A good year before I was born, my father wrote a letter while sitting in Korea, and sent it back home to friends in North Carolina.
A week ago, it came back to him — in Arizona.
“It’s so damn cold in here that I just about can make my fingers work,” the letter begins. “… Even so , it’s indoors, so I can imagine how really miserable the boys living in holes are tonight…”
Typewritten on flimsy stationary, the letter goes on to recount a weekend in Tokyo during which he enjoyed burgers and “Jap beer, which is very good.” He asks about what’s going on back home and wonders when he might return. “I’m supposed to come home in February. And now there is a rumor making the rounds that we’re supposed to be rotated to Japan after 10 months in Korea. So I don’t really know what’s going to happen.”
It was mailed to Lil and Roy Thompson, friends and co-workers at the Winston-Salem Journal, both now deceased.
Apparently Lil filed it away in a book, to be specific, an autobiography of William “Billy” Rose, the showman and lyricist who wrote, among other songs, “Me and My Shadow” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”
I don’t know whether Lil parted with the book long ago, or whether it was part of her estate when she died a few years ago, but somehow it ended up among the stock of a second-hand book dealer in Carrboro, N.C.
Robert Garni, once he opened the book, found the letter and read it, took to the Internet to locate my father, Bill Woestendiek, then mailed him the original, along with this note:
” … Quite coincidentally, the other day while sorting out some used books for sale, I came across an old letter that had apparently been tucked away in a hardcover copy of Billy Rose’s autobiography …
“Upon examination of the letter, I realized it may be of some sentimental value to someone and therefore I did a quick search of the Internet where I was able to locate your full name and current address. I am enclosing the letter herewith. I am hoping my information is correct and current so that this letter may finally return to its rightful owner.”
In my father’s letter, he mentions what turned out to be his most cherished memory of the war. He was a lieutenant in the Army, but he was also writing a weekly column for his newspaper back home called “Battle Lines.” The columns weren’t so much about the war as they were Korea and its people. Most of the stories he wrote focused on the children, often orphans of war, and the poverty in which they lived.
His stories led to an outpouring of support from back home in North Carolina — hundreds of pounds of clothing and toys were donated by readers, shipped overseas and distributed at a Christmas party.
“I am overwhelmed, no kidding,” he writes in the letter of the readers’ response. “We’ll have clothes for our party and still some extra to give to the orphanages around here which are also hurting for clothing.”
Reading over those articles, which I found amid my stuff, in a green scrapbook whose binding was falling apart, I understand a little better why he got so misty when, 19 years ago at Los Angeles International Airport, my father watched as my son arrived, a six-month-old, adopted from Korea.
In the faded old letter he thanks Lil for her support, and for keeping him up on the goings on at the newspaper. “You are one of the best morale builders I have,” he writes.
It took a little help from a thoughtful second-hand book dealer, but, judging from the joyful response my father, now 87, had to getting the letter back, it seems Lil — even though she’s no longer with us – did it again.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: army, bill woestendiek, book dealer, carrboro, children, friends, journalism, korea, korean war, letter, lil thompson, mail, newspapers, north carolina, orphans, poverty, returned, robert garni, roy thompson, second hand, soldiers, used, war, winston-salem journal
Will families of American military personnel in Japan be forced to leave their pets behind when they evacuate?
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is seeking the anwer to that question.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the non-profit organization asks for a clarification of the U.S. government’s policy on whether or not military families can bring their pets with them — or must be forced to choose between staying in harm’s way and abandoning a beloved companion.
Family members of military personnel stationed in Japan began evacuating today amid the increasing threat of radioactivity in the wake of last week’s earthquake and tsunami.
ALDF says it has received desperate emails from some of them, who say they’ve been informed pets will not be allowed on evacuation planes chartered by the U.S. Department of State.
“In a context of terrifying natural and nuclear disasters, with military personnel and their families already being separated from each other, we would hope that the U.S. government would not place an additional burden on military families by disregarding the very real bonds they have with their animal companions” said Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation.
“It is our hope that the tragedy of people forced to abandon beloved pets in order to evacuate to safety, which we saw play out on a heartbreaking scale during Hurricane Katrina, is not replicated during the current crisis in Japan.”
ALDF says it has heard from numerous families who say they are hesitant to evacuate from the escalating radiation danger if they are required to leave their pets behind.
Some families have turned to Facebook for help, including Mariaelena Rodriguez Geoffray, shown above with her dog, Bella. Seeking a commercial flight, she has been told by two airlines that temperatures are too cold to fly a pet.
Her dilemma is recounted on the blog Two Little Cavaliers.
There are about 43,000 dependents of American military personnel living in Japan.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandon, aldf, animal legal defense fund, animals, danger, dangers, disaster, dogs, earthquake, evacuate, evacuation, families, hillary clinton, hurricane, japan, katrina, left behind, letter, military, nuclear plants, pets, radiation, robert gates, secretary of defense, secretary of state, tsunami
Perturbed by the praise Michael Vick has been receiving for his performance on the field, guitarist Nils Lofgren has written an open letter to sports reporters, arguing Vick doesn’t deserve all the cheerleading, an MVP award, or even a place in the NFL.
“I am so disheartened and disappointed by your collective, lopsided praise of Michael Vick due to his recent spectacular on-field performance,” Logfren, guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, begins.
“I support his right to earn a living. But, while I can’t fault him for taking great advantage of the opportunities afforded him by playing in the NFL, I feel he does not deserve that lofty a place in our society and culture. However repentant he may be, he committed acts whose vileness will resonate down the years. When you do what Vick did, a second chance should never include the rare gift of an NFL career and the potential bounty it offers.
“Shame on the NFL for not banning him permanently.”
Apparently the letter was prompted by a comment made by Jemele Hill on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters,” that if Josh Hamilton could win one of baseball’s MVP awards after recovering from alcohol and drug abuse, why couldn’t Vick win the award in the NFL?
“Well, for one thing, Hamilton has neither tortured dozens of dogs nor murdered defenseless animals,” Lofgren wrote. “ … In Vick’s case, I believe his second chance should certainly allow him to be free and to love and raise his family. I think he should make speeches about the error of his ways and help animal groups. I understand that he is doing some of these things and I applaud that. He’s also admitted to being haunted by his dogfighting days. That growth is welcome and necessary, but comes too late for me and those dogs.
Vick, formerly quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was convicted on dogfighting charges and served nearly two years in prison. After his release he was signed last year by the Philadelphia Eagles.
“How can we justify this saga to our children?” Lofgren asked in the letter. ” …Well kids, although doing those things is wrong, two years after you admit to doing them the NFL will let you have a job that may lead to an MVP award and many millions of dollars in a new contract.
Lofgren added, “…(T)he cynic in me thinks maybe if Vick were a third-string lineman, the NFL would have set an example and banned him for life. Maybe many of the other significant charges Vick was facing wouldn’t have gone away if he didn’t have the prestige of being an NFL quarterback who can afford high-priced lawyers to wrangle pleas and deals.
“For the NFL to be that forgiving of evil, vicious behavior is a terribly inappropriate act of forgiveness and has brought a sick, sad, dirty feeling to many of us fans who have loved the game for so long.
“And to you reporters, whom I enjoy and respect, the sentiments in this letter are suspiciously absent in your hundreds of hours of Vick coverage … Just because the NFL lost its spine and common sense on this matter doesn’t mean you reporters have to get in line and go along.”
Posted by John Woestendiek December 5th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, bruce springsteen, conviction, coverage, deaths, dogfighting, e street band, football, guitarist, letter, media, michael vick, musician, news, nfl, nils lofgren, open letter, performance, philadelphia eagles, praise, prison, quarterback, reporters, sports, torture, vick
The chairperson of the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force says bestowing an Ed Block Courage Award on Michael Vick is “premature at best and disgraceful at its worst.”
In a letter to Sam Lamantia, Jr., CEO of the Baltimore-based Ed Block Courage Award Foundation, Caroline A. Griffin, head of a task force charged with reducing animal abuse in Baltimore, expresses “grave disappointment” with the decision to honor Vick with the reward. Vick was unanimously nominated by his Philadelphia Eagles teammates.
Here is Griffin’s letter, as it appears on Mayor Sheila Dixon’s website, in its entirety:
Dear Mr. Lamantia,
On behalf of the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, we wish to express our grave disappointment and concerns over the decision of the Philadelphia Eagles to nominate Michael Vick as the recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
We believe that this nomination is premature at best and disgraceful at its worst. It is ironic that Mr. Vick’s teammates have selected him to receive an award in honor of a man who extolled that mankind should “work toward alleviating suffering and especially to alleviate the suffering of those who cannot help themselves.” Yet in response to this nomination, Mr. Vick seemingly laments only the hardships that he has endured as a convicted felon rather than those he imposed on the many victims of his crimes.
Mr. Vick apparently acknowledged, by virtue of his guilty plea, that he engaged in a cowardly and sadistic criminal enterprise for more than six (6) years, which terminated not because he saw the errors of his ways, but because he got caught. To date, we believe that he has done nothing more than fulfill the terms of his federal sentence. Aside from demeaning the memory of Mr. Block, there is a risk that bestowing this award to Michael Vick may unwittingly glamorize the brutal crime of dogfighting rather than deter it.
While we question the wisdom of this decision, we commend the Philadelphia Eagles for initiating a Treat Animals With Kindness (TAWK) program, which educates children and adults concerning animal abuse and dogfighting. Mr. Vick has several teammates who have voluntarily advocated against violence and abuse and who would appear to be more suitable candidates for such an honor. We believe that Mr. Vick is neither courageous nor a role model and that he remains an inappropriate recipient of such a prestigious award.
Very truly yours,
Caroline A. Griffin
Chair, Mayor’s Anti-Animal
Abuse Task Force
Posted by John Woestendiek January 27th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anti-animal abuse, award, caroline a. griffin, ceo, courage, dog fighting, dogfighting, ed block, foundation, j.r., letter, mayor's, michael vick, philadelphia eagles, sam lamantia, task force
South Carolina Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein’s habit of bringing her dogs to work was never a problem in the old courthouse, but since opening a spiffy new one, Dorchester County Council members are squawking about it.
Amid rumors that there have been doggie ”accidents” inside the shiny new $13 million courthouse in St. George, the county council — though it lacks the authority to set rules for the courthouse — has instructed the county attorney to draft a letter to the clerk of court “requesting” that animals not be allowed on the premises, except for service animals.
“The taxpayers paying for the building don’t bring their dogs to work. Other county employees don’t bring their dogs to work. Frankly, I’m surprised I’m having to make this request,” Council Chairman Jamie Feltner said.
The request leaves County Clerk of Court Cheryl Graham, a pet lover and board member of the local SPCA in an awkward spot, the Charleston Post and Courier reported. “That’s mighty nice of the council to put that on me,” she told the newspaper.
“It’s a little bit of an embarrassment that it would be an issue,” Judge Goodstein said. Her dogs are well-trained and haven’t soiled the courthouse’s hallowed halls, she said. She thinks the “accident” rumor might have stemmed from one day when she got down on her hands and knees to clean a construction worker’s mud tracks from the floor.
The judge, who routinely brought her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Boykin spaniel and Airedale to work with her in the old courthouse — vacated earlier this year — says she’ll comply with whatever verdict the clerk of court reaches.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 11th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accidents, allowed, allowing, building, cheryl graham, circuit judge, clerk of court, council, county, courthouse, diane goodstein, dog, dogs, dorchester, jamie feltner, judge, letter, mess, new, request, rules, rumor, soiling, south carolina, st. george, workplace
Columnist Ronnie Polaneczky paid a touching tribute to her dog, Blackie, in yesterday’s Philadelphia Daily News.
Blackie, a female border collie-Labrador mix, died on Sunday evening after a sudden illness.
“I was so overcome with tears as she died, I was unable to properly tell her all the ways that her life had made mine better,” Polaneczky wrote. “So this is my thank-you letter to Blackie, the first dog I ever called my own.”
Nine years ago, Daily New columnist Stu Bykofsky offered her the dog, which he had taken in after finding it abandoned in South Philly. Here’s an excerpt from Polaneczky’s column:
“Thank you for tolerating the way we claimed that you had magic ‘healing powers.’ See, not long after you came into our lives, we discovered that our daughter’s bumps and scrapes didn’t hurt her so much once we had her press the injured area into your warm, shaggy coat. Soon, she was telling her young friends to use your powers when they were hurt, too.
“Over time, we realized that those powers were not a parent-created myth but a true ability. When my husband and I were distressed about something, you’d sense our upset and quietly lean against us in solemn comfort.
“Thank you for letting us dress you as a bee on Halloween.
“Thank you for never – ever – chewing our shoes into jerky.
“Thank you for having a gentle spirit that belied your fierce appearance. The first time my husband took you to the schoolyard to retrieve our daughter from kindergarten, a few of the parents pulled their children away in fear of your wolfish looks. Within moments, you were sprawled on your back, a portrait of maternal contentment as a dozen tiny hands rubbed up and down on your belly.
“Thank you for your tolerance of your four-legged housemates. You put up with one prickly cat until his death at 19. You endured the addition of two kittens, who tried to nurse at your row of tiny teats. And then you gamely allowed the latest member of the family, a tiny Yorkie with a brain the size of an M&M, to use your belly like a trampoline, grabbing at your ears and snout while you lolled placidly on the floor.
“Through all of it, you’d look at us with world-weary affection, as if to say, ‘These little ones, eh? Waddya gonna do?’
“We were there with you at the end, at Penn’s veterinary hospital, to sob goodbyes and stroke your soft, dark fur as you peacefully slipped away from us. The doctor had told us that the illness in your lungs was slowly suffocating you and had caused an en
Posted by John Woestendiek September 2nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, blackie, column, columnist, death, dog, dogs, letter, news, newspaper, pets, philadelphia, philadelphia daily news, ronnie polaneczky, thank you
Gov. Martin O’Malley has asked the state’s attorney general to review Maryland’s animal cruelty laws to determine if they are sufficient to deter “heinous” crimes like the torching of a pit bull in Baltimore last month.
Last month’s death of “Phoenix,” a pit bull doused with gasoline and set on fire in West Baltimore, was followed by another animal torturing this week — that of a cat found chained and tied to a utility pole and severely burned by firecrackers. Animal Control officers found the dead cat Wednesday on the 3700 block of Lewiston Ave.
“We must communicate to our young people that cruelty to animals is not acceptable behavior,” Olivia D. Farrow, interim commissioner of the Health Department, said in a statement. The health department has asked that witnesses to the cat torturing, as well as any dog fighting or animal abuse, call 311, the city service line.
Gov. O’Malley said he has received hundreds of e-mails and letters about dog fighting and the case of Phoenix, according to a story in today’s Baltimore Sun.
He said he was “deeply disturbed and saddened” by what happened to Phoenix, who died three days after she was found ablaze.
Baltimore police have charged two teenagers in the pit bull case. Police believe Phoenix was involved in dog fighting.
Under Maryland law, aggravated cruelty to animals through torture, beatings or dogfights is considered a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and $5,000 in fines. Abuse or neglect of an animal is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days and $1,000 in fines.
More often, though, offenders receive a “slap on the wrist,” according to Debra Rahl from the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter: “It’s often looked at as just an animal,” she said. “We have so many other serious crimes happening in the city and state, so this is not taken as seriously.”
Here’s the full text of the governor’s letter to constituents:
Posted by John Woestendiek June 19th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, attorney general, baltimore, barcs, cat, dogfighting, fire, governor, law, letter, martin o'malley, maryland, neglect, news, phoenix, pit bull, torture
As it so articulately sums up the concerns and feelings of many dog owners — both in regards to the recent increases in fines and the city’s overall lack of dog-friendliness – we’re reprinting it here in its entirety:
(A City Council committee is holding a hearing on the fine for unleashed dogs today –10 a.m., on the fourth floor of City Hall — and is considering lowering the fine from $1,000 to $250 for a first offense.)
Dear Councilman Kraft:
I have been a resident of Baltimore for almost thirty years, and for the past twenty have resided in your district. My husband and I own a rescued purebred Beagle who was acquired by us as the direct result of two violent crimes–a burglary and a home invasion in which my then 80-year-old mother was seriously injured by criminals who robbed her. While not an “attack dog” by any means, the dog provides us with security and peace of mind by barking appropriately and alertly when anyone comes into our space. My husband works on the third shift, and our dog provides additional comfort and security for me because I do not need to feel I am alone at night. Frankly, after what happened to my mother, it was buy a dog or buy a gun. We chose the sane and non-violent alternative.
We are responsible dog owners. Our dog is exercised on leash in the neighborhood or off leash at the Canton Dog Park, which as you know was built through the efforts and fundraising of the dog-loving community members of Canton. Our dog is properly vaccinated for rabies and other canine diseases. He is microchipped. We acquire and pay for the correct license each year from the city. He is neutered.
I am appalled by the punitive animal control fines recently enacted by the City Government for various transgressions that are, to be blunt, fairly minor. I am stunned by the fact that one careless failure to “scoop the poop” or one lonely afternoon of dog “separation anxiety” can net a fine TWICE THE AMOUNT of that levied against someone running a dog fight or running an unlicensed boarding facility or (as it appears) hoarding animals or running a puppy mill.
What was the City Government thinking? It appears at first glance that you may have chronicled the impression that this was some sort of untapped revenue source there for the taking. It appears at first glance that you, the members of the City Council, care more about rolling in the bucks than you do about the welfare and well-being of either the city’s human or animal population. We’ve heard a great deal of hoopla about dog parks in various areas of the city–but there’s been little action. People in the Patterson Park area have been trying for seven years to get some small area of that vast expanse set aside for their use. Apparently giant balloon-like skating structures and asphalt tennis courts are “attractive” but a fenced dog park is “not attractive.” It appears that the “Friends of Patterson Park” aren’t actually friends to all.
You should be aware that average, working, tax-paying, bill-paying people regard dog ownership as a quality-of-life issue. When the quality of life gets too poor, or the cost of living in the city becomes too burdensome, people flee their city homes for the suburbs or the country. To be honest, we’re at the point where if a friend asked us whether to move to Baltimore City or one of the surrounding counties, we’d seriously advise that person not to come here.
While I am on the subject, I found it singularly unattractive that someone sent two Baltimore City police officers to make their presence felt at the recent MD SPCA March for the Animals at Druid Hill Park. Frankly, Mr. Kraft, it was bad PR. It had the appearance that they were looking out for tickets they could issue. I hope the event will be relocated to a county park next year.
I urge you and the other City Council members to reconsider these outrageous fines.There should be warnings and progressively larger tickets to weed out people who genuinely don’t care. And you should punish animal abusers just as severely or more severely. While you are at it, it is past time to make a move towards reasonable off-leash exercise areas in various parts of the city. Tomorrow’s hearing provides the City Council with a golden opportunity to set things right. Please do your part to see that they avail themselves of it.
(Photo by Anne Madison)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 27th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anne madison, baltimore, beagle, city council, dog, dog friendly, dogs, fines, guns, hearing, james kraft, leash free, leash law, letter, letters, one thousand dollars, parks, penalties, petitions, spencer, unleashed