The Guest Writers tab was created to provide a platform for individuals who live with vision loss to write about their experiences and share these stories with those who visit the site. The goal is to provide perspective into the everyday challenges facing those living with vision loss and to explore strategies that work to overcome these challenges.
Please welcome these writers. Read their work. Comment and Share. It takes courage to write and I am so very proud of each one of them for being willing to share their Story. Thank You!
Change Is Inevitable
By Debi Holcomb
Our world is constantly changing. Change is inevitable as we grow from infant to toddler, from teen to adulthood, from single to married with a family and even when facing life or death.
Most changes are beyond our control and we have to learn to flow with the changes, bend in the winds and grow into the people God intended us to be.
Those of us facing various degrees of visual impairments, we need order in our lives to function. We put an item in a certain place to be able to come back later and find it. If it gets moved by someone else, we in the blind community tend to panic. We desire order, routines, and continuity. The world is chaotic and ever changing so we tend to seclude ourselves in our homes where we feel we can control our environment. We may feel safe as we order our homes, remove things to trip over, everything in its place and the mystery of the unknown removed. This seclusion can also cause us to feel alone, excluded, and depressed. The very environment we try to create for ourselves can also be our downfall.
Change is inevitable and sighted or blind, we all need to accept that fact.
This pandemic has changed to the normal for everyone. Normal routines have been thrown out the window. Shopping, working, and traveling have all been altered. A new way of life faces each and every person.
We who have faced vision loss have one small advantage over the sighted community. We have already faced a life changing event and had to adjust to a “new normal” and we have overcome more challenges than others may ever see in their lifetime. This is just one more obstacle we can knock out of the way.
At least we have each other. I have found the blind community has their own way of banding together, teaching each other, supporting each other and loving each other. Together we can face any change the world throws at us.
Debi Holcomb is a writer for the former Fannin County Sentinel. She is the peer group leader for PULSE (People Understanding Living Sightless Everyday), located in Blue Ridge Georgia.
How’s Your Credit?
By Rick Tucker
Rick is a Certified Credit Counselor, Financial Advisor and is working on his Mortgage Originator Certification. He lives in Jasper, Ga with his wife Nina and two children. Rick has been blind for 30 years. Rick presented the information included in this post to our weekly peer group on Thursday May 7, 2020.
Credit is your most valuable possession. Without it, you will have trouble getting a loan, renting a home or getting a mortgage. You will pay higher interest rates on the loans you do get and most likely will have to pay higher insurance rates on your cars and home. Traditional myths about how to build and use credit are no longer true and many individuals need to re-think how they view credit and learn to use it as the powerful tool that it is.
What are credit reports? How is your credit score? How do you get and use a credit card to your advantage? These are just some of the questions to be addressed in this post.
There are three main credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) whose job it is to track and report on your credit. Knowing what your credit score is and understanding how to access your credit reports are two of the most important first step’s in learning how to build and maintain good credit. It is generally suggested that everyone should get a copy of their credit report at least twice a year. These reports may be acquired for free from each of the three main reporting bureaus mentioned above. Tracking your credit scores on a more regular basis may also be accomplished by the use of apps such as “Credit Karma.” Get into the habit of verifying that the information contained in your credit report is correct. If it is not, there are strategies and steps you can take to dispute the information and have your report corrected.
With more and more of today’s world revolving around good credit, individuals need to take control of the process to develop and grow their credit history. How does someone with no credit, develop good credit? What is the safest and most effective way to do this?
Many people distrust the use of credit, preferring to use their debit cards for most of their daily purchases. Though use of your debit card is easy and straightforward there are many reasons why using your credit card for these purchases would be beneficial to developing a strong credit history.
Probably most important to consider is the fact that the protections on a credit card are much better for a consumer than those on a traditional debit card. If your credit card stolen or otherwise used inappropriately, it is much easier to dispute the charges and have your money quickly refunded for your credit card, than it would be if those same issues happened on your debit card. Also, payment schedules for credit cards, if used properly, allow you to use funds at no cost for the month, and charge no interest if the previous month’s balance is paid in full. Finally, using a credit card “smartly” builds a strong credit history laying a foundation for future use of credit for larger purchases as you move forward. Debit cards do not help you build credit.
Since the world of credit has gotten increasingly more complex it may be helpful to understand the various types of credit cards that currently exist. “Cash” cards (the more traditional kinds) affect your credit score differently than the store cards that you may be offered at the check-out line at Home Depot or Target. “Secured” credit cards offered by most banks, are those that are secured by actual funds in your savings or checking account. Secured cards are a good way to help young people starting out or those who need to re-build their credit back up after financial challenges. Balance transfers are a financial product offered by many banks and credit card companies that work to lower the interest rate on large balances by transferring the balance from a card with a high interest rate to one with a much lower interest rate. This option helps individuals consolidate debt into one place and make monthly payments more efficiently on one card rather than multiple cards every month. Rewards cards are also something to look into, as many of these products pay you to use the card and may result in 1% to 5% cash back. Many people use these cards to pay their monthly expenses such as utilities, gas and groceries. In other words, if one is going to spend the money anyway, you might as well get one to five percent back for doing so.
In summary, there are many resources and tools available to help you understand how to build a strong credit history and how to use credit to your advantage. Investing time and energy into learning more about the modern uses of credit will in the end strengthen your financial position and allow you to have more money to put towards those things that you work so hard to obtain.
If you have any questions or would like to talk with me personally about these topics, reach out to me by email @ email@example.com
Knowledge Is Power
By Bronwyn [Brie] Rumery
Monday, May 11, 2020
As a teenager, Little House on the Prairie was one of my favorite television shows to watch. Laura Ingall’s sister, Mary, becomes blind from scarlet fever. Despite this tragedy, she goes on to attend the Vinton, Iowa, School of the Blind and eventually becomes a wife, mother, and teacher. Now I realize that one reason I loved this show was, because I could identify with Mary’s character; I too was visually impaired and would eventually lose my sight to an incurable genetic eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa.
A teacher, in my opinion, is someone who possesses the ability to share their knowledge, skills and life experiences to enhance the lives of others. One does not necessarily, have to have a formal education to be a teacher. Each of us, when sharing from our best selves has the opportunity to help others learn a new way to see the world.
Some of my favorite teaching experiences are when I spend the day with junior and senior high school students. About once a year, a friend of mine invites me to spend a day at school, where I get to interact with each of her classes. Typically I have the opportunity to take a lot of time with the students, answering all kinds of questions, demonstrating blindness-related skills like using a white cane or guide dog, sighted guide, Braille and of course how I use my iPhone. It is funny how it always amazes them that a blind person can proficiently use an iPhone with no sight, using only the auditory functions of the phone. For those students willing to go under blindfold, I instruct them on how to identify or locate items using their other senses. We always have a good laugh watching students perform tasks such as locating coins that have been dropped on the floor, figuring out the differences between salt and sugar or attempting to pour themselves a glass of water. Though it may be an exhausting day, I always leave feeling proud that I was able to have the opportunity to educate these young students about what it’s like to be blind.
Though we spend many times in our lives informally educating others about how we live, work and otherwise interact without community, there are always those occasional interactions that remain with you for years. Sometimes it’s a teachable moment, where you may never really be sure you helped the person at all.
When I was in my twenties, I was at the local grocery store, waiting at the deli counter, white cane in hand, to receive some assistance choosing some cold cuts. The woman who wound up helping me went on to explain that she admired me for being such an independent blind person. As I thanked her for the compliment, she went on to share that she had a daughter who was blind from birth. She expressed concern about what the future might hold for her child and asked me if I had any advice. I immediately went into teacher mode, telling her about different blindness organizations, the benefits of attending both the Georgia Lions Camp and Academy for the Blind, and probably a ton of other information that I thought may help. The most important thing I told her before leaving, was that never let anyone tell her daughter that she could not accomplish something just because she was blind.
I wasn’t sure if my conversation with the young woman helped at all. The next time I went to get groceries, she was no longer working there. In the back of my mind I hoped that the passion with which I spoke, was both heard and felt. And that more importantly, the message I shared of a full life, where her daughter may reach for her dreams, was remembered and gave her courage as she raises her child.
One of the best and the worst things about being blind or visually impaired is that we are always teaching. Whether we want to or not, others are looking at us, learning, changing their ideas about what a blind person can do and hopefully developing the understanding that we are all basically the same. Each one of us has the opportunity to educate, inform and demonstrate to others that, “just because you have lost your sight does not mean you have lost your vision”.
Bronwyn (Brie) Rumery is a wife, mother and a writer. Bronwyn is also a certified Peer Support Leader, as well as the director of the North Central Georgia Chapter of the Blind (NCGC) located in her hometown of Jasper, Georgia. Bronwyn loves all crafts , quotations and writing about what it is like living with blindness through informational articles, poetry and fiction.
Positive Talk: Blindness Life Lessons
by Quinn Durrant
During this time of tumult I’ve been thinking about how to help others and what positive messages I could share to lift the spirits of those who like me, are legally blind. The following are sayings and tips that I have learned over the years. Hopefully they will help those who are transitioning, those who need a bit of advice and those who have friends that are legally blind and want to help or understand a bit more from a different perspective.
- You are not alone.
You are not alone. There are other people who have experienced many of the struggles you are currently going through. My advice is to locate one of the many groups, organizations, and places around, where there are other legally blind people. Connecting with others who share your life experiences makes one feel less alone and allows you to share strategies that address challenges unique to vision loss. Whether you live in a dense urban area or within a sparse rural population there are others, just like you. Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect.
2. What others think of you is none of your business
People with social apprehension, regardless of visual functioning, may find this advice helpful. Don’t worry about what others think of you when you make a blunder. Say you spilled your drink or can’t remember a person’s name because you can’t see their face. Perhaps you didn’t see someone and bumped into them; maybe you can’t see the menu in a restaurant, which makes you feel frustrated or embarrassed. Mistakes happen. Everyone has these moments, not just those of us with low vision. Be who you are and people will either like you for you or they won’t — worrying about it won’t help you and in fact just makes you feel more anxious and less confident in your skills. You are good enough, just the way you are!
Maintaining supportive friendships can be tricky even in the best of times. When experiencing a life-changing event such as vision loss, can add stress even to the strongest of friendships. It is not unusual in these times to experience a reduction in the number of people you thought of as friends. The saying “You quickly learn who your real friends are,” rings true, for sure. The feeling of abandonment along with the difficulties of dealing with changes to your vision can be overwhelming for everyone In many cases, neither party knows how to proceed with the friendship. What do you talk about? How do I now do things I did before, since I can’t see as well? Where do we go from here? Why is it so hard to talk to my friends now? My advice for both parties is just try to be a friend. It may be hard and a little awkward at first. However the same things that created your friendship, most likely still remain, so focus on those common interests and you should be just fine. The question you may want to ask yourself is “Am I willing to lose this friendship because they have changed in a way that does not fundamentally affect them as a person? I would think that in most cases, the answer would be no.
4. Be willing to accept help from others
Asking for help or accepting help from others can be difficult, especially if you are independently minded. It wasn’t until recently that I, myself have really been able to put this concept into practice. Asking for help or accepting help when offered in no way make you less of a person. In many situations, the help is a blessing for both the one receiving the help since the task will become easier, and to the giver because they can feel good that they were able to help. In most cases, you also have many ways that you are able to help others and this creates a strong foundation for mutually beneficial relationships and friendships moving forward.
5. The importance of laughing and humor
It is very important to be able to laugh (frequently at ourselves) and have a sense of humor. Being able to laugh is a big stress reliever and has the benefit of putting you in a much better mood. If you look, often you can see the humor in almost any situation. When talking to people who ask me questions about my vision, or lack there-of, I turn a bit to humor to both explain and to lighten the mood. I personally like “I’m like a bat without radar in the dark.” I say this with a smile in my voice, so the other person knows I am laughing a bit at myself. This also shows the asker that I am not offended by talking about my vision, that I don’t take myself too seriously, and at the same time reduces any tension that may be building though talking about a difficult, personal experience.
“Make it a good day.” We all have at one time or another had a bad day. A positive attitude can make all the difference in how you view the day. You choose how the day will impact your attitude. If you are having trouble having a positive day, try smiling or “acting” like you are having a good day. At some point, it won’t be an act and you will find that you really are having a better day. The way you carry yourself, the thoughts you think and how you “feel”, all have a large impact on how others see you. Let yourself exude a positive attitude and others will notice; generally this also leads to them reacting more positively towards you as well, making it an even better day.
7. There is life after blindness
There is hope! Life doesn’t end after blindness. For those who experience the transition later in life, don’t worry. You still have a lot to contribute to your family and community. Let’s say you were a mechanic. Well you still know have all of your mechanical skills, knowledge and experience. Maybe you could teach or mentor others in who are new to the field. You can still travel to new places and experience new things, albeit maybe in a new and different way. Life has much to offer. Be open to ways that you can continue to do the things you love.
8. Technology and resources
“There is no better time to be blind” is a saying you hear often in the blindness world. Now more than ever, we have many technologies available that can help us in ways we may not have previously imagined. Tools such as smart phones that talk, and listen; access technologies that help us complete work tasks faster; apps that allow us to learn, communicate and work remotely. The amount of adaptive technology is staggering! It is amazing what can be done. Reach out to locate an access technology instructor to help guide you through learning to use your existing tools more effectively or to explore new tools that are available to meet the specific needs of your eye condition. Learning new technologies can be frustrating, but with a little time and effort, you will find that you can be equally effective as your sighted peers when it comes to navigating the world through technology.
9. Accepting yourself
This advice can be much harder to follow than it seems. Accepting you for you is a key concept for everyone. If you don’t like things about your current self, ask why that is? What in me do I not like? How can I change either the behavior, the feeling or perspective that is negatively impacting me? Identify the positives in your life. The more you search for them, the more you will find. Some people may call this an Attitude of Gratitude. As you begin to look within, and practice positive thinking and begin to find things to appreciate about yourself. When this happens your self-esteem improves and the more comfortable you will be with who you are. When you accept yourself, it makes it easier for others to do the same.
10. You are more than your blindness or disability
There is more to you than being legally blind or visually impaired. Right now, for those of you who are transitioning, it may seem like there is nothing but your blindness. It seems to overshadow everything else in your life. Don’t forget that your vision, is just one very small part of who you are. You are a multi-faceted person and there are many other wonderful and strong things about you. When you focus on one aspect of who you are to the exclusion of everything else, you can become consumed by it in an unhealthy way. Try spending time every day acknowledging some of your positive attributes. Slowly, you will realize that blindness does not define you; indeed it makes you a more interesting and stronger individual, who has learned how to accommodate and grow and learn to do things in a new way. All very powerful gifts in this journey we call life.
Quinn Durrant has been legally blind since birth. He would like to help support others by sharing his experience and knowledge with those who may be new to vision loss.
Moving From One Chair to Another
By Debi Holcomb
I want to tell you a story of victory over grief. It was as simple as getting out of one chair and moving to another. Simple yes, but easy? Not by a long shot.
I wanted to curl up in my easy chair and block out the world and its pain. I felt I had every right to hide away. I am nearly blind, and felt I could do nothing for myself anymore. My loving husband had just passed away, and now I was going to have to take care of myself. If I hid in my easy chair, I would not have to get dressed. I would not have to make decisions. I would not have to deal with the mountains of my husband’s belongings. I would not have to cook, clean or do chores. I would not have to face anyone. I could cry without feeling guilty. I could feel sorry for myself and justify it. I could just sit there and rock each day away in peace.
But God did not create me to be an island. He did not bring me through so many other challenges to hide away in that chair. Too many others are feeling just this way. Too many others need to know living from your easy chair is not living. So, I got out of that easy chair, and moved to my computer chair. Now was the time to start the rest of my life. Now was the time to find my new purpose. My computer chair opened a whole new world for me. Of course, it was not easy. I had to learn all new ways to operate my computer. Technology has come so very far over the ages. My new program reads me everything I do. I can now access my email, write a letter, browse facebook, and even write a column for my local newspaper.
Moving from one chair to another did not solve all my issues, but it was the best first step in the right direction that I could make. Now I will be able to share my journey. I will be victorious!
Bowling, Guitars and the Adairsville Rest Area
By Bronwyn (Brie) Rumery
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Summer is right around the corner which usually means that school has come to an end. Just like their sighted peers, teenagers with vision loss will be spending time looking for a job. Who wants to have to beg for money from mom and dad every week? Due to Covid-19 restrictions this year, having fun in the sun may be quite difficult, especially when it comes to employment.
For many teens, finding a summer job is a rite of passage. It can be a little overwhelming to make this leap towards adulthood, but in general most folks navigate these waters successfully. Now imagine making this leap if you happen to be a teen who is visually impaired or blind. Though this may be scary, frustrating and require some out-of-the box thinking, there is no reason why a young adult with vision loss cannot work, just like their sighted peers.
Last summer, my husband Scott and I were asked to volunteer with Vision Rehabilitation Services of Georgia’s Transition Academy. This summer program helps their younger clients learn what it is like to be gainfully employed. This program guides its participants through various activities to help them gain important work-related skills, explore various types of employment and even the chance to do a little hard work.
Transition Academy 2019 began on a Wednesday, at the Calhoun Bowling Center located in Calhoun, Georgia. Everyone who showed up thought we were there to bowl, but unfortunately that is not what Brittany Mulkey, Transition Program Coordinator had in mind for her students or volunteers!
After the introductions, ice breaker activities and a little bit of orientation to the Bowling Center, we were ready to rock n roll! Students and volunteers were assigned to smaller groups at various workstations. Everyone took turns rotating between various work tasks such as: learning how to operate a shredder, collating bowling programs and brochures, taking orders for lunch from the snack bar, and even replacing old bowling shoelaces. For some, these tasks might seem mundane even boring, but to this group of enthusiastic individuals, it was a real treat to have the chance to practice important life skills while at the same time, gaining an understanding of how to smoothly run a bowling center
Another treat included a visit from Matt Davis, of Talk Radio WLAQ in Rome, Georgia. He spoke to the group about what it is like to own and manage a radio station. Interesting information considering that many people download or stream their radio content these days. Dudley Morris, an assistive technology teacher from VRS, brought his slew of guitars and gave everyone a couple of quick lessons. It was a lot of fun, but let us just say that some of us are not yet ready to join a band.
After lunch, we loaded into cars, and we headed to the Adairsville Rest Area to learn about owning and operating vending machines and/or a snack bar. Mark Shuggart & Zack Snow members of the Blind Enterprise Program (BEP) spent a great deal of time explaining the pros and cons of running a vending business. Our group had A LOT of questions! At around 3:30 it was time to bid farewell to our students, travel home safely and pat ourselves on the back for having a remarkably successful day of Transition Academy.
It seems due to the various complications related to Covid-19 that Transition Academy 2020 may have to be postponed. This is definitely disappointing. Although these types of scenarios impact us all, the overall effect on those with vision loss and other “possibilities” is even greater. Having the opportunity to visit a business, learn “hands-on” various work skills and get valuable work experience is so much harder when you just can’t watch “a video on YouTube.” If you are a business owner and would be open to at some point providing this opportunity to a youth with vision loss, consider reaching out to VRS. As a blind adult volunteer with this program I can tell you from personal experience just how critical this experience is to helping young folks explore what the world of work looks like. I was so looking forward to interacting with this special group of young adults who strive on a daily basis to be as independent as they possibly can. They possess an infectious enthusiasm for life that serves as an incredible inspiration for us adults and for your employees and customers. Thank You for supporting our community!
So you want to buy a home?
Introduction to purchasing Real Estate and considerations for your first mortgage.
When a person is looking for a house, whether it is your first house or your fifth house, there are certain items that you should always consider. The answers to many of these questions should guide your search for not just the right property for you and your family, but also the right community for you to call home.
First, you should know what price range you are looking for in a house. This can save you a lot of time looking at houses that you cannot afford. If you are not sure how to make these calculations, speak with a financial advisor; they are independent consultants that can provide you with both the information you need and guide you in making decisions based on that information.
Second, you should always look at a minimum of three properties, more if possible. This will give you an idea of how to compare the value of one property compared to another. It will also give you some idea of comparing one area to another, and you will see how home prices may change depending on the area in which they are located. You may want to consider engaging a Real Estate agent at this point. Having a “buyer’s agent” can be very helpful in this process, as they are usually very familiar with the various neighborhoods and can be helpful in identifying areas that may work best for you and your family. If you decide not to hire your own agent, remember that the “seller’s agent” does not work for you. This agent works for the owner of the property and higher they sell the property for, the more commission they make. This agent is not likely to be very helpful in trying to save you money.
When narrowing your search towards making a final purchasing decision, there are several points to consider. One of the first questions to explore is whether or not the property is controlled by a “Home Owner’s Association,” also known as an HOA. Depending on your personal beliefs, an HOA can be a good thing or they can be a nightmare. Some ways in which HOA’s can help their residents is in helping settle disputes between neighbors. They also advocate for residents around issues of development, road or infrastructure repairs, security patrols and issues around animal control and ordinance enforcement. However, some HOA’s can also be very restrictive regarding what you can do with your property. For instance the HOA may be allowed to tell you what colors that you can paint your house, how many cars you are allowed to have in your driveway, what kind of shrubbery you can have and where it can be located on the property. The list can go on and on. It is highly suggested that you contact the HOA president to ask questions, request a copy of the neighborhood by-laws and take time to review them thoroughly. Uncovering HOA surprises after closing is never very pleasant. In addition, HOA fees can be quite expensive and can increase as often and as much as allowed in the by-laws of the association. Again, be sure thoroughly research these items prior to closing. These monthly fees must be part of your monthly budget and need to be considered when planning for how much of a payment you can afford.
Now that you have fully explored the HOA matter, lets look at the property itself. When touring the home, there should be available documents outlining the costs of the utility bills for at least the last 3 months, though having numbers for the past year would be ideal. Some bills such as gas or electricity may vary widely during different seasons. If it is a new property consider introducing yourself to some of the new neighbors. This serves two purposes: You meet potential neighbors and get much needed details about the month utility costs, garbage service, best cable and phone providers and internet access speeds. While looking at the bills, also look at a copy of the property taxes from the last couple of years. Finally, speak with your insurance company to find out how much you can expect to pay in property insurance per year on the property. These are expenses that must be paid every year, whether paid annually or in an escrow account as part of your monthly mortgage payment.
If you have children, researching area schools will be very important. You can look-up the school performances on-line to see how they compare to others in the area. It is probably a great idea to visit the schools and speak with the administration about how your children would best fit into their educational community. Exploring other community amenities such as the nearest parks and shopping. If you happen to be a person with vision loss, look into sidewalk accessibility, transportation options and the walkability of the area. I have always found it helpful to also locate the nearest fire and police departments. Not only can they provide information about the safety of the area, you may be able to get better insurance rates depending on how close these services are to your home. Be aware that some neighborhoods sit between different jurisdictions and at times it can be unclear, who is responsible for what when it comes to providing emergency services.
As with any big life decision we make, it is very important to understand what criteria is most important to you and your family. Some people like to be able to walk or ride their bikes everywhere while others prefer to live more remotely. For many of us, spending time in various neighborhoods, walking through different homes and then taking time to reassess your priorities can be an eye-opening and healthy growth experience. Remember that you have many resources available to support you in this process, so feel free to reach out and ask for help at any time.
Rick Tucker can be reached by email at: RickTucker1058@gmail.com
Rick Tucker has a B.A. in Business and Finance from Kennesaw State University. He is a Certified Credit Counselor, Financial Advisor and is working on his Mortgage Originator and Mortgage Loan Compliance certifications. He lives in Jasper, Ga with his wife Nina and two children. Rick has been blind for 30 years. Rick presented the information included in this post to our weekly peer group on Thursday May 14, 2020.
Once A Marine Always A Marine
By Bronwyn “Brie” Rumery
Monday, May 25, 2020
Friends were made. Friends were lost. In February and March of 1945, the bloodiest battle of World War II took place on a small Japanese island in the Pacific, known as Iwo Jima. The Marine Core’s mission was to invade and capture Mount Suribachi. Success in this mission would allow U.S. Naval troops access to airfields, that would enhance their fighting capabilities against the Japanese. Estimated to take only a few days, the battle lasted a month and when the fighting finally ended, there were more than 26,000 marine casualties and 6,800 deaths. One of the survivors of this battle, was my grandfather, Gerald Lamar “Bud” Hipps. He was 17.
After hearing the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my grandfather, only 17 at the time, knew that he had to help fight in the battle against Japan. He secured written permission from his mother, and joined the Marines. “Bud” was sent to Paris Island, SC for basic training and then to Camp Pendleton, CA where he received extensive training using a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).
Soon after arriving at Camp Pendleton, Bud and his fellow marines boarded a ship headed for the Pacific islands of Japan. At 4:00 a.m. on February 19, 1945, Company E, 2ndBattalion, 28thMarines was ordered below deck to find out their destination. The 240-man unit learned they would soon be landing on the island of Iwo Jima; their mission: to aid their fellow marines in capturing Mount Suribachi. What Bud and the rest of the unit did not know, was that it would be the most difficult battle of the war to date; that several casualties and deaths would take place and that the most famous photograph of WWII would be taken on the day that they accomplished their mission.
Later in his life, my grandfather, would share stories about his arrival on “this very ugly” island of volcanic rock and sulfuric sands. With his feet barely hitting the sand, he was immediately hit by shrapnel. Wounded and bleeding, Papa Bud yelled for a Corpsman to help. The soldier who patched up his wounds, was none other than Corpsman John Bradley, one of the six famous flag-raisers.
Lost and separated from the Marines of Easy Company, Bud bolted from one foxhole to another, until he was reunited with his band of brothers, scaling Mount Suribachi. Eventually, Company C would overtake Suribachi’s summit. Papa Bud and his comrades provided protection while he witnessed his dear friend Ira Hayes, along with John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, Harlon Block, Mike Strank, and Frank Sousley raise the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima. photographer Joseph Rosenthal would later take the photo of a larger flag being raised at the summit, which is the photo that became an iconic part of US history. Only three of the six flag raisers survived the battle of Iwo Jima.
My papa came home from the war with permanent scars and gruesome images of what he had witnessed on “the island of hell” implanted in his memory forever. He returned to Miami, FL, found work as a carpenter and married his high school sweetheart Beverly June. They had three sons and of course several grandchildren. When I was a little girl, my papa would take me to ride ponies not too far from the house he and my grandmother lived in. Perhaps my favorite times being with my Papa was when he would dress me in one of his old t-shirts, roll up the sleeves, put a paint brush in my hand and let me help paint whatever project he was working on.
Papa never talked about his time in the war; if you asked him questions about Iwo Jima, he would absolutely refuse to answer them. All I ever heard him say about his military life was that, “once a marine, always a marine.” It would be years before I learned about the injuries he incurred during WWII, the Purple Heart he received, or that the photos of the famous Iwo Jima flag-raising that hung on the wall in his den were actually original prints.
In the late 1980s, my grandparents moved to Mansfield, GA, where they settled down and began to enjoy retirement. One afternoon while out doing errands, Papa Bud noticed a bumper sticker on the back of a truck that said, “Iwo Jima Veteran.” By the time he arrived home, the dam had burst; he made the decision that it was time to break his silence. He finally started to talk about his ordeal on that small island in the pacific, not only to his family but to anyone who took the time to listen.
On August 21, 2012 at the age of 85, my Papa died quietly in his sleep. He taught me to be strong, to fight for what I believe in and that I could accomplish anything I wanted to, even though I was blind. He told me to always be proud of who I am and when it came right down to it, never to forget that I was the granddaughter of an Iwo Jima Marine veteran!
“Semper Fidelis” (“Always Faithful”)