Sunday, September 27, 2009

Visiting their Boys on Gold Star Mothers' Day

The museum has been hosting the Lima Company Memorial since September 11th. It will be at the museum until January 2010.

The Lima Company Memorial honors the 23 men (22 Marines and the Navy Corpsman) of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, a Marine Corps Reserve Unit based in Ohio, who were killed while deployed to Iraq in 2005.

According the the Lima Memorial website, "The Ohio-based Marine Reserve unit, once known as "Lucky Lima," was one of the hardest hit single units in Operation Iraqi Freedom, suffering deaths of 22 Marines and their Navy Corpsman. Created by Columbus artist Anita Miller, the memorial contains life-sized paintings of each of the 23 fallen heroes. Names and statistics of each of the fallen men, an ever-living candle, boots and space for visitors to leave mementos are part of this moving memorial."

The Artist, Anita Miller, envisioned life size portraits displayed in an octagon. You can see her conceptual drawing and read the story behind the memorial here. When it was completed, it was displayed in the rotunda of the Ohio Capital building, for a picture of how it was displayed, click here.

It is currently on display in the Leatherneck Gallery of the museum. It is displayed in groupings of 4 panels on either side of the Tarawa exhibit.



Today, I had the fortune of meeting some of the mothers of the Lima Company Marines. They were in DC for Remembrance weekend, in honor of Gold Star Mothers' Day.

For those who don't know, a Gold Star family is a family who has lost a military son or daughter in a conflict.

One of the mother's, Pat Murray, gave me permission to photograph her with the image of her son David Kreuter.

I asked her which image was her son, she said, "This good looking guy right here." He is the the Marine pictured on the far right.


She asked if I wanted her touching him when I took the picture. I told her "no" because we don't allow anyone to touch paintings and artwork. She told me no one had ever told them they couldn't touch the paintings. My sincere apologies, to everyone, if touching was the intent of the artist, I just didn't know.

David is displayed on the last panel on the far right. His fresh smile, frozen in time.


She said the artist invited the families to help varnish the paintings. That was very special she said. I asked if it was like touching him one last time. She said it was.

When David was killed, he had been married for just a year. His son was only six weeks old. He did not wear his wedding band while in combat, this is not unusual. When the artist was painting the panel, his widow asked her if she could paint his wedding band in. The artist did.


I am going to share with you one final photograph, I hope Ms. Murray is not offended by me sharing this moment with you. Saying her good-byes.


Our freedoms are not free. The men and women in the military and their families know this. They have paid for it in separations, sweat, blood, tears and some, ultimately, their lives. I hope that those of you in the Washington DC area can take a visit to the museum to meet these young men.

Retreat to the Hills - - Baptisms


Baptisms were held at the hot tub after the last session for the day. The thing that most excited me was how many people came. I think several hundred came to witness 15 get baptised. One of the gals in my Bible study group was baptized .


Below, my friend gives her testimony and why she is choosing to be baptized.





After the baptisms, there was a talent show. Last year I didn't go because I was so tired. This time I had taken a nap before the homecoming game so I could make it late into the night. Can I just tell you this was the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. I mean, I have paid big bucks for comedy shows but this free show was by far the best I've seen in a while.

The MC is who made it funny. He had funny comments regarding everyone who went up on stage -- and the performers were such good sports!

Below, juggler. She told us she learned this as a "Party trick" in hopes that knowing how to do this would get her invited to more parties. It didn't work that way, but she knows how to juggle.


Again, we are clearly NOT a Baptist church, below a dance routine to a Spice Girls song.


The two guys below won the crowd favorite award. They were really good. Next year, I need to take video.


Retreat to the HIlls Part 3

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Of course, if the theme is Schooled aka High School and we had a homecoming dance already, it is logical that we'd have a homecoming football game.

I decided to take my sports photography skills out and dust them off. Within two plays, I as almost creamed by this green monster.

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The staff handed off to their ministry intern quite often. He was a good ball carrier and receiver. I think he scored all of the touchdowns for the staff team.

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This guy had some serious moves. It was like watching a martial arts film (I know bad comparison since he is Asian) where they twist their body at the last second to miss being hit by some thrown blade. Well this guy could contort his body while running to avoid getting touched it was amazing to watch. After watching him, I'm surprised their aren't more Asian football players.

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Fan reactions: Oh NO! Oh YES!

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Retreating to the Hills Part 2

The main day of sessions and activities was Saturday. After breakfast, we all piled into the auditorium for worship and session 2 of the main message. Below, some of the 500.


As you can see from this picture, we are all very serious Christians. The girl sitting next to this guy is probably thinking, "Dear God turn them into pillars of salt now!"


This is me with minimal make-up and my librarian glasses poseing for a shot with our Single's ministry team leader. She is a phenom! She spends about 40 hours a week doing all the administrative stuff for our singles ministry and its all volunteer based.


The next three shots are of the praise band during the worship portion of the session. I'll be honest with you. They really have the volume up too high. I know I had some hearing damage done. That morning at breakfast, one of the girls sitting at the table was asked what her favorite part of the retreat was so far and she replied with a big smile, "Katie". No, what was has been your favorite part of the retreat? "My name is Katie" she shouted back. Since I was sitting next to her at the table, I repeated the question to her and laughed, "you were obviously sitting too close to the speakers last night weren't you?"




My favorite part of the retreat was "cabin" time. After the first session and before lunch, they had time scheduled for the cabins to get together to talk about the weekend and just interact with each other. I thought this was great! The first retreat I had ever come to, I didn't know anyone and had hoped to meet some people - - only thing was everyone in my cabin seemed to know each other already so no one invited me along with their group. This was really nice because we could all get to know each other. I got to know and chat with a couple women I've not really had the time to chat with before. We picked the pool deck for our cabin time.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Retreating to the Virginia Hills

Last weekend, I escaped the hustle and bustle and stress of the Washington, DC area and went to a church retreat at Rockbridge Alum Springs, a Younglife camp.

This was the main lodge where all of the sessions were held. We had about 500 attendees.


Below is the "Chow Hall".


This is the "lake" aka pond for all of us that grew up by the Great Lakes.


A beautiful, peaceful babbling brook gently cut through the camp. There were many rocks and benches where you could sit and enjoy quite time in the rising morning sun. I wish this time of day lasted longer.

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The theme of the weekend was "Schooled". The message that I walked away with was to remember that I am to love God first. Serving Him is my first priority. After the first session, most of the 'campers' headed over to the Homecoming dance -- yes this was a back to high school theme.

The dance was such fun! I haven't danced since the Marine Corps Birthday celebration last year. Clearly, we are not a Baptist church. Lots of dancing.


This is me with a couple of the men in our singles group.


Below, one of the pastors shows everyone his dance floor moves.


Following in My Ancestor's Footsteps

This past spring, I went on a family history vacation to Virginia's historic triangle, Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown.

My first stop was Yorktown. At the Victory Center and Museum, there are interpretive, static displays inside as well as a living display outside. The living display is a Continental Army encampment, a window into the life of my ancestor John Sale.

After writing a draft and going back to the family history notes I have from several different family members and then cross checking online. I was getting three different stories. So...

What I do know, John Sale was in the Continental Army. He did not participate in the Battle at Yorktown as one set of papers indicated but was in charge of the Prisoner of War Camp in Ablemar, Virginia. Some material indicates that he may have lost a leg.

The camps he may have lived in while serving in the Army may have looked like the camp depicted below in Yorktown.


The re-enactor below is dressed in the uniform of a Private.


The living quarters of enlisted soldiers in the revolution consisted of canvas tents with straw floors. Straw is a great insulator, so if you were lucky in the winter months to get a lot of straw from a local farmer, you could keep relatively warm and dry in your tent.


Officer's quarters were a little better in the camp, bigger tents, anyway with cots.


The tent below depicts General Washington's tent. Not only were these living quarters but they were where "business was conducted" Washington's tent included a large map table off to the side.


I was quite interested in the cooking pit. According to the interpreter, this was always built away from the tents in order to prevent fires. They had a huge circle dug into the ground with "cooking holes" carved into the side of the inner island. A fire would be built in the hole in the side and smoke and heat would rise through the hole at the top. They would place the pots and pans on top of the "exhaust" hole because heat rises and would cook the items in the pots and pans.


He demonstrated how to start a fire using flint, a piece of charred fabric and dried grass. I am so thankful we don't have to demonstrate anything like this at the Marine Corps Museum!


Inside the Yorktown Center, they had a display of what a typical soldier would be carrying. One thing I learned this year was regarding the 'wigs' they wore. Everyone wore a wig so all hair was uniform but it was also hygienic. Since bathing was practically an optional thing back then, the wigs could be washed in a river or any available water - - so their "hair" would be clean.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Discover their stories, honor their values

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation has embarked on a fund raising effort to build an education center at the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. I just saw a full page advertisement for this in Armchair General, a magazine I subscribe to.

The Education Center will be built adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial. The center will not only put faces to the 58,000 names on the wall, but will house and display letters, photos and artifacts that have been left at the wall. The American History Museum had a display of artifacts left at the wall that brought me to tears every time I stood in front of the display case. When I have gone down to DC and have walked the length of the wall, I can't help but stop and read things that have been left at certain panels. I never walk away with dry eyes. I can only imagine how moving this Education Center will be.

More information about the center and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund can be found at their website:


Above, sculpture at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC.

Today's Washington Post is also carrying a story on the center and the task at collecting photos of the 58,000 plus veterans listed on the wall: Putting Faces to the Names on the Vietnam Memorial. According to the article, 10,000 photos have been received so far and $20 million has been raised of the $85 million needed to build the center.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

That day is seared into our memory. Many of us remember almost everything about that day.
For me, it was a normal, warm early fall day here in DC. I rushed around in the morning. I was running late (like I am today). I must have ran out to my car and back into the apartment three times. Something was out of place and I couldn't figure out what it was. Maybe it was some connection to the 'spiritual' world or old instincts we humans have surpressed. My subconcious knew something was going to happen and it wasn't going to be good.
At 8:30, I was on the road - - the hijackers were boarding planes with their unsuspecting victims. People in New York were already busy with their day. I was running late, willing myself to get through the crush of traffic on I-66 heading east so that I could make it to Bethesda (where I worked at the time) by 9 a.m.
As I rounded the corner to pull into the parking garage to our building in Bethesda, I heard the breaking news, a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. My first thoughts, the thoughts of all Americans, probably, that this was some kind of terrible accident. By the time I had gotten upstairs to the office, everyone was standing around the cube of co-worker who had a radio.
"Hey, you guys, a plane hit the World Trade Center in New York." I said.
"Another plane just hit the other World Trade Center building," a co-worker replied. We all realized that it was no accident. We were stunned. We all stood in the hall listening. Then the Pentagon was hit. Silently, urgently we all returned to our desks and started calling our families, our friends, people we knew who worked at the Pentagon or near-by.
My sister who was working in Rossilyn, very near the Pentagon, e-mailed me. She couldn't get through on the phone lines. "If you can, call mom and dad and tell them I am o.k."
I have the string of e-mails we exchanged over a half hour span of time before she and her co-workers decided to walk to someone's home who lived near their office.
As I write this, remembering, tears still swell up in my eyes. I really was worried about my sister. There were so many rumors we were hearing in the news and from friends we had reached on the phone or via e-mail.
Our bosses came through the office and told us that if we wanted to go home we could. Everyone wanted to go home. You wanted to be with friends, family or in a familiar place.
The drive home on the beltway was like something out of a movie. We were living the evacuation scene from Independance Day. Amazingly, everyone was curtiteous. No road rage. We were all in the same boat. We were all in the same shock and just wanted to get home in one piece.
Below is a photo of the TV and Radio antenna that had been on top of the World Trade Center. In the background are front pages of the news papers from 9/12. This is at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
There is a movie interviewing journalists who covered the events that day along with the footage they had taken. I couldn't watch long because it made me cry.
I think the childlike thing that I have never understood, and still have a hard time understanding is, why to other people hate us, the United States, Americans? Why would they do this to us? Why were there some people so happy and celebrating that this happened to us? The US is the country everyone tries to come to. The US always seems to be helping, wants to help, feels its our responsiblity to help because we've been blessed with plenty.
I can't believe its been 8 years.
May the the loss of that day not be forgotten. May the lives lost that day and since, not be forgotten. May we, as a nation remain vigilant so this doesn't happen again.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The End of the Summer and New Beginnings

Labor Day, the last "real" day of summer was always kind of a sad day for me. It meant that summer was "really" over. Even though sports practices had begun early in August and school usually the last full week of August, it still seemed like summer, until Labor Day. Once Labor Day was over - - summer was over.

Back in the day when I was in school, I did look forward to the end of summer because it also meant the beginning of something - - another school year. For some reason, I always had this feeling that some how, I could re-invent myself going into the new school year. There were always endless possibilities.

Now that I'm almost as old as dirt, I look back and realize it was the summer that held all the possibilities for me. The seemingly endless days spent at the pool or beach (from 15 to 22 years old, I life guarded - - so it wasn't entirely unproductive). The long cool nights spent reading an endless pile of books while listening to the crickets through the open windows. Oh, the endless adventures I went on through time and space! All things seemed possible in the summer.

Now, the days of summer melt into fall into winter into spring into summer with no real milestones with which to keep track of the years. I feel like Rip Van Winkle when my friends and sister talk of their kids going to kindergarten or worse yet - - high school. The kids can't be THAT old already!? How old does that make ME? Where has time flown? Why, the last time I saw you, you were just a toddler!

It seems so fitting that the last day of this summer be chilly, cloudy and drizzly. The weather kind of reflects how I feel.

The beginning of the summer, it was full of so many possibilities. I wanted to have a BBQ at my house once a month. I wanted to go here and there and all over the countryside of Virginia. I didn't do nearly all the things I had planned and I did many things I had not planned.

The wonderment of childhood was re-introduced to me in the form of four little furry kittens.

I would have to say the kittens were the highlight of my summer. I really didn't think I'd have them as long as I did. With the economy being poor and what seemed like a HUGE wave of kitten births, they were with me all summer. They invited me into their magical world of play and the miracle of growing up. I got to watch their personalities develop and in some way I hope, I shaped the good beings that they will become as adults. Every day there was something to laugh about. Some new adventure. Being a foster has been one of the most rewarding things I've done, next to volunteering at the museum.

I picked up this skinny litter of kittens Memorial Day weekend. The beginning of summer. It was only fitting that the last of the litter be adopted Labor Day weekend, the end of the summer.

Yes, Dash and Stache were adopted.

I think I knew it was going to be this weekend. I hoped it would be this weekend. You see, I was getting really attached to them. They were integrated with Ranger, Scout and Stryker, it was like they were all one big happy family. Scout was grooming them, Ranger would wrestle with them, Stryker would show them all the best sunny spots under the dining room table. As they became 'half-cats' and people would pick them up at adoption events and oooo and ahhh over them, only to then go for the younger heart would break. But I knew that God had the right family for them, they just hadn't come to an event yet.

Last week, as the days ticked by, in my mind it was one less day with the kittens. Thursday, I had every intention of going straight home after work, no gym, just go home to play with the kittens. But something drew me away from that plan. My old, comforting friend, Books, was tugging at me. I spent entirely too much time at the bookstore. I was avoiding going home. Subconsciously, I didn't want that to be the last evening I spent with them.

When I got home, I could see the white of Dash's face in my dark front window. When I opened up the door, there he was. Stache came running across the top of the sofa toward us. Their excitement when I got home at night was always so nice. I was loved, wanted, anticipated. We played, but not as much as I had planned and I feel sad about that.

I'll be honest, I felt sad. I prayed Thursday night that God would bring their forever family to the adoption event. For purely selfish reasons...I really loved those little guys and I told God that the longer I had them the harder it was going to be for me to let them go -- so please, please bring their forever family to the event. I prayed for a young couple, like the couple that adopted Spree and the small kitten Zola. People who loved animals and who would love them and spoil them.

I cried. I think it was the first time this whole summer that I have cried, so three months of it unleashed. Stache had curled up on the pillow next to me. He cooed and then I felt this soft paw on the side of my face, wiping at the tears that were streaming down. Well, that just made me sob. Poor little guy, he'd probably just reached out to touch this strange wet thing running down my face because he'd never seen a tear before. Then Dash got into the act, licking my face - - tears are salty after all. That all combined with a sad book about a man and his dog - - well, you can guess where Thursday night went for me.

Friday - - a young couple came in and adopted Dash and Stache. They both grew up with lots of animals and the wife missed having a cat. They were exactly who I had prayed for.

So, while the summer ends, along with my season of being a foster to Dash and Stache, their lives are just beginning and are full of possibilities. I think I even heard their new "parents" say they were going to keep their names Dash and Stache, those were cool names. Even if they get new names for their new life in their new home, I'm sure they will be their loving, crazy, playful, affectionate selves that I adored and I know they are going to be loved.

Thanks to all my friends for indulging me as I shared photos and stories of their little lives with you this summer. Thanks Lost Dog Lost Cat for giving me the opportunity to foster them. Thanks to the families who adopted them. May they bless your lives as much as they blessed mine.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

In the Virginia Hills for the Scottish Games


The Scottish Games of Virginia were held in The Plains. This is where the Gold Cup steeple chase race is held each spring. I was surprised at the length of the line to get in.

Once in the gate, we were greeted with row upon row of antique cars, many of the them British.


It was a beautiful day and there were lots of people and many vendors selling food, jewelry, kilts, pottery and other crafts.


Lots of good food. I did not sample any Haggis. I was curious about something called Birdies. Its ground beef, onions and spice in a fluffy pastry. It looked exactly like a turnover. I couldn't help but think someone would be very disappointed if they picked one up expecting sweet cherries...


I can't imagine this young lady eating that WHOLE turkey leg. I'm sure her dog is hoping she shares. What a good dog!


There were lots of dogs at the event. This little terrier marched proudly with her clan during the parade of clans.


We even got to watch a demonstration of a border collie herding sheep.


There were even 'sword' fights.


Those Scottish women are sure tough. Yes, beware a Scottish woman wielding a sword.


Be even more cautious of the Scottish woman wielding a HUGE log.


She was really good! The whole idea of this game was to flip the log. She did - - three times.


And she kicked butt in the hammer throw.


This man is an east coast champion. They competed in the hammer throw and stone put (like the shot put only it was a big river rock).


Yes, that would be a pitch fork that he is polishing up - - for the sheave toss.


For the sheave toss, they get a sack of straw that weighs (I think they said 15 pounds) and they take a pitch fork into the corner of the sack and toss it over a pole.

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The pole below is set at 27 feet.


I saw this cute t-shirt.


However, I found that the manly Scottish men were quite modest.