Monday, May 27, 2013


I served our country as a Navy SEAL.  Every Memorial Day I have a persistent, dull, deep ache.  It's the memory of all of the buddies I'll never be able to talk to again.  I couldn't express my feelings with words, so I put on my boots, loaded my pack and I started walking.  With every step, I thought about those buddies I lost.  As I walked, a man stopped me and asked, "Son, who are you carrying?  He understood what I couldn't say.  At that moment, I knew that other people felt like me.....and Carry the Load was born".

Those words came from Clint Bruce, Co-Founder of Carry the Load.  They are impactful and to the point.  And they pack at wallop. So what is Carry the Load and what is its significance to Memorial Day?

The mission with Carry the Load is to bring the meaning to Memorial Day by honoring the sacrifices made by members of the military, law enforcement officers, firefighters and their families while serving our country and communities, especially those who have died or were wounded while carrying the load for their fellow Americans.  "The truth is, there is a disconnect between what Memorial Day means, and how it is observed', said Bruce.

This year the group began with a 2,000 mile relay that began at West Point, New York on May 1st and will conclude with the annual 20-hour walk in Dallas.  The National Relay was broken into 348 legs along its journey to Texas.  Each leg represents an opportunity for some group to honor a selected individual or individuals. The Dallas walk began at 4 p.m. yesterday and concludes today (Monday).  

One leg of the National Relay comes into view for the pass off.....
Twenty thousand people registered for this year's event, more than a million dollars has been raised but it's more than that.  One walker back for his second year is Luke Benson.  If he has a beef with anyone, it's that the true meaning of Memorial Day has been lost on so many people.

"A lot of people have taken away from the tradition, you know, just to sit on lake and drink beer and barbecue", he said.  "I think you have to go back to something like this walk to realize the importance of what the Day is about".

Marine Staff Sgt. Jacob McCormack carries a flag with the names of Marines he deployed with to Iraq in 2005.  Two were killed. On his backpack are pictures of the five Marines killed when he went back in 2006. He and his team were walking at 4 a.m. as I posted this story.....making each step along the way count.  His thoughts on the marathon summed up so, so much to the event.  "It's important to us, and there's nothing like a little bit of pain and suffering to make you remember and never forget what those guys sacrificed for us", said McCormack.   For more information on Carry the Load go to

My best guess is that this event is going to grow in its numbers......and here's hoping those figures are off the chart.......and then there is the Freedom Rock.  Here's what I wrote about in October of last year.

"It's only thirty some miles from where I live.  Hardly a long trek.  That's why it's hard to comprehend any  reasons its taken me so long to get there.  But last weekend I finally did.

It weighs some 56 tons and is roughly 12 feet tall.  It's about a mile and a half off of Interstate 80 at exit 86 (about 35 miles from Des Moines) among the cornfields of Iowa.  And it's one huge, huge focal point for what our troops preserve for us each and every day.  Freedom.  And appropriately it's called by that same name, Freedom Rock.

For years, the rock served as a graffiti piece.  Something vandals used to pen their mindless dribble and sayings.  That was until 1999 when a nineteen year-old from nearby Greenfield by the name of Ray "Bubba" Sorensen came to the rescue".

"It was around Memorial Day when I was driving past the rock when I wondered what it would be like if I actually took the time to go out there and paint it.  And so I painted it with the flag raising from Iwo Jima.  I got a huge response from it that I kept painting it. And I've been painting it with tributes to Veterans on Memorial Day".

Thirteen years later, Sorensen's still at it.  He usually begins his process each year by putting scenes on a blank canvas.  And then the process begins.  Each side of the rock save one has a coat of white paint and awaits a new theme".

And then I found out about this nugget, one, I hadn't seen anywhere. This Spring, Sorensen began the Freedom Rock Tour with a goal to paint a rock in every county in Iowa....99 in all, creating a unique statewide veterans memorial for the state.  How cool is that??

A Sorensen Masterpiece....Again


Thursday, May 9, 2013


You've no doubt felt frustrated and angry about something in your life and said, "if only I could eliminate this from my life, things would be just fine".  And if you haven't said it, you've no doubt thought it.....or if you can't admit to that, my guess is.........that feeling has existed deep down inside the innards of your soul. Somewhere.  That's the kind of being we are.  Prone to wanting everything to be hunky dory.  But as most of us have experienced, that's just not possible. Have you ever wondered why?

Recently I read a piece which hit home on the subject courtesy of  Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling".  Here are her words:  "Do not long for the absence of problems in your life.  That is an unrealistic goal, since in this world you will have trouble.  You have an eternity of problem-free living reserved for you in heaven.  Rejoice in that inheritance, which no one can take away from you, but do not seek your heaven on earth.  Begin each day anticipating problems, asking Me to equip you for whatever difficulties you will encounter".  Wow....if that's not spot on!!!
We're wired one way.....or so we think
Problems aren't causing you trouble; you are using problems to cause yourself trouble.  A problem for you may not be a problem for your best friend.  And a problem you had a year ago may not be a problem any longer, even if it is still present.  Here is an example from a young person trying to make sorts of life.  "In 2004, I was 18.  I was comfortable.  I had money, but I didn't have peace.  Happiness was out of sight.  I thought money would provide happiness, but it didn't.  As time went on, I became frustrated with the endless search for happiness.  People all around me were looking, but weren't happy.  I became frustrated, then impatient, and then curious.  Why were some people happy, while others wallowed in their own misery.  Some were happy with little, while others were miserable with a lot.  It tickled my brain".      

Where our young lad found a "tickle"....many others would perhaps describe it as a "weight on the brain".  Because that's what the days have become to them.....a constant search in ridding themselves of life's hiccups.

I found myself drifting to the Bible for a thought...."who would I think faced one of the biggest problems in their life?"  Let's see.  There was Noah, Joseph, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist and Peter, just to name a  few.  And of course, Jesus.  He would be the problem sufferer leader hands down.   But then I thought of Daniel.  And clearly, he made real sense to me.

Many of us know the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den.  Daniel, in Daniel 6, is a highly esteemed government official whose colleagues become jealous of.  Seeking to get rid of him and knowing that he is a religious man, his colleagues convince the king to enact a decree saying that prayer can be made to no God except for the King.  Once the decree is made, Daniel continues on praying and giving thanks to his Lord just like he always did.  When he is caught, his colleagues tell their king and he is forced to throw Daniel into the den of lions.  The next morning, the king finds Daniel alive.  The lions had not harmed him.  The point?  Daniels faith in his God is what made him great in the first place.  Knowing he would not recant regardless of what happened to him....despite the problems he's facing.

Is there a simple solution?  Some would say yes and some would argue that it's a life-long battle....however,
"The best equipping is My Living Presence, My hand that never lets go of yours", concludes Sarah Young.  "Discuss everything with Me.  Take a lighthearted view of trouble, seeing it as a challenge that you and I together can handle.  Remember that I am on your side an I have overcome the world".  



"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  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


"When opportunities don't present themselves, you have to look for other doors to walk through", said a confident and smiling Anthony Robles Monday night.  My gosh, if that didn't resonate with me.  And it sure made me inquisitive of what else he might be passing along our way.

The night, was the 2013 Fellowship of Christian Athletes Banquet for Central Iowa.  It's a night I've attended many times, but none with the effect I was left with on this particular evening.  If you don't know of Anthony Robles, you're probably not alone.  He's not what you'd call a household name.  At least not yet.  He's a former NCAA wrestler who in his final season won the 125-pound weight class while wrestling for the Arizona State Sun Devils.  That fact alone is not so unusual, but given that he only had one leg is.  In truth, that's his story....the past, present and future of what he encounters each and every day.

If ever a mother (Judy Robles) could have said, "I told you so"
Robles was born with one leg, just his left.  And his mother was young, just sixteen.  So given those odds, wouldn't it be easy to see failure written across much of these two lives?  That was not the case.  His mother, Judy, always reasoned things out by saying, "God made you this way for a reason", over and over and over again, until he believed it.  For sure, it was her unwavering push that enabled him to be where he is today.  Was it a cakewalk to fame?  Far from it, as Robles would say......

He's never met his real father.  In fact, he didn't know much about him at all until he needed to add that portion of his life to the book he's written, "Unstoppable-from Underdog to Undefeated".  His step-father,who had served as a father figure since he was four, left the family.....walked away from Anthony's mother and three other siblings because he could no longer handle the financial pressures.  Strange considering his step-father was a pastor at a local church in Mesa, Arizona.  Nonetheless, the remainder of Robles family leaned on their faith.  Somehow, Judy reasoned...."you stay in school and we'll be alright".

It was around this time, the sophomore year of Anthony's career, that there were also changes in his mind-set.  He became more focused......his prayer life became deeper and he depended on his God for strength......and he also kept thinking about his mother's message...."God made you this way for a reason".   Weeks later, Robles placed fourth in the NCAA Wrestling Tournament.  The next season, he enjoyed a 32-4 campaign, but finished seventh at the NCAA's.  There was but one year left.

In the 2010-11 season Robles enjoyed his achievements, going undefeated through the regular season and right up to the final match against Iowa's Matt McDonough, the defending champion at 125 pounds.  Scared....but determined.....and relieved to see his family in the arena....Robles wrestled "the match of his life", winning 7-1.  He had, in many respects, gotten his glory.  Hours later when the meet was wrapping up, he grabbed further accolades by being named "Outstanding Wrestler".   Later would come other forms of recognition through the NFL Hispanic Leadership Award and the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.

Today, Robles is working on a movie deal, serves as an analyst on ESPN wrestling coverage on the motivational speakers circuit.

To me, what a crowd of some 400 saw Monday night had much to do with humbleness.  Truth is, it could have been an evening where disabilities took center stage.  But they didn't.....and after the initial walk to the podium, the two crutches that were positioned under Robles' armpits seemed as natural as a stool.  That's how much he held the interest of the crowd.

Yes, Judy Robles, God did make your little Anthony for a reason.  Just like he has for each and every one of us.  It's our path......much like the one Anthony painted of his Monday night, that we need to find.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance"-James 1:2



****The evening ended with a poem Anthony read after receiving the Jimmy V Perseverance Honor which he shared so goes like this:

Every soul who comes to earth with a
leg or two at birth must wrestle his
opponents knowing its not what is, but
what can be,  that measures worth.  Make it
hard, just make it possible and through pain,
I won't complain.  My Spirit is unconquerable.
Fearless I will face each foe for I know I am capable.
I don't care what's probable, through blood, sweat
and tears, I am unstoppable"---Anthony Robles.