In May of 2000 I came to Normandy for the first time to broadcast the Breakfast Club back to Denver. It was the first, and to this day still the only time a radio broadcast has originated from here. We learned then that 88 Colorado heroes lay among the 9387 fallen at Normandy and 12 are remembered on the Wall of the Missing. After the broadcast we had the chance to walk through the cemetery after it had closed and I was overwhelmed with sorrow that so many from home were here and how could we honor them where they had lived their childhood. That was how the Colorado Freedom Memorial idea came to be, from that walk 14 years ago . Today we returned to the American Cemetery to fulfill a promise I made to come back and let these young men know we had not forgotten them. If only by name we had brought them home. I cried today. For them, for their families, for lives they didn't get to live. I cried for the terrible way they died and then I cried with pride that WE never let go of the idea to always remember them. It was a sad day, and always will be when you come here. But these men were heroes and heroes are never forgotten. We'll at least not in Colorado! God bless them all and thank you everyone who helped a crazy radio guy pay tribute to these and all our fallen.
This is why #18 is the greatest to ever play quarterback. Sure, the stats are huge and he's revolutionized the position. But he did it without forgetting who he was, remembering what's truly important and being a great example of what it means to be a man. Oh that we should all have friends like that. You're a good man Peyton Manning.
"Nobody feels worse than he does. He got up and spoke to the team today. He apologized to the team. He and I have been talking these past couple weeks knowing this might be a possibility. He's not been able to sleep. He'll learn from it and... be better for it. As a team we support him. We stick with him. It's not easy to stand in front of the team like that. You find out during a time like this who your friends are, who sticks with you. Me and Wes and Jacob (Tamme) and Britton Colquitt do a little Bible study together and we're praying for him. A lot of guys are thinking about him. It's not an easy time but I think he'll come back stronger and better." - Peyton Manning on Wes Welker situation.
In August 1914, 1600 men enlisted into the British forces in the old moat around the Tower of London. Great Britain had just entered WWI and before it ended 888,246 of her sons gave their lives in the Great War. To mark the 100th Anniversary of Britain's entry in the war ceramic poppies are being placed in the old moat by 6,000 volunteers with the last one to be placed on November 11th, Armistice Day. These pictures of this incredible tribute were taken by my friend Molly McGinnis and show the poppies spilling, much like blood, out of one of the Tower windows and into the now dry moat. I'll bet it's breathtaking in person and certainly a beautiful remembrance. 1237 from Colorado gave their lives in WWI. May we never forget.
Over the last few weeks I have been sharing how love and faith have carried me and Diane through our journey with a second stroke and Di's recovery. This morning I want to tell you about my friend who has taken his own difficult road to re...covery but today it's paying off in a wonderful way!!
That person in the bed is Pierce O'Farrill. This picture was taken on July 21, 2012, the morning after the Aurora Theatre Shooting in which Pierce had been a victim. He was shot several times in the foot, arm and chest and will have shrapnel in his arm for the rest of his life as a reminder, as if the dark image of the shooter standing over him in the theatre that night is not reminder enough.
Months of rehab and an unbeatable strength of faith have brought Pierce to today, when he will marry Jackie, a beautiful woman who has been there with Pierce since his recovery began. It will be a beautiful ceremony that might just as easily never have happened, and for many in the theatre that same night won't happen. I know on the happiest day of his life Pierce will carry the memory of those lost on the saddest day of his life.
I am overjoyed for the two of them, but especially the kid I hired as a board operator at KEZW many years ago who was just trying to find his way. Pierce and I had stayed in touch over the years, but I like to think we're closer now than ever. I love him like a brother and am so proud of the man he has become. Bless you both today and congratulations. God gave you a gift in the darkness of that July night. A chance to find each other. Make the most of it!!!
Did you notice it anywhere? Were there any special sales or car deals to commemorate the day, one of the most significant in history? How many people flew flags to honor August 14, or what happened on this day 69 years ago? P...arades? Moments of silence? National Day of Remembrance? Nope. Today is remembered in quiet corners of nursing homes and retirement communities by old men who may not be able to say it anymore, but still can see it. They had survived a war that had claimed the lives of 405,000 of their comrades. It is also marked by the remaining survivors and later generations of those who lost the nearly 3700 from Colorado that left to save the world’s freedom and did not return.
August 14th, 1945, at 5pm Denver time President Harry S. Truman went on the radio and announced to a war weary nation that Japan had accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and the official surrender would be signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2nd. World War II was over. He asked that VJ Day be celebrated on the day the surrender was signed, but it was too late. Across the nation, a nation that had been at war for three years, eight months and seven days, city streets filled with a celebration like no other. In Denver thousands left office buildings, school campuses and factories like Gates Rubber and Remington Arms, headed to the State Capitol and further downtown where one reveler remembered, “Everyone was kissing everyone!!” August 15th and 16th were declared National Holiday’s and the celebrations continued until thoughts turned to, “what’s next?” Soon veterans would be returning home after being gone for so long. Would they be the same? How had war changed them? Happiness was joined by anxiousness. And the long wait for loved ones to get back home began.
I didn’t see much mention of VJ Day today in the newspaper or on the TV. Perhaps they’re waiting until September 2nd to mention it on the date the surrender was signed. Or perhaps it is old news now. 69 years ago today it was a current event. God Bless all of our WWII generation that stood tall then, and remembers quietly now. May your memories be of heroic deeds and great conquests; may God grant you peace in your sleep and pride for those you lost. Thank you homefront veterans and frontline heroes from a grateful generation you returned home to raise.
It’s one of those text messages you always worry about. Diane and I were at the store and my phone beeps. I glance at it and see the words, “Do we have baking powder?” Harmless, until you realize it’s your 13-year old granddaughter texting, and what the heck is she cooking???? Needless to say we were home inside of three minutes and there was my formerly little girl making pancakes. She had gone on line and got a recipe from a cooking website and was making breakfast. How could it be that the little girl I was just playing airplane with to get her to eat Gerber Carrots was now searching recipes and cooking breakfast? I am learning, and living, one of the great challenges of grand-parenting, being so proud of their accomplishments, but somewhere in the back of my head hearing a whisper, “Enjoy this because…
The first time this happens you’re so busy being a parent, and having a career, and growing up yourself, that the little moments get lost. The milestones are greeted with a casual, “Good job sweetie” and then it’s back to the challenges of the world. You have a million pictures of your first child growing up, a thousand of the second and by the third kid you have group photos, and he’s wearing clothes his brother was photographed in the year before!! Being a grandparent allows you to see what you might have missed the first time. I spent months wondering what Larissa’s voice was going to sound like after she was born. I watched Ethan play T-Ball like it was game seven of the World Series, every time he played. Joshua and I have amazing talks about the things we want to build and the stores we want to open. This is the height of the joy grandparents feel in their life.
Somewhere though, lurking in those quiet moments when you have too much time to think, is the realization that with these milestones, the seasons are changing. No one lives forever and thinking you will cheats you out of the urgency of enjoying every second you have, and I refuse to let an hour go unused. I don’t have time for daily drama and petty people. I assure you the last thing that goes through my mind will not be, “Can you believe what he said?” It will likely be, “I remember when I had the best pancakes I ever tasted.”, or the touch of Diane’s hand in mine, or our Thanksgiving table. Someone once said, “Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments…” I believe this to be true. Grandparents know it to be true. I hope you enjoy every moment…and your own pancakes.
This year Diane and I are sharing our 40th Christmas together and it has always been our custom to have a fresh tree. We have lived through the aluminum trees with color pin wheels, the white trees, the evolution of artificial Christmas trees and even trees you sprayed with scent so they would smell like trees. Through it all we remained steadfast in our determination to have a live tree. We have visited lots when it was below zero. One year I brought a tree home with the top four feet sticking through the sunroof of our Datsun and the branches sticking out both back windows, with our daughter sitting somewhere in the middle of the whole display! I went to the forest and cut down a tree once. It looked so much better in the forest! Yea, we’ve had some adventures but there is just something about a real tree that makes Christmas come to life in our home and this year, well this year let’s say we love our trees more than ever because of who we got them from.
Last Christmas we stumbled across a lot on a corner in Parker that sold the beautiful old fashioned trees we love. We purchased a beauty and when we took it down in January it was as fresh as the day we bought it, so we were determined to get our trees there again. This year the owner of the tree lot moved the whole thing to his property, Franktown Landscape and we headed down there to look. It didn’t take long for us to find what we wanted and with our selection made we got to making small talk with Hubert Aguirre, owner of the place. Hubert is a character and I find as I get older I’m really drawn to them. I love their passion for life and their ability to tell a story. Hubert told us how he used to sing like Dean Martin for the girls in school and then broke into song. And Hubert talked quietly of his brother Raymond, who on March 27, 1970. Was killed in action in South Vietnam. He talked about how his mother and father were never the same and he talked about how much he missed his brother still. Diane asked him if he had heard of the Colorado Freedom Memorial and Hubert said no so Diane pulled the website up on the computer and there, in the database, showed him his brother’s name, Raymond Aguirre, Panel 18, Row 3, Name 23. Hubert is too tough to cry in front of you, but you could see the tears forming.
We told Hubert that we had been thinking about placing a live Colorado Blue Spruce at the Colorado Freedom Memorial site and selling Dog Tag Ornaments that people could purchase for $10 and we’d write the name of any veteran they’d like on the tag and hang it on the tree. Hubert said you buy one, I’ll give you one and I’ll deliver them for free. It seemed to be a way Hubert could give his brother Christmas, if only by having a tree near his name. We shook hands and as we were getting ready to leave, Hubert said thanks, and started singing, “everybody loves somebody, sometime.” A great character! Yesterday the trees were delivered to the Colorado Freedom Memorial and one of the two men in the truck walked up to the Memorial and asked where Raymond Aguirre’s name was. I walked him to it and after a few minutes of silence he turned to me and said, “I’m Raymond Aguirre also. My Dad named me after his brother.”
This year I see Christmas Trees differently. When I was younger they were the place where the presents appeared after Santa’s visit. As I aged they became the keeper of family heirlooms, ornaments that hung on my Moms tree and her Moms, and those we added that say Baby’s First Christmas and other wonderful symbols of our own growing family. Now these trees remind me that every generation has gathered here, in front of their own trees, during Christmases past and shared joyful celebrations with family. There was laughter, and excitement and surprise and love. They wondered what the journey of the coming year would be liked and prayed they would all gather together again at the tree to share the season. For some, like Raymond Aguirre and the other 5800+ on the Colorado Freedom Memorial, Christmas became a painful memory as they fought for their country far from home, far from the Christmas trees of their youth.
This year, under the soft light of our tree, the one Hubert loaded in the car, I give thanks for the greatest gift I will ever receive, the Freedom that lets me celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas morning and to be gathered around those beautiful trees with my own family. It’s a gift I received from heroes I have never met and I will never sit by the tree again without thinking of them all.
One of my fondest memories of Christmas when I was a kid was Mom and Dad putting together the cardboard fireplace. It was about four feet tall and it had a red brick pattern printed on it and an orange light bulb that you plugged in and when it heated up it made a metal blade rotate causing the light to flicker. It was as close as we ever came to having a fireplace and I’d lay on the floor and just stare at the “flame” until Mom said it was bedtime. I remember our stockings were long beige socks that were part of one of Dad’s military uniforms. No fancy stocking, simple military socks and they were filled with hard candy, ribbon candy, chocolate Santa’s and oranges. And I remember listening to Sing Along with Mitch over, and over and over! I’m from the generation that grew up with Department Stores closed on Sunday’s and everything closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. We really didn’t mind because we had plenty to do at home, like play Mousetrap or join the neighbors for a good game of football. And we’d all gather for dinner and then sit side by side on the couch and watch one of the 4 TV channels we got.
This has all been on my mind the last couple weeks because of the incredible pressure everyone is under to leave the dinner table on Thanksgiving and head to the stores. And forget about doing anything at home Friday, that’s Black Friday and you have to shop all day for those great deals. And don’t forget Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. And when Christmas Day comes the #1 present will be gift cards, so everyone can head back to the Malls for more shopping the day after Christmas! Seems to me we’ve kind of lost our values while looking for values. We try to wedge in a Church service or family dinner in December so we can “Remember the reason for the season” but we’ll spend more time reading the ads than we will reading stories of the first Christmas.
I probably would be a club of one but I think it would be cool to call the second Saturday in December Family, Faith and Friends Saturday. Instead of rushing to the store we’d spend time together and enjoy one another’s company. We’d have dinner together, maybe go caroling with the neighbors and have hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. There wouldn’t be the pressure to shop because for this one day the gift would be each others company. And maybe before bed we could share a favorite story of faith. I know, that horse left the barn and you can’t go backwards. I have just reached the place in my life where I worry in our haste for everything being new and better we threw out things that were pretty good to begin with, and necessary to establish values that guided us. I heard today that 90 people were injured in Black Friday fights for bargains. What does that say about us?? I think it says Family, Faith and Friends Saturday might be more necessary than we think. And a sit in front of the old cardboard fireplace would do us all some good.
When you’re a boy growing up there are many signposts on the way that mark your path to manhood. I’m not talking about physical changes, I mean the things that signal a slow change in maturity. For some it’s turning 18 or 21. Others joined the military to show they were men, or it’s the first drink in the bar. OK, except I was pushing Dad’s VW Bug down the road and popping the clutch when I was 15 so I could go for rides around the block and who didn’t have their first sip of alcohol in high school?? I don’t believe I was a man then, nor do I believe I was when our daughters were born. I was 18 when Sara joined us and 20 when Jen arrived. I grew up with them and held on for dear life. While those were all signs of change, they didn’t classify me as a man. That happened on Thanksgiving Day 1996, when Dad handed me the electric knife and told me it was my turn to carve the turkey. I was 40-years old, and my Dad had just trusted me to do the most important holiday task I could imagine
You see, since I was old enough to pay attention I held the annual right of carving the turkey as the one thing I aspired to the most. After spending the entire day cooking, which came after she had just spent the entire day before cleaning, Mom reached way in the back of the cabinet and pulled out the yellowed box that held the electric carving knife. After she had mashed the potatoes, made the gravy, baked a mince-meat pie, prepared all the side dishes and sampled the crispy stuffing sticking out of the back of the bird, she handed Dad the knife and he sliced the turkey. I always wondered why she didn’t carve the bird. Why shouldn’t she be able to complete the task she had been working for days to accomplish? Apparently, I assumed, there was some ancient European tradition that had been brought across the Atlantic by our ancestors that dictated Mom pass the knife to Dad, and I knew someday he would pass it to me as the oldest son. I was spellbound as he moved from side to side and removed the slices from the turkey and put them on a very big platter we only saw once a year. Did you have one of those? It was white and had a turkey embossed on it. Anyway, after he finished, we said a quick prayer and began the feast. It was AWESOME and for a young boy it seemed the most important task a man could have and in 1996 that task became mine.
Passing the torch…handing down traditions. That’s what this wonderful time of year is really. The special decorations we put up that used to hang on Mom’s tree. The recipes we dig out that still have stains from Christmases past when everyone was in the kitchen making cookies. And the stories we tell and the songs we sing that we’ve been singing as long as we can remember. Someday those recipes will be inherited by others who will smile through tears as they read your notes and copy the steps word for word. Those tears will be the secret ingredient that completes the dish! And we’ll hang ornaments that have hung on family trees for generations. And we’ll carve the turkey with the same knife Dad used, and his Dad before him.
I know now I didn’t become a man because Dad asked me to carve a turkey. I became a man because Dad trusted me to be the next keeper of the family traditions. It is a job I love more than any I have ever had. On Thursday I will carve the turkey as Dad sits close by. When the meal is finished and the dishes cleaned, Diane and I will gather in the family room with our granddaughter Larissa and watch White Christmas, a tradition we started 30-years ago. Things change so fast, and the world doesn’t look much like the one I grew up in anymore. As the Tradition Keeper it’s up to me to make sure in the haste to change things and make everything better we don’t forget it was pretty good already. We are a product of those that came before us and what a shame if we forgot the way home. I believe these are the days that hold the rest of the year together and I pray they bring you a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a season filled with love. And I hope somewhere there’s a little one watching you, waiting their turn to be just like you.
12-years ago tonight America was a different place, a place that seems so distant and foreign now. No one could know that come morning one of the Freedom’s so eloquently spoken about by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and written about in the preamble to the Constitution, Freedom from Fear, would be shaken for generations. On the night of September 10th, 2001, the Denver Broncos hosted the New York Giants on Monday Night Football with the Broncos winning 31-20 despite wide receiver Ed McCaffery breaking his leg in the game. Fans left Invesco Field hopeful for a winning season. Earlier on the 10th Captain Jason Dahl left his home in Littleton bound for Newark, New Jersey where he would pilot Flight 93 the next morning, bound for San Francisco. Jason had switched flights with another pilot so he’d be free to take his wife to London for their 5th anniversary the next week. It was a normal end, to a normal day. How could anyone have imagined that before the sun would set on 9/11 nearly 3,000 people would be killed in the fall of the twin towers, the damage at the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania?
“Joy and sorrow are inseparable. . . together they come and when one sits alone with you . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” Kahlil Gibran
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was broadcasting the KEZW Breakfast Club live from the Denver Zoo. It seemed we had just started the show when I heard my producer at the station engaging in a frantic conversation with our traffic reporter. I could sense some anxiety in their voices and for the longest time no one would respond to my repeated questions about what was going on. Then there was silence, followed by the producer saying to me, “You need to come to the station immediately…something bad is happening.” I can hear those words as clearly today as I could 12 years ago. When I got to the station we flipped our programming to 24-hour live news and didn’t play a song for 30-hours. I then made the decision that we needed to give people a place to go to escape from the news and the overwhelming sadness, if only for a little, and we started playing music again. I do remember the quiet skies with no planes flying. And I remember looking at three and a half month old Larissa, our granddaughter, and wondering what kind of world are we welcoming you to?
December 7th 2001 I found myself, along with Diane in Hawaii for a broadcast I was going to do from Pearl Harbor for the 60th anniversary of the attack there. On that day a group of first responders from New York City had been invited to come, with their families, by the state of Hawaii for some R&R and a chance to meet perhaps the only people that truly understood what they had been through, survivors of the attack on December 7th, 1941. The young, muscular men from NYC, medics and firefighters who had entered the burning towers looking for survivors and spent weeks sifting through rubble looking for any sign of life stood with arms around 80-year old men who had themselves looked through burning hulls of sinking ships and oily water for victims of the Japanese attack. They hugged, they cried, and they more often than not just looked at each other in knowing silence. They had seen evil face-to face and were all changed forever.
I know now that we have all been changed. We are all different than we were on September 10th, 2001. Not the obvious different of age and physical change. The different that shows itself when we sit in an airplane boarding area, after clearing multiple security screenings with detectors and scanners, and worry about the person waiting to board our same flight who looks like they could be middle eastern. The different that shows itself in carrying all of our belongings in clear plastic bags to football games. Different in how we are hardened to the news, and the tragic loss of life that continues today as we not only lose a younger generation to the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to the demons they bring home as 22 veterans a day take their own life as the only way they know to make the pain stop. Since 9/11 the Colorado Freedom Memorial, built to honor those killed in action since we became a state has added over 100 names. You can turn away, but it doesn’t go away. We once assumed tomorrow was a given. We know better now. We’re different.
Tonight, as you make the evening rounds and check that the family is safe and everything is as it should be, take a moment to remember those for whom life has not been the same since 9/11. Remember the families of 9/11 and the loved ones of those that have borne the battles since. Ask for courage to accept the new world and strength to carry those that live in fear. Ask for wisdom to know the answers to little ones questions and patience to make sense of it all.
Enough rambling from me for one night.