Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Call to Action!

First off for all those that take the time to read the ramblings of my disheveled mind, thank you. I know sometimes I rant and rave and go down bunny holes that make little to no sense. The current conversation, spiked by my recent appearance in Reno, NV and also my activities with my American Legion Post 65 in Statesville, NC., so without further ado, I bid you a good reading.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” 
― Leo Tolstoy

As children we learn to get along, respect grow and fit in hopefully. Then in HS, we want to more, we expect to change the world maybe. Some people go on to college, but our veteran community goes out to serve. They sign a check with their life potential and time, and for 2 to 30 years we complain, we grumble, swear, and all sort of other unmentionable things. We will do what we as ordered in the name of serving our country in most cases without hesitation.

There are many reasons we do it, that doesn't matter really. What is key, is that we do it. When we hang up the uniform, we come back home or go somewhere new. Hopefully to start a new life, maybe a family. If we're lucky, we are successful however that is defined. But, the real question is that part of our lives that we signed away whether in combat or behind a desk or somewhere in between, how is that shaping your future. How is that shaping the future of your lineage?

How do we use our experience to benefit others? If this question is foreign to us then what can we do in getting ourselves into action?

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” 
― Mother Teresa

If you are listening watching reading my rant, then in some way something inside of you accepts that we all want a better world. I had to be given a death sentence to understand I could start to live. The kicker is I don't live life fully unless I'm living to help others. A long time ago I heard a saying; you have to give it away to get it. How crazy is that? In being told I was not going to get better and that my body was, in fact, dying, I was able to live for today, One Day At a Time.

I finally started to understand what it meant to do for others. A simple concept of don't steal someone's blessings began to become acceptable. What does that mean? I've always enjoyed helping others. I considered myself to be a generous person for the most part. Come to find out I was very selfish. I could do for others often, but when others attempted to do anything for me, I would shut them down. I'm not a Roman Catholic scholar. Therefore, I don't know many stories of the saints; however, I seem to remember that St Francis was well-known for penance and self-persecution. (Probably have the saint wrong for the weave I'm working on) however, I was never able to accept help or anything well from others graciously.

It was pointed out to me one day, that I was stealing others blessings. The good feelings I received when I helped others was something I was brought up to do and it gave me worth to my actions. Especially when dealing with my past transgressions, the acts of kindness allowed me to see myself as not the hideous person I was in my own mind. While in shutting others help out I was still being a selfish person in not allowing others the joy of service.

Now, why do I point all of this out? Our passion/service work is a two sided coin. Whatever we sow has to be reaped. A feast prepared, is no good if we don't have a crowd that's hungering to eat. We as a community, of Veterans, must extend ourselves past our average level of comfort to ensure that we reach not only our veteran community but also the nonveteran community to show them what real brotherhood is all about. The lessons we have learned through blood sweat and tears can and should be shared, but will not be if we lock ourselves into our halls and just support ourselves.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 
― Margaret Mead

Every one of us has talents and abilities. Not all of us are great community leaders or speakers. Not all of us can reach out and touch many, but every one of us comes in contact with someone at least on a weekly basis. Whether we are at a grocery store or gas station all, we have to do is become aware of our surrounding's. Look for that Service oriented cap or shirt. All we have to do is put our hand out and ask if someone served. We may not be able to explain why our VSO (for me, it's the American Legion) is so important to our veteran community. What we can do is extend an invite and ask for a phone number, email or address so someone who is good at explaining can contact them. The act of reaching out is all it takes. We all have to start and assume the responsibility to grow our brotherhood and community. Let It Begin With Me!

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 
― Albert Einstein

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Start something new?

After a particularly busy month of July, I am glad to inform you that our lives in North Carolina are starting to jell and take hold. Most people that come in contact with Mike & I will look at us and make comments as they have never seen me happier. I wish I could say that I had a lot to do with it but to be honest it is the new circumstances that continue to be laid at our feet. God has been working miracles daily and teaching me how to accept things that I would have once looked at and considered unacceptable.

Those lessons in acceptance and patience have placed me in a unique position. They have allowed me to see things through others eyes and experience in ways that personally I never would have dreamed of. I have always thought myself to be open minded yet in the past two years I have seen how myopic I have been. My heart and mind have been shown new routes to take and ways to give to others. If you are reading this, then you probably have helped change me even if you do not know it.

I thank you all, every one of you. Blessings like I have been given are few and far between and for me to have been allowed to walk this road is nothing short of biblical. Yes, there is a pun on words there, due to the increased study of the bible over the past year. (Something I have always read with a readers eye not necessarily a lust for learning what was really in there.) I am sure that in the past months the increase in quotes from the bible and Christian sources have probably given away the secret (Not) that I have a greater understanding of my place and need to share why I have been so blessed.

With all that said let me tell you some of what Mike and I have been able to take part in these past weeks. July was packed with travel and encounters that came from all sorts of places. I received a phone call from a friend up north putting me in contact with a company that wants to help spread the word about service dogs and the veteran communities. (Coincides with my mission of helping other veterans) Who knows if anything will come of it but with some power house backing I can dream about teaching others to spread the word that no one has to be alone and the overwhelming current number of 22 per day that takes their own life might be brought down some.  

As everyone knows I am a member of the American Legion Post 65, Statesville, NC. This Post is one of the more active Post I have seen around the country. For the month of July, we along with our Auxillary run a program called Christmas in July. This program, we take gifts to the State Veterans home, the Hospice and the VA Care facility in Salisbury. This year we were able to support 211 veterans with gift bags to residents along with service blankets. We also sponsored a day of bingo and just had a great day bringing joy to the facilities we visited. Mike had a blast bringing joy to all the veterans and staff. For those that have never taken the time to stop by your local area VA and see some of the elderly and hear their stories, please do. You will be surprised walking away feeling like you were the one who was blessed with history lessons and new friendships. They're always looking for people to come in and share time. Nothing more expensive than our time when our clocks have started to speed up.

I would like to talk about a program that the post is running in conjunction with the State VA home called Music and Memory program. It has to do with simple little iPods and music to help patients with memory issues. They have found that these iPods can bring peace and relaxation to the residents unlike any drug could ever do. So Post 65 has taken up collections and has been making donations to ensure that every patient that could benefit will benefit.  My thought that I am looking at taking a stab at is trying to get local corporations involved in funding a larger state program and then maybe even getting this program to grow into a national program. After spending time with these patients who have been before the music program in the different world now interacting with people and seemed much happier, it is a huge win for a program.

After spending time with some of the other members of our post and some other senior members of the community, a new need has become very clear. That need is technology tutoring and job guidance. In speaking with people about their technology use and trying to guide them, the thought came up that maybe we could use our post to help veterans with their tech needs. I and one other veteran are looking into what it would take to get the post a hotspot and then offer space and time to grow the community. It could become a great recruiting tool for the Post as well as a way to help our senior members feel more connected.

Stepping out of the normal operations and methodologies is the only way to stir things up sometimes. If I have to be the one to step out and make things happen then so be it. We all have to figure out what our gifts and talents are then move to make sure that we use them in the best way possible. Join me and others as we step out and find new ways to grow.

The Month of August looks to be just as busy as July was. Mike and I will be flying out to Reno, NV next week to attend the National American Legion Convention. This is a great opportunity to interact and meet many veterans of different eras. I thank God for the opportunities to be healthy enough to be able to travel like I do and to have Mike there with me to open the doors to get other Veterans to see they do not have to live the way they have been. Stay tuned to hear all the wonderful adventures the next time I get to write. Thank you all for the support and prayers. God Bless.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sower of Seed's?

 “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” 
― Marcel Proust
Thank you all for the support over the past month during all of these travels. Mike and I have put on over 3,000 miles worth of miles since we last wrote anything. At some points, it seemed as if we were stuck in the truck more than out spreading good tidings.  That is just perception though because the month of June has been so filled with great people and amazing opportunities to share how God has been working in my life.

For a quick recap of some of the events that we have been honored to be able to be present at, Post 65 American Legion and the Iredale County Veterans Council, participated in many Memorial Day Events over the Memorial Day weekend. It was an honor to partake in those events and share the pride and commitment with our local communities. Giving back to the towns we live in so our youth can understand why we have these special holidays is so important. 

A few days later, Mike and I were blessed with a Senior H.S. Project in Mechanicsville, VA where these young adults took it upon themselves to go out and raise awareness and understanding in their town. They planned and pulled off a grand day that raised over $2,500.00 in donations for America's VetDogs and the Guide Dog Foundation. Both Service and Guide Dogs were represented at the presentation through Brian's Guide Dog "Ralph" & Mike. Mike even wowed the group present with a tug on the alarm and showing a few of his other skills. (Of course, if he could get me to shut up some it would probably have been even better.)   

One of the major local sponsors for this event was Chic Filet which should show everyone that when you are committed to making something work and are willing to put your nose to the grindstone anything is possible. Thank you Chic Filet and everyone else who came out for this great time.

It was of course, awesome to see a healthy and active Brian and family doing great things out and about. Just goes to show you can not keep an old warhorse down for very long that is for sure. Thank you, Lord, for bringing my brother from a different mother through all the trials and allowing him to now share his story to help others.

This was Mike pulling the Alarm during the presentations we gave.

What seemed like hours after returning from VA, I was packed and heading north to meet up with the newest Phyfe. Yes, there is a new Blessing in the Phyfe Clan, Master Clark William Phyfe. My Son and his Bride, have made me into a grandfather. So with my old man wings on I hooked up the horse and buggy and began a northerly trek. Enroute We stopped in Amish lands, Bird in Hand, and got to spread some information and ate some great food. What a wonderful step back in time. Hard to believe that in today's modern society such a simple style of living can be preserved not just for display but truly embraced. (Other than the heat, which last time I checked they had no control over, the day spent there was wonderful.) I am looking forward to a longer visit to this area.

So here is my Son and Grandson! What a blessing and a beauty. He's a baby so I doubt he minds if I call him a beauty at this point. I am sure that in time he will grow to be an Ox like his father. Many prayers and blessing to the entire family in their new home. For those that have been following for years, Yes, Iris is on duty watching out for young Clark and family. It was so great to spend time with her also.

My Daughter, who just purchased a house of her own out near the Cape Cod area was able to spend a day with her family also at Dan's. I was also able to get out and visit Mel's New Home by the Cape. Are you getting tired thinking of all these miles I'm driving? (I've been back in NC for over a week and still feeling the tired from so many miles.)

Before I get you back on the road and out of CT I want to mention Aaron, a young man doing his Bar Mitzvah project where he decided he wanted to help raise awareness and money to help Veterans. His father is a partially disabled veteran and they have known me for some time. So since they knew I was going to be coming north Aaron set up this talk in his synagog and now has a donation page set up. Please take a moment and support his goal of raising $6,000 for America's VetDogs.The link to his donation page is Bar Mitzvah project  Unfortunately, there have been a couple technical issues with the web give page so after a few restarts the new one is up and accepting donations. Do not worry if you gave on the old page the totals will be carried forward. Also if you mail a donation into Vetdogs or to Randy directly those funds will all get totaled and go toward his goal of $6,000.  His wish is to be able to name a Service Dog with the money raised.

Once Mike & I returned we have not let much grass grow under our paws. We have taken part in a Purple Heart Homes ceremony where they officially gave a home to a veteran. It was such an honor to be there to see the flag being raised and the community coming together to support our nation's heroes.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” 
― Gustave Flaubert

Yes, I have finally shaved the facial hair away!

Thank you all for blessing me and allowing me to share my experience strength and hopes with all of you. I have been blessed so many times over that my cup overflows.

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

Monday, May 22, 2017

Memories & futures!

“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” 

― C S Lewis

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:9"

Over the past two years, I will admit to some of the most amazing growth and sole searching I have ever done. I have made changes in my life that I would never have thought about doing in the past let alone actually taken action on. As anyone that knows me knows, my health has been an issue for the past 20 plus years and honestly, I thought I was on the downslide of life.

Who would have thought that I was being prepared for a walk of a lifetime? I surely did not see it happening or even want to have it happen. All I wanted was to make a small difference in my own little way. I did not see any big pictures or God working in my life to become a beacon for others walking a road that needed lighting. So over this past couple years, I have been steered, yes steered through some pretty hairy corners with little more than what amounts to a golf cart in a formula one race. Most often I feel more than ill equipped to handle the situations that I am presented with but somehow the answers always seem to appear. (I say a golf cart because God knows I am no longer in the racing shape I used to be in that is for sure. I know what imagery, right?)

It was 2 years ago this week that I was down at the Foundation, meeting up with my current Service Dog, Mike. Over the past 2 years, we have been on a whirlwind tour of America. We've traveled from sea to shining sea and from north to south. During those travels, we have been able to help other veterans talk about issues they prefer to brush under the rug or help them fill out an application for a service dog and other times just be a quiet friend to sit and listen. No matter what I have walked away as a richer person with a heart that has grown because I have learned to step out of my own way. Learning that I am my biggest problem, always have been and always will be. 

So looking back on the past couple years is a great exercise in humility, being able to see a grand footprint of God where he has carried me through times I would not have made it on my own. We all have this capacity to look inwardly and should often but we all need to be reminded to do it with prayer and supplication so we stay right minded. In my own way, I see how I have been placed strategically in places at the right time to help others see things. I had nothing to do with the placement other than having been put there. I am grateful to be allowed to share in the lives of others and rejoice in the tears and smiles alike.

One of the super neat treats this past month was to take part in a tribute to the troops at a small but active American Legion Post here in NC. Post 65 in Statesville was honored to have Rockie Lynne a Country Music #1 recording Star and Veteran of the famous 82nd ABN Div himself, come play at their monthly meeting. Talk about showing veterans how to have a good time! 

Lucky for those of you who were not able to be there I was sitting front row and was able to record the entire show live and then put it up on Facebook and Youtube.com. https://youtu.be/7Hr5W5cQZLM

“If we never experience the chill of a dark winter, it is very unlikely that we will ever cherish the warmth of a bright summer’s day. Nothing stimulates our appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation caused by sadness or desperation. In order to complete our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse.” 
― Anthon St. Maarten

FYI- May is #NationalMilitaryAppreciationMonth, the month in which Americans are encouraged to honor those who serve or have served our country. 
Charlie, the Today Show ‘puppy with a purpose,’ invites you to join him and VetDogs to celebrate Military Appreciation Month by taking on a vital role for veterans with disabilities. We’re asking you to join the “Charlie's Squad” to help sponsor 10 specially trained service dogs for veterans with disabilities. Operation.VetDogs.org for more info, and to make a donation today.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day's bring?

 “It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

The 7th Annual VetDogs 5/10k Run Walk was held at Kent Island, MD on April 23, 2017. The event was a huge success and thank God the weather which had been threatening to be a washout decided to hold off. Mike and I arrived on Saturday evening to the event grounds under the fog and drizzle that had been keeping the hearty Marylanders heads down for almost a week on and off. It did not look like it was going to be a beautiful day of sunshine but we were prepared to be out there none the less to support VetDogs and all the runners/walkers that wanted to raise money for America's VetDogs.

When we woke up and saw the beautiful Sunrise I knew we had been blessed, the temps were perfect and the clouds even though red in the morning were not threatening at the moment. So off to the registration area we went to see what we could do before all the runners arrived. All the Volunteers were already making the day move to a steady hum. With nothing for us to do except grab the camera gear and head out to the main field, Mike and I strapped on our gear and took off allowing everyone to do their work without us being in the way. As the crowds arrived, we were able to capture many great pictures of Charlie and Olivia (the NBC Puppy with A Cause Team, seen weekday at 8:30 on the Today show Nationally.) They were one of the highlights for many of the participants that came out to support the foundation.

The Naval Academy sent their Honor Guard to open and close the ceremony and did a great job. Secretly I kept looking over my head as I do every year hoping to see the Blue Angels appear and do a flyover (yes my way of hinting to anyone with strings they can pull). Of course, we got Charlie out there to partake in the opening also. The local NBC affiliate did some taping of Mike, Myself, Liberty and Melanie another Veteran along with Charlie and Olivia. Needless to say, some great press was had for VetDogs and the GuideDog Foundation throughout the day.

Of course, Mike did his fair share of hanging out in front of the camera along with many of his cousins and other service dogs. It was just a great opportunity to be able to show how Veterans are able to get back into the community and become powerful examples of what great citizens they are. This particular event seemed to draw this year more of our sister veterans with service dogs than past years which was great to see. I was finally able to meet CSM Evans who was this year's Keynote speaker. One of the reasons I had been looking forward to meeting her for a long time is we had both started out in the 82nd Abn Div around the same time even attending the fun in the sun event in Grenada. Our paths never crossed while on active duty, but we have chatted since becoming vetdogs team members, so it was great to finally meet each other.

Some of the other pictures from the event are at the bottom of the page. There were a lot of pets at the event along with a good number of puppy's in training. Some from the prison program and some from the home raising program. I will take a second here to point out that if you are interested in helping out, please contact America's VetDogs through their website they are always looking for volunteers of all shapes and sizes ;).

 Remember, the month of May is a busy month for many. There are many holidays along with schools getting ready to let out for summer vacations. I know that Mike and I have already started to get calls for different events that people would like us to be at. Don't forget about your nation's Veterans when you start to plan your Memorial Day events. Yes, we're honoring our soldiers and sailors that have passed but who better than a veteran to help our communities do that honor. If you don't know a veteran, please look up one of your Veteran Service organizations such as the American Legion, VFW or DAV. There are others also you can call, or even towns have veteran community links nowadays. Take a moment and reach out to ask for help it will bring a special meaning to your next event and also help bring a veteran back into the community.

 “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” 
― Wayne W. Dyer

“We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it.” 
― Rick Warren

Monday, April 10, 2017

Gala Event Planet Dog!

Planet Dog Foundation

April 8th, 2017 http://www.planetdogfoundation.org hosted a Gala Event in Portland, ME. They invited Olivia Poff & Charlie from the Puppy with a Cause on the Today morning show NBC, along with myself and Mike. Mike had been featured in their Blog in April of 2016.

It was a pleasure and an honor to be asked to attend and speak at Planet Dogs first ever Gala Event Fundraiser. To be able to help bring awareness to all  the work these great service dog organizations such as America's VetDogs and K9 on the Front Lines. Both of these agencies providing dogs to veterans at no cost allowing our nations veterans get back to living a normal life without placing them into debt.

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to 
succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” 
― Abraham Lincoln

To have Charlie there also, the Star of the NBC Today Show's, Puppy with a Purpose this year, was great. To have both Mike and Charlie be able to show off how well behaved and task oriented they both are is a testiment to the great work America's VetDogs is doing. The TV interview with the Local NBC Affiliate and all the stops in and around Portland goes to show just how aware people are becoming about Service dogs and the mission to help veterans. It truely was a great trip and very humbling to say the least.

Here is the link to the NBC Portland Affiliate's Sunday morning piece that was done with Charlie and Mike.

On a personal note to top off a grand weekend the plane was delayed to get me back down south. Now this may sound like a negative but instead of being a sour grape on a hot fudge sundae it was a glorious oversized maraschino cherry. It allowed time for an interaction between a Korean War Veteran and myself, facilitated because of Mike. This elderly gentleman had just been through a horific accident on the highway in Maine on his way to Canada. Both he and his wife were involved with two tractor trailors that totaled his car yet they were amazingly able to walk away with some scratches.

“Good men don't become legends," he said quietly.
"Good men don't need to become legends." She opened her eyes, looking up at him. "They just do what's right anyway.” 
― Brandon Sanderson

He was still shacken up but had been able to get his wife to Canada in time to see and help her sister. He then had to drive back to Portland to drop the rental off but knew no one. The hour and a half we were ablet o just talk (I listened) allowed him to calm his nerves as he was able to relive parts of his life that he had not talked about for over 60 years. I was so blessed that Mike was wearing his camo vest and made a comfortable key to open up the doors for this gentleman. As we boarded the plane he was a different person then when he first sat down next to me.

I talk about how our dogs change lives all the time. However often, we forget how as a team we touch others. The doors that Mike and Iris opened for me allowing me to become a whole person again was only the begining. I see how God has continued to work miricles in my life and so many others around me every single day. So often we forget to open our own eyes and look for those miricles. They may be small and hard to spot when we are stuck in our own head but all we have to do is put out our hand and try to help someone else and then we can see them blooming like 4th of July fireworks.

I thank God daily for giving me his 4 legged version of himself to remind me to be grateful for all he does daily.

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.” 
― Alphonse Karr

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Willingness? Hmm how about you?

Hello all, hope everyone is doing great things with all this beautiful weather we're having. Oops, maybe I'm rubbing it in this 75-degree sunny weather is not being enjoyed by everyone just those of us smart enough to move south during the winter months.

No matter where we are in our lives we all have our missions to serve. A wise man once told me that we must figure out what our talents are so that we can share them with others and glorify the gifts that God has given us to the fullest. Becoming willing to live our lives this way is not an easy decision because it means we have to give up our selfish nature as much as possible. For me especially that is not easy to do. Naturally I want to be there for others as much as possible but do I want to sacrifice my comforts and time?

I heard an awesome bible study the other day talking about servanthood and what that used to mean back in the day of the apostles and Christ. We're not talking about someone who serves today and is then thanked we're talking about an entirely selfless person who is at the bottom of the food chain! Someone who never gets simple thanks no praises nothing. Today we, especially Americans are very appreciative of people who serve. I was brought up to treat the janitor and the CEO with the same respect. It's common courtesy today, so to grasp that level of servant the Bible talks about is hard to do. To become willing to live my life as a servant helping others is even more challenging.

I'm not going to delve into all my personal issues, but I will say that over that past few years I've become much more aware of how I must serve if I'm going to be able to live with myself. Focusing on others has allowed me to see life from a different angle and freed me to understand that living not just for the day but the moment is paramount the freedom from self truly is worth the journey. Mike, my service dog, has opened so many doors to my mission and life that I'm so grateful today. He has allowed me to step up and out of myself even when I may not be in the mood. I finally understand why these four-legged creatures are named God spelled backward. Dog.

I thank God for the willingness to move forward with my life when I just wanted to quit. Today I spoke to a seniors club and to engage with them and share the story of how these dogs change lives, was just wonderful. It's not about me feeling good it's about making a difference in the community and helping others to understand that no one should ever have to quit before the miracle of life. My story is not all that unusual, but the message resonates enough to allow others to get on board. When others become aware of the suicidal rates of veterans and the other issues, many veterans have then learned that these four-legged blessings can bring about changes it is so worthwhile.

If you have not been touched by one of these service dogs or a veteran who has had a miracle happen to them look around, they are all over. Some are WWII veterans, and some are current conflict, but all veterans have a story that should be told. Sit them down and listen to them I bet you will be transformed.

God Bless

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ye of little Faith?

“How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative, judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.” 
― Steve Maraboli

Being a parent and how God must feel? God is not a Grandfather to anyone, so he has an intimate relationship with each and every one of us. I know when my children were little I was responsible for their well-being, but as they've aged they grew into responsible people, and I only wish I could remove the pain and suffering they may have to go through. To think that God has had to do that same release with everyone allowing us to be human and still loving us in spite of who we are and what we do is amazing.

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.” (Proverbs 3:13)

The fact that I have to focus on my life and live to
my best ability not living for people places and things around me, not trying to control or make things happen. When I focus on my world accepting my faults and admitting my wrongs I can live forward. I can put my hand out to help others not because I want to look a certain way or because I'm better than someone but because when I'm helping others, I'm not doing the wrongs that my human nature naturally does. As a wise man once told me if you are busy doing the do's you don't have time for the don't that life has to offer.

I love the story told to me when I was fighting against my beliefs in a higher power (God), and I was so sure that no power out there could ever run a world such we have here on earth. This world that is so tortured and stricken with tragedy after tragedy. I was fighting with a personal daemon of drugs and alcohol that told me I didn't have a problem it was everything around me that was wrong. A little old lady looked at me, a juvenile delinquent if ever there was one, and said if you are not an alcoholic and you go to AA, what have you lost? Then she said, if you are an alcoholic and don't go to AA oh God what have you lost! By this time I had accepted, I could not drink and be normal like most kids my age so that statement rang true. Her next statement just as simply blew me away!
She took the same simple philosophy and stretched it into a statement about God even I could not dispute. She said if there is no God and I believe in God, what have I lost? But, if there is a God and I don't believe in that God oh God what have I lost! Wow, profound at best my mind could no longer flat out deny nor dispute on the grounds I had been, which were completely self-centered ego, me not wanting to admit I was not in control. That simple statement allowed me to see the light at the end of the tunnel as it was not that it might have been the train coming to run me over.

Over many years I've grown and tested that same faith. It has wavered many times, to say the least. I've seen things that most should never have to see. Encountered events that's still to this day cause me to shiver with the thoughts of them. I saw the birth of two miracles, my son, and daughter which I would never have expected to been blessed with. I've been so depressed in life that I played with a 45 caliber pistol wanting nothing more than to have it over. The lonely feeling that no human power could understand me and I was alone with myself locked in a dark, dismal cave of life's bottomless pit.

It was not the help given to me that brought me out of that cave so much as it is the constant reaching out of hands of others. Those hands weren't hands passed in pity as I had always perceived them but hands up as if the person below or above was push/pulling me along with them on their journeys. You see the gift is the giving; it's the process, not the wrapping. The community of brothers and sisters interwoven together creating a tapestry of life.

So that is my take on faith today. Somehow I felt moved to share this so here it is. Maybe this is a new direction in my blogging God knows I have these thoughts all the time maybe I'll start doing this more often. Let me know what you think.

God bless

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” 
― Wayne W. Dyer

Sunday, March 5, 2017

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn't stop for anybody.” 
― Stephen Chbosky

So here we are again wondering why it has been so long since I last wrote, chastising myself for being so neglectful of this blog. The bottom line is that with all that I seem to be doing I somehow forget to do these things I truly do enjoy doing. Maybe someday this will take a bigger stage, but for now, you are all stuck with the rantings on the untimely nature they happen.

“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” 
― Steve Maraboli

My life over the past year has been a whirlwind ride if nothing else. So many changes for good and bad but most importantly I have been changing myself not the world. The freedom that comes from finally realizing that taking control over what needs to be done instead of wishing I had control over what I have no controls over. For those wondering what that is, it is owning myself and letting everyone else be who they are. My health and mind are so much better when focused on the one person I can control then all of the turmoil of the outside world. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

That particular verse rings so true in my life over the past 12 months. So much has changed I have embraced the fact that I have a mission that I am pushed forward and into, sometimes with the fingernails getting stuck on the walls as I grasp trying not to do what I know God is pushing me forward too.  Having moved into a small western NC county that you would think would allow me some obscurity but finding that it has a veteran population of over 10,000 and a true need for people to get active. I continue to find that Mike opens doors with people that would not talk to someone from the VA or other VSO's. (Veteran Service Organizations) 

These interactions while part of my daily life have changed my life and I can only hope others around me. Telling my story and helping others to become comfortable with their stories has become part of my living life on life's terms. This week I had a remarkable experience while traveling north in the camper. As usual, I rarely stay in a campground. Instead, I do what many seasoned RV'ers call boondocking. (Dry camping, "walmarting" or many other names also.) I had stopped in at one of my friends along the coast of New Jersy, having a great dinner and conversation. After dinner, I was ready for a rest before heading up and around NYC, so I started looking for available parking. My friend mentioned a pastor friend and his church as an option. Not one to turn down a safe-haven (no this is not Bethlehem, but the story could be I guess.)

His friend said sure, come on by so we drove on over, and I found a safe level space to park. The pastor came out to meet Mike & I which is not at all unusual, but his greeting threw me for a loop. I am a Christian, and there is no hiding that. I am not a bible thumper nor am I a real prayer out loud. To be honest, I get all tongue-tied if asked to say a prayer of any length in public. All that said, when the Pastor came up shook my hand and said tell me about your ministry I was a tad taken back. Don't get me wrong I do consider the daily interactions I have with people to be God inspired and a mission of God to help other Veterans in whatever manner I can. What I had never thought of though was being referred to as a missionary. (I mean come on people, I was a grunt in the Army, and I am not really what I would consider the typical missionary.)

We all talked for a while, sharing stories and all but my mind could not just let go of what he had said. Who would have thought that a couple of words could change the way I looked at my daily actions and interactions. He wasn't saying I needed to open a church or change at all; he was saying I already was a missionary. That blew me away, it still does. We have all been given so many gifts in this life, and it is our responsibility to recognize them and then use them to glorify God. I hope and prayer that I do that already but after that conversation, my mind has been spinning. The wonderment of "am I doing enough or even doing what I am supposed to be doing?" continues to seep into my thoughts.

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

My choices have made me who I am. God had given me free will to become the person I am leading me even when I wasn't looking or was so stubborn that I fought hard to run the other way. Today my life is an amazing collection of trials and tribulations that create a story many people find inspiring for some reason. To me, it is my life, and I would not trade it for anyone else. I do not regret the past nor wish to change it. The future is so unbelievably beautiful because I know that God is here guiding me. 
The most important part of all this is not that someone pointed out that I am a missionary, but that life moves forward with a design so much greater than anything we could ever have planned. Who would have ever expected this juvenile delinquent kid from Wallingford CT to amount to anything? Well, the most important answer to that and the only one that counts is God! He lets me know daily how much he loves me through that one on one interactions in the grocery store or on the street. All I have to do is say thank you, God.

Mark 10:45 - “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2017, a New Year not a New Start!

The end of 2016 was a whirlwind that came upon Mike & I like a hurricane, fast and furious but with an unrelenting strength not wanting to release us. After our trip out west for the filming session the crud that seemed to attack so many souls took hold in my lungs and beat me like a drum sometimes giving the appearance of letting up and others crashing and banging so loudly that all I could do was bury my head and wish the day would end.

I still feel the remnants holding on like barnacles on an old whaling ship, but I refuse to give in. The "Winter Blizzard" all six inches has put the western North Carolina are into a deep freeze pattern where everything closed for days on end which was fun to watch. Today the temps will be up in the Mid 50's so the schools and roads will be rolled back out after an appropriate delay of course and life will resume. Yes, my amusement with the methods of "winter warfare" down south is probably a tad warped having lived in the land of the chosen frozen for so long, but hey I am allowed some solace when it comes to my new adopted home base.

Now on to the blog, the real reason any and all of you tune in for this dribble I write out once in a while. When I last took to the keyboard, Mike and I had been flying the friendly skies from sea to shining sea. The fruits of that travel have started to appear already out in the world of the Internet. Click Here to see the first of the video's that will be coming out from the filming done. There will be other video's that will be compiled featuring the bond between Mike & I as a Service Dog Team. PetIQ is the company that funded this project, and I cannot thank them enough for helping in getting the word out about the good that these service dogs do in our veterans lives. This project should benefit VetDogs and Veterans in the long run.

Soon after getting back to Western NC I decided a trip out to a Japenese restaurant would be a nice break from my basic cooking skills. Well, I have had a service dog for many years now and rarely do I encounter issues with places that do not understand the ADA law. That all came to a screeching halt in Dec when for the first time I was not able to educate and continue my dining experience.  One of the things I do is prepare for such occasions because you never want to be caught off guard and not ready to work with someone. In my mind no one is ever out to blatantly break the law, there have to be factors involved that are leading the party to ask me to leave. It is my job to educate as best as I can. All that said, nothing I said or did swayed this proprietor to allow me to stay and eat.

A few things I would like to point out here at this juncture. So often I see or hear about people with service dogs that were denied access getting into major issues with store owners or police over the ADA laws. Personally, I find this to be a negative on all fronts when it comes to helping future access. It may make for better news stories, but it tends to put a nasty taste in everyone's mind and causes the unnecessary bias towards the community as a whole. Working with people to educate in a positive manner sometimes requires that we step back allow a tempory loss while we assess the situation and come up with a positive direction that will open doors for everyone.

This is what I ended up doing at this particular establishment. Instead of causing a scene and having the police called I videoed the event and politely left. They were having nothing with the law when I showed it to them and tried to help them understand it. Whether it was a language barrier or just ignorance, I have no clue. Due to sickness, I have not been able to go back to this establishment again to attempt another entry. I will soon and this time I will have more people with me to back me up along with a translation for them in case it was a language issue. The bottom line is that allowing them to continue to go against the ADA Law is not what I proposed when I left it was just not worth trying to shut them down and making a scene that makes us all look bad.

The other thing I will do is go back off-peak hours in hopes that they will be more understanding if they are not at their busiest time. All of this is in hopes to have a friendly future visit for all service dogs at establishments, not one that when they see dogs coming they cringe thinking that they will lose business or run the risk of being shut down.

That is enough of my soapbox for today.

A few things I did that others may find helpful in a situation like this:

When they came to me and said I had to leave because of the dog, I immediately said he was a service dog not a pet. I then explained there was the ADA Law that made allowances for Service Dogs. They said they didn't care. I said no problem I had encountered this before and that I worked with other disabled veterans and helped in training on how to handle situations like this so I was going to video them tellimg me I had to leave. They agreed. I started to video Click here to see the video of the conversation if you want.