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Letter to My Daughter on the Eve of the 2020 Election

My dearest daughter, Sarah,

I write this to you with the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings going on in the background. A woman has been nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States of America to take the place of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a justice who worked so fucking hard to give everyone equal rights in our country and who will now be replaced by a woman who will do what she can to take those rights away. How could this have happened?

I found this picture of you when you were 7 years old during the Anita Hill hearings, which I guess I should call the Clarence Thomas hearings, although they really weren’t about him. They were about slandering her and diminishing her and the story she told with such dignity.

Now, twenty-seven years later, you’ve graduated from Harvard Law School, worked on the Innocence Project, been awarded by the ACLU for your work, served as one of the authors of the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, worked as a volunteer legal advisor to Joe Biden’s campaign, and served as one of the founders of The Early Vote. I watched you on MSNBC last week: sure-footed, clear, and selfless in your appeal to get people to vote early and in person. I watched you transition from a little girl selling T-shirts on 84th and Broadway which was my pinacle to a force in the world of American progress, trying, always trying, to do right for those less fortunate than we are. I could not be prouder of you.

Someone once told me that he wanted to put his kids on his shoulders so they could see further than his horizon had been growing up. I think that’s a wonderful aspiration, and while I didn’t have it in my mind when you were young, it is certainly what I can see now. Oh, the horizons in front of you! If only you knew how far you have already been able to see, and what that means to your future. Please learn the lesson of looking at what you have accomplished, rather than what you haven’t. It clears the path to move forward without your getting hung up in the rearview mirror.

There are twenty-two days left until the election. I can’t conceive of anything other than success for all the things so many of us are doing to make the outcome one where we can start to build a new future for this country from the ashes of what was destroyed. I’m not just speaking of the destruction that has taken place over the past four years, but also the explosion of what had been simmering throughout all the previous years.

I hold on to the image of you when you were 7 and what you have done since. I hold on to the images of the young girls I see on social media, now reaping what you and your fabulous women friends have planted over these past months.

How can I, on behalf of my generation, thank you, apologize, and move on, recognizing that what we weren’t able to do, you are trying to clean up now?

I have a photo of you on MSNBC last week and the one from when you were 7 on my computer screen and in my heart. They will carry me through the next three weeks with hope and certainty that every single thing that can be done is being done. The future of women in America? It’s in our hands. It’s our votes that will determine the outcome.

God bless you, my dearest child. Godspeed on your journey over the next three weeks. I will be right behind you, ready to shoulder whatever you give me to help you lead the way. I love you,Mom

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Trump’s Tipping Point

There is always a tipping point — that moment in time when everything changes and you “know” deep down inside that the trajectory of something has changed, and the train wreck that you thought couldn’t be stopped, can, in fact, be stopped.

Remember Howard Dean? Remember when he unexpectedly lost in Iowa, and he went on the television the night of the primary and screamed into the cameras and sent dogs and cats scurrying under couches, and Americans thought, “No way, Jose, is that guy going to get my vote. He’s not stable”? That was the end of Howard Dean. It was a split second in time, but it cost him dearly. They called it the scream that doomed Howard Dean. 

Then there was that moment in August 2008, when the markets crashed and impending mortgage crisis doom and gloom hit the stage. John McCain pulled a Howard Dean moment himself. He went in front of the cameras and in a breathless panic said he was canceling his presence at the debate a few days later and suspending his campaign to immediately return to D.C. to deal with the financial crisis. Then cool, calm, and collected Obama said he too was going to D.C. to work on the fiscal situation. He said he could do more than one thing at a time and would attend the debate to continue his campaign. “Oh, one more thing,” said Senator Obama, “don’t worry; everything will be OK.” In my mind, that was the tipping point.

I have thought things SHOULD have been tipping points with this maniac in the White House. Grabbing women. Charlottesville. Gassing people in the street to hold a bible upside down. And oh, so much more. But I’ve never FELT they were tipping points. 

Then, this outrageous human being without a semblance of shame or empathy toward others waved to a few dozen people in an SUV with two men who had to risk their lives to do that little dog and pony show sitting in the front, ostensibly holding their breaths for as much of the ride as they could manage. Combine that with his outrageous videos talking only about himself, without an ounce of empathy toward the more than 200,000 dead who didn’t have the care he is getting and presenting it all as if he has cured the virus for all by merely getting it. I FELT as though that was it. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I know that camel is as tired as I am. 

I have spent the last few years saddened whenever I have seen my flag, the American flag. I have felt no pride of late when I’ve come across it. I have even felt shame or embarrassment; I’m not sure which. It was a first for me in all my years of being a citizen of what I thought was already a great country. This morning after I got my coffee, I saw this flag that is always there, but which I’ve avoided. I turned around, came back, and took a picture. I think I will begin to have pride in America again. I believe for the first time in four years that we will get through this, and that Trump will no longer have a platform from which to do what he calls leading and I call destroying.

I have learned a lot. I realize that a good number of my fellow citizens are disenfranchised and don’t believe in their own future or that of their children. I realize now that we have not come as far as I thought we had in our race relations, and that it’s my own personal responsibility to work toward getting there myself. I have learned that I have to watch and evaluate my country’s leaders and pay closer attention to those who get my precious vote. I have learned that I have a larger responsibility in what happens in this country than I’d realized, or wanted, actually. I have heard the wake-up call, and I will do better. 

We do the best we can, and when we know better, we do better. That’s Maya Angelou’s sentiment and my new responsibility.

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Gender Government History Personal Essays Politics Women

The Ginsburg Vacancy


I wrote this with my friend and author, Kathy Aspden. If you haven’t read her books, have a look. She is a great writer.

By Kathy Aspden & Christine Merser

In a speech in August 2016 in Kentucky, McConnell would say: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.”

Thirty-two Republicans put out positive statements in 2016 to support Merrick Garland’s nomination.

When McConnell stamped the it’s not happening on it all, Democrats came out full force— with words. Schumer called it a travesty, and others said the sitting president should fill the empty seat. But as in most things, Democrats had no tool in the tool box to change what Mitch chose to do. So many words, so many referenceable quotes from 2016.

Mitch broke the law. Or if you are generous and sit on the outside of liberal views, he ignored his responsibility to run hearings and put the process in place—which is his fiduciary obligation as majority leader. And so here we are, four years later, and McConnell is saying the court seat will be filled by this sitting president. Everything he said last time no longer fits into his agenda. Yet, he has no shame, no qualms, no fear in reversing what was a bad decision then.

So now, all the Dems will reverse what they said four years ago, and the Republicans will follow the pied piper of corruption and change their tone as well. Lindsay Graham is interesting. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he actually brought up this scenario in 2018 during a forum with The Atlantic, and said, “I’ll tell you this – this may make you feel better, but I really don’t care – if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election.” All lies.

But this is not the time to call our people to the streets. This election will be decided by those who are already hesitating to put their toe in our waters—fearing it might look okay, but perhaps it’s boiling after all. Law and order, as an issue, is not working well for Trump, and a full-out protest will give legs and fuel the fire. And, then there is the hypocrisy of every Democrat from 2016 changing their stand when it suits them in 2020. Do we sink to the basement level that the Republicans have renovated as the penthouse? No we do not! Not on our watch.

Let’s do this with intelligence and integrity. Let them nominate some half-qualified person. Fight it on the stage during the hearings, smartly. Ted Cruz (one of the Trump short-listers) as a Supreme? Make our day.

If we do this well, we will win this election—which takes precedence over everything else right now. Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death could surely give Trump what he needs to change the course of a conversation that’s currently not working for him. Let’s kick the legs out from under his potential unrighteous fury.

Oh and later, when the senate is won and the presidency has a reasonable, capable, semi-honest working body (which we’ve come to realize is the best we can hope for in government), we can up the Supreme Court seats to eleven and wave at Mitch McConnell across the aisle.

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RBG RIP

I was 15 when I watched Ted Kennedy eulogize his brother Bobby, and I was struck to the core when he said, “My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.” I remember thinking that one day a woman will die, and she will mean so much to me and others of my gender that words like this will be written about her. 

And so tonight, 52 years later, it has come to pass. Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died, and one of her final acts was to send a message to her lawyer granddaughter, saying, “My most fervent wish is that I not be replaced until a new president is installed.” She always chose words carefully, our RBG, and I wonder if it was not lost on her that she might be asking for four years of not being replaced.

I have no idea what comes next. My phone is buzzing with text messages. But I’m not answering any of them tonight. For me, tonight is a moment in the midst of the chaos, fear, and loathing that make up my days of following politics, when I stop and look at my gender’s supreme of all Supremes. 

My mind is running, running, running. 

With a new baby and a husband fighting cancer, she attended Harvard Law School, doing her homework and writing research papers, taking care of her child, and typing her husband’s papers. And she still managed to get the top grades in her class. But mostly what I thought when I read about that was that she didn’t complain; she just did it. I marveled at the fact that she didn’t just give up law school and switch to writing books on time management, because she was an expert. 

Then they screwed her. If she’d been endowed like a man, she would have been sought after by the top firms, and the clerkship she applied for would have been a no brainer. She didn’t complain. Not our RBG. She stayed the course. She had to wait a long, long time before she got on the road leading to the Supreme Court of the United States.

She had a great love. Marty. A successful marriage. A love of Opera. Children. Grandchildren. She cooked Passover Seder herself. She loved movies. And, she was funny.

Her humor was often laced with verbal brilliance. Here’s an anecdote from her granddaughter, Clara Spera, as quoted on glamour.com in 2018: “Once, though, I had to email her about her opinion in a voting rights case, Evenwel v. Abbott, because I thought the strong language in her analysis did not match up with the eventual, more reserved, holding. I was frustrated that she seemed to be holding back. I won’t reveal her response here, except to report that she told me, ‘I once spoke to you about not being queen when one writes for the Court.’”

Mostly, though, I will never forget the on-screen reenactment of her closing arguments in front of the Supreme Court during Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. I wonder if she could have seen herself on that bench with nine white men who looked and acted nothing like her. I hope you will watch it, even if you have seen it before.

You see, as women, we haven’t had the opportunity to lead in a game where gender has no role. Eleanor Roosevelt was beloved, but she got her leg up from being the wife of a beloved president. Our road to greatness in this country has never been a direct line based on our own attributes. Women in other countries have managed to accomplish quite a bit without a male connection. Golda Meir comes to mind. But in this country, white men seem to have center stage, and our access to that stage has mostly been walking next to them, not in front of them.

So my beloved Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who I never saw in person (how could I have let that happen?), is now gone. Her white-lace-collared robes, which showed humor, femininity, and a bit of FU, have shown me the way. Her total commitment to excellence, incredible time-management skills, and brilliant mind made her our hero. She gave us (women) the map, if you will, to staying the course and committing to not giving up, no matter how far on the horizon. 

She is my Bobby Kennedy, my JFK, my MLK, and if anyone, anywhere even thinks of not erecting statues of her wherever women roam, I will finally take up arms. 

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Personal Essays Women

Be Kind: I’m Over It

16710123602_81e9bfe67d_bI’ve encountered this mantra on my Instagram, Facebook, and just about everywhere:

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

At first, I embraced it. I can do more “kind.” Yep, I can be known as kind. “You know Christine Merser; she’s so kind.”

*pause*

No one says that about me. But that’s not to say I don’t do kind things. Say kind things. Bleed with empathy and reach out with kindness for those in pain or less fortunate than me. I’ve done those things. Many times in my sixty-seven years. But that is not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of me. I know this because I called a few friends and asked them to quickly describe me.

Here is what I heard: “Funny.” “Smart.” “Helpful.” “Political.” One friend said, “a great driver.” Huh? No one said, “kind.”

So then I spent considerable time thinking about it. Pondering the words they used to describe me and questioning whether or not I’m a good person with those adjectives as my personality foundation. Then I second-guessed everything that I am, much of which I was born with, not that which I worked to acquire.

And, then I got angry. Defensive? Maybe, but nevertheless, I really started to look at the word “kind” and ask myself if that was a word I want in my epitaph.

Kind (adjective): Having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature: “She was a good, kind woman.”

Then it hit me. Of course I am kind. I am friendly, generous, and considerate. Actually, I am those things often.

I have someone I’m very close to. He is kind. The kind of kind that suggests that if you were to ask people to describe him, they’d probably use the word “kind.” Good for him. He has accomplished great things in his life, perhaps more than I have. But they are different things.

I watched AOC’s speech on the floor of Congress yesterday. Twice. It was many things. It was inspiring. Revealing. Articulate. Powerful. It was not kind. Kind would have been ridiculous.

Kind is a tool in the toolbox. It is not the box itself. Always being kind in all circumstances is not a goal. There is a time for kindness and a time for strident confrontation. There is not kind confrontation. There should be honest confrontation. AOC did not say anything that wasn’t true or clearly her opinion over fact. It was without bitterness. It wasn’t whiny. She did not make herself a victim. If anything, she made herself a hero, the master of her own universe.

So, it’s not the word “kind” that I have an issue with; it’s the entire message, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

I think it should read, “In a world where you can be anything, be appropriate to the moment in which you are responding.”

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Gender Politics

AOC: A New Voice Inside My Head

53186874e0c62d8f8ced7457e6dd6cbfI have watched AOC’s speech around men bullying women on the floor of Congress (oh happy day!) a number of times since she delivered it. I wept the first time, became proud the second, and grew enraged during part of the second and part of the third. I’m not sure what I will feel next week when my calendar pop-up reminds me to watch it one last time.

AOC surmises that Rep. Ted Yoho spoke to her that way simply because he believed he could do so with impunity, that he believes it’s OK to speak to women that way.

I surmise that while he might have thought he could get away with it (and, in fact, might have done just that if his comment hadn’t been overheard by a member of the press), that is not why he did it.

I think he saw her, was filled with the kind of rage that doesn’t have forethought or fear of reprisal. I don’t think he thought for that split second anything other than the fact that he can’t stand that she exists, let alone that she is a sitting congresswoman. He reacted without the ability to not do so and without thought of impunity, which is what makes it a pattern in his behavior. If you can behave that way over and over again, and it works by intimating those around you, it’s a tool in your tool box that serves a purpose.

I’m not sure which is worse: The fact that childhood-learned uncontrolled behavior of men works with women, or the fact that they can do it with impunity.

Weinstein. Yoho. Epstein. Trump. Barr. Should I go on?

Here is the thing: It becomes an uncontrollable response. I assure you, Yoho has lost it with his daughters and wife as well. I know this because just as AOC is the daughter of a man who gave her an unfettered voice nurtured without fear of his reprisal, a voice that I admire and need, I am the daughter of a man like Yoho, who, when challenged or made to feel “less than” by me or someone else, responded the same way Yoho did, without restraint. They can’t control it. And they have impunity. Both things can be true.

AOC gave me so much yesterday. My dad is gone, but I will write him a letter today, with her voice inside my new voice. It’s a voice she gave me, one that she got from her father, a different voice from the one inside my head. I am a better person, a stronger person because of her speech. No one will ever intimidate me that way again.

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Government Politics

Because of You

resized_99265-king-holiday-inaugura_segr_96-16666_t800During Obama’s first inauguration, he made one stop on his way to his seat. He stopped and hugged John Lewis . After he took the oath, on his way out, John Lewis went up to him with a blank piece of paper and a pen. He asked Obama to sign the paper. Obama wrote, “Because of you John. President Barack Obama”

His first signature as president. And, a recognition that he stood on the shoulders of men like John Lewis to get where he got. (Obama has said on numerous occasions that he stood on the shoulders of men like Martin Luther King and John Lewis.)
Because of you.

I have thought a lot about that moment since I read it yesterday. I have thought a lot about the words, ‘because of you.’ I think it’s worth a moment to ask ourselves what has happened in this world, or in our sphere of influence, ‘because of me.’

Silence means nothing will happen because of you. Negative comments about our president and those that enable him also mean nothing happens because of you. Actions we take, words we repeat, stories we tell, will build our ‘because of you’ legacy.
Will your ‘because of you’ build or destroy?

God I love the adrenaline rush I get inside when I see someone brilliantly taking down those that are my enemy in my country. A meme, a combination of words that cuts and devours. I feed off it. I know that it builds nothing – that moment of righteousness, and then forwarding it to create the same worthless ‘high’ for my likeminded friends. It’s a waste of time that could be better spent forwarding information about a great candidate running, or something that someone did that was building back that which we have allowed to be destroyed as part of the fiber of our country.

Because of Obama, and his oratory skills, and his amazing use of language, I have become a better person. Because of him. He reminds me whenever he speaks now, that there is no benefit in ripping things apart.

I will miss John Lewis and his rich history of taking actions that leave a legacy his future generations can hold in their hands with pride. I am grateful that I took a bit of yesterday and learned some things that I can use to emulate his fine example of how to be a great American.
I will strive moving forward to ask myself each night before I lay to rest what happened because of me today.

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Government Movies & TV Politics

Corruptio Optimi Pessima

Corruptio optimi pessima-2“Corruptio optimi pessima. Corruption of the best is the worst.”

I’m a West Wing girl. I mean, I love The West Wing. I think it’s the finest show ever written for TV, bar none. I think Aaron Sorkin is a genius, and if I could have lunch with one person who is alive today, believe it or not, it would be him.

I love The West Wing because it has taught me more life lessons than anything I’ve ever watched. More than any piece of art. More than the movies. It’s The West Wing. I love that the characters are all flawed in many ways, yet spectacularly brilliant and caring in other ways. I love that we can forgive them their daily sins, the same way I would like my own to be forgiven. I love that they go in a room and say what they have to say and then leave. They never repeat themselves over and over again the way I do when I’m not watching.

Fourth of July is approaching, and I wanted to write something about my love of America, and about my realization that we are not living in the best period of our history. We are living in a dark time from which we may not recover. Benjamin Franklin said the government can’t work if everyone in government doesn’t respect one another. I think we can all agree that right now, no one on either side of the political aisle, in the men’s and ladies rooms, or in the parking lots of the Capitol respect one another. In fact, I believe that many of them have no self respect, either. And, truth? What’s that in the beltway?

So, what to write about my country on her fabulous birthday? A call to action for myself and the rest of us comes to mind. So of course I turn to The West Wing, Season 5, Episode 14, An Khe. Leo McGarry, The President’s Chief of Staff, is a Vietnam War veteran. He was shot down and saved by his friend O’Neill, who carried him through the jungles for three days until they were rescued. Leo is loyal to “the finest man I have ever called a friend.” His friend is now the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company that makes things the government uses to do bad things in other places. Specifically helicopters. Leo finds out that his friend has crossed to the dark side and bribed someone to get a contract. I have just made a long, fabulous story short. You get the picture. O’Neill has let Leo down and Leo is stunned.

Fast-forward to Leo alone in his office after his friend confesses. Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s version of “My Country Tis of Thee” starts to play in the background, and the president comes in to see if Leo is all right. Leo begins to cry and tells the story of that long ago day when his amazing friend saved his life in the jungle. Then he explains that others died attempting to rescue them. He says that he and the fallen CEO had an obligation to those who went before — those who died — to lead lives on honor and service that would make those men proud of them. And the President quietly says, “Corruptio optimi pessima — Corruption of the best is the worst.”

Corruption of the best is the worst. Corruptio optimi pessima. Never has this quote been more appropriate than this moment in time. Not just in the presidency but in all the halls of our government. All of them.

We all have an obligation to start checking our facts before we republish the propaganda that clogs our inboxes and our minds. We have an obligation to respect other points of view — and to ask for the data to back up those points of view. And if we are to honor those who gave up so much for our freedoms (and I do not include not wearing a mask as a right of citizenship), we must take action to ensure that every American can vote easily and have access to health care—and also that every American pays the taxes they are supposed to pay and works hard to better their lives and not just to get a free ride; these things and a host of others have gone by the wayside. We need to learn to take care of the environment, to understand the land the way those that were here first did. We are out of control as a nation, and this is a day on which we should take a moment away from fireworks and hot dogs and steaks and red, white, and blue linens, and commit to doing the right thing.

God Bless America.

Post Script:

The plot line about the defense contracting controversy is apparently based on a real life incident. A 2003 lease agreement of 100 Boeing K-767  tankers by the US Air Force led to the imprisonment of a Pentagon staffer and the forced resignation of Boeing CEO Phil Condit. The main opponent of the deal was Senator John McCain – from Arizone like the fictional Senator Hunt; in addition, Hunt has been presented on the show as a maverick who is amenable to bipartisan projects, not unlike Senator McCain. McCain, when informed about the West Wing episode, was amused.

Very little is revealed about the title of the episode – An Khe. The only reference to the name is in the opening scene, when Leo, as a Vietnam War fighter pilot, tells ground control that he is approaching An Khe. An Khe was an actual base camp in Vietnam during the war.

Categories
Government Politics

MacArthur Park & Cake Out in the Rain

Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
’Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh no!

The lyrics to “MacArthur Park” come to mind now as I realize that we left the cake out in the rain. We Americans treated our freedom, our success, and our ease of life without sheltering them, appreciating them, and it took so long to bake that perfect recipe that we can never get it back. Oh no.

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 2.56.13 PMI always turn to music, or Aaron Sorkin’s body of work, when I can’t stand it anymore. I think we can all agree that “MacArthur Park” is one of the greatest songs ever written. “No, no,” to quote that literary genius Anna Wintour, “it’s not a question.” It is the perfect recipe of lyrics and notes, it’s long and meanders, and it is precisely what we need right now.

So I turned to one of my favorite renditions of it. David Letterman brought the largest orchestra ever into the theater that launched the Beatles in America, and he added to the mix the composer Jimmy Webb, and bassist Will Lee on vocals. If you haven’t seen it, click here. If you have seen it, check it out again — but this time, instead of paying attention to the camera’s focal point, which is mostly Will Lee, watch Jimmy Webb, who is playing the organ, and Paul Schaeffer, who’s playing the piano. Watch the passion with which they do what they do. Take note of the other musicians and their commitment to the performance. Notice how each of them focuses on what they’re contributing to create what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest moments in music and late-night television. I love the talent and passion with which they are giving their all to their craft. That is what we all need to do right now.

We must ignore the diversionary explosions of the world around us and do what we can to change things. We cannot let anyone else, let alone our government, take from us that which our forefathers built. Nope. Not on my watch. Not today. Let’s get to work, each of us within our own power.

Watching this video twice renewed me. It reminded me that while we left the cake out in the rain, we can bake another one simply by doing whatever’s in our power to put back together the pieces of our broken nation, our shattered souls, and our aching hearts. Yes, turn to music or Aaron Sorkin. It works every time.

There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it

I will take my life into my hands
And I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes
And I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
And my passion flow like rivers through the sky
And after all the loves of my life
I’ll be thinking of you.

Categories
Government Politics

Memorial Day 2020

photo-1-300x225My stepfather was an Infantryman in the 11th Armored Division of the 3rd Army. We’re talking Patton’s army. He was awarded a Purple Heart after being injured in the Battle of the Bulge. He and I were not close (I say kindly), and while I knew he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, I never asked him about it. Like so many other missed moments, I’m so sorry I never did. My daughter Sarah did. And, she told me this story. I share it with you on Memorial Day with the hope it will move you to ask someone who has served our country to tell you their story before they are no longer able. Especially at this moment in time when we are all so vulnerable.

It was late on Christmas Eve, 1944, and George Ilse was lying on the ground with hundreds of others. He thought he was dying. I’m not sure what the injury was, but he was ‘tagged’ as not able to survive and left with whatever comfort they could give. He had a small compass with him that my daughter now has on a chain. He told her that his uncle gave him the compass for Christmas just before he was deployed. I have the Christmas Card that accompanied the gift and added it to this blog. It has the following message: To help you find your way home. Tom. According to George’s story, it had stopped working.

A man walked by, stopped, looked at him and said, “Are you George Ilse?” My stepfather said he was and it turned out to be a medic from George’s hometown. He knelt over George and worked on him. He saved his life. He told Sarah that he took the compass out of his pocket while the stars shone over the snow covered ground later that night so long ago, and it was working again. He told her in that moment he knew he’d make it home.

I’m sorry I never thanked you for your service George. I do it today, on Memorial Day, 2020, so many years after that cold Christmas night. And, if I meet another person who has served in the future, I will ask them about their service rather than simply thanking them.