Sunday, May 31, 2020

Congrats to Space X!

In 1972, I was four years old, but I think that’s where my love of space began. I want to say I vaguely remember seeing/hearing about the Apollo missions – going to the moon!!  How was that possible? We went to the moon!! 

At the time, I didn’t realize Apollo 17, which launched in DEC 1972 would be the last time we went to the moon. I just remember images – the lunar rover, the men in suits, the rocks. I also remember the feeling – awe.  I just sat in front of the TV mesmerized. 

I remember going to the library and signing out a ton of books about space.  Of course, my favorite books were about the planets. I love science fiction.  Star Trek was one of my favorite shows.  I loved Spock!! I’m not really sure why I love all things “space,” maybe because it taps into the ultimate imagination gene. You can imagine anything about space. You can explore like Star Trek, you can fight, like Star Wars, or you can let your creativity grow by taking pictures of the planets.

I remember where I was when the first manned Space Shuttle flight took off. I was in my 7th grade science class.  It was 12 April 1981. My teacher brought in a TV and we watched the flight live.  I was the geek mesmerized by the TV. So, when I went to high school it was only natural I took all the Astronomy classes they had to offer.

My Astronomy teacher was a great guy.  He took me to Boston to see Carl Sagan lecture. It was all about the night sky in high school, telescopes and freeing the imagination. There were more than the planets. My teacher, Robert Veilleux, was one of the 114 semi finalists selected for the Teachers in Space program in 1985. When Christa McAuliffe was selected, my high school (Central High, Manchester NH) was electrified.  I still cry to this day when I think of the Space Shuttle Challenger. 

I think going to space is important because it stimulates, the mind, the imagination, the creativity, and ambition of everyone involved.  It challenges us to think outside of the box to solve problems to go to places that are near impossible. I was so bummed to hear the last Shuttle mission was in 2011. 

Then came Elon Musk and Space X.  And I was excited about Space again.

Space X is something special. It’s a civilian business, not a government run one.  Space X was founded in 2002 and most of its facilities are in southern California. It received a permit in 2014 to  build a 4th launch site  (commercial only) in Brownsville, Texas.  

The Falcon 9 is a medium lift rocket which is reusable.  So are the Dragon capsules. It’s the reusability factor which allows Space X to be competitive. 

I’m so excited about today’s launch. America is back in space and it feels right. 

Question for you: What’s your first memory of America and space?


Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. Her story, “First Flag of New Hampshire” takes the reader on a journey with Aly and Miguel to find the missing flag. It’s available through 4RV Publishing. You can also find it on Amazon in paperback and as an ebook. 


Monday, May 25, 2020

Honoring Memorial Day during a Pandemic

Memorial Day Thoughts for 2020

A lot of citizens think of Memorial Day as the informal start to the summer. They make plans to visit the beach, the lake, and plan an awesome BBQ meal. As a veteran, Memorial Day holds a more solemn meaning in my heart, and this year we’re all challenged to find the appropriate way to celebrate while social distancing.

Memorial Day was known as Dedication Day and born out of the ashes of the Civil War. Waterloo, New York is considered the birthplace of the holiday. In 1866, several citizens got together and decorated the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers and flags. They also honored their war dead with a moment of silence. Soon after, parades became a staple of the holiday. It’s also a tradition to lower the flag to half-staff to honor the war dead.

 After World War I, these traditions expanded to include all of the war dead from all wars.  I tried to do some research on the 1919 Memorial Day (then known as Dedication Day) while the Spanish Flu was ravaging the world, but my research was spotty.  Several towns continued to hold their Decoration Day parades to honor their war dead and veterans. The Ironton Lawrence County parade was held that year (as reported in the Daily Dispatch out of Huntington WV). There were 2,400 people in attendance and “full honor was paid to the soldier boys, living and dead…”

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson changed the name from Decoration Day to Memorial Day and it was finally recognized as a federal holiday in 1971. 
Joe's Cub Scout Pack, Joe is the last one on the right
Both my boys have been active in the Scouts BSA program. Since 2007, when my oldest was a tiger cub, his Cub Scout Pack would coordinate with the local cemetery to place flags on the graves of veterans to honor Memorial Day.  They’d get dressed up in their scouting uniforms and place the flags with their adult leaders assisting. I thought it was a great way to not only teach, but honor those who had served their county.

This year Scouts BSA is unable to hold such an event due to the pandemic involving COVID 19. So what can we do to honor the holiday in 2020? 

I have to work half the day, but before I go to work, I’m planning on flying my flag and I’m going to get a plant from Home Depot. I’ll be planting my plant in the front yard when I get home after I change into an Old Navy flag shirt, flying my flag, and offering a moment silence at my house in honor of my Uncle Harold who fought in World War II before I start my BBQ.  Uncle Harold recently passed away in Massachusetts, so while I can’t be there, I hope to hold him close to my heart here in California. I’ll have my boys help me plant my plant. 

If you have a loved one you’d like to honor at a nearby cemetery, I might suggest reaching out to the cemetery and finding out what their guidance is; will they allow you to visit? Decorate a grave with flowers or a flag? If not, maybe set aside in your yard or a use a planter to plant a small plant/flower and place a flag. You could put it on your balcony.  YouTube is a great source to find out more information about the holiday or even pull up an old parade. And when you’re ready to BBQ in your backyard, maybe you could play some patriotic songs? Suggestions, only. 

Here’s a fun video geared for younger kids about Memorial Day: 

Question for you: How do you plan to celebrate Memorial Day? 

Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. Her story, "First Flag of New Hampshire," is available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon.  Can Aly and Miguel find the missing flag for their history assignment? 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

An American Hero

Post #2 of Memorial Day Weekend 2020

Losing a loved one while they are in the military on active duty can be heartbreaking. And it was heartbreaking for the thousands of civilians who lost loved ones in the Civil War. One of the ways to find comfort is to lay flowers or flags on the graves of those who gave their life in service to this country. The citizens of Waterloo, NY in 1866 are generally credited for the beginning of a tradition that eventually led to Memorial Day.  Wanting to honor their Civil War dead, they decorated those graves with flowers, flags, and offered a moment of silence.  Originally known as “Decoration Day,” the name was changed to Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966.  Nowadays, Memorial Day doesn’t just honor those who gave their lives in the Civil War, but in all the wars that the United States has been involved in.

So much has been written about World War II, but I didn’t know very many personal stories.  I knew my Grandpa had been in the war, but honestly, I don’t know his story.  He passed away when I was 15 and I never really got to ask him about it. My husband’s grandfather was in the Navy in the Pacific. I always knew my Uncle Harold had been in the war, but I don’t remember him really telling me tales about his experiences. I remember when I visited him in 1991 with my husband, we brought an old WW II map we found in the basement of the Bad Hersfeld police station and he appreciated it.  He told us some of the places he went to, but he didn’t tell me any real stories.  If he did, it’s my fault I don’t remember them.  I do remember he was proud of my service in my military.  It was unspoken.  It was his knowing smile, his questions, and his curiosity about what Germany was like that communicated his approval to me. (I was stationed in Germany from 1986-88 and 1989-1992, 40 years after he left.)

My Uncle Harold was drafted into the Army National Guard in 1942 and in February 1944 he was sent to Britain. He landed on Omaha Beach on 10 June 1944. He was an Engineer (30th Infantry Division, 105thCombat Engineers) and an expert on the Browning 50 Cal machine gun. His troop was involved in the Battle of Bulge and his unit was one of the first ones to enter Holland and Belgium. He liberated two or three concentration camps to include Buchenwald. My husband and I visited Buchenwald in 1990, 45 years after he liberated it! He was 22 years old in World War II. Shortly after arriving on Omaha Beach, he broke down, but pushed past his fear.  Once he was battle hardened he said, “As time goes on, you get to be a zombie. You’ve had no sleep, you’re tired, and things don’t worry you as much as they did at the start.” 
Harold Williams

For his heroic actions, Uncle Harold was awarded the Legion of Honor from the French Government at the age of 91 in 2013. I wish I had been there to see that. He passed away in July 2018. On Memorial Day this year, I’m going to place my flag on my house and honor him with a moment of silence before I go to work, because even now that I’m no longer in the military, his courage and bravery still inspire me. 


Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher with LAPD.  She served in the US Army from 1986-1997. Her Uncle Harold served from 1942-1945. She is a Children’s book author published with 4RV Publishing.  Her book, “First Flag of New Hampshire” is available in Kindle and as a paperback from 4RV Publishing.  

Check out the video for the book here:

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Memorial Day Weekend 2020: Book Review for Killing England

Blogger's Note: It's time to restart my Blog! I know it's been a while and I apologize.  I've been very busy with my job (911 dispatcher for LAPD) and dedicating my spare time to assisting my sons' Boy Scout troop as an adult leader.  But 2020 is a time of change and I can now, slowly, start to dedicate some of spare time to my writing and my own projects.  My oldest son is graduating high school and is an Eagle Scout.  My younger son is moving onto high school from middle school.  Both did well with their distance learning challenges. 

Thoughts on COVID 19:  I think I would be neglectful if I didn't mention that "Safer at home" orders and COVID 19 have effected us and our communities this year. We are just now starting to reopen our communities as the curve has flattened. It's been a challenging time for us. Thank you for picking my blog up, after months of neglect and giving me a chance. Going forward, I'll be sharing some of my COVID frustration, my highs and my lows, and sharing ideas to keep it positive going forward. 

As I've picked Memorial Day weekend to jump start my blog, this weekend's focus will have a military focus.  Today, I'm sharing my book review for "Killing England" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard.   I hope to have a new Memorial Day essay for you soon and a look a military hero. 

I'd like to rededicate my blog to my writing (so you'll see little blurbs about my books and writing projects), what's going on in my spare time, my likes, my dislikes, my weight loss journey, my thoughts on the year 2020, exploring my neighborhood, and maybe work, but let me tell you, being a 911 dispatcher is not that exciting. At least, I don't think so. I think to be a 911 dispatcher, you have to be a "jack of all trades" and I'll find that a re-occuring theme going forward. 

For all those who have lost family members to military service, from World War II to our time in Afghanistan and Iraq, my heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with you.  

Engrossing! I couldn’t put it down! 
 Book Review: Killing England
Written by: Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
Published by: Henry Holt/Macmillian
ISBN: 978-1-62779-0642
I read: The hardback

5 Stars

O’Reilly and Dugard pen a comprehensive tale of hardship, perseverance, and determination with “Killing England.” The revolution set America on its own course, that’s unfortunately, given a dry treatment in the US History books. Not so with O’Reilly and Dugard.  Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson come alive as real people, their flaws exposed and raw; their strengths – amazing and almost superhuman. 

One of the main causes of the American Revolution is “taxation without representation,” yet it’s made clear the Americans are subjects to the British, meant to support the elite, and that won’t do. O’Reilly and Dugard give the events that led up to the start of the war a fresh look with anecdotes that have been lost to time. 

Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and other key figures such as George III, Cornwallis, Marquis de La Fayette and Prussian general Von Stuben are portrayed as real people. Their personalities shine and give rise to the birth of a nation. 

The writing is easy to read. The reader will learn a lot about the American Revolution including how the battles were fought, Washington’s courage, Franklin’s patience, and Jefferson’s loyalty. There’s always a new fascinating, historical tidbit to discover. “Killing England” is a griping read that will have the reader turning the pages to discover yet another historical nugget lost to time. It’s raw, it’s surprising, it’s gritty, it’s war. And O’Reilly and Dugard hold no punches. I highly recommend this book. 

It’s the start of the school year, and Alyssa has to take American Studies for college prep. She’s paired with classmate Miguel De Soto to find the first flag of New Hampshire, but the flag has only flown four times in New Hampshire’s past. Can Alyssa and Miguel track the flag through history before time is up?

First Flag of New Hampshire is available from 4RV Publishing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the 4RV Publishing website as a paperback and Kindle book. 


Amazon Link: