Thursday, March 27, 2008


I have had the pleasure of meeting a great Marine who's name is Josh.  Josh is an Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veteran.  His story and views are important for all to read as you will find out.  Please provide any comments or feedback you wish to share with Josh.

1. Josh, can you tell me a little about your military background?

    I was a Marine reservist serving from 2003 until my contract expired last year (2007).  I served on tour in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq during 2005.  I am a school trained mortarman, but served as a machine gunner on a Humvee in a mobile assault platoon while in country.  In Iraq, I was injured by a roadside bomb (IED) and received a Purple Heart.  I also was part of several large-scale military operations.

2. How long have you been back Stateside now?

    I came back from Iraq at the end of 2005 and served the rest of my active reserve contract which ended last fall.

3. Compared to what you were hearing while in Iraq, (via the Mainstream News Media or any other means), do you feel that Americans got the whole story as to what was really happening on the front lines?

    No, Americans did not get the entire story.  It would take an extraordinary journalist to convey the actual feeling on the ground, the true feeling.  Many journalists visit Iraq with pre-conceived notions and they always find what they hope to find.  If they are looking for torture stories, they will find them.  If they are looking for war crimes, they will find them (true or not so true).  Being on the ground everyday in Iraq and experiencing every emotion we, as humans, can go though makes it terribly difficult to make unbiased reports in Iraq.  This is for several reasons, many times the reporters will go on a couple of patrols and form their entire opinion based on a snapshot.  For those who don't go out on patrol, all they are left to do is report on casualtiess.  Which is why we see body count updates regularly.

    Unfortunately, returning veterans are confronted by horrible ignorance from everyday people when they return from Iraq.  It is as if people have no idea.  Many don't realize that there are Marines standing watch right this moment.  There are also Marines preparing for a raid or their next patrol.  There are Marines traveling down roads right now wondering if the road is going to blow up beneath them.  All of this ignorance makes the adjustment back to regular life that much more difficult.  Even those who don't suffer from PTSD are likely to come home and experience what I like to call the "battlefield hangover".  It is a period similar to depression where someone feels disconnected from society because they have recently separated from the military.  It is a completely different way of life.

4. As an injured Marine and Purple Heart recipient, do you feel the Military is doing enough for our Veterans?  If not, where do you feel there needs to be the most improvement?

    The government is trying very hard to figure out the right formula for taking care of those coming back.  They deserve credit for trying.  Unfortunately, I am not sure the government will ever master healthcare, whether it be for veterans or anyone else.  Throwing money at the problem simply will not work.  Great people are required and I have met many great people from the VA (more are needed).  I am optimistic that care will get better, but there is one thing that I would recommend to the government.  I feel a VA social worker should be assigned to a group of veterans and regularly communicate with them.  The social worker would take the initiative, not the veteran.  This is because many veterans come home and are too proud to make the call to the VA.  There is something that keeps them from helping themselves.  I would like to see more outreach efforts increase in this regard and I think regular phone calls to the veteran would….1) let the veteran know there is someone out there concerned for them 2) the phone call would cross the divide that the veteran otherwise would not cross 3) the social worker could also schedule medical appointments by phone.  I know the Marine Corps does something like this as I recently received a phone call from Marine Corps Community Services on the order of the Commandant.  I think more of this is needed.

    I would also have a number this is always staffed with a counselor that a veteran can call and not have to jump through hoops to find someone to speak with.  When I say always, I mean 24-7-365.  Holidays and family celebrations can be a difficult time for the recently returned veteran and they may need an anonymous person to talk to at odd times.  This wouldn't necessarily be a suicide line as many just feel lonely and disconnected and they need to hear a good person on the other end.  I can't tell you how disheartening it is to make a phone call at one of those times on a weekend or late at night and you get the normal office hours repeated to you only after going through six other prompts.  A private organization might be better suited for this role, but I think it is needed. 

5. On the lighter side, what are some of the things you missed  most.  Any foods,TVv shows, hobbies, etc.?

    I missed everything. To put it broadly, I missed home and everything that entails.

6. Many people send care packages over to our deployed, are there things you would suggest for a supporter to send?

    Frankly, we were sent tremendous care packages with a variety of  items. Any type of food that tastes good and can last is always welcome. What I enjoyed the most were letters and videos. My family sent me a video from home where my Dad just took the camera around  the house and showed relatives around the dinner table. While  watching the video, for a brief moment I was home. I watched this  video over and over again because I could escape into it for short  periods of time.  Any video from home is great.

At this time, Josh would like to remain anonymous for personal reasons.  However, he is writing a book about his experiences.  I will update this article in the future when he is ready to reveal more.

Thank you, Josh, for your honesty and integrity.  Americans will be wiser and more informed because of you.  Thank you for sharing a part of yourself, and your time with me.  Semper Fi!!!!!




Filed under Interviews, Marines, Military by

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Throughout the weeks preceeding Easter, all my children have asked incessantly, "What are we doing for Spring Break?" or "Aren't we going on Spring Vaction?".  Followed with statements like, "Joey, Suzie, Jane and Johnny are all going to Disney World.", "I wish we could go to a resort with big swimming pools and water slides.", "I guess we aren't doing anything over Spring Break.", "I'm going to be the only who's sitting around doing nothing.",  "I won't have anything to tell my friends about my Spring Break.", "What am I supposed to write when the teacher makes us fill out a diary or write a paper on "What I did on Spring Break?".

Furthermore, high school and college students are now called "Spring Breakers".  What the heck is that?  What exactly are they Breaking?  The law?  Their morals? Their parent's bank account?  I don't  believe anything should be broken, besides bread, for Easter holiday.

This has led me to ponder the question that has been lurking in my mind for years.  When and why did America make the switch from "Easter Holiday" to "Spring Break"?    I remember when school-aged kids were given Good Friday through the week following Easter, off from school.  This time, beginning from Good Friday, (much like Christmas Eve), families would prepare for the observance of Easter.   This is not the way anymore; it has morphed to an exceedingly disturbing  disgrace.

How did we get from this:

Photo of Dessie and Joe Smith Family, Easter Sunday April 12, 1936.


To this:         


Filed under Family Values by

Sunday, March 23, 2008





On this day, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  What exactly does "resurrection" mean?  In short, it means to rise again.  It is my belief that every human being is given many opportunities to resurrect themselves throughout their lives on earth.  Maybe not in the sense in which Christ was resurrected, but in in other senses.  Sometimes we don't even know that we are being given the chance to resurrect our lives.  When we do realize the possibility of a resurgent, it is called "a spiritual awakening".   We have been nodding off or  in a deep sleep.

In celebrating our own life, we wind up celebrating Christ's life.  To mark the occasion, I will go to church and sing his praises.  I will stand in fellowship with His followers.  I will pray that my words and actions are compassionate and loving.  I will pray for His divine intervention through me.

How will you celebrate His glory?  Let it be light, let it be true, let it be intentional and let it cultivate integrity and joy.

Cross and sky


Filed under Misc. stuff, My Family by

Saturday, March 22, 2008


If anyone needs proof that the statement, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine" is true, just continue to watch and read this amazing story.


Marine heart transplant recipient meets with family of donor

abc7news Chicago

Friday, March 21, 2008 | 6:41 PM

A Rockford heart transplant patient has learned that his life was saved by a fellow Marine.

Ricky Martinez, 22, was shot and killed after leaving a Cubs game in Chicago almost two years ago. His father spoke out Friday about the decision to turn their loss into a life-saving gift for another Marine.

Ricky Martinez will be honored at a special ceremony Saturday by veterans groups who will be remembering not only his service in Iraq, but also the gift he made after his death: his heart. The recipient of that gift, Brian Troy, will be there.

Ricky Martinez's picture is always with his father on the tag he wears around his neck. Ricardo Martinez, Sr. can barely talk about the death of his son two years later without choking up. That is why he wanted badly to talk with the person who carries his son's donated heart.

Posted Mar 19, 2008 @ 11:52 AM

Ricky Martinez knew he was headed for a war zone when he became a Marine. He knew his life would be on the line.

But after watching the devastation caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Martinez signed up anyway.

As it happened, Martinez survived two tours in Iraq. It was five months later, after he had returned home and applied to become a police officer, that he was killed. Allegedly mistaken for a gang member, the 23-year-old was shot in the streets of Chicago after going to a Cubs game.

The tragedy stole his future and left his family devastated. Yet, in his death, Martinez managed one final, selfless act: He donated his heart to a man he had never met.

‘Most unimaginable call’
Rockford electrician Brian Troy was at the top of the waiting list for a heart transplant on the day Martinez was shot. Troy had just finished a two-month hospital stay, during which he had spent 30 days in a coma and lost 40 pounds.

Troy has a genetic problem that caused an irregular heartbeat and eventually an enlarged heart. Troy’s mother died at 51 from heart ailments; his grandfather had a stroke when he was 43. Troy was 41 years old, had been sick for more than three years and was deteriorating rapidly. He needed a new heart soon.

“I just knew it was something I was going to have to go through,” he said. “There was an acceptance there that either I’m going to make it or I’m not.”

Troy struggled with the idea that getting a new heart — his greatest wish — meant that someone else would meet an untimely death. It didn’t seem natural to take someone else’s heart.

And yet every time he fell short of breath, Troy was reminded he would leave a wife and two children behind when his heart gave out. So the only question left in his mind was whether one would become available soon enough.

Then early on a Sunday morning, as his wife changed his bandages, the telephone rang. On the other end was a nurse at Chicago’s Loyola Hospital, telling the Troys to get there right away.

“That was the most unimaginable call,” Troy said. “Wow, I’m going in and getting a new heart.”

The couple raced to get dressed and sped down the highway to arrive at the hospital two hours later. Troy says he wasn’t nervous heading into surgery, even though he knew the risks associated with a heart transplant were high.

“I was at peace,” he said. “I had faith that whatever was going to happen was going to be the right thing.”

And so, as the Martinez family mourned, Troy went into the operating room for the 11-hour surgery that would give him Ricky’s heart. When Troy woke from the surgery, he opened his eyes and realized that, for the first time in months, he finally felt hungry.

It was a good sign.

Recovery and saying ‘thank you’

In the months ahead, Troy began to gain strength. He put on weight, became an enthusiastic advocate for organ donation and was overwhelmed with gratitude for Ricky Martinez.

Four months after the transplant, he sent a letter to the Martinez family. He sympathized with their loss and thanked them for his heart. When more than a year had passed with no response, Troy sent a second letter. This time, the Martinez family responded, and they wanted to meet him.

“It was just supposed to be a private meeting at first,” Troy said. “But I had done a Donate Life (organ donation) event and did an interview with 23 News. So all three of the networks were out here for our meeting.”

When seven members of the Martinez family walked into the Troys’ Rockford home earlier this year, the meeting was a flurry of activity. There were news interviews to be done and introductions to be made. Then once the television cameras had cleared, the Martinez family and the Troy family sat down together.

Ricky’s mother placed her hand on Troy’s chest, letting herself feel the beat of her son once again.

“We sat at the table and talked about all sorts of stuff,” Troy said. “They had pictures and a family album for us to browse through.”

The meeting left Troy with an even greater appreciation for the heart that sustains him. He wants to live his life in a way that honors Ricky Martinez.

“Not only did I get a heart, but I got a very honorable heart,” he said. “It makes it very easy for me to dedicate my life to keeping his memory alive.”

To that end, Troy’s days now are filled with work to promote organ and tissue donation. He’s knocked on doors, passed out fliers and organized events — all in the hopes that just one more person will become a donor.

After all, it only took one to save his life.


Filed under Marines, Military, Patriotic, Troop Support by

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