Saturday, April 30, 2011

TROOP PRAYERS CAN COME FROM PAY IT FORWARD

If you've never seen the movie, "Pay It Forward" you ought to because it's a MUST see.  It has some very inspirational challenges within its two-hour body of work.  One of the main characters is a young child by the name of Trevor (Haley Joel Osment)  who comes up with a grand idea for an elementary school class project.  Trevor's plan is a charitable pyramid scheme based on good deeds rather than profit. He calls his plan "Pay it Forward", which means the recipient of a favor does a favor for a third party rather than paying the favor back. Trevor does a favor for three people, asking each of those people to do a favor for three others and so on....

I blogged about Play It Forward several months ago, using the paragraph above and then relating it to another topic.  I watched the movie again tonight and felt prompted in using the ending to bring some visuals to the prayer vigils for our deployed soldiers I've been talking about for the last week.

Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey were simply magnificent in the movie.  There were a ton of motivational lines delivered, perhaps none more impactful than the line from Trevor which provides alot of insight to us as human beings.  He says, "I guess it's hard for people who are so used to things the way they are......even if they're bad....to CHANGE.  'Cause they kind of give up.  And when they do, everybody kind of loses."

The movie trailer begins with a fight between Trevor and some school bullies that he stands up to and then jumps back to a televison interview he did minutes before.....  Stay with the entire seven minutes, you'll be glad you did in the end.

video


This past week, I've experienced some of the attitudes Trevor spoke of in arranging a prayer vigil and prayer sign up sheet for MFV's blog.  I've seen people willing to help, others that have offered to pray and others that have convinced themselves of being "too busy" to help.  And I've seen those that are scared of change, as Trevor put it.  It doesn't have to be that way.  One young man (Trevor) with a purpose proves....
 
“There are two ways to live your life.  One as though nothing is a miracle, the other as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

Here might be a good place to say it's been a miracle we haven't had more soldiers wounded or killed since the Iowa National Guard soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in October.  A report from Fox News late Saturday details the reason for the concern for our troops. 

KABUL-"Taliban announced the beginning of their spring military offensive against the U.S.-led coalition Saturday, a day after a new Pentagon report claimed that the militants' fighting spirit was low after sustaining heavy losses on the battlefield.  In a two-page statement, the Taliban said that beginning Sunday they would launch attacks on military bases, convoys and Afghan officials, including members of the government's peace council, who are working to reconcile with top insurgent leaders."

Based on that news, wouldn't it be an even bigger miracle for us to see no one else suffering battle wounds or the loss of life?   That would be awesome to experience.  But what's that likelihood if we don't act now and get on to some serious prayer? 

Here are a couple of immediate needs we have:

1.  A person with a  good computer programmer background that can take a template and design a sign up sheet for hourly prayer blocks for the next 60 days.

2.  A group or company with access to a Public Address/Sound System for use at the prayer vigil.

3.  A person or persons with a marketing background that can work with the media and family readiness groups around the state.

Okay...we've laid out a portion of the plan.  Now it's time for anyone reading to PLAY IT FORWARD to 3 people who can in turn relay it to 3 more and so on......

YGG,

John         

Thursday, April 28, 2011

THE VIGIL CONTINUES FOR PRAYER VIGILS

As we reported earlier in the day Wednesday, the Black Hawk County employees hosted a prayer vigil for the three fallen soldiers from the Iowa National Guard who were killed in Afghanistan in recent weeks.  Marvin Bliss, father of Chelsea Bliss, fiance of Spc. Don Nichols,  was appreciative of the night and the outpouring of love.  "It was just awesome to see the community support......awesome".   And with those words, I want to take  to you to the Waterloo Courier article this morning that provides much of the details.     

WATERLOO - The community rallied together once again to honor fallen soldiers during a vigil Wednesday evening.  People packed into Veterans Memorial Hall for a brief ceremony that included the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem. A rifle salute and playing of taps followed outside, with a bagpipes rendition of "Amazing Grace."  The event, hosted by Black Hawk County employees, was designed as a tribute for Iowa soldiers Don Nichols, Brent Maher and James Justice, "who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms," said Craig White, with the county Board of Supervisors. The three were killed in action in Afghanistan recently in seperate incidents.

Buglers like Kelly Kilbride provide the utmost respect

"It hurts when we lose one of our own," White, a Vietnam veteran, said. "It opens a wound. It's a tragedy when one of our young people die for any reason, but to die in war - it's a great honor, but it's still a tragedy in my eyes. We thought it was a chance for healing, a chance to get together and show our appreciation, per se, for the families.

"Anybody that's ever been in the service realizes the easy part is going over to the conflict," he added. "The tough part really is for the families that stay back here because of not knowing what's going on and then the fear ... when you see the soldiers walking up to your doorsteps with that notice that you've lost your loved one."

Among those in the crowd were several of Spc. Nichols' family members, including his parents, Jeff and Jeanie Nichols of Shell Rock and Becky and Roger Poock of Waterloo, and fiancee, Chelsey Bliss of Waverly. His brother, Joseph Nichols of Waterloo, a combat engineer with the Army Reserves stationed in Afghanistan, who escorted Nichols' body home, along with another brother, Nick Nichols.  "You don't really go to some of this stuff until it's one of your family members," said Julie Foust, Nichols' aunt. "Then you realize the importance of it."

Support from others during tough times is much appreciated, said Foust, adding that Jeff, her brother, and Jeanie Nichols have purchased a motorcycle and joined the Patriot Guard Riders, so "they can show their respect like everybody did for all of our whole family."  "I encourage anybody, even though they don't have a family member, just to take this serious," she said. "I would have never imagined in a million years this would happen to our Donny."

White noted the members of West High School's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps in attendance.  Hopefully, by the time you guys are out of school, this is a thing of the past, and we'll never have to face this again," he said.  Darci Ritter, family readiness coordinator for the Waterloo-headquartered 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry regiment of the Iowa Army National Guard, approached county courthouse employees in 2006 about serving like a rear detachment for families of those soldiers.  That year, two 1/133rd soldiers never made it back from Iraq. Sgt. 1st Class Scott Nisely of Marshalltown and Sgt. Kampha Sourivong of Iowa City were killed.  "We've become like a family over these last few years," White said. "It was like part of our family had left us."

Ritter encouraged any National Guard families to take advantage of support services, like monthly family readiness meetings to promote fellowship and networking. She helps to connect about 680 families within the 1/133rd during the recent deployment to Afghanistan with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division. Last August 2,800 soldiers left the state to serve in the conflict.

"We don't have the luxury within the National Guard of living on an Army base where right next door is another Army wife or another family going through what it's like to have a loved one overseas," said Ritter, whose husband has only been home 15 months in the past five years and has spent two years in Fort Riley, Kan., recovering from injuries sustained in a Humvee rollover in Iraq. "Our families are scattered throughout the state.  "We're starting to talk about our homecoming, but this leaves a lot of time of uncertainty and anxiety losing three of our Iowa soldiers in the last week."

AMEN to that thought.  And the vigil continues.....  I received a note yesterday of a mass being held for the safe return of the deployed on Sunday May 8 @ 7:00 a.m. St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church 1224 5th Street S.E. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

And there will be more vigils and prayer time offered as Iowans show their support.  I'm convinced of that, so much so that I'm going to say.....TO BE CONTINUED.

YGG,

John

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PRAYERS BEING ANSWERED FOR VIGILS

The text was short and sweet this morning coming from Marvin Bliss, father of Chelsea, fiance of Spc. Don Nichols....."there is a candlelight vigil tonight at Veterans Memorial Hall".  This was some of the best news in recent weeks, so I had to find out more.  Here's what I found out in an article from the Waterloo Courier. 

"WATERLOO-Black Hawk County employees will hold a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Veterans Memorial Hall, West Fifth Street and the Cedar River.  The event is designed as a tribute for U.S. Army National Guard soldiers Don Nichols and Brent Maher. The two were killed in action in Afghanistan recently in separate incidents.  For information about the event, call 319-215-7104."

I'm certain the name of Staff Sgt. James Justice of Grimes will be added to the list.  News came to us Sunday of his death recently in Afghanistan.  Funeral arrangements are pending.

Several days ago, I blogged about the "time for prayer vigils is now".  I'm convinced of that notion even further today.  I've reached out to a number of clergy, military officials and citizens who agree.  The first step will be taken in Waterloo tonight.  I can not thank the employees of Black Hawk County enough for their efforts .  Their action is further proof of the patriotism that exists in Northeast Iowa.   Pictures and words can not begin to describe the outpouring of respect that was shown for Spc. Don Nichols and his family this past Saturday.

Respect and Vigils Go Hand in Hand
Here is an immediate need we have.  One of the comments we received regarding prayer vigils suggested a website where people could go and sign up for a specific hour to pray for our soldiers.  It was a great idea!!  So what we need is a website person who can help us put that together.  It shouldn't be difficult, but I'm not a very technical savvy person.  If you have those skills, pray about it and see where the Lord directs you.  There are a number of other ideas percolating....stay tuned.  If you have ideas of your own, bring them forth....I'm all ears.  PLEASE REMEMBER, this vigil concept is for our soldiers who are in the fight of their life against forces seen and unseen.  Prayer is their lifeline.......

MILBLOGGING HONOR...

This past weekend, "My Father's Voice" was named as a finalist for the top Military Parent Blog by Milbloggie Awards.  As much as it would be an honor to win this award, I feel a need to push ahead with helping set up a prayer vigil network.  I do have a favor though.  A good friend of mine, Nancy Davin, of "My Yellow Ribbon" is also a finalist.  I'd would like you to consider voting for her.  As a fellow Iowan and parent of a deployed soldier, Nancy has worked tirelessly in her blogging efforts.  I've supplied the link to the voting process.

         http://milblogconference.milblogging.com/2011-milbloggies/vote-now/



Here are some words of encouragement I'd like to leave you with today......

Climb Till Your Dream Comes True
Often your tasks will be many,
and more than you think you can do.
Often the road will be rugged,
and the hills insurmountable, too.
But always remember the hills ahead
are never as steep as they seem,
And with faith in your heart, start upward
and climb till you reach your dream.
For nothing in life that is worthy
is ever too hard to achieve.
If you have the courage to try it
and you have the faith to believe.
For faith is a force that is greater
than knowledge or power or skill,
And many defeats turn to triumphs
if you trust in God's wisdom and will.
For faith is a mover of mountains-
there's nothing that God cannot do-
So start out today with faith in your heart
and climb till your dream comes true.

From "A Collection of Encouragement"  by Helen Steiner Rice

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
( Proverbs 3: 5-6 )

YGG,

John

Monday, April 25, 2011

TIME FOR PRAYER VIGIL IS NOW

This is going to be a short post, but I pray one that hits you right between the eyes and into your heart. You see, I'm way past the heart broken stage,,,,my heart is bursting.  Last night we received word of the death of Staff Sgt. James Justice of Grimes.    Justice was killed by enemy small arms fire during combat operations on Saturday, April 23, in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan at approximately 10 a.m., local Afghanistan time.  Wounded in the attack was Spc. Zachary Durham, 21, of Des Moines, Iowa.  Both Soldiers were assigned to Troop A, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry, Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa.

That makes three Iowa National Guard soldiers we have lost in the last ten days.  We've also had countless wounded.  And....I most certainly do not want to forget  Spc. Shawn Muhr of Coon Rapids, Iowa who was the first soldier killed after the Iowa troops deployed to Afghanistan in October.  Spc. Muhr was "active", not a National Guardsman, but he was part of the family, just as well!!

BECAUSE PRAYER CHANGES EVERYTHING

There remains somewhere in the neighborhood of two months left for our guard troops to maintain their mission objective in Afghanistan.  Two months doesn't sound like much, but when you break it down into days....it sure is.  60 days....that's alot. 

What is tugging at my heart today is the need for a prayer vigil.  Why you say?

BECAUSE PRAYER CHANGES EVERYTHING......

I'm not sure how a prayer vigil can be put into action.  I've never done one before, but I know people, you know people who know other people........  We need to do this, not only for our soldiers but the families of Spc. Muhr, Spc. Maher, Spc. Nichols and Staff Sgt. Justice. God is at work today searching for "hearts that want to work for him".  If you've wondered before how you can serve the kingdom, here is an opportunity.  I can be reached at john.kelling@mchsi.com or you can call me at 515-238-5165

YGG,

John

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A FAMILY JOURNAL: FATHER TO SON: TRIBUTE TO SPC. MAHER AND NICHOLS

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.

Dear Sonpo:

Right away, I want to make sure to wish you Happy Easter!  I pray you and your fellow soldiers have some time to reflect on the true meaning of Easter...the fact that Jesus died for our sins so that we may have eternal life.  How fitting that is today.

We've all had a tough couple of weeks.  First, Spc. Brent Maher, of Honey Creek, Iowa, was killed by an IED explosion as he sat in the gun turret of his vehicle.  Then, days later Spc. Don Nichols, of Shell Rock, was killed when his vehicle hit an IED.  I know Spc. Nichols passing had to hit real close to home with you.  As members of the 133rd,  you had some contact with each other.  Probably knew each other facially but not much more than that.  Still, he was a soldier "buddy" of yours at Mehtar Lam.  As a father, I am struggling with hopes of your safe return and those of the thousands of other Iowa National Guardsmen that deployed in October of 2010.   Until that day comes, we will remember Spc. Maher and Nichols...and hopefully no more.

Funeral services for Spc.Maher were held Friday in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  There have been varying reports, but most put the crowd size near 1,000.  That had to have been some comfort for his family and friends.  Some. 

Spc. Maher's hearse passes under a huge American flag
What had to have been disturbing  for those same family members and friends was the appearance of the Westboro Baptist Church "team" protesting military funerals.  The WBC is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality and its protest activities, which include picketing funerals and desecrating the American flag.  The church is widely known as a hate group and is headed by Fred Phelps and consists mostly of members of his large family;  in 2007, it had 71 members. The church is headquartered in Topeka, Kansas.  Thanks in part to the Patriot Guard, these extremists were kept at a distance.

That was pretty much the case today (Saturday) in Waverly, Iowa where Spc. Nichols was eulogized.  I found this disturbing piece concerning their intentions of picketing Spc. Nichols funeral.

Waverly-Shell Rock High School Gymnasium in Waverly, IA   April 23, 2011  9:15 AM - 10:00 AM
WBC will picket a respectful distance from the funeral of Army Spc. Donald L. Nichols, who was blown to hell by an IED prepared by God Almighty from eternity past.  His parents, teachers and preachers taught him God is a liar - that he can live his life in rebellion and sin without consequence.  He knows better now.

Hundreds lined the funeral procession route for Spc. Don Nichols

I have NO words to say in response to the WBC statement.  That's how much it disgusts me.  Son, all I can say is, hang on to the truth.  You, and Spc. Maher and Nichols know your purpose.  You can rest in that.  Nothing anyone can say or do.....even some picketers that are "aimlessly" wrong can deter you.  (Update: apparently the WBC picketers were "encouraged" to leave the Waverly area on Saturday morning, which they did.  Thank you Lord.)  

I will say, I had the opportunity to attend Spc. Nichols funeral.  Over 800 people attended  the service which was a true testament to his commitment and service to country.  A good friend of Nichols, Spc. Aaron McNew of Gladbrook-Reibeck summed up so much of the soldier mindset.  "When a soldier dies in the field, we don't stop to mourn his death, we go on and live his life", said McNew.  Amen to that. 

After the ceremony, some 500 Patriot Guard motorcycles led the funeral procession from Waverly-Shell Rock High School to Spc. Nichols final resting place in Greenwood Cemetery in Cedar Falls, Iowa.   The procession route was lined with families, Cub and Boy Scouts troops....young and old, white, black and hispanic waving American flags of all sizes.  It was an awesome sight!! 

This Easter, I leave you and all of your fellow soldiers with a verse of hope and reassurance: 
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am --John 14 1-3

52  Days or 8 weeks to go......Praying for your Safety Son.  Praying for you Daily.

Love,

Dadpo


                                                      -30-

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

FAMOUS "RESTREPO" VIDEOGRAPHER KILLED

I can only wonder how Sebastian Junger is holding up today.  It had to have been shocking to have gotten the news he did.  His famous partner on a couple of media projects, the documentary "Restrepo"  and book, "War", Tim Hetherington had been killed.  Hetherington, 41, was killed in a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya doing what he did best, report on Wars.  Three other photographers,  including Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for the Getty agency,  were seriously injured while covering the front line battles between Mommar Qaddafi's soldiers and rebel forces. (Note: Hondros died later in the day from his injuries.)

A Hetherington "Masterpiece" of a bunker scene in Restrepo

Hetherington was the visual side of the great partnership with Junger.  In 2009,  he and  Junger made "Restrepo".  The two worked together in Afghanistan on the assignment for Vanity Fair.  They spent a year with one platoon in the Korengal Valley, which is billed as the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.  They recorded video to document their experience, and this footage went on to form the basis for "Restrepo".  The title refers to the outpost where they were embedded, which was named after a combat medic, Pfc. Juan Restrepo, killed in action.  The film won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize for a domestic documentary.  It was also nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

If you ask any soldier in Afghanistan today..."have you seen Restrepo?" the numbers might be close to 100%.  This documentary had significant impact on our troops.  Not to mention the percentage of family members of deployed soldiers.  It told a story unlike any before.  That's why his death today is one of great significance.

The Hetherington-Junger collaboration on  the book "War" was simply amazing.  Junger expanded upon the experiences they encountered while in the "valley" and Hetherington provided visuals.  Time Magazine named "War",  a "Top Ten Non-fiction book of 2010".    

Vanity Fair's website had this to offer of their colleague.  "Hetherington was widely respected by his peers for his bravery and camaraderie. His imaginative, even artistic, approach to photojournalistic subjects led to many honors, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts as well as grant from the Hasselbald Foundation.   As recently as yesterday, Hetherington tweeted about “indiscriminate shelling” by pro-Qaddafi forces in Misrata, and he sent an email to a Vanity Fair editor, “Am currently in misrata - would have made interesting article with SJ” (meaning Junger).


The 2007 World Press Photo of the Year
Hetherington was born in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  He studied literature and photojournalism at Oxford. He was residing in New York City at the time of his death.  I can think of one other famous media duo, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  They became famous for their uncovering of the Watergate break-in of 1972.  Hetherington and Junger won't be far behind if discussion comes up regarding  famous "media teams".  Sadly, they were only getting started.

YGG,

John    

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A SOLDIERS ONLY WISH

A NORMAL PERSON HAS 1,000 WISHES.  A SOLDIER ONLY HAS ONE, TO COME HOME SAFE. 

This phrase came from Sgt. Teri Waggoner of Ankeny, Iowa who is stationed in Afghanistan via a Facebook post Friday morning.  Considering what the "families" of the Iowa National Guard have been going through this past week, those words couldn't have been more appropriate.  

Last July, over 2,800 Iowans and several hundred Nebraskans were deployed to Afghanistan, the largest in Iowa National Guard history since World War II.  The safety of these soldiers has been a thought all have embraced since the day they departed.  It doesn't matter if it's been hopes, dreams, wishes or prayers we've all  been desiring the same thing Sgt. Waggoner mentions, a safe return home for every soldier.  Now, we know that's not possible.

Just last week,  Col. Benjamin Corell suggested, “When you’re in a place like this doing the kinds of things required to be successful,  for my soldiers every day is game day.  One of my biggest concerns is that we become complacent.   By the Grace of God there haven't been any fatalities".   Corell is commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bulls Infantry Division. 


Spc. Brent Maher 

Word came Monday that Spc. Brent Maher, 31, of Honey Creek, Iowa had died.   Maher was killed when his armored truck struck an IED as he stood in a gun turret.  Three other soldiers in the truck were injured. They were identified as Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Jedlicka, 31, of Council Bluffs; Spc. Justin Christiansen, 24, of Nebraska City, Neb.; and Spc. Dustin Morrison, 20, of New Market.  Then Thursday, confirmation came to us that Spc. Don Nichols, 21, of Shell Rock, Iowa had suffered a similar fate from an IED blast. 
Another soldier, Spc. Timothy R. Gourd, 24, of Prescott, Iowa, who was riding with Nichols was injured in the attack.

“When something like this happens, it’s a reminder for other families that it could be any one of us ... getting that call,” said Darci Ritter, Family Readiness Coordinator for the Waterloo-headquartered 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry.  “This is a hard time", Ritter said. “It seems like the walls are tumbling down.”  But there is HOPE.

In Eastern Iowa, a community banded together to help the families of the two fallen soldiers. Folks who've never met either soldier are stepping in to help.  From a KGAN-TV report came this information.  "Volunteers covered a table inside Regina High School in Iowa City with baked goods Friday night. Imagine if every muffin, every cookie on that table were a toothbrush, or a sock. That's basically what the group Iowa Troop Pantry does. Volunteers raise money for basic supplies to send to troops overseas.  But Friday night's fundraiser was even more important because all the money went to the families of two fallen heroes: Specialists Maher and Nichols.

Spc. Don Nichols

"Those guys are our family, our family's hurting," says Mike Tyson, one of the directors of Iowa Troop Pantry.  Two Iowa soldiers killed in one week.  Both leave behind families, children, wives, struggling to cope and a community unsure of how to help".  One community did, though.  Now we need others to follow their lead.

Encouragement is also coming within the ranks of other deployed families.  I'd like to share with you a couple of comments listed on the MFV blog concerning Spc. Nichols.

The first is from Tonya Rosol...."My son, Lt.  Justin Foote was on foot near the vehicle when the IED was detonated.  He is the platoon leader for this scouts/sniper platoon.  We are grieving the loss of Donny and praying for the gunners recovery.  My son escorted Donny's body back to Bagram along with the injured gunner where he will wait for Donny's brother who is in another part of Afghanistan to arrive to take Donny home to his family.  God Speed to the brave men and women.  Life is so fleeting".

And from Mark Johnson...."My son, Spc. Jacob Johnson was 2 trucks behind  Don's.   Jake went through Basic & AIT at Ft. Benning with Don, drills, NTC and the same squad in Afghanistan.  We talked to Jake shortly after the incident and he said he carried Donny to the chopper.   My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family and Chelsey.  I cannot imagine what they are going through and how their lives have changed forever.  God bless them and God rest Donny at peace in Heaven".

And lastly from the parents of Spc. Nichols fiance, Marvin and DeAnn Bliss......."As Chelsey's parents we'd like to extend our thanks to all the 133rd families and friends that have reached out to Chelsey.   She is a strong woman with a strong family and friend base.  We will make it!  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family members of the 133rd and their soldiers on their SAFE RETURN HOME".

I want to thank Tonya, Mark, Marvin and DeAnn.  It had to have been difficult sharing thoughts so soon after this tragic time.  It will be people like these four that help get us through this.  They are part of the "family".  Perhaps now, it's more even understandable.  Family is the most important thing in the world and there is NO PLACE LIKE HOME. 

YGG,

John

Thursday, April 14, 2011

WE'VE LOST ANOTHER...

It couldn't have come at a worse time.  As many in the state of Iowa are still trying to come to grips with the death of Spc. Brent Maher, today, we hear the first details surrounding another soldier's death.

National Guard officials have scheduled a 7 p.m. news conference today at Camp Dodge in Johnston. They haven’t said what the subject is, but there has been confirmation through a relative that it will concern the death of Don Nichols, a 2009 graduate of Waverly-Shell Rock High School.   Nichols was a member of  the Iowa Guard’s 1-133rd Infantry Battalion.  Nichol's mother, Becky Poock, was notified of her son's death Wednesday night. 

Reflective Time Provides Strength
Last week we spoke of the countdown to homecoming for the 2,800 Iowa troops that deployed to Afghanistan in late July, 2010.  Those were to be special times.  Now, we need to be specially guarded in our thinking.  Iowa Guard officials had warned of increased insurgent action this spring.  Looking back, perhaps we all "distanced" ourselves from the danger our soldiers face each day, into a false sense of security.

I teared up seeing the story mentioning Nichols death.  I can't help but think selfishly of my son today.  I'm tremendously proud of him for his sacrifice and commitment to duty.  This has been a hard week for anyone connected to military life.  First the thought of withholding pay to our soldiers and then two deaths.  Our anxieties are going to continue, I fear.  With the end of deployment in sight,  forces seen and unseen will be rearing their ugly heads.  Now, we need to pray.....

We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.-II Corinthians 4: 8-9

YGG,

John

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

PRAYERS FOR SPC. BRENT MAHER

When I first saw the news last night my heart jumped...then it felt heavy and sad.  Spc. Brent Maher, 31,  of Honey Creek, Iowa became the first Iowa National Guardsmen killed in action since the group deployment some eight months ago.

Just this past week I reported on the fortunate "Grace" our Iowa Guardsmen had received in their days in Afghanistan.  While this puts a spin on that assertion, I still feel we have been blessed to have suffered so few casualties.  For the Maher family, I'm not sure they'd come to the same conclusion.....today.  That's why it is so important for us.....all of us to think, pray and act as a support system for them in the days, weeks and months ahead.

I was uplifted to read a statement from the Maher family this morning.  Despite the suffering they are  undergoing, they see the big picture.  "Brent died doing what he loved, serving his country and protecting the freedom that we enjoy and providing the people of Afghanistan with the opportunity for freedom," the statement said.
Spc. Brent Maher
Maher was killed when his armored truck struck an IED as he stood in a gun turret.  It takes an amazing amount of personal courage to get up and do that gunner's job every day," Col. Gregory Hapgood said at a Tuesday night press conference.  Hapgood said the bomb blew up under the armored truck in which Maher was riding during a patrol near the city of Gardez in eastern Afghanistan.

Three other soldiers in the truck were injured. They were identified as Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Jedlicka, 31, of Council Bluffs; Spc. Justin Christiansen, 24, of Nebraska City, Neb.; and Spc. Dustin Morrison, 20, of New Market.  Their conditions are not known at this time, but Hapgood said they would be transferred to a hospital in Germany.  The four guardsmen were stationed at Combat Outpost Dand Patan, a location next to the border of Pakistan.  They  were members of B Company of the 1st Battalion of the 168th Infantry Regiment based in Shenandoah.

Maher is survived by his wife, Brenna M. Maher, of Honey Creek; daughters Kaitelyn, Elizabeth and Hannah Rose, and a son, Matthew Douglas, 8, all of Niles, Mich.; his mother, Cheryl L. Tyner and step-father Mick Tyner, both of Essex, Ia.; a brother, Greg Maher, of Biloxi, Miss.; and grandparents Roy and Wilma McGraw, of Essex, Ia.  He was preceded in death by his father, Matthew Maher.  Funeral arrangements are pending for the Maher funeral. 

Back on the battle front, I'm sure there is a different set of emotions being experienced by Iowa National Guard troops than one week ago.  Our servicemen and women will remain steadfast in the duty they've accepted.  Missions will continue.....ambushes will also be a part of the day......and of course IED's will remain in their hidden traps.  My prayer would be for safety in these next months.  The loss of one life is one too many to have to endure......

YGG,

John

Monday, April 11, 2011

COUNTDOWN TO HOMECOMING

We're on a countdown on alot of things in the world right now.  Let's see, there are the Stanley Cup Finals, the upcoming NFL Draft, the Royal Wedding and of course, May 21.....Judgment Day, which will dissolve into the End of the World on October 21st.  We'll see about the last mention.  If I'm not mistaken, there is only one individual that knows if that's really going to happen.  I'll just leave it at that.  The countdown I'm most interested in, is for the Iowa National Guard troops returning home from Afghanistan this coming summer.

It's been a long eight months of deployment thus far.  For the soldiers, it's been a day by day exercise in peace keeping.  And in recent weeks, another objective has popped up.  Clear the Galuch Valley from north to south and establish a coalition footprint in the area which is a known insurgent stronghold and training area. Additionally, the plan was to eliminate insurgent forces, weapons and bomb-making materials in the Valley.  For families, the days are full of uncertainty.  What is most certain, is that soldiers are closer to the action than ever....and in harm's way. 


By The Grace Of God....The Homecoming
 “When you’re in a place like this doing the kinds of things required to be successful, for my soldiers every day is game day.  One of my biggest concerns is that we become complacent,” Col. Benjamin Corell said.    Corell is commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bulls Infantry Division. 

Corell offered some further insights.  Charlie Co. is stationed at the Kalagush forward operating base in Nuristan Province and is part of 2nd Brigade Combat Team.  Spc. Timothy Bagley of Brandon and Sgt. Eric Lindsey of Eldora, members of Co. C based in Iowa Falls, were injured when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, according to military officials.  Their injuries were described as not life-threatening and both are expected to recover.

Corell said as the weather breaks in Afghanistan, snow melts and mountain passes open.  “Insurgents have more freedom of movement when this happens so it’s not uncommon to see an uptick in attacks. This is something we fully expected would happen as we moved into spring,” Corell said.

According to Corell, soldiers conduct more than 150 patrols a week. Since the bulk of the brigade arrived in late October, troops found more than 40 pieces of unexploded ordnance, responded to 20 indirect fire attacks on posts and were involved in more than 50 small-arms battles.  The number of seriously wounded soldiers has been low, Corell said, “and by the grace of God” there haven’t been any fatalities.
   
Some members of the Iowa Guard could be returning home sooner than mentioned.  This coming Friday, I'm beginning a countdown of 60 days.  Don't ask me why, I just have a feeling.  I'm hopeful that by July 4th, our son will be home and on the couch.  Back with us, family and friends.  And what a relief that will be..... by the grace of God.   

YGG,

John

Friday, April 8, 2011

SOLDIERS TAKE ON A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Time is running out.  It appears that OUR government is headed for a shutdown.  If we don't have an agreement in hand by midnight tonight (Friday) then we're headed for some heated response.  What will that mean for our military personnel?

While the Pentagon will continue to prosecute the war in Afghanistan in the event of a government shutdown, US troops will work without pay, according to a new guidance issued late Thursday by the Department of Defense.  “All military personnel will continue in a normal duty status regardless of their affiliation with excepted or non-excepted activities,” reads the memo. Yet, it adds, “military personnel will serve without pay until such time as Congress makes appropriated funds available to compensate them for this period of service.”

Already our servicemen and women have seen "hits" to their paychecks.  And this is frankly disgusting.  Here are some responses I've come across that you need to hear.  But more importantly, our lawmakers need to listen. 


Dear Whoever,
So I guess the whole military not getting paid has already started.  My next paycheck is $666 less than usual!  I see how it is, oh yeah,  let's not pay soldiers who are fighting overseas for our country but let's pay the fat congressmen who get to sit on their asses all day and make money for doing nothing.  That sounds like a fair compromise... NOT!  What's this world coming to???

Dear Anyone in Washington,
Considering that I am deployed to Afghanistan I should be worried about dodging bullets and roadside bombs. However, due to Congress and their inability to legislate the budget, I now also have to worry about my pay getting cut in half and at the end of the month not getting paid at all. My family needs you to fix this now...

Mr. President and Members of Congress,
I have just reviewed my paycheck for the 15th and I have only received pay until the 7th. It is pathetic that you find it acceptable to not pay our deployed Soldiers on time. Shame on all of you for making our combat pay part of your disgusting partisan politics. Even though we are not getting paid, All Soldiers and I will continue to do our jobs. Please start doing yours.


Do You Need To Be Reminded?

This budget could have been done a year ago when the Democrats had numbers in the House and Senate.  But of course, it was an election year.  Now, we have one party blaming the other for failure to get this agreement in hand.  Sadly, our Soldiers are front and center in taking a big hit in this mess.  Where is this headed?  I'm not a fortune teller, but I don't think our lawmakers want to "play" with the lives of our military personnel and families.  That would be a bad place to start a WAR.

YGG,

John

Thursday, April 7, 2011

THE STORY OF THE ORPHAN GOVERNOR

Our soldiers come from diverse backgrounds.  Some have strong support systems and others rely upon the military as their "family".   Today, I'm moved to share with you and all of our military personnel a story that might help through some tough times.  I think of the day after day, week after week duties you perform....and how loneliness can be such a difficult feeling to deal with.  Hope might seem to be a word that escapes your vocabulary, but just when you think there is none, up pops a story that proves otherwise.  Here's what I mean......   

A seminary professor was vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg, TN.  One morning, they were eating breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet, family meal.  While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a  distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests.

The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, 'I hope he doesn't come over here.' But sure enough, the man did come over to their table.  'Where are you folks from?' he asked in a friendly voice.  'Oklahoma', they answered.  'Great to have you here in Tennessee ,' the stranger said. 'What do you do for a living?'  'I teach at a seminary,' he replied.

'Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you?  Well, I've got a really great story for you.'  And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with the couple.  The professor groaned and thought to himself, 'Great! Just what I need--another preacher story!'

The man started, 'See that mountain over there? (pointing out the restaurant window). Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a boy born to an unwed mother.  He had a hard time growing up, because every place he went, he was always asked the same question,  'Hey boy, Who's your daddy?'  Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question, 'Who's your daddy?'

He would hide at recess and lunch time from other students.  He would avoid going in to stores because that question hurt him so bad. 'When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church.  He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the question, 'Who's your daddy?'   But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast that he got caught and had to walk out with the crowd.  About the time he got to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, 'Son, who's your daddy?'

The whole church got deathly quiet.  He could feel every eye in the church looking at him.  Now everyone would finally know the answer to the question, 'Who's your daddy?'   'This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could  give, said the following to that scared little boy. 'Wait a minute! I know who you are!  I see the family resemblance now; you are a child of God.'

With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said, 'Boy, you've got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.'
'With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person. He was never the same again. Whenever anybody asked him, 'Who's your Daddy?' he'd just tell them , 'I'm a Child of God..'' 

Surrendering As A Child of God

The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, 'Isn't that a great story?'   The professor responded that it really was a great story!   As the man turned to leave, he said, 'You know, if that new preacher hadn't told me that I was one of God's  children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!' And he walked away.

The seminary professor and his wife were stunned. He called the waitress over and asked her, 'Do you know who that  man was--the one who just left that was sitting at our table?'
 The waitress grinned and said, 'Of course. Everybody here knows him. That's Ben Hooper. He's Governor of Tennessee!'

Ben Hooper was Governor of Tennessee from 1911-15.  He was placed in an orphanage at age seven, but "found" his way with the help of God.  During the Spanish-American War he served in Puerto Rico as Captain of Company C, 6th U.S. Volunteer Infantry. Hooper published his autobiography, "An Unwanted Boy," in 1963.

Just like Ben Hooper, someone in your life today needs a reminder that they're one of God's children!   Be that someone to help someone........

YGG,

John

Monday, April 4, 2011

WILL YOU GIVE THIS TO MY DADDY?

It's amazing the coming and going these days.  If you're in an airport, you'll no doubt see someone in military gear.  Their faces pretty much tell you if they're on the way home or back to the mission field.  But regardless of the route their taking, there are some pretty interesting stories.  Here's one I'd like to share with you from a businessman.....

Last week I was in Atlanta, Georgia attending a conference.  While I was in the airport, returning home,  I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer.  I immediately turned around and witnessed One of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.  Moving thru the terminal was a group of soldiers in their camos.  As they began heading to their gate, everyone (well almost everyone) was abruptly to their feet with their hands waving and cheering. 

When I saw the soldiers, probably 30-40 of them, being applauded and Cheered for, it hit me.  I'm not alone.  I'm not the only red-blooded American who still loves this country and supports our troops and their families. 

Of course,  I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work and home without fear or reprisal.  
Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or our servicemen and women, a young girl, not more than six or seven years old ran up to one of the male soldiers.  He kneeled down and said  "hi...." 

The little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her... 

The young soldier who didn't look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try and what did she want to give to her daddy.  Then suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster and then kissed him on the cheek.  


A Kiss And A Hug Goes A Long Way
The mother of the little girl, who said her daughter's name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Marine and had been in Iraq for eleven months now.  As the mom was explaining how much her daughter Courtney missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up. 

When this temporarily single mom was done explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second....Then one of the other servicemen pulled out a military-looking  walkie-talkie.  They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it.... 

After about 10-15 seconds of this, the young solider walked back to Courtney, bent down and said this to her. "I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you".  He then hugged this little girl that he had just met and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  He finished by saying, "your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon". 

The mom at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet, he saluted Courtney and her mom.  I was standing no more than six feet away from this entire event. 

As the soldiers began to leave, heading towards their gate, people resumed their applause.  As I stood there applauding and looked around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own.   That young soldier, in one last act of selflessness turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek. 

That one little act of kindness will last a lifetime.  Think of the people who were part of it who will forever remember that day, not to mention those that have read about since.  Can we make a difference today?
I think we all can.......


YGG,

John   

  

Friday, April 1, 2011

WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT WAR?-VOLUME 4

The following is a guest editorial on the subject of God and War.  This is the fourth  blog ("Where to Next" was the first, then "What Does God Say About War-Volume 2, and 3)  in regards to this subject.  We currently have invitations extended to a number of other experts on the subject.  The opinions shared are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of "My Father's Voice".


Is Jordan going to be the next scene of bloodshed?  Late last week there were uprisings that certainly would point to that.  Police in Jordan's capital worked to separate pro- and anti-government demonstrators today and avert the violence that erupted there last week.  As many as 1,000 officers have been deployed in Amman, one of the Arab capitals beset with tension in recent weeks.  So far, there has been no violence at the gatherings, expected after the Muslim Friday prayers

Earlier this week, Jordan's King Abdullah II made a call for national unity and reform.  "What matters to us in this stage is that our national unity must not be undermined," the king said Sunday while visiting the southern region of Petra.  "We are proceeding in earnest with the political reform process, and we have nothing to fear."  It makes one wonder what lies ahead.  So, with that in mind, let's continue the discussion of What Does God Say About War.....with help from Pleaseconvinceme.com


Deuteronomy 20:17-18
But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you in order that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God.

#8
There is another exception to the murder law that God also invokes, using war as a tool. If you remember, we talked about the right that an agent of the court has to carry out a legal order of the court. One such order is the death penalty for those who have committed the worst of crimes. When agents of the court kill someone who has been found guilty of one such crime, they are not then charged themselves with murder. This is an exception, and one we have already discussed. As it turns out, God has also invoked this exception when judging what the Bible calls ‘wickedness’. Just as we might condemn a man to the death penalty for something wicked that he has done, God does the same thing. Think about it for a minute. If there is a God, is He not the supreme judge of wickedness?

#9
Some people argue that God is just an invention of the ancient Jews to justify their desire for War, but don’t think for a minute that God only uses War to judge NON-Israelites. God is FAIR, and He is not the invention of the Jews. He often uses War to judge the wickedness of his own people, just as he uses War to judge the wickedness of other nations. When his own people had turned from Him and from doing what was right, He utilized War as an agent of fair and just punishment:
 Why would God punish people (even His own people) in this way? Because without justice, mercy is meaningless. When we don’t punish the assailant in a case, we in turn end up punishing the victim and the victim’s family, who are crying for justice. And this would be yet another sin that WE are now committing. To NOT punish evil is to commit yet another evil:

#10
In the end, justice requires that we judge evil.  And in our lives here on earth, God has given us the institution of GOVERNMENT to do just that; punish those who do what is wrong. The Bible clearly teaches that God utilizes War to protect and defend the innocent and to punish the wicked. The Bible is also clear that God has given the institution of government the right and authority to do the very same thing. It is from this reasoning that we can see that there is a theological basis for governments to go to War, but once again, the criteria is limited and the standard is very high. But before we get to all of that, let’s take a look at the Life of Jesus and see if we can learn something about what God says about War.

#11
So, is this Jesus the pacifist that some would like us to accept? If we, as Christians, as to model our lives after the life of Christ and be imitators of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1), then we will also find ourselves embracing the view of war that Jesus clearly demonstrated in his actions in the New Testament. While it is true that HE never resisted those who would eventually put him on the cross, this effort on the part of Jesus was a unique and specific action designed to accomplish the Salvation that all of us so desperately need. It was not evidence of his pacifism, for if this was true, all the examples I’ve given you from his life and from the scripture would make no sense at all.


A Night for Reflection and Prayer
#11
So, how should Christian's respond?   Disciples of Jesus have asked this question for generations. While the vast majority of Christians DO believe that there are times when it is appropriate to go to War, they have struggled throughout the ages to understand WHEN exactly God would honor such action. And clearly Christians have made their share of mistakes in this regard. Augustine (354 - 430) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) struggled to formulate what is now called the “Just War Theory”. They were simply trying their best to understand when it would be morally right to engage in military action based on the teaching of the Bible. As a result, several principles have evolved through the ages that can help us understand how we, as Christians, are to respond to the idea and reality of war. Let’s take a look at some guidelines that Christians might follow as they think about the notion of War:
 But for those of us who are Christians, we do have a promise of peace in which we can place our trust and hope. God has promised us that a day is coming when peace will come at the hands of God, in spite of our human failings and without any achievements on our part:

Jesus will put an end to all conflicts, all War and all strife as he takes the throne once and for all:

Psalm 46:10
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

A day is coming when we, as humans will NOT have to make the difficult decision for War.  A day is coming when God will be the final judge and Jesus will be the final peacemaker.  Until then, the scripture does tell us, however, that there will be times when deadly force is the only way to stop a greater evil, and it is within the teaching and example of God for us to make that difficult choice for War, should the time ever come.  As Christians we must seek God's will and trust Him, even in the most difficult of times.

Thanks for reading..........YGG,

John