Reposting of Ballad of Big D on 20th year of his passing:
He was larger than life, his name – Big D, Born with a heart of gold for all to see, He loved and fought for his family, A hero and a teacher, he was everything to me.
Water’s for tear drops, Dickel’s for drinking,
you always knew what Big D was thinking.
Whether at a baseball game or Union hall,
There was never a doubt on what side he’d fall.
Chorus: Big D was not perfect, but he showed perfect love, In the right direction, you didn’t need to shove, He always led, never followed, His pride he at times swallowed, Guided by a nudge from the Lord above.
He drank a little, cared a lot,
His friends, Big D never forgot,
Luby, Pete, Andy, and John,
None of them forgotten, all of them gone.
We lost him that day, out on the land,
And what followed seem like it was planned,
For God conspired to bring forth new life,
Baby calves to ease the sorrow of his kids and wife.
Chorus: Big D was not perfect, but he showed perfect love, In the right direction, you didn’t need to shove, He always led, never followed, His pride he at times swallowed, Guided by a nudge from the Lord above
Bridge: Love endures, Faith abounds, In the silent solace that was found, From the last story he told his family , We love you forever, Our Dad Big D.
Chorus: Big D was not perfect, but he showed perfect love, In the right direction, you didn’t need to shove, He always led, never followed, His pride he at times swallowed, Guided by a nudge from the Lord above.
If you want to read more about the stories behind the ballad read these blogs on Big D:
A mother’s love is a gift that resounds through eternity. Bringing a new life into the world enriches the diversity of the universe. A mother’s choice for life is an act of faith, hope and love.
My Mom was the leader of the family. She was the soul and the heart who taught us how to laugh, love and get along in the world. I learned many lessons from my mom but here are just three with appropriate antidotes.
How not to take myself so seriously! Anyone who knows me knows that I am an intense guy. Part of that is from my Dad who always said this or that is the greatest or the best thing ever. And part of that is just my anal retentive self. Mom was the opposite. She used to loosen me and my Dad up. Here is an anecdote. My mom went with me to back to school day back in my junior year when we moved to Texas. Every 15 minutes we would have to switch classes and meet the teacher. I walked directly to class while people were trying to flag me down and say high. My Mom in her Jersey accent would say Donn…nie, why didn’t you say hi to those cute girls that were saying hi to you! I said something like Mom we have to get to class and I do not want us to be late. As always, I was too focused on the mission and what was next. My Mom tried to focus me on relationships and what was now.
Sing from your heart. My love of singing and whatever literary skills I have come from my Mom. She loved Debbie Reynolds and old Irish songs. I grew up with the songs “Tammy”, Irish tunes, and “Frankie and Johnnie Were Lovers” running in my mind. She taught me to sing from your soul, from my heart. She also was quite a writer herself as was my Mother In Law Audrey. To this day, I can never hear the song Tammy without weeping out loud. It was the song of my childhood and is cemented on my soul!
Love, love, love to the End! What is it with Mothers? They love us always and to the end. My Mom was the same way (as was the Mother of all, the blessed Mother). Two anecdotes stand out. I remember back in Jersey being bullied by some kids. I was the nerdy kid. Heck my nickname was Richie Cunningham. My Mom one day tracked them down and chewed them out. They never bothered me again! The second anecdote was the time in the aftermath of my Dad’s passing. Mom was the rock that kept us all going. She demonstrated devotion and everlasting love by staying out in the country of East Texas until the house was sold and the estate settled. She was struggling but she continued to lift us up and get things done.
Last Thoughts. My last memory of my Mom is the most meaningful and testament to her love. I was sitting in the hospital in Richmond, Texas. My mom was on a respirator and the Doctor asked me and the rest of the family if we should pull her off the respirator. Even though she pointed to it to stop, we were struggling to give our OK. We sat there and finally gave our OK. But Mom had saved us. She knew her time and had passed. I will never forget her final act of love. How she protected us from that decision.
In closing, there will never, ever, ever be someone as great and more deserving of your respect than your mother. Love them! Bless them! And, thank them for what you are and what you will be! Not just this Mother’s Da
I am missing Jersey more than ever with the loss of my Brother David earlier on Christmas Week, Dec 20. David always looked upon Christmas with anticipation. The first of the four vignettes below relay one of my favorite memories of David. I will always remember my baby brother who could not wait for Christmas. Miss you brother and hope to see you again in the place where Christmas Day is eternal. For you all who remember him here is a link to his memorial. https://www.woodlawnfh.com/obituaries/David-James-Grier?obId=23460064#/celebrationWall
There are many reasons I still long for Christmas in Jersey. Here are just four.
Rudolph’s Nose and Dad catching Santa. One of the difficult things each Christmas was keeping my brother David from waking up from all his excitement at 2 AM . Me and my brother Gary had a ploy to keep David in the room we shared. Still do not know to this day why it worked and fooled him every year. My Dad used to put plastic on our windows during the Winter to keep in the warmth. Besides keeping out the cold, the plastic also fuzzed up the red light on the radio tower about a mile way enough so we could trick David. Each time when he woke up in the night and said “Is it Christmas, yet? Let’s wake up Dad and Mom! “, Gary and I would point to the red light and say that Rudolph was still flying. Even with that trick we could only contain him until 5 AM. Then we had to wake Mom and Dad. Dad in order to delay us while he was getting his Polaroid camera would say “Santa is still down here” and make some rustling sounds to keep us at bay. Oh how we sat on pins and needles until he gave us the all clear signal.
The Community House Tree. Crosswicks is a historical town where much history happened. Indeed, George Washington launched his famous Christmas time raids on Trenton and crossing the Delaware from his headquarters at the Quaker Community House in Crosswicks. This history is all fine and good but my favorite memory is from personal history. Each Christmas, the citizens of Crosswicks would light up a large Christmas tree on the grounds of the Community House and sing Christmas songs and drink hot apple cider. For that day, the rivalry between the Black Sox and Red Sox baseball teams would be buried by the tree near the baseball field with voices of joy!
Hoping the club doesn’t come to your house first! My Dad worked as a Steelworker and Union Vice President at DeLaval. His friends from work and their families formed a group simply called the Club. The Club would make the rounds to each family’s house on Christmas. We mostly loved playing with all the kids. Except of course, if you were the first house on the tour. Being the first house on the tour was dreaded because it was when all the kids were really wound up and wanted to play with your new Christmas toys. Wound up kids on Christmas equals broken toys. One sad Christmas, we were the first on the tour. We were excited about our new Evil Knievel motorcycle and track. You would pump the motorcycle with air and it would fly off the track. It was our most prized toy until Jimmy and Kimmey got a hold of it. They pumped it so full of air that Evil and the motorcycle broke after flying a record 10 feet in the air. Much like the real Evil could not jump Snake River canyon, our toy could not make it 10 minutes with the kids from the Club!
Granpop’s Christmas train. My Grandpop grew up in the depression, so he was careful with his money. One of his best cost saving ventures was to buy Ribbon Candy after Christmas at quarter price and put it out the next year! He may have saved his pennies when buying candy, but not when taking care of his grandkids. One Christmas, we woke up and were brought downstairs to see a fully decorated Lionel train set in the cellar. The excitement of us kids was reflected in the joy of my Grandpop’s face as he passed on his love to a new generation.
I hoped you enjoyed these. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
I am reposting this blog about my brother on his departure from this world and on to the next. I am so glad he got the opportunity to drive through the rain and find a new life and love. David was one of a kind. Miss you brother.
The other day I went to see “The Art of Racing in the
Rain”. At first, I was not sure why I
wanted to see it. I hate driving cars,
especially in the rain. Just ask anyone
who has had the misfortune of driving with me.
I am also not overly fond of Dogs.
I despise being headbutted and sniffed by my daughter’s overly
affectionate Pitbull or any dog not named Boots (he is OK).
So why did I absolutely love this movie about a racing car driver, his family, and his Dog Enzo? And why did I cry a river of tears when (spoiler alert) both the driver’s dog and his wife died? A bit because I am the ultimate sap! I punch my fist in the air when Mr. Smith saves the boy scout camp and weep at every Walton episode. But this was something more. Then I realized. The movie reminded me of my Brother David, his love of cars, his departed wife Debra, and their dogs – Alvin, Jasmine, Zooey.
David has loved cars ever since he was a little kid. One of the most memorable events of my childhood (and one that haunts my dreams) is when David, I, and Gary were waiting for my parents in the station wagon to go on a trip. David all of 4 years old sat in the front seat. Suddenly, he switched into the driver’s seat, shifted the car in neutral and started steering the car like a crazy man. My brother and I were helpless as the car backed down our sloped driveway. We drifted down the hill across a major road (safely thank God) and ended up in the neighbor’s front yard across the street. My parents rushed out to get us and I will never forget the joy in David’s face or terror in the eyes of my brother and me!
Terror was also in my eyes every time I drove with
David. He treats the Houston highway
like the Daytona 500. My heart races as he passes cars, barely missing the bumper. I in contrast drive like the future Grandpop
I aspire to be. He has translated his
love for cars into a career as a truck driver.
He can drive the biggest rig with
speed and precision. He was a lot like
Denny, the movie’s lead, except he drove trucks instead of cars.
Also, like Denny, David loves dogs. In this, he is like his namesake, Uncle
David. Both love Dogs with a passion I
cannot fathom. Uncle David currently has
8 and David 4. They bring them both joy
and I never realized why. The dogs yap
and yip. Not my cup of tea. Until the movie showed me why – Dogs are more
empathetic than people. They can realize
when you are hurting and give you just what you need to race through the rain
and not crash into the wall of life.
In the movie, Enzo the dog helps Denny deal with the premature parting of his wife Eve. Enzo realizes the signs of Eve’s impending death and helps Denny and Eve deal with her illness and eventual passing. Eve is like my Sister-In-Law Debra who was afflicted with various neurological and eventually led to her passing. Now that David has passed I feel the story even more. And a pray that it brings some solace to my new sister in law and my siblings.
Enzo kept Denny whole by driving with him as the rain pulsed
down. Likewise, David and Debra shared
the latest antics of Alvin, Jasmine, Zooey, and Cuddles. David would make Debra’s eyes twinkle with
his imitation of the dog’s barking for Debra’s return. The dogs
also helped my brother to be strong for his wife through unconditional love.
In closing, there are two quotes from the book/movie that
really resonate with me. This one is a quote from the movie. “If
a driver controls his own conditions, then the rain is only rain”. David through his dog imitations and frequent
Facebook posts worked to control the uncontrollable. In so doing, my younger brother taught me a
lesson of how to keep strong through the storm.
The last quote is from the mind of Enzo the dog. It is so poignant and meaningful I cannot do it justice. It is even poignant today with the passing of David.
her soul leave her body as she exhaled, and then she had no more needs, no more
reason; she was released from her body, and, being released, she continued her
journey elsewhere, high in the firmament where soul material gathers and plays
out all the dreams and joys of which we temporal beings can barely conceive,
all the things that are beyond our comprehension, but even so, are not beyond
our attainment if we choose…”
Tonight, before you go to bed be like Enzo, David, and the dogs. Race on through the rain and love unconditionally. Turn away from the wall and toward new life through love!
In Advent we wait expectantly for God’s Love Incarnate. Not the gooey eyed love that we experience on a porch swing and a first kiss, but rather the long, hard fought victorious love that endures past a last kiss. The love of a God who so loved the world that he gave his only Son. The Love of our Lord who in the dungeons of Caiaphas, the agony of the Garden, and nailed to the Cross loves us, dies for our sins to be resurrected and gain us a path to Heaven.
The Love of Mary who agrees to bring God into this world and stands there at the foot of the cross. She takes that hard-won love with her to the house of John where she leads the apostles until she is assumed into Heaven and crowned its Queen. The love of a God that endures in the church and the sacrifice of the Saints. The Love despite our faults and sins is coming again to the Mount of Olives!
In closing, the poem that I wrote a few years back on the passing of a loved one is appropriate today. My brother went on to the next life today on this last week of advent. I look forward to we meet again and hold him deal to my heart.
Love does not come easy, it’s built in trials, minute by minute, day by day. It is built on sorrow, As much as hope, Tears and hardship, As much as laughter. It does not flit, It does not float, It is SOLID, and it ENDURES! Why love then? It is our purpose and mission, What we were built for, What God designed! Because love does not last, for a minute or an hour. It lasts a lifetime, and through eternity. So, drive on through the pain, And strive through the sorrow, And with one last kiss, Reach for the tomorrow. And, remember in waiting, Not the words left spoken or tears, But the smile and loving eyes, That resound through the years.
As discussed in the previous blog, my Mom and Dad left Houston for the Land in the late 90’s. It was out in the middle of nowhere in East Texas. I never kept the hand-written directions. So, I did not know how to get to it anymore, since it was before the time of Google maps and I did not have the street address. Until on a whim while on vacation in Tyler, TX, I found the new street address on-line! I now had the location and was close enough (still an hour away!) to drive to the Land on the way back home.
The land and the house that my Dad built looked much the same. I was a bit amazed at how well the metal house has stood the test of time for 20 years. The only thing missing were the cows. I walked around a bit and again thought about that amazing, last Thanksgiving when 10 new calves were born. Getting up to leave, I glimpsed the lake that he dug with an old rusty backhoe. And with that I left for home with what I thought was the last lesson still in my mind’s eye. Except it was not the last one!
I remember the first time my Dad started building the lake. He had just got the backhoe and had begun scraping out a ditch. He took my brother and I out there. Then pointing to a muddy gouge with a few puddles, he said proudly, “Look at my lake!”. My brother and I started laughing. Dad said, “Why are you laughing?”. My bother pointed out, “Dad, when you say lake it connotates images of water! This is not a lake. It is a puddle.” Dad just shook his head, climbed in his backhoe and said, “You will you see smart alecks”.
And we saw. A year or two later there was full-fledged lake. The next year there were fish in the lake and a dock. But Dad kept tweaking the lake up to the day he died. We wondered why he did this, since he proved his point and given us our initial lesson. Having returned to the land and now with the direct coordinates in hand, we were about to find out.
I sent my daughter the coordinates just before leaving from home. She fed the coordinates into Google Earth while we were driving back. The resulting aerial picture of the land and the lake floored me. The picture is above. The lake is more than a fair replica of the State of Texas! The lake was dug before satellite imagery or drones were available. My Dad through persistent sweat, determination, and will made a lake in the shape of the state he loved! He also left us several final lessons from the grave that are applicable for everyday life.
1. Plan with the end in mind. We did not know it until many years later, but my Dad had an ultimate vision for the lake. With each tweak and every plough, he was turning a mud puddle into a lake in the shape of Texas. The lesson for all of us is always start something with the end in mind. A clear vision gives you a clear direction and keeps you on course even when the going gets tough.
2. Don’t get discouraged. My Dad did not get discouraged even when his two oldest sons mocked his first efforts. There will be trials along way. Some rain must fall when building a lake. But drive on through the rain and stick to the plan.
3. Strive to the end. The weeks before my Dad passed away, he was still making tweaks to his lake to make it further resemble Texas. He was striving for excellence up to end. This is a lesson for us in our work. It is important that when we achieve some success not to stop. For the excellence of today is the mediocrity of tomorrow. Finish the race. Keep striving to the end to make your goal a reality!
4. Try and Try again. I will perhaps never know how Dad shaped the lake into the outline of the Texas! He did not have satellite imagery to guide him. But what he did have was a vision, determination, and the willingness to try and try again. He ploughed and experimented until he got the lines right. Sometimes a wrong turn threated to turn his Texas lake into one of Oklahoma! But he shifted his backhoe, back filled the wrong cut and soon he was on the right side of the Red River!
Happy Thanksgiving from the Land with one last message from Big D, communicated almost 20 years from his passing from this life to the next. I know he is up there in the heaven smiling down on a little ranch in Slocum, TX and a lake in the shape of Texas that started as little less than a mud puddle. May we all strive to the fulfill a vision as big as Texas!
Each morning I wake up with a why in my heart and head; sometimes two! What is a why? A “why” is the motivation for taking on something difficult and the purpose for doing so. A why drives you forward even when you feel you can’t go on. Why’s are imperative to change a bad habit or get out of a rut.
I did not always have a why nearby. I did not have an overall cause or purpose from 2007 to 2014. I wandered without a why, for those seven years. In the process, I gained over 100 pounds, lost my drive, and in general was a bear to be around. The years of wandering without a why are described in this blog: Fit to Fat: Lessons Learned While Doubling My Weight
Then three things hit simultaneously at the end of 2014 that got me back on track. First, I learned that I had a serious health issue caused in part by my weight. Second, I received an invite to my 30th West Point Reunion. Third, I received a discount to Weight Watchers (now WW) through my company. The three combined to develop that first why. I decided to lose weight and increase fitness to look presentable for my 30th reunion and regain my health!
I was introduced to the power of “why” at Weight Watchers and have expanded my understanding through my own story and experience. Here are 4 things you need to implement your unique why.
1. Visualize Your Why. It is important to have a visual representation as to the outcome you want to obtain. A visual representation serves to remind you why you are making the change and helps to keep you motivated when times get tough. One way to do that is to create a Vision Board; a series of pictures and text snippets that visualize your goal.
Below you see the visual representation of my first “why” that I created at WW on the Hay House Vision Board app (located here Hay House Vision Board). I wanted to do two things as represented in this Vision Board: to lose weight to look decent for my reunion and to get healthy in memory of my parents. Pictures include my company from West Point, a picture of my parents, my WP graduation picture, a picture at near peak weight with a classmate, an image of my family, and me working out in support of my mission! I topped it all off with my class moto “For Excellence We Strive, 85”.
I looked at the Vision Board each day. It drove forward when times got tough. I looked at it after getting through TSA with my CPAP machine, so I could get good rest on a work trip. Or when hitting the hotel gym at 9 PM after work. Or when avoiding a beer and eating vegetables at the concierge lounge. Slowly but surely it kept my eye on the prize as I lost 100 lbs. before the reunion.
2. Adapt Your Why. Once you obtain one “why”, focus on another. Whys are not static. The excellence of today is the mediocrity of tomorrow. A new reason or mission can drive you on to greater things. Here are three of my subsequent “Why’s” to show you what I mean.
First, my reunion served to stoke two new motivations. Having lost 100 pounds, I wanted to lose the other 50+ lbs to achieve Lifetime designation on WW. Second, I wanted to do something to remember a fellow officer who was lost in Afghanistan by supporting returning Veterans. Combining the two, I created my second Why that led to the creation of the McEvoy Memorial Walk in support of the Merivis Foundation. I trained from August to Veterans Day in 2015 to walk 50 miles in one day in support of Merivis and the Young Marines of the Capital Area (read more here Go Big to Get Small – The Art of Improbable Goals ). In the process, this why drove me to my Lifetime weight goal and raised funding for these worthy organizations. Here is a YouTube clip on the walk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaaijB9ybX4
My next goal was to maintain my weight and support the children of St. Jude’s by becoming a Certified Spin Instructor and riding the entire 4-hour St. Jude’s Ride for a Reason. I talk about this motivation in the following blog Spinning is Winning! A Ride for A Reason.
Spinning helped me maintain my weight, diversify my exercise regime, help a worthy cause, and gain a new skill. Now I was ready to play it forward with my current Why.
My current why came about due to two events: a milestone birthday and the ongoing pandemic. Having been given so much, I wanted to pass it on to others. I came up with a new acronym for my Why – CRAFT. The acronym stands for Coach, Religious, Author, Friend, and Teacher. You can read more about CRAFT here 5 by 5, Rumination on a Milestone.
In simple terms, I wake up each day whether in this blog, my continued workouts, or wellness programs paying it forward. It is now my mission to teach others how to heal both their body and soul, especially during this difficult time. To impart what I have learned through example, stories, and wellness programs. Read about one such wellness program called Peloton Pandemic Pandemonium here .
3. Share your Why. When you determine your why, do not keep it to yourself. Share it with friends and family to help prod you on and keep you on track. The ability to share helps you immensely. I am grateful both to my WW Round Rock Saturday group and my sister in law Sheri and niece Rachel for creating Facebook groups. These communities allowed me to share my motivation and progress toward health. Live and share your why with friends to keep moving forward!
4. Wake Up with Your Why. I end with the beginning. Each day you can take concrete steps to wake up with your why. I accomplish this through journaling and meditation. I use the Kindness Journal (located here Kindness Journal) to help prompt me along to realizing my why.
Each day I record three “I am statements” to help me visualize my end goal. Here is a recent example in pursuit of my current why: “I am a devoted coach that passes on the lessons that have served me on my health journey to improve the lives of others”. I also visualize my favorite moment from the day before and list the thing that I will do today to help make the world better. The journal helps me focus on why I was put on this earth. Along with meditation in the form of prayer, I remain fixed and progressing towards my why.
In closing, do not wander and wallow in the unknown without a why. Instead, visualize your why with these four simple tricks and build a better future for yourself and others!
I just finished watching my favorite annual show – The National Memorial Day Concert. But this year it was different. Unlike other years, the show was not live in front of a large crowd because of the current pandemic. Despite being apart, the stories, speeches, and songs of the soldiers that sacrificed their lives for this country served to unite. And served to remind us we are all in this together. Also, how important it is to respect the sacrifice of our fallen by being kind to each other and working together to defeat today’s silent enemy.
I believe one of the most improbable goals in human history was undertaken by our founding fathers and mothers when they established this country. A country formed for the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But the experiment is fragile. Too often in today’s time, we do not listen to our fellow Americans. To see their side and to honor their equal right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Indeed, there is too much me and not enough us. And it is a disgrace to the sacrifices that these brave service men and women gave. They gave all for us. Can’t we honor their memory by at least listening to the ideas of our fellow Americans and engage in Civil Discourse?
We all must endeavor to see in shades of grey. To listen with open ears and understand what the other side is saying to honor the memories of our fallen. Indeed, it is fitting that the uniform of the United States Military Academy is Grey. Life is seldom Black and White. It is grey! And it is our responsibility to diligently discern the grey by nurturing this fragile dream of democracy and listening to our fellow Americans. To hear a compelling podcast on this topic from a guy pleading to you as I do, listen to Dan Carlin’s Common-Sense podcast linked here Common Sense – Shades of Grey.
A few years back, I walked 50 miles in honor of Veterans. It at the time seemed an “improbable goal”. But what is more improbable, is that a citizenry of people of every creed and race giving their lives for a single idea. So today as a plea for all of us to get along and work together to defeat this pandemic, I take you through a virtual 50-mile walk with each 10-mile marker in honor of the fallen in the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard.
Mile Marker 0 to 10. Army. Col. Richard (Dick) McEvoy. I will start with the person that I know best. Richard (Dick) McEvoy, USMA class of 1980, was KIA in Afghanistan on August 22nd, 2015 while training the Afghani police. He was a contractor with DynCorp after serving 28 years in the service. Col McEvoy (then Captain) and I served together. He was the epitome of the USMA motto: Duty, Honor, and Country. He was the S-3 and I was the S-2. I also worked with him when he was the Commander of A Company. His company always got the highest scores in inspections and had astounding Esprit de Corps. I looked up to Dick and he was a role model as a calm, no nonsense commander that balanced mission and troops. He went on to train other soldiers as the Commander of the National Training Center. Here’s more about Col. McEvoy here McEvoy Memorial
Mile Marker 10 to 20. Navy. LAUREL BLAIR SALTON CLARK, M.D. (CAPTAIN, USN), NASA ASTRONAUT. Service is not confined to battle in wars, but also advancing the cause of freedom through the courageous act of exploration. Captain Clark perished in Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003 while reentering the earth’s orbit. I remember it like it was yesterday since she perished near Palestine, Texas where the Space Shuttle broke apart upon reentry. She advanced the US Space mission by conducting over 80 experiments. She also had a distinguished career in the Navy prior to her mission. Her squadron won the Marine Attack Squadron of the year for its successful deployment. She represents the brave women that defend our country and advance the cause of freedom. Nearly 200 women have been KIA in Afghanistan and Iraq alone. Read more about Captain Clark here Captain Clark
Mile Marker 20 to 30. Coast Guard. Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Brandt Bruckenthal. The Coast Guard is a crucial branch of the Armed Services. They defend our country and embark on humanitarian missions that serve our country and advance our image. Petty Officer Bruckenthal was a damage controlman, who with two U. S. Navy sailors were killed in the line of duty while conducting maritime intercept operations in the North Arabian Gulf.
Bruckenthal and six other coalition sailors attempted to board a small boat near the Iraqi Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal. As they boarded the boat, it exploded. Bruckenthal later died from the wounds he sustained in the explosion. Bruckenthal was the first Coast Guard member killed in action since the Vietnam War. His service as well as others in the Coast Guard such as our family friends the Lawrence’s advance the cause of freedom by defending our coasts. Read more here about Petty Officer Bruckenthal here Petty Officer Bruckenthal
Mile Marker 30 – 40. Marines. Ira Hayes. Ira Hayes was a Pima Native American who was immortalized both in the statue in Washington as he lifted the flag on Iwo Jima during WWII but also in one of my favorite songs by Johnny Cash called the Ballad of Ira Hayes linked here Ballad of Ira Hayes. Ira did not die on the hills of Iwo Jima but back in the country he defended. He represents all the Veterans that defend us with all their hearts, guts and souls but when they return we do not care for them adequately or honor their sacrifice. He is memorialized in a statue; let us remember him in our hearts and our actions as we care for the cause of the Native Americans.
Mile Marker 40 – 50. Air Force (Army Air Corps). The fallen of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African-American military pilots (fighter and bomber) who fought in World War II. They formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces. They have been immortalized in the movie Red Tails and they went on to produce 3 Generals in the Air Force – Daniel James was appointed a brigadier general by President Nixon for keeping his cool in the face of Qaddafi’s troops, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the original commander of the 332nd Fighter Group and the first black general in the U.S. Air Force and Lucius Theus, who retired a major general after dedicating most of his 36-year career in the Air Force. They were one of the most decorated units in WW II and had an amazing record against the German Luftwaffe. This group of the first African American Aviators fought valiantly in WW II even though they did not have rights in the Jim Crow South. 66 of the 450 Tuskegee Airmen lost their lives in WW II, dying for a country that did not accept them in some areas. Read more about the importance of memorializing these great Americans and others on Memorial Day here in a letter from the Tuskegee Airman Institute President Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Letter.
Our journey of 50 miles on Memorial Day demonstrates the resilience and sacrifice of the men and women of this nation. Immigrant or native, white or black, men and women -each gave the ultimate sacrifice. The least we can do on this Memorial Day is to listen to one another with respect and support this fragile goal of Democracy! We are all brothers and sisters with one idea – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So, the least we can do is to love and understand one another!
Every day, bit by bit, the secret we reveal, In every moment, in every thought, in all we feel. As we try to guard, our soul leaks out, In drips and drabs, in whispers and shouts. And with every step, we drown with doubts.
What are lies? What is true? Where to run? What to do? Who to trust? What to defend? And how does this mystery end?
As we discern what to let go and protect , In this world we try so hard to dissect, We spy that discovery is hidden, the final answer we seek is lost; forbidden.
So, with our last heartbeat and final breath, We find we must love to reach beyond death.