Be An American Worth Dying For

I have created this blog to hopefully inspire average, everyday Americans to do their part in supporting our troops by being “An American Worth Dying For.” If you are new to the site, please read oldest to newest.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We Can Never Do Enough

Just when I think I have a pretty good grasp of the sacrifices made by our troops and their families, I am slapped in the face with the fact that we can never do enough to support them.

My nephew Joe is in the 101st Airborne and has been deployed to Afghanistan since Labor Day. In anticipation of his homecoming, his wife Meghan rented a house near Fort Campbell, KY. I had the privilege of helping her make the move from Denver to Fort Campbell.

I left ahead of her and their one year old baby, Saydee, driving the moving van, and towing her car with their dogs, Cheyenne and Romeo. I arrived at their new home four days before Meghan and Saydee were to fly in.

It is an adorable house, but being a rental, of course there was much cleaning and painting to do. I set to work immediately preparing the house for their arrival.

I scrubbed floors and walls. I painted closets and bedrooms. I changed outdated and discolored light switches and outlets.

I unloaded all their household items in their assigned rooms. Four friends of the family from the area spent an afternoon lining kitchen cabinets, fixing broken furniture and stocking the refrigerator.

I assembled Joe's new lawn mower and weedeater. I mowed the lawn and trimmed low hanging tree branches. I fixed the fence so the dogs and little Saydee wouldn't escape.

In between jobs I made time to play fetch with the dogs. I let them sleep with me and gave them all the love I knew Joe showed them. I took them for walks through the neighborhood just as Joe had instructed me. He wanted everyone to know his family was protected by two ferocious (looking) dogs.

I picked Meghan and Saydee up at the airport and delivered them safely to their new house. I showed Meghan how to find Wal-mart, the hardware store, the cheapest gas, the second-hand furniture store, the playground and the emergency room.

I got up with Saydee in the mornings and fed her breakfast to let Meghan sleep in after late nights of working on the house. I took her for walks and trips to town to give her mother a break.

I made sure their car was serviced and in good working order. I showed Meghan how the change the fuse to the cigarette lighter that blows sometimes so she would never be caught with a dead cell phone battery.

I did everything I thought Joe would do for his family. But as the time to return home was approaching I cursed the plane that would take me away from this little family I had become so attached to. Nine days just wasn't enough. There was so much more I wanted to do.

My heart broke when I found Cheyenne's beloved football in my suitcase where she had laid it hoping I would throw it for her one more time. She never strayed more than a few feet away from me the entire morning of my departure day. I hid my tears behind my sunglasses as I watched both dogs barking at the front window as they watched us pull out of the driveway. Meghan said that is how they behaved the night before Joe left.

It was all I could do to turn Saydee loose at the airport. She had stole my heart and wouldn't give it back. I couldn't look Meghan in the eyes as I hugged her goodbye. She is such a strong and independent woman and I knew I couldn't bear to see the loneliness in her eyes that I knew was sure to be there.

As I walked away all I could think of is how hard it must have been for Joe to walk away from his family as I had. How hard must it have been to think of his dogs and his baby wondering at the people who come in to their lives for a short time, then leave.

I just can't shake the feeling that I didn't do enough. We can never do enough to be an American Worth Dying For.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Mother's Day Gift

A year ago this week I penned a blog post titled Mother's Day, about a young lady named Shelby who was dying of cancer. Her mother was a customer at our Verizon store and she told my daughter, Jenn, that Shelby wanted Duke to carry her to final rest.

I've thought about Shelby often and just last week asked Jenn if she had heard any updates on Shelby. The last she had heard, Shelby had discontinued her chemo and was in hospice care.

Lately I've been spending one day a week at the store to give Jenn a break. I spend most of the day counting the hours til closing time and grumbling that I have to be there. Today was no different.

As I sat staring out the door wishing I was somewhere else, I watched a woman and a young girl make their way in. The girl was unsteady and walked with a cane, but she made her way determinedly. The mother recognized me and turned to the girl and said that's the lady with the horse and I instantly realized the girl was Shelby.

What a joy to finally meet the young lady that I had agonized over a year ago. She reports they removed her pick line and she was discharged from hospice yesterday. Her brain tumor is half the size. Oral morphine is controlling her headaches. Tomorrow she heads to Denver to see a specialist and learn what her options are.

I can't wait til quitting time so I can hurry home and tell Duke today was a good day at the office and he will get the chance to meet Shelby and not at her funeral. I couldn't ask for a better Mother's Day present. Thank you, Shelby!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Katie Giddup and Little Jane

It was the 1920’s and a little girl named Jane and her older brother were trying to make it home from school in one of those blinding, freezing blizzards that can come on so suddenly on the eastern plains of Colorado.

Their school bus was a two-wheeled cart pulled by a beautiful mule they lovingly called Katie-Giddup. As the frightened children huddled against the freezing wind and blinding snow they fought desperately to guide the mule towards home. But Katie Giddup was stubborn and wanted to go in another direction.

Time and again, they pulled on the lines trying to turn the mule towards home. But true to her natural stubbornness, Katie Giddup had to have her way. Finally, the frozen and disheartened children gave up the fight and let Katie Giddup have her head, knowing they would surely meet their demise on the windswept plains, miles from home.

Katie Giddup , free to follow her heart, trudged on, past fencepost after fencepost, through drift after drift, some as high as the underside of her swaying belly. Katie Giddup did not stop, not until she had safely delivered her precious children to the front door of their farmhouse and into the arms of their waiting parents.

Little Jane never forgot her beloved Katie Giddup. She shared the story of her loyal mule with her Horace, with her nine children and her twenty-eight grandchildren. Though long since passed, Katie Giddup lived on in the memory of little Jane.

Now 80 years later, in honor of that loyal mule, Duke will change his name to Katie Giddup on Saturday, and again, little Jane will be lovingly and gently carried home and into the arms of her Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

With the US Army's Faces of Strength 2010 video coming out, I am reminded that I am not an Army of One and I wonder if everyone else knows it. Being front and center with the horse and hearse at a funeral can sometimes lend the impression that I do it all. The truth is, and I always try to tell folks, there are so many who have sweat and bled to keep this company going. I can't name each and every person today, and I hope that those unnamed know that I know what they have done and will forever be grateful. So in no special order I want to give some much deserved credit to some really great people.

From the time we were small, our late mother, Maryanne Clancy, instilled in us a strong sense of civic duty. She always took care of others before herself. That set the foundation for this venture. And she was always there, whether in spirit or in person, at that first funeral and everyone thereafter. I never came home from a funeral that she didn't want to hear all about it. And she so meticulously kept care of newspaper clippings, mass cards and other memorabilia.

And my Dad, the late Wellington Joseph Clancy, who gave us a name, the inspiration and so much more. There is more to a name than most folks will ever realize.

And while I try and try to tell people this whole operation was the dream and baby of my brother, Barney Clancy, they still give me the credit for starting the business. I could never on my own, have thought to do this or put it all together. He did it all and I just fell in to the glory.

Albert, Jenn and Nate, made so many sacrifices to see this through. I missed a lot of school programs, birthday parties, ball games and family time because I was off doing funerals. And the kids did without so much because the money had to go to the "business." Jenn and Nate, were 7 and 4, respectively when we started the company and they grew up helping any way they could. Jenn was the little wife and mother at home and as she got older she took over handling the phone store and the finances so I could devote myself to this. I remember Nate at 5 & 6 years old, watching out the window for our headlights, so he could run out to shine a flashlight to guide me and open the gate to Mike's corral. He endured my anger and frustration as I struggled to soak and wrap Mike's hooves when he had his many abscesses. As soon as he was big enough, he went to every funeral he could. In his high school ag class, he built us a new trailer to pull to funerals.

Without Pat and Susie Gomez, I would have fallen on my face when I took over the business from Barney. I had no pickup to pull the trailer and had to hire people to haul us around, something I could little afford. One day Pat called me and asked for a ride to Pueblo to look at a pickup. With nothing better to do, I took him and watched him buy a 1984 Chevrolet dually for $5500. When we got back to Manzanola, he handed me the title and the keys and said, "Take this home to Albert, if he likes it, you keep it and pay me when you can." Needless to say it took awhile to pay him back, but he never said a word. And he and Susie never failed to stop by and show their support when we were giving carriage rides in town to make any dollar we could. To this day, they have been there for us through every triumph and every trial.

My siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends have all been there throughout, doing whatever I needed, usually without me even having to ask. Rain or shine, heat or cold, ugly or glamorous, they did the job.

I'd be remiss, if I didn't mention the horses; Mike, Dan, Lady and Duke. I had a choice to do this, and every day I make the choice to keep on doing it. They weren't given a choice, but without fail, in sickness or health, 1 mile or 9, 110 degrees or a blizzard, they pulled that coach with dignity and grace.

There was Will, Jodie and John at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs who believed in us from the first and did all they could to promote us. I think Mike liked John much more than he ever liked me.

When we started doing the soldiers' funerals, they took a very heavy emotional toll on me, with no one to share the physical, emotional and logistical burden. But very soon the wonderful folks in the Colorado PGR stepped in to help in any way they could. Jim & Wanda, Greg, the Brads, Ronnie,the Steves and all the others took me under their loving wings and helped to absorb the work and the grief. I gained a wonderful new family and a large stable crew in those folks.

We will forever be grateful to our military whose endless bravery and selfless sacrifice ensure our freedom. And the police and other escorts who led us safely through over 700 processions, in some of the most horrific traffic you could imagine.

Last but probably most important, were the the families who entrusted us with their precious cargo. The significance of being allowed to be a part of such an important day in their lives was an honor we will cherish til the end.

So please, when you see the horse and hearse going down the road, don't forget to notice the invisible army walking beside us, for they are the Faces of Strength of Wellington Carriage Company.

I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many "Americans Worth Dying For."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pay Your Respects for the Right Reason

There is a small group of people in this country who I pay no mind to and I won't even mention their name or affiliation because they don't deserve the airtime. Many of you are aware of what they sometimes do at the funerals of our Fallen Heroes. I will refer to them the same way the Patriot Guard Riders do, calling them Uninvited Guests or UGs. This week the UGs must have had a good laugh at the innocent people who were spreading their hateful propaganda for them.

As I prepared for the service of HT2 Justin McNeley, USN, KIA Afghanistan, I was bombarded with emails of people warning that the UGs had posted on their website and sent flyers out saying they were going to be at this service preaching their hate. So what did everybody do? They kept clicking on their website and forwarding this email with the attached flyer to all their friends urging them to please be at the service to counter the UGs' protest.

What's wrong with that, you ask? Number one, all the UGs had to do was print up an ugly little flyer and throw it into cyberspace and within literally hours, it was all over the country with little or no effort on their part. Surely they were laughing at all the seemingly do-gooders who inadvertantly spread their message of hate and bigotry. UGs are like terrorists, they feed on people's fear and anger. They were well fed this week, let me tell you. So what if they post on their website, that they are going to protest a funeral? The Patriot Guard Riders, if invited by the family, will always protect and shield the family from these domestic terrorists. Of the 40 or so Fallen Heroes' funerals we have attended, the UGs posted they would be present at nearly all of them and only showed once. They don't have to show, we spread the word for them.

The other thing that really bothers me is folks were telling people to attend the funeral because the UGs were going to be there. That is NOT the reason to attend the funeral of a Fallen Hero. We should be attending these services to show our RESPECT and SUPPORT for the Fallen and their families for their sacrifices on our behalf.

So please, next time this comes up, don't spread their hatred. Don't mention their name. Don't go to their website. Don't get angry. Don't talk about them. Don't give them one iota of your time or thought. Instead send an email to all your friends and tell them that an American Hero gave his or her life for their freedom and they can choose to attend the service to pay their respects.

"Be an American Worth Dying For" and please, "Don't Feed the UGs."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Debt of a Nation

The National Debt became immeasurable to me today. I'm not talking about the financial debt. I am talking about the moral debt of each and every American in this country, from 1 day old to 110 years old.

Today the Johnson family lost not one but two sons in less than 24 hours to IEDs. This is on top of a 3rd son lost in Iraq in 2007. I am told there are more family members serving as well. I have dealt with many families who have lost a child to these wars, even a family that lost two sons. But I never dreamed I would hear of a family losing two sons in one day and three total.

I cannot fathom the faith and fortitude it will take for this family to endure the pain of this. But from the little I know of their patiotism and duty to country, they will endure and they will honor their fallen and continue to be the consumate example of what it means to be a Patriot.

Now I must look within myself and tear apart my definition of patriotism. I used to tell folks it didn't cost a dime to be patriotic. How can I look at this family and make a comment like that? What I now realize is that it doesn't cost a dime to be a good citizen. We can all do good deeds for our neighbors and even strangers, but that is not patiotism. That is just our moral and civic duty.

Patriotism is not displaying the flag in front of your house. Patriotism is not putting a yellow ribbon on your car saying you "Support our Troops." Patriotism is not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the National Anthem at a football game. That is just our moral and civic duty.

Patriotism is not donating a horse-drawn hearse for military funerals. It is just my moral and civic duty.

Patiotism is shedding your blood for your country. Patiotism is losing your life for your country. Patriotism is giving up a child for your country. Patriotism is holding your chin up as you watch your loved one leave for a war you are not sure he or she will return from. Patriotism is raising a family of warriors. Patriotism is fighting in the trenches of war and watching your brothers and sisters fall and doing all you can to save them, with no regard for your own safety or pain. Patriotism is something most Americans will never truly understand. The Johnson family must truly understand patriotism and its price.

As for the rest of us, we can only humble ourselves and strive to be "An American Worth Dying For."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Somebody's Mother"

The woman was old, and ragged, and gray,
And bent with the chill of a winter's day;
The streets were white with a recent snow,
And the woman's feet with age were slow.

At the crowded crossing she waited long,
Jostled aside by the careless throng
Of human beings who passed her by,
Unheeding the glance of her anxious eye.

Down the street with laughter and shout,
Glad in the freedom of "school let out,"
Come happy boys, like a flock of sheep,
Hailing the snow piled white and deep;
Past the woman, so old and gray,
Hastened the children on their way.

None offered a helping hand to her,
So weak and timid, afraid to stir,
Lest the carriage wheels or the horses' feet
Should trample her down in the slippery street.

At last came out of the merry troop
The gayest boy of all the group;
He paused beside her, and whispered low,
"I'll help you across, if you wish to go."

Her aged hand on his strong young arm
She placed, and so without hurt or harm,
He guided her trembling feet along,
Proud that his own were young and strong;
Then back again to his friends he went,
His young heart happy and well content.

"She's somebody's mother, boys, you know,
For all she's aged, and poor, and slow;
And some one, some time, may lend a hand
To help my mother-you understand?-
If ever she's poor, and old, and gray,
And her own dear boy is far away."

"Somebody's mother" bowed low her head,
In her home that night, and the prayer she said
Was: God, be kind to that noble boy,
Who is somebody's son, and pride and joy."

Faint was the voice, and worn and weak,
But the Father hears when His children speak;
Angels caught the faltering word,
And "Somebody's Mother's" prayer was heard.

Mary Dow Brine (1816-1913)

This is one of my most favorite poems that my mother shared with me when I was young. I've thought of it often throughout the years and found it in an old "Reader" when I went to Fort Lewis to this spring to visit my nephew who was home on leave. It's weighed heavy on my heart lately as I think of so many mothers with so many sons and daughters off at war.

I hope as we all make our way through our busy daily lives we stop to help those in need and remember they are somebody's mother/father/son/daughter. There is a pretty good chance that their "own dear boy is far away," fighting for your freedom.