Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Sunday, November 8, 2020
By JIM PURCELL
When it was announced yesterday that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden won the election, along with Sen Kamala Harris as VP, I thought of an old friend of mine: Joe Caliendo.
Joe Caliendo was the chairman of the Middletown Township Democratic Party, in Central New Jersey. During the early 2000s, I worked with Joe to help get Democrats elected in Middletown and the surrounding area, known as the Bayshore section of the state.
Joe was this guy with a hard surface. But down deep the thing he really belieived in was people working hard all their lives and them getting a fair shake in what should be their "Golden Years." Joe worked hard all his life, first working on a farm and then as a lifetime union member. He was a good family man, as well. And, he defended what he believed in, politically, all his life.
Joe passed away several years ago, in his 70s. He was always afraid that some hard line guy would become president and steal Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. away from people. The presidency of Donald Trump would have been Joe's nightmare. But this election, where Biden and Harris overcame the odds, would have put a spring in his step for a long time.
When I heard the news, I looked up and pointed. Then I said, 'This one is for you, sir.' And, I have no doubt he heard me.
You see, America isn't just a socio-economic creature, or a set of states with defined geographic limits. America is a creation of inspiration and hope for today and the future. Ever since Donald Trump was elected as president, he created divisions among people. Trump encouraged racism and white supremacy. Trump fostered the idea that working Americans were more serfs than citizens.
Social Security, Medicare and so many other necessary institutions were at risk of being wiped from the map. Then, just as the darkest parts of the Bible were about to come true under Mr. Trump, Americans stepped in and voted patriotism over paranoia, understanding over hate and hope over hatred.
I have never seen an election like this one in my life. But, I was so glad to have the chance to experience this one. As the reality of the new president becomes more and more real, it occurrs to me that God really did bless America this time.
Saturday, November 7, 2020
Monday, October 26, 2020
Sunday, October 11, 2020
I seem to be interested in the questions of how to grow old as painlessly as possible these days. We live at a time when popular culture despises age and celebrates youth. That was all well and fine when I was young and used to time my runs. It's not so great now that I have some snow on the roof and clay on my boots. Inevitably, if we are lucky, we get to grow old. There is a celebration in that sentiment, an idea that people who live to a certain maturity have been through the storms of life and have come out the other side to some peaceful piece of water.
If there was a thing I could offer by way of advice to younger people it is this: Be easy on your body and avoid bad habits. Oh, I have mine, no doubt. I use tobacco quite a bit and I wish I never got into it, but I did. To be fair, tobacco use was very common when I was a kid. Of course, I grew older and should have grown wiser but that is not always the case with everyone.
Perhaps the thing I learned best over the years was to maintain good, close relationships with family and friends. To have a good support system is no small thing. No man or woman is an island. I would offer that, to some extent, growing older is a team sport. It's about supporting people in your life and receiving support from them when it is needed.
At different points of my life so far, I have been a church-going person. But, for years, I held grudges and made it a practice to have unkind thoughts about others. And, it wasn't that hard to goad me into an argument. Sure I have come across some jerks, we all have. Then again, I was the jerk more than a few times. What do I do different? Well, I have forgiven those who I needed to forgive and have asked forgiveness from the people I needed to ask. I do not make new grudges either and make an effort not to think badly of others. This may sound a little unrealistic but if you practice at it then you get better at not keeping negative emotions. Oh, no one is perfect. My Mom used to say there was only one perfect person in this world and he was crucified on account of it.
How we choose to wear this world, loosely and light or heavy and burdened is up to each of us. This goes back to one's individual health. People try to lose weight to help their health, they give up smoking or drinking, maybe they take up walking or working out. Yet, setting aside one's grudges and negative attitudes does improve one's health.
The first 40 years of my life I made many more mistakes than I make now. Oh, boy, did I make mistakes. And, I still make some good-sized blunders. The difference now, I guess, is that I am trying to make progress, knowing that perfection alludes us all.
-- Jim Purcell
Monday, October 5, 2020
I have been struggling for a short while with the idea of creating a YouTube show for The Purcell Chronicles. I was tempted because I like doing media and applying myself to something constructive. However, after I wrote the first script I paused.
I was a print journalist back in New Jersey for several years. I really liked the work and it was never boring. As a journalist who was frequently in print I had to give up something I really missed -- my privacy. Thanks to my editorial opinion, lots of people did not like me to the point where my mailbox was busted in, my car tires slashed, people sometimes said unkind things to me in the supermarket -- there was a lot of foolishness. Of course, there were also people who did like what I wrote too. But, whether someone did or did not like my work I just wanted to do my job and be left in peace. Well, it doesn't always work out that way.
In writing that first show script, there was politics in it. And, politics creates a flash -- even if it is a dopey YouTube show. While I cherish my right to vote, and my right to hold certain opinions, I would really hate creating chaos in my life at this bend in the road. It's unhealthy. Then I thought...maybe I'll do sports. But, sports really isn't a thing right now: Even our greatest athletes get COVID so this would be a very weak time to start talking sports. Still, I would bump into that pesky loss of privacy.
Finally, I just gave up on the idea. I have a wonderful little mountain home, an incredible wife and even a pet parrot. In addition there are really nice people I have made friends with here in the community I live in and there it is: I do not think a YouTube show would be great for my health and my world is as big as I like it and I wouldn't want it to get any bigger. The only way one can give away their privacy is to do it themselves, and I'm not going to do that again. When I was a kid I used to think privacy was no big deal ... and then I grew up.
So that is the end of that. I like posting on a little blog every now and again and that is about my speed. I appreciate the readers who come by and this is just the right size for an old retired guy.
Saturday, October 3, 2020
Monday, September 28, 2020
Monday, September 14, 2020
Friday, September 11, 2020
By JIM PURCELL
9-11: So here we are again. The truth is that no one who wasn't there or who lost someone can know the horror of it all. It is 2020 and I have been living with it for 19 years. I worked one shift, on September 14th, 2001 and I cannot get it out of my head. The people who worked at the pile, towers North and South, have seen terrible things. It was enough to drive me mad for awhile, and in the years since then I hate September 11th. For years I tried to forget about it and act 'extra sane' on its anniversary. But, I am older and retired, so I truly do not give a damn what anyone thinks one way or the other.
There is dying and then there is how these people died. It still makes me angry, and sad. For weeks after my shift, I would break down and cry without any notice or warning. There were times I would have to pull my car over or I would have had an accident. Sometimes, I cried very hard and for a long time. I casually knew a few people who perished. But the sight of the body bags on the sidewalk next to the bank has never left me. The lady at her desk on the 2nd floor of Tower South, the sides of the building peeled away, looked like she was just taking a nap at her desk. I could even see family photos on her desk.
I was 33 years old then. God has seen fit to let me become 54. Other workers at the site have died through the years, of various cancers and related illnesses. And, for a long time, I thought I would join them. I would not change one single thing about going Downtown with the Keansburg Police Department and off-loading non-perishables for the workers.
When we were on the scene, I noticed that the Kreissparkasa Bank building looked broken and loomed over everyone on the site. It turned out to be a trick of dirt and light, but all of us thought that, at any minute, that building could fall on us. I went there with Jimmy Piggott, the assistant chief at Keansburg. I pointed out the building to him when we got there. He said, "No, that does not look healthy at all." I asked him what we would do if the building fell. He told me, "You won't have to worry about it, you'll be dead right away." Actually, that was some comfort.
Before 9/11 I thought that my heart had been broken by my ex-wife. But, it hadn't. I knew real heartbreak in the months after the attack. I cannot put into words what changed in me. Yet, I know something is missing now.
I can pretend nothing is wrong, but I do not want to keep the charade up anymore. I called my therapist today and told him I cannot do our appointment today. I want to mourn again. I want to allow myself to feel what happened in my heart again. And, I do not want to pretend for the sake of anyone.
People always want to make today political. I can't stand them. I remember that some of us felt we had to do what we could to help. I see the 9-11 hate stokers as a virus that should be ended with a vaccine. Yeah, some Arabs got together and killed a lot of people. It doesn't mean every Muslim did. People are people, for the good and bad.
Do not judge people as a group. Judge people one at a time, as they come. Today, I am still being treated by the 9/11 Health Program. I am thankful for it, and I hope everyone keeps it going: because I need it and depend on it. I am so over hate and ideas of vengeance. I want to live a quiet life and grow older with my wife. That's about it.
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Saturday, August 15, 2020
Monday, August 10, 2020
Saturday, August 8, 2020
Saturday, August 1, 2020
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Saturday, July 25, 2020
Friday, July 24, 2020
Sunday, July 12, 2020
Friday, July 10, 2020
Monday, July 6, 2020
Friday, July 3, 2020
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Saturday, June 27, 2020
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Friday, June 5, 2020
Thursday, June 4, 2020
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Saturday, April 4, 2020
Thursday, March 26, 2020
I just got done watching one of my favorite movies, called "The Majestic" from 2001, starring Jim Carrey. It is one of Carrey's little-known works. And, it was panned by many critics at the time. But, it struck a chord with me, then and now.
It is not so much that the story had compelling narrative or acting in it, no disrespect to Mr. Carrey (who rendered a wonderful performance in my book). It was the subject matter of the story. In "The Majestic," Carrey portrayed a Hollywood writer who loses his memory after a car accident and washes up in a California town a decade after World War II concluded. The town sacrificed 17 of her sons during the war, and he is mistaken for one of those lost, a "Mr. Luke Trimble." The story unfolds that Carrey's character eventually remembers who he is and testifies before the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the McCarthy Era.
What struck me about this show was the way "Luke Trimble's" father, his friends and his old love received back one who was thought lost to death. This is what struck me.
I have a brother, David, who was named for U.S. Navy Gunner's Mate 2nd Class David A. Purcell, 19, killed by enemy forces during the Anzio-Nettuno landings on January 26, 1944. Like the character in "The Majestic," my father's brother was originally declared missing. I would come to learn through my early youth that David's death devastated my Dad's family: his mother, Grace; brother, Charlie; and sisters, Marie and Susan. I know Dad never got over it, not the rest of his life.
He could not mention his brother without tears coming to his eyes, even into his 70s. So, what I learned about my uncle was learned from my aunts and their husbands during family get-togethers during Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, when they confided these things to me it was always out of ear shot from my Dad, who would go skulking to his bedroom if he heard it.
|Gunner's Mate 2nd Class David A. Purcell was |
an LST driver who died in Italy during WWII
By all accounts, David was a lively boy, full of practical jokes and laughing. I was told he took very little seriously and loved his family, especially idolizing his older brother, my Dad. David loved his Mom, his family, girls, dances and sports.
My Dad being a soldier in the New Jersey Army National Guard at the outbreak of the war, he was among the first to be federalized and go off to war, leaving behind his family, and especially his kid brother. One of my aunts later told me that David was the "heart" of the family, and that when he died it was like that heart stopped with him.
When I see "The Majestic," it's like looking into a mirror of what it might have been like if my late uncle had come back after being reported missing. There would have been broken hearts mended, a broken family healed, and my broken father unbroken. Of course, my grandmother Grace, I am told, put on a brave face. But, she was a woman of great love and emotion, and I cannot imagine what she went through with the passing of her youngest. Now, what if he never died? What if he had come back, whole and healthy? How was history changed by the death of this strong, delightful young man?
I tear-up when I see "The Majestic" every time, I admit. My uncle died many years before I was born, but I noticed his loss even in my life growing up...like something that was supposed to be there was gone.
World War II was a fight that had to be fought for the very freedom of our nation and world. And, those that died during that great struggle should always be remembered, as anyone who laid down their lives for this nation should.
But, I ask this: If one truly wished to support our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, and their families, would not the thing to do be only fighting wars that were necessary for our nation's freedom from attack, and getting these terrible wars over with as expeditiously as possible? I do not believe that supporting wars for their own sake is not supporting anyone, most especially those who have to perish in them and those they leave behind.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Thursday, March 12, 2020
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Sunday, March 8, 2020
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Saturday, February 22, 2020
Disunity. Mean-spirited divides. The wish to persecute one another loudly and publicly. This is the people of the United States today. Powerful political, corporate and social forces are threatening to destroy our country, as never before.
|The military teaches life lessons to its members about teamwork.|
I had a sergeant in the Army, long ago, who once said that he throught America was better-off when there was a draft. He said that military service could be a common touchstone in everyone's life...whether they were in uniform or had left the service to be a civilian (and a veteran). He thought that unavoidable military service would restore the common sense, unity and morals of the American people. I disagreed with him at the time, because I never wanted to trust my life to anyone who didn't want to be a soldier. I think I was wrong, though.
Why does America have a 20-year war still going? It's because there is no draft. If there was then John and Jane Smith, residing on Main Street, USA would probably seek to have the government end its policy of military adventurism around the globe. With volunteers, the government can do anything it wants. With draftees...it's a whole other Magilla Gorilla.
And that is why there will probably never be a draft again.
|The military develops individual character.|
The military teaches people to be organized, disciplined and focused. I think service makes each of us closer to that 'best version' of ourselves that so many are always seeking. When I was a 17-year-old mortarman, I entered the military without a lot of experience with diversity. Well, that changed pretty quickly. In an infantry platoon, it is impossible for the unit to function when even one racist is in its ranks.
Today, from what I have gathered, units do not use the 'informal methods' of my day. This means that, in the '80s, when someone was impacting the unit with their nonsense, soldiers in the unit got together and made sure that the offending trooper received a punitive reminder that 'uniqueness' was not tolerated. Soldiers solved their problems among themselves. No one was 'special,' and maybe it is the mantra 'everyone is special' that should be blamed for our national catastrophes.
Currently, people who have done nothing but seek to avoid military or public service have labeled themselves as "patriots," while actual patriots, former servicemen and women, are branded with derogatory terms because they do not travel lock-step with the Great Unwashed Masses of division-focused cliques.
I do not agree with everyone I served with in any variety of issues. But, in disagreement, we treat each other with respect and intelligence. It is because the bond we share with each other is more important than whatever might divide us.
'If America does not mean more to someone than their own image then America falls apart.'
Our individual experiences craft who we are. If someone does not experience diversity then they will fear it, without exception. If someone does not see the perils that can become of marginalized people, firsthand, then they will have no compassion or empathy. When people do not know how to create consensus or are unaware that this is necessary, then we are on the road of creating people who have the capability of becoming monsters. And, being sheltered in life creates a sense of entitlement, of imagined privilege and fear of what is not known or different.
The military functions, any branch, because people must work together efficiently, without a lot of loose talk. If someone cannot be part of a team, will not work with other people in their unit then it is impossible for the unit to function correctly. Usually, people deficient in teamwork are vetted out of the service. In civilian life, though, these people are usually elected to high office. Who suffers? The nation, the republic, the ordinary Jane or Joe on the street.
If America does not mean more to someone than their own image then America falls apart. Make no mistake about it: America is falling apart and in many ways has already fallen apart. Our metaphoric house is on fire; I suggest putting it out.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Monday, February 17, 2020
Sunday, February 9, 2020
Sunday, February 2, 2020
I am the son of a U.S. World War II European combat veteran. My uncle, a 19-year-old LST driver for the U.S. Navy, was killed by the Germans at the Anzio Beach landings, in 1944. Most of my uncles fought the Germans during World War II. And, my family lived with my Dad's undiagnosed PTSD all our lives before he passed. During my early years, I was an intelligence analyst with the 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Division (Forward), in Garlstedt, Federal Republic of Germany in the 1980s. I wanted to qualify this up front, before i offered commentary about where German tank masters belong in history.
|Erwin Rommel (circa World War I)|
I have biases, of course. But, I have stated them honestly: so, we can begin, I suppose.
In important ways, Germany was a leader in the development of armor, armor tactics and combined arms tactics using armor as a centerpiece.
I believe if you had to boil everything down to two central figures in German tank history, it would come down to understanding the contributions of two German Army officers: Generalfieldmarschall Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel (1891-1944) and Generaloberst Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (1888-1954).
During World War I (1914-1918), Rommel was an infantry lieutenant in France and Romania. While in this capacity, Rommel developed his own style of combat which involved covering fires with rapid troop advances. He also innovated the use of penetrating attacks, the doctrine of which were later used by the German Army as well as Allied Forces. This stylized approach amounted to the genus of the idea of "Blitzkrieg tactics" in the next war. Rommel did not play a role in the adoption of Blitzkrieg by the German Army of the late 1930s, but he certainly laid down the gospel of attack from which later leaders would place the tank at its center. These ideas were published by Rommel in 1935, in his book "Infantry Attacks." This work appeared after, the year before, he had written a manual for infantry attacks for the German Army.
It was Guderian who would go on to refine Rommel's ideas of attack, and codify them in a technique known in World War II as Blitzkrieg, or "Lightning War." During World War I, Guderian was a communications officer who commanded a radio station. Certainly, this must have given him an appreciation for close communications of units that he would remember later. However, when he was promoted to captiain, young Guderian was placed in command of an infantry company. Later during the war, Guderian would serve as a General Staff officer.
Aster the war, Guderian became an admirer of World War I tank ace Ernest Volckheim (1898-1962). Guderian began to consume whatever he could about armored development and combat. In addition, he wrote scholarly military articles about the subject. By 1928, Guderian was considered the voice of Germany's armored development. And, by 1938, Guderian was promoted to the rank of colonel-general and placed in command of Germany's motorized forces and armored development. And it was during this time that Guderian brought together Rommel's concepts of attack with his own insights into armored development and the use of combined air into the Blitzkrieg strategy, which created a new doctrine in armored warfare, but heralded the darkest of times for Europe during World War II (1939-1945).
|Guderian (circa World War II)|
Well, after this bit of history, let's get into it about where these men belong in the history of armor. We can start with the elephant in the room: they fought for an unholy cause under the most evil leader in the history of humanity. Despite attempts by Rommel and Guderian apologists of the past half-century, the fact remains that no one became a field marshal or a general in Hitler's army by being against him. These men were pro-Nazi, whether or not they agreed with all the things Nazis believed in. Should someone get a pass if they say, "I was a Nazi, but I never believed in..."? In my view, one is either a Nazi or they are not a Nazi and both Rommel and Guderian were Nazis. Yes, later in the war Rommel did try to kill Hitler as part of a failed coups. But, whether or not the coups succeeded, Rommel was a Nazi. So, when I go forward from here there will be some words missing from my description of either of them. Some of these words will be 'good,' 'great,' or 'well-intentioned.' These men were master's of death and evil. But, their 'contributions,' such as they were, led to the advancement of armored theory. This cannot be denied, in my opinion.
During the Interwar Years between World War I and World War II, perhaps Guderian was the most important figure in the development of the production and use of armor. In the United States, later advocates of armor like General George S. Patton Jr. had happily reverted to horse vavalry ways. At least, this was so until the world got a taste of what armor could do during the late 1930s.
To be honest, Rommel and Guderian laid the bedrock of the use of the tank as the focus of a combined arms attack. Without them, perhaps the opening days of World War II would have started with ancient cavalry attacks waged against protagonists. In many ways, the combined arms theories used by modern armies have their origin in Blitzkrieg. It's probably not popular to say, but it is true that modern tank warfare's unlikely fathers were Rommel and Guderian. But, even after more than 70 years, it galls me to have to credit these guys with anything remotely relevent. But, even the Devil gets his due sometimes, and that is a very adequate saying to apply to this discussion.