One Veteran Asked: Where’s The World War II Memorial ?

Here is the story of how one man made a big difference. Roger Durbin, a World War II veteran was visiting Washington D.C. from his home in Ohio. He asked to be directed to the World War II Memorial and was told, “There is no WWII memorial.” He was shocked and deeply troubled.

When Durbin returned to Ohio, he attended a political meeting where Marcy Kaptur, (Democrat from Toledo) his Congressional Representative, was also present.  It was l987 — decades after the war had ended  in l945.  During the meeting, Durbin called out, “Hey, Congresswoman Kaptur! How come there’s no memorial in D. C. for World War II vets?”  She answered that there was a memorial “across the river”.  Then she went back to D.C. and discovered that she was wrong. There was no World War II memorial — anywhere in or around Washington.

So began the story of how Roger Durbin worked with Marcy Kaptur tirelessly to build support for a memorial in the nation’s capital to the over 16 million veterans of World War II. It took seventeen years until their dream was realized.  Until the dedication of the memorial on May 29, 2004,  Memorial Day Weekend .  Marcy Kaptur gave the opening address but Roger Durbin did not live to see the day.  He had died four months before ground was broken, but he knew it was going to be built.

Marcy Kaptur introduced legislation for the memorial in l987.  Why did it take seventeen long years to reach fruition?  The plan was to place the WWII Memorial on the Mall which stretches from the Washington Memorial at one end to the Lincoln Memorial at the other.  This famous vista has been the scene of gatherings for peace and protest for generations. Architects have praised the sweep of the expanse and the design that stressed simplicity and open space. Once the Memorial site was proposed, critics attacked the idea as desecrating the beauty and integrity of The Mall.  Supporters stressed the importance of World War II and the enormous contribution that the sixteen million veterans had made to save the nation in its time of dire peril.Over 400,000 had made the supreme sacrifice with their lives.

The arguments lasted for years.  Finally, Congress approved the legislation in l993 andPresident Bill Clinton signed it into law the same year.  During these years, Kaptur and Durbin reached out for leaders to raise the necessary  funds for the Memorial.  No public dollars would be used.  It would all be raised from the people of the United States.  Senator Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas, a decorated World War II veteran who had spent years recovering from his wounds, spear- headed the fund raising campaign. He drew other men and women from the corporate and military worlds into the campaign.  School children sent in their dollars. Commemorative coins were minted. $174 million dollars were finally collected to meet the goals. Ground breaking occurred in 2001.

When the memorial was formally dedicated and opened to the public on May 29, overl40,000 WWII veterans and their families came from all parts of the country to take part. They  represented all branches of the service and wore their uniforms, hats, insignia and medals.  Many expressed their regret that only about four million veterans are still alive. They remembered their comrades with simple stirring words.

Gale Cornwell, 78, a Marine from Arizona who landed on Normandy Beach on D-Day, said, “So many old friends who aren’t here. They’re all gone now.”   Bud Riel, 81, from Washington state, was a Navy Seabee who served in the Pacific.  He said, “It’s a long overdue tribute. If they waited any more years, there wouldn’t be any of us left.”  Senator Dole spoke from the dais, where the Congressional Medal of Honor veterans were seated. His words were eloquent and moving. “If we gather in the twilight, it is brightened by the knowledge that we have kept faith with our comrades from a distant youth. What we dedicate today is not a memorial to war. Rather it is a tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes heroes out of farm and city boys, that inspires Americans of every generation to lay down their lives for people they’ll never meet.”  Marcy Kaptur said she felt “a great sense of fulfillment”. “This generation was the most unselfish America has ever seen. They never asked anybody for  anything in return.”  She was accompanied by Roger Durbin’s granddaughter for the close of her moving speech from the dais.

The sun shone on the veterans and the United States Navy band played both big band  music from the 40’s and military marches for the formal passing of the flags from the fifty states. It was a stirring sight to watch and hear the formal dedication program.  It will be very meaningful to visit Washington, to walk among the granite pillars and to stand silently before The Freedom Wall with 4000 sculpted gold stars, representing the more than 400,000 who were killed in the long hard fight for victory over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

The inscription carved in the Announcement Stone is the answer to the question Roger Durbin asked — 28 years ago.  “Here in the presence of Washington and Lincoln, one the l8th century father and the other the l9tth century preserver of our nation, we honor those 20th century Americans who took up the struggle during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us: A nation conceived in liberty and justice.”

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People Skills for M.D. Dummies

In this high tech age, we are no longer surprised nor insulted by book titles like“Word Perfect for Dummies” or Microsoft Works for Dummies”.  In fact, many of us are thrilled to have books that spell out the basics for entry into the mysteries of the computer world.

It seems there’s another area of life that needs a similar primer. It’s a world most of us know very well, the world of the doctor and the patient. There have been galactic leaps forward in medicine in recent years. Amazing new surgical techniques.  New treatments for heart attack and stroke victims that minimize potential damage.  New drugs for a myriad of diseases. Radiation and chemotherapy advances to fight cancer. Shortened hospital stays. Faster recovery time to restored health. For all of these advances, we are profoundly grateful.

However, there still remains a need to improve the people skills of many doctors practicing today. Comedians like to say, “When will they stop practicing and get it right?”  In terms of interpersonal communication, there is less humor and more truth in the question.  Certainly, not  all physicians are guilty of this problem. (This writer has been very fortunate to have been treated by physicians with the best people skills one could wish for. ) But enough qualify to warrant a refresher book. How about calling it “People Skills for M.D. Dummies” . Do you think it could be a best seller?”

Here are a few first hand accounts:   Scene: Wedding Reception. Mother of the groom has big red blisters on her forehead, result of a poorly timed painful eruption of shingles. She’s being a good sport, says she’s “patriotic, red blisters, white glasses and blue eyes.”  One of the guests, a doctor, looks at her forehead without an invitation, and pronounces in an offhand manner, “Oh, you have shingles.  Some of my patients have pain from that for years.” Thanks a lot for that encouraging information.  And, who asked you?

Scene, Office of an Ophthalmologist: Couple in their 80’s having their regular checkup.  As the doctor examines the husband, he says, “The left eye doesn’t look too good. You need to make an appointment for a zapping.”  Translation, after cataract removals, scars sometimes form. A laser zap usually corrects the problem. In this case, his lead in comment raised anxiety. Then, the doctor asked the wife, “Do you drive?”  She answered “Yes”. The couple then worried for two weeks until their next appointment.  Zapping went smoothly. His sight was restored to 20/25.

Have you ever been in a hospital when a new doctor, perhaps a resident or an intern, appears at your bedside? He’s holding your chart and says,  “Good morning, I’m Dr. X and how are you feeling today, Mary?”  Mary is sixty eight years old, holds a Master’s Degree and has three children older than the doctor. Call her Mrs. Evans. She has earned that title of respect with her years.

Or the response to a patient who deals with constant pain, when she related that the new medicine is giving her five or six good hours at the start of the day. Then the pain returns in force. Her neurologist replies, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Is that supposed to help her get through the afternoon and the evening?

Finally, an unusual situation with a sighted woman who taught Braille transcription to others to produce books for the blind.  During her check up with her opthalmologist, he said in a matter of fact manner,  ‘You have a condition where you could wake up blind one day.”  As she was reeling from his cool comment, he added, “Well,  Mrs. S.  You know Braille already.”  She came home in an understandable state of shock.  She never returned to his office again. And happily, it never happened.

Now, many of us thought the medical schools were giving courses these days in interpersonal relations as well as anatomy and biology.  Some of them are.  We had hoped that the new generation would learn that human interaction is at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship.  We even hoped some of the old dogs would learn some of the new tricks.  And some of them have. For the others, here’s a starter list until someone writes the book for M.D.  Dummies:

  1. Each patient is an individual with inherent dignity of being.
  2. The words you use and how you say them are very powerful. Think before you speak.
  3. Patients need time to absorb what you are saying. Hearing is not listening. Make sure your instructions are clear. Write them or ask the patient to write them. Ask for questions.
  4. Take a course in interpersonal relations if this is a new subject for you. They may be available at medical conferences or schools.
  5. Make sure that everyone who works in your office — receptionist, nurse, assistants take a course or have a seminar in your office for everyone. A patient doesn’t want to meet a “dragon lady’ at the front desk or on the telephone.
  6. Patients are often worried when they come to your office with a problem. Some are frightened. Never forget that. Your welcome matters. Your smile matters. Your job is to treat the entire person. Not just the rotator cuff or the intestine.
  7. We know you are usually pressed for time. Try to make each patient feel you are giving them quality time. It doesn’t take many extra minutes. It’s all in the eye contact, the concentration, the personal word. A touch of the hand. Try it. You may like it.
  8. Stay on top of your field. That’s why patients come to you. But never forget that your main endeavor is to heal the whole human being. How you communicate tells them who you are as well as how they are. That’s the key to the entire equation.
  9. Rent the movies “The Hospital” 1971 and “The Doctor”  1991. The former with George C. Scott is a sardonic look inside a big city hospital.  The latter follows William Hurt, an arrogant surgeon who is diagnosed with throat cancer and learns what it means to be a patient. It was based on the true life story of Dr. Ed Rosenbaum, described in his book , “A Taste of My Own Medicine”. This movie is an education in itself for any doctor.

A final story from the positive side of the ledger.  The memory of an obstetrician , a big gentle man who looked like a fullback and instilled confidence in a weary and frightened young woman having her first baby. At the end of sixteen hours of hard labor, when the baby was still not ready to emerge into the world, Dr. S. sat in a chair at her side and calmed her down just by being there. Fifty eight years ago, the father was not allowed to be with the mother through those long hours alone in a white tiled room with an occasional nurse coming in to check “progress”.  Dr. S. was there at the end when it was hardest.  He gave her something to ease the pain and delivered an 8 pound, 4 ounce son at two in the afternoon.  He will always be remembered with gratitude, respect and affection. He was a kind and caring human being as well as a skilled physician.  We need more men and women of his caliber in medicine today.

This is a beginning list for the Dummies book.  Please add a few ideas of your own. If you are a doctor or a patient, you are probably an expert on the subject.

 

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton & “The Woman Card” !

 

On the night of April 26, Trump had just swept primaries in five Northeastern states:  Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.  He was giving his expected  Victory Speech in Trump Tower in New York.   This time, he introduced a fresh attack on Hillary Clinton.  “ The only card she has is the woman’s card;  she’s got  nothing else going.  Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote.  The beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

Meanwhile, Clinton was in Philadelphia, celebrating her huge primary victories in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.   She paused in her speech to the excited thousands in the crowd, and declared in clear slow terms,  “I’m told that Mr. Trump has accused me of playing ‘ the woman card’.  Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card……then, deal me in!”  By the time she finished her sentence, the thunderous voices and applause of the cheering audience showed that Trump had made a serious blunder.

Millions of women were watching television that night and heard Trump and Clinton.  The interchange went viral and the following day political commentators played her response to his derogatory charge.  By the weekend, reporters and Op Ed writers were making Trump’s  “the woman card”  their columns in newspapers cross country.  When interviewed  on CNN, Trump doubled down and told Chris Cuomo , “ She is a woman.  She’s playing the woman card left and right….. She will be called on it.” Cuomo then asked, “How do you call someone on being a woman?”  Trump shot back, “If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes.”

While you are searching for logic in that response, let’s review some of the current facts about women in the United States in this election year.   Women in recent presidential elections  make up a broader number of voters than men.  They are slightly more than half the national electorate.  In two new national surveys, by Suffolk University/USA Today and by NBCNews/Wall Street Journal, Clinton defeated Trump overall 50 percent to 39 percent.  In the Suffolk poll, men split between the two candidates at 45 percent each.  But women strongly sided with Clinton, 55 percent to 34 percent.  In that poll, 42 percent of women had a favorable view of Clinton.  Only 24 percent of women had a favorable view of Trump.

When Hillary Clinton ran for President in 2008, she faced many gender based insults.  Young men in the audience chanted, “Iron my shirts!” There was a plastic ‘Hillary nutcracker” on the market , looking like her that had  the serrated blades lining the inside of her slacks.  There were no depths to the gender insults hurled at her.  She likes to say with a big smile, about all the mud that has been thrown at her for decades,  “I’m still here and I’m still standing. “

Republican leaders had an “autopsy” report published after they lost the second time to Barack Obama in 2012, a rout of 332 votes in the electoral college.   They made public their plans to attract more African Americans,  Hispanics and female voters.  Donald Trump is aiming to win the necessary 1237 delegates on the first ballot in Cleveland.  He has declared himself the “presumptive nominee” of the Republican party.   Ted Cruz has chosen his running mate in Carly Fiorina, but most observers call that a desperate Hail Mary pass.  He and John Kasich launched a Stop Trump attempt to share their resources that may disintegrate when Indiana voters cast their ballots on Tuesday, May 9.

Hillary Clinton at her victory rally on April 26, was seeking Democrats, Independents  and  Republican women when she delivered her “deal me in” challenge to Donald Trump. She has spent her adult lifetime working and fighting for women, their issues and their rights.   Clinton began her political career at The Children’s Defense fund.   She was First Lady when she made her landmark speech in  1995 in Beijing, China calling ” women’s  rights , human rights.”   As  Senator from New York,  she worked across the aisle to create CHIP  which covers 11 million children today.  As Secretary of state, she traveled to 112 countries,  celebrating  women’s deeds and championing  their causes.

Donald Trump has already said that Hillary does not have the “strength or stamina” to serve as president.   He falsely accused her of leaving her post during the Behghazi attack and going home to sleep —calling it a “dereliction of duty”.  That scenario never happened!  Clinton testified under oath at the eleven- hour House hearing on Benghazi , “I went back to my home office and never went to sleep the entire night.  I was calling all over the world for ways to rescue our beleaguered ambassador and  his staff.”

Hillary Clinton will be ready to debate Donald Trump  on the issues that face our nation  from July to November.  She has proved to be a formidable debater over the years. Ask Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders. Trump would be wise to drop the “woman card” and concentrate on learning more about this nation, our federal government  and what it actually means to be president.  It’s not about “making deals”, domestically or throughout the world —- that’s for sure.