The 70th Anniversary of D-Day: Honoring our Heroes

On the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, we celebrate our American heroes and the sacrifices they made, and continue to make, for our freedom. We must never forget the bravery and selflessness of our men and women in armed service; their stories are ones that must be preserved, passed on from one generation to the next.

Image courtesy of USA Today

Image courtesy of USA Today

During World War II, letters from family, friends, and romantic interests were the key to maintaining the morale of the men and women in combat. “Mail was indispensable,” one infantryman said, “It motivated us. We couldn’t have won the war without it” (PBS: http://www.pbs.org/thewar/at_home_communication_letters_diaries.htm). Soldiers wrote letters to their loved ones back home to update them about the war and alleviate their worries.

Private Sid Phillips was deployed to Guadalcanal Island to fight on the Pacific front. In a letter from Phillips to his family, he writes in response to a letter he received from them on September 3, 1942, the day after his 18th birthday:

September 3, 1942
Guadalcanal Island

Dear Mother, Dad, Katharine, and John:
Yesterday we got our first mail, the best birthday present possible for me. … After mail call everybody would be nice and quiet when suddenly somebody would curse in a loud voice and shout, “Alice got married.” It really was funny. Cherokee got word that he is out in the cold and really surprised us all. One fellow in our squad got a box of cookies that had been reduced to dust and the dust was soon reduced leaving an empty box…. Daddy! You absent-minded prof. When you write to mother, you better mail it to her and not accidentally put it in my letter. I destroyed it and didn’t show it to the boys though, just to show what a sport I am…
Tell everybody hello for me…

Love
Sid

Remembering Maya Angelou: A Letter to Her Younger Self

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up … our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias,” wrote Maya Angelou. After her passing on May 28, 2014, the world remembers Maya Angelou as one of the most influential and inspiring voices in American literature and an activist who always strived for a more equal and just world. Angelou showed us that a life amounts to profound personal and shared experiences and the occurrences of internal metamorphoses across a span of years—and most importantly, that a life is meant to be cherished for both its own unique essence and its intersections with our common humanity.

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In a letter to her younger self, Angelou offers advice about honoring yourself and listening to yourself honestly and without judgment:

Dear Marguerite,

You’re itching to be on your own. You don’t want anybody telling you what time you have to be in at night or how to raise your baby. You’re going to leave your mother’s big comfortable house and she won’t stop you, because she knows you too well.

But listen to what she says:

When you walk out of my door, don’t let anybody raise you—you’ve been raised.

You know right from wrong.

In every relationship you make, you’ll have to show readiness to adjust and make adaptations.

Remember, you can always come home.

You will go home again when the world knocks you down—or when you fall down in full view of the world. But only for two or three weeks at a time. Your mother will pamper you and feed you your favorite meal of red beans and rice. You’ll make a practice of going home so she can liberate you again—one of the greatest gifts along with nurturing your courage, that she will give you.

Be courageous, but not foolhardy.

Walk proud as you are,
Maya

Imagining a Better World in Letters: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of equality and civil disobedience. King’s vision of a world in which one is judged for her character is one that continues to inspire people in all walks of life. There is no doubt that he understood the power of the written word, as exemplified by his handwritten drafts of speeches and letters to family, friends, and fellow activists.

A letter that King wrote to his secretary Maude as he concluded his stay in India. Photo courtesy of End Paper, The Paperblanks Blog (http://blog.paperblanks.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Martin-Luther-King-Jr-I-Have-a-Dream-Handwritten.jpg). Be sure to check out more of his letters archived at www.thekingcenter.org.

A letter that King wrote to his secretary Maude as he concluded his stay in India. Photo courtesy of End Paper, The Paperblanks Blog (http://blog.paperblanks.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Martin-Luther-King-Jr-I-Have-a-Dream-Handwritten.jpg). Be sure to check out more of his letters archived at www.thekingcenter.org.

His message of hope continues to live on in his letters. Perhaps, more importantly, his ideas continue to permeate our actions today and our dreams of a better tomorrow.