Kaahumanu had everything going against her in a society that wouldn’t even permit a man to eat with a woman. And yet, she rose to become queen in an extraordinary twist of history, and from her position, brought all of her people to the dawn of a new day. Listen to her story on this week’s podcast of “Inspiring Stories from American History with Rebecca Price Janney” at Anchor.fm/rebeccapricejanney
In terms of the unrest our nation is currently undergoing, these days remind me of 1968, especially after the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Many people felt hopeless about the future without their guiding lights. Many couldn’t imagine who, or what, could save them now.
Melanie McKnight was one of them, an idealistic young woman who’d gone all-in for RFK. She watched in horror as he, and King, died, and violence exploded in inner cities across the nation.
But there was hope then, and there is hope now. My podcast this week at Anchor.fm/rebeccapricejanney speaks to that, and so does my new novel, Sweet, Sweet Spirit: One Woman’s Spiritual Journey to the Asbury College Revival. This hope exists largely because Jesus Christ, its risen source, is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
At the end of the 1960s The Hollies, a popular British rock group, had an all-out hit that quickly became a classic ballad. “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” speaks of lovingly caring for a “weaker brother.” But where did the inspiration come from?
You can hear the story of this rock standard on my podcast this week:
On a hot July day in 1917, a homeless dog caught Corporal James Robert Conroy’s eye. Along with fellow members of the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division, Conroy was training for battle in Europe on the grounds of Yale University when a dog, roughly a year old, began wandering among them. Of uncertain breed, the dog was intrigued by the men and their drilling and became something of a regular among them.
Corporal Conroy and the stray developed a bond, and soon Stubby, as the men called the pooch, became part of their company. At the time the men shipped out, Conroy smuggled the dog onto the ship by hiding Stubby under his overcoat. The commanding officer, however, was not to be put off indefinitely, and upon detection, Stubby is said to have won the CO over by saluting him, as the men had taught him. The canine received permission to remain part of the 102nd.
Stubby was not one to sit on the sidelines awaiting his next meal or stomach rub. When his men went into the trenches, he went with them. And when the soldiers faced the enemy in battle, the dog was by their sides. In fact, Stubby “served” in those trenches for eight months. He also participated in four offensives and 17 total battles. The first occurred on February 5, 1918 at Chemin des Dames, where he and his outfit were under constant fire, 24/7 for an entire month.
That April, Stubby was wounded when retreating Germans lobbed hand grenades into the Allied ranks. To recover full use of his foreleg, the dog was sent to the rear, where he continued working his morale-boosting magic among the troops. During that first year in combat, Stubby was also gassed, and some men created a protective mask for him to wear after his recovery. Because he could remember the scent of the gas, he was able to forewarn his men of incoming attacks. Likewise, because he could hear incoming artillery shells long before the humans, he was able to alert them in advance so they could take cover.
Stubby also crawled under barbed wire to retrieve supplies, and when the 102nd was in the Argonnes, the resourceful dog captured a spy when the man began speaking German. The dog clutched the seat of the enemy’s pants in his teeth until the soldiers could take over. This led their commander to nominate the dog for the rank of Sergeant, the only military dog ever to have received that rank. Before the war’s end, Stubby received further injuries to the chest and leg.
The women of Chatteau-Thierry fashioned a chamois coat for Stubby, which became a sort of display for the metals he received during the course of his service.
Just as he entered Europe, Sergeant Stubby left it—with Robert Conroy smuggling him on board the troop ship carrying the weary but victorious men home.
Back home, Stubby became an instant celebrity, meeting three U.S. Presidents, and marching at the head of many a patriotic parade. He even made appearances in vaudeville shows. General John J. Pershing added to Stubby’s collection when, in 1921, he awarded the dog a gold medal from the Humane Education Society. His days of acclaim continued when owner Conroy enrolled at Georgetown University Law Center, taking Stubby with him. He became the beloved Georgetown Hoyas’ team mascot.
Sergeant Stubby died in his sleep in March 1926 after an eventful life, one no one ever could have predicted for a stray dog wandering among a group of Army recruits. His obituary, longer than many celebrated people’s of that day, ran in the New York Times.
You will be inspired by this great man. At age 100, Captain Tom Moore is still serving his country.
My podcast this week is a salute to Captain Tom Moore and the Greatest Generation.
On April 11, 1970 the crew of Apollo 13 blasted off from Cape Kennedy with the goal of becoming the third group to stage a moon landing. The first two days went so smoothly CapCom commented, “The spacecraft is in real good shape as far as we are concerned. We’re bored to tears down here.”
Nine hours later, James Lovell and his crew finished a nearly one-hour television broadcast. The commanded closed with, “This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody there a nice evening, and we’re just about ready to close out our inspection of Aquarius (the lunar module) and get back for a pleasant evening in Odyssey (the command module). Good night.”
Oxygen tank number 2 blew up nine minutes later: Number 1 followed as the astronauts heard a sharp bang and felt a strong vibration. Jack Swigert noticed a warning light and told ground control, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” The light indicated Apollo 13’s fuel cells were lost, cells providing most of the spacecraft’s electricity. At 200,000 miles from earth, with their oxygen tanks leaking into space, the situation looked grim.
The astronauts and Houston ground controllers decided to depend on the lunar module’s (LM) systems for survival. The LM was equipped for a 45-hour lifetime, not the 90 required to get the crew home alive. New procedures had to be written and tested on the ground, in the simulator.
The astronauts shut down all con-critical systems and reduced their energy consumption to one-fifth. They cut back on water usage because their space suits had limited storage for body wastes. They ate little and became dehydrated. The three astronauts lost a total of 31 1/2 pounds, and Fred Haise became seriously ill with a bladder infection. The cabin temperature plummeted to 38 degrees F with the walls oozing condensation.
The world held its breath, waiting to see whether this would be the first time men would be lost in space, or if they would burn up when the space craft reentered Earth’s atmosphere. At Chicago’s Wrigley Field, thousands of Cubs fans offered a moment of silence. At the Vatican, Pope Paul VI offered prayers, and in Jerusalem, Orthodox Jews prayed for the astronauts at the Wailing Wall.
Those prayers and millions more were said on April 17 as the astronauts prepared for reentry. Lovell thanked everyone at Ground Control, while a waiting world wondered whether those might be his last words.
As the craft hurled toward earth moments later, searing flames engulfed the outside. Would the heat shield protect the men from the punishing temperatures? The radio blackout lasted a total of three, stressful, minutes. Even if the heat shield worked, where would the craft splash down? If its beacons didn’t work, Apollo 13 could not be visible to rescuers amidst the vast Pacific Ocean’s white caps.
Three minutes came and went with no sign of the spacecraft. Suddenly rescuers pointed and yelled, “There they are! They made it! They made it!”
An ocean of tears splashed down along with the astronauts, applause reverberating around the world, humanity’s “Thank you” to God, who is above and beyond the zenith of human technology and science.