Veteran’s Day

11 11 2009

 

Some may have heard this story, but for those who haven’t, it is one of the most moving moments of my life.

In the spring of 2006, we made plans for my Mom and Dad to visit us in Cincinnati for Kim’s Spring Break.  We then would drive over to Gettysburg–somewhere I had never been but wanted to go, and then on to Washington D.C.–somewhere my parents had always wanted to go.  We were a bit apprehensive as Dad was turning 80 the next week, and couldn’t walk long distances without losing his breath.  We arranged to borrow a wheelchair from our church and my goal was to push my Dad all over DC.

I had been to DC 2 times before, and knew the spots that would be most impacting for our short visit including arranging for a tour of the Capital with my parents’ Arkansas Congressman’s office, planning out the tour of the Smithsonian, and a highlight for me–a nighttime tour of the Memorials.

Our first day in DC we toured Arlington National Cemetery, which with its rows upon rows of markers moves me.  We watched from the side as they changed the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Kim has a picture of me with my Dad in the wheelchair that is especially moving.

At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Dad and me

That night we went for the night tour of the Memorials.  We were all tired–especially Dad, but he was a trooper.  It was slightly raining as we made our way around DC that night on a bus.  We sat near the rear door as we had to get Dad’s wheelchair on and off at the stops.  It was at the FDR memorial that this exchange began between Dad and me, as we were headed back from to the bus.

Dad said, “You know, I got a letter from him once.”

I said, “You did?  I didn’t know that.  What did it say,”

Dad said, “Greetings and salutations.  Your friends and countrymen have selected you for service in the armed forces of the United States of America.”

I laughed.  Dad was drafted into the army in 1944 at the age of 18 after his birthday in April.  He wanted the Navy, but was assigned the army as most were those days.  He did graduate high school–a remarkable feat for those days.  He went off to boot camp in September 1944, and in December set sail for the Philippines.  While in the Pacific Campaign, he caught malaria in the Philippines, served in the army of occupation in Japan after the war.  He was in the Philippines when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  He returned to the states in December of 1946, a 20-year-old man.  He told me he wished he’s taken the GI Bill from the army and gone on to college, but he didn’t want to go to more school.  Biggest mistake he made, he always said.  He went on to work in factories for years, before getting on with the Arkansas State Highway Department in 1979.  He retired in 1992 at the age of 66, getting his 15 years in with the state thanks to his 2 year service.

Dad never really shared much of his army experience with me.  It was either a time he forgot, or a time he prayed he would forget. Every now and then, something would be said on tv about some city across the country, and Dad would pipe up with, “I was in the army with an old boy from Evansville, Indiana.”  As I reflect now, how about a crash course in growing up for a bunch of 18-21 year old boys from all across the country, ripped away from everything they’ve ever known and set to fight a war across the world for securing the freedoms we don’t even know we have.

Back to the story, we went on board the bus, and I was still laughing about the letter Dad received from FDR.  I told the bus driver as we got on that Dad had once got a letter from FDR.  Just as surprised as I was, Dad also told him what it said.  The bus driver laughed along with us.  He asked if we’d seen the new WWII Memorial in DC, and I replied that we hadn’t and we were looking forward to it.

As we neared the last stop at the WWII memorial, the driver was on the PA announcing where we were and when we would need to reboard as usual.  This time he added something a little different.

He said, “Folks, we are here at our newest memorial, dedicated to all the men and women who fought in the biggest global war of all time, WWII.  We are privileged to have on board tonight at least one man who was called to duty and went overseas to fight for our country.”

What happened next still gives me goosebumps.  From the back of the bus, someone started to clap.  It then spread through the rest of the bus until everyone was clapping for my Dad, and our country.

I leaned into Dad and said, “They’re clapping for you, Dad.”

Always the one to deflect praise, he said, “Aw, no.”

As the people exited, several stopped to say thanks to Dad for his service.

We went off and enjoyed the beautiful new memorial to those who served in WWII.

 

Dad at the WWII Memorial

Dad at the WWII Memorial

 

On this Veterans’ Day, hug a veteran.  Make them know how much you appreciate their service to country and to you.  Dad passed away on June 15, 2006, just a few weeks after this trip.  Oh how thankful I am for our week together again.

Thanks Dad.

Thanks to all the Veterans who are serving, have served, and have passed on.

At Arlington

On the tram at Arlington

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With Dad and Mom at Arlington

Mom and Dad at the Capitol

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the WWII Memorial

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WWII Memorial

 

 

 

 





Traveling on…

6 11 2009

So, I feel guilty.

I really do.

Today I did something for the first time and I really liked it, and I know I shouldn’t have.

I was flying out of Memphis headed back to Waco via DFW on the always trusty American Airlines.  My flight was AA1025 which boarded at 10:20 and left at 10:50.  Yeah, figure that one out.

When I travel for Truett, I carry my backpack on and my Truett gear bag.  I always check the standup and my clothes bag.  With today’s airline culture, it costs me an extra $50 to check my 2 bags.  I don’t like it, but I’ve come to accept it.

I went to the counter, handed my ID to the agent and told her I needed to check 2 bags.  As I was trying to get things ready, she told me a secret.  One that I hadn’t heard before.

Now I’ve been tweeting and facebooking the advantages of dressing nice, smiling, and being friendly and polite to the agents when traveling, who have rewarded me with exit row aisle seats multiple times.

But this lady went one further.

She pointed to the computerized check-in in front of the counter and told me, “Sir, if you use this to check-in instead of here, it will offer you an upgrade to First Class for only $45.  It will also let you check 2 bags for free.”

Now what she said at first didn’t register, but as I thought about it, it began to click.

I can either keep my seat in coach and pay $50 to check my bags, or I can upgrade to First Class for $45 (five bucks less!) and fly First Class for the first time ever.

Let me think about that.

Yes.

I took the deal behind computer number 1.  I plunged in and upgraded to First Class and saved $5.

I was giddy with what had just happened.  I don’t even think my feet touched the floor through security.

I went and found my gate and sat down to reflect on what was about to happen.  For the 1st time, I was about to be the first person to board a plane.

When they called for “First class passengers” that would include me.

I couldn’t wait to get on and see what it was like.

I boarded with 1st class, and then found my seat in 6F–the last window seat on the left as you get on the jet.

As I sat down, I saw things differently.  The lady attendant came and offered me something to drink before everyone else had even boarded.

The male attendant asked if he could hang up my coat for me.

So this is what this is like, I thought.

And then I saw something that I didn’t want to–the other passengers began to board.

I found myself trying not to make eye contact, so as not to make them jealous of me riding in style, while they were cramming into seats barely big enough for them to sit down.

They were my people, after all.  I didn’t belong up here; I belonged in the back with them, looking with disgust at someone who would pay extra to fly for an hour and four glorious minutes from Memphis to Dallas.

I then watched the male attendant ask the man in front of me if he could hang his coat up.  He stood in the middle of the aisle, waiting on the man to take his coat off, while an African-American couple had entered and had to wait on this guy to hang up this other passenger’s coats.  The attendant barely even looked at them, much less make a move to step back so they could pass through to their seats.

About halfway through the flight, the lady attendant came and handed me a packed labeled, “Premium Snacks,” and then brought me a coke in a real glass–not paper!

There was a magazine in the seat pocket by American only for first class, called the Premium magazine.  This month’s issue was the “food and wine” issue.

And the roomy, comfy seat!  Only my big green recliner at home has any more comfort, and it’s only because I’ve formed my rear to it over the past 6 years.

 

And yet, I still felt guilty.  It was a great experience–and I saved $5!—but it felt so wrong.

What do you think?  What would you have done?  Would you feel guilty?





LJ-ism

29 10 2009

Quick LJ-ism from this morning:
(Set-up–I usually take LJ to class first, then take AJ. Sometimes I reverse the order. On the way to school to drop them off today, LJ and I had this conversation.)
LJ: “I go with Daddy to pick up AJ today.”
Me: “You want to go with me to drop off AJ?”
LJ: “I go with Daddy. I not drop AJ, Daddy. I not drop babies.”
Me: “You are correct, LJ, we don’t drop babies.”

Oh the literal viewpoint of 3-year-olds.





Save me…

20 10 2009

I may have blogged about this in the past, but it’s in my head so I’ll do it again.

I have too much stuff.  I realize this every time I think of something I want, but I can’t seem to find it because I just have too much dang stuff.  Why do I have all this stuff?  I guess at some point I thought I would need it again.  No, the real reason is that I’m just plain lazy.  I take and I take and I take.

“Oh, you’re getting rid of ____________?   Sure I’ll take it.”

This seems to be my pattern.

The Rich Mullins song, “Save Me” has been popping in and out of my head lately.  Now I must admit, I didn’t know the original Rich version.  The first time I heard it was on the tribute album done to Rich after his accident.  Kevin Max, formerly of dc Talk did it, and it’s the version I am most familiar with.  Here’s some of the lyrics.  They are my prayer tonight.

Save me, save me
Save me from my contempt for the things that make me strong
Save me from any value I could put a price tag on
Save me from Soviet propagandists
Lord, save me from Washington
Please save me, Lord save me

Save me, save me
Save me from the slick pop sounds
Laid down in virgin vinyl grooves
Save me from any woman who would be turned
On to the aftershave I use
Save me from trendy religion that makes
Cheap cliches out of timeless truths
Lord save me, please save me
Save me

Lord save me from my need to acquire more stuff.

More Rich lyrics from his album, Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth:

“If I Stand”

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

The stuff of earth does compete for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things.





A new section called, “I wonder if…”

26 08 2009

I often have nagging thoughts that I wonder if others share. I’m going to try to start a section called “I wonder if…” Feel free to leave your own.

Today’s first installment:
I wonder if networks like CNN have a database full of stories on famous people so they can try and be the first to have a retrospective set of stories on their lives when they die. Case in point: Ted Kennedy. Sen. Kennedy passed away overnight, but by 7:00 AM (CDT), CNN already had as stories: “Triumphs and tragedies,” “A Ted Kennedy Timeline,” as well as other remembrances of his life.
If someone nearly dies like he did a few months ago, do the bosses say, “Ted Kennedy is on his way out. Let’s get a bunch of stories together to scoop everyone when he passes.”

If this is the case, do networks have their own sort of macabre death pool? Are reporters secretly hoping their chosen guy/girl dies so that their story will run?

I wonder who’s next on their list of upcoming dead famous people who we already have an exhaustive set of stories on, before they actually die. Thoughts?





Daddy-Fridays, and then God says, “Ha!”, or why I hate daycares with all their sick little kid germs

22 08 2009

I think that was the title of a Julia Sweeney comedy special a few years ago.  But it still rings true.

Kim has a lot of work to do before school starts back.  Today was all day meetings (mandatory) and our girls’ daycare was closed due to an inservice day.  So that gave me a Daddy-Friday with  both of them.  Now mind you, in Cincinnati, we sent LJ to a home daycare M-TR every week instead of an actual daycare.  From January-June 2007, from 3 mos old to 8 mos, every Friday was Daddy-Friday and we spent it together.  I loved Daddy-Fridays.

Ever since we moved to TX and started a real daycare, where you have to pay whether they’re there or not, and I have tons of studying and other work to do, Daddy-Fridays just haven’t been as frequent.  Plus, there are TWO of them now.

Anyway, they spent all of this summer (everyday, save a few meeting days) with Mommy.  Super-Mommy.  And the occasional Daddy-day was not near as fun as the time with Mommy, I’m sure.  But they started back to daycare this week on Monday, and went for the 4 days before the inservice day, which was today.

So to quickly recap where I’m going–all summer, Mommy-care, restarted daycare Monday, out today for inservice, Mommy really busy with meetings and school, so it was a Daddy-Friday.

Did I mention I hate daycares and their little sickly kid germs?  LJ is a magnet for sickly kid germs.  She’s been back 4 days.  FOUR DAYS!  And she wakes up this morning with a runny nose and slight fever.  Kim had left me specific instructions for the day’s errands, including (at my request) a print-out of the exact dress to buy for AJ at Gymboree and to take the 30% off coupon because today starts TX tax-free-holiday weekend on things like kids clothes.  Plus some new hairbows for LJ.  There were 2 trips to Sams that I won’t go into detail, other than to say that it provided one of the best pics of AJ I’ve ever taken.  (See my mobile uploads on FB to agree with the other 10 or so friends).

But as the day went on, LJ seemed more and more likely to be heading towards a cold.  And she’s not the happiest girl when she’s sick.  Before there were 2, we would happily make room in the bed for her, and she would come and spread sickly little kid germs all over us as well.  Now that we have 2, we quarantine them at a point, so they won’t rapidly infect the house.

Long story short (too late), I am up now after midnight, forcing children’s Ibuprofen down LJ’s throat to battle the 100+ fever, while AJ screams bloody murder in the other room.  I’m frustrated with Kim because she’s so tired from actually working, while I just had the privilege of spending a whole day with just me and the girls.

So I’m up now.  And I’m fuming and feeling sorry for myself.  And then I do what most people do when they can’t sleep because of a sick kid and a screaming one.  I check Facebook status updates.  And here’s where God says, “Ha!”

I have a college friend named Anna who I’ve somewhat stayed in touch with over the years.  She moved to Nashville and worked for awhile with LifeWay.  She married a guy named Jason, and about 18 mos ago had a son and they named him Ian.  Now I’ve never met Jason or Ian, but only through the magic of Facebook have I come to know and care about them.  You see, at the end of May after some routine checkups, they found a tumor in Ian’s brain.  A mean, nasty one.  They immediately had it removed, and he began followup visits and treatments to try and keep it from coming back.  This little guy has been fighting hard.  Unfortunately, it did come back, and worse than before.  So they chose to head to Memphis and to one of the best places on earth, St. Jude’s for their next round of surgery and treatments.  They’ve been at St. Jude’s 8 weeks now.  I have prayed for Ian and Anna and Jason like never before.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a son facing all of this uncertainty, without the ability to explain what is happening.

And to top all of this off, they found out they’re expecting their 2nd baby.  Which, while a blessing, is still a consideration for all of the treatment Ian is going through.

So in the middle of my pity party, I read this update:

Anna Davison Miller Ian Update: LONG day at clinic appointments with Ian getting G-CSF and platelet infusions. His ANC level is 100, so he has no immune system. He was a very playful, happy baby this evening though, so hopefully all is well. Please continue to pray that he doesn’t get sick while his immune system is down and that we have CLEAR SCANS on Thurs!2 hours ago

And here I am worried about missing a couple hours of sleep, or hitting golf balls on Saturday.  What a jerk I am.

I still hate daycares and their little sickly kid germs that they pass around like the fried okra at one of Kim’s family get-togethers.

But I am going to be a little less likely (I hope) to feel sorry for myself when my kid gets sick or screams because they don’t want to be alone.  It is one of the not-so-fun things of parenthood.  And these days do come, for sure.  I just have to remind myself how blessed we really are.

If you want to keep up with Ian’s progress, or read his entire story, or donate to the expenses incurred, go to http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ianconnermiller.  But whatever you do, keep them in your prayers.  I was reminded front and center tonight how much I need to do so.






Arkansas, you run deep in me.

6 08 2009

I’ve been back in the Republic for a few days, and have had some time to reflect on our osofast trip to the motherland.  And the one thing that I keep coming back to is how much I love my home state.  So this post is dedicated to the great state of Arkansas, the Natural State, the Land of Opportunity, the Wonder State (Hurrah!), and any other adopted and discarded nicknames it might have.

First, it was very green.  The Republic is not so much these days, as my yard sounds like corn flakes and the sticker burrs have overtaken my side yard.  I gave up on cornhole around here in the summer due to the infestation of sticker burrs.  I don’t like them.

But Arkansas was so green.  Everywhere you looked, it was a deep, “we’ve had way too much rain that should be landing in TX” green.  Everyone there is sick and tired of the rain, but we are getting pretty desperate here in the Republic.

I am also never more surprised at how small my hometown is.  Having lived in metro Cincinnati for several years, and now in the HOT (Heart of Texas, for those not up on the lingo), I’m used to bigger options.  I went from my in-laws’ house outside Jonesboro to my mother’s in Paragould in less than 25 minutes.  Without speeding.  Growing up, the trip to Jonesboro was like going to the moon.  We would pack a lunch before heading to visit my grandparents.  Now it’s barely enough time to find a good XM station.  Or a few songs with Trey Stafford on the Fox or whatever it’s called these days.

Now I don’t want to sound too uppity, because I’m really not.  I love my hometown.  I love running into people I either went to school with or worked with or knew through baseball or basketball or any other extracurriculars I participated in.  I love searching through my memory banks to see if I can find their name.  I love my mother telling me about so and so she ran into at somewhere and how many children he/she has now and what part of town they live in.

I love my family.  They are Arkansas to me.  They live and love and share and pass it around.  They grow vegetables to share with others, they visit each other unannounced.  They expect nothing, except maybe a little kindness and hospitality.  They just love you with all they’ve got.  I want to be like that.  Ohio people are amazingly friendly, with the caveat of once you get to know them.  Texas people (and I’m just generalizing here people) are super friendly and nice up front, but they will talk about you once you’re gone.  But Arkansas people are out there for you.  They love you with all they’ve got.

I have no idea where we will end up once we’re finished with school, whether it be the Republic or somewhere else.  We couldn’t do much better than Arkansas.  As far as I know, my daddy only spent the 2 years overseas in WWII and 6 months in Illinois away from Arkansas in his 80 years.  His final resting place is on the side of a hill in rural Greene County beside his baby daughter, parents, brother, sister, and other family members.  Lord willing, that’s where I’ll end up, too.








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