Henry B. Gonzalez, Honest Politician

156180_734451309907053_1802798528_nI’m no Democrat, and given their utter failure to represent their constituents, I shall never again align myself with Republicans. Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez was certainly a Democrat, but one I admired immensely. I was 10 years of age when he was ejected from Camp Warnecke in New Braunfels, Texas in 1955, in keeping with the sign out front: “No Mexicans Allowed.” He left, all the more determined to fight injustice. He was tough, and he was fearless, and his battles against segregation were most appropriate in their time. An impassioned speaker, he had a wonderful grasp of the English language. He took pride in being an American, and in his later years, at age 70, while dining in San Antonio’s Earl Able Restaurant, when a man walked up to his table and called him a Communist, Gonzalez stood up and punched the younger man in the face. No one was going to accuse him of being Anti-American! But despite his readiness to take a stand against racism, Gonzalez received criticism from Hispanic militants, for not joining in their more radical causes. They were lightweights and malcontents, in no way in the same league with Gonzalez, and he would as soon take on an Hispanic radical as an Anglo racist. According to former Texas state legislator Maury Maverick, “Henry B. will take on a Mexican-American or an Anglo indiscriminately, and he’ll pull you out into the middle of the street in full sunshine. He’s meaner than a riled cat when he goes after you.” Henry was, and would ever be, a man of the people. There was never any posturing in him. He was the genuine article who never forgot his roots, and he was revered by those he served. As a staunch Catholic and father of eight, he would have been alarmed at some of the so called “social issues” now troubling this country. Indeed, it was my hope to meet the great man, (for he was that). In 1975, in my position as the young supervisor of a state fraud investigation unit, I was spot lighted as an “Upcoming Young San Antonio Leader.” The program, as printed out, had me addressing a gathering at the side of Henry B. It was wishful thinking on my part, and on the part of the organizers, for program notwithstanding, the Congressman was a no show. He made up for it however, with an invitation to a small dinner gathering for a few supporters. I was satisfied with hearing him speak in person, and shaking the hand of the old lion. (I love to hear the English language spoken with eloquence, by the very few, like Henry B, who do it well.) Henry was possessed of a quality extremely rare in a politician. Honesty. No greater compliment could be given him than the one given him upon his retirement by one of his detractors, right wing Radio Commentator, Ricci Ware. “I have been critical of Henry B, but I will say one thing about him that I can’t say about any other politician, regardless of his political affiliation. Henry went to Congress with no money, and came back with less. He was completely honest. He refused to take money that wasn’t his.” Indeed, would that we had more Henry B.’s in Congress today!

Needed: Men and Women of Integrity

IntegrityNeeded more than ever today, are men and women of integrity, men and women who cannot be bought at any price, men and women with the moral courage to stand alone if necessary, by that which they know to be right. “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me,” said Job. (1)

Surely that which we know to be right, our standards, would elevate us above the filth and morass of the world around us. As such, we would become a light to those looking for direction, and longing for a better way. And what is a better way?

“…come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is His grace sufficient for you, that by His grace ye may be perfect in Christ…” (2)

Where change is needed in our lives, let us begin now by applying the salve of repentance! Let us look unto Christ, and be born again, as men and women of integrity!

“A man must live!” We justify
Low shift and trick, to treason high;
A little vote for a little gold,
Or a whole Senate bought and sold,
With this self-evident reply
“A man must live!”

But is it so? Pray tell me why
Life at such cost you have to buy,
In what religion were you told
A man must live!

There are times when a man must die!
There are times when a man will die!
Imagine for a battle cry
From soldiers with a sword to hold,
From soldiers with a flag unfurled,
This coward’s whine, this liar’s lie,
“A man must live!”

The Savior did not “live.”
He died.
But in His death was life
Life for Himself and all mankind!
He found His life by losing it!
And we, being crucified
Afresh with Him, may find
Life in the cup of death,
And, drinking it,
Win life forever more.” (3)

(1) Job 27:5
(2) Moroni 10:32 The Book of Mormon, another witness of Jesus Christ.
(3) “A Man Must Live,” Charlotte Stetson Gilman

The Lord is Mindful

December 28, 2013 ·

In the twilight years of her life, my beloved grandmother could not speak of one of her departed little ones, six decades after the loss, without tears streaking down her face. There is, in a cemetery in New Braunfels, a crudely graven headstone, handmade of concrete, over two tiny little graves. Barely visible are the words, written in 1919, “no se sabe lo que es sufrir, quien no ha perdido un nino amado”. Crudely written in simple wording, but in grief, so eloquent, it reads in its simplicity “no one can know what suffering is, until they have lost a beloved child.” Where does one turn for consolation?

“Master, with anguish of spirit I bow in my grief today The depths of my sad heart are troubled. Oh, waken and save, I pray!

The Lord is mindful. How infinite is His tenderness and love for little children! There is much comfort in the following translation from the King James Bible as recorded by Matthew. “Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them, saying, There is no need, for Jesus hath said, Such shall be saved. But Jesus said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Can there be any doctrine so glorious as that, “Such shall be saved…of such is the kingdom of heaven?” I have a sure knowledge that no blessing shall be withheld from little ones who die before the age of accountability, all through the tender mercies of the Holy Messiah, He who died that we might live. Indeed, “Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten…” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:46)

“Among the beautiful pictures That hang on Memory’s wall, Is one of a dim old forest, That seemeth best of all; Not for its gnarled oaks olden, Dark with the mistletoe: Not for the violets golden That sprinkle the vale below; Not for the milk-white lilies That lean from the fragrant ledge, Coquetting all day with the sunbeams, And stealing their golden edge; Not for the vines on the upland, Where the bright red berries rest, Nor the pinks, nor the pale, sweet cowslip, It seemeth to me the best,
I once had a little brother With eyes that were dark and deep; In the lap of that dim old forest He lieth in peace asleep; Light as the down of the thistle, Free as the winds that blow, We roved there the beautiful summers, The summers of long ago; But his feet on the hills grew weary, And, one of the autumn eves, I made for my little brother A bed of the yellow leaves. Sweetly his pale arms folded My neck in a meek embrace, As the light of immortal beauty Silently covered his face; And when the arrows of sunset Lodged in the tree-tops bright, He fell, in his saint-like beauty, Asleep by the gates of light. Therefore, of all the pictures That hang on Memory’s wall, The one of the dim old forest Seemeth the best of all.” (Alice Carey)

“No tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak…Then Jesus wept, and said, “Behold your little ones….” (3 Nephi 17: 23-24)

Dear mothers, and fathers, grieving over the loss of little ones; as I live, and as you live, and as the Lord lives, know this: if you will live worthy of the privilege, you shall behold your little ones again, and you shall take them into your arms again, their tender caresses to enjoy. Of this I bear my sacred witness, in the hallowed name of Jesus Christ, amen.

That which really matters

th (1)At the start of the new year, I find myself considering what counsel I can give my beloved children and grandchildren which will be of value to them. In looking to the future, I would remind each one of them that while there are good things, there are also better, and although I pray that my children may be successful and do well financially, I say with all the sincerity of my heart that if they are not where they ought be spiritually, I would rather they were dirt poor, but faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. If there be any of my little ones who is not where he or she ought be spiritually, know that the Lord stands with arms outstretched to receive you. You have not traveled beyond the reach of His love! There is work for you to do. You are needed. The Lord pleads with you, and I plead with you with all the tenderness of my heart; come back, O come back!” I pray continually for you by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of you. I know that He will hear my cry, and I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers in your behalf.” I plead that you consider your ways, my beloved children. If necessary, humble yourselves, and change what needs changing. Look up, and seek the things that really matter.

To tip or not to tip


One of my peeves is to sit in a restaurant with a person who seems to be looking for an excuse not to leave the waitress a tip. As I see it, a waitress is a person who is on her feet for long hours, eager for a moment to sit and rest her feet, feet which ache after so long standing. I see her as a single mom, struggling to make ends meet, worrying all the while about a child or children who at the moment may be home alone. “What is my baby doing? Is she alright?” Oh how her heart aches! That child, on the other hand, is in fact home alone, terribly missing mom. Or, the waitress may be an older woman, with other worries, but always,always, with worries! Being a waitress is hard work, and what is going on elsewhere may affect her on the job. No, you the person who have made up your mind not to tip her will get no support from me! Not one bit! I have a problem with your way of thinking, even if the waitress has her faults! It is people such as yourself who make her already heavy cross more difficult to bear. Leave a tip, and where possible, a hefty one. I will think better of you. “As ye have done it unto the least of these…” (Matthew 25:40) fits perfectly well here. It says nothing about judging that person first. You, on the other hand, are being judged. Leave a tip. Please.

Where would He have been found?

”Happy Father’s Day to my dad.” So read my ten year old grandson’s post on Father’s Day. Timmy’s father, Timothy Sanders the elder, was killed in a tragic accident a couple of months prior to little Timmy’s birth. As to who the senior Tim Sanders was, the following story illustrates best.

My daughter Stephanie met Tim in a Pancake House where the two worked some time before they were married. During an electrical black out, when the restaurant was totally dark, Tim was nowhere to be found. While the staff and clientele gathered to talk in the dark, someone discovered Tim in the bathroom. There, flashlight and toilet paper in hand, he was quietly cleaning up an old gentleman who had soiled himself.

This was a kind and gentle person, quietly taking on an unpleasant task others would have shied from. Tim’s childhood years were years of much suffering, much heartbreak and loneliness. But out of all that, emerged a gentle and kind human being, full of compassion and caring, the kind of person who would respond to another in trouble, as in the case of the old gentleman in the bathroom.

We might ask ourselves, if Christ had been present in that restaurant that night, where would He have been found? Indeed, the lesson we are to learn if we would be true followers of the Christ is this one: We have come into this life to serve our fellow beings, for when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are only in the service of our God. (Mosiah 2:17, the Book of Mormon)

May we be among those unto whom He shall say in a future day, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Matthew 25: 34-36)

Crisis of the heart

I have struggled with this. There is a great humanitarian crisis facing the world today; it is also a crisis of the heart. Paul counseled thus: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14) God is our Father, and we are His spirit children. These are our brothers and sisters. True, fear is rampant, as we consider the horrific actions of some, but we are to remember that “… none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. (2 Nephi 26:33, the Book of Mormon) As we reach out to help the least of our Father’s children, we do so unto Him. We are reminded that, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1) The Savior exemplified a pure love, despite being despised and persecuted. To Whom do we look as our Exemplar? What would He have us do?

In obedience to God’s commands, there is safety

As with my son Chris, and my daughter in law Mary, shown here attending church with their family in the Utah Valley, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is known as a family church, giving heed to the first of God’s commandments, as recorded in Genesis, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” (1)

God has never given a commandment save He bless those who in righteousness, obey His commandments. In righteousness? Yes, in righteousness, meaning obedience to ALL His commands, with special emphasis on the laws of morality and chastity. For the obedient, He provides a way, as for instance, on how to care for a large family. He blesses righteous parents, giving answer to their prayers regarding that most sacred of institutions, the family.

For the sustenance of the family, He gave the law of the tithe. We read in Malachi, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (2) Ten percent of all we bring in through our labors is His, and in return He will provide all we need for our sustenance.

But let us go back to that first commandment, “to be fruitful and multiply.” A few decades ago, supposed wise men of education rose up to declare and foster, among other things, that the earth would soon be overpopulated, that women deserved the right to pursue careers, leaving children to be tended by others outside the family, that two parents working would lead to a better lifestyle, and that children could wait. Somewhere along the line, two was the number settled on, hopefully one boy and one girl as a maximum number of children for a couple. What followed is that today, some couples in pursuit of a hedonistic lifestyle, (living to pursue pleasure) settle on one or none. This was especially true in the countries known as the European Union. Be fruitful and multiply? Please! What does God know?

The results of nations disobeying God’s commands? Quoting from an article published in 2008, we read, “Europe is a dying continent…an acute failure to produce the next generation has created a looming demographic crisis…According to research by both the CIA and the UN, every single member of the European Union has a birthrate significantly below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman…Germany had a birthrate of 1.36 children per woman in 2007, and Spain and Italy had birthrates of 1.29…The average birthrate of the European Union as a whole is approximately 1.5 per woman…and that number is inflated…No civilization has ever recovered from such a population decline, and never before had such a decline been entirely voluntary…Europeans are not becoming less fertile as a consequence of war, or famine, or disease, but rather as a consequence of their Western consumerist lifestyle…European civilization is in the middle of committing voluntary demographic suicide…violating fundamental Darwinist principles for gene propagation…within a century, Europe will cease to be a White, Christian continent.” (3)

The article was written in 2008. The author could not have forseen the hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants pouring into Europe today. Surely there is safety in obeying the Lord’s commands! The price we pay for continued disobedience can be devastating. Except the Lord intervene, given the high birthrate of the immigrants, Europe as we know it will disappear within a generation.

The Lord decries the so called wisdom of the modern day intellectuals with their man made and uninspired theories about the future of mankind. “O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. (4)

(1) Genesis 1:28
(2) Malachi 3:10
(3) “White Europeans: An endangered species? Yale Daily News (4) 2 Nephi 28, The Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ

A brush with history

I had high entry scores going into the military on the 18th of October 1963, and, after the proper training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, was sent back to Fort Polk, where I was eventually assigned to the Finance Section at post headquarters. My parents, who had prayed much for my safety, were ecstatic. As for me, I could not stand being confined to an office, and I hated it. I could never seem to get a good handle on the intricacies of my job, simply because I didn’t want to. That changed the day one of the two military police companies on post was assigned to me. I was to be their paymaster.

In those days, MP’s were picked first and foremost for their size, and you rarely saw an MP under six feet tall. These were big guys, and they commanded respect, for the Army had yet to succumb to political correctness, to allow physically small men and women into an MP Unit. As for instance, near a military post, a group of Army 82nd Airborne troopers meeting up in a bar with an equal number of US Marines, is a brawl waiting to happen, which off post would be handled not by civilian law enforcement but by MP’s patrolling for just this sort of happening. MP’s were selected on the basis of common sense. Being big made a statement.

The MP’s liked me, which was made apparent the day two MP’s walked into my office in uniform and informed my military boss that I was going with them. He didn’t argue. Even though these were two lower ranked MP’s and my boss was a Major, few people argued with physically imposing MP’s who were there ostensibly on orders from the Post Provost Marshall. Waiting outside was a deuce and a half, or two and a half ton cargo truck, manned by a very drunk MP. I can still remember the peculiar feeling of having two big, very drunk, MP’s pick me up and hand me to the two very drunk MP’s seated on the top of the cab,and being seated between them in what I was informed was the seat of honor. I was glad to be seated between them, because from the top of a deuce and a half to the hard pavement is a long way. Once I was safely ensconced between the two, off we went to give me a personal tour of Ft Polk. A trail of MP company vehicles followed the deuce and a half, each one manned by, and carrying drunken off duty MP’s, hollering, blaring horns and sirens, and otherwise loudly enjoying the benefits of a long awaited company party, to which I was informed I was the guest of honor. So near to Post Headquarters, such racket did not go unheeded, and soon, the other MP Company showed up, and with lights flashing, escorted the party participants back to their company area.

Why were not arrests of those MP’s made, you ask? Principally because there were only two companies of trained MP’s on post, with only 100 men per company. These MP’s had not asked to be in military law enforcement, they were assigned to it, and they did a good job. To have put these MP’s out of commission would have crippled the function of keeping order on the post of 40,000 soldiers. Trained MP’s were hard to come by, and the brass knew it.

The brass knew it that late summer evening in 1964, when a mini civil war erupted between two advance infantry trainee battalions, and which their cadre were ill equipped to put down. The wooden barracks holding battalions of 500 men each, were back to back, separated only by a football size field. I heard them before I saw them, a roar of pent up rage emerging from hundreds of throats, as they piled out of barracks into the field, pummeling at each other with fists, but what was more deadly, those with entrenching tools in hand hacking at each other with reckless fury. Very soon were heard countless sirens as every available MP arrived and piled into the melee, furiously swinging billy clubs to separate the fighters and reestablish order. Yes, the MP’s were needed, and the brass knew it.

But who could blame those combatants on the field? They were never to see another stateside post, for from this advanced infantry post, all were destined for an infantry line company in Vietnam, and so would their orders read, for Fort Polk was to send more men to Vietnam than any other military post in the country. Rushed out of eight weeks of basic training into eight more weeks of advanced infantry training against their will, these men, mostly sons of the poor, were angry. I say men, because there were absolutely no women soldiers on Ft Polk. Angry? Yes, these men were angry, for somewhere off post might be a lonely wife staying in a flea bitten hotel room, hoping to see her man that weekend. Angry? Yes, for that weekend might not materialize, for that man training somewhere within the confines of Fort Polks nigh 200,000 acres was told that the Army came first, that had he needed a wife, the Army would have issued him one.

To be separated from wives, sweethearts, and loved ones, and to have no communication with them for weeks on end, that was cause for despair. When a phone was available there was inevitably a long line in front of it, with every man in that line hoping and praying that when his turn came to call, the person at the other end of the line would be there, and if not, where was she?

Angry? Yes, for most soldiers were, or would soon be well aware of the public’s antipathy toward them, and the cause of it, in great part the radical and left leaning professors occupying college pulpits to educate what the soldier took to be primma donnas, escaping the draft to attend colleges, where they would learn to hate anything military, or so it seemed. If so, many of those primma donnas are in positions of national leadership today.

Yes, the MP’s were needed. On weekends that little bump of a town which was then Leesville, became the destination point for tens of thousands of trainees on weekend pass. To welcome them was every crook, shyster, and sleaze bag in Vernon Parish. These denizens of the lower regions were inveterate and incurable racists, therefore they did not cater to Black soldiers. Black soldiers went to another area of town, where the Black brothers and sisters of the White crooks plied their trade. But in central Leesville, in places like the one called “The Hole,” precisely because it was just that, young soldiers still in their teens drank their first beer, and experienced the perils of being defrauded by evil men and women. Leesville on weekends was wall to wall soldiers, far more than crooked civilian law enforcement could deal with, therefore MP’s were on hand to deal with and protect their own, for woe unto the soldier who was arrested by Vernon Parish law enforcement!

In those days the story was bandied about regarding the member of an earlier tank company who was confined in the Vernon Parish Jail. Unit members positioned a tank in front of the jail, and pointing the tank’s cannon barrel towards the jail, made the suggestion that consideration ought be given toward releasing the prisoner. The sheriff allowed that the suggestion had merit, and the prisoner was released with undue haste. This story serves to illustrate the feelings the military entertained towards Vernon Parish law enforcement in those days.

This was then, the Fort Polk era that I knew, and the military police I became well acquainted with, and came to truly appreciate. I took care of them, and in the midst of their revelry, they remembered me. And, as I recall, from this point onward, my own chain of command began to treat me with kid gloves, for the members of my MP Company had my back. It had not been so with the person who was their last paymaster, nor was it so for the person taking care of the other military police company, for they were not so invested as I. In fact, months later, when the four tires were stolen from my personal vehicle, leaving it on its rims in my Company parking lot on the edge of the Pine woods, the MP’s quickly came to my office to inform me that they had solved the case. As it turned out, they had found not four, but twenty four tires. I remember the look of amazement on the faces of the several MP’s waiting by my car, when I told them that none of the tires were mine. “Lopez, what do you mean none of them are yours? What do you mean? Take your pick!” I was adamant. None were mine. Two MP’s took me back to my office. In my absence, the other MP’s placed a set of tires on my vehicle.

I began to spend a lot of time at the MP Company because I was intrigued by law enforcement. When MP Units were involved in a shootout, with two men breaking into an Ammo Dump at North Fort Polk, I begged to be taken with them. I wanted into the action but was refused. “No Lopez, we can’t be responsible for you!” My offer to write out a statement relieving them of any responsibility for me was rejected. Man, but I begged to go along, but to no avail. But they made it up to me, finally. “Lopez, someone needs to go to Fort Rucker, Alabama to pick up two deserters. We are short handed and can’t send anyone. Would you like to go?” Would I! “But how are we going to get clearance from my chain of command?” (Who would have thought to send a Finance Clerk to do an MP’s job?) “We’ll clear it for you to go Lopez. No one is going to refuse the Post Provost Marshall. We’ve already submitted your name and it’s been approved. There will be another guy going with you but you’ll be in charge.”

With only two under strength MP Companies on a 40,000 man post, they were indeed short handed, but the odds of me being selected to go would have been nonexistent, had it not been that MP’s of all ranks were fond of me. I took care of them, and they took care of me. So it was that in late 1965, myself and another soldier were outfitted with .45’s and hand cuffs, and travel orders to go to Fort Rucker, Alabama. “You will go by bus, but it will be an overnight trip by train coming back. Just don’t take the handcuffs off them.”

We took a Trailways Bus to Fort Rucker in uniform, which was not wise during that era. As I was to discover, given our mission, there would be out right hostility from some quarters.The bus took us through Selma, Alabama, where earlier in the year Martin Luther King had led his epic march. I was shocked at the conditions there. Poor Black people in great numbers were crowded on the north side of the street, on the sidewalk, lined up against the buildings. Braving the cold of that November day, their ragged clothing, and the dejected looks on their faces, bespoke of utter hopelessness in the face of absolute poverty, unlike anything I had ever seen before! The Reverend Martin Luther King may have marched in their behalf, but these people continued to live there. They were facing the repercussions for their part in the marches, and now, in great sadness, enduring the long wait for justice. One thing appeared certain; jobs for Blacks were virtually non existent. One remembers that virtually all employers in Selma were White.

The year 1965 was a time of utter and ruthless racial discrimination, and with the exception of Mississippi, nowhere else was this more evident than in Alabama. The year before, in Mississippi, civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner left their base in Meridian, Mississippi, to investigate one of a number of church burnings, in particular the Mount Zion Church, burned down by the Klu Klux Klan because the minister had allowed it to be used as a meeting place for civil rights activists. While there, they were stopped and arrested by Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price. After several hours, he turned them loose, and then rearrested them, and turned them over to the Klan. The Klan took them to a remote place, and after beating them, shot and killed them, and buried them under an earthen dam, where they were eventually discovered weeks later. And in Alabama, church deacon Jimmy Lee Jackson was shot and killed by a State Trooper eight months before we set out for Fort Rucker, and his mother and grandmother beaten, during a peaceful demonstration. Jackson died in a Selma hospital. During that time, beginning in East Texas and all the way across the South, dirty water fountains read “Colored only,” and Blacks could be seen ordering food at restaurants through a back window, for they were not allowed inside. “Don’t you be caught out after dark,” was the word to Blacks. These were sad, but harsh facts.

After a couple of days at Fort Rucker, the prisoners were handed over to us. The prisoners were White, and draftees, and obviously older than either of us, and looking very fit. I had just turned twenty, and my companion was about the same age. Neither of us had any law enforcement training. Our inexperience must have shown, for smirking, one of them said to us, “It’s a long way back to Fort Polk. I’m not going back.” The other one smiled, saying nothing. It was disturbing to me that they were handcuffed with hands to the front, where their hands clasped together could be used as weapons.

We took a bus up to Montgomery, where we were to board a train. I was sick and appalled by what I saw there. Hanging over the United States Post Office were two flags, one of which was a crisp, clean, Stars and Bars Flag, fluttering proudly in the wind. Literally drooping beside her, was a bedraggled, and dirt filthy, United States Flag. I was incensed at this contemptible treatment of Old Glory!

Worse was to come. Walking into the large Union Train Station, we sat down with our prisoners. A police officer approached, obviously drunk. “Where you taking them boys?” Without waiting for my answer, he continued. “No damnyankees is going to arrest our Southern boys! Turn ‘em loose!” It occurred to me that earlier in the year, 2,000 US Soldiers had been called to Selma to protect the marchers from State Troopers and lawmen. There was no love lost for soldiers in uniform in the aftermath. So here was this drunk police officer, armed and in uniform, angrily telling us he wanted us to turn loose our prisoners. An act of bravado? But then he placed his hand on his weapon. What to do now? Who expected this when giving me this assignment? How to proceed?

Well OK, I was not trained at the time to be a cop. But I was a soldier, no matter my job function. And I was no stranger to violence. Besides, I did not, and do not like to be threatened. At that point, I dig in my heels. Perhaps it is for this reason, one of my heroes is a Mormon Apostle by the name of Lyman Wight. When informed by Missouri Militia General Moses Wilson that if he would not swear against Joseph Smith, he would be shot by firing squad the following morning, he made his feelings quite clear.”Shoot and be damned!” I have always felt an attachment to Lyman Wight, both for his loyalty to Joseph, and for his utter fearlessness.

So here was this cop. Was he for real? Well, I would play along. I noted the pistol the cop was carrying. Cops in those days carried .38 caliber Colts or S & Ws, and some even carried .32’s. Placing my hand on the butt of the .45 I was carrying, I remember saying something like, “You’ve got that little pop pistol, and I’ve got this cannon. Pull your little pop pistol, why don’t you?” I’m sure I worded it more strongly, but at any rate…I was bluffing, but he didn’t know that. If you gotta bluff do it with verve, and be prepared to back it up. I never took my eyes off him, because he had been drinking, and no one should ever make a threat with his hand on a weapon. I was bluffing because it had occurred to me that although I was carrying a full magazine, I was carrying on an empty chamber, and if he had pulled his weapon I would have had to rack a round to get my own weapon into action, and he would have gotten into the game before me, and we were close enough where it would have been hard enough for him to miss me if he had pulled that gun. I didn’t know anything about this cop, but what I did know was that I did not go around threatening armed strangers while resting my hand on my weapon. It wasn’t nice. And my prisoners didn’t know me, and I did not know how they would react. After what seemed like a long time to stare a man down, he turned from my gaze. I knew then that I had him. It was at this moment that the quiet, tougher one of the two prisoners spoke up. He too had seen a glimpse of fear in the man. “Take these cuffs off me, Lopez, and I’ll whip his butt for you.” The cop turned and walked away.

The prisoner was now on my side, and on the way back to Fort Polk we sort of bonded. In fact, as we sat together,toward the end of the trip, he warned me that the other prisoner, who was being watched over by my companion, was planning to overpower my companion while on a trip to the bathroom, and thus make his escape. Having been forewarned, I traded prisoners with my companion, and we made it back to Fort Polk with no further untoward incidents. Upon arrival, I put in a good word for my prisoner friend. I wish I had followed up on him, for he was a good man, despite his failings. Five decades have passed, and I do not remember the names of any of those who took part in this story, but should he or others in the tale still be alive and by some miracle come across this piece, it is my hope that they will recognize it by the events and the part they played in it, and choose to get in touch with me.

For many of those of the South of fifty years ago that I am recalling, those were indeed hard times. That dirty and soiled US Flag was itself an act of rebellion, and indicative of the bitter feelings then rife across the South. But the South of today is much changed from the South I knew then. In 2005, on my way back from a visit to Georgia, I turned off the road to visit Selma, Alabama. I stopped in at a Church’s Fried Chicken establishment. Wherein I had seen utter poverty fifty years before, I now saw a well dressed and happy people, obviously well educated. Just then, an Alabama State Police car pulled up. Out stepped an Alabama State Trooper, probably six foot six in height. He was one of the sharpest police officers I have ever seen, physically fit to the max. He was Black. And today, fifty years later, one cannot find the Leesville I knew back then. In its place are orderly streets, with beautiful green lawns and trees where bars and clip joints once stood. And churches! Churches, and the works of a God fearing people are much evident there today. Yes, today it is a lovely little town, with even a memorial to the soldiers who passed through. It is well that they have done this, for of the thousands who died in Vietnam, a majority were those, who at one time or another, signed out to a weekend pass, with destination Leesville, prior to embarking for Vietnam. There is nothing which more signifies the change which has come to formerly segregated Leesville, than the sight my wife and I beheld a year ago today, of three young teen age girls, two of them White and one Black, walking down the street with hands entwined.

Teach them to pray

We would teach our children how to pray. As we do so, we will find that they take to it quite naturally, instinctively really. After all, prayer amounts to putting into words the deepest longings of the heart.

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast

Our children will surprise us, for they will unerringly pray with faith, a sure knowledge really, that their prayers are heard. We can be assured that the pleadings of a child in his purity will pierce the veil.

I recall an instance many years ago when my children were yet small. I was out on my place burning trash, when a fierce wind blew up. In an instance, sparks flew everywhere and the dry grass around us caught fire. Despite my best efforts to contain it, the fire began to rage out of control. When all seemed lost, one of my little sons, but four years of age, fell to his knees, and with folded arms and bowed head cried out, “Heavenly Father, please stop the wind so my daddy can put the fire out, in Jesus Name, amen!” No sooner had he uttered those words, than the wind stopped.

Yes, we ought teach our children to pray, for it is the one source of strength which will never fail them. In this troubled world we can do no better than to teach them to pray to the Father, in Jesus name. They will then know that come what may, they are never alone.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try,
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high.”