Saturday, June 25, 2011

Handshakes For Our Troops - A Simple Thank You

I was talking to a friend on Facebook last night and was reminded of something I thought I’d share.

For over three years now, every chance I get I shake hands with service members I see, be it in airports, stores, on the street and even in restaurants. I got the idea from watching a news story about a gentleman who goes to an airport (I don’t remember which one) and greets the troops as they get off of the plane. The man is retired and in his 70s yet every day he goes to the airport and meets the military charters just to welcome them home. The story got to me and I decided I could show my appreciation as well.

Having spent 8 years in the Air Force myself, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for anyone who volunteers to join the service. It’s especially meaningful during wartime when people join the military knowing there’s a good chance they’ll be sent into the hostilities. The fact that they still volunteer knowing what could happen makes them all heroes in my book.

My technique is simple and rewarding. I just walk up to them, gain their attention, put out my hand and say “Thank you.” That’s it. What’s most rewarding for me is their reactions. Many say “You’re welcome” and smile. But others, the ones who touch me the most, say “Thank you”. They appreciate being recognized and are genuinely grateful for my gesture. Every military person I have greeted in this fashion has smiled, shaken my hand and been happy to have been acknowledged. And it gives me great satisfaction to do it.

So that said, do I do it for them or for me? I suppose the answer to that question would be “Yes”. I do it because I enjoy seeing the smiles on their faces when I thank them and I do it because I am genuinely thankful and grateful for what they do. And I do it for me because it feels good to make someone’s day like that, out of the blue. I guess it’s getting more and more popular to thank a military person these days but most of them are still obviously surprised. And I’m guessing that more than one of them has gone home later that day and said to his/her family “This guy walked up to me in the airport/store/restaurant today, shook my hand and said ‘Thank you.’ Then he walked away. I’ve never seen him before but it was really nice of him.” At least, I hope that’s what they say.

I’d like to start a new organization today. This one won’t cost anything and needs only dedicated volunteers. It’s called “Handshakes For Our Troops – A Simple Thank You.” Want to join me?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Christopher....

Wickipedia defines Fathers Day as “a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. It is celebrated on the third Sunday of June in many countries and on other days elsewhere. It complements Mother's Day, the celebration honoring mothers.”

Today will be the ninth Fathers’ Day I have had to celebrate without my beloved son, Christopher, and the second that falls on what would have been his 27th birthday. Yes, I said “celebrate”. I’ll explain.

The year he died, 2002, Father’s Day was a black, painful day that I would have completely skipped if I could have. Christopher had been dead four months and six days and the pain was still very real and very intense. It was almost all consuming. Even though I wasn’t jealous of them, seeing other fathers around me celebrating with their kids did hurt. Yet in the middle of my pain something wonderful happened that made me happy.

A friend of mine had been estranged from his son for several years. Out of the blue, on that Fathers’ Day, his son walked in just to see him and make amends. Even as I was feeling sorry for myself I couldn’t help but be genuinely happy for this man who was reuniting with his only son. So in the middle of my grief there was at least a happy moment.

As the years passed it became a little easier to get through Fathers Day until June 19, 2006, the first time it was on his birthday. Each year on Christopher’s birthday I would travel to West Palm Beach, Florida, to a small park where they had placed an “Angel of Hope” statue. (You can read about the statue at It had become very dear to me, a place of peace and solitude where I could commune with Christopher and leave feeling content. That year I had a double reason to go. I remember placing a flower at the feet of the statue, looking up at her and crying softly. It had been four years and four birthdays and four Fathers’ Days and it still hurt. Having Fathers’
Day on my dead son’s birthday was just painful.

This year it comes around on his birthday again but it won’t be as devastating. As much as I miss him, as much as I wish he was still here, the pain has eased to a bearable level and I’ve learned to celebrate being a father, whether he’s here or not. I’m still Christopher’s dad and this day is partly for me. And I can live with that.

One thing that will help this year is that I’m now in possession of several more of Christopher’s belongings. I went to Oklahoma City last year to visit his grandparents, where his mom used to live. His grandma, who I love dearly, had several boxes of things Christopher or his mom had saved. I got pictures, his high school graduation cap and gown, his high school diploma (which the school had given to his mother), his band uniform, a coffee mug from his high school, and his yearbook. I got his wallet that he was carrying the night of his accident. (I still wear his ring on a chain around my neck.) And I got his Led Zeppelin CD collection and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. All these things remind me of him and make me feel closer to him. And I’m so very grateful to have them.

There’s an Angel of Hope statue in Tampa that I will try to visit today. I’ll place a white flower at her feet and look up into her face and think about Christopher. I may even shed a tear, simply because I miss him. But I won’t let sadness ruin the day for me. I’m proud to be Christopher’s father and I’m glad I can still be a part of Fathers’ Day, simply because I’m his father. And I’m hoping other fathers in my position feel the same way. Being a father is something no one can take away from you. And if you have to celebrate that status without your child, do it anyway.

Happy birthday, Christopher. I love you and I miss you every day. It still hurts that you’re not here but I know you wouldn’t want me to let it ruin my life. Thanks for making me a father. Even more – thanks for being my son.

Happy Father’s Day to all of you fathers out there, including my own, who is 90 years old! Have a wonderful day and celebrate it with your children if possible. And don’t forget to tell them you love them. You never know if you’ll get another chance.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Love, God and More Changes...

That title came to me Sunday morning and stuck in my head without me having any idea where it might go. Now, as I write this, I still have no idea where it’s headed. But it has begun.

The events of the last week have been somewhat disheartening. Many of you by now know that my wife and I are splitting up. I could go down a list of problems and play the blame game but it would be one sided and serve no purpose. And it wouldn’t change anything. The bottom line is that we got married before we truly knew who each other is and that definitely took its toll on the relationship. And both of us are to blame for that because we rushed it along.

A friend of mine said to me the other day (paraphrased): “I don’t understand why God allows so many bad things to happen to some people and other people seem to live charmed lives.” She was obviously referring to the things that have happened in my life in the last ten years. My answer to that would be “God doesn’t normally interfere in people’s lives. He certainly could if He wanted but I believe He allows us all to make our own choices and suffer the consequences. And sometimes bad things and accidents just happen. “

When my son died in 2002 it was because he made the really poor choice to ride in a car without wearing a seat belt. Had he been wearing it he would most likely still be alive. When his mother developed cancer years ago it was something that just happened; something that happens to many people. She fought it hard and finally gave up when it came back the last time, just last year. But she never quit smoking no matter how sick she got. And I’m sure that didn’t help her condition.

As I said - sometimes bad things just happen. And accidents happen. Could God have prevented either or both of those things from happening? Of course He could have. But He leaves us to our own choices and our own wills and we often don’t do very well with that freedom. As for Barrie and I – we were caught up in each other and our decision to push things along was made by us and us alone. There’s no one else to blame, certainly not God.

I’m not sure why it is that love doesn’t work out. I’m not sure how you can love someone and then stop loving them. And I’m not sure how something that can be so wonderful can turn around and be so painful. But it happens all the time. Yet most people continue to take the chance of love on a regular basis, even if they’ve been hurt before. I can’t say I won’t ever take the chance again. But I know it won’t be anytime soon. And that’s perfectly OK with me.

I thank each of you who have offered your sympathies and best wishes and I appreciate people respecting my wishes and not asking a lot of questions. These things are difficult enough without having to explain things over and over. I’m going to be OK. Barrie is going to be OK. And life will go on. Of that I am certain.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Time To Put It To Rest...

In the last few days members of the mostly liberal media, both electronic and printed, have been scouring over 24,000 e-mails written by then-Governor, Sarah Palin, and released to the public by the State of Alaska just last week. Seeking more ways to discredit her and/or assassinate her character, some media outlets even enlisted the assistance of readers and viewers in trying to find something, anything that could be further investigated. So hundreds, if not thousands of eyes were reading these e-mails over the last few days and what they found was… nothing.

Ms. Palin’s e-mails showed her as a serious, hard working Governor who tried in earnest to do the best for her state, cared for her staff and took them to task as necessary. Even the e-mails about “Troopergate” showed nothing different than what Palin had already said publicly about it. There was nothing there the “investigators” could use against her.

Everyone has their opinion about Sarah Palin. Whether she’s a good candidate for President, a decent politician, a good mom, a good author, or a good public speaker is in the eye of the beholder and people feel strongly about her one way or another. Personally, I feel those who like to say she’s stupid are not really paying attention to the woman. She has made some statements that aren’t seen to be highly intelligent (some of which were obvious sarcasm but that point was overlooked) but name one politician who hasn’t said something stupid at one time or another. The President himself campaigned in 57 states and Joe Biden produces so many gaffes I think they hide him from the cameras these days. Of course, President Obama’s statement was a slip of the tongue that was heavily defended by the media. But when Sarah Palin jokes about being able to see Russia from her home they still call her stupid even now, three years later.

My point is, the media, and many people, have been brutally assaulting, in words, Sarah Palin’s character, intelligence, abilities, and even her family for three years now, long after the 2008 election and long before the 2012 election. They won’t let her out of the spotlight and they get upset if she tries to do anything without telling them. (Yes, I said “They won’t let her out of the spotlight." Sometimes she seeks the media out for certain things but I guarantee you she’s not parked outside of their houses.) I think it’s time the left puts this to rest and leave the woman alone. She hasn’t even announced whether or not she will run for President in 2012 yet she’s in the news almost daily being hounded by the left wing media. Personally I liken it to stalking. They’re obsessed by her and can’t leave her alone. And overall I think she’s handled it with class and dignity. One has to wonder what members of that same media would do if the tables were reversed and they were the ones being hounded?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

People Need to Know...

I received an e-mail from a family member that contained the following article. Before I posted it I searched several sources, including Snopes, to verify the article’s validity. To my pleasant surprise I discovered this is an actual program in which the PING Golf Club Company has partnered with the Wounded Warrior Foundation to assist disabled veterans with… well, you’ll see when you read it. I have no idea who wrote this article but my search proved it to be true. And God bless the PING Company for what they’re doing.

“On Monday, I played the Disney, Lake Buena Vista course. As usual the starters matched me with three other players. After a few holes we began to get to know each other a bit. One fellow was rather young and had his wife riding along in the golf cart with him. I noticed that his golf bag had his name on it and after closer inspection, it also said "wounded war veterans". When I had my first chance to chat with him I asked him about the bag. His response was simply that it was a gift. I then asked if he was wounded and he said yes. When I asked more about his injury, his response was "I'd rather not talk about it, sir".

Over a few holes I learned that he had spent the last 15 months in an army rehabilitation hospital in San Antonio Texas . His wife moved there to be with him and he was released from the hospital in September. He was a rather quiet fellow; however, he did say that he wanted to get good at golf. We had a nice round and as we became a bit more familiar I asked him about the a brand new set of Ping woods and irons he was playing. Some looked like they had never been hit. His response was simple. He said that this round was the first full round he had played with these clubs.

Later in the round he told me the following. As part of the discharge process from the rehabilitation hospital, Ping comes in and provides three days of golf instruction, followed by club fitting. Upon discharge from the hospital, Ping gives each of the discharged veterans, generally about 40 soldiers, a brand new set of custom fitted clubs along with the impressive golf bags.

The fellow I met was named Ben Woods and he looked me in the eye and said that being fitted for those clubs was one of the best things that ever happened to him and he was determined to learn to play golf well enough to deserve the gift Ping had given him. Ben is now out of the service, medically discharged just a month ago. He is as fine a young man as you would ever want to meet.

Ping has the good judgment not to advertise this program. God Bless America and the game of golf.”

The greatest part of this story is that PING doesn’t talk about the program, doesn’t draw attention to itself by using it for self-promotion, and doesn’t think what they’re doing is a big deal.

Bill Gates from PING said the program is for veterans who were severely injured fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"They learn to do sports -- anything from skiing to golf to rock-climbing," Gates said. "It's an amazing program, we're just proud to be a part of it."

"We feel like what we've done is really inconsequential, compared to the sacrifices that all these people have made for our country," Gates said. "The Armed Forces have done so much to help protect our liberties and help us to be a successful company. The least we could do was to give back to these true American heroes."

I’m sure (at least I hope) there are other companies out there who are quietly helping our wounded warriors. If so, I hope one day the word gets out. I can tell you one thing – I would be inclined to buy products from a company like that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Tribute To Some Great Americans (Who Happen To Be Family)

Much of the information in today’s post I’ve said before in one way or another. I hope you’ll read the entire thing because there are some things in here you don’t know. And these things are worth reading.

As many of you know, my sister-in-law, Tami, lost her son, Chad, in Afghanistan on December 1st of last year. And most of you know Chad’s story but for anyone who hasn’t read about him, I’m going to do a brief synopsis. Chad was a Corporal in the Marines and was on his second tour of duty in a war zone. He didn’t have to go, being an only child with only nine months left on his enlistment. But he wouldn’t let his buddies face the dangers of war without him. That’s the caliber of man he was. Honor and dedication were as much a part of him as his arms or his hair. It’s who he was.

Two weeks ago Chad’s platoon returned home from Afghanistan. Tami and her husband, Tebo, flew to California to meet with all of them, just to welcome them home and let them know they were loved and appreciated. It was a difficult trip for Tami. Can you imagine welcoming all those young men back from the war without her own son being one of them? I can. I hugged the two survivors of the car accident that killed my son. As much as it hurts, as a parent you’re still happy the others didn’t die. Your heart breaks as you see them but your love as a parent takes control. At least it did in my case. And in Tami’s.

Next week many of those young men, that band of brothers who fought side by side with Chad and returned safely home, will be converging on Bentonville, Arkansas. By special invitation they’re attending a party in their honor. The party is being organized and hosted by none other than Tami and Tebo, along with Tami’s sister, Chad’s Aunt Paige.

I, for one, am deeply touched and extremely impressed by what Chad’s grieving family members are doing. But I’m not surprised. Anyone who knows any of these people knows they are kind, caring and very generous people; generous particularly with their love and compassion for others.

The party is only one example of the love and compassion Tami, Tebo and Paige have for others. With the help of some very special people and Tyson Foods, Tami is creating a new, non-profit foundation to help Marines (and hopefully, in the future, all services) who are being deployed to a war zone to get a trip home before they leave. The “Wings For Our Troops” foundation, “in loving memory of CPL Chad S. Wade” will assist marines in securing transportation home for a visit before they deploy. If the Marine or his family can’t afford that ticket the foundation will provide it for him/her.

You can read more about “Wings For Our Troops” on Facebook by searching on those words. The website is up and running at and donations can be made through the site. You can read more about Chad and the person he was at Chad Wade was a hero and his mom and step-father are heroes as well for doing the things they’re doing in his memory. I never got the opportunity to meet Chad. But I’m honored and humbled knowing Tami, Tebo and Paige and calling them friends. They live the kind of compassion I’d like to demonstrate in my own life.

Tami, Tebo, Paige…? I’d love to be there with you next week but I know those Marine heroes are in good hands. Please, please extend my thanks and my respect to each and every one of them for what they do and for having the honor and sense of duty to do it. God bless them all. And God bless you all.