|I celebrated Memorial Day weekend with a visit by my dear|
friend Judy, right, from Dallas and her boyfriend, Mike
Well, yes. Memorial Day is about honoring our war dead and the sacrifices they made so that we can be free. True heroes, all. It is also about celebrating our freedom to mark the day with festivities both solemn and joyous. I chose to celebrate the holiday by joyously hosting guests from Texas. My beloved friend, Judy, who inspired me to launch this blog a year and a half ago and then pestered me until I actually did it, journeyed from Texas with her beau, Mike, to spend the long weekend with me in Maryland -- and realized a long held dream in the process.The "land of pleasant living between the mountains and the sea" was not all that pleasant upon Judy and Mike’s arrival Thursday night. With a powerful cold front causing massive storms in my area most of the evening, the weary travelers found themselves stuck in the Cincinnati airport for more than five hours before they were finally allowed to make their connection to Baltimore, arriving at my house well after 3:00 a.m. Friday amid forceful winds. I greeted them with a snack and chocolates and saw to their comfort in the small guest house on my two acres in the county. We had big plans for the morrow!
|Here is the menu I created|
for my guests over the
Following fresh fruit and a breakfast casserole on Friday morning (the recipe for which came from my best friend's mother, Joyce, of Spokane, Washington), and with Mike at the helm of their rental car, we headed south to Washington D.C. where Judy had secured tickets for a tour of our nation’s capitol on a vehicle known as a "duck". According to www.dcducks.com, the design of these remarkable WWII-era coaches was based upon the Army’s GMC 2 Ton 6×6 Trucks. DUKWs, which became known affectionately as DUCKS to the many servicemen who appreciated their extraordinary ability to traverse both land and water, were the result of a naming technique used by GMC: D, for the year it was designed (1942), U for the utilitarian nature of the vehicle, K because it was all-wheel (like the K series GMC) and W for the dual tandem rear axles.
Used as a means to bring supplies to the Allies in places where the enemy assumed that without a seaport there could be no effective landing, less than a year after its introduction the first DUKWs alighted on hostile shores during the invasion of Sicily. On D-Day, 2,000 DUKWs were brought to Normandy. They were regarded as the most successful vehicle of their kind ever created, with more than 21,000 produced by American women who took over for the men during the war effort. After hostilities ceased, tens of thousands of these amphibious workhorses were left in towns and villages around the world. Some 17,000 are in operation across the USA today, restored to their original condition and serving duty as flood rescue vehicles, emergency-duty ambulances and, luckily for us, exceptional touring vessels.
|Without missing a beat, our wheeled|
vehicle descended into the Potomac
River, sprouted a rudder and propeller
and suddenly we were aboard a boat!
|Caesar salad, onion souffles and|
eggplant Parmesan were on the menu
for Saturday night, capped by mango
banana splits for dessert
On Saturday Mike and Judy took their rental car back to D.C. for some more sightseeing while I worked on a celebratory meal that I hoped would be the highlight of their stay: a grilled ribeye steak for Mike and eggplant Parmesan for Judy, an avowed vegetarian, my mother’s classic Caesar salad, and individual Vidalia onion soufflés, finishing with sliced mangoes and bananas simmered in butter and rum and spooned over ice cream. By all accounts I was successful in my quest to please the diverse pallets of my guests. We were all stuffed.
Sunday morning I drove my friends to downtown Baltimore while showing off some gorgeous country roads along the way. The overcast and chill winds of Thursday’s cold front had finally given way to sunny skies and warm temperatures as we strolled along the promenade at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and then fed apples and corn husks to my horse, Chubby and the other 35 horses at the stable in Baltimore County that Chubby calls home. Back at the house once again, my guests played a lively game of croquet out on the lawn while I put the finishing touches on three dishes I prepared for a neighborhood Memorial Day potluck we attended in the late afternoon. Judy was delighted to finally meet the neighbors I have so lovingly described in my blog, and I was excited to introduce them to my dear friend and original blog fan. But the highlight of the day came when Judy received a surprise telephone call from her father, 93-year-old retired Army corporal Dale W. Youngern, who announced his long-awaited decision to move from North Dakota to Dallas to take up residence across the street from Judy’s condominium. No small announcement with five other sisters all vying to be their father’s concomitant of choice, we toasted Judy’s exciting news all evening.
|Sunday's sunny weather was ideal for|
taking in the panoramic sights at
Baltimore's Inner Harbor
One might wonder why so much fuss was made over the prevailing emigration of her father to Judy’s domicile. But this is no ordinary dad. At the tender age of 22, Judy’s father enlisted in the United States Army in 1942, just about the time that generals Eisenhower and Marshall recognized the need for an elite special force similar to Britain’s Special Service Brigade. Colonel William O. Darby was commissioned to select and train these young American heroes. Dale Yongern, along with tens of thousands of other enlisted men, volunteered for the exclusive but treacherous position. Only a few hundred of the most physically and mentally fit were chosen to serve in the First Battalion of the U.S. Rangers, nicknamed "Darby’s Rangers". A charter member of the legendary unit, Judy’s dad joined the ranks of what would eventually form the Green Berets, elite Rangers and all other Special Forces.
|And here is a photo of Judy's|
father as a uniformed member
of the elite Rangers unit in 1943
|Judy, seated at left, with her parents|
and all five of her sisters in 1999
|Judy, left, and Mike join me|
beneath my flag on Memorial
Such is the stuff of which legends are made. Judy could hardly contain her excitement that her most beloved of heroes would soon be her neighbor. As we toasted our 18-year friendship, Judy and I reveled in the joy that she would soon realize a long-nurtured dream to have her father nearby. Our Memorial Day merriment had turned into a true celebration of the spirit and courage of our country’s greatest heroes, in the personification of CPL Dale W. Youngern, of Grand Forks, North Dakota, dear old "dad" to my darling friend, Judy.
"Heroes take journeys, confront dragons and discover the treasure of their true selves."
~ Carol Lynn Pearson