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Parents benefit from better lines of communication — Page 2

During tour in Vietnam, district judge learns lessons that help him on bench today — Page 3

A Christmas poem from a Marine — Page 6




Better communication, less stress

Advances in technology have made it easier for parents to talk to and see children serving in military By JP McBride

For parents with children serving in the military, every moment they get to communicate with their son or daughter is precious. Once their sons and daughters go overseas, they know it could be months before they see them in person again, and that’s not guaranteed. Fortunately, advances in technology have made communication more personal and instantaneous than it was for previous generations serving in the military. The accessibility of computers with applications like Skype and the rise of tablets and smartphones that come with similar applications, like FaceTime, allow family members to see and hear the voice of their child as long as there is an internet connection, no matter the distance. “That’s one of the things that has changed the most between my husband’s time in the military in Vietnam and the present day,” said Huntsville’s Janice Lange. “Unless they have security orders, they can email and communicate with their family.” Lange’s husband, Ron, served a yearlong tour of duty during the Vietnam War. In that year, Janice and Ron talked only three times. She sent him letters at least once a week, but was seldom able to have an actual conversation with him. Even when she got to speak with him, those conversations were brief and a bit awkward

See PARENTS, page 4B

Lt. Cmdr. Victor Lange, son of Huntsville’s Janice and Ron Lange, is currently serving in the U.S. Navy as a helicopter pilot. 


At left, Evette Barnes, a major in the U.S. Army, served as the commanding officer for Charlie Medical Company during Operation Iraqi Freedom for two years and Operation New Dawn in 2011. During Barnes’ first tour of duty in Iraq, her mother, Huntsville’s Diana Barnes, mostly communicated with her daughter through letters or email, which made her anxious when she had to wait for a response from Evette for lengthy periods of time.





District Judge Don Kraemer poses for a photo in the district courtroom. Kraemer was called up in the draft during the Vietnam War and served his country as a infantry sergeant and as a clerk in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

Soldier Learns Lessons that last a lifetime

By Cody Stark

Many young, able-bodied men took a detour in the late 1960s and early ’70s when Uncle Sam came calling. It was the height of the Vietnam War and the U.S. needed more troops. The Selective Service System conducted two draft lotteries for men born between 1944 to 1950 in order to strengthen military forces. District Judge Don Kraemer, who grew up on a cotton farm in Rosebud, was in his second year of law school at the University of Texas in 1968 when he received notice to take a physical to see if he was fit to serve.  “I stopped by the Selective Service Office and Ms. Patterson said, ‘Well Don, how did you do?’” Kraemer said. “I told her I passed it and asked her what that meant. She told me that when they get the notice I will be 1A, and again I asked her what does that mean. She said, ‘Well, right now you are the oldest draftable male in Falls County and next time we get a draft call, you will be gone.’ I asked her how often does this little county get a draft call and she said, ‘Every month now.’” Kraemer, who received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Lutheran University, was allowed to finish his second year of law school before he was drafted into the U.S. Army in June of 1969. He went to training in El Paso, California and Georgia, then a year later, he was off to Vietnam, leaving behind his wife, Sylvia, and 2-month-old son, Brett. Kraemer was an infantry sergeant. For 10 months, he marched around the canopy jungles and served as a clerk in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG), which handles military justice and law matters, before completing his service in April of 1971. “My military career was a little bit different than other people’s because of the time,” Kraemer said. “The entire first year I was in the military, I was in training. I was 24 years old when I entered, not 18 like I lot of the guys were. I was in Vietnam for less than a year, and when I came back, I was out. I didn’t have that experience that maybe some folks have spending time in Germany or other parts of the world.” Kraemer earned his law degree in 1972 and moved to Huntsville with his family where he took a job in the Staff Counsel for Inmates with the Texas Department of Corrections at the “Walls” Unit. He later worked as an assistant district attorney for Walker County District Attorney Jerry Sandel for two years before going into private practice with Jack Haney in 1976 where he remained for 33 years un-

til being elected to preside over the 12th Judicial District Court in 2008. During his time in the Army, Kraemer learned skills and traits that he carried over to his civilian life. “A lot of the other things I did in the service has had an influence on my life to this day,” the judge said. “You learn order, you learn how to lead a disciplined life. You learn that in society there has to be rules. If there are no rules, or they are not followed, the whole system breaks down, more so in the military than anywhere else. “I feel we have become a very narcissistic society, very ‘me’ driven. In the military, you are not ‘me,’ you are ‘we.’ You learn respect for other people.” Kraemer did not gain much experience in the judicial system when he worked in the JAG office while in the military. He mainly dealt with paperwork. His military service has had an influence on his duties as a judge, however. “I think it would be difficult to be a judge and not have a broad range of experience in life, including service in the military,” Kraemer said. “Now you deal with veterans who have issues and it is beneficial to have some sort of empathy for those individuals because you have an idea of where they come from.” One of the things that has driven Kraemer to a successful career as a lawyer and as a judge is his “tremendous amount of respect for the law.” He takes an altruistic approach to the criminal justice system with the intent to make an impact on the community. “I still have the belief that sitting on the bench can make a difference in people’s lives,” Kraemer said. “I have only been on the bench for eight years and I have had people come up to me on the street and thank me for sending them to the penitentiary, for sending them to safety because it made a change in their life. To give people that opportunity to change their life is very beneficial and it is very satisfying, but there is also things you agonize over, like do I need to send this person to prison. “I suppose the thing I like the most about being a judge is granting adoptions,” the judge added. “That is the only thing in the courtroom that people clap for and they are encouraged to do so. But I do believe those of us in the legal system can make a difference.  “We can make all the jokes we want to about lawyers, but without the law and without the rule of law our society won’t exist. I fear that we need to be very careful of that in the future.”



PARENTS Continued from page 2B

because they had to use certain phrases to indicate they were finished speaking. “You had to go through a ham radio operator and they had a very limited amount of time,” Janice Lange said. “You had to use proper radio telephone procedures. In other words, when you finished talking, you said ‘over,’” Ron Lange explained. The existence of software like Skype and FaceTime has not only allowed Ron and Janice Lange to see and hear from their son Victor, a lieutenant commander and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Navy, but 21st century technology has given them the chance to communicate more often than they were able to during Ron’s time in Vietnam. This technology has provided some comfort to Ron and Janice Lange when their son has been placed in dangerous parts of the world, particularly when Victor Lange was deployed in Iraq three times from the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Nimitz from 2005 to 2008. “When Victor has been in a combat situation, the availability that the computer has given us, specifically Skype or some-

Lt. Cmdr. Victor Lange, center, poses for a photo with his mother, Janice, and father, Ron. 


“I could see her and I could hear her voice. It was just a totally different form of communication that made me sleep better at night.” DIANA BARNES

thing like Skype, has allowed us to communicate quite frequently,” Ron Lange said. “The communication is so good today.” State Farm Huntsville Insurance agent Diana Barnes has been able to hear from her daughter, U.S. Army Maj. Evette Barnes, with much more regularity as well, thanks to Skype and FaceTime. Evette Barnes served as the commanding officer for Charlie Medical Company during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2007 to 2008 and Operation New Dawn in 2011. During Evette Barnes’ first tour of duty in Iraq, Diana Barnes mostly communicated with her daughter through letters or email, which made her anxious when she had to wait for a response from Evette for lengthy periods of time. “Hearing from her was very infrequent,” Diana Barnes said. “That led to a little bit more worry. It wasn’t like you could pick up the phone and hear them. You can’t see them in an email. You can’t see how they look. Do they look anxious? We occasionally used Skype, so on Mother’s Day and Christmas, days like that, we were able to Skype. There was a world of difference between that tour and the second tour.” Being able to see Evette’s face and talk back and forth on a more consistent basis provided relief for Diana Barnes during her daughter’s second tour of duty, especially since Diana went 15 months without seeing Evette in person when she

served during Iraqi Freedom. “I could see her and I could hear her voice,” Diana Barnes said. “It was just a totally different form of communication that made me sleep better at night.” Fortunately for Barnes and the Lange family, their children are now stationed outside of conflict zones. Evette Barnes is currently stationed in Germany, working for the Office of the Command Surgeon, U.S. Army Europe, as a medical operations officer. She recently received a commander’s commendation for her initiative as the gender adviser to the NATO Allied Rapid Response Corps in the United Kingdom. Victor Lange is pursuing his master’s degree at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Despite not being able to see their children as often as they’d like and worrying about the perilous positions they have been put in at times, Diana Barnes and the Lange family agreed that they take much pride in being parents of members of the military. “The kids today are asked to do so much for our country that it is unbelievable,” Ron Lange said. “I have a lot of respect, not just for my son, but for all the young people that serve in the military.” Barnes added, “My pride in what Evette does outweighs all of the stress and anxiety that comes with her serving.”


Maj. Evette Barnes is currently stationed in Germany, working for the Office of the Command Surgeon, U.S. Army Europe, as a medical operations officer. She recently received a commander’s commendation for her initiative as the gender adviser to the NATO Allied Rapid Response Corps in the United Kingdom.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Huntsville Item 5B




Hundreds of U.S. Marines gather at Camp Commando in the Kuwait desert during a 2002 Christmas eve visit by Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas, My Friend T

By James M. Schmidt, a Marine Lance Corporal stationed in Washington, D.C., in 1986

was the night before Christmas, he lived all alone, in a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone. I had come down the chimney with presents to give, and to see just who in this home did live. I looked all about, a strange sight I did see, no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.   No stocking by mantle, just boots filled with sand, and on the wall pictures of far distant lands. With medals and badges, awards of all kinds, a sobering thought came to my mind. For this house was different, so dark and so dreary, the home of a soldier, now I could see clearly.   The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone, curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home. The face was so gentle, the room in such

disorder, not how I pictured a United States soldier. Was this the hero of whom I’d just read? Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?   I realized the families that I saw this night, owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight. Soon round the world, the children would play, and grownups would celebrate a bright Christmas day. They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year, because of the soldiers, like the one lying here.   I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone, on a cold Christmas eve in a land far from home. The very thought brought a tear to my eye, I dropped to my knees and started to cry. The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice, “Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice.

  I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more, my life is my God, my country my corps.” The soldier rolled over and soon drifted to sleep, I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep. I kept watch for hours, so silent and still, and we both shivered from the cold evening’s chill.   I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night, this guardian of honor so willing to fight. Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure, whispered, “Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all is secure.” One look at my watch, and I knew he was right, “Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night.”

Veterans, We Salute You