Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Saturday, 16 November 2013

On Veterans!

Hooray veterans!

Gratitude, Dignity and Respect

The Stories we share with many others

It is not uncommon for families to have veteran family members. I know this is not my story alone. Many have a story to share and it may go like this or not.
One day I sat down on a mat made by my grandmother. She was one of the three wives who remained home to look after the children under their care collectively. Her husband had enlisted to serve in the war. She is my heroine.I sat down to listen to the stories as told to her by him. He was a man who was fluent in many Bantu Languages and skilled in prescribing herbal medicines for ailments. He was the 5th son and he traveled a lot with his father in search for herbs and honing the hunting skills in the green and thick wilderness of Africa. These skills must have helped him in the jungles of other countries.
When he was younger, he would go for long days with his father. His other brothers, who stayed, were the providers of the big family. All the older sons married at an early age in those times and stayed near their father's land. They created a large clan this way. Our clan is still big and all have kept in touch even if they are now scattered all over the world.
My grand father is said to have settled down finally on returning from war. He could not walk long distances before a long gone battle scar was re-awakened. He got these wounds during war. Their first campaign took them to Burma. Later it was Palestine, Sinai Desert and south Africa. They were members of the King's African Rifle (KAR) of the Seventh Brigade. In our language they were called the Ba-seveni. It is pronounced the same way one can say seven or 7 with 'ba' at the front.
My grand father walked with a slight limp. His left foot was hit by flying shrapnel as he was running towards the enemy out of the dug out trenches. His leg would have been cut off. When he returned, he regaled his family with stories of the campaigns. He talked little about the pain, I gathered this little detail though.
He told grand mother that he never felt anything at first in the heat of fire exchange. That was in Burma. He told her they finally took over the hill that had earlier been used as a staging point for Japanese Army. My grand father later became a medical Corp and a sergeant. They were deployed to other campaign areas in Palestine, Sinai and Southern Africa.
This is my story but there are many people out there with a similar one or different one but with a similar sentiment. The men from Africa, as well as those from other continents, left the comfort of home and joined many other to bring freedom to the world. It is to these that I dedicate this composition. There are those who have served in other wars, to them too is this story dedicated.

World War II Lectures

Veterans of the World

Veterans in our communities

I do ride my bicycle and on the street side or in the middle of squares are large box concrete stones with flags and mementos. At first glance, I did not know what all these well cared for monuments were. Later I got to know. The names I see engraved in the concrete or masonry are for remembrance of fallen veterans and those who served in different wars. They are the women and men who have fallen or are alive. I know a place, it is a large bridge and there veterans who fought in Korea, Vietnam. Japan, India, China, Burma and East Indies are remembered.There is a small well maintained green park.

This space reminded me of the story in our own family and many other in Africa. May be the African brigades did actually meet with some veterans from America. I now see the stark differences between Africa and America. Back in Africa the veterans have sorry monuments to remember their efforts. Africa still needs to work harder to uphold the memory of those who served. In USA, the remembrance spaces include spots in City Hall grounds, city squares and green spaces. They are well built and maintained. On a day like this ( which also happens to be the last day of WWI), a national holiday for paying tribute to veterans is observed.
The various routes in Massachusetts and New England have places erected to pay tribute to those who served. In various places, one sees bouquets, flags, candles and framed pictures placed at spots or cemeteries.

The communities have chosen to continue remembering their daughters and sons who fell and those who are still living. These are the ones we collectively honor. These people by deciding to serve they left their homes, familiar communities and peacetime activities. They put their comfort on the side. They saw duty and felt bound to go out of their way to create freedom in places where it was being abused. They gave up the intimacy, proximity and sacrificed their own security to preserve the simple luxuries of freedom.
I continue in amazement as I go from one street, park or square. The cities I have visited speak volumes when it comes to the veterans. I took time to go to the library and read about the wars and battles USA has engaged in. Wars have been many and therefore USA has different veterans from different theaters. It is these that USA is paying tribute to. Generating structures and institutionalizing respect and dignity for the veterans has long term consequences in the psyche of people. it improves on the feeling of community and continuity. the care that veterans receive today not only includes psycho-social support, housing but also re-employment. There is now affirmative re-employment for veterans. Walmart is one of those corporations that has come out fully to employ veterans there by improving community assimilation skills of veterans.
The cities or towns have continued cleaning and maintaining these spaces. This has continued to make cities engage in enduring activities that remind us of the veterans. The cemeteries or these spaces have small flags, big statues, masonry, bouquet, written stories, and family remembrances.
Homes of veterans have flags showing a home where one is. There are groups that compose and sing songs about the veterans. There are many poems that are dedicated to veterans. Veterans have organized local clubs and are engaged in self help initiatives across the country.
Recently, a veteran had a guide dog that enabled him to find his way as he walked. He wanted to enjoy a meal from one local delicatessen. He was never let in and he was unceremoniously sent off. He called on his local veteran's club who in turn called on other veterans. Many on big motorbikes, cars and different conveyances converged on the delicatessen. It was in the news and after two days the proprietor had to apologize. The big numbers of people who turned up in response to the eviction by a veteran was overwhelming. It showed communities were now galvanized for the veteran related causes. On that day, the activities of a service dog were made even more popular. People were educated about these assisting animals and it is likely they will face lesser evictions. The structures communities have built towards entrenching respect and dignity of the women and men who served is in many forms: the quiet well decorated masonry, cemeteries and monuments. It is those quiet, unremarkable moments in our everyday lives that embody what it means to live in a country that is free.

The veterans in USA ( and those in other lands), our current serving forces, all the military families wherever they may be deserve our undying gratitude.: there are no words to express our gratitude. It is our every day actions, our belief in peace and giving others the respect and dignity they deserve that will collectively do justice to the veterans' sacrifice.

If societies keep the promise to make peace, be respectful, promote dignity each and every day, that will be the mechanisms that keep our armies in their countries.It will enable them engage in peace time activities

Veterans' Day

What does the term Veteran mean to you?

  •  The dead soldiers
  •  The soldiers who are still alive but are no longer serving
  •  Both live and dead soldiers
  •  Only World War I and World War II soldiers
  •  Only Western Countries' soldiers
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A walking Stick

The many uses of walking sticks

A walking stick, a pole, a third leg or another leg

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The use of walking sticks, staffs and polesFinding your walking stick
The use of walking sticks, staffs and poles
The use of walking sticks, staffs and poles
Source: Tom Mukasa

Walking Stick in ancient fables

There is a riddle about the walking stick:
The Sphinx (Strangler) continued lurking outside Thebes, demanded passers by to answer a riddle:
'Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it is?'
The Sphinx strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer.
Oedipus resolved the answer:
Man - who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two feet as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age.

The walking Stick as a symbol of Authority

The Ancient Prophets had long robes, long beards and a walking staff. The staff was a symbol of authority. It also had another use, that of assisting mobility. It was used to walk over uneven surfaces and used for one to gain stability as they negotiated paths and trails up hill.
Moses had a stick and it is this that was used to swallow all the snakes during the show of power between the Egyptians and God (Exodus 7: 8-12). It is the same stick that he used to strike the rock from which water gushed ( Exodus 17: 1-7). It is the same stick he held high over the waters to make way for the fleeing Israelite.
The walking stick is also called a staff. Jesus Christ is many times referred to as the Good Shepherd and the staff is never far away from him. This staff is used to prod, lead and guide the sheep from straying.

Moses used his staff to lead Israelite from Egypt

See some of the places where the walking stick was used.
See some of the places where the walking stick was used.
Source: twoagespilgrim

The Walking Stick and its uses

1. To provide firmness when standing
2. To take weight off the limb joints
3. It can be used as a white cane by the blind
4. To prod animals
5. To guide animals
6. For defense

The Walking Stick Today

The walking stick has been modified today to be used during winter, mountain climbing, sheep rearing, goat rearing and by pastoralists. It is used as a lean on for support, for firmness in those who have pain in joins and those who are bent. It helps many to not tip over and fall.
There are differently decorated walking sticks that are fashionable and are accessories to the cultural dresses. This is seen in various countries from China, Japan, Burma, India, Bhutan, Australia, Indonesia, USA, Canada, South America, Europe and Africa.
There are many uses of walking sticks besides the ones we have seen above. They can be used in self defense especially those that have disguised sharp edges or are so sturdy to be used as a cane. This is seen in stick fighting mostly.
The walking stick takes the weight of painful knee joints, hips and the feet most of the time. People with painful lower joints use the walking sticks to help them move about.
Some rulers use the walking stick as part of the fashion and symbol. Some paint the sticks or decorate them with totems or insignia of their party or ruling organization.

The Walking Stick as logo

It is used together with a coiled snake as an Aesculapius Rod or Hermes Caduceus. These are the badges or logos of healing and health.

Different uses of walking sticks

Traffic/ Mobility
Walking assistance
Blind use white stick
To prod animals
Lame and disabled persons
To check by tapping continuity of ground
To guide animals
Senior people for perambulatory purposes
Some uses to which sticks can be put

The Walking Stick

What are some of the uses of a walking stick you know of?

  •  Used as white cane by blind persons
  •  Used as walking canes or sticks to take weight off joints
  •  To use as self defense
  •  Used as a staff by animal keepers
  •  It is a symbol of authority by leaders and some cultures of the world
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Case Scenarios

1. Jane is senior woman of about 76 years. She was formerly a teacher and served in that capacity for 45 years. Most of her work was done on her feet. She has pains in her knee joints and her therapist recommended 100 steps each morning and another 100 in the evening. She tried exceeding these steps one day when she entertained the friends of her children. They had all come to her place for her 75th birthday. The following morning she could not bend her legs no walk at all. She called a neighbor who came over to her place to help her move about the house. That was a year ago. She now sticks to her set walking paces. She uses a walking stick on which she puts all her weight as she walks. In winter she has a mountain pole with a larger grip and a pointed end. This is pierced in the ground thereby ensuring no sliding. She uses special soles with rubber and non slip features.
2. Adam is a retail shop owner who has run a family owned shop. He does more sitting now and manage the counter. He hired two assistants to help him move through the aisles to assist the clients. This has helped him avoid being on his feet. Even while he is seated, he moves his legs and toes to stretch the fascia, tendons and other muscles. He registered at the near by gymnasium. He does exercises every Wednesday and Friday. These exercises have helped him tone his body and at the same time watch his weight also through managed feeding. At home and in the shop he moves about using a walking stick. It helps him stay firm and steady.

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Friday, 15 November 2013

20 Million in Mideast to Get Polio Vaccine


20 Million in Mideast to Get Polio Vaccine

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Health officials will try to get polio vaccines to more than 20 million children across the Middle East to contain a major outbreak there, the World Health Organization and Unicef announced last week.


The region was polio-free for 10 years, until a Pakistani strain was detected in sewers in Egypt in January. It has since been found in sewers in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Last month, 10 paralyzed children in Syria were confirmed to be polio victims.
Children there and in parts of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey will be targeted. Some will also get M.M.R. vaccines.
Polio’s return to the Middle East could threaten Europe because Syrians have been seeking refuge there and tourists visit Israel, two German infectious disease experts argued in a letter to The Lancet last week.
But the W.H.O.’s chief of polio eradication and the chief doctor for the United Nations refugee agency disputed their warning, saying polio wasn’t more likely to spread from Syria and Israel than other countries with domestic outbreaks and large expatriate communities in Europe and North America, including Somalia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The men who issued the warning, Martin Eichner, an epidemiologist at the University of Tübingen, and Stefan O. Brockmann, an infection control official, said the West’s reliance on killed polio vaccine could mask an outbreak, because victims avoid paralysis but may still shed virus in feces. Outbreaks, they warned, could begin in groups that refuse vaccines.
Dr. Bruce Aylward of the W.H.O. said few tourists visit sewage-filled streets. And Dr. Paul Spiegel of the refugee agency said all those who pass through camps are vaccinated, and the agency is pursuing those living outside.

Rh gamma globulin solution Doctor Dies at 87

William Pollack Dies at 87; His Vaccine Saved Infants

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William Pollack, a medical researcher who helped develop a vaccine that virtually eradicated a disease once responsible for 10,000 infant deaths a year in the United States, died on Nov. 3 in Yorba Linda, Calif. He was 87.
Lasker Foundation
William Pollack
He had diabetes and heart disease, his son Malcolm said in confirming the death.
Dr. Pollack was a senior scientist in the research laboratory of Ortho Pharmaceutical Company in Raritan, N.J., in the early 1960s when he began a collaboration with two Columbia University researchers, Dr. Vincent J. Freda and Dr. John G. Gorman, to conceive a novel treatment for erythroblastosis fetalis, a blood disorder commonly called Rh disease. The ailment is caused by seemingly superficial differences in the blood types of pregnant women and their fetuses.
Besides the biochemical traits that define the major blood types — A, B, AB and O — the blood of 85 percent of people carries a cluster of surface proteins known as the Rh factor, named for the rhesus monkeys in which it was first identified in 1940. Blood transfusions between people who have the Rh factor (known as Rh positive) and people who do not (Rh negative) cause severe immune reactions.
Rh disease occurs when a pregnant woman is Rh negative and her fetus is Rh positive. In the mixing of blood between the two during pregnancy, the mother’s Rh-negative blood cells produce antibodies that attack the blood cells of the fetus. Depending on the strength of the mother’s immune response, the effects on the baby can range from mild anemia to stillbirth.
Dr. Pollack and his partners devised an “ingenious” counterattack, as it was described in an introduction to their work in “Hematology: Landmark Papers of the Twentieth Century,” a collection published in 2000 by hematologist organizations.
The three men produced a vaccine that patrols the mother’s body, dispatches invading Rh-positive cells and causes no harm to the fetus. The vaccine was made from a passive Rh-negative antibody, which soon wears out. It not only solves the mother’s temporary immunity problem but also, more important, prevents her immune system from mounting a full-fledged response of its own, which would endanger the fetus she was carrying as well as any future ones.
“It was an absolutely brilliant idea,” said Dr. Richard L. Berkowitz, the obstetrics and gynecology director of resident education at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital. “A lot of people know who Jonas Salk is, but they should know William Pollack’s name, too. This disease was a major, major problem, and it’s been virtually eradicated.”
Researchers had developed other approaches to treating Rh blood disease, including potentially dangerous intrauterine transfusions, before the idea of a vaccine emerged. Among his other contributions, Dr. Pollack was credited with devising the process in which the blood components needed to make the vaccine are isolated and recombined in a liquid solution.
In 1980, Dr. Pollack and his colleagues received the Lasker Award, popularly known as the American Nobel Prize, for excellence in biomedical research.
William Pollack was born in London on Feb. 26, 1926, one of two children of David and Rose Pollack. His father was a carpenter. After serving in the Royal Navy during World War II, he received a bachelor of science degree from the University of London in 1948 and a master’s degree in chemistry there in 1950.
With his wife, Alison, he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in the mid-1950s to work as a researcher at the Royal Columbian Hospital. In 1963 he went to work for Ortho Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson known mainly for developing spermicidal jellies, contraceptives and intrauterine devices. (It is now part of Janssen Pharmaceuticals.) While pursuing his idea for an Rh disease vaccine, he earned a Ph.D. in zoology from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
The vaccine, a gamma globulin solution known generically as Rh immune globulin and later by its brand name, RhoGAM, was first tested on volunteers at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, N.Y., and later on 600 Rh-negative women in clinical trials. It worked 99 percent of the time, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and went on the market in 1969.
In 1971, the World Health Organization recommended to its 193 member nations that Rh testing and treatment with immune globulin be made part of the standard protocol of medical care for pregnant women. In a follow-up report in 1998, the organization said the incidence of Rh blood disease, once estimated at 200,000 cases a year worldwide, had become rare.
Dr. Pollack, who later taught immunology at Rutgers and Columbia, left Ortho after 25 years to work at other pharmaceutical companies before starting a company of his own, Quotient Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing, in Anaheim, Calif.
Besides his son Malcolm, he is survived by another son, David, who was a partner in Quotient, and by four grandchildren. His wife died in 2006.
In a 1967 interview with Science News, Dr. Pollack cautioned that the Rh gamma globulin solution he and his colleagues had developed was not a cure for Rh blood disease. To be effective, the vaccine has to be given to susceptible patients every time they become pregnant.
“The cure,” he said, “is for the next generation.”