Sunday, April 8, 2018


A Perspective

Chapter 1: It All Starts with God, continued

“You were made by God and for God – and until you understand that life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, or identity, or meaning, or purpose, our significance, and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end.”
In the mid-90s I started reading my Bible again. Though I had never lost my faith during my selfish self-centered phase I didn’t go to church nor did I read the Bible, big mistake. When I started reading the Bible I started with my favorite book, Romans. And I stumbled across Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good to those who are called according to his purpose.” The first thing that hit me was those two little words “all things”. That means that every experience of my life whether it’s good or bad can be used by God. The second thing that hit me was the phrase, “to those who are called according to his purpose” God has a plan for each of us but until we understand that he has a plan all of the things that happen to us are just things that happen to us. But, when we realize that God’s plan can take every single situation and use it for his good purpose then and only then does our life have true meaning.

Nothing brought that home more to me than my son Brian and my daughter-in-law Kelly. In 2008 my granddaughter Cailinn was born. She suffered chromosomal anomalies that would make her severely retarded. Both Kelly and Brian could’ve felt sorry for themselves and asked that proverbial question, “why us?” But they didn’t they chose to be parents to a special needs child. And God has used both Kelly and Brian to help other parents who have special needs children. Kelly now is a peer to new special-needs parents, she helps doctors at the hospital understand what parents are going through. And Brian relates to the men who have special needs kids. Do they hurt? Yes, but they do not let their pain stop them from doing good to others. God has a purpose for their lives and for Cailinn. Cailinn, has brought all of us so much joy. She’s growing a little more every day in ways that we never thought possible. God has a purpose for her also. What is God’s purpose for you? You have one you know.




Over the several months I’m going to be using The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren as my source. I have found the principles in this book very helpful in maintaining a positive focus. Though I haven’t read it since my men’s group, First Light, went through it in 2008 as part of our jail ministry I have try very hard to use these principles in my everyday life.

The first part of this book is called, “What on Earth Am I Here For” this question has plagued me since coming back from Vietnam. Frankly, I had trouble understanding why I survived. While others who were very close to me in proximity were wounded or killed. One of our favorite shows in the 70's was, “Barney Miller”. In one episode Captain Miller asked one of his detectives why the sperm whale the largest mammal in the world eats nothing but plankton. The detective replied that he didn’t know why. Miller said "because that’s the way it is". He went on to explain that some things just are. Things just happened. And that’s the way it is. That answer worked for me for many years. But in the back of my mind I knew I needed more.

In early 2003 I let a small group through the Purpose Driven Life book. Going through this book made me realize that the statement, “that’s the way it is” is wrong. God has a purpose for each one of us. He can use everything in our lives both good and horrible to make us into better people. If we allow it. It is true we live in a sin sick world. We are a fallen creation. And each one of us has done things in our lives of which we are not proud. Sometimes terrible things happen to good people while horrible people seem to catch every break. It’s hard to understand. Yet, God is in control and has a plan that is being worked out in each one of our lives. But, we having freewill have a choice to make. Do we allow God to use our circumstances both good and bad to grow us or do we allow them to destroy us?

The first sentence in the first chapter says it all, “It’s not about you.”  That one little four word sentence has changed a lot of lives over the years. As one of the inmates said at our county jail men’s group, “What do you mean it’s not about me? Making it all about me is how I lived my life.” And then he paused for a bit and he said, “Making about me as landed me in jail and prison, it cost me my family, my three children, every job I ever had and is sending me away now for another three years in the state penitentiary.” So, the question is what has making it all about you gotten you?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Looking back over my life from the vantage point of my age, (72) I find that the happiest times, the best times were those times when I was involved with helping others. In fact, when I was suffering PTSD and when I still suffer it I find focusing on the needs of others relieves many of my symptoms. Even when the symptoms don’t go away I find I feel much better when I’m concentrating on the needs of other people.

That’s why I put on the face of my challenge coin my motto, “others not self”. There is a tendency in each of us especially when we feel bad to focus inward, to dwell on our own problems. It’s natural. Our minds when focus inward, in my opinion magnify our problems whether physical or psychological. However, when our mind is focused on something greater than ourselves those problems diminish tremendously. Why? I firmly believe that it is a gift of God. I believe that it is the way God designed us. Or maybe it’s a natural law that those who put others first find relief. Or maybe it’s when we concentrate on the needs of others our problems diminish because we recognize the pain in others that may be worse than our own pain. Or maybe we just too busy to think of our own issues our own pain. Whatever is whatever you choose to believe I know beyond any question that when we concentrate on others and ourselves we diminish our own psychological and physical pain.

Sadly is I was going through PTSD in my 20s 30s 40s and yes even in the my 50s I never had the wisdom to realize that the times that I felt better, the times that I felt better in regards to the PTSD were those times when I was concentrating on my dad’s cancer, my mother’s stroke, my mother-in-law’s rheumatoid arthritis, talking at grade schools, high schools and colleges about the Medal of Honor, being bullied. All of these things took the focus off of me and put it on something bigger than myself and by doing that my depression, my anger all of it diminished. My wife Susie, she who must be obeyed, often tells me I dwell too much in the past and I suppose I do. But, I continuously find myself being angry that I didn’t know any of this until I was in my late 50s. Which is why I suppose I want to share this with you the reader. I’m hoping that you can learn from my experience. You don’t have to go through the things that I went through, not that I went through that much I am blessed with two functioning arms, two functioning legs, a functioning mind, and pretty good health. Most of my aches and pains are from age and thinking that I was going to be 19 forever. Had I known then what I know now my PTSD would not have gone on as it did. I would’ve had tools to fight effectively.

I know this God has a plan for you if and only if you will allow it. You have a choice you can choose to fight the enemy PTSD. You can choose others not self or you can go down a very negative path that leads only to destruction. In the end as with me the choice is yours.

Fighting the Dragon

I think I should explain why I refuse to call post-traumatic stress disorder, post-traumatic stress. I know that this will make some uncomfortable and I understand that. This is my personal choice. and these are my reasons. If you need to call it post traumatic stress by all means do so.

I believe that PTSD is our mortal enemy and we must face it as such. I don’t think that we can beat the enemy by giving it a nice name. I know some find the word “disorder” to be repugnant. I don’t. Frankly, post –traumatic stress is a disorder. Whether we like it or not. To quote a phrase you can dress a pig up in a $1500 suit but it is still a pig. Calling PTSD by a politically correct name does not take away from the fact that it destroys our lives. I think we have to call it what it is.

I believe we must use every means necessary to defeat it every time it raises its ugly head. Just like we would any enemy on any battlefield. Our battlefield is a battlefield of the mind, of the emotion but it is still a battlefield. I don’t want PTSD to sound nice. I’ve even gone so far as to personalize it. For me it is the Dragon PTSD or just the Dragon. I call it the Dragon because it wants to devour me and everything I have and everything I love. And like the dragons of folklore the PTSD Dragon is greedy. It wants every single part of us, every single thing we have that makes us a good, productive, loving person.

If it is to be defeated, we must use every tool we have available. Those inside ourselves and those outside ourselves, i.e. therapy, support groups, and yes if we have to medication. I believe firmly that God, if we allow Him, will provide us with everything we need to beat this condition. We can subdue it and we can beat it every time it rears its ugly head. God’s promise to us is that he will never let us be tested more than we are able to endure. It is by his mercy and by his grace that he will meet all of our needs. 

The one thing I liked best about being a lower ranking soldier is most of the time I never knew what the commanding officer had planned much less the general. Being just an enlisted man, I saluted smartly said yes sir three bags full and obeyed the orders. Sometimes, I didn’t understand why we had to train a certain way especially when it was really tough. But then in combat I understood.
We don’t have to know why God allows things to happen to us through his permissive will. We just have to have faith that he has a good plan for us. If we allow that plan to be worked out. I know one thing for sure, “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.”

Saturday, December 30, 2017


How many times have we heard the words, “it’s not fair”? I remember saying those very words one time and being told, “life isn’t fair”. Life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot treat people fairly including ourselves. What I love about, “Is it fair to all concerned?”, is that it requires that everyone in a relationship be treated fairly including ourselves. Fairness means that we treat everyone with justice, equality, impartiality, in other words everyone is treated equally and given a fair shake. Including ourselves.

In my recovering from PTSD I sometimes find myself going the, “extra mile.” I do it because I sometimes think I need to make amends for my past actions. But, I find it leaves me feeling more like a martyr than anything. And not a martyr in the good sense i.e. sacrificing myself in a noble work. No, I feel like the stereotypical self-serving martyr. You know the kind, that person who is always lauding their sacrifice. Who is always jumping on the proverbial hand grenade. That type of martyrdom, if I don’t catch it in time, often leads me to more depression and anger and frustration the last thing the world I want or need.

When I came upon the Rotary Four-way test it hit me, “Is it fair to all concerned?” means even me. I have to be fair to myself in the way I think and in the way I act towards myself. As much I am fair to everyone else I must also be fair to me. Part of my problem was I was riddled by guilt because of my actions while suffering PTSD and because of remembering things that I did and didn’t do in Vietnam, the ever-present survivor’s guilt.

Being fair to all concerned,” made me realize I needed to start being fair to myself. Somehow it reminded me of the serenity prayer often cited by those who suffer addiction. It’s a prayer that I learned to say many times as I started my recovering from PTSD:

God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change...
Courage to change the things I can,
Wisdom to know the difference.

The courage to accept the things I cannot change” part of my problem is that I keep dwelling on the past. I think we’ve all had those questions, haven’t we? “Could I have done more?” “Did I do the right thing?” “Why am I alive and_______ isn’t?” On and on the questions go, but as my therapist said, “I cannot change the past I can only change the future.” Being fair to myself forced me to “accept the things that I cannot change”. Leaving those things in the past, where they should be left. At least as far as how they affect my emotions and my negative feelings. There are important lessons to learn from past experiences and behavior. But the past should not be an excuse for our current actions. “Courage to change the things we can,” that’s our future we can change our future. I did, I changed paths. I was headed in the wrong direction and by the grace of God I was able to change that direction from a very negative one to a very positive one. It was and is a lot of hard work for me it started with the truth and it continues with being fair to all concerned, in my thoughts, relationships and actions. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[1] For much of my life I was not truthful. This is not to say that I was a liar as such. Sometimes stretching the truth, avoiding the truth or simply not telling the truth to avoid a situation is just what we do. Let’s face it, we all lie occasionally.

My greatest lies, and my most hurtful lies were to myself. As I was suffering the effects of PTSD I found it very easy to make excuses for my behavior. I told myself I suffered from PTSD and therefore whenever I acted out it wasn’t me it was the PTSD. The symptoms of PTSD pushed me inward, I became self-centered. Because of my self-centeredness I became very depressed. I often thought that the world, my family, and everyone would be better off if I was no longer here. From the late 70s through the 80s and into the early 90s I suffered fits of depression, rage and I sometimes hated my life.

Because of the Medal of Honor, I was protected. As long as I worked for the VA and later the Illinois Attorney General’s office I had made. After all who would fire a Medal of Honor recipient? Yet, because of the Medal and the fact that many people were looking up to me I could not, would not share what was going inside with anyone, big mistake. I put on the “face.” Outside I was confident, controlled and I tried to set a good example. I often failed but I always tried. Inside I was a mess. I drank way too much though it never stopped me from going to work or performing my duties as a recipient.

Then in the early 90s things got a little out of hand and even I knew I needed some help. I went to a local vet center and started seeing someone once a week. It was the hardest work I ever did. I refused medication. I decided if I couldn’t get fixed without medication I just wouldn’t get fixed. Thankfully, my therapist was amazing though she wasn’t a veteran she was very insightful and helped me negotiate the path through my problems.

But the best thing she taught me was to tell myself the truth and to accept responsibility for my actions. I had to accept responsibility for everything. I was responsible for my drinking, my attitude and for being extremely selfish and self-centered. Somewhere along the way I picked up the Rotary Fourway Test as my moral compass: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Being truthful with myself was the first step in the long road home.

[1] John 8:32 English Standard Version.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thoughts on the Flag and the Pledge


            When we say the Pledge of Allegiance do we really understand what we are saying?

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
      When we consider what the pledge says phrase by phrase its true meaning becomes very clear. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” the flag is a symbol of our country. We all have symbols that we hold dear it may be dog-tags worn by a veteran, by a surviving spouse or child. It may be a football jersey hung in a closet as reminder of glory days in high school or college. It may be that special card given by mom or dad. Whatever it is be we all have symbols that mean something to us, that are important to us.
       There are some people today who show disrespect for our flag, who refuse to stand when the National Anthem is played. Or who will burn our flag in protest. There are those who don’t want to say the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag.  Perhaps some feel disenfranchised because of the way their forebears were treated or because their political ideology.
            Before I go any farther consider.  Are any of us perfect? Do any of us harbor hate of any kind? For any group? If you are on the left, do you hate the right? If you’re a Democrat you hate Republicans? If you are conservative do you hate liberals? If you’re a Republican do you hate Democrats? Have any of us ever made a mistake? Have any of us ever done something wrong and knew it was wrong when we did it? I know I have.

            Now consider. If we all make mistakes. If we have all have harbored hatred at some time in our life. If we have all done something wrong even when we knew it was wrong. How then can any of us expect our country to be any different than we are? If we the people of the United States of America are imperfect how in the world can we expect anyone in our government to be perfect? And yet we do. We take umbrage with all of the police when less than 1% act inappropriately and yet we ourselves are imperfect. If we judged groups of people by that standard we would be the worst kind of bigot. And yet there are many who judge all by the act of a very few.
            When our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence they wrote in part:

 “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our founding fathers were imperfect men just like you and I are imperfect, but they were looking for something better. Many of them were slave owners and yet they could write those words while they held people in bondage. Slavery was commonplace not just in America but around the world. Sadly, it still is commonplace in many parts of the world and yes in Africa. Even freed slaves in the United States owned slaves, that is a matter of record that we just don’t like to talk about. And yet it happened. Why? Because we are imperfect people and because we are imperfect people we sometimes do horrible, terrible things to one another.

            Yet, America has always had citizens with the will to do good. There were abolitionist movements long before the Civil War. Many, especially in the north, knew that slavery was a horrible abomination and they did what they could to end it. From the underground railroad to the Congress who enacted laws limiting first the importation of slaves and then the states in which slaves could be held, moral, decent people took a stand. Were their mistakes? Yes. But imperfect people act imperfectly.

            The Civil War may not have initially started to the abolish of slavery, but it was the end result. But, even with the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery people of color were not allowed equal rights. Racism was institutionalized and was rampant. It was wrong and many white people as well as African-Americans joined in the civil rights movement to end Jim Crowism.  Institutionalized racism ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the early 60s and other pieces of legislation that followed on that great act. But, even though institutionalized racism was ended by acts of Congress we still have racism and bigotry in America even today. That bigotry and racism is in the hardest place to change, our hearts.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands”

            We are not a democracy. We are constitutional, representative republic. If we were democracy, then the majority would rule. In a democracy where the majority rules the rights of the minority can be severely limited or even denied. But we are a constitutional republic. The Constitution protects our rights. Our Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, speech, freedom of the press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. We are also guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms. The first 10 amendments to our Constitution are our Bill of Rights. They cannot be taken away however unpopular they may seem at any given time these rights are guaranteed by our Constitution and as long as that Constitution stands we the people are protected. Voltaire once said, “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say.” In this country we may say whatever we like no matter how vile and disgusting others may think our speech may be, our freedom of speech is protected. The unpopularity of our speech doesn’t end our freedom of speech.

            The Preamble to our Constitution begins with:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,”

I believe our founding fathers realized that no government could never be perfect. In fact, there was much discussion about that as our Constitution was being drafted. But they wanted a more perfect union a more perfect government and so our founding fathers developed and wrote the Constitution.  They wrote it realizing that we were a flawed nation. Yet, their wisdom gave us this wonderful document that protects our rights. That guarantees that no matter how unpopular a matter of speech, religion, assembly, or anything else may be our rights to do those very things that the majority may not like are still guarantee in writing by our Constitution.

The Pledge of Allegiance ends with:

“One nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”

Many people don’t understand and don’t like, “one nation under God” what they don’t understand is that what man can give man can take away but what a higher power gives only that higher power can take away. In the Declaration of Independence and in the Pledge of Allegiance we place our rights as something received from a higher power. Therefore, those rights cannot legally be taken from us by any government.

            “Indivisible” we are one nation not many small nations but one nation with one Constitution that supersedes every state Constitution and every state law. States cannot pass laws that are in conflict with our constitution.

            “With liberty and justice for all”

            The Pledge of Allegiance ends with these very strong words, “with liberty and justice for all.” Clearly a case can be made that we are not there yet but since our becoming a nation we have strived for that ideal. We have struggled to reach that golden shore where there truly there is liberty and justice for everyone.

            When our flag is disrespected what it stands for is also disrespected. When someone refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance they say basically that they do not agree with what this country stands for, with what this country is trying to be. Nor do they believe in for the ideals of liberty and justice for all.

            But there’s more. Our flag drapes the coffin of all those who die serving this country, our country. That flag is taken off the coffin before it is lowered into the ground. It is folded. Then presented to the family. When you disrespect the flag you disrespect every spouse, child, parent and friend who lost a loved one serving these United States of America. When you disrespect the flag, you disrespect all those who have given the last full measure. When you disrespect the flag, you disrespect those who lost arms and legs and eyesight and even their sanity serving this land of ours.  Before you take a knee or burn or in other ways disrespect think of what you are disrespecting. I may not agree with what you do regarding our flag and our National Anthem, but I will defend to the death your right to do it because our constitution guarantees you that right. I don’t however have to otherwise support your actions with my person or money.  Thank You.

THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE A Perspective Chapter 1:  It All Starts with God, continued “You were made by God and for God – and un...