Bend In The Branch

The personal opinions of one among many.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Locks of Love

A mother's treasures are the most mundane.

Judy Hartman treasured the thick, flaming red hair that adorned the countenance of her son, Jonathon.

Age and the Army compelled Jonathon to cut his hair. The ponytail that was left became his mother's keepsake, then her treasure when her only son was killed in action.

There came a time when Judy realized her treasure had no value if hoarded, so she shared it and it became a crown for Raymond, a child who had lost his hair at the age of two.

And Joseph, even at age 12, seemed to absorb the enormity of the honor.

He wrote a letter to Jonathon's mom expressing his thoughts:

"Dear Mrs. Hartman," the letter says, "Thank you for donating Jonathon's hair. This is the greatest honor of my life to wear a fallen soldier's hair. I am proud of your son's courage and loyalty to our country. I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you again, Joseph."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Monday Mutt Shot


When Grandma Was a Little Girl - The Buggy Wreck

Grandma’s daddy was a farmer. He and his wife planted vegetables, raised chickens and cows and tended orchards. Her daddy, like his daddy before him, took produce to the nearest town to sell it.

Grandma’s daddy must have sold only the best his farm had to offer. She remembers finely-dressed ladies driving their cars all the way from town to buy her daddy’s wares.

One night, her daddy loaded the little buggy with vegetables, chickens, eggs, milk, butter, apples and peaches. He was taking the goods to his daddy, who would, in turn, deliver them to town to be sold. Her daddy had barely made it to the main road when a young man, who was driving a car, ran into the buggy.

Her daddy wasn’t hurt, but some of his produce was destroyed and the buggy was damaged.

The buggy was loaded on a wagon bigger than any Grandma had ever seen (it took two horses to pull it) and taken to town to be repaired.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

When Grandma Was a Little Girl - The Buggy

When Grandma was a little girl, there was no car. There was a buggy. It had one seat and it was plain and simple.

Her uncle had a two-seater Surry, complete with a top that was decorated with a fringe of eight to ten inch tassels.

Grandma’s uncle may have had more money than her daddy. More likely, he had a finer buggy only because he had a larger family. Grandma was an only child at the time.

The buggy was the only way Grandma’s family could travel. When they went to church, to visit friends or family, to town for supplies, or anyplace, it took a long time, for they had no horse, only a mule.

When it was cold, there was no heater. Their buggy had no curtains to close them off from the weather. There was only a buggy robe to cover the laps, legs and feet of the passengers to protect them from the cold.

One Sunday afternoon, Grandma, who was a wee little girl, was going with her parents to visit her Grandma and Grandpa Sims. The trip was only seven miles, but the mule was slow and Grandma got real hungry. She was so little and so hungry, she must have cried, because her daddy stopped and her mama picked blackberries from a patch growing on a ditch bank for her to snack on.

Grandma was never allowed to leave home without eating after that day.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

May all of your recipes contain love

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Monday Mutt Shot

"I tawt I taw a puddy tat!"

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Clemson 13, Carolina 9

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Game

Warriors and a Wedding Party alike await the annual event.

What? 'didn't believe The Game had priority over weddings?

Angels Among Us

Jim Hamilton and the Jamil Flying Fezzes have donated more than 30 years of their time and expertise as pilots flying sick/injured children to hospitals for free.

The Season of Giving is upon us.

Perhaps a gift to those who give so much while expecting so little in return is in order.

Jamil Shrine
PO Box 210578
206 Jamil Road
Columbia, South Carolina 29221-0578

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Roasting of the Bird

Each year as Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of my first attempt at preparing a turkey.

I babied that bird. I defrosted it for days in the fridge, soaking it in a wonderful brine designed to keep it plump and moist while roasting. I swaddled it in a roasting pan full of succulent vegetables and placed it in a preheated oven, hours in advance of the scheduled holiday meal.

When the prescribed time had passed, I removed from the oven a lily-white, raw bird, covered in onions and celery, with a bloody mess erupting from a paper bag between it's legs.

The bird was rendered edible by boiling.

Lessons in the importance of a cavity search and turning the oven dial from "Preheat" were learned.


Gas prices have dropped $0.52 per gallon since the SC Attorney General discussed investigations into Unfair Trade Practices and suggested criminal remedies for price gouging in the state last week.

The proposed bill has been introduced.

Clemson - Carolina

The college football rivalry began in 1896 and is an anticipated annual event in South Carolina. The Game has been known to supersede weddings, births and funerals.

Rep. John Graham Altman (R-Charleston), well-known for his off-color remarks, suggested deporting those responsible when the decision to air The Game only a pay-per-view basis was announced.

While few paid notice to his hysteria, the powers that be have relented to the fans.

The Game will be televised.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Kid Knows

An offline I-M from the kid:


I asked if she knew of the true significance of the date prompting protest.

She knows.

Observations of The Preteen

The Preteen is an elusive creature. Having been one in a prior life, I empathize.

That said, when I entered the lair of the Resident Preteen yesterday, stumbled over a pile of clothes, stepped on an empty potato chip bag, and slide into a position Yoga Gurus would applaud, martial law was declared in the humble home.

The cleaning of the room yielded much laughter, five loads of laundry, and one half-filled garbage bag.

To The Driver of the Cafeteria-Green Impala

I apologize for the incredulous stare.

It is difficult for me to understand anyone utilizing the DRIVE THRU when they must exit their vehicles in order to do so.

It is also difficult for me to understand anyone returning an empty carrier to the bank teller.

Monday Mutt Shot

Beware of Predatory Pup on Patrol

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day

Old Soldier

His face shows the lines of long fought battles,
He has grown weary of the fighting and frustration.
Some of his battles end in victory, some in defeat,
And still, some battles are yet to be fought.

He was drafted into this endless conflict,
A conflict that would test him to his very core.
His battles are relentless yet he fights on…he must,
The old soldier stands guard, always prepared.

This life is not one he would have chosen for himself,
But the old soldier wishes his battles upon no one else.
He has grown up in the trenches of battle and conflict,
He knows pain, sorrow and fear…and yet he fights on.

He watches as a shadow appears in the distance,
Has the enemy returned for yet another battle?
As the shadow emerges from the darkness all is still,
He’s just a boy, a new soldier of war…damn this battle!

As the small boy comes closer, the old soldier nods to him,
“Where is this place?” the boy asks as his small voice trembles.
The old soldier looks away and searches for an answer,
“It’s ok” the old soldier says, “don’t worry, you’re with friends.”

Over the years the endless fighting has harden the old soldier,
He keeps his feelings buried deep, protecting them from his enemy.
Seeing new soldiers drafted into this battle is hard on him,
He wonders ‘why’, ‘haven’t enough given so much already?’

This battle has taken a heavy toll on his body and spirits,
Scars to his heart and soul run deep and wide, yet he smiles.
He smiles to encourage the new soldiers, to reassure them,
They will learn from his wisdom, and they too will fight on.

Hopefully one day soon this long battle will end,
Someday all the soldiers, young and old will celebrate victory!

-Gary Hempleman, 2001

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Soldiers of the Sea

Celebrate 230 years today.

The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!

-Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, 1945

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Mission Accomplished

Cpl. John Campion Usry, II, returned home with a final mission...ensuring the Marine Corps Emblem etched on the Veteran's Memorial in his home town was correctly rendered.

(Manning) May 28, 2005 - Many veterans are remembered on Memorial Day, but a mistake on a Clarendon County monument has one veteran upset.

Just to the left of the Clarendon County Courthouse sits a monument honoring the vets of past wars. Etched on one side are the emblems of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

It's been there for almost 15 years, with a mistake that most people probably never even noticed. Cecil Windham of the American Legion Post 68 says, "The emblem that represents the Marine Corps, the anchor sits to the left." The anchor on the etching is on the wrong side.

No one knows how it happened, the army vet who raised all the money and planned the monument died several years ago.

Campion Usry is a third-generation Marine, "It needs to be resolved. It's just not right."

He remembers the first time he saw it. He was playing in the middle school band at the dedication, "I've grown up knowing exactly what that symbol should look like."

He and his dad didn't think much of it then. But years later, that changed. Since returning from Iraq two years ago, he's been trying to get it fixed, "It means a lot to me and it's a disgrace towards any Marine that sees it."

Windham agrees, "If it's not right, it should be changed. We are in the process and have been working on it."

The American Legion Post in Manning says after several failed attempts, now is the time. Their solution, etched bronze medallions to cover each emblem. Their hope is that the folks of Clarendon County will pitch into to help.

Mr. Windham says he hopes to have the bronze emblems up within six months, and he also wants to add on the Coast Guard, "I'll take this on as a project and we're going to straighten this out."

He still has to raise the funds though, and that could cost between $2,500 and $3,000. But, he says, Clarendon County has done it before, and they'll do it again.

A new monument will be unveiled Friday.

Semper Fi!

Patriotic Pup

Cpl. Jack Russell Dugan

Minneapolis, MN (PRWEB) October 27, 2005 -- Charles Patrick Dugan of Del Rio, Texas, a retired U.S. Marine Corps infantryman and survivor of heavy combat in Vietnam, gave his rank and serial number to his muscular Jack Russell terrier by calling him Cpl. Jack Russell Dugan, USMC, 2164539, or "Cpl. J.R." for short. Dugan and the dog often exercised by walking through four local cemeteries.

As it neared Veteran's Day one year, Cpl. J. R. ran off unexpectedly. Dugan found the dog scratching at a neglected grave marker. Brushing the debris away, he was amazed to find that the dog had found one of the only military gravestones in the cemetery. It was inscribed with the dog's same name, Jack A. Russell, Texas, Cpl. Signal Corps. After Dugan swept the tombstone clear of debris, the dog rested on the headstone of his namesake who had died during the Korean War.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

See Also: The Angel Animals Network.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Monday Mutt Shot

Ham Bone Induced Hysteria

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Stories that Should be Told

Morning News Online - Bill Gissendanner of Florence was leading his five-man team up a road during the final days of the war. The trailer carrying the team's generator had slipped off the road into a ditch, and Gissendanner and his men were standing on the side of the road trying to figure out what to do.

Then the young sergeant noticed movement in the wood line. More than 200 German soldiers were walking toward his men. Gissendanner moved his hand to the pistol on his belt, his only weapon.

Then he got a heck of a surprise.

"This soldier, in perfect English, said 'You won't need that, we're looking for someone to surrender to,'" Gissendanner said, laughing as he told the punch line of the story.

The German officer had spent three years at Harvard University and was drafted into Hitler's army when he returned home for the summer. Gissendanner said the enemy soldiers told him about a farmer down the road who had a tractor that could pull the trailer out of the ditch. In return, Gissendanner told the Germans where to find some U.S. troops to surrender to.

The surrender is just one of the hundreds of stories in Gissendanner's repertoire. Having been a part of the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and Southern France, Gissendanner has many stories. Many of the stories were untold until recently, when he participated in the Veterans History Project, an effort to document the experiences of veterans for the Library of Congress.

Gissendanner, like most World War II veterans, is modest when he talks about his experiences. He's quick to say, "Don't you put down on that paper that I'm a hero, I'm not a hero." But his Silver Star, nine Bronze Stars, and other citations betray this little white lie.

Gissendanner, 85, was drafted at the age of 21 in February 1942. Newly married to his high school sweetheart, Edna Mae Streett, and working at the Flor-ence Industrial School as an instructor, he had received two draft notices. But his boss, without Gissendanner's knowledge, went to the draft board the first time and told them he needed the instructor, keeping the young man from being drafted.

"I told him not to ever do that again. I wanted to serve," Gissendanner said.
Assigned to the 927th Signal Battalion in the Tactical Air Corps, Gissendanner and his men had a unique mission. They provided communications from ground units to the Air Corps for close air support. That meant they had to move with the infantry, using radios to call in air strikes.

The mission afforded them special treatment, too - at least before they left for Europe.

"I never had to drill, never pulled KP, none of that stuff," Gissendanner said. "We stayed in a hotel for three months while we were training."

While at Will Rogers Air Field in Oklahoma, Gissendanner got a furlough to go home for a short visit with his wife. He planned on giving her a surprise by not letting her know he was coming home, but he was the one who got the surprise.

"When I got home, she handed me a telegram and I saw the tears in her eyes," Gissendanner said. "It was from the War Department, and it said my furlough had been canceled and to report to Fort Dix, N.J., immediately."

It was two years, 10 months and 18 days, before he came home again.

Perhaps it's because of the passage of time, or maybe it's Gissendanner's personality, but most of his stories are tinted with shades of humor. He tells most of them with a smile on his face, recalling names and places from 60 years ago as if they were yesterday.

Like the day a British officer his unit was assigned to ordered him to take the team up the road toward the Germans. He argued he wasn't sure that was the right way to go, but the British officer ordered the small, lightly armed team forward.
"He liked to got us killed," Gissendanner said, laughing. "We went around a corner and there sat two German Tiger tanks pointing at us."

Both tanks' big guns went off, sending 88-mm rounds over the heads of Gissendanner's men.

"The machine guns were going, and we hit the ditches," Gissendanner said. "I was trying to get underneath a dead British soldier for protection. Then all of a sudden, I heard the tank engines crank up and I heard them move away."
He ordered his men to get their vehicles, turn around and move back.

"That British lieutenant told me he was in charge and ordered the men to keep moving forward. I said, 'I'm in charge, this is my crew, and we're getting out of here,'" Gissendanner said. "We got back to the rear area, and I fell to my knees. I just didn't have any strength left. And those British soldiers were saying, 'You blokes oughtta be dead, what were you doing out there?' and I said that lieutenant told us to go there, and they said, 'Don't pay any attention to him.'"

Gissendanner laughed as he told the punch line to this story, too.
"We had some bad, bad words," he said of the British officer. "But it turned out he had picked up the wrong map."

Some of Gissendanner's stories aren't funny. He quietly tells of the one time it all just got to him.

"A lot of the little stories, I don't tell," Gissendanner said.

"During the Battle of the Bulge, we were in this little town, and this infantry unit was fighting, I guess 150 to 200 yards away, and this Jeep pulled up pulling a trailer with dead American soldiers on it. It stopped right there in front of me," he recalled. "This dead soldier was on his back on the trailer, and his arm was hanging off and hitting the tire, and I walked up and put his arm back on the trailer. Big old tears just rolled down my face. It just got to me right at that time.

"My crew saw it, and asked 'Bill are you all right?' I said, 'Yeah, I'm fine.' But in my mind I was thinking, 'This is someone's son, this is someone's brother.' That was the only time that happened to me."

His reaction surprised him.

"It was the only time I ever did that," Gissendanner said after taking a deep breath. "Before, it was every day, you didn't worry about it, but it just got to me right then."

Then he moved on to another story, a funny one about the Champaign invasion, when French citizens brought the soldiers champagne as they moved through the country.
The stories flow out of him, one after the other, having been pent up for decades, but his favorite story is the last one.

"As we crossed the (Great) Pee Dee River, the train was moving very slow," Gissendanner said of coming home to his wife, Edna Mae, after the war. "The rails were under water, and I remember thinking, in September 1942, I was going east out of Florence. Now, September 1945, I'm going west into Florence.

"I was standing on the steps of that train before it stopped at two in the morning, and this lone little figure on that passenger platform came running toward me and literally propelled herself into my arms, nearly knocking me down," he said. "She kept saying, 'You did come back like you said you would.'"

Edna and Bill Gissendanner were married 44 years before she died of cancer in 1985.

"We had a happy and wonderful life together and three beautiful children,"
Gissendanner said.

When asked why he's now telling his stories about the war and why he participated in the Veterans History Project, Gissendanner said no one had ever really asked him before. But he thinks every veteran has a story worth listening to.

"Every veteran of World War II has a wonderful story," Gissendanner said. "They served their country well, so love and respect them, because they surely loved their country and you."

The genteel Southerner never pries nor boasts for fear of offending the sensibilities of others: manners which, while admirable, often hinder appropriate displays of concern and relation of acts of valor requiring recognition.

Perhaps that's why noone ever asked and Sgt. Gissendanner never shared.

If you haven’t, by all means, ask the Veterans you know about their experiences, encourage them to share their stories, and support their comrades, whose stories should be told.

Shared Prayer

There were no slide show images of my life when the 18-wheeler sped towards the 90 degree turn.

With the 18-wheeler approaching, a bicyclist on the sidewalk to my right, and an SUV hugging my rear bumper, all I could do was brake, scrub the curb to my right, and pray.

The sinister hiss of air brakes ceased, the rain of gravel and cloud of dust dissipated, and my prayer was answered…by less than an inch.

A solemn prayer of thanks was offered before I noticed the bicycle, upended on the sidewalk, with its front wheel still spinning. The SUV backed away from my rear bumper and I in turn, backed from under the trailer that could have packaged me like sardine in flat tin. The 18-wheeler sped away.

I was on the verge of “gettin’ all Southern”, preparing to deliver the righteous rhetoric that only a redhead can, when I noticed the bicycle had become a crutch for its rider and the driver of the SUV was wiping away tears.

We three exchanged a glance that seemed to acknowledge the power of a shared prayer before continuing with our separate travels.