Who are your heroes? What must someone do to qualify as a hero in your book?
My heroes are the first responders and those who put their lives in harms way each day that I might enjoy freedom. But I know that freedom isn't free; it's often purchased with blood.
Rarely, however, do you get to meet the individual that paid for your freedom. This brief video tells the story of one individual who had just that opportunity.
Ten years later: remembering the man who led people to safety after terrorists struck the World Trade Center on September 11th - a former Boston College lacrosse player whose trademark was a red bandanna
While we reflect on the events of 10 years ago, let's not forget those heroes that routinely put their lives in harm's way for our safety and freedom.
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13
While I have many friends in Canada, I have only been to that beautiful country one time and briefly at that. Alan Lepofsky blogged about this 6-minute video about Canada, hosted by Tom Brokaw. It's a wonderful and beautiful picture of our friends and neighbors up North.
Due to the extreme fire hazard where we live, there are no fireworks within 50 miles our house. For July 4th we sometimes drive down the mountain to see fireworks or we find another way to celebrate the holiday. This afternoon, we celebrated July 4th at Fort Tejon as it was celebrated in the 1850's. There, we got to see a 31 gun cannon salute to the 31 states in the union at the time, compete in sack races, tug-of-war, and pie eating contests.
This evening, I plan to print and read the Declaration of Independence with my family. We will try to imagine what the circumstances were like that led our nations founding fathers to draft this document - a document that shapes much of who we are as Americans and why we are not English.
This document defines principles of limited government and personal freedoms. It sets the groundwork for a government that will represent the people and protect and encourage these principles as rights. I encourage you to become familiar with the language and the arguments in the Declaration and to think about it as you read or discuss issues concerning public policy.
Take some time today or this weekend to read this important document.
It's important to understand what we are protecting.
Like many Americans my age, my father served in the Vietnam war. Although I was young at the time, I remember watching the evening news reports and hearing about the prisoners of war. This afternoon, needing a break from work and studies, I decided to surf the web for a bit. I ended up at WikiPedia looking over the pages for both presidential candidates and following the links for each. (I think we need to learn about the events that influenced the men that we are considering as the next president.) I found many interesting links for both presidential candidates. After reading about Obama, I read the McCain page. There was a link with details about McCain's 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. I clicked on one of the WikiPedia links and ended up finding a first-person account of that experience as published in the May 14, 1973, issue of U.S.News & World Report. It's not a short read, but it provides a very detailed perspective of one man's experience. John McCain, Prisoner of War: A First-Person Account
I cannot begin to imagine what this experience was like, yet this article provided a glimpse of what many men endured, some fatally, in service to our country.
I'd like to think of myself as someone who would do equally well but these are the harder areas of resolve - areas that we will never know how we will do until we are tested.
I remember the time I asked my grandfather what it was like when he stormed the beach at Normandy. He told me, "it was hell." No doubt, that experience shaped him, too.
This is my first time to miss Thanksgiving, ever. A bowl of rice noodles and food I like but cannot pronounce, no matter how delicious, is just not the same as a plate of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and gravy. (I'm getting hungry just typing that.)
Thanksgiving, however, is about more than food; it's an opportunity to thank the Lord for His loving kindness and provision for us, and that I can do from anywhere. I indeed have much to be thankful for: my family, friends, the opportunity to live and work in the United States of America, and for the freedom I enjoy.
But mostly, I'm thankful for my family, who love me very much as I do them. And, I'm thankful for the opportunity to be here, in Manila, to serve the people here. This morning (it's 4:20 AM local time) I enjoyed a wonderful Skype video call with my family as they were about to celebrate Thanksgiving at home.
Indeed, I have much to be thankful for, even Skype.
On Memorial Day, 2005, I blogged about a memorial to one of our local fallen soldiers. (Link). Since that time, I've received a few emails from family and friends of Brian to thank me. But it is us who should thank them. This year, I received an email from Darryl Petersen, along with some photos:
Hi. I recently came upon a monument to Brian "Cody" Prosser while visiting Green Hills Memorial Park Cemetery in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Doing some internet research on him, I came across a web page you had made referring to him. The discussion board showed it was closed so I thought I'd email this info for you, for your use and if you want to pass it on. Here is the info from "The Prosser Monument" fact sheet available to visitors to the memorial. The photos are my own.
Memorial Inscription: Brian "Cody" Prosser Staff Sgt US Army 5Th Special Forces Group (Airborne) July 17, 1973 -- Dec. 5, 2001
First soldier from California killed in Afghanistan
"This monument has been dedicated not only to the memory of this brave young warrior, but to the memory of all those who put themselves in harm's way to protect us all from the perpetrators of terrorism." Memorial Day -- May 27, 2002
Many years ago, my wife put together this display for our home. Five loaves
of bread and two fishes in a simple basket. Her purpose was to create a
powerful visual reminder of how God provides for our needs in the same
way that He did when he multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the crowds.
It's so easy for us to fall into a cycle of thinking about what we do not
have, yet we are richly blessed. We have a father that loves us, cares
for us, and will never abandon us. Our heavenly Father loves us so much
that he has provided for all of our needs, even to the point of extreme
sacrifice just so that we would not miss out on the most important aspect
of life. It's easy, however, to get distracted from what we really need
and think about what we do not have or what we want. Specifically there
are times when we may think that we do not have enough ___ [fill in the
blank; money, house, things, faith; hope; love, etc.] yet God provides
abundantly, according to our need.
Today, I attended a Veteran's Day memorial
with my family. It was an opportunity to recognize the men and women who
courageously served our country in order that we might enjoy the freedoms
that we have today.
It was sobering to see the dwindling numbers of retired solders in
the honor guard, standing at attention, representing each of the branches
of our armed forces. I'm proud to be an American. More importantly, I was
humbled to think about what it costs to be an American. I grew up as an
Air Force kid and I tasted a sense of patriotism that I've not seen often
since moving to California twenty-five years ago. It's not that there aren't
patriotic people in California, there are many. it's just that I don't
often see many deeply patriotic people - the quiet ones. The ones who understand
is not free.
I've not blogged in a few days, but not
because I had nothing to say. We do not have television in our home, but,
reading the news, I can imagine the horrors that the media must be playing
endlessly. I'm speechless.
In light of the tragedy unfolding in our country in the aftermath of hurricane
Katrina, I could not think of anything to say that would add significant
value to the blogosphere. I will share that as my family deals with our
own medical crises, we continue to pray for those affected by hurricane
Katrina. We pray for the health and safety of the men and women who are
working tirelessly to rescue survivors. For the survivors, we pray for
their recovery, their healing - both physical and emotional - and for their
spiritual comfort, too.
This memorial day, rather than travelling
to an event off the hill, I decided to visit the local Veterans Memorial
in Frazier Park. For a brief moment in December, 2001, this mountain community
became a media center of attention as news spread that Staff Sergeant Brian
C. Prosser was the first US soldier to be killed in Afghanistan. Since
then, things have been quiet. No media. No news. The media and the world
may have forgotten, but the mountain communities haven't.
In honor of Brian Cody Prosser and the
men and women of our Armed Forces, past and present, who made the ultimate
sacrifice for freedom and for their country.
Brian Cody Prosser Veterans Memorial
Staff Sergeant Brian C. Prosser
5th Group Special Forces (Airborne) 3rd Battalion
17 July 1973 - 5 December 2001
"De Oppresso Liber"
In Honor of Brian Cody Prosser...American Patriot
Cody Prosser began life in Frazier Park, riding on these roads and trails
in a baby carriage, pushed mostly by his mother. He walked, played
and worked on the same turf, living life as people do in this and other
small towns throughout America.
After graduating from Maricopa High School in 1991, Cody joined the United
States Army which took him to Fort McClellan, Alabama for basic training
and military police school. His first assignment was Fort Bragg,
North Carolina as a member of the 21st Military Police Co. (Airborne).
Proud to be a soldier, he decided the military would be his career.
In 1998, Cody became a Special Forces Soldier. He was re-assigned
to 3rd Battalion 5th Group Special Forces (Airborne), stationed in Ft.
Cody was called to serve his country in Afghanistan, fighting to defend
America and the world against the threat of terrorism, following September
11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. On a
hill just north of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Brian Cody Prosser
lost his life, as did two other 5th Group soldiers. The morning of
the fifth day, December 2001. These brave men successfully saved
a village of mostly women and children from certain death by the hands
of the enemy. For his actions that day, he was awarded, posthumously,
the Bronze Star with V for Valor.
Let this monument stand as our town's testimony of our undying support
and gratitude for all men and women serving, or who have given their lives
for the preservation of the freedoms we enjoy - with special pride for
our own fallen hero, Cody Prosser.
This morning in church, our pastor
read to us Red Skelton's famous commentary
on The Pledge of Allegiance. Two years ago, Amy and Wendy memorized this
patriotic commentary for a homeschool presentation.
Red's commentary offers a glimpse into the meaning of these words and what
it means to recite the Pledge as an American.
Productivity - no matter how maximized
- is useless without the means to really enjoy the time you save
Every day in my work, I get to help people bring about change in their
lives and experience more freedom by showing them how to use technology
to increase their productivity. But what's interesting is that increasing
productivity is only as good as how you invest the time you save or the
efficiencies you gain.
Many of you, who read my blog, live in the United States or another country
with similar liberties and prosperity. But what if you didn't? What if
you lived in a place where you weren't able to do many of the things that
you cherish so much? Gaining an upper-hand with productivity would be a
lot less attractive.
How much more successful we are when we're simply AWARE of how successful
we already are.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to preview a web
site that gave me pause to
reflect on a most basic element of life that I (and maybe you too) often
take for granted.
That element is "freedom." Not just in the literal sense, but
in terms of all it entails: Freedom to choose what you want, do what you
want, be what you want, and the "ability" to achieve the wealth
and circumstances required to make that freedom take form in your life.
The site is about two people's life-long quest to come to America from
Moldova (former Soviet Union).
A friend of mine, Greg
Fisk, is working to help Chirill
and Ludmilla Trescencov realize
their dream of coming to America. Chirill and his wife have won a green
card lottery, which will allow them to legally come to this country.
Now, they are working to raise the funds to pay the agency fees for the
paperwork that will bring them here. (Greg shares their moving story on
You can follow the details of this adventure at Coming
to America, where Chrill and
his wife will be blogging about the experience. Imagine
what it would be like of the folks coming through Ellis Island, each blogged
about their experience in real-time. Well, this comes close.
I hope that you will visit the web site, and consider participating in
their dream, or at the very least, send them an email of encouragement.
I've just returned from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, where I took my wife and children to pay our respects to a man who honored God and this great nation that we call the United States of America.
Reagan was a "first-class president" who gave the country a sense of optimism at a time when it needed it most. Most of all, Reagan was a "firm believer in the strength of the United States" who played an instrumental role in ending the Cold War - Gerald Ford
The thing that I admired most about President Reagan, was the fact that he was not afraid to speak up for what he believed was right. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, President Reagan was a great example of someone that made the most out of the time that God granted him. President Reagan lived his life to make a difference in the world and he positively affected the lives of many, here in the United States and around the world. While President Reagan has gone on to a much better place and is no longer suffering, he leaves behind a family, a nation, and a world that will miss him. May we all learn from his example that we only get one opportunity at life and that we need to make the most of it. Our family extends its prayers of comfort to the Reagan Family.
The experience of traveling to see the flag-draped casket of the President, under the vigilant watch of honor guards from each branch of the Armed Services, was certainly a memorable one. After a long drive down, we arrived very early in the morning at the grounds of Moorpark College, located just a few miles away from the Presidential Library. There, we joined a line of thousands of people who had also come to pay their respects.
It was very moving to see tens of thousands of people -- some of whom had driven all night and had travelled long distances -- all gathered to show their sympathy. Even with the large numbers of people, the process was actually quite solemn and orderly. [It did surprise me to see that at least half the crowd was dressed quite casually, even sloppily -- as if they were coming from the gym or from doing yard work. (If you know Southern California, then you know that the laid back attitude often extends to attire as well.) Fortunately, this was the only thing that I felt took away from the decorum of this public assembly. Well, maybe not. There was the matter of cell phones. I realize that we were all in line together for close to 5 hours, but in all of the many simultaneous conversations that I was forced to listen to, none of them were of any significance. Fortunately, security told everyone to put away their phones once they reached the check-point, and I am thankful that cameras and camera-phones were also prohibited. OK, enough of my rants.]
Security was amazingly tight. In addition to the obvious security check-points, we were under the watchful eye of the Secret Service, L.A. County Sheriff, and the California Highway Patrol, and a multitude of video cameras. We spoke with one bomb-squad technician, who was standing by his vehicle, gear at his feet, and ready to be called to action. I complimented the security and he indicated that all of the departments were working together quite well. I certainly felt very safe. These men and women did a fine job of ensuring that we were safe and that the lines kept moving. I was told that over a fifteen-hundred people an hour were able to pay their respects. Given the news estimates that over 80,000 people have viewed the casket so far, the number was probably closer to two thousand to twenty-five hundred people per hour. Simply amazing.
Once we had reached the front of the line and passed through the security check-points, we were taken by bus to the top of the mountain. There was an armed escort on board and CHP motorcycle officers accompanied many of the buses as well. As we disembarked at the Reagan Library we joined yet another line. Once we reached the front of that line, we were allowed to proceed around the hall where the President's body lay in repose. The casket was draped in the American flag, and honor guards stood watch at each corner and to the sides. These men are a living testimony of honor and duty to one's government and its Commander-In-Chief. I have not seen anything like this since I visited the tomb of the unknown soldier in Washington D.C., many years ago. It was very emotional.
We were ushered around the casket rather quickly, but I will not forget the awesome feeling of being in the room to pay my respects. I will always remember this event, and even though my children may not presently understand what an honorable man Reagan was, I want them to remember that we are blessed to live in this land and that we are thankful for our leaders and the men and women who serve us faithfully.
As we exited the viewing area, we were greeted by the Presidential Library staff, who handed us the above card, and personally thanked each of us for coming to pay our respects.
Another wait in line, and bus ride down the hill, and we were back at our starting point, where the Library staff invited us to sign the guest book. We took a moment to sign the book and to write our words of condolence and appreciation to the Reagan family.
Just as we were driving away, the California Highway Patrol evacuated the freeway to escort a multi-car motorcade -- complete with sirens, lights, and lots of motorcycles. Turns out it was just John Kerry. I guess he did not have to wait his turn in line for 4 hours, like the rest of us.
It has been a long day - 12 hours round-trip, and we were only in the room for a little more than 90 seconds in all. I realize that there are many people around the world who would have liked to have the opportunity to personally pay their respects to the President. I hope that this blog, in some small way, shares the experience.
I am grateful for the opportunity that my family and I had to honor the life of President Ronald Reagan, and I am thankful for the freedom that my children and children around the world, now enjoy, due in part to his efforts.
This weekend, with the news coverage of
D-Day and the passing of President Reagan, I have been thinking about American
One of my heroes is my grandfather, Donald, R. "Skip" Stelter
-- a man who enlisted not once, but twice to serve his country. As
a young soldier in WWII, he stormed the beaches of Normandy, and fought
in the Battle of the Bulge. He also served in the Air Force in the U.S.
and in Vietnam.
As a child growing up, I could not comprehend the significance of these
battles, the freedom that they brought to a Europe at war, of their cost
in terms of casualties. I also could not appreciate what would have happened
if men like my grandfather had not stepped up to serve their country and
My grandfather never spoke of the war, preferring to keep silent
in the subject. Enamored by the glorified portrayals of war and American
victory in the movies, I was curious to know what it was like to have participated
in these famous battles. I wanted to ask someone who had first-hand experience.
The battle for freedom continues.
Today, men and women around the world are fighting for freedom and many
have made the ultimate sacrifice.
As we take time as a family to pray for our troops, we give thanks for
the men and women who have served our country in the past and those
who serve today.
The next time you see a veteran, a person currently serving in our armed
forces, or someone serving in law enforcement, please stop and thank them
for their contribution to the freedom that you enjoy. They are our Heroes.
Yesterday at church, we were shown a video
tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in their service
to our nation.
With a background of somber but patriotic
music, the words of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address faded in and out, as images
of American soldiers -- at times emotional, at other times inspiring, but
at all times patriotic -- appeared on the screen. It was a moving, but
inadequate tribute to the sacrifices that the men and women of our great
nation have made. I say inadequate, not as a reflection on the video presentation
itself, (it was outstanding), but that most of us simply cannot comprehend
the price that these people (and their loved ones) have paid, and continue
to pay today, so that we might enjoy the freedoms that we do -- here in
America, and around the world.
My pastor encouraged our congregation
to visit the local cemetery to pay our respects to these heroes. It
was a very sobering experience to see row after row of flags waving in
the wind, each marking the grave of an American soldier. As we walked through
the cemetery, we read each grave marker to learn the name, branch of service,
and sometimes the specific event in which each of these men and women had
From the top of the hill, I could see the freeway in the distance below.
While perhaps a total of 10 families visited the cemetery in the brief
time that we were there, thousands of motorists drove by, probably unaware
of the cemetery, occupants, or the connection between them.
That connection is freedom.
I am grateful for this country that I
call my own, a land that is free; and I am grateful to the men and women
who have proudly served to make and keep it that way.
The next time you drive by a cemetery
on Memorial Day and you see all of the flags, stop your car and get out.
Take some time to walk the rows of graves, to remember what we enjoy in
America, the price paid, and give thanks to God.