Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Look At Ourselves...

Two days ago, a friend of mine in Miami passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. He was 41 years old. He leaves behind a family, and many friends and co-workers who will miss him greatly. Jeremy was one of a kind. He was a very easy-going, happy, friendly man who made people laugh and never took himself too seriously.

Jeremy’s sudden passing makes one once again think of how fragile life can be and how little control we have over it. Sure, he could have lost some weight – couldn’t we all? I don’t know if he was actively pursuing a workout program but I’m thinking he probably wasn’t. (And I could be completely wrong about it. I haven’t seen him for several years.) Yet 41 is far too young for most of us to worry about a heart attack, and far too young to worry about dying.

When someone we know dies suddenly and unexpectedly it reminds us of our own mortality. At least, it reminds me of my own. I haven’t always lived my life in the healthiest manner. Who knows what damage could have been done in that time? Recently I’ve begun eating more healthily, walking as often as possible (distances that actually make my heart work for a while) and losing weight. Two years ago my doctor put me on blood pressure medication and cholesterol medication. Last year, after I lost 18 pounds and changed my diet, I was taken off all medication and I feel much better. My cholesterol is still a bit high but I’m still trying to lower it naturally rather than take medication. However, I know if it doesn’t come down I’ll need the meds because cholesterol is dangerous.

About a month ago, another man I used to work with died suddenly of a heart attack. He was also in his forties. Things like this often happen around the holidays for some reason. It’s strange that way. I feel badly for the families of those people who now, every year around the holidays, will be reminded of the sudden deaths of their loved ones. I remember once, when I was in the Air Force years ago, we rolled out on a 911 call on Christmas Eve to a home where a father had suffered a heart attack. His wife and young children watched as we worked on him but ultimately he didn’t make it. All I could think of after that was that every Christmas Eve his kids will be reminded of his untimely death. How terribly sad for them and for all who lose someone on a holiday. It’s difficult enough to lose someone unexpectedly. It’s more difficult to lose someone at a time when everything and everyone is supposed to be happy.

Jeremy, you will be missed, by more people than you probably realize. You touched many lives with your warmth, your humor and your genuinely caring personality. My thoughts are with your family today.

I hope all who read this will take a look at their own health and activities and, if you haven’t done so already, make a decision to get into better shape, maybe lose some weight and take care of yourselves. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for those who love you and want you around. They will appreciate you for it. January, right after the holidays, is a great time to start since most of us put on some weight over the holidays. If you survived the holidays it’s a good time to work on surviving the new year. And the one after that. And the one after that. And so on…

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Greetings 2011

The Christmas season is upon us once again. For many it’s a time of happiness, reflection and giving to others in the spirit of love and in the memory of the gift our God gave to us so many years ago.

I remember as a child on Christmas Eve we would gather round the Christmas tree after church, all the presents under and around the fully lit, fully decorated tree, and read the Christmas story from the Bible before we were allowed, in a very calm and orderly fashion, to begin opening presents. (We read the Christmas story so we’d always remember the true meaning if Christmas and not get too wrapped up (pun intended) in the presents and commercialism.) I have three sisters and a brother so, though we weren’t wealthy by any means, there were always lots of things to open. We normally each got one big gift – something we really wanted, then a lot of smaller, every day “need this” gifts, such as socks, pajamas, underwear, and often a new pair of shoes. There weren’t extravagant toys nor anything really expensive in those days. Even a new bike usually meant one that had been handed down from someone else, repainted and fitted with a new seat and pedals. But we were happy and always felt blessed to receive such wonderful and thoughtful gifts. One grandfather always gave each of us kids a $20 bill. When I was about six that was huge money. It lasted me for months.

An uncle who owned a vending company always gave each of us a box of assorted chocolates. Again, we were in heaven because we each had our own and didn’t have to share. We could, of course, trade our favorites for someone else’s if we wanted.

One of the consistent things about Christmas when I was a kid was the presence and the celebration of God and Jesus in almost everything. People in the neighborhood, the local community, city and statewide had nativity scenes in their yards and in their living rooms. Churches had large nativity scenes outside without fear that someone would vandalize, steal or destroy them. My family and most of our friends went to church regularly and many of us participated in the church Christmas cantata or other presentation. The entire community, with very few vocal exceptions, got caught up in the spirit of the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, while the world even then could be a cruel and even evil place, more people were public about their faith and belief in God and it seemed the world was happier and Christmas was more widely accepted by all. I’m sure there will be those who disagree with me on that but I speak from my own experiences in 54 years of life.

These days it seems it’s becoming a problem just saying “Merry Christmas” to people in public. Schools are banning any kind of Christmas activities in favor of “holiday” activities and some even are preventing the giving of cards and/or gifts from one student to another. Forget about a nativity scene on public property and politicians are proclaiming the Christmas tree to be a holiday tree instead. It’s been “Christmas” for centuries and I truly don’t understand why it’s so offensive to some. I don’t get offended when someone wishes me a “Happy Winter Solstice”, a “Happy Hanukah”, a “Happy Kwanza” or any other holiday greeting. (As of yet I haven’t had an atheist wish me anything in particular, that I know of except maybe “Happy Holidays”, which is generic and has no particular group meaning.) I appreciate the fact that people want to include me in their personal celebration. Yet some people get highly offended at those of us who wish people “Merry Christmas”.

To those of you who get offended I say my greeting of “Merry Christmas” is my own celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and is in no way threatening to you or your beliefs unless you choose to make it so. I’m not threatened by your beliefs (or non-belief, as the case may be) so please stop feeling threatened and/or offended by mine. My Christian beliefs are not threatening to you in any way. I find it sad that a nation founded on belief in God (or Gods) has now basically removed God from their everyday activities. And please don’t bring up “separation of church and state” because 1) it’s not in the Constitution and 2) the separation to which it refers meant government shall not have or enforce a particular religion. Therefore a government should be allowed to display a nativity scene if it also displays a Menorah and/or any other religious symbols during the same season (or at different times depending on the time of celebration.)

All in all, when I say “Merry Christmas” it is my wish for you to have a happy and love-filled holiday with your friends and family and the God (or no God) of your choice. It is not a threat or an insult so please don’t take it that way. Please.

At this time of year I’m reminded of something I read (and posted) last year just before Christmas. It was Christmas greetings to Democrats and Republicans and still makes me laugh. It reads as follows:

To My Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To My Republican Friends:

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Whatever your beliefs, may you enjoy the wonderful blessings of the Christmas season with your family and loved ones and may you all have a wonderful new year full of good things.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Soon To Be Gone" - a Military Doctor's Opinion

I read this in an e-mail today and thought it worth passing on. If true, it gives me hope that the younger generation might actually grow up to appreciate those who have lived and died before them. I too have met elderly, retired military personnel and have marveled at some of their stories. I once met Daniel (Chappie) James, America’s first black, four-star General and the first black General in the U.S. Air Force. He retired soon after and died within a couple of months but while alive he had a commanding presence and was an amazing man to talk to. I also knew a retired Colonel who was dying of cancer but was full of stories and loved to make people laugh, regardless of rank or position. It was his way. I attended his funeral.

Dr. Ellison’s reference to “Saving Private Ryan” is a lesson for all that those who offered their lives (some made that ultimate sacrifice) in service to the U.S. during past wars should be remembered and honored. It was my pleasure serving in the U.S. Air Force for eight years. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything and even though I never served in a war zone, I have always felt my contribution was important. I respect and honor all people who have served, regardless of how long they did it. Serving your country in the armed forces is an honor and a privilege.

The e-mail is as follows:

This should be required reading in every school and college in our country. This Captain, an Army doctor, deserves a medal himself for putting this together. If you choose not to pass it on, fine, but I think you will want to after you read it.

"Soon to Be Gone"
by Capt. Steven Ellison, MD
A Military Doctor

I am a doctor specializing in the Emergency Departments of the only two military Level One-Trauma Centers, both in San Antonio, TX and they care for civilian emergencies as well as military personnel. San Antonio has the largest military retiree population in the world living here. As a military doctor, I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous. One tends to become jaded by the long hours, lack of sleep, food, family contact and the endless parade of human suffering passing before you. The arrival of another ambulance does not mean more pay, only more work. Most often, it is a victim from a motor vehicle crash.

Often it is a person of dubious character who has been shot or stabbed. With our large military retiree population, it is often a nursing home patient. Even with my enlisted service and minimal combat experience in Panama, I have caught myself groaning when the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not stopped to think of what citizens of this age group represented.

I saw 'Saving Private Ryan.' I was touched deeply. Not so much by the carnage, but by the sacrifices of so many. I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor at the graveside, asking his wife if he'd been a good man. I realized that I had seen these same men and women coming through my Emergency Dept.. and had not realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made. The things they did for me and everyone else that has lived on this planet since the end of that conflict are priceless.

Situation permitting, I now try to ask my patients about their experiences. They would never bring up the subject without the inquiry. I have been privileged to an amazing array of experiences, recounted in the brief minutes allowed in an Emergency Dept. encounter. These experiences have revealed the incredible individuals I have had the honor of serving in a medical capacity, many on their last admission to the hospital.

There was a frail, elderly woman who reassured my young enlisted medic, trying to start an IV line in her arm. She remained calm and poised, despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. She was what we call a 'hard stick.' As the medic made another attempt, I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She simply said, ' Auschwitz...' Many of later generations would have loudly and openly berated the young medic in his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who'd seen unspeakable suffering.

Also, there was this long retired Colonel, who as a young officer had parachuted from his burning plane over a Pacific Island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, he had a minor cut on his head from a fall at his home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high priority ambulance patients.. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to call a taxi, to take him home, then he realized his ambulance had brought him without his wallet. He asked if he could use the phone to make a long distance call to his daughter who lived 7 miles away. With great pride we told him that he could not, as he'd done enough for his country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we had to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn't end for several hours, and I couldn't drive him myself.

I was there the night M/Sgt Roy Benavidez came through the Emergency Dept. for the last time. He was very sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him, but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick, he didn't know I was there. I'd read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later.

The gentleman who served with Merrill's Marauders, the survivor of the Bataan Death March, the survivor of Omaha Beach, the 101 year old World War I veteran.

The former POW held in frozen North Korea.

The former Special Forces medic - now with non-operable liver cancer
the former Viet Nam Corps Commander.

I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in, but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women.

I have seen a Congress who would turn their back on these individuals who've sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. I see later generations that seem to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties, won with such sacrifice.

It has become my personal endeavor to make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing individuals when I encounter them in our Emergency Dept. Their response to these particular citizens has made me think that perhaps all is not lost in the next generation.

My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation, and this nation knows not what it is losing. Our uncaring government and ungrateful civilian populace should all take note. We should all remember that we must 'Earn this.'

If it weren't for the United States Military, there'd be NO United States of America!

Steven Ellison, MD

Friday, December 16, 2011

Economics and Socialism

I read the following e-mail this morning and thought it quite interesting. I’ve seen interviews of young, liberal college students who think socialism and even Marxism are good ideas but when asked if they are OK with giving up a grade to someone who needs it is OK they all say no because “I worked for mine just as they need to work for theirs.” Funny how that works.

I didn’t write the following article and I have no idea who did. But I like it and thought it worth sharing.

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

It could not be any simpler than that. Remember, there IS a test coming up. The 2012 elections.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Like I said - I didn't write it. But it's worth thinking about.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Hero Died Last Year...

Today is December 1, 2011. One year ago today Corporal Chad Stafford Wade made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and his fellow Marines in Afghanistan. He was 23 years old and on his second tour – a tour he didn’t have to take being an only child. The Marines told him he didn’t have to go. Chad said if his buddies were going he was going too. That’s the man he was.

I have been so caught up in my own personal life that I almost forgot what today is. And that breaks my heart. Chad’s mom, Tami, is very special to me and it hurts me to the core that she’s suffering today. I know that type of suffering – it’s not a good thing. The first anniversary of your child’s death is very painful. They’re all painful but the first is doubly so. The first is when those memories come crashing in – how it happened, who said what, how you found out, what you did and what you felt when you realized it was real. And it hurts. It hurts deeply. And I hate it that Tami is having to go through that today.

Chad Wade was a Marine in every sense of the word. As I said – he didn’t have to go to Afghanistan. He had already been to Iraq. Being an only child with only nine months left on his enlistment he could have stayed behind. He chose to go because his fellow Marines, the ones in his platoon, were going and he didn’t want them to go without him. Chad Wade was a man of courage and honor and he put his buddies before himself. He paid the ultimate price for it but did so voluntarily. He loved his country and his fellow Americans enough to sacrifice his own life for them (us). Those Americans he loved included his mom, his step-dad, Tebo, his Aunt Paige, and everyone else he cared about, as well as those of us he didn’t know. Chad was an exceptional man.

On this day I ask that all of you spend a moment remembering Chad and his sacrifice, as well as his grieving mother and family. No one should have to bury their child. It’s simply not right. Unfortunately, it happens on a regular basis and some of us have to live with it. We don’t ask for pity. We don’t need pity. We ask for understanding of why we sometimes cry for non-obvious reasons and we sometimes smile more broadly watching someone with their children simply because it triggers a good memory for us. We sometimes ask that you honor our deceased children by simply telling yours that you love them. Today I challenge you to tell your children that you love them, in honor of Chad. If you can’t tell them in person, call them. If that’s not possible, send them an e-mail or a letter. If even that’s not possible (if your child is deep in a war zone) then ask God to tell them for you. I have a feeling He grants requests of that sort on a regular basis…

Monday, November 14, 2011

OWS And The Real World

Once again I turn to someone else for my post today. This article was written by Marybeth Hicks, Columnist for The Washington Times, on October 20, 2011. It contains a lot of thoughts shared by many Americans. I'm one of those.

Marybeth Hicks:

Call it an occupational hazard, but I can’t look at the Occupy Wall Street protesters without thinking, “Who parented these people?”

As a culture columnist, I’ve commented on the social and political ramifications of the “movement” - now known as “OWS” - whose fairyland agenda can be summarized by one of their placards: “Everything for everybody.

Thanks to their pipe-dream platform, it’s clear there are people with serious designs on “transformational” change in America who are using the protesters like bedsprings in a brothel.
Yet it’s not my role as a commentator that prompts my parenting question, but rather the fact that I’m the mother of four teens and young adults. There are some crucial life lessons that the protesters’ moms clearly have not passed along.

Here, then, are five things the OWS protesters’ mothers should have taught their children but obviously didn’t, so I will:

• Life isn’t fair. The concept of justice - that everyone should be treated fairly - is a worthy and worthwhile moral imperative on which our nation was founded. But justice and economic equality are not the same. Or, as Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want.”
No matter how you try to “level the playing field,” some people have better luck, skills, talents or connections that land them in better places. Some seem to have all the advantages in life but squander them, others play the modest hand they’re dealt and make up the difference in hard work and perseverance, and some find jobs on Wall Street and eventually buy houses in the Hamptons . Is it fair? Stupid question.

• Nothing is “free.” Protesting with signs that seek “free” college degrees and “free” health care make you look like idiots, because colleges and hospitals don’t operate on rainbows and sunshine. There is no magic money machine to tap for your meandering educational careers and “slow paths” to adulthood, and the 53 percent of taxpaying Americans owe you neither a degree nor an annual physical.

While I’m pointing out this obvious fact, here are a few other things that are not free: overtime for police officers and municipal workers, trash hauling, repairs to fixtures and property, condoms, Band-Aids and the food that inexplicably appears on the tables in your makeshift protest kitchens. Real people with real dollars are underwriting your civic temper tantrum.

• Your word is your bond. When you demonstrate to eliminate student loan debt, you are advocating precisely the lack of integrity you decry in others. Loans are made based on solemn promises to repay them. No one forces you to borrow money; you are free to choose educational pursuits that don’t require loans, or to seek technical or vocational training that allows you to support yourself and your ongoing educational goals. Also, for the record, being a college student is not a state of victimization. It’s a privilege that billions of young people around the globe would die for - literally.

• A protest is not a party. On Saturday in New York , while making a mad dash from my cab to the door of my hotel to avoid you, I saw what isn’t evident in the newsreel footage of your demonstrations: Most of you are doing this only for attention and fun. Serious people in a sober pursuit of social and political change don’t dance jigs down Sixth Avenue like attendees of a Renaissance festival. You look foolish, you smell gross, you are clearly high and you don’t seem to realize that all around you are people who deem you irrelevant.

• There are reasons you haven’t found jobs. The truth? Your tattooed necks, gauged ears, facial piercings and dirty dreadlocks are off-putting. Nonconformity for the sake of nonconformity isn’t a virtue. Occupy reality: Only 4 percent of college graduates are out of work. If you are among that 4 percent, find a mirror and face the problem. It’s not them. It’s you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Six Seconds To Live

Today I'm once again posting something I didn't write. This was sent to me in an e-mail yesterday, Veterans' Day, November 11, 2011. I didn't get a chance to read it until this morning. Immediately I knew it needed to be shared. Some people in this country bad mouth our military members. Men (and women) like the two men in this story are examples of the type of people who keep America safe from those who would seek to destroy our way of life and take away our freedom. God bless America and God bless our military, all branches in all parts of the world.

In November 2010, 1st Lt. Robert M. Kelly, fell during battle while on his third combat deployment since 9/11. This is part of what his father, Lieutenant General John F. Kelly read during his funeral:

I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are... about the quality of the steel in their backs... about the kind of dedication they bring to our country while they serve in uniform and forever after as veterans. Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour. Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way-perhaps 60-70 yards in length-and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different. The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event-just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured…some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.” “What he didn’t know until then,” he said, “and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal.” Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.” “No sane man.” “They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “…let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.

It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were-some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers-American and Iraqi-bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe…because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty…into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight-for you.

We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow to man while he lived on this earth-freedom. We also believe he gave us another gift nearly as precious-our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines-to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can every steal it away. It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today. Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the “land of the free and home of the brave” so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.

God Bless America, and….SEMPER FIDELIS!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thoughts On Veterans' Day

There is an old saying that “A veteran is someone who, at some point in his/her life, writes a check payable to “The people of the United States of America” for the amount of “Up to and including my life.” No truer words were ever spoken. Not all service members realize the depth of their commitment to their country when they take that oath but they promise to defend America at all costs. I know I didn’t.

When I joined the Air Force in 1977 I had been out of high school for two years and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was looking for a little excitement, something different, and a start on my future. It was peacetime and even though I knew there could be a war in the future, it never occurred to me that I could possibly be a part of it. The advertisement said the Air Force was “not just a job but an adventure.”

I took my first ride on an airplane on May 30, 1977. I flew from Columbus, Ohio, to San Antonio, Texas, then got on a military bus to Lackland Air Force Base. I don’t really remember getting off the bus or that first meeting with a Training Instructor (TI) but I remember going upstairs to a second floor, brightly lit and spotless barracks with a lot of other guys, most of which sported the long hair style of the mid 70s.

My first day of Basic Training was my 20th birthday. I had no military background as some of my fellow basic trainees did. Some were military brats and ROTC graduates who knew full well what to expect. I had no clue except from what I’d seen on TV. I knew they were going to yell at me, make me do pushups and other exercises and run. That much I knew. I knew they were going to teach me how to use a gun and make me march endless miles with a heavy backpack. And I knew I was going to have to call everyone “Sir”.

Funny thing is – most of that never really happened; or didn’t happen to the extent to which I expected. My first Training Instructor (T.I.) was SSgt Stultz. He was hardcore – like R. Lee Ermey, the retired Marine turned actor who screamed at Private Pyle in “Full Metal Jacket”. SSgt Stultz liked to yell and be impressive. He had an ego problem and I didn’t much care for him. He was replaced about 4 days into our training and on his last day spent about 20 minutes telling us how greatly misunderstood he was. Strange man.

My second T.I. was SSgt John Balson, a man who not only knew his stuff but didn’t have to try to impress anyone. Believe it or not he was personable and while he could be hard when he needed to be, he could also sit and talk to us like a father, or a friend. He never was overbearing and we all enjoyed having him teach us the ropes.

SSgt Balson had an assistant named Sgt. John Kissel. He was the poster child for the Air Force (or should have been, anyway.) Tall, thin, good looking guy, looked good in a uniform. We had several female T.I.’s in our building and they all drooled over Sgt. Kissel. I thought it was hilarious.

I was a bit disappointed in the physical training in Basic. All we really did was stretching exercises and run. The only pushups I did were those I did on my own in the evening. There were no real exercises – only stretching and running. We did get to run the “Confidence Course” one day. It was about 1.5 miles long with a lot of fairly easy obstacles. I had been working out and running before I joined so I was in pretty decent shape. I finished #1 in my group and about a quarter mile ahead of them. I wanted to do it again!

Another day they took us to the firing range and spent one entire day teaching us everything we needed to know about an M-16. We were taught firearm safety, cleaning and maintenance and how to find your sight picture. Once we passed their qualifications course we were done. I didn’t handle another weapon, that I can remember, until I went to Germany 5 years later.

From Lackland I went to Sheppard Air Force Base in beautiful Wichita Falls, Texas, for my technical school. If you’ve never been there I recommend you keep it that way. My parents came to visit me in Tech School. I’d been gone about 8 weeks and was growing up before their eyes. They stayed in Wichita Falls in a hotel just outside the base for two days before announcing “We can’t take it anymore. We’ve got to go find someplace more interesting.” I can’t blame them. It really was a boring town.

About four weeks into tech school I got orders to Wiesbaden, Germany. I knew where I was going. However, a couple of days later that changed. I was doing so well in my classes that I was asked if I’d be interested in being reassigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. I thought it was a great honor and accepted immediately. I got a controlled, four year assignment to the beautiful campus of the Air Force Academy at the base of the Rockies just North of Colorado Springs. Everyone thought it would be a bad assignment but honestly, I enjoyed it tremendously. I got out after those four years and moved to Connecticut for several months. When I couldn’t find a job I re-enlisted and went back for more. I ended up at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for about 14 months then went to Germany for three years. In Germany I got a small taste of the real military.

I was issued a gas mask and a helmet and we had training exercises that involved putting that mask on in a timely manner. They also made you sign a piece of paper designating who your children would go to if you didn’t come home. While I was in Germany there were several bombings of military targets and the hijacking of flight 847. There were also service members kidnapped and killed by the Red Army Faction, a terrorist organization founded in Germany in 1970. They were responsible for the deaths of many American service members in the 70s and 80s. I was there when the bombing occurred at the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983. They brought many of the injured Marines to us.

As I said, in Germany I felt more like I was in the real military but didn’t ever really feel I personally was in danger. I got out of the Air Force in 1985 without ever facing a hostile enemy. I never once felt like I had been a hero or that I’d ever been in any real hazardous situation to justify being called a hero. Then, in 2009, I was reminded by a couple of friends of my initial statement above. I had never thought of it in that respect before and while I still don’t consider myself a hero for serving in the Air Force, I’m extremely proud of it. And I’d do it again in a minute.

Happy Veterans’ Day to all who have served and a special thank you to those who have put themselves in harm’s way for our country. God bless and protect those who are doing it today and may you all return home safely and in one piece. And may God bless and comfort those who's heroes don't make it home. Thank you all for your sacrifice as well.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I was going to write a blog post for this evening but Michael A. Crowley wrote it for me. Here is the letter he recently wrote to his employees:

Michael A. Crowley, PE is the owner of Crowley & Associates, Inc. and was President and an owner of Crowley, Crisp & Associates, Inc. and Michael A. Crowley, PC. As President of Crowley & Associates, Inc., Mike is a lead designer of water supply, treatment and storage projects, regional sewage lift station design, and residential and commercial site development projects and is responsible for the management of the firm. Mike’s industry background includes over 20 years experience in the civil engineering field inclusive of executive level responsibilities in Marketing and Project Management. Prior to founding Michael A. Crowley, PC, Mike held positions with several engineering firms in North Carolina and Maine. Mike holds a B.S. Degree in Civil Engineering from University of Maine and a Master of Business Administration from Boston College. Mike is a member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and holds professional registrations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Indiana, Maine, Tennessee, Australia, and Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies. Mike is a native of Norridgewock, Maine. The Crowley family resides in Wake Forest.

To All My Valued Employees,

There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges. However, the good news is this: The economy doesn't pose a threat to your job.

What does threaten your job however, is the changing political landscape in this country. Of course, as your employer, I am forbidden to tell you whom to vote for - it is against the law to discriminate based on political affiliation, race, creed, religion, etc.

Please vote for who you think will serve your interests the best. However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interest. First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story.

This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Mercedes outside. You saw my big home at last years Christmas party. I'm sure all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life. However, what you don't see is the back story.

I started this company 12 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living space was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you.

My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I didn't have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business -- hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting Nordstrom's for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the Goodwill store extracting any clothing item that didn't look like it was birthed in the 70's.

My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business --- with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.

So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9 am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5 pm, I don't. There is no "off" button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, ****, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to me like a 1 day old baby.

You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden -- the nice house, the Mercedes, the vacations... You never realize the back story and the sacrifices I've made. Now, the economy is falling apart and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail out all the people who didn't.

The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for. Yes, business ownership has its benefits but the price I've paid is steep and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why:

I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don't pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes. I have to hire a tax man to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him. Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time. On Oct 15th, I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my "stimulus" check was? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check?

Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country. The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your paycheck you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? That's nuts. Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy. Here is what many of you don't understand .. to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had suddenly government mandated to me that I didn't need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now.

When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don't defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you? Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. Suddenly, the power brokers in Washington believe the mud of America are the essential drivers of the American economic engine.

Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change you can keep. So where am I going with all this? It's quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your SUV, and your child's future. Frankly, it isn't my problem any more. Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire.

You see, I'm done. I'm done with a country that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.

While tax cuts to 95% of America sounds great on paper, don't forget the back story: If there is no job, there is no income to tax. A tax cut on zero dollars is zero. So, when you make decision to vote, ask yourself, who understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn't? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of saving your job. While the media wants to tell you "It's the economy Stupid" I'm telling you it isn't.

If you lose your job, it won't be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country, steamrolled the Constitution, and will have changed its landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me in the South Caribbean sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about.

Signed, Your boss,
Michael A. Crowley, PE
Crowley, Crisp & Associates, Inc.
Professional Engineers
1906 South Main Street, Suite 122
Wake Forest, NC 27587
Phone: 919.562.8860 x22
Fax: 919.562.8872

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cooter Festival 2011

It’s that time again – time for the Great American Cooter Festival. What’s a Cooter Festival, you ask? Simply put, it’s a festival held yearly by the City of Inverness, Florida, in celebration of the Cooter. The people of Inverness really like to show off their Cooters and they have food, drink and all sorts of fun things to do.

One of the women from the Fish And Wildlife Division actually showed her Cooter to a reporter. He was rather impressed by its overall appearance.

I mentioned it on Facebook last night and, of course, got some interesting feedback. The exchanges went something like this:

“So are you going to the Cooter Festival?”

“I doubt it. I went last year and had my fill of Cooter for a while.”

“Yeah…. When you’ve seen one Cooter you’ve seen them all!! LOL

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far. You’ve got big ones and small ones. Some are more colorful than others. Some are really pretty and others not so much…”

“I’ve heard some Cooters smell bad. I don’t know – I’ve just heard.”

“I suppose it depends on where they live…”

The jokes spread and continued and there was even a video about the Cooter Festival on Youtube. Many people think the Cooter Festival is a bit much. One man even said it’s degrading to women. I personally feel if it’s degrading to the Cooters themselves. After all, they’re just poor little water turtles who like to live in the lakes and eat plants.

What were you thinking?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Be As Proud As I Am

Yesterday morning I watched an interview of Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona. Babeu, an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s policies concerning illegal immigration, said he may run for Congress because he believes “the real deficit in Washington is one of leadership. It's clear that Washington is broken. To fix it we'll need leaders unafraid to make tough decisions, leaders more worried about the next generation than the next election. I believe it may be time for a new Sheriff in Washington."

While the pun was noted, one of the things that caught my ear was Sheriff Babeu’s statement that “We need leaders who are proud of America and still believe she is the greatest nation on Earth.” I have to agree with him. I was disappointed and embarrassed when President Obama, soon after inauguration, went on his “Apology Tour” to the Middle East.

After President Obama won the Democrat nomination for President, Michelle Obama made her infamous statement “For the first time in my adult life I’m proud of my country.” She disappeared from the public eye for a while after that since many Americans weren’t pleased with her statement but one can’t help but wonder if President Obama had/has the same feelings. If so, why would he want to run for President? I can only think of one reason and that would be to change America into a country he could be proud of. Mr. Obama was, after all, raised by socialist/Marxist parents (mostly his mother) and was a follower and teacher of Saul Alinsky. So if he believes America needs to be changed, what other change could it be than to take her toward bigger government and far-left leaning policies.

I realize he hasn’t pushed us too far to the left yet however, I am of the belief that if he wins re-election the mask will come off and the true Barack Obama will surface. And I believe if given a second term Mr. Obama will push much harder and make things happen despite our normal democratic process.

I want a President and representatives who like America and what she stands for regardless. Certainly we could do some things better. But America has always been a world leader and an example for others to follow. We are the most generous nation in the world when it comes to helping other nations – even those with whom we’ve been to war. We are a friend to most and we still stand for freedom and fairness. And those who don’t appreciate America for her values and standards, as far as I’m concerned, can feel free to find a country that feels as they do. Our borders are open in both directions these days. (But you may not find other countries so accommodating.)

I served eight years in the U.S. Air Force and worked for the Federal government for 22 years. I love my country and while she’s not perfect, I won’t apologize to anyone for her. I want a President who is at least as proud of our country as I am. Is that too much to ask, I wonder?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Joe Biden and the truth meter....

A few days ago, Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, told a group in Flint, Michigan, that the murder rate had tripled and incidences of rape have quadrupled since the “police force was cut in half.“ He went on to say if the Republicans don’t pass President Obama’s jobs bill these rates would continue to skyrocket. Only problem is – it’s all lies.

FBI statistics show that the murder rates and incidents of rape in the country overall have decreased in the last year. State statistics in Michigan show that while the murder rate in Flint doubled from 32 to 66, it did not triple and the incidents of rape actually went down by 6%. Even the Police Chief of Flint stated Biden’s statements were inaccurate. When confronted with the facts Mr. Biden continues to defend his statements as true and told one reporter “Check the numbers. Don’t mess with me.” slammed Vice President Biden with a headline that reads “Biden’s Whopper in Flint, Mich. Apparently they too understand that Biden’s generous embellishment of facts and numbers just isn’t quite correct in a country where truth and transparency are supposed to be standard for members of the President’s cabinet. Going around telling blatant lies to the American public in an attempt to get a jobs bill passed is not only pathetic but unbecoming of the Vice President. Mr. Biden needs to stop spreading lies and claiming them to be facts just for Democrat political gain. Of course, the Obama jobs bill is mostly an excuse for more government spending so the only real difference is that the jobs bill hasn’t been proved to be a major falsehood, yet. Biden’s repeated statements have been disproved.

Anyone want to speculate on whether or not Biden is the VP candidate next year?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Killing Anwar Al Awlaki... Should Obama Be Prosecuted?

There are many differing opinions about the killing of Anwar Al Awlaki, ranging from “Great job, Mr. President” to “You’re a murderer and you’re violating the Constitution, Mr. President.” Mostly conservative radio talk show host, Michael Savage, said last night that Obama should be charged with a war crime for killing Al Awlaki. He said Al Awlaki was still an American citizen and, as such, was entitled to a trial and due process. I must voice my disagreement.

Anwar Al Awlaki left the United States and moved to the Middle East. Once there he joined Al Quaeda and denounced his U.S. citizenship. Granted he didn’t do it legally, as Dr. Savage pointed out, but in my book that doesn’t matter in the least. Al Awlaki encouraged and even plotted with terrorists to attack the United States. In my humble opinion, if you turn against your country and plot to kill Americans you’ve given up your right to due process and are fair game for a well placed missile or bomb. Personally, I am glad Al Awlaki is dead and I applaud the President for allowing it and the military or CIA operatives who made it happen. I hope these incidents continue and that we can get as many of our enemies dead as possible. But that’s just me.

Should President Obama or others in the chain be prosecuted? Not in this case. A case might be made for prosecuting Eric Holder but that’s another story or another subject. I believe, regardless of his earlier stances on the wars, that Obama is now doing the right thing concerning the wars. So I’ll give credit where due. Keep it up, Mr. President, and you might get to finish your first and only term to completion…

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Things You May Not Know About Herman Cain...

It’s been said, by pundits on the left and right, that Herman Cain is a joke in the Presidential primaries. Janeane Garofolo said the other day that Republicans will elect Cain simply because he’s black and they’ll try to use that against Obama. The truth is that Herman Cain is an intelligent, business savvy, viable candidate who has moved up in the polls recently.

People are starting to realize that Cain sounds more intelligent and capable than the other candidates. I’ve liked him from the beginning. About the only way Republicans may benefit from his being black is that it will be more difficult for hateful liberals to call Republicans racists if they nominate a black man for President. Kinda difficult to toss that R word out there if the Republican candidate is black as well. But, of course, they’ll try.

I have been reading about Mr. Cain and am even more impressed now then I was. He is extremely successful, intelligent, has successful business experience, and an education that’s been made public (unlike our current President.) Many haven’t taken the time to look closely. So I thought I’d share.

What you may not know about Herman Cain....

He’s not a career politician (in fact he has never held political office). He’s known as a pizza guy, but there’s a lot more to him. He’s also a computer guy, a banker guy, and a rocket scientist guy.

Here’s his bio:

• Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.

• Master’s degree in Computer Science.

• Mathematician for the Navy, where he worked on missile ballistics (making him a rocket scientist).

• Computer systems analyst for Coca-Cola.

• VP of Corporate Data Systems and Services for Pillsbury (this is the top of the ladder in the computer world, being in charge of information systems for a major corporation).

All achieved before reaching the age of 35. Since he reached the top of the information systems world, he changed careers!

• Business Manager. Took charge of Pillsbury’s 400 Burger King restaurants in the Philadelphia area, which were the company’s poorest performers in the country. Spent the first nine months learning the business from the ground up, cooking hamburger and yes, cleaning toilets. After three years he had turned them into the company’s best performers.

• Godfather’s Pizza CEO. Was asked by Pillsbury to take charge of their Godfather’s Pizza chain (which was on the verge of bankruptcy). He made it profitable in 14 months.

• In 1988 he led a buyout of the Godfather’s Pizza chain from Pillsbury. He was now the owner of a restaurant chain. Again he reached the top of the ladder of another industry.

• He was also chairman of the National Restaurant Association during this time. This is a group that interacts with government on behalf of the restaurant industry, and it gave him political experience from the non-politician side.

Having reached the top of a second industry, he changed careers again!

• Adviser to the Federal Reserve System. Herman Cain went to work for the Federal Reserve Banking System advising them on how monetary policy changes would affect American businesses.

• Chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. He worked his way up to the chairmanship of a regional Federal Reserve bank. This is only one step below the chairmanship of the entire Federal Reserve System (the top banking position in the country). This position allowed him to see how monetary policy is made from the inside, and understand the political forces that impact the monetary system.

After reaching the top of the banking industry, he changed careers for a fourth time!

• Writer and public speaker. He then started to write and speak on leadership. His books include Speak as a Leader, CEO of Self, Leadership is Common Sense, and They Think You’re Stupid.

• Radio Host. Around 2007—after a remarkable 40 year career—he started hosting a radio show on WSB in Atlanta (the largest talk radio station in the country).

He did all this starting from rock bottom (his father was a chauffeur and his mother was a maid). When you add up his accomplishments in his life—including reaching the top of three unrelated industries: information systems, business management, and banking—

Herman Cain may have the most impressive resume of anyone that has run for the presidency in the last half century.

In my opinion, Herman Cain is far more qualified to lead the country and get it back on track than our current President. To borrow from Dennis Miller… (Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Half Boy, Half Man

I wish I'd written today's post. I didn't. I received it as an e-mail. I wish I knew who actually wrote it. I don't. There was no name associated with it. But the message was one I couldn't keep from sharing. May God bless all of our military men and women and keep them safe. They volunteer their very lives to keep us safe and free. And I, for one, pray for them.

For whatever reason the pictures wouldn't work in my post. Some of them were very poignant. But the words written here say enough.

Half Boy, Half Man

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's, but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sports activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer. He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional. He can march until he is told to stop, or stop until he is told to march. He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity.

He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.

If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands.

He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job.

He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay, and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.

He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.

He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away ' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.
Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so.

Prayer wheel for our military... please don't break it. Please send this on after a short prayer.

Prayer Wheel
'Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us.
Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen.'

When you read this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, sailors on ships, and airmen in the air, and for those in all foreign countries.

Of all the gifts you could give a US Soldier, Sailor, Coastguardsman, Marine, or Airman, prayer is the very best one.

He Sounds "Presidential"

During the 2007 Presidential election campaigns people began talking about certain candidates looking or sounding “Presidential”. Mr. Obama was often praised for sounding “more Presidential than George W. Bush.” Tuesday night, after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made a speech at the Reagan Presidential Library, people and pundits were talking about how “Presidential” he sounded. As I’m writing this I’m listening to someone talking about how “Presidential” Mitt Romney looked and sounded during the last debate.

Maybe it’s me but I just don’t understand how someone “sounds Presidential”. Does that mean he or she is a good speaker? If so, there are plenty of people in the world who can sound Presidential. Does it mean they can read well from a teleprompter? Again, there are many people who can do that well. Is it as much about appearance, presence and delivery as it is the speech itself? If so then the Reverend Billy Graham, one of the greatest (in my opinion) evangelists who ever lived, could have been President. For that matter, so could have Madeline O’Hare or even Sarah Palin. (Yes, I said it. Sarah Palin may not be the best Presidential candidate but she has a knack for public speaking. Listen to any of her speeches – particularly her impromptu speeches - and watch the audience.)

I’m of the opinion that sounding Presidential is merely in the mind of the listener. As someone who used to teach adult training classes I’m impressed by a good speaker for his speaking abilities but not necessarily for the message. I could teach a class and motivate my students with my words and actions. All it really takes is to connect with your audience, whether that audience is a group of students or a group of your best followers, and to be very familiar with your subject matter. Connecting with your audience means talking to them in a manner that makes them feel comfortable and making them feel like you’re talking directly to each of them. Sarah Palin has that ability. She connects with her audience because she talks to them on their level without being pretentious or arrogant. Some others who have been called great speakers can’t do that.

One of the marks of a good public speaker is their ability to ad lib as necessary. Sarah Palin was ridiculed for writing a couple of notes on her hand before an impromptu appearance yet the President is praised for his speaking abilities even though he can barely put two sentences together if his teleprompter goes down. So geez, in that situation who sounds more Presidential – a person who can think on their feet or someone who is lost if their prompter goes down? By the way – I’m not writing this to praise Sarah Palin. I’m simply using her as an example of someone who has great public speaking ability. Even if you don’t like Sarah Palin, if you look and listen to her giving a speech and judge her solely (and honestly) on her ability to deliver it, you’ll agree. Mr. Obama has the ability to do the same thing yet, to me, he often comes across as dry and haughty. Perhaps it’s because he’s trying to appear “Presidential.”

I’m sure I’ll be attacked for posting this. I’ll also be attacked for saying that Obama’s speech the other day to the Congressional Black Caucus was pretty pathetic as well. I suppose he felt he was connecting to his audience on their level. If a conservative President attempted that they’d be ridiculed to no end. The main stream, Obama supporting media won’t comment on things that obvious. They must figure if they don’t talk about it, it didn’t really happen. But it did, and not for the first time. Of course, Hillary did the same thing on March 5, 2007, putting on a Southern drawl during a campaign speech in Alabama. And again the main stream media ignored it.

I don’t really care if President Obama wants to change his speech pattern between one audience and the other. What bothers me more is when it’s factually reported and those reporting it are called racist simply for pointing it out. There was no doubt the President was changing his normal speech pattern to suit his audience. So why is it racist to point that out? Truth is truth. It may be unimportant but it’s certainly not racist.

Let’s all hope that whoever we choose as leader of the free world in next year’s election doesn’t get elected based solely upon his/her ability to look or sound Presidential. Is it a plus? Certainly. But I’d rather have a person who is competent and able who struggles a little with speeches than someone who talks a great game and can’t do the job. Wouldn’t that be more “Presidential”?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Not in a union? The President Wants Your Family To Starve

If you don’t belong to a union – the President hates you and wants your family to starve.

The Boeing Corporation is being sued by the National Labor Relations Board for building a new factory in North Carolina, a right-to-work state. The union at the Boeing plant in Seattle, Washington, says Boeing is unfairly retaliating against them because of past strikes by building a new plant in a right-to-work state and is trying to force Boeing to build their new plant right there in Seattle.

The Obama administration supports the actions of the NLRB. Big surprise there, huh? It’s no secret the President has always been a big union supporter and vice versa. So once again the administration is supporting the union by attempting to take away about 1000 jobs from the people in the state of North Carolina simply because North Carolina doesn’t make people join unions. You just have to love how the President talks about putting people back to work even as his administration is working to take the jobs away from those who don’t play by their rules. He obviously doesn’t think non-union people should eat.

Boeing’s motivation for building in North Carolina is two-fold. They can pay lower wages since there’s no union negotiation (which makes sound business sense) and they don’t have to worry about an organized labor walk out. Not to mention the unemployment rate in North Carolina is at 10.1% as of June, 2011. Washington’s unemployment rate at the same time was 9.3%. So who needs the jobs more?

As for my first comment – it makes as least as much sense as the rhetoric from the left about how Republicans hate seniors, teachers and police officers because of bills designed to reduce spending. Oh wait – liberals don’t use rhetoric. I forgot. When liberals say things like that it’s… different. Either way, Boeing should be able to build and staff their new plant wherever they choose. Of course, Eric Holder is suing Arizona as well for enforcing Federal laws that the Federal government refuses to enforce.

Nothing surprises me about this administration, except maybe the fact that some people still support it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Honoring a hero...

This was sent to me this morning in e-mail form. I don't know the name of the person who wrote the actual piece but it was originally forwarded by one Sherri Gallant of Fort Worth, Texas. What an incredible honor to a fallen hero. The people of Texas have always been proud and patriotic and this gesture by so many people, so simple yet so meaningful, is a proud reminder of why America is still the greatest nation in the world.

Subject: We Buried A Hero Today

As I write this, the time is 11:25 p.m. on the evening of Friday, September 9, 2011. We have just arrived back home from a long, very emotionally grueling day. For you see, we buried a hero today in Gustine, Tx. A young man who would have turned 21 years of age next week: Private first class Jesse Wayne Dietrich. Jesse, while being a member of our family, was so much more than that – he was a true American hero: a young man who willingly placed himself at the point of his platoon, because he thought that he could bring them all back alive. A bullet from an insurgent in the Kandahar Region of Afghanistan cut his life short on Friday, August 25, 2011 and we laid him to rest in the very place he had requested before he left to defend this country. This nation has lost a strong, courageous young man, but for me, it has gained so much more.

After the funeral in Mansfield, Tx we gathered in a procession that must have stretched for over a mile on our 120+ mile ride to his final restring place, the Diamond J Youth Ranch in Gustine, Tx. On the way, something happened that the military escort, the funeral home Directors, the family and friends: none of us expected to see. It was something we had heard stories about but had never witnessed with our eyes, until today!

In short, we rode through a 120 mile patriotic tribute; a gauntlet of honor and thanks that began in Mansfield, Tx, then made its way through, Rendon, Ft Worth, Crowley, Whiskey Flats, Cresson, Granbury, Tolar, Bluff Dale, Stephenville, Dublin, Proctor, Gustine, and finally, the Diamond J Youth Ranch. All along the way there were thousands of fellow Americans: some old, some very young, from every walk of life you can imagine, all standing on the sides of the highways, silently holding American flags, carrying homemade posters and banners, hats and hands placed over hearts, amid a myriad of tears and reverence. Motorists who had known nothing of what was coming their way had not only stopped their vehicles out of respect, but were standing outside them, on the sides of the roads, many of them saluting as we passed by.

At every town there were fire trucks with ladders extended and flags flying high and police vehicles by the dozens. Businesses wrote words of thanks and tributes to Jesse on their marquee signs. There were employees who completely left their businesses to come and just say “thanks” to Jesse as his body was driven past them. City offices were totally shut down and all of their employees were standing in silent tribute. There were entire schools of children, all gathered along the roads with the kids holding up signs and posters, telling Jesse how much they loved him. From town to town the scene kept repeating itself, over and over, and over again. When we thought that it would be the last of them, we would top a hill or round a corner and there were more! Even in the deep rural areas where there were no houses or businesses, pickup trucks were off the road and people were in their beds or on the sides of the roads, proudly holding up their American flags.

Several people stick out in my mind. One is the older veteran standing alongside Highway 377 in Granbury, feebly holding onto an American flag. At first I wondered why he was hobbling and finding it difficult to stand, and then I saw that he had no right leg, for where it had been, there was a prosthetic; the same kind that soldiers wear when they have a leg blown off, and yet he stood as best he could, proudly in honor of this hero!

I remember the lady who was standing beside the road weeping and as I said “Thank you” from my car, she answered back with tears in her voice, “I am so sorry! This is all we can do. I am so sorry!”

I remember an older lady, not satisfied with just standing in respect, but was kneeling down beside the road with her flag in her hand and her other hand over her heart.

I called a friend of mine, Brad Heitman, who is on the radio in Stephenville and I asked him if he knew we would be coming through his town, and he said, “Oh yes! Just listen to 93.1 FM.” I turned over there and he was giving updates on our arrival in between playing songs about our American heroes. Before we entered the town, thousands of people were already there waiting for us, with their flags and their hands over their hearts!

All along the road, for 120 miles this continued. And most of the people were not waving, but standing in complete silence and reverence as we passed by. The amazing thing is that we were almost 2 hours late, so some of those folks had been standing there for hours in the sun by the time we passed them - all to show their appreciation and gratitude!

When we finally arrived at Gustine, the entire town was there on the highway! In fact, the whole football team from Gustine High School was standing at the gate to the ranch, all saluting with the hands over their hearts, in tribute to our hero as we turned in front of them.

Finally, the pastor stood at the end of that patriot ride, next to the freshly dug grave and said these words "Rural America has not forgotten! Rural America remembers her heroes!"

Needless to say, for Cindy and I and the hundreds who were part of that processional, it was a day of continual tears and unrestrained gratitude; gratitude that people Jesse had never met, nor had ever met him, sacrificed their time to say “Thank you” in ways that we, the family and friends will NEVER forget! These were not frivolous displays of feigned attempts at patriotism, but rather, the tears we could see them crying, the salutes from the soldiers, adults, teenagers and the children, the flags, banners and signs of support – everything, all of them, were genuine acts of gratitude from hearts that truly meant it! While they were thanking Jesse, they were really thanking all of our military who continually lay their lives on the line for us.

My faith in America has been restored today!! No longer will I allow the far-removed liberals and media in the big cities define who and what America is for me! I saw her today, and words cannot begin to describe what we all felt as we viewed the heart of this great land with our own eyes!! In fact, I overheard two family members say these words this evening: “We just thought that we were patriotic!”

We sing God Bless America and America has indeed been blessed by God, but I am here to tell you, the kind, compassionate heart of God is alive and well in the heart of this bountiful land He has so richly blessed us with and I believe that today, this people of this land unselfishly blessed Him – while they were blessing us!

Thank you America, and may God bless you as you have blessed others today!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sack Lunches

I got the following e-mail today. I have read it before but this time I decided to post it for everyone. I checked to see if it happened to be true and as of yet Snopes hasn't been able to make a determination. The story is attributed to a man named Denny Kukich and was published in the magazine "Renewed And Ready - Adventist Living For Today" in an article written by Beverly Brass. Snopes has stated it could very well be true and even if it's not, it's a great reminder for all of us to honor and appreciate our military members. If it is true then God certainly blessed those soldiers but even moreso Mr. Kukich. It puts a lump in my throat every time I read it. I hope it does yours as well.

Sack Lunches

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation.

'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.

'Petawawa. We'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Afghanistan

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch
would help pass the time...

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. 'No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks. I'll wait till we get to base.'

His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. 'Take a lunch to all those soldiers.' She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. 'My son was a soldier in
Iraq ; it's almost like you are doing it for him.'

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, 'Which do you like best - beef or chicken?'

'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class.

'This is your thanks.'

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A
man stopped me. 'I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.' He handed me
twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand and said, 'I want to shake your hand.' Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain's hand.

With a booming voice he said, 'I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought
me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.' I was embarrassed when applause was
heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to
them and handed them seventy-five dollars. 'It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.'

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers.

As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals. It seemed so little...

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.'

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.'

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001 - Ten Years Later

Ten years ago today, 19 radical, Islamic terrorists belonging to the organization “Al Qaeda”, hijacked four U.S. commercial airliners and deliberately crashed them. Three hit specific targets – the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. On the fourth plane the hijackers were forced by passengers to abandon their mission and the plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. It was headed for the Capitol. All passengers, crew and hijackers died in the attacks, as did over 3,000 other innocent civilians of all races, faiths and nationalities.

September 11, 2001, marked the first time in decades that the United States was attacked on our own soil. It was also the first time we were attacked by a religious/terrorist organization instead of another country. Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization started by (the late) Osama Bin Laden. It is not, however, free of Islamic influence and belief as some people want to believe. It is deeply controlled by Islamic followers, however radical they may be.

I do not believe all Muslims are terrorists. Nor do I believe all terrorists are Muslims. That said – if you look at the majority of terrorist attacks throughout the world in the last 10 years, you’ll find Islamic terrorists to be the most common. There have literally been hundreds of documented attacks. This website: shows documented attacks from 2001 until 2011. Denying or ignoring this fact could be seriously dangerous to our nation and our people.

Today’s post is in honor of the victims of September 11, 2001. From the innocent people in the twin towers to the military members at the pentagon, to the heroes who attempted to take back control of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, all of you deserve our remembrance and honor. There were heroes in all three locations, from the average World Trade Center employee who helped another out of the building, to the police and firefighters who lost their lives doing what they do best – protecting people – to our service members who died just doing their jobs, to the passengers on that fourth plane who decided they weren’t going to die without a fight.

For me, today is about remembering those who died; some innocently and without knowing it and others who died trying to save them. There are heroes born every day in this country. And many of them become firefighters and police officers.

It’s about our military service members who have died in the fight to end terrorism. Regardless of their political or religious views, with few exceptions, they do what they’re asked to do out of dedication to and love for their country. Sadly, there are those Americans who ridicule the military even knowing the only reason they have that right is because of our military.

Today is about remembering all the 9/11 victims, including those who were not Americans. It’s about remembering how fragile life can be and how vulnerable our way of life can be when people who don’t have what we have are envious and hateful. Islam is not our enemy. Those who use violence in the name of Islam are our enemies. And it’s important that we all recognize that and keep working against them lest this tragedy happen again.

May God bless all the families of those fallen heroes and those who survived and suffer today because of 9/11. May God bless the families of all those innocent people who lost their lives that day. And may God continue to bless this great nation and guide her toward a strong and peaceful future.

We will not forget….

Friday, September 9, 2011

An Untold Hero of 9/11

Over the years since 9/11 there have been stories come out of heroism, during and after the attacks, from people in all walks of life. Most were firefighters and police officers. Some were civilians and others were serving their country in the military. This is a story of two such military members. I’d never heard the story until today. It was published yesterday in the Washington Post and needs to be publicized.

I’ve posted the saying before that "A military service member is someone who, at some point in his/her lifetime, writes a check to "The people of the United States of America" in the amount of "Up to and including my life".

Even though it turned out to be unnecessary, Lieutenant (now Major) Penney and Colonel Marc Sasseville certainly lived up to that statement on 9-11-2001. This will give you chills if you care about our military at all. Read on.

F-16 pilot was ready to give her life on Sept. 11
By Steve Hendrix, Published: September 8

Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it.

The one thing she didn’t have as she roared into the crystalline sky was live ammunition. Or missiles. Or anything at all to throw at a hostile aircraft.

Except her own plane. So that was the plan.

Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.

“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft,” Penney recalls of her charge that day. “I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”

For years, Penney, one of the first generation of female combat pilots in the country, gave no interviews about her experiences on September 11th (which included, eventually, escorting Air Force One back into Washington’s suddenly highly restricted airspace).

But 10 years later, she is reflecting on one of the lesser-told tales of that endlessly examined morning: how the first counterpunch the U.S. military prepared to throw at the attackers was effectively a suicide mission.

“We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” she said last week in her office at Lockheed Martin, where she is a director in the F-35 program.

Penney, now a major but still a petite blonde with a Colgate grin, is no longer a combat flier. She flew two tours in Iraq and she serves as a part-time National Guard pilot, mostly hauling VIPs around in a military Gulfstream. She takes the stick of her own vintage 1941 Taylorcraft tail-dragger whenever she can.

But none of her thousands of hours in the air quite compare with the urgent rush of launching on what was supposed to be a one-way flight to a midair collision.

First of her kind

She was a rookie in the autumn of 2001, the first female F-16 pilot they’d ever had at the 121st Fighter Squadron of the D.C. Air National Guard. She had grown up smelling jet fuel. Her father flew jets in Vietnam and still races them. Penney got her pilot’s licence when she was a literature major at Purdue. She planned to be a teacher. But during a graduate program in American studies, Congress opened up combat aviation to women and Penney was nearly first in line.

“I signed up immediately,” she says. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot like my dad.”

On that Tuesday, they had just finished two weeks of air combat training in Nevada. They were sitting around a briefing table when someone looked in to say a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. When it happened once, they assumed it was some yahoo in a Cesna. When it happened again, they knew it was war.

But the surprise was complete. In the monumental confusion of those first hours, it was impossible to get clear orders. Nothing was ready. The jets were still equipped with dummy bullets from the training mission.

As remarkable as it seems now, there were no armed aircraft standing by and no system in place to scramble them over Washington. Before that morning, all eyes were looking outward, still scanning the old Cold War threat paths for planes and missiles coming over the polar ice cap.

“There was no perceived threat at the time, especially one coming from the homeland like that,” says Col. George Degnon, vice commander of the 113th Wing at Andrews. “It was a little bit of a helpless feeling, but we did everything humanly possible to get the aircraft armed and in the air. It was amazing to see people react.”

Things are different today, ¬Degnon says. At least two “hot-cocked” planes are ready at all times, their pilots never more than yards from the cockpit.

A third plane hit the Pentagon, and almost at once came word that a fourth plane could be on the way, maybe more. The jets would be armed within an hour, but somebody had to fly now, weapons or no weapons.

“Lucky, you’re coming with me,” barked Col. Marc Sasseville.

They were gearing up in the pre-flight life-support area when Sasseville, struggling into his flight suit, met her eye.

“I’m going to go for the cockpit,” Sasseville said.

She replied without hesitating.

“I’ll take the tail.”

It was a plan. And a pact.

‘Let’s go!’

Penney had never scrambled a jet before. Normally the pre-flight is a half-hour or so of methodical checks. She automatically started going down the list.

“Lucky, what are you doing? Get your butt up there and let’s go!” Sasseville shouted.

She climbed in, rushed to power up the engines, screamed for her ground crew to pull the chocks. The crew chief still had his headphones plugged into the fuselage as she nudged the throttle forward. He ran along pulling safety pins from the jet as it moved forward.

She muttered a fighter pilot’s prayer — “God, don’t let me [expletive] up” — and followed Sasse¬ville into the sky.

They screamed over the smoldering Pentagon, heading northwest at more than 400 mph, flying low and scanning the clear horizon. Her commander had time to think about the best place to hit the enemy.

“We don’t train to bring down airliners,” said Sasseville, now stationed at the Pentagon. “If you just hit the engine, it could still glide and you could guide it to a target. My thought was the cockpit or the wing.”
He also thought about his ejection seat. Would there be an instant just before impact?

“I was hoping to do both at the same time,” he says. “It probably wasn’t going to work, but that’s what I was hoping.”

Penney worried about missing the target if she tried to bail out.
“If you eject and your jet soars through without impact . . .” she trails off, the thought of failing more dreadful than the thought of dying.

But she didn’t have to die. She didn’t have to knock down an airliner full of kids and salesmen and girlfriends. They did that themselves.
It would be hours before Penney and Sasseville learned that United 93 had already gone down in Pennsylvania, an insurrection by hostages willing to do just what the two Guard pilots had been willing to do: Anything. And everything.

“The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves,” Penney says. “I was just an accidental witness to history.”

She and Sasseville flew the rest of the day, clearing the airspace, escorting the president, looking down onto a city that would soon be sending them to war.

She’s a single mom of two girls now. She still loves to fly. And she still thinks often of that extraordinary ride down the runway a decade ago.

“I genuinely believed that was going to be the last time I took off,” she says. “If we did it right, this would be it.”