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Remembering Veteran’s Day

This morning is Veteran’s Day. In Canada it’s Remembrance Day. In my home we are honoring, remembering, respecting, and we are thankful for our Veteran’s, past, present, and future.

I am home with my three youngest children this morning and I want them to know what this means, and why we remember. A few minutes ago, my son came into the office and asked if I had just heard Theodore yelling. I said I had. He asked me if I knew why he was yelling so loud. I did not. He shared with me that the Star Spangled Banner had come on the TV in the family room, and that Theodore, on his own, sang “…of the brave” as loud as he could to end the Anthem.

A minute later Theodore pulled up a rocking chair beside me, and in the presence of his older brother, twin sister and I; he demanded silence as he attempted to sing the National Anthem on his own. It was adorable as he repeated a few lines here and there that were combined with other lines, but he gave it his best shot. He also knew that all should be quiet while he sang the song.

Then I played Madison Rising’s version of the Star Spangled Banner (which we all love). We played it a few times. Jacqueline held a little rhythm and pretended to sing the words, and we all enjoyed it, together.

But, more importantly, we recognize that among the reasons we have a morning like this to enjoy at all, is because the greatest forces of men and women in the history of mankind have defended our freedoms and beliefs. They were the best, they are the best, they will be the best. Most of us truly don’t have a clue as to what these brave men and women have endured, braved, and walked towards even when every fiber of their being would tell them to run the other way. For them, for all of them, I, we, are thankful. I wouldn’t even want to imagine it another way.

Our military, our armed forces, these fellow countrymen and women continue to do what is asked of them, day after day. Right, wrong, agreed, or disagreed, they go. They take each and every day seriously, and assume nothing. They go. They train. They are there. There are here, now. They are the best, and they still walk in harm’s way everyday. This day is not just about a time long ago, it’s about all times. It’s about times we haven’t yet experienced. It’s about times we are fortunate enough to not have experienced. Today is as important now as it would have been at any other time, or at any other time to come. A friend of mine who is very close to our military, recently made a comment to me after attending three military funerals in one day, to the effect of, wishing people understood how much warring is still going on. I don’t know which affected me more, the commentary itself, or the fact that this person (and so many others) deals with this kind of thing more often than a lot of us stop to even think about our men and women serving.

It’s Veteran’s Day. It’s Remembrance Day. Please take this time seriously. Mean what you say. Say what you mean. Either way, always remember. Always respect. Always be thankful. We have so much to be thankful for.

I have included below, a poem that came to me two years ago. I know it’s not the best verse ever, but it’s tied to strong emotions. I really did wake up in the middle of the night with most of the words to this little poem. Obviously, these thoughts are never far from my mind. It’s not the first time I awoke in thought on these matters, nor has it been the last.

REMEMBER
Remember more often, remember with others aloud
Remember more than today, remember they should feel proud
 
Remember to thank them, remember that is for always
Remember to be respectful, remember not just holidays
 
Remember we have no idea, remember they have been there
Remember our freedoms; remember they walked where most don’t dare
 
Remember that there are triggers, remember they relive then
Remember we have a place, remember we can love, we’ve never been
 
Remember heroes, do remember; remember time spent is a prize
Remember we can help them; remember to look into their eyes
 
Remember they didn’t always know why, remember they went on call
Remember some disagreed; remember them, not one, but all
 
Remember how we live today; remember it could have been a different way
Remember our men and women, remember them, embrace them today
 
Remember that memories don’t end; remember we must pass this on
Remember those serving today; remember all, not just those who are gone
 
Remember every day, remember, certainly, on this Veteran’s Day
Remember our place; remember we’re thankful supporters in every way

Flag Day

Originally posted in 2012. Happy Flag Day!

1inawesomewonder

Everywhere I go in these United States I feel a little better when I see our flag on display. She really is a grand ole flag. It’s beautiful. It’s sharp. It’s symmetrical. It carries meaning. It demands respect as countless souls have battled just to see it wave yet another day. Our flag has been the star that thousands have wished upon while in some foreign land. Our flag has been, and still is, the sign of hope, the welcome sight representing opportunity. If only more Americans would live each day recognizing that opportunity. If each of us had gone to battle ‘neath her I dare say our resolve would be unwavering and our respect would only be measured by the sincere gratitude we would have for our way of life.

As I drive around with our two-year old twins, we look for American flags. They spot them before I…

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The Hug

May 20, 2013

Maybe it’s just me, but while I was growing up, I guess I never really gave any thought to the fact that my heroes and I would ever be adults at the same time. Of course, back then, I didn’t exactly think of my role models or my relatives as heroes either. Quite honestly, I didn’t understand myself or my truest values very well either. I guess there are a couple of points I should get to. One, in my eyes, I’m still just a kid compared to my parents, and to my aunts and uncles. Two, many of these people are, or were, my heroes.

I wrote these words while lying in a hall bed at my mother’s double cousin’s house. I was in town for the calling hours and funeral of my Aunt Janette. After driving six hours, enjoying dinner with family, going to the calling hours and visiting with family, I laid down to crash. But before sleep found me, I reached for these words and recorded them, raw and real.

Tonight, I saw pictures that brought me back to another time, visually, and ultimately in my mind I was taken back to a whole different era. Also tonight, one of my, bigger than life, heroes was standing right in front of me. I was waiting in line to visit with him, and his family, during calling hours for my Aunt Janette, his wife of 45 years, who had passed away three days prior. And even though I would put my Uncle Lloyd in the “hugs aren’t absolutely necessary, a handshake will do” category, I had long since decided that I was going to give him a big, warm hug upon my chance to be face to face with him. A big hug, that’s exactly what I was going to do. You might say, okay, big deal. Or maybe you’d even ask why a hug at all. I’ll explain. I wanted to hug my Uncle Lloyd and hold him for a moment, or two, to let him know how much he and Aunt Janette meant and always will mean to me. I wanted to hug him because here stood this man, no longer with his best friend at his side, but still greeting all who approached him in the best way he knew how, as his wife would also have done. I wanted to hug him because I love him. I wanted to hug him because I was hoping the genuine action itself would speak the volumes that my tear-soaked face, and emotionally overwhelmed, cracking, voice was not going to be able to get the words out. I wanted to hug him because he looked like he needed one, and I felt I did too. I wanted to hug him out of pure respect. I wanted to hug him because, while a handshake with a man of his caliber still means an awful lot, a hug would be unforgettable. I wanted to hug him in hopes that in some out-of-this-world way I could give him strength, support, encouragement, energy, stability, and reinforcement during such a difficult time. So, finally, I faced him, just he and I, suddenly alone in this little sliver of space, among the many in that sanctuary, and I gave my Uncle Lloyd a big hug. He said some things to me that I hope I never forget, we cried, and my voice worked just as poorly as I thought it would.

Pictures I saw at the front of the church, along the entrance to the sanctuary, and out in the hall took me down my own memory lane. I saw again, the beauty of my aunt and how it was always present where ever she was. I also saw the fit, strong, fearless, young man who my uncle was as I first remember him. Present too in those pictures, in a person who was so comfortable in his own skin, was the gleam of youthful, good-natured, mischievousness in his eyes. There’s more to the memories and visions that swirl through my mind when I think on those times, those days, those visits, and those interactions with versions of these same people before me tonight, but I will save them for another time. In the church, before the masses that gathered to share memories, condolences, and prayers, the gleam was elsewhere, and the beauty was in a better place. So, I just tucked those memories away and carried on with the evening. I visited. I cried. I hugged family. I heard stories. I sat, seeking the comfort found in numbers, among my aunts, my cousins, my second-double cousins, and the others somehow related but beyond my scope of properly defining their relations with appropriate lineage terminology.

May 22, 2013

Fast-forwarding through several hours, after sleep, after breakfast, after a visit to the farmlands, after the service, and even after the committal, I was standing out behind The People’s Church next to the burial plot as the Pastor finished the proceedings in prayer. I had family all around me, an aunt on my left arm, and aunt on my right arm, and my mother and my uncle directly in front of me. The prayer ended and I lifted my bowed head and opened my watery eyes. I looked around and for a second or two those who had gathered did not move. Silence prevailed and movement was scarce. Then, as if put in motion by something greater than himself, my Uncle Lloyd turned and just started greeting the dozens of family members and friends who had gathered throughout the little cemetery. He went to every single person. I stood among my aunts, cousins, and second-double cousins, and quietly, I waited.

Finally, my Uncle Lloyd approached me. We stood face-to-face on the soft, uneven, grass of the rain-soaked hillside. Again, every one else seemed to disappear and I heard no other sounds. Standing before me was this man who I revered more than he knows. Actually, maybe only my mother would have an idea as to how much he means to me. This day, there was no doubt, and we both welcomed the opportunity to share a manly hug. I said the only words I could say before emotions rendered my voice-box useless, “I love you.” He hugged me and said a few words to me that I will hold to myself. Simple words, simply stated, a few times, and they meant more to me than all the words I could ever write in description of knowing him for my entire life, right through to that moment. We parted and he made his way up the gradual slope toward the church and another gathering that I will also, some day describe. For now, I will just sit and treasure these moments too. Again, I bow my head and say a prayer. A prayer for him, a prayer for me, and a memory made between a couple of hugs. Amen.

Still remembering

After reading several articles, looking at many touching pictures, and watching a couple of heart-wrenching videos yesterday, I am still remembering our armed forces. There are countless stories that touch us all deeply. There are so many stories of bravery, stories of loyalty, stories of resolve, stories of sacrifice, and so on. These stories need to be told, they need to be heard, they need to be shared. The abilities and achievements of our military personnel are so important to our every day life. Think about all the freedoms we are afforded each and every day. We can plan our own lives from day-to-day. We are free to live where we want, to work where and when we want, travel where we want. We can worship how we choose, we can come and go as we please. We decide. We have the freedoms. It’s largely because these amazing men and women have laid it all on the line for millions of people they don’t know. They fight for all of us, they protect, save, and assist, for all of us. They believe in the big picture, the American dream, bigger than all of us, and we all benefit from their selfless actions.

Today I am taking my son to referee a hockey game. Then we come home, and as a family we will head to another hockey game. On the way, we are picking up my oldest son. We can come and go as we please. We make the plans because we can. While I drive the miles today, and go through my day, I am still remembering.

Remember

I woke up in the middle of the night earlier this week with the shell of this poem. Somehow I think it was better at 3am in the dark, but I hope you enjoy. It’s unfiltered emotion.

Remember

Remember more often, remember with others aloud

Remember more than today, remember they should feel proud

Remember to thank them, remember that is for always

Remember to be respectful, remember not just holidays

Remember we have no idea, remember they have been there

Remember our freedoms; remember they walked where most don’t dare

Remember that there are triggers, remember they relive then

Remember we have a place, remember we can love, we’ve never been

Remember heroes  too remember; remember time spent is a prize

Remember we can help them; remember to look into their eyes

Remember they didn’t always know why, remember they went on call

Remember some disagreed; remember them, not one, but all

Remember how we live today; remember it could have been a different way

Remember our men and women, remember them, embrace them today

Remember that memories don’t end; remember we must pass this on

Remember those serving today; remember all, not just those who are gone

Remember every day, remember, certainly, on this Veteran’s Day

Remember our place in this; remember we’re thankful supporters in every way

This next paragraph is some information I came across while reading through The Veterans Day Teachers Resource Guide. I found this was useful information.

“While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, which is observed on November 11, Veterans Day is intended to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living Veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty.” – The Veterans Day Teachers Resource Guide

This next area is also pulled from The Veterans Day Teachers Resource Guide.

America’s Wars

WORLD WAR I

(1917 – 1918)

Total Servicemembers (Worldwide)………………..4,734,991

Battle Deaths…………………………………………………….53,402

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater)……………………63,114

Non-mortal Woundings……………………………………204,002

Living Veterans…………………………………………..0

WORLD WAR II

(1941 – 1945)

Total Servicemembers (Worldwide)………………16,112,566

Battle Deaths…………………………………………………..291,557

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater)…………………..113,842

Non-mortal Woundings…………………………………….670,846

Living Veterans…………………………………………….2,079,000

KOREAN WAR

(1950 – 1953)

Total Servicemembers (Worldwide)………………..5,720,000

Battle Deaths…………………………………………………….33,739

Other Deaths (in Theater)…………………………..2,835

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater)…………………17,672

Non-mortal Woundings…………………………………….103,284

Living Veterans……………………………………………..2,507,000

VIETNAM WAR

(1964 – 1975)

Total Servicemembers (Worldwide)………………..8,744,000

Battle Deaths…………………………………………………….47,434

Other Deaths (in Theater)……………………………………10,786

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater)………………32,000

Non-mortal Woundings…………………………………….153,303

Living Veterans…………………………………………….7,569,000

GULF WAR

(1990 – 1991)

Total Servicemembers (Worldwide)………………..2,322,000

Battle Deaths………………………………………………………….148

Other Deaths (in Theater)………………………………………..235

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater)……………………..1,565

Non-mortal Woundings…………………………………………..467

Living Veterans…………………………………………..2,246,002

GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR

(2001 – PRESENT)

The Global War on Terror, including Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom are ongoing conflicts. For the most recent statistics, please visit the Department of Defense Web site:

http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/ gwot_component.pdf

While I get lost in the numbers from these wars, I try to remember what these numbers represent. I try to think on those times and the feelings that rippled through America at each of these times. This is why history is so important to me, it’s not about just the event, or the headline, but also about the mindset at the time, the circumstances in play while decisions were being made. Hindsight almost always clears the picture, but it also loses the frame the picture was taken in. That’s where people come in. I have said, and will say many more times, it’s people that make the world go around. This relates to history as well. People lived through these times, through these fears, through these emotions, and they are the resource we can learn the most from. Why did they do as they did? What was the feeling? Ask. Just ask. OR Read. I read a lot of books on baseball history and the icons that make those memories sparkle for so many of us. Some of the more memorable things I have read in numerous books, is the effect of war, and the emotions tied to it, on baseball and our country at that time. People remembering, sharing the experience. So important. Context is huge.

So today, remember those who serve, those who have served, and learn all you can. Thank as many as you can. We have so much to be thankful for. Certainly one thing, this Veteran’s Day, Remembrance Day, and approaching Thanksgiving Day, to be thankful for, is the freedom we enjoy each day. There’s millions of people to thank. Start today. Remember.

Memories of the back yard

Yesterday I made my weekly visit to my parents’ house. I always bring the twins with me and we visit. I love the time with my parents. I want the twins to know their grandparents, not to count on someone else’s memory of them. They love to go to Grammy and Grampy’s house. They get excited when I mention it even before we leave our house.

It’s just over 20 minutes to get to my parents’ house from my home. The house I grew up in. We moved there when I was just five years old. My two youngest siblings were born after we moved there. It’ll always be our homestead. I love going back there to see the place, the yard, mostly my parents.

Inevitably every time, and I mean every time, I am there, memories flood my mind. Every inch of the property prompts a memory of something it seems. So yesterday, the twins were playing with their four-year old cousin in the yard. It was a beautiful November day, 68 degrees or so, with a mix of sun and high clouds. Little to no breeze, and it was just right for being outside. We had fun in the fresh air.

The twins wandered through the side and back yards. Kicking leaves and picking up leaves as they roamed. They found an open barrel, half filled with rain water, and decided it would be fun to fill it with leaves, while stirring the “disgusting stew” (quote from my 4 yr old niece) with sticks they found in the yard. It was pretty funny to see the three of them crowding this container, and stirring like mad.

It reminded me of the times I was on that same patch of grass, playing in the leaves, or imagining I was on my ranch riding my horse through the leaves. I remembered a red, long sleeve shirt I wore all the time as a kid, and how it had a single front pocket. I remembered one time that a hornet got stuck in my pocket while I was playing in the leaves, and I was stung a few times. I remembered standing in that very spot, wearing my mom or dad’s deer skin gloves, and pretending I was over looking my vast ranch. I wanted to be a cowboy or even an indian. And my mind raced back to days that seem like the yesterday I spent with the twins …

… The grass was still green, but the leaves had fallen off the trees. The wind was cold now, but it would be weeks before the velocity really kicked up from the north and west. Even so, the cold breeze curled gently around me as a reminder of the cold that comes each winter. The air temperature was mild enough so that the breeze was enjoyable as long as I kept moving. I was in the saddle, riding slowly over the grassy, relatively open slopes on the edge of the seemingly endless forest. My horse was a brown and white mustang that had once roamed the Great Plains, wild and free. The mustang was good enough for the Comanche Indians, the natives who rode best, so the mustang was good enough for me.

Just then I looked up to see a red-tailed hawk leaves its perch from a single stalk remaining on a dead pine tree. As the hawk climbed to its soaring altitude high above me, my eyes returned to the forest in front me. As I lost my focus on the grand shadows of green and gray that stood in front of me like some sort of wall, I noticed in the breeze, single snowflakes blowing from left to right on the shoulders of the increasing breeze. I pulled my cowboy hat down a little tighter, I flipped the collar of my wool coat up as to cover more of my neck, I wrestled the deerskin gloves a little further up my wrists, and tried not to rock in the saddle as the breeze immediately let me know how cold it was where I wasn’t resting my weight. I turned towards the northwest and took in a breath of the cold, fresh air. It filled my lungs in an instant and cooled me to the core in half that time. As a smile pursed my lips, I thought, it’s great to be alive, what a beautiful place, and I let the wind whip a few more flakes at my face, while I closed my eyes; one with it all…

… then I returned to the present. Watching my kids on the same grass where I used to tie my imaginary horse. The same spot where the adventure so often began. One day I was an indian riding bareback, a tremendous rider, a marksman with my bow, a silent and stealth hunter of sustenance. The next day I was a cowboy with thousands of acres or maybe on the unexplored frontier, walking from my barn with my horse before riding into the unknown. Then another day I was just a kid playing in the leaves. Feeling the textures of leaf, stem, and grass. Hearing the rustle up close. Then I could be a football player playing before tens of thousands of adoring fans, as I jumped into the pile of leaves like Walter Payton over a goal line defense.

I watched the kids play. I listened to their sounds. I noticed their intensity. I reflected their joy. And I felt their pain when I told them it was time to come in for lunch. As I walked in with my daughter, whom I had to pull away from the barrel, I remembered the feeling. I held her close and whispered to her while I carried her in the house while I, for the moment,  I shut out my memories of the back yard.