Sunday, December 30, 2007


Some might disagree but guy dreams are different that girl dreams. I might be mistaken but girl dreams seem to rotate around sugar and spice and everthing nice whereas guy dreams seem to involve risking life and limb. At least mine do. For instance, I've always dreamed of going to Alaska; The Last Frontier, land of northern lights and hungry bears and all manner of man hunting wildlife. And as indicated in previous posts, I'm actually going to get to live my dream. Today was a small step toward that dream.

Travelling on the Alaska Marine Highway is unbelievable. The vistas, while mostly a million shades of overcast grey, are beautiful. We are seeing things we never thought we'd see before. Today we saw a couple of Bald Eagles. Later as we passed a small inlet we saw a pod of whales shooting plumes of water into the air about a half mile away. It looked like a chiminey smoking for a second or two. I have dreamed this day but never really thought I would be able to live it. I am. And it's magnificent.

Every second on this boat, while a common practice for some, is navigating new waters for me. It is exciting and kind of scary, but we are living in anticipation of what might be just around the next island or down the next passage. We pass small islands covered in trees and snow. Their beaches littered with massive boulders and drift wood. In my dreams I'm on those beaches exploring the woods and inlets. And obviously I'm cold. But the thought of seeing something new stirs my blood even if others have already seen it. That's my dream for my next assignment. I want to bring the blood of my soldiers to a fevered boil as I introduce them to the unexplored territory of their faith. I want to take them somewhere they may never have been and show them that it may seem cold and harsh at first, but it won't be dull. The life of faith never is!

It's a dream worth dreaming.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Visiting Ralph

Our trip from Savannah thus far has been exciting, to say the least. We spent time with my family in a couple of locations and spent Christmas with Tina's family for the first time since we were married 19 years ago. The kids and dogs had a good time, as did we. The day after Christmas we headed out and drove for two days to Bellingham, WA where we boarded the M/V Malaspina, a ferry from Bellingham to Haines, Alaska.

As I write, I am on the observation deck of the aforementioned vessel enjoying a rather rolly ride across the Queen Charlotte Sound. The day is overcast and grey and not a little drizzly. But in spite of the weather it is remarkably pretty. Islands are on our left (starboard I think) and open ocean is on our right. Waves crash high against the Canadian coastline. My family wants so badly to see wildlife that every rock in the distance is certainly a whale. And the driftwood passing by has got to be an otter or a seal or some other such sea going creature. Soon we'll be through this crossing and back in amongst the islands of the "Inner Passage".

And only one of my children has paid homage to Ralph, the god of porcelain. So far!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Up To Speed

For the past 6 months or so I have not been writing much (if at all) and I thought it would be a good idea to bring what readers I have left up to speed as to where I have been and what I have been doing. Iwould love to report that I have been actively engaged with some super secret agency working to thwart the schemes of our nations enemies or that I have been engaged in a prototype program for putting a chaplain on the moon. However, my absence has been far less exciting. I have for the past six months (begin drumroll here) been attending the US Army's Chaplain Captain Career Course (cymbal crash) affectionately known as C4. That means that I have been holed up with about 35 other chaplains studying chaplain stuff; preaching, mentoring, supervising, etc, etc. The idea bhind the course is to prepare senior captain chaplains to take on the added responsibilities inherent in serving as a brigade chaplain. The brigade chaplain, as opposed to the battalion chaplain, serves as the technical supervisor for 2 to 6 battalion chaplains. It's a challenge I look forward to taking on in the near future.

Early in the C4 process my classmates and I received word of our follow-on assignements. Some are going to Ft. Drum in New York; so to Ft. Bragg North Carolina, the center of the Airborne universe; Others to serve as recruiters for new chaplains. Me? My family? We are headed to (begin 2nd drumroll here) Anchorage Alaska (cymbal crash). I'm going to Ft. Richardson to serve in the 725 BSB which is part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division. And frankly, I know next to nothing else. We are moving into the great unknown. Our plans are to head west as soon as the packers and movers are done loading up our stuff, drive to visit family in the mid-west then more family in southern California and then still more family in northern California for Christmas before heading north. All that with 2 adults, 4 kids, 2 dogs, and a U-Haul trailer. (cymbal crash)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

This Just In

Few things in life surprise me. This is one of those few. I've known about it for quite some time now but that foreknowledge hasn't diminished the surprise. For whatever reason, the good folks at's "The Sandbox" have decided to include one of my blog posts in their compilation of some of the best war reporting out there. I received an advanced copy last week and am simply shocked that my writing has been weighed in the balance and found to be worthy of inclusion in this tome (you'll find me on Page 91).

I am honored and excited to be a part of this project. I hope you'll pick up a copy as soon as they arrive at whatever bookseller is in your area. And in case you're wondering, all the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to benefit the Fisher House.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I have not been writing much lately for a number of reasons and I have sorely missed it. One of those reasons is that my entire life has been given the old one-two by the US Army. It was expected but still no fun. I have recently PCSd. It's a Permanant Change of Station and it happens every so often in this life I've been called to. Basically, it means I've moved. I don't mind moving (as I'm naturally something of a nomad) but I hate leaving the soldiers and ministry I have come to love over the past 3 years. My writing since mid 2004 has been my way of relating the events of my life, down range and back home. I love painting mental pictures with words. I love telling people what a great job our soldiers are doing. I love putting my readers in my place so they can get a small glimpse of what life in the military is like. So here's another glimpse. It's transient. The hard part is that this life does not affect just me. It impacts my entire family.

My move, this time, was a short 3 hour drive from Savannah, Georgia to Columbia, South Carolina to attend the Chaplain Captain Career Course (kind of a "how to be a brigade chaplain" class that all chaplains take at one time or another). The problem is that this move is not for 3 years but six months. That means that if my family moves with me, we have to pull the kids from their school only to change to another school half way through the year. It means that for 6 months, my wife must make new friends knowing that she will have to leave them again at years end. It means that the next time we move it will be at Christmas time. It means alot. Our answer is that my wife and kids will stay in Savannah and I'll drive home on the weekends. Frankly for me this is not a big problem. I'm a nomad and I don't mind being alone for a bit. But my wife and kids are a different story.

The point of this posting is not that I have to move again, nor that my family is without me 5 days a week, nor that we have to move at Christmas this year. The point is that like many of the military wives I've met, my wife is amazing. For 6 months she will be a single parent. For 6 months, she will pay the bills. For 6 months, she will get the kids to school, games, field trips, and church with no adult assistance. And for 6 months she will not complain about it. So for 6 months, she will keep her head high and a smile on her face so as to make life easy on me. Finally, for 6 months I'll be thanking God that it's not me because I'd make it about 6 hours before there was bloodshead in my home!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, military families are amazing, especially mine.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A New Perspective

My word for today is...Perspective.

Until this evening I have been thinking about very little else than getting home (I've been traveling here and there for about 40 days), beginning the advanced course this summer, creature comforts of home, and generally things that revolve around my little universe. As I write I am on yet another C-17 flying from the heart of Iraq to Germany. But this flight is different. My unit does not "own" this flight. Instead, I and a small bevy of my soldiers are merely hitchhikers trying to get back to the US. We are seat fillers. And as I sit and look around I don't think I should be on this plane. I don't belong. Frankly, I don't deserve to be among those who I find myself among. Why? Perspective. On this flight, before we even lifted into the air, my attention has been violently ripped from my mental mirror and I have been made to look beyond myself. That violence was done to my ego by a couple dozen heroes. Two of them in particular. Brent and Sean. See, this is a Medevac flight.


Brent is strapped to a stretcher near the rear of the plane. Last on, First off. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many wires attached to one person. Brent has oxygen tubes in his nose and two IV bags hanging at either end of his stretcher. His head has recently been shaved and he has a very large bandage in nearly the center of his forehead. There is a tube running into the hole in the front of his head through which the doctors periodically draw fluid. The greenish tattoo bearing the Greek letters, IXOYE on his right bicep is starkly contrasted to his very pale skin. He looks like a soldier. I had to meet him. After clearing it with the doctors, I introduce myself, and with his labored approval I bent over him, putting my mouth close to his ear, and having anointed him with the only thing I could find, hand sanitizer, I prayed for him. After saying, ‘amen’ I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Thank you. We’re proud of you.” Brent said nothing but his face and his body spoke volumes.


Sean lies very still. He appears to be sleeping. The cheery, flowered sheet covering the mattress on his stretcher belies his circumstances. Sean also has oxygen filtering through water bottles and into his nose. A small machine over his bed offers his doctors all manner of information from pulse to blood pressure to breathing rate. Sean isn’t moving. I quickly anoint his forehead with my anointing oil/hand sanitizer and pray for his recovery, comfort and family. I say, ‘amen’ and open my eyes. Sean is staring at me through his right eye. His left eye is swollen shut. In fact, the entire left side of his face and neck look like he’s been shot with a shot gun at close range. The outline of the chin strap of his ballistic helmet is clearly visible. It is a small strip of untouched skin surrounded by his damaged face. After introducing myself he told me his name and we chatted for a few moments. Finally I asked, “What happened?” already knowing the answer. His reply was short, “IED”. All I could muster without entirely loosing my composure was, “Thank you. We’re proud of you. Bless You.”


I’m going home for a while. In a day or two I’ll walk into my house. I’ll comb my hair. I’ll hug my wife and kids and thank God for my country, for my freedom, for my family, and for men like Brent and Sean who decided the price to be paid was worth the cause to be won.


Sunday, March 18, 2007


There is a lot in the news about what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places around the world. And there is a lot of punditry that goes along with the news. I have heard in recent days that "the American people" think this or that. It's almost nauseating. We are at war and "the American people" whether or not they support the war, generally do not, in my experience, really understand what the American Fighting Man and Woman thinks and feels. They do not get it when a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman describe why they do what they do. In short, most people do not understand what it means to be a Warrior. For those that would like to get a glimpse of how a military man thinks, why he fights, and what he fights for, please see '300'. It is more than an action flick. It is a view into the heart and soul of men that fight for a living and a cause. Like the American fighting and dying on the field of glory in today's war, these men are not potters or sculptors or blacksmiths. They are soldiers. They fight. They die. It is not just a vocation, it is a life lived with others in mind. Warriors run to the sound of clinking armor and whizzing bullets while others cower. Warriors struggle with any enemy that would threaten the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breath free. Warriors are free men who battle enslaved pawns. The men and women I see fighting today are that kind of warrior. They live and breathe to do what they do...fight.

And what of the rest of us? Those of us who can not or will not bleed with them? What lesson can "the American people" take away from a movie? That death in the struggle is honorable. No one wants to die. But it happens. It is up to the American people to allow the American Warrior to die with honor. We can and should mourn at the loss of one of our own. But that loss should cause us to stand and beat our chests with patriotic pride, glad to live in a country worth fighting for.

If folks could gain even a cursory understanding of the ethos of the warriors that stand and fight in the gap for the freedom of fellow citizens they will never meet, I think much of our national angst would be replaced with national pride.

Monday, February 26, 2007

My Plight

Hunger! Pain! Cold! Wet! Sissy stuff! I have met misery and these are not they. These are misery imposters. He who experiences these could rightly be called uncomfortable, pitiable, or even vexed. But miserable? NO! For I have met misery face to face and her name is Jet-Lag, that cruel mistress that doth hinder normal functioning in nearly every area of life.

My life of travel continues unabated and upon my arrival to my most recent destination I searched out and found a couple of lifes necessities...a bit of food, a quick but partly cold shower, and a small chunk of the 9th wonder of the pharmacological world, Ambien. Sleep came quick and was oh so satisfying. But my nemesis would rebel and after a somewhat shortened business day I turned in when everyone else did and without assistance immediatly dozed off. I slept soundly and awakened refreshed and ready to go approximately 90 minutes later. Oh, the cruelty of the thing. Must she torment me so, this demon called misery who also goes by the aforementioned name, Jet-Lag. So with sheer will and iron grit, I fought to return to my natural state of hibernation. However, two hours of staring into the darkness later, I determined that all was lost. In bygone days, on bygone travels, with bygone Ambien, reading has made for a speedy path to slumber. So it was that I grabbed the nearest reading material, a book that Tina had purchased for me just prior to my departure, and began to read with the expectation that a tired mind equals a sleeping body. Unfortunately, the book in question was written by the great Dave Barry and I spent the better part of the next 3.5 hours fightning not the specter of sleeplessness, but the urge to laugh uncontrollably so as not to awaken my hooch mates (seven in number sleeping soundly and making "I'm sleeping soundly" noises at regular intervals). Thus I found myself, eyes red and dry, mind racing, and body convulsing in silent misery neither laughing nor sleeping. Finally, to add salt to the deep and festering wound which Misery had inflicted upon my psyche and my body, the call of nature came clear and unhindered, bekoning me into the early morning darkness and cold to make my way to the nearest latrine. It was snowing.

You see, I have met misery and this is my plight.