Memorial Day 2016

Each year I try to come up with something to say about Memorial Day and each year I can't. The words won't come.

This is an edited repost from years past and is, in no way, comprehensive.

Staff Sgt. Charles Sanders and the crew of Big Windy 25

CW2 Theodore U. "Tuc" Church and 1st Lt. Keith Heidtman

CW2 S. Blane Hepfner and CW2 J. Bryce Millward

CW2 Earl R. Scott III and CW2 Mathew C. Heffelfinger

CW3 Phillip E. Windorski

CW3 Corey J. Goodnature and the crew of Turbine 33 as well as the SEAL team they were heading to assist

Extortion 17

SPC Thomas Allison and the crew of "Wild 42"

Chief Warrant Officer Alan W. Gunn - for whom I wear a bracelet

Clay Hunt


CW3 Frank Buoniconti

My God, I miss my friends. For the ones I didn't know well or personally, my heart aches for their families - today and always.

Feel free to leave the names of those you are remembering in the comments below.

- hfs


Home is where you can smell the chlorine

There are very few places on this earth I truly feel at home. I've lived in dozens of places - different states, different countries, different houses. I've had dozens of jobs. In all of that, most of the time I feel like a foreigner. It takes me months to settle in to a new home or job. I usually function at a level of awkward discomfort that I suspect most people do not experience, and I long for the comfort of home at the end of each day in a way that settles into my bones.

In all of my life, there have only been a handful of places that I have felt immediately at ease. The pool deck is that place for me. No matter where I am, no matter what I'm doing, I am at home on a pool deck.

I realized that this past week, as I set foot as a coach on a deck that I have previously stood as both a swim parent and an official. The energetic calm (how's that for a contradiction?) that washes over me when I walk on deck is something I crave. The end of this swim season leaves me feeling like I have misplaced a part of myself. I'd say 'lost' but I know I'll be back - I know I'll find it again.

But here it is Monday - the first Monday in months that I've not been on deck - and I am lost. A new routine will soon take over and summer will settle in but I will still be left feeling like I am missing something.

And I am.

- hfs


Veterans do not need Sally Struthers

Nolan Peterson wrote an incredible article the other day, titled "Why Soldiers Miss War". Take a moment or two and go read it. It will be worth your time. 

Back? Good. Thank you for reading that. That article is probably the most important article you'll read all year. The paradigm shift it puts forth is priceless. The money quote(s) as I see it are:

"Contrary to the steady stream of Wounded Warrior Foundation commercials on TV, combat veterans are not broken, and they are not victims.
They should not be pitied or looked at with a sad shaking of the head or some reflexive “Geez, what a shame.” Pitying them belittles their experiences and misrepresents the challenges they face after military life."


And for those who ultimately descend into a darkness from which they cannot save themselves, it was not war that broke them.
It was the peace to which they returned, but never found."

I have never been comfortable with the widely-accepted perception that veterans are victims. It has never sat well with me. This article articulates that feeling for me.

I've never really experienced the full power of the bonds formed during a shared experience such as a wartime deployment, but I've glimpsed it and it's...powerful. It's awe-inspiring. It's intoxicating. And it's worthy of envy. It makes most day-to-day, civilian relationships seem mundane and one dimensional (obviously there are experiences in civilian life that are similar and create similar bonds). It shines a light on what are often superficial connections back home.

And the fact that a veteran was privileged to experience that - voluntarily - makes them not a victim but...something else. I've never met a veteran who was comfortable with the term 'hero' and I don't want to use it here, but I'm having trouble coming up with a term that will suffice. 

These men and women *willingly* walked away from their families, their friends, their lives, and walked *into* the chaos. While it may not have been for some big ideal, it was ultimately for the biggest ideal - to serve their fellow man. Most often, 'their fellow man' was the person next to them in the Humvee, or the helicopter, or on patrol, or in the CHU with them. Or it was in service to the friends and family they left behind. But it was in service to their fellow man. 

Jesus gave us two commandments:
1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Our veterans are living, breathing testimonies to the second commandment, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, agnostic Wiccan, atheist...you name it. They embody it. Even the ones that joined simply for the college money. Even the ones booted out for their drinking problem or failing a PT test or whatever other trouble they landed themselves in. And yet our veterans are often portrayed as victims. 

They most certainly are not.

Derek Weida put up a video the other day that, coupled with this article, really started me thinking on all of this. His organization, The Next Objective, is a combat veteran-run initiative committed to empowering our returning service members to overcome obstacles and achieve post-military success. He is the example to follow. He articulates the paradigm shift that needs to happen. (I'd mention Team Rubicon here but all 3 of my readers already know that I am their unoffical cheerleader)

The thing is that it's not going to come from the government. It never does. It will have to come from within. Who better to address the needs of veterans than people who have walked in those boots and understand the complexities and layered needs of the veteran community? I can see the grass-roots movement starting and it's electrifying. 

- hfs


Wrote this six years ago. Nothing's changed.  One of my favorite movies is 'Bull Durham'. And one of my favorite scenes in ...