Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Hero Among Us

I’ve been slowly working my way through Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movie trilogy. I like Batman because he is one of those rare superheroes who, like Iron Man and Captain America, doesn’t possess any superhuman powers. He is  just someone who decides to use the resources he has to do what he can to rid the world of evil. Underneath his mask and cape, he’s a flesh-and-blood man who bruises and feels pain, but he’s willing to risk his own life for the good of others. 

We had just finished watching the second movie, The Dark Knight, Saturday afternoon when I heard  Colonel George “Bud” Day had passed away.

Colonel Day was one of America’s most highly decorated  servicemen.  He received the United States of America’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor, for his bravery and heroism during the Vietnam War. On August 26, 1967, Colonel Day was leading a secret air mission over North Vietnam when ground fire hit his plane, forcing him to eject. When he ejected, he hit the fuselage of his plane, breaking his right arm in three places and  injuring his eye and back. He was captured and tortured in a small shelter. On the fifth day, Colonel Day escaped, and without his flight suit or boots,  evaded capture for over two weeks. He crossed the Demilitarized Zone and was within two miles of a US Marine firebase when he was shot in the leg and hand and captured by a Viet Cong patrol. He was tortured and his right arm was broken again as a result. Eventually, Colonel Day’s captors moved him to what is commonly called the Hanoi Hilton. He was cellmates with John McCain, who calls him “the bravest person I’ve ever known.” Day after excruciating day, he endured torture as he resisted his captors and served as an example to his comrades.

Meanwhile, Bud Day’s wife Doris was home with their four children. Although you won’t find nearly as much written about Mrs. Day, or “The Viking,” as Bud affectionately called her, she serves as a hero to every military spouse who has watched his or her best friend leave for duty. The wives of the POWs were given appallingly little information about their husbands during their captivity. Very little support was given to these families and their husband’s plight was not discussed in the media until enough family members joined together to make a difference. Doris Day joined other family members as part of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia (NLOF).  This organization worked tirelessly to get information about their loved ones and to spread news throughout the country, begging others not to forget about the POWs. Their efforts led to many positive changes for military spouses and families whose effects are still felt today.

On March 14, 1973, over five years since his capture, Colonel Bud Day was released, but he was not the same man who had left for Vietnam in 1967. Besides the lasting effects of his physical injuries, he suffered from the mental and emotional scars of his experience for the rest of his life. After his military retirement, Colonel Day continued to fight for others when he championed the cause of veterans in their fight to keep the medical benefits they’d been promised when they joined the military.

We had the opportunity to get to know Bud and Doris Day personally when we lived in Florida. When I first met Colonel Day, I saw the Medal of Honor around his neck and knew enough about the award to know he must be a brave man, but I didn’t know his story. The historian of the wing where my husband worked gave me a book about Colonel Day. Kelly was away on business and I stayed up all night reading. The book was not the most well-written work I’ve ever read, but Colonel Day’s story changed me. I had never read in any detail an account of the treatment our POWs received and what I read chilled me to the bone.

The next time I saw Colonel Day I wanted desperately to thank him for his service and I tried to explain what reading his story had meant to me. Instead I blurted out a few incoherent phrases and my eyes filled with tears. Colonel Day smiled and gently patted my cheek.  For the rest of the time we lived in Florida, we had several opportunities to spend time with the Days. I grew to love them, not only for the brave things they had done, but for the wonderful people they were.

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I wanted my children to know Colonel and Mrs. Day. The word “hero” is thrown around in our culture, but I think we define the term too broadly. Basketball players are not heroes because they know how to make shots and jump high. Football players are not heroes because they can catch a ball and make touchdowns. Actors are not heroes because they make entertaining movies. Heroes do brave things. Heroes do hard things. Heroes don’t act in order to receive a reward, they do what they do because they believe it’s right. To me a hero thinks of others before he thinks of himself. Colonel and Mrs. Day are two of my heroes. I want my children to hear the word “hero” and not always think of the youngest, most athletic person in the room. I want them to hear “hero,” and see a man whose body was broken and stooped, but whose eyes still held a twinkle and a fiery passion. A man who believed his country was worth his best.  A man who fought so others could be free even if it meant he would not be.

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This was a difficult post to write. One of the most difficult. I’m not an author. Many others have written much more eloquently and in greater detail about what a great man George “Bud” Day was and what he meant to our country. I sincerely hope you’ll read their words. But this post is very personal to me. I use words to show love. When I write, I am giving a piece of myself to whomever wants to read my words. This piece of myself is precious to me because I loved Bud Day. It was one of my greatest honors to get to spend time with him and with his amazing wife.

I really wanted to get this post right. But just when I counted on them, once again my words have failed me, because, try as I might, I can’t put them together in just the right way to truly express how I feel and what Bud and Doris Day mean to me. Ever since Saturday night I’ve been trying to piece words and phrases together to write something to give you some idea of who George “Bud” Day was and why his life mattered so much to me. This post is my meager but honest attempt to honor him with my words.

Colonel Day was not a god or even a demi-god. He believed in the one true God and his faith in his God was of the utmost importance to him. He relied on a power greater than himself. He believed God spared his life on more than occasion in order to use him to make a difference for others.

Bud Day believed in doing the right thing, even if it was hard. He stood up for what he believed, even when it wasn’t what everyone else believed. When others would have given up the fight, Bud Day dug deeper into himself and fought harder.

In one of the final scenes of The Dark Knight Rises, Batman says to Inspector Gordon, “A hero can be anyone.” I believe that’s true, but not everyone is willing to be a hero. Bud Day was willing. He didn’t have any superhuman powers. I doubt he would have considered himself a superhero, but Bud Day was one of mine. And I will miss him.

Here are some links to stories and videos about Colonel Day that do a much better job of describing his actions:

http://youtu.be/LIq7A073N10  (Colonel Day in his own words)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxH1GnQPEqE  (Senator John McCain’s remarks about Colonel Day from the Senate floor)

http://frontpagemag.com/2013/peter-collier/colonel-george-bud-day-r-i-p/

http://www.military.com/NewContent/0,13190,MoH_George_Day,00.html

http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2005/December%202005/1205day.aspx

http://www.nwfdailynews.com/local/col-bud-day-to-be-laid-to-rest-thursday-1.179451?tc=cr

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The Post Where I Talk About Seemingly Unrelated Things But Attempt to Construct Segues That Appear To Tie Subjects Neatly Together

Sometimes when I hear a word, I picture the way it’s spelled in my mind. I do this a lot with homophones. The other day I was saying something “piqued” my interest and in my head I saw p-i-q-u-e. I also do it with words I have trouble spelling like “sacrilegious.” I’ve always thought it should be spelled with the word “religious” in it, like “sacrilegious.” Since I have to think about how it’s really spelled, my brain pictures it whenever I hear it. I remember my mom teaching me how to spell the world “vacuum,” and now whenever I hear it, my brain sees v-a-c, two “u’s” and an m.  Today I discovered I also picture easily recognizable logos when they’re mentioned. A friend said something on Facebook about Sunbeam bread and all I could think of was a bright yellow bread wrapper and this little girl:

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I found that picture on Sunbeam’s website, by the way.

(Segue alert.)

SPEAKING OF BREAD, the reason my friend and I were discussing Sunbeam bread on Facebook was because I had posted this picture of my lunch:

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I posted it because my friend Chris had posted a picture of his tomato sandwich a few days back and I’ve been able to think of nothing else since. We were at Costco this weekend and they had a flat of beautiful beefsteak tomatoes so I bought them and having been planning my lunch ever since. Today was the day! Normally, I’d insist on Duke’s mayonnaise because I’m a card-carrying Southern girl and that’s what we insist on having in the refrigerator. But I’m a long way from a store that sells Duke’s and here on my island, many people insist Best Foods mayonnaise must be in the refrigerator. So, when in Rome, or on my island…

After I posted the picture, friends wanted to know what the green stuff is.  The green stuff in my sweet tea is mint. The green stuff on my sandwich is sea asparagus from Kahuku. It adds a salty crunch.  One of my favorite things about moving is finding new foods to try and this has become a new favorite.

(Segue alert.) ANOTHER FOOD FAVORITE THAT I DISCOVERED LAST YEAR is back in my grocery store!

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Have you tried Envy apples? They’re crisp, juicy, and super sweet and last year they replaced the Honeycrisp as my favorite apple. But for if for any reason Envy cannot fulfill its reign as Favorite Apple, the first runner-up, HoneyCrisp will take over (or whenever Envy’s season is over, whichever comes first).

(Segue alert.) I DON’T KNOW IF YOU CAN TELL BY THE PICTURES, BUT I ATE MY SANDWICH AT MY DESK TODAY BECAUSE I SPENT ALL MORNING LONG TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO OPEN MY EMAIL FROM MY COMPUTER. (That one was not nearly as smooth.)

This was my Facebook status earlier today:

I’ve spent all the live long morning trying to access my mail on iCloud from my computer so I can send out some emails. I can access it on my iPhone but not my computer and I really need to send some emails. I don’t want to type them with my thumbs. I’ve cleared caches, used different browsers, blah, blah, blah.

When my Apple products are working, they are intuitive and so user-friendly. When something goes awry, I feel like I can’t get help because I don’t speak Elvish or Parseltongue, or Klingon or Wookie. Or Genius Bar.

My friends shared helpful suggestions and sympathetic encouragement. Some could relate. I’m still laughing at my friend Meredith who spent her morning at the Genius Bar trying not to, as she put it, iCurse. Eventually I fixed it, but I couldn’t tell you what I did to make it work.

( Two-Part Segue alert. Here comes Part One.) WHILE I WAS DOWNLOADING POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS AND WAITING FOR THINGS TO LOAD, I SCANNED PINTEREST LOOKING FOR SUPPER IDEAS.  I’m trying to have some ideas ready for those nights after school starts when I’m too busy or tired to start from scratch. And as everyone knows all the best ideas ever are on Pinterest. Right?

(Segue alert. Part Two.) ALTHOUGH I’M NOT SO SURE ABOUT A PINTEREST IDEA I TRIED LAST NIGHT.

You’ve all seen the Listerine foot soak idea, haven’t you? If you haven’t,  several pinners recommend a foot soak of hot water, Listerine, and vinegar. “You have to try it!” they said. “Your feet will be baby soft!” they said. “The dead skin will rub off in sheets!” is disgusting, but it’s what they said.

This was not the experience I had. I researched the pins to see if anyone had any words of wisdom before I gave this experiment a try. It seemed this pin receives mixed reviews but enough people claimed it was as good as “they” had said, so I decided to go for it. I used the gold-colored Listerine instead of the blue because I read the blue stains your feet. I’m not much of a Smurf fan, so I opted for gold. I had also read that apple cider vinegar was more effective than regular so I used that.

I soaked for well beyond the recommended time because I’d read the longer you soaked the better, but I really didn’t notice a big difference. Well, I have noticed every now and then I smell something that can best be described as a minty pickle and realize the smell is coming from my feet, but other than that, I’m underwhelmed. So don’t believe everything you read on Pinterest, kids.

(Last segue, alert, thank goodness!) SPEAKING OF READING, I TRULY AM THANKFUL FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU WHO TAKE THE TIME TO STOP AND READ WHATEVER WORDS I’VE THROWN TOGETHER. The world is full of words these days and you could be doing many other things with the minutes you spend here, but for whatever reason, you chose to be here. And for that, I thank you.

AND, SCENE.

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Other People’s Stories

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They may not have had their conversation in my presence if they’d read all the chapters of my story. But we’re new friends with shallow roots and although I try to live my life transparently, I don’t pull everything out of my closet for everyone to see, especially if we haven’t known each other for long.

Nothing they said was offensive or even mean-spirited and I think even had they known all of my story, they would still hold firm to their positions, although I think maybe they would use more question marks and periods and fewer exclamation points. My feelings weren’t hurt, nor do I think any less of them. They will probably never know how close to home their discussion hit for me.

Actually, I agreed with their conclusions. A few years ago, maybe I would have emphatically added my own chorus of “amens” to the discussion. They were talking in generalities about people they didn’t know who had made some very bad  choices. But I know and love people who have made those very same decisions and are right this minute dealing with the consequences.  I’ve also lived long enough to be daily aware of how much I depend on God’s mercy and forgiveness for my very being on this earth. I’m much more cognizant of how there, but for the grace of God, go I.

A few days before this conversation with my friends took place, I finally got around to watching Les Miserables. Ever since then I’ve been thinking about its central themes: redemption, forgiveness, justice, and mercy. For most of my life, I could identify with Inspector Javert. I’ve believed the guilty must be punished and held accountable for their wrongdoings. I spent a lot of time feeling disappointed because no one, including myself, could ever measure up to the standards I had set. I didn’t understand mercy until  I felt like I had messed up so completely I was completely unworthy of it.  Intellectually, I know I’ve never deserved mercy. Mercy, by its very nature, is undeserved. But I believed there was a point beyond which God could not forgive. I put limits on his love and mercy. Now I understand God is not good when I do what He says. God is good because He is God and God is good. God is not merciful because I deserve it. God is merciful because He is God and God is mercy. I am so grateful God doesn’t show mercy the way I do. Because of his lovingkindness to me, I’m becoming more aware of how much other people need His mercy, too.

We live in a world where with a few keystrokes and in a matter of seconds, people all over the world can know our opinion about anything we want to share. I’m sharing these thoughts of mine in a blog post so I’m as guilty as anyone else of adding my voice to the chorus of those who want to be heard. I just wonder if it’s become too easy to say what we think without thinking about the weight of our words. I have 1,007 Facebook “friends.” I can scroll through my “news” feed and read what many of them think about just about every popular topic of the day. But they aren’t all really all my “friends” and what they think about everything under the sun isn’t really “news.” We confuse our connectedness with relationship, but they aren’t the same. I read news stories and Twitter feeds and blogs and think I “know” these people, but I don’t. Not really. But somehow my lack of relationship doesn’t prevent me from labeling them as how I perceive them to be. I judge their actions and assign them worth according to who I think they are. It’s as if real people have been characters in my own little reality show.

We mean well, but sometimes we don’t even know what we don’t know. We think we have all of the facts, but sometimes we don’t get the whole story.

We are all flawed characters in His story. Our stories all come together in His. Maybe we can afford a little patience to those who may be in a different stage of character development than we are. For most of the people in our lives, we will only know pieces of their stories. For a very few, we may have access to chapters the rest of the world will not be allowed to read. But I promise you, everyone has a story.

Yes, wrong must be punished. Yes, decisions have consequences. Yes, we are all in need of love. And forgiveness. And mercy.

So what am I trying to say? I’m not sure I even know. I’ve been typing and deleting, trying to come to a neat and tidy conclusion but I can’t find one. I think maybe this post is a reminder to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”  My friends’ conversation helped me see how even well-meaning words can sting when we don’t know the battles a person is fighting. It’s made me want to be more aware of what is unseen in the lives of the people I come in contact with everyday. I’m praying God will help me to love the way I’ve been loved and show mercy like God has shown mercy to me.

And I’ll keep living my part of His story….one page at a time.

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Five Minute Friday: Belong

I haven’t participated in Five Minute Friday in awhile. That’s when I join Lisa-Jo and her friends and write for five minutes without stopping or editing on whatever word she assigns. This week the word is “Belong.”  Read more FMF posts here.

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I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling like I didn’t fit exactly. I was too this or not enough that. I haven’t had many times in my life where I felt like many people knew who I really was. Many times I felt like an outsider looking in on other people’s lives while mine seemed suspended in time somewhere.

I know we weren’t meant to be eternally happy here. This isn’t the “true Narnia.”  But still it’s nice to have pieces of time when I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be at exactly the right time.

I feel that here. This feels like the place where I fit.

Sure, I live in a beautiful place, but it’s more than just the scenery.

I have friends here, but it’s not even that people know me any better here than anywhere else I’ve lived. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe I’m more comfortable in my own skin now that I don’t feel like I have to be the most loved person in the room.

I know it’s not because I don’t have any problems here, because even in this tropical paradise, bad things happen and I find myself fighting some of the same battles I’ve had to fight over and over again.  Even now, my heart is broken over sad things I can’t fix.

But even in the midst of the ugly, it is well with my soul here. I can breathe here. I feel most like whomever I’m supposed to be here.

I don’t know how long this place will be my home. But I’m thankful for this moment. I’m thankful for the minutes in my day when I can stop and look around and know I’m exactly where I belong.

For this place, for this now, I am grateful.

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To a Rising Star

Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star…

From the very front row, she is watching you. All of us are, but from the corner of my eye, the way she’s looking at you catches my attention. She’s on the edge of her seat, sitting perfectly still, all of her attention focused on you standing there in the center of the stage.

You have a way of making people watch you, Little Star. Certainly, you are talented, but something about who you are when you are on the stage commands people to pay attention to you. It’s a gift and you use it well. As I watch my little girl watch you, I wonder if you even know the power  you have been given.

I realize it a few days after the musical when I overhear her telling a friend about your performance.

“She is soooo talented. She can sing and she can dance and she just makes you want to watch her. She wants to be a star on Broadway one day and I think she can do it. She’s really, really, pretty. But she’s not just pretty on the outside, she’s pretty on the inside, too because she loves Jesus with all her heart!”

Suddenly, I realized the impact you have on her. When I was watching the musical, I was being entertained, but when my daughter was watching, she was learning about the woman she wants to be one day. She sees you and understands a little more about dreaming big dreams and working hard to make those dreams come true. She looks at you and realizes beauty on the outside doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t match what’s inside your heart. Most importantly, she recognizes the Jesus in you.

It’s a heavy responsibility when little people look up to you and I’m sure you’ve been told once or twice “to whom much is given, much is expected.” But I tell you this, not to frighten you or even burden you. I want to thank you and encourage you. It’s a hard time and this world is a hard place for a little girl to figure out how to be a woman. Finding role models isn’t easy. Thank you for living your life as an example of your faith. Thank you for showing my girl how to dream big dreams and how to use the gifts God gives her.  As you walk through every open door God has for you, I hope you’ll be encouraged to know this mom and her little girl will be praying for you.  I pray, Little Star, that when people see you, your light will point them to its Source.

So, like a diamond in the sky, keep twinkling, Little Star.

We’ll be watching.

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“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

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