Armed Forces Day is for those currently in uniform.
Veterans Day is for those who once wore the uniform.
Memorial Day is for those who never made it out of their uniform.
As you celebrate the beginning of summer, and try to put the stress and turmoil of 2020 behind you, take a moment to reflect on your freedoms and to thank those who fought and died to keep those freedoms intact and to protect them for others.
IT IS FOOLISH AND WRONG TO MOURN THE MEN WHO DIED. RATHER, WE SHOULD THANK GOD THAT SUCH MEN LIVED
On Oct. 27, 2019, Conan, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois military K9, played a key role in the Barisha raid, which resulted in the death of the ISIS leader. Conan is one more dog on a long list of our heroic military working dogs.
World War II
One famous K9 hero from WWII was Chips, a German Shepherd/Alaskan Husky/Collie mix donated by a New York family. Chips is credited with saving the lives of many U.S. soldiers and earned a Purple Heart and Silver Star. He once broke free from his handler and took out a sniper nest in Sicily, capturing four enemy soldiers.
Five years after WWII, the Korean War again demonstrated the value of military working dogs. Chiefly deployed on combat night patrols, they were hated by the North Koreans and Chinese because of their ability to ambush snipers, penetrate enemy lines, and sniff out enemy positions. The enemy propaganda teams began using loudspeakers to blast the message, “Yankee, take your dog and go home!”
Now, fast forward to Vietnam. This was a totally new environment and job description for these K9 warriors. Their duties became more widespread – scout, sentry, patrol, mine, and booby-trap detection. Like their predecessors in Korea, these four-legged soldiers were so hated by the Viet Cong that they attracted a $20,000 bounty for their capture.
Nemo, a German Shepherd, saved his handler, Robert Throneburg, during an enemy attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam in 1966.
Thanks to politicians and the media, we exited Vietnam in too much of a hurry, and the military working dogs that served our forces so admirably and saved untold lives were left behind, classified as “surplus military equipment.” Despite the outrage and pleas from many handlers who were prepared to pay for their dog’s flight home, the military command would not permit it. Some dogs were transferred to the South Vietnamese military and police units that were not trained to handle them, and many others were euthanized. It is estimated that of 4,000 that served, about 200 made it back to the U.S.
Fortunately, that should never happen again. Following a huge public outcry led by many angry U.S. military-dog handlers, Congress passed “Robby’s Law” in 2000, allowing for the adoption of these dogs by law-enforcement agencies, former handlers, and others capable of caring for them.
Middle-Eastern War K9s
The hot, dusty desert and rugged mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan serve up new challenges for military K9s trained for explosive and drug detection, sentry, therapy, and other work.
A dogs’ sense of smell is roughly 50 times better than ours, meaning they can sniff out IEDs before they detonate and injure or kill U.S. servicemen. Ground patrols can uncover approximately 50 percent of these deadly devices, but with the help of these K9 warriors, the detection rate increases to about 80 percent.
When you go into your grandmother’s kitchen, you smell the stew. The dog goes into your grandmother’s kitchen, he smells carrots, pepper, tomatoes, and lettuce. I mean he smells all the ingredients.
William Cronin, American K9 for Afghanistan and Mali, West Africa
Military K9s Today
Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was a member of Seal Team Six that killed Osama bin Laden. He was part of a new breed of elite canine soldier, a Special Forces dog whose training includes such skills as parachuting and fast-roping from helicopters.
According to retired Air Force K9 handler, Louis Robinson, a fully trained bomb detection canine is likely worth over $150,000, and considering the many lives these dogs may save, you could characterize them as priceless.
On The Home Front …
It would be a disservice not to mention the working dogs of Law Enforcement, who go to work every day and help keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. The courage and loyalty of these four-legged police officers are amazing and deserving of our respect and gratitude.
And then, last but not least, is the family dog who, without a second’s hesitation, would put themselves between their family and any danger.
To those dedicated, loyal K9 partners who work night and day worldwide, helping the military and law enforcement, who faithfully protect our families and us, we say thank you!
After serving in the Marine Corps for 8 years and as a police officer for 2 years, Brandon Prince received the unfortunate news that, due to a service-related disability, he could no longer serve his community as a police officer. Brandon took the news in typical Marine Corps fashion and simply turned to another of his passions – creating art pieces for people to enjoy. His wife, Nicole, is a partner in this wonderful enterprise.
Located in Upstate South Carolina, Deep South Creations offer personalized, custom woodworking, beautifully crafted and sure to last for years, becoming family heirlooms.
Veterans Referring Veterans
I met Brandon while presenting at one of the Veterans Referring Veterans’ Thursday night virtual “Happy Hours.” I joined the VRV several months ago as a veteran author. The VRV is a great online directory and networking tool for validated veteran-owned businesses of all kinds. It turned out that Brandon likes to read, and I ended up shipping him a copy of one of my books.
Loyal For Life
My stories are action-adventure yarns involving military or retired military personnel and being a dog lover, include K9s. One K9 character, a Belgian-Malinois Trident dog, named Ajax, has become a real favorite for many readers. Ajax is quite a heroic animal and saves the day on many dangerous missions. After seeing some of Brandon’s work, I decided I wanted something special as a tribute to Ajax and other “non-fictitious” K9 service members. I talked to Brandon and what he came up with really blew me away. I absolutely love it!
Once he was finished with the piece, Brandon contacted me for my shipping address. But after being socially-distanced for over a year and learning he was only a couple of hours away, I asked if he minded if I picked it up. He didn’t mind at all. It was an excuse for a nice little “road trip” and a chance to meet two wonderful people and fellow VRV members.
Brandon and Nicole at Deep South Creations turn out some stunning work. There are wooden flags, duty racks, cut-outs, signs, etc., all created onsite in the shop behind their house. Unfortunately, I can’t display them all here in this blog post, so you need to visit them on their website, Facebook page, or Instagram! Deep South Creations offers discounts to active duty, veterans, law enforcement, and other first responders.
Do yourself a favor and check out Deep South Creations, and support this amazing veteran-owned small business.
Jenna Ridennhour is an Army veteran. She served a two-year enlistment with the United States Army as an optician. After completing her service period, Jenna continued working as an optician for 12 years in the civilian sector. Deciding to jumpstart her career, Jenna went back to school and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration in 2015. With her new BBA in hand, the entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, and a new business was born in February of 2020.
What this business offers …
Regal Reflections, LLC is based in Savanah, Georgia, and offers a unique way to create and share special memories of your events. Experience the ultimate “selfie” with the Mirror X Photo Mirror, a stunning 6-foot tall interactive, voice-guided photo booth that can be set up at your location. Packages include many options such as a personalized touch screen, a personalized overlay, a backdrop (if requested), props (both physical and/or digital), unlimited 4×6″ prints, a uniformed attendant, signing and stamping features, and texting/emailing capabilities.
Jenna has spent years researching the industry and designing a system that ensures her clients receive a delightfully high-end experience. She takes great pleasure in providing an entertaining, memorable, and shareable experience for each client and their guests.
Whether you provide Regal Reflections with a list of your “must-haves” or you are drawing on her team’s wealth of experience, this veteran-owned business will make sure every single detail is perfect for your special event. Regal Reflections specializes in providing that personal touch that makes your event one that will be remembered and talked about for years to come.
So whether for a wedding, a birthday party, a holiday celebration, a conference, or a bar mitzvah … Regal Reflections has the tools to help easily capture and share those wonderful memories with all your friends and family … even virtually!
The Virtual Experience …
This is an amazing option and one I do have some personal experience with. Several weeks ago, the Veterans Referring Veterans network raised funds for a little boy named Lukas. Lukas, the son of a Marine veteran, was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. Regal Reflections played an amazing role, allowing those who contributed to the fundraiser and other well-wishers to send Lukas pictures created online “virtually,” so Lukas could see those who were pulling for him from his room in the hospital. I could not attend the actual event held at Four Brother Meadery in Festus, Missouri, because of a previous commitment. But I was still able to send Lukas a picture using this virtual photo booth. It was an amazing thing to see and be a part of.
This virtual photo booth experience can also be just the thing to share special memories with friends and family unable to share in activities during these uncertain times or those over extended distances.
So, please take a minute to check out Regal Reflections and see what this amazing lady veteran has to offer her clients. And support businesses run by those who were willing to put their lives on the line for us.
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I got an email from my dad this afternoon telling me his Uncle Bob passed away today. He was 95. My Great Uncle Bob was a WWII veteran, serving in the Army Air Corps on Okinawa at the end of the war.
In the email, my dad mentioned that when he was born, the whole Widmer clan lived in the same house in Herkimer, NY. By the time my father was a toddler, he’d identified Bob as his favorite uncle. Bob would take my dad to the playground and kept a watchful eye on him as he grew older. All the time Uncle Bob was in the Army, he would send my dad a dollar each month to put in a bank he had given him. When he returned from overseas, Uncle Bob took my dad and the money, bought my dad’s first bicycle, which he taught him to ride.
Uncle Bob was not drafted until July of 1945, and Japan surrendered in August of 1945. Hence, the war was over before he arrived at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, where he served as an aircraft mechanic. As I understand it, he worked on B-29s and P-47s, which continued to fly air defense and other missions during the occupation. Bob received a commendation signed by President Harry Truman for his service.
I still remember going to my Great Uncle Bob’s house as a very young boy and playing with his two girls, Ellen and Ruth. We would also see them at Raquette Lake in upstate New York and at family reunions. I guess Ellen and Ruth would be second cousins. Uncle Bob and Aunt Lillian were wonderful people, and these are such great memories. American has lost another one of its heroes.
Today, a Veterans Referring Veterans social is being held at Four Brothers Mead in Festus, Missouri. Sadly, I was unable to attend due to a previous engagement. These are a great bunch of people.
A Silent Auction for a Great Cause
At this social, a silent auction is being held to raise money for Lukas, the young son of a Marine Corp veteran and the owner of True Allegiance Flag Co, who was recently diagnosed with Leukemia.
Rob, the owner of this amazing veteran-owned company, makes rustic wooden American flags you can proudly display in your home or office.
A signed set of my JD Cordell Action Series books was donated for this auction, as well as many other amazing products from veteran-owned businesses across the nation.
Lukas was taken to the local emergency room on Friday, October 16, 2020 for fever, bruising, and soreness. After blood work, it was discovered that Lukas’s platelets were extremely low and his white blood cell count was extremely high. The doctors decided to transport Lukas via ambulance to Children’s Hospital in St. Louis (2 hours away from home).
It was there, around 1:30am, October 17, 2020, that the doctors delivered the news to Lukas’s parents that he has Leukemia. It was determined they would immediately start a blood transfusion to get his platelet count up (which had dropped even lower since the previous test), then later on in the day decide which type of Leukemia he has and start chemotherapy Monday, October 19, 2020.
Later that day, it was determined that Lukas has Type B Leukemia (which apparently is the better of the two types). The plan to start chemotherapy Monday is still in place, and no surgery or radiation will be needed. He will also have a bone marrow biopsy and spinal type very soon. Lukas will be in the hospital for 2-3 weeks as of right now.
Jessie and Rob have 4 other children between the two of them that will be at home during this time. Jessie has two full time jobs, and Rob owns his own business making fantastic works of art out of wood. However, with them being two hour away from home and family, neither of them will be able to work during this time to provide for their family.
It is our hope to be able to raise enough money for lodging, gas money, food, and ALL bills while their little family undergoes this hardship. We know that our God is a mighty God and He will provide!! Thank you for taking the time out of your day to support this magnificent family!
I know a lot of people are having a tough time right now, but …
Some of you may recall Operation Holiday salute from last year – well you all did such an AMAZING job that Veteran’s Last Patrol decided to make this annual effort!
Teachers, managers, families, coaches, associations, companies…this is a GREAT group project. There are veterans who are in hospice care confined due to social distancing that could use extra love this holiday season. Please take an hour or so out of your day to write to them.
As you know, I recently discovered an organization called Veterans Referring Veterans. This group exists to help veterans support and promote each other’s business and reach new customers through online networking. I have been delighted with what I have seen so far.
Thursday night “Happy Hour”
Each Thursday night, we have a Happy Hour with a veteran presenting something about his or her business, followed by open questions and discussion. I have met veterans who run companies selling maple syrup, clothing, metal-working projects, jewelry, and wood-working products. I met the author of a series of children’s books. And I have met financial, marketing, business consultants, personal coaches … you name it.
I even met a veteran who’s father is a famous wood-worker who did a great deal of wood carving for Disney and who has carvings all over the world, many ordered by well-known celebrities. He did not follow in his father’s footsteps, however. He is the children’s book author I mentioned above. The point is, I have meant some fascinating people.
Last week, the presenter was a member of the Four Brothers Mead business partnership. This team, consisting of two blood brothers, a brother-by-marriage, and a brother-by-combat, decided to make mead for family gatherings. They really got into it and came up with an excellent product. Demand increased, and they decided to go for it. It is a great story.
These guys, at least two of Nordic ancestry, follow the same recipe that has been used to make mead for over a thousand years. They use all local honey and no artificial ingredients. They do offer flavored varieties, such as blackberry, to which they add a few, you guessed it, actual blackberries. They offer a maple version, the one I ordered, to which they add just a little maple syrup from a veteran-owned maple farm in Vermont (but that is the subject of a future blog post). And it is simply outstanding!
They will soon be offering a bourbon-flavored version. Nothing added – just aged in old charred-oak bourbon barrels. Being an aficionado of good bourbon, I can’t wait for this one to come out.
Anyway, if you want to try something different, I can definitely recommend the YGGDRASIL SAP! And, if it is any kind of an indicator, the other versions will be excellent as well.
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I still remember driving to work at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and hearing Phil Williams, a local radio celebrity talking about a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers. I remember thinking … what a horrible accident … those poor people in the plane.
I was thinking a small private plane had accidentally hit one of the towers …
But Phil kept talking, and I could not believe what I was hearing. Then I remember thinking, it must be some kind of a practical joke! But it would have been a horrible joke. I just could not fathom what was happening.
Then, when I got to work and entered the Student Center, I saw that crowds were gathered, staring at the many TV monitors located throughout the lobby area. I saw the second jet hit a tower. It was a day that changed my life forever. It was an attack on Freedom … and the American way of life.
Americans are certainly not perfect, but the ideals America was founded on are …
America is not just a country. It is an idea, and it is an idea that is worth fighting for … the Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These are more than just cool-sounding words from the Declaration of Independence. These are the core values that are then enshrined and protected by the U.S. Constitution.
It saddens me how many Americans today have no understanding of, or appreciation for, the gift our Founding Father left to us. Far too many spend their time caught up in perceived petty grievances and playing the victim card and miss out on the fantastic opportunities that only this country provides.
September 11, 2001
That day created a patriotic fervor that was shared by many across this great country. In me, it has not lessened since. It reminded me, like nothing else ever had, of the oath I took on July 17, 1979.
I, Darren C Gilbert, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
I just went back and rechecked … that oath has no expiration date.
The United States of America has been a force for good for most of its 244 years. While mistakes have been made, no other county sacrificed so much for the betterment of mankind around the globe. Any errors that have been made are due to the imperfect nature of Americans being human, and that is something we should all be able to forgive.
I will end my post with two of my favorite quotes by William Wallace from the movie Braveheart.
Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!
We all end up dead, it’s just a question of how and why.
William Wallace, Braveheart
God Bless The USA!
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And, if you like reading an award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my newest novel, Montagnard. It also got a great review from Kirkus Reviews!
A few missions back, we sent out cards to the vets that Veteran’s Last Patrol works with. I recently learned that one of their volunteers could use some ‘get well’ messages from all of us. Here is what Veteran’s Last Patrol founder, Claude Schmid shared with me about Art Allum:
One of Last Patrol’s earliest volunteers, Art Allum, has been a rock and a gentleman. Art’s a submariner who did 20 years in the Navy. He visits veterans in hospice to provide that end-of-life friendship we’re all about. He’s also gone the extra mile to help at least one track down an important personal record. Beyond that, Art has made food can goods deliveries to veterans unable to leave their homes, he’s participated in numerous honor ceremonies, and has driven disabled, solitary veterans to medical appointments. (The last two have been over 100 miles away.)