THE GIFT

I wrote this back in July. I think it’s message for our new Commander-and-Chief, is an important one.

I have been trying to write this “Independence Day” message for a couple of weeks. And frankly, I have been struggling. Then, a new connection on LinkedIn sent me a message and through our exchange, I was inspired. If not me, who? I wrote at the end of my message, a reference to the firework displays. The veterans who have seen war, who have fought battles, our warriors, struggle during those fifteen minutes of, “Bombs Bursting in Air.” For many it is terrifying. The noise can throw them back in time when there were real bombs exploding, real danger, real loss of life, real friends dead. We are a young country with many wounds to heal. But, we are strong and need compassionate leaders.

Out history of the emphasis we put on this day of the year, to celebrate our nations freedom, to honor all veterans from that first day when we declared ourselves an independent nation in 1776, is phenomenal! We are a young nation at 240 years. But, we are a strong nation who needs strong leaders.

There will be family reunions, picnics, barbecues, parades, concerts, and baseball games in every backyard, small town, city, and state where people can gather. Th months of preparations for this single day, to show our patriotism is nothing short of monumental. We are a young country. But, we are strong and need righteous leaders.

This one day of the year has been stretched into a week, or more, of honoring our veterans in various ways. All the ball parks have a veteran throwing out that first pitch. There are charitable organizations honoring veterans with special events. And some families are gathering to remember the one that won’t be with them this year…We are a young nation, but, we are strong and the price has been high. We need honorable leaders.

All this attention to the veterans walking among us today, warms my heart deeper than any of you will ever know. Some of you have similar feelings from your own circumstances, and some of you stand proud that one of yours has given their livesvso we can keep this day of freedom sacred. We honor you too… This is a day about remembering the price as well as the gift. Yes, the gift. The gift of freedom all veterans fought for, and are still fighting for today. This gift of freedom…all gave some, and some gave all.

Remember this Mr. President.

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Here We Are

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Well, Veterans Day 2015 has come and gone. Actually, it was a weeklong celebration of gratitude for what our veterans have given for us all. With all we did, every place we went, the people we met, the thing that stood out beyond anything else were the veterans themselves.

I love to stand back and watch as one veteran approaches another–whether they have met before or not– and without hesitation they reach out with an automatic acceptance and a camaraderie of spirit, which those of us on the “outside” cannot comprehend.

We try to see inside the heart of our war fighters–our sons and daughters, our spouses, our family members, our friends–as we try to pry from their shielded memories, from those thoughts that haunt them, wanting desperately to understand that which we cannot.

What we can do is simple. We can listen. We can observe. On one occasion, I was attending an event where there were wounded warriors and caregivers mingling within a crowded room. A room that was buzzing with warriors coming together with a release of spirit that only happens within the ranks of those who have served. And the caregivers huddling together to share their own joys and burdens. Again a closed group that only exists because of circumstances that redefined their own lives.

At one point I was standing in a hallway, waiting on a friend, when a young woman in uniform entered and stood across from me. I looked at her and saw someone who was desperately trying to hold down a full-blown panic attack. All she said was, “There are so many people.” I asked her to breathe with me. In through the nose and out through the mouth. We continued this breathing in unison for a couple of minutes. She watched me, as I watched her, with each motion in this simple taking of each breath.

Everything outside of that hall disappeared for a few moments. That was what she needed. Time to reach inside and find that strength within herself, which she had lost sight of in that crowded room. We parted not knowing each other’s names, only a shared moment of awareness.

That is the way we can help. We don’t need to know the why or the what. All we need to do is listen and observe. The answer will become clear. Then we act. And a bond is made.

NOVEMBER SPECIAL

DO YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AND GIVE BACK TO VETERANS!!!

For every one of my books purchased through Amazon, or myself, during the month of November,

$1.00 will be donated to THE BOB WOODRUFF FOUNDATION

and $1.00 will be donated to OPERATION MEND

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THE OTHER SIDE OF WAR–PAPERBACK ONLY

A MOTHER’S SIDE OF WAR–PAPERBACK OR HARDCOVER

Contact me by email- alwaysamarinemom@yahoo.com or text-(405)818-7490

Ask Yourself

While I was visiting my 85 year old aunt, she was married to my mothers brother, we drifted into conversation about “the old days.”  Not the “good old days,” because they were hard times, troubling times. Times when people struggled to put food on their tables and clothes on their backs. Times when some watched as war broke out in countries they once called home.

Most of my people were born and raised on farms in the mid-west. For generations going back to before the founding of this country, they planted their gardens, plowed their fields, and took care of their livestock. They worked hard from sun up to sun down. And not just the adults, but the children too. That’s just the way things were back then. They all understood that everyone in the family had to do their part, and it never entered their minds that it should be any other way. Everybody worked.

I had to smile when Aunt Dody talked about their warm water baths. They would haul water from the well and fill up a tub that was located in the yard “out a ways from the house.” “The sun would just warm that water right up.” she said. And they would take turns “washing up.”

Most families “back then” had a grandma or other elderly relative living with them. They would help out around the house and with the cooking as long as they were able. Then, they were cared for by all the other members of the family until they passed on. Families were close. The children learned a lot by having their older relations in the same house, and most times in the same bedroom. Most farm houses only had two rooms, one for cooking and eating and the other room was for sleeping. Conversation, or visiting as my aunt would say, took place around the kitchen table.

My aunt and I talked about the clothes we had growing up, and how our mothers sewed everything. My mother would sew five dresses at the beginning of the school year for myself and my younger sister. I’ve long since forgotten when I finally got a “store bought dress.” After school we would carefully hang them up in the closet. We took good care of those dresses because they had to last.

Aunt Dody said her mother made her three dresses for school. Now, to make their clothes meant a trip to the feed store. It was the same for my mother, along with all the other girls in their one room school house. My mothers family, and my aunts, lived on land around the town of Welch, Oklahoma. Yes, look that one up on your maps.

The sacks that the feed for the horses came in were made from material of various colors and prints. This material would be put to good use when made into dresses, shirts, aprons, and anything else that might be needed. The sacks would be stacked to the roof in the feed store in town, and the girls would have the clerk moving the sacks around until they found the colors and prints they wanted. Everyone in the family took turns when a sack was emptied and brought in to be sown. But sometimes the print that finally made its way to the house, would not be the one they had their eye on when it was their turn.

“I really had my eye on this one pattern. But when it was empty and ready to be made into something, it was grandma’s turn. Will my grandma of course wanted me to have it, you know how grandma’s are,” said Aunt Dody, But her momma pulled her aside and whispered to her, “Now Dody, you let your grandma have that one and you can have the next one.”

The next piece of material that came in was “a really pretty blue with little flowers just sprinkled all over it. I’d had my eye on that other one, and I guess I didn’t notice this one in that load of feed sacks.” She leaned over to me as we each took a sip of our sweet ice tea and said, “We really used a lot of feed for them horses of ours.”

Her momma made “this beautiful dress with a fishtail skirt, you know where it’s longer in the back,” Aunt Dody said. But, when her mother finished the dress, which needed buttons for the front of the top, her momma didn’t have any buttons. “Well my aunt was over to the house one Sunday, and I was showing her my new dress that momma had made up for me.” said Aunt Dody. “And she said she had some pearl buttons that she had cut off an old dress. And she thought they would be perfect for mine,” she continued. “Now I really thought I was something with those pearl buttons on my new dress.”

As we continued to talk about how much we have now, compared to then, we both paused—remembering times past.  These are stories that should never die. We need to record the stories our parents, grandparents, or any older person that is willing to share, so that we may never forget. What is it that we must never forget? That the people who built this country, who gave birth to a nation of proud people willing to defined her, who were willing to do whatever it takes to grow her into a mighty nation, they were all members of our families. These are all reasons to never forget.

Past generations of this countries citizens built the foundation for freedom that we all rest on today. Our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, storytellers everywhere, are very much like our young men and women today. From the time our nation was conceived there has been war. And with war comes those who willingly stand up to defend this way of life we enjoy, sometimes without considering the price that may have to be paid.

Today it’s our sons and daughters, our siblings, our spouses, and our friends, who stand up to fight the battles to secure a safe life for us. And when they return home from war, do we ask ourselves what we can do for them? Yes, there are those all across this country who reach out to help our returning service members, especilly the wounded. But the need is great, and the response from our civilian population is insufficient.

Ask yourself, “How would I respond if it were my child, my brother or sister, my spouse or best friend returning home from war to an ungrateful nation?” Would you try and make sure the next warrior who stepped back onto American soil was not forgotten, but truly appreciated and cared for? I sincerely hope so.

I guess where I’m going with this is to ask all American citizens to wakeup, give back, remember from whence we came. Think about it, the way to honor your ancestors, to honor your family and friends today, and to honor and preserve this way of life for the generations to come, is by honoring the warriors and their families who are fighting todays wars.

Take a step. Make it happen. Say, “Thank You.”

Silver and Gold

Silver and Gold,

Silver and Gold,

Families of heroes,

Both Silver and Gold.

A warrior is gone,

And with death there is sorrow,

As their family lets go,

A Gold Star in the window.

A warrior is wounded,

Life has been changed,

For a Silver Star family,

Life is never the same.

Silver and Gold,

They both have seen loss,

Precious their medal,

Two paths that cross.

Silver and Gold,

When joined together,

Gives strength to both,

Supporting each other.

Silver and Gold,

Working for good,

Making sure we remember,

They gave what they could.

Silver and Gold,

Silver and Gold,

Families of heroes,

Both Silver and Gold.

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The Question

The early morning darkness was beginning to show the promise of another crisp autumn morning.  Through the window I watched the orange glow of the slowly rising sun sitting just below the hills in the distance, as I took another sip of my honey sweetened tea.

Instead of enjoying this peaceful time of the early morning dawn, I sit at my desk—remembering—writing another article on the question I am most often asked.

What is it like to answer a phone call informing you that your child has been injured in battle?  I must have answered that question in many different ways, over the past 9 years.  But, the words were never even close to the reality of that unbearable moment—that moment when time stops—that moment when you know that nothing will ever be the same again.

I remember hearing words that made absolutely no sense.  They were nothing more than a string of garbled utterances, carried through the air from a phone so far away.  They entered my world without hesitation, as my hand gripped tighter and tighter around my phone.  The string of words that seemed to be read from a sheet of paper, so formally, came crashing into my world trying to eliminate hope.  I suspected they must be read, because of the difficulty the person on the other end of this conversation is having in just saying such things.

When the call ended, the words spoken began to take on their combined meaning.  They ran through my mind while I felt as though my heart was being ripped from my chest, and I screamed with all that I am, “No!”

But the reality of those words remained, and I had to plan…

How do you plan for this “thing” you prayed would never reach your door?

You don’t—you can’t…

You simple respond, one small step at a time, as the details and realities are slowly set before you.

First the tears flow—for the life that was my child’s future, the life that has been forever changed, and then for my life as well.  How selfish I felt at that moment, wondering what would be required of me.  “How will I cope?” I thought, as I started that journey on a path that held only uncertainties.

The perfect child that I had handed to another was being returned damaged, but this was still my child.  I had to reach deep inside my own emotions, and present a world of hope and healing that I wasn’t at all certain would exist longer than the light of one more day.

One moment, one hour, and one day at a time, I tried to do all I could to bring life back to some kind of normalcy.  Normalcy—what a strange word—Its definition had been so completely changed by that single phone call.  Then it had to be redefined, and its goals redirected.  My son’s life, nor mine, would ever be the same, and that could be a good thing or a bad one.  That was a choice we both had to make.  A choice that must be made every single day for the rest of our lives.

We learned to take each day as it came, and not to try and figure out all the answers at once.  The questions would change.  And those answers that we were finding some small bit of comfort in, would no longer apply.  Each new day would start with its own beginnings, and a different set of goals—yet to be defined.

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Labor Day

Labor Day always makes me think more of giving birth than of the years I spent in the workforce.  I have given birth to four beautiful children.  The day my youngest was born was almost his last as well.  After an emergency C-section to save his life, time, and time again, the fight to insure his safety would be a life long battle.  As an infant, then as a child, and then as a young adult, the fight for my son, Marine Cpl. Aaron Mankin, has at times been difficult.

But everything he has gone through, has made him strong, as he moves through life leaving his mark with humility, honesty, and humor.

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