Tag Archives: Justin Dale Peterson

Black Ice

Today, my oldest son Justin would be celebrating his 42nd birthday with us.  Although his life was cut short while deployed with the USMC in Iraq on 01 October 2006, the morning after his 32nd birthday, our family chooses to celebrate his life.

Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, but this morning, I woke up remembering a humorous event that took place some years earlier–although, it wasn’t so humorous to me when it happened.  Anyone who ever knew Justin Dale Peterson understands that humor was a part of who he is!

The end of Christmas break had come, the little red 1977 Ford Mustang (Justin’s first car) was packed to-the-max, and Justin and Patty were on the road again to Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.  Given that it was early January, the weather in Michigan was bitter cold, compounded by a blustery wind that dropped the wind chill factor to sub-zero.

After whispering a prayer for their safety as they made their journey back to college in rural Indiana, I continued my normal morning routine.  About an hour after their departure, my phone rang.  It was Justin, calling from a pay phone at a gas station at U.S.-23 and M-59.  He sheepishly told me that Patty and the Mustang were sitting in the middle of the median on U.S.-23, saying they had hit “black ice,” he’d lost control of the car, and they had come to a stop facing south between the north and south-bound ribbons of asphalt.

Seriously?!  With all the salt that Michigan throws down in the winter?!  It sounded like an excuse to me, since Justin had the reputation for horsing around most of the time.  Are a barrage of questions about the well-being of the two kids and the car, I instructed him to go back to his vehicle, make sure the exhaust/tail pipe was unobstructed, and to keep the car running so they could stay warm until I got to the scene.

Although I felt badly that Justin had to walk a half-mile to make the phone call, stand outside at the pay phone to talk, and walk a half-mile back to his car, I built up an emotional “head of steam” as I drove from Davisburg to Hartland—picturing in my mind how my oldest son may have been goofing off and caused this “accident.”

Justin and Patty knew me quite well, knew how I might react once I knew that they were physically okay, and apparently had discussed my likely reaction.

Sure enough, when I pulled my vehicle onto the southbound shoulder of the freeway, the little red Mustang was sitting in the middle of the median as though they had deliberately driven it there to park, with the engine running and the windows steamed.  Then again, the windows weren’t the only thing “steamed!”

After watching for a clearing in southbound traffic, and when there was a safe break in the stream of vehicles, I opened the door to the Dodge conversion van I was driving, stepped onto the pavement,  slammed the door, and headed across the highway.  The next thing I remember was picking myself up quickly from the road, as I continued toward the median!

Miraculously, Justin and Patty had straight faces by the time I reached their stranded vehicle, but I imagine that if there had been a “black box” recording the sounds inside that car as they observed my fall, it would not have been the sounds of silence, but hilarious laughter.  They also knew that I had just confirmed the “black ice” story, as well, so there would be no scolding from me!

There was another time when I discovered “black ice,” but that’s another story for another time!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for Patty Harvey, Jared, Jayden, and Caitlin Peterson today?  Today would be a great time to support them with your prayers, because this can be a tough day.  Further, would you join us in thanking God for Justin’s life?  That boy brought a lot of joy, laughter, and pride to our lives as his family, and we are forever grateful for the 32 years we were together!

Semper fi, son!

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Forgotten? Never!

I drove out to Great Lakes National Cemetery today …

Normally, my wife Debbie and I do that on Memorial Day, but for some reason I couldn’t settle my thoughts while trying to write my Memorial Day blog, so I dropped the work on which I was unable to concentrate anyway, and made the drive—alone.  I thought perhaps that a blue sky, green grass, and solitude at grave marker 5-595 might help.

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Oh, that helped alright—helped break open a floodgate of memories, thoughts, and tears!  Then it hit me—that is really the whole meaning of Memorial Day each year!  Sadly, the true meaning is often lost in a sea of activities rather than being discovered—not to mention, appreciated from hearts overflowing with gratitude—by those who take the time to remember!

The mode of transportation today was my red 1965 Olds Cutlass.  Frankly, I thought Justin would appreciate that.  As I parked along the curb on the Avenue of Flags, with Justin’s grave off to my right, I shut the car off and just sat there—looking and thinking.

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Ahead of me some 400 yards were lines of automobiles, staged where all vehicles gather for funeral processions.  I reflected on how those families felt in those moments, remembering all-too-well the day I stepped from a black limousine with my family and made my way to my seat in a temporary pavilion.

The memory of numbly starring at a flag-draped casket a few feet in front of me seemed to me like instant replay as I contemplated the cars ahead of me today. I understand a bit of what they must be feeling as the drivers pull away, following the lead car.

DALE BEN AT GLNC 2006

Then I instinctively grabbed my cell phone from the seat, and after allowing a couple of vehicles to pass, I stepped from the car, and slowly made my way to 5-595.  While walking, I noticed how many markers have been added to section 5 since Justin’s marker was set.  In this one national cemetery alone an average of 11 fresh graves are dug and filled with someone’s loved ones every business day.

If you run those numbers, they add nearly 3000 veterans each year to this one location.  That totals some 30,000 new additions to Great Lakes National Cemetery since taps shattered my thoughts on 09 October 2006.

It’s no wild guess on my part—I know those families … no, that’s too abstract … those spouses and their children, those parents and grandparents, whose loved ones have been laid to rest in whatever cemetery, can’t forget on Memorial Day or any other day of the year!

Is it asking too much of a rather self-absorbed society to pause for a few minutes once each year—on Memorial Day—and remember and respect those who paid the ultimate price for our collective freedom?  I don’t think so—neither did the countless thousands of families dating back nearly to the Civil War—and neither does the 1% of America who shoulders the responsibility of defending our nation, so that the other 99% can enjoy the freedom which they provide.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, there is no better time than now, and no better day than Memorial Day, to spend at least a few minutes in prayer.  Every American, at the minimum, should express gratitude for those men and women who saw a cause bigger than themselves and that cause was you, me, and their posterity.  We owe a debt that we can never fully pay.

Everyone who lives under that beautiful red, white, and blue flag with its stars and stripes should also petition the Almighty—you know, the God in whom our Founding Fathers believed and Washington DC seems to have forgotten—that He would spare America and preserve the freedom purchased for us by those whose bodies rest in the dust from which each was created.

Then add to you prayer an appeal for strength for the families who have an empty seat at their tables—whether it has collected the dust of decades or is fresh with pain, as those friends and families in the processional earlier today.  At my grandson Jayden’s baseball game recently, his sister Caitlin ran up behind Debbie and me, with the exuberance of a ten-year-old who was excited to see Grandma Debbie and Papa Pete.

A moment later she gone, leaving me with a recurring and inescapable thought—there goes a little girl who will never know her daddy.  You see, she was only two days old when Justin deployed.  Think about it!  Freedom’s price tag is far greater than you can imagine.

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With that said, any people who mindlessly puts boating and barbecuing, picnics and parades, above remembrance of those who paid the price for freedom disgraces the country I love and those who died defending it.  However, even in America’s forgetfulness, comes the haunting biblical prediction of the characteristics of those living in “the last days”—unthankful!

May that never be truthfully said of you and me.  Let’s give ourselves this Memorial Day 2016 to gratitude and to expressing it appropriately … by reflecting and remembering.

Justin Dale Peterson 2006

Justin Dale Peterson 2006

I Do Solemnly Swear …

Veterans Day is that one special day when all America pauses in gratitude for and honor of those living men and women who have taken an oath to ” … 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.”

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While the young men and women who make this affirmation come from varied nationalities, differing socio-economic backgrounds, and religious experiences, but they all come together in this common oath.  The basic training provided by each branch of the United States military, the length of training, and certainly the MOS (military occupational service) training all vary, but all towards the fulfillment of a singular goal—the support and defense of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Although a growing number of politicians, from the president to congress, seems to have forgotten either the constitution or the oath they swore when taking office, the vast majority of the men and women of our armed forces—Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marine Corps—put their very lives on the line daily.  These who have so seriously taken their oaths deserve the utmost of respect from all Americans.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, here are a couple of things about which you can pray.  First, after thinking quietly about whom these men and women are and what they do to make our freedom possible, thank God for them—from the young recruits to the most elderly veterans.  Second, ask God to sustain these troops and their families.

And to my own veteran son, USMC Sgt. Joshua D Peterson—you will never know how proud you and your older brother USMC Capt. Justin D Peterson have made your father, even at great cost.  Semper Fidelis!  The same can be said of my son-in-law USN Lt. Brandon Geddes!

joshua 2006 iraq 1

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Celebrating Freedom with a Hero

Celebrating Freedom with a hero, Joe Hutchins 

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MEMORIAL DAY 2015

Although caller ID showed the call as “restricted,” with two sons deployed with the United States Marine Corps in Iraq, I knew that I must take the call that Sunday morning, 01 October 2006.

Like any Marine Corps communicator, my youngest son Joshua’s voice was commanding and to-the-point—“Don’t talk, Dad, just listen.  We’re going on our first mission, and I need you to pray, because we have already had one Marine fall this morning somewhere in Anbar Province.  I love you, Dad!”

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“I will pray.  I love you, son!” That was all I had time to say.  The sat phone went dead.  Immediately, I sat down and prayed in the Association apartment where I was staying in southern Illinois.  A few minutes later, I finished dressing for the day, drove to the church, and spoke three times to the congregation in Sparta, Illinois.

With services ended, Pastor & Mrs. Bill Herald and I had just ordered our late evening meal when my phone vibrated once again.  When I saw that it was my daughter-in-law Patty who was calling, I excused myself from the table and took the call that would change my life forever.

“Dad, where are you?  Are you alone?  Are you driving?”  My heart seemed to stop when Patty continued, “Dad, LtCol Hermann just left the house.  Justin was killed this morning in Iraq.”

On this Memorial Day weekend, many Americans will celebrate freedom—understandably.  However, that is the purpose for the 4th of July.  Other American families will thank men and women in uniform or those veterans who have previously served in one of the five branches of our military.  That is all well and good; however, that is the purpose of Veterans Day, 11 November each year.  Unfortunately, a few of our citizens will become so engrossed in their long holiday weekend of activities; they may forget altogether the significance of Memorial Day.

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However, scattered across this nation and around the globe are families who will always remember—who can never forget—that the purpose of Memorial Day is to gratefully remember those brave men and women who paid the ultimate price while they served.  In remembering them, we also remember the countless numbers of parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends who also pay a price—some who are seated in this audience today.

Neither our fallen nor their families want your pity or sympathy.  We want your respect, your remembrance, and your gratitude for the freedom, purchased by so few, to benefit so many, and at such great cost.  Parents have been deprived of their offspring to make that purchase for you.  Lonely spouses embrace soft pillows at night, rather than the rock-hard bodies of their life mate, crying themselves to fitful sleep.

Most gut-wrenching of all, infants and small children will never know anything more of a parent who gave them life than what they will see in old pictures or the stories they hear from friends and relatives who remember.

"On behalf of ... a grateful nation," my daughter-in-law Patty

“On behalf of … a grateful nation,” my daughter-in-law Patty

If there was ever a people who were grateful, who remember, who keep perspective and care, it should be believer-citizens—Americans who know Christ as Savior—and make full proof of occasions such as Memorial Day to do so.  Whether it is the liberties we enjoy as citizens of this great nation or the liberation of the soul for all eternity, our freedom has been purchased vicariously for us by someone else.  Let us never forget.

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BTW, do you pray?  If so, why not pause this Memorial Day, reflect on those have secured your freedom, pray for those left behind, and express your gratitude heavenward for those who paid the ultimate price for freedom?

Let us forever remember.

Son and Grandson

Yep—here I sit in my DTW-Online Café “office,” and my mind is a whirl of thoughts … answering emails, scheduling meetings, booking flights … all the typical stuff.  However, my mind continues to default to thoughts about tomorrow.

Oh, these aren’t thoughts really of the details and meetings that are scattered from Manchester to Stafford (England).  No, they are thoughts of my grandson Jared.  Fifteen years ago tomorrow, my first grandchild was born back home in Michigan.

The mental gymnastics that spin in my mind are bittersweet though, since his father, my oldest son Justin, is not here to witness his son’s fantastic journey.  There is one thing for certain; Justin would be very proud of Jared.

Most times when Jared and I are together, I bite my tongue lest I weary him of comments about how much like Justin he is!  It has been that way since he was an infant.  There have been times when I was ambushed by my emotions when we have been together—a look in Jared’s eyes, his hands, some mannerism.

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I understand the DNA aspects and inherited physical characteristics, although I don’t grasp the differences in height and shoe size!  All that 5’ 9” Justin could muster was an 8.5 shoe, but his 6’ son is wearing a size 12!  Yet, beyond the physical are the personality characteristics—the wit, the sarcasm, and the list could continue.

Through the myriad of thoughts is the solid constant—Justin would be proud—very proud—of Jared as he turns 15 tomorrow.  Though Justin was not a hunter or fisherman, he was ever the athlete.  Jared not only captured the athletic genes from his dad, but added to those skills, hunting and fishing as well.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you join me in a brief prayer of gratitude for Jared and his family, and an extended time of prayer for all the kids across America who are growing up with the empty seat in their lives where a parent once sat?  The price of freedom is far greater than dollar signs reflect.  There is a silent price tag hanging in the hearts of children, teenagers, and adults—those who experience daily life without someone they would love to have with them every day!

The flight to Manchester is boarding, so I’ll leave you to pray.  Cheers!

Dale on Coronado (CA)

Dale on Coronado (CA)

Memorial Day 2014

The country music group Alabama, led by Randy from Fort Payne (AL), got it right in one of their old songs, “I’m in a Hurry.” Let me explain my meaning momentarily.

It’s still early morning on this Memorial Day 2014. My morning walk was quiet, sunny, and with no breeze to even stir the American flags hanging limply from several of the condominiums.

Adding to the solemnity of this day, was a small detail  to many people perhaps, but one that hits close to home to this guy—only a few of the colors were properly posted at half-mast. Yes, I understand this is a minute detail; however, I think it represents something larger, though subtle, in our current country and culture, that deserves consideration on this most solemn of American holidays.

Perhaps in the busy-ness of our lives, we take too little time to slow down (another song from another genre—“Slow down, you’re going too fast; we’ve got to make the morning last.”) and think—reflect on life–which leads me back to the Alabama song.

I’m in a hurry to get things done, Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really got to do is live and die, But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

Please don’t misunderstand—I’ve lived the majority of my adult life in a hurry, so this essay isn’t about perfect writing, hoping that imperfection will get it together! Quite the contrary—it’s about each of us taking time whenever possible to actually reflect on life and the things that really will matter in the end.

Yesterday, Debbie and I were at CrossRoads Church in Columbus (OH), where I performed my patriotic show SALUTE! for their Memorial Day weekend service. The program includes another country song that draws one to reflection—“Little Folks,” by Charlie Daniels. After walking the listener through childhood, the song conclude with these words:

Little folks slip through our hands like so many grains of sand; We’d best enjoy them while we can—so soon they slip away.

In the show, SALUTE!, the closing visual of that song is a photo of my oldest son Justin and I, walking across a public lawn in Washington DC, with then-one-year-old Jayden (Justin’s second son) between us, holding his dad’s and Papa Pete’s hands. That photo is always a personal reminder that life is fleeting. According to the Bible, life is a vapor that vanishes ever so quickly.

I have no clue what your plans for the day might be for this Memorial Day 2014. However, I hope you will take a few quiet moments somewhere along the trail to think. Think about the countless numbers of lives img050sacrificed for your freedom. One of those lives was my son Justin, a career Marine, but also a husband to Patty and a father to Jared, Jayden, and Caitlin.

BTW, do you pray? If so, while you’re meditating on the price tag of freedom, why not offer your gratitude to God of the freedom and manifold blessing that are ours as Americans? Perhaps you could appeal to the Lord, asking Him, the God of all comfort, to provide a special measure of comfort to those families who observe this somber holiday with an empty seat at their table.

Although Justin Dale Peterson (or JDP2, as he is affectionately known in the family) is missed beyond description by his extended family, it’s safe to say that we understand to some extent that this is the price of freedom. Freedom is not free.

Debbie & Dale Peterson

Debbie & Dale Peterson

ONE SOBERING SUNSHINY DAY

ONE SOBERING SUNSHINY DAY

Today was sort of a “Family day” for Debbie and me.  We set no alarm, but casually dressed for a leisurely day that began with a mid-morning breakfast in a small café in Clarkston, Michigan.  Soon after breakfast, we enjoyed the sunshine and hints of the changing colors of the trees as we drove the nearly restored 1965 Olds Cutlass up M-15 to our grandson Jayden’s football game.

After the Oakland Christian School Lancers’ 26-6 rout of their opponents, all family present dispersed only to gather a few miles away for a cookout with additional family joining us for food and laughter.  Watching the mannerisms of another grandson who found a special place in Papa Pete’s heart twelve years ago when he was born, I was once again reminded of how much like his late-father Jared is!

About mid-afternoon, Debbie, Jared and I headed toward Fenton to drop him off, before making another leisurely, brief, but very special visit at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly (MI).  That’s always a sobering time for me personally, whether I make that stop alone or with my wife Debbie or my daughter-in-law Patty—the only two people with whom I’ve ever made the visit.

Today’s visit, although brief, was nonetheless sobering.

It was sobering to once again be reminded of the brevity and uncertainty of life.  No one lives forever.  We all know that.  Yet, we tend to be shocked when death knocks at the door of family or friends.  I was reminded that our times are in His hands.

It was sobering to think of the powerful influence that one young man had on his world in 32 short years.  My son Justin, killed in Iraq the morning after his 32nd birthday—which is tomorrow—left not only a legacy in the lives of three children, but also in the lives of family, friends, and an untold number of Marines.  I was reminded that we only have today, and we should make the most of it, spending it wisely.

It was sobering also to think of the hundreds of other families who have loved ones buried in that cemetery, as well as the national cemeteries scattered around the country that each of them loved and served.  Great Lakes National Cemetery is one of the newest veterans’ cemeteries, and I am always sobered by how quickly the number of white grave markers grows with each visit.

 

If these men and women were willing to die for our country, honoring their oaths to uphold and defend our constitution and country, why can’t our elected officials in Washington, DC at least be willing to live for it.  (But don’t get me started on that subject today!)

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pause for a few minutes to pray for our country?  Increasingly we are a country turning its back on the principles—biblical principles—we once embraced.  Whereas the Bible instructs that judgment must begin at the house of God, it behooves the people, who know God personally, to call on Him, repentantly and repeatedly, petitioning Him to draw America back to Him and to His principles in obedience.

ONE LIFE TOUCHES MANY OTHERS

It isn’t the longevity of his life that has arrested my attention today, but rather the impact that his life has made on the lives of others.  After all, Justin was only 32 years and one day old when his life came to an abrupt halt in the sands of Anbar Province, Iraq.

Yesterday—September 30, 2011—would have been my oldest son’s 37th birthday.  Today is the fifth anniversary of his death.  It’s always a tough time, but out of the sadness always comes numerous thoughts and blessings.  This has been true today as I have been traveling through New England with my best friend of 40-plus years, Dave Brown. 

Perhaps the prevailing thoughts are related to the impact that Justin’s life made on others.  For example, he always had a way of bringing excitement to our family.  Earlier today I saw a picture, taken at my daughter Charity’s house, as Justin and I were tossing his second son (Jayden) back and forth from 6-8 feet distance.  What pleasant memories!

In fact, Brandon and Charity’s great room in Ann Arbor (MI) was the scene of a lot of laughter and excitement—like on my youngest daughter Joy’s fifteenth birthday, as a contest raged between Justin and Joy over blowing out the candles—all meaningless stuff to others, except to “the siblings,” whose lives have been marvelously impacted by a brother who loved them. 

Although there were times—more than I remember—when he drove his father to the brink of insanity, his life continues to impact me, and I would like to think, making me a better man for it.  From his first “big wheel” to his last vehicle—a Jeep—Justin could destroy anything!  In that Jeep, he and I spent the better part of three days and nights together, driving from Twenty-nine Palms (CA) to Clarkston (MI) just before he deployed to Iraq.   I’ll value that time for the rest of my life!

The last time that Justin and I were together was at the hospital in Commerce Township (MI), just minutes before his daughter Caitlin was born.  Although his wife Patty was in the labor and delivery suite, they graciously allowed me to stay with them until I had to catch my flight to Great Britain.  Neither my wife Debbie nor I will ever forget Justin walking us to the door, saying his goodbyes, then racing back for the birth just 40 minutes later! 

Why bother to pass along such personal stories?  Because you also have a life—and your life should also be touching the lives of those around you in a positive and inspiring way! 

As I write this, I am sitting in the family room of my best friend’s house.  Dave’s daughter Angie was just here, and represents another person—beyond family—whose life was touched by Justin’s.  When the two of them were small children, our families were next-door neighbors, but the influence of those days continues.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, perhaps this would be a great time to consider your own influence in the lives of other people, and ask God to help you make it count.  Never discount the positive influence that you can have in the lives of others.  After all, even a word appropriately spoken at the right time is as valuable as “apples of gold!”

 

Dale’s book, Leave A Well in the Valley, can be purchased in soft cover at www.dalepeterson.org or a Kindle version at www.amazon.com.  In the book, Dale shares from deep personal experiences how one can not only survive the tough times in life, but also turn those tragedies into triumphs. 

 

LET THE CEMETERY SPEAK

Since childhood, I’ve been privileged to periodically visit Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington, VA), and for those experiences, I will be eternally grateful, because the foundation of respect and values established in the formative years of my life.

Because of my own parents’ values, they made certain that my siblings and I were exposed to the rich geography and history in America, which included numerous visits and vacations in Washington, D.C.  While I was energized many times by running up the stairs to the top of the Washington monument, and intrigued by the wonders of the Smithsonian Institute, I think I was most impacted and influenced by Arlington National Cemetery. 

Ralph, Hazel & Dale Peterson, circa 1954

 

As we walked in silence amongst the headstones, it was as though I could hear the silent shouts of those who had paid the ultimate price for the freedom that I enjoyed, but did not understand at that time.  Of course, there were no audible voices, but in my mind I imagined who these men and women had been in life, the circumstances of their deaths, and the loneliness of their families left behind. 

Visits to Arlington always included the solemn changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier where, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the reverent silence was only broken by the brief and staccato-like voices and crisp clinks of the guards and their boot heels and weapons.  Regrettably, these days there seems to be little reverence or respect, but rather constant movement and even boisterous voices throughout any audience that gathers. 

It’s at times like my last such experience at the Tomb of the Unknowns, which happened to be with my oldest son Justin, a USMC Captain, that I wonder if very many people grasp the significance of such moments and places anymore. 

On this Memorial Day 2011, it would behoove all Americans to set aside some time—at least a few minutes—to quietly but deliberately walk through a national cemetery, not just to see it, but to reflect on what is represented by those rather plain, uniform headstones.  Parents, you could use this holiday for one of the greatest lessons you ever teach your children by a one-hour visit, pointing out numerous lessons and explanations, answering questions, and most importantly exemplifying the respect due to America’s fallen who, by their service and sacrifice, have insured our freedom. 

On that last visit to Washington, my son Justin and his wife Patty took Debbie and me, along with their son Jayden, to the World War II memorial.  As we spoke in hushed tones about what we were seeing and thinking, Justin spotted a young lad, perhaps nine or ten years of age, climbing on one of the memorial’s walls.  As quickly as a flash of lighting, Justin was standing by the young boy, ordering him off the wall, and with the demeanor of a USMC drill instructor (sans the volume) let the unaccompanied minor know that was not proper behavior and that this was not a playground. 

Yep, I was proud of Justin—then and now. And I plan to make my annual Memorial Day stop at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly (MI) for a time of reflection in Section 5 at Site 595.  Debbie and I will talk softly.  We will probably laugh quietly.  We will cry.  We will pause to gaze across the acres of graves on what was once the property of Mr. Bryson Dexter Horton, the inventor of the “Square D” electrical switch, and remind my precious wife Debbie that what we are seeing is “the price of freedom”—yours and mine—and paid for with the lives of the sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of those represented by each simple headstone.

Memorial Day at Arlington

Let’s not forget that represented also by each grave marker is an empty seat at dinner tables, a son or daughter whose parent will not teach them how to catch a baseball or swing a bat, a spouse who now bears the family burdens alone, and a parent whose dreams for their son or daughter now reside with honor and respect (as in my own case) in a section and site rather than on a street and in a city. 

Neither let us forget that for those who, like Justin, put their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we who are alive and remain behind have an awesome hope and expectation—we expect to see our loved ones again and therefore do not sorrow because we lack hope. 

Although the world joked and laughed this past week when the prophecy of an unwise preacher who set dates and times for the rapture, I for one still anticipate that great event at any moment.  And since no one knows the day or the hour, I plan to live in such a manner as to be ready to catch up with my son—in a moment—in the twinkling of an eye!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, why not take this Memorial Day 2011 to exercise the discipline of prayer?  Thank God for the countless airmen, sailors, soldiers, and Marines who paid for your freedom?  Ask God to encourage and preserve those who serve, as well as their families who must make-do in their absence.  Appeal to the Lord on behalf of those who have an empty seat at their table, especially for those whose sacrificial experience is still fresh in their hearts and minds. 

And for all Gold Star families in Michigan, coming soon to a Michigan Secretary of State office near you will be a special Gold Star license plate.  Here’s a link to read about it: http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127–256829–,00.html

Cheers!

Debbie & Dale Peterson

AMERICAN TROOPS & WASHINGTON

Five years ago today, my oldest son USMC Captain Justin D Peterson, deployed to Iraq, where six months later he was killed while returning from a mission.  This time of year will always be special in my mind, and I traditionally use “milestone moments” for introspection.  Justin’s deployment with a small border transition team is one of those times, in part because it is surrounded with other important family events.

 For example, Justin’s only daughter, Caitlin, was born on 6 April 2006, only hours before his deployment, which had already been pushed back allowing him to be present for her birth.  How could I ever forget that day, since Justin and Patty had been gracious enough to let me stay with them in the birthing suite at Huron Valley Hospital until I had to race to catch my flight to Great Britain?  Forty minutes after saying goodbye to Justin, who had left Patty long enough to walk my wife Debbie and me to the car, he called to say, “Well, Dad, Caitlin’s here!”

Patty and Caitlin Peterson

However, today as I reflect, I am not only recalling tender moments like the one that I have just described, but also realizing the quagmire in which America has sunk, especially relative to those brave men and women in uniform who hazard their lives to keep us safe, and to the families whose fathers or mothers make additional sacrifices in our stead.

As I write today, the “highest leaders” in our land are embroiled in a budgetary stalemate inside the Beltway, and in what has become their standard modus operandi, they play their political games on the backs of and at the expense of the very people they are charged constitutionally with leading. 

Not only does the “establishment” (which includes both Democrats and Republicans) continually operate in such a manner that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be laden with an unsustainable debt, they also are quite cautious to take steps to protect their own interests, salaries, and eternal benefits!  It’s time that every elected official at every level of government, especially Washington, D.C., throws himself or herself into a new caution—a caution to truly protect the populous whom they are to represent—even if it means throwing themselves on their own swords, as it were.

The latest political ploy—a government shutdown—appears to have little meaning to Washington.  Oh, I know—they trot themselves in front of cameras at every opportunity and talk—spewing a rhetoric that has worn terribly thin with the grassroots who pay not only their absorbent salary and benefit packages while they (in particular the Obama administration) are now threatening the meager paychecks of our troops and their families. 

Let me be clear—this gets personal, especially when I watch my five-year-old granddaughter blowing out her birthday candles, and I fight back the tears, realizing that this little girl will never know her daddy, other than the pictures and stories that others tell her.  Her mother and brothers are now being threatened with a cash flow shutdown by the very president that swore to uphold the constitution with a genuine concern for the people of this nation—including little girls whose daddies go off to fight for freedom!  

Maybe it would be a great idea for America to stop paying the people that we have elected to represent us in the House, Senate, and the White House until they establish a sustainable budget for each fiscal year.  And when they vote on bills for which they do not appropriate adequate funds, reduce their take-home pay by that same amount—in other words; let the fiscal irresponsibility be borne by the fiscally irresponsible people who fail at doing their jobs. 

Oh, and while we’re at it, why not scrap the special health care and retirement programs they all enjoy at this time and run them through the VA hospitals and Social Security?

Yes, as I reflect today, I’m very proud of my son Justin and his contribution to America.  However, I am ashamed of those men and women in Washington who, under a guise of caring about this great nation, are continually making choices and casting votes that are undermining this country and violating the very principles that lead to God’s blessings and the prosperity of our nation. 

And, just in case I have been too vague, that means that I am ashamed of much of what Barack Hussein Obama has done and is doing as my president.  The same is true for my Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. 

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you join me in praying that somehow, by His miraculous working, God would so speak to the hearts and minds of those we have elected, that once again common sense, honesty, and truth would begin to prevail inside the Beltway, in state capitols, and in local municipalities? 

(Ezekiel 22:30 KJV) And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. 

How desperately we should pray that, as God continually looks for such men and women today, He will find such a person—in Washington, in Michigan, and in my house!

Semper fi, troops!