This morning I found myself flying out of my hometown heading to Detroit for the week. Last night after the kids went to bed, my wife and I spoke a few words about the day that was 11 September. My son’s fourth grade teacher posted on Facebook that she was going to speak to the class about 9-11 and she included a video online. It was one of those heart wrenching, sad music type videos that opened with pictures of the sun rising all over the United States and after five minutes of typical, normal life it went into the events of that day. I had to focus on something else to keep from crying so please forgive my angst when you read the following words.
Several thoughts, the first is that I wonder how long my son and the rest of the class sat still looking at pictures of random buildings and sun rises. That’s not important right now. What is important is where we are as a nation fifteen years after 9-11. Using a limited comparison of where we were as a nation fifteen years after Pearl Harbor might not be appropriate but it is sobering. Please remember that I am not that guy who wants to live in the past but can it be more obvious that we have squandered the national unity that arose following the attacks.
This morning I sat in the Chicago airport and thought about what was different today than it was at 7:30 AM on 11 September 2001. You know as well as I do that everything has changed and probably not for the better. We are constantly told by those in power that they need more power, more surveillance, and more money to keep us free. But I just can’t see anyway that we have more freedom today than we did fifteen years ago.
Those same people tell us that we need to fight the enemy over there so we don’t have to fight them here. That sounds reasonable until you try to count how many people since 2001 have walked across the southern border or that we are importing another 10,000 more people from Syria on top of the 10,000 that we have already brought in this year. All this on top of all the attacks that have happened within our borders in the past five years.
I left the Air Force in 2007 because of the constant deployments and the strain that it had placed on my marriage. Even then, it was becoming apparent that we did not have the political leadership that was willing to take the restraints off the military and let us fight a total war with the intention of winning. At the time, I thought that if we were not going to fight to win, then we should pull out and bring everyone home. As a small personal form of protest, I resigned my commission. When I told the personnel office that I wanted to resign it, I had to talk to the Colonel. He told me that in his career that he had never had heard of anyone resigning their commission. I told him it was about time someone did. I don’t think he liked that but I really didn’t care. With the hindsight of history, I can’t think of a President who did more harm to the United States, than President Bush, Vice President Chaney and the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.
When President Obama took office in 2008, I was hopeful that we (as a nation) would choose peace over war and we would end the constant mind-numbing archaic fight of a nation state verses an idea. But here we are eight years later and we have lost total control of events. Russia and China are stronger than ever. North Korea with China’s approval is in a proxy war with Japan. Turkey is aligned with Russia. Russia is openly fighting US forces in Syria. Our drones are killing people left and right in countries that we don’t even know exist. Someone (probably Russia) is hacking our government computers and trying to manipulate the election. The US consulate was burned to the ground and an American Ambassador was killed in the process. Britain left the European Union after our President begged them to stay in the EU. The NSA is collecting everything that I am thinking right now and Gitmo is still open. I guess that I am glad I voted for the other guy twice so it isn’t on me.
Even with having the two least qualified candidates running for President, I still think that America is the best nation on the face of the Earth. But is isn’t quite the slam dunk that it was fifteen years ago.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
Last week, I was in Chicago working. To be fair to Chicago, it is a great town. At least the downtown area where I stayed. I didn’t see anyone get shot and I was overwhelmed by all the choices for dinner. It really makes me pine away for tropical locations like Flint, MI or Allentown, PA where there are just a couple of food choices and I am afraid to leave the hotel.
On Tuesday of last week, I went with old school Chicago pizza. Because the hotel didn’t have a mini-fridge and I am unable to cram an entire pizza down my throat, I had some left over. Walking around, I passed several less fortunate folks who were looking for some extra money so I asked the waitress to box up the pizza leftovers and I intended on giving it to the first person I came across. When I stopped, the homeless guy was really happy and I felt good that I had not wasted the uneaten food.
That night, I told the guy I was working with about what I had done, and he said that he would do the same thing the next day. He chose Indian food for dinner and when he approached the homeless guy about giving him the food, the guy took a look inside the box and replied “Aw Hell No! I ain’t eatin that.”
My friend and I laughed about that the rest of the week.
A couple of Sunday’s out of the month, I volunteer to help teach the middle school kids at my church. This week’s lesson was on being grateful for our blessings and about giving to those who are less fortunate, just as I had done last week. The class was taught by a really great dude named John G. I really hate when he is teaching because he always makes me think, half the time he makes feel inferior and sometimes he makes me leave class an emotional wreck.
This past Sunday, he showed the class a photo. The thirty or so middle school kids didn’t flinch from picking their noses and scratching their butts. However, I was captivated by the image of the little girl. You can’t read the rest of what the caption says but this girl was wearing a dress that was turned inside out and on backwards. Her hair was matted and turning orange because of malnutrition. The lady that took the picture was in Haiti on a medical mission trip (I think) and after snapping the picture, the lady held the girl for a very long time. I know the words feel hollow compared with the picture but there is the other side of the story.
Later Sunday evening, my family had a very minor issue with some misplaced money that was resolved quickly and was a total non-event. But it got me thinking about that little girl and how a few dollars to my family here in the USA would have been a fortune to her and her village in Haiti. My wife and I spoke about it a couple of days later and we agreed that we were truly blessed. She also said that she was thinking about going back to Haiti and we talked about when a good time for her to go would be among other important topics like where we will vacation next year.
Even after talking it over with my wife, Listening to some soft rock by Slipknot and Metallica and trying to convince myself that I don’t need to get involved. I could not get the image of that little girl out of my mind so I texted John G and asked him for the link to the person who took the picture. He told me to go to Facebook and check out her profile. I confessed that I am not on Facebook and he called me a dinosaur so he sent me a link to an organization. He said he didn’t know much about it other than the lady who took the picture had something to do with it.
Armed with that amount of knowledge, I very hesitantly send them an email today. I say hesitantly because that best describes my feelings towards online organizations that operate charities to “feed the poor” somewhere in a 3rd world sludge hole. I do like to think that I am a compassionate person but I also know a lot of the tricks and when I feel like I am being tricked, I throw the shields up and the stiff arm my way out. Do you hear me every sad infomercial on TV after midnight? Yes, I change the channel with no remorse.
An hour or so after I sent the email, I was at my daughter’s volleyball practice all ticked off because she is having trouble getting her serves in. She is more than physically capable; it is the mental part that she is struggling with right now. My phone rang. You all know that I am a huge social reject, that I am always excited when it rings even though usually it is a telemarketer. The person on the other end of the call was the lady who took the picture of the Haitian girl. Right off the bat, Jacqui Ranson thanked me for asking about the organization. Jacqui went on to tell me what she and her husband Mark do, how they got started, why they exist and so many more details that can only be shared by voice contact.
We spoke for just over an hour. Several times Jacqui apologized for talking so much. She said Mark warned her to be brief and to be considerate of my time. But to be honest, the hour flew by and I selfishly didn’t want to end the call which is crazy because I hate talking on the phone especially to some lady I have never met. But I was moved to tears several times, I laughed with her and shook my head in disbelief when she relayed how impossible it is that she and Mark started the organization and how looking back it is so obvious that there is a higher power at work in this organization. Just the sheer number of events that happened at just the right time are impossible to calculate and they all culminated with the beginning of the charity.
Just two weeks ago, Jacqui and Mark completed the requirements to be a legally licensed charitable organization. They started down this path in February, six months ago. When they started, the school that they primarily support now was supported by another organization. That school lost their funding at the start of the summer. Last week, less than ten days after opening they were able to send enough money to the school to ensure it would be opening on Monday (they don’t do Labor Day in Haiti) along with books and school materials for all of the students. I think around 350 kids. The most amazing thing is that Jacqui just called me to talk about the organization and find out how I found them. Not once did she ever ask for a dime, because I don’t think she cares about money. I know she cares about people. NOTE: I might have my facts off slightly but that is the gist of what they have already accomplished.
I know I have taken enough of your time. I am still dismayed that a single picture of a little girl could distract me from so many big events this week. Tonight, I spoke with John G and I blamed him for distracting me from the most important events of the week.
My son had his ninth birthday.
Last week, we got a new puppy.
Monday, Kevin Owens became the Universal Champion with a little help from Triple-H.
On Tuesday, my daughter’s volleyball team won their first game of the year.
On Wednesday, I was all enthralled with Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to stand for the national anthem. I was going to write about him but this article is way more important. But, if you think you know the whole story because you saw it on the nightly news, think again. His comments that have half the nation ticked off were highly edited by the national media. Read this link about what he said after what was reported and maybe it will change your mind a little. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-08-29/what-media-did-not-report-here-ignored-part-kaepernicks-speech
Tonight college football kicked off and tomorrow is a huge day for me sports wise. My daughter has a game at 5PM and at 8PM, the Arkansas State Red Wolves open their season hosting the Toledo Rockets on little boy ESPNU for the rematch of last year’s Go Daddy Bowl. I am a nervous wreck.
Saturday and Sunday, we have a couple of cookouts planned so stop on by if you are around.
Like I said, there is so much to think about, but here I am up well after midnight writing about a little girl wearing a dress that is inside out and backwards.
One picture…one thousand emotions that wont stop.
Here is their website. Please check them out and contact them before you send any money. Not because they aren’t worthy but because their story will change yours.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
I’m using a slightly different format today so pay attention to the time/date headers because this is a journey back in time. Also, there is a fairly graphic photo at the end of article. If your squeamish, you have my permission to not scroll down. If your nosy, they you’re going straight to the picture. I know how humans think.
Sunday 21 August 2016, 11:45 EST
Medical clinic, Scott Depot West Virginia
“Mr. Akers, what brings you in today?”
“Doc. I got a new debit card in the mail.”
Sunday 14 August 2016, 16:35 EST
Couch in the Living Room, Hurricane, West Virginia
“Other than a puppy, what do you want for your birthday?” I asked my son.
“Pocket knife.” The soon to be nine-year-old boy answered.
“Pocket knives are dangerous. You really have to be careful when using them and it hurts when you get cut.”
“Have you been cut before?”
Sunday 13 April 2003, 0930 AST (Arabia Standard Time)
Cargo Ramp, Balad Airfield, Iraq
“What did you do Rob!”
“I cut myself again. Can you grab the medical kit?”
“Sure.” The six foot three African-American Navigator passed up some napkins to sop up the blood.
“Hey, don’t tell Tracy.”
“They are having a problem get a pallet on-board. I will be back.”
Three minutes later, Gary returned handing over the olive drab bag with the red cross on the front. When I reached around to grab the kit, I saw a new face looking down at me. “This is Lieutenant Colonel I forgot her name. She is an Aero-Med.”
As he spoke, Scott the co-pilot and Paul the Flight Engineer returned helping to load the airplane.
“Dude, did you cut your leg?” Paul asked
“No, my hand. Just bled a little.” I replied.
“Keep pressure on the wound and hold it above your head.” The flight nurse ordered.
“I know what to do.” I fired back.
“I doubt that.” The nurse said.
Gary, Paul and Scott laughed.
The battle axe flight nurse took her time putting on her rubber gloves and opening her medical kit. “Well the good news is that you’re in better shape than most of my patients. How did you do this?”
“I was trying to tighten up the approach plate holder on the yoke. I couldn’t find a screwdriver so I used my knife.”
Tracy called out over the intercom. “We are closed up and ready for taxi.”
“It is going to be a couple of minutes. Rob cut himself again.” Paul responded.
“When he gets patched up, take all his knives from him. If we ever get steak, I will cut it up like I would for a kid.” Tracy said.
“Maybe we could put a cork on the end of the knife. Like Rupert.”
Saturday 20 August 2016, 22:15 EST
Master Bathroom, Hurricane West Virginia
“Keep pressure on it and hold it above your head.” My wife said.
“I know what to do.” I fired back.
“I doubt that.” She replied.
“What did you do Daddy?” My son asked.
“I couldn’t find scissors to cut up the debt card. There was a box cutter on the office desk.”
“That old, rusty box cutter?” My wife asked.
“Yes, I thought it was too dull to cut the card that easy.”
“Guess where you’re going after church in the morning?”
It has been a long time since I got anything out to you guys. Please forgive me but this summer, the family and I have been shaking things up. But we are starting to get the wheels of life put back on and I hope to be able to start cranking out some new material for you. Until then, just a quick recap of what has been going on in this little part of the world.
When I last left off, I was at the beach with the extended family. We enjoyed a great week of hanging out with my parents and my brother along with his family. Not much to add about this week because with 99% of all beach vacations, even if it is bad and there is a hurricane in the area. It is still pretty good. In June there were no hurricanes and no complaints from anyone so it was great. But during the week, we got a couple of pieces of news that did dramatically alter the course of the summer.
The bad news first. Back home in West Virginia, there was a massive flood that ravaged several counties in the state. The good news is that our county was not affected but the bad news was that some of the most damaging flooding was only fifty miles. We got back from the beach on the first Sunday following the floods that happened on Thursday night. Already, the email was filling up with requests for help. That Monday, we went to the store and bought some supplies to donate. It was not very impressive to see what 200 dollars bought at Wal-Mart. On Tuesday morning we loaded up what felt like a few bags and went to the closest relief center which was in Clendenin, West Virginia. It was important to my wife and I that we took the kids so that they could share in the event. We both feel that we can talk forever about the need to be a good neighbor but having the opportunity to show them what it really looks like is priceless.
Driving the back roads to get to the center of town, I really felt like I was in a war zone. The National Guard was out in force with their oversized dessert tan camouflaged vehicles blocking damaged roads or hauling tons of debris out of the area. Arriving at the relief center, it was as unorganized an operation as anything I ever saw on the first week of any new base that I helped to start during a deployment. There were people everywhere. To their credit, there were hundreds of volunteers. I mean literally, hundreds at this one site and there were a number of other sites within a five-mile circle of Clendenin. The one person we did meet is a State Senator named Chris Walters. I don’t normally say nice things about politicians but Senator Walters is the real deal. He spent literally days trying to help his constituents. Until I met Senator Walters, I expected to see the politicians in the area for their five-minute photoshoot. But Senator Walters is working on his second consecutive month of actually leading the cleanup effort.
That is Senator Walters in the red vest. I am convinced that he is the hardest working person in the state. According to a guy I spoke with, the water was over the ceiling inside the grocery store. The river is about 50 yards behind me when I took this picture. The car you see on the right is off loading supplies. There are no cars in line to get supplies. photo from rob akers
I will say this now and I will say it again. The number of people that came to the aid of the flood victims is staggering. There was a Church group of high school kids from Florida that came to help. There were mobile food camps being set up by people from neighboring states. There were local businesses donating thousands of dollars of food and supplies. There were people taking time off work to go help. And there were the First Responders. It was so cool to see how helpful people are when a real disaster strikes. The America that Trump, Clinton or the press talk about isn’t the real America. But the people working together are all the real deal and when you see it in action, it is humbling and can only reinforce your belief that we are still a great nation.
These people didn’t just show up once but they kept showing up, day after day putting in hours and hours of work to help people they had never met. There were two lanes of traffic into and out of the relief center. One was for people who need supplies and the other was for people who were donating supplies. It was about a three to one ratio of people getting stuff to people giving stuff.
And these people were not just giving a little either. They would show up with trucks overflowing with expensive items like shovels, diapers, powdered sports drink mixes, cleaning solutions, dog food and everything else that you can imagine. Soaps, clothes, shoes, toiletries, tools, and other things were piled up everywhere mixed in with thousands of cases of water and multiple gas grills cooking hot meals for people. When a car pulled up, the people would ask for a little water or some bleach. What they got was a car full of everything. If you wanted a case of water, you got a trunk full. If you wanted some diapers, you got a month’s supply. Even if you didn’t ask for a hot meal, you got food for yourself, food for everyone in the car and food for people back at their home.
My family spent several hours trying to help and we made a scratch but the real effort is still going on. A few days later, another friend and I went back to help again. It was later in the day when we got there and at the relief center, they didn’t need our help. So he asked if I wanted to load up the truck and go find people. It was important to Will because he is from this part of West Virginia. It is personal because these are his people. It was a duty of his because he had spent the week working at the local water treatment plant as a loaner from the local water plant. He knew firsthand the how bad the devastation was because he was working at the plant when the creek rose. It came up thirty feet in a manner of minutes to the back door of the operations center. He stayed at his station because it was his duty to keep the clean water flowing as long possible. The waters subsided from the plant, which by the way is nowhere near a river or creek. It was raining so hard that the water was flowing off of the hills around the plant and creating a lake because it had no way to escape the valley.
Will directed me along the back roads, he showed me houses that had come off their foundations and floated intact a few hundred yards away from where they started. He showed me the bridge that was ten feet under water. He showed me his water plant and told me that he had never dreamed that the water could be that high. We wondered what it was like when Noah got on the Ark. We gave away all of the supplies in my truck, but we had to literally force it on people. They kept saying that they were okay and that there were people who needed it more. I felt like I was talking to someone who was drowning but didn’t want a life jacket because there were people who needed it more than they did. I am so humbled by these people and their attitudes and I have a long way to go before I am that blessed.
This was taken on a different day. It was about 7:00PM and they were shutting down operations for the day. In the background, talking on his cell phone is Senator Walters. photo from rob akers.
Lots of words here, but I feel that it is important to tell the story of how great this nation of people can really be. This is a story you will not hear on the national news. The local news still carries stories about the flooding and to my surprise, they are mostly positive stories about people helping people. Tonight there was a story about a local show choir holding a car wash to raise money to give to a show choir at a high school that was flooded out. People are still going out of their way to help their neighbors two months after the event. Again, I am humbled and find myself lacking in my humanity.
Earlier, I stated that there were two things that happened to change the course of the family’s summer. It was that we accepted an offer to sale our house. We agreed to the offer on the former casa de Rob and when we got back, we had to find a new casa de Rob. In just over a month, 32 days to be exact and starting from almost zero, we sold a house, bought a house, moved, went on a small trip to Niagara Falls and had our faith in humanity renewed. The best news possible is that I think my wife and I are going to stay married, not that was in any doubt. The next best news is that we will be keeping the kids but they and the cats are on thin ice. The new news is that hopefully soon, there will be a couple of dogs to add to the insanity. In spite of the boxes, lost household items and general disarray that follows a major family move, Life is good!
Until next time, keep on rockin.
Until further notice my site is down due to a failure of the camera to take a suitable photo of me. I have contacted the IT Department here and their response was less than acceptable. They have a meeting scheduled all week and will not be able to address any issues until next week at the earliest.
It seems there is a very real lack of motivation by the members on my staff. I am hopeful they get a pedicure in between meetings, but I make no promises. They were able to take a picture of the Strawberry Moon. According to the members of the Medical Department, sent me a text telling me about it.
Until next time, keep on rockin.