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.
October 10, 1968 is the greatest day I ever enjoyed as a sports fan. Just shy of my 12th birthday, I had been raised to be a Detroit Tiger fan. My Mom was born in Detroit and had always followed the team. She was the one who taught me to throw a baseball and catch horny-toads and ride bikes. A boy could not have asked for a better Mom and on that October day in 1968 we were both rooting for the Tigers. Mickey Lolich was pitching on two days rest against the legendary Bob Gibson with the series tied at 3 and the final game being played in St Louis. I took a small transistor radio to school and had one of those ear pieces in and when teachers didn’t look I turned the volume up. That day Lolich did something that no pitcher had ever done, or has done since, he pitched his third complete game in the Series and the Tigers won 4-1. I couldn’t wait to get home and share the details with Mom, riding my bike like a maniac to get there!!
Sports represented to me all that was good in the world. I would spend fall and winter playing football in the front yards of our house and the Martinez’s next door for hours on end. First I was the great #35 of the Dallas Cowboys, Calvin Hill, then I was George Blanda, before I became a Broncos fan. In the 70’s we had Broncos season tickets and we were there when the team won the AFC Championship and I painted my entire basement orange in honor of the team. To this day when I see Red Miller, the coach of the Orange Crush Broncos, I thank him. For so many years I lived and breathed sports and the names still come easily to me. Al Kaline, Yaz, Mickey Mantle, Len Dawson, Cassius Clay. My personal sports hero to this day is the legendary Arnold Palmer and I was a devoted member of Arnie’s Army. I still hold out hope of meeting him some day which would be the greatest thrill of my life. Lew Alcindor and John Havlicek and Wilt Chamberlain introduced me to basketball and I even rooted for lefty Earl Anthony on the Pro Bowlers Tour!! There may be better athletes today but there are no better sportsmen on the whole than when I grew up. And I find myself in the uneasy position of losing my interest in the sports I loved so much because of that.
I really don’t need to make a list of athletes who have been caught cheating or abusing the law lately to make my point. In fact, there have been cheaters in sports since sports started. Things like pitchers marking up and doctoring baseballs, football players using stick-em to hold on to the ball better, players throwing games, stuff like that. But today not only are the rules of sport being violated, the responsibility of athletes as law abiding citizens and role models has been disregarded as if rules and law don’t apply to them. And the price for getting caught is small in a nation that often overlooks character flaws in our heroes, and what’s a few games suspension when you’re making millions. It’s that lack of respect for law, and the complete disregard for good sportsmanship if it means winning that has brought me to the point of being unable to get passionate about the people and games I’ve loved for so long. And I honestly believe no Commissioner can fine or suspend his sport back into being a model for people to respect. It has to come from within, from the athletes themselves who must self-govern and say this isn’t right, this has to stop. As long as athletes say to one of their own, “we’re behind you 100%” when they’ve been caught cheating or breaking the law that needs to come with the understanding that we’re behind you unless it continues to be a problem. It amazes me when an athlete says, “I only did it because everyone else does”. You only did it because the consequences for being caught are small in most cases. With priviledge comes responsibility. Whose teaching that lesson these days?
Enough of me going on and on. I just said this out loud because I can’t believe I’m the only one that feels this way. There’s no doubt I’ll still cheer for the home team, it just won’t be with the same love I’ve had all my life. I won’t likely carry a transistor with an earphone so I don’t miss a play and I may not see the end of many night games. I just don’t have the passion for sports whose athletes don’t have the passion for playing, and living right. Yep, I’m getting crotchety J
Well here it is, the post that’s going to out me…as a true GEEZER!!! The warning signs have been there for some time now. I’m starting to enjoy dinner about 4:30p and at 8:00p I’m wondering why I’m still awake. I really don’t care what Kim whatever her name is wears, eats, sleeps with or names her baby, or for that matter, or any of the thousand other shows and “stars” like Honey Boo-Boo. Jimmy Stewart was a star. Bob Hope was a comedian. Grace Kelly was glamorous. Lindsey Lohan, really???
Anyway, I was reading with interest just last week an article about social media do’s and don’ts. Seems people today have no social etiquette when it comes to using Facebook-Twiter-email-Instagram and a million other things. Well, it struck me, we have a couple generations that obviously need a refresher course on life do’s and don’ts. Forget Social media etiquette, how about plan old manners and common sense? Start there, and the other things will follow.
So, I am offering my services as an expert on such things, learned from my own missteps as a youth. When I was a kid my Grandfather whacked my elbow with the handle of a butter knife because it was on the diner table. The only cell phone I ever saw was the shoe Maxwell Smart talked into. Boys/Men walked between ladies and the street when on the sidewalk so they wouldn’t get splashed by passing cars. From that vast pool of life lessons I offer my children, grandchildren and younger generations a few things that will make you look, and act, way cooler. You’re welcome.
OPEN THE DOOR FOR GIRLS
One of the very first lessons I learned as a young man was to hold the door open for girls. In this case it was my Mom who was no girl, but the lesson was the same. You show respect and put others before yourself when you hold the door. It’s one of the earliest form of service to others we learn. Today, if the person in front of you opens the door, run like the wind Forrest, before it closes in your face!!
DON’T WATCH TV AT THE DINNER TABLE
Or play with your smart phone, xbox, Nintendo, ipad or other electronic distracting device. This will be difficult at first but slowly words will start to come out of your mouth, then complete sentences! How was your day today? What did you learn at school? When does Uncle Bob get out of prison? And gradually a laugh or two will spring forth and before you know it you learn your brother has a name other than Dude!!! If Adam and Eve had not been distracted at dinner time perhaps they would have discussed the snake and things would be all different now. Family conversation at dinner time is music to Gods ears!!
HAT OFF DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
And it wouldn’t kill you to put your hand over your heart either. Our National Anthem has carried men and women into battle. The flag we face when we hear the song has draped the caskets of soldiers who died protecting the freedoms we enjoy every day. HEY OVER PRICED ATHLETE, the song lasts about 2 minutes, how about showing a little respect for the song and banner that allow you to do what you do instead of gazing into the stands or dancing around. And those of you in the stands, put down the beer, take off your hat and be honored to do it.
BLUE TOOTH IN THE GROCERY STORE
So there I was in the soup aisle at the grocery store and the lady standing next to me says, “Why didn’t he kiss you?” I looked over at her and said, “excuse me?” And then she said, “Did you end up sleeping with him?” At this point I’m getting a little annoyed and said, “what are you talking about?” She looked at me like I was the rudest person in the world and I noticed she had one of those Bluetooth things in her ear and she was on the phone. She was mad I was listening to her conversation, which she was having loudly, next to me, in the soup aisle. I have an idea. TALK ON YOUR PHONE AT HOME!!! I don’t care about your personal life, I’m trying to buy some eggs and chips. It creeps me out when you’re standing in the grocery store talking to yourself. You are not so important that you can’t wait until the whole world doesn’t hear your business!
SEND A THANK YOU NOTE
Not a thank you email. Not a thank you text. Not a thank you tweet. Yea, those are fine for a quick word of thanks, but always send a follow up hand-written note of thanks. I know, it’s hard to auto correct or spellcheck your handwriting and it probably takes 4 minutes to do something you can email in a minute or less. Yea, the grandmother who used to mail you a $2 bill inside a clown card that said “To Grandma’s favorite little grandchild” is no longer with us, but this is a karma thing. And it’s nice, and it’ll help the post office make a profit. It still means something to most of us when out of no where a HANDWRITTEN note shows up. Try it.
I looked up the definition of pj’s and here’s what the dictionary says…” a loose usually two-piece lightweight suit designed especially for sleeping or lounging”. I looked twice and didn’t see any thing that mentioned they should also be worn to Walmart, Target, restaurants or movie theaters. If you’re too lazy to wake up five minutes earlier and change out of your sleepwear before going to the Mall you might have a disease and should seek medical attention. We older folks think that just means you don’t have much respect for yourself. And don’t get me started on sagging pants. There are lots of things you can do to show you’re unique. Building the Statue of Liberty, that’s talent. Wearing your pants between your butt and your knees, that’s disgusting.
I can still remember the very first cuss word I ever said. It was damn, and I got spanked for saying it. This morning Diane and I were at breakfast and I heard the kids in the booth next to us say…sucks, ass, bite me, Jesus and a couple other things that would have resulted in traction when I was their age. The number of times people use the F word these days equals their heart beats per minute. I’m sorry that young people aren’t embarrassed to say bad words in front of their elders. I’m also sorry they don’t call their elders and speak to the, and learn about their lives in more than 140 character conversations. We really have lost the art of speaking to one another and so much could be solved if we did. First, there is conversation.
Wow, I really am a Geezer. A Geezer who thinks our whole world has been reduced to what we hold in our hands and not who we hold in our hands. You want to know what happens when we don’t talk to each other anymore, or look at each other anymore, or write to one another anymore? Just take a peek at what’s happening in our nation’s capitol. Enough Geezing for one day!!
This morning while I was doing my radio show on KEZW I received a call from Lucy. It seems I have known her forever, but really it’s just been 39 years. When Diane and I graduated from high school Di started working at Woolworth in Buckingham Square and Lucy was there. She soon became something of a guardian angel for the two of us, keeping a watchful eye on these two teenagers who had fallen in love and didn’t have half a brain between them. We knew we wanted to get married and take on the world, we just didn’t quite realize how big the world was! Well Lucy had seen some of the world and gently nudged us along the right path until I joined the Air Force and we moved. For 25-years we lost track of one another until one day I got a call in the KEZW studios and heard a voice say, “Do you remember me?”
Two months ago Lucy and Diane and I talked about the Colorado Freedom Memorial right after the concert the night before the dedication. Lucy told me how proud she was and how proud my Mom would have been and as we parted for the night she said she would make lunch plans and be in touch. Just this morning I answered the phone in the Studio and it was quickly obvious that we wouldn’t be having lunch. Instead we talked about our daughter Sara’s christening, when Lucy held her and she cried the whole time. The Priest had leaned over and told Lucy, “They only cry when you pinch them!” We laughed about that this morning. And we talked about how fast time goes by and we talked about how loved Lucy is by so many. I told her that was because she had loved them all first. And we talked about how much we loved each other. I told Lucy to call me whenever she wanted, she said she would and we hung up. I’m certain it’s the last time I’ll ever speak with Lucy.
Earlier this week a close friend of hers had called me at the station with the news that Lucy had been diagnosed with advanced cancer and would likely only live a couple weeks. Up until a week ago she never felt sick, and now she has just a few days left with us. She’s at home, happy to be surrounded by her family. Diane went to see her this afternoon and spent a couple hours with Lucy, just the two of them reminiscing about our life’s journey. When Diane and I fell in love there were three people in the world who believed we could succeed at this marriage thing. I was 18 and Diane was 19 and what did we know about love, and taking care of ourselves and making a way for ourselves? Dick Moosman, our high school drama teacher and best man at our wedding, my Mom, who embraced Diane like a daughter she had always wanted and Lucy were the three. When Lucy leaves us all three will be gone. My Dad is still with us and lives close but he’s been a little under the weather as well. My best friend is always with me but I feel like I need to be Diane’s protector. The time has come for me to be the grown up. Soon I will be the oldest remaining relative on our family tree and it frightens me. Is it silly to be nervous about facing the world alone when you’re 57?
I am on the verge of being the elder, with only the memories of those that went before me to guide me. I suppose if I have listened well I will know what to say when the time comes for wisdom; If I have watched well I will know the time for holding, and the time for letting go; If I have loved well I will be loved in return when it is most needed. Thank you Lucy for finding us on your journey and sharing your love and wisdom. We’ll keep trying to make you proud and I’m holding you t that lunch, wherever we end up sharing it. I love you.
Wow. I hardly know what to say but, wow. What do you do the day after your 13-year dream comes true? How do you feel when you can know for certain that your promise has been delivered? What words do you share with God, who led you to the finish line, when it was the right time to finish? I’m still trying to find the right answers to these questions. Almost a quarter of my l...ife has been spent working on the Colorado Freedom Memorial. I have wondered often what I would do when I got to this point and figured I’d get an answer when the time was right. My time came yesterday at the dedication ceremony when I had the honor of escorting Medal of Honor recipient George Sakato to the WWII panels to lay flowers below the names. George quietly saluted, then started to tear up and whispered to me, “I knew these men…I served with them.”, then he took my arm and we walked.
I believe in his own way that Joe, as we know him, was telling me it’s my responsibility to make sure they’re never forgotten. Kahlil Gibran wrote many years ago, “Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.” I know now that I am the one to keep them alive. All of those whose names are printed on the glass walls of the Memorial need a storyteller, a champion, someone who will not let the short but powerful lives they lived be forgotten. What greater honor can there be than to make sure heroes never die. I believe that’s my task. In the coming days, weeks and months you’ll likely find me at the Memorial, polishing glass, picking up debris and talking to people who have come to visit. I’ll tell them the stories I know and they’ll tell me ones I don’t. It already started today. Over 100 people an hour were visiting the Memorial today and many had tales of comrades and loved ones whose names now live on the Memorial panels. Those are stories I’ll keep, for a moment, and then share with others.
The Colorado Freedom Memorial is built, but the story is only beginning. I’ll meet you at the site soon.
Cameron Hood 6-years-old reflects as she kneels down at the glass wall after finding her friend Ryan Baum on the glass after the dedication May 26, 2013 in Aurora. Ryan was in the Iraq war. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)
Their names, along with almost 6,000 other fallen Colorado soldiers, are now immortalized in glass on the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Aurora.
The memorial, the first of its kind honoring all Colorado soldiers killed or missing in action since statehood, was officially dedicated at Springhill Park on Sunday to a crowd of veterans young and old and their families.
"We did it," Rick Crandall, founder of the memorial, said to the crowd of about 1,500. "Today we say to them across the generations, 'We have not and will not forget about you.' "
Thirteen years in the making, the 95-foot-wide, 12-foot-tall structure consists of 21 glass panels positioned at varying angles to signify the fallen soldier.
The panes are inscribed with the names of soldiers killed in action and grouped by wars, beginning with the Spanish-American War of 1898 and ending with the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. There is also a separate panel for soldiers missing in action.
"I think it's absolutely wonderful," said Julie Schrock, whose son, Chad, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010. "It's a beautiful piece of art."
Among the challenges in creating the memorial was compiling the names of soldiers because of poor historical record-keeping, a fire at the National Records Center in St. Louis in 1973 and the fact that soldiers' deaths were often not reported, according to the memorial's website.
Kristoffer Kenton, the memorial's designer, said from the outset 13 years ago the memorial was designed with the soldiers' families in mind.
"Watching them experience this wall is indescribable," he said. "This is designed to have an experience that you don't get out of other types of structures."
It wasn't just the families of the fallen who attended, though. So, too, did some of the soldiers who fought alongside them.
George Sakato, 92, wore his Medal of Honor received as a result of his actions in France in 1944 as he and Crandall placed a bouquet of columbines in front of the memorial's World War II section.
"There are names on there that were on the left side of me and the right side of me," he said. "This memorial's for them; they're never coming home. I wear this for them."
Today is December 6th and it happens to be one of my favorite days of the year. It is the Feast of St. Nicholas, a man whom I’ve enjoyed a tremendous relationship with over the years. St Nicholas was born in Turkey and at a very early age his parents both passed away, leaving his Uncle, also named Nicholas, to raise him. Uncle Nicholas was a Bishop and raised young Nicholas to be a religious man teaching him first to be a reader in church and then ordaining him as a priest. From there many legends have grown over the years about his generosity and the miracles he performed during his life. Like many stories from ancient times I suspect you can take most of them with a grain of salt. There’s likely a bit of truth in them but certainly the legend of St. Nicholas has been built from many generations of storytellers each adding their own twist. Regardless of that I find it very cool that thousands of year’s later people of many faiths, and many countries, remember in some way an old, grey-haired, Saint who by all accounts was a kind soul who encouraged others to be givers. Can you imagine what it’s like to have the whole world anticipate your arrival and actually leave things out to make you comfortable when you show up?
Today, across Europe, children awoke to shoes filled with presents and treats, gifts from St. Nicholas himself on his feast day. Good children received fruit, candies or a present while bad children received coal. The coal an indication that you better shape up in the few days left until Christmas! While St Nicholas Day hasn’t become as big a deal here in the states, many homes now have Advent Calendars to count the days until St Nicholas arrives with a bit of chocolate or treat behind each day’s door. And on Christmas Eve there will be cookies and milk, and a carrot for the reindeer, on many tables around the world, a welcome to the Man we await with anticipation. That, I think, is what the best part of Christmas is. The anticipation. And I think it’s the greatest gift St Nicholas gives us.
Think about it. How many presents do you remember of the dozens or hundreds you’ve received in your life? Sure, you might remember the big ones, or the very special ones, but most of the things you unwrapped on Christmas morning were nice to receive but didn’t leave a permanent mark on your memory. It’s the anticipation that makes Christmas special, awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, and anticipating the birth of the one who came before him. We decorate trees, hang stockings with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there and in the darkest days of the year turn on multi-color lights, candles and wrap ourselves up in a joy we don’t feel the rest of the year.
In the interest of full disclosure, I not only believe in Santa Claus, I believe I am Santa Claus. There. I said it out loud for everyone to hear. For 20 years now I have collected Santa’s and this time of year they fill every corner of the house. I have a beautiful Santa suit that Diane had made for me years ago and I even took the name Nicholas as my confirmation name. I love St. Nicholas and have never stopped believing in him. See, I think you do him a great disservice if you only think of him as the guy who brings presents. St. Nicholas brings anticipation and the hope that things can be merry and bright. St. Nicholas brings the belief that each one of us is special and deserving. St. Nicholas brings the comfort that for one day of the year being a kid is ok, no matter how old a kid you are! See, I don’t want to be another star athlete, or famous politician, or even a reality show host. I’d prefer to be the guy that makes your heart flutter a little when you see him for the first time each year. So, from me to you, Happy St. Nicholas Day and don’t be afraid to tell everyone you believe in Santa Claus, and have fun anticipating his arrival!!
Here we are in November and on the doorstep of “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” and I have to admit I am right in the middle of my annual chameleon thing and am changing into a 7-year old boy again! I simply love this time of year. It starts with my birthday on November 9th when I’m reminded of my Mom. I looked forward to her call on my birthday more than any other I would receive and now that she’s been gone a few years I miss that the most. She instilled in me a real love for this time of year and I remember Christmas at our house, wherever we were in the world, being a magical place. Maybe it was the Sing-A-Long with Mitch Christmas records! In between my birthday and Christmas was Thanksgiving and the thing that sticks out the most to me was it was the one time of the year when we said a prayer before we ate and Dad broke out the best wine glasses! In a family that only went to church three or four times the entire time I was growing up that annual prayer stuck with me because it was special and it certainly must have been important because it was the only time we did it!! After leaving home and starting my own family church became more important, and that prayer has been my responsibility. Carving the turkey, saying the prayer, those are important events that signal a man’s arrival as head of the family, so it makes me a little sad that Thanksgiving these days seems to have become a footnote really, a thing we do in between more important things like Halloween and Christmas. It wasn’t always that way. In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale, the writer who gave us the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” among other things, started a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She spent 36 years writing articles, and letters to important people of the day. It was President Abraham Lincoln who finally agreed to Sarah’s request and in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, suggested to all Americans they ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November. We’ve been celebrating it ever since, though lately it seems to be getting lost, or at least losing its meaning. The commercial aspects of Halloween and Christmas, times when we have our hands stretched out to receive, have become far more powerful than the prayerful aspect of Thanksgiving when our hands should be clasped close, in prayer, grateful that we have so many things to be thankful for. I love Thanksgiving so much I come to work on the radio that morning just to share the day with listeners who are so happy to be cooking and cleaning in anticipation of the family arriving. I love having family gathered at our house for the feast, but mostly for each other. We need decorations and symbols to adorn other holidays. We only need each other and the love that unites us to adorn Thanksgiving. Don’t let Thanksgiving be an interruption to more important things, let it be the important thing. I remember a quote that said something like “Sometimes simply saying thanks is prayer enough.” Happy Thanksgiving Friends.