Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sumer's Ending, Can You Weather It?

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

~Thomas Paine, 1776

I put up this painting by Norman Rockwell for a few reasons, followed by Thomas Paine's great quote. The painting, "Homecoming GI", is probably my favorite Rockwell. I had heard it was based on a story Rockwell heard where a family had last been told their son was killed or missing in action. They heard nothing more until shortly after when their son arrived.

Even if this isn't true, the painting shows the absolute moment when the family, neighbors, and friends (and secret admirer, now all grown up) release their worry and finally realize it's all over, and they can celebrate. The star in the window shows they never gave up hope or faith.

Not only did the GI have to suffer and endure and sacrifice, so did his family. It was a high price for both. Years of their normal lives lost, stress, the sacrifices made on both fronts. They thought it was worth it. This painting brings tears to my eyes, because just as it shows the elation of this family, many others experienced the depths of despair and heartache learning their loved ones won't be coming home alive.

Thomas Paine actually hit upon a great point. Most of what our generation has came too easy for us. So I urge you to be a bit introspective. I'm not saying what you do isn't hard, or you didn't have to sacrifice to get where you are in life, but how far are you willing to go to make sure the next/younger generation can experience what you did?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fate takes a vacation

I was all excited about rebuilding my cyclocross bike a few days ago. Then I noticed that there was some swelling in an area near the inside top of my right leg. Felt about the size of a ping pong ball.

Good news is that it's just a hematoma. I need to take some time off the bike. The good part is that I'll be able to finish my bike, get lots of work done on my car, and maybe actually go through the extra stuff I have and see if any of it is worth anything.

Ambitious but rubbish. God, I'm off to a great start...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lithium Ion

I've been recharging, refitting, and getting ready. I hope like a lithium ion battery I'm brighter than the earlier version. Or more intense. It's been a bit of a doldrums for me and writing for the last several months. Finally, I feel like I'm hitting stride.

I've had a year of modest satisfaction on my bike. For the work I've done, I have actually done well. If I put in more effort, but I didn't so why wax philosophical? My Triumph Spitfire rebuild is behind schedule, but I do have a goal, and if I work hard it might be running soon. Maybe not well, but at least running.

But I've got other things on my plate. I built up a cyclocross bike for a friend of mine, and he's totally stoked and happy with the result. Now I'm in the process of building mine back up, and hopefully starting next week I'll be hitting a local park to get my off road abilities back up to par. Not hard, since they're minimal.

We all have times when things get stale. David Amulet's awesome blog never showed it, but he mentioned he was tired of posting. Fair enough. Look at how much I slacked this last year. But no more. I'm looking forward to devoting time each week for the things I enjoy.

So look for more rambling posts from me. I won't comment on the Olympics, other than the fact they're elitist and racist. And sport selection and deselection is another post entirely. So I've already contradicted myself.

Excellent! I'm back, and to quote my favorite show's motto "Ambitious but Rubbish!!!" will be my matra. Thank you, Top Gear. And thank you, all 4 or 5 of you who read this drivel. Get ready for more!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

When Something Actually Means Something

I'm sure you have had the feeling. A quick look at your life and the question arises: "Have I done anything that mattered?". We can't all be Ghandi. Or a ditch digger. We do have the oppurtunity to make a difference, on some level, somewhere for someone. Sometimes we don't take it, or other times we aren't aware of the impact of what we did. I just discovered one such incident.

Years ago I was deployed to Africa, as a group of rebels had taken UN relief workers prisoner. Since there were Canadian, British, American and other nationalities at risk, the British and US sent troops to perform the rescue. As always, it wasn't a flawless operation, but it got the job done. Here's a small excerpt.

"Shit, Ski, Chart's down, Swick's down, Omera's down, we have no air support on standby, and the Brits are held down on the other side of the highway. We need to get the fuck out now!"

"Fuck, fuck, fuck what the hell is going on? Shit, ok, we need to get over the top of that wall, and set up some supportive crossfire for 3rd squad. Hawk and I will cover, you guys go for that hut when we open up. Keep your fucking heads down!!!!"


"Yeah, Hawk?"

"Look left!!"

"Motherfuck!! Goddammnit! I'll cover you, get to the others, take Rainman and Eclipse and outflank those bastards. Go go go go go!!!!!" Hawk had spotted two hostages being dragged out of the door of a building. It was our first break in a very chaotic firefight and rescue attempt.

Within a few minutes we had shot the rebels trying to move the hostages, and found another three hostages in a building nearby. By this time the rebels got the message that we were there to kill them, not just free hostages and began trying to melt into the jungle. Problem for them was that the British were waiting for them, and all met a bloody end.

As we went through the village, and found the remaining hostages in the surrounding area, we also got them ready to fly out on the chopper we had for them. Most were thankful, though a few were rude and yelled at us and hoped we'd never be able to live with ourselves for kiling other humans. Once the chopper lifted off, we went back to the few wounded and handed them to the Brits, who promptly shot them all.

I felt this was one of the most worthwhile missions I was part of. Yet, I also wondered was it worth it? I never saw those workers after that chopper lifted off. I'd wonder every now and then what happened to them, did they ever get over the trauma they were subjected to? Did life for them and their familes move on, or was it destroyed?

Fast forward to recently. I was talking to a customer at work, and as her husband was trying a bike we talked about various things. One thing was Africa, and her daughter was a relief worker taken hostage, who was then rescued by British and American soldiers. We quickly figured out I was part of that mission. Almost in tears, she turned to me and said "You rescued our daughter. Thank you, thank you thank you so much. Thank you for your service." With that she hugged me and sobbed a little.

I know I'll never figure out why I was sent to most places I was, and that I'll never know if what I did, and sacrifices many of us made were in vain or not. But I do know that this particular mission had a great impact on a famile's life, and 12 years later, that made it totally worth it.