Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Posts

I have several posts to write surrounding this weekend's Memorial Day events but am too tired to do them justice at this point.  Please check back in a few days.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Defenders of Freedom's "Tee It Up FORE The Troops" Golf Outing Day 1 - Greeting the Inbound R&R flight, meeting the Wounded Warriors, Man Cave and a WWII Veteran

I can never express how grateful I am to Donna Cranston of Defenders of Freedom for allowing me to participate, as a volunteer, in their 6th Annual Tee It Up FORE The Troops golf outing this past Sunday and Monday.  Everytime I think I have been allowed to be a part of an event or an occassion with our Wounded Warriors that is the best ever I find myself smack dab in the middle of another one that words and pictures cannot possibly discribe.  Maybe they could but I'm not a writer so it's not possible for me to "write" and explain the emotions, inspiration, joy and love that I get from our Wounded and from all of the sponsors and volunteers

Due to the kindness of a retiree from Delta Air Lines I flew to DFW airport on Sunday via a buddy pass.  I was given the last boarding pass for the flight but it didn't matter.  I was ON the flight.

Jamie, one of the incredible USO Girls and a very dear friend, met me at my arrival gate.  We hopped on the airport tram and over to the concourse where the BEST USO in the states is located to stash my bag.  We found out that the inbound R&R flight had been delayd for several hours and was only minutes from arriving.  I'd been to the DFW airport and had the privilege of working the outbound flight in the past but I'd never gotten to witness the welcome for the inbound flight.  What a bonus.  So....through security, on the tram and over to the concourse for the inbound.  Got there with minutes to spare. 

I'd heard about the welcome but to experience it is unbelievable.  A few other ladies who volunteer for Defenders of Freedom and at the USO were in the concourse.  As the Soldiers began to disembark and walk down an elevated glass enclosed hallway to customs the ladies began to clap. 

One by one people in the concourse began to look up and clap and yell and whistle.  As the Soldiers continued on down the glass enclosed walkway the applause started up along the way.  I had a huge lump in my throat and my eyes began to leak.  God Bless America!

We waved up to the Soldiers and they waved back down to us - smiles from ear to ear.  Ahhhhhhhh!

After the last one walked by we skeedaddled over out of security and to the area where they exit customs.  There were already two lines formed for them to walk through.  Most of the people in the line were wearing either Vietnam or WWII gear.  Took my breath away. 

Donna Cranston pointed out a group of Irving, TX fire fighters.  She said they are there EVERY day, too. 

Here they come!

Families who live in the area where there to grab their loved ones.  Yeah, I had tears, too.

As each man or woman got to the end of the lines of greeters Donna and another lady had connecting flight information and would direct them to the specific waiting bus outside that would take them to their flights HOME.

Just past the end of the line of greeters and before the exit doors to the outside were two tables set up and "manned" by Girl Scouts.  They had stacks and stacks of cookies to hand to the Soldiers

I tip my hat to those who are at the DFW airport EVERY SINGLE day to welcome our military personnel home on R&R.  I wish I could be there with them more.

Jamie and I went back through security and hopped back on the train to meet the first of several flights that Wounded Warriors coming in for the event were on.  Found them.  Introduced ourselves.  Went with them to baggage claim.  Hopped the airport shuttle buses and off to the Grand Hyatt hotel in the airport.  Got those guys checked in and headed back through security onto the tram, to another gate, collected more Wounded Warriors, baggage claim, airport bus, hotel check in, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Checking in at the Grand Hyatt - the staff was FANTASTIC!

Jamie helping Chris "guard" his golf clubs while waiting to check in at the hotel.  NOTE:  The day after Chris returned home his car caught on fire while he and his wife were in it.  They both, thankfully, escaped the car in time but the car and all contents - including Chris's golf clubs were a total loss.  If anyone has a set to donate to Chris let me know!

After we met the last flight assigned to us we dashed out to Jamies vehicle and pulled around behind the Dan Dipert bus that had the Wounded Warriors on it.  We followed the bus to the home of Teresa and Joe who had volunteered to host a dinner that night.  Their home is lovely as are they.

Arriving at Teresa and Joe's house for dinner the night before the golf tournament

Heading into Joe's "Man Cave" - a two story building that ANY man would love to have behind his house!

From downstairs in the "Man Cave" looking upstairs

A view looking down from the upstairs of the "Man Cave"


Shuffle board


Relaxing out by the pool

Donna thanking our hosts and everyone for coming

WWII Veteran Ernest J. Deeds and his delightful wife, Lois joined us for the evening.  What an honor to have them with us.

Teresa reading the events of the day Ernest J. Deeds lead his men onto Omaha Beach.  He was wounded as he ran up the beach.  She read about his men, his recovery and his awards.  Not many dry eyes in the house.  When Teresa was done a huge line formed to thank him.  So touching.

They guys leaning on the upstairs rail while Teresa read to us about Ernest J. Deeds

Our hostess, Teresa, Lois and Ernest Deeds and our host Joe.

An amazing evening all the way around.  Teresa told me about one of their neighbors who is retired and learned of the event.  She, the neighbor, came over one day with a home made Italian cream cheese cake (which I can attest to as being DELICIOUS).  A day or two later she came with a second cake.  Then the day of the party she arrived with a third cake AND a home made banana pudding (which I can attest to as being DELICIOUS).  I even heard one of the Soldiers, PJ, tell Teresa it was the BEST!

So a wonderful night with incredible Americans.  A delicious BBQ feat (Texas style), free flowing and never ending beer from the kegorator, laughs, jokes, hugs and the company of a WWII hero.  Seems impossible to find the words to thank Teresa and Joe for their hospitality.  Everyone had such a grand time.  How can life be any better?

I don't think I even remember my head hitting the pillow that night.  Maybe because I was floating on air?

A thank you to Dan Dipert for providing the transportation, too!

Monday, May 10, 2010

*DANGER* *DANGER* *DANGER* USO Girl Jamie & Tankerbabe Have Been Teamed Up as Volunteers for "Tee It Up Fore The Troops!"

Yep, it's official.  USO Girl, Jamie and I have been teamed up to spoil the hell out of assist 5 or 6 of the 30 Wounded Warriors who are attending this year's Tee It Up Fore The Troops golf outting at the Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, TX.  This fantastic event is sponsored by one of my absolute favorite troop support organizations, Defenders of Freedom.

Just to give you a little insight about this event the USO Girls, Jamie and Caroline, wrote about
their shenanigans participation at the event last year in this post.  It's a MUST see!  Caroline took some of the greatest photos EVAH!

Now I'm not going into this without a lot of trepidation.  See Jamie and Caroline are THE USO Girl Team.  Their reputation is, well, something.  Like last year when Caroline auctioned Jamie off to raise money for "Tee It Up Fore The Troops".  Hilarious but VERY effective.  They had hoped to raise $140 and ended up with $700.  HOOAH!

Alas Caroline fell in love and moved away to marry her honey and live happily ever after leaving Jamie to scour for whomever she could find to be her "teammate" this year.  Poor Jamie is stuck with me.  I'm going to do my very best to channel Caroline all day long and hope that she is sending me good ideas and comments (cuz no one can come up with comments like Caroline) through the cosmos.  Meanwhile the two of them will be reunited again soon when Jamie is Carolines "Old" Maid of Honor at her wedding.

DFW area - you've been warned.  And to those 5-6 lucky Wounded Warriors who are assigned to us...we'll see you when you get off of your flights next Sunday.  HOOAH!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Remembering "Big John" - Vietnam Era 173rd, 2-503 Brave Bull - And Praying His Last Landing Was Soft

I received the following in an email yesterday.  I know the gentleman who wrote these words.  He is one of a kind and it is such an honor to call him my friend.  I have read this email many times.  Each time I wish more and more that I had met "Big John". 

Another Sky Soldier has entered the gates of heaven.  May God embrace him and keep him and may all of those who served with him and knew him continue to remember him fondly.  And may his family remember him with great love and affection.

Rest in Peace Big John.

"Age and health are doing what the Viet Cong tried to do and failed. My way of dealing with a death is to try to remember and to tell the story as I remember it. No guarantees, but it is my story as I remember.

John was a good Soldier on Okinawa and in Vietnam. I remember a big lanky paratrooper, who soldiered and skirted trouble. He was pals with Larry P and hung with guys who had good common sense and avoided the ambushes of the Ko sisters of Naha and Kadena. The only attention that John drew in the mess hall was in enjoyment of breakfast cereal. Sometimes after night training, the company would return for a breakfast of steak and eggs. John would stack his empty cereal boxes and small milk cartons into castles on the table.

I lost track of him as I did with many, when I went on to return to advise the Vietnamese Rangers and battalion command. We were reunited briefly in California when Bill O organized an assembly. By that time the lanky paratrooper had morphed into a giant that could only be called Big John. John was many things to my recall: he was a loving father but has lost his family through divorce; he was a charitable person and cared for several elderly people in Northern Caliornia. John could have been a mountain man, had he been born several years sooner. He was a great American and took pride in his Purple Hearts and marching in veteran parades.

Sadly his health waned and I think that diabetes was one of his enemies. Nevertheless Big John fought as hard as anyone could and continually rallied, only to fall away again. He remained independent to the very end, asking for nothing and taking everything thrown at him in stride.

May he be welcomed into God's Hall of Heroes by Mo Hostak, Big Gene Rick, Jim Edwards, Gary Wright, Ruben, and all of those (173rd, 2-503 Bravo) Bulls who have gone ahead to seize the Final Drop Zone."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

♫ Driving Along In My Automobile ♫ OR ♫ Miss American Pie ♫

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my new friends Connie and Jim  taking me to The Chicken Place in Ireland, Indiana.  Well we decided to go again tonight.  Best darn chicken livers EVER.  But that wasn't the best part about tonight.  Nope.

At 1800 I was standing in front of the hotel waiting for them to pick me up.  I couldn't believe it when they came driving up in this:

A 1955 Chevy Bel Air.  HOLY SMOKES!  I was grinning from ear to ear.  Connie hopped out and got in the back and I slid in on the split bench seat ready to cruise!  And cruise we did.  Jim pulled out onto the highway and off we went - west towards Ireland, Indiana.  The weather was PERFECT!  About 70 degrees.  Very little humidity.  Calm winds.  Windows down and breeze blowing through our hair as we cruised through town towards Ireland.

I don't know much about cars but I fell in love with this one.  I told Jim that if he ever divorced Connie (not a chance in hell) that I should be his first call.  But I told him it really was about the car.  As we drove toward our destination I was asking a few questions - trying to act like I knew a little about cars.  When I asked Jim about the size of the engine and the number of cylinders he FLOORED it.  The car ROARED to life and I squeeled like a little girl.

After dinner we went for a wonderful drive.  Honestly I'm so relaxed I could fall right to sleep but wanted to post this first.  THANK YOU  Jim and Connie for an incredibly wonderful evening all the way around.  Ahhhhhhhh

Now I'll leave you with a few more pictures