Today, we honor those who have fought courageously to defend our country and our freedom. Thank you for your service, Veterans! Happy Veterans Day!
Today is a day of reflection, a lot like many other American holidays that celebrate the men and women who have selflessly served our country. We appreciate them, and today, we honor them.While we honor you today, veterans, we think of you and your sacrifices everyday. Thank you for serving our country and protecting our freedom. We do not take it for granted.
Happy Veterans Day,
The Live It Everyday Team
Brian Worstell is Owner Mike's brother and my uncle. When I was an infant and Brian had just come home from deployment, I cried when he touched my foot. I didn't figure out that I liked him until he was in Iraq and called to ask about me. While, you know, he's overseas fighting. Now, I know him as an everyday hero who never misses an opportunity to snag a brownie and who's always down to pick on me and play basketball.
As the 13th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 approaches, I sit and reflect as to what that day means to me. As an American, it infuriates me that it ever happened at all -- how could the most powerful nation in the world come under attack with such a brutal and deadly act of violence? I think this day has a special meaning to every American with no two meanings the same. But one thing is true for all Americans regardless of race, creed, or color: our way of life was challenged that day.
As a Senior Non Commissioned Officer with more than 23 years of service and retirement right around the corner, I look at 9/11 from a completely different perspective. As I think back over the course of my career and try to put into words what this means to me it is this: that while not always glamorous with many missed birthday’s and countless other significant events, one thing has always made it make sense to me and that is that the last 23 years have been well spent in the service and defense of the American way of life.
I have had the honor and privilege to fight for those who could not fight for themselves and protect the freedom so many crave. Few understand how to protect and fewer know the price of that freedom. It may sound cliché but it is a fact: freedom is not free and since the founding of our nation that price has been paid in blood by those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. I knew when I entered the Army 23 years ago the possibility of death in the defense of my country was always a possible outcome and in my younger days the thought of dying gallantly in battle was heroic. Now that I am older and have fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I realize I would rather die an old man with my kids and grand kids and family gathered around me. What is more heroic than that?
As I said, fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves is not just a domestic battle. We in America want the best for our children; we sacrifice and do things we may not always want but we do what is necessary. I think back to my last deployment to one of the worst parts in southern Afghanistan. The thing that bothered me the most and stood out to me was the children. They didn’t ask to be born in one of the worst areas in the country; they didn’t ask to grow up with the constant threat of violence. The parents of these kids the hopeless blank expressions on there faces knowing that it gets no better the hopes of a better future impossible. The thought that maybe something, anything, you may have done while there could just maybe help one of those kids to do better makes all the sacrifice and hardship a little easier to endure.
After I returned from my last deployment from Afghanistan in 2012 I went to New York City and, although it was many years after 9/11, I went to Ground Zero and to the new monument. As I stood there, I realized that the American people are resilient. We may get knocked down but you'd better believe we're getting back up. The people in the city seemed happy and excited about rebuilding and the future. As I watched I couldn’t help but to think that I had done my little part in restoring confidence in the American way of life.
Senior Non Commissioned Officer
United States Army
September 11, 2001.
It’s a date no American can forget. It’s when I started shuddering when airplanes flew over my house, too close in my 11 year old mind. It’s when the word “soldier” and “veteran” began to mean a lot more and when my mom started to wear a red, white, and blue rubber bracelet proudly supporting my uncle in Afghanistan. I think it read “I Support Our Troops.” I remember her distress when it broke and she was unable to fulfill her promise, that she would wear it until he returned home safely.
I was 11 years old when the Twin Towers were struck. I remember the chaos that circulated in and through our elementary school as teachers passed out colorful pieces of paper that were for our “Take Home” folder. We scanned them, trying to decipher what had happened. “Have a conversation,” it read. I can’t remember what else. It was a list of things to do to help continue the dialogue for the greatest tragedy any of us had most likely seen. We were 10 and 11. Our biggest concern was what the cafeteria was having for lunch. I had never seen anything like the photo on the front page of Lexington’s paper when my preacher held it up on Sunday morning at church.
I lived in Kentucky when the nation felt an irreversible tragedy. When my mom picked my sister and me up from the after school program, she told us that something bad had happened. There had been an attack, a bomb, a plane, that flew into two buildings in New York. “I thought it was a joke, or a rerun of a past war on the radio,” she said. I don’t remember what happened after that. Later, she told me she and our family’s best friend had been screaming on the phone, just minutes before. “He’s okay!” Lisa shouted. “He’s okay!” My mom, too dazed from the events and lost in downtown Lexington, kept saying, “I know!” They had gotten confused—both had brothers named Jeff. Both were involved in the armed forces. Lisa’s brother was supposed to be at the Pentagon that morning.
I went to school in Murray, Kentucky, when the tenth anniversary of 9/11 came and went. I was working for my school’s newspaper, The Murray State News. Because I was a creative writer, and much less a journalistic writer, I was assigned a human interest piece: stories from faculty, students, staff, whoever was directly involved in the attacks (you can read them here and here). I interviewed a faculty member who was at the Pentagon when it was bombed. He told stories of small details—leaving his hat in his office and later having to retrieve it, a friend of his who was nearly burned alive, the sprinkler systems that went off on the sides of the building that had not been touched. I interviewed a student who was living just outside the city. The smoke, she told me with hands trembling and eyes averted from mine, was so prominent in the sky, they thought it was night.
When I think about 9/11, I think about the evil, the horror, the images of people flinging themselves from the buildings. I think about the way I couldn’t possibly understand what had happened in this terrifying time, because I was so young and so far removed. But, in the same breath, I think about how 9/11 changed me. It seems so absurd to even type that, to admit to it out loud. Families were torn apart. Friendships were ripped away. My family had suffered no immediate blows. My friends were safe in their central Kentucky homes. But, I felt (and feel) keenly the heartbreak that occurred those thirteen years ago. Goosebumps crawl up my arms and settle on the back of my neck when I hear of veterans’ stories—both tragic and triumphant. When I was 11 years old, sitting in a pew in a Methodist church in Lexington, I saw what had happened. And though I didn’t understand entirely—the phone calls that were placed on the planes that were hijacked, the servicemen and women who pulled victims from the fires, the mothers, fathers, and children who would never see loved ones again—I knew that it was a time to rally. In a naïve, and childlike sense, I understood that none of us would ever be the same and that now was the time to be together.
Thirteen years later, my mind skims across those blurred memories I have from so long ago. I board a plane and listen to every word the flight attendant has to say about safety. I squeeze my uncle whose arms have gone numb after years of violence fighting for the protection of this great place, tighter when I see him. When we read reports about Gaza, Iraq, and Syria, I remember the way I felt when our country was exploited. I remember everyday. I remember the way I thought that this tragedy meant that we should all stand together, that we should and we will all rally.
To those of you who serve or have served our country, from the bottom of my heart, the Live It Everyday Team and I offers our thanks. You are what makes this country and this world great.
All my love. Haley.
Brian wrote a little about the Fourth; see how a soldier deals with the joyous Independence Day.
Again this week I'm going to deviate a little bit because this week is special and can be scary.
I, like so many Veterans, suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries, as you could imagine, do not get along well with fireworks. Until the last year or so, I was pretty much a hermit this time of year, keeping my music up loud to drown out the blasts of the fireworks.
So, I'm keeping this short to allow you to reflect on the holiday that we all need to celebrate, albeit in our own ways.
Rejoice in the fact that you are free to celebrate it as you see fit and be courteous of guys and gals that may seem a little standoffish when it comes to fireworks celebrations.
I hope everyone had a joyous and happy Fourth of July.
time to make the donuts. Brian
So after the diversion last week about my new best friend, I'm going back to Iraq again...kinda feels like an episode of 24 huh?
Well, shortly after the searching of the bunkers I took my leave from Iraq and went back to Alaska to spend two weeks with my wife Angie and our two kids Jordan and Logan. Probably the shortest two weeks ever.
I returned to Iraq to find I had been transferred into our Battery Operations Center (BOC). This to me was a real kick in the face as I missed my Soldiers immensely and I had to sit by and watch them leave, come in, and talk on the radio. My satisfaction, though, was knowing they knew the right things to do, because I had shown them. I still had the opportunity to get out every now and then, as I was the Raven UAV pilot for the Battalion and helped with a couple other things.
Shortly after I took the position, I had to say goodbye to a man that had became a real friend to me that was over there training Iraqi Policeman. Bob died in a helicopter crash one foggy Saturday morning.
It was the first loss that really hit me hard but, there would be more.
Time to make the donuts. Brian
So, I am skipping ahead a few years for this week. I will, however, start from the beginning of this story. In 2010, my family and I attended a retreat for wounded Service Members and their families near Appomattox, Virginia. While there, I attended a presentation by America's VetDogs and Guide Dog Foundation for the blind field reps Kathy and Greg Levick.
From the time I first became cognizant after waking up from my two month coma, every doctor and therapist I'd had told me that I was a great candidate for a guide or service dog and reminded me that I had always fought that. After the presentation, I no longer wanted to fight it; it took another two years for me to get into a class because of some medical issues, trying to decide what I needed most, a guide or service dog. In the end I, along with the help of my wife Angie and the expert staff at the Guide Dog Foundation, I entered class on April 3, 2013 and went home to Mechanicsville, Virginia with Gunner my new best friend.
In the nearly 14 months I've been with Gunner, I've been able to regain a ton of independence traveling to different places and doing public speaking overnight on a couple of different occasions and attending doctor and therapy appointments at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA hospital in Richmond.
This past week I had the opportunity to travel back to New York to do some filming for America's VetDogs at the campus in Smithtown, New York. I had an in-depth interview on what life had been like for me before injury, after injury, before Gunner, and after.
My life has been returned to me.
I played the part of the ass really well before Gunner, and since getting him I've gotten a lot of my old personality before injury back. I've always been asked if I could have anything back whether it be sight, hearing, no pain or what wouldn't I love to have my sight back. My answer? Not really -- I was always a great thinker and had a memory for everything. I would pick my thought process over everything, and slowly but surely Gunner and America's VetDogs have given that back to me.
Well time to make the donuts; I need to pack for this week. Brian
I left off with it was going to be a long year; little did I know it would turn into 16 months. In order to get to the end of my story, I need to go back a little.
Whenever the Battalion was getting ready to deploy we kept telling the Battalion Leadership they were going to have a have a QRF (Quick Reaction Force). The had made PSD's (Personal Security Details) for our Commander and key Battalion staff and a couple of other specialty teams but no QRF. Finally, about 60 days before we left we were ordered to stand one up. The only problem with this that I and others saw was that all of the great shooters were already on the other teams. I ended up taking a Medic, which to me was key, a Commo guy (also key), and a PAC (Personnel Action) clerk and a dukes mixture of other Soldiers from our Headquarters Battery.
Now, when we hit the ground and were getting settled, I gathered all of them around me in my hooch and told them this, after getting all of them a large trash bag: "Bring me one completer uniform, complete with undies, socks and a t-shirt."
After all had done this, I instructed them all to put their items in the garbage bag I had provided. The youngest most inexperienced Private spoke up and asked why? My answer? Because if we are out and we hit an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), get shot at, a dog barks, and somebody pisses their pants, craps their pants we always have a fresh set for you to put on and we burn the soiled ones. Now if this should happen. I told them, I will get you a replacement set and I will lose my stripes should this be made public. I never had to replace a uniform and I never lost a stripe. Best bunch of Soldiers I ever worked with.
Jumping forward a bit -- we had been in there a couple months and we were on an old Iraqi Air Base Q-West. There were lots of bunkers all around the fob that went way underground. Saddam Hussein had just been captured and they had given the speech about him being found in a hole like a rat. Well, after one particularly long and hot day we came in and parked our vehicles on line and I had the Soldiers cleaning weapons and checking trucks and radios like always. Our First Sergeant came around and tasked me with clearing these bunkers because the Iraqis were watching us -- no shit really? We are running up and down the road with trucks with guns on top -- hell yeah they're watching. So we cleared the bunkers the next morning.
More to follow. Time to make the donuts.
Brian Pearce is Live It Everyday's new contributing writer and represents our patriotic line. Here is his story.
My name is Brian K Pearce.
I enlisted in the Army in June of 1992 after being laid of from my job as a Deputy Sheriff in rural Sutheast Ohio. My Recruiter loved me because, I was able to do my own fingerprints and background checks because of my being in law enforcement before. So when I went to see him, I had a good portion of his job already done.
I attended Basic training at Ft Bliss in El Paso, Texas from June to August and boy was it hot: 111 when I got off the plane the first night. I finished Basic with a broken foot and went to Ft Leonardwood in Missouri to train both as a Heavy Equipment Operator and Combat Engineer, which was a short lived experiment as they only ran two iterations -- classes or cycles -- through. I then reported to Ft McClellan, Alabama to the 46th Engineer Battalion where I stayed for almost three years before heading to Korea with the 50th Assault Bridge Company.
From there I went to Ft Hood, Texas, Ft Drum New York, and ended my service briefly to go back to police work in the same community where I was laid off before. This break lasted about two and a half years before I returned to Active Duty and retrained at Ft Sill in Oklahoma and was re-posted to Ft Wainwright, Alaska to the 172d Stryker Brigade to prep for a deployment to Iraq.
We did our train up for Iraq right there in Alaska except for 30 days in Louisiana ... Yeah there's a huge amount of comparisons to a Iraq in Alaska in January and Louisiana at any time. We deployed as a Brigade and were stationed largely in the Mosul area but had different units in other places throughout the country from the Syrian border in the west to Turkey in the east, to our own Battalion about 50-60 miles south.
Yep, this was going to be a long year.
Time to make the donuts, Brian
When I asked Brian how he wanted to "sign off," on his posts, this is what he told me: "If you recall the old Dunkin Donut commercials where the guy was always puttering around in his house early in morning saying 'time to make the donuts.' I always used that before a shift as a cop and before a mission in Somalia and Iraq." I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to his upcoming posts.
A great voice and inspiration in our generation has passed away. To hear that Maya Angelou had died at 86 yesterday was heartbreaking for me. Of course, I didn’t know Maya personally, which makes that statement sound rather silly, but I have met her. Two years ago, I was working for my campus newspaper, The Murray State News. When we got word that Maya Angelou was giving a speech as a part of our annual Presidential Lecture Series (which has brought in speakers like Spike Lee, Ben Stein, and Bill Nye (you know, the science guy)), I was ecstatic to get the opportunity to meet and interview her. Excitement soon led to unashamed nervousness as I realized I would get to not only be in the same room as the woman whose works I had poured over in high school, but that I would get to speak to her personally. Amazing. I did my research -- I examined interviews from Maya in her younger years; I looked for interviews from her more seasoned years. I watched the way she really spoke to her interviewers; I focused on her ability to impart wisdom.
When the day came that I was to meet her, I was sick. No part of me wanted to go to work, to put my heels on, and pull out my recorder. It was a great opportunity, I knew, but there were other things to do. Lay in bed, actually, sounded the best at the time. But, I was working. It was my job. I ran across campus in my wedges which later rubbed blisters the size of quarters in my heels. Every time I wear those shoes, I think of that day, sprinting through the parking lot in a dress. I was warned that tardiness would not be acceptable (that's a bit of a problem for me). I waited outside the concourse that led to the room where she apparently was waiting. In the mean time, I met one of my very best friends, who I'm still incredibly close to today. Maya had interviews with the local newspapers, The Murray Ledger and Times, The Paducah Sun, they were all there and much more versed than me. I looked at my prepared questions, and began to tremble. This was a big deal. She was a big deal. She is a big deal.
“What’s your name?” she asked me as I walked in the room where our student body president, our adviser, my soon to be best friend, a cameraman who I'm also close to, stood. My pen jiggled in my hand. I told her my name.
“And you have questions for me, Ms. Russell?” What could I do but stammer yes?
My first thought when I saw her was that she was much older than I had anticipated. She was on oxygen, and was continually on the cameraman to “put that thing away” when it strung up to her nose, intertwined in a long, gold necklace. She did so nicely, of course. The woman doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. Her eyes were masked by shaded lenses, but she looked at me as she spoke slowly and deliberately. Her hands were manicured and laid delicately across her brown dressed lap. She was in a wheelchair. She was 84 years old.
Looking at my notebook, which fit perfectly in the palm of my left hand, I read my first question. I could hardly hear myself I was so nervous. But she began talking, and that made all the difference.
She told us to be an inspiration, no matter what our age. The words she used? A rainbow in the clouds. She explained that our age didn’t matter. “Not enough adults tell you that you are the best we have,” she told me. “We need your courage; courage is the most important of all the virtues.” I scribbled, my hand still shaking. She was the kind of woman you wanted to drink coffee with. I wanted to absorb what she was saying, never forget it. What Maya Angelou said to me that day was insurmountable. What I remember, though, is the way she said my name every time she answered a question. Her answers were long and thoughtful and as she looked at me, spilling out words of reassurance, she said my name. And she told me, quite simply, to be a rainbow in someone else's clouds.
Today, I am sad. Maya Angelou is gone. But, her words will be with us always. They have changed and shaped the nation and forever, I am grateful.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be bettertomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that everyday you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“Listen to yourself and in that quietude, you might hear the voice of God.”
“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”
“I believe that each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory.”
“We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated."
“Nothing can dim the light which signs from within.”
Maya, you were quite a woman. And you will be dearly, dearly missed.