The Only Time We Have Is Now

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Impromptu works for me! I like spur of the moment opportunities. Maybe delayed gratification is over-rated. Some say delayed gratification is a sign of maturity. Who’s really to say? Maybe it is my aversion to maintaining a calendar and carefully plotting future events, but like I always say, “The only place we have is here and the only time we really have is now”. Why not make that work for you?

 

Yesterday afternoon, the General and I made a quick trip into Austin to visit a friend at the Heart Hospital. If you are familiar with Austin, you immediately know the concept of a quick trip is a misnomer. A quick trip doesn’t exist.

 

Add to the concept that Hwy 290 is closed down to one lane for a portion of the commute and that adds the need for patience to the drive. I find it frustrating that some folks will wait until the very last possible second before they move over to the left lane. Okay, so maybe it is a character flaw? As the left lane (the one open) moved at a snail’s pace yesterday, cars continued to zip past me on the right. At some point I reached the place where “enough is enough” and I silently resolved that it would be a “Cold Day in Austin” before I let another car in front of mine.

 

That resolve didn’t work out well. It never does.  I always cater and allow the line of last minute racecar drivers on my right to make their way in front of my vehicle. It is probably a full minute our two before I allow my grip on the steering wheel to relax and give myself permission to breathe. I don’t know why that is such a big deal to me? It is always a lose/lose proposition for me. I have no real control over the thoughtlessness of the folks on my right who are equally adamant they are going to edge in front. Invariably they do.

 

Okay so maybe I’ve already rendered a mistaken value judgment that I didn’t have the right to make. I described them as “thoughtless”. How do I now that? How do I know that they too aren’t inching their way toward the Heart Hospital because they need medical care? Wouldn’t that get priority over visiting a patient? There are two sides to every story, but in my impatience, I generally focus only on my side.

 

When it comes to Austin traffic, I need to lighten up. For starters, there is more than one way into Austin. Why travel HWY 290? The back roads take longer in the long haul, but they are more picturesque and I seldom have an episode of gripping the steering wheel with all my might.

 

As we made our way into the outdoor parking lot at the hospital, I was confident we’d find a place to park. It didn’t look that crowded. It didn’t look that crowded because there are open spaces, but the open spaces didn’t include a place to park. I was beginning to think the same was true of the parking garage. Unlike the outdoor area that was light and bright, the parking garage is very dark. You don’t have to read the “turn the headlights on” signage as you enter to figure out you don’t have an option. We finally found a parking spot on the fourth floor. I didn’t know at the time the parking lot included three more floors? I was anxious for nothing.

 

The discovery that the patient we came to visit had “turned the corner” and was significantly improved from the description shared of her condition from the evening before immediately made everything right in my world. The stress associated with everything else dissipated immediately. I was so relieved.

 

In addition to visiting with the patient, her husband and another friend were also present. It was really nice to have an opportunity to visit with them as well. The atmosphere was one of jubilation. Everything was in rhythm so to speak and life was good.

 

Leaving the hospital, the General and I made our way to a restaurant for a late lunch. We initially thought we’d go to a favorite restaurant farther north, but we did the math and opted to look for “plan B”. We didn’t want stuck in rush-hour traffic.

 

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the edge of the Henly side of Oak Hill and headed homeward. Andrea and Kevin where coming over for grilled burgers in about three hours. The General was also planning to fry squash. Andrea calls it a family tradition, but fried squash is a delicacy at our house. We all intuitively stand around the stove and munch on the freshly friend squash as though it was an appetizer as soon as it comes out of the skillet.

 

The first time Kevin was aware of the tradition, Andrea invited him to come get squash. He responded: “No thanks, I’ll just wait for the meal”. She replied: “You don’t understand. If you don’t eat it as it comes out of the skillet, you don’t eat it. It won’t still be available at the meal.”

 

Having time on our side, the General and I stopped by a memory care unit on our way back to Dripping Springs to visit another friend. As we were going in, the two friends we visited with at the Heart Hospital were coming out. They, too, had the same idea. We exchanged greeting again. They went their way and we went inside.

 

Our visit with our friend was probably only ten minutes or so. He seemed delighted to see us. He even introduced me to a couple of people as his pastor. However, in short order he apologized and said: “I really need to get back to work. The lady I work for won’t let us leave until we get everything done.” He also added: “I like working here.” That tugged at my heartstrings, but his affirmation that he liked working there made it all seem okay.

 

As we traveled homeward, I asked the General if she thought we should invite the two people we’d met as we were going in for burgers. She said, “I was having the same thought.” It turned out to be a delightfully relaxed and enjoyable evening. The two guests seemed to think our milling around the stove to enjoy and appetizer of fried squash wasn’t even strange. Okay, so it was strange, but it was enjoyable.

 

Impromptu works for me. It is never a disappointment and one doesn’t have to wait. The only place we have is here and the only time we have is now.

 

All My Best!

Don

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BROKEN

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How much is too much? Ours is a broken world filled with broken people and one of the hopes we share is that our humpty-dumpty like brokenness can be restored to like-new condition. I mostly operate on the notion: “As long as there is life, there is hope.”

 

How much is too much? “When it rains it pours” is an expression that often comes to mind. It carries with it the concept that difficulty has a way of multiplying. When one is surrounded by difficult circumstances, it isn’t uncommon for one more thing to be added to the pile. Perhaps that’s where the expression: “The straw that broke the camel’s back” originates.

 

I remember when my dad was undergoing radiation and his throat became so swollen and raw that it was excruciating painful for him to swallow. At some point he said: “I’ve always heard the Lord won’t put more on you than you can bear, but if that’s true, it is getting dangerously close”.

 

I regularly interface with folks in the midst of great difficulty. Health issues have a way of creating a quagmire of obstacles difficult to overcome. Add the concept of “life threatening” to the mix and everything seems to spiral out of control. Health issues can result in lost income and without one’s livelihood to survive, it doesn’t take long for the situation to become despairing. Where does it all end?

 

I guess I’ve lived long enough to know that when your kids are doing well, you are doing well. When your parents are doing well, you are doing well. When you are doing well, you’re doing well only as long as others you hold as important are doing well.

 

Late yesterday afternoon and evening, I had the privilege of visiting with folks in four different scenarios. The common denominator of all four was the presence of need. Health issues, relational issues, financial issues and a myriad of other things collectively made up the kinds of real life circumstances that weigh heavily on one.

 

First let me say that I am privileged to be in a situation that folks trust me enough to honestly share their circumstances with me. It all gets back to trust. Who do you know well enough that you can trust them with your stuff? If you accept as a given that all of us are broken this side of eternity, then it doesn’t come as a surprise that struggles and difficulties surface in different areas of our lives. The ability to be a friend is an honor. It is also one of reciprocity. In the process of being a friend, you make the discovery that you have friends. Trust me, there are times in life that what you most need is a friend.

 

How much is too much? Is it possible for a person to have too many friends? That is a ridiculous question isn’t it? Folks in the midst of need long for nothing more than a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Sadly, one of the experiences of chronic need is that sometimes folk who have the wherewithal to help, choose to exist stage – right and become scarce.

 

Life can be so perplexing. I recently learned of a couple of adult children who were shocked to discover through the grapevine that their parents had moved. Consequently, they have absolutely no frame of reference as to their whereabouts. They have vanished out of sight and for all intents and purposes out of the lives of their adult children. Of course, figuratively speaking, it probably isn’t a new street for them. They’ve probably lived on that block of disappointment and heartbreak for a very long time. The only difference now is that the lines seem etched in stone and there is seemingly no turning back.

 

Wow! How much is too much? For starters, that doesn’t seem like the healthiest approach in problem solving and restoration of relationships that should be meaningful. I guess one of the downsides of our need to “always be right” takes it toll when the two sides can’t bend enough to merit civility and respect. At some level, stories like that hurt my heart. Need I add, it doesn’t have to be that way? I still default to the notion: “As long as there is life, there is hope.” Of course, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get the same results. If the results are less than satisfactory, shouldn’t that be an indication that something needs to change?

 

Behind the story has to be years of unmet needs and disappointment on both sides. How else does one explain it? At the end of the day, I can’t imagine not having a resolve to fix the problem and restore the relationship.

 

How much is too much? For those of us who are privileged to come along side others at the point of need, how much is too much? I am of the mindset that you do all you can to make a difference?

 

All My Best!

Don

Cherished Pieces Of The Puzzle

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Like pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, information gleaned about my twin brother from those familiar with parts of his life that I didn’t experience are a welcomed gift.

 

I guess it was in the early 1990s that I met John Kitchens. Simply by happenstance, I was in West Texas and John had stopped by to visit with my folks. He and Ronnie were friends at Texas A&M.  John was in town on business and he carved out the time to thoughtfully visit my folks.

 

When I walked into my parent’s home and met John, he looked at me and said: “So this is what Ronnie would have looked like if he were still with us.”  I smiled and said, “Only if he took very good care of himself.”

 

I can’t recall if John’s wife Donna was also an Aggie, but they were good friends with Ronnie at Texas A&M. John was Ronnie’s go-to-person for tutorial support in some of the complicated math stuff that is totally outside any frame of reference ever remotely locked away in the left side of my brain. Okay, so truth- be-told, I don’t have much of a left-brain function. Somehow Ron managed to take his portion and mine. I still don’t think that’s fair, but I’m at least always in my right mind.

 

Several years ago Ralph and Terri Crow walked into church unannounced one Sunday morning. Ralph said, “You probably don’t remember me, but I was one of the groomsman in your brother’s wedding”. That Sunday’s visit proved to be the catalyst for the beginning of a great friendship. Not only were Ralph and Terri friends of Ron, but now the General and I can claim them as close friends as well.  Our lives have been enriched.

 

A couple of years ago, I posted a Memorial Day remembrance on Facebook the day following Memorial Day. One of the responses I received from my posting caught me totally unawares.  The General and I were having lunch in a quaint restaurant in Upstate New York.  The kind message brought tears to my eyes. The thoughtfulness of the communication will always have a special place in my heart.  The message read:

“Don, my name is Dennis Carpenter and I am one of the Marines who waited in vain on the flightline for his aircraft to return the day he was lost to us. As I stand every Memorial Day as a member of our VFW honor guard my mind will return me to that day and that flightline and they sense of loss that I feel for Ron and the other brave men our squadron lost. Rest assured that I will never forget him or the others for the rest of my life. Thank you for stepping forward on Memorial Day and speaking for your brother and for those who served with him and who knew him as a brave man and a compassionate friend. Sgt. Dennis Carpenter VMA (AW) 533 COM/NAV Night Crew”.

In the course of the past two-years, Dennis and I have exchanged many emails and telephone calls. I am now happy to call him friend.

 

A short time after receiving Dennis’ initial message, Robert Williams thoughtfully reached out to me.  He was one of the pilots stationed at Nam Phong the same time Ron was there. Actually, he welcomed Ron to the Rose Garden and invited him to take the top bunk in the modest pod they called home. Robert and I also have subsequently become good friends.

 

The list of friends whose lives touch Ron’s and have subsequently touched mine include many.  In response to my recent posting of my younger brother’s address to a Rolling Thunder group on their way to Washington, I received the following response from Mike Bliss:

 

“Thank you, Donald for posting your brother’s words. Semper Fi, Larry. I, among many others, choose to never forget.  Actually, I believe I mis-spoke. It’s not that we ‘choose’ to never forget; rather it is impossible to forget”.

 

Of course, that was not my first communication with Mike.  Last year Mike posted a Memorial Day message on Facebook.  His words captured my attention.  I sense they will yours as well.  His posting was entitled: “Memorial Days – My Thoughts 2017”:

 

“Memorial Day – The word memorial… it must be related to the word memory. Some wordsmith could tell you all about the root word from which memorial and memory are derived. Not me. I just know that they are related and that’s good enough. Memories are about remembering. Memorial is about celebrating or honoring the memories. I’ve lived 65 years, so as you can imagine I have many, many memories”.

To highlight a point, he added: “Pick a name, any name of someone gone from this world…I chose Ronald Wayne Forrester. I didn’t choose his name because I was particularly close to him, but rather so I can better relate or explain or demonstrate my understanding of what Memorial Day means… At that time, Ron Forrester was an officer in the Marines, a 1st LT, and I was an enlisted Marine, a Lance Corporal. Lance Corporals and Lieutenants didn’t socialize or hang around together. We had a working relationship… I got to know Lt. Forrester as a very respectful, soft-spoken gentleman. I respected him. We never discussed personal lives, though, because of the nature of our duties and our ranks. It was always strictly business. I have learned more about his personal life in the years since”.

The affirmation that Ron is remembered as “a very respectful, soft-spoken gentleman” is a gift to his family. We remember him that way as well.

 

A couple of years ago, Tom Chasteen reached out to me. He and Ron were stationed at Cherry Point, NC together.  Consequently, I’ve shared a phone call or two with him as well as several electronic messages.

 

I’ve also heard from Ron’s next-door neighbor in base housing at Cherry Point, N.C.  Like the pieces of a jig saw puzzle it all falls together to more perfectly depict the essence of Ron Forrester.

 

In response to a recent posting, Les Adams Sr. wrote: “I worked on Capt. Forrester’s A6. I was a communication/navigation technician. We all cared about our aircrews. I’ve worn his bracelet and four others whose planes I worked on for decades. I wear them not because I took part in the “POW/MIA” thing. I lost men I personally cared about, admired. I wish he was with his wife and daughter and granddaughter. He died to free a nation from oppression. I don’t care how it turned out. I wish he was home. Find him”.

 

I close by sharing the words of Anne Boykin in response to this week’s posting as well. I’ve thought of Anne as my friend for so long that I sometimes fail to remember that she knew my brother first. Thanks to Anne, I have more pieces to the puzzle:

 

“I knew Ron as ‘Forrester’ at A&M. Most of the guys in Squadron 8, or Animal 8 as we called it, were known by their last names. The guys in Animal 8 studied hard and played harder. I was dating one of the guys in the outfit when I first met Ron. He was different, sort of shy, and very serious about his calling to be a pilot. At the end of their senior year, 1969, I married one of the guys in the outfit. Everyone went their separate ways. Three years later, we heard that Ron was MIA. To think of Animal 8 without Ron was difficult to say the least. The outfit was a well-oiled machine and a vital link was missing. A few years ago, I was looking at a piece of memorabilia I had from my days at A&M. I had looked at the Bonfire Booklet many times. But this time was different. A photo of some of the members of Animal 8 out at the cut area for Bonfire stood out. Of course! The young man on the far right, in a stance all too familiar, had to be Ron. I shared it with Karoni who agreed. She had never seen the photo and said, “That has to be my Dad! I stand the same way!” To be able to share this photo with Ron’s daughter and his family filled my heart. Ron will never be forgotten”.

 

I live with gratitude to all who knew Ron. I have heard from many others whose names aren’t listed. Please forgive my omission. It is not purposeful. Thanks for sharing your memories! They add to pieces of the puzzle and I sense the discover of each piece as a cherished gift.

 

All My Best!

Don

Helicopter Parents

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I recently read an article about helicopter parents and their unintended negative impact on a college student’s life. I was not familiar with the term “helicopter parent”, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out that they hover over their son or daughter’s life and attempt to run interference in an effort to be supportive. Of course, the crux of the problem has to do with the son or daughter not learning to stand on their own two feet, negotiate the landmines associated with independence and develop the maturity to handle disappointment and conflict as well as the joys associated with independence. Parents who fall in that category are not doing their son or daughter a favor in the long-run.

 

I get the concept if your son or daughter is in preschool or kindergarten at the age of five or six-years-old and is being run-over by a schoolyard bully. Perhaps interference is necessary, but surely the need for a parent’s “two-cents worth” in the midst of young adulthood falls in the category of something other than helpful. Can you imagine calling the office of a college president to ask for his or her assistance in negotiating the squabble between your son or daughter and their roommate? Apparently, according to the article, it happens. Who would have thought?

 

In remembering back to my own college experience, once you were dropped off at your dormitory, the parent’s role was done. It was time for them to skedaddle and allow friendship formation and transitioning from home to college to evolve naturally. Trust me, a seventeen or eighteen year old shouldn’t need the help of mom or dad to introduce themself to a group of peers they’ve not yet met and get the lay of the land.

 

My Aggie son got dropped off at the curb his freshman year. I don’t think parents were even permitted inside the dorm. My daughter had it a little easier. Her mother and I were the human pack mules who helped haul her belongings into the private college dorm west the U.T. campus before she invited us to skedaddle. She didn’t want us hanging around and rightfully so. What college student does?

 

The General and I took a bold step the following morning after Andrea moved in the dormitory. We boarded a SWA flight bound for Seattle and rented a car and headed to Vancouver. I think “free at last” was the theme song rolling around in our heads. It puts a smile on my face everything I remember that.

 

I read somewhere the other day that the average age for an unmarried son or daughter to leave home is thirty-five. Can that really be right? Can you imagine? Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids, but keeping them on the payroll that long seems a bit excessive. Worse yet for them, when do they grow up and experience the satisfaction of knowing they can make it without parental support?

 

Maybe it’s the thrill of the chase or the joys associated with making one’s own way into adulthood. Why deny a son or daughter the privilege of starting on their own and making their own way?

 

Just for the record, the familial tie that binds isn’t broken just because a son or daughter asserts themselves with the joys associated with independence. The relationship becomes one of mutual independence and respect.

 

When the General and I first married, we were as poor as a church mouse, but we made our own way and lived on our own budget. How else do you learn? We didn’t start out with a house full of new furniture. We bought used stuff from garage sales and refinished it ourselves. We didn’t live on plastic or expect our parents to bail us out at the end of the month.

 

Periodically, in my early years of adulthood, I’d ask my dad for advice. He always gave me wise counsel and then said: “You do what you want to.” Maybe he knew me well enough to know that was exactly what I was going to do? Okay, so I’ve got a few regrets that I didn’t pay closer attention. Of course, at the time I didn’t recognize my dad’s level of wisdom.

 

I thought dad was going to have a heart attack when he learned that the General and I financed the purchase of a living room suite while we were still in college. I’d accepted the role of pastor at a country church and they provided us a three-bedroom unfurnished home. We wanted the primary room in our home to look nice. Consequently, we bought good stuff. In fact, we still have the hard-rock maple coffee table to this day. Even in erring by “living temporarily on credit”, we learned a valuable lesson. We never did that again.

 

Do I ever offer my son or daughter unsolicited advice? I’m willing to go with a “probably” on that rather than confessing to my sins, but I am not a helicopter parent. I have a healthy respect for the autonomy and independence of my children.

 

I’ve seen their steadfastness in their early years of marriage as they purposefully delayed attempting to keep up with the Joneses or even attain the same standard of living as their parents. That was during their early years. Obviously everything falls together in place in it’s own time. At this point in their pilgrimage, their standard of living has surpassed our own. I couldn’t be happier.

 

Don’t we all want our kids to have a better lifestyle than we experienced? They will never get there if a helicopter parent keeps running interference. Whether a person lives simply or extravagantly, if it is done from the vantage point of independence and through one’s own effort, the dividend it pays is rewarding. The pride of standing on one’s own two feet is affirming.

 

All My Best!

Don

Building Blocks

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Life can be both confusing and troublesome. Do you ever have that thought? Do you ever sense that life would be so much simpler if we didn’t always have the need to be “right?” Wouldn’t we be a step in the best direction if we opted instead to do whatever we could to create, maintain and if need be, restore relationships? The scripture says a friend sticks closer than a brother.

 

There are times in my journey where I get the sense the road is bumpy and uncomfortable. That happens most often when I perceive people don’t really know my heart. What’s true for me is probably also true for you.

 

Sometimes it is incredibly painful to be misunderstood or falsely accused or simply not given the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, I guess it is human nature to look for the worse in others rather than graciously providing them an encouraging word and going the distance to support their best interest.  Human nature goes against the gain of the quality of life that God intended.

 

Isn’t that the avenue on which most of us live and work? We don’t celebrate a lot of diversity in our lives. Everyone generally needs to think the way we think to be considered to have great value. We may have value otherwise, but it doesn’t reach the category of great value.

 

I went to bed Saturday night giving thought to some of the kinds of things that separate people. I went to be thinking of some of the barriers that create discord and unrest. The things that separate us oftentimes pit friend against friend thereby redefining them as a foe. Isn’t that the direction we generally tend to lean?

 

It all seems like a contradiction of how God intended life to be lived. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13:34-35]

 

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” [Romans 12:10]

 

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” [1John 4: 7-8]

 

Three things come to mind that consistently serve as a catalyst for disagreement and division. They include: politics, racial relationships and gun control. Most of us posture ourselves with fairly strong opinions in all three of these arenas and we discover that what once seemed like a level playing field overnight becomes the catalyst for discontent. Who would have thought?

 

In terms of race relations, doesn’t the love of God make all men equal? Biblical mandate is clear: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. [Galatians 3:28]

 

So how far are we willing to bend to promote harmony and unity?  “So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live–for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble”. [I Corinthians 8:13]

 

Okay, so maybe I’m not a strict constructionist in the application of that verse to my life. You may not agree with me in principle. After all, I don’t always get it right. “Never ever eat meat again” seems a little far-reaching don’t you think? But I can promise you this: “If I invite you to lunch and know you’re a vegan, I’m not going to order a rib-eye steak and eat that in front of you while you’re munching on Tofu, nuts and sprouts. It’s not going to happen!”

 

I’d never be that insensitive. At the same time, I’m inclined to think that next time I might suggest that we meet for coffee instead of lunch. After all, conversation is pretty good at Starbucks and they don’t serve Tofu.

 

We can get so disoriented over what really matters. Somehow our priorities seem so skewed with the building blocks Jesus indicated should serve as a baseline for living. Didn’t he say something about the last shall be first? He also said something about “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”. Are you kidding me?

 

The thing about human nature is that it doesn’t take into account the kinds of changes God wants to orchestrate in our lives. If we desire to make a difference, human nature has a tendency to be self-serving rather than God-focused. We need strength beyond our innate ability or human instrumentality to opt to live differently.

 

Life can be confusing and troublesome. Do you ever sense that life would be so much simpler if we didn’t always have the need to be “right?” Wouldn’t we be a step in the best direction if we opted instead to do whatever we could to create, maintain and if need be, restore relationships? The scripture says a friend sticks closer than a brother. It takes the love that only God can provide to make that happen. Left on our own, we mess it up everytime.

 

All My Best!

Don

Thanks to Google

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Young and bright probably were the best descriptors of two Stanford University students linked to the Google story in 1995. Working from their dorm rooms they created a search engine that used links to access information from the World Wide Web. Initially, they named the search engine Backrub. A short time later they provided their creation a new identity by the name Google. Reportedly, the name was a play on the mathematical expression for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.

 

Three years later a Silicon Valley investor wrote the two students a check for $100,000 and Google, Inc. was officially born. I guess you could say the rest is history. Certainly the use of Google has dramatically changed my world. Probably the same is true for you.

 

I remember a telephone conversation with my younger brother shortly after Google became a resource that subsequently opened a whole new world for us. Larry initiated the conversation. I guess you could say he is the more curious of the two. He entered his name to see what he could find about himself. I guess you could say it was the equivalent of strike one. He didn’t come up with anything. He telephoned me suggesting that I go through the same exercise.

 

In the telephone conversation suggesting I search for myself, he shared that he had done a Google search for Ronald Wayne Forrester and figuratively hit a home run. Ron’s name and information was accessible on Google. In his search he found a page or website dedicated to Ron’s memory that had been posted by a student at North Texas State University.

 

She had invested time to identify information on more than one MIA. She said of her mission: “Some may ask ‘they are probably dead, what does it matter?’ Ask the mother who went to her grave wondering about her son, or the child who grew up without a dad that question. They will tell you that it does, and so will I. Imagine living your life not knowing what happened to your loved one, knowing only that they were lost on foreign soil. Would you want them to be forgotten? Would you care if they were left over there? I tell you, you would want them remembered and you would want them home. I do too. That is why I created this website”.

 

Stacy writes of herself: “I became involved in the POW/MIA issue as a naive college student. I knew nothing about the issue, but after reading the story of a young man who was unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, I knew I had to do something. I adopted my own MIA, then another, and within a year, I had adopted seven total – one Air Force, two Army, one civilian, one Coast Guard, one Marine, and one Navy. I vowed that from then on that I would do what I could to keep their stories out there, to put a face to the name, to show their families that people still care. It was not easy in the beginning, and it is not always easy now, but what I can do, I will.

 

Her story on Ronnie also included a snippet of information contributed by Robert Routh, a friend and former high school classmate. Both Larry and I reached out to Stacy Benning and a friendship that has covered the span of almost twenty years began.

 

Initially, Stacy was interested in knowing family information. My younger brother, who is the first writer in the family, had crafted our family history. He made that available to Stacy and it is included on her website. If you access the links at the bottom of the homepage, it will take you to Larry’s writing concerning our family and Ron’s history. They are listed as “Part One” “Part Two” “Part Three” “Part Four” “Part Five” “Part Six” and “Epilogue”.

http://www.faraway-soclose.org/rwf/index.html

 

Larry is not only a skilled writer, but he is also a sought after speaker. He doesn’t toot his own horn, but he has the stuff to make it work. Last night he spoke to a group of the “RUN FOR THE WALL” riders on the midway route who had made it as far as Shawnee, Oklahoma.

 

With Larry’s permission, I share his presentation from last night:

 

I am Larry Forrester of Broken Arrow, OK.

 

Welcome to Shawnee, Ok in the heartland of America. We have been

blessed to attend several RFTW functions and have come to know quite a

few of you. My daughter has ridden with you, and my niece Karoni rides

every year.

 

Thank you for what you do… I am the younger brother of Captain Ronald

Forrester of Odessa, TX. He was declared missing in action on December

27, 1972, two weeks before the Viet Nam War ended.

 

From an early age, my brother had a calling on his life. At around nine

years of age, he knew that he was destined to fly airplanes for Uncle Sam.

On Saturday afternoons he put together plastic military replica aircraft

replete with decals. When a plane few above us, he would get excited and

quickly identify the model. “ That’s a Curtiss’s P-40 Warhawk from WWII.”

Even today, when I see plane fly overhead, I think of him.

 

He was the oldest. Thus, when we played in the yard, we played

something having to do with the military. He was always top rank. As a

young boy, I had no doubt that one day he would be a General.

 

He had a calling, and he had commitment to go with it. He didn’t start at

the top of his class. He toiled endlessly on his schoolwork to improve his

standing. He was even in the slide rule club. His dream and intent was to

earn an appointment to the Air Force Academy.

 

It didn’t happen. His math teacher, James Thompson and a school

counselor, Ray Ferguson, said, “Son, your dream is not over. Let’s work

on getting into Texas A&M University. They helped him obtain a

scholarship. He loved the place and The Corp of Cadets.

 

He ran into another roadblock with the Air Force. His eyesight wasn’t

good enough to be a pilot.

 

He switched to the Marine Corps because there were other standards that

trumped the vision standard.

 

He had the calling, the commitment, and one day he would pay the cost.

He would water Thomas Jefferson’s tree of liberty.

 

Ron flew 46 combat missions successfully in an A6 Navy plane over

hostile Viet Nam skies. The 47th didn’t go so well.

 

A week or so after the newspaper reported that Secretary of State Henry

Kissinger had said, Peace Is At Hand, our family saw what no family of a

serviceman ever wants to see. Our family saw a Marine Corps Casualty

officer at the front door. Our loved one had been declared Missing -In-

Action.

 

War has great cost. In Viet Nam alone, 58,000 other similar stories had

tragically unfolded.

 

David Halberstam wrote a book entitled The Best and the Brightest. It told

how the smartest men in the nation from Ivy League schools had led the

country into the quagmire of Viet Nam. After I read that book, I put it on

my desk. I remember thinking, “Those Ivy Leagues guys from Harvard

weren’t the best and the brightest. My brother and the 58,000 other men

whose names were written on the wall were the best and the brightest of

America.

 

Thank you veterans for your service to our country. You put your life on

the line to do what is right.

 

Thank you to the Run For The Wall. Your remember others who have

served and the many whose lives were cut short by a war for freedom.

You have not forgotten our POWs/MIAs. Thanks for riding for those who

cannot. You ride for those who cannot ride for themselves.

 

Know that what you do brings great comfort to the family members of the

fallen.

 

Bless you!!”

 

The real talent in the family resides in Oklahoma. I am blessed to call him brother.

 

All My Best!

Don

Driver’s License Please!

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Scruffy is not a term I’d use to describe the look. Others might liken it to the wild man from the Gadara look. Yet, I’m not concurring with that assessment either. I’d prefer to think of it as more of a laid-back carefree thoughtful persona. Okay, so the General thinks that assessment is delusional.

 

Okay, so I purposefully didn’t throw out “deep thinker” to define my self-perception, but at least I have an openness to the concept that I don’t have all of the answers. I’m still sorting out a lot of issues and trying to figure out what I can learn from folks who don’t necessarily think the way I do.   Careful! Some of you are thinking they must be pretty smart. If you fall into that category, that was kind of a tacky response don’t you think?

 

A couple of months ago, the General made the observation that I looked dignified and distinguished with a neatly trimmed short beard and short hair. I took it from my appearance at the time that she perceived I looked anything other than that. I’m choosing not to place a value judgment on it.

 

The first time I went home to visit my folks in 1976 after growing a beard for the first time, my mother mistakenly thought I looked like Charles Manson. My suggesting that Jesus had a beard was met with deaf ears. That seemed a little harsh to me, but it was probably the first time I painstakingly drew a line in the sand and opted not to follow parental instruction and shave as I had been instructed.

 

I can see my younger brother chronicling in his head a hundred and one previous times when he perceived I was the problem child. I guess my folks had me to thank. I taught them a lot. Even without praying for patience, I was the catalyst responsible for their developing the spiritual gift. It was either that or they would have been guilty of murder.

 

On March 14, one day before my birthday this year, I sat patiently or not so patiently waited for hours in a very crowded room to renew my driver’s license. I felt like I had been sprung from jail when my number finally appeared on the screen and I subsequently walked out the door with a temporary paper license in hand. The temporary license carried an expiration date of May 12, 2018.

 

The following week I attempted to get a slight trim at the barbershop to neaten up my appearance. Instead my barber restored the previous “dignified and distinguished look.” Apparently, he and the General were of the same mindset.

 

Sometimes I can think of potential problems when in reality there is nothing to worry about. So with my new John –Boy Walton persona and haircut, I had the thought my driver’s license was going to have a very different profile. What kind of potential problems would that create for me?

 

As it turned out, my concern was not warranted. My new driver’s license never came in the mail. So how long can you get by driving with an expired license? I’m not one to roll the dice and take my chances.

 

Interestingly, two months later I have purposefully restored the “laidback carefree thoughtful persona” appearance that was taken from me by my overzealous barber. My daughter thinks it is a good look. My wife thinks….well, we won’t go there.

 

So yesterday I made the discovery that I am anything but laidback and easy-going. The frustration of attempting to make a telephone call to the Department of Public Safety Driver’s License office about pushed me over the edge. In fact, I’m still a little over-stressed from the experience.

 

I checked online for the telephone number of the DPS driver’s license office in South Austin. I tried repeatedly for well over an hour to telephone that location and all I ever got was a busy signal. Consequently, I broaden my scope and telephoned a different number. It sounded like the voice of a trooper. In a very pleasant and helpful tone he indicated someone would assist me soon or I could communicate directly online with the customer service center. Reportedly, the customer care center was open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

 

Since I was already on the phone, I opted to stay the course. Before it was over, it was enough to push me over the edge. Please hear me say the telephone voice options never..never…never connect you to a person with whom you can talk. I tried every option available and found myself wanting to scream.

 

Finally, out of frustration, I decided to try the customer service electronic approach. After all they “were available 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday to respond to one’s needs.

 

Actually, that is ALL pretty misleading. From my perspective it is a total myth. You don’t have to read far down the page until you find the notation that your personal inquiry will be responded to in four-to-five days.

 

Okay, so I’m not really a violent person, but I wanted to go to the DPS office and rearrange the furniture. So that is really crazy! Some of those people carry guns. That being said, I processed the refusual to talk to me on the telephone as a personal affront. I was lesssss than impressed with the efficacy of State government. For starters, it shouldn’t take two months to get a driver’s license. On the bright side, if the license ever came in, the picture would now be up-to-date. I had that laid  back thoughtful persona again.  I guess I was feeling my oats and felts like Samson pulling down the pillars of the temple. Maybe I really am a wild man. The entire issue made me a little crazy. Okay, so it made me very crazy.

 

What’s a forty-mile commute on a Friday afternoon in Austin traffic? It was time for a showdown at the Okay Corral. If they won’t answer the phone, there is more than one way to get a status report on my delayed driver’s license. Just for the record, I expressed the issue to my son and he jokingly responded via text: “Maybe they wanted a second opinion and added three “smiley faces” with tears coming from their eyes to his script. The kid has a good sense of humor. So do I. I responded: “You may be at risk of getting on the same list I have them on.”

 

Walking into a room full of folks who looked like caged and captive folks who had already waited long after they thought would be required didn’t help my attitude. The kind lady at the front desk dispelled my less than stellar perception. She said, “The wait won’t be long. I’ll get you in momentarily.” She was true to her word. In less than two minutes, my number appeared on the screen.

 

Long story short, my new driver’s license reportedly was mailed on March 27 and was returned to DPS by the post office. I suspect that DPS didn’t mail it to my post office box, but to my street address. She didn’t say. I completed another application, provided both thumb-prints all over again and stood with a smiley face getting my photo made again.

 

Okay, so it was not my best “good hair” day. I was still miffed over the inconvenience. Part of me still wanted to turn over furniture and build a memory that I would forever regret. Thankfully, I didn’t do that. I also didn’t ask why the clerk cut the corner off of my expired license. They didn’t do that two plus months ago.

 

I even bit my tongue to keep from responding when the clerk said: “There will be no charge for today. However, if the driver’s license is returned to us from the post office again, you will have to pay the next time.” If they had addressed it correctly the first time, the envelope shouldn’t have been returned.

 

I calmly walked out the door. It never works to take-on City Hall and those people don’t carry guns. I certainly don’t want DPS in hot pursuit, but my customer satisfaction fell short of anywhere close to  acceptable.

 

All My Best!

Don