In Norway last week a hate-motivated madman murdered 77 innocent people, most of them fair-skinned, light-haired Norwegians and many of them just teenagers, because he wanted to call attention to his belief that Muslims are taking over Europe.

Then at Fort Hood this week Pfc. Naser Abdo, a soldier AWOL from Fort Campbell, was caught just before realizing his dream of reenacting the 2009 Fort Hood shootings. Abdo wanted to set off bombs in a restaurant frequented by soldiers and also to open fire on the post because he said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan violate his Muslim beliefs.

On one side of the issue a crazy Christian killed innocent people out of hatred for Muslims. On the other, a crazy Muslim wanted to kill soldiers because of his own misguided beliefs.

That abhorrent church in Kansas preaches that God is blowing up soldiers willy-nilly because they say he hates fags. Meanwhile, radical gay activists have taken to disrupting services in churches that preach against homosexuality.

And then in Washington our elected officials, Democrats and Republicans, circle each other like a disfunctional married couple, wanting the rest of us to get involved in their drama and unaware that we’ve grown weary of their same old fight-dance. Now the disfunctional couple is calling us in the middle of the night again, crying again, wanting us to get worked up by the he said-she saids, but it’s not happening. We, the masses of people sitting squarely in the middle, are far more apt to roll our eyes and decide instead that we just need better friends.

The news world is no more noble, in fact maybe it’s to blame. The fringe freaks can turn on their TV sets, search the internet or even pick up traditional print news sources and find, with absolute ease, someone supposedly trustworthy who will affirm whatever ridiculous beliefs they already have. They can find at the flick of finger, someone who will stoke whatever intolerance they’ve already lit, justify whatever hate they want to nurse, encourage the same fury a rational voice would try to quell. Meanwhile truly moderate, just-the-facts, news sources are laying off good journalists because good journalism is boring when compared to rabble rousing. Pretty soon there will be no news at all, only opinion masquerading as fact.

And the hate will grow taller, dark bookends of disgust on either side, casting long shadows over everything in the middle. And the middle will keep getting squeezed, compacted, made smaller by the frayed fringes.

That’s the most infuriating part of it all. We, the rational people, far outnumber the lunatics. We could easily over power them. We could quickly quiet their crazy voices. But that’s not our nature. Moderates don’t rise up. Our knees don’t jerk. It’s our slow to anger-ness that makes us moderate, and it’s the same admirable quality that makes us fall prey, again and again, to the fringes who kill us, attempt to scare us, and hijack our beliefs and priorities to make their own illogical points.

I’m so excited right now I’m about to pee my pants. (Then again, maybe that’s because I’ve given birth twice. Sorry, TMI?)

Seriously, though, I just found out that  a MAJOR, big-time, country music star, somebody that even those of  you who don’t like country music have heard of, has agreed to do the PSA. My faith in humanity is restored and if I get to meet him at the filming I’ll give him a hug, maybe even a kiss on the cheek, for all of you military family members. I mean, it’s the least I can do. (wink, wink)

I don’t want to jinx it by revealing his name or even dropping hints but he’s very hot right now and he’s, well, very hot.

For those of you who don’t share my DNA and haven’t spent the entire summer hearing me obsess about the PSA project, here’s the rundown: It’s called “This Country Cares” and we (Blue Star Families, The Creative Coalition, Healthnet, TAPS, and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge) are lining up country stars to read a military support message encouraging troops and military family members in crisis to call the national suicide hotline number. Right now about 18 veterans attempt suicide every day and last year we lost more troops to suicide than to combat. The PSAs will air all over broadcast and cable television, on radio stations everywhere and in DoD buildings.

We’ve already done a similar project with Hollywood stars that you can watch here:

This project has been way more work than I ever expected (but what volunteer project doesn’t turn out that way?) but if we manage to save one life, wow, how awesome will that be?

26. July 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

I wrote this story about Capt. Ivan Castro for Fort Bragg Patch. I was so inspired by his speech yesterday. After all that he’s been through and the attitude he’s managed to maintain, I am humbled by my own tendency to complain.

 

Soldier Finds a New View

Visually impaired service member runs the race and inspires others through mentoring and his story.

Capt. Ivan Castro has a way of making most problems seem insignificant.

If his name sounds familiar, it’s probably because Castro has a way of inspiring everyone he meets. He is one of the stars of country singer Joe Nichols’ video ‘The Shape I’m In.’ He stood on stage with then-President George W. Bush during a visit to Fort Bragg. He’s been featured in Runners’ World, Money Magazine and on Fox News. And he has completed an astounding 18 marathons, 11 half marathons, four Army 10-milers, two 50-mile ultra marathons, two triathlons and an ascent to Grays Peak, one of the highest mountains in Colorado.

All this without being able to see a thing.

Castro is completely blind, unable to see even light. He lost his vision in Yusifiyah, Iraq, about 20 miles southwest of Baghdad, in September 2006.

The once-enlisted sergeant first class in Special Forces earned an officer’s commission and, in 2006, was serving as a scout platoon leader with 1/324 Infantry Regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division. On the night that his life changed, Castro’s men had relieved other paratroopers in a position on top of a house during a night of fighting. As an officer, he didn’t have to personally provide fire support for the other soldiers, but he did anyway.

He joined Sgt. Ralph Porras and Pfc. Justin Dreese in their position, just in time for a mortar round to land a few feet away from him, killing Porras and Dreese and severely wounding Castro. When he awoke in the hospital, he learned that the shrapnel that tore through his body had damaged his shoulder, broken his arm, fractured his facial bones and collapsed his lungs. A finger on his right hand was missing. His right eye had been blown out by the blast, and he had a metal fragment in his left eye. His injuries were so extensive that doctors didn’t expect him to survive.

Castro told this story to a group of teenagers and adults this week at the Westminister Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville. Like Castro, most of the audience members were totally or partially blind. The event was organized by the Vision Resource Center in Fayetteville in hopes that Castro’s story would inspire the visually impaired people in attendance.

“When I woke up, a family member had to be the bearer of bad news and told me that I’d lost my right eye and that I had a fragment in my left,” Castro told the crowd. “I also learned that the same blast killed two of my men. You can only imagine what goes through your head after receiving that news.”

Castro said that, though he was tempted to feel sorry for himself, he knew that he had been spared and that God must have plans for him.

“I realized then,” he said, “that I wasn’t going to let this take me down.”

While still in the hospital recovering he overheard a nurse taking about the Marine Corps Marathon and, a lifelong runner, Castro decided he would run it. He didn’t even know then if a totally blind person could run a marathon, but he became determined nonetheless.
“I could not even walk or stand on my own then,” Castro said. “I had to take baby steps, but I had a mission.”

Castro doubled his physical training (PT) scheduled and began researching ways to get back into shape. While laid up in the hospital he had lost 50 pounds of muscle and gained 70 pounds of fat. He knew he had to trim down and bulk up, if he wanted to make it through the 26.2 grueling miles. He learned that he could run the race if a sighted person, attached to him by a tether, would act as his eyes.

“I’m still a man,” Castro told the audience. “I’m still a leader. I’m still an officer. I still have men who look up to me, and I wasn’t going to let them down.”

Castro said he also decided to stop taking the medicines that he felt were making him sick. At that time he said he was taking 15 pills, three times a day. He said he replaced the drugs with “hard work, a proper diet, faith in the good Lord, more hard work and determination.”

It’s been four years and 10 months since that mortar round altered Castro’s life forever, in good ways and bad, and Castro has chosen to stay on active duty in the Army. He’s the only blind Special Forces officer in the Army and one of only a small handful of blind soldiers in the military.

Castro said that Army officials were willing to work with him to find a job where his skills could be put to use, and they found it: He now works in Special Operations Recruiting Battalion and he mentors soldiers who have been injured in combat, particularly those with eye injuries. He said he still wears the uniform, just like everyone else, and is still expected to meet the same standards as other soldiers.

“I still go out and walk through the woods, feel the sun on my face. I still shoot — obviously in a controlled setting. I still jump out of airplanes on a tandem,” Castro said. “The military has come to see that there is a positive for those of us who choose to continue on.”

UPDATE: Congratulations to Ashley, the winner of the DVD set!

 

I’m not sure why I haven’t done giveaways before now. I have no good excuse, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: If you start a blog or website and you get a decent amount of hits, people will start emailing you offering you free stuff to give to your readers. Which means I need to let y’all in on another little secret: I have been totally depriving you readers of all this (tee-hee-hee) free booty. But now my inbox has gotten a little bootylicious and I’m ready to share the wealth.

Let the giveaways begin.

First up and yours for the taking is a set of 10 Fitness DVDs, called Top Trainers. The press release says the set is like “having 10 personal trainers in a box” which is, ironically enough, how I like to store personal trainers anyway.

All you need for this set to be yours is to send me an email saying, in four sentences or less, why you want these. That’s it. Then I’ll pick a winner and you’ll get these DVDs in the mail. Don’t ask me how. This is my first giveaway, too. We’ll figure it out together, K?

According to the press release, you’ll be able to sweat off all those ho-hos in the privacy of your living room, doing stuff like yoga, pilates, kickboxing, ballet and Latin dance. And because I still can’t believe somebody is willing to send out stuff to my readers just because I post it here, I’ll even throw in a free ad for the DVDs. But I won’t write it. (That’s journalism ethics right there in action, folks. Watch and learn). Here’s what the press release says:

Each of the ten DVDs features a separate trainer with a specific workout routine. If you’re not in a Pilates mood and want to workout some frustration simply pop in the kickboxing DVD.  Feeling more Zen?  There’s the Yoga DVD. For those who want to spice things up, there is the Latin Dance DVD. The Top Trainers system gives people options and the opportunity to explore fitness routines they may not have tried.  Here’s a quick run down of what each of the DVDs features:

 Lindsay Brin’s Shed Five Fast

Lindsay’s program gives you two different 30 minute workouts that are total body and balance toning exercises with bursts of energetic cardio.

 Ellen Barrett’s Yogini

Ellen incorporates classic yoga poses subtly intensified with Pilates and body-sculpting techniques.   You get the flexibility benefits of yoga plus the firming benefits of muscle toning. If you want to blast fat, firm up and de-stress, this is an all in one workout that is perfect for you.

 Angie Miller’s Core and Strength Fusion

Angie’s workout is a fresh, creative and fun total body workout. It is a challenging program that will give you the tools you need to achieve a stronger fitter you!

 Jennifer Galardi’s Ballet Body

Jennifer’s workout allows you to achieve the coveted sleek, toned muscles of ballet dancers. Jennifer has created five mini workouts blending exercises from classic ballet, Pilates and yoga to deliver a workout that elongates and strengthens your entire body and it feels amazing.

 Tracey Mallet’s Six Minute Quick Blast Method

Tracey’s workout includes a total body calorie blast that fuses cardio with deep toning techniques to lengthen and strengthen your entire body. It targets the core for a flat, lean belly and healthy back.

 Michelle Dozois’ Your Best Body Circuit

Get ready to create your best body ever! Michelle’s workout is a complete weight and fat loss system which utilizes a powerful combination of fun and easy to follow cardio intervals and metabolism boosting exercises.

 Ilaria Montagnani’s PowerStrike 5

An intense kickboxing workout filled with energy packed, exciting new drills and challenging choreographed routines.

 Christi Taylor’s Mission: Possible

An exceptional step and multi-impact workout for all exercise levels. Christi’s workout will help burn calories and increase your flexibility.

 Susan Tuttle’s Latin Sensation

You will love exercising to spicy Latin rhythms with Susan Tuttle’s Latin Sensation dance workout. Listen to great music as she takes you through a variety of Latin dance routines such as Salsa, Meringue, Cumbia, Cha Cha and Reggaeton.

 Stephanie Vitorino’s Ultimate Body Shaper

Allows you to get in the shape that you have always wanted. This workout takes your body where no workout has gone before.

 For those who have “felt the burn” with other fitness DVDs, there are no extras that need to be purchased. Top Trainers come with 5 free gifts including:

•  Fitness Guide

•  Wall Calendar

•  1 free month subscription to ediets.com

•  Resistance band

•  Yoga for weight loss DVD

 

All yours for the taking. Now who wants it?

 

I was just thinking that one of the little-appreciated benefits of military life is that it (i.e., frequent moves, not knowing where you’ll live next, etc.) makes it virtually impossible to be a hoarder. Not only do you rarely live somewhere long enough to stockpile stuff, but the stuff you do stockpile is practically guaranteed to get broken or lost by the movers.

13. July 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

Give a man a clean uniform and he’ll have clothes for tomorrow.

Teach a man to wash his own stinkin’  uniform and he’ll have clothes for his whole career.

At least according to the priority given to stories on Google news, the awarding today of the Medal of Honor to a living GWOT veteran for only the second time, is not as important as the news that the singer Jewel had a baby. Arghh. Sometimes I feel like I’m shouting into an empty barrel and impressing myself with the volume of my voice.

What does it say about our national interests that, during war time, we are less taken with real world heroes than we are with a B-list celebrity giving birth?

But still, there is big news here in Rebekah-land. Today my words are on The New York Times’ website, on the At War blog. I share my thoughts on the Medal of Honor, namely that it hasn’t been awarded frequently enough.

Aside from my griping, we should all be proud to live in the same country with men like SFC Leroy Petry, an Army Ranger who just received the Medal of Honor after losing his hand in 2008 when he tossed away an enemy grenade in order to prevent two of his buddies from being injured.

Seriously? Does it?

In case you didn’t notice, I’ve got a brand, spankin’ new site up and I think it’s pretty nifty. And, at least on the monitor I’m looking at right now, all my ifs, ands and buts look a lot bigger. But that’s probably because I’m looking at them on a monitor and not on the tiny little screen of my iPhone or iPad. Hopefully my computer will be out of the shop soon.

Let me just put to rest right now the argument that iPads will replace notebook computers. They. Will. Not. At least not until they get way better at doing the stuff notebooks can do with ease. I checked my notebook into Club BestBuy Repairs about 10 days ago thinking that my iPad would seamlessly bridge the repair time gap. It hasn’t. It has, however, come very close to being thrown at my fireplace at least three times a day because it, even with the Bluetooth keyboard, is not a notebook. I’ve only managed to resist the instant-destruction-of-the-iPad urge by reminding myself that, unlike with the notebook, I didn’t puchase the $300-covers-every-possible-type-of-damage, warranty on the iPad.

(And take my word for it: That warranty is so good that it covers toddlers pouring lemonade on the keyboard, dogs jumping up and knocking the whole dern thing off the table, and now, a 6-year-old getting so excited playing video games that he pounds the track pad into uselessess.)

But enough of my griping. I want to hear what you think of the new site.