Month: May 2022

Section 27

We’re never far from the Civil War, woven into our conscious and unconscious. Arlington Estate was owned by Mary Custis Lee, descendent of Martha Washington and spouse of Robert E. Lee. The estate was seized by the US Army in 1861. Its grounds included Freedman’s Village, for freed and escaped slaves. In 1864, part of the estate became Arlington National Cemetery. Black soldiers were buried in Section 27. Arlington remained segregated by rank and race until 1948.

Of 3,525 Medals of Honor, 3,000 were pre-World War I, with 473 World War II honorees. Since 1916, the Medal has become more rare, yet more fair. Since the end of World War II, over two dozen Medals have been awarded to men who were denied the Medal during the war due to their race, ethnicity, or religion. In 1997, President Bill Clinton presented the Medal to seven African Americans (who fought in WW2). Three years later, President Clinton presented 22 Japanese American veterans with the Medal of Honor.

Of the seven blacks honored In 1997, Vernon Baker was the only one still alive. The Korean War brought 146 recipients, including the last two African Americans to receive the Medal for service in a segregated unit: Cornelius Charlton and William Henry Thompson. The 250 Vietnam War recipients include 22 African Americans. James Anderson, Jr., was the first black Marine recipient. A month after his 20th birthday, Anderson covered an enemy grenade with his body just before it exploded.

These stories–going back to the Revolutionary War–amplify the absurd fear of “replacement.” The question is whether we who are late to the party (the real “replacements”) will sing in gratitude:

Oh beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife
Who more than self, their country loved
And mercy more than life

Section 27, from the Arlington National Cemetery

Civil War to World War I

This is the third of four posts about Memorial Day, with intentional awareness of African American contributions. I don’t know what it has been like to serve during slavery years and through the era of Klan resurgence, but I’ve learned a great deal this Memorial Weekend. These posts formed the basis for a Sunday School lesson yesterday in a class that included three World War II veterans. I salute them.

Post-Civil War, the military was not immune to Jim Crow, but African Americans were well represented in the military. The 1865-1899 era was militarily dominated by Indian Wars Campaigns on the frontier. The 417 recipients of the Medal of Honor for service in the Frontier Indian Wars included 18 African Americans (four of whom were “Negro Seminole Scouts”). That era birthed the Buffalo Soldiers.

About 380,000 African Americans served during World War I, but half of the 200,000 sent Europe were in labor or stevedore battalions. Two of 126 WW1 Medal of Honor recipients were black: Freddie Stowers and Henry Johnson. Recently, the Naming Commission recommended that Fort Polk (which honors Confederate General Leonidas Polk) be renamed Fort Johnson, in honor of Henry Johnson.

From the one-hour documentary, Black Patriots: Buffalo Soldiers,Tuesday, May 31 at 9:30 pm Central Time on the HISTORY Channel

Valor knows no color

I’m looking at Memorial Weekend 2022 through a different lens. In spite of various kinds of discrimination, a very large number of African Americans have served our nation’s military with honor. Yesterday, I learned about some of those who served during the Civil War.

From the National Archives’ Black Soldiers in the U.S. Military During the Civil War, “… roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease.”

Sergeant William Carney was the first of 16 African Americans awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. His “most distinguished gallantry in action” was in South Carolina in 1863. After being shot in the thigh, Carney crawled uphill on his knees, bearing the Union flag and urging his troops to follow.

Harriet Tubman served as a Union Army nurse, spy and leader of an 1863 raid that freed over 700 slaves from South Carolina plantations.

First Sergeant Powhatan Beaty’s story of leadership under fire is told in “Ohio Medal of Honor recipient: From slavery to freedom,” by Staff Sergeant. Chad Menegay, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs, February 28, 2019 (photo from Wikipedia)

We’re in this together profiles several black colonials who participated in the Revolutionary War, including Crispus Attucks, considered by many historians to be the first American to die in the war. He was a runaway slave of African and Native American descent in mid-life, killed by two British musket wounds to the chest.

Attucks’ status as a runaway slave illustrates our conflicted history. Some 5,000 to 8,000 people of African descent served in the war on the American side. Amid the Patriots’ rhetoric of equality and liberty, many of them hoped that independence would bring an end to slavery.

Some 20,000 African-Americans choose to serve the Crown. Historian Edward Ayres said, “They signed on with whichever side seemed most likely to grant them personal freedom.” On this Memorial Weekend, I salute the slaves and former slaves who served and trusted this fledgling democracy.

From “Give Me Liberty: African Americans in the Revolutionary War,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon

The challenge of unconditional love

A few months ago, I said “Yes” to the Fullness of Loving Relationships, an emerging community and movement that I fully embrace. The website is growing, including Stories, “the means of telling the past, interpreting the present, and dreaming the future.” I didn’t know then how much I needed FoL’s focus on practicing unconditional love and forgiveness in all our relationships.

On Wednesday I was a “house sitter,” preparing for a hospital bed to be delivered to the home of our daughter and son-in-law. They were returning home from the hospital, as his care transferred from the heroic UAB Lung Transplant Team to a group of hospice heroes. My mind rotated between UAB and the agony of our Uvalde sisters and brothers. We’re all related.

I listened to Governor Abbott, waiting in vain for a statement that it’s time to end easy access to weapons of war such as the AR-15 that made it impossible to identify, apart from DNA samples, the remains of those whose bodies were destroyed in their elementary classroom. Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson identified the challenge of unconditional love. Here’s an excerpt:

All day, I have been coming back to this: How have we arrived at a place where 90% of Americans want to protect our children from gun violence, and yet those who are supposed to represent us in government are unable, or unwilling, to do so?

This is a central problem not just for the issue of gun control, but for our democracy itself. 


Resources for tough work

I’m part of a weekly Zoom gathering of 4 people focused on trying to live into the fullness of loving relationships in the real world, where social divisions are palpable, much of religion seems less than helpful, and the ancient nemesis of violence continues its deadly work.

One of our frequent topics is “How to oppose injustice and practice the fullness of loving relationships.” Another is, “How to express anger at wrongdoing in a spirit of love.” We seek the highest principles and best outcomes for the most people as we work for the weakest among us.

The Arts” is a section of the Fullness of Loving Relationships website with resources from dreamers, painters, prophets, singers, storytellers, teachers and theologians that express the profound mysteries of the heart. The site includes music, poetry, stories and visuals to aid our journey.



With age, I’ve tried to be more inclusive. Exclusion and inclusion are learned early—a necessary part of identity formation. Boundaries are set by parents, teachers, and society. It’s important to respect, and set, appropriate boundaries.

Over time, some boundaries are reinforced, and some are relaxed. Religions pay considerable attention to boundaries: Why include this group and exclude that group? Why is this, not that, kosher? I try to err on the side of inclusion.

Society’s boundaries are expressed through laws, ideally to seek justice, which is society’s way of expressing love. Some laws are unjust. We’re a work in progress. M.L. King, Jr., said, “The law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me.”

The Fullness of Loving Relationships website has a page entitled “All-Inclusive,” devoted to Personal Health, Social Justice and Ecological Justice.


Love’s practical focus

In his classic 1956 book, The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm said we mistakenly focus on how to make ourselves attractive as a love object rather than learning how to practice the art of loving, Romantic love is one aspect of love, but the art of loving is a life-long task that includes brotherly/sisterly love, motherly/fatherly love and neighborly love. It is transformative to understand love as an art to be practiced, a principle basic to great religions and philosophies.

The website includes a “What Guides Us” section, which states:

Saying “YES” to a way of seeing, a way of being, open to and aware of being loved and being loving;

Experiencing and sharing an awakening to a spirit deeply rooted within each of us;

This spiritual path is not linear but circular: we experience what we practice, we practice what we experience;

Measuring and comparing are irrelevant. We are accepted and blessed just as we are, and encouraged to resist complacency and be open for growth; and

Our goal is to move beyond concepts and definitions about love to an experience of being loved and being loving.

From the Fullness of Loving Relationships

Our connection

The “About Us” page at the Fullness of Loving Relationships’ website could be condensed into one word, the ancient African term Ubuntu, which means “humanity to others,” or “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Or, more simply, “I am because you are.”

Here’s the “About Us” statement:

The fullness of loving relationships involves one’s personal health, which inherently is connected to the health of all others: family, friends, strangers, enemies, fish, birds, animals, and all other creatures, along with the waters, atmosphere and ground. Everyone and everything is interwoven in the web of existence!

Joe Elmore, the founder of the Fullness of Loving Relationships movement, is motivated by the transformational potential of small groups meeting regularly to encourage one another to be more intentional about practicing forgiveness and love in all our relationships. Imagine the possibilities!

From the “About Us” page at

To be fully human

A few months ago, I mentioned a community of people that seeks to be more intentional about understanding and experiencing the fullness of loving relationships. The Fullness of Loving website has grown and we’re exploring new ways to share what the group is learning about the art of loving.

This week’s posts will highlight some of the community’s stories and discoveries. We use words not to define (or limit) but to expand our capacity to love. These words from the website’s home page seek to express the essence of the community’s goal:

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