Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day


mgedwards:

“Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day,” a piece I wrote last year. This is dedicated to the Foreign Service officers we lost in the past year – Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, and Anne Smedinghoff. This year, please remember the diplomats and all civilians who serve their country on the front lines of freedom.

Originally posted on World Adventurers:

Every year on Memorial Day, American flags are flown to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died or were wounded in the line of duty. Their service is noble, and I appreciate that our country publicly acknowledges their sacrifices.

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Scant attention, however, is paid to the civilians who serve courageously in the line of fire. Diplomats and other civilians who work for the U.S. government are often placed in dangerous and unstable locales around the world. They have participated in every war and conflict since the Revolutionary War alongside their military colleagues. In some cases, the civilians stayed behind after the troops withdrew, as happened last year in Iraq. They were also stationed in places without the benefit of U.S. military support when unrest occurred, as happened in Libya, Syria, and in other countries that experienced upheaval during the Arab Spring.

Hundreds of American diplomats…

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Eurasia: A Respite to Rosenheim


This is the sixth installment of a story chronicling my travels in 1994 as a college student. The six-month journey took me to 20 countries in Europe and Asia.

I woke up from a fitful slumber unsure of my location until I remembered that I was on a train somewhere in Bavaria far from anyone or anyplace I knew. I didn’t even know where I was in Germany! The night kept me from getting a good look at the countryside as the high-speed train sped toward Munich like a bullet on silver tracks that cut through the darkness like a knife. The occasional lamp post flickered by, reminding me of a firefly leaving behind a wobbly trail. The luggage stowed overhead groaned as the train’s wheels bounced on the rails. For the time being, this was my world.

The train arrived in Munich about 9 p.m. My only view of the city was a broad boulevard as wide as a runway that stretched away from the train station. It was lit up like Christmas by cars, street lights, and neon signs, the biggest of which was the oversized BMW medallion adorning the company’s headquarters. This was my sole memory of Munich at the time. I have to come back and check out this place someday, I thought, a promise I fulfilled years later.

Germany

I disembarked at Munich’s Hauptbahnhof train station to catch my connection to Rosenheim. Throwing my luggage and myself on the platform, I struggled to locate my departing gate from among the mess of local connections scattered across the byzantine reader board. Rosenheim was just one of several stops on a slower commuter route through Bavaria. My eyes wandered from the board to my ticket to the trains and back until an attendant pointed me in the right direction.

The same drill I learned in Frankfurt played out in Munich as my feet trudged to the gate to wait what seemed like an eternity for the Rosenheim train. The building’s interior reminded me of the German stations depicted in World War II films with its aging architecture that once had a pre-modern elegance but had grown blighted by cracked pavement, sooty fixtures, and smoky air spewing from older trains. Time moved ever slower as I waited to leave, anxious to move on.

Trains 2

I dragged my life onto the train, tossed it overhead, and settled into a wagon with few seats to spare. I sat down next to a young Japanese man named Koji who was headed to Vienna. His affable demeanor gave me a nice respite from the monotony of listening to the sounds of the rail, a common soundtrack in the days before the birth of portable MP3 players. Conversing in English and bits of Japanese, Koji told me of his frustration in exaggerated expressions of traveling by rail in Europe. I laughed at his mimes, flailing hands, and his gruff, smoke-laden chuckles that kept me entertained all the way to Rosenheim.

We were two weary travelers getting by in a strange land, but somehow we managed. Koji spoke little English or German, and my knowledge of the Japanese language was limited to “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” car brands, and sushi dishes. At least I could speak the local language, albeit marginally.

When the train arrived at the Rosenheim Station, I waved goodbye to my new friend and disembarked. I never saw Koji again. I’m not sure how he fared but was certain he finally reached his destination.

Munich

To be continued.

 

Previous installments of Eurasia:

1. Leaving America

2. Vancouver to Frankfurt

3. Adventures in Frankfurt (Part One)

4. Adventurers in Frankfurt (Part Two)

5. On to Munich

Images courtesy of Microsoft.

Map picture

 

clip_image001M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Storiesand Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Real Dreams Featured in the Foreign Service Journal


dreamscoverThe Foreign Service Journal has featured my book Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories in its annual “In Their Own Write” compilation of books published by Foreign Service-affiliated authors in 2012. The Foreign Service Journal writes of Real Dreams (p. 49):

Mike Edwards wrote these 15 short stories over a period of 30 years, beginning in his youth. He covers a wide variety of themes and topics inspired by dreams and experiences over those years.

These stories encompass a boy’s fantasies and an adult man’s maturation. A young boy finds himself the protector of genetically modified army ants that have escaped from the military. An old woman considered to be mentally ill may have reason for her outbursts, while a prisoner of war writes letters of hope from his Nazi concentration camp during World War II. And a gloomy maintenance man turns out to have a terrifying history.

 

Real Dreams is a collection of stories I wrote between 1981 and 2011. Each reflects changes in my writing style and interests over time. I wrote the earliest story, “How Little Big Chief Calmed the Mountain,” as a young student, and the latest, “Evil | Live,” three decades later. The book is a story sampler rather than a cohesive anthology. The stories are grouped by genre. You will find some common themes, including hope, dreams, light, darkness, perseverance, and spirituality, wrapped up in some novel ideas. In some stories, the reader is left to ponder their deeper meaning. I hope you enjoy these diverse and timeless works three decades in the making.

Thank you, Foreign Service Journal, for including Real Dreams on your 2012 list. I am grateful that my book joined other superb works written by Foreign Service colleagues and alumni. I encourage readers to browse the books featured in “In Their Own Write” and read the Journal to learn more about the Foreign Service.

Real Dreams is available to purchase as an e-book or in print from these booksellers:

U.S. Booksellers

dreamscover2Available to purchase as an e-book for US$2.99:

Amazon.com for Kindle

Apple iTunes for iPad/iPhone

Baker & Taylor for Blio e-reader

Barnes & Noble for Nook

Diesel Ebooks for iPad and other e-readers

Google Play for Android

Kobo Books for Kobo e-reader

Smashwords for iPad and other e-readers

Sony ReaderStore for Sony e-reader

Available in print for US$8.99:

Amazon.com

Createspace-

International Booksellers

Available as an e-book or in print (prices vary by format and local currency):

Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)

Amazon.fr (France)

Amazon.de (Austria and Germany)

Amazon.it (Italy)

Amazon.co.jp (Japan)

Amazon.es for Kindle (Spain)

Available as an e-book:

Barnes & Noble for Nook (United Kingdom)

Visit my websitefor a complete list of booksellers.

 

About the Foreign Service Journal

The Foreign Service Journal covers foreign affairs from an insider’s perspective, providing thoughtful articles on international issues, the practice of diplomacy and the U.S. Foreign Service. The Journal is published monthly (July/August issues combined) by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA). The November issue features its annual “In Their Own Write” compilation, the largest edition yet, with some 90 new books by Foreign Service-affiliated authors. The list spans almost every conceivable literary genre: from history and foreign policy to memoirs and biographies, and from novels and short stories to mysteries and how-to books.

About the American Foreign Service Association

Established in 1924, AFSA is the professional association of the United States Foreign Service. With close to 16,000 dues-paying members, AFSA represents over 28,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees of the Department of State, Agency for International Development (AID), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Foreign Commercial Service (FCS), and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

Click here to read the original post on my blog, World Adventurers.

dreamscoverM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

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Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day


Every year on Memorial Day, American flags are flown to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died or were wounded in the line of duty. Their service is noble, and I appreciate that our country publicly acknowledges their sacrifices.

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Scant attention, however, is paid to the civilians who serve courageously in the line of fire. Diplomats and other civilians who work for the U.S. government are often placed in dangerous and unstable locales around the world. They have participated in every war and conflict since the Revolutionary War alongside their military colleagues. In some cases, the civilians stayed behind after the troops withdrew, as happened last year in Iraq. They were also stationed in places without the benefit of U.S. military support when unrest occurred, as happened in Libya, Syria, and in other countries that experienced upheaval during the Arab Spring.

Hundreds of American diplomats have died in the line of duty. Their deaths were caused by natural disasters, diseases, killings, assassinations, and trying to save others’ lives. Two memorial plaques in the entrance hall of the State Department list the names of the 231 diplomats who have died in the line of duty since William Palfrey was lost at sea in 1780. More recently, Brian Adkins was killed in his home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2007, and David Foy was killed in 2006 by a car bomb in Karachi, Pakistan. This figure does not include the 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days during the 1979-80 Iran Hostage Crisis when students and militants overran the then-U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The International News offers a sobering analysis of the history of violence against American diplomats, reporting that 111 have been killed or assassinated since 1780. According to the State Department, more ambassadors than U.S. generals or admirals have been killed since World War II. The U.S. Diplomacy Project tells the tales of diplomats who were put in harm’s way while serving overseas.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA         While 231 may not sound like a large number, consider that at any given time there are only about 11,000 American diplomats versus the more than 2.5 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces. A rough comparison of casualties during the Iraq War in 2008 revealed that personnel working for the State Department in Iraq during 2003-08 had a casualty rate of about 50% that of their military counterparts. As the events of September 11, 2001, showed, you don’t have be involved in active combat to be a casualty of war and terrorism.

Civilians who serve our country overseas work for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. Government agencies or as contractors. Many support the U.S. military and diplomatic corps in hostile and dangerous conditions. They are unsung heroes who are rarely featured on the evening news or in movies. They labor in obscurity to protect the freedoms that Americans enjoy.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act (Public Law 90-363) set aside Memorial Day as a federal holiday to be celebrated each year on the last day of May. The law, however, does not specify who or what it commemorates. That’s up to you to decide. In the minds of many Americans, Memorial Day is a day to honor the U.S. Armed Forces, but this was not always so. The holiday known in the late 1800’s as Decoration Day recognized the veterans of the Union Army who fought in the American Civil War. After World War I, the generally accepted meaning of the day was to honor all Americans, military or civilian, who died in any war. This changed following World War II. It’s time to return to the days when we acknowledged the efforts of all who serve their country bravely in and out of uniform.

This Memorial Day, amid the barbeques, car races, fireworks, and gatherings, remember the diplomats and other civilians who faithfully serve their country in harm’s way.

Happy Memorial Day. God bless America, and God bless those who serve our country.

NFATC

Click here to read my 2007 post on Memorial Day.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State. The photos belong to the author.

clip_image001M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Vichy


ffrflagA French prisoner struggles to survive in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. “Vichy” is a first-hand account of Jean-Marie Daubert, an assistant deputy of finance of the French Ministry of Finance, who was captured by the Nazis in 1942, convicted of treason for his collaboration with the Free French Resistance, and imprisoned in Gurs, France. Daubert was transferred by cattle car in January 1943 to Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Lower Silesia (now Poland).

“Vichy” is a sobering story of love and loss told through letters from Daubert to his beloved wife Corinne and son Jean-Luc. It’s a story of survival and resolve. Vichy (2)“Vichy” is one of 15 stories in Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories, a collection of short stories written over three decades with themes ranging from adventure, fantasy, mystery, spirituality, mythology, to love and war.

Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories is available to purchase in print and e-book from Amazon.com, Apple iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Createspace, Diesel E-books, Kobo Books, Smashwords, and the Wordshop.

This story is also a contestant in Pixelhose’s short story contest and available to read at http://pixelhose.com/2011/11/10/vichy-by-m-g-edwards/. If you like the story, please vote for it by choosing the “Like” button for Facebook or Twitter.

Hanliu / Hallyu (한류)


Hanliu (한류), also known as hallyu or the “Korean Wave,” refers to the Korean cultural phenomenon now sweeping across East and Southeast Asia.  Korean culture is hot right now, especially in Japan and China.  Asians are discovering the uniqueness and intrigue of a place once known as the Hermit Kingdom.  The phenomenon started with the spread of a 20-parent Korean drama series produced a few years ago called “Winter Sonata.”  You might have even heard of this series in the news.  Right now it’s the hottest thing in Japan and very popular throughout Asia.  Other Korean drama series that are popular right now include “Summer Scent”, “Fall Fairy Tale”, and “Stairway to Heaven” (yes, the Led Zepplin classic is one of the featured songs).  I enjoy watching these dramas to improve my Korean, but they are not my kind of movie.  They can be slow, and the plotlines are too simple and have too many coincidences for my taste.  Rather than using violence to create suspense, these dramas tend to inflict characters with illnesses–blindness, amnesia, and heart failure.  Nothing like a good heart transplant to bring people together.

My wife, who grew up in Asia, is crazy about these movies.  Her favorite actor is a hunk who makes every woman in Asia weak in the knees, Bae Yong Jun (배용준).  Very few actors have made the same kind of splash in the U.S. as BYJ has in Asia.  The rapid rise of Leo DiCaprio after the release of the movie “Titanic” is probably the best comparison to Bae hysteria in Japan and Asia.  Interestingly, the popularity of “Winter Sonata” has cooled in Korea because it’s already a few years old.  I imagine that when the new “Spring” series comes out–the last of the four “seasons” dramas, it will be immensely popular in Korea and Japan.

Korean movies have heightened interest throughout Asia in other aspects of Korean culture, including music, technology, martial arts (tae kwondo), and language.  In Japan the wave of Hanliu is still on the rise.  It’s rare that the Japanese embrace another culture so quickly and feverishly.  Korean dramas are especially popular with Asians because many closely identify with the dramas’ main themes–love, love triangles, family duty, personality conflicts and manipulation, innocence, intimacy, and tragedy.  Korean culture itself is intriguing because it still embodies many Confucian principles, and Asians are revisiting these principles, perhaps for the first time.  This is especially true in China, which lost some of its Confucist character following World War II and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

For Christmas I bought my wife the “Winter Sonata” soundtrack and a Bae Yong Jun T-shirt.  After an exhaustive search I found just one to buy on the Web.  (I found it at Kpopmusic).  I told my mother, and she exclaimed, “You bought her a T-shirt?!”  An American, she doesn’t understand.  At this moment that’s the best gift I could give her.  She plans to wear it proudly and show it off to all the Koreans she knows.