Free As A Bird

The first known use of the saying, “free as a bird,” was early in the 17th century, not 1967, when the Beatles popularized it in song. Yet, it has likely been one of those little bits of life humans longed for since prehistoric times when they marveled at the feathered creatures bringing beauty to the world.

If the term is new to you and you’ve never marveled at a hummingbird or longed to soar like an eagle, you probably need prayer or medication. Whatever the reality, I was recently reminded there are limitations, drawbacks, and downsides to everything, including the freedom of our feathered friends. Take the cardinals I photographed and shared from our little backyard sanctuary over the last few months.

These two have eaten our birdseed, entertained us, and hidden their nest from me for weeks. I did my best to determine where to see if I could snap some shots of the hatchlings, but this duo was too crafty for me. And then! They showed up with two young ones in tow and never stayed in one place long enough for me to get a family portrait. Still, even when they treated me like some stars treat the paparazzi, I was envious of their freedom and flight.

Then, one afternoon they were cavorting in the back with their spawn, thwarting my efforts to get a picture as usual. It was disappointing and exciting at the same time. The immature ones were chasing around, from feeder to holly, to feeder and tree, having a great time! That is, they were having a great time until a Texas thunderstorm burst onto the scene, and we were all running for cover. Me to my couch to watch a golf tournament and the birds to find someplace to hide from the hail, thunder, and soaking rain. Ah, yes, freedom! Maybe there is a price to pay for freedom.

As if the cardinals had not reminded me strongly enough that freedom has its limits and drawbacks, another of my feathered neighbors got my attention this morning. Several Mississippi Kites and a few hawks are frequenting our world, and one has been showing up regularly across the street.

It sits high on the top of a tree, scouting, and resting before taking off to hunt or just feel the air rushing around its body. On this day, at this time, it was not going anywhere. Another thunderstorm made its way through our little part of Texas, and the little hawk was drenched. As I watched, it regularly opened its wings a bit and spread the feathers. I assume this was an attempt to keep its wings from becoming too soaked and heavy. Whatever the reality, it was apparently not going anywhere until the rain ended.

So, the point to all of this? Well, it’s simple. There is a price for everything. Freedom does not come freely, and in some ways, it may be an illusion. Whatever the reality, be like my little neighbors, enjoy the good times, bear up through the rough times, and soar when you have the chance.

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in Daily Life, family, Family Vaules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lest We Forget: Namesake

Lest We Forget was originally published on May 30, 2011. It was written in honor of my brother, David Jackson, and the men who died with him one night in Vietnam. This piece is a reminder and an update on David’s life, and celebrate the fact his name lives on through a great-nephew he never had the opportunity to know, Jackson David Long.

Spc. 5 David Jackson

Last week, Monday, May 24, 2021, marked fifty-two years and sixty-three days since Spec. 5 David Charles Marshall Jackson and thirteen other souls lay dead or dying in Cu Chi, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. It was also the day his namesake, graduated from high school.

Jackson is more than a namesake. In many ways, he is much like the great uncle he knows only through stories and memorabilia. Like David, he is adventurous, loves horses, and is a bit of a maverick, though a well-mannered maverick. Also, he is not quite the risk-taker David was, as far as I know at least.

On the other hand, he and his uncle would understand each other when it comes to the ladies. Both captured the heart of a slightly older woman before leaving high school. Where they differ is in goal setting and follow-through. Jackson has a career in mind and soon starts working and training in that field. David, as you will read below had a bit of a problem in school and planning his future.

David and the others who fell on that February day in 1969 were killed when Vietnamese forces overran their camp. The enemy sappers were successful, destroying 12 Chinook helicopters. Details of the firefight are hard to come by, but one source stated Specialist Jackson was actively engaged in the fight when he was felled.

David and his Company

David did not need to die on that dark February night. At least, he did not need to die in Vietnam. He started his military career in Germany. He could have stayed there and completed his enlistment there if he wished. However, David was never one to pass up a good fight, and he grew tired of the spit, polish, and boredom of serving in Europe. After a few months, he volunteered for Vietnam, setting boots on the ground April 9, 1968.

David came by his desire for change and action honestly. His childhood was, to say the least, a little unstable. While some folks live in the same house for most of their childhood, David and I did not have that luxury.

Our mom and dad were urban nomads. We roamed west Tarrant County, Texas like Bedouins in the Sahara. We pulled up stakes and moved every year or two. During the fourteen years David lived in Texas, we lived in Benbrook, Azle (twice), White Settlement (three times), Lake Worth and various locations in west Fort Worth.

It was hard to be bored around the Jackson home. If we were not packing and moving out, we were moving in and unpacking. Between moves, Dad did his best to keep things interesting by changing careers, changing interests and changing dreams like some people change shirts.

The result, in David’s case, was a lack of focus and a need for stimulation. This translated into any number of risky pursuits. David was a horseman, hunter, fighter and serious lady’s man by the time he was sixteen. If he was afraid of anything, he hid it well, and that lack of fear, and common sense, kept him in trouble most of his teenage years.

The beginning of the end for David was our parents’ split in 1964. David went with his father and his future stepmother. They moved to Indiana where David had been born and his father had family. David did not finish high school and settled for a GED. He enlisted in the Army to learn a skill or trade.  A few months later he was in Germany, by April 1968 he was in Vietnam.

Vietnam seemed to be good for David in some ways. He learned that risk taking, and an adrenaline rush are not the only things there are in life. Being David, he had to learn those lessons the hard way. If his letters and messages can be believed, he volunteered for every dangerous assignment that came along, almost paying the ultimate price for his adventures on more than one occasion.

However, his last few messages seemed to show he was growing up. They stressed how he was looking forward to settling down and having a career when he got home.

In February 1969 David was rotated to a base camp that was nominally safer than his normal post. On the night of February 26, 1969, David was twenty-eight days from returning home. He was secure in his base camp. He was miles from the front lines, such as they were in Vietnam. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese the camp was a safe area.

David was a little brother, a loving son and a man whose full potential was never realized.  May he and his comrades in arms continue to rest in peace.

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in National Defense, Patriotism, Uncategorized, Vietnam | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

God Help Us; Here come the Feds

During his 1984 campaign for President, Ronald Reagan reportedly made the following statement:

The most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

That snarky little comment quickly became a running joke. T-shirt vendors, politicians, comedians, and others made hay with it until this very day.

While the comment was made for campaign purposes, there is truth in it. Politicians and bureaucrats seem to have a carpenter mentality. You know, the old saw about seeing every problem as a nail. Sadly, politicians apparently cannot tell the difference between a claw hammer and a sledgehammer. So, they break out the sledgehammer and destroy the thing they are attempting to fix. Take the latest example of the feds coming to our rescue.

April 21, 2021, the current United States Attorney General announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. He promised to take action if the investigation found systemic problems within the training, policies, and procedures of MPD. He closed his remarks with this final statement, “Building trust between the community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us, but we undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait.”

His comments made it clear he believes, as do many others in the current administration, there is a problem with law enforcement. Regrettably, the new Attorney General and the rest of Washington seem to have forgotten one significant point. Either that or they choose to ignore the fact they or their predecessors played major roles in creating the conditions which led to the conflict we are witnessing today!

For the record, I am not saying Law enforcement, in the U. S. or anywhere else, was ever perfect. How could it be? Police officers, agents, deputies, investigators, or whatever a particular member of law enforcement is labeled, are human. Humans are flawed. Whether we are flawed by divine design or have not yet evolved to perfection we are flawed! So, everything we do, try or touch is flawed as well. This is true whether the human involved is the newest rookie in Punkin Junction PD or the occupant of the oval office.

Getting back to the Honorable Merrick Garland, 86th U. S. Attorney General, here is my problem with the ball he started rolling. Starting with the Minneapolis Department, he and Washington intend to carry out the so-called “reimagining of policing.” The truth is policing has been reimagined more than once over the past century or so, and every reimagining eventually led to the next reimagining.

In the early years of the last century, the federal government, with the help of some in academe, decided basic changes were needed to address the way law enforcement operated. It seems the police were too much a part of the community. I mean, after all, how objective and professional could one be walking the same beat in the same neighborhood all the time. Hell, you’d get to know everybody, and they’d get to know you.

All that fraternization could lead to subjective law enforcement, cops looking the other way when certain people did something, and in some cases, cops taking money to cover for or assist in malfeasance. Accordingly, the nation’s leaders decided a more professional police force was needed.

Professionalizing police departments led to putting more cops in cars. That way they could patrol larger areas, and they would not be as likely to fraternize with the locals. Of course, the cars were just one step. Other steps included rotating shifts and moving officers around regularly. That minimized the opportunity for bonding even more. Making cops more “professional” led to alienation and mistrust, which led eventually to another reimagining, community policing.

Suddenly, these standoffish, official-looking men and women were again supposed to establish rapport with the people they policed. Officers were encouraged to move into minority or problem neighborhoods to establish trust and understanding. Cops reached out via rap sessions and youth activities attempting to change the perception of law enforcement.

Of course, the Vietnam war and the hippy movement threw a monkey wrench into all of that rapport building. Still, the police did their best to become more understanding, educated, and “professional.” The results were less than satisfying.

There were demonstrations, riots, and property damage. Name-calling and threats were common. Tensions rose, to new levels of conflict. Between anti-Vietnam protestors, stoners, and the and groups that were forerunners to the groups on the streets today, chaos reigned. Police officers, like today, were not trusted. They were threatened, assaulted, and killed for simply doing their jobs. This led to some of the worst years yet seen in the history of law enforcement mortality. The worst was 1973. That year, more police officers were murdered while doing their jobs than any other year in modern times.

The situation became so bad, even the politicians realized something needed to be done. Getting out the sledgehammer, they funded and promoted changes in training, changes in equipment, and changes in the law. At the same time, police officers realized they were not being protected by their departments. Police unions began to grow and become political influencers. By the mid-1990s, the foundations had been laid for the problems faced today.

In a little more than two generations, law enforcement went from the neighborhood beat officer everyone knew to a tactical officer working the streets and equipped for battle.

The same parts of government now calling for the dramatic changes in policing helped develop, promote and pay for the training and equipment of modern-day law enforcement. The result of those changes makes police officers appear, and feel in some cases, more threatening than helpful.

Of course, AG Garland and his boss will fix that problem in the next 100 days or so. After all, as noted above, “change cannot wait.”

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Police, Uncategorized, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rather be Lucky?

Ever have one of those inspirational moments that sets you off on a quest to explore a thought? Maybe something similar to one I had a few mornings ago on the parking lot of a local convenience store.

Walking to my car, the sun was at just the right angle to make a new penny shine as if it were gold. Some might not want to be seen picking up a penny on the parking. I, on the other hand, consider it part of my workout routine. You know, a stretching exercise.

As I reached down for the penny, I realized it was heads-up. Of course, I immediately remember the old saw, “Find a penny, pick it up. All the day long, you’ll have good luck.” Of course, according to some, only pennies that are face up are lucky. Since this one was face up, I wondered if “all the day” included earlier in the day when I bought a lotto ticket. That triggered a whole train of thought that prompting this post.

Hopefully, the title of this piece reminded you of another old saying, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” That phrase can be interpreted in several ways, but you are most likely to hear it voiced by a duffer on the golf course who makes a miraculous shot. The next most likely place may be when someone survives a crisis for which he is totally unprepared.

Sometimes, sheer luck can save the day or make the moment for someone. However, many times, that luck is backed up by some level of skill, even planning. If that were not true, the odds of “luck” on the golf course or in the middle of a crisis would be even longer than the odds of winning the last lotto fortune. Take the picture above, for example.

That picture came to mind when I wondered about the penny being good luck. When I took that picture, my immediate hope was, “Maybe I’ll get lucky.” My little wish was based on the circumstances surrounding the shot.

One of my grandsons was playing baseball. I was attempting to take some decent photographs of him and his teammates and faced several challenges. In this particular instance, He was batting and hit a blooper over second base. I was standing just outside the ballpark fence across from first base. I had a great angle to take a series of pictures as he ran to first.

The problem was as he got closer, there was no time to switch from telephoto to wide-angle. Also, his coaches were partially blocking the shot. I had to raise the camera up to shoot over them, and I was standing on a portable pitching mound that made my footing less than stable.

I expected to have some excellent close-ups of the baseline or maybe the turf, and I did. Also, I had the shot above! Yes, we can get lucky.

It is possible, theoretically at least, for someone who never played a round of golf to hit a hole in one. As we see on television occasionally, it is also possible for someone who doesn’t play basketball to make a basket from midcourt and win a scholarship. Still, in most cases, luck is based on preparation. It is practice and preparation that lead to us getting lucky. Take this picture as an example.

To many people, it doesn’t look like much. Truthfully, it is not what one might call an award-winning photo. Still, coupled with the shots of him running toward the base, glancing at the field to see if someone was quick enough to retrieve the ball and throw it to third, it is the record of his success. Also, that play was important. He was safe on first and scored a few plays later, helping his team win that game and the tournament in which they were playing.

Yes, I was lucky to a degree. I was lucky I managed to keep shooting as I stumbled back. I was lucky I could keep the lens pointed in the right direction. Yet, I was only lucky because I had missed numerous shots in the past because of movement on my part or the subject’s part. I had learned how, roughly at least, to keep the lens pointed toward the subject of the shot.

A sports photographer, wildlife photographer, or grandkid sports photographer will take hundreds, or thousands of pictures in some cases, to get that one good shot. In this case, luck did play a part because it took less than 100 shots during the game to find some keepers, but the odds were against me. For hunters or others familiar with guns, it was a completely offhand snapshot. That’s why I hoped I was lucky.

The truth is, in this case, and any case where it seems luck played a hand, preparation is still a key to increasing your chances of getting lucky.

© oneoldcop – 2020

Posted in Daily Life, family, Sports, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Respect and Decorum

Believe it or not, some folks will read the title of this, scratch their head, and think, “Huh?” Their first problem will be the terms themselves. Oh, some may have an idea about respect, if they are old enough to remember the Aretha Franklin song by that name. Decorum on the other hand may leave them cold. After all, what does the way someone fixes up their home or office have to do with respect? *

Okay, that last sentence was a bit snarky and not respectful. Still, with the sad state of public education over the last few decades, it is not hard to imagine young people failing to understand how the terms respect and decorum are related. However, this piece is not about your average Joe or Jane. It is about how people who should know better assume these words are meaningless in today’s world.

For instance, the television commercial inspiring this piece lacked both respect and decorum. On the surface, it was a cute little ad about hearing aids. Slightly below the surface, it was another attempt to normalize comments and language some might find inappropriate or embarrassing. At the same time, it is a statement about the human condition in the 21st century.

The ad in question is a family scene where a young couple is visiting the female’s parents. The couple is sitting several feet apart at the bar separating the kitchen from the living area. Mom is in the background, and dad is sitting in a lounge chair reading the paper.

Suddenly the young woman attempts to ask the young man a question without her parents hearing. She wants to know if he brought condoms. She whispers and mouths the question several times before the dad pipes up, “Condoms, Charlie, she wants to know if you brought condoms.” Charlie could not hear her, but dad, sitting much farther away, could. He had new hearing aids.

While the scene is humorous, it lacks respect for the potential audience. Also, it illustrates the total lack of taste and propriety when the opportunity to make a buck presents itself. It also seems to paint the young woman as an idiot or sex-obsessed bimbo. Why, at that moment, with her parents just feet away, would she question Charlie about condoms in a whisper?

The answer is simple. Anything is fair game in advertising, and advertisers think their target audience is mentally sophomoric. Either that or they are promoting audio voyeurism for a few hundred bucks an ear. Oh, yes! For the record, the decor of the home was quite nice.

*Apparently humans are not the only allegedly intelligent entities having trouble understanding the difference between decor and decorum. The screenshot to the right shows Google Search’s algorithms think decorum includes furnishings and Objet d’art. Okay, it got one right, the little blue square is an example of etiquette, the other three are examples of decor.

© oneoldcop – 2020

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, family, Family Vaules, Manners, Morality, Public Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speaking of Karma?

One of my favorite sayings is, “Free advice is usually worth what you paid for it.” That is one reason I write so often about some of the “free advice” people find on social media or through other means. Regardless of the source, always consider such advice carefully.

In Keep Knocking, I took on a quote about giving up when something appeared too difficult. In other pieces, I’ve commented on the lack of wisdom in the advice one can find on or in any media post, publication, or video. Here, I want to share the quote to the left for a different reason.

Based on my own experiences, there is truth in this bit of advice. I might swap the word wisdom for maturity, but maturity works if it implies wisdom to you.  I see value in this meme for two reasons. I have seen it work, and it seems to fit biblical wisdom. 

There is value in the quote, whether one believes in karma, fate, or a just God.  My personal experience in this area is based on a lesson from my youth.  As a child, I was taught to fear and honor the idea of the God of the Bible.  However, my formal experience with that system was limited to two years in a Baptist church. 

That exposure to the practice of Christianity ended badly.  A conflict between the pastor and my father almost destroyed our small church. The two men who led me to the baptismal turned out to be frauds. For the rest of my childhood and early adulthood, I was angry with God and His followers. I seldom entered a church for any reason other than a wedding or a funeral.

Still, some of what I learned of God and Jesus remained in my subconscious. One principle I internalized led to my beliefs echoed above. From a biblical standpoint, it can be summarized in the term “let go, and let God.” While the verses often quoted to support letting go in this sense can be confusing, the idea is simple.

Take my experience as an example. During three decades in law enforcement, I had many opportunities to feel wronged by others. I also had chances to get payback if I wanted. For the record, I am not talking about retaliation toward some person in the community. I am speaking of other police officers. Personal, professional, and political disputes within the workplace are common, and cops are no different than anyone else when it comes to such disputes. 

Luckily, I learned rather quickly, such conflict did not benefit anyone. So, I learned to let go and let God or fate deal with the issue. Doing so accomplished two things. It took the pressure off of me, as I did not need to take any action to right the wrong.

Also, it helped my colleagues and friends understand they did not need to defend me or mistreat the other officer. Yes, sometimes a jerk gloated for a while or felt untouchable, but even some of them realized they were acting badly.

The icing on the cake was they often paid for their wrongdoing in one way or another. Whether it was karma, fate, or God, many of those who treated others poorly, in whatever fashion, eventually got their comeuppance. Hopefully, they learned something from the situation. If they didn’t, my hands were clean, and so was my conscience. Keep that in mind the next time you feel the need to get even.

© oneoldcop – 2020

Posted in Christianity, Civility, Daily Life, Ethics, Manners, Morality, Police | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Electorally Speaking

The 2020 presidential election was one of the most fascinating in my life. Ironically, I thought the 2016 election would be hard to beat, but 2020 made it dull by comparison. Tragically, these elections may mean the end of fair and honest elections is near if such things ever existed.

No! I am not interested in rehashing the voting controversy of 2020. Neither am I interested in the whining over one candidate winning the popular vote yet failing to win the election. The popular vote does not always match the electoral vote.

That is one reason the United States of America is still in existence. You see, there is probably no such thing as a completely honest and fair election, nationwide or even statewide, anywhere on this earth.* With that said, honesty is not the problem.

The real problem is what some might call gerrymandering, while others consider it a result of demographic changes. Whatever the reality, in future presidential elections, the outcome may be clear once the parties select their nominees. Presidential campaigns may be more of a Punch and Judy show than a serious election battle.

I say this because many states moved in a direction that may make a joke of the Electoral College (College). The College is the biggest factor in preserving the essence of the democratic republic that is the United States. If it had not been for the College, the U.S. would likely be just another failed democracy. Instead, we have retained a democratic structure for a record amount of time. Sadly, that record is rapidly coming to an end.

Whether by design, ignorance, or the luck of the draw, states have used their powers to neuter the College. In a majority of states, the electoral votes no longer represent the will of the entire state. They represent the will of the urban areas. Some would argue that is only right since most citizens live in urban areas, but that does not make it legitimate. The founders set up this system to prevent the bigger states and the urban regions from riding roughshod over the rest of the country, as far as electing a president is concerned.

Now, a handful of areas within a handful of states are critical to the presidential election outcome. It makes little difference what the rest of the country does; if Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and a few other major metropolitan areas vote as a block, other regions may not matter.** 

* I know it is impossible to empirically prove my statement. However, it is based on my experience with elections both as a voter, volunteer, and student of history, politics, and human nature.

**Just before I was ready to publish this, a study by the Brookings Institute came to my attention, which supports this position. In the 2020 election, available data indicates the incumbent won the popular vote in a significant majority of counties across the country. The challenger and now president won the popular vote in the heavily populated counties in key states.

© – 2021

Posted in Ethics, Political Extremes, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Of Christmas Just Past

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and in towns all about,
Suspenders were straining, and belts were let out;
Boxes and trash were piled by the street,
Awaiting trash trucks to make their first sweep;
And toys lay scattered throughout the homes,
From puppets to Muppets, to strange little gnomes,

While children imagined gifts yet to be,
By gift cards from Gram and old Grand-D.
Mothers were frantically planning their day,
Post-Christmas sales always start right away,
A few minutes late and the best will be gone,
Do we dare take the kids or leave them at home?

Fathers were sprawled in their loungers awaiting,
The kick-offs, the tackles, the players bragging and baiting.
The playoffs, the bowl games were all on the line,
The only thing missing- peace, quiet, and time.

As mothers decided and went for the doors,
The fathers all shouted, “Take the kids to the store!”
That evening saw dinners, leftovers no doubt,
And time spent remembering the laughs and the shouts.

Yes, all were sated, and most were quite pleasured,
To in-laws and others with memories treasured,
They all settled down, ready to call it a night;
The next day was scheduled to be sunny and bright.

But wouldn’t you know, before the first snore,
The doorbell announced, “Police at the door!”
Startled and more than a little perturbed,
Dad rushed to see why they were being disturbed.

He opened the door and faced quite a sight,
The house awash in amazing bright light.
It seemed one final gift there was that night,
A call claimed the SWAT Team needed to help,
As the family held hostage the Elf on the Shelf.

By S. E. Jackson

With apologies to the memory of Clement Clarke Moore

© – 2020

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A Soldier’s Christmas

Read this not long ago, and felt the need to share it. As the strangest Christmas, most of us have ever seen rapidly approaches, we need to remember those who, even this year, will be stationed around to world to make certain we will see better Christmases in the future.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
my daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep
in perfect contentment, or so it would seem.
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eye when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
and I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
to the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night”

“Its my duty to stand at the front of the line,
that separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red white and blue… an American flag.

“I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home,
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat,
I can carry the weight of killing another
or lay down my life with my sisters and brothers
who stand at the front against any and all,
to insure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone.
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
to know you remember we fought and we bled
is payment enough, and with that we will trust.
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.

Michael Marks
December 7th, 2000

Click the link to see more of Michael’s work, and read the story of this poem.

Images by ArtTower and by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Posted in Family Vaules, Holidays, Leadership, Patriotism, Uncategorized, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keep Knocking?

Good advice is hard to find these days. This is especially true when one is seeking advice in all the wrong places, and today, there are plenty of wrong places. Take this blog, for example. I may only think I have the expertise to support my opinion.

Even if I know what I am talking about, knowledgeable people can be wrong. Just look at the so-called experts whose opinions, advice, and claims changed almost every news cycle during the 2020 Pandemic. Be that as it may, hang in for a minute and see what you think.

The bit of advice on the right sounds so well-meaning it must be valuable. That is why you can find that message in any number of places on the internet. In this case, it popped up on Facebook. The poster is someone I know fairly well, and I know they meant the post to be helpful. Sadly, it, like the verse in a popular country song, “In a race that you can’t win, slow it down,” is well-intentioned claptrap.

Yes, there are times when one should quit knocking on a particular door. Yes, there are times when the race is lost and conserving one’s energy is appropriate. That does not mean someone should live their life with these pieces of so-called wisdom as their mantra.

Unlike another, older, country lyric, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,” these are not sage advice—knowing when to hold’em is a tactic, as is folding. It is the difference between winning and losing a hand of poker, not giving up on a dream or mission.

Yes, some will pursue a dream until they lose everything or everything meaningful in their lives. Yes, there is a point when you may need to decide enough is enough. The question is knowing when you reach that point.

Do you recognize these names, Einstein, Lincoln, Edison, Disney, Spielberg, Rowling? These and dozens of other famous people faced doors that would not open, races they could not win, and other challenges in their lives. Yet, they persevered. Today, their names are in the history books as winners, innovators, and examples of never giving up.

Trying hard and being persistent will not always bring success. It will, in many cases, bring you the satisfaction of knowing you did your best. Whatever the outcome of your efforts, one thing will always be true. The only period at the end of a sentence that is final is one we may know is coming, but we will not see. Until that point, it is too early to give up.

© – 2020

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