Thursday, November 11, 2010

A salute to the Fightin' Fingers

Veterans Day is pretty personal in the Finger family.

Our father, Marvin, saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, was spun around by machine gun fire while storming the Seigfried Line, took part in missions behind enemy lines, suffered a life-altering back injury in Germany and marked V-E Day in a French hospital recovering from pneumonia he always blamed on the poison gas he inhaled while clearing out a building in Bamberg.

By my count, he should have been killed at least a half-dozen times. He made it home to Kansas by the grace of God, he would tell anyone who asked. He went on to have eight children with Helen, the sweetheart he began courting only a few months before he left for basic training.

One of them - the one named after him - join the Army after a brief stint in college. Why? Because his father had been in the military. Ironically, he would serve in Germany, guarding the border between West Germany and Czechoslovakia in the early 1970s. It was the height of the Cold War. Though neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union would ever admit to it officially, the American and Soviet forces would shoot at each other - if for no other reason than to let their foes know they were around.

It was no stroll in the forest, though back home we were grateful he hadn't been shipped off to the jungles of Vietnam. Deep down, we feared that was a possibility right up until the time his enlistment ended and he came home. I still rank the Christmas that followed to be the happiest of my childhood, so thrilled was Mom that her boy had returned home safe.

Merf, as we called him to differentiate him from Dad, would join the National Guard upon his return to the states, serving in Kansas, Colorado and Oregon. I've never told him this, but one of the reasons my coverage of Pope John Paul II's visit to Denver in 1993 is one of my favorite all-time assignments is because he happened to be assisting in the medical tents set up to care for anyone who fell ill at the papal Mass at Cherry Creek State Park.

There we were, two Finger boys, up to our elbows in a genuine piece of history: me describing to readers what the closing Mass of World Youth Day '93 was like, with hundreds of thousands of people jammed into the park; and Merf, scrambling to help treat thousands of young adults overcome by dehydration because they didn't take in enough fluids during the long, hot hike from downtown Denver to the park the day before, or at the park the day of the Mass.

So many people were being brought to the medical tents, he told me later, "it was like we were in a war zone."

My twin brother, Steve, has told me that if he had still been single when the war with Iraq broke out he would have joined the military. And I was flattered when the head of recruiting for the U.S. Army wanted to sign me up for officer training school after I'd finished interviewing him several years ago.

When I learned one of my nephews, Joshua Stacey, had joined the Marines, I couldn't help but smile. Another generation of Fingers was serving our country.

Long may it be so.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Magnificent Seventh

I just got word that the book I co-authored, "Into the Deep," with Robert Rogers, is into its 7th printing. That's more than 35,000 books, I'm told --- a strong showing in this publishing and economic climate.

No, I won't be able to retire on the royalties, but it's still gratifying to see this unfold. Long may it continue!

Monday, November 1, 2010


"November comes

And November goes,

With the last red berries

And the first white snows.

With night coming early,

And dawn coming late,

And ice in the bucket

And frost by the gate.

The fires burn

And the kettles sing,

And earth sinks to rest

Until next spring."

- Elizabeth Coatsworth

Jon Stewart's closing speech at the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear"

Regardless of your political perspective, Stewart offers some food for thought - along with pointed observations about the media's role and keeping things in perspective.