Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the category “Militaria”

Memorial Day — You’re doing it wrong!

On this Memorial Day, we sit out on our decks and party.  Three days we’ve got off from work with burgers on the barbie.  But if you take a moment to reflect, away from your party scene, the radio will remind you what this day truly means.

It’s time to save, I said SAVE, on a waterbed!  It’s time to buy a great mattress at an even greater price!  I’ve got two words for you — It’s “Tire Sale!”  We’ve got rock-bottom prices and the time is running out!

You’ve got one full year, that’s right — one full year!  No interest!  No payments!  This could be the Memorial Day Weekend you enjoy for years!

Oh, yeah, and something about guys who died for our country…..  (“Memorial Day” parody by Heywood Banks)

Sadly, that song which was written as a joke to show just how out-of-touch we are with what Memorial Day really means is truer than you think.

I’ve seen and heard lots of people talking about their holiday weekend.  The “fact” that it’s the first weekend of summer.  About how much they’ve enjoyed their mini-family vacations and days spent on the lake or fishing or perfecting their barbeque techniques.  I’ve also seen a lot of people posting photos/cartoons and statements thanking veterans for their service.

Memorial Day is not the day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  EVERY DAY should be a day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  But for those who can’t be bothered to do that every day you see someone in uniform or someone wearing a hat or jacket showing they were one who promised to put their life on the line for our country, then at least say “thank you” on Veterans’ Day (11 November).

Memorial Day is when we should stop what we’re doing and remember that it’s the day set aside to say “thank you” to those veterans we CAN’T thank in person anymore.  They gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefields, wherever they were.  And we remember those veterans who have passed-on and the service they so proudly gave to our country.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was started by Major General John A. Logan from Southern Illinois and the GAR, the Grand Army of the Republic.  The GAR was an organization of Union veterans.  Three years after the Civil War, in 1868, he said that on May 30th all the graves of our war dead should be decorated with flowers (which would be in bloom across the country at that time).  In his orders, he stated:

We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners.  Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

This was done because in many areas immediately following the Civil War, only those of either Union or Confederate forces were being remembered and the graves of the “enemy” were falling into neglect.  One of the first records of equal decorations came in 1866 when women visiting the sites of the Confederate dead from the Battle of Shiloh near Columbus, Mississippi, noticed the graves of Union casualties being ignored and desecrated because they were they “enemy.”  Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the ladies placed flowers there as well.

Many Union or Confederate Decoration Day ceremonies are still held every year.  Memorial Day, however, was made a Federal holiday by an act of Congress in 1971 and the last Monday in May was selected as the date in order to be fairly consistent with the orders given by Maj. Gen. Logan as well as coinciding with the local/regional celebrations that had been occurring since.

Every grave in every national cemetery will have an American flag placed upon it today.  Some are placed by soldiers, some by civic groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts.  Many family members will also decorate the graves of their loved ones in national, state, and private cemeteries.  Speeches will be made and politicians will “pay tribute” across the country today.  But it shouldn’t be just them making an effort.  And it shouldn’t be just the veterans who were able to come home to their country and families and who live with the memories of how their comrades gave the ultimate sacrifice.  It should be all of us — every single person who enjoys the freedom for which those brave men and women laid-down their lives.

It’s not about the sales; it’s not about the picnics; it’s not about a day off with or without pay.  It’s about gratitude; it’s about honor; it’s about those we can never say “thank you” personally to again.

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When did eBay think it could be my parent??

Well, maybe the title is a bit unfair.  I have been away from selling on eBay for a while because (1) I’ve either been deployed away working for my former job and making a decent salary or (2) the items I’ve found that would have gone for sale on eBay either sold quickly on my website or at a gun/militaria show.  And Husband has been fabulous at keeping items listed on eBay when I’m not available and there’s something that we know we can make a decent amount of money on if we can just find the right audience.  Like, say, the entire eBay-ing world!

But today was just annoying!  I’ve got a few items and some books that I want to list and figured that since I still have all of my templates saved it would be a breeze!  When did eBay decide they can tell me what I can and can’t say and how I can and can’t say it?

For example, I have strict shipping requirements.  The reason for that is because I’ve sold many items to people overseas and they’ve received their items within the usual shipping period and have let me know that they’ve arrived safely.  I’ve also had many items shipped to people here in the United States — some in states bordering my own — and been told that either the item was never received or that it was extremely damaged and they wanted their money back.  When I’d ask for photographic proof of the damages to the item and shipping container, they would have an excuse for not being able to provide it.  And they always picked the cheapest route with no insurance or tracking capabilities so there was never any way to determine if the item had or hadn’t arrived.  So, I changed all of my shipping to a commercial shipping organization in brown uniforms because they offered free insurance (up to $100) for the value of the item and I as well as the buyer could track the shipment all the way to their door.  My attitude became, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy from me.  I’m protecting myself and my company from idiots who just want something for free.”

So, I would list in my eBay auctions to “Be sure to read all shipping policy information and if you’re not willing to pay the extra expense, do not bid on my items!”  Straight and to the point.  No wishy-washy customer-servicey happy namby-pamby phrasing.  I prefer to tell it like it is.  Make it clear and plain so that it translates into any language easily (even stupid) and, no, the customer is not always right.

You would have thought that I’d tried to incite a war with the way eBay reacted!  I had my template completed for the first item I wanted to list and big, bold “warning” boxes popped up on my screen telling me that I needed to review my return policy before they’d let me list the item.  I’d said in my description that the buyer would need to read my policy information and even provided a link for it.  That wasn’t good enough.  I’d have to fill out a form to make it simple.  So I clicked back to fill in the form and they didn’t offer anything like what I offer.  In my business, photographs and printed materials are not allowed to be returned because it doesn’t take a genius to know that some unscrupulous person will just scan it and make all of the copies they want and claim they’re originals and sell them.  The eBay form had nowhere I could specify that.  So, I stated it in the little box they give you for additional information.

Then another pop-up box appeared.  It didn’t like the fact that I said I wouldn’t accept money orders as payment.  It also informed me that money orders were no longer allowed as payment through eBay except in certain categories (mostly eBay Motors).  It wouldn’t let me post my item because I said I wouldn’t accept something that it won’t allow me to accept in the first place.  Ahhh….someone in programming figured out how to make the system recognize words but not the context of them.  If I don’t have the option to accept money orders checked in the payment box, what difference does it make if I say I won’t accept them in the description?  But, it wouldn’t allow me to list my item until I went back and removed the offending sentence.

Finally, just when I thought I’d get my item listed, the shipping payment information I included caused the largest box to pop-up on the screen.  It basically said that the way I phrased my listing by stating that if someone didn’t want to pay for something that they shouldn’t bid was wrong and I could drive away customers.

Um….that’s kind of the point!!  If they’re not willing to pay extra for the shipping services to ensure that it arrives at their residence/office/deserted island, then I don’t want to fool with someone trying to argue with me that they “really want to complete the auction and pay the money due but the shipping is just too expensive and [they] had no idea whatsoever that [I] would charge such an extravagant amount and how dare [I] not know that [they] are always good for their word and that [I] am insulting [them] by not just slapping a stamp on the item or, in [their] opinion, sending it for free.”  I’ve gotten so frustrated and people trying to argue about shipping at times I’ve told them I’ll just stick their item in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and wish them the best of luck ’cause what they want to pay isn’t going to get their item to them.

The pop-up box continued to chastise me on being “unprofessional” and how it could hurt me from becoming one of their Top Sellers.  I don’t list enough stuff to be a “Top Seller” and if I was operating a storefront instead of an online business (which I’ve done), my attitude would be exactly the same.  It’s not being “unprofessional” — it’s being honest.  And, as I said earlier, the customer is not always right.

After over an hour of changing and adding and subtracting things from the listing, it finally let me post my item.  All that work for something that’s got a starting bid of $5.  AND, I got a notice that they’re changing the rules/regulations on listing items again May 1st (tomorrow).

I’ll wait until the 2nd to list more items, if it will let me.  Hopefully they will have made their minds up on what those of us who list our items for sale (and are the ones who’ve made them successful) will be allowed to do.  It’s sad when a company gets too big for its britches.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

In for a penny, in for a pound

Yup, I’m back on the “crusade for answers” again.  Can’t help myself.  I see and hear others who feel the exact same way I do and there’s got to be something, anything that we can get as an explanation so that those of us who’ve lost our jobs (many after long employments) don’t feel like we’ve been kicked to the curb because we don’t fit the ideal of a “nimble organization.”  And I see others who’ve kept their positions basically saying “Tough crap!” to those of us unlucky enough to fit in whatever arbitrary mold was used to select the “keepers” from the “losers.”  Even one person said, “If we want to fire you, we don’t need a reason because the regulation says we can release you at any time for no reason whatsoever.”  That’s a nice slap in the face to everyone who loved doing their jobs, did them very well, and enjoyed helping others while spending months away from home, family, and friends in austere conditions and are now basically told to “Get lost!”

What did I do today, you may well be asking.  Today I got tired of waiting for the EEO representative to answer my email (he’d marked that he’d read it but I don’t know if he really had or not) and no answers at the phone number I was given to contact the same person.  So, I figured if I can’t go any farther up in the organization, I might as well contact those who help fund the organization and see what they have to say or can find out for me.  Yup, I contacted my Congressional Representative and the two Senators from my state.  I sent them all the exact same letter explaining what’s happened, the responses I’ve been given, and why I feel that I (and others, though I cannot speak for them) have been treated unfairly by the organization or, if not the organization as a whole, at least by the Region for which we used to work.

Do I expect much to come from this?  Not really.  Well, the biggest wish would be to watch all of the people who work in the Congressional Liaison Offices going batty because of an employee who has a better understanding of Equal Rights than they thought bringing in the “big guns” but that’s not going to happen.  They hate it when Congressional inquiries are made on behalf of constituents who feel they’ve been wronged.  And, with it being an election year, many Representatives and Senators will be more willing to help those they represent in the hopes of gaining votes.  And since I’m no longer an employee, I have every right to contact whomever I want.  I “stayed in my lane” as long as I could.  Now I’ll do it my way.

Like the title of this post, if I’m going in for a penny I might as well go in for a pound.  They’ve taken their pound of flesh over the years and I knew that they’d never pay back all that I’ve given.  I’m tired of playing it safe and sitting along the sidelines hoping to remain under the radar to keep a job that I love because I could help others in their times of need and would certainly hope that there would be someone there for me if I were in the same position.  I’ll find a way to continue to help others somewhere down the road.  Whether it’s with this agency or another remains to be seen.  But I’m just not going to sit and “take it” anymore.

Spike TV – Get off my lawn!

Yeah, I know.  Spike TV is supposed to be the “all-guy”/”testosterone-only” television network with shows like Deadliest Warrior and 1000 Ways to Die.  But, as I’ve fully admitted, I’m not a typical female.  I’ve never been comfortable in frilly dresses or with lots of makeup (unless it’s special effects makeup for Halloween or the theatre).  I can’t stand to walk past the annoying pink aisle in every toy store where every incantation of Barbie and her “friends” live.  I like hunting, fishing, reenacting, shooting — typical “guys-only” activities.  The only dresses I own are either for Halloween/theatre costumes and my wedding dress (which I certainly can’t fit into anymore).

So, anyone who personally knows me knows that watching Spike TV isn’t that unusual for me.  Tonight, Husband said he wanted to be sure to catch the season premieres of Auction Hunters and American DiggersAuction Hunters usually isn’t that bad.  The personalities on the show — Ton Jones and Allen Haff — aren’t annoying and do admit that they don’t always strike it rich with what they buy.  There’s not a lot of staged “drama” as shown on other storage-unit-purchasing-shows.  The guys are funny, honest about what they don’t know, and occasionally find some really awesome items that make me wonder why I can’t find the neat stuff they find around where I live.

But tonight’s premiere of Auction Hunters was supposed to be a live show where the guys and other buyers would get to bid on four large vaults stuffed with a variety of items.  Watching them were an invitation-only group of experts in militaria, precious metals, firearms, and other collectables; each of them were waiting for their chance to see what was pulled out of them and hoping to land a great bargain.  Ton and Allen spent $5000 on one vault that they felt had the most items they could resell and make a big profit.  Spike TV also agreed that whatever the profit they make, the network would match it dollar-for dollar to Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.  They even kept a countdown clock running throughout the show and commercials because the guys were limited to one hour to bid, buy, dig, and resell the items in any vault they purchased.

They found a lot of collectible toys, but no really valuable items in the toy pile that would have made them worth a lot.  They also found a 1920s-era electric guitar made of aluminum and an amplifier made by the same company that sold for a decent price.  They sold a business safe as well which was probably from the 1930s and received a decent amount of money.  But, throughout the show the host kept telling them how much time they had left and Allen kept complaining that it was rude and distracting for him to do that.  The clock kept ticking and they sold a 1980s boombox and a reproduction Dr. J uniform (packaged with an authentic autographed photo), but they still weren’t out of the red.  Finally, the last item they pulled out of a trunk — a wheel-lock pistol — sold for enough to give them a decent profit and the network said they’d boost the donation to $25,000.  How scripted is that?  It was painful to watch them sift through items and stack things in different areas instead of trying to sell something.  I’d have pulled out a box, seen what was inside of it, and put it up for auction to the crowd.  They were invited there to purchase items, so you know they had money to spend.   But, Allen and Ton just kept digging and arguing until the last second (literally) when they sold the huge pile of “collectible” toys.  And I say “collectible” in quotation marks because the types of toys they found were made for the collectors’ market, which means they’re not because no one would ever play with them.

After that was over, I figured I’d give American Diggers a chance since it’s only a 30-minute show.  That was 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

The idea behind American Diggers is that Ric Savage, a former professional wrestler (of only 7 years) and his crew drive around America looking for places that might have a historical significance and ask the property owners if they can dig on their land.  Tonight’s premiere episode was in Alaska as they were trying to find relics from the gold rush.  I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically as the first houses they went to had owners that didn’t want them anywhere near their property.  One guy finally agreed to let them dig and agreed to a 70-30 split of the profits.  So, Ric and his crew went out and found a few cool items (a bear trap, pick axe head, two-man saw, panning tin) and brought them into town and sold them at a local antique mall.  They then returned to the land-owner and divvied-up the profits.

They’re lucky they weren’t in our area or where I used to live.  The people in these areas are well-known for greeting strangers at the door with a minimum of one firearm and perhaps a large growling animal.  I’m also not sure about this show because in the description online it says they “target areas such as battlefields and historic sites.”  If they attempt to do their digging on a national battlefield, they’ll have a nice surprise when the historic preservation organizations and the law enforcement authorities show up since unauthorized relic hunting is illegal.  Even if they don’t find anything “of worth” in their digs, going onto national park lands and many historical sites with the intention of relic hunting is illegal.

And the Spike TV website says that they have found lots of Civil War bullets, Civil War artillery shell fragments, and Native American arrow and axe heads.  By the way, “arrow heads” are called “projectile points” in the archeology/anthropology/historic preservation communities.  Obviously, these guys aren’t really interested in preservation of any sort, except for their bank accounts.

I don’t think the show will last past the episodes already taped, but I could be wrong.  I doubt it, but I could be wrong.  There are already lots of preservation/collection publications that also educate their readers on what they’ve found and how to avoid being scammed.  This guy’s show (and magazine by the same name) is just wading into the deep end of a genre that doesn’t really need another player and more than likely will sink instead of swim.

Spring Gun Show: Day Two

Today was also a nice day at the annual Spring Gun Show.  Not too many people asking stupid questions, like “Is that for sale?” when the item is clearly marked with what it is and how much we’re asking for it.  Not too many people wanting to stand around and touch everything we have on the table but not actually interested in buying anything.  We did have a few people try to haggle on prices with us, and we actually encourage that (unless the price tag says “FIRM” which means we’re probably selling it for someone else).  But trying to haggle with us for a lower price, us coming to an agreement on a lower price for the item, and then the customer walking away because they don’t have the money to buy it is just silly.  I lost count how many times that happened today.

But, we returned home with fewer items than we took which is always a success.  We did purchase some .45 ACP pistol parts and a reproduction MP-40 “non-gun” (doesn’t work, never did, never will) that we’d planned to add to our collections and/or resell and ALL of them sold within a half an hour of our purchases.  We were lucky to get an M1 Garand bayonet in excellent condition at a very reasonable price.  We plan to resell it but we bought it so close to the end of the day today that there wasn’t time to resell it there.  That’s okay; that’s why we have the website.

My oral surgeon advised me the other day to be careful with what I ate and drank and to not be surprised if by the end of the second or third day my face began to swell and ache worse than it did when I went to his office.  That would have been any amount because nothing hurt when I went to see him and now I’m in excruciating pain!  I almost wanted to skip posting tonight because earlier I could barely lift my arms or my head long enough to type anything.  But, I sat and watched the Oscars and figured if I’m still up this late I can at least post something.  So, here it is.

I’m looking forward to the next gun show we’ll be able to attend.  Not sure when that will be at the moment but it will be fun as will the search for new items to offer at the next show!

Spring Gun Show: Day One

I’m surprised.  I’m very surprised.  I’m actually on the verge of being stunned.  Today, I didn’t have to yell at anyone in disgust during the gun show.  And that’s a first for me in a long time!

I don’t consider myself a rude person.  I try to be friendly and cordial with everyone I meet, especially if they’re a customer, until they give me a reason not to be.  Then, depending on the amount of stupidity or rudeness received, all bets are off.  My business is there to make money, not to please the entire world.  I’ve spent years of my life studying and researching information so that I am as close to being an expert as I can be with regards to the items I sell.  And since 99% of all of the items are either from the Vietnam War era or earlier (I deal in military surplus, in case you forgot or are new to my writings), a lot of my information has to come from hands-on experience with the items, talking to veterans who owned or were issued the items, and doing a LOT of reading so that I’ll know the little details.  Not every helmet is the same.  Not every weapon is the same.  And just because you watched Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan doesn’t make you an expert on WWII militaria!  You might own the entire DVD set of every Tour of Duty season or you have every M*A*S*H and After M*A*S*H episode memorized, but that doesn’t make you an expert on the Vietnam or Korean Wars!

The worst thing to do is to come up to my table (which I have spent a fair amount of money to rent so that I can sell my items) after I’ve traveled a long distance to be at the show (sometimes I’m lucky and the shows are actually at a center across the street from my house!) and made sure that I’ve brought a wide variety of items (because one of the biggest complaints at shows is that “there’s nothing worth buying”) and trying to inform me that the polyester-blend jacket you’re holding was passed-down three generations from your relative that served in the American Revolution and because you’ve seen the latest documentary on History Channel that has one “just like it” that I must purchase it from you for an ungodly amount of money.  Or, you bring an item to me and tell me how you watched a television show where someone had one exactly like it except for the color, size, and rust on it and that you demand that I pay the appraised amount from the show.  I’ll make this simple — do either of those things, and the answer is going to be, “Not gonna happen in this lifetime, buddy!”

Another one of the top items to not do is to bring your item to my table, stand in front of me and give me a very, very long, very, very detailed “history” of the item and how you came to own it and then ask me what it’s worth.  It’s even worse when you start your diatribe with, “Do you know what this is?” not in a manner of “Can you help me?” but with the attitude of “I’m going to teach you something.”  What’s most irritating is when I’ve answered your question that I do or don’t know what the item is and ask if you want to sell the item to me and you respond with a resounding “Of course not!” or “Depends on what you tell me it’s worth!  Why should I give you an appraisal for free?  You don’t get other items appraised for free.  Why should I utilize the many years research and knowledge that I have to tell you something that (1) you think you already knew or (2) had no clue about and not get anything out of it?  I don’t work for Antiques Roadshow so my appraisals aren’t free!

Also, when I give a “value” on an item, it’s going to be one of three things — (1) the current market value of the item based on others I’ve seen sell at retail or auction, (2) an estimated insurance value if it’s something that I’ve already been informed is going to stay within the family (and my appraisal fee is paid), or (3) what I think it’s worth to me or what I’m willing to pay because I am going to resell it and need to be able to make a profit.  I’m not buying your memories or appraising your family’s history — I’m in this game to make money and just because you saw someone else told that their item is worth $30,000 doesn’t mean that your’s is as well!  Not every World War II uniform was worn by Eisenhower or Patton and not every German pistol was carried by Goering or Hitler.  And trust me on this, there are a LOT of faked items out there!  Collectors and reenactors have demanded reproduction items and manufacturers have been more than happy to provide them, especially if they’re Nazi items!  They first started reproducing the uniforms but used actual WWII-era materials and thread which made detecting a fake almost impossible.  Then they reproduced weapons with old parts found in defunct factories.  The parts are “original” but the build of the weapon didn’t happen until the 1980s — so saying it’s “real” is kind of hard to do.  Now, there are companies that not only fake the medals (and not just the high honor ones but even the ones that EVERYONE got) but they even fake the presentation boxes the things came in from the 1940s!!  It’s getting so you can’t trust anything as “authentic” anymore!

Oh, and when I said “real” above, that word drives me insane.  People come up to me when I’m wearing my WWII-era authentic uniform and ask, “Is that real?”  I tell them, “Why, yes, it is — in the sense that it takes up time and space.”  That usually baffles them for a few moments until they decide to ask, “Is it really your uniform?”  I reply, “Yes, it is mine because I bought and paid for it myself and am the only person who wears it.”  Again, I’ll get some blank stares because they’re not sure of what to say.  What they should have asked is, “Is that an authentic WWII uniform?” or “Is that uniform original to the WWII-era?” or “Was that uniform made during WWII and possibly used by a soldier then?”  Then I could answer them whether or not my uniform is “authentic,” “genuine” or “vintage.”  “Real” is a word that has way too many meanings.  And asking if it is “mine” implies that I am the person who wore the uniform during World War II and earned the medals pinned to the dress jacket and actually obtained the rank worn from the United States Government.  I may be starting to look older, but I’m not THAT old yet!!

So today wasn’t filled with as many questions or issues like those.  It was nice to have intelligent and humorous conversations with prospective customers.  And when some would ask me for my “expert” opinion or for clarification with regards to an item or type of items I’ve spent a lot of time researching, I was happy to oblige.  True, there were a number of people who tapped on the helmets to make sure they were really made out of metal and others who tried to “inform” us that we couldn’t own or sell our wares because “it’s illegal to own government property” even though the items are edging 70 years old and no one in the government has been searching for them (especially since they discontinued them and threw away what was left-over ages ago).

Hopefully tomorrow will go well.  And if not, at least I’m still on my painkillers from yesterday and they help mellow me out for short periods of time.

Whee!! Over 1000 views!!!

Yippee!  My blog has over 1000 views on it as of late last night!!  Of course, it’s really easy to get me happy and giggly about something right now.  Had to have some minor oral surgery and the anesthesia has still not totally worn-off.  They asked if I wanted a “local” or “general” and I said “general” would be fine and probably safer for them because if I was awake during it I’d probably have been trying to talk and ask too many questions.  An unconscious patient is an easy patient at times.

Plus, I got my own bottle of prescription pain-killers, too!  Those will be fun once I start needing to take them.  All weekend Husband, Youngest Son, and I are supposed to be working for my online company at the local gun show.  No, not a “gun show” where steroid-riddled guys show off their muscles; a “real” gun show.  I enjoy looking at firearms, using them, and having my Second Amendment rights protected.  We’ll have a few for sale and a bunch of military surplus items as well.  We don’t get rich off of it but it gives me something to do to help make money when my primary employment doesn’t have a huge disaster to which they want me to respond.

But for now, the “voices” and I are going to go curl-up on the couch and let the remote become one with my arm.  It’s going to be a long day tomorrow and I’m pretty sure those pain-killers will be needed soon.  Time to rest, relax, and….um….something witty that fits there.  Yup, the brain is already decided it’s down for the count today!

My obligatory Valentine’s Day blog post

February 14th — known ’round the world as “St. Valentine’s Day” or just “Valentine’s Day” if you refuse to put the religious part towards it.  Actually, it’s no longer a “religious holiday” since the Catholic church removed it from the “official calendar” in 1969 (what an odd year to do that).  In fact, it wasn’t really a Catholic celebration first.

Arcadian Lykaia (for the Greeks) or Lupercalia (for the pre-Romans) was a cleansing festival to release the purity, health and fertility of a city and its inhabitants.  There is debate whether it was a Greek or a Roman celebration first, but seeing how the Romans throughout history basically stole their history from the Greeks, we’ll say the Greeks get the praise on this one.  It was a celebration to the Greek god Pan (or the Roman equivalent Faunus) and goats and dogs were sacrificed while salt mealcakes were burned by Vestal Virgins.  I don’t have a goat; my dogs will NOT be sacrificed; and it’s pretty darned hard to find a Vestal Virgin around these parts — so we’ll just go back to the more modern version of the holiday.

If you ask most anyone why Valentine’s Day is celebrated, those who believe they know their history will say it’s because Saint Valentine was beheaded on February 14th.  Problem is, which Saint Valentine?  There’s Saint Valentine of Rome and Saint Valentine of Terni.  There is also record of another Valentine who was martyred in Africa but not much information is known about him.  True, Saint Valentine of Rome’s skull is still venerated by many and crowned with flowers while on exhibit at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.  Saint Valentine of Terni is also buried on the Via Flaminia but not close to Saint Valentine of Rome.  Who knows what kinds of arguments might break out if they were close together.

The legend continues that Saint Valentine (it’s not noted which one) was arrested by Roman Emperor Claudius II who attempted to convert Valentine to Roman paganism.  Valentine refused, even though he was told he would be put to death if he did not convert, and attempted to convert Claudius II to Christianity.  As he was being held in prison, awaiting his execution, Valentine supposedly became enchanted with the jailer’s blind daughter.  The story ends with either Valentine leaving a love letter that he wrote the evening before his execution to the blind daughter professing his undying love (thus, the first “Valentine”) or that Valentine cured the jailer’s daughter of her blindness before being beheaded.  Either way, his head was lopped-off and it still baffles me why we don’t get boxes of little chocolate decapitated heads full of chewy goodness instead of the giant heart-shaped things.

However, the heart-shaped things were introduced into the holiday because of the possible love that Saint Valentine may or may not have had for the blind girl.  The first reference of love in connection with Valentine’s Day most likely came from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem Parlement of Foules, written to commemorate the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia.  Because Chaucer refers to Valentine’s Day in the poem, many believed that he was writing about February 14th.  A little-known fact (unless you’re an English major like me and had to read Chaucer whether you liked it or not) is that Chaucer may have been referring to May 2nd, a celebration in the liturgical calendar of Valentine of Genoa.  You could  have guessed that religion would have crept back in even if the original Valentine story wasn’t true.  There may have been other writers who referred to February 14th and Valentine’s Day in their work, but dating medieval writings can be difficult and Chaucer is pretty well-known (for good or for bad) so I’m sticking with this version.  And it would make sense that Chaucer was referring to May 2nd because he spoke of birds seeking their mates and, even back in the 14th century, February was a little early and cold for birds to be thinking of mating.  But if this is the true version, then I guess we should be biting the heads off of small candy birds.  I do that with Peeps around another religious/pagan spring festival, but I digress.

So, where does it all come from?  We know the popular tradition of giving cards was done as a marketing ploy which makes publishers large sums of cash every February as people panic for something to send so they’re not picked-out as the one who forgot what holiday it was.  And of course florists jump-in with the flowers and candy and balloons which makes Valentine’s Day their equivalent of Black Friday for the year (at least until Mothers’ Day comes along).  Kids in American schools are either (1) required to purchase little cards that they can exchange with EVERY member of their class to show that they “want to be their Valentine” or (2) are forbidden to bring ANY cards, candy, etc. to school to share with their classmates for fear that someone might be forgotten, someone might get their feelings hurt, someone will think it’s a religious holiday, or because someone has a peanut allergy.  And, yes, I know that paper cards don’t have peanuts in them, but the person addressing the cards might have been munching on peanuts while writing their little name on the card or, more likely, the wealthier parents who want to show their child has more and attempts to “buy” the favor of his/her classmates by attaching large bags of candy to the card which could have peanuts.  It’s a vicious cycle.

The only St. Valentine’s “celebration” I can think of that won’t offend anyone religiously or cause them anaphylaxis is commemorating the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.  For those who don’t know their history on this subject, I’ll make it brief ’cause otherwise I could do a huge post on this event alone.

On February 14, 1929, members of Al Capone’s South Side Italian gang waited across the street from 2122 North Clark Street in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago.  They were waiting for Capone’s rival gang boss, George “Bugs” Moran, who led the North Side Irish gang, to arrive at that address.  Moran had been lured there supposedly with the promise of cut-rate whiskey from Detroit’s Purple Gang, friends of Al Capone.  Capone wanted revenge for prior killings by Moran’s gang and only wanted Moran targeted in this hit, not the entire North Side gang.  Moran’s men had arrived at the garage early that morning but Moran and one of his assistants was running late.  When Moran arrived behind the garage, he saw a police car arrive and decided to wait elsewhere.

What Moran didn’t know was that the police car was there as part of Capone’s plan for his associates to escape.  Capone had hired hitmen from outside the Chicago area so that Moran wouldn’t be able to recognize them.  Two of the men wore police uniforms and entered the garage as if conducting a raid.  The five members of Moran’s gang and two associates were lined-up against the brick wall as if they were to be searched.  As the men were facing the rear wall of the garage, two more of Capone’s men entered and the four hitmen, using two Thompson submachine guns and two shotguns, murdered the men inside and then escaped by having the “police officers” escort the other two men to the waiting police cars.  Witnesses told the police that they saw policemen leaving the area with two men “in custody.”

It wasn’t until Highball, a German Shepherd owned by one of the victims, began barking and howling that anyone came to look inside the garage.  Highball and Frank Gusenberg, who despite being shot fourteen times refused to say anything about the killers before dying three hours later, were the only two survivors.  Photos of the gruesome aftermath were posted in newspapers around the country.

The infamous wall from 2122 North Clark Street (minus a few dozen bricks sold over the years by its previous owner) is now on display at the Las Vegas Mob Museum, so I guess if you want something non-traditional for your Valentine, you can take them there.

Me?  Maybe I’ll take the Thompson into the garage and fire a few blank rounds towards the brick walls in commemoration.  It’s less fattening than chocolate; it won’t die like cut flowers; and it’s a tradition I can do every February 14th.

Discovery’s “Combat Cash” goes MIA tonight.

It’s Wednesday and I settled in for an interesting evening.  Two weeks ago this blog lit up after I said that Discovery’s Combat Cash was awful.  That’s not exactly what I said, but you can go back and read the original post for yourself.

I looked up when it would be on again and found that today was the next air date.  TV Guide said that I’d have to be ready to watch at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time.  Here are the descriptions of the episodes:

7 p.m. – Real GI Joe; 1795 Springfield Musket:  A 1795 Springfield musket is test fired; a rare GI Joe is sold; the guys meet a helicopter crew from the Vietnam War. New (CC)

7:30 p.m. – Hellcat Ammo; Flamethrowers:  Flamethrowers from WWII and the Vietnam War are used for a photo shoot; the guys search for ammo for a Hellcat tank. New (CC)

I started flipping channels to find something to watch until 7 p.m. and switched to Discovery a few minutes early so I could get settled-in with a snack.  The show advertised above as the 7 p.m. episode was ending!  What’s up with that??

So, I went to Discovery’s website and pulled-up the schedule for tonight.  Here’s what they advertised (times are Eastern Standard Time):

7 p.m. –  Hellcat Ammo/Flamethrowers TV-PG; Bob and Owen roll up their sleeves to search for WWII-era ammunition for a Hellcat tank. The owner offers them the bonus of getting to fire off some live rounds. Then the guys light up a special photo shoot with WWII and Vietnam War-era flamethrowers.

7:30 p.m. – Real GI Joe/1795 Springfield Musket TV-PG; Vintage Productions owner Bob and partner Owen connect passionate collectors with rare military items. They sell a very rare GI Joe and test fire a 1795 Springfield musket. But it’s their job for a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter crew that really strikes home.

I did get to see the guys test fire the Springfield musket and the video of the new owner placing it in his customized display which, when the musket is inserted, looks like a “life-sized” Combat Infantry Badge.  That’s actually pretty awesome.  A neat idea for displaying a nice firearm.

But that’s all I got to see!  TV Guide and the satellite guide say one thing; Discovery says something else.  TV Guide and the satellite say the episodes will rerun at midnight Central Standard Time.  Discovery says they’ll rerun at 1:30 a.m., 2 a.m., and 2:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, January 26th.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I do enjoy sleeping.  It’s one of my favorite activities.  And I function a LOT better when I have an average amount of it each day.  I’m not staying up until “0-Christ-Hundred” to watch a show that may or may not be worth watching.

So what’s up, Discovery??  I’ve already been getting emails and questions from friends/family if maybe the episodes weren’t aired when they were advertised because they didn’t want me to see it again.  While that’s flattering, I don’t believe my blog post would cause a full-scale schedule makeover.  But I still don’t understand why Discovery would change its schedule when it’s already been printed and programmed for one time and decide to air the episodes when people are not usually watching Discovery.  Do they want it to fail now?  Are they hoping only the diehard militaria fans will stay-up to watch it?  Do they hope that those who are usually up at those times will “appreciate” the show more than those who made sure their schedules were open to watch at the advertised times?

Shame on you, Discovery.  Shame, shame, shame.  I was actually looking forward to watching the episodes — and not just to be snarky about them.  I wanted to see if there was any improvement from the first two episodes and be able to comment positively on that.  I have no idea why anyone would want WWII-era ammunition for a Hellcat, so not having seen the episode I can only imagine that it’s an idiotic reason since ammunition does become unstable over time, but I don’t know and I’m not going to speculate.

I’ll wait and see if new episodes are forthcoming, but I’m beginning to seriously doubt it.  Especially since there’s an article on Discovery’s website saying “Combat Cash Finale” and dated today (January 25, 2012).

Oh well….at least I’ve got time to watch something else, and it sure as heck isn’t going to be Sons of Guns that they’ve decided to show in the scheduled time slot for Combat Cash.  If you thought I didn’t like Combat Cash, you don’t want to go into the deep waters of Sons of Guns.  Trust me.

It’s the years….and the miles.

They say “You’re only as old as you feel.”  Well, “they” must be taking something and I want to know where to get some ’cause today I feel like I’m “hit-by-a-bus” years old.

I had a feeling this day would come.  Actually, I knew it would — I just never thought it would be this soon.  I’m only 40 for cripes sake!  There are guys out there older than me who are humping gear through the woods and enjoying every second of it.  Then again, if you’re not used to doing it every day, it can be a LOT harder than people think.

Just because you’ve beaten Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, or Brothers in Arms doesn’t make you a reenactor.

Yesterday was the annual “Battle of the Bulge” reenactment at Camp Clark outside of Nevada, Missouri.  There were reenactors from all around the midwest and some from even further away there for a day of fun and excitement.  Husband and I (along with Celeste since she goes everywhere with me) drove in the wee hours of the morning with our weapons packed, our uniforms on, and lots of militaria to sell after the battles.  We saw people we’d not seen in a year (since the last battle there), some we’d not seen in many years, and made a lot of new friends as well.  We met people doing impressions of GIs, Heer, Waffen-SS, Foreign-SS troops, Spanish Blue Division, Italian, British, and Soviet forces.  There were a lot of semi-automatic weapons there but we were lucky to have a few fully-automatic rifles and some that had been converted to fire propane so they’d sound as an automatic weapon should.  Even the Soviets brought a “flamethrower” which squirted water out the end — making it easy to show what had been ignited and who would be affected by it.

Everyone gathered for the safety and authenticity inspection.  We have to have them because you can never be too careful where firearms are concerned.  They checked to make sure all of the pyrotechnics (dummy grenades, etc.) were safe and approved and also examined everyone’s weapons and blanks to ensure that nothing prohibited makes it onto the field.  I’ve had a lot of people over the years ask me if we use blanks when we do our battles.  I tell them that we use blanks because it’s easier to keep having battles and recruiting new members, even if blank rounds are “inauthentic.”  Sadly, the sarcasm often passes by them.

After the inspection, the OICs (Officers in Charge) were told to form-up their units and prepare to move to the first scenario’s launch point.  Husband and I portray 35th Infantry Division, HQ MP Platoon members.  We started years ago (Husband in the early 1980s; me in the early 1990s) as infantry and then changed to military police.  We often will add in military intelligence to our repertoire if the battle coordinators need more varied units to help flesh-out the scenarios they’ve written.  I, being a second lieutenant, automatically became the leader for the third squad of the second company.  We fell into ranks and started to march to the launch point.

There was a bit of snow on the ground but we marched along on the asphalt road at a fairly good pace.  The Soviets enjoyed riding their bikes past us and ringing their bells in fun.  We waved and teased them about how they would have to make motorcycle noises in order to intimidate the Germans.  We watched many of the Germans being transported by truck to their areas and began to wish we’d had that luxury.  We continued to march and march and march.  The first company consisted mostly of younger (18-to-mid-20-year old) reenactors who are military cadets and do this on a daily basis.  Some of the older guys attached to their company said “Heck with that!” and sauntered along at a pace more suited for them.

Our company passed the remnants of the first company and continued to march.  Soon, we began to slow down.  A very short time later, my squad was going even slower than the rest of the company.  Sadly, my stride isn’t as long as my male counterparts’ and I was basically running compared to their walking.  I kept wondering, “When are we going to get there?”  Usually, we move-out into the woods and the battle will start fairly quickly.  Not this day.  We were informed by our OIC that we had AT LEAST another half-mile to march before we’d reach our staging area.

Maybe in tennis shoes or sneakers I can wander a half-mile down a paved road.  When the paved road turns to rough gravel with snow, it gets harder.  But I didn’t have my comfy shoes.  Regardless, I wasn’t going to stop and let the guys down.  If they could do it, I could too.  Oh, and did I mention that the bitter air aggravated my asthma?

Finally, we made it to the staging area.  Our OIC began to deploy the unit along the area where we were supposed to defend.  My squad was the flank….the end….the last stand against where the Germans and their allies would be attacking.  We were going to be the WWII version of the 20th Maine at Gettysburg.  Standing on a ridge, waiting for the enemy, but with more ammunition and better firepower.  I turned to issue deployment orders to my squad.

The next thing I remember is hearing a lot of loud bangs and then being dragged into a ditch.  In a brief second, Husband had done a test-fire of his submachine gun to ensure he had the right blank adapter installed so the weapon would cycle correctly.  However, he failed to follow a standard safety procedure of announcing “Fire in the hole!” before starting so that people in the vicinity would be prepared for sudden close firing.  Because I had not heard the announcement, I hadn’t prepared Celeste and didn’t have a tight grip on her lead which was slung over my shoulder and across my chest.  When the noise spooked her, she immediately began to pull me towards the closest ditch for safety.  Her lead cinched-up and tightened around my neck and left shoulder and, Celeste being an 85-pound dog, I was quickly knocked off my feet.

Years ago I broke my right knee while I was in college.  I won’t go into the details here, but I landed squarely on that knee on the large chunks of gravel used to pave the road for military vehicles, not foot traffic.  She continued to pull until I was off the road and I felt like an idiot because I thought for sure the rest of the guys would have thought I was just a klutz (which is true at times).  I calmed her down, readjusted her collars and lead, and proceeded to yell loudly at Husband for not following protocol.  Then, I tried to get up.

I got about halfway up on my feet before my knee began to scream and basically decided it was going to defect from the rest of my body.  I wasn’t going anywhere fast.  Celeste helped me brace myself and I finally was up and moving.  It wasn’t pretty, but I was moving under my own power.

Since Husband is a sergeant in my unit, I told him to go give my deployment orders to the rest of the squad.  They’d already left to deploy near the area I wanted them, but it’s a hobby and I wasn’t going to nitpick over where they were standing since it would be quite a while before the advancing troops would be near us.  Then the OIC said that because Husband and I were MPs, we were to walk BACK towards the bridge we’d crossed a while ago and ensure that no one came around the flank to take the bridge.

So, we wandered our way back to the bridge and began to look at the terrain.  A very large, very deep, and very icy creek ran under the bridge and no reenactor in their right mind would try to cross it.  However, since we know a few that aren’t in their right minds (including us, we began to think), we waited at the bridge.  A little while later a large group of Boy Scouts approached and, being in-character, I stopped them to ask what they were doing in our area.  I directed them to stay on the road until they reached the next intersection where the OIC could give them their directions of where they could observe the battle.  I wish they’d have told me before the battle that we were going to have visitors — I’ve had experiences at other reenactment where “touristas” just show-up to watch uninvited and usually end up putting themselves in danger.  Yes, we use blanks but people CAN be injured or killed by them.

We waited and waited and could hear the battle beginning in the distance.  We didn’t have radio or messenger contact with the rest of the unit.  Hours passed, and no one came near us.  Soon, we realized that the rest of the unit had moved even farther away and we’d been forgotten.  I watched my knee swell even more and finally sat on the side of the road and decided I wasn’t going to march anywhere else.  Fortunately, the WWII ambulance that was to ferry people back-and-forth to the aid station arrived.  Husband and I decided to call it a day and went back to the main building.

It would have been nice to be in the thick of the battle.  With an M1 Carbine and a submachine gun, we could have helped lay a nice covering fire as our units advanced.  I’d already decided that when they got to the “town battle” (a small area with shipping containers that had holes cut for doors and windows for military training) that I wasn’t going to put Celeste through the serious noise that would be caused there.  I had earplugs; she did not, and until they invent some for dogs we’ll just stay out of that area.  It wasn’t until after the entire scenario was over that we found out the bridge where we were sitting was a major objective.  Regardless, I wasn’t going to sit for almost 7 hours to wait for them to get to me.

When we arrived at the main building, we started unpacking the items we brought to sell.  We made a fairly decent profit and even found a few items from other vendors that we wanted for ourselves.  I hobbled into one of the latrines and changed out of my uniform.  I got to see lots of new shades of black-and-blue as well as the cuts I didn’t know I had on my knee.  The blood had been absorbed by my long underwear, which is why I didn’t see it through the wool pants I’d been wearing.  I sat down and iced my knee for a while and chatted with other reenactors as they dropped-out early as well.

As we sat there waiting for the scenarios to end, Husband and I talked about possibly changing our unit’s designation.  Maybe we’ll portray a quartermaster unit since we do better at selling stuff to the reenactors than in keeping up with them.  We’re not doing medical corps — there are many VERY good medical reenacting units.  Our fear is that we’d just get stuck with the biggest, laziest reenactors wanting us to hump their butts back to the HQ on a stretcher and that ain’t happenin’!  Maybe we’ll consider doing ordinance since they wouldn’t have to march into the field.  Artillery and recon were discussed but they require vehicles and we’ve owned a MB Willys Jeep before and don’t need another money pit.  The 35th Division even had a CIC (Counter-intelligence Corps) detachment.  We’re not sure what in the world they would have done, but they would have been “in the rear with the gear.”

Yes, we’re getting too old to play this game.  WWII reenacting is fast becoming a young-man/woman’s hobby.  Our days of marching through the woods, mud, sand, hills, valleys, and anything else they threw in front of us are slowly ebbing away.  We’ll keep at it as long as we can, but a smart person knows when defeat is creeping upon them.

Then again, we can always form the 35th Infantry Division Band.

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