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“Hope is being able to see there is light despite all of the darkness”

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. - Desmond Tutu

Perhaps you have lived through a tornado, but thankfully I have never had that experience. On the TV, I have seen the horrifying images of devastation cased by these funnel clouds. This morning I looked in amazement at a video a friend posted about last night; he lives about 15 miles from us. The image was of a small boat being pushed by the wind across his back yard.

Around dusk, a couple of major thunderstorms wandered across Spartanburg County. It became darker and more silent, as they approached. The winds built up, the skies darkened, and the emergency weather system broadcast its alerts. A tornado was spotted below our town, and another possible one was to the north.

No, we didn’t go to our hallway and shut the doors, but we continued to monitor the situation. In about an hour, the tornado warning was lifted. John went to the basement to be sure the sump pump was running and decided a ham sandwich, rather than a grilled steak was in order for our supper.

This morning we woke to a new day of sunshine; the storms had vanished and moved on.

Helen Keller is a heroine of mine. Her story is one of persistence, and the movie, The Miracle Worker, opened my eyes to how hope changes lives. The scene, at the water pump, where Anne Sullivan is pumping water into Helen’s six-year-old hand and finger spelling the word “water” into the other hand was profound. I can still see this in my mind, as joy, wonder, and hope melted together for Helen; the darkness was miraculously lifted. Her life started over.

Hope is mighty, like the light of one candle. It can pierce the darkness and enable us to sleep at night.

Shel Silverstein defines it this way. “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

Don’t you think we should choose hope?

 

“I am prepared for the worst but hope for the best.” (Benjamin Disraeli)

Where there is no vision, there is no hope. - George Washington Carver

In the shabby basement of an old house in Atlanta, Georgia, lived a young widow and her little girl. During the Civil War, she had married a young Confederate soldier, against her Yankee father’s will, and had moved with him south, to Atlanta. Her wealthy father, angry and hurt at what he considered to be her disloyalty, both to him and the North, told her never to come back.

The soldier had died bravely during the war, and his death left his wife and child without any support. Alone in Atlanta, Margaret did washing, ironing, and other menial jobs that she could find to help her scrape by and feed little Anna. Their clothes became ragged, and they were both ill from sleeping in the damp basement.

Anna loved to hear her mother’s stories about her home in the North. She sat in her mother’s lap and listened for hours to descriptions of the big, brick house in Boston, the sprawling shade trees, the beautiful flower gardens, and the wide grassy lawn. She loved to imagine the horses trotting across the meadow, the smell of bread baking in the kitchen, and the soft feel of the four-poster feather beds. Although Anna had never seen her mother’s home, she thought it must be marvelous and secretly hoped that someday they would go there to live.

Margaret often sat looking wistfully up through the narrow basement windows at the blue sky, remembering her mama’s smile, laughing with her two sisters, chasing her little brother, and sitting on her father’s lap. She missed her family and home so much. But there was nothing she could do. She could never earn enough money to pay the train fare to Boston, no matter how hard she worked. And when she remembered her father’s hurt, angry expression when she left, she knew there was little hope of ever seeing her family again.

On Christmas Eve, the landlady of the house knocked on the basement door. Anna ran to answer, and the lady handed her a letter. Margaret knew immediately that the broadly scrawled handwriting on the envelope was her father’s. With trembling fingers she pulled open the flap of the envelope. When she pulled out the single-sheet letter, two one-hundred dollar bills fell out on the floor. The letter had just three words: “Please come home.”

“God Works in a Mysterious Way”

by William Cowper:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”

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Born in 1731, William Cowper dealt with depression most of his life, and yet he wrote over 65 hymns about his hope in the Lord to work things out. At age 33, Cowper apparently became a believer in 1764 while in residence at St. Albans Insane Asylum. He happened upon a Bible on a bench in the garden, and God used John 11 and Romans 3:25 to open his eyes to the goodness of Jesus and the sufficiency of his atoning work.

There are many scriptures about a Christian’s “blessed hope.” Psalm 3:2-6 proclaims, “Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and He answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”

As we celebrate the first week of Advent with its emphasis on hope, it is this candle in the Advent wreathe that we light first. We look forward with hope to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse. - Walt Disney

Big Thursday in South Carolina

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1896 Clemson football team

A typical October day in Columbia, South Carolina, with a slight wind rustling the leaves in the leaves and on the ground, but this third Thursday was different. It was Big Thursday, and football was king, even though it was a new game. Because the horse races in the afternoon were a popular event, they played early. Twenty-five cents was the cost of those tickets.

The State Fair, with all its fun, food, entertainment and contests, took second fiddle once again. Unbelievably, across the state of South Carolina, every school, business, and company have closed their doors. A vacation day was declared for the football game between USC and Clemson. At this time, South Carolina was known as the Jaguars and Clemson as Ploughboys.

Not only was Big Thursday a holiday, but it was also a fashion show. Ladies were dressed in their Sunday-best with the accouterments of hats, gloves, and jewelry, and the men sported their best suits, ties, and hats. Husbands and boyfriends bought corsages for their ladies.

“A combination of a country picnic, Old Home Week, a state fair and a Roman holiday” was how Wilton Garrison, former sports editor of The Charlotte Observer, once described Big Thursday.

The excitement was palatable; everywhere in the city were smiling faces and laughter. Children raced around their parents, as they walked to the fair grounds. Picnic baskets were packed to the brim with fried chicken, potato salad, cookies, and cakes. Tailgates were all over town, and many were using blankets as tables.

For Clemson, the week began with a Tuesday night rally on the campus. Then the following morning, the corps of cadets took a train to Columbia. Until 1955, Clemson University was an all-male college, and all-military until 1957. The military marched with rifle and bayonet from the train station to camp at the fairgrounds.

The cadets pitched tents, watched the freshman teams duel on what was called Little Wednesday, and planned for Big Thursday. If Clemson won, the cadets celebrated with a weekend leave for all. If there was a defeat, the cadets left on a midnight train that night and proceeded to Friday morning classes.

The first Big Thursday was in 1896 when Clemson Agricultural College started their football program. There was already rivalry between the two schools. The administrators of both schools saw this as an opportunity for bragging rights in a new way. For those who couldn’t attend this game, it was broadcast on the radio.

Poster depicting the annual "Big Thursday" rivalry game

Poster depicting the annual “Big Thursday” rivalry game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Carolina College won the very first Big Thursday Game, 12-6. After that, Clemson won four straight games leading up to the Brawl of 1902. All over Columbia, there were fights that year because of a poster that Clemson took major offense to. That poster pictured their new mascot Cocky leading a Tiger by the tail. To keep the peace, the poster was burned, and the game suspended for seven years.

After 20 years as the Clemson football coach, Frank Howard tells Columbia good by.

In 1949, Time magazine wrote,

“In South Carolina, it is unpardonable for a red-blooded citizen to be neutral on Big Thursday. On that momentous day, by decree of State law and with the State Fair as a backdrop, Clemson College (enrollment 3200) fights it out on the football field with the University of South Carolina (enrollment 4000). As usual last week, schools closed down and politicians scurried back from Washington as citizens began working themselves in the mood for the 47th annual [sic] battle.”

Don Barton’s book, Big Thursday and Super Saturdays, is a wealth of stories on the history of Clemson/Carolina football.

Whether on radio, live streaming, television, or attendance at 7:30 this Saturday night, the Clemson Tigers and the Carolina Gamecocks will meet once again to see who has football bragging rights for 2016. Enjoy!

 

“Dulce Et Decorum Est”

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Germany invaded neutral Belgium on August 4, 1914, as part of a planned attack on France. By nightfall, Britain had joined the war.

The war was not expected to last long. Instead of weeks, the continent was plunged into unknown hardship and misery of World War I for more than four years.

Roughly 10 million soldiers lost their lives in World War I, along with seven million civilians. The horror of the war and its aftermath altered the world for decades, and poets responded to the brutalities and losses in new ways.

Just months before his death in 1918, English poet Wilfred Owen famously wrote, “This book is not about heroes. English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War.”

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At age 25, Wilfred Owen was killed in battle, fighting for his country in France on November 4. His parents received word of his death on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. With his words, he paints the nightmares he encountered.

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Notes:
Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

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The silence screams, as this video declares Armistice Day in 1920 with the burial of Britain’s Unknown Soldier.

 

We must never forget the sacrifices of those who have fought for our country.

“The Class That Never Was”

My dad, Samuel Moore Collins, died seven years ago. This article was published in South Carolina’s magazine, “The Sandlapper,” before he died. What fun it was to interview him and his friends!

As we celebrate Veterans Day this week, I decided to share it again. It was an honor for these men in the Class of ’44 to fight for their nation.

Gentlemen, once again, I thank your for your service.

 

The 1940 plebes prematurely were carried off by a small diversion known as “World War II.” At mess one day in 1943, The Citadel Class of ’44 were ordered to stand up. They heard the words: “Gentlemen, you are shipping out.”

 

                                                                                The Class That Never Was

In 1940, World War II enveloped Europe. Belgium, Norway and France surrendered to the German Army. Italy, siding with Germany, declared war on Britain and France in June. Hitler’s parade into Paris was broadcast in American theaters on Fox Movie-tone News. Air battles and daylight raids between the Luftwafte and the Royal Air Force over Britain’s skies began in August. Men, women and children were dying.

That same year in America, Big Band sounds filled the air waves and dance floors. Crooner Bing Crosby and comedian Bob Hope made their first movie together. Everyone flocked to laugh at My Favorite Wife and The Philadelphia Story. (Our Office of War declared movies essential for morale and propaganda.) But in May, the country listened to President Franklin D. Roosevelt give a “Fireside Chat” on National Defense. He looked backward and forward at the situation in Europe and its future
effect on America.

World War II was winding closer to home shores.

On September 2, 1940, 565 high school graduates reported to The Citadel in Charleston for their freshmen year of college. They came from across the United States. Each entered the same wrought iron gate. Young men arrived from California, Indiana, Pennsylvania . . . but most were South Carolinians. Registration began at 9 a.m. in the armory with forms to fill out and fees to pay. Freshman expenses were $531.50 for first-year South Carolina cadets, $671.50 for out-of-state cadets. Gen. Charles Pelot Summerall, Citadel president, welcomed the class that night.

Among “the class that never was”—the anticipated Class of 1944—not one at the time could have imagined there would be no cadets in what would have been their graduating class.

That first week was packed with new experiences. Padgett-Thomas Barracks was their new home. Rooms were no larger than oversized closets of today. Each cadet had a spring cot. They kept their mattresses in a press and folded up the cots for daily inspection. The barracks were fully screened, but the screens didn’t keep out the mosquitoes and “no see-ums.” “Air-conditioning” was free. (No charges are listed for it among freshman expenses.) (There was a sink with cold and hot water in each room.)

Reveille, the bugle wake-up call, sounded at 6:45 a.m. the first week, at 6:15 the rest of the year. There would be no turning over for a few extra minutes of shut-eye. The training cadre was meticulous in introducing the new class to all facets of cadet life, and that included early rising.

Each cadet received a copy of the Guidon. This was the information guide to help a new cadet survive his rigorous first year. Cadets had to memorize the Guidon’s three most important questions and be ready, willing and able to recite them at any place, under any circumstance:

1) What is the definition of leather? “The fresh skin of an animal, cleaned and divested of all hair, fats and other extraneous matter; immersed in a dilute solution of tannic acid, a chemical combination ensues; the gelatinous tissue of the skin is converted into a nonputrescible substance, impervious to and insoluble in water; this, sir, is leather.”

2)What time is it? “Sir, I am deeply embarrassed and greatly humiliated that due to unforeseen circumstances over which I have no control, the inner workings and hidden mechanisms of my chronometer are in such in-accord with the great sidereal movement by which time is reckoned that I cannot with any degree of accuracy state the exact time, sir; but without fear of being very far off, I will state that it is [so many minutes, so many seconds and so many ticks after such an hour].”

3)What do freshmen rank? “The president’s cat, the commandant’s dog, the waiters in the mess hall, and all the colonels at Clemson.”

“Ten-hut!” (“Attention!”) was quickly understood. Cadets prayed to hear, “As you were, Mister,” while standing at “ten-hut.”

Plebes (first-year students) had daily opportunities to become more adept at push-ups and pull-ups. “The Citadel takes boys and makes them men,” observes Bob Adden, a Class of ’44 member from Orangeburg. Lee Chandler of Greenville, retired S.C. Supreme Court justice, says he rapidly came to see “the value of living a life of discipline and control.” The first six weeks were hard, but he decided “to not be a quitter, even though not of a military inclination.”

Freshmen quickly learned to stand at attention and parade rest, to answer all questions with the prefatory and ending address of “sir,” to clean and carry a rifle, to walk square corners and eat square meals, and to march double time everywhere. Answering immediately to names like “Mr. Dumbsquat” and “Mr. Doowilly” became second nature. They became skilled at not blinking at gnat and mosquito attacks on the parade field.

Study hall, 7-11 p.m., was enforced by upperclassmen. Days started at 6:15 a.m. and ended with taps, the bugle signal for lights out, at 11 p.m. A duty officer then checked the occupancy of each room. Some cadets called The Military College of South Carolina by another name: “The Sing Sing on the Ashley.”

The Citadel prided itself on its military training and environment. Self-discipline controlled every hour of the day. It “was very good for me,” says Edward Haynesworth of Sumter. His father and two older brothers were Citadel graduates before him. Sam Collins of Shelbyville, Kentucky, says his older brother Wallace, two years ahead of him at The Citadel, helped keep him from making too many mistakes. Arthur Cummings of Greenville chose The Citadel because he knew others who attended and admired their character.

All plebes cringed at the order, “Drive by my room.” This command was issued by an upperclassman to a fourth classman (freshman) for more obedience training. Constant inspections by upperclassmen on the plebes’ uniforms, actions and room status kept them vigilant.

“Walking a tour” was to be avoided at all costs. “Tours” were walked on a weekend when a cadet was supposed to be at liberty. The one-hour walk carrying a rifle at shoulder arms around the quadrangle was monitored, and this “opportunity for marching” was meted out regularly. “You finally get used
to the regulations,” Sam Piper of Greenville says.

Plebes learned to discipline their actions, thoughts and words. Their camaraderie grew daily. They respected one another for persevering. “The camaraderie fed on itself,” Chandler recalls.

The Citadel ring was the ultimate prize. Like all those before and since, the fourth classmen of 1940 craved their graduation rings. But The Citadel’s training was and is to prepare soldiers to serve their country.

“It is believed that considerably more than half our living graduates, and a like proportion of our ex-cadets, are now in the service of the United States, with more entering every day. Each of these men symbolizes The Citadel’s essential teaching — service and sacrifice.”
– Gen. Summerall

On September 16, 1940, President Roosevelt signed the Selective Service Act—the first peacetime conscription bill. All men 18 and older were eligible for the draft. Now, the Class of ’44 had greater concerns than walking a tour. Training intensified.

Some fourth classmen enlisted by the middle of their first year. Sherrill Poulnot of Charleston waited until 1942 to join the Navy. (“Three meals a day and a dry place to sleep was not so bad,” he reflects.) Only 428 of the entering 1940 class returned for their sophomore year. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, prompted still more war volunteers from the class.

The Army Specialized Training Program was launched in December 1942; only a few specialized students would be allowed to stay in school. Changes were made in The Citadel’s calendar, faculty were informed of their new military status, and training in the rules and practices of war for Uncle Sam accelerated by the day.

Daily, recent Citadel men were reported as dead, missing in action or prisoners of war. In his foreword to the December edition of the Alumni News, Gen. Summerall wrote, “It is believed that considerably more than half our living graduates, and a like proportion of our ex-cadets, are now in the service of the United States, with more entering every day. Each of these men symbolizes The Citadel’s essential teaching—service and sacrifice.”

“The Enlisted Reserve Corps [ERC] told us we would get to graduate, just not when,” says class member Bob Adden.

At the end of their junior year, the Class of ’43 recommended to Summerall that the Class of ’44 receive their class rings early. The general approved. What was so important about The Citadel ring? “Everything!” says Sam Collins, the Kentucky classmate. “I wear the ring.”

On May 2, 1943, the Class of ’44 marched to the Charleston station and boarded a train. They traveled to Ft. Jackson in Columbia to be inducted into the armed services. After processing, the train returned them to The Citadel. The United States had called the Class of ’44 to their duty—a duty for which The Citadel had trained them.

The cadets finished their junior year and received a two-week furlough, then were ordered to 13 weeks of basic training. Officers Candidate Schools were the next stop. Then they were commissioned.

For many, active duty ended in January 1946. Thirty-four soldiers from the Class of ’44 gave their lives to protect their country. Six were prisoners of war; four were imprisoned at the same time at a camp in Schubin, Poland. Countless received Purple Hearts, Silver Stars and Bronze Stars. They joined other Citadel men as guardians of freedom.

Some continued active service after the war was over. Some finished their education at other colleges and universities. Others returned to The Citadel to complete their senior year for graduation as veteran students; 152 from the Class of ’44 received diplomas from The Citadel in 1946 and 1947.

On Page 9 of the 1940 Guidon are Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s words: “The destiny of any nation depends on what its young men under twenty-five are thinking.” The “Class of ’44” were men of character, dependability and self-reliance.

In 1954, the class gathered for their first reunion at The Citadel, and they have met every five years since then. In 1994, they finally received their 1944 yearbooks. Many class members wrote synopses of their memories of The Citadel and the war years. The annual includes pictures from earlier annuals and statistics about the class.

In May 2008, 17 members of the Class of ’44 attended the 2008 Citadel graduation exercises. The Class of ’44 was recognized with speeches and given a standing ovation. Lee Chandler spoke for the Class: “The ‘Class That Never Was’ has become the class that always will be.”

The class celebrated its 65th reunion at The Citadel’s homecoming November 7, 2009.

Author’s Note:

As the daughter of Sam Collins, I grew up attending many Citadel parades on homecoming reunion weekends. I watched the “Class of ’44” gather to stand in review. The corps marched past; cadets and graduates held their backs straight and tall. I remember the excitement of those alumni at seeing one another again, shaking hands and pounding backs. They huddled in tight groups, not wanting to miss one another’s words. Their grins of greeting were contagious.

After interviewing many of them for this article, I understand more about their closeness. They were all called to active duty at the same time and were trained by example. Retired Rev. Edward Haynesworth observed that Gen. Summerall “didn’t ask them to do anything that he didn’t do.”

All the cadets were required to attend chapel services on Sunday; the general attended, also. The general often wore a cape, and his exemplary military bearing made an impression. The corps would stand in front of his home to sing “Happy Birthday” to him before breakfast. Dressed in his uniform with all his medals, he greeted the cadets with, “Gentlemen, this is indeed a surprise!” Gen. Summerall’s example followed them overseas.

Many Citadel soldiers served in the same divisions during the war. Their training at The Citadel made them strong, and it didn’t break them.

I and my brothers, Critt Collins, Citadel Class of 1973, and Lee Collins, had the privilege of being reared by a Citadel Man, so we closely observed his character. He taught us the importance of always doing the right thing.

—Sheila Collins Ingle

 

First Presidential Election in United States

In 1789, the first presidential election, George Washington was unanimously elected president of the United States. With 69 electoral votes, Washington won the support of each participating elector. No other president since has come into office with a universal mandate to lead.

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Between December 15, 1788 and January 10, 1789, the presidential electors were chosen in each of the states. On February 4, 1789, the Electoral College convened. Ten states cast electoral votes: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. New York, however, failed to field a slate of electors. North Carolina and Rhode Island were unable to participate because they had not yet ratified the Constitution. After a quorum was finally established, the Congress counted and certified the electoral vote count on April 6.

Washington was both an obvious first choice for president and possibly the only truly viable choice. He was both a national hero and the favorite son of Virginia, the largest state at the time. Washington ascended to the presidency with practical experience, having served as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and president of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

According to Article II of the Constitution, each elector in the Electoral College possessed two votes. The candidate who received a majority of the votes was elected president. The candidate with the second most votes in the Electoral College, whether a majority or a plurality, was elected vice president. Behind Washington, John Adams, who most recently had served as the first U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, finished with 34 electoral votes and became the first vice president of the United States. Being from Massachusetts, Adams’ election provided the administration a regional balance between the northern and southern states.

Hearing the news of his decisive election, Washington set out from Mount Vernon to take his place in presidential history. Though filled with great anxiety, Washington reported for duty “in obedience to the public summons” and explained that “the voice of my Country called.”

On April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City, the first capital of the United States, Washington took the presidential oath of office. Washington, dressed in an American-made dark brown suit with white silk stockings and silver shoe buckles, also wore a steel-hilted sword and dark red overcoat.

With a hand on the Bible, a “sacred volume” borrowed from a local Masonic lodge and subsequently known as the “George Washington Inaugural Bible,” he said, “I, George Washington, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

At that moment, the Chancellor of the State of New York, Robert Livingston, the person who administered the oath to the first chief executive, exclaimed, “Long live George Washington, President of the United States!”

The father of our nation was quiet about his Christian faith. But there can be no doubt his faith in our Lord Jesus Christ was deep and heartfelt.

Below is a prayer attributed to our first President that says much about the man he was. It was found in his personal prayer book, written in his own hand.

O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul.

Direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit, from the dross of my natural corruption, that I may with more freedom of mind and liberty of will serve thee, the everlasting God, in righteousness and holiness this day, and all the days of my life.

Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the Gospel. Give me repentance from dead works. Pardon my wanderings, and direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation. Teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments. Make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber. But daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life. Bless my family, friends and kindred unite us all in praising and glorifying thee in all our works begun, continued, and ended, when we shall come to make our last account before thee blessed Saviour, who hath taught us thus to pray, our Father.

As I read about these first veterans of our country, I continue to be startled by their dedication to God, family, and country. Sir, thank you for your service.

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November 4, 2016

Knowing nothing about the reality of the Pilgrims’ journey to America or those first years of deprivation and death, it was a fun holiday to celebrate during my younger years. At school, we would make Pilgrim and Indian hats and headpieces, eat vegetable soup and cornbread, and sing loudly, “Come Ye Thankful People Come.”

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The faces and body language in this painting show us a more authentic view of the Plymouth Rock that the Mayflower brought the Pilgrims to.

Leaving England nine weeks late, New England’s harsh weather fiercely threatened their survival. In December, the men built crude shelters for the winter; the women and children stayed on the ship. There is a melancholy tone in the journal entries for that winter:

“…Aboute no one, it began to raine…at night. It did freee &snow …still the cold weather continued…very wet and rainy, with the greatest gusts of wind ever we saw…frost and foule weather hindered us much; this time of the yeare seldom could we worke half the week.”

During that winter, more than half of the heads of households died. Five of the eighteen wives lived through the scourges of pneumonia, tuberculosis, and scurvy.

On March 24, a journal entry sums their situation up:

“Dies Elizabeth, the wife of Mr. Edward Winslow. N.B. This month thirteen of our number die. And in three mons past dies halfe our company…Of a hundred persons, scarce fifty remain, the living scarce able to bury the dead.”

What a courageous group of men, women, and children; there are no words to laud their fortitude. During the third week of March, the weakened survivors from the Mayflower rowed ashore to their new homes in New Plimouth in those huts that needed rebuilding.

They could have given up and returned to England. They could have thrown up their hands in despair. But their faith was in God, and they chose to not let the hardships make them bitter. Their trust laid the enduring foundations of our country America, and they were thankful.

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If these few could fight, fall, and rise to fight again against wild animals, extreme weather, poor housing, and a starvation diet, I believe we should certainly sing this November, 2016.

Happy Thanksgiving!