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NOTE
: THE DEFINING GENERATION is a project begun by Doug and Pam Sterner in 2002 and completed in 2006. Initially is was prepared for publication as a book, however with their changing focus to development of a database of military awards, was postponed indefinitely so they could concentrate on that larger, more important work. The stories found herein however, need to be shared, and they have consented to make this compilation available in this format. While each story can stand alone, it is recommended that for continuity, readers will be best served by reading the chapters sequentially from first to last.

 

The Defining Generation

-

Defining Entertainment

Life Imitating Art

Growing up in Montana where there were few Black people I was never confronted with the kind of racial tension that was common in the South. When I enlisted in the Army I was color-blind where race was concerned, and in Vietnam I developed a very close friendship with my assistant squad leader Specialist William Pride, who was Black. I went so far as to request that he escort my body home in the event I was killed in action.

When I returned from Vietnam I confronted myself with the fact that I had indeed developed some racial prejudice--against Oriental people. The Army had taught me to hate and try to kill North Vietnamese and, unwittingly, though I had come to love and admire the South Vietnamese I had allowed my hatred of the enemy to color my feelings towards an entire race of people. It wasn't a hatred like the Black-White prejudices I knew still existed in the South and elsewhere at home. Rather it was a stereo-typing of anyone who had olive-shaped eyes and yellow skin. I just felt that they were different; not a part of my own little world. I knew my prejudice was irrational and wrong and confronted it honestly, hoping that in time my rational mind would overcome my emotions. Slowly it did.

Pam and I raised our four children to accept and love all people, regardless of their race or their social status. Because of our roles as managers of low-income HUD housing, our kids always joked that "We had to grow up in the projects!" Many of the families in these communities were Black and, when we began managing properties in Pueblo the majority of them were Hispanic. Our white children therefore, were actually the minority race in most circumstances of their early life.

Our oldest child, Jennifer, is a very bright young lady who showed early signs of great potential for success in many fields. At the age of 3 while we were living in our converted school-bus/motor-home and performing in churches across the country, she began performing as a clown. By age 5 she was assisting me as a capable magician's assistant and box-jumper. The latter is the trade term for a person, usually a young lady, who must remain cramped inside a very small piece of magical equipment for a long time until with a flourish of music and a puff of smoke she amazingly materializes. She was VERY good at it, even at a very young age, and proved to be a veteran performer; though to this day she suffers from claustrophobia from her childhood career.

When Pam and I settled down from our itinerant life of entertainment and ministry in 1984, with our two children, Jennifer adapted well. Home schooled by Pam through the 2d grade, she adjusted to her new social environment making friends easily and earning good grades. Our son Dutch (William) was much more tentative. He loved living in the bus and traveling and hated school, struggling hard just to keep his grades at C-level. I sometimes remarked, "Jennifer will become successful in life for her intelligence, Dutch will have to succeed by his personality."

That premonition remained valid until Jennifer became a teenager and entered High School. By that time we were managing HUD apartments in Pueblo , Colorado , where we had initiated scouting programs to help at-risk boys and girls in our communities. As Jennifer challenged our authority and expanded her individual freedoms, it sometimes seemed that while we were working hard to improve the lives of other children, we were failing in our own family. By her Junior year Jennifer was hanging out with the wrong crowd, skipping school, and Pam and I breathed a collective sigh of relief when she finished that year. "One more to go," we tried to reassure ourselves, determined to see her graduate from High School.

Pam and I responded to Jennifer's teenage rebellion in helpless frustration. She was a very good young lady, caught between competing influences: the values she had been taught as a young girl and the negative influences of her friends, most of whom were also in rebellion. During the summer of 1995 she worked for weeks to help us plan and then host a large group of Medal of Honor recipients and a delegation of Oklahoma City Rescue Workers for our city-wide Independence Day celebration. In the weeks that followed she was hanging out with friends and looking for trouble. In August she celebrated her 19th birthday and soon thereafter, with both my assistance and my prompting, got her own apartment in the community we managed. Returning for her last year of high school she enjoyed the personal freedom she craved but was not yet mature enough to properly manage. At the mid-point of her first semester she dropped out.

As her parents, Pam and I were devastated by Jennifer's continuing downward spiral. We tried to convince her to change her circle of friends, only to be met by defensive hostility. We hoped and we prayed that something would happen to turn her life around while blaming ourselves for not having done a better job as parents. Then, in December, she came to visit us one day with a broad smile and a gleam in her eye. It was obvious when she walked in the door that something had suddenly transformed her.

"Mom, dad," she announced. "I met someone and I think I'm in love."

"Wonderful," we both announced with an enthusiasm we didn't really feel, especially in light of the fact that we knew nothing about the young man that had sparked this new outlook on life.

Then, tentatively she continued. "There's just one problem mom and dad." Pam and I imagined the worst: was he a recently released felon, was it some old man twice her age looking for his Lolita, was she in love with some divorcee who had several kids from his previous marriage? Based upon our daughter's recent track-record in selecting friends, it might even be ALL of the above.

"Mom, dad," she continued haltingly, "he's Black!"

Pam and I simultaneously released a sigh of relief that may well have shaken the pictures on the living room wall. "Is that all?" I said while Pam began probing politely to learn more about the young man.

Douglas Choi Lundin was a recent graduate of The University of Southern Colorado with a baccalaureate degree in Psychology. As a student there he had been a star athlete on the soccer team, going on after graduation to coach soccer for local children and also for a girls' high school team. He was the son of a U.S. Air Force Chaplain who had found Douglas in an orphanage in Seoul , Korea . The child of a Black soldier and a Korean lady who gave him up for adoption, he was only half Black. He was also half-Korean.

Jennifer was not really surprised at our reaction; it was what she had expected from a mother and father that had always taught her to accept people on the basis of character, not upon external appearances. She did however, reflect her one concern when she asked, "How will I tell Grandma?" Phyllis Hawk, Pam's mother, doesn't live far from our home in Pueblo . Though not outwardly prejudice she had grown up in a different time, lived in the South, and always believed that though racial prejudice was wrong, so too was interracial marriage. For her it was a cultural matter, easily deflected by arguments about the problems the prejudice of others might cause for a black/white couple and their children. All the same, Pam had grown up knowing that it was expected that she would marry within her own race for the sake of her parents feelings, and Jennifer realized the onus was now upon her. Pam promised our daughter that if the relationship became serious she would break the news to Grandma herself.

Doug's ethnicity had never been a problem for us, and when at last we met him any reservations as to his character were quickly assuaged. He is a handsome man who is frequently told he looks like golf champion Tiger Woods. He was clean cut, polite, respectful, and all-American. Quickly his own personal traits began to influence our daughter and, with his help and encouragement she enrolled in a new alternative education program across the street from her former high school to return to her education. Seeing what positive influence Doug had on our daughter, we could have cared less if his skin was purple or green. For us, he was a God-send.

The change in our daughter was also quite apparent to Grandma, who knew only that Jennifer had a new boyfriend who was motivating her in a positive manner. By early Spring the following year the relationship was obviously becoming more serious and Grandma was becoming increasingly curious about the boyfriend who had captured Jennifer's heart and turned her life around. Doug advised Jennifer that he wanted to take Grandma Hawk out to dinner on Mother's Day, prompting Pam to face what we had known for months must be done. With great reservation she drove to Grandma Hawk's house to break the news.

"Mom," Pam began when they were seated in the living room, "You know this new boyfriend of Jennifer's….Well, they are starting to get pretty serious. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they decided to get married one of these days."

"That's wonderful," Grandma Hawk replied with enthusiasm.

"Well mom," Pam continued haltingly, "There's one thing that Jennifer thinks might be a problem for you…."

"Oh no!" came the gasping response. "Don't tell me he's BLACK!"

"Well mom--he's only half-black. He's also half-Korean."

Suddenly Grandma threw her head back in a loud laugh and announced, "You know, all these months I've been praying that God would send along the right guy to be a positive influence on Jenny and help her turn her life around. I guess I just forgot to tell God what color I wanted." Soon thereafter the happy couple treated Grandma to dinner, Doug giving her roses. It was a day Grandma Hawk still remembers with great fondness.

The following month after day and night classes Jennifer had completed a year's worth of study and academic work in six months. She graduated in cap and gown with the rest of her original high school class in Pueblo Central's Class of 1996. It was a proud moment for Pam and I, second only to what occurred over two days in August four years later.

In August 2000, at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama , I was joined by a friend, Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss, as the two of us pinned the gold bars of a Second Lieutenant on Douglas Lundin. Moments earlier, with tears in his eyes, retired Air Force Colonel John Lundin had administered the oath to his adopted son. The following day in a ceremony on a beach of the Gulf Coast Chaplain Lundin pronounced Jennifer Sterner and Second Lieutenant Douglas Lundin to be husband and wife.

Exactly nine months later Dante Choi Lundin, our first grandchild was born. Every grandmother and grandfather IS prejudiced…we all think our grandkids are the cutest in the world. Few can match Pam's and my two grandchildren, which now includes Dante's sister Skye. Their half-white, quarter-black, quarter-Korean ethnic mix is a combination that draws ooohs and aaaahs wherever they go. (Once, during the winter when Pam took our grandson to a local mall, passers-by even stopped to comment on what a beautiful tan her infant grandson had for that time of year.)

Recalling the day in 1995 when our daughter came home with news that she was in love but "there is just one problem," I can't help but flash back in time to a movie I saw in my own teen years that had addressed social attitudes in America towards interracial marriage. Perhaps it prepared me for that day. Events decades later were certainly one of those examples wherein life came to imitate art.

Doug Sterner

 

 

The Defining Generation: Copyright © 2006 by Doug and Pam Sterner
All Rights Reserved

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover & Introduction
     Preface
Out With the Old
     The Defining Generation

I. - Defining the New
     John Fitzgerald Kennedy
     Roger H.C. Donlon
     Robert Robin Moore
     Barry Sadler
     The Green Beret

II. - Defining Equality
     When Worlds Collide
     Dr. Martin Luther King
     Jimmy Stanford & Vince Yrineo
     Milton Lee Olive, III
     Specialist Lawrence Joel
     Sammy Lee Davis
     Black MOH Recipients - Vietnam War

III. - Defining the Role of the Sexes
     Evolution of a Husband
     Remember the Ladies
     Rosie the Riveter
     Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard
     Linda G. Alvarado
     Karen Irene Offutt
     Women in Military Service
     Lieutenant General Carol Mutter
     The Modern Woman in Combat
IV. - Defining Human Rights
     My Brother's Keeper
     Who is My Brother
     Christopher Dodd & Christopher Shays
     Peace Corps Politicians (Memories)
     Don Bendell
     Sir Edward Artis
     General Colin L. Powell

V. - Defining Entertainment
     Life Imitating Art
     Troubled Waters
     Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
     Brian's Song
     All in the Family
     Adrian Cronauer

VI. - Defining Dissent

     From Berkeley With Love
     The Pen and the Sword
     General David Shoup
     Muhammad Ali
     John Forbes Kerry

VII. - Defining the Future of Politics
     An Act of Congress
     All Politics is....Hereditary?
     Hillary Rodham Clinton
     Condoleezza Rice
     James Henry Webb
The next Section is scheduled for posting on May 20, 2011
VIII. - Defining Memories
     Jaime Pacheco
     The Glory of their Deeds
     Jan Scruggs
     Delbert Schmeling
     Peter C. Lemon

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
The authors extend our thanks to the following who granted personal interviews for this work
: Roger Donlon (MOH), Robin Moore, Don Bendell, Jimmy Stanford, Vince Yrineo, Sammy L. Davis (MOH), Linda Alvarado, Karen Offutt, Lieutenant General Carol Mutter, Sir Edward Artis, General Colin L. Powell, Katharine Houghton, Adrian Cronauer, Jan Scruggs, Delbert Schmeling, and Peter Lemon (MOH).
Our thanks to the staff of the following who either wrote or allowed reprint of their own works for this book: Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, Don Bendell, Congressman Sam Farr, Congressman Thomas Petri, Congressman Mike Honda, Congressman Jim Walsh, Governor Jim Doyle, and Scott Baron.
Our special thanks also to the staff of the following who provided information and fact-checked the chapters related to their subject: Staff of Senator John Kerry, Staff of (then) Senator Hillary Clinton, Staff of Senator Jim Webb
A SPECIAL THANKS also to Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard for his assistance in writing and editing the entire section on the Role of the Sexes.

 

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