Great Uncle Wesley

All my life I'd heard about Great Uncle Wesley, my dad's uncle he never got to meet. He was the younger brother of my grandmother, Mother Prebble, and she gave Dad Wesley's middle name, Maldon, a name I still have no clue where they got. I'd seen his happy face in a vintage blue frame, smiling in his army uniform. The picture and his face just seemed to be a part of our daily lives, his story one that we talked about on days like today.  

2nd Lieutenant Wesley M. Green served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and worked with the famous Flying Tigers. His plane was shot done and he went missing in action during 1943. That's about all I knew until yesterday. 

My parents started cleaning through old letters and photo albums from Mother Prebble in the afternoon. Dad had some questions about Wesley and he picked Mom's brain a bit--She had listened to a lot of family stories from Mother Prebble and read through all those corresponding letters years ago. Plus, her mind is like a steel trap when it comes to family history. I can thank my mother for all the help on family tree projects growing up! 

In any case, I wandered into the room to listen to some of the letters and by the evening I was interested in seeing what other information was available online. After all, it's 2017. What isn't posted out there nowadays? So I asked my dad to look up some info about  General Claire Lee Chennault of the Flying Tiger Fame and his time in China between 1942 and 1943. Great Uncle Wesley served under his command and between General Chennault's history and some of the letters and dates we had, we were able to start searching a little more deeply into the webs of the internet. 

Wesley was a navigator for a B24  of the 425th Bomb Squadron, the 308th Bombardment Group in Kunming, China. My family always knew the basic information about Wesley's job and where he was and the day he died, August 24th, 1943, but we never knew what his mission was that turned out to be so fateful. That was our biggest question: what happened? 

Our search began. All we had to go off of were the letters Wesley had sent, pictures of him and his crew, correspondence with the other families missing their men and the telegram about Wesley missing in action. Wesley was declared deceased in November of '44, a year and a couple months after he went missing. His remains were identified in '46 and kept in Hawaii with his other crew members until '49 where they moved him to be reburied in his hometown of Wellington, Texas. He was one of four they were able to identify out of ten men, his dog tags were blessedly on him. 

Wesley sent his last letter to his sister on August 21st, 1943, which turned out to be a pretty bloody day for his station. Apparently a fleet of Liberators from Chengkung went to bomb Hankow that same day he wrote. See, these men were in charge of fighting off the Japanese by bombing trade routes, docks, airfields, coal yards, and more. Their purpose was to keep the Japanese from invading China by supporting Chinese ground forces. The history of this group is fascinating and it really opens your eyes to all the moving parts of this war. 

On August 21st, the Liberators went out on their mission with a promise of an escort of fighters to flank them. The escort was unable to join.  The Liberators made the decision to continue on with the mission, but where attacked by 60 Japanese fighters on their way back and lost all but one of their planes. This is where Wesley's story comes in; Three days later, in an attempt to destroy a supply line and avenge the deaths of their fellow men, Wesley's flight crew and six other planes were dispatched on a mission to bomb Hankow.  Wesley was to fly with his crew of ten in the plane, "938," unnamed since it was so new it hadn't been given a name yet. 

On their way, four P-40's flanked the grouping, saluted, and then flew ahead never to be seen again. After dropping their bombs on an airfield, the planes began making their turn to head back having accomplished their mission when a swarm of Japanese fighters came upon them. 

Wesley's plane was struck first. Three men from "938" parachuted out, no one knows who they were, before the plane began to smoke and spin out of control. The rest of the men and planes experienced what I can honestly describe as a harrowing experience.

At this moment I can turn your attention to the story published on History.net, originally in the Aviation Journal back in 2008. This article gave us this information from a firsthand account of 1st Lieutenant John T. Foster written by his son, Alan Foster. Lt. Foster was in one of the seven planes that left for this mission and survived. Out of the 73 men that went out on that mission, only 11 returned home.  

Without this article, we would still be wondering what happened to Wesley, what his mission was, where he was going, and why he perished over Hankow. I'm so glad we were able to read about it in detail, although the details are heartbreaking, to say the least. At some moments it seems as if you're reading a great story from a novel until it hits you that this is real. Real men were on those planes fighting for their country and had families, loved ones waiting for them to come home. This was a real man's history, not a fictitious character in a book, but a smiling face in a blue frame sitting atop his sister's piano.  

Wesley had wanted to share details with Prebble and his family but couldn't and wrote secret hints for her to figure out where he was going. He often referenced how much he wanted to tell her of his adventures. Sadly, he never got the chance and we never knew why until now. Wesley was a beloved brother, a light in his family's life with a good sense of humor, a star athlete, and a smart man with a bright future. What else I know about Wesley is that he wanted to serve his country and that his mission was important enough to risk his life for our freedoms. 

Mom read this account out loud with my dad and I wide-eyed in amazement, sometimes tearing up. Wesley's story is finally known and it's sobering to think this is only one of many for families across the US. 

Many men and women have laid down their lives in order for us to have the freedoms we have here in this country and continue to have today. Without the brave services of men and women like Wesley, I can't begin to think of what a world that would be. I do know that I am incredibly thankful for his services and his lineage. 

Home of the Free Because of the Brave. 

Happy Memorial Day to All!

May you remember the ones who have served this country bravely and given their lives so that we may live freely. 

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Thank you, Alan Foster, for publishing the detailed description of your father's account. This story brought an answer to a question we'd wondered for years and more importantly, it closed a chapter left open since 1943. 

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Best of 2016

I don't think you can roll over into a new season without looking back at the last. Birthdays, anniversaries, new years, so long as you can take a look back at where you came from, it's an opportunity to dream of new things as you move into the future. So without further ado...

2016 Top 12

1. January started with a bang (in so many ways) and a few shuffles. Gotta start the year on the right foot! 

2. February consisted of a lot of soul searching and reflection. 

3. March, show time and break time! Another Spring Show in the bag and thankful family got to come up! 

4. April, my newest nephew is born, Matthew Bryan! 

5. May, my favorite month! I celebrate my last birthday as a twenty-something! 

6. June, I opened "Fiddler on the Roof" at Garland Summer Musicals working with favorite mentors and so many new faces, too! 

7. July, I opened "Mary Poppins" for Rockwall Summer Musicals! It was my first time working with the theater and this time booked as the solo choreographer! Lovely people, great experience! 

8. August, back to school and I'm ready to tackle another semester. Plus, I invest in the best t-shirt of all time. 

9. September, a month of baking and a fun sister weekend with Sarah! 

10. October, I wrap up Choreography show and then take a trip to Eureka Springs with my man. In short, it was a perfect!

11. November, a bunch of women pile in the car for a road trip to Waco to check out Magnolia! Mom, Sarah, Aunt Diana and I get lots of great ideas, good cupcakes, and quality time together! 

12. December is all about Christmas show and finals, but I surely enjoyed family time including the Kacy Musgraves concert with Big Sister! 

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Honestly, looking back at all the pictures, I got to spend a great deal of time with family and I did quite a bit of traveling to see different folks. At the time, it seemed like a year of decisions, one after the next and I know by the end I felt tired, ready for a break from heavy discussions and complicated choices. 

Looking ahead to 2017, I feel like it'll be yet another year of change, as it almost always is. This time though, it feels more stable, more grounded than the last few New Years. I'm looking forward to that more than you can imagine! 

How did your 2016 turn out? What was your favorite memory?

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Porch Swing Mornings

Hot cup of coffee in hand, I slid open the backdoor and stepped out to great the cool morning. It felt like spring. I pulled my fuzzy white robe just a little tighter and shuffled in my slippers to my little porch swing. I watched sky turned from shades of pink to a faint, soft blue as steam floated from cup and felt it gently warm my face. Little birds chirped in the trees while Penny snuffled around the yard. Closing my eyes, I almost felt like I was in Lubbock in Grandma's backyard and maybe if I waited long enough, she'd be there with me, too. 

I think of my grandmother a lot. Truly I don't think there's a day that doesn't go by that I don't think of her in some small way, but this morning I felt like I had recreated a moment with her, as if she was right there. All I needed was the rustling of a newspaper to complete the memory. 

Her first swing, before the backyard turned into an arboretum. 

Her first swing, before the backyard turned into an arboretum. 

Every time we went to visit her in Lubbock, she'd always start her morning with a cup of coffee and time in her backyard. That backyard was truly a secret garden, a child's fantasy land full of flowers galore! When you opened the back screen door and hopped off the concrete slab, you could hear her chimes singing as you hopped down her rock-laid path to the hidden back porch swing. She grew beautiful vines and flowers that covered her wooden haven and a water fountain would be trickling just to it's right. It always felt like a some secret woodland place, gorgeous and flourishing, and as a kid I just knew some sort of fairy would peek around a flower pot sometime. 

There are lots of memories from my grandmother's house, but I think just about everybody will think on how she was the first one up enjoying the daybreak with a cup of coffee in hand. That's how she started her day and ended it, enjoying the outdoors. Every visit I always wanted to be up with her, be the first one to race outdoors and meet her on the swing, read the comics while she read the news. That was a time for just talking, chatting about nothing, hearing her sing as she patted your leg and rocked back and forth.

I can see her in her beautiful caftan, the one with the blue and red peacock trimmed in gold and a tiny apple pinned at the neck. She always threw that over her pj's in the morning with her little brown sandals, colorful toes poking out the top. Her red hair would still be a little fuzzy, curled about her soft face. I can see her leaning back, legs crossed and newspaper wide open, just swinging. 

I could have let Penny out, crawled back in bed or curled up on the couch. I could have missed watching the sunrise and break over the backyard, like I do most days. But I guess I was missing her today and I guess I needed to find a little peace in my soul. I never really asked her why this was her morning ritual and I don't think I needed to. I think it was time used for whatever you needed, peace, thought, rest, recharge.

Whatever it meant to Grandma, those moments turned out to mean a lot to me. I'm just glad she shared those moments with her family; she passed on more than she ever knew just sitting on a porch swinging welcoming the day. 

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Friday Five: Christmas Shows of Old

We opened our Christmas show last night and the students did amazingly well! I've always enjoyed seeing the Christmas show, but this year was especially exciting because I had a piece in it! Choreographing a giant snowball fight on stage has been the most fun I've had setting a piece probably ever! 

Just being in the audience last night made me reminisce about Christmas shows gone past and some of my favorite memories: 

Friday Five

Christmas Show Memories of Old

1. Best Nutcracker Role - Sure, I was a Peppermint Princess soloist my senior year of high school, a Russian Doll before that, a beautiful snowflake and even a flower in the Waltz of the Flowers (TOTALLY bit it on stage one night, too). But all those pale in comparison with my favorite role in the history of roles, a rat. I loved the costume and I loved the drama. 'Nough said.

There I am, offering the Rat King a giant piece of cheese! 

There I am, offering the Rat King a giant piece of cheese! 

2. Soldiers - When I was a student at OCU, I had the awesome opportunity to be in our traditional "March of the Toy Soldiers" piece and I loved it. I felt like a miniature Rockette marching my heart out, flapping like no tomorrow, holding the perfect doll face, and pinwheeling to beat the band. It truly is a legacy piece that I'm so thankful I had the chance to perform it!

3.  Timber! - You always hope that things go well for a show, but sometimes things happen...and it can be hilarious. Like that one time Frosty fell over just before exiting the wings...and had to be dragged off...because you cannot get up in that snowball costume--totally there for it and it was as funny as it sounds. 

*If I had a picture or video, I would insert here...but I don't so you'll just have to imagine and giggle without it.* 

4. Best Audience with the Biggest Fans - Sometimes it's not the show you remember, but the people in the audience. I remember this particular Christmas show well, Grandma came up to see the show and I'm so glad we were able to make that happen for her and for me! 

The last show Grandma got to see at OCU and I'm so glad she did!

The last show Grandma got to see at OCU and I'm so glad she did!

5. My Very First Performance - Here it is, where it all started. My first performance as a dancer was at a little Christmas show in a mall. I stepped on my friends tu-tu and ripped it, but by golly I was a professional! Kept right on dancing and tried to drag my friend along with me. After all, he show must go on! 

Baby's first dance costume...with many more to follow. 

Baby's first dance costume...with many more to follow. 

Started my performance career in gold and white and ended my last Christmas show in gold and white. Pretty fitting if you ask me. 

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Happy July!

Happy July, the month of summer! July has always felt like the last hurrah of the summer months, the last few weeks to get all the good times in before school starts again!

Gosh, so many things come to mind when I think about this time of year. Summertime calls for watching fireworks and chowing down on good brisket and watermelon. A meal like that always includes the best dessert of the season, Rocky Road ice cream straight from the ice cream maker! I smell a peach and immediately I see a sunny day in July, jean shorts on and bug bites down the legs--What's summer time without the bug spray, right? 

For me especially, it wasn't summer if there wasn't a job dancing. Cold theater air, hot lights, tan tights and heels, hair spray clouds, and red lipstick, the essential ingredients for a Saturday night out on the stage.

Of course I can't help but think of this month and see lace and lowlight, feel my sweet husband twirling me around the floor. My favorite summer memory of all, the day I got married! So many happy times in the summer! 

This month I'll be sharing snapshots of my favorite July memories with recipes and some of the new traditions I've started. Get ready for a front row seat at the fireworks, a slap-yo-mama good ice cream recipe, a day picking peaches, a wedding cake to drool for, and an opening night memory as a then first time performer and now choreographer. 

Stay tuned this month so you catch all the fun and share some of your favorite memories, too! 

What makes your July feel like summertime?

 

Oh look!  A little preview of what's to come!  

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