There is something delightfully refreshing about the make-believe world of children. Late Friday night and early Saturday morning, Jake fashioned for himself a make- believe fort out of cardboard boxes. When I saw it, I thought it was an army tank, but in his imagination it served more as a bunker. From the vantage point of childhood imagination, there were no limits to its representation.


On Saturday morning, Gram had opportunity to be the first to see it. Of course, Jake had a vested interest when he extended her the invitation. He is a little ham and he wanted her to video “the fort” along with him providing an explanation of how it works.


Gram then asked Jake: “So when you grow up, are you going to be a builder like your Uncle Ryan?” He provided what I could have predicted as a response. After all, how many Texas A&M shirts does the kid own? He has at least one for everyday. He answered the question by saying: “No. I am going to be a Marine”. You know what they say: “Like father/like son.”


Jake went on to say that after retirement from the Marine Corps, he’d become a professional football player. Gram asked: “So don’t you think you’d be a little old to play football when you retire?” He said, “No – My Commanding Officer will look at me and say: “Way to go! -That’s my Marine boy.”


When I finally had opportunity to go upstairs and see the “fort” for myself, Jake welcomed me by saying: “Now Granddad, this is really something to blog about! I smiled with the thought! The General gets perturbed with me when I mention something is blog worthy. Jake on the other hand has the ability to think like Granddad. I suggested he write the blog, but since he didn’t, I thought I would.


Like I said, “When I first saw the fort with Jake’s head emerging through a flap in the top, it reminding me of an army tank with a person peering outside. Jake’s imagination brought me back in time. When I was a little kid, we too, played soldiers. As a little kid, all I knew of war and battle were the things gleaned from movies about WWII. My dad had set aside that chapter of his life by the time I was born, but the experience had a life-long impact on him. Although he never talked of the war until toward the end of his time, he proudly served his nation.


Actually, my dad took us to see the movie: “To Hell And Back” starring Audie Murphy. The movie was autobiographical and garnered the life and heroism of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in U.S. history.


We also saw: “From Here To Eternity” portraying the horrors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were also other theme related movies, but I don’t remember the names. What I do remember is coming away from the movies with the sense that Americans fought because it was the right thing to do. Many died in the process. It was simply the sacrificial price of admission for the things we hold dear.


Yesterday, my brother posted a picture of Dad wearing his U.S. Army uniform. It is the picture I used for this article.  I had never noticed it before, but in the picture dad almost looks like a kid. Maybe it takes 70-year-old eyes to fully process that we send our young men off to war.


Dad opted to keep three mementos from the war. They included a German helmet, a 1933 Standard Dress Dagger he took from a German soldier who was being transported after being taken captive. The soldier was taking the knife out of his boot when dad noticed him. He also kept a U.S. Army issued overcoat. To my knowledge, Dad never wore the overcoat after his discharge from the army, but he also never opted to part with it.


At my insistence, Larry took the overcoat after Dad was no longer here. I charged him with the responsibility to keep it for the remainder of his days since Dad found it worthy of keeping. It was a selfish thing on my part for me to do. We didn’t have the extra closet space to integrate it into our stuff. I stay in trouble with the General as it is because I’m reluctant to part with things that are too good to throw away, but not good enough to keep. I feared Dad’s overcoat would fall into that category.


Larry, reluctantly, but amicably agreed to take the coat. I didn’t want the responsibility of keeping the coat for the rest of my days, but at the same time, I thought we honored Dad by keeping it. Karoni, Dad’s oldest granddaughter, has the German helmet and Craig, his oldest grandson, has the German dagger. Craig is the reason I know the year and description of the dagger. He took it to an expert to learn about it and have it refurbished. It is a keepsake of Dad’s that he’ll cherish for the remainder of his days.


I think of Dad often. It is hard to believe the 10th anniversary of his home going was last week.  He died on June 10, 2007. During my growing up years, Dad provided for our family, but he wanted more for me and my brothers than he had experienced for himself. He saw education as the key to a better future. I don’t know how he did it, but at one time there were three of us in college at the same time. It made Dad feel good to provide for us the college degree he never had for himself.


From a vocational perspective, I never wanted to be just like dad, but that may have been through his urging. Like I said, he sacrificed to ensure our opportunities would be beyond his own.


It is interesting now that I’m in the closing chapters of life (however long or short that may be), I’m discovering that what I want most for the rest of my days is to be just like Dad. My dad represented a level of strength and sacrificial commitment that I’ve never known. The last fourteen months of his life were filled with one physical difficulty after another, but the overriding passion of his life had little relationship to himself. His primary goal was to take care of Mother.   He simply lived with a reliance on God that somehow the need would be met. He refused to give up, retreat to bitterness or fall prey to depression. He had the sense that God was with him every step of the way during the last chapter of his life and he was a testimony of how faith can make a difference.


If I could attain the stamina and perseverance I saw in my Dad, I’d think of myself as finishing the course in the best possible way. It was a faith walk for Dad and he never wavered. I can think of no more victorious way to cross the finish line to an eternal new beginning. I want to be just like Dad.


I even like the way Phillips Craig and Dean express it in their song entitled “I Want To Be Like You”. The lyrics include:


He climbs in my lap for a goodnight hug
He calls me Dad and I call him Bub
With his faded old pillow and a bear named Pooh
He snuggles up close and says “I want to be like you”
I tuck him in bed and I kiss him goodnight
Trippin’ over the toys as I turn out the light
And I whisper a prayer that someday he’ll see
He’s got a father in God ’cause he’s seen Jesus in me

Lord, I want to be just like You
‘Cause he wants to be just like me
I want to be a holy example
For his innocent eyes to see
Help me be a living Bible, Lord
That my little boy can read
I want to be just like You
‘Cause he wants to be like me

Got to admit I’ve got so far to go
Make so many mistakes and I’m sure that You know
Sometimes it seems no matter how hard I try
With all the pressures in life I just can’t get it all right
But I’m trying so hard to learn from the best
Being patient and kind, filled with Your tenderness
‘Cause I know that he’ll learn from the things that he sees
And the Jesus he finds will be the Jesus in me
Right now from where he stands I may seem mighty tall
But it’s only ’cause I’m learning from the best Father of them all




All My Best!


















I Have The Good Fortune Of Having A Family That Avoids Drama


It was early. I had set the alarm for 4:00 a.m. this morning. I awakened before that. It wasn’t with a sense of panic, but the “To Do List” in my head was getting progressively longer. I had hoped to take the day off work, but happenstance and need to do otherwise were unavoidable. I have to go to the office.

I also need to finish scripting the workshop I’m providing at the National League of POW/MIA Families meeting toward the end of the week in Washington D.C.. The sense of urgency in getting that completed is primary on my “To DO List”. I need that written script in hand before I leave home. Our plane to Washington is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. in the morning.

Factor that anyway you want to, but that means we have to leave our house by 3:30 a.m. in order to get to the airport in time. At some level, we might just as well stay up all night. That isn’t going to happen, but we won’t get much sleep. I’ll be restless with the fear of over-sleeping.

This morning before I got out of bed, I thought about the “runaway mine train” at Six Flags Over Texas. Who knows, it may not still be one of their featured rides, but in some regards, the name reminds me of my life. When it comes to roller coasters, sign me up. There is nothing I enjoy more. The only way to ride one is hands free and arms stretched upward with a sense of elation.

Some folks have destination weddings or go to exotic and wonderful places on their honeymoon. What do you do if you’re still in college and have limited financial resources? It was an easy choice for us. Six Flags Over Texas had just opened in Arlington. What better place to start a marriage off right?

It was also a great place to determine areas that could potentially create conflict for us. The runaway mine train perked my interest. I assured the Honorary General that it would be memorable. True to my word, it was. She was absolutely horrified. Hands-free is not how she chose to enjoy the ride. In fact, if her hands had been free she probably would have placed them on either side of my neck and choked me. She was terrified.

The Honorary General would also be horrified if she had to complete my “To Do List” before 3:30 a.m. tomorrow. Never in a thousand years would she ever allow herself to be so unprepared. She’d have carefully scripted her presentation a month ago. At some level, I’m wired differently. Perhaps I need the added pressure to help me realize the importance of getting it right. I’m choosing to ignore the possibility that the lifestyle could also be the catalyst for a stroke.

Before you’re too critical, in my defense I planned to do it differently. Unfortunately, I’m not always fully in charge of my calendar. One of the things I like about my job is the lack of routine. I never know what I’m going to be dealing with and at times the sense of urgency mandates clearing everything else off my calendar while I attempt to deal with a problem.

Add to that other things over which I have no control and you get some sense of what a typical week looks like for me. In addition, folks don’t usually schedule their funeral a week in advance. Consequently, the importance of being available when needed adds a level of unpredictability to my very full schedule.

What would I change? Short answer – “Nothing.” My daughter and son-in-law invited us over for a Father’s Day dinner last night. The meal and evening was beyond description. A finer meal could not be found anywhere. We then opted to watch a movie. Under the category of “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”, I didn’t fall asleep. It was a picture perfect evening. In addition, I also had the opportunity to Skype with Craig and his family. I opted not to feel guilty by giving myself permission to take the evening away from the sense of urgency surrounding my schedule. I didn’t even look at the messages on my iPhone. Who says you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks?

I don’t recall the name of the movie we watched, but it was a “the father just died and the family is a mess” kind of drama. I opted not to personalize the topic. I don’t plan to go anywhere soon. Besides that, for whatever reason, I have the good fortune of having a family that avoids the drama of ongoing family conflict. Does that mean we always agree? Absolutely not is the short answer, but we always treat each other with respect and civility. Nothing is of more importance than our getting it right and valuing the gift of each other that we’ve been given.

The movie did highlight the supportive and nurturing relationship the father had with his children. Obviously, it was a fitting reminder on a day where I felt honored. I am a blessed man.

All My Best!