Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's A Small World After All

Worlds Apart
Have you ever heard or used the term, “worlds apart”? It's usually used to indicate how far apart two people's lives, ideas, beliefs, faith, etc. are from one another. Before I started researching my family's genealogy, I thought I was "worlds apart" from other people. I thought I was not really connected to much ~ not to other people nor to history. Nothing. Oh, I knew who my family was [mostly], but not where my family fit into things. Where I fit into things.

Now, I know. Genealogy has become sort of a map for me to show me where I and my family fit into things. I have also come to realize how I'm connected to others ~ blood relations and non-blood relations. In fact, the more I research my family, the more people I run into and stumble upon who I am connected to.

It's really rather amazing at times. How we're connected, that is.

Postcard Connections
This idea of genealogy being a map and everyone being connected to one another crossed my mind while I was trying to select an appropriate postcard for the “Geography” edition of “Festival of Postcards”.

Most postcards have either photos of places or photos of people in places. I know when we travel anywhere, I always buy postcards from the places we've visited. Furthermore, if I were to take my postcards and lay them out on a map, they'd not only be a wonderful representation of where I've been, but each one could tell at least one family story as well.

They'd tell of places on my family tree.

They'd tell of places on my genealogy map.

They'd tell of some of the people I'm connected to ~ by blood or otherwise.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who collects postcards of where they've been because I stumbled upon some old postcards and photographs of my mother-in-law's that she had collected. They were from a trip that her mother, N. Virene Richardson, had taken her, her sister, and some friends in the mid-1960's to Washington, D.C. from Iowa. From the photos, I can tell they had an awesome time. However, I know they had an awesome time visiting our nation's capitol because I took that same trip in seventh grade. Yup. All the way from the tip of Texas to D.C. I remember looking at all the monuments and thinking how incredible they were to see in person, but there was one monument I had seen before.

Mother-in-law's postcard from visit to Arlington National Cemetery in 1960's.
The Iwo Jima Statue. 

And apparently, it had been remarkable for my mother-in-law as well because she had bought a postcard of it.

The postcard instantly reminded me of the same Iwo Jima statue that stands in Harlingen, Texas ~ a town that's about thirty minutes east of the small town that I'm from, Weslaco, Texas. It also reminded me of some recently acquired information that I'd stumbled upon while doing some research of Weslaco, Texas for another blog post. This was the day I found I had a connection to the Iwo Jima statue. [O.K., it's a small one, but I do have one.]

Of Course There's A Story Behind It
The story behind this statue is quite interesting. It depicts the 2nd raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi 23 Feb 1945 by 5 U.S. Marines and 1 Navy Corpsman at Iwo Jima in World War II. Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press took the photo, and from it the the 3 men that survived the war that had raised the flag, became famous due to the popularity of the photo and what it represented.

When it came time to identify the men from the photo, there was a mistake made in the 5th marine's identity ~ the one closest to the ground. It was incorrectly identified as Henry “Hank” Hansen who had actually died in between the first flag raising and the second flag raising.

And when the correct marine's mama saw the photo 2 days after it had been taken in the newspaper, she, according to Wikipedia, exclaimed, “That's Harlon!” She even stated, “I know my boy.”

Now, I just love that statement. I'm a mama too. I would know my children anywhere. I would know “my boy.” It's just a “mama thing.” There's just something about the bond that's made between a mama and her child before the child even takes his or her first breath. Yup. There are no two ways about it. I would've known my boy too.

His identity was later corrected. The 5th marine was Corporal Harlon Block, and he was killed in action less than 2 weeks after the photo was taken. The first statue of Joe Rosenthal's photo was sculpted by Felix de Weldon, and it's now located next to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia [just outside of D.C.]. The original plaster working model of the first statue is located in Harlingen, Texas [near my home town], on the grounds of the Marine Military Academy. The story of Cpl. Block and the other 5 men who raised the American flag in Iwo Jima is told in the book Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley from which a movie by the same name was directed by Clint Eastwood and released in 2006.

I Should've Known
Now, I never knew Corporal Harlon Block, but...

I've played in his park. [Now it's a sports complex.]

I've walked the same streets that he did. [Some look the same, some look a little different.]

We attended the same high school. [Definitely looks different.]

My Dad took me to see the Iwo Jima statue in Harlingen, Texas a couple of times in the 1980's after the statue was donated. [In 1995, Cpl. Block was moved from the Weslaco City Cemetery to lie next to the statue where he still is today.]

My Dad paid for the Washington, D.C. trip where I saw the original statue that marks Cpl. Block's involvement in such an important day in our nation's history.  [Had an awesome time.]

That's right. Corporal Harlon Block and I come from the same small border town of Weslaco, Texas.

What are the odds, right?

I don't remember my Dad ever telling me that Cpl. Block was from Weslaco [or maybe I just wasn't paying attention]. Maybe he just thought that I already knew. I should've known, tho'.  I mean, I'd been playing in the park named after Corporal Harlon Block in Weslaco for, like, “forever.” [rolling eyes heavenward]

Aaah. Those connections are everywhere. We just have to open up our eyes and find them.

For we're all connected ~ some in big ways and some in small ways.

Connected by genealogy, history, people, and geography that criss-cross through our lives like roads on a map. Hopefully, we've collected a postcard or two along the way to help us remember.

I don't believe we're all “worlds apart” anymore.  Nope.  I think Walt Disney got it right.

It's a small world after all.”

[This blog post is a submission for  Evelyn Yvonne Theriault's Festival Of Postcards on her blog A Canadian Family.]


  1. Congratulations!
    This is such a well-thought out piece that it had to be the Feature Post in the Festival of Postcards (9th Ed.)-Geo.
    Thank you for all the effort you put into this,
    Best wishes,
    A Canadian Family

  2. Very nice post. I never thought I still have long to becoming dedicated postcard collector until I read your page. hehe Anyways, just in case you need printing company that offers low prices, this is a link a friend recommended to me and I also like to recommend to you. Thank you for this post. Really learned something.


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