Mostly Sunny - Hi 74 Lo 40 for Qandahar, Afghanistan
Partly Cloudy - Hi 50 Lo 35 for Northern KY, USA
Song of the week: We'll Meet Along the Way, HEM
Go get some coffee first... I have a lot to ramble about this week so bare with me.
This past week I traveled to Pascagoula, Mississippi via Louisville, Atlanta, and Gulfport. (There isn't a direct flight from Cincinnati to Gulfport... and Cincinnati airfare was over $900.00... travel 1 1/2 hours south to Louisville airfare is a little over $300.00... go figure.) The sunny skies were a welcome change although it was a tad chilly for southerners. The flight from Atlanta to Gulfport was humorous in the sense that a handful of pigeons not interested in the chilly climate in Atlanta decided to board our little commuter seeing this would be a much more efficient means of flying south. Too funny... After shooing the pigeons out of the jet, our flight attendant as described by one of my travel mates was no doubt someone who won a law suit with the airlines and was most likely a girls physical education teacher in a previous career... definitely not your stereotypical flight attendant. Prior to take off she broke the cable on the door so we sat and waited for it to be repaired.
Now our trip home from Gulfport to Atlanta was smooth sailing until smoke filled the cabin of the commuter. The pilot's voice came over the intercom stating something to the effect that he had shut off the air conditioning unit... 2 seats ahead of me was a pilot catching a ride home and he and the flight attendant were chatting with a great deal of enthusiasm to the pilot in the cockpit... Once we landed and began to taxi it felt as if we were going to take off again... the pilot floored it and hauled @$$ to the terminal. We pulled up --sort of-- to a terminal... this time the pilot calmly stated, "please quickly gather your belongings and exit the plane quickly and calmly." Nice. I was in row 3 and was off the plane and on the tarmac where I saw one of the engines smoking... good times.
We stayed at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi- a very nice casino and resort on the gulf. You may remember Jim Cantore standing in front of the Beau Rivage reporting on Hurricane Katrina. The Hard Rock Cafe Casino and Resort was next door under construction. Needless to say, after Katrina... the Hard Rock was gone and the Beau Rivage was in bad shape. The last time I saw the Beau Rivage all the windows had been blown out, part of it was missing. It has been a while since I was last down here, still a lot of devastation, but the rebuilding continues. The picture to the left was taken with my cell phone, so it is pretty poor quality. You can see the top of the neck of the Hard Rock guitar in the lower left... But that sunrise was spectacular. The only thing that was missing was my better half.
Besides the meeting we had with our customer, (and returning home safely) the most important part of the trip for me was seeing all the men and women in uniform. Every flight we had included active duty servicemen. All were heading overseas. I can't tell you how humbling it is to see these young men and women preparing themselves. This time of year we are all busy with thoughts of the holidays... the hustle and bustle. Take a moment to remember them. They are off to be in harms way.
So with thoughts of the men and women I saw in the airports earlier in the week. On Thursday, after I was back home safe and sound and since I had the day off, I went to Union Terminal to see the Lima Company Memorial. Words can not express how moving this memorial is.
The faces of the young men were absolute perfection. Anita Miller, the inspired artist, captured the spirit of each of the young bright eyed men. I was captivated by each one. I can not express adequately what it was like to stand there. The portraits form a circle. To look at the portraits you must enter that circle and you are then surrounded by these men. Even though these are paintings of the men, there is a sense of safety in that perimeter, a sense of camaraderie between those men that we mere civilians will never comprehend. In front of each portrait are the actual combat boots of the young man that wore them. The families provided the boots and I must tell you that was probably the toughest part of this exhibit. On the outer perimeter of the circle are the names of each young man, their age, their rank, their hometown. There are flowers, letters and other memorabilia left by loved ones allowing those of us not lucky to have known them in life an opportunity to capture a glimpse of what they were, who they were.
Here are the photos... the lighting was not optimal, but I hope you gather a sense of what it was like to stand in the middle of these fallen heroes.
Anita Miller was able to capture the spark of each young man. They were alive and popped off the canvas, the personal items added to this. I was there pretty much by myself and spent about two hours looking at the paintings and reading the letters and cards and looking at the scrapbooks and photos. To the families and loved ones of these young men lost three years ago, my heart and prayers go out to you. The sacrifice you have endured is more than I can imagine. I thank you for raising sons that felt such a calling must be answered. I thank the wives and fiances and girlfriends for loving these young men. I thank the siblings and cousins and friends and all those that were touched by these fine men. My heart goes to the children of these men. Your father was a hero and I am so sorry you will only know him through the pictures and stories you are told.
Click on each photo to enlarge.
Eric Bernholz, Dustin Derga, and Nick Erdy
Tim Bell, Justin Hoffman, and Nicholas Bloem
William Wightman, Augie Schroeder, and Grant Fraser
The following was read at Grant's eulogy. Grant was not from the state of Ohio, but from Alaska. It is quite moving and gives a you a glimpse of the man and how he was seen by those that loved him.
Chris Dixon, Travis Youngblood, and Wesley Davids
Recollections of Chris
Wesley was from California. Below is a photocopy of the letter he penned in the event he was killed. Although profoundly personal, his family thought it was important enough to share. To be so young and to be so brave, to understand what his calling was... to be able to share these thoughts so clearly with his loved ones...
Andre Williams, Michael Cifuentes, and David Kreuter
Andre's Mom took a shirt he wore and made this frame. The shirt was starting to wear out on the back. So personal. I wept when I touched it.
Kendall Ivy, David Wimberg, and Jonathan Grant
Jourdan Grez, Chris Dyer, and Aaron Reed
Chris was from Cincinnati. I was privileged to shake his father's hand
Anthony Goodwin and Chris Lyons
So this Thursday, as we sit down with our families, some more dysfunctional than others. Be kind to each other (unless it is your flaming lib Aunt who just won't shut up). Thank God for blessing us for being born in a country where we are free and can choose our own path in life. Take a moment as you are saying the blessing or toasting each other to say a prayer or raise a glass to these men from Lima Company. There are others there today that have also answered the calling. Say a prayer for them too.