Monday, December 6, 2010

And wonders of His love

My sister sent an email to my brother and me on Friday recounting favorite Christmas memories from our childhood.

As the images flickered thru my brain, I felt like Clark Griswold in the attic. Those memories are fantastic.

And then reality hit and I felt like Clark when the attic door was opened beneath him.

In Los Angeles. Such a warm and fuzzy place for the holidays. And strife continuing in the most unbelievable of situations. Who knew it would take lawyers and judges and the State of California and thousands of dollars to be able to parent your own daughter.

Feeling cynical and not in the holiday mood, I had no idea of the miracle I was to witness on Saturday.

Peanut's Brownie Troop was going to the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House to take gifts and dinner for the families staying there. I got to go along.

If you are feeling sorry for yourself, go visit a place where parents and grandparents are away from home staying in a strange place while their children are across the street clinging to life.

The Brownies and the moms were amazing. Preparing dinner. Making crafts with the kids. Arranging presents to match the ages of the children.

After a meal of golden arches burgers and lots of homemade desserts, a choir appeared.

In the lobby of this home for frightened and needy souls, about 40 of the best voices in the world began to sing carols. A Cappela.

This wasn't just any choir. These were pros. Stage. Movies. Music industry. Amazing voices.

And they were singing their hearts out for about 30 children and family members on a Saturday night in Los Angeles in December.

The choir leader invited several of the kids to come participate. And what joy it was to see their faces as they joined the music.

And then, the leader spotted one young boy in a stroller next to his mom.

The tumors on Andre's head are the size of softballs.

Scars tell the story of previous operations on this little angel's head.

He is two.

As she brought Andre to the front, the choir began to sing "Joy to the World".

The look on Andre's face was pure. Happy. Excited.

The look on his mother's face was the same. Her little boy was having a Christmas moment.

As I stood in the back of the room and took it all in, tears streamed down my face. I swear a golden light shown on that child's face. In this cold place, a song almost 300 years old and love from all around made that instant as warm and magic as any I've ever experienced.

Thank you, Isaac Watts.

Thank you, Handel.

Thank you, choir.

Thank you, Ronald McDonald House.

Thank you, Brownie troop and moms.

Thank you, Andre. And Godspeed.

Thank you, Lord.

I will forever repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks for the Providence of Almighty God

Several years ago, I had a discussion about Thanksgiving with one of the brightest, most talented, most influential advertising creators on earth.

When I asked what the day meant to him, he said, "It is day to say thanks to other people."

Oh, how I wish I had this Proclamation memorized so that I could have set him straight.

And reading it again, oh how I wish the leaders of our country would go back to our politically incorrect foundations. And oh, how I wish they thought deeply and wrote eloquently as did President Lincoln.

For perspective, remember this was written in the middle of The Civil War.




Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day

October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Who's zoomin who?

Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col. Jessep: [shouts] You can't handle the truth!
- "A Few Good Men"



Watched "The Most Dangerous Man in America".

A fascinating documentary. Fascinating on so many levels.

I won't ruin it for you.

But there is one key question that the film makes you think hard about.

Who the heck really knows what's going on?

There are truths, there are lies, there is wrong information, there is misinformation, and there is spin.

About most any topic.

But especially about things like international politics. War. Espionage.

There is a fascinating scene in the film where Daniel Ellsberg meets the newly appointed Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Ellsberg is at the time working at the Pentagon, and has more security clearances than Kissinger.

Ellsberg describes to Kissinger the three mental stages he will go thru once he receives the highest clearances:

"First, a great exhilaration, for getting all this amazing information that you didn't know even existed. And the next phase is you'll feel like a fool for not having known of any of this. But that won't last long. Very soon, you'll come to think that everyone else is foolish. What would this expert be telling me if he knew what I knew? So in the end, you stop listening too."

So, the folks at the top know stuff we don't. And can't. And won't. That's a scary thought. And should make us all think more about who we elect into powerful government positions.

As I watched the film, I then wanted to know, why was this movie made?

It was made by two documentary filmmakers. Who only make antiwar films.

Hmmmmm. Any chance they slanted the movie thru their prism?

The film makes Ellsberg a hero.

Is he? If so, is Julian Assange a hero?

Or are they both stooges?

Or are they both villains and traitors?

I encourage you to take 94 minutes and watch the film.

If you weren't alive then, you will be amazed.

If you were alive then, you will have forgotten how crazy things were.

And after watching it, you will start to rethink alot of things. Question alot of things. Wonder if what you thought was true really is.

It will make you think more critically.

And even if the movie is all lies and crap, then it will be time well spent.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Cloth of the Nation

I had never heard this term until after Pete was dead.

I first heard "The Cloth of the Nation" at a military ceremony where all of our military service members were honored.

There is no one term to describe our folks in service other than "military".

Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard.


What a wonderful set of words.

The Cloth of the Nation.

Those who serve us wear the Cloth of the Nation.

Thanks to all who have worn it.

From the Revolutionary War forward.

You have represented us.

We are about to launch a new website called The Cloth of the Nation.

It has one simple purpose.

To connect civilian America with military America.

I have learned since Pete's death from thousands of Americans that they have a desire to show support for our folks serving in the military.

And, I have learned from you that are serving, does anyone give a damn about what I'm doing?

Well, millions do want to say we support you.

And, we want to provide a place where you can go in the middle of the night in Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, or whatever awful place you are, and know that you are loved and appreciated.

We were created by a great military.

We continue to live by the service of a great military.

Godspeed to all who wear the Cloth of the Nation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ruh-roh

So I'm watching Scooby-Doo on the Cartoon Network with Peanut.

Her favorite cartoon.

And to my horror, someone has now decided to screw it up for kids.

The episode jumped the shark, the parental guidelines, the decency factor, the moral standard and one of the key storylines of this ongoing saga.

There was an all girl "eco-goth" rock band. Sexily dressed. Way too curvaceous. Called The Hex Girls. Who wore vampire teeth. Were angry at the world. Made potions.

Worse, Fred was a bit too interested in Thorn, the lead singer.

Then, Fred has an idea to solve the show's mystery, and as usual, he splits up the group and chooses Daphne to be his partner.

Velma then asks why Fred always chooses Daphne. Then Daphne tries to kissy-face with Fred.

And to top it all, the man in the show who needed help from Mystery Inc. was a descendant of a woman who he proudly explains was a Wiccan. Sarah Ravencroft was her name. And she was extolled for using her powers to help "sick people that could not afford healthcare".

What's next? The Tasmanian Devil is actually on crack? Wiley Coyote joins al Qaeda? Daffy Duck talks that way because he has his tongue pierced?

What adult is making these decisions? This crap doesn't just happen. Someone decided to put those messages in a Scooby-Doo cartoon.

I never thought I'd sound like Rev. Donald Wildmon, but folks, watch out.

Maybe free TV should just go away. Let it all be PPV, or internet delivered. Let families pre-select and pre-screen everything that goes into the heads of their precious little ones.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dear Jackie and Laura

Blame me.

It's not your fault.

I asked you and you said yes.

There were red flags yet I ran thru them.

I was the one that said it will all work out, regardless of our differences.

I was wrong.

Thank you for what you gave me.

Many lessons. Many good memories. And many children.

All I ever wanted was to love and be loved. Unconditionally.

I thought that was what you wanted too.

Our differences caught up with us.

I'm sorry for the pain.

Let us forget and forgive and focus on life.

Five incredible people are now in this world because of us.

God doesn't make mistakes.

There is a reason Pete, Ali, Sarah, Zac and Georgia were created.

He has a plan for each of them. And we are seeing them impact the world daily.

Forgive me for my mistakes.

I forgive you.

Our lives will always be intertwined.

Let's make it the best it can be.

For your sake, for my sake, for our kids sakes, for God's sake, let's finish well.

I will always be in your debt for what you've given me.

I pray for you and our children daily.

I covet your prayers for all of us.

ab

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Can Santa bring me a new phone on the Android platform?"

This may be my favorite question ever.

She asked this right after, "Dad, you want to catch a late brunch at Sloopy's?"

Nine. Fourth grade. Doing algebra and geometry that I struggled with in high school.

Can make my iPhone do things I didn't know it was capable of.

Can canter on a thoroughbred, explain gravity, likes mochi (only the red bean version).

And she still believes in Santa Claus.

Oh, how I hope that never ends.

Remember vividly the day Ali came home and demanded a meeting with her mom and dad in HER room.

Think she was 8.

Snot-nosed Jimmy down the street had broken the news to her about Santa, and she wanted a full confession.

I tried the "But everyone believes in the magic of Santa" routine. She was having no part of it.

"YOU and MOM are Santa. Aren't you?"

"Well, yes."

"And, you're the tooth fairy. Aren't you?"

"Well, yes. And the Easter Bunny."

Wailing and screaming from her, "Oh no. Not the Easter Bunny!!!!!!!!!!!"

Never assume. Never, ever assume is what I learned that moment.

So, whilst Peanut is still going with it, it is magic.

Don't know if Santa uses the Android platform or not. But I bet he's gonna bust his fat tush trying. (You know, Daddy, it is more popular now than the iPhone platform.)

The good news is I don't think Santa can get that thoroughbred and saddle down the chimney.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A daughter's love

"Daddy, I just wanted to call and tell you that Kiley and Shannon and I are making the biggest pillow tent ever. But I wanted to call and tell you goodnight. And so did Kiley and Shannon."

It doesn't get any better. Well, she could live with me, but that's another story.

When Ali was two, she started calling me "Poppie". It's still my favorite name to be called.

When Sadie was two, she asked me to tell her stories. And, Mark and Teddy stories were born.

Ali, Sadie and Georgia have heard more Mark and Teddy stories than Jerry Jones has girlfriends.

Mark and Teddy are the ultimate morality stories.

Every night, Mark and Teddy have an adventure.

Mark is always bad.

Teddy is always good.

The situation always varies. No story can be retold.

They have been at grocery stores, Six Flags, on airplanes, at church, at school, you name it, they have been there.

And Mark has done more bad things than can be imagined. And Teddy is always rewarded for his good behavior.

That Mark will never learn.

Sons have a Dad relationship. That is, if we have spent time together.

We just get it. We are men, we talk, we move on. We are bonded.

Daughters have a Daddie relationship.

Oh how I love my connections with my boys.

We laugh. We bash each other. We share sports updates.

Daughters, they need communication. Stories. Time.

I'm in the middle of one sweet week with my youngest.

No agenda. Just me and her snuggling, playing, singing, wrestling, loving.

I am the most fortunate man alive to have had two sons and three daughters.

The fortress that is built between the five of them is formidable.

The Taliban would be well advised to stay away. Don't fuck with the Burks kids.

In the meantime, the relationships I have with the girls is so amazing.

The daughter thing is over the top. And I'm right there with them.

They need daddy to be there.

They need daddy to teach them about men.

They need daddy to be accountable.

They need daddy to provide.

They need daddy to show the way.

And it is a privilege to do so.

And, even though they don't always see it the same way, the most important thing is to be there. Just be there. Be their daddy.

I hear there are men that don't do that.

I am sorry for them.

And I am sorry for their daughters.

For a man, it is the most rewarding, challenging, daunting, wonderful task on earth.

There is nothing in the world so sweet as a daughter wrapping her hand in her father's hand.

There is nothing better than a daughter wanting to snuggle with her daddy.

There is nothing better than a daughter loving her papa.

I'm so excited.

I get two more days with my peanut and her undivided attention.

Then I get to go home to Texas, where peanut wants to be, and be with her sisters.

And her lone surviving brother who she calls her bodyguard. The Zac man.

But tomorrow, I will be wrestling her to prove once again that I am King of the Hill.

She has this amazing knee drop on my back that makes her King of the Hill. I just can't let her know that quite yet.

And on Friday, we are going to the skeeball place of champions. And we shall see who rules the roost.

Oh, daughters, how special you are.

How fortunate are the men who are your fathers.

And how lucky I am to be the daddy of Ali, Sadie and Georgia.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Man Love

I am ill equipped to understand love between a man and woman.

I think I am figuring it out by what it isn't, in a painful long way.

And with patience, and the grace of God, perhaps what it is.

What I do know is man love.

Not sexual. Not romantic.

Just bonding between men that I know is a fact.

I hope women have it. But I know men do.

Men can go months, years, even decades between contact.

Yet the bonds are still there.

When men make a bond, respect each other, enjoy each other, learn from each other, it is eternal.

It doesn't need constant watering.

It's like a cactus.

It is a seed planted that will grow and be there for much longer than we are alive.

I consider myself fortunate beyond measure to have such bonds.

Baxter. Met him in 8th grade. Talked him into playing golf at 12.

The SOB is now club champion at East Lake.

Haven't talked to him in a year.

But I can call him tomorrow and we won't have missed a beat.

And there are many more. Galloway, Waldron, The Judge, Lowry (were he still with us), Morgan, Bennett, Fisher, Gebel (were they both still with us), Shackleford, Cook, Boykin, Harwell, Samchok, Elder (were he still with us).

Thru the magic of Facebook, have reconnected with friends from grammar school and high school.

The men relationships are all the same. Nothing changes.

The female relationships not so much. Gets all hung up on, well, men and women.

Man love is a wonderful thing.

I can call Hardtail who lives across the lake from me and talk about anything from our sprinkler systems to theology. I love his wife Janet, but I just can't have those same conversations.

I live in Dallas. Going to Los Angeles this week to see my peanut.

We will have a sweet time. The best. A man and his baby girl.

And while I'm there, I might see Lyle, Matt and/or Lanny.

Those guys and I can start right where we left off months or years ago.

I'm going to my hometown of Atlanta next week.

With a little luck, I'll play golf at the 9 hole muni we grew up on. And play with some buds who were just as much a knucklehead as me.

We've gone in wildly different directions, but if we can reconvene at Gordon A. Morris Memorial in College Park, it will be like nothing ever changed.

We'll call each other dickheads, assholes, MFs, and SOBs. And have love behind every word.

I've had the pleasure of making friends thru business. Men that I can call at this moment that would come to my rescue. And vice versa. Yes, we were business people.

But more importantly, we became friends. Real friends.

Haggar. Howard. Askew. Bracken. Sweeney. Lyons. Hudnall. Edelsten. Cashman. Condo. Rawlings. Aronson. Noble. Lanny. Yarbrough. Spagna. Wren. Stocker. Lents. Scully. Bud. Van Winkle.  DeVirgilio. Schornstein. Jeff. Silverstein. Siskind. Lohrer. Goldblatt. The Kohl's guys. Ambler. The JCP boys. The Commodore. The Nakash family. Olin. Gellers (were he still among us). Birmingham. Arnie. Laforce. Stephen. Hurston. The Belks and their men. DePalma. Hunt. Guglielmi. Killer. Ray. Jack. Tom. Denig. And many more.

I love men.

I do.

Married men. Single men. Straight men. Gay men.

Yes, gay men. They still get and can have man love. No expectations. Just that special bond men have in understanding how the world works and accepting each other.

I've been spoiled by the wonderful relationships that men have with each other.

No expectations. Unconditional. Accepting.

It also relates to the role of father.

Pete and I still relate.

Zac and I can communicate with a nod.

Ali and Sadie and Georgia, that's gonna take a conversation.

And it likely won't be done in one chat.

Men, we either hate each other or we love each other.

A very smart woman has told me that men can't multitask.

Perhaps that's the reason.

If I like a guy, and he's good to me, it's done.

I'm not capable of thinking of all the reasons why he might not like me.

Thank you, my men friends.

I love you all.

Except you son of a bitches and you know who you are.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hide your money in your Tempur-Pedic

It's 112 in Dallas, Texas.

And humid.

Hotter than Satan's taint.

Has been for awhile.

I choose to live here, so I have no reason to whine. But it is friggin' hot.

And I've got a bug that makes my head hurt and my stomach doing things it shouldn't.

I'm in a real bad mood.

Which brings me to money. My and your money.

Whose is it?

Due to one really stupid investment I made a few years ago, I had a significant tax loss last year.

Significant is relevant.

One woman's $100 is another man's $10.

We filed the tax return on December 31, 2009.

The refund was due in six weeks.

Well, then the IRS said they needed another form.

The exact same information, just on another form.

Filed as asked.

The refund was then due six weeks later.

The IRS said they needed one more form.

Same exact information, this time on 1040XD.

Filed as asked.

Six weeks later, no refund.

The IRS then needed form number 1040XDS.

Same exact info.

Net, net. The U.S. government has owed me money for a long time. And they are figuring out how to take their sweet time returning it.

I cannot properly explain how many hours I've spent on the phone with the lovely employees of the IRS. Who proceed to explain that my form has not yet been received. Because it takes them six weeks to process any incoming forms.

God help you if you owe the IRS money. I never have. But my understanding is they are quick to come get it. Whether you are right or wrong, if the IRS believes you owe money, they will come get it.

My accountant tells me he has never seen anything like what is going on now.

Our government is acting like the worst account payable ever.

Stall. Delay. Forms. Stall. Delay. Forms.

They have our money, and they are in no hurry to give it back.

And so, they create convenient roadblocks before checks are written to the public. The folks that created the money to begin with.

If you are owed money by the U.S. government, which we pay for, they are now floating our money because of lack of funds and overspending on their part.

This ain't right.

And the business world is doing the same thing.

The usual business of money flowing thru has slowed dramatically.

So, the CFO's of the world have figured out how to make the best of a bad situation.

Sit on other folks money. And charge them fees for it.

I opened a bank account with a large bank that uses a stagecoach as their logo. They should have used the stagecoach robbers.

I opened the account in California when I lived there.

Upon returning to Texas, my local stagecoacher told me I should change my account to a Texas stagecoach account versus a California stagecoach account.

"Why?"

"Because the California stagecoachers will charge you more to use your money."

"But I thought you were all on the same stagecoach."

"Not hardly. We are still separate banks."

I should have run away right then and there.

So I listened to this knucklehead. The Persian born, London educated, personal banker.

I switched the account.

I suspect he got a $5 spiff.

All I got was pain.

The stagecoach now proudly reports their improvement in profits based on overdraft fees.

When Alibaba tells you your accounts will be made identical and everything will flow thru as before, he couldn't give a shit less when it doesn't.

"Oh, Mr. Burks, you must understand that it takes our central processing unit 60-90 days to convert all of our accounts."

"Omar, where the fuck is your central processing unit? My money is somewhere in your financial ether."

"I'm not sure, sir. But believe me, it will all work out."

At $35 per bounced check from the old account to the new account, the stagecoach racked up a big bounty.

Except I pulled all my money out of that account. They are now trying to collect from themselves I guess.

And then there is American Airlines. I love that company. They do so much good.

But, they have their CFO and their processes.

Last week I booked a flight using an unused ticket from last year.

Which means they had $400 of my money since December.

So I used the unused ticket to book a flight next week.

And, since I'm such a bad customer, I had to pay $150 to rebook that ticket.

I've only flown 3 million miles with them.

I can understand why they would want to punish me.

So, I gave them my debit card to pay for the $50. The fare is $300. The change fee is $150. My credit was $400.

Guess what?

They charged my debit card for the new ticket and the change fee.

When I figured out what they had done, I called.

After twelve voice prompts, I got to a human being.

She looked at the record and admitted that they had screwed up.

She told me she was crediting my debit card that moment for the difference.

That was fourteen days ago.

I still don't have the refund.

I called today and spoke with a lovely agent who then put me in touch with her supervisor.

The supervisor was kind enough to tell me that she understood the frustration of not getting your money back promptly.

However, she also told me that, "I needed to understand the thousands of American Airlines customers that were a due a refund. The process is manual, has to go thru Wichita, and I had unrealistic expectations."

Wow. What a lesson.

When I book a ticket on American using a debit card, they suck that money right up.

They push a button and it's done.

But not so fast, Mr. 3 million miles.

You have to understand the issues faced by our folks in Wichita.

I now clearly understand their issues.

She told me that "normally", I should expect a refund in two or three billing cycles. Meaning two to three months.

Since I spoke with her, and had such a lovely time, she said she would put my request under "Priority".

I think "Priority" in her world means screw him. Put him at the end of the line. We'll see.

Regardless, thousands of folks are owed refunds by American Airlines. And American is sitting on the money as long as they can. Earning interest nightly.

This ain't right.

And then, there is the master of confusion and sucking money out of unsuspecting customers.

ATT.

Their Chairman once said years ago, "Where there is confusion, there is profit."

Think about that the next time you try to decipher your phone bill.

I went to the ATT store this week.

Learned I had more options on my home phone than Obama.

So I canceled all of them. But the nice fellow informed there was a fee to cancel the services I had been paying for and never used. We had a sweet interchange, and thankfully, he waived the fees for me.

Then I had them study my cell phone bill.

I was paying for the privilege of roaming in Tunisia.

So, I canceled that too.

I think.

We'll see when the bill comes. If I can read it.

So, as a closer, they tell me they can save me money on my tv.

No longer can I put up an aluminum Christmas tree and get the local channels.

I have to pay someone.

I don't need or want 600 channels of bullshit.

So, I tell the nice folks at ATT that all I want is local channels and ESPN.

Well, that will cost you $120 a month, but if you will add the NFL Ticket, it will only be $49.99 a month.

What the . . .?

So I cancel Dish Network.

Sign up with ATT.

It was less than the current Dish Network deal.

Only one problem.

I didn't want to give them a card to charge forever.

In order to sign up, it was $19.99.

I handed the young nerd a crisp twenty.

"Sir, we can't accept cash."

"Why?"

"Because we are reselling Direct TV. And we have to process a payment thru our system in central processing and they can't process cash."

"Oh. Then stick it in your ass."

So, I have no TV at my house.

Guess what. It's wonderful.

I can get all the news and sports I want off the internet.

Except I'm paying some asshole in central processing at ATT for the privilege.

Anyway, I think it's time we go back to a cash based society.

Cash your paycheck. Pay in cash. The green folding kind.

It sounds redneck, but it is then your money in your hands.

When our money is all digitized, we're screwed.

Because it is no longer our money. It is "theirs".

Friday, July 16, 2010

What's love got to do with it?

Everything.

Or, nothing.

Freakonomics is the best book yet to explain human behavior.

We do things out of incentives.

But the one thing economic theory cannot explain is love.

Love is a conscious decision to put anothers needs before ours.

That isn't human.

Love is from God. Because God is love.

It is why a single mom works two jobs to put her kids thru school.

It is why a father quits his job to spend more time with his kids.

It is why a person voluntarily joins the military.

It is why some marriages last.

It is why we can say I'm sorry, and have the other believe it.

It is why there is a United Way and a Red Cross.

It is why there are angels amongst us.

It is why a man who didn't put the Easter eggs out the night before wakes up Easter morn and cuts bunny feet with a bandsaw, straps them on his feet and hops thru the snow to place Easter eggs for his kids.

It is why Union Missions exist.

It is why Hallmark and ATT exist.

It is why arrivals are so much sweeter than departures.

It is why some companies have fans.

It is the difference between Judaism and Christianity and all other religions.

It is the one thing every one of us on earth shares.

The need to be loved. Unconditionally.

It won't happen, but wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a country on earth whose mission was simply to love.

In the meantime, remember to love first. The rest will follow.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Man of Independence




Read the article below from today's edition of The New York Times.

You will then understand how amazing it is that I was able to chat with Brendan last night via Facebook.

Godspeed Brendan.

And Godspeed to your unsung hero Michael.

Spirit Intact, a Soldier Reclaims His Life

By LIZETTE ALVAREZ

WASHINGTON

BRENDAN Marrocco and his brother, Michael, were constructing a summer bucket list, to get them out and about, trying new things. A Washington Nationals game versus their beloved Yankees — sure, since they were stuck here rather than home on Staten Island. Perhaps a ride on the Metro, with its reliable elevators. Pizza: definitely.

How about going to an amusement park? Michael suggested optimistically.

“Would that really be safe?” asked Brendan, a smirk crossing his lips.

The beach? “I don’t do beach anymore,” Brendan replied. Then what about the National Zoo, the one with the pandas? “They got pandas?” Brendan said, razzing his brother again. “Why didn’t you mention that?”

Clutching a pen firmly in his oversize rubber hand, Brendan Marrocco completed the lineup. A trip to Annapolis, Md. A ride on a boat. And, his personal favorite, firing guns. He drew a miniature picture of a handgun next to that one.

Each would be a major accomplishment for Brendan Marrocco, who a year before had come so close to death that doctors still marvel over how he dodged it. At 22, he was a spry, charming infantryman in the United States Army with a slicing wit and a stubborn streak. Then, on Easter Sunday 2009, a roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle, and he became the first veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to lose all four limbs in combat and survive.

In the nearly 15 months since, Specialist Marrocco has pushed past pain and exhaustion to learn to use his four prosthetics, though he can walk for only 15 minutes at a time. He has met sports stars like Jorge Posada and Tiger Woods — and become something of a star himself here at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where his moxie and humor are an inspiration to hundreds of other wounded service members. He has also met, fallen in love with and proposed marriage to a young woman who sees what is there rather than what is missing, though Specialist Marrocco has lately been questioning the relationship.

Now he is preparing for a rare and risky double arm transplant at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center that could profoundly improve his independence. One of the first things he will ask of his new arms is to drive a stick shift (the one time he got behind the wheel, in an empty parking lot, his rubber hand became unscrewed and was left dangling).

There have now been 988 service members who have lost limbs in combat since the first of the wars began in 2001, but Specialist Marrocco’s many wounds raised so many questions. Would he crumble mentally? Was his brain intact? How would he ever cope with daily needs like eating, bathing, even simply getting out of bed and putting on clothes?

“I would close my eyes and see a head and a torso,” his mother, Michelle Marrocco, 50, said of the early days. “How much worse could it be?”

But Specialist Marrocco, who was promoted from private in November, “has exceeded the expectations of everyone but himself,” said Maj. Benjamin Kyle Potter, 35, the orthopedic surgeon who has treated him since he arrived at Walter Reed last year, in April.

He can already write legibly (if left-handed), use a computer (but not play video games), work on a model car (with some help) and text furiously (a generational requirement).

He has not done it alone. His brother, Michael, 26, gave up a good-paying job at Citigroup to move into Walter Reed and, as he put it, “hang” with Brendan, shedding his tentative nature along the way. Their long-estranged parents, an engineer and a nurse, learned to communicate again as they kept vigil by Brendan’s bedside in the early months. And his indefatigable physical and occupational therapists take him out for Chinese food or watch ballgames with him on television long after their shifts end.

A contrarian by nature, Specialist Marrocco has become a bit of a homebody, preferring the haven of Walter Reed — where he is a role model — to the awkwardness of the larger world. And despite 14 operations, he refuses to let a dentist’s needle near his mouth to replace the eight teeth he lost in the blast.

One sweltering day this spring, a Marine sat in a wheelchair outside while Specialist Marrocco practiced walking nearby. The Marine had arrived at Walter Reed in May and was waiting for a shuttle bus. He lost both his arms and legs in Afghanistan, and is the wars’ second quadruple amputee.

The Marine watched Specialist Marrocco amble up an incline, determined to tame his prosthetics. “I’m hoping to be just like you soon, man,” he shouted.

NOT quite six months into his combat tour, Private First Class Marrocco sat behind the wheel of an armored vehicle as it made its way back to Forward Operating Base Summerall in Baiji, a town in northern Iraq. His was the last truck in a four-vehicle convoy on a routine mission escorting a group of soldiers from one base to another. A machine gunner, Private Marrocco had become a driver a few days before.

“It was one of my first driving missions,” he remembered. “I wasn’t driving the truck I was supposed to drive.”

He had arrived in Iraq on Halloween 2008, eager to fight. But by then, there was little fight left in Iraq. Violence had diminished; American forces were dropping in number. His days were spent mostly on patrol, conducting occasional raids and lifting weights at the base’s makeshift gym.

Growing up in the Huguenot section of Staten Island, Brendan had been smart and outgoing, but preferred racing cars to taking tests. His parents enrolled him at Staten Island Academy, hoping the prep-school atmosphere would knock sense into him. It did not.

“He is a very headstrong individual,” explained his mother. “He has taken it to an art form at this point.”

College did not stick, either, so he enlisted in the Army. When he got to Fort Benning, Ga., in January 2008 for basic training, he felt grounded for the first time in his life. Here was a career he could love.

“You kept the danger in the back of your mind,” he said. “You didn’t want it to happen, but you had to train for it.”

It is difficult, though, to train for hidden bombs, which is what makes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so insidious. All he can recall of that Easter Sunday drive back to his base is the flash of light against the black of the early morning. “I hit a pressure wire,” he said. “It was across the road.”

The bomb, a particularly lethal one known as an explosively formed penetrator, shredded his armored vehicle. His best Army buddy, Specialist Michael J. Anaya, was killed. Another soldier was wounded; the fourth man in the truck walked away unharmed. Roadside bombs do that — choose the soldier on the right but not the left, the one from Florida but not Georgia.

Maj. Jayson Aydelotte, 38, the trauma surgeon on duty at nearby Camp Speicher, got the call before dawn. Incoming wounded. He shook the sleep from his eyes and got into his scrubs.

Private Marrocco was rushed in. Within eight minutes, his clothes were off and he was connected to a giant bag of intravenous fluid. Both arms and a leg had been sheared off. The other leg, the left, “was hanging literally by a thread,” Major Aydelotte recalled.

Doctors quickly began pumping blood into Private Marrocco’s body, but it sprayed straight onto the ceiling and walls. Aghast, Major Aydelotte looked more closely. One of the two carotid arteries, which carry blood from the heart to the brain, was severed, an injury so lethal it can kill within minutes. “When fragments fly, they make tons of holes in you,” the doctor explained. “He had a hole in his neck. But we didn’t suspect it to be a carotid injury because it wasn’t bleeding.”

It was not bleeding because there was so little blood left in his body — 80 percent of it had spilled out in the field. “Any one of his injuries was life-threatening,” Major Aydelotte said. “It’s incredible.”

The medical team cleaned out each amputation wound, took a vein from his groin to reconstruct the carotid, and sewed him up top to bottom. The same day, he was transferred 85 miles to a larger base in Balad, and then on to Germany. He had survived the initial trauma and surgery. But other serious threats loomed: Infection. Pneumonia. Brain injury.

One day a couple of months ago, Major Aydelotte happened to run into Specialist Marrocco at Walter Reed. “I didn’t tell him who I was,” said Major Aydelotte, who had quietly kept tabs on his patient’s progress. “I didn’t want any kind of accolades from him. His life was saved, but I didn’t do it. He was meant to be saved.”

BRENDAN’S father let the phone ring again and again. Nobody important ever called his home number. Plus, it was Easter Sunday. The ringing was so maddeningly persistent, though, he finally picked up.

“Mr. Alex Marrocco?” the official-sounding voice said. Mr. Marrocco hung up, assuming it was a telemarketer. Then the ringing started again. A houseguest answered. “It’s a major such-and-such from Hawaii,” she reported.

Mr. Marrocco blanched, his mind reeling back to what he had learned at basic training graduation back at Fort Benning: If you get a knock at the door, the soldier is dead. If you get a phone call, the soldier is wounded.

The official-sounding voice, hoping to cushion the blow, asked when he had last spoken to Brendan. The day before. They had talked about a motorcycle that the father was eyeing. The son, a motor head, was urging him to buy it; one day, they could ride side by side.

Not wishing to delay the inevitable, Mr. Marrocco demanded, “Tell me what happened and where it happened.” The voice paused, then said, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Brendan was involved in an explosion and he lost both his legs and both his arms.”

Mr. Marrocco’s knees buckled. He fell on the kitchen floor.

His ex-wife was in her car that morning after church and checked the voice mail on her cellphone. There was an urgent message from the Army: “Brendan has been involved in an accident.”

The hours that followed were a blur. To stay focused, Mrs. Marrocco tucked her despair under her nurse’s cap and digested the facts from the doctors at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Her son’s legs were both amputated above the knee. His right arm was amputated above the elbow. The left arm retained its elbow; thank God for small favors, she thought.

His cheekbone had collapsed, and the retina in his left eye was badly damaged. The beefed-up body armor and helmet had fulfilled their missions. Private Marrocco’s torso — his internal organs — and his head were mostly intact. Then she heard about the carotid.

“How did he live?” Mrs. Marrocco asked.

“We don’t know how he lived,” the doctor said.

The parents, who separated seven years ago, flew together to Germany, where their son was in a medically induced coma. He was swollen and burnt and stitched, with a patch over one eye. His hair was the texture of a Brillo pad. His lips were puffed out of proportion.

“Had I not been told it was my son, I would not have recognized him,” Mr. Marrocco said. Mrs. Marrocco struggled to see beyond the wounds, the respirator and the missing arms and legs. Her son, who was small to begin with, had all but disappeared. “I could not accept it,” she said last month. “And I haven’t accepted it.”

By Wednesday night, about 90 hours after the blast, Private Marrocco was in Washington in Walter Reed’s intensive care unit. He drifted in and out of consciousness. In time, he began to realize something was wrong with his arms, though he could not see them well at first, in part because one eye was swollen shut.

“He looked up at me and lifted his arms up,” his father recalled. “He kind of looked at them and realized they were bandaged and they were different sizes. He couldn’t talk. He had a tube down his throat. But he mouthed the words, ‘I have no hands.’ I nodded to him. And that was it. He put his arms down. ‘O.K.’ ”

Mr. Marrocco did not have the heart to tell his son about his legs. “During that first week, Brendan kept pleading, ‘Dad, Dad, take my boots off. My feet are burning. My feet are burning.’ I would say, ‘Brendan, your boots are off.’ ”

SITTING by her son’s bedside the next week, shortly after he emerged from an operation, Mrs. Marrocco noticed that his left residual leg looked particularly bloody. The nurse on duty said a doctor would come by soon to take a look. Mrs. Marrocco demanded one immediately. Then her son’s blood pressure began to drop precipitously.

“That was one of the worst experiences of my life without a doubt,” she said. “I went back to my room and called one of my best friends, whose son is a youth minister, to get the children to pray. God hears children’s prayers better. I said, ‘Get the prayer chain going. I’m losing him. I’m losing him.’

“If I hadn’t been there,” she added, “I feel I would have lost him.”

In those early weeks, the worst of the pain often seized Private Marrocco in the middle of the night. On good nights, he slept 20 minutes and then wrestled with pain for three or four hours. He tossed and turned. He bobbed up and down. And his father sat watching, unable to do anything to alleviate the agony. It was, Mr. Marrocco said, “the hardest thing for me to bear.”

The family wondered about Brendan’s brain. Bomb blasts are notorious for shaking up the head so severely they leave tracks of destruction, despite the Kevlar helmets. Soldiers who return home with even moderate brain injuries can have trouble holding jobs or remembering to pick up a child at day care.

“You can’t rehab a brain-dead individual,” Mrs. Marrocco said. “How would you show him to do a situp if he doesn’t understand that?”

After Private Marrocco’s brain passed a battery of tests, his family then fretted about his mental health. Could he avoid the powerful punch of depression and post-traumatic stress, a one-two so harrowing it can cripple a soldier as easily as a bullet? Not long after Private Marrocco regained consciousness, Sgt. Justin Minisall, who had been wounded in the bombing, ducked in for a visit. Private Marrocco asked how Specialist Anaya, the gunner in the truck that day, was doing.

“The sergeant looked at me with wide eyes, and I looked at him,” the private’s father said. “The sergeant told him, ‘He didn’t survive.’ Brendan just laid there and, kind of like everything else, took it in and didn’t really say much.”

A week or two later, Brendan told his father, “I am really sorry that Mike died, but I am glad to be alive.” Mr. Marrocco, knowing how close the two were, saw that as a good omen for his mental health. Survivor guilt can sometimes cut too deeply. “That moment made me think, ‘He will be O.K.’ ”

As the weeks passed, the Marroccos were forced to look further down the road. The parents each considered quitting work, but each had a mortgage to pay. And the son, while grateful for his divorced parents’ dedication, was afraid they might suffocate him. He was a grown man. He had fought in a war.

Then his brother did something nobody expected: he volunteered to leave his friends, his social life and his job in information technology at Citigroup, and move to Washington.

The brothers were close, but they were opposites: Brendan the brash, outgoing, rule-defying joker; Michael, reserved and shy, the kind of guy who prefers melting into the background. Mrs. Marrocco worried that Michael, not a caregiver by nature, was not up to the painstaking job.

“It needed to be done, and I was best prepared to do it,” Michael explained in retrospect. “Instead of making a company a million dollars, I can see where my efforts are going.”

Since May 2009, the brothers have lived on the Walter Reed campus in connecting dormitory-style rooms, with a kitchen and maid service. The Army does not charge Michael rent and it gives him $64 a day for living expenses. The military also underwrites all of Brendan’s expenses, including the hand transplants, and pays him a $2,400 monthly salary.

“This tragedy has made Michael a better person,” Mrs. Marrocco said. “He is more talkative, more interactive than he’s ever been, more forthcoming, and he makes plans for himself and for the future, which is different from where Michael was.”

THE two brothers spend most waking hours together; Michael takes time for himself while Brendan has his daily nap. They watch television in the evenings, or at least argue about watching television. Michael wants “South Park.” Brendan wants “Law & Order” or “NCIS.” The older brother wakes the younger each morning, gives him his pills and a glass of water, and “that’s about it,” Michael said. Brendan has come a long way from when he struggled to put on his own T-shirt and brush his teeth. The two leave at 9 a.m. for physical therapy, a short wheelchair ride away.

Michael also keeps track of his brother’s many mechanical parts. “So many things to remember,” Specialist Marrocco joked. “Arms. Legs. We’ll get out the door and down the block and I’ll say, ‘Mike, you got my arm?’ ”

His left arm is a rubber myoelectric model, complete with a hand, that responds to muscle impulses; he wears it most of the time. The right is a primitive body-pressure hook that he puts on mainly for therapy sessions. He has the high-tech C-Leg X2, which has a knee joint sensor and is not yet available to the general public.

He mastered standing in his prostheses within two months, and walking a few steps shortly after that. But walking long stretches is infinitely more difficult, a bit like balancing on stilts, only without the benefit of knees or real arms for balance. He spends a lot of time doing situps and side body lifts to build up core strength, then transfers to the parallel bars to walk with support if he needs it. Unlike other soldiers, he does not listen to an iPod while exercising, so he can fully concentrate on the instructions of his therapist, Luis Garcia, a former medic in the Army Reserve.

Of all the leg amputees Mr. Garcia has worked with over five years at Walter Reed, Specialist Marrocco has been the quickest to adjust to his legs. “He has incredible balance, incredible drive,” Mr. Garcia said.

Before and after lunch in the cafeteria he has occupational therapy: writing, picking up small items like popcorn, positioning a pin on a beret, baking a cake, opening a can. In his wheelchair, a BlackBerry balanced on his thigh, Specialist Marrocco pecks furiously at the keys with his rubber hand or with his “fluffy finger,” an upside-down pencil contraption created just for this task.

Unlike using the prosthetic legs, using mechanical arms does not hurt physically. But the tasks are mentally taxing, and Specialist Marrocco occasionally nods off at the table.

“I want Brendan to be able to eat cereal,” his brother told Maj. Sarah Mitsch, the occupational therapist, one spring afternoon.

“We’ll have to get a swivel spoon,” Major Mitsch replied.

Around Walter Reed, Specialist Marrocco is a celebrity. Tour groups stop by to wish him well. Invitations pour in for sporting events. At the Military Advanced Training Center, where the wounded learn anew how to walk, run, box and climb, he inspires with his toughness and wit.

“It’s funny the complaining that goes on when Brendan’s not there,” Mr. Garcia said. “And then when he’s there, everybody shuts up. It puts things in perspective for them. It puts things in perspective for me, too.

“I never catch him feeling sorry for himself. I’ve never heard him say, ‘I wish this had never happened.’ ”

There are times, though, when Specialist Marrocco’s optimism and confidence are no match for his discomfort and fatigue. He rarely sleeps more than four hours a night and still suffers phantom pain in his right arm. He can be cranky and not keen on visitors; one of his pet peeves is people who talk too much. He jokingly calls his comrades with below-the-knee amputations “the paper cuts.”

But he does not blame the military or curse the war. If he had his way, he said, he would be back in Iraq, behind a machine gun. “I have no idea why I’m so happy,” he said.

It did not take long after the bombing for his wry, dark humor to break through. “Look at all the legroom I got!” he announced after boarding a first-class flight to Hawaii in November 2009, to reunite with his unit as it returned from Iraq. And, he explained, being able to feel your arms and legs when they are not actually there — which happens after traumatized nerves go awry — has its advantages. “I can move my hand around and give someone the finger,” he said. “I can do these things, and no one can see.”

Once, when he asked for a glass of water, a startled woman responded, “but you don’t have any arms or legs!” His tart retort: “I have a mouth!”

But Specialist Marrocco does admit to “down days,” and acknowledged, “This does suck.”

“You know, Mama,” Mrs. Marrocco recalled him saying quietly one day, “it would have been really nice if they left me even one hand.”

KATE BARTO, a beautiful, grounded 23-year-old from Johnstown, Pa., who was an intern with a nonprofit group at Walter Reed last summer, could not help but notice Specialist Marrocco in his wheelchair. But it was his charming wisecracks that really got her attention.

“He had a great spirit about him,” said Ms. Barto, who now works for Hope for the Warriors, another organization that supports wounded service members. “And we became friends.”

The two talked on the phone constantly. “I would fall asleep on the phone with him,” she said. Her only hesitation in getting more involved was that she had just come out of a three-year relationship. The rest, she said, she could handle.

Her family and friends worried. They feared empathy was overriding common sense. But Ms. Barto has a gift: She can see clearly and comfortably past Specialist Marrocco’s disfigurement and disabilities.

“One of my mom’s concerns was that I was feeling sorry for him,” Ms. Barto said. “ ‘Do you really love him? Do you pity him?’ There is no reason to pity him. He had a horrible thing happen to him. But he is no less of a person.

“Our lives will be as difficult as we make them,” she added. “As long as he believes I am going to be around and I love him, we’re going to be O.K.”

On Thanksgiving, Ms. Barto and Specialist Marrocco were playing the question game in his room. She would ask a question and he would answer, then vice versa. “He suddenly asked, ‘Will you marry me?’ ” Ms. Barto recalled. “I said, ‘Is this for real?’ Yes, he replied, ‘Will you marry me?’ ” She said yes.

A couple of weeks later, he slipped the ring, with three diamonds, into his wheelchair pocket for her to find. “It completely blew me away,” she said.

But theirs is not a fairy tale. In April, Ms. Barto said, Specialist Marrocco grew increasingly stressed as the calendar ticked toward his “alive day” — the anniversary of the explosion that nearly killed him — and he broke off their relationship. They reconciled, but then last week decided to take another break.

“We still talk,” Ms. Barto said on Friday, her voice cracking with emotion. “We’re backing off, giving the relationship a rest, giving him the space I think he needs.” She still has the ring.

Despite his remarkable progress, Specialist Marrocco is still struggling to find his place in the wider world. His family tries to coax him out of his Walter Reed fortress for more trips to shopping malls, restaurants and sporting events. But he finds such outings draining and awkward. People stare, or look away. They ramble, not knowing what to say. “I just tell them I got blown up,” he shrugged. “I don’t like it, but I can’t do anything about it. I just pretend they are not looking.”

His mother was more direct: “He hates it. He absolutely hates it.”

He is, however, eagerly anticipating leaving Walter Reed to get a new pair of arms.

THE donor has to be a man. The blood and tissue types have to match, of course. But so do the skin tone and size. The call could come at any time, and the Marrocco brothers will jump into Michael’s black Monte Carlo and high-tail it 237 miles to the University of Pittsburgh to prepare for surgery. They have 10 hours to get there to give the doctors enough time to do their work.

Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, the hospital’s chief of plastic surgery, will lead four teams of more than 20 surgeons to give Specialist Marrocco, as he put it, the chance to live “a normal life” (a fifth team will handle the donor). His legs would still be missing. But new, human arms would mean he could put on the prosthetics himself. And: hug tightly, drive, twist open pill containers, catch himself when he falls, fix an engine, play Modern Warfare 2 and greatly increase his chances of getting a job.

“It’s going to give me so much more independence to do more stuff on my own,” Specialist Marrocco noted.

Nine people in the United States and about 34 others around the world have received hand or arm transplants since the first successful one in France in 1998. Dr. Lee has performed three in the past 14 months; in May 2009, his team did the first double hand transplant in the United States, and in February, the nation’s first double transplant that extended above the elbow, like Specialist Marrocco’s.

The transplant is mind-boggling in its complexity. The doctors must attach nerves, blood vessels, muscles, tendons and elbow joints, all within about 11 hours. A new antirejection protocol that Dr. Lee formulated should reduce the risk of infection, organ damage and diabetes.

Specialist Marrocco’s nerves would begin regenerating one inch a month — it could be a year or two before he gains feeling in the fingertips. It will never be like before the blast, Dr. Lee said, but the new arms can be almost as good in terms of touch and motor skills.

Unlike a heart or liver transplant, “a hand transplant does not save lives,” Dr. Lee noted. “It improves the quality of life.” He added, “We have to be very careful to balance benefits versus the risk.”

Specialist Marrocco wonders whether he will be able to get tattoo artists to make house calls to decorate the new specimens; he wants something to memorialize Specialist Anaya.

“You’ve got to give them a reason to come,” said Mr. Garcia, the physical therapist.

How about, “I have no arms and no legs and I’m in a wheelchair,” Specialist Marrocco answered.

He expects to spend six months rehabilitating in Pittsburgh (his brother will move there with him). The time there may set back his leg progress, so he will likely return to Walter Reed for further therapy.

Back home in Staten Island, several charities — the Stephen Siller Children’s Foundation, Building Homes for Heroes and a fund dedicated to Specialist Marrocco — have been raising money to build him a wheelchair-accessible house. In August, the actor Gary Sinise, who played a combative double amputee Vietnam veteran in “Forrest Gump,” is scheduled, with his Lt. Dan Band, to support the effort.

Ms. Barto is still hoping to move to New York with him, after a wedding at the National World War II Memorial on the Mall here in Washington. She said they had talked about having children, and that Specialist Marrocco wanted a girl, if only so he could answer the door when a date arrived and say the words, “You should see what happened to the other guy.”

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Mellow Box

Sorting thru my mellow box on this Fathers Day.

Some favorites.

Seeing the miracle of birth of five children.

Attending the creation of five children. Especially Zac. There was time pressure involved. For employee benefits to cover him, he had to be conceived by a certain deadline. It was a particularly busy period of life with three kids under five and a busy job. I'm reasonably sure the night that boy was made was the night I put my foot down and said no. I was just too tired. After alot of cajoling, I said, "OK, but I'm not even going to kiss you."

Pete at 5 gazing out the window at the swimming pool. "Dad, when are you going to drain the pool?" "Why do we need to drain the pool?" "Because that whale we adopted on PBS needs to be in salt water."

Watching Ali set a record for three point shots made in one game at Ursuline. And having her hand me my head in H-O-R-S-E in the driveway.

Sarah at age two coming downstairs one winter morning. "Honey, your little feet are going to get cold. You need your houseshoes." Exact quote and a sign of things to come, "I can't find my fuckin' houseshoes."

Calling home from a business trip and asking Zac at 6 how his day was. "It was a great day, dad." "Really, did you learn something new at school?" "No, they put up a brand new big slide and you can go down it really fast headfirst."

Reading Where the Wild Things Are to Georgia at age three. "Daddy, you skipped a page." "Honey, I have read this book ten thousand times. I did not skip a page." She calmly licks her fingers and separates the pages to show me my error. Exact quote and a sign of things to come, "Now tell me I'm right."

Being a bonus dad to Chris. Zac's best friend in high school. His dad moved to a town nearby, but Chris wanted to finish at Celina. Got to be his legal guardian and have him live with us for a year.

Having breakfast at the local cafe with Georgia and having her become buddies with the farmers and ranchers at the Liars Table.

Having breakfast at the local cafe with Sadie and my two grandsons and watching the tradition continue.

Playing golf in Oregon when my cell phone rings. My buddy answers the phone and says, "Hello, Ali. Your dad is about to hit a shot." She proceeds to rip him a new one and says, "I don't care if my dad is about to win the U.S. Open. Put him on the phone. Now." Pete and Ali were interning in New York. On Pete's last day of work, his co-workers took him out for a celebration. He was now passed out cold, face first in a pile of yuk in their apartment on Central Park West. And Ali wanted to know just exactly what I was going to do about it.

Seeing my dad pin Pete's lieutenant bars on him at the commissioning service at Ft. Benning.

Watching Pete propose to Missy in the snow at the Dallas Arboretum.

Georgia telling me that she was quitting school after first grade. "Well, I can count to 100 by ten. What else is there?" "Peanut, I know grown men who can't do that. I think you have a point."

Rex Glendenning betting me his $100 to my $50 that Zac was going to catch his first touchdown pass. And then seeing it happen. And then happily paying the bet.

Packing soldier care packages together.

My kids presenting Missy with a ring at Christmas to let her know that she was officially a part of our family.

Landing in Seattle and finding 14 voicemails on my phone. Seven from Sarah. Seven from Ursuline. Seems there had been a little misunderstanding. Sarah and her buddies had decided it would be fun to skip out of school. Ursuline thought they had been kidnapped and had locked down the campus.

Having Big Papa's secret recipe for pig sauce to share with the world.

And Papa John's Irish writing bug to record this for my knuckleheads.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Honor and Remember



Sgt. Zachary J. Walters, 2nd BN, 6th Marines (78th), 2nd Marine Division, passed away Tuesday, June 8, 2010 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

He was leading a group of Marines and Afghan soldiers when he was struck by an IED.

The Patriot Guard was there for his arrival on Thursday at Love Field.

When the plane door opens and you first see that flag draped coffin, it is one of the toughest moments for the family of the fallen soldier.

SGT Walters came home in a small flag draped container. He had been cremated.

It took my breath away as it did for the PGR who have witnessed too many of these homecomings.

The family will not get to say goodbye face to face. They won't get to touch him one last time.

SGT Walters was on his second deployment. He didn't have to go. He wanted to go to lead his men. He was a Marine thru and thru.

He was born May 24, 1986. He was preceded in death by his uncle Christopher Scott Walters. He is survived by his parents Kelly J. Walters of Irving, and Regina M. Walters of Decatur; grandparents Joe and Bobbie Walters of Irving; grandmother Lore Miner of Decatur; brother Dwayne Patrick Adair of Decatur; aunts and uncles Norma and Harvey Merritt of Alvarado, Nell and Al Berry of Mesquite, Ramona and Tony McCollough of Peculiar, Missouri, Rebecca and Mark Ireland of Alvord, Texas, and Tom and Ann Miner of Decatur; and numerous cousins.

He also leaves behind his fiance Vickie L. Falcon of Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Memorial services were at 1:00.PM. Friday, June 18, 2010 at Brown's Memorial Chapel in Irving, Texas. Interment services with Full Military Honors followed at 3 PM at DFW National Cemetery.

His family requests donations to Wounded Warriors, PMB 48, Western Blvd., Suite E, Jacksonville, NC 28546 or www.carepackageproject.com.

Thank you for your leadership, service and sacrifice SGT Zachary Walters.

You will never be forgotten.

Godspeed to Zachary's family and fiancee. Our family has lived this movie. If we can be of help or support, we are here for you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Clown Prince of Afghanistan

Last May, I posted this entry http://burkslaw.blogspot.com/2009/05/from-kabul-to-lax.html

How wise he was. How prescient.

He never once mentioned Hamid Karzai as being the solution.

As I listen now to what he was saying, it was about the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Not the "leaders".

In the past few days, we've heard from President Karzai.

He's like a Kennedy or a Bush. His family has been in power and politics in Afghanistan forever.

Two senior Afghan officials were showing President Hamid Karzai the evidence of a spectacular rocket attack on a nationwide peace conference earlier this month when Mr. Karzai told them that he believed the Taliban were not responsible.

“The president did not show any interest in the evidence — none — he treated it like a piece of dirt,” said Amrullah Saleh, then the director of the Afghan intelligence service.

Mr. Saleh declined to discuss Mr. Karzai’s reasoning in more detail. But a prominent Afghan with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Karzai suggested in the meeting that it might have been the Americans who carried it out.

Mr. Saleh immediately resigned as head of intelligence. As did the interior minister, Hanif Atmar.

Hmmmm. Wonder who's zooming who.

Corruption in Afghanistan, lying in Afghanistan, manipulating in Afghanistan is like Louisiana politics on crack-powered steroids.

It's what they do. And how they survive.

Which makes it so hard to believe anybody.

And a week ago, President Karzai says he doubts the NATO forces can defeat the Taliban.

Hmmmm. Who are you rooting for, Hamid?

During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Karzai was a supporter of the Taliban. He knows those folks well. They were fighting his war for him.

Then when the Taliban decided to take over the country, he became their enemy.

Recently, he's been sidling up to them again.

And wow, it's just been discovered that there is $1 trillion in minerals in the ground in Afghanistan.

Guess who controls that ground?

Nope, not Hamid.

His buds in the Taliban do.

And so, ole Hamid is dancing the dance. He needs the West (read the United States) to keep him alive whilst the Taliban try to kill him whilst he tries to cut a deal with them.

And in the meantime, Pakistan believes these lands belong to them. Which is why they have supported the Taliban. And now they see booty.

Wonder what the old Soviet Generals are thinking. Wonder what Putin is thinking.

Probably not focused on the health and well-being of U.S. and NATO soldiers.

Probably wishing they had done a better job years ago. So this trillion dollar find would be theirs.

The only reason for the U.S. to be in Afghanistan is to prevent terrorist acts against the U.S.

We are not at war with Afghanistan. Just as we were never at war with Iraq.

Maybe its time we change our thought pattern.

There will always be terrorists.

The job of the United States government is to protect its citizens.

Perhaps we should focus more on protecting our borders and dealing with those terrorists already here and those trying to enter.

Let those barbarians fight over that ground in Pashtun.

Including that slickster with the shaved head, clipped beard, fancy suits and funny hat.

Mr. Karzai, think it's time you and Mullah Omar figure it out on your own.

In the meantime, we'll be fortifying against your type.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

For the Faith of a Mother

"Then Jesus answered and said unto her, 0 woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." —Matthew 15:28.

Not that God doesn't hear fathers, but there is just something special about a mother's faith and a mother's love.

Last July, I wrote about Bryce Saldi. He suffered a serious head injury and has been in the hospital and rehab since.

His sweet mama has been by his side virtually every day for 11 months. His dad, his brothers, his aunts, his girlfriend have been there as well. But Bre has been the rock.

First for two months in California where he was injured. Then an air ambulance ride to Dallas. And nine months of daily visits, back rubs, feeding, foot massages, therapy sessions. Sleepless nights. Stressful days. Her business put on hold.

She is a woman of faith. This ordeal has tested it.

I was in Los Angeles last summer when the accident happened and drove to Loma Linda several times to visit.

We had a long talk about life, faith, curveballs, hope, despair, losing a child, how to get thru the valley of the shadow of death.

This happy news from her blog today.

"A few days ago Bryce had a big surprise for me. He said his first word, "Mom". It was the loveliest word that I have ever heard. I went and hugged him and he repeated it over and over in my ear."

Our neighbors have a daughter who was born with a serious heart defect. But to look at her today, you would never know it.

She's a cheerleader. A model. A happy, beautiful child.

Her parents deal with the daily fear that normal life can turn bad in an instant.

Her mom has made sure that every day of Mackinlee's life has been a blessing and that not one is taken for granted.

Yesterday, she went in for her routine annual checkup.

Her mom Susie's post today.

"Dear God, yesterday you left me on pins and needles and sick to my stomach waiting on news that an echo tech implied might be bad only to later have the doctor deliver the most amazing news that he can't even explain except for Divine Intervention! Thank you for reminding me of your mercy and power and to never take anything for granted. Thank you for prayers answered!"

Thank you, moms. Bless you Bre and Susie.

Godspeed Bryce and Mackinlee.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An upcoming memorial day





A good friend of my youngest son came by for a Memorial Day visit.

They graduated together from Celina High School.

He was voted best looking his senior year. If I'd had a vote, he would have had mine too.

In fact, if he would shave his legs, I would ask him out right now.

This young stud is now in the U.S. Army.

He knew Pete. He will be deploying to Afghanistan in a month.

He is responsible for a group of Apache helicopters.

As a memento, he brought me a dummy round from the 30MM cannon on his birds.

The pen might be mightier than the sword, but I don't know if it stacks up against this weaponry.

The Apache can fire these babies off at a rate of 625 rounds per minute.

That sort of thing can ruin Omar's day.

And here's hoping it does. Soon. And often.

Hey you Talibs. Don't know when your next memorial day observance is. But buckle up.

When you aren't too busy raping or selling a 13 year old girl, or burning books, or making drug deals, or destroying centuries old carvings as Allah tells you to do, come on out and greet your American visitors.

Josh and his buds will be looking for your sorry asses.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Decoration Day

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

-George Orwell


May 30, 1868 was declared Decoration Day by the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union Army veterans.

The first observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery. Maj. General John Logan declared that on that day the graves of fallen Union and Confederate soldiers should be decorated with flowers to honor their sacrifices.

By the end of the 19th century, the day had come to be known as Memorial Day. It was only after World War I that the day was expanded to include those that had died in all American wars.

Memorial Day wasn't declared a national holiday by Congress until 1971.

Like many of you, Memorial Day meant the beginning of summer and a cookout with friends and family for most of my life. I was too stupid, naive, shallow and selfish to recognize why the day had been set apart.

Now, I have a much different view.

So tomorrow, I will spend the morning honoring those that have given all. And I will visit the grave of my son and we will decorate it to recognize his service and sacrifice.

But in the afternoon, our family will have a barbecue. And it won't be a time of mourning. Or sadness.

It will be a time of celebration of life that those fallen brave men and women before us would want to be celebrated.

The men and women that died on the battlefield would want us to start summer with a bang.

They were willing to die so that we can enjoy such things.

They wanted to come home and do the same.

All that they would ask is that the nation acknowledge their shared sacrifice to enable us to enjoy such a day.

For fools like me, I wish there was a law requiring each of us to visit and decorate the grave of a fallen soldier on Memorial Day. To understand the cost of freedom. To appreciate why we have what we have.

And then the law should read that at one set hour (like 7 eastern, 6 central, 5 mountain, 4 pacific), we should all sing the National Anthem together in their honor.

And only then, let the rib sucking, steak savoring, hot dog eating, hamburger chewing begin with gusto.

Rest well at Fiddler's Green, you brave souls.

We will meet again in Heaven.

Know that your service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

In fact, it will be decorated with flowers.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Woman's Memorial Day

"It is not of the dead alone that we think on this day.

There are those still living whose sex forbade them to offer their lives, but who gave instead their happiness.

Which of us has not been lifted above himself by the sight of one of those lovely, lonely women, around whom the wand of sorrow has traced its excluding circle--set apart, even when surrounded by loving friends who would fain bring back joy to their lives?

I think of one whom the poor of a great city know as their benefactress and friend. I think of one who has lived not less greatly in the midst of her children, to whom she has taught such lessons as may not be heard elsewhere from mortal lips. The story of these and her sisters we must pass in reverent silence.

All that may be said has been said by one of their own sex---

But when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.
Then did I check the tears of useless passion,
weaned my young soul from yearning after thine
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine."

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Memorial Day Speech, May 30, 1884

To all of the wives, mothers, sisters, fiances, soulmates and friends, may you find strength and peace this Memorial Day. And everyday.

Thank you for your sacrifices. Thank you for sharing your very best.

You are as much heroes as those whom you have lost.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whither Iraq

"To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall-at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory."

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Memorial Day Speech, May 20, 1884



President Obama quoted Holmes last week as he addressed the graduates at West Point.

President Obama also said this to those soon to be commissioned officers. "... this is what success looks like: an Iraq that provides no haven to terrorists; a democratic Iraq that is sovereign and stable and self-reliant."

This is the same man who on October 22, 2002 said in front of a few hundred anti-war demonstrators at Chicago Plaza, "I don't oppose all wars." Obama said, "What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war..."

Time will tell which Barack Obama was correct.

I am as confused about the war in Iraq as anyone.

Was it good strategy?

Was it worth it?

Was it a dumb war?

Experience is a tough teacher. First you get the answer, then you get the lesson. And we don't have the answer yet.

What I do have is some insight you might not have on the situation in Iraq.

I have friends who are there right now. Men on their second and third deployment.

Here is an excerpt from an email from one of them in the last few days.

"A couple of things that are somewhat exciting is about a week ago my Brigade Commander was flying from a base from the North part of the Area of Operation when his wing man had mechanical problems and had to make an emergency landing in the desert.

The helicopter that was having problems was a UH-60 Black Hawk. The helicopter that the Brigade Commander was flying in was a UH-47 Chinook. No passengers were flying in the Black Hawk when it had to make an emergency landing.

When they landed the pilots and crew chief loaded up on the Chinook and continued their flight pattern back. Our Charlie Battery is our farthest perimeter to the North and one of their platoons was quickly spun up as the quick reactionary force that went to go secure the helicopter on the ground.

Eventually a couple of mechanics flew out to the landing site and was able to fix the Black Hawk in which the pilots were able to fly it back.

What was pretty cool about the story was that while that platoon was out there securing the site a Sheik and some Iraqis went out to them with some food to give to the troops. That was a small gesture from them to us that they support us and we have that continued friendship."

That is one reality that you won't hear from any other news source.

What does it mean?

I don't know. But I think that Sheik is like the Sheik that sought me out last April.

Last April when I was in Iraq, a Sheik wanted to meet me. Due to logistics, it never happened.

He had lost his son and his brother in an attack on him. The Sheik had been the target. Why? Because he was a good man. One that longed for peace in Iraq. And one that saw the U.S. as a force of good willing to fight evil.

The Sheik wanted to meet someone else that had lost a son in the Iraq War. Some day, I hope to meet him and come to understand better what this is all about.

From another veteran of Iraq, this excerpt from an email this week. He was the Captain of Pete's troop and one of the first on the scene that day.

"I fly over the spot where Pete was killed at least once a week. Never loses its impact on me. And I see his name every time I walk in or out of division headquarters. There are huge placques in the entrance hall with the names of those that were taken, broken down by year. Pete is toward the bottom of the 2007 boards. I say good morning and good night to him everyday.

So far we've only put two names on the 2010 board. Progress is real, no matter what the press may want to say. This is still a dangerous place but I truly believe we are going to get this sorted out soon and end this with dignity and honor."

Until there is evidence to the contrary, I'm going to listen to the folks with boots on the ground in Iraq. Which includes the U.S. military and the Iraqis. And not the evening news.

Which gives me hope. And peace.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Losing love

Losing a love is decimating.

You begin to question everything.

It has happened to me several times.

And what I have learned is that I have to wait on God.

Because God is love. If you don't know God, you don't know love.

He has a plan.

There are many days that I don't care for the plan.

That's because I'm on my time.

But I am learning painfully and slowly that if I will wait on Him, He will take care of me and bit by bit reveal the plan to me.

God is eternal. Eternal is a concept none of us can really understand.

If you are eternal, there is no concept of time.

I have learned that I am not in control of anything.

I have learned that any and all blessings that have come my way have been of Him. And some of those blessings have not been happy things.

I have for years been a "Lord, bless my mess" kind of man.

He doesn't hear that prayer.

I have learned to open my mind, my heart, my arms, my hands every morning and say to Him, "Lord, I can't wait for the surprise you have in store for me today".

A thousand times in the past few years He has provided when there was no possible way.

I don't like alot of the things that have happened to me. But I'm learning to appreciate that He is in control and is teaching me to let Him run the show.

There are amazingly wonderful things happening in my little life.

The love of grandchildren. The flowering of my grown children. The simple sweet love of my 8 year old daughter who loves me in spite of my flaws.

And I think God may well have introduced me to my soulmate.

She is much too good for me. But, for some odd reason, she seems to like me.

All I've ever wanted is what all of us ever wanted.

To find someone that will love us unconditionally.

Jesus, or Yeshua, is the example.

I had given up hope.

He hasn't, and never will.

He is hope.

And she is the evidence of things unseen, and the proof of things hoped for.

Lord, thank you for my life.

If she is it, make it clear.

And please, Lord, don't let me screw it up.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Neosporin breath

I'm a 55 year old knucklehead with an 8 year old daughter.

And four grown kids.

Yes, I know the math.

Yes, I know the issues.

Just please allow me to share the joy of what an 8 year old girl is all about.

On Saturday, we went to her riding lesson at Palos Verdes Stables.

If you've never driven south of Los Angeles into PV, you've missed something.

It is a magic place.

Years ago, the rich folk found it.

It is near the Pacific.

The air, the trees, the flora are all different there.

And in the middle of it is horse country.

Sandy loam.

And today, it is run by women.

Reedy, salty, earthy blonde women that love horses and dogs. And each other. And their husbands and boyfriends.

It is estrogen heaven.

As sports bars are to men, this place is to women.

It's all about the horses. And the discipline. And the life of brushing, and sweeping out, and feeding, and caring, and learning.

My peanut loves it. She is learning to ride English. Which I learned watching her means the rider actually exercises and works. I thought it was the horse that did all the work. Once again, I'm wrong. Which is ok, so long as I learn.

On Sunday, it was father-daughter dance night with the girl scouts.

Much more time was spent getting buffed than was spent dancing. Maybe one go round with pops and she and they were done. It was a classic generational learning session.

Every current song was well known by the 8-10 year old girls. They danced together. They conga lined together.

When "Play That Funky Music White Boy" came over the speakers, all the girls sat down. The dads all had their white man overbite ready to go, with nobody to dance with.

Soon, she realized this wasn't all that much fun. And her high heels hurt her feet.

She had two hot dogs. As did I plus a cold cheeseburger.

We took what I'm sure will be a classic picture with the photographer of, "I really don't want to be here".

All she wanted was to go home and relax and snuggle.

So we did. And then she asked if I wanted a back rub.

Of course I did.

So she starts the program. She walks on my back. She massages me with her strong little hands.

Then starts the "process". As a female, she somehow knows that special herbs and oils are required.

So as I lay prone, she starts rubbing something on my back.

"Peanut, what is that?"

"Neosporin, daddy. It will make your back feel better."

"Where did you get Neosporin?"

"It's in your shaving kit. And I'm going to use this old toothbrush to massage it into your back."

It was the most loving and lovely massage.

And my back is germ free.

And after brushing my teeth this morning, I can tell you that Neosporin mixed with Colgate leaves you with a hint of Vicks Vaporub breath with a minty finish.

And the knowledge that one little girl loves you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Store That Love Built

The Store That Love Built:
12 Jan 2008
By CH (CPT) Bryan Smith 4/2SCR USA

“Greater love hath no man then this, than a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. On November 14, 2007, 2LT Peter H. Burks gave his life for his friends, the men of 4th Platoon, Palehorse troop 4th Squadron 2nd Calvary Regiment. His family, fiancée and friends were stunned and grieved by the news of Peter’s death. As a chaplain, I expected this response from those who knew Peter so well. It was what happened next that neither I nor the men of Palehorse troop could have ever imagined. Peter’s family, his mom, Mrs. Jackie Merck, his dad, Mr. Alan Burks, and fiancée, Miss Melissa Haddad, fought their way through their own personal grief and rallied an entire community to support our troops. We began to receive care packages in the mail from people in Texas, from towns and communities I had never heard of before, towns like McKinney, Frisco, Duncanville, Celina and Garland. And the packages kept on coming. It wasn’t long we had received over two hundred care packages for our Soldiers. As I prayed and thought about how I could best honor the memory of Peter and show my appreciation to all those people in Texas whose cards and gifts kept coming in, it hit my mind that I should open a country store in Pete’s honor. So with the support of my Commander, LTC Antonio Aguto Jr., we celebrated the grand opening of the “Peter Burks Country Store” at Forward Operating Base Prosperity here in Baghdad on Christmas Eve 2007. Two hundred and twenty five Soldiers came by in two hours and picked up food, clothing, hygiene and gift items from the store at absolutely no cost. We also gave out several door prizes that people had sent us such as: Xbox controllers, CD’s, DVD’s and CD players. We continue to open the store twice a week and Soldiers can come by and get whatever they want for free. As I think now of the store, the sacrifice and the love that 2Lt Peter Burks had for his men and the kindness of some people in Texas, I can’t help but weep. The Peter Burks store truly is the store that love built.


Pete's regiment is in the process of deploying again. We don't know where, but we know it must be a hot spot. They call in the Cavalry when all hell breaks loose.

As this regiment of 5,000 brave men and women head into battle, the Peter Burks Country Store deploys with them.

We need your help to stock it. With love.

There are two ways you can help.

1. You, your church or synagogue or mosque, your company, your neighborhood, your kid's school can collect goods that we will ship. Here's what they want. Really complicated stuff:

-Salty snacks (pistachios, peanuts, Spicy Cheetohs, etc.)

-Healthy snacks (Clif Bars, Powerbars, etc.)

-White socks

-Red Vines and Gummi Bears

-Powdered Gatorade packs (to put in their Camelback water pouches to get them thru 125 degree days with 80 pounds of body armor on)

-Hand sanitizer (since showers aren't readily available)

-DVDs, CDs, Xbox consoles and games and controllers (yep, they are still kids)

-Handwritten letters from you and your family

-Playing cards

-Beef jerky

-Toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, eye drops, swabs

-Anything non-perishable, shippable and that would tickle a scared 18 year old and let them know somebody cares

Contact me at alan.burks@gmail.com and we will figure out how to get it picked up and shipped.

2. Cash

Our largest expense is postage. That's the only way to ship into a war zone. You can go to to www.unsungherofund.org to learn more and donate via PayPal or check.

To date, with your help, we have shipped over 7 tons of care packages into Iraq and Afghanistan.

With your help again, more tons of love will be on their way.

We will start shipments in early June.

These 5,000 will know that somebody in America cares about their sacrifice based on what you do.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A different kind of Mothers Day

Below is a note I just received from a Gold Star family support group.

It is self-explanatory.

It is heartbreaking.

And, it provides a chance to be part of a miracle.

Since my Mom isn't here for me to give her a hug, I'm heading to the post office to send Mrs. Koch some love.

Thanks for anything you can do.

ab



Dear Friends of Christine Koch,

It is with overwhelming sadness that I be the one to inform you of a tragedy that has befallen the Koch family. As you all know, two years ago Christine and Bill Koch were informed that their beloved son, Stephen gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Army over in Afghanistan. This morning, Friday May 7, 2010, there was another knock at the door; they were informed of the untimely death of their oldest daughter, Lynne.

I have been in contact with Christine and was given permission to alert you all of this unfortunate tragedy. Arrangements are not yet finalized.

David Lussier and I, along with Ron Dixon, the Commander of American Legion Post 25, and Nancy O’Rorke, Ron’s fiancé and Christine’s closest friend, are working together to help Christine and Bill and their other son, Billy, with the unfortunate task of raising the funds to help them bury their daughter properly. The family has been hit hard in recent months with unexpected financial matters; therefore, we ask that you find it in your hearts to send $1.00 in a sympathy card to help them bury their daughter properly. Christine has been there for our troops no matter what and today she is grieving the loss of yet another child – how much more can one mother endure.

In anticipation of your willingness to help the Koch family, I have obtained some vital information which is as follows:

Please do not send flowers, instead send Christine a card of encouragement and if you can, enclose $1.00 or more if you have it to let her know she is not grieving alone. This family has given enough and now its time to ask you all to search your hearts to help a Mother who is need of burying another child.

Cards and donations are being accepted via the American Legion. All donations will be used to help the family deal with this tragedy in private. Send your note, card and donation to:

Joyce Kilmer American Legion Post 25
Attn: Commander Ron Dixon
PO Box 173
Milltown, NJ 08850

If there is anyone out there who wishes to donate more or do something special for Christine, please contact Commander Ron Dixon directly at 732-404-7445 (this number is shared with direct permission from Mr. Dixon) Checks should be made payable to the Joyce Kilmer American Legion Post 25 – memo note: Koch Family

On behalf of David Lussier and myself, we thank you all for supporting our beloved Christine and her family in their hour of need. Please pray for their family to be strong and allow God to give them the strength to endure this terrible tragedy.

Betty Kilbride and David Lussier