Everyday American Heroes

I hate our “celebrity” culture, the one that exalts the “glitterati” who have contributed nothing, let me say that again, NOTHING, of significance or substance to our society.

I’m not talking about our collective fascination with who’s in or who’s out on American Idol.  I get that.  That’s just fun.

Nor am I critical of the attention paid to the minutia of our athletes’ or political figures’ lives.  They have worked hard, dedicating years of practice or knowledge acquisition to get to the highest echelon of their craft. Good for them.  We disregard their privacy in a quest for feeling connected to them, or  “in the know” about them, as if we’re one of their closest friends.  Silly. Delusional, really.  But for most of us, most of time, harmless curiosity, harmless adulation.

They are not who I’m talking about. You know who it is.  The people who show up on the cover of magazines and late night talk shows. They seem to come out-of-nowhere; overnight sensations, they get quoted as experts and regarded as authorities for no understandable reason other than their questionable skill to speak while on camera. Will you please join me in ignoring them?

My tolerance for them has evaporated, especially these days.

These days, I am surrounded by everyday American heroes.

People who are caring for their sick and dying loved ones, and still show up at work when they can, with a smile on their face. Persevering.

People who have lost their homes to fire or flood damage, and are thankful that all they really lost was “stuff”; they are THANKFUL that no one really got hurt.

I’m blessed to work among such people.  I’m humbled by their resilience.

Last night, we went to a funeral, a common activity these days.

This one was different.  Britta Grace Johnson was exactly twenty-one days old when she died. Her mom and dad, Kelly and Tyler, knew her time of grace on earth would be short.  They lived her life to the fullest, holding her and finding pure joy in every moment they spent with her, inspite of the heartache.  They were surrounded by hundreds of friends and family last night, celebrating with them the joy of sweet Britta and her triumphant arrival in Heaven.

Kelly and Tyler are not in the glitterati class, they aren’t wealthy, or athletes, so their story won’t be told anywhere but here.

But it should be.

The faith and strength of this young couple to hold each other together, and pray their way through this journey should be exalted and applauded.

And I bet, now that you know about it, you’ll join me in uplifting them with your own prayers. That’s what everyday American Heroes do.


We move on

It’s a new month. And now it’s over two months since Elemndorf AFB lost Capt Jeffrey Hill and three other beloved airmen in the crash of Sitka 43 on July 28th. My son was in Capt Hill’s Squadron, the 517th Firebirds.  They were friends. Capt Hill was the second of my son’s friends to die in less than a year.

This past week, Gary Sinese, the very pro-military actor,  unveiled a model C-17 as a memorial to the four airmen who died in the crash.

I didn’t hear about this on any news media. Not one word. It’s no longer newsworthy in the lower 48: we’ve moved on.

Tragedy strikes, four young lives are suddenly ended, and we’re shocked. We grieve. We try to find the right words to say to our loved ones, to get them through the process of death. From a distance, our hearts ache, knowing all too well, that it could have been our son. Our husband. Our brother. There is no human explanation for why one, and not the other.  It just is.

The days tumble by, in a blur, and all of a sudden a month has gone by, and then two.

We’re back to leading our normal, routine, predictable lives. We get up in the morning. Get ready. Go to work.  Work all day. Come home. Eat. Take care of our families. Read. Work a little more. Repeat.

We don’t face the lockers that used to house their gear.  We don’t have to delete that number we used to call from our cell phone’s directory. We don’t pass by the memorial, designed to makes us remember.

We continue. Just as we were before the tragedy, completely oblivious of all those risking their lives so we can routinely live ours. Moving on, we live.


2010 Update so far: Corrie’s Married, Brent’s Engaged, and I’ve got Thyroid Cancer

I got you, didn’t I.

It’s kind of strange.

You say “Cancer” and every one freezes.

I call it “Junior Varsity” cancer (JVC).  Or cancer lite.

It’s one of the most treatable, cure-able cancers one can be lucky enough to have.

They yank most, if not all, of your thyroid out.

You take a little pill that has the hormones to replace your thyroid’s hormone output (this may take some monkeying around, but there is no pain, cutting or blood involved).

And, should your lymph nodes be contaminated with JVC, in six to twelve weeks, you swallow another radioactive pill, and it wipes out all traces of the evil nasty enemy combatant.

Life goes on with very little disruption, with one exception:  its recommended that when planning air travel, you carry a note from your doctor.  The radiation remaining in your body will probably set off TSA monitors while going through security, at which point, six or eight TSA guards will jump you, nailing you to the ground.  But apart from that, the health risks of JVC, the surgery, or the after-surgery daily process, are minimal.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

My only beef is that I’d like them to yank it out of me sooner, rather than later.

I’ve been told to be thankful they’ll get me in to yank it out in less than three weeks.  The surgeon normally books out six weeks or more.  This means I’m waiting less than half the time most of his patients wait.  Patience, as my kids will testify, has never been my strong suit. Patience in being a patient is definitely not my cup of tea.

Anyway, apart from this little development, 2010 is off to a great start.

Corrie and Jeff’s wedding was fabulous.

We got to know Brent’s fiance, Lacy, and she’s adorable.  We all understand why he’s completely smitten.  We are, too.

We remember, every day, to count our blessings.

Even the blessing of JVC.


A (not-so) simple case of incorrect political correctness

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieAccording to Wikipedia, political correctness in the United States dates back to 1793, but gained a general understanding in the American political scene in the 1960s.  In the spirit of the 60’s, it’s time for “political correctness”  to start slip, sliding away. I’ve had enough.
I can’t take it anymore.

We’ve heard of alleged rapists, alleged attackers, alleged terrorists and alleged murders.  And now we hear of the atrosity at Ft. Hood being refered to as an  “alleged” shooting.  Even  the venerable and conservative The Wall Street Journal has come to use the word “alleged” incorrectly (Page A6, Column B, Paragraph Two, Line 3, for those of you WSJ hard copy readers.) The offensive, but “politically correct” copy reads,  “The Pentagon wasn’t infomed about the emails until after Maj. Hasan’s alleged shootings”.

Really?  “Alleged”?

 Think about it a minute.

The shootings were not  asserted to be true or to exist”.  It is a fact they existed.  This is truth.  
The shootings were not “ questionably true or of a specified kind.”  There is no question about it. Innocent people, service men and women and civilians alike,  were hurt and killed.

And the shootings were not “accused but not proven or convicted”.  It is not questioned to be true or not true that he was the shooter. It is a given. 

These three definitions of “alleged” do not apply to these shootings.

 The word alleged is used in the wrong context in this sentence. And someone, somewhere on the staff of the Wall Street Journal, should have noticed it.

They were shootings that killed 13 adults and one unborn child.

They were shootings that wounded an additional 43 people.

They were shootings, witnessed by dozens.

They were real.

They happened.

Enough already. It’s gone too far.  It’s our moment to regain some sanity, in the midst of insanity and terrorism. If we can’t stop being politically correct, can we please, in the least,  stop being politically correct incorrectly?


When you least expect it. . .

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieWhile my son was in Afghanistan, the pro US Military Twitter world, an ether community, provided a level of support that exceeded any expectation I could possibly have had, helping me get through an immensely challenging time.

One of the exceptional “tweeters” was ArmyMom101 – a woman by the name of Virginia Rice who lives in Illinois.

She is a prodigious tweeter.  Her “MilitaryMon” (military Monday) and “FF” (Follow Friday) lists of other pro-military tweeters were unsurpassed by any other Military tweeter out there.  The time she spent honoring our troops and our vets, in this 21st century virtual way,  was simply amazing. Her last tweet for the day would frequently be, “I’m leaving for work”, or “I’m going to pick up my youngest from work.”  Occasionally  she would  send me private direct messages with encouraging and uplifting words that seemed to be exactly what I needed to specifically hear that day.

A few weeks ago, after my son got home, she tweeted that she wasn’t going to be online for the next few weeks, because her deployed son was coming home.  Instead of spending time online, she was rightly going to spend this precious time with him.

And then, we saw a tweet that said her son was in a motorcycle accident, with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

And then, he was in a medically induced coma.

And then, her son, her youngest, died.

Wendel Rice was 28.  He was not Virginia’s deployed son, he was the son that she picked up from work.  The son that was home. The one she wasn’t as worried about. The one that didn’t seem to be in harms’ way.

When we least expect it, our lives change.  Those of us over 50, think we’re aware of the fragility of life. We think we remember to treasure each moment, count our blessings, be present to each other.  But we don’t remember. We take our blessings for granted.  And we aren’t present for one another – not like we should be.

Most days, we rush through a litany of urgent to-do’s, that really aren’t all that important.We have the best of intentions, but then we have one more report that needs to be generated, one more basket of laundry that needs to be folded.

We forget to tell one another how much they mean to us.

We forget to squeeze extra hard when we hug each other good bye.

We forget to smile when our loved ones walk through the door.

My heart is heavy for the Rice family.  We are all diminished by the tragic, sudden loss of her youngest son, Wendel.

As we remember him, we vow that tomorrow, we won’t forget.



He’s back.

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieThank you God, he’s back.

He’s home.

He’s good.

Sure, there are lots of adjustments.   He’s been changed deeply by this experience, there’s no question or doubt about that.  In no way should these words  seem to diminish what he’s gone through, the enormity of what he’s seen and participated in. We’ll get to that later.

Right now, that doesn’t matter.

Right now what matters is the look on his face as he teaches his baby nephew how to scoot along the floor, pushing off his hands.

Right now what matters is the strength in his hug as he greets all his sisters coming through the door.

Right now what matters is the connection between two veterans, Grandfather and Grandson, as they lay eyes on one another, after enduring the uncertainty of whether this day would ever come.

Right now what matters is the hooting and hollering watching the Twins beat Detroit for the American League Central Division Title.

Right now what matters is how natural it is to have him go up and check on the roof, and report why we’re seeing moisture in the family room walls.

Getting back to normal, getting back to routine, getting back.


Home Free

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieWe’re allowing ourselves to feel a little better each day, as we’re counting down with less than 3 weeks before our son is out of Afghanistan and three days until he’s back safely inside the base at Bagram Airfield.

The prayers of multitudes have been answered: I thank each of you who have shared this effort over these months.

He’s physically in one piece, and by all interactions, seems to be handling the various stresses of this counter-insurgency, this deployment, reasonably well.

Having seen brothers in arms succumb to IEDs, a different type of insidious destruction has wracked havoc on a very dear friend of his back home.

The wife of his cousin, a woman whose entire adult life has been spent ministering to her family and to our military around the world, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor – a wicked, cancerous saboteur. This cancer is a cowardly enemy, growing, unseen, in the safety of the cranium like the Taliban continues to grow and train in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Last week-end after the surgery removed much of the tumor,  her struggle was touch and go.  This week, she’s made progress and is relatively stable.  The swelling is down, she’s now awake, taking nourishment, and talking a little with her husband and her kids. Her brain isn’t quite firing on all the right synapses, though. She doesn’t always know where she is. Her words don’t match the situation or conversation.  They don’t know if clarity will come back, or if the disconnections will persist.   The ultimate prognosis is that this wicked cancer will cut short her life.  The doctors don’t know when that will be.  They point to statistics that are quite convincing her time of grace will come to an end in the next year or two, if not before.

My son loves this woman. She’s fed him many meals; shared her family, her home and even her dog with him while he was getting settled at his assignment at Elmendorf Air Force base, in Alaska.

If you want to know the details, many are provided here: http://bit.ly/12JC4Z Dan is “tweeting” each day. So those of you who twitter, follow him @danbarbevans .

I’m asking yet again for your prayers, trusting that you’ll implore our Father to ease the pain and suffering and give this family joy filled moments and days, amidst the many days to come filled with doctors and hospitals and treatments.

Should you be moved to help bear their financial burden, you can find ways to donate here: http://bit.ly/Qfe0s

Some of you reading this know my brother died very suddenly of a brain tumor when he was 39.  “Home Free” by Wayne Watson became our grieving song, and our prayer.

I’m trying hard not to think you unkind
But Heavenly Father If you know my heart
Surely you can read my mind
Good people underneath the sea of grief
Some get up and walk away
Some will find ultimate relief

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing we will be
Home Free

Home Free, oh I’ve got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be Home Free

Out in the corridors we pray for life
A mother for her baby, A husband for his wife
Sometimes the good die young
It’s sad but true
And while we pray for one more heartbeat
The real comfort is with you

You know pain has little mercy
And suffering’s no respecter of age, of race or position
I know every prayer gets answered
But the hardest one to pray is slow to come

Oh Lord, not mine, but Your will be done.


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