Monday, May 25, 2015


The words are a little over two years old now.  But for many, they are as fresh and as repulsive as the days they were spoken. They came during the U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing on May 8, 2013 spoken by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?", offered Clinton when pressed by Republican Senator Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) to explain how it was that over the course of weeks, the Obama Administration stood by an absurd story claiming that four Americans were murdered in Libya due to spontaneous protest gone bad.

The names should be of importance to us all.  They include: U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens  and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith.  Stevens was the first U.S. Ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.  Several hours later, a second assault targeted a different compound about one mile away, killing two CIA contractors,  Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty.

As we are in the midst of the Memorial Day Weekend, the Clinton message should be one memory that is hard to release.  And why would that be?  Because for all practical purposes, this holiday, this celebration, is about people who have made/make a difference.  Each and every day of their lives.  The other reason, Clinton has a desire to be Commander-in-Chief of those that serve. 

You can be the Difference, that's the point
To gain a better understanding, here is the truth concerning our soldiers, those difference makers, the ones Clinton was so quick to dismiss as collateral damage. 

"First, a Soldier is a Soldier for life.

It takes a profound strength to wear this nation’s uniform. Though one day they remove this uniform, no amount of time, nor strife can sever the golden thread uniting these veterans in a unique and everlasting bond.

Once a Soldier, a Soldier for Life.

This uniform has changed many times in the last 237 years. What hasn’t changed has been the determination and spiritual strength of the men and women willing to serve this nation.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, almost three million American men and women have answered our nation's call to arms – to serve their nation and do their job. Now, after 11 years of war, more that 1.3 million service men and women who deployed overseas have returned to our communities. But still, more than 720,000 veterans of all generations remain unemployed.

Those figures don't show much reward for our difference makers.   Ah, but at this point, what difference does it make, right Hillary?

A Difference Maker at work and in a little one's life
So when did the idea of honoring or servicemen and women begin? The holiday got started on May 30, 1868, when Union General John A. Logan declared the day an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. Twenty years later, the name was changed to Memorial Day. On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. President Richard M. Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1971. Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of May.

Bill Cowan, a retired Marine, Fox News military analyst and founding member of the Intelligence Support Activity might have said it best when asked what Memorial Day meant to him:

"Like all veterans, my memories are filled this Memorial Day with endless instances of pride at being able to serve this great country of ours – pride at being an American and even more pride at having been able to wear the uniform.
Of my many memories, over 60 years’ worth, none is more striking than that of a dusty afternoon in 2008 in a bombed out building in Sadr City, Baghdad.  It wasn’t about my own service.  It was about someone else’s.

I was accompanying my friend Aaron Tippin, a country music legend, as he visited and entertained troops during the Thanksgiving season.  It was an annual event for him during the war and I was often fortunate enough to accompany him.  On this particular afternoon, at one of many stops, we were at a Forward Operating Base with a battalion of the storied 82nd Airborne Division.

The scene was literally out of a Hollywood movie – a bombed out building in the midst of a crowded commercial neighborhood.  The inside of the building was dark and dusty, with shards of light darting through the holes in the outer walls.  In the quietness of the rotunda, some troops were coming in from patrols while others were preparing to go out.  Others still gathered around a small stage which had been set up for Aaron to perform, eager to listen to songs which many of them were quite familiar with.

We were an anomaly in the midst of a chaotic, dangerous war.  The building, reminiscent to me of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, was home to the battalion while they worked and fought in one of the toughest areas of Iraq at the time – Sadr City: home to the Shiite militias.

We learned shortly after arriving that only a few days previously one of the battalion’s squads had been ambushed on a nearby street.  Three soldiers were killed in the initial fight and others were gravely wounded. The engagement had raged briefly while a reaction team was sent to provide support.  Even the local lraqi police unit, with whom the battalion had been working and training, rushed to help.  Over in just minutes, the battle had taken its toll on the battalion.  Here at Thanksgiving, they were still bearing the grief of loss.

As Aaron finished singing, the battalion commander asked if we could stay long enough to see one of his soldiers re-enlist in the Army.  The Command Sergeant Major brought the young man forward and introduced him.  He was a kid-faced Specialist, and in the hazy light I could see that he was dark skinned, possibly a Native American.

To my amazement, he was a member of the squad that had been in the costly battle just days earlier.  He had seen war at its very worst, lost fellow brothers in combat, his Army time was up and he could go home in time for Christmas, and here he was asking to stay in and extend his commitment to the Army – and to America.

We stood there quietly, watching the young man swear the oath of office and commit to four more years in the Army, surrounded as he was by his friends and comrades.  At that moment, forever seared in my memory, I realized I was witnessing America at its absolute best – selfless dedication and undaunted courage in the name of America.

All of us who have served have pride at having had the opportunity to do so.  And I was proud to be there and witness a moment which reminded me in such glaring terms of the greatness of our country and the men and women who serve.  I am indeed proud to be an American".

As we are in the midst of the Memorial Day Weekend, this should be one memory that is hard to release.  And why would that be?  Because for all practical purposes, this holiday, this celebration, is about people who have made/make a difference.  Each and every day of their lives. 

At this point.....this is the difference that can be made.  People.  One's committed to something more than their pocketbook or ego.  Make a memory this Memorial Day weekend and thank someone for their service.  See if that doesn't make a difference.....for you and for them.  And while you're at it, say a prayer for Hillary.  Perhaps she'll get the point.



Meantime watch over others, as well as yourselves, and give them such help as their various needs require.  For instance, Some, that are wavering in judgment, staggered by others' or by their own evil reasoning, endeavour more deeply to convince of the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Some snatch, with a swift and strong hand, out of the fire of sin and temptation.  On others show compassion in a milder and gentler way; though still with a jealous fear, lest yourselves be infected with the disease you endeavour to cure.  See, therefore, that while you love the sinners, ye retain the utmost abhorrence of their sins, and of any the least degree of, or approach to, them.-Jude 1:22


Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I heard someone say the other day, that a young friend of theirs had passed away.....way before their time.  Which caused me to pause and ponder.  Just why would a person say that?   Was it that they felt the person had so much more to offer and it seemed such a tragedy to have lost that opportunity?  And of course, it beckons the who's time frame did they leave?  Ours or Gods?

Time....before yours, just in the nick of or running out of

Stop and think of some of the people you believe left this earth with a lot left to accomplish.  I'll offer a couple of names and you do the same.  Let's see, how about Jim Morrison, 27-year old leader singer of the Doors, who died of an alleged heroin overdose.  Or Walter Payton. the iconic running back of the Chicago Bears, who at the age of 45, died of a rare liver disease.  Along movie lines, let's mention Philip Seymour Hoffman, the splendid 46-year old who died of a drug overdose.....and of course Robin Williams, who committed suicide at the age of 63.  Even though Williams was older, he seemed far from the of the end of his career.  Somehow there was a disconnect between Williams and the love his audiences had for him.  If....he only knew how much he was loved.

In recent months, Lauren Hill comes to mind.  The 19-year old college basketball player who touched the lives of people in the world of sports and beyond.  Hill was diagnosed with DIPG, a deadly form of brain cancer, after she committed to play college basketball at Mount St. Joseph.  She ended up scoring in her college debut and would go on to score 10 points in four games that she played. Eventually the disease would make her too weak to play, but she was named an honorary captain for the program around the same time that she was admitted to hospice care.

DIPG may have taken Lauren’s health, but it never killed her spirit. She rasied more than $1 million for DIPG research by launching campaigns like Layup 4 Lauren Challenge, which capitalized on the virality of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Here's a list of some other notables who passed away with much accomplished and much more anticipated:

Jimi Hendrix-27
Princess Di-36
John Kennedy-46
Martin Luther King-39
John Lennon-40
Elvis Presley-42
Marilyn Monroe-36
Thurman Munson-32
Lou Gehrig-37
Buddy Holly-22
Richie Valens-17
James Dean-24

That is a pretty impressive list.  Some made their marks and others were on their way....much like,
Skye McCole Bartusiak who died in her sleep at the age of 21, in July 2014.  Her death was ultimately ruled an overdose.  She died due to the combined effects of hydrocodone and difluoroethane with carisoprodol.  The child star was known for her role as Mel Gibson's daughter in "The Patriot".

Skye after her "Patriot" performance

As I was preparing to write about your time and my time, this came my way.   Although something tells me it was in his time---When Robin Ventura took over as Chicago White Sox manager prior to the start of the 2012 season, one of his first official actions had very little to do with baseball.  It also stood out as one of the most important ones of his now four-year tenure.

Ventura journeyed from California to Chicago to take an on-stage part in Goodman Theatre's A Christmas Carol on Dec. 21, 2011, joined by then 9-year-old Emily Beazley, who had recently been diagnosed with Stage 3 non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.  The Chicago native had a wish to someday be a star, but on that particular night, Emily was happy to make a cameo with a character featuring her same name, while Ventura played Mr. Ventura.

"Today, she said she might get founded, those are her words," said her emotional mother, Nadia, of her daughter's acting opportunity in '11 provided by Goodman Theatre and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Emily never had the chance to win an Academy Award, an Emmy or a Tony.  At the age of 12, she sadly lost her battle with cancer on Monday. But she inspired too many to count during her valiant battle against this insidious disease.

A tough little kid.....Emily Beazley

"She was a tough kid going through something unimaginable," said Ventura, speaking prior to Tuesday's contest against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field. "Her attitude, being upbeat the way she was through it all, you learn things.  You get a perspective on what is important."

A special tribute was paid to Emily in the White Sox game notes, with condolences wished to her friends and family.  Emily was at U.S. Cellular Field with her family on Mother's Day, throwing out one of the ceremonial first pitches to Ventura.  She received numerous honors from her Mount Greenwood community prior to her passing, as well as receiving a special phone call from Taylor Swift.

"Her and the family and everything the community did for her was incredible," said Ventura, a parent to four children with his wife, Stephanie. "She jammed a lot in in 12 years, especially the last three to four.  Your heart breaks.  It's incredibly sad."

But as sad as it is we have to reflect on timing.  If we say someone passed before their time....was it really? 
God will work things out in your life if you trust in him. It is possible that you may have to go through certain trials and wait for his answers ... 'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.' Romans 8:28
God has plans for your life. He knows everything about you. He made you. He loves you, as the following selection of verses from Psalm 139 confirms:

  O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.
As we so often hear when someone passes....."cherish this time.  Appreciate what you have".  Know many of us, won't be let in when our time is up or for that fact, if it's right around the corner.  It will be in his time, not ours.....and not one second sooner.

Monday, May 4, 2015


It's an image forever etched in the minds of those who saw it.  And that was 45 years  To say the least, it was shocking.  It went viral before the word viral was cool to say.  One only has to mention the words, Kent State and the mind knows where to go.  Some called it the Kent State Shootings.....others are more direct calling it the Kent State Massacre.  Whatever name you want to say, today marks its remembrance.  

At the feet of Jeffrey Miller, a 14-year old runaway, Mary Ann Vecchio asks WHY
Let's go back to that May 4th, 1970 day for some sort of explanation.

"Kent State occurred in the US city of Kent, Ohio and involved the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard.  The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

Some of the students who were shot had been protesting the Cambodian Campaign, which President Richard Nixon announced during a television address on April 30.  Other students who were shot had been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance.

There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected public opinion—at an already socially contentious time—over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War".

Kent State became a word eliciting a quick response....for and against.  The "young" used it as a rallying cry against the government.  The establishment offered "they got what they had coming to them".  Newspaper headlines were sensationalized.  Much of it wrong. 

The headline was erroneous in so many ways. 
The shootings killed four students and wounded nine.  None were bums as the "Georgia Straight" suggested. Two of the four students killed, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller, had participated in the protest, and the other two, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, had been walking from one class to the next at the time of their deaths.  Schroeder was also a member of the campus ROTC
battalion.  Of those wounded, none was closer than 71 feet (22 m) to the guardsmen.  Of those killed, the nearest (Miller) was 225 feet (69 m) away, and their average distance from the guardsmen was 345 feet (105 m).   All of the students were in good standing at the University. 

Miller's death received much of the attention. The camera of Kent State photojournalism student John Filo captured a fourteen-year-old runaway, Mary Ann Vecchio,  screaming over the body of Miller, who had been shot in the mouth.  The photograph, which won a Pulitzer Prize,  became the most enduring images of Kent State, and one of the most enduring images of the anti-Vietnam War movement. 

Vecchio was visiting the campus to see the protest after befriending  Sandra Scheuer, who was killed and Alan Canfora. who was wounded.  Many wondered why a 14-year old girl would be in such a volatile situation.  Others, like Florida Governor Claude Kirk, called her a "dissident Communist" , others called her a "slut and whore".  Lost among all the dialogue from that day, is her cry of "why".  Can you imagine a 14-year old dealing with that? 

''I've been miserable since Kent State,'' she said years after the shootings.  ''Not for any political reasons, but after all the publicity I've received, I feel the police unnecessarily harassed me.''

Vecchio moved around a lot after the shootings before settling in Las Vegas.  She is currently employed as a respiratory therapist.
One unidentified person that day offered, "suddenly, they (the guardsmen) turned around, got on their knees, as if they were ordered to, they did it all together, aimed. And personally, I was standing there saying, they're not going to shoot, they can't do that. If they are going to shoot, it's going to be blank".

The site of the standoff at Kent State 
Another observer said, "the shots were definitely coming my way, because when a bullet passes your head, it makes a crack.  I hit the ground behind the curve, looking over. I saw a student hit.  He stumbled and fell, to where he was running towards the car.  Another student tried to pull him behind the car, bullets were coming through the windows of the car.

As this student fell behind the car, I saw another student go down, next to the curb, on the far side of the automobile, maybe 25 or 30 yards from where I was lying.  It was maybe 25, 30, 35 seconds of sporadic firing.

The firing stopped. I lay there maybe 10 or 15 seconds.  I got up, I saw four or five students lying around the lot.  By this time, it was like mass hysteria.  Students were crying, they were screaming for ambulances.  I heard some girl screaming, "They didn't have blanks, they didn't have blanks, no, they didn't". 

Nick Saban, the head football coach at Alabama was a freshman at the university in 1970.  He reflected on that tragic day to USA Today......
"I'd never seen anybody shot before," Saban told the newspaper. "Even though I didn't see them shot, I saw them after they were shot. It's a horrible thing. "There's not a May 4 that goes by that I don't think about it -- really think about it.  Forty years (now 45 )seems like a long time.  But it doesn't seem that long to me."
Over the years the courts became involved with a series of decisions, reversals and then a final outcome.  When all was said and done, the plaintiffs received $675,000 each and words from the defendants they regretted what happened. 

Could there be a reason for Kent State in the eyes of the National Guard?  Some of the Guardsmen on Blanket Hill, fearful and anxious from prior events, may have believed in their own minds that their lives were in danger.  A former Ohio National Guardsman who shot and wounded a Kent State University student says the general in charge of the troops did not have control of the situation that day. 

"If that general had had his head out of his - - -, he never would have put us in that situation," Larry Shafer, the former Guardsman. "The Kent State shootings could have been prevented with proper leadership. There was never any real need for the National Guard to be in Kent in May 1970."  Hindsight by university, guard and the public suggests another method could have resolved the confrontation.  The Kent State incident forced the National Guard to re-examine its methods of crowd control. The only equipment the guardsmen had to disperse demonstrators that day were M1 Garand rifles loaded with .30-06 FMJ ammunition, 12 Ga. pump shotguns, bayonets, and  CS gas grenades.

On a personal note, I vividly recall May 4th, 1970 and the days thereafter.  As a student at Mankato State College in Mankato, Minnesota,  I remember the TV footage of the killings.  I can easily look back at the days of protesting on campus and blocking roadways in the Mankato area.  At the time, I wasn't in tune with all that was going on.  I knew I was angry and disillushioned with so much of what was going on in our country.  And I felt like I had to do something.  Much like a number of students did in Kent, Ohio that May day.

Crosby, Stills and Nash released a song shortly after the shootings called "Ohio".  It reflects much of the tone of the time. 

"Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

45 years ago today.  Hardly seems possible.  And I mean that on so many levels.