Friday, December 30, 2011


We're not that far removed from Christmas that we shouldn't take away something from the Holiday.  Something that will make us a better person, a more tolerant one or maybe just one with a little more compassion. 

I was struck by our friend PV2 Pete's assertion of people not coming to his aid this Christmas in the way of a care package or money.  If you recall, he was rather miffed no one had "given" to him.  By his account, it was all to real to see that he could use some help. 

A good web friend, Rick Nielsen, shared a story with me the other day.  One that sure impacted me.  I thought of the times I've stuck my hand out to someone....and how little acts can make such a BIG difference in the lives you encounter.  Here is Rick's example.... 

Two weeks before Christmas a nine-year-old girl was walking and sliding down the street with her friend.  The two of them were talking about what they hoped to get for Christmas. They stopped to talk to an old man named Harry.  He was on his knees pulling weeds from around a large oak tree.  Harry wore a frayed, woolen jacket and a pair of worn garden gloves.  

There are a many, many Harry's among us.....

As Harry responded to the girls, he told them he was getting the yard in shape as a Christmas present for his mother, who had passed away several years before. His eyes brimmed with tears as he patted the old oak.  "My mother was all I had.  She loved her yard and her trees, so I do this for her at Christmas."   His words touched the girls and soon they were down on their hands and knees helping him weed around the trees.  It took the three of them the rest of the day to complete the task. When they finished, Harry gave each of the girls a quarter.  "I wish I could pay you more,"  he said.  "But it's all I've got right now."

The girls had often passed that way before and as they walked on they remembered that the house was shabby, with no wreath, no Christmas tree or other decorations to add cheeriness.  There always was just the lonely figure of Harry sitting by his curtain less window. The quarter seemed to burn a hole of guilt in the one little girl's mind as they returned to their homes.  The next day she called her friend and they agreed to put their quarters in a jar marked "Harry's Christmas Present."  They began to seek out small jobs to earn more.  Every nickel, dime, and quarter they earned went into the jar. 

Two days before Christmas, they had enough money to buy new gloves and a Christmas card for Harry.  Christmas Eve found them singing carols on Harry's doorstep. When he opened the door, they gave him the gloves, wrapped in pretty paper, the card, and a pumpkin pie still warm from the oven. With trembling hands, Harry tore the paper from the gloves.  Then to their astonishment, he held them to his face and wept.

One little act of kindness went a long way for those two little girls.  Think they won't grow up with a tremendous gift of giving?  Who will be your Harry next Christmas?  Is it that grumpy neighbor of yours that you have trouble connecting with?  Or is it that little old lady you see at the mall walking ever so slow, almost aimlessly?   Stop and think.  This would be a good time to look around....



Tuesday, December 27, 2011



"So, how was your Christmas?", I asked PV2 Pete as we sat down at Panera Bread to kick the tires on the Holidays.  "Did you get a chance to spend some quality time with the family?  And did you make it to church?"  This was our first meeting since Christmas and I was curious if his experiences were good ones.  I was hoping they were good times in the worst way.....or perhaps I should say, in the best way.

"Well, I can't say they were all bad, but I sure wish they would have been different, you know?",  he replied.  I was hoping for some miracle to take placeand it didn't.  And when I say miracle, I mean, from the standpoint of somebody offering me a job, a care package of clothes and money or something.  I was really thinking God was going to show me this Christmas how "giving" some people could be.  And that never happened.  I was hurt.  Angry.  In fact, I yelled at God for letting me down!!

I was disappointed in Pete's remarks...but I'm not sure where that discouragement fell.  Was it at Pete, the people that could have done something or God.  So, with that in mind, I slowly tried to respond to the young man sitting across from me.  "Aaaah, yeah", I started.  "Pete, you know disappointments are something we have to learn to deal with.  I can tell you about those that I've had, but I'm not sure what purpose they'd serve.  Just know that I have.  But you can't let that rule your thinking, at least from a negative perspective.  Remember when you were a little kid and you wished for something on Christmas, something that you had to have know matter what?   And you do recall the years those wishes came true and the years they didn't?  Well, that's kind of the same thing. 

"You're right, sir", he said.  "I hadn't thought about it from that standpoint.  That helps.  You know as much as I wanted a miracle, I can learn from it not taking place.  Next year, I can do something different and surprise somebody that needs help.  If anyone knows what it's like to be let down, it's me.  I know my mouth gets me in trouble once in a while because I'm so quick to react.  I'm going to put the "bad" feelings I had this season to good use. 

As Pete and I continued to visit, I found my mind wandering to the other Iowa soldiers who were experiencing their first Christmas at home since deploying to Afghanistan.   How many had similar disappointments?  How many showed their disgust with words or actions they later regretted?  And how much of a learning tool would this Christmas be for the ones that will  follow?   Looking at Pete, I marveled at the  quick assessment he had of his situation.   Despite the hurt Pete felt....he also experienced tremendous growth.  And it came to me....if we could only keep our mouths half-open and our thoughts in the right place. 

A Solider Wishing For Something Too....

"Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example.  Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.   My brothers and sisters, this should not be.   Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?   My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?  Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water". -James 3:1-12



Saturday, December 24, 2011


One year ago this Christmas, our family was experiencing something much different than this. In 2010, our son was in Afghanistan doing mission work with 2,800 other Iowa Guardsmen far, far away from our sight and touch.  This season, Kris is back in the states and moving along a road to "normalcy"....if there is such a thing. 

To say we are ecstatic in his presence would be underscoring the emotion.  I'm not sure there's a word that actually do it justice.  Imagine the biggest sugar high possible and that might suffice.  But as ramped as we are, there are many, many other families who are experiencing what we did last Christmastime.  Far, far toooooo many......

I'd like to take you to my thoughts one year ago.  Remove our family from the equation and replace it with any other soldier or family member that has one serving our country.  Their situation is eerily similar to ours, the longing of being with a loved one on the Holidays.  Let's go back in time.....   

Dear Sonpo:

What can I say that will help you get through the lonely times this Christmas?  How can I make you feel like you're part of the family, right next to the tree opening gifts, but knowing that you're not?  Where can I reach you in your heart that I haven't before to let you know how much your loved?  When can I imagine what you are going through and have it make more sense to me?  Why have these last five months seemed like five years?

Those are just some of the questions I'm thinking about this Christmas time, son.  I know our situation is not unique.....there are thousands upon thousands of other military families feeling many of the same things.  That in itself is some relief, but not nearly enough.  You know, when you decided to enlist, I knew there would be things that we'd have altered in our lives.  Some for the good...and some not so good.  I'm sure you've thought that too.

I had someone ask me the other day what I remember most about you.  Wow, if that's not a question that would bring the tears, huh? is what I said.  I think of the great big hands you had when you were born.  They were such big they didn't even belong to you, you know.  And as I think more about that question, I have come to a revelation of sorts.  God equipped you with those big hands for a reason.  He knew you'd one day be placed in situation that you'd have to know how to "handle" yourself.  Hands and handle, get it.  Yup, I think those big mitts are there for all that you are experiencing this year and the need for you to have the tools to do that.  With that being said, I also hope that those same hands are being used for other things while in Afghanistan.  Things like helping your other soldiers in the unit, giving a helping hand to an Afghan civilian....just being there, handy in so many ways.

So, I'm going to pray for you son, that God would use you these last seven months to make a difference.  Not just serve your time, but to make a difference and do things right.  I'm going to also ask that you come to some definites in your life that you'd like to tackle once you get back to the states.  Those are some big prayers I know....but I think it's time.  This year will have been a great educator for you and for us.  We will all be changed.  The questions that I asked earlier will have more meaning when this deployment is completed.  I'm excited to see where this takes us all.  I hope you are too.

You know, this journaling thing is great.  It gives a person an opportunity to dream and hope and wish and share. Almost like a bucket list, or at least a little bit like one.  Let's try something together shall we?  Let's you and me, together, like in giving me a "hand", wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Holiday Season.   And that someday, our holidays will be spent with our soldiers at home, safe, secure and loved.
Merry Christmas Sonpo....

223 days or 32 weeks to go however you look at it!  Praying for your safety, son.  Praying for you daily......

Love, Dadpo

A Rock and a Strong Foundation


Lord God, so long as we are on earth, though we do not want war, times will come and come again where we must stand and fight.  Lord God, every generation has paid this high price for freedom in some way and now it is our turn.  Lord God, bless each and every military member and family who so valiantly serve this nation and the world, drawing the line and saying no more to those who would exact terror on the rest of us and force us to submit to their way of life or be killed.
Lord God, draw each and every soldier and their families closer to You this Christmas.  Give them greater understanding of who You are and the mission they serve – for our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  Lord God, show Yourself to them, help them understand how You protect, how You provide and how they can trust in You.
Lord God, be with the families. Send Your angels not only to those on the battlefields, but every family at home this Christmas who has someone they love deployed and especially be with our Gold Star families.. Stand by them and be their comfort this Christmas as they journey through the loneliness of grief.  Lord God only You can reach deep inside where the hurt is and slowly, slowly bring the healing.  Give each of them a purpose from You which helps them keep going, though often it is the hardest thing they have ever had to do.
And Lord God, be with each of our wounded warriors.  Heal them spiritually, emotionally, as well as physically.  Give their doctors great wisdom and give them comrades beside them so they may encourage one another.  Bless also each of our veterans and let them feel Your love around them this Christmas.

Merry Christmas all.  May you see God's glory today and every day thereafter.



Monday, December 19, 2011



I could tell even before I asked the question to PV2 Pete.  It was apparent from the way he was carrying himself, that things weren't any better.....hopefully they weren't worse.  But still, I needed to ask the question.  "How you doing, Pete.....what's up?", I slid out.  "Sir, not a whole lot better.  It seems wherever I go, people are so tied up in this and that.  It sure doesn't seem like anyone has any time for me", he offered.  "How so?", I asked back.  "Ok, for example, I went to the Christmas Cantata this weekend at church.  I saw two people from the Care Core area and neither one acknowledged me.  I was like five feet in front of them and they acted like I was invisible.  Didn't give me the time of day.  I tried to get their attention, but it was like they were in their own little Christmas world and couldn't be bothered", he offered.  "I'm already more than half-upset at the rudeness of the director in not getting back to me about cancelling our meeting last week.  "Hey, I'm not asking for the world, just some common courtesy and follow through, you know?", he said.

I thought about Pete's last comments long and hard.  Yes, he had a point.  I've experienced the same type of behaviors he listed......most of us have at one time or another.  Often times the more in need you are, the more sensitive you are.  Little things become big things, then they become elephant-like.  "Pete, let me ask you a question", I said.  "What would you want done for you if you were them? 

"Well first off, I would never, let someone down.  If I said I was going to do something, I would darn well do it", he suggested.  "And more importantly, I would try and offer Hope to anyone who I met with.  "But what if you couldn't?", I asked.  "What if you let someone down.....through no fault of your own.  Maybe your workload was so overwhelming that you were about to explode. Or maybe you had reached a point where you couldn't help yourself any more than someone else.  Then what?"

As Pete and I talked further he was able to see some things he hadn't realized before.  A different picture of his situation was beginning to emerge. "You know sir, this helped alot today", Pete said.  "I've been wanting someone to wave a magic wand and make it all better.  But what I really need is someone to direct me down the right track and after that, then it's up to me.  I'm beginning to see things from another perspective.  Thanks, this is awesome".     

The remainder hour of time together at Panera Bread sped by quickly.  We both savored the taste the mocha drinks left on our pallets.  And the people watching that day was excellent.  We saw a varied group to say the least. This was the best time we'd spent together in our short two month friendship.  We'd made some real headway in communicating.  His situation and my understanding of my own were clearer to us both.  Yes, clarity was emerging......    

Events look different when viewed in retrospect.  Many of us are living in one of those times right now.  Are you greatly troubled, wondering what the future holds?  In times of uncertainty, we may not see an angel as Mary did, but I believe one is there.  I believe that God is with you and with me, and we may recognize it more in uncertain times than in ordinary ones.  Certainly God has more of our attention then.  Often, only in retrospect do we see that God was there, working in the midst of our uncertainty.  God is with us, at Christmastime and always.

God is working in the midst of our Uncertainty
Last week, I spoke with Chaplain Wayne Van Dekrol of Osklaoosa, Iowa.  The Chaplain was part of the 2,800 Iowa Guard delegation that returned home this summer from duty in Afghanistan.  He had some very candid remarks about reintegration. "I'm pretty bored being back", he told me.  "I haven't been able to replace the adrenalin rush that took place while we were doing our mission work.  It's been hard for me to get excited about anything....and I know that's bothers my wife.  We're moving into the Holiday period and that's going to be a very crucial time for all the troops.  Depression and suicide and very common", he mentioned.  

It was amazing to hear the Chaplain speak so openly.  I couldn't resist thinking...if a pastor is struggling with these life issues, how much more difficult could it be for others?  To PV2 Pete, Chaplain Van Dekrol and the other 2,798 Soldiers it bears reinforcing some words that were mentioned above, because they speak the truth.  GOD is working in the midst of our Christmastime and ALWAYS.



Tuesday, December 13, 2011



Life has its ups and downs doesn't it?  No one knows this better than PV2 Pete.  He's had his share of downers in the last week.   That's really disappointing for him and.... me.  I've gotten to know this young man very well and I wish the best for him.  But he's struggling and that's the tough part to see.

A week ago today, Pete was to have had a meeting with the Care Core Director at his church.  Was.  For reasons unknown to him thus far, the get together was cancelled.  No explanation and no follow up from his support person.  Pete put a call into the church office on Friday, but he still has not heard a word.   And that hurts because he needs that interaction.

But that's not the half of it.  Pete is still out of work.  The possible job offer of several weeks ago never materialized.  Something about the company he was talking to having to look at the budget after the first of the year.  So that was a bummer.  Which means he's still on unemployment.

"I hate sponging off the government", Pete said to me.  "I want to work in the worst way.  But so many jobs out there pay so little.   I'd have to be making $15 dollars an hour to match the take home I get from state money.  That sucks.  And then the Holidays are coming..........."

This was a much different Pete than I had spoken to a little over a week ago.  Then, he seem encouraged.   He'd started to read the "Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren and he seemed happy.  At least was starting to seem happy.  Then these disappointments.  As we talked I saw frustration oozing from him.

"You know, sir, I didn't think I could ever think of doing anything irrational, but lately, those thoughts have been coming into my head", Pete related.  "I can see how one gets doesn't take all that many  disappointments heaped on top of themselves to get there.....especially if you feel no one is there to help"

Those were some difficult words to hear...ones that frankly, I could relate too.  "Pete, I'll always be there for you", I said half choking back what I was saying.  "I'll help wherever I can and whenever I can.  I will not be a catch and release friend.  You can count on that, okay?  Tell you what.  I know you haven't been in a reading mode for the last several days, but let's the two of us read Chapter 2 of the "Purpose Driven Life" and then get together.  Let's say Friday at 6:30 p.m. at your favorite spot, Panera Bread.  Deal?  "Deal", said Pete.  "And I will buy".

As I hung up the phone a myriad of thoughts were dancing in my head.  The words change and changing kept pushing themselves into my conscious....which led to this:

Despite our efforts to be awake and alert, we are often more "not" than "ready."  It's like every birth.
Parents can never really be prepared for change as radical as the change every baby brings.  It's also like  death.  We may have had months, even years, to prepare, but when the one we love takes that last breath, it still hits us as if from our blind side.  It's like hearing the doctor say, "It's cancer."  Maybe you've walked that road with others.  But when we need others to walk it with us, it's different in a way we cannot get ready for.
Life comes to us whether we're ready or not.  There will always be surprises we can't anticipate and demands we can't prepare for.   I suspect that's why one of the names of the Holy One is Immanuel, which means "God with us."  Or, as the Voice of heaven said to the apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Cor. 12:9). Faith is trusting that God's grace is and will be enough.  That is as ready as we'll ever be.

"Ready or Not?


Up Next:  The next chapter for PV2 Pete on his journey to help.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


While thinking of Christmas, I can't get my mind off my most recent blog concerning two college professors attitudes towards our troops and the presents they receive from those who support their efforts.  Michael Avery of Suffolk University and Thomas Walker of Iowa State University have come out in recent days blasting the gifting of our soldiers. 

I have to think neither one of these educated individuals have a son or a daughter, a relative or a friend who has ever served our country.  Because if they had, they'd realize the loneliness each of our soldiers realize at Holiday time.  And how they long for home and for family and a sense of security....that things are all right.

The LEAST we could do is send a present

A Facebook friend,  Michael Ethan Endress, passed this along several days ago.  Michael is stationed overseas.   His family Christmas will come in June when he returns home.  Perhaps the significance of postponing a family Holiday can bring some understanding of what is lost and most likely, never made up.  Absence in this case has another meaning all unto itself.   Perhaps from his words you can see a glimpse of what our soldiers long for and the sacrifice they make.  

Twas the night before Christmas, and he lived in a crowd, in a 40 man tent, with warriors so loud. I had come into the tent with presents to give, And to see just who in this rack did live. I looked all about, and a strange sight I did see, No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree. No stockings were hung......, just boots close at hand, On the locker hung pictures of far distant lands....... He had... medals and badges and awards of all kind, And a sobering thought came into my mind.

For this place was different, it was so dark and dreary, I had found the home of a Soldier, this I could see clearly.  The Soldier lay sleeping, silent and alone, curled up in his rack, dreaming of home.  The face was so gentle, the barracks in such good order, but not how I pictured a United States Soldier.... Was this the hero whom I saw on TV?  Defending his country so we all could be free?

I realized the families that I've seen 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 new Christmas Day.  They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year, because of the Soldiers, like the one lying here.

I couldn't help but 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, for this life is my choice."  "Defend my country this day, the peace do I keep."

The soldier then rolled over and drifted to sleep, I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.  I kept watch for hours so silent, so still,  and we both shivered from the night's cold 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 and with a voice soft and pure, whispered, "Carry on Santa, it's Christmas ... All is Secure.

So to the Professor Walker and Avery's of the world, refrain from the dribble you've passed our way.  Here is hoping that the gifts sent to our troops are at an all-time high.  Because they've earned them.....

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out loud and not be answered"-Proverbs 21:13



Wednesday, December 7, 2011


An article published Monday from Ames, Iowa has caused a big stir across the country.  The controversy is coming from remarks by a colleg professor, who has found that he might have misspoke.  Frankly, I have to question the intelligence of a college professor that uses their platform in this manner. As you'll see later on in this blog,  it's not the first attempt at such reasoning, if that's what you want to call it.  His thought...let's be critical of the sending of holiday care packages to our American soldiers serving overseas.

Wednesday, the Des Moines Register reported this:  The Iowa State Daily story that started it all was feel-good feature about College Republicans from across the state who hoped to spark some cheer in those spending the holidays thousands of miles away from home.

Thomas Walker, a lecturer in an intensive English program, intended to draw attention to misplaced national priorities that favor excessive national defense spending over assistance for the neediest Americans, and a lack of concern for returning veterans. But he made his points with a partisan flair that has instead ignited conservative criticism, and propelled his letter across the internet.

Tweets from the National Review Online, a mention from conservative talk radio hosts and posts on have voiced sometimes profane outrage over the letter, and called out the phrase “eleemosynary travesty” as an example of ill-advised thesaurus use.

“Necessities should be doled out to people who really need them and who might get them if not for the hundreds of billions of dollars being funneled to the Pentagon in the greatest squandering of money on the planet. If anything, Republicans should sympathize with veterans struggling to find employment, a challenge that may daunt the discharged soldier, who might wish he had reenlisted,” Walker wrote.  He continued: “Soldiers are to Republicans as fetuses are to them: prized. But once out of the womb-like army, Republican solicitude for hapless veterans goes where extracted zygotes go.”

Where would you put your treats anyway?

The American Legion posted a level-headed response today on its blog predicting the letter will backfire. “Frankly, I think you will lead 10 people that wouldn’t be as likely to send a care package to do so, and for that I thank you, even if that clearly wasn’t your intent.”

Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, summed up the general sentiment in a Twitter message sent Tuesday, “What a disgrace.”

On November 23rd, we had a similar take.  It was then that a New Hampshire lawyer, currently serving in Afghanistan, resigned from his job as a law professor at a Massachusetts university after a colleague wrote in an email that sending care packages to U.S troops serving overseas was "shameful."

U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Robert Roughsedge, a Hampton resident, has resigned his position teaching law at Suffolk University in Boston, after a fellow professor, Michael Avery, sent out an email to university colleagues attacking the school's efforts to collect and ship care packages to U.S. soldiers serving on foreign soil.

"I was disgusted, but not surprised," Roughsedge said in an email to the New Hampshire Union Leader from Afghanistan. "Professor Avery is a radical."

Fox News reported Avery wrote in his email, "I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings. Why are we sending support to the military instead of Americans who are losing their homes malnourished, unable to get necessary medical care, and suffering from other consequences of poverty? As a university community, we should debate these questions, not remain on automatic pilot in support of the war agenda."

I find the words of these two professors, Walker and Avery, appalling.    I'd have to think the two of them  also had no problem with our government refusing to pay the troops last winter when there was the threat of a government shutdown.   It might be fitting to count the hours our men and women commit to our country each day.  In essence, their on guard 24/7.  They work through holidays and they do it with little sleep...all for us.  Sending packages of love and appreciation seems like the least we can do.

If you must complain about the war professors, look a different way.  You are way off base here.  That's as good as educated guess as I can offer.



Friday, December 2, 2011



PV2 Pete and I met for coffee Thursday at his favorite "watering and watching" hole, Panera Bread.   Pete told me he enjoys going there because it helps him forget some of what he's going through.  "I like to people watch and Panera is a great place to do see all kinds.  Some are real knock-outs, if you know what I mean", he referenced.   "Yes, Pete, I do", I said.  "Perhaps we best move on to other subjects", I said smiling.

If you'll recall at our last writing, Pete had a meeting with the Care Core Director at his church.  The exchange went surprisingly well, according to Pete.  At least for starters.  Not more than five minutes after he met with his support person, we ran into each other.  For over an hour we talked about a wide-range of topics.  At  the end, I felt prompted to mention to Pete to pick up a copy of Rick Warren's book, "A Purpose Driven Life".  I was curious of he had.  "Pete, were you able to hit the library and get Rick Warren's book", I inquired.  ""Sure did...made it through the first chapter Monday night", he said.  "And it's got me thinking alot", he added.  

Return to Normalcy? has its Purpose

As Pete and I continued our conversation, I could see he was intrigued by the book.  For it's in those first foundational words, that Warren captures ones curiosity.  For us all, here are some of the questions from  that first chapter:                 

Have you ever wondered about, or felt confused about, the purpose of your life?

Being confused about your purpose in life is not a bad thing. It is actually something that can awaken a desire to seek the truth about who we are and why we’re here.

One of the wisest men in history, King Solomon, who ruled the nation of Israel after his father, David, was confused about his purpose in life. He once wrote, “I, the Teacher, was king of Israel and I lived in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done in the world. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. Everything under the sun is meaningless, like chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:12-15 NLT).

A lot of people are surprised to find out that such statements are in the Bible, and that God himself would be blamed as being responsible for our meaningless lives. But the key to Solomon’s observation is where he places the seat of this wisdom as being “under the sun.” Solomon is saying that if he looks at our human existence trapped on this planet and tries to explain it using human reason and accomplishments “under the sun,” that he can’t come to any better conclusion than life is meaningless.

What ways have you tried to discover your life’s purpose that haven’t worked?

Have you ever wondered if a good deal of advertising appeals to the need we all have for purpose and meaning in life? Buy this car, drink this beer, go to this school, wear this make-up, purchase this insurance and you will have meaning in life. (…and for everything else, there’s MasterCard.)

The real truth about human nature never changes. Almost 400 years ago, Blaise Pascal, a brilliant French scientist and philosopher explained the dilemma of human existence as a God-shaped vacuum in the center of the human heart—a need for God that He placed there that won’t be satisfied by anything other than God Himself. In Pascal’s own words:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object—in other words, by God Himself.

Why do you think people try to discover their life’s purpose without turning to God, their creator?

Let’s think about some answers on this one:
- If I turned to God I might lose control of my life.
- God might take away all my fun.
- If there is a God, He’s definitely bigger than me and probably has some demands on my life.
- We always want to do things ourselves. Theme song: “I Did It My Way.”
- We want to be in control of our own destiny.
- We are afraid of God, we don’t know God, or we find God too mysterious.
- We think God’s idea of purpose is probably pretty religious and definitely boring.
- We like religion about as much as we like politics; we don’t want to get into a discussion about either one.

"That's a lot to soak in, isn't it?", I asked Pete.  "Are you finding it something that can help you keep your priorities straight?"  "Maybe", he shot back.  "I know I've never encountered anything like this before, so it's different......exciting but scary", he said.  "Yup, that makes sense.  But keep reading and see where it takes you.  I think you'll like what you read", I offered back. 

PV2 Pete and I parted company shortly thereafter.  Our next meeting would be early next week after a get together with his Care Core Director (Friday).  I couldn't help but smile as I hopped into my truck.  Some days are better than others.....and this had been one of those.  It had some real purpose.



Saturday, November 26, 2011


This was as down as I 've seen PV2 Pete.  I'm not sure if it was the frustrations he's felt on the unemployment thing lately.....or if it's heightened stress syndrome now that the Holidays are here.  Whatever it was.....he appeared tired and beat down.

Looking at him, I was afraid to ask the question of his welfare because I probably already knew the answer.  But I had too.  "How are things going Pete?, I forced out.  "Not so well, sir.  Last week I had some things that were starting to look up, but then they've all hit one snag or another.  One company that I was talking to just went silent. I thought we were getting close to a job offer and then nothing.  Another one's human resource department didn't return any of my phone calls after the company president forwarded my resume to them.  And the last one said they were going to put off moving on any job openings until Spring.  So, It's not looking to rosy", he offered.

"Pete, I know how you feel", I said.  "There aren't alot of words that I can say that will change the situation overnight, but I do know that you can't give up hope.  You are a talented young man and you have some great gifts that a company would be extremely fortunate to have.  Don't focus on the negative because your time will come", I suggested. 

As I said those last words to Pete, I began to feel like a hypocrite. How could I say such a thing?  Recently I went through much the same out of work situation he had.  I remember many days and nights of questioning and over analyzing every email and phone call that I placed that didn't return any positive results.  And I was telling him to stay hopeful? 

Our conversation lasted longer than any of our others.  It seemed Pete was needing someone to talk to and I was determined to stay as long as he needed me.  There was no other place of importance at that moment, that's for sure.  Pete told me of his faith struggle.  Remember he's pretty new to this relationship thing with God.   And in his words, "I feel like God isn't anywhere near me....and if he is, he sure isn't listening or seeing how bad things are right now for me.  I mean, can't he see how much I'm hurting.  Can't he feel my pain?  I'm beginning to wonder if this God-thing is the right thing for me.  Maybe I'm just not right for it.  You know?", he asked.

"Aaaah, yeah kinda, I do", I slowly answered back.  "Pete, some times things happen overnight and other times they don't. Heck, I don't know why.  But what I do know is that God loves you and you have a purpose for your life.  Your experiences will help someone, some time.  That's part of the process, I think.  About that same time Rick Warren's book jumped into my head.  Quickly I brought forth these words.  "Pete, there is a book written by a pastor from California called the "Purpose Driven Life".  I'm not sure if you're a reader or not, but this is one great book for what you're going through. "Tell me more", Pete inquired.  "Well look, I'm not always the best at describing things, so how about we google it", I said.   Here's what we found out.

"A Book by Rick Warren.  You are not an accident.  Even before the universe was created, God had you in mind, and he planned you for his purposes. These purposes will extend far beyond the few years you will spend on earth. You were made to last forever!  Self-help books often suggest that you try to discover the meaning and purpose of your life by looking within yourself, but Rick Warren says that is the wrong place to start.  You must begin with God, your Creator, and his reasons for creating you.  You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense".  "You should pick up a copy of it and see if it doesn't speak to you", I suggested.

A Big Message Book!!!

With that suggestive comment, Pete said okay, he'd check out the library for a copy and then we parted.....but  not for long.  We agreed to hook up again the first of next week.  Hopefully, I will see a renewed Pete and one with the beginning of a purpose to it all.  Because now, I've found a new purpose in my life.  Pete and Repeat.....Pete and Repeat.  Over and over again.

"Did you suffer so many things in vain, if indeed it was in vain".----Galatians 3:4




Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Just the other day, I received an email of another potential deployment for our family. This time it would be our middle son, Jonathan, that would be seeing some other part of the world.  Let's see.......Am I ready for this?  Probably not.  At least not today.  But fortunately, we have some time.  Seems like there are words to the effect that a solider has to be notified one year in advance before being deployed.   And that's good news.  Maybe I can begin to prepare........somewhat.

I thought you might like to see what a letter or notice of such says.  I will say, we don't know for sure if Jonathan will be going.  But more than likely he will, it just depends when.

Deployment seems like a never-ending Mission  

Message from the Commander
Families and friends of the 186th MP CO
From the Commander:
I trust that this communication finds you and your families in success and good health.  I recently attended the NOS + 60 conference, which stands for the Notification of Sourcing + 60 days.  Our unit was given our notification 60 days ago and now at this point the Army is giving the unit more information about what our unit will potentially be doing.  I say potentially because as always everything is subject to change but this is the best information we have at this point.
The 186th has been asked to provided 49 soldiers ready to deploy in November 2012 to support JTF-Bravo - with a Mobilization station of Ft. Bliss TX.  This will be as all deployments have been roughly 9 months on the ground with train up time a total of 12 months.  The 186th will also provide a 49 soldiers ready to deploy in July of 2013 as the replacements for the first 49 soldiers.  They will also mobilize out of
Ft. Bliss TX for the same length of time as the first rotation.  The Mission will be to provide force protection to the US Military Base in Honduras, which consists of an airfield as well as cantonment area.  Some
missions may involve leaving this base while aircraft conduct humanitarian missions such as delivering food or assisting with natural disasters. 
I think it is worth pointing out that the full time staff with my guidance has been preparing and planning for our upcoming training anticipating this type of mission, we should consider ourselves fortunate that we have many of the tools at home station to prepare the soldiers who will go forward to compete this mission.  We will not send one solider forward who is not fully trained and capable of completing the mission- I give you my word that I will personally give the final approval to each and every soldier who deploys. 
Over the next few months more information will come available and details will be added to the plan - I will continue to provide you families all of the answers that I can.  As always I encourage you to contact me if you have any specific questions I may answer for you.  This is the first of many steps we will take together on this journey from this point until every member of the 186th family is home.  I am honored and humbled by the sacrifices of soldiers every day, more so the sacrifices the family members make for this country and our freedom.  I offer my thanks, in hopes that it serves sufficient recompense for your service. 

John H. Mineart

I believe the Commander did a very good job in detailing what's going on now and what lies ahead. There will be many sleepless nights and days of worry headed into next November. 

 As we prepare for Thanksgiving Day, I have to show my appreciation for the 2,800 Iowa Soldiers who recently returned from Afghanistan.  My oldest son, Kris, was one of them.  They did a superb job in performing their mission duties.  One year ago, those soldiers weren't at the family dinner table.  None of us have to go through their absence in 2011.  But next year, we'll be back at it again.  Not another 2,800, but far too many.  

Corinthians 2:9 might say it best what I've discerned today. But, as it is written,"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived,what God has prepared for those who love him"--



Monday, November 14, 2011


Over the course of the last eighteen days, I've shared some insights into the mind and heart of a soldier who returned to Iowa this past July after nine months of deployment in Afghanistan.  His name, for purpose of confidentiality, is PV2 Pete.  During these times, almost three weeks now, I've grown to appreciate in a different manner, what my son went through.  And is going through.  Pete's been pretty forthright with me....and some of that is information that I can not and will not share.  It's just too personal and in some cases it's downright graphic.  What I have and will continue to share with you is the struggles he's had in coming back to "normal".   

Last week, Pete went to meet the Care Core Director at his church.  His need?  An ear, a person although not a counselor, that he could confide in.  By his assessments, it went about as well as he could have wished for.  He has plans for another get together later on this week. 

As Pete awaits that second meeting, he made an observation he wanted to share with me.  "Help can come in so many forms", he pronounced.  "I'd been looking for that home run, so to have everything fall in place.  Maybe even have someone supply all the answers at once.  Little did I realize what help looks like and when it will come.  Let's put it this way, my attitude, my approach, my understanding is far, far different than one week ago", he said.  "And", he said, "I have you to thank".  "Me", I responded.  "What did I say?" 

"Do you remember saying to me, that if someone asks to help and they don't know what to do, tell them to keep their eyes and ears open"?  "Yeah, sure do", I answered back.  "Well that piece of advice was the best  I ever could have gotten.  Not ten minutes after you told me that, I ran into an old high school buddy and the dialogue you laid out, took place.  I have a job interview tomorrow, thanks to you". 

Our conversation led me to think about the "help" process more.  And here's what I've come up with via some much needed HELP from Rick Boxx, an internationally recognized author.

Have you ever had a time in your life when someone took a moment to encourage you, or give you some needed advice?  Five or ten minutes of time invested in another person can seem insignificant to the one supplying the support; it may even seem like a bit of an imposition at the time.  But it could prove to be very significant-perhaps profoundly so-to the one on the receiving end.  An old friend, someone I had not seen or talked with for a long time, reminded me of this important reality at a gathering recently. 
This man, a fraternity brother of mine in college, and I-after years without contact, had an occasion to visit following the memorial service for a mutual friend.  This friend from the past made a point of pulling me aside to express how much he appreciated the assistance I had given him years before, at a time when he was going through a stressful and painful divorce.  "It was a very difficult time for me", he confided.  "I was confused and uncertain how the finances were going to work out.  You gave me advice that saved me a lot of heartache and money, more than you will ever know.  If you ever need anything, just call".

This conversation took me by surprise, primarily because in all honesty, I did not remember helping this friend-although I must have based on his comments.  How ironic, an event that was not even stored in my personal memory bank, but yet its impact had obviously been significant enough that years later he would recall it and feel compelled to bring it to my attention. 

It is interesting how moments that hold little meaning for us, may turn in be another person's salvation,  in one way or another.  In the workplace, we have countless opportunities for meaningful interaction.  We can choose to willingly and intentionally develop relationships, or we can pass by without caring for others.  I have found it a consistent and universal principle that when you invest yourself by giving time and energy into the lives of others, you will reap a bountiful harvest.   

Help can come when you least expect it

Proverbs 12:25 presents this powerful truth:  "Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad".  If you happen to observe someone who seems anxious, distraught or obviously burdened, try making a point to stop and pass along a kind word.  It doesn't have to be something profound; just a thought to let the other person know you care and that you are available to talk or help if needed.

I know we're but a mere three weeks into a relationship, Pete and I......but I'm beginning to wonder now, did God place Pete in my life or mine in his?  Hmmmmmmmm.




Thursday, November 10, 2011


"It was a beginning", PV2 Pete would say.  "That's as much as I can say, for now.  But it felt good.  I felt like I could talk to someone and they wouldn't freak out.....they wouldn't judge me and they wouldn't offer me some quick solution.  For the most part, he just listened, that alone was a big help".

So that's where we are today.  In Pete's words, it was the beginning.  "I was all revved up', he said.  "I had so much going on in my head and heart, I didn't know where to begin.  But somehow the words started coming out my mouth and it felt some sort of healing was beginning to take place". 

"I won't kid you, I wrestled with meeting the Care Core Director.  Especially after the initial feelings I had of being passed from one person to the next.  But I was glad I did.  I have some hope anyway.  I didn't have any of that before".

For all practical purposes, PV2 Pete is at the starting line.  Remember one week ago, the possibility of him making the meeting with his church's Care Core Director didn't look all that promising.  As Pete told me time and time again over the last several weeks, "this asking for help thing is alot more complicated than it looks.  You'd think you could say to someone, life sucks right now and I need you to help me, can you?  But so often people don't know they can help.  So they say, what can I do to help you....and I can't answer that for them".

As Pete was sharing those thoughts with me, I remembered back to a time when I had a similiar experience with friends and family.  I recall a friend saying, "I wish I had a million dollars so I could give it to you.  But I don't.  I'm retired now, so I don't know many people to network I can't be alot of help there either". With these memories stirring I turned to Pete and said this, "son, I know what you mean.  But when they say that give them an idea.  I'd say to them,  "keep your ears and eyes open, if that's all you can do.  Maybe someone will say something about somebody needing this or that.  It's not always about money, sometimes it's connecting with circumstances".       

Soon thereafter, PV2 Pete and I went our seperate ways.  I'm sure I had smirk on my face.  I couldn't help but feel joy for him.  You could see it in his eyes, his demeanor, his spirit.  He had begun to see some help come his way.  Little did either of us know, how soon more would come.

Hours later my cellphone rang.  It was Pete.  I could tell he had something he had to share right away.  "You won't believe this.  After talking to you I was starting to leave the church when I ran into an old high school buddy.  He was as shocked to see me as I was church , that is.  Anyhow, we started talking and one thing led to another.  I told him I was looking for work, but not having much luck".  And he said this....get this, "I wish I could help, but I don't know anyone that's hiring".  I said, "that's all right, just keep your ears and eyes open.  Maybe you can help that way.  Okay...get ready for this....not ten minutes ago, he called and said he had been at his small group and told them about me.  One person said, I know someone that is looking for a good reliable, honest person.  Have him call me.  Can you believe it?  I mean, is that awesome or what"?

"Good night Pete", I said.  "Have a good dream tonight, but before you do, say a prayer of thanks".  I truly felt I didn't need to say anymore.  I ddin't say those few words to brush Pete off.  Really.....nothing more needed to be said.    

As I hung up, my thoughts turned to Pete and how possible the journey could be for him now.  I laid in bed for the longest time thinking of a million things.  Again, I had a smile on my face.  Pete has hope and he is getting help.  Now, how complicated was that?

A hand is a a Helping Hand

I came across some words of testimony from Chuck Swindoll today as he reflected on his life and his journey.  Did he have help?  You tell me.......

"God has not only created each of us as distinct individuals, He also uses us in significant ways.  Just stop and think: Chances are you are where you are today because of the words or the writings or the personal influence of certain people.  I love to ask people how they became who they are.  When I do, they invariably speak of the influence or the encouragement of key people in their past.

I would be the first to affirm that fact.  When I look back across the landscape of my life, I am able to connect specific individuals to each crossroad and every milestone.  Some of them are people the world will never know, for they are relatively unknown to the general public.  But to me personally?  Absolutely vital.  And a few of them have remained my friends to this very day.  Each one has helped me clear a hurdle or handle a struggle, accomplish an objective or endure a trial and ultimately laugh again.  I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy".   

Next Up:  PV2 Pete's Continued Journey



Tuesday, November 8, 2011


We're a day away for PV2 Pete.  One day from connecting with a person who hopefully can offer some help, some direction and some love.  As I told you about last week, PV2 Pete was facing a decision about following through with a meeting he had arranged with his church support system.  He had, in his own words, been passed from one person to the next. He was frustrated and discouraged.   And he additionally felt, that the farther he was removed from getting his pastor's help, the farther he was from getting the proper understanding and help he needed. That was last week.

Since then, he's waged many a discussion in his head.  Should he go to the meeting with the care core person or not?.  His general impression is that the time he spent with that person might be further frustrating.  Or should he go back to the care core director and ask to meet with him?  After many agonizing days and nights, he placed a call to the director, who saying he understood PV2 Pete's feelings, agreed to meet.  So that's where we're at today.  Tomorrow (Wednesday), is when that connection takes place.  As the hours and minutes dwindle to tomorrow, Pete is two words, hopeful and guarded.   Alot is riding on this meeting.

And how did we get here?  Remember when PV2 Pete came back from Afghanistan, he felt like an outsider looking in.  Times had changed and everything was different.  He didn't really want to talk.....he just wanted to forget alot.  Over time, the not wanting to talk began to take its toll.  Then he started feeling like he couldn't talk to anyone....that people wouldn't understand what he had seen and what he had gone through.  Family and friends could tell Pete was becoming harder and harder to reach.  There wasn't alot of humor present in the old Pete and he was so, so serious.  From Pete's perspective, he recalls reaching out a number of times asking for help.  Was that reaching obvious?  Were the people at the other end of the request aware of what he was saying and asking?

As I talked to Pete, he admitted those attempts for help were somewhat lame on his part.  He had thrown out some little "testers" as he called them, to an old high school buddy and then to his older brother.  Each time he did though, those individuals were unaware of what he was saying.  "My asking went right over their heads", Pete would say.  "I didn't want to come right out and ask for help.  I tried to slide it into a conversation where they'd catch my thoughts.  And now you know how that went".

And that's where were at.  Hours away from a meeting that could and should alter Pete's life direction.  I pray for him today....and hopefully you will too.  But as I do, I can only think of all the other men and women who have sacrificed for us and who might be facing the same issues as PV2 Pete.  Or worse.  I think of a Job Fair that is being held in Des Moines, Iowa today to help the Heroes who have given of themselves.  How awesome is that?  And I think of Veterans Day coming upon us this Friday.  My gosh, it is beyond  comprehension the number of Americans that have given of themselves and their families....and all for US.

Who is your Face of War?
Yet, I keep coming back to PV2 Pete.  He has become the face, for me, of the Wars we fight each and every day.  He reminds me alot of my son....and if you have a son in the military.....he probably would you too.   That's why I'm rooting for Pete to get HELP.  My joy is to pray for you PV2 Pete.

"And whatever you ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son". ---John 14:13  

Up Next:  Results of the Meeting for PV2 Pete



Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It's been almost two weeks since PV2 Pete reached out to his pastor and asked for help.  Already there were some frustrating things going on and Pete was getting anxious.  Really anxious.

If you remember back to the writing on October 27th, we introduced you to PV2 Pete who was one of the 2,800 Iowa National Guardsmen that had returned to the states from a year long deployment to Afghanistan.   His company returned in late July and he was at the 3 month mark in his reintegration to some sort of civilian life. 

It had taken Pete all of those three months to muster the courage to ask for help.  He'd resisted  urges to run, to hide and yes, to kill himself....that is, until he came face to face with the demons.  And according to Pete,  a good share of that is himself.  He came to realize if he was ever going to change, he'd have to ask for help and guidance.  So, he turned to his church and  pastor.   

When we talked this week, PV2 Pete sounded disappointed.  And that might be putting it mildly.  After the initial conversation with his pastor, the pastor connected with the care core director at the church.  Pete met with the care core director who in turn passed him on to a counselor of sorts at the church.  Pete was beginning to feel passed around like a hot potato.  When the counselor phoned Pete to set up a meeting it was becoming obvious a real match had not been made.  The counselor had never been in the service.....did not understand deployment, reintegration, the guilt of killing......a whole gamut of pieces that would have made Pete's experiences understandable and valid.  At least from Pete's perspective.  The two of them talked on the phone and set up a meeting time....another week down the road.  Today, Pete's not so sure he'll keep the appointment.  "I put myself out there", he said.  "I felt so good after I first talked with my pastor, but then as the days advanced on the calendar and little was done, I felt the negative thoughts overtake me again.  I'm not so sure I want to go through with this.  Frankly, I'm pissed.  I need help now....not weeks from now".  

As we talked further, I thought of the times I needed help.  I thought of those who truly caught on to you and wouldn't let you go.  They were a friend.....and if they weren't a friend, they were loyal in their work.  They wanted you to improve your situation whatever it was......relationship, work, financial or mental outlook.   And when I thought of those times, it was easy for me to be compassionate of what Pete was going through.  So, we prayed.  We prayed for help from the right people at the right time to help him right his situation. 

Work-wise hasn't been much better for our soldier.  He has had numerous people direct him here and there and each time he's come up without a job.  "I'm beginning to wonder if I fit in here anymore", he related.  "I want to get busy and go to work and feel good about life.....but it's been hard.  Nothing has really gone smoothly, that's for sure".  But at least he hasn't given up, yet.  Pete makes calls, send out resumes and connects with old classmates hoping something will stick.  "Patience", he said, is not a virtue, it's a necessity.  I'm hopeful I don't run out of it". 

Next week will be a crucial week for PV2 Pete.  At least, that's how he looks at it.  He'll have to decide if he should keep his appointment with the counselor.....and he'll have to decide if he needs to go somewhere else to find a job.  "I can't wait forever", he said.  "It's going to be a big week for me......I can use all the prayers anyone wants to throw my way". 

Finding One's Wings Can Mean Rising to the Challenge

I came acrosss a prayer we can all use, no matter what our situation.  But perhaps you can visualize a wounded warrior of sorts that needs some special acknowledgement today.  Here's a prayer from St. Theresa.

"May today be all that I need it to be.
May the peace of God and the freshness
of the Holy Spirit rest in my thoughts,
rule in my dreams and conquer all my fears.
May God manifest himself today in ways that
I have never experienced
May my joys be fulfilled, my dreams
become closer and my prayers be answered.
I pray that my faith enters a new height,
that my territory is enlarged and that
I make one step closer to my destiny
I pray for peace, health, happiness and
true and undying love for God".

Up Next:  A closer check on a crucial upcoming week for PV2 Pete.



Sunday, October 30, 2011


14 Times.  Yes, that's right 14 times  That's the number of times one brave soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Bryan Domeij deployed to fight for our country.  I can't fathom 14.  I know hard it was to go through one and that was a parent.  Tragically, he lost his life last Saturday.  And most likely, you never even heard about it.  In the following paragraphs, I've provided a couple of snapshots from the story and a video of the escort of Sgt 1st Class Domeij.  Here is your information update.

"As right-wing pundits decry the end of one U.S. war and the conduct of another, they'd do well to consider the case of Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Bryan Domeij. The 10-year veteran of the elite Army Rangers was killed, along with two of his comrades, in an IED attack in Afghanistan on October 22. But Domeij's situation was special: He perished  on his 14th war deployment since 2002.

Domeij's commanding officer, Col. Mark Odom,   called him "the prototypical special operations" leader whose special skills—he was one of the first soldiers qualified to coordinate Air Force and Navy air attacks from his ground position—made him a hot commodity in the war zones. Domeij, he said, was a "veteran of a decade of deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds of combat missions."

Besides being loved by his colleagues, the San Diego-born Domeij was also the married father of two daughters.  Assuming an average deployment length of seven months—Army deployments are seldom shorter than that, and usually much longer—he probably spent at least 8 of his 29 years overseas, waging America's wars".

The video below depicts the escort of Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Domeij.  Leading the escort is the Patriot Guard Riders.

How much would you give for your country?  14 times?  Is that beyond comprehension that someone would sacrifice so much so many, many times?   Remember the name, Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Domeij.  He is the one that allows you to sleep peacefully at night....and the one that enables you to demonstrate your freedom each and every day.



Thursday, October 27, 2011


"I'm back home.  At least that's what I keep telling myself.  I'm out of that God-forsaken place called Afghanistan.  I'm home, but I don't feel like I'm home.  It's just not the same it was....and I'm afraid it won't ever be again", said a young soldier I met recently. 

Those thoughts might be common to each of the 2,800 Iowa National Guard troops that returned home from their year deployment to Afghanistan this past summer.  Then again, maybe not.  Those who worked outside the wire saw far more than others.  Images that will stay with them for the rest of the lives.  And some of those images are not the ones you want to reflect on.  At least not over and over and over. 

The words you are about to read are from PV2 Pete (a name we've chosen for confidentiality).  These will be his words. ....his feelings.....his dealings.....his sufferings.  Pete was stationed in the northeast part of Afghanistan.  He was part of an infantry company that performed over 100 missions during their nine months on foreign soil.

"I experienced so much", he would say .  "Some of it was good and some, not so good.  It's the not so good that I'm having a hard time dealing with.  The first time I go shot at was a rush for sure.  My mind and heart were racing unbelievably fast.  I'll never, ever forget that.  There were  so many "firsts" that happened to me there.

 Death comes in so many ways.  It can be ugly, really ugly.  I think nowadays about the lives I've altered.  That's my thoughts now.  But when we were in Afghanistan, it was heads up and staying focused at all times. When you are in battle things happen that are reflex action   We're taught to act a certain way that in essence will keep us alive.  It's after the fight, when your mind starts working.  Do I have guilty feelings?.....for sure", he added.

When I spoke to Support Chaplain Gary Selof of the Iowa National Guard last week, he  mentioned the "guilt" aspect some soldiers hang onto.  Selof said that guilt is a difficult issue for soldiers to deal with.  "Each person handles it differently.  No matter if your religious or not, each has to answer to their maker in their own way", he said.

And that guilt is a big portion of what PV2 Pete is dealing with these days.  That and trying to reintegrate into a norm that feels "right".   Pete recalls some of the briefings that took place at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin when they returned to the states.  "I remember some things.  But frankly, my mind wasn't there.  At times it was back in Afghanistan and at other times it was at home.  They told us about things we'd do and things we'd experience, but not alot stuck between my ears", he mentioned.  "I went and bought a motorcycle....and soon thereafter I went and bought a gun.  The motorcycle helps replace the adrenalin rush that I had while in battle and the gun gives me a feeling of safety".

Both the motorcycle and gun were on a list supplied by military personnel of things soldiers purchase when they return home.   Pete has ridden his motorcycle over 120 miles per hour on more than one occasion.  "Probably pretty stupid, huh?", he'd ask of me.   He admitted some of his rides lacked in safety for his life and others as well.  With winter fast approaching, the motorcycle is about to go into storage.  Pete's undecided if he'll ride it again or sell it.  "Just have to wait and see", he softly added.  "The gun's another thing.  I might buy another one.  I'm not for sure yet....but I might.  It's my silent partner.  I keep my pistol close at hand.  You can't help but feel attached to a gun when you've had one with you night and day for over a year.  As crazy as these times are, I feel safer with one".  

The hardest part of the return has been employment, or perhaps I should say, lack of employment.  Pete mentioned it's been frustrating finding a job that will occupy his mind and one that he will find challenging.  "I haven't landed anything yet".  People don't realize the work ethic of a soldier enough.  After being responsible for millions of dollars worth of equipment, it's kind of humbling and disrespectful to think one of us wouldn't be a valued addition to any company.  If something doesn't break job-wise, I might redeploy.  I've thought about it.  The money would be good.......but".

"Are you talking to people?", I asked.  Do you have someone that you can share your thoughts with?  Someone that will understand where you are and what you're going through?  Not surprisingly, his answer was "not really".  "Most of my buddies are scattered across the state and we don't talk much", he said.  "They've got their own lives and I'm trying to find mine.  It's been about 90 days since I've been back and I thought things would slowly settle back into a rhythm.  But it hasn't.  At least, not yet.   I know I need to reach out to someone for help, but it's hard.  I've been trained to be tough and right now I feel less than that.  I might go and talk to someone.  I just might".....

As you can see, PV2 Pete has a number of "mights" that he lists off.....things he may or may not do.  As we concluded our week of talks, he shared several uplifting thoughts.  First, he'd took a gigantic first step.....he reached out to his pastor for help.  And he was glad he did.   And secondly, he memorized the Lord's Prayer for the first time in his life.
"Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever."

I wish I may, I wish I MIGHT.............

Pete talked of his "might" do's.  When he said that word time and again I thought of the old quote, "I wish I may I wish I MIGHT have the wish I wish tonight".  For the many soldiers who are experiencing what Pete is going through, know that there is a MIGHT that provides comfort.  The battle is not all yours.  Up Next:  PV2 Pete shares his "help" journey.

FYI...."My Father's Voice" celebrated a one anniversary this past week.  In that time,  we've had visitors from 118 countries.  I am in awe of you all for coming and reading and hopefully taking something away from our past year's experiences.  If you have any stories you'd like to share either openly or confidentially, please email me at




Saturday, October 22, 2011


They're walking among us and most likely, you don't even recognize that fact.  Most likely because they've done a fair job of blending into our Iowa communities.  But they're there.  Some are at work......others are spending time with family.....some are at the unemployment office and some are holed up in their homes shutting out the outside world.  They are all sizes and shapes.  Some are men and some are women.  Some are white, some black, some latino and there is a a handful of other ethnic groups.  They are the returning 2,800 Iowa National Guard troops that returned from a year long deployment to Afghanistan a little over three months ago.

If you weren't close to the situation, the year was no doubt a blur.  If you had a family member or a close friend who deployed, it might have been the longest year of your life.  And toughest.  Maybe it was.  Maybe.  Or it might just be beginning....for you and me and the 2,800. 

As I mentioned in my last writing, three months is the time line typically associated with outward signs of combat stress.  Have you had a hard time connecting with a soldier you know?  Don't understand why your loved one is acting strange?   Many people face these problems every day after their loved one returns home. They don't know how to deal with the issues, and sometimes the soldier is pushed away and left feeling alone to add to the stress from combat.

Soldiers who are in combat have a battle ready mind frame, and this mind frame is what will keep them alive during their combat related deployment. They live a certain way of life for nine to twelve months, to return home and are thrown back into a civilized society.  The shock of being home and doing things that they used to do, would not seem like it would affect soldiers.  Truth is it can affect them in a big way, and the people they love.

When you are at war, there are certain aspects of who you become that keep you alive.  You must maintain and keep track of all your belongings and personal gear. A weapon will go with you where ever you go, day and night.  Noise from battle may become a regular event, and you will train your body to react to loud noise. A bond between you and the soldiers standing beside you will be created very fast, after a certain amount of time that bond may be stronger than with the one's you love back home. You will remain aware of your surroundings at all times, and be weary of anyone you see who looks suspicious. All these are things that will form who you become during combat, and may directly reflect upon your actions once returning home.

Chaplains can be a great source of help on and off the battlefield

Chaplain Gary Selof has seen every imaginable reaction and response from deployment.  "Many soldiers feel isolated when they return home.  They've come from a situation where they've had great respect and in some cases handled millions of dollars worth of equipment.  Often times when they reintegrate, they're put in situations where they're made to feel inadequate.  And that's a tough thing for them to deal with", said the Chaplain. 

One combat veteran gave me some advise which frankly hits the mark.  These words are not from a doctor or psychiatrist or other professional.  It comes from someone who has been there and knows what he and others like him need.   "I advise that if you know someone who is experiencing combat stress, that you notify their chain of command and seek counseling.  Do not ask a solider about their experience in combat, as this will only make things worse.  Instead work on building your relationship with them from the ground up, and start over.  Give them the space they need to work out their problems, do not go touching their belongings without their permission. If they want to carry a gun, explain to them that they are safe here and that it may lead to them being arrested if they carry a weapon without a permit.  If they don't have as much patience as they used to, instead of jumping on their case about it just give them some time.  When they hear a loud noise and jump for cover, don't laugh at them but simply state that they are OK.  Try not to take them to crowded places if they seem uncomfortable, ask them if they would like to leave.  If you eat in a restaurant try getting a table in the corner where they can eat with their back to a wall, and have sight of the entire dining area.  Be patient with them".

"A key is asking for help", said Chaplain Selof.  "Most of the interaction we are having right now is from concerned family members not soldiers.   Our troops are trained to be tough, so it's hard for them to seek assistance.  It's especially hard for a woman as they don't want to have themselves associated with  weakness.   Soldiers have to be the ones to stand up and raise their hands and ask for help.  It's just that simple", said Selof.     

The Soldier's Prayer offers some great direction, not only in preparing for battle....while in battle..... and also after the battle has concluded..........

Up Next....A visit with a soldier who returned from Afghanistan....his thoughts.....where he is conflicted.....and what dreams he has for the future.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Back on August 1st, I wrote about the 2,800 Iowa National Guard troops returning home from their deployment to Afghanistan.  The first of those companies began arriving around July 16th and the last in early August.  Three months ago in most cases.  So much has happened in 90 days.  Just ask the families if you think there hasn't been changes in their lives.  As we head into November and the Holiday Season there will be more change, for sure. 

Over the course of the next couple of blogs,  I will be reaching out to people to help offer some thoughts, direction and or realizations of what might be necessary to smooth waters for the soldier and their families. Many have suggested that 90 days seems to be a water mark to some extent and that it's then that you begin seeing issues come to the surface.  Is your soldier struggling.....does he or she seem disconnected....not really in tune?  Below you'll find the thoughts I had on August 1st.....and how they remain foremost on my mind today.  Let's go back three months ago.    

As the 2,800 Iowa National Guard soldiers and their families begin their post-deployment lives we need to become active in our thoughts and actions in ways our communities can come alongside and provide support.  Today, I'm not quite sure what that will look like, but I do know we need to now, more than ever, pray for the road we are about to embark on.

"Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.  The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.  From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth-- he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds.  A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save.  Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine".-Psalm 33:12-19

This past week has provided me an opportunity to see God at work.  I've seen people with little association with the National Guard wanting to come alongside and help.  If I haven't told you before, our church, Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines is bringing a satellite church to the Johnston-Grimes, Iowa area.  The "start-up" missions team of the church feels a calling to support Camp Dodge and the soldiers which is right down the street.  Ironic, huh?  Now realize, the church is not even scheduled to open its doors until early Fall.....but God has placed the need of these soldiers and families at their feet and they are moving.  In the coming weeks, the Johnston-Grimes group is hopeful of sharing some pretty special things....stay tuned.   

If you have any ideas that you'd like to share on the subject of support feel free to connect with me at   Maybe you'd like to put something together for your community and you are inquisitive...that would be cool. I mentioned in the headline, "The Battle Lines Are Redrawn".  It's time to earnestly pray for the soldiers, their families and God's direction in providing HOPE.

A job????  Many don't have one to return to.

Three months ago, there were celebrations in the HOMECOMING, that is now a distant memory to most.  Real life issues have replaced many of those warm and fuzzies.  Returning to normal, finding employment and relationship issues are but a few of what is taking place in those 2,800 minds.  Being aware and being there to HELP, in any way, shape or form is what is needed next.  We'll hear from some of those people who have seen and walked and talked these experiences in the coming days.