A Look At My Life

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So who is this guy who calls himself Publius? Click on the image above and you will get a peek at his life and travels.

http://www.blurb.com/b/7249256-a-yearning-for-publius

A Navy reunion–and more: a personal walk through history.

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My wife Diana and I have just returned from Budapest Hungary where we visited an old Navy shipmate and his wife Aliz.

Adam and I served together on the USS Porterfield DD-682, a destroyer, in 1965-66. Adam was an officer and I was enlisted, so it couldn’t be said that we were friends or old Navy buddies. But we stood shoulder to shoulder at General Quarters – our Battle Stations – in a small space called IC-Plot from where our five 5” guns were controlled. Adam was a memorable character in those days, with an uplifting attitude and demeanor that helped ease any boredom or tension during long, often very hot, watches during combat operations off the coast of Vietnam.  He had an accent and an  unpronounceable last name beginning with ‘van’ or ‘von’ which was changed by all aboard to Mr. von D. For years I thought he was Dutch.

We went our separate ways following our Naval service, and I didn’t give him – or for that matter my Navy experience — much thought thereafter. Then at a Porterfield reunion a few years ago I was able to get my hands on the cruise book from that time in the Western Pacific. I was drawn to the ships roster and that strange name von Dioszeghy. I did an internet search for that name and discovered the Facebook page of Aliz von Dioszeghy and sent off a message asking if this lady knew of that crazy Dutchman from the Porterfield. She did, and was married to him. I soon found out that Adam had written a wonderful 440 page story of his life beginning as a 7 year old in the midst of the WW-II Red Army siege of Budapest.  By the time I finished his book I felt I knew this man and his incredible life story.

Then in May 2017 the opportunity to visit Adam and Aliz presented itself at the end of a Baltic cruise.

What follows is a personalized historical account of a tour conducted by Adam through the significant places and events of his life in Budapest. 

January 1945 This first set of pictures show some of the places where Adam and his mother endured the WW-II battles all around and above them. The allied bombers were bombing the city from above, the Germans controlled a square just down the boulevard to the left of their apartment, and the Red Army  controlled the square down to the right. Bombs, bullets and artillery shells flowed in abundance.

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Adam and his mother lived on the third floor of this building.

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And behind this basement window was the bomb shelter where the building residents endured the bombings. 

This is also the window where Adam’s young German soldier friend Hans positioned himself with two machine guns in a futile attempt to hold off the advancing Red Army.

Hans, 19 years old, befriended 7 year old Adam and gave him his last chocolate just before his unit pulled out and left him to delay the Red Army onslaught.  A hand grenade thrown in the basement window ended the life of young Hans.

Adam and his wife Aliz live close by this window, and on their way to church Adam respectfully salutes that window – “Hans didn’t start that war” says Adam. And Aliz invariably tears up. 

The bombing cut off the water supply to the apartment building, so the residents had to traverse the main boulevard to a nearby apartment building that still had water. This was a very dangerous operation requiring Adam’s mother to cross a very active combat zone. 

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The Red Army to the left.

The German Army to the right and the street in front of Adam’s home.

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This is the apartment building from where Adam’s mother carried water in buckets. One day just as she entered the door to get water, a bomb hit above her and collapsed the front of the building causing rubble to bury her up to her neck. Miraculously she was not injured and neighbors removed the debris allowing her escape. 

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This is the doorway to the building where Adam’s mother was buried by the building debris. Adam remembers seeing her in the doorway on her return to the bomb shelter as a ghostly image covered in white plaster dust.

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Walking the streets of Budapest in 2017, 73 years after the fact, makes it difficult to place all of this in the context of the time. The pictures below show a small part of the carnage of the siege of Budapest.

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The bridges of Budapest are beautiful, but not so much during the war.

Post War Budapest to October 1956 – I don’t have any pictures of life for Adam and his mother under the Communist rule following the war, but life after the war under Communism is brutal for Adam and his mother, and especially tough because of his mother’s previous station in life as an aristocrat. Here is how he describes the treatment of his mother in those Communist years:

“ … she … was stripped of all human dignity common to even the lowest of beings. The authorities treated her worse than if she was a leper or a person afflicted with the foulest of communicable diseases, or possibly a criminal. There were only certain places – and not very desirable ones – where she was allowed to live. … Day in and day out, in every conceivable circumstance, it was made known to her that her very existence was bothersome to the “state,” and the sooner she could depart this vale of tears for better climes the better. … “

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October 1956 – Now we move forward to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In the following picture sequence we follow Adam as he walks us through to those places of personal remembrances, and the tragedies experienced by those freedom fighters.

The revolution started as a student solidarity movement in support of student protests in Poland. It began as a peaceful and unarmed demonstration against a tyrannical Communist government. The group drew up a list of 16 requests – not demands as Adam points out – that were brought to the radio station along this very narrow street where 5000 students had marched.

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The government response to the 16 requests was “not only no – but hell no.” Officials in the radio station were armed, and soon a shot rang out from above and a young student was killed in the street below.

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This plaque on the sidewalk opposite the radio station commemorates this first casualty of the revolution, marking the name and date of this young man’s death.

And these plaques on the wall of the radio station commemorate the event – and that is Adam’s hand reaching up to that commemoration.  

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The protests moved to the Parliament building, a magnificent building, and one in which Adam’s grandfather, a Baron,  had in years past sat as a member of the Hungarian Parliament.

Adam recounts that at some point in what was now a revolution, a truck drove up to where the students had gathered and started handing out weapons. Adam recalls when about twenty students gathered in a room, each having a Russian machine gun. They are sitting in a circle facing one another as someone is instructing them on how to use these weapons. Suddenly a shot rings out, and a young student just to the right of Adam falls dead, a casualty of an accidental shot from one of those machine guns. 

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Back to the Parliament, the scene is one where there is a huge crowd gathered in the square between the front of the Parliament building and the building shown above.

There were armed government soldiers stationed on the roof of that building and they started shooting indiscriminately into the crowd.  There were also tanks stationed in front of the parliament, and at one point a tank commander is fed up with the killing from the rooftop, and he shoots a couple of tank rounds to the shooters above. 

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Years later, after the collapse of the Communist regime, the deaths of those brave freedom fighters is commemorated by the placement of these bronze balls on the walls of the building from which those murders took place – one for each death.

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Somewhere along the way Adam is wounded and he is headed back to the Technical University, pictured above, where he was a student.

A friend and fellow student intercepts Adam on the bridge pictured above and warns him to turn back. A wounded and bandaged student is certain to be arrested and most likely to be executed. So Adam turns back and thus begins the next chapter in the life of Adam von Dioszeghy and his mother – a flight to freedom in Austria and ultimately to the United States.

It is important to note that as this revolution unfolded, nearly every segment of Hungarian society joined with the students in the attempt to throw off the tyranny.  This included even the Hungarian military, which had to be removed from the city and replaced by Soviet troops from the interior of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the Soviets brutally crushed the revolution resulting in many arrests, deaths and tens of thousands of refugees, some 40,000 who came to the United States. 

Again, walking the streets of Budapest in 2017, 60 years after the fact, makes it difficult to place all of this in the context of the time. The pictures below show a small part of the carnage of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The images are brutal.

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Sitting at the breakfast table in our hotel overlooking the streets of Budapest in 2017, it is hard to picture anything different than the people below going to and fro – peaceful and minding their own business going shopping, going to work or school. That is what Budapest and the world should look like.

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The life of a refugee in America.

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Coming to the United States as a refugee; to a foreign land and a foreign culture, not knowing the language was the next huge hurdle facing this young man.

But Adam’s life in America shows the grit and fortitude of this young man who had lost everything in his Hungarian homeland. His family heritage in Hungary was one of aristocracy, land and wealth. Yet here he was, having to begin a new life from scratch.

In 1957, Adam and his mother arrived to an exceptional nation. A nation that afforded him two key elements that make that nation exceptional – liberty and opportunity. Adam took great advantage of that fabric of liberty and opportunity and earned a degree at Stanford University, one of the great universities of America. Then when his new nation called him to military service in time of need at the beginning of the Vietnam War, he gratefully stepped up and became a US Naval officer serving three tours to the war zone of Vietnam.

Following his Navy service, Adam returned to Stanford earning a law degree and practicing law in the San Francisco area for many years before retiring and returning to his homeland of Hungary.   

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A fitting conclusion to this story is this picture of Adam standing beside the statue of President Ronal Reagan in Budapest’s Freedom Square. Communism had failed and fallen, and the people of Hungary rightly commemorate their liberty with this tribute to this great American leader. 

Leaders like American President Ronald Reagan, Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II took note of the evils of Communism, and were finally in a position to defeat it and bring liberty to those many like Adam von Dioszeghy who yearned so strongly for and fought for it.

Adam is engaged in another battle for survival, this time against a cancer that has invaded his body. These kinds of personal battles eventually visit all of us, but I must say, this friend of mine shows a love of life – a joy of living – not often seen. A joy in spite of the tragedies he has lived through. But no … I believe his joy comes not in spite of, but rather because of his experiences. I am honored to be his friend and shipmate.        

Poland likewise recognizes Reagan with similar tributes.

“ … Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. … “

Ronald Reagan

References and further reading:

BRIDGING TWO WORLDS: Memories and Reflections – at https://www.amazon.com/BRIDGING-TWO-WORLDS-Memories-Reflections/dp/1622878663/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

My review of Adam’s book at — https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/bridging-two-worlds-a-book-review/

The Bridge at Andau: The Compelling True Story of a Brave, Embattled People — at https://www.amazon.com/Bridge-Andau-Compelling-Embattled-People/dp/0812986741/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496567578&sr=1-1&keywords=the+bridge+at+andau

Immigration & Assimilation – A Hungarian Model – at https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/immigration-assimilation-a-hungarian-model-2/

Statue in Budapest’s Liberty Square credits Reagan for freedom  — at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jun/29/statue-in-budapests-liberty-square-credits-reagan-/

Ronald Reagan statue unveiled in Warsaw  — at  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/poland/8904456/Ronald-Reagan-statue-unveiled-in-Warsaw.html

Reagan, John Paul II honored with statue in Gdansk Poland – at: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Reagan-John-Paul-II-honored-with-statue-3707733.php

Presumption of Innocence vs. Assertion of Ownership

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I find a strong parallel between the issues of past US slavery advocacy and modern day abortion advocacy.

The parallel I see is that slaves were considered to be legal property of the slave owner rather than unique human individuals – the assertion of ownership. The property  –the slave — was treated kindly or viciously at the whim of the owner of that piece of property. 

Likewise, in todays world, we see this assertion of ownership invoked by proponents of abortion, particularly the mothers of those unborn humans. The language is along the lines of “keep your religion off my body” as if the unborn were the mother’s property rather than a developing and unique human child. 

At the same time, the American legal system provides protection of  an accused criminal by the legal principle of “presumption of innocence” whereby the accused must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of peers. 

The accused is treated not as property, but rather as a unique human being with protected Constitutional rights.

Not so the unborn child. The unborn are asserted by law – by a perversion of the Constitution in Row vs. Wade – to be the property of the mother and can be either kept or disposed of solely at the discretion of the owner of the property.

Further, in criminal cases there is a prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment – the Eighth Amendment. The unborn, being property, is denied this protection and we are now in a world where modern science and medicine shows a well developed nervous system in the unborn that can feel pain and suffering in the first three months of development. 

My plea to expectant mothers tempted to avail themselves  of their “Constitutionally protected right of abortion” is to carefully weigh their choice between presumption of innocence vs. the assertion of ownership – only the mother can make such a choice.

My plea here is not to impose my morals or religion onto the woman’s body, but rather to advocate for basic Constitutional rights  for those unique unborn human beings who are considered property and have no voice nor rights.

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The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads (emphasis mine):

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution (in part) reads (emphasis mine)::

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

 

Don Johnson – April 2017

Happy Anniversary My Honey

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That’s us, on the right … me and my child bride Diana

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And us way back then – 53 years.  I still love you my honey!

I was the youngest of three brothers, but the first to marry.

1964 it was – April 10 and it seems like … well it seems like it was only … 1964.

My two older brothers also married that year, but Diana and I were the first. And all these years later, there are the three of us, still married to our child brides.

Bridging Two Worlds: a book review

Further to my previous post “What’s Become of the American Dream?”, I repost this about my Hungarian/American friend.

A Yearning for Publius

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What’s Become of the American Dream?

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Peggy Noonan writes a wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal. Click  “What’s Become of the American Dream?” to read the article.

Much in Noonan’s piece brought me back to the memoirs of Sam Jankovich which I have just finished editing and publishing.

A couple of excerpts from Noonan …

“ … The American dream is the belief, held by generation after generation since our beginning and reanimated over the decades by waves of immigrants, that here you can start from anywhere and become anything. In America you can rise to the heights no matter where and in what circumstances you began. You can go from the bottom to the top.  … “

The picture at the top is the last page of the memoir, and shows one such person who has gone “from the bottom to the top” in the literal sense of from a mile deep mine shaft to presenting a national championship game ball to the President of the United States.

Noonan further writes:

“ … The American dream was about aspiration and the possibility that, with dedication and focus, it could be fulfilled. But the American dream was not about material things—houses, cars, a guarantee of future increase. That’s the construction we put on it now. It’s wrong. A big house could be the product of the dream, if that’s what you wanted, but the house itself was not the dream. You could, acting on your vision of the dream, read, learn, hold a modest job and rent a home, but at town council meetings you could stand, lead with wisdom and knowledge, and become a figure of local respect. Maybe the respect was your dream.  … “

Click on the book cover below and take a look at Sam’s story.

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          (Click on the cover above)

As Noonan further writes:

“ … You can give a dozen examples, and perhaps you are one, of Americans who turned a brilliant system into a lived-out triumph. … “

And I do know of a number other examples.

 

Don Johnson – April 2017

Make Your Bed!

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(Click above to read the review)

I’ve been making our bed almost daily since somewhere near when Adm. McRaven first gave his speech back in 2014. I like to remember that I started this habit shortly before that now famous speech, but am willing to admit that the Admiral was most likely my motivator. After all, he is the admiral and me a lowly enlisted guy.

In any case, read this review, and better yet read the book. Who knows, perhaps you will start making your bed as well.

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From the Wall Street Journal review of the book … 

Reset Your Life in an Hour

www.wsj.com |

Never give up. Always maintain optimism. We’ve all heard these lessons before—but not from the man who led the bin Laden mission. John Nagl reviews “Make Your Bed” by William H. McRaven.

Navy Seal trainees lock arms in the Pacific during Hell Week. Photo: Getty Images

By

John Nagl

April 3, 2017

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald was completely wrong when he suggested “there are no second acts in American lives.” If America stands for anything, it is reinvention, renewal and second chances. Take the Navy SEAL who oversaw the most important manhunt in history and rose to command all of U.S. Special Operations Forces. What did he do for an encore? Only give the most successful college graduation speech in history—at his alma mater, the University of Texas, wearing Navy dress whites.

In “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World,” retired Adm. William H. McRaven admits that he was nervous before the address in May 2014. He was afraid that contemporary college students wouldn’t welcome a military man, even one who had once been, just like them, a slightly hung-over Austin senior eager to graduate and get on with life. They loved his speech, and word spread. It has been viewed more than 10 million times online, and Mr. McRaven has expanded the talk into a little book that should be read by every leader in America.

The motto of the University of Texas is “What starts here changes the world.” Mr. McRaven’s book provides instruction on doing 10 little things that aren’t little at all. His first suggestion is to make your bed every morning, because when you accomplish one thing early in the day, you’ll be motivated to achieve more—even if you aren’t having the quality of your work tested by a Navy chief petty officer with a quarter.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle, he goes on, because you can’t accomplish much on your own. And always measure a person by the size of his heart, not by his physical size, skin color, creed or anything else. Tommy Norris, the last SEAL to earn the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, was nearly booted out of SEAL training for being “too small, too thin, and not strong enough.” He proved a giant among men when he infiltrated deep behind enemy lines on successive nights to rescue downed airmen.

Some of the lessons won’t make perfect sense at first. “If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.” A sugar cookie is a wet SEAL trainee who has rolled himself in sand as punishment for some infraction of the rules—or for no reason at all, purely at the whim of the instructor. Life isn’t fair is Mr. McRaven’s point, and that’s no reason to cry. Keep going, even if there’s sand in every crevice of your body.

Embrace your failures, because every life has them, and what you learn will make you stronger. Dare greatly, because life is a struggle, and without challenges you’ll never know the limits of the possible. Stand up to the bullies, whether they are sharks circling you as you swim (sharks literally circle you in SEAL training during the deep-water swims) or Saddam Hussein. The latter was detained under Mr. McRaven’s watch for 30 days after his capture, and the SEAL firmly broke the deposed dictator’s self-confidence. Dig deep and rise to the occasion when all seems lost, whether working underwater in absolute darkness or responding to the deaths of those you lead in combat.

Mr. McRaven believes that good leaders are optimists even in the darkest times and make their teams believe in a brighter day. This is one of the best lessons of the book, illustrated by a story about Marine Gen. John Kelly, the current secretary of Homeland Security. Mr. Kelly’s son Robert was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010, and when a Special Forces helicopter was shot down killing 38 in Afghanistan in 2011, he was the right man to comfort the families. “More than any other visitor that day,” writes Mr. McRaven, “Kelly’s words resonated with every parent, every wife, every brother and sister, and every friend.” He had lived their pain and could give them hope.

Make Your Bed

By William H. McRaven
Grand Central, 130 pages, $18

Finally, never, ever quit. One hundred and fifty SEAL candidates began Basic Underwater Demolition School with Mr. McRaven in 1978; 33 graduated. As tough as these survivors were, even stronger was an Army Ranger named Adam Bates, who lost both of his legs to a land mine in Afghanistan but a year later was standing tall in his dress uniform on prosthetic legs and challenging his Ranger buddies to a pull-up contest. If Ranger Bates wouldn’t quit, which of us has an excuse?

These are not complicated lessons; we’ve all heard them before. But we haven’t heard them from the man who led the bin Laden mission. And we haven’t had them illustrated so memorably with stories from SEAL training, universally regarded as the most difficult course in the U.S. armed forces, or from a 35-year career leading men in combat.

Eight months after giving the talk that spurred this book, Mr. McRaven became the chancellor of the University of Texas System, overseeing 14 institutions with more than 200,000 students. There he has continued to demonstrate the courage, wisdom and spirit of service that he extols in “Make Your Bed.” In January, he released a statement decrying President Trump’s executive order on immigration, stating “that the talent, energy, and ideas flowing into the United States of America . . . from countries around the world are among our greatest strengths. The men and women who show up at our shores and our doors—ready to study, work, and participate—make us stronger, smarter, more competitive.” Reading that statement makes one hope for a third act in Mr. McRaven’s life, one that would affect the largest number of Americans.

“Make Your Bed” is a book you can read in an hour. It is a book to inspire your children and grandchildren to become everything that they can. It is a book to discuss with your executive leadership team as a spur to meeting shared goals. Most of all, it is a book that will leave you with tears in your eyes as you ask yourself: How does this nation find men and women like Tommy Norris and Adam Bates and William McRaven, who willingly risk their lives and their limbs to keep us safe and to protect our way of life?

Follow their example. Dare greatly. Don’t ever give up. And make your bed!

Mr. Nagl is the headmaster of the Haverford School. A retired Army officer, he is the author of “Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War.”

Appeared in the Apr. 04, 2017, print edition as ‘Reset Your Life In an Hour.’