Monday, January 31, 2011

END OF LEAVE AND OTHER STUFF....

Yesterday morning we saw our son, Kristopher, off at Des Moines International as his 15-day leave concluded and he began his long journey back to Afghanistan.  I must say, this time was a whole lot different than when his deployment began from Boone, Iowa on July 30th.  At the summer send-off, we were surrounded by hundreds of other families all experiencing much the same as us.  There were tears, red faces and a quite a bit of sobbing.  Yesterday, there were two soldiers leaving from Gate C-1 and we were the only family present to say good-bye.  There were moist eyes, a bunch of uncertainty, but no where near the same emotions....at least outwardly that is.  And the funny thing is.....I'm not sure why.

I'll let you in on a few things I think might be causing this "flat" response because somewhere among them is no doubt the answer.  First off, it wouldn't have taken much for someone to see that our soldier wanted to be home and then again, he didn't.  I'll bet he dreamed of  getting back to seeing his friends, his car, his new motorcycle and the aspect of "home".  But the other part of home, the one that meant involved conversations, connecting on a deep, personal level or one that dug deeper into his attachment of the surroundings of his family....hmmmmmmmm  PN.

 I asked Kris what was the thing that he thought of most when he was on the 5-day airplane trip headed to Des Moines.  "Home", he said.  That shocked me, really, because that is not what I saw.  We asked two things of him while he was with us.  A lunch with his grandparents and a videotaping at our church....that's it.  The remaining time was all his.  He could do anything he wanted.  What my wife and I saw, or thought we saw, was a soldier who didn't want to get to close to anything while he was home for fear.......

In a light moment before leave ends...
Five and a half months remain on Kris's deployment.  I think that's what many soldiers think about when they come home on leave, the time that's remaining.  Makes me wonder if they come home, try and put on a good face, show everyone that they're the same "old" person, when in fact, they're not.  And we're not.  Most parents, spouses, siblings or grandparents could easily see themselves smothering a soldier with love during their leave.  However, even though that's exactly what a soldier would like too, I'm slowly convincing myself that defense mechanisms override and walls go up.  Kind of like, I would like that affection, but then I don't.  Kris texted his mom and I while he was awaiting his international flight at the Atlanta airport yesterday evening that he was having a hard time expressing his feelings regarding leave.  He did Facebook some thoughts though.  "Atlanta sucks.  I wish I as either back home or in Afghanistan", he said.  As much as that seems odd, I think the thought is, "no limbo, please".  Either get me back home or back to work.  So, you can see the thoughts are kicking in.  And I'll bet he's still processing today as he nears his landing in Kuwait.

So, I have mixed feelings, for sure about "leave".  On one hand, it's great to be able to touch and hug a person again that means so much to you.  On the other, you know you have to release them to go back to a war zone for another half-year.  One family that I've met through this deployment process has a soldier coming home in June for leave.  Let's see, 15-day leave, then back to Afghanistan for three weeks and then back home.  Now that will be tough!!.  I've been told that with the number of troops deployed, the only way everyone could get leave was to space it out.  Thus, some got real early leaves and others way late. With 3,5000 troops, I'm sure scheduling leaves is a nightmare in itself.

More than anything....everyone's experiences will be unique when their soldier comes home for leave.  Don't be too high or too low in your expectations.  Perhaps the best thing you can do, is just be there for them.  You can always process the moments later, just like we are.  There are roughly 181 days left....that will sure allow some time for you and I and our soldiers to process over and over.   God bless us all with that.

********

Last Friday I found out Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta will be leaving the military and embarking on a life in the private or voluntary sector.  I wish him the best in his search and path that is laid before him.  In discussions with his mother, Rosemary, it would appear the Staff Sgt. has a desire in continuing to "make a difference".   God Bless you Staff Sgt. Giunta and your wife as well.

*******

"My Father's Voice" turned three months old this past week.  During this period I've posted over 40 entries into the blog.  The feedback has been tremendous and the "viewings" from around the world have been inspirational to say the least.  Fifteen different countries have hit on the blog.  They are:  the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Croatia, Germany, Singapore, Afghanistan, Denmark, India, Iraq, Malaysia and Indonesia.  I can't thank each and everyone of you enough.  Keep coming back and if you have story ideas, let me know.

*******

Lastly, should you want to comment about any post that I've blogged, please feel free to jump aboard.  I will respond to each and every comment, either through the comment box or, if it is of a personal nature, I will connect through email or some other social media.  Thanks again!!!

YGG,

John

Friday, January 28, 2011

WHY?

My wife and I try to begin each day with some words of inspiration and guidance.  Our resources come from "Daily Guideposts", a daily inspiration for our Military families, "The Upper Room" and the Bible.  I can tell you this, it's been tremendously helpful to us....in so many ways.  It's calmed the storms, it's given us different attitudes to our struggles, but most importantly, it's provided a sword and armed us for what the World has in store for us, each and every day.  Today, it gave me a story idea.

Author Philip Zakeski provided the motivation in his short story about the word "why" from Daily Guideposts.  Zaleski told about his young son, Andy, who asked the question, "why do we die of old age?"  In reply, father Zaleski responded, "because when you get older and older, you get slower and slower, until finally you stop".  Andy came back again, "why do we taste with our mouth?"  "Because we have taste buds", Philip said.  "Then do we have smell buds in our nose and hear buds in our ears?",  Andy fired back.  Dad countered with, "I don't think so".  Then here it came............."Why not?". asked Andy.   Dad made a quick discussion shift, perhaps knowing that Andy was in his "why" mode.  It appears that when Andy reaches that questioning mode, he has more questions than Dad has answers.   Zaleski's wife suggested that every time these back and forths took place, she was reminded that every child has a "Why" chromosome.

I can remember back to my younger days when I asked the "why" questions to my Dad.  Mine might have been a little different, I think.  More along the lines of..."Son can you go get me the hammer"...."Why?", I would respond.   Looking back, now that I'm a father, those probably aren't the best "why questions".  My dad has been gone for 21 years and I can still hear his response today...."because I told you so".

What have you learned from your "why" questions over the years?  Did you get many of them answered?  Did you move on to another question that you found more perplexing?  Did you feel your questions were an annoyance, or did they provide a mentoring moment?  What new questions are you lining up in your noggin right now?  And if you're not thinking about this and that.....why aren't you?

Why War?
I'm filled with more "why" questions today than ever before.  It's what keeps me learning, searching and hoping for a reason or purpose to be revealed.  Here are some of what questions I have on my mind today.  Perhaps they will coincide with yours, maybe not.  Or maybe they'll cause you to think for a moment.....yeah, I wonder about that. 

1.   Why is there War?
2.   Why doesn't the sun shine so we can see it everyday?
3.   Why do teenagers think their parents are as dumb as rocks?
4.   And.. Why do parents seem smarter to their kids, the older they become?
5.   Why is there so much evil in the World?
6.   Why does the military force soldiers to take leave mid-point through their deployment?
7.   Why am I not a long lost relative of Oprah Winfrey?
8.   Why don't people want to be accountable for their actions anymore?
9.   Why is the workplace so full of distrust, back stabbing and lack of loyalty?
10.  Why are Christians so lazy in reading the word?
11.  Why are church politics so ugly when Christ is not the focal point of their mission?
12.  Why is there War?
13.  Why do people post such stupid stuff on Facebook?
14.  Why are people so reluctant to change?
15.  Why are people so greedy and manipulative?
16.  Why do our politicians say they are going to make a difference and never do?
17.  Why do the Chicago Bears have problems finding a quarterback, when the Packers always can?
18.  Why do Chicago Cub fans say there is always next year, when they know better?
19.  Why is there War?
20.  Why is there killing?
22.  Why would anyone want to get into politics with all the mud slinging that goes on?
23.  Why are people afraid of making a mistake?
24.  Why are people so reluctant to say, "I'm sorry"?
25.  Why do we spend hours upon hours on our computers searching for things we shouldn't be?
26.  Why are our wisdom-filled seniors continue to be looked down upon?
27.  Why is our military in Afghanistan, remind me again?
28.  Why are the pounds so much harder to take off the older you get?
29.  Why are our teachers still at the low end of the pay spectrum?
30.  Why did Jesus die for us......when so many people have no idea?

I will admit, I already know the answers to some of the questions I asked, but it's still fun to ask anyway.  Others though, will remain with me for a long time, perhaps forever.  And that's alright.  I do know, it won't keep me from asking others a question, researching or praying for an answer.  I still keep hearing the words, "because I said so"......that's what keeps me going.  Maybe that's the reason WHY.  


YGG,

John






   

Thursday, January 27, 2011

TEN BIGGEST MILITARY BLUNDERS.....AND YOURS?

History has shown us that as decision makers, we humans leave much to be desired.  When you combine bad choices with war you have tragedy......and when a blunder occurs lives are lost and the fate of nations are at stake.  We've seen it time and again.  And what is most alarming is that many of those mistakes have come from Rulers of countries and Generals of armies.    

How do you learn to make good choices?  I've been working from a premise in the last fifteen years that the way to learn to make good decisions, is by making bad ones.  Most importantly, in making those bad choices, I will have developed experience to help me down the right road.  Another way of proper decision making would be to surround yourself with people that help you see the proper choice.  Far too often the leaders of our countries, our armies, our corporations and our churches, don't.  And it's here where the recipe for failure is obvious.   Whenever those in charge see themselves as thee "voice", have an attitude of being unapproachable or surround themselves with "yes" people, the groundwork for failure has been laid, not success.

Let's take a look back at some of the greatest Military blunders of all-time.  See if you don't recognize some of the traits I've listed.  Think too, that if a different decision had been made, how our history would be altered in that outcome.  The Top Ten All-Time:

10.  THE MUNICH AGREEMENT (1938).  In an attempt to prevent the Second World War, British  Prime Minister Nevile Chamberlain, along with Benito Mussolini, of Italy, Adolf Hitler and Édouard Daladier, of France, signed a treaty of appeasement in Munich. This signed away the Sudetenland, along the Czechoslovakian border, to the expanding Nazi Germany.  Basically, by throwing Sudetenland Hitler's way, these leaders hoped to avoid conflict.  In reality, it provided Hitler an expanded territory without any military losses.

Air Superiority Didn't Win the War
9.  THE VIETNAM WAR (1959-1975).  This was said to be one of the worst mistakes in U.S. History...not just militarily.  U.S. support for the Republic of Vietnam in their fight against the communist North led to a failed strategy.  Over 60,000 lives were lost despite perceived American technology and air superiority.  The guerilla warfare tactics of the Viet Cong rebels and the North Vietnamese Army were far too much for our troops.

8.  THE BATTLE OF LAKE TRASIMENE (217 B.C.).  When Hannibal marched his huge army of Carthaginians and Gauls over the Alps the Romans began quaking in their boots. The great General had fought his way across Southern Gaul and entered the Roman heartland complete with war elephants and vicious barbarians. The Romans sent 40,000 soldiers to halt the General's advance.  Hannibal, a master of military strategy, ambushed the Romans as they marched to Lake Trasimene where they thought he was camped.  Many Roman soldiers were forced to run and subsequently drowned.  History tells us that Hannibal also suffered huge losses, which in essence, makes this a blunder on the sides of both armies.

7.  THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (1854).  "The Battle of Balaclava had nothing to do with knitted head wear but everything to do with knitted jackets. As part of the Crimean war, British, French and Turkish forces were advancing towards the major Russian port of Sevastopol when they met the defending Russian army. The British had a large amount of cavalry but the Russians countered this with an impressive array of guns and artillery. The defenders had control of the valley and had flanked the British army by capturing several redoubts on the valley wall.

It was a miscommunication that caused the British cavalry to charge into the valley. The original order had been to capture the enemy guns on one side of the valley, but instead they were given the instruction to charge through the valley and to capture the main bank of enemy guns. The British Cavalrymen, led by Lord Cardigan, must have known this to be suicide but dutifully followed their orders. Lord Cardigan led the charge. This foolish action led the Russian officers to believe that the British were drunk.

Miraculously, nearly two hundred of the 600 strong Light Brigade survived the charge and Lord Cardigan returned home as hero and a fashion icon. As a result, his woolen jacket , which had been made especially for the cold Russian weather, became a popular item of clothing known as the cardigan (the sweater).

Tennyson immortalized the charge of the Light Brigade in his poem of the same name. In this he famously wrote ‘ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die’." 

6.  THE DIEPPE RAID (1942).  This was an attempt by Canadian and British troops to land on the beaches of Dieppe, France.  6,000 troops were dropped onto the beaches through naval and air power in hopes of proving a landing of such a magnitude was possible.  The result was a massacre.  Over 3,000 troops were killed.  The Dieppe Raid did end up providing tactical information for the Normandy landing that would take place later.  A test run with significant losses.

5.  BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIG HORN (1876).  Who can forget Custer's Land Stand?  A failed war strategy and lack of command/direction by the U.S. Seventh Calvary led to the slaughter of 700 troops at the Little Big Horn.  This battle was a great success for the Native peoples of  North America, the Lakota and Cheyenne.  Yellow-haired Custer also lost much that day.  In addition to his own life, he lost his nephew, brother-in-law and two brothers.

4.  PEARL HARBOR (1942).  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will live in infamy in U.S. annals.  The Imperial Japanese Navy launched a strike on Pearl Harbor with a thought of crippling the United States Pacific fleet, thus rendering defenses useless....and that in itself would lead to an early Japanese victory.  Despite huge losses of U.S. ships and life, the Japanese did not complete their supposed duties.  Had a scheduled third wave of the attack been led by Japanese forces, the U.S. could have been rendered totally useless in their ability to provide Naval support in the Pacific.

December 7, 1942....Pearl Harbor

3.  BATTLE OF WATLING STREET (61)  An unbelievable ninny don't you think?  How can you have a troop of Celtic Britons numbering 80,000 and lose to a group of Romans totalling 400 is beyond me.  The leader, if you want to call her that, was Queen Boudicca.  The Queen raised an Army against the Romans and went about rampaging Roman towns and burning them to the ground.  Little did she realize, an ambush is not a great thing to fall into.  In addition to the surprise encounter on Watling Street, the Romans created a wall of shields and spears the Celtic Britons could not penetrate.  It's been said, that the Queen took her own life after turning and running from the slaughter.   

2.  GERMAN'S INVASION OF THE SOVIET UNION (1941).  Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union is often considered to be one of the wost decisions ever made by anybody. Hitler had already defeated all of his European enemies. Only Great Britain remained. The fact that Britain commanded an empire comprised of three of the largest countries on the Earth didn’t bother Hitler. He was bored and wanted a new challenge. And so he decided to declare war on a nation ten times the size of his own empire.
Hitler quickly advanced towards Moscow with little resistance.  Cold weather set in and Soviet troops used this as a rallying point.  Had they not....the map of Europe might very well be Red and dotted with swastikas.

1.  NAPOLEON'S INVASION OF RUSSIA (1812).  In June of 1812, Napoleon began his fatal Russian campaign, a landmark in history of the destructive potential of warfare.  Virtually all of continental Europe was under his control, and the invasion of Russia was an attempt to force Tsar Alexander to submit once again to the terms of a treaty that Napoleon had imposed upon him four years earlier.  Having gathered nearly half a million soldiers from France and other states of Europe, Napoleon entered Russia at the head of the largest army ever seen.  The Russians, knowing that defeat was inevitable if they stayed and fought, strategically retreated.  As the months wore on, the supply lines for Napoleon's troops grew thinner and his troops were reduced by two-thirds due to fatigue and hunger.  In September, Alexander and Napoleon's troops waged battle where 108,000 were killed, but no decisive winner was apparent. Tail between his legs, the Little General ordered his troops to head for France.  Fighting winter and the lack of food and supplies, only 10,000 reached home.

Some colossal blunders, don't you think?  So, does that help you in fretting about some of the dumb choices you made....and a realization that there are  a number of people who made far worse mistakes than you?   I put some time to this whole decision making process and came up with a few ideas....but then I thought, it might be better to get an authority to weigh in on the subject, so I turned to Pastor John Kline of Zion Lutheran Church in Des Moines.

"Why, Pastor John, do we live in a world where people are paralyzed in their decision making?",  I asked.  His answers back were more than insightful.  The Pastor mentioned the situations most of us operate in daily.  "Often times, people are working in an environment ripe with fear", he said.  In simplistic terms, they're afraid of how they'll be perceived in making a misstep.  "What we all need is an environment of approachability.  Okay...you screwed up", Kline went on to say.  "We need to surround ourselves with people who don't overreact and who will encourage others to lead the same way."   

Pastor Kline left me with a nugget you might find helpful.  Matthew 18:1-4.  "At the time the disciples came to Jesus and asked 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'  He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom in heaven."

You say you've made some big time mistakes....some blunders that are embarrassing to think about, let alone talk about.  Strangely enough, we've all been there.  Every day you'll be making decisions on your future.  Pray about, surround yourself with good counsel and be open to those that have the gift of discernment.  The Good Pastor had one last thought on decision making.  "There will always be a day to be Faithful", he concluded.  See if that doesn't help you avoid those blunders......

YGG,

John
   

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

ONCE WAS LOST, BUT NOW I'M FOUND

One of my favorite classes in high shool was World History.  Not that I was an A student, but because it held my interest.  It fascinated me in many ways....and it opened my eyes to a world that was full of adventure and mystique.  And that's still true today.  I had a little time while waiting for a late morning appointment, so I decided to see what "This Day in Military History" held in store for me.  What a trip back in time, it was.  Think 1972...and see if you can remember this!!!


"I've been waiting for a long time"
1972 - After 28 years of hiding in the jungles of Guam, local farmers discover Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese sergeant who was unaware that World War II had ended. Guam, a 200-square-mile island in the western Pacific, became a U.S. possession in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. In 1941, the Japanese attacked and captured it, and in 1944, after three years of Japanese occupation, U.S. forces retook Guam. It was at this time that Yokoi, left behind by the retreating Japanese forces, went into hiding rather than surrender to the Americans. In the jungles of Guam, he carved survival tools and for the next three decades waited for the return of the Japanese and his next orders. After he was discovered in 1972, he was finally discharged and sent home to Japan, where he was hailed as a national hero. He subsequently married and returned to Guam for his honeymoon. His handcrafted survival tools and threadbare uniform are on display in the Guam Museum in Agana.

Do you remember this story?  I can recollect it, but it was one that I had certainly forgotten about.  Isn't it stunning to think that Yokoi avoided detection for such a long time?  He later recalled he knew the War was over since 1952, but was afraid to come out of hiding.  It's even more bizarre when you dig deeper into the story that he was not alone.  Initially ten soldiers hid out with the Sergeant until years later when eight finally gave up.  Shoichi and his two remaining buddies continued to live together until they decided to go off on their own.  In 1962, Yokoi found them both dead, having died from starvation.  Yokoi lived in a man-made cave and wore clothes that he made from local fibers (hibiscus bark) that he wove himself.  He hunted at night to avoid any detection.  "The only thing that gave me the strength and the will to survive was my faith in myself and that as a soldier of Japan, it was not a disgrace to continue on living", Yokoi said.  On returning to his homeland, he eventually received $300 in back pay and a small pension from the Japanese Government.

Yokoi's Place of Refuge
I once read that you have to know where you have been to know where you are going.  However, when it comes to the God of the Bible,  my past does not predicate my future. "I once was lost but now I am found", was a revelation from John Newton's, "Amazing Grace".  I have to wonder if Shoichi Yokoi ever sang that song.....or if he ever thought of those lyrics when he slid into that man-made cave each and every night.  If he ever read any World History, he would have known about John Newton and what led him to write that song.  A song that would have made 28 years on the run, much easier to endure, or he might have come back to this world alot sooner than he did.  Yokoi died in 1997 at the age of 82 from a heart attack.  Nearly one third of his life was spent on the lam.

I'll leave you with a couple of questions today.  How much of your life have you spent running and hiding, afraid to face reality?  Wasn't that really what Yokoi did?  And where can you find solace, that once found, you can live the remainder of your life to the fullest?  I'll give you a hint on this last one....it begins with the letter "J" and is five letters long.  History tells me so.  The first question you'll have to answer on your own.

YGG,

John          


Monday, January 24, 2011

DOG DAYS OF WAR...

It's been a while since we've heard from our Golden Retriever, Mason, in this blog.  It's not that he hasn't been talking because he does alot.  In fact, there's not a day that goes by that he doesn't say something. Some days he is simply a little more animated.   This morning, he seemed more talkative and a little more intense in his dog speak.  I just sat there for awhile admiring all that he is to us and thankful that he is part of our family.  I think that's what he wanted me to do.....just stay still and appreciate his kind.  Here's what came out it.

Mason knows he is fortunate to live where he does.  However, that doesn't mean that he forgets about the sacrifice he knows his "kind" make each and every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Sadly, there are two sides to this story.  The dogs that live in these countries and those that are employed by our troops.

Remember Michael Vick and the outrage our country felt when dog fighting became a hot button issue?  Well, apparently the outcry of animal abuse hasn't made its way to Afghanistan.  Under the Taliban regime dog fighting was forbidden. Today, it is a source of entertainment for hundreds of Afghans who join the crowd to see dog fightings, organized on a weekly basis in Mazar-e-Sharif.  Dogs only older than one year are brought to the battlefield for fights which sometimes are arranged on bets up to thousands of US dollars. These animals are fed with milk, butter and meat and are well cared for by their owners. According to dog owners, the animals from Mazar-e-Sharif city produce the best dogs for fights.

Words cannot express this abuse properly
Attitudes expressed by the people of Afghanistan make a point that supports a lack of respect for life.  One 76-year old, Haji Fasiz Mohammad simply states, "I've grown up in war, so anything that involves a fight, I love.  Since the people of Afghanistan have always been fighting", he says, "what else can we love except fighting?"

Fazel Ahmad Manawi, a member of the government's council of religious scholars, said the fighting and betting involved in animal fights are against Islamic law.  "We will propose (a ban) to the government again," he said. "Only one fighting is legitimate and that is to defend ourselves and our homeland."   Perhaps, Michael Vick should make a trip here, you think?

Our son has told us of the sad treatment of animals in general in Afghanistan.  He has seen first hand outside the wire at his FOB (Forward Operating Base) the lack of love, affection and even tolerance that animals face every day from the people of Afghanistan.  Some dogs are taken in by soldiers and become a "buddy" to the troops. And then, there are the stories of those fortunate ones, the dogs that become so attached to a soldier, that he or she ends up bringing it back with them to the states.  

On the flip side, there are stories upon stories of our four-legged friends coming to the rescue of our troops.  Britain's Arms and Explosives Search Dog save hundreds each and every year.  If you look at their pictures you'll see their "cuteness".  But don't be fooled.  They have a job to do and they do it well.  The following is an excerpt from a Telegraph Media Group story by Robert Chesshyre.


Cute, Lovable and Preservers of Life
 Dogs have been part of the British effort from the beginning of the Afghan conflict, but their use has rapidly increased. For security reasons, the Army withholds the exact numbers deployed.  For as long as armies have fought, there have been dogs of war. Two and a half millennia ago the Lydians in Anatolia had fighting-dog battalions; dogs were deployed at the Battle of Marathon in 490bc; the Romans used them; Napoleon understood their value; in the First World War they hauled guns and delivered messages; they have long served as tracker and guard dogs.

Two years ago a full helicopter emergency rescue, involving 26 troops, was launched in Helmand to pluck Monty, a 10-year-old Springer spaniel, from a forward base where it was feared that he had swallowed plastic explosives. Such an operation is normally mounted only to evacuate seriously wounded soldiers, demonstrating how important dogs are to the fighting effort. In fact, no trace of explosives was found in Monty, and he recovered after 24 hours on a drip and a few days' rest.

The ultimate value of AES dogs on the Afghan front line, measured in soldiers' (and civilian) lives saved, has been recognised by the award to two military dogs of the Dickin Medal (established in 1943 by Maria Dickin, the founder of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, and known as the animals' VC). In 2007 Sadie, a nine-year-old black Labrador, discovered a secondary explosive device amid the carnage of a suicide blast outside the UN headquarters in Kabul. The MoD said that 'hundreds of our boys owe their lives to Sadie's keen sense of smell'. (Sadie's handler at the time was L/Cpl Karen Yardley. RAVC women share battlefield risks alongside the men, unlike women infantry soldiers, who do not serve on the front line.)

Last year Treo, another eight-year-old Labrador, received the award when working as a "forward detection dog". He turned up two "daisy chain" bombs – multiple explosives wired together – in Sangin, one of the most dangerous environments in Helmand. Treo's action had saved many lives. When Treo received his Dickin Medal from Princess Alexandra, his handler, Sgt Dave Heyhoe, said, 'He is a very good friend: we look after each other.'

So, you can see why Mason and I connected this morning.  He's proud of what his brothers and sisters do.  And well he should be.  Thanks for sharing again, you big hunk.  Any time you want, SPEAK, okay Mason?

YGG,

John

Friday, January 21, 2011

DON'T WORRY....."THREE LITTLE BIRDS"

I know what mood I'm in this January day, but how are you feeling about our winter season right now?  Are you tired of the snow, lack of sun and finding yourself wishing for some, any sign of spring?  Can't come soon enough, you say?

I dislike this time of year (notice I didn't say hate).  Once the Christmas tree, stockings and lights come down, my sights switch to thoughts of green grass and warmer temperatures.  I'd like to think we've about reached the "hump" and we are on a quick pace to see Mother Nature in evening attire rather than Eskimo garb. I sure hope so anyway.  I kind of feel the same way about this deployment thing.  We're six months in and six more to go.  Without question, we are on the downside.  However, that doesn't mean we are home free.  Far from it.

I'm sure I'm no different than any soldier or family member in that I'd just like to get this over with.  Given the fact that our son, Kris, is home on leave, makes it all that much harder.  We're about 9 days from him leaving again.  Already, I can see some attitudes changing in myself, my wife and our youngest son as that day draws near when our soldier boards a plane to head back to Afghanistan.

Today, I had some video clips passed to me about a young British girl who made a name for herself on "Britain's Got Talent".  I dug a little deeper into her resume and found this little nugget, that sure fit the moment for me.  And it can for you too no matter what situation you're in right now.  Don't worry......okay.

video
   
This little dynamo, Connie Talbot, was eight years old when she recorded Bob Marley's old tune, "Three Little Birds".  Talbot finished runner up to Paul Potts in Britain's version of "American Idol" one year prior to releasing this song and  her first album.  Since then, she has gone on to perform in front of numerous British and American television audiences.  Her album was number one in three countries.

I pass this little ditty along to you...because it helped me today.  It put a bounce back in my step and helped ease some not so good thoughts in my mind.  So, don't worry.....be happy......everything's going to be alright!!!!


YGG,

John   

Thursday, January 20, 2011

THE WISDOM IN DEATH

 The Department of Defense announced yesterday the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.  Cpl. Joseph C. Whitehead, 22, of Axis, Ala., died Jan. 17 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

 More than anything, I wanted to let you know about Cpl. Joseph C. Whitehead's death.  You probably  don't know him, I don't either, but that's not the point.  What is most important, is that we take the time to reflect on the freedom so many have provided for us.  Cpl. Whitehead was a mother's son.....that in itself should be enough to make you stop and think.  And so it continues..........

The number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan recently surpassed the 1,400 figure.  In Iraq, that number is somewhere over 4,400.  That's nearly 6,000 troops that have lost their lives supporting the cause of our country.   MERCY.

Now, let me help you bring these facts a little bit more in focus.  If you ever find yourself in Santa Barbara, California on a weekend, saunter over to the pier area.  You'll be amazed and speechless as to what you see. 

Several years ago, a group of U.S. veterans against the war began placing a candle and cross in the sandy beach for every serviceman's death from Afghanistan and Iraq.  The memorial is a makeshift graveyard that is put up and taken down each weekend.  It takes 3 hours to erect the make-shift graveyard each weekend and a little less time to take it down.  Each and every weekend this takes place.  Volunteers sleep at the site to make sure no one vandalizes the grounds.  Every cross has name, rank, age, date of death and how the death occurred on it.  The veterans capped the number of crosses erected at 3,000 at Santa Barbara’s Arlington West, but still the display is more than powerful in conveying the ultimate loss.

3,000 Crosses dot the beach at Santa Barbara Pier

Santa Barbara Arlington West has not lived without its critics.  Some see it as a failed attempt to give War a face.....others are critical of the bad press Santa Barbara has received because of it.  It should be noted, though, that this memorial silently asks the question, Why War......and demands a credible answer.

Several months ago when our family was returning home from the graduation of our middle son, Jonathan, from Basic,  I spent time in the backseat of our vehicle searching for a Bible verse concerning wisdom.  I was looking for words that would help bring his career choice, it's danger and our lives into perspective.  Within minutes, I ran across Ecclesiastes 7:2

"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man, the living should take this to heart."

I don't agree with all that War represents.....and I'm certainly not a Peace Protester.  What I do know, is that, the above words from Ecclesiastes gives me solace at the right time to understand our mortality.  For me, that's the kind of wisdom I can live with.

YGG,

John

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

OUR FIRST TV WAR....TWENTY YEARS AGO

Yesterday (January 17th) was a significant day in our country's history.  We celebrated Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday.  King was the chief spokesman for non-violent activism in the civil rights movement.  In respect to Mr. King and all he meant to the struggle of the civil rights movement, I held off mentioning one other piece of noted importance to the day.

On January 17th, 1991.....we saw Live TV of War for the first time.  Do you remember that night when people huddled close to their television sets, much like they did around the "old" radio of yesteryear?  What a night that was.  CNN became the focal point of the evening, not only for Americans, but for leaders of some of the countries most affected by the assault.  It has been well chronicled that leaders of nations (Egypt and Saudi Arabia) were informed of the invasion beginnings by the United States Government while others like Jordan's King Hussein found out while watching the cable giant's news program.  Let's relive a part of those moments......


video


In the following days, the World continued to be fed information via CNN.  When final results were tabulated from the Gulf War is was estimated the  U.S. led coalition flew over 100,000 sorties,  dropping 88,500 tons of bombs, and widely destroying military and civilian infrastructure.  The air campaign was commanded by USAF Lieutenant General Chuck Hornerorld, who briefly served as Commander-in-Chief - Forward of  U.S. Central Command while General Schwarzkopf was still in the United States.  Horner, born in Davenport, Iowa was an Air Force ROTC graduate from the University of Iowa. 

Yes, January 17th has a very special place in the our country's history.  Not only from a military standpoint, but without question, in our ways to disseminate information through video.  War became more real, if that's possible, that day. 

YGG,

John
 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A FAMILY JOURNAL: FATHER TO SON ABOUT "LEAVE"- VOLUME 9

The journal you are about to read is part of an ongoing dialogue.  The words are a conversation between "the family" of
the soldier experience.  It's Dads, Moms, Sons,  Daughters,  Relatives and Friends sharing their thoughts of a particular day and/or it could be the soldiers journal entry detailing his or hers.  I believe there are many, many people keeping a journal through the Afghan War.  If you want to share an entry of yours email it to jkmyfathersvoice@gmail.com  Your post will be strictly confidential,  no names will be used.  In addition, locations overseas will not be mentioned for security purposes except the country of origin.  Some editing may be done to further protect the journal participant.

This might be my favorite journal posting that I've ever written.....gosh, what am I saying?  Without question this is my favorite journal posting......you're coming home on leave!!!

When I finish writing these words, I'll hop in the truck and head for the airport to pick you up.  It's been a long five days since you told me paperwork had been completed for your "leave" and when you finally touched down in the states.  What a journey.  Afghanistan to Kuwait, to Dallas, then Chicago and then Des Moines.  It's been even harder to keep this a surprise for your Mom!  I can be sneaky at times....well, that's probably not the best word to use, how about I say creative as we put together a great "gotcha" moment?  It will be emotional to say the least to see your mother "melt" when she sees you for the first time, in a LONG time.  Heck, I'll probably do that when we connect at DM International.   

The uniform comes off for 2 weeks
During the last several days, mom has asked repeatedly if I've heard from you.  I told her you were out on a mission and would be back on Wednesday or Thursday.  My guess is, if she had to go much longer not hearing from you, she'd hop a plane herself to Afghanistan.  So, these are a couple of thoughts I have as I get ready to head out.

First off, I want this to be a relaxing time for you.  It's your two weeks and you need some rest and relaxation.  Secondly, I hope we have some great one-on-one time that allows you to talk about anything and everything you'd like.  And thirdly, help me to make you laugh and cut up. I want to hear that funny laugh of yours again!

I've heard about many soldiers leave time that have turned into "nightmares" for both the soldier and his/her family.  I'm sure there are preconceived thoughts as to what each wants to take place during those two weeks.  I'm not going into this with anything other than your wishes and desires to be met.

In addition to your Mom and brother's moment, I'm most interested to see our dog Mason's reaction to hearing your voice.  Our first Golden, Nala, was a smiler.  Mason is getting better at expressing himself.  I think he has a big grin stored up for you.  He has missed you alot.  His, go-Mace-goes are prime for the snow covered yard.  Oh.....yeah, sorry about that.  I tried to hold off on the snow coming.  I know you don't like it any better than I do.  I'm sure you'll have to be happy with just starting up that new motorcycle and listening to it purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....and dream what it would be like to take it for a spin.  Knowing you though, my guess is that on any warm day we get, you'll peel around the block, right?

Okay....I think I'm ready to shut this post down.  It's been almost six months since we've seen you....and it seems like six years.  I hope you remember me.  I'll be the short little guy with a smile a mile wide and tears streaming down his cheeks.  Welcome home son!!!!

YGG,

John

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A WORD FOR IOWA GUARDSMAN SGT. BRIAN PFEILER

There are many words that come to mind when you hear a story of something that's heart-breaking, tragic or impossible to process.  Such was the case last week, when Sgt. Brian Pfeiler of Earlville, was wounded in action in Afghanistan.  Some of those words that float around in your head and yes, even sometimes said, are ones we regret.  Sometimes it's a four-letter word that slips out....which can give you a guilty feeling of "where did that come from?"

I'll have to admit to you, that, that was me, last week.  I didn't say anything with a bad four-letter word connotation, but I was close.  I'll leave it to your imagination as to the words I could have brought forth.  I'm learning to be reactionary with words of integrity rather than anger.  It's safe to say, some days are better than others.

Sgt. Brian Pfeiler of Earville, Iowa
Pfeiler became Iowa's first major casualty of the Afghan War this past Thursday when he stepped on a landmine while on foot patrol.  Reports indicate that Pfeiler lost his right foot in the explosion. He is a member of Dubuque's Company D, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment Task Force Ironman.  The Guard says the mine blast occurred in the eastern province of Laghman. 

"I was notified by the military Thursday morning about 8:40 (Iowa time)," said Kate, Pfeiler's wife of five years. "They said, 'I have some news to tell you. Your husband's been injured. He stepped on a landmine and had an injury to his right leg.' They told me he was stable."

Okay, picture that for a minute.  You're Mrs .Pfeiler and you hear the news...your husband has been injured.   How do you react?  What comes to mind?  What words come forth from your mouth? 

Today, I was doing some reading before making some calls pertaining to this story.  More than anything, I was trying to put myself in a different pair of shoes.  And these words jumped off the page at me.  MERCY.  The author of the piece was talking about when things happen that frustrate, disappoint as well as encourage and provide joy, say MERCY.  So, from this then, I had to make sure what mercy meant, "a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion".

With that word in mind, I made a call to Earlville hoping to connect with the Pfeiler family.  That wasn't the case though as Susan Mensen, the Post Commander's Wife of the American Legion in Earville told me, "the Pfeilers are en route to see Brian right now".  MERCY.

Mrs. Mensen and I had a great talk.  She told me of the supportive community the Pfeiler's hail from.  This past weekend, members of the American Legion Post 436 met at her home to discuss ways they can help the Pfeiler's...spaghetti dinner's and the like.  This is what small towns do you know, they come together.

Mensen went on to say that the days ahead will be difficult for Brian, his wife Kate and young daughter, Madison.  The important thing will be "not to get ahead of yourself", she mentioned.  "Earlville is about community and family...we'll take it one day at a time".

On the night of the accident, friends and family came to the Pfeiler's house.  The expressions on the faces of those in attendance were ones of concern and anxiousness.  Little Madison sensed something was going on as people spoke about Brian.  Her question brought a tear to many that evening as she voiced, "Where's Daddy?" 

The days will be long and winding for the Pfeiler's.  They will have needs no doubt.  For the short term, those are being handled through the military.  There will be future needs......and should you have a desire to help, you can.

American Legion Post 436, of Earlville has announced the formation of the "Sgt. Brian Pfeiler Family Fund," which is accepting monetary donations to assist Pfeiler and his family.  Monetary donations should be sent to Post 436, P.O. Box 64, Earlville, Iowa 52041.  For more information, contact Will Gibson at 563-608-2529 or Loras Mensen at 563-923-6335.

MERCY, MERCY MERCY................


YGG,

John

Monday, January 10, 2011

OUR NEWSLEADERS FAIL US AGAIN

Saturday's shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords points out continued issues within our news agencies in reporting the news.  Several 24-hour news groups reported Giffords had died from a gunshot wound to the head, which of course, we found out later, was not the "truth", the "whole truth" or "nothing but the truth".   Decisions were made in a mad rush to get the story out before confirming the accuracy of  reports. 

Candlelight vigil outside Congressman Giffords' office

As I see it, it's hard to fault the anchors of those networks mentioned.  They're doing their jobs as newsreaders and to expect them to verify every news account would be unrealistic.....it's the news directors, producers and reporters that should be taken to task.  That's their jobs.  The following is a report, hopefully accurate, that addresses this issue.

Giffords' Reported Death Shows Need for Accuracy

So, why am I so perturbed about this news inaccuracy?  Well first off, the attacks leveled at our news gatherers is a group I'm part of.  I am a graduate of a journalism school and I seem to remember in Reporting 101.....to get the facts straight.  Where has that thought process gone?  Secondly, I want to be informed just like anyone else, however, I would prefer it be with the right information.  Kind of like one group says...Fair and Accurate.  Over the years, my news brethren has stubbed its toe in the reporting of some huge news accounts.  Remember these headlines:


"PASSENGERS SAFELY MOVED AND STEAMER TITANIC TAKEN IN TOW" (April 15, 1912) The Christian Science Monitor reported not only that all aboard the Titanic had been saved, but that the ship had not even gone down. "Officials of White Star Company Confident Steamer is Unsinkable and Will Float until Halifax is Reached," read a subheadline.

"DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" (November 3, 1948 by every major reporting agency)

"JFK RAPS FAULT-FINDERS IN NATION" (November 22, 1963) Early editions of afternoon newspapers carried an AP report of a speech that President John F. Kennedy had made in Dallas that day against opponents who "confuse rhetoric with reality." The article had been based on the text of the speech that Kennedy had prepared to make at the Dallas Trade Mart. Later editions reported that Kennedy had been assassinated while on the way to make the speech.

"FORD REPORTEDLY ACCEPTS NO. 2 SPOT ON GOP TICKET" (July 17, 1980) The Washington Post and other newspapers carrying the Post story by David S. Broder and Lou Cannon reported that former President (and Vice-President) Gerald R. Ford had accepted an offer to serve as Ronald Reagan's running mate at the GOP convention in Detroit.  Subsequent editions reflected that Reagan's primary opponent, George H. W. Bush, became the running mate after the deal with Ford fell through.  One Washington analyst changed the lead of a premature political obituary from "George Bush lost another war last night," to "George Bush finally won a war early this morning."

"CONGRESSMAN'S FLIGHT REPORTEDLY FORCED TO SOVIET ISLE" (September 1, 1983) An early UPI report from Seoul stated that "A Korean Air Lines jumbo jet flying from New York to Seoul Wednesday with 269 people aboard, including a U.S. Congressman, was forced to land on Sakhalin, a Soviet-occupied island north of Japan, the government-run television said. The passengers were reported safe.  Among them was Rep. Larry McDonald (D-GA), John Birch society chairman, whose spokesman said in Washington that American officials believed the jet was forced down by Soviet or North Korean fighter planes." Actually, KAL 007 was shot down and all 269 persons onboard were killed.

"KERRY'S CHOICE: DEM PICKS GEPHARDT AS VP CANDIDATE" (July 6, 2004) The New York Post erroneously stated that U.S. Presidential candidate John Kerry had chosen Dick Gephardt as his running mate, when in fact he had chosen John Edwards.

"'ALIVE!' Miners beat odds" (January 4, 2006) USA Today, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other newspapers based headlines on erroneous reports that twelve out of the thirteen trapped coal miners survived the Sago Mine disaster, and CNN and Fox News had broadcast what turned out to be a miscommunication.  In reality, twelve out of the thirteen miners did not survive the incident.

As you can see, our newsleaders have made some serious blunders in reporting significant pieces of our history.  In this age where news travels faster than the speed of light, or so it seems, it is of even greater importance to get the facts straight.  It makes me wonder what the headines will say when Jesus returns...."MILLIONS DISAPPEAR, UFO'S SUSPECTED" or "CHRIST RETURNING, ARE YOU READY?"


YGG,

John

Friday, January 7, 2011

THERE'S MORE TO THE TED WILLIAMS STORY

I've really been focused in recent weeks to keep my ears and eyes open to what is going on around me.  Much more than ever.  Maybe that's what a blogger is here for.....to keep ideas moving and let the public put some kind of spin on them.  I'm so, so inclined to look at a story and dig deeper, because generally, there is  more to it than we ever know or hear.

This past week, you'd have to be a bear in hibernation to not have heard the name Ted Williams.  Williams is the golden throat, homeless, ex-disc jockey that had fallen on hard times.  He was lingering on the streets of Columbus, Ohio with a sign in hand, hoping and praying for another chance at life.  Well, it came and it came in a big way.

A number of weeks ago, a Columbus Dispatch videographer, Doral Chenoweth III, saw Williams on his way while running to a local Lowe's store.  He saw the sign, connected with Williams ever so briefly.  He returned a week later..  And now, "More of the Story".................

"Hey, I'm going to make you work for your dollar," Chenoweth said as he rolled down his window and took out his flip camera. "Let me hear you say something." What comes out of Williams' mouth is startling. It's a rich, baritone that doesn't match his craggy exterior at all.  His enunciation is crisp, his tone smooth as suede.

Williams isn't holding that cardboard sign anymore.  After Chenoweth posted the video, it went viral. Williams did interviews on national television and radio. He's received several jobs offers, including one that comes with a home.

But the other character in this contemporary parable had played this part before.  "The first time we dated, he stopped and gave a blanket from the back of his car to a man who was homeless," said Robin Chenoweth. "I thought to myself, if he has this kind of compassion for a man on the street, he's going to make a great husband and father."

Chenoweth is paid to notice people. He's a multimedia producer for The Columbis Dispatch newspaper in Ohio.  He said he stopped because he thought Williams might make a good video.  Still, he wasn't so sure after the filming.  He said he sat on the video for five weeks until he finally decided to use it because it was a slow news week. Then he watched the video take off.  "I never anticipated this," he said.  "A week ago, he was living in a tent behind a station in the middle of December, and now he's being flown to New York and his video is everywhere." 

Looking through the lens of faith
But the reason Chenoweth stopped goes deeper than his job.  It's "standard operating procedure" for him, he said, to stop and talk to people who are homeless, whether he's carrying a camera or not.  "It's part of my faith," he said after some prodding about his motivations.  "You may not be able to help someone with money, but you can at least say hello, how you doing, and look at them." 

Doral Chenoweth III, his wife, Robin, and their children Cassie and Kurtis went on a church mission trip to Tanzania.  About 14 years ago, Chenoweth said he was assigned to photograph a homeless ministry at New Life United Methodist Church in downtown Columbus. He was so impressed by the ability of the 50-member congregation to help the homeless that he and his wife joined.
Doral Chenoweth III and family
The church's pastor said that Chenoweth routinely invites people who are homeless to the church for meals and medical attention. He's also photographed people on the street and displayed their photographs to emphasize their humanity, said the Rev. Jennifer Kimball Casto, New Life's pastor.

When asked if she was surprised by Chenoweth's action, Casto said: "Absolutely not.  Doral has a special heart for people who are homeless and in need."  Chenoweth's concern for people goes beyond Columbus, and even the United States. His wife said they are regular Habitat for Humanity volunteers. They've also taken seven trips to Africa with their two children, Cassie, 12, and Kurtis, 10, to serve impoverished communities. Chenoweth has documented many of the trips on his website.

"He's taken me all over the world," Robin Chenoweth said. "He's a fabulous husband. It's the best decision of my life to be with him."   Chenoweth sounds thrilled to see where the new-found fame will take Williams.

He had a reunion with Williams after their video went viral. A local radio station interviewed Williams, and Chenoweth was there for the interview.  "We had a big hug and shook hands," Chenoweth said. "He almost cried when he saw me."  Chenoweth was watching a local radio station interview Williams when he saw something that touched him.  "He still has my business card," Chenoweth said.  "He's been carrying it the whole five weeks since I gave it to him. He was carrying it right in his fingertips."

Filming a visual parable
The Rev. Tom Long, a professor of preaching at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, watched the video of Chenoweth's encounter and saw a visual parable unfold. It reminded him of Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan.

In the parable, a Samaritan stops to help a man wounded by robbers after two Jewish religious leaders -- a Levite and a priest -- pass the man by. The story was shocking because the hero was a villain -- Samaritans were a group of people hated by many 1st century Jews (imagine the parable of the Good Crack Dealer).

Chenoweth didn't see Williams as "visual white noise" to tune out, Long said. "He sees possibilities others don't see and acts on them and, wow, here we go," Long said.  Long said there's more to the story than the importance of treating people in need with compassion because miracles may happen. "His (Chenoweth) experiences expose what is already true about people, that even a homeless person who doesn't have a golden throat is nonetheless a child of God."  Casto, Chenoweth's pastor at New Life, said Chenoweth taught another lesson with his encounter with a panhandler.  "We are all broken in some way, but we are also gifted in some way," she said. "Mr. Williams is a perfect example of that."

The above mentioned  is from an CNN article dated January 6th.  Much has happened since then for sure. For one, the You Tube video has had over 13 million hits now!!!  The job offers keep coming in for Williams, which is so awesome, ......but I wonder what might also be ahead for this videographer that was moved by God's nudge. When I tried to reach Chenoweth at his office at the Dispatch, I was told that he was in New York.  I put a call into his cell and I'm hoping to hear back.  I hope I do, but if I don't, isn't it truly amazing to see God at work and how he uses people.  Both Williams and Chenoweth have had their lives altered.  Appears to me that God put them in the proper place at the proper time.  Wow, does he have great timing or what?

YGG,

John

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CHANGES ARE COMING, FOR SURE

My wife, Joanne, and I were talking a little while ago about how different our lives have been in the last six months since our son, Kris, deployed and what new things will "crop" up in the not too distant future.  I'm sure we are not alone given the fact that 3,500 other Iowa Guard families are undergoing much of the same situation.  And let's not forget to mention all the thousands of other deployed soldiers that are stationed around the world.  How many do you think that is?

Well, if you take the 3,500 figure and add two zeroes behind it, you'll come pretty close. Can you imagine....over 350,000 U.S. troops are deployed in some 150 countries?  Doesn't that just seem incomprehensible?  As of August of 2010,  Afghanistan led with 98,000 military personnel, Germany was second with 57,080, Japan third with 32,803, South Korea fourth with 28,500, followed by Italy with 9,855.  Saint Helena and Antigua brought up the rear with 3 and 2 military personnel, respectively.  That's alot of lives that have made commitments and sacrifices to you and I and most likely, will be facing some difficult decisions in how their lives will play out in the coming months and years.

Let's talk about soldiers coming home from deployment first.  Many will return to jobs they once held in the private sector...some will join the unemployment ranks hoping to find a fit that will utilize the skills they've acquired....a number will have a deeper appreciation in their faith, while others will look to some other methods of coping... some will return to relationships that have gone south or marriages that will undergo huge tests....there will be marriages and births and adoptions.....and on and on and on. 

For those continuing to serve, there will no doubt be some issue that will determine the road ahead.  Where is our next outbreak of war going to come from?  I'm as queasy as the next person when I think of our next   involvement.  Many experts feel Iran is the next big powder keg ......certainly Pakistan is right there......and North and South Korea certainly have to be watched.  Who knows how many more countries are right on the edge?

North and South Korea at Odds
 I do know this....changes are happening at a terrific pace these days. Technology has been the big driver behind the wheel.  Hasn't this last generation been a bonanza for inventors?  These are the days when one-stop shopping and marrying our social media together are catch phrases.  Keeping up with the Jones' with your new cellphone is more fashionable than the home or car of years past.  On the flip side, small countries are as dangerous as ever given their threat of nuclear power.  That's a change, huh?   And the scary part is some of the leaders and countries with that same "power" are completely unfazed in their appreciation of human life.  Yup, these are all changes but it does beckon the question of whether Armageddon can be far off?

I'm not a political activist....far from it, but I am what you'd call a political realist.  The facts are....every new election calls for change.  Given that rally cry, I wonder what is truly meant, change for the better or change for the worse.  I see billions being spent on foolish, stupid programs.  Is it too difficult to imagine people with Harvard and Yale degrees to figure out a meaningful direction for our spending?  Now that would be a change.

 I'm trying hard to connect deeper to the world that we live in.  I'm sure I'm not alone in that thought.  Yet, I come back to the basics and my little world and some of the changes that are in store for our family. Here is what lies ahead for us...our oldest son coming back from overseas deployment, another son graduating AIT, our youngest son about to enter his senior year of high school.....a new job for my wife that has challenged her, yet rewarded her .....and me....continuing to blog about our experiences to an uncertain future.

Uncertainty is alright though.  It's during these times that you can reflect and transform your life.  You can appreciate what life is all about and the purpose of it.  It's here that you and I will both be able to see that....

God moves.  He is a moving God.  He is never still.  He is always effecting change in every sphere of Creation.  I think knowing that helps, how about you?


YGG,

John

Monday, January 3, 2011

TONY THE VET'S CROSS COUNTRY WALK

Many years ago a TV personality by the name of Art Linkletter hosted a show called, "House Party".  One segment within the series was a piece entitled, "Kids Say the Darndest Things".  I'm not sure where these young guests came from, but I will tell you that they came up with some great one-liners.  I would imagine some of their comments made their parents blush.  However, shouldn't adults be part of that mix as well since they say some unusual things too.  I'm not a psychologist but it might be wiser to categorize us all capable of saying and doing the darndest things and that would just about size it up.  And when I say doing, here might be the latest.

On September 11th of this past year, Antony A. LoBue, also known as "Tony the Vet" launched his year-long Walkathon Across America for the Support Our Veterans Association (SOVA).  LoBue, a senior and wartime veteran with disabilities, plans to walk across the United States.  He left San Diego and plans on arriving at Ground Zero in New York City on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10-year anniversary of  that fateful day.   LoBue, recently founded SOVA as a veteran, consumer-driven, grass-roots movement that will work to help all veterans, their families, veteran support groups and communities.


Tony the Vet "Carrying the Flag"
LoBue served in various capacities while in the service.  He was a 1LT Commander in the Army from 1964-66 stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.  After active duty, he joined the Texas National Guard  where he was CPT Commander at Temple, Texas until 1969.  After leaving the Army,  Lobue was active in a variety of positions ranging from an English instructor, to a Peace Corp Volunteer, to a Fundraiser and Real Estate agent.  Not one of those jobs smacked of political activism.  Yet....as the years continued to pass him by, LoBue continued to feel a pull in advocating for veterans benefits.  LoBue talked about what made him decide to do this.  In a sense, he says, he’s trying to “give myself away.”  LoBue says, “I needed to revolutionize my life by having a singular purpose with great passion.  And I decided to do something to help veterans, since I am a senior, disabled and a veteran."

The 3,600 mile journey that Tony began last year will no doubt be a long one in a variety of ways.  LoBue walks 10-15 miles a day on a route he plotted some time ago.  Each day of this venture, LoBue is hoping to open the eyes of someone that can come alongside either in support of the walk or in furthering the exposure for increased Veterans benefits and support.  As I checked in today, LoBue was somewhere near VanHorn, Texas maintaining a pace that will enable him to arrive in New York at his expected time.  Yes, people do say and do the darndest things.  In this case, Tony the Vet is demonstrating that doing is much better than saying.  Tony has a Facebook page that you can follow his journey @Tony the Vet....Best to you Mr. LoBue.


The Route to New York.....Arrival Date 9-11

YGG,

John       

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A FAMILY JOURNAL: FATHER TO SON FOR NEW YEAR'S-VOLUME 8

The journal you are about to read is part of an ongoing dialogue.  The words are a conversation between "the family" of
the soldier experience.  It's Dads, Moms, Sons,  Daughters,  Relatives and Friends sharing their thoughts of a particular day and/or it could be the soldiers journal entry detailing his or hers.  I believe there are many, many people keeping a journal through the Afghan War.  If you want to share an entry of yours email it to jkmyfathersvoice@gmail.com  Your post will be strictly confidential,  no names will be used.  In addition, locations overseas will not be mentioned for security purposes except the country of origin.  Some editing may be done to further protect the journal participant.

Hey Sonpo:

Well, 2011 is here...but of course you already knew that since you're 10 and a half hours ahead of us.  Sure seems strange as we go headlong into the new year with so many of our soldiers gone.  It has been good to see some of your buddies coming home on leave now.  I can only imagine what must be going through the minds of the families and the soldiers on those reunions.  Hopefully, we can experience that in the near future.

I wanted to reflect on a couple of things from this past year.  First off, you have changed immensely.  I think of the young man we saw off to Basic in September of 2009 to the man you are now...WOW!!  It's unbelievable to think that you are 20 years old and that you are setting sail on your life-long dreams.  And secondly, it appears that God is creeping back into your life.  Your card to the family at Christmas time spoke volumes to the maturity you now exhibit.

I want to continue  encouraging you in your spiritual journey.  Which leads me to a point and a book that I want to share.  An old saying, according to some experts, states that there are no atheists in a foxhole.  Hardship, horror, fear, loneliness and rage have driven many warriors to reach for their spiritual side.   A book written by Charles Sasser, "God in the Foxhole",  talks about many experiences he saw during wartime.  Every one of his stories presents accounts of God's amazing grace covering and protecting soldiers. One particular Bible verse that Sasser mentioned often struck a chord with soldiers was Matthew 17: 20;

".....I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you."

The Foxhole Provides Reflection Time
So, I'm leaving you with that Bible verse.  Something you can hang on to.  I'm not sure how much time you've spent in a foxhole or out overnight during your missions.  I can imagine though, that there are any number of experiences you can share with your fellow soldiers about God's grace and protection.  I pray that you become bold in that mission.  Remember that you are not alone!!!

So...that's my New Year's musings.....not resolutions, but thoughts in areas we can continue to grow together as a family.  Happy New Year!!!  213 days or 30 weeks to go however you look at it!  Praying for your safety, son.  Praying for you daily......

Love, Dadpo

                                                -30-