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Monday, May 28, 2012 22 comments

Memorial Day - "Until They Are Home"


I’m not from this country, but I did get here as fast as I could, and boy, do I love this land of the free and home of the brave.
(Now, these United States of ours, they ain't perfect, but when I was a younger man looking to settle down, I never did have much of a hankering to emigrate to Russia, Cuba or North Korea - but that's just me.)

I’ve been a writer for nine years, and half of that time I worked as a journalist in Florida and Texas.

Part of my job was coming up with ideas for features and other “evergreen” stories and I loved, loved, loved shining the light on some of the area veterans.

Hearing firsthand accounts from guys who landed at Normandy, flew gunships over Vietnam or fought in the Battle of Wanat (Afghanistan) was (and is) a true privilege, as was sharing their stories with my readers.

And, talking with these veterans was never boring.

Wrinkling tattoos made with a drunken buddy were uncovered; twinkling eyes shone as dust blew off old photo albums, and a tangible pride was found in a commanding soldier's email as he relayed the message from a local woman who'd thanked him for the progress she saw in her Iraqi town.

Other Vets would lean forward, eyes watering as they talked about the friends left behind - the ones they think about every day.

More than 83,000 Americans are still missing from past conflicts – but they will never be forgotten.

One agency, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, based here in Oahu, is doing all in its power to never quit “Until They Are Home.”

(March 30, 2012) - JPAC team members clear dirt from a caved-in wall at a World War II crash site in Papua New Guinea.
(Photo Courtesy: Mr. Jason Kaye, U.S. Navy)

With four hundred joint military and civilian personnel, the core of JPAC’s day-to-day operations involves researching case files, investigating leads, excavating sites and identifying Americans killed in action, but never brought home, according to information on its website.
(Conducting search, recovery and laboratory operations all over the globe, JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory is the largest and most diverse forensic skeletal laboratory in the world.)

So while part of me is looking forward to lighting up the grill on this Memorial Day, another part will take some time to reflect on the day’s true meaning.

Over the weekend I saw a full-page ad in a local military newspaper.

From a national insurance company, its simple message offered gratitude to “those for whom Memorial Day is every day,” a tribute to the “Gold Star” families – those among us who’ve lost a child, spouse, sibling or other family member in defense of the United States of America.

I interviewed members of two Gold Star families, and it is with honor, respect and a deep sense of gratitude that I dedicate this post to the following heroes:

Brian D. McGinnis
      ·         U.S. Marine Sgt. Brian D. McGinnis, 23, of St. George, Del. was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA)-169, Marine Air Craft Group-39 (then deployed in Iraq.)

Sgt. McGinnis was killed March 30, 2003 when a UH-1N “Huey” helicopter crashed on takeoff in southern Iraq. (He was the sixty-third service member to die in the Iraq war, which started just ten days earlier.)

James A. Funkhouser
       ·         U.S. Army Capt. James A. Funkhouser, 35, of Katy, Texas was assigned to 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division in Fort Hood, Texas.

Capt. Funkhouser died May 29th, 2006 of injuries sustained when a vehicle-borne makeshift bomb detonated near his Humvee during reconnaissance patrol operations in Baghdad. (Capt. Funkhouser was helping to protect CBS journalist Kimberly Dozier – who was herself seriously injured.)

I will never forget the ultimate sacrifices paid by Sgt. McGinnis and Capt. Funkhouser, and when my three boys are old enough, I will take time out of a Memorial Day to tell them about the two men I never met, but whose memory lives on.

I pray that I can instill in my boys how much the sacrifices of our fallen heroes means to me – and that our freedom should never be taken for granted.

But, most of all, I hope I can teach my boys the joy (and the importance) of taking a moment to approach a uniformed service member, say hi, offer a handshake and simply thank them for their service.

So, if you are serving, or have served in our Nation’s Armed Forces, thank you for your service – and for giving me the freedom to raise three little boys in a safe, sound Christian environment.
Your hard work will not be in vain - I promise.

 (April 20, 2012) - JPAC members prepare a transfer case for a repatriation ceremony from Papua New Guinea to the U.S.
(Photo Courtesy: Mr. Jason Kaye, U.S. Navy)

Friday, May 25, 2012 26 comments

Photo Caption Contest: "I Didn't Do It."


Just for giggles, anyone want to enter a photo caption contest?

This is No. 3 Son, (nearly five months old) and the picture was taken May 24, 2012.

No prizes, just bragging rights (I'll pick the Top Five and ask for votes:)

(If you want to enter, leave 25-word or less captions in comments :)

In any event, thanks for stopping by - have a safe Memorial Day Weekend.

PS....If you are - or were - a member of our Nation's Armed Forces - *thank you* for your service.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 5 comments

Victoria's Secret: The Anthology :)


Several friends and family members have asked if I could anthologize my recent Victoria’s Secret “Panty Raid.”

(You see, I was in search of the perfect Mother’s Day gift – only I was not alone…)

Gen, and I were talking last week, and I mentioned if she wanted anything for Mother’s Day?

“Well, I don’t want flowers, jewelry or stuffed animals, but oh! I would like some new undies.”

I was already thinking Ross or Wal-Mart when an icicle of fear pierced my heart as she smiled and said where she wanted me to go.

 “Victoria’s Secret.”

 Beads of sweat popped out of my manly brow as my writer’s mind offered an instant vision:

 Me and the three kids working our way past a row of colorful bras and other sexy lingerie things… then the stroller hits a display holding a mannequin-ette… which topples over… as I instinctively raise my hands, I find myself cupping a lace-covered, voluptuously made plastic bosom… just as an elderly woman walks by. She shakes her head, tsk tsks me and suggests we should rent a hotel room…

 Shaking off this nightmare scenario, I turn to my wife with a hopeful look.

 “Hang on, my love. How about I buy you one of those pajama combo things… the hoodie, footie things on TV, you know the ones that end in “ie?”

 Oh, la, la :)

“It’s a Snuggie and, no, I just need a few pairs of undies from Victoria’s Secret – but while you’re there you can buy something for yourself, too.

Now we’re talking. (I love Mother’s DayJ)
OK. I have five business days to arrange for my not-so-secret visit to Victoria’s Secret (VS.)
I'm a guy. I got this.

The first thing I do, (‘cos I’m as sharp as a stick) is to have Gen tell me what type of panties she wants – and as she does…I Write. It. Down.

With that precious info in hand, I now wait until Friday morning to prepare for the rest of the mission. VS is an awesome national brand, so there’s got to be a few around Oahu.


There’s only one – at least according to my manly GPS.

And it’s in downtown Waikiki.

Which meant, I imagined, horrible traffic, garage parking and me having to decipher a "directory" to help find my way around a huge, sprawling mall for this secret lingerie store.

OK, OK, no worries.

As long as I leave by 9:30 a.m. I can make it there in about twenty minutes, find parking; walk to the store; peruse the panties; purchase the panties; return to minivan and drive home by 11:30 a.m., which is when Gen comes home to feed our infant boy.

For anyone new, I’m a stay-at-home Dad to three boys (aged four, two and four months old.) I write a monthly series on parenting called “You Know You’re A Parent When...”

OK, so if we’re going downtown, that means we’re going on a TRIP.

And a TRIP means, in no particular order that the following must be onboard the minivan:

Three Children.

Two Drinks.

One Snack Bag.

Other miscellaneous equipment needed for the TRIP include:

Diaper bag.


Car seat.


 For some reason… (YOU’RE GOING TO A LINGERIE STORE WITHOUT A FEMALE TO GUIDE YOU!!!)… I’m flustered, and instead of leaving at 9:30 a.m. it’s more like 10:15.

I place the Mother's Day card on the hood of the van while I arrange the boys.

 Reversing out the driveway, I ask the buckled-in boys if they’re “Ready for an adventure?”

 Little did I know…

 I switched on GPS, and double checked the address via Droid.
I was not getting lost on this panty raid.

Driving away, a small, plastic bag blew off the side of the windscreen.

 Man, I hate litterers.

 Freeway traffic was light, and I soon hit the final road leading to Victoria’s Secret.

 Not knowing if it was on the left or right, I did as many males would – I cast away the physical address and looked for the physical attributes.

 There must be a window-sized lingerie model somewhere around here… and there she is… On the left!

 Like a lacy beacon in a busty, er busy street, the store entrance was at street level, which meant I wouldn’t have to waste time traversing any strange malls.

Oh, happy days, this is easy.

 “We did it, boys, we did it,” I shouted to the kids, (as if we’d travelled nonstop from Boston to Los Angeles.)

 “Papa, can I have the snack bag, please,” said No. 1 Son.

“Let me just find parking.”

I made the next left. It was all loading and unloading only.


Then I saw a parking garage offering two options: the flat $9 rate, or $2 per thirty minutes.

“Boys… look sharp… if we rush, we can get there, and be back here in thirty minutes, right?”

“Papa, can I have the snack bag, please?”

 “Sure, sure, let me just park.”

I told the lady we were here for the $2 special. She smiled and warned not to park in levels one to four, “‘cos you’ll get a ticket.”

No worries.

 It’s 10 a.m. on a Friday, there’ll be spots on level five. Surely.

 At level three, we pass ROSS, (a clothing store.) Momentarily, I muse and wonder if they sell Victoria’s Secrets panties. They might be cheaper, too??

 But then you won’t get the little pink bag thing…

Right, right.

 By the time we reached level eight, the older boys were playing “what’s the next number!” game, and I was getting dizzy.

We parked (on eight) and Operation Buy Panties was a GO!

 Stroller out – wheels locked. CHECK.

 No. 3 Son in car seat – attached to stroller. CHECK

 No. 2 Son unbuckled and removed from van. Placed next to left hip. CHECK.

Reach in cramped space for No. 1 Son’s shoes (he always removes them.)CHECK.

Continue searching for shoes like I’m bobbing for apples. OH, Check.

A just-before-leaving-the-house memory hits me with the force of a Wonderbra.

“Don’t forget his blue shoes…”

“Son... Where. Are. Your. Shoes?”

“In the new house. Papa. Can I have the snack bag, please?”

 “Oh, yeah, Sure. Here, take this.”

Let me think, let me think.

OK, No. 1 Son can’t walk with no shoes…oh my gosh, he’ll cut himself… get an infection, and we’ll have to take him to the ER – probably on Mother’s Day. No, no, no, no.

But what to do?

Go home?

Give in –let the panties win?

What would I tell my wife?

I looked at the kids… No. 1 Son was happy with his snack bag, No. 2 was playing with the front tire and waiting for further orders, while No. 3 son chilled out atop the stroller.

 Atop the stroller.

Kids can sit on those.

Kids without shoes.

I had a great idea….

Releasing the car seat (with baby) I placed both next to the hood – where I now remember was where I’d left the Mother’s Day card… That was the “litter” blowing off the windscreen earlier...

Never mind the card, don’t forget the baby.

Oh, yeah…

With No. 1 Son locked in stroller, I grabbed the baby harness my wife wears with ease.

Licensed by a car company, it was a bloody straitjacket… I couldn’t figure what was up or down – even when I held the logo out in front like a hood ornament.

I tried one hand here, unsnapping this and grabbing that…but whatever, dude… that thing wouldn’t hold air, let alone No. 3 Son.

Wiping sweat off my brow, I threw the harness back and said to heck with it.

I’ll carry baby, roll the stroller and No. 2 Son will follow my sharply given commands.

Doors locked.

Off we go.

Ten steps later… after weaving stroller somewhat toward the elevator, I called halt, which three of us did (considering I was holding one and pushing the other.)

No. 2 Son however... he kept on trucking like he was freeeee.

“Catck me, Papa. Papa. Catck me…”

Stroller wheels locked, baby bouncing, I catch up with the Runaway Son as he turns for level seven...

Bloody Nora, this ain’t gonna work.

Change permutations.

Baby in stroller – pull straps TIGHT.

(Remember to scootch him back to center as needed.)

Hold No. 2 Son in manly arms; hunker down for serious eye contact moment with No. 1 Son, (who looks at me in awe for arranging such a great adventure.)

“OK, you’re walking to the store without any shoe–”

“Watch for glass or rocks. If the ground is too hot, let me know.”

He gets my most serious glare.

“And, whatever happens, don’t. Tell. Your. Mother!”

“But, Papa…?”

“Yes, son.”

“Mama will find out when she reads this…”

“She already knows… plus you didn’t really say the last few lines – I’m using ‘artistic license.’”

Stopping by the elevator, I lower No. 2 Son, and catching my breath, I relax.

Nothing could go wrong…


“Ok, guys c’mon, c’mon,” I said nodding thanks to the man already inside as he threw an arm to hold the door.

I looked to my right as No. 1 Son pressed NINE and TEN.

“No, no. ‘G’, we need ‘G.”

I turned to see what No. 2 was doing as our unlucky companion pressed into a corner.

OK, good. This elevator has only one bank of buttons. Nothing for No. 2 to press…

Except the emergency call button…


Too late…

“Light. Papa. Light. On.”

Ring… Ring…

“Hello, Emergency Services. Is there an emergency,” said A Stern Voice from the speaker, set about eighteen inches off the ground.

Who puts the emergency thingy on the other side of the buttons???

I’m six-two, so my arse stuck up in the air as I shushed No. 2 Son and talked to Stern Voice.

“No, sorry, it was my son; he pressed the button by mistake…”

“Hello? Can you hear me? IS there an emergency?”

I bent lower – arse goes higher –thinking it wouldn’t surprise me if the guy in the corner jumps on five and walks…

“No emergency, my son pressed the button,” I said – throwing my sweet, button-pressing son under the bus – again.

Great job, Papa…


OK, fine. Be like that.

Arriving at “G”, our new friend bolts.

I threw him a “sorry” as I regrouped the troops.

My thirty minutes was dwindling, but there was still hope.

“Ready, Son?”

“Ready, Papa!”

I moved No. 2 son to the lesser of my two burning arms, unlocked the stroller and we lumbered off into the heart of Honolulu.

Next stop: Victoria’s Secret.

The streets of Honolulu were hot and humid as I walked along the upscale

of course it was

district leading to Victoria’s Secret.

Stores like PRADA and COACH were here and I passed Armani Exchange and its sandwich board advertising a special: Men’s Shorts: two for $88.

Holding No. 2 son, while pushing baby, I kept a low profile so Hawaii 5-0 wouldn’t arrest me for neglecting my shoeless son…

Bad parent! Bad parent!

And then, there she was.

Victoria, and all her secrets.

I’ve never been so happy to see a half-naked, sexy woman in a window – even after living in Amsterdam for three years.

I walked into the blessed relief of air conditioned bras.

And panties.

I looked around.

More bras.

More panties.

Good grief, where do I begin?

A lady in black caught my terror-struck eyes and immediately asked if I needed any help?

“Look, Papa, it’s a construction hat…”

“Oh, yes, please can you help... Son, get your bloody head out of that bra…”

Curtailing the able-bodied boys, I fished out my wife’s wish list.

“Do you have these… please?” I blubbered.

“Ah yes, sure, follow me upstairs.”

“There’s a second floor… There’s more bras and panties?”

(I own eight pairs of boxers – the extra one is for emergencies… I’m not getting any younger, you see.)

“Yes, sir. And, the elevator is right over here…”

A what?

No! Please not that…

“I can carry the stroller up the stairs, if you like?” I asked hopefully.
She shook her head, and we gathered outside the steel door.

It opened. The boys ran in and No. 2 Son looked for “Light! Light!
I stood guard over the few buttons and smiled at my guardian angel (who must have left those big wing things at home.)

Exiting, she brought me to one corner, where hundreds and hundreds of panties lay on display.

Rows and rows... it was like a rainbow of panties...

Finally, I caught a break. The boys found a huge loveseat (of course) and were busy beating each other to a bloody pulp.

My sweet, well-behaved (semi-shoeless) boys.

And, then she bent to pull on a drawer.

My eyes bugged, I mean literally, they nearly popped out.

I looked down, across… and then behind me.

There were dozens of drawers, all full of drawers.

I stared at this one drawer though – my holy grail of panties.

Imagining a white light (and some Gregorian chanting) emanating from the back of the drawer, I looked up at my Angel.

“Is this it? Is this what I came for?”


Thanking her so very much for her wonderful help, I mustered the troops.

“Guys, come here, quick!”

The boys scooted over and No. 1 Son picked his five favorite colors.

As I made our way to the cashier, a “buy something for yourself, too…” memory hit me, but my internal battery was down to one flashing red bar.

I had a headache.

We paid – and after an uneventful walk of shame…

“Look Mama, that boy over there with the bald man, he has no shoes.”

“Shh, dahling, don’t talk about poor people like that – and besides, look at these two cheap pairs of shorts I bought your father.”

…we made it back to the van, drove home... and that’s the end.

NO WAY, dude that sucks… what really happened?

OK, OK…so there is a little more….

Suh-weet! Encore, encore!

Ahh, thanks, I’ve never had a writer’s encore before…

Fast Forward to Mother’s Day. My wife is enjoying breakfast in bed as I share the adventure of the previous Friday…

No. 1 Son decides it’s good to share.

“I had no shoes, Mama, I walked with no shoes!”
Thank. You. Son.

“You’re Welcome, Papa!”

Anyway, it is with immense pride that I watched my beloved remove her five new undies – the spoils of my now infamous panty raid.
She giggled.

Three of the five panties were the wrong style.

Two of the five were the wrong size.

Gentlemen, the moral of the story is…

Don’t let this happen to you.

Order online.

It’s safer.
And, always have flowers in your back up plan :)

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