Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Universal Terror

Orlando vacation, Day 2! Universal Studios. As was the case yesterday at Disney World, this was a day filled with memories. We did it all from fighting off bad guys with Buzz Lightyear to racing through time in a DeLorean with Dr. Emmett Brown from Back to the Future to trying to rescue Princess Fiona with Shrek. A couple of things stand out and are worth mention.

First, I can hardly explain what a joy it was to hang out with my boys eating ice cream or watching a show or hearing them laugh. It was a tiring day and by the end nerves were on end, but that's part of the game and after the fact it's part of the good memory. They were way too much fun. We took pictures and Samuel explained everything to me while Wyatt asked me a million questions and Mason held my hand. Each one had a few dollars they had saved from various projects and gifts and were itching to spend it. Since it was their money, we let them buy whatever they wanted or could afford. It was an interesting lesson in economics for them. Suddenly they were faced with purchasing quality versus eye candy. And with limited resources they were forced to make some important decisions. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them make those decisions. I was very proud of them. This was a great day for me.

The second thing worth mentioning was Olivia on a couple of the rides. Jaws was great because I knew what to expect and she didn't so I put her on the end between me and the open sea! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened. When things started exploding and Jaws raked the side of the boat inches from her, she almost had a heart attack. Her screams were incredible. After that we headed for a ride that I thought would be a bit less frightening, Earthquake. On this ride they explain to you some of the secrets of movie special effects. They illustrate how rain is simulated and how a blue screen works. Then they load you on a mock up of the Bay Area Rapid Transit for a ride into San Francisco California. Here's where it got a little crazy. I knew it was about an earthquake, no one tried to hide that. Again, Olivia was between me and the effects so that she could get a good look at what was going on. When the earthquake hit we were underground, the train skipped off it's track, the roof began to cave in, a huge tanker truck from the street above came crashing through the roof and slid right toward us, gas pipes burst and flames shot every where and then the bay began to flood in threatening to drown us. With each new method of impending doom she screamed louder and louder and gripped me tighter and tighter until she was in my lap with her arms and legs wrapped around me screaming at the top of her lungs, "Daddy, are we gonna get dead?" I tried to console her as we were ushered ever closer to the pearly gates and the people around us looked at me as though I were the worst person on earth to subject my beautiful daughter to such terror. As we exited the ride, with her still wrapped around me, she said very sternly, "Daddy, I did not like that ride."

Never the less, the day ended with us alive and full of stories to relive for years to come.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Magic Memories

Since leaving Ft. Polk, we have slowly meandered east, enjoying time in the van with the family. We stayed in Baton Rouge and Tallahassee and have really been having a good time with the kids and each other. The dogs have traveled well and Deacon has not been car sick once (a huge answer to prayer). This trip had been masterminded by Tina. During my year in Korea, she has been planning and saving, determined that we would spend some quality family time together before diving head first into my new position, a new city, and a new life. I can't explain how grateful I am tha God blessed me with a woman who thinks ahead and puts family at the top of her priorities. She is such a blessing.

Since being on the road, the weather has been not so great but we drove on to Orlando, FL anyway. We stayed at a great hotel, the Holiday Inn Family Resort. This place is really geared toward families on vacation. The pool ranged from one inch deep to 5 or 6 feet deep so everyone could swim. But more than that it had several fountains and water guns and all kinds of cool stuff for the kids to play with and on and really wear themselves out before retiring for the evening. The restaurants were nothing terribly fancy which, again, fit the family motif.

This morning we got up bright and early to discover that the rain had stopped but the clouds were still over head offering shade for a day of fun. So we headed to none other than the Magic Kingdom itself, Disney World. Man, we were pumped! It was a great day from the very first moment. This being the first time in this place of wonder for the kids, they wanted to do everything. However, since Tina and I had both been to Disneyland as kids, we wanted to go on certain rides, not only to introduce our children to the things we enjoyed at their age, but to relive our youths for a little while. Throughout the day we ran into several well known characteres such as Micky, Minnie, Cinderella, and others. Some of them we were able to meet, others had huge lines up tothem so we only saw them from a distance. We bought a small note book for the kids to collect the characters signatures and Olivia quickly took charge of that task and asked every character she met for their "ortograph". She was a girl on a mission!

We rode Space Mountain (glad that all the kids were tall enough), Dumbo, and the Tea Cups (a real hoot). We also ventured into the Haunted Mansion. The boys had a great time laughing at the ghosts and trying to figure out how the illusions were created. Olivia did not like it at all and took every possible opportunity to say so. "Daddy," she said, "I don't ever want to go in there again." I don't recall her acting scared during the ride, but she was not enjoying it either. Afterward, as I carried her out, she had a smile of releif on her face. I think she was glad to be able to say she did it but will probably not want to do it again for several years.

At days end, we picked up our kids, packed up our memories, and were glad for the chance to build a history worth having.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

More Goodbyes

The past few days have been rather hectic. I got home from Korea about a week ago and today we pulled out of Ft. Polk for the last time. As much as we hated it when we first got there, it was really hard to leave. Especially for Tina who has made some wonderful friends in the neighborhood while I was overseas. God really blessed her with good Christian ladies all around her and that made it easier on me to know she had a good support system in place.

Our church was also hard to leave. Pastor and Sherlene Reddout have been wonderful fellow Kingdom workers. Brother Roy has been incredible with my boys in the Royal Ranger Program. There are many wonderful friends and memories that will make Leesville a place we look back on with fondness.

Certainly it will be nice to get out of the forest and into a cityscape but the family atmosphere and the peace that comes with a rural life will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

...To Greater Things

After just shy of 12 months, I'm going home. It is hard to believe that I will be home in just a few days. It seems like I've been here forever and for just a day or two. This has been a very rewarding assignment. I've made many friends and done what I hope was some good ministry. I'll know on judgment day, I guess. Usually, within a few months of leaving some place I have trouble remembering the names of the people I knew there. Remembering the events is not too difficult but remembering the names is nearly impossible for me. So here are a few of the people I have met...

Major Anthony Benitez. First the Battalion XO then the Battalion S-3, Major Benitez was one of my favorite people. He is genuine and fun and professional. Major B was always the one I could talk to personally when I needed an ear to bend. He was always in chapel and bible study and a real asset to my time here. He even served in chapel, leading the singing. That was a huge help. His wife, Christy, and his daughter, Lydia, were absolutely wonderful. They kind of served as my surrogate family.

Major Jon and Mary Ring. He is the Battalion S-3 turned XO. Their 5 children Brandi, Jon, Nick, Sam, and Maria were great to be around. They didn't always like their days up here but Mary saw to it that since Major Ring couldn't get down to Seoul, where they lived, that she would bring the family up here. She was and is determined to make her family work. She sewed the curtains for the chapel and was a huge help in redecorating it (since I have zero color savvy). The Rings were always in chapel.

LTC Matthew and Teresa Margotta. He was the BN Commander for all but a month of my time here. They and their boys, Chance and Chase, we also very faithful to chapel. He is one of the gentlest men I think I've ever encountered in the Infantry, but at the same time there was no denying that he was in charge.

CPT Jeff Wood, Battalion S-2 and fellow No Name. We went through the fabled, "Monk-In" together and his room was right next to mine. He got married last month and tried everything he could think of the get the Army to fly me to Nebraska to wed he and his wife. I was honored just to be considered. Also a faithful chapel attender and good friend.

CPT Light Shin. He's only been here a short while but I have really grown to appreciate him. What a solid Christian and friend. I sincerely wish I had more time with him as he was a great influence on me.

CPT John Serafini. He just got out of the army to return to Boston and attend Harvard. Rabid Red Sox fan and wandering seeker. John asked some of the best religious questions. I am not certain he has yet made a commitment to Christ, but he certainly is headed in the right direction. I could always depend on John to be in chapel and then ask question later. What a delight.

I could go on all day...PFC Benjamin Dye, CPT Brett Turbyfill, CPT Tony Braxton, CPT Gary Kuczynski, CPT Ryan Roberts (a good friend), Air Force Maj Gen Tom Kane, SGT James McMillian (my second assistant), CH (COL) Sam Boone, CH (LTC-P) Mike Tarvin, CH (CPT) Jeff Jay, and on and on.

This has been a terrific year filled with terrific people. But now, I'm off...

Sunday, July 04, 2004


July 4th. What a day! BBQs...fireworks...picnics...the grandeur of Independence Day!

Then there's Korea. We awoke to a July Fourth filled with the edges of a local typhoon. And when it rains here it doesn't mess around. It's more like an airborne flood. But, being the hard charging military types that we are, we went ahead and held the annual Toilet Bowl, a flag football extravaganze pitting the Non-Commissioned Officers against the Officers of the battalion. Basically it was a contest to see who could slide around in the water and mud the least...cause that guy was gonna win. Sadly, that was the NCOs. 18-0. But I got in a few good plays. I received one good pass in splendid fashion and then turned to run only to find my feet sliding the way I didn't want to go. And of course the freight train that was trying to take my head off couldn't stop before cramming a knee into my forehead. Later, I got the ball again, and blinded by the rain ran into a mob of very large, very muscular, very uninclined to move for me sergeants who proceeded to pummel me into the ground and then takeing the flag off my near corpse and proclaiming down over. The last thing I remember was shouting, "A little help?"

Well, the toilet bowl ended around 11am. Just in time for chapel. So soaked to the bone and a bit chilly, I went to service for our special 4th of July Water and Patriotism service. I've never preached in shorts and running shoes while covered in grass clippings. Another first on the DMZ for me.

At any rate, Happy Birthday America.