Sunday, April 20, 2008

Whispers of the Past

This past weekend I had the privilege to go to the reunion of the survivors of the USS Mustin DD-413 and USS Hornet CV-8 with my grandfather.

Here is a little of a history lesson of the two vessels. The Hornet was the ship that launched the Doolittle Raiders over Japan in April of 1942. This was significant moral boost to the Americans. The Pacific campaign was not going well and America was still feeling the effects of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese, however, had it out for the Hornet since she was the platform from which the attack on the home land was launched.

In October of 1942, the Japanese found their opportunity to catch the Hornet. Focusing their attack, they managed to disable her. With the ship listing 15 degrees, they were ordered to abandon ship in the middle of the ocean. The Mustin was one the escort destroyers that picked up a large majority of survivors. Not being able to be towed, the US sank the Hornet to keep from getting into the hands of the Japanese. The Mustin was scuttled after the war in 1945.

In the 70’s, the Mustin association invited the survivors of the Hornet to join them and the two groups have been meeting regularly since. In 1990, my grandfather hosted a reunion in which over 300 survivors attended. This weekend, just a little more than a dozen were able to attend. We are truly losing the greatest generation.

In high school during the early 90’s I was writing a paper on Kamikazes. Knowing they were involved in the attack on the Hornet, I asked my grandfather if I could interview him. Reluctantly he did. The experience was fascinating. But this was the story that stuck out to me:

During the attack, he found a friend of his dying. His asked his friend if there was anything he could do for him. His friend’s last request was for his rosary. Knowing it was dangerous to do so, he went to his friend’s quarters to find the rosary. That was when a kamikaze broke through and exploded warping the hatch. The bulkheads were hot as the plane blazed away. Four Marines, whose turrets had been taken out, heard him banging on the hatch. The Marines ripped away the hatch freeing my grandfather.

This story is the reason I chose to join the Marines. “Never leave anyone behind.” Over a decade ago at a reunion such as the one I attended, my grandfather got to meet the men who saved him, simply by over hearing them tell the story.

This year, I heard my grandfather telling the story again. For the first time, I heard him say the name of the friend who was dying. Then I heard two other men talk about being a part of the bucket brigade that put out the fire from the kamikaze. I heard more of the story than ever. Some of it I prefer not to tell the faint of heart due to the gruesome details.

Also, two ladies were there that were seeking to learn more about their father. It turned out that their father was my grandfather’s squadron commander. He immediately broke into details about their dad. How he took an alarm clock with him when he went to shore to make sure he showed back up on time. How he always had a cigar in mouth. How after being shot down in the Hornet’s final battle, spending 36 hours in the water, being laughed at by Japanese pilots as they flew over and taunted him, that his first action when arriving on the survivor’s island was to find the chaplain and getting services started immediately.

And so the weekend went with stories after stories. Men nearly 90 remembering in vivid details, the events that made them more than comrades, but bound them as brothers.

The event was held in Virginia Beach, VA. This was where most of them were when they heard of the war. My grandfather was here and was brought back to the ship so he could open the safe. We drove by the pier at Norfolk where the Hornet was launched. Pictures lined the walls of the ships in action. Broken video was shown on a time long ago. Laughs were had, stories shared, and lost ones remembered.

As I sat there with my grandfather and his brother as we ate lunch on the boardwalk this weekend, I reflected on what an honor it was to be able to sit with these men and learn history in a way that no text book can ever capture.

God bless the men who defend liberty.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Missy, Thank You for Loving Me

My Valentine, Missy, is the most wonderful wife in the world. Today I send her a Valentine's Day message using Bon Jovi songs.

You were "Born to be my Baby"

"I'll be There for You"

"I want to lay you down in a bed of roses"

We've had our tough time but we worked it out until "We aren't strangers any more."

"Who Says You Can't Home"

Sometimes we were just "Livin' on a Prayer" and we've had a lot of prayers answered.

But to put it simply, I just want to say "Thank You for Loving Me"

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy 232nd Birthday Marines

To all the fellow former Marines, HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

To all who continue to serve God bless and Semper Fi!

Today's Marines are a unique breed. A large portion of the Corp today volunteered knowing they were going to be put into harm's way. They carry on a great tradition of a Band of Brothers who day after day lead through example and defend their brethren. These are the few and proud I am happy to call brothers.

Today is a celebration of the birth of this legacy but let us always appreciate and support the sacrifice no matter the difference of our views.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

What I'm Listening To

I like Missy's postings for what she's listening to so I thought I would do one as well. Lately, I've been in showtune mood mixed with alternative rock and a dash of country. (Please don't try to figure that one out. It confuses me as well.)

Anyway. Today I thought I would share about one of my favorite broadway tunes that comes from the Lion King. It is entitled "Endless Night". At this point in the show Simba's father has died and Simba is all grown up. He has just reflected on something his father had told him and is now in a moment of self pity. I have always found this song to convey a lot of emotion.

Once I became a Christian, this song took on whole new meaning. Learning truth and realizing that sin died through Christ for me, I found this song reflects all of my conversion. Simba is lost in the beginning of the song but comes to the realization that the clouds will clear in his life. The line "I know that the night must end and that the sun will rise" is a analogy to Simba that the "son" will rise. I have found that it reminds of Christ's resurrection as well.

Here is a version of the song sung by the original Broadway Simba. Enjoy...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tale As Olde As Time

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to fulfill a dream of mine to take my little girl to Broadway and see Beauty and the Beast. (Yes, I like theater. No, I am not giving up my man card.)

A little background on why I like this musical. First, it is the first Disney movie my wife and I saw together. Second, the music is very well done. Third, on my way to becoming a Christian, I read a great analogy by Max Lucado using this story to demonstrate God's grace through Christ.

I have taken my daughter to a show once a year for the past three years, and I always thought what a great date it would be to actually take her to Broadway to see a show. (She says The Big Apple is her favorite city.) There is a song called "No Matter What" that is between Belle and her father in which the theme is no matter what, they will always love each other.

Now for the date:

We had to get up early to drive to New York to have time for lunch and catch the show. I had bought the tickets months in advance and she would always ask me, "Daddy, how many more days until our date?" She was as excited as I was. The night before she had a hard time sleeping. So did I. We got up and got ready.

We both had gifts for each other that we had put together well in advance. She gave me a picture button of us, an "I Love You" pin, and a little note that said I am the best Daddy. Missy followed us around with the camera.

We had a nice quiet ride, and I showed her some of the sights as we got into the city. We had a full day planned. First stop was Toys R Us. We have told the kids about the Toys R Us in Times Square. Missy and I went there a little over a year ago and we had fun.

We rode the ferris wheel first. It was a great way to check out the rest of the store. That is where she saw Geoffry. I was surprised how excited she was. So once we got off the ferris wheel we went and got our picture taken with the big giraffe.

We wandered around the store for a little while. After the show we came back to Toys R Us to shop and visit the life size Barbie house. (Can you find her?)

We to Olive Garden for lunch. The Olive Garden in Times Square is three stories. She had a great spot to people watch. In New York that can be a full day of entertainment all by itself. She was so fascinated with the city. My favorite question during lunch was "Why are those people dressed up like the Statue of Liberty?"

After lunch was the show. We had bought her a dress for the day which was a spring dress of the lead character Belle. I had ladies stopping me on the street telling me how cute she looked. We got into the show, bought a couple of souvenirs and went to our seats. She was so impressed with the show. There were a couple of stage tricks - at times that she would ask me, "How'd they do that?" It is great to watch the show through the eyes of a child because they still have a sense of wonder. I must admit, I teared up a couple of times over the moment. At the end of the show we went outside where she was able to get Belle's autograph. Belle was played by one of the characters from the show "That's So Raven" that she likes to watch.

We wandered around Times Square a little more until she had to go to the bathroom. Now here was the dilemma. A man in the middle of Times Square with a little girl who has to go to the bathroom. We stopped in a couple of places but they did not have a bathroom. We stopped in McDonald's. She went into the girls bathroom after standing in line and came out crying. The stall door wouldn't shut so she couldn't go. At this point I was really thinking I was going to have a wet little girl. We went a couple more blocks back to Toys R Us. I thought I was at a sporting event the women's line was so long.

Now here is where it is great to be a dad alone with a little girl. Women help you out. As they came out they gave me a status update. One let her go before her so she could get in faster. She came out just fine. So we finished the day playing and shopping at Toys R Us and eating at McDonald's.

We walked back to the car and began our drive home. She was so tired that she fell a sleep in the car right away. After about an hour she woke up thinking we had been driving long enough to be home. We still had enough time that she watched Beauty and the Beast in the car. She went back to sleep just in time for me to have to carry her in. I love doing that and I know she knows it. She's starting to get heavier but she will never be to big for me to carry.

In the end, it was worth it. Her little note is one that I will probably keep all my life.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Being Mister Right...Mowing the Yard

I believe that every man should conribute to the keeping up of the house hold needs. Part of that responsibility is mowing the yard.

I must admit that in the past I have not been on the most regular schedule on maintaining my yard but I am resolved this season so I can keep our nest looking beautiful. I read a book called Every Woman's Desire in the book the author states that the home is the woman's nest, and we as men should do our utmost to strive to make it a home she can be proud of.

To help myself keep this resolution I bought a new lawn mower. My old didn't work right so I sold it prior to moving. This year I bought a riding lawn mower and broke it in this week. Now I am used to using a push mower in 100 deg heat in Texas. It is going to take some getting used to since I now have to ride the mower in 50 deg heat. For some reason I don't think Missy belived me when I came in and stated how worn out I was. I wonder why....

I did learn some important lessons from my new experience with the riding lawn mower:
  1. Don't put it in reverse while the blade is down. The mower doesn't like that.
  2. Go straight up and down the hills. If you are leaning sideways to keep the mower upright, there is a good chance it could end bad.
  3. Drink down your beverage of choice down at least a third if it has the ability to fizz. It does experience some vibration in the cup holder.

I hope this help the other men in becoming Mister Right.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tribute In Victory

Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of Jeff Gordon. I like him but I usually route for Junior. But this weekend, I believe I am finally on the Gordon bus. In his victory, Gordon reached his 76th victory, which ties the number of wins Junior's daddy had. But 24 used the victory to remember Number 3, The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt.

I have always heard nothing but respect for Dale Sr. come out of Gordon's mouth. They raced hard on the track but Gordon always respected the way The Intimidator was anything but that off the track. Dale Sr. was the reason I even became interested in NASCAR and to continue to see his influence shows just how much he contributed to the sport.

Gordon's tribute, a flag with the number 3 held out the driver side window in his victory lap, is a lesson. No matter what victories we have, other's have been there and have paved the way for many of us. We can use these times to glorify ourselves or humble ourselves and take a moment to give thanks and praise to those who have been there before us and left us lessons along the way.