Tag Archive | military

Beneath the Old Tree

 

Hawaiian Hau Tree

Hawaiian Hau Tree on Pearl Harbor Base

The cool trade winds rustled the leaves overhead, as the music drifted over the prestigious crowd. Laughter filled the air, while voices raised and lowered as the music kept its pace. No one paid any mind to the leaves overhead, or to the branches that wrapped themselves in braids high above their heads. Nor did they notice the disarray of branches weaving in and out of the iron latticed-cover of the pergola. But the tree, now weathered, and living longer than most of its peers, listened as he had so many times before to the crowd huddled below its lighted foliage. Times were different now of course, because he was older and wiser… but the conversations were the same as they had been for as long as he could remember.

Hau Tree canopyThe military officers in their finest uniforms stood in huddled masses discussing the latest military issue. While the wives shifted from one leg to the other giving rest to their weary feet. All about them caterers in crisp uniforms glided from one group to the other carrying trays of miniature entrees and desserts. Some nights were different of course. Some nights found the officers in Aloha shirts and slacks, but the women really never changed. Their hair piled high upon their heads or long and endless notified the tree of yet another decade now gone…faded like the sunsets over the ocean nearby. But still the ladies were the same, wearer of dresses, light perfume and a touch of lipstick to accentuate their lips.

Tonight the tree arched its branches towards the outer perimeter of the patio as if reaching to grab the musicians just beyond its reach. The IMG_0152music, his favorite, played across the crowd, bouncing back against the house and resting on each leaf, energizing them. If only his trunk were not grounded to the earth he would step gracefully across the patio as if he were the most famous dancer in the world. Instead he is placated by the sounds of South Pacific, and allow his leaves to sway in the breeze in unison to the notes floating through the air.

It wasn’t long ago that this music was new to him. He was half his size now, and there was a war going on around him. Life was so different then, so urgent and combustible. Those that met below his branches then were living for that moment alone, and had no time to think about the future.

A small tug on a branch, and the tree finds a man inspecting its thickness. If only the man knew the difficulty in maintaining his livelihood through the years. Like the old home that now had become his friend, he fought to live amongst the ever- changing world around him. There IMG_0154was always someone trying to cut him back, or redirect his roots so that they would not disturb the house or guests. But little did they know that his roots now held the pipes down of the old Admiral’s quarters, and his massive canopy was truly a blessing for guests on hot summer days when even the band struggled to sound upbeat.

The old tree didn’t mind the clinking of glasses from the bar below him, or the warming lights dangling precariously from his limbs. He didn’t mind lovers who leaned against his strong trunk, stealing kisses before returning to the dance floor either. For this is what he was meant to do, to record history as it was made beneath his branches. And so, on this glorious night below the stars, the old tree leaned into the gentle breeze and whispered thank you to those who could not hear him…those beneath the old tree.

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Reinventing Me…

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I stood outside the gym…not your typical gym mind you, but a boot camp facility that would scare most women my age. But I figured what the heck, either I die from lack of exercise or die DOING exercise. So I stepped into the room and found that I’m not as old as my age. Of course I knew this before heading to the gym. I’ve actually known it for many years. You see, age is all in your head. If you think you’re old…well, you’re old. But me? Nah, I’m at least twenty years younger in my head. I guess we all are really. But I ACT twenty years younger (at least most of the time.)

It all started a few years ago when I decided that I was going to stay young by doing things someone twenty years my junior would do. Sometimes I do things I really shouldn’t do that children do…like cartwheels, jumping on trampolines, and playing hopscotch. I figured that if I tricked my body into believing it was twenty years younger, that perhaps I might live to be one hundred. What I found during this “experiment” is…I’m constantly reinventing myself!

I have found that since retiring from teaching, I have so much time to do all the things I never had time to do. When I talk to people and they ask what I’ve been up to, some are simply surprised to learn that I wrote a novel, have a blog, go to boot camp, and am in training to build websites. I’m busy painting and fixing my house…like plumbing and yes, even some electrical. And why shouldn’t I?

Ever since I was young I have been reinventing myself. Not really by choice. My father was in the military and every two to three years I had to move to a new state or country. With every move came a different lifestyle, different friends, and new things to learn and adjust to. It was actually kind of cool. If you didn’t like something at the last place you lived, you could change it or yourself. Once a friend of mine asked me to name all the careers I had had…not jobs necessarily. I had been a singer, sales associate, medical secretary, teacher, mother, wife, military spouse…not to mention all the silly jobs along the way like florist, hostess, cashier, and substitute. You get the idea. So I’ve gotten really good at reinventing myself.

So now I’m at the stage in my life when I should already know who I am… and I do! But why should I stop now? The fun is just beginning. I have all the time in the world to be something else tomorrow. Perhaps I will be a volunteer or dog walker. Maybe I will learn to fly a plane…don’t laugh. I could! You see… what makes me different from most people my age is I’m not afraid to live, to try something new, to set out on an adventure. I’m not afraid to fail. Life is an adventure… and it’s one that can keep you young if you are willing to reinvent yourself like me. I can’t imagine any better way to grow old….

Stories of Best Friends for Life

Courtesy of Google  Images Commentsyard.com

Courtesy of Google Images
Commentsyard.com

Today I was reminded of the true meaning of Best Friends. We all say we have them. Sometimes we say we have more than one. Perhaps it’s possible to have decade best friends, or school best friends….or even work best friends. But no matter how you cut it, a best friend is someone special. A best friend is someone you have for life…they are someone who takes a special place in your heart that no one else can take away. These are a few mini-stories of best friends….

 

~She sat with him all night as he rested in the hospital bed. The nurses arrived almost every hour on the hour keeping her awake. Exhausted she knew she needed to be by his side to support him and give him encouragement.  She shifted in her hard-backed chair watching his breathing thinking back to the time they met as fourteen year olds. Little did she know then that they would marry  and live a life of fifty-seven years together. Her best friend would do the same for her she was sure, that’s just the way it should be after all.~

~She hugged her best friend as she excitedly emerged from the long car ride. They hadn’t seen each other in years, yet they both looked the same. Their smiles revealed their bond that had been forged in middle school. She grabbed her best friend by the hand and said, ” I’m not sure where I would be without you.” Her best friend shakes her head and replies, “I feel the same way about you.” Thirty-eight years later and they seemed like they hadn’t been apart a day.~

~He stood tall and lean as she raised her eyes to him. Reaching up she placed the baby in his arms as a smile crept upon her face. They had been married nineteen years and now were finally blessed with a child. They had suffered the heartache of lost babies, but not once did their love for each other falter. Their lives would certainly change now, but as long as her best friend was by her side, she knew everything would be okay.~

~They stood together as a team while the onslaught of customers crammed into their small ice cream shop. They had once had different jobs, but wanted to started their own business together. She barked out an order to him as he lugged a tub of ice cream from the back and set it where she pointed. She smiled up at him and said with a hint of laughter, “What would I do without you?” His reply caught the woman at the register off guard, “Find a new best friend?” They laughed, for ever since law school they had celebrated being best friends.~

~Their grandchildren scurried up the stairs ahead of nana and pops, eager to find the latest book to read. She laughed as he caught her at the top of the stairs and put his arm around her. “I love you!” he whispered quickly into her ear. “And I you,” she replied with a soft smile that warmed his heart. He could hardly  believe she was still his after all this time. He had found his best friend and married her within three months…and now they were grandparents…grandparents in love.~

~He stood tall with his medals on his chest as he scanned the room. Saying goodbye to the service was going to be difficult, but his time had come and he welcomed the road ahead of him. In front of him was his best friend from training school. They had started out together and through the years had shared the love of flying, family, and friendship. He was his best friend to be honest…a friend who no matter where he was stationed was always there for him. Now that he was retiring he knew there was one thing that would remain the same in his life…his best friend of thirty years.

~Tears ran down her face as she laughed hysterically at his imitation of her. “I do not do that!” she managed to say as she tried to catch her breath. He had always made her laugh from the very start. It wasn’t that he was a funny person, he just had a way about him that made her laugh. They had been through thirty-three years together, and still they loved being in each other’s company…after all they were best friends.

“I’m glad I married my best friend,” she stated as she wiped her eyes.

“So am I,” he said. “Who else would I pick on and love all at the same time?”~

Best Friends come in all shapes and sizes, color, and ethnicities. They defy logic and are worthy of great literature. We all have one at least once in our lifetime…and if we’re lucky we have more than one. Who is your best friend? What’s your story?

 

The “Simple” pleasures in life!

He stood in the doorway shaking his head at me. “You really are something” he said. I really didn’t know what he was talking about. We’d been married for thirty-one years and so him deciding I was “really something” wasn’t big news…at least I thought. “Are you happy?”he asked as his blue eyes smiled down at me.

“I am! This is so exciting!” I glanced around the room at our work and couldn’t help but turn to hug my husband. “Thanks!” I said with complete joy in my voice. It didn’t take much to make me happy, but this…this was big! After a life-time of marriage, we finally had our very own beautiful master bedroom! WHAT? Did I say BEDROOM? You heard me right…before me stood a room I had designed in my head, and put together with my own hands…and my husbands. But a bedroom? I know, weird. But being happy over this made me “really something” in the eyes of my husband.      

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You see, when we were first married we lived in Alaska and arrived there young and broke. By the time we scrapped up enough money to buy a dresser, we could only afford a plain pine set by Sears and Roebuck sent by way of barge. You couldn’t really call it a bedroom set made for a king and queen…but we weren’t picky. We took pride in staining it, and the set would be our furniture until our children came along. I’m not sure how it happened, but our daughter ended up with the pine, all painted white and pink… and we ended up with…an antique dresser from my husband’s grandparents (I don’t like antiques…) a bed with no headboard, and two round cheap screw-in legged tables for our bedstands. When we finally moved into our current house ten years ago, we took our son’s armoir and two night stands and bought him a full bedroom set with the thought that he’d take them with him when he left college. You might ask, where were our clothes? They were piled up in our closets. Let’s get real here…it sucked! Half the time I couldn’t even reach my clothes, all five feet of me. And my husband? Just one shelf could barely hold three of his long 6’3 jeans. But we persevered because we thought we would only be in the house two years. You heard me…we thought two years. We are now on our tenth year and I finally said to my husband, “Can we just do it…let’s do something for us. Forget the kids…let’s get something new just for us.” AND WE DID! Holy Cannoli!

Being me, I refused to spend a fortune on the furniture…not that I’m cheap, but we still don’t know if we might be moving in a year. The military is kind of weird in that way… So we found what I was looking for at Ikea, and I set out to build my furniture and design the room. Every day my husband would arrive home and I would update him on my progress. I painted the whole room (think two and half car garage size!) My husband put in crown molding, and then we proceeded to buy accent pieces for our retreat. How it all came together I will never know since I did everything backwards from the way it should have been done. (Not my normal MO.) But now I stood here with my husband thrilled at what we finally had…a true master bedroom like the rest of the world. Am I happy? You know it! Will we move next year…probably…all because I finally got my master bedroom!

I’m sure my husband thinks I’m nuts that a bedroom could make me happy…but I’ve lived the life of a military child and wife and this is something to smile about….really…it is! It’s the simple things in life that bring me joy.

Military and Funerals

Military and Funerals…

The soldiers stood at attention with their swords lifted as the coffin arrived through the doors of the church. Inside almost every military member that was not working on that day filled the pews of their fallen friend. I sat quietly next to my husband just behind the wife. There wasn’t a dry eye in the chapel…mine included. We were young and I had never been to a funeral when I attended this one. The Coast Guardsmen was twenty-four and had walked off a cliff in Alaska while hiking in the fog. It was a tragic loss and all I could think of at the time was…this could be my husband.

The Chaplin spoke from the pulpit while the Honor Guard stood silent watch over the ceremony. Yes, the term is ceremony. Unlike many civilian funerals, a military funeral is shrouded in dignified rituals and ceremonious protocol. I don’t remember giving the ceremony much thought back then. I was upset and remember looking around at my peers wondering if they were thinking what I was thinking. The deceased was a very well liked young man with a great personality. He and his wife were trying to get pregnant and they were excited about the future. She had just found out she had conceived. Every person in that church was thinking about God’s hand in their lives and wondered what could possibly be the reason for this tragedy. When the young man’s flag covered coffin was carried out past us, we followed brokenhearted and wondering about our own mortality and that of our active duty military.

It has been many years since then and I have witnessed a handful of funerals where our military have been present. It is always the same now, now that I am aware of my surroundings and the numbness of death. The parking lot is scattered with men and women in their best dress uniforms, quietly talking and waiting to enter the church. They wait all together while the family and friends take their place inside. Then they silently enter in mass. Every civilian is aware of their presence as they watch the group remove their covers and sit rigidly shoulder to shoulder in the back of the service. They each enter the condolence line and whisper words of comfort to the family, whether they had met before or not. Such was the case of my mother-in-law’s funeral. My husband and I sat quietly in the front pew not aware of the large presence of Coast Guardsmen waiting outside to enter. What it was that made us all turn, because they did enter quietly, I will never know. But we turned and my husband’s heart was comforted knowing that his men felt the desire to provide him support in his time of need. Again they showed up on the sad passing of a wife who had taken her own life. The chapel filled to the brim and each member held their friend and his children, supporting them in the best way they knew how.

Today I witnessed the highest form of military burial, the one held in Arlington at the National Cemetery. As my husband and I exited our car, there in the parking lot stood the “uniforms” quietly waiting. Because the memorial service was held on Fort Meyers,it was clear that most everyone standing outside The Old Post Church would be wearing uniforms. On the direction of the burial director, the servicemen and women were asked to enter the church. The last to enter was the family taking their seats in the front row. Two Chaplains took their place on the pulpits and were prepared to eulogize the fallen member as the organ played the Service Member Hymn. Unlike my first funeral, I was very aware of those around me and the ceremonial protocol in place. No one sat with the Commandant of the Coast Guard except his Executive Assistant, and behind him sat the Admirals. The Captains and non-commissioned officers all sat on the opposite side of the aisle and the civilians filled in behind the military. It was surprisingly the opposite of what I had come to know.

Behind me I heard the clicks of shoes and knew that the funeral procession had begun as the Honor Guard silently marched in carrying the American flag and the cremated remains of the fallen service member. We all stood silently watching as they placed both on a small table bearing the members picture. I felt a tear slid down my cheek as I watched his family dab their eyes. The chaplains spoke eloquently about his service to our country and his new home in Heaven. The organ began to play a soft hymn as the sound of orders being issued were heard from outside the church doors. The clicking shoes of the Honor Guard again filled the old church as they retrieved the fallen member. We followed quietly out the door.

Outside the caisson (horses and coffin) stood waiting for the ceremonial ride to the service member’s final resting place. The Honor Guard stood in formation just in front of the caisson ready to lead them on a mile and a half or more trip down to the internment wall. I was startled to see so many Coast Guardsmen when I came out of the church. There were four members flanking the caisson and at least thirty standing in ranks. My husband found his place behind the two highest Admirals while I found my car to follow in the procession.

What I experienced next was surreal. I doubt that many people write about their experiences with funerals in Arlington, and perhaps that is why I felt I should share with you now…but the procession was like the one we all see on TV. The Honor Guard marched for close to two miles as the caisson clapped against the pavement. Those visiting the cemetery stood silently as the caisson passed, some with their hands over their hearts, others at attention. The tombstones in their uniformed rows, white against the plush green of grass and trees, sat in endless formation. As I drove, I read the name plates of active service members and their spouses,finding that the women’s stones only read “His wife.” The procession wound it’s way from the top of the cemetery down to the base,and to my surprise,we were met by another set of Honor Guard. They stood at attention near the wall of internment, while the marching Honor Guard took their place in the field behind the bugler. To their right seven riflemen stood at attention like toy soldiers preparing for battle. We followed the walking procession thru the Honor Guard and to the Internment Ceremonial stage. There the highest ranking Admirals and Chaplains spoke. One brought it all home when he said, “You are mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes…”(James 4:14) Then the guns were raised and the twenty-one gun salute shook the grounds and those of us standing. The clicks sounded against the walls as the Honor Guard moved to fold the unfurled flag. They popped it’s sides and corners and tucked our American Pride into itself until it was ready to be presented to the family.The lead Guard sharply turned and presented Old Glory to the Commandant of the Coast Guard, who saluted the flag then ceremoniously placed his hands above and below the flag, taking possession of it from the Guardsman. Turning with pride and the call to duty, the Commandant turned towards the family. Quietly he knelt down in front of the spouse and brought tears to everyone’s eyes when he said, ” Please accept this on behalf of the President, the Coast Guard and a grateful nation. He then shook the family member’s hands, followed by the Admirals, Chaplains and each member of the Honor Guard standing in ranks near the stage. I was startled by the words of encouragement and sincere condolences these complete strangers bestowed on the grieving family. Not a single Guardsman said the same thing to the three family members. It was incredibly touching and all I could think of was how special the moment had been.

At the conclusion of the ceremony we were led to the internment wall where a brass box bearing the fallen guardsmen’s name was place into the wall in silence. The Chaplain spoke again, the family played a seventies song, “Spirit in the Sky”…and then it was done, finished, over… we quietly said our own condolences and departed the cemetery.

I imagine that this will not be my last military funeral or one where our military will be present…But one thing is for certain, our active military understand the importance of honoring our loved ones probably more than most…for it is they that risk their lives to protect the very loved ones for which they honor.imageimageimage