Sunday, May 29, 2005

Day 146 - Memorial Day

I am writing this post a day early . . . my family and I will be traveling to my brother's lake cabin in Devils Lake - and so far the weather report looks favorable. I actually snorted as I packed swimming suits into Emelia's and my luggage - but it looks as though we might actually be able to wear them after all.

In a way, I'm pretty disappointed in myself that I won't be able to attend a Memorial Day Ceremony or anything - it's funny because a year ago, I don't really know if Memorial Day would have meant anything to me at all. And now, with my "eyes wide open" it means everything to me.

I guess the purpose of this entry is to ask you - and to challenge you . . . "What Does Memorial Day Mean to You?"

When I was growing up, I remember being in the Girl Scouts (or Brownies, more specifically) and marching in a Memorial Day parade - I think I remember doing the same thing when I was in High School Marching Band. I always remember the older WWII and Korea veterans with their paraphenalia and stuff . . . but beyond that, I don't remember a thing about Memorial Day.

It seems like almost everybody uses Memorial Day as a time to go out to their loved one's graves and clean them off - and put out fresh flowers - and I have to say, that the cemetaries we have driven past in the last couple of days - have looked great, the flags have been flying high, the grass has been cut, and you could tell that someone (or someones) was really going out of their way to honor the Veterans who were buried there.

I have mentioned before that Al has been adopted by a group of people at a veteran's hospital out of New York. Cindy, one of the technicians at the lab, emailed me last week and told me about this absolutely amazing event that they were holding last Saturday, and I saved it for my Memorial Day blog entry.

The event was called "Echo Taps", and the purpose was to raise awareness that there has been a gradual tapering off "real bugle playing" at veteran's funerals of "Taps". Instead, it is often a pre-recorded cassette tape rendition --- a pretty pathetic recognition of someone who at sometime spent a decent chunk of time away from their family and their country defending our freedom!!

Echo Taps consisted of 800 buglars spanning 41 miles from their two military cemeteries, each 80 feet apart and playing Taps in three note succession. It had never been done anywhere before. They had players ranging in age from 11 years old to 87 years old - and players came from 21 different states to show their support.

Cindy and "The Gang" (as I call them) had also volunteered their time to help supervise some of the veterans from the hospital so that they could attend the event and ceremonies. I know that really meant a lot to those guys to get to be a part of all of that.

The pictures from the event speak for themselves, and I think that it's wonderful that the veteran's decided that they were tired of boombox honoring our nation's fallen heroes.

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Here are some links if you are interested in further details! :
(tons of news articles!! really good!)

Finally, tomorrow, please remember that you aren't just getting a "freebie" day off, Memorial Day honors the men and women who have died in military service to the United States -- so please, if you do have the opportunity, make the effort to attend a Memorial Day Ceremony in your local community. I know that I won't be on vacation next year - and that it will be something special for Al, Trey, Emelia and me to be able to do together as a family once Al is home for good. Operation Iraqi Freedom may not be especially popular with some Americans, and with today's 'modern' conveniences, the sacrifice that Al and I are facing is N.O.T.H.I.N.G. compared to what Veteran's in other wars/conflicts dealt with, but now that I have tasted what 'sacrifice' for one's country really means, I can tell you that I won't ever be callous in my treatment of Memorial Day ever again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Day 143 - Whew! Welcome to My Craziness!

Hi faithful blog readers!! I am so very sorry that you have had nothing to read for a whole week!! Work has been so very, very busy!! Fifteen hours of overtime last weekend - barf.

AND, Em and I leave on vacation tomorrow! We fly out of Birmingham at the crack of dawn tomorrow!! Yikes!! We will eventually (after switching planes like three times - - don't even get me started - - ) land in Fargo, ND sometime tomorrow afternoon.

I will actually have time to post some neat articles and pictures that I have been saving once I am there - because (and don't tell anybody I said this, okay? - it's our little secret) - Minnesota is pretty darn boring. Well, at least this time of year. Because, BIG SURPRISE, it's supposed to yucky weather AGAIN for the second year in a row!! Last year over Memorial Day it was 40 DEGREES almost the whole time we were there.

Okay, I am STILL not packed. And it is 2230 - and I am getting up at 0300. Which means . . . I've got to go!!! LOL!!

ps. For people who have requested the Donut and other things --- don't worry - I have received your requests - and I will be answering your emails over the next week while on vacation!! :o)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Day 136 - I got to see my bunny!!

Well, my morning started off at the typical 0500, and it didn't seem to be starting off all that great, Al had called and after about five minutes on the phone -- the lines messed up again, and we got off. I went to the computer though - and he had sent me a nice email with new pictures, so I will post those for y'all tomorrow.

Em was being a crankpot, and by the time I got her dressed, and me dressed and she was at the babysitter's house, I was headed down the highway a good fifteen minutes later than usual. When I finally got to a point on the road that I have cell service, my phone was beeping at me, and then when I was fishing around for it - it starting ringing. It was my friend Stacy letting me know that she had left me a message telling me that her son Michael had had his webcam up this morning - and that she had seen Al!!


So, by now, I have picked up the pace of my driving like crazy -- and she is telling me that if I hurry that once I get to the office that I should definitely get to see Al. So, we talk the rest of the way to work together and I run up to my cube like a nut - boot up my computer, and log into Yahoo Messenger . . . and, there he was. I instantly had tears running down my face. Other than pictures, I haven't seen him since he left on January 8th. I can't really explain the immense sense of relief that I felt! I already feel so much more relaxed than I have felt in weeks and months.

We talked and talked - and "flirted" - lol. He looked so, so good. I think I must have told him that fifty times. He has been running almost five miles a day and it shows. He had his big Al grin on - and seeing him happy and relaxed and silly made my day. I will sleep so good tonight.

Stacy had the presence of mind to take pictures of Al on the webcam -- and she sent them to me -- there is no better feeling than the one I have right now, let me tell you!! Thanks to my bunny for our hour + conversation, thank you so much to Michael for being so sweet and letting us use his computer and camera - that so unbelievably nice of you!, and thank you to Stacy for being such a good friend and sharing these special moments with me!!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Day 135 - The USO

Toby Keith made a big splash at last night's Country Music Award's by entertaining the troops in Iraq. Keith is on his third USO tour, with additional stops in Germany, Belgium and the Persian Gulf region - and I thought that I would highlight the brief history of the USO for you here.

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The USO was formed in response to a 1941 request from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who determined it would be best if private organizations handled the on-leave recreation of the rapidly growing U.S. armed forces. Roosevelt’s call to action led to six civilian agencies to coordinate their civilian war efforts and resources to form a new organization – the USO (United Service Organizations). The six civilian agencies were the Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board. The USO is a private, nonprofit organization, supported entirely by private citizens and corporations.

Throughout World War II, the USO was the channel for community participation in the war effort. In more than 3,000 communities, USO centers were established to become the GI.’s “Home Away from Home.” Between 1940 and 1944, U.S. troops grew from 50,000 to 12 million and their need for a variety of services grew accordingly. USO facilities were quickly opened in such unlikely places as churches, log cabins, museums, castles, barns, beach and yacht clubs, railroad sleeping cars, old mansions and storefronts.

At its high point in 1944, the USO had more than 3,000 clubs. USOs could be many things to many people: a lively place to dance and meet people; a place to see movies or find religious counsel; a quiet place to talk or write letters; and, of course, the place to go for free coffee and doughnuts.

From 1941 to 1947, USO Camp Shows presented an amazing 428,521 performances. In 1945, curtains were rising 700 times a day to audiences as large as 15,000 and as small as 25 on some outposts all over the world. More than 7,000 entertainers traveled overseas. During World War II, Americans had come together as never before. By war’s end, the USO could claim that more than 1.5 million volunteers had worked on its behalf.

The USO had all but disbanded by 1947. In 1950, when the U.S. entered the Korean War, the USO regrouped and eventually opened 24 clubs worldwide. Once again, USO Camp Shows performed thousands of times for battle-weary troops and for wounded GIs in the Evac hospitals in Japan. In 1952, USO entertainers performed every day for troops in Korea. The truce in 1953 did not decrease the need for USO services – more than a million service members remained stationed abroad. At the Department of Defense’s request for continued service for the military overseas, the USO continued to expand worldwide.

The turbulent 60s were full of challenges for the USO. For the first time in its history, USO centers were located in combat zones. The first USO in Vietnam opened in Saigon in 1963. The 17 centers that were opened in Vietnam and six in Thailand served as many as a million “customers” a month. Bob Hope took his USO Christmas show to Vietnam for the first time in 1964; the shows continued into the next decade. At the war’s height, 40 percent of America’s entire overseas forces were in Vietnam. There were a total of 5,559 USO performances during the Vietnam years. As the 60s ended, Americans were still bitterly debating Vietnam war policies. But for the USO, Vietnam meant a chance to assist Americans who were far away from home, serving their country in a difficult and dangerous conflict.

In the early 1970s, when the draft ended, the need for the USO was questioned. In 1974, prompted by a report of United Way of America’s Committee on National Agency Support (CONAS), United Way of America and the Department of Defense conducted a major review of USO programs and services.

They visited USO operations and military bases around the world and concluded, “If there were no USO, another organization would have to be created…. Isolation of the military from civilian influences is not, we believe in the interest of this nation.”

Thus, the USO was launched into a new era of peacetime service. New programs were called for to meet new needs, and the USO responded. Programs were developed to smooth frictions between military and local communities by involving personnel in local activities. For the first time, the USO helped military personnel make the transition to civilian life. The USO’s international headquarters moved from New York to Washington, D.C., in 1975, firmly establishing it as an international agency serving U.S. armed forces worldwide.

USO entertainment in the 80s retained its stellar reputation while increasing its range. Superstar rock groups KANSAS, the Doobie Brothers, Cheap Trick; jazz legend Louie Bellson; movie stars Kris Kristofferson, Brooke Shields, Chuck Norris; performers Ann Jillian and John Denver; Miss USAs Michelle Royer, Courtney Gibbs and Gretchen Polhemus; rhythm and blues group Atlantic Starr; a host of country music stars, including Loretta Lynn, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Lee Greenwood, Mickey Gilley, and the Judds; and even Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebek have become involved with USO’s celebrity entertainment program.

The USO’s close association with military leadership was reemphasized in 1987 with the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding between the USO and the Department of Defense. The agreement names the USO as a principal channel representing civilian concern for the U.S. armed forces worldwide, under the auspices of the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense. It authorizes the USO to play an active role in coordinating local civilian community resources and fostering general civilian interest in the welfare of U.S. armed forces personnel and their families.

1990 found the United States embroiled in a confrontation with Iraq that challenged American troops in new ways. Our service members found themselves deployed in the desert for at least six months at a time with little recreation or contact from home.

The Persian Gulf War also challenged the USO to meet the needs of our troops in unique circumstances. The USO immediately responded by opening three new centers in the Middle East and establishing the USO Mobile Canteen program. Mobile Canteens are four-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicles that have refreshments, books, magazines, video and compact disc players, and resources for recreational activities. USO workers drove the vans to wherever the troops were deployed to provide some relief from the heat and boredom.

On the homefront, the USO established the Family Support Fund and Desert Storm Education Fund to support military families who suffered hardship from the deployment or death of military personnel. After the troops returned, USO sponsored a Yellow Ribbon Summer, which included several special events to benefit active duty members of the armed forces and their families. As a finale, USO hosted the National Victory Celebration Concert in Washington, D.C., featuring Barbara Mandrell.

The lessons the USO learned in the sands of the Middle East were put to the test in 1992 in Somalia. When former President George Bush announced that American troops would be deployed to Operation Restore Hope, the USO was ready to follow them. USO Somalia opened on December 23, 1992, just for the holidays. The USO secured space in the Mogadishu International Airport and began providing morale-building support and services to the U.S. military.

The USO presence in Somalia continued until April 1993 with help and support from corporations, individuals and members of the USO team around the world, and with celebrity entertainers visiting the troops year round.

In December 2003, the USO opened a new center in Kuwait to comfort and support the men and women in uniform who are involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Based at Camp Wolverine, the new center is equipped with Internet and e-mail access, and will provide a link to family and loved ones left behind. The center will serve service women and men transitioning to and from combat operations in the region as well as troops passing through Kuwait for R&R in the United States or other locations.

The USO currently operates 123 centers worldwide. USOs in 10 countries and 21 states use the services of some 33, 571 volunteers, including members of the World Board of Governors, the USO’s governing body, and those who dish up Thanksgiving dinners to USO guests.

In 2004, the USO sent 55 Celebrity Entertainment tours to 22 countries, entertaining more than 348,000 service me n and women.

USO World Headquarters acts as the enabling body for all programs, setting overall policy and strategies, and providing training and technical assistance. It also produces the overseas celebrity entertainment tours, which reach hundreds of thousands of uniformed men and women each year. Since 1941, every U.S. president has served as the USO’s Honorary Chairman, including President George W. Bush.

There are 31 USO Airport Centers to help military travelers with connections, foreign language translation, long layovers and missing luggage.

No matter where American service families are stationed, their concerns are similar to any American family. The USO operates 86 Family Centers to help military families adjust to new surroundings with information on childcare co-ops, employment opportunities, parenting, nutrition, budgeting and recreational programs.

Many USOs offer orientation programs to promote resources within the local civilian community. Intercultural understanding fosters positive interaction between local citizens and their American military guests. Community involvement programs benefit the community and broaden the horizons of all involved.

Today, USO Celebrity Entertainment shows are effective morale boosters and remain an important part of USO’s offerings. Even in peacetime, entertainers provide a much-needed break in the midst of duty tours overseas. Recent USO tours have featured entertainers such as Wayne Newton, Robin Williams, Drew Carey, Bruce Willis, Gary Sinise, Ben Affleck, James Avery, Kid Rock, Henry Rollins, Howie Long, Terry Bradshaw, David Letterman, and "Soprano's" stars James Gandolfini and Tony Sirico. Domestic shows were added to the longstanding international tour list, featuring Sugar Ray Leonard, Emeril, "JAG" stars Karri Turner and John Jackson, and Rachel Proctor. Longtime USO entertainers, such as the Dallas Cowboys' Cheerleaders and Joan Jett, continue to donate their time and talents to entertain the troops.

As the USO celebrates 64 years of service, the world is witnessing history-making events at a record pace, events that are sure to influence the very nature and mission of America’s military. At least one thing is certain: the USO will diversify and change over time…as it has for more than sixty years…in order to fulfill its mission to U.S. military personnel and their families "Until Every One Comes Home."

I know that Al's life has been personally touched by USO volunteers while serving on this deployment. And whether it's a well known celebrity like Toby Keith or Jessica Simpson who give their time by signing autographs and singing songs, or the countless men and women behind the scenes who make all of it come together - they are all a part of the USO organization, and I just want to say that I greatly appreciate any effort to give the service men and women a badly needed break and a reminder of "home". A real home - a red, white and blue home - not a desert camoflauged dusty sandy home. God bless the U.S.A., the USO and, heck, God Bless Toby Keith too, LOL!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Day 134 - Returning Purple Heart

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Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Landreth answers questions
while several Bradford Elementary students wait to ask
more questions during his visit to the school Monday morning.

Pueblo Marine returns to hero's welcome

Tuesday May 10, 2005
Bradford Elementary students meet Ryan Landreth, a double Purple Heart recipient they adopted while he was fighting in Iraq.


Diana Peregrino couldn't wait to go to school Monday. It was the day she finally was to going meet her hero Ñ Lance Cpl. Ryan Landreth.

"We've had it on the calendar that he was coming. I couldn't wait to meet him," Diana said, moments after Landreth had finished speaking to the Bradford Elementary School student body.

Bradford's fourth- and fifth-grade students adopted Landreth, a Pueblo native and 2003 Centennial High School graduate, while he was stationed in Iraq.

The students wrote several times to the young Marine, informing him of everything from how the weather was in Pueblo to who won the Bell Game.

There also were the questions:
*What Landreth was doing in Iraq?
*What did he eat?
*How did he spends his days?
*What was it like to be involved in war?

Unable to answer all their letters, Landreth promised the students that when he returned to Pueblo he would visit them to answer their questions.

On Monday, Landreth, who has been awarded two Purple Hearts, fulfilled his promise by making a visit to the East Side elementary school.

Landreth returned from a seven-month tour to Iraq on April 7. Two weeks later, he surprised his father, Robert Landreth, by coming to Pueblo where he has been spending his days relaxing and sharing time with his family, including his mother, Raeann Parlapiano.

He is scheduled to return to duty at Camp Pendleton in California in two weeks.

"I want to thank you very much for the letters," Landreth, dressed in his military blue uniform, told the Bradford students on Monday. "Whenever I would get sad or lonely, I would open up the letters and it would make me happy." "Is the food good? I've hear that it's not that good. I'm really picky on my food. I can't eat anything except my mom's food or else I feel like I'm going to gag," Diana wrote.

What he ate for dinner, if he had a best friend, did he have a washer and dryer in Iraq, where did he sleep and what was the weather like were common questions the students frequently asked Landreth.

"I ate chicken probably every night. We could eat the MRE's (meals ready to eat) but I usually ate what they had. That's all they had was chicken," Landreth told the students.

As for other questions, Landreth said the soldiers washed their clothes in buckets of water; his best friend was a soldier who was part of his gunner team; he slept in Iraqi homes at times but mostly in the field and the weather was cold, especially at night and the sandstorms were fierce.

"Do you have a teddy bear so that when you're scared you could hug it? When I know my mom isn't home I get scared so I go to my parakeet for comfort. He is very dear to me. You are a bold young man," Diana continued

Twelve days after he arrived in Fallujah, Landreth, 20, was on his first excursion away from his camp when a roadside bomb exploded and struck the truck in which he was riding.

A piece of shrapnel hit Landreth in the right arm. Though the explosion briefly knocked him unconscious, Landreth suffered only minor injuries.

Three weeks later, the young machine gunner was traveling along the same route in a Humvee when another roadside bomb exploded. Landreth was hit in the back of the neck and again knocked unconscious. Luckily, the shrapnel did not go deep enough to cause serious injury.

Landreth returned to his squadron and went on to participate in the assault on Fallujah, but not before being awarded two Purple Hearts for his injuries.

"This is a Purple Heart ribbon," Landreth said as he proudly talked of the medals pinned to his uniform. "This is awarded to soldiers who are injured in combat. I was injured twice but instead of wearing two ribbons, I wear one with a star." "It must be difficult to see people die, especially loved ones. When I hear that someone has died my heart starts beating fast," Diana told Landreth in her letter.

The two explosions that Landreth survived were not his only close calls while serving in Iraq.

"The first few weeks were rough but then it only got worse with the assault on Fallujah. We were involved in several firefights. I had a lot of good friends that died," Landreth said during an interview following his talk with students. "I'm lucky. I have two Purple Hearts and I'm still alive. This definitely has been a life altering experience for me."

When a student asked Landreth if he was ever scared, the Marine didn't hesitate to answer.

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Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Landreth listens to questions from
Bradford students, while his father, Robert, stands in the background.

"Absolutely, I was scared all the time," he said. "When we went to Fallujah, we were all scared. Everybody is scared in their own way, we all just express it differently."

Landreth told the students being in combat is nothing like what they may see in the movies.

"The first time I was in a fire jfight, I remember that I couldn't hear anything, but then you sort of get tunnel vision. That's when the training kicked in and you just do what you have to do," he said. "I was totally afraid. I could hear my own heart beat while I was running." "Hang on there. I know you're strong. When you get here you'll be filled with appreciation from here. Hopefully the firecrackers will sound when you arrive. The flag will hang over your head for courage and appreciation," Diana said.

"It's awesome to meet a soldier who actually was in Iraq," said Bradford 12-year-old Shayna Eaton. "I think he's a hero for what he is doing for all of us. I will never forget him."

James Reyes, 11, said Landreth has inspired him even more to follow in the young soldier's footsteps.

"I think it's cool and I especially think soldiers are cool," he said. "I want to some day be like him or maybe like a Navy SEAL. He's a hero to me, just like my dad."

While the students were in awe of Landreth, the young soldier was equally impressed with the gratitude of the students.

"Thank you for all you did while I was over there. You are the reason we are over there fighting."

Monday, May 16, 2005

Day 133 - Donut of Misery -- 50% ??

When I was growing up, my parents would be the first to tell you that math was not my strong point. They literally would have to force me to sit down at the kitchen table and drill multiplication tables into my head. 4 X 4 = ?, 4X5=?, etc., and if I was a number or two off, I would raise an eyebrow at them and tell them that it was close enough and that when I was a "grown up" I would use a calculator - lol.

Once I finally got to college and I could figure out math on my own pace and schedule and in my own Melinda fashion, I did fine - and I also got straight A's. I also love the Excel spreadsheet program and use it for practically everything. This past Christmas, I used it to generate my Christmas list/budget down to the last penny . . . and I have been using it to calculate the amount of time that Al has left in his deployment with amazing accuracy and detail. Which in some ways is great, and in other ways, is awful. It's kind of hard - and I'm not meaning to use a pun here - to stick your head in the sand - and live in denial about how much time you have left, when you have a very colorful Excel spreadsheet staring you in the face telling you otherwise.

I had told y'all a couple little while ago that our next big milestone would be when we hit 274 days deployed / 270 days left to be deployed -- because that would officially be our 50% mark of our 545 days of our paper orders. Well, we hit that day on Saturday. You would think that I would have been jumping up and down and doing back-flips, but it was 'just another day'. Al and I have been borrowing time and counting ahead for awhile now, so we knew that day had been coming for weeks, so it was not really a big deal when it happened. And then when it "did" happen, it kind of felt like, "Oh my GOD, you mean that we are really only HALF way done with this??"

Anyway, I'm not trying to be negative, there's no point to it. But I do want other people reading this who aren't to this stage in their deployment yet know that you will hit this point - that there is a wall, and that there will be LOTS more of them. And you just have to get up the next day and paste another smile on your face and move on. The funny thing is, that if Al wasn't such a great guy, and that if I didn't love him so darn much, that missing him wouldn't feel so awful!! There are lots of marriages and relationships out there where the husband is dang happy to get deployed to Iraq to get away from his cranky wife and screaming kids for a bit -- and the same goes for a bossy, demanding hubby - I'm sure that wife is breathing a sigh of relief as she waves goodbye!

Church yesterday was really good. I thought I was actually going to get out of the building without crying big alligator tears for once, but then my Sunday School teacher in the last five minutes had to play a wonderful song about how much God loves us -- and about no matter how it "feels" at the time, that He never lets go of us. Yeah, great. There went the water works.

Here is the world famous "Doughnut of Misery", I can't take credit for it, unfortunately. Some gentlemen who were on "Sand Time" came up with it -- and I thank them for it from the bottom of my heart. I love it. I print a new one for myself every week. If you are currently dealing with a deployment, please email me at and I would be more than happy to send you the Excel spreadsheet so can torture yourself with your own. LOL. Please note that we are only 50% complete with our total orders and not our boots on ground time, we are only about 1/3 done with that. Yet another "milestone" to countdown!!
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An Army Times article that explains a little more of the mystery behind the illustrious "Doughnut of Misery":

Monday, May 09, 2005

Day 126 - Mother's Day

Well, this entry is going to be a day late. I had been planning this entry all week, but I ended up getting very sick from something I ate at an outdoor craft festival Saturday. I'm not as young as I used to be, and apparently Mini Donuts, Fried Pies and Corn-on-the-Cob-on-a-Stick should not all be consumed within a one hour period of one another. My Mother's Day was less than stellar! LOL!

When a person thinks about the word "Mother" or "Mom", it's a very subjective word. You think of your own mother. Or you think about famous women in history that you have known. Or you may even think about the media's representation of what a "mom" should mean, especially since we were all supposed to go and spend big bucks on our moms this week and heartstrings have probably been especially pulled in that direction.

I don't know what your mom means to you, but when I think about my mom, I think the word "hero" sums her up pretty well. I'm adopted, and I put that woman through a bunch of crap. She and my dad got me when I was two and if the word "holy terror" didn't exist before me, it would have had to be invented to define me. Every day was literally a new adventure for them. And when I use the word "adventure" I use it in the hiding the matches, locking cupboards, making sure the scissors were in a high cabinet sense.

One Mother's Day, my brother and I decided to surprise Mom with breakfast in bed. We went into the kitchen, and we were making toast with juice. I'm not really sure how you can screw up toast with juice, but we manage to accomplish it. Somehow within minutes, smoke was rising out of the toaster. Well, instead of just throwing the toast away, and starting out fresh, we started scraping off the burnt part of the toast. Kind of an ironic message to send your mom on Mother's Day, huh? She tells us now that she and my dad could hear us back in the bedroom and they were just giggling at us -- and that finally she sent him in the kitchen to tell us to just make new toast. That's a hero - and that's my mom.

On this Mother's Day, I want to tell you about another hero. Her name is Shelia Biffle. She is the Treasurer for the Senatobia, Mississippi Family Readiness Group - and she is treasurer for that group not because her husband is currently deployed either (he's retired Guard), she just wants to help out and support families. Shelia Biffle came up with an idea - she decided that it would be a nice thought if the soldiers in the 155 BCT (that's the unit that Al is deployed with) could have paper cards to send their moms for Mother's Day.

Then she had to take that thought and find somebody who was willing to make the donation make it possible. Shelia contacted NUMEROUS big name card companies and none of them would offer her anything. Then she found Howard Lord - of the Paramount Card Company out of Rhode Island - Mr. Lord is a military veteran and the print manager for the company. Mr. Lord's military service in the Navy would be enough for me to like him, but his huge donation makes me LOVE him!! I guess that time on a ship holding letters from home made him realize what that one card from one soldier in Iraq could do for one mom/hero back here in the states. Thank you Mr. Lord for opening up your heart and your pocketbook!!

Well, after Shelia got those cards in the mail, they weren't all neatly ready to go. She had to package them up in little bundles -- and get them sent to each individual camp - and each card had to get matched up with each envelope -- and this had to get done in a very short time frame. And then don't forget that it all had to get sent International Mail. When those guys got those cards, and then were able to write a nice note to all the moms in their lives, it happened thanks to Mr. Lord and Shelia Biffle - if either one of them hadn't have done what they did, some heroes back home this year would have had a lot less happy of a Mother's Day.

I tell you all this to say that heroes are the people that make stuff happen in our lives. My mom is my hero because she made stuff happen for me. She got my butt out of bed every morning and put up with me moaning and groaning all the way even though I'm sure she would have much rather have wiped me off the face of the planet. I make stuff happen for my daughter Emelia. I get her "molk" every morning - and I press play on the VCR to make "Boo's Coos" come up. I am there every sunshine and every sunset -- for the good, the bad, and the ugly -- and I hope someday, somewhere -- that if she's somewhere that she can't buy me a Mother's Day card, that someone will be nice enough to send her one for me.

Thank you again to Sheila and to Howard and to all the Moms who got cards - and those who didn't, all of you are heroes in my book!!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Day 124 - Medical Mission

Well, due to Opsec reasons, I couldn't say anything, but Al had been gearing up for a big medical mission today . . . I haven't gotten to talk to him yet -- but he is back "home" safe and sound as I make this blog entry -- and as far as I know it went well. This is a follow up to a previous mission that they did a couple of months ago. Al was very excited about it . . .

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I will, of course, provide more information as it becomes available :o)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Day 121 - And a President Comes to Visit

President Bush came to Jackson, MS yesterday. The "main" reason for his visit was to discuss his new plan for Social Security reform -- and he did so at the Canton, MS Nissan Plant. However, as I have learned in life, there are always two sides to every story . . . and there is definitely a further level to this one. Not only did President Bush discuss Social Security during his time in Jackson, but he also went out of his way to take the time to visit with loved ones of deployed soldiers during his visit. Obviously, since he's the President of the United States, this wasn't a random event, his staffers worked hard with the Mississippi Family Readiness Groups last week to get everyone invited and in place prior to his visit. Unfortunately - all this hard work - and the President's sincere regard and respect for what we as the military family "left behind" go through every day, pretty much got left out of every media resource that even bothered to cover the President's trip. The "Mississippi Mamas" from the Yahoo Board that I belong to (that's what I call them - lol!) who were lucky enough to get to go said that only one TV Station in town even mentioned that the President was there yesterday. I have to ask myself "what" was more important than that to talk about? It's not even football season yet - lol!

I need to tell you a little bit about my Yahoo National Guard Board. We email back and forth all day long. If you are not in the Army - and you don't have a deployed loved one - then you don't probably know what a Family Readiness Group is . . . but a Family Readiness Group is where you get your get and give your support - and it's also your information resource on your soldier. Depending on where you live, and how your FRG is run . . . you may not receive a lot of support. Well, our Yahoo Board has kind of fixed that problem for a lot of us. Just by sitting in front of our computers - we are able to electronically pass information back and forth all day long. It "almost" can make deployment fun, "almost".

There are lots of great ladies on that board . . . and not all of them are from Mississippi - they are spread out all over the place, California, Michigan, Arkansas, Washington, I live in Alabama, heck, I think there are even some authentic blue blood Yankees in the group!! Everyone's distinct personality shines through even electronically - and when we were informed about the President's upcoming visit, all the ladies went hogwild! I couldn't get off work to go, but a bunch of the ladies were able to get together and meet up and they came back with the neatest tales to tell of the President's generosity and sincerity. So many of them said that he took the time to speak with them personally, ask about their soldier, talk to their children, sign anything and everything put in front of him, etc.

To me, actions speak so much louder than words. So many things have happened since Al's deployment -- so many little kicks in the shin that over time have added up to major hurts. A chaotic training schedule, poor communication amongst his group's leadership, questions about his R&R, our FRG or lack thereof, just the attitude of some Americans as a whole. But even though I couldn't be there yesterday, just reading the stories of the other ladies gave me so much pride. It made me believe again. It made me KNOW that MY President supported MY soldier - that he supported MY family - that it wasn't just lip service -- and you know what? It sure as heck wasn't about media coverage. Because there wasn't any. He didn't do what he did yesterday for anybody but the soldiers that he believes in and personally supports. He told one Marine mom yesterday who had lost her son last year that he prays for her son every night. I believe that -- and I believe in him. I'm so proud to be a part of the military system that takes care of its own -- and yesterday -- our Commander-in-Chief paid us a visit!!

Hooah to President Bush!!

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And Hooah to all the Mississippi Mamas!! Sorry I couldn't be there for the fun!! Thanks for making us all look good and for wearing our colors proud!!

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The "one" article that we found that mentioned Bush visiting with military families during his visit:

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Day 118 - A picture says a 1000 words

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The occasion of this photograph was a Veterans Day Commemoration at Dallas City Hall on 11 November 2004. The veteran pictured is Houston James, a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and the Marine is Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke Jr., a member of an ordnance-disposal team who lost his left hand, one leg, and an eye while defusing a bomb in Iraq in July 2003.


I know that I appreciate the sacrifice of the military so much more because of what I have gone through with Al. But, I really feel that only one Veteran can really fully relate to another Veteran about the ultimate sacrifice that it takes to be in the military. I was listening to a survivor of Blackhawk Down on the radio in Birmingham this week - Keni Thomas - who is now the lead singer for the band, "Cornbread" - and he said that he didn't know why he felt compelled to become to become an Army Ranger when the first Gulf War hit - other than that his dad had been a Ranger - and that he just felt like he needed to do it.

Thank you to all the men and women in all times and in all places who have "felt like they needed to do it" -- we who are free are forever in your debt.