Monday, October 15, 2012

Four Planes Took Off

Four planes took off
Passengers destined for locations of work, play, reunion, and love;
Just a few directed for a destiny of destruction

Four locations.

Two buildings reaching to the skyline
Employees, bosses, friends, associates, some people who did not know one another
Busy at work, talk around the coffee machine
Talk of business, family, children, and the score of Sunday’s ball game-Pop Warner, high school, college, NFL.

A building built in five angles
Employees directed to protect this hallowed ground of America
Employees of a nation dedicated to freedoms
Employees tasked with protecting those freedoms.

A farming field
Quiet except for the crickets talking to one another, the butterflies with wings fluttering in harmony, the bees busy at gathering the nectar of the flowers
Another morning of harmony of nature.

Then the unnatural
Then the insult to the value of humanity
Then an attack upon this country, upon its people, upon its families, and upon those families of families.

But out of the horror, the death, the destruction,
Came the heroes of the first responders, the heroes of all at each location
For some to save each other, for others in that peaceful field of Pennsylvania to save us all.

Giving with their might, with their courage, with their lives so that others could survive and live in freedom.
So that others, that survive, can still proclaim God Bless America, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, This is Our Land and this is Your Land.

For us and our children, our grandchildren, 9/11 will always be our Pearl Harbor, a day that will live in infamy, but also a day that will forever define our today’s and our tomorrows- a nation of freedom that will never be destroyed. 

May we remember and never forget September 11.

All Gave Some; Some Gave All

I wanted to post this so that it could be seen by others. The thoughts below are those of my father's. I hope you enjoy them.

 It was June 1965 and I was graduating from high school.  I was on my way to college at the College of the Holy Cross.  My entire future was in front of me.  I did not have a good handle on my future aspirations other than wanting to help my fellow human beings.  I still hung with a dream of becoming a doctor but I would not get that opportunity in my freshman year as the college had only accepted me with the option for pre-med after my freshman year.

In moving in, I met many of my classmates who were engaged in the ROTC program.  I was not convinced that the Vietnam War was a solution for America.  My generation had lived through the assassination of its president in 1963.  My generation had been moved by President Johnson’s “New Society” program as a solution for the divisions that was within our country could be resolved.  But then all resources seemed to be turned towards the war effort.  What had previously been an advisory role in that country had been converted to armed support for the South Vietnamese.  What had previously been a rather innocuous registration in the Selective Service had become a badge of courage or, at least, a badge of identification and tracking of each male 18 years old in America.
Just as suddenly, the nightly news was absorbed with the battle fields of strange sounding names- Saigon, Tet Offensive, Mekong Delta, and leaders of that country- Diem, Ho Chi Ming.  It was described by our leaders as a war against Communism, a civil war, a war that must protect our home land’s security.  All confusing, all complicated engagements.

It was a thousand miles away but involved our every day.  It enlisted voluntarily or involuntarily millions of young American men.  Men who were 18 or older.  Are they men?  They could not even buy a beer. 

And then it really hit home for me when my first classmate would be killed ‘across the pond’ in a rice paddy.  Jay Hurd had graduated with me.  He was a great young guy.  He was in the high school band.  He was destined to be a great father. Then Chuck Whittecomb would die as a tail gunner in a helicopter.  The military would say that the life expectancy for them was less than a half an hour.  What was he thinking?  We would not ski together.  I would not hear him play the drums in a band of young people singing Beatles and Beach Boys. Then Bob DeRoy would die.  I would no longer play baseball with him.  He would never return to home and raise a family. 

 Why them and not me?  We all grew up together.  We all went to school together.  We had all thought about starting a family.  Coming home to buy a house. 

 Even though I served my country, I do not consider myself in the company of these American heroes- who left the security of their loved ones and home, to fight for the freedoms we knew so little about in a country whose language we could not speak, who would die without any loved ones there to protect them as they suffered, who would breath their last breaths with the smell of gunshots hanging over them in this air hanging over their heads.

 These would not be the only ones who would lose their lives to that war- Bob Ahern, who volunteered to serve after law school because it was the right thing to do, who it would be determined would be killed by friendly fire, the only child of his father and mother, and his father and mother would never be the same.  Jim Sawyer whose mother was a registered nurse with mom, who was a year behind me in school.   Dave Hill, whose hearing would have been taken from him after serving in the artillery unit in Vietnam but could no longer hear the train approaching on the train tracks. 

 And the end of the war was one I don’t want to see repeated in Iraq or Afghanistan, we abandoned our allies to be killed, imprisoned, and worse.  We fled their allegiance.  We turned our backs on them.  We said our word is not worth the paper it is printed on. 

 Seeing that wall tears at emotion that I have inside- sadness, self doubt, anger, shame, courage, love, and pride in a generation which has been called lazy, undisciplined, “sex, drugs, rock and roll”.  We challenged authority because we saw so many die without reason.  We envisioned a world that could live in peace.  We knew what commitment was.  These 57,000 never ran.  These stood for our rights to disagree with leadership and died never knowing that even though they did not win in those rice paddies, they won at home.  They may have not received the accolades that today’s soldiers receive but accomplished much because they insured that we, indeed, still have those freedoms. 

 And I wonder how my two boys could have chosen as my classmates and I know that they learned that it is important that we are given opportunities to make a difference each in our lives.  We must have the courage to answer that challenge.  We run the race, we must win the fight. 

 As the country song says, all gave some and some gave all.  Those names represent those whose legacy is that they gave it all and that we all need to know legacy will always burn bright no matter that the monument is back for the conflict that we had within ourselves. 

Why the 47% Matters

In this country we ask our elected officials to represent our best interests. While we may not all agree on the best strategies or policies to move us forward, we believe that no matter who gets elected, that they will remember that we are the “United” not “Divided” States of America.  Last month at a fundraiser for the presumably 1% of Americans, Mitt Romney wrote off almost half of the constituents for the office that he seeks. To some this was a pandering to specific donors who were prepared to contribute to his campaign. Yet to others, it was a cautionary tale of like-minded plutocrats who like Mitt Romney, feel that 47% of Americans are entitled. This of course is a stark contrast in opinions over the controversial speech, one that undoubtedly splits across the party lines. If we take his word for it, Mr. Romney is remorseful and regrets the comments he made. More probable, is that like Joe Biden’s past gaffes; he meant what he said.

I can’t pretend to get into Mitt Romney’s mind as to what would prompt such arrogant and unfounded language. I can only tell you who these 47% are in my own life and why yes, they absolutely matter.

The 47% is one of my co-workers. He is a good, capable and honorable family man. He has deployed several times because of his commitment to defend this nation. The 47% is my teacher friend who educates the children of North Carolina and sacrifices weekends to do classroom prep work despite having had a pay freeze for the sixth consecutive year. She earns $1800 a month. The 47% is a friend who is now in his 4th year of graduate school and is pursuing a PhD. The 47% is my grandmother who worked her entire adult life as a nurse practitioner. She looked after the sick and at times the dying. She has never missed paying her taxes nor would she be ashamed to show her statements to anyone who asked. Mitt Romney said that “these people,” refuse to take responsibility for their own lives. Yet ironically, when pressed he didn’t take responsibility for his own comments.

I can see how politically wise it might be to court the rich donors of the 1%. With their money, Mitt’s campaign will surely outspend his opponent.  We are not a country of the 1%. We don’t just represent the people who think, act and look like us. We are not a country club. We are a Country! We are made up an array of socioeconomic classes and when all is said and done, we want to be neighbors and have a government that thinks not about 47% but of the totality of the 100%.

Based on his financial and gene pool inheritance, Mitt Romney believes he is entitled to the Presidency. On November 6th, let’s make the case for why he’s not. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Modesty has never been a strong suit of mine until recently. Throughout the years I have patted myself on the back for accomplishments that now seem comical. Like the time when I received Company Grade Officer of the Year in 2009. I know now that I only received that award because someone nominated me. Or, when I received my Masters degree. Seeing these things through a new lens allows me to realize that I got it because I could afford to.

Recently I was fortunate to complete the St. George Ironman. For those not familiar with the race it's 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, followed by 26.2 miles of running (a marathon). When I returned from Utah, I received a lot of congratulations for which I felt very thankful for. But when I look at what I did, I am able to see that it wasn't much. I didn't place, I didn't even reach my time goal. I merely finished, like the thousands of other participants who go out each year. I had both the time and the means to take on the challenge and so I did it.

I suppose my modesty has come from the fact that I have been able to put everything into perspective a little bit better than I did when I was 18, 22 and 25. For when I compare what I have done to my grandparents and parents, I see very clearly how short I fall in comparison. It is by looking at my parents that I truly know what achievement is.

My parents raised four kids and put all of us through college. They never missed a single sporting event or parent/teacher conference. On every important day of my life (High School, College graduation), they were there. And who did we celebrate? Me. When in fact, I should have celebrated them. For without their love and unconditional support, I wouldn't have accomplished anything.

My father will be giving the commencement address to my High School Alma Mater (his too). This will be his second time speech. The first being during my graduation over 10 years ago. He was asked because throughout his life he has made a real difference in the lives of others. I look up to him now as much as I did when I was a kid. He has lived a life of meaning.

As graduation season begins to wrap up, I reminisce about my own graduations and how special they were. In particular I remember my college graduation and what my father said to me at dinner. As my family members were talking to each other from across the table, my father took the opportunity in the break of his own conversation to subdley lean over to me and say "your grandfather would've been proud." Those were the only words I had to hear. For I know how happy he must have been looking down on us from heaven that day.

Graduation will always be about the people who got me there. Four years from now when I graduate law school, I'll have hundreds of people to thank. I won't be one of them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Writing in the First Person

Writing has always been a self-indulgent activity for me and by that, very much therapeutic. Whenever I am down or could use a lift in my spirits, I write something and anxiously anticipate positive reinforcement about what I just wrote. Miraculously, I almost always get what I intended…a compliment.

Writing for the most part is all about instant gratification. How else could you justify the facebook statuses and tweets? Those are both examples of writing (albeit short) that crave followership. People post updates to their facebooks and twitter accounts because they want people to respond back. Whether it’s a “like” or an actual comment, the more responses someone receives the greater the self-esteem.

Show me a writer who only writes for himself or herself and I’ll show you a person who doesn’t have any friends. Does that sound harsh? Maybe, but let’s be honest, if your going to put yourself out there by producing a blog, what’s the point if by doing so you don’t have any membership? All of us “bloggers” write for some kind of audience. If we didn’t, we’d just keep a private diary or a journal.

At an early age I understood that I was blessed with a gift. I haven’t necessarily honed it by any means but the fact that I’m still writing at age 29 is a good indication that I haven’t been “booed off stage.” Friends and family members have always encouraged me to continue to write; even when I have struggled as to what it is I should be writing.  I’ve been told that I am talented and that is enough for me to find something newsworthy to ramble about.

Looking back at my works, I can appreciate the types of writing I’ve done; research papers, work outlines, blog posts etc…The mere fact that I’ve published these sort of things by no means qualifies me as a writer, nor do I consider myself as such. That hesitation is along the same lines as why I never consider myself a “runner.” To me that term leads to committing myself to a group that I generally would not want to be associated with for varying reasons. When I talked to a “runner” about my refusal to categorize myself as such, he simply replied, “If you do the races, you’re a runner.” Touché.

This blogging experience has been as much about my own ego trip as it has been about the content by which I write about. All of the feedback that I’ve received has typically gone straight to my head and has only perpetuated me to write more. Sad isn’t it?

Regardless of whether one writes for applause and acclaim. Writing has always been and will continue to be very personal. It is not until I begin to punch the keys on this computer that I even know what I’m going to think next. Often, I’m not sure where I stand on a position until I start allowing my brain to run free as my nimble fingers try their best to keep up on the keyboard.

I don’t know if I would have continued to write if I knew that nobody else was reading. It has always been incomprehensible to me that writers would do it for the pure joy of writing. I could never understand a recluse like J.D. Salinger. It’s like a professional athlete who would compete regardless of whether there was a crowd of 30,000 screaming fans. Without fans, what’s the point of showmanship?

This blog is a prime example of how insecure I can be. Early on when I first started I was eager to gain followers. I remember sending out mass emails for people “READ MY BLOG!” When it was all said in done, within a year it was probably just my dad and my ex-girlfriend. Both read it not because there was brilliant content, but because they wanted to see what I was up to.

There are many things in my life that I do unselfishly for others. Writing is not one of them. This is perhaps one of the few areas in my life where I have allowed my ego to get the best of me. For a long time I've tried to deny that this blog is only about "me," but in all actuality it truly is. My best friend once gave me some of the best constructive criticism about this blog when I first started. He told me focus on posts about "me," that after all was what people were visiting this blog for.

Over four years on posting on this blog (more off than on), I have discovered that I still don't know what the theme is about. I want it to be about sharing my experiences of helping others, but sometimes just the mere fact that I'm writing seems to help myself. As ironic as that may sound, this post may be one of my most sincere and honest approaches at determining what it is that drives me to write in the first place. Until I sat down to write this post, I had not really given it much thought. But now, I'm getting a better idea.

I know how lonely it can be in the blogosphere. There are probably thousands like me who want to find an outlet to express themselves and would do just about anything for someone to hear what they have to say. Up until today I never followed a single one of my friend’s blogs. Sure, I’d read their posts from time to time, but the selfish writer in me was convinced that I only had room and time to follow one blog…that was my own. Today I added 5 other blogs and I did so if for no other reason that I could sympathize with how much of a struggle it is to work hard on something and feel as if nobody is listening.  Of course, I also added them with the hope that they’d follow me too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Catholic Candidate

Over 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic." Those words set a tone for his political beliefs which followed the model of our Constitution which is based on a "separation from church and state."

Today we have another Catholic candidate and this time his political ideology is much in lined with his religious beliefs, so much so that it's hard to make the distinction between a man who wishes he was a Priest and the man who wants to be leader of the free world. Unbeknownst to him, not all Americans are Catholic. A lesson I didn't learn until I went away to College (which also happened to be Catholic).

I grew up Catholic and have a fondness for the church. Yet, despite my religious values, I fundamentally understand that as an officer in the military I swore an oath to defend a document which was not the bible. It was in fact the Constitution. It just so happens it is a similar oath that the President of the United States takes.

Unlike Kennedy, he doesn't view the separation of church and state as absolute, but rather intertwined. Throughout his campaign he has made it clear that he intends to move the church into his cabinet thus reversing years of precedence where we as a country have embraced nationwide values, not those of one group. He went as far as to say that when he heard President Kennedy's position on being a Catholic which was separate from his candidacy, it made him want to "throw up."

As a Catholic I detest the notion that Rick Santorum would ever speak for me. Just like America, there are many kinds of Catholics and each of us whose political beliefs contradict our religious ones, understand that our faith ought not to trump the rights of others. Catholics have not voted as a bloc in decades. We are as distinct and independent in our views as any other voting demographic. There is a reason why we are resistant to accept him as "our candidate." It's because he doesn't even remotely represent our values.

Rick Santorum is an arrogant proselytizer who believes he speaks for the church. He does not. If he did, he would surely make it known to all that his mission would be to "feed the poor." Unfortunately his political beliefs says that this is welfare. His plan for the poor? He doesn't have one. The book of Matthew makes if abundantly clear that it would be nearly impossible to reach heaven without doing so. Does he still proclaim to be the Catholic candidate? He rests on so many issues, but on a primary one of helping those less fortunate he is coincidentally silent. Why? Well, because the poor don't vote. They don't contribute money to PACs or campaigns and they certainly don't have a voice in his government.

Jesus said “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me” (Matthew 25:40). Catholicsm is a religion of action. What separates us from Protestants is our belief that "works of charity" brings us closer to the kingdom of heaven. There is little disputing this. It's ironic that Rick Santorum continues to campaign on the idea that he is the Catholic candidate with "Catholic values." The only values that I see, is that he puts himself and his agenda first. He has forgotten about the least of God's people. These are the people who will matter most, not the ones that go to the ballot box on November 6th.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Shaved Legs

I shaved my legs today. As I have watched my body evolve over the past several months (more muscle mass in my quads, narrower shoulders), the obvious last step to a total triathlete transformation was the ritual known to many as “shaving of the legs.” Like many newcomers to the sport, I am very skeptical that the lack of body hair on my extremities will provide any tangible race day results, but in an effort to assimilate into the culture fully, I thought it was worthwhile to at least give it a shot.

Shaving my legs was in part an exercise in humility. As reluctant as I have been to do this, it reminded me that this “Ironman” thing is no small feat and that doing everything humanly possible to conquer it might be necessary. Therefore, I sucked up my foolish pride and allowed myself to go where few heterosexuals have dared gone before…with the razor to the legs.

In a month I will put my body through one of the most excruciating physical tests of an endurance athlete. I’ll rest easy knowing that at the starting line, my fellow athletes to the left and right of me have similar doubts about finishing. Whether it is their 1st or 10th race, I doubt I’ll find anyone who will tell me that their nerves aren’t getting the best of them as we anticipate the start. If shaving my legs is nothing more than the ultimate form of solidarity with my fellow triathletes, then why buck the tradition? For if anyone has anything to say about what an athelete should be or look like, I’ll ask them to toe the line with us or shut up.

My mentor and fellow triathlete once told me that truest test in being successful in the sport was learning how to suffer. This test is one that I’ve attempted to put my mind and body through during my training but will not be fully realized until race day. Shaving my legs is an exercise of that mental toughness for me. Am I willing to sacrifice who I was for this sport? Should I do everything I can do in order to gain even the slightest of advantages? Am I willing to cope with the loss of my body hair for the sake of calling myself an Ironman? The answer is yes, yes and yes. I am a triathlete and I want to call myself an Ironman.

If all it gives me is a peace of mind that I did everything that I could (to include humiliating my manhood) in order to finish this race, then it was all worth it. On race day I’ll have million thoughts racing through my mind. Whether or not I should have shaved my legs will not be one of them.