Memorial Day: Remembering my Distant Cousin, David I. Briggs (1947-1968), Soldier in Vietnam (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

David I. Briggs, U.S. Army Service Photo, 1968

David I. Briggs, U.S. Army Service Photo, 1968 (Retrieved May 25, 2015 from http://www.virtualwall.org)

David I. Briggs, a distant cousin of mine, was a man who I never knew, but whose pain for his loss I felt through the hearts and spirits of his family – his mother, father, and sisters.  David was the only son of Ivan Francis Briggs (1907-2000) and Louise (Gullo) Briggs (1915-1997) of North Collins, New York.  He was 21 when he and most members of his battalion (C Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division) were killed in heavy gunfire in Tay Ninh, Vietnam on November 23, 1968 (Small, 2001).

It is my understanding from having read an article in the Hamburg Sun, that David’s battalion invaded an opposing forces’ base camp, but underestimated their strength (Gordon, 2012).  David and his captain were the first to have sacrificed their lives in that invasion (Gordon, 2012).  Thirteen men of the battalion were killed on that November day (Small, 2001).

Vintage Memorial Day Remembrance (Retrieved May 25, 2015 from www.crazywebsite.com)

Vintage Memorial Day Remembrance (Retrieved May 25, 2015 from http://www.crazywebsite.com)

I met my distant cousins, Ivan, Louise, and one of their twin daughters, in my early to mid-teens while visiting them in North Collins, New York.  Louise was a wonderful cook, and it is said that it is one of the reasons that Ivan married her.

From what I observed, Ivan and Louise also had a love for family.  Anyone who knew them could sense the pain and loss they carried with them due to the death of their son, David.  I remember after having first met Louise and Ivan that I asked my parents about the sense of deep sadness in them that I felt, and discovered that they still grieved the loss of their son, David.

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

At that time, I was astounded to know that Ivan and Louise still grieved for David after so many years, and realized that he was very much loved by them. I believe they carried that sense of grief and sadness in themselves from the time that David was killed until their own deaths.  When I met them, nearly 20 years had passed, and they were still hurting from his death. Family said that it broke Louise’s heart when David was killed; she was never the same after that.

So, while I never knew David, nor, I believe, any men who have been killed during the course of duty in war, I know that they will always be remembered for their bravery and for giving the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. May we remember and honor all those who have gone before us, who have given their lives to make this world a better place. May God bless you, David, and may you rest in peace.

References:

Gordon, C. (July 13, 2012). Traveling Vietnam wall coming to Eden, Briggs remembered. Hamburg, NY: The Sun. Retrieved May 25, 2015.  http://www.thesunnews.net/news/916-Traveling_Vietnam_Wall_coming_to_Eden,_Briggs_remembered.html

Small, L.R. (2001). David Ivan Briggs. VirturalWall.org. Retrieved May 25, 2015. http://www.virtualwall.org/db/BriggsDI01a.htm

“Poland and my Polish Heritage” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

My grandparents (now deceased) on my mother’s side were pure-blooded Poles, having left Poland and immigrating to Germany before coming to Ellis Island around 1950.  My Polish-American grandmother was Władysława, or “Lottie,” and my Polish-American grandfather was Janek, or John.  I never knew either of my grandfathers as they both died before I was born.  Grandfather John died following a two year battle with cancer, possibly brought on by working with the many chemicals at the Tannery in Gowanda, New York, where he lived.  Both of my grandparents worked very hard to put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of four children, one being my mother.  Sometimes, my grandmother worked two or three jobs at a time, such as waitressing at a local restaurant and tending plants at a local nursery.

Life was not easy for my Polish-American grandparents who left Europe after World War II.  But, they left because they did not want to take the chance of experiencing another Great War, and they wanted better opportunities for their children.  After all, America was the country that was flowing with “milk and honey,” as they had heard.  For two people who did not have more than an elementary or middle school education, nor knew any English upon setting foot in the United States, they certainly worked hard and did the best they could.  Sponsorship of their family by cousins already in America helped pave the way for a different fate for their family than occurred for the siblings of my grandparents still in Poland.

My grandfather was one of about 10 children in his family.  I remember being told that his mother apparently told him when he was a young man that no woman would want to marry him because he had a glass eye.  In those days in Poland, being poor and having a disability meant having fewer opportunities, as well as potentially being a societal outcast.  When I think of such a statement, now, I think of how ridiculous it sounds, particularly with so many people who have disabilities making the best of their lives.

Me with the Drewin's, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Me with the Drewin’s, Krakow, Poland, 1992

My grandmother was the middle child in a family of three daughters.  Her sisters were Staca (pronounced “Stashia”) and Marianna.  Many years ago, Marianna visited and stayed with my grandmother for three months in the United States on a temporary visa.  And, many years following that, I had the privilege of studying at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and seeing her again!  As a senior at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, I participated in the popular study abroad program to the Jagiellonian University in 1992.

In the midst of studying intensive Polish language at the Jagiellonian – with the intention of being able to properly communicate with my Polish relatives in Poland – I sent a postcard to Marianna.  A few days later, Marianna and her family arrived at my dormitory building, surprisingly unannounced, and took me out for the day.  I then made plans to visit them for a weekend, and got to meet 15 of my Polish relatives in Poland, including Marianna’s family, the Drewin’s, who lived in Kielce.  It was wonderful to see and visit with them all, and to provide monies to them that I brought specifically for them from the family at home.

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Studying in Poland at the Jagiellonian University was a wonderful experience.  If I could have the opportunity to do it all over again (and at the same age as I was at the time), I would.  Studying abroad in Poland was highly recommended to me by my fellow student colleagues who were members of the University at Buffalo Polish Club.  Many of them lauded praises about the program.  Because so many of them said such great things about their experiences, I decided to apply for the opportunity to go.  It was very exciting to be accepted into the program, and to have taken the opportunity to go there.

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Poland, I did much sight-seeing with my English-speaking (mostly composed of Americans) study group at the Jagiellonian University.  We visited the historic Wawel Castle and Cathedral, the amazing Wieliczka Salt Mines, the religious pilgrimage destination of Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa,  and had regular opportunities to see Krakow’s St. Mary’s Basilica and visit Krakow’s main market square.

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

On my own, I also traveled to and visited Berlin, Germany during one weekend; and with a student colleague, I went to Prague in the former Czechoslovakia, for another weekend.  On yet another weekend, the same student colleague and I visited Vienna.  I found Berlin to be a historic city, one in which a person could still obviously observe the differences between the former West and East Germanies.  And, Prague is just an amazingly beautiful and historic city, with many historic structures still standing, having not been demolished in previous wars.  Vienna was an incredibly beautiful city, also being extremely modernized and commercialized.

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

I have many memories of my time spent studying abroad and travelling in Europe.  I had such a wonderful experience in studying abroad that I returned to Europe two years later.  At that time, I travelled with my mom through the British Isles, including England, Scotland, and Ireland.  Following that, I went solo, traveling through many European countries.

St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Europe in 1994, I used my Brit Rail and Eurail passes to travel by train, everywhere.  I traveled lightly with only a couple of bags, and remained in Europe for about one month.  In all, it was a fabulous experience, and I highly recommend it.  I would definitely do it all over again if I ever had the opportunity.

I am very proud of my family, my ancestors, and my Polish-American heritage.  While there are additional nationalities in my make-up from which I am descended, the Polish part of me is the strongest next to that of being American.  I am thankful that my Polish-American grandparents had the fortitude and courage to come to America, where they succeeded in creating a better life for their family, and their descendants to come.

“Remembering 9/11” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Twin Towers, Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan (1)

Twin Towers, Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan (1)

The safety and security of our country became a thing of the past on September 11, 2001.  Terrorists highjacked large airplanes, crashing into our beloved Twin Towers and Pentagon, as well as (supposedly) a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, taking the lives and security of 1,000s of victims with them.  In the aftermath, countless families, friends, emergency responders, medical personnel, and all of America was deeply affected by the tragedies.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 showed America the face of evil and hatred.  As Americans living in our safe and cozy world of freedom and democracy, many are oblivious to the terrorism, hatred, and evil that occurs around us throughout the world – and on 9/11, in our own country.

Twin Towers, 9/11 Terrorist Attacks (2)

Twin Towers, 9/11 Terrorist Attacks (2)

About 27 years ago, I had a vision in a dream of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.  Because it was a dream, I did not know that the images that I saw would actually become a reality.  The instant that I heard on my vehicle’s radio of the plane crash into the first tower in New York City, I knew that the image that I had dreamed was real.  I was shocked, saddened, grieving, incredulous, and without words that what I had seen in my dream really happened. 

Firefighters on 9/11 (3)

Firefighters on 9/11 (3)

The actual image in my dream that I saw so many years ago was of both Twin Towers burning, and minutes after hearing of the first plane crash, the second occurred.  I had taken the day off from work that day due to a medical appointment, and after it, was glued to the television into the night, still incredulous about the terrorism that had occurred. 

Firefighters Raising Flag in Aftermath of 9/11 (4)

Firefighters Raising Flag
in Aftermath of 9/11 (4)

It was devastating to think that I might have been able to give some warning about the event, but did not, because I had not realized that it would be real. 😦 Then, I also think back and wonder if anyone would have believed me even if I did share about such a tragedy.  Would I have also come under scrutiny?  Had I known better, it would have been worth the risk to inform about what I saw in my dream.

Memorial Flowers, Photos, and Flags in Remembrance of 9/11 (5)

Memorial Flowers, Photos, and Flags in Remembrance of 9/11 (5)

I lived in Manhattan in 1993.  The Twin Towers that I fondly remember are those that stand tall and proud, high into the New York City skyline.  That is the New York that I remember.  And, while I prefer to remember the New York City that was in the past, we cannot escape the fact that terrorism does occur and that there are terrorists among us.  I believe that Americans must take greater care and caution in protecting ourselves on a greater scale, to be aware of anything that appears suspicious or amiss, to inform authorities and/or take personal action to deter or stop potential terrorist acts from occurring. 

Pentagon Burning on 9/11 (6)

Pentagon Burning on 9/11 (6)

While we have made great strides as a nation in strengthening and burgeoning our national security, the events that occurred at this year’s Boston marathon are a reminder that more needs to be done.  For the greater good and for the best interests of everyone – including the terrorists who cannot see that their actions are wrong – we, as a nation, must be more aware, take more action, and be more cautious and inform about others’ actions that may seem strange or suspicious. 

Flight 93 Supposed Crash Site, 9/11 (7)

Flight 93 Supposed Crash Site, 9/11 (7)

We must be aware when people take piloting classes, but are not interested in learning how to land a plane.  To me, that would immediately raise suspicions.  We must observe when people are carrying heavy backpacks into crowded events, placing and leaving them there.  We must be aware of people who park vehicles in particular areas and abandon them.  We might even be aware of people who wear heavy clothing on a hot day, in order to conceal a weapon. 

New York City 9/11 Memorial (8)

New York City 9/11 Memorial (8)

Americans must awaken from our slumber, no longer being complacent about our safety and security.  There are many people out there who hate Americans and who will do whatever possible to injure or kill as many of us as possible.  We must be vigilant of our surroundings and environment, taking action, removing our apathy and complacency. 

People Remembering at 9/11 Memorial (9)

People Remembering at 9/11 Memorial (9)

The events of 9/11 should have taught us that we should not necessarily view the world with rose-colored glasses any longer.  Let us always be aware and vigilant so that such terrorist actions are not repeated on our soil.

Photo Credit Websites:

1: http://www.panynj.gov/wtcprogress/events-091101.html

2: http://nwoobserver.wordpress.com/

3: http://www.kpbs.org/photos/galleries/2011/sep/06/remembering-911/

4: http://www.xtimeline.com/evt/view.aspx?id=837061

5: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2011/09/07/remembering-911

6: http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2011/09/7-pentagon-attack-arlington-september-11-attacks-aftermath-pictures/

7: http://911blogger.com/news/2013-02-19/shanksville-pennsylvania-911-mysterious-plane-crash-site-without-plane

8: http://socyberty.com/issues/ten-years-after-the-attacks-of-september-11-2001-obama-recules-in-new-york-at-attacks/

9: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/09/11/11-years-later-nyc-remembers-911-terror-attacks/