he managed to shoot down an attacking fighter, the first aerial victory by any member of the U.S. military. He was awarded the Croix de guerre by the French government.

Gen. Roscoe Robinson Jr.

Gen. Roscoe Robinson, Jr., born in St. Louis, was the first African-American to become a four-star general in the U.S. Army. He served as a platoon leader and rifle company commander in Korea in 1952, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. In 1967, he served as a battalion commander in Vietnam. For that service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, 11 Air Medals, and two Silver Stars.

Cape’s Medal of Honor recipient

PFC Richard G. Wilson was born in Marion, Ill., but moved to Cape Girardeau in 1939. He attended May Greene School and Central High School, where he played guard on the football team.

Wilson served in Korea as a private first class with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment. On October 21, 1950, he was attached to Company I when the unit was ambushed while conducting a reconnaissance in force mission near Opa-ri. Wilson exposed himself to hostile fire in order to treat the many casualties and, when the company began to withdraw, he helped evacuate the wounded. After the withdrawal was complete, he learned that a soldier left behind and believed dead had been spotted trying to crawl to safety. Unarmed and against the advice of his comrades, Wilson returned to the ambush site in an attempt to rescue the wounded man. His body was found two days later, lying next to that of the man he had tried to save. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on August 2, 1951.

Flags on Veterans Day 2016

Veterans Day flag display North County Park 11-11-2016This week, in particular, I needed to see the rows of American Flags flapping in the cool air against a blue sky punctuated with fluffy clouds. I got to North County Park just as the volunteers were starting to take the flags down before nightfall. This was taken with  Nikon D-7000 equipped with an 18-55mm zoom lens covered with a circular polarizing filter. (Click on the photo to make it larger.)

Flags in motion

A guy directing traffic made an exception for me to drive by to capture this video from the top of the hill and headed down to the highway. The video is shot with my DOD Tech DOD-LS470W dash cam. It hangs under my rearview mirror with an AmorTek SnakeMount, a cool accessory that will fit just about any camera out there.

I picked this camera because it has great low light sensitvity, it has a built-in GPS, and comes with software that will let you merge your videos with an interactive map. That’s really handy when I try to figure out where I took a picture. (I also have to confess that I put those specific links in because if you click on them, then buy something from Amazon, I get a tiny piece of the action without it costing you anything extra.)

I’m a sucker for flags

Here are other stories I’ve done about flags.

Class of ’66’s 50th Reunion

CHS Class of 1966 50th Reunion 06.25.2016The idea got started in Florida when Wife Lila sent this email to Marilyn Maevers Miller in Charleston in January:

I’d like to run something by you.

During the reunion, there was some interest in a get together in Cape for the Class of 66’s 50th in 2016, independent of the big event every 5 years. Terry [Hopkins], Bill [Jackson] and I have decided that we are going to Cape this summer for our 50th, even if there is no one but us at the shindig. However, we are hoping there will be a few 66ers who’d like to join us… possibly, some of the lunch bunch group would be interested.

Reality Check

Promo posterBy March, things were really beginning to take shape. On March 10, she set the tone of the event in a Facebook post:

A few minutes ago, I talked to a friend whose 35th HS reunion is in June. She decided not to go, because she had gained weight and didn’t want her classmates to see her like she is now.

That made me think of the CHS ’66 50th coming up. At 68 years old, I don’t think anyone from our class cares about that kind of stuff anymore, but just in case…..

REALITY CHECK!!! People, we ALL are 50 years older, and we ALL have a lot more miles on our odometers. I have wrinkles, gray hair, a saggy butt, scars and I weigh 40 pounds more than I did in 1966. The only things that still fit are my earrings. So there you have it! Now, you won’t be surprised when you see me. And if you are surprised, I won’t care.

I am guessing that a pretty fair number of you probably recognize yourselves, to some degree, in that description …depending on how good your plastic surgeon is. Ha!

What doesn’t change? Hopefully, they are the friends who made us laugh, who made us roll our eyes regularly and who were there even after high school. There were classmates that we avoided at all costs, or who ran in different circles than we did. No matter who they were or how you felt about them back then, they also are 50 years older… and I’m betting they’ve mellowed a little, too.

ALL of us have 50 years under our belts, and our 50th rolls around only ONCE. So, come. We are going to eat, drink, tell some tales and be merry. Whatever your definition of merry is, I bet we have it covered.

June is coming, and I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of wrinkled, graying, mellowed 66ers who still know how to rock and roll.

Mike Ervin won a shiny dime

Lila Steinhoff - Mike Ervin - Terry Hopkins 06-25-2016_8266Terry Hopkins promised a shiny dime to the person who traveled the greatest distance to attend the reunion. Mike Ervin claimed the prize, when he visited with classmates through a live broadcast social media connection from South Africa.

By the time June 24 rolled around, 87 classmates had signed up for the reunion; about 136 people, including guests showed up at North County Park for what sounded like a great weekend. You could hear the laughter and talking from 100 feet away.

Marilyn fed the crowd and was the local cat herder. The original four organizers got plenty of help from classmates who brought food, drinks, electric fans, and who helped string lights and clean up afterwards.

Anyone who appears in the group photo at the top of the page has my express permission to reproduce it for personal use. Click on the photos to make them larger.

Could It Be Spring?

Flowering trees North County Park 03-14-2016When I shot pictures of North County Park on February 16, it was because celestial dandruff” was coming down like crazy, coating the ground and trees with white stuff. When I showed up around sunset on March 14, the grass was greening up nicely.

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Trees are budding out

Flowering trees North County Park 03-14-2016Trees that were white with snow a month ago are beginning to sport white blooms.

I wonder if this means I’m going to be stuck with 50 lbs. of snow melt and a pickup truck of firewood I ordered a few weeks ago?

Memorial Park getting color, too

Flowering trees - Memorial Park 03-14-2016Purple was the color of the day in Memorial Park cemetery.