Half Life

From the beginning, Peter had the determination of three boys his age. Out of earshot, some called him “stubborn” and “bull headed”. Others called him “a little terror”. And others, teachers mostly, said he needed medication just to be around. His parents, a minister and his wife, called their gift from God “Mr. Resolute”.

When little Peter decided something, he would plead endlessly with “Now!” He wouldn’t take “No” or “Not now” for an answer. The first of five children, Peter often wore his parents down with the strength of his will. And though Peter could badger them non-stop, Peter kept on himself even more to complete a task.

When focused on an activity – his parents came up with problem solving activities – Peter found it hard to give it up or move away until he accomplished the objective. His parents saw potential in Peter’s persistent ways – he could become a high achiever who followed his passions.

So, they chastened and channeled the stubborn streak. With sternness and loving care, Peter’s parents applied the proverb The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

They responded to Peter’s repeated demands with “I hear you. Can you come up with a solution?” When Peter became frustrated, they urged him on saying “You can do hard things” and “Sometimes we make mistakes, and that is how we learn.” When Peter worked through his frustration and completed a hard task, they recognized the effort with “How’d you do that?” and “You have what it takes. You have grit.”

The only time his parents saw five-year-old Peter temper his assertiveness was when folks from the church watched Peter on a date night. Peter played doctor with their daughter who was two years older than Peter. Her self-assuredness captured Peter’s attention. “This is what a doctor would do” she would tell Peter.

One Sunday, years later, Peter’s father preached a sermon titled Making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Peter decided to make a decision to follow Jesus that day. Almost immediately impure thoughts and desires became glaringly obvious at this new intersection. There were two directions he faced: towards Laurie, a high school junior, who had been flirting with him non-stop and who was “easy” according to his friends and toward Jesus who wasn’t defined as “easy”.

The summer before his freshmen year, the high school’s track coach saw the tall gaunt Peter running along a road. The coach pulled his car up, opened the window and talked with Peter as he ran. He said that Peter should give cross-country a try and then drove off.

Peter joined the team and began running 5K races. What Peter soon realized was that the long-distance running – the regular practices and the meets – were a means to direct the fire within him. His daily pattern of run-eat-school-run-eat-study- sleep kept him burning the fuel that would otherwise consume him. He told himself that the only lines he would cross were the starting line and the finish line of a race worthy to run.

During high school Peter mastered his school work and was selected to become a member of the National Honor Society. And during those four years he had several part-time jobs and summer jobs that kept him focused.

After high school graduation, Peter looked for ways to channel his stick-to-itiveness. His minister father suggested that his never-back-down attitude would serve him in the army. Peter could sign up and get up to full college tuition, as well as money for housing and books through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The minister knew that Peter’s resolve and wisdom would be tested in the army. Would he hold up, his mother feared. She prayed that Peter would return sound in mind and body. On his eighteenth birthday Peter entered the army. He went through rigorous training and learned to obey orders.

Then one day, three years later, the staff sergeant told his squad “Vaccine – get ‘er done!” Peter didn’t submit to the order. Though he was twenty-one and felt indestructible, his gut – or was it the Holy Spirit? – told him to stay away. The sacred space and spiritual fortitude which steeled him would not be gutted by an experimental vaccine.

His parents had raised him on reason and revelation. The mandated vaccine didn’t fall into either category. Wasn’t he training to go into battle to defend and secure freedom and democracy? “Uncle Jab wants you,” is the vacant stare that came down from the top.

Like many soldiers, Peter submitted a religious exemption. Aborted fetal cells, used in the production of the vaccine, precluded taking the vaccine. Others submitted medical exemptions. All of the vaccine detractors, talking amongst themselves, became aware of the mounting adverse effects and casualties caused by the vaccine.

But the military hierarchy ignored medical and religious exemptions. The military demanded unquestioning obedience to the COVID vaccine and to the new Critical race Theory and Diversity Equity and Inclusion programs. Those programs never included religious convictions, as Peter witnessed firsthand.

Some in his squad were saying “The army has become a clown show” and “The army cares more about superficiality than substance, culture than character”. The army discharged Peter and over 3000 other soldiers for not taking the unholy clot shot.

When he returned home, Peter’s father said “You were right to reject the military on those terms. You signed up to serve your country and see the world. Now go see the heartland on your own terms.”

*****

From the beginning, Lena had a knack for nurturing. She played veterinarian with her dog and neighborhood pets. She played house and doctor with the young boy living next door. During high school she helped care for her grandmother who suffered from dementia and spent a couple of hours each weekend at a hospital.

Her Swedish parents, both medical professionals, were hospitable people. They encouraged Lena to interact with their many guests – medical staff of Doctors Without Borders. Lena kept a diary of who she met and what was talked about. They each encouraged her to go into medicine. She made an entry after talking to one nurse:

You can’t buy time. Choose wisely.

After high school Lena set out on a course in nursing. When she stepped into those shoes, she took an oath to practice and uphold the standards of her profession faithfully. Nursing was a perfect match for Lena’s desire to provide care for others.

Six years into working as an ICU nurse, though, Lena left her job at a hospital in Indiana. She told her parents that “policies were being rolled out at the hospital that would ultimately initiate the segregation of its staff on who was vaccinated versus who was unvaccinated.

I was uncomfortable with that and unwilling to cooperate with that kind of treatment. I had seen this treatment play out on my patients as well where doctors and some nurses that I worked with were bullying and harassing my patients for making a medical decision on their own. They were treating people like dementia patients – like they were unable to think for themselves.

Hospitals began mandating vaccinations. I knew I wouldn’t take the COVID vaccine. I pushed back because hospitals have an absolute commitment to follow the data. Ignoring natural immunity in a vaccine discussion is just criminal. 

Over a hundred of us resigned from the hospital due to the vaccine requirement. We can’t tell the patients what risks or adverse effects could occur with the vaccine. It’s criminal. This kind of health care is against everything I stand for. Dementia patients are running the public health programs.”

****

Peter turned on the radio.

All in for the Win, Illinois. Getting vaccinated protects you from catching or spreading COVID-19 — and it’s our best shot at beating this pandemic and getting back to living our full lives. And now, getting the vaccine gives you a shot at winning up to $1 million. As an Illinois resident, if you’ve been vaccinated or are about to get vaccinated, you’re automatically entered in for a chance at part of our $10 million vaccine sweepstakes. Let’s go all in for the win Illinois.

Peter turned the radio dial.

. . . I tried a laxative that is both fast and effective . . .

Peter turned the radio dial.

What’s Your Warrior? Travel, Career Opportunities, Education. . . find your inner warrior . . . Army . . .”

“Yeah, I found my inner warrior. I’ll travel and educate myself.” Peter turned the radio dial.

In 2019 Illinois Democrats elected a fat-cat governor to represent their lottery dreams and Chicago Democrats elected a Woke NFT – a bug-eyed gay black female to represent the law and order of intersectionality.

In 2020 and 2021, the obese governor locked down and masked any opposition to his mandates. State licensing was the gun to the head.

In 2022, “well-meaning” Democrat state representatives decided a medical apartheid in Illinois was necessary. So, they created a vaccine registry and a quarantine town. The southern Illinois quarantine town is called New COVID.

While unvaccinated illegal aliens cross the southern border by the thousands, Illinois citizens are being herded into New COVID because of their vax resistance and claim of natural immunity.

As mRNA COVID vaccines fenagle the operating system of Americans, so illegal immigrants fenagle America’s operating system. Both experiments disregard the integrity of the host’s system . . .

Peter turned off the radio. He had reached the US 65 Whitesville exit. He took the exit and after two right turns he reached the fulfillment center. From the cab he called the traffic manager’s office to let them know he had arrived. He was told to wait in line. Ten trucks were ahead of him.

With the rig idling, Peter walked over to the dock door and went in. The bathroom and the vending machines were to the right. Truckers were coming in and out. Peter headed into the vending machine room and dropped some coins for some black brew. He sat down and waited for his phone to ring.

Outside the vending room, forklifts zipped back and forth with pallets. The drivers were loading and unloading the trailers. Peter had seen this a thousand times before. What he hadn’t seen before was a blonde pony-tailed-hard-hat wearing woman with a yellow and blue plaid shirt zipping by on a forklift. When the yellow and blue plaid spun by again, Peter was able to catch a glimpse of the driver’s kind smiling eyes.

****

After leaving the ICU nursing position, Lena found work at a distribution center in Whitestown, Indiana. She had a student loan to repay. And though for the moment it didn’t look promising, Lena hoped that when the courts ended the COVID mandate madness, she would be back nursing again. She put her resume online. In the meantime, Lena earned eighteen bucks an hour over a 36-hour pay period. She loaded and unloaded semi-trailers.

It was during one shift that she caught a glimpse of a tall scrawny guy with steel-blue eyes. He was talking on the phone in the vending room. On her return trip past the vending room, he was gone.

A trailer backed into bay 7. Before reaching the bay’s bumpers, the driver jumped out of the cab and opened the trailer doors. The driver then backed the truck up to the bumpers up and set the brake. Lena pulled the loading dock release chain and the loading dock came up and unfolded. Then she put her weight on it to have it come down on the bed of the trailer. It came down with a loud “clunk”.

A trucker driver came through the dock door and was heading over to Bay 7. Lena, driving up in a forklift, noticed him walking and looking at his watch. She pulled the forklift up next to him and told him “I’ll get ‘er done!” Peter raised his eyes and said “Yes, ma’am. You will. I am five hours behind schedule.”

Peter handed her the shipment receipt. “I’m Bill . . . Bill Lading.”

Lena laughed. If you’re “Bill Lading, I’m Kari Awai. Go have some coffee and I’ll get this done fer you.”

Peter watched her unload the first pallet. She maneuvered the forklift in, picked the load, and then backed out across the diamond plate. Then she headed off to some aisle in the warehouse. The blonde ponytail, the sky-blue eyes, the pixie smile – What maneuvers do I have? Peter asked himself as he headed back to the vending room. “I’m not much to look at. I’m so skinny I don’t even have a shadow.”

In the vending room Peter called his next stop to tell them that he was behind schedule. There weren’t enough people to unload trucks, he told them. “I’ll be there sometime after eight-o’clock.”

Forty-five minuets later, Lena came into the vending room. She handed Peter the signed bill of lading and a tin foil-wrapped package.

“What’s this”, Peter asked.

“It’s your bill, Bill, and some banana bread I made last night.”

“Well, that just dills my pickle”

“You from the south?”

“No ma’am. I just end up talking to southerners at the truck stops.”

“I see. Should I go on pretending your name is Bill Lading? My name is Lena.”

“No ma’am. Name’s Peter. And thanks for the banana bread. I need something beside this varnish remover I’ve been drinking.” Peter pushed aside the paper cup of vending machine coffee.

“Are you back this way again?” Lena raised her eyebrows.

“Yes ma’am. I’ll be here next Tuesday. I drive a circuit: Whitestown to Edwardsville, Illinois to Nashville and then back here. How about you? You work on Tuesday’s?”

“I do. My circuit is this warehouse 36 hours a week.”

“Well ma’am. I hope our paths cross again. I look forward to that. I gotta get back on the road.” Peter tipped his hat. “Miss Lena, thanks for unloading and loading me up. You are the bee’s knees.”

“See you, Peter. Safe travels” Lena responded and then watched him walk out to his rig.

****

Week after week Peter and Lena crossed paths at the warehouse. Their conversations, though constrained by work, offered more and more insight into each other’s life.  From the beginning there seemed to be a purpose for their relationship. Then, one Tuesday, Peter didn’t show up.

Then another week went by and then another. Six weeks passed and no Peter. Though nothing had been formalized between them, the loss of a friend had Lena beside herself.”

Week seven and Peter’s rig appeared in the driveway. Lena met him at the dock door.

“What happened to you?” Lena asked wide-eyed.

“I was put in COVID jail. I drove into Illinois a few weeks ago. The State police stopped me at a weigh station at Marshall. They said I wasn’t in the vaccine registry. So, they hauled me off to the quarantine townNew COVID. That’s where I have been this whole time. I had heard about New COVID on the radio but I thought that was all just talk – nothing like that could happen in the U.S. But I was wrong.”

“Jeepers. Are you OK?”

“Yeah, I had COVID a long while back. I have immunity. But that wasn’t good enough for those COVID crusaders. What is not OK is my route. I asked to change my route. I will not go back into Illinois. I will not download their COVID tracking app. I will not deliver to any Blue state. Enough is enough. I will only drive through free states. I dunno what will happen. I may not have a job soon.”

Listen, I came straight here from New COVID to see you. I have nothing to unload. When your shift is done, do you want have dinner in town? We can talk.”

“OK, Peter. Let’s have dinner and talk. I clock out at 4:30. Leave your rig in the back lot and I’ll drive us over to the café in town.”

“Sounds good, Lena. Right now, I’m gonna head over to Love’s Travel Stop across the way and see if I can find me a clean shirt.”

****

At the Most Café, Peter and Lena each ordered a bowl of soup and a half sandwich. Lena started the conversation by asking Peter what got him into trucking. Peter was ready to talk.

“After being discharged from the service for not getting vaxxed, I was depressed. I had enlisted ready to give my life for my country. After giving up almost two years of my life to the Army, the first skirmish I got into was over the experimental vaccine. I didn’t enlist to be experimented on.

“Lena, I gave almost two years of my life to the Army and you need at least two years of active duty to qualify for the education benefits. The whole situation made me angry and depressed.

“I came home, went into my bedroom, and shut the door. My father knocked on the door after I hadn’t come out for a while. I think I told you my dad’s a minster.”

Lena nodded. Peter asked the waitress for more water and then continued.

“My dad knew that I was miserable. He must have figured out that I was dealing with my depression and anger by looking at stuff online. My room was dark except for the computer screen. Anyway, he came in and told me that I had to get my act together. “You can handle the hard stuff”, he said. Then he told me that a friend was out front asking for me.

“That was Rick, a high school buddy of mine. He told me about trucking. He helped me get my CDL and I began long hauling. So, instead of seeing the world with the Army, I began seeing the countryside. My father gave me his blessing and a flip phone to use if I was in trouble. He told me “Best stay away from those porn shops along the highway exits. You weren’t compromised by the unholy vaccine. Don’t become compromised with pornography.”

“Lena, Wow! Just wow! I never said that to anyone before. I . . . wow! . . . I talk about this stuff because . . . well, you . . . you are not like anyone I know. I feel safe with you. “

Lena grabbed Peter’s hand. “I love it that you are being so open with me, Peter. Please go on.”

Peter took a bite of his sandwich and put it down.

“The commanding officers wanted us grunts to compromise our bodies with an experimental unholy vaccine. They wanted to compromise our reason by telling us that being white is being racist and the country we serve is racist.

“The base was made to watch a video portraying American history as racist since 1619. I am a de facto white supremacist per a Critical Race Theory video. It’s crazy! I was bunking with a black guy. I am best buddies with him and with Jose the Hispanic guy in the next bunk.  

“You know, I enlisted voluntarily. I didn’t enlist to become a showcase for an unholy vaccine. I didn’t enlist to give up my mind and soul – my inner warriors. I volunteered my time in return for an education. I didn’t sign up to be converted from alpha male into a check-your-privilege-soyboy-beta-bot . . . there’s another word for that on the base.

“I enlisted into the army and not a culture club. With the Army’s diversity, equity, and inclusion program we’d end up equally dead — but safely ‘vaxxed’. No wonder recruitment and retention are down.

“So, here I am – driving a rig, making good money and saving to go to school. How about you, Lena?” Peter gulped down some water.

“Well, I’m driving a forklift,” Lena began, “because I left an ICU nursing position. I worked so hard last year. I mean, I was there through thick and thin when we had no help… it was horrible. The people that put forth the rules and kicked one-hundred and twenty of us to the curb, they weren’t there. They weren’t even in the building to be seen for months. They were staying at home while we were doing all the work.

“Before the mandates had been rolled out, the hospital wasn’t forcing us to take the vaccine or be fired, but they were rolling out policies that gave different treatment to vaccinated people versus unvaccinated people. I couldn’t believe it. I was there to treat patients, not just the chosen patients. When did healthcare become choosing winners and losers? The Nursing Code of Ethics that I’m supposed to adhere to includes a patient’s autonomy and right to self- determination.

“The hospital then rolled out a mandatory vaccination program with products marked for “emergency use”. We were told to treat the EUA product as fully authorized.

“I chose to forego the emergency use authorization vaccine because I possessed natural immunity after contracting the coronavirus. “I had COVID last summer, I don’t need that vaccine,” I told the hospital but natural immunity was not an option at all. I was escorted out the door by security.

“I’m driving a forklift because I have a school loan to repay. I won’t take that experimental vaccine, I won’t abide medical apartheid, and I won’t take government money to make the loan go away.

“So, here I am – driving a forklift, making OK money and sending my resume out.”

“Wow,” Peter wiped his mouth, “This world has gone mad. I’ve got friends in Illinois who have a gun to their head. Three of them had their business license taken away for violating Covid emergency public health mandates that seem to come out of someone’s ass – Oops, sorry for the language.”

“Peter, I work around truckers all day,” Lena replied.

“It’s getting late. I guess we better head out.” Peter paid the check and left a tip.

Lena drove Peter over to his rig, where he’d spend the night. Before getting out he asked Lena for her phone number. She gave it to him and a kiss on the cheek. Peter’s smile bunched his bushy mustache.

“You know, us truckers have to hurry up and wait. We have to get to our destination on time and then wait to be unloaded. When I saw you that first time on your forklift waiting became a lovely day. That day went down in my log book and tonight will too. I’ll be calling you Lena. Count on it.”

Peter got out and Lena drove home.

The next morning, Peter bought some jumpy juice at Love’s and headed to Tennessee. He was looking to buy a truck route that would keep him out of COVID jail and for a place to settle down.

****

Five months passed. The evening phone conversations between Lena and Peter turned toward the future. They talked of children and adopting. They talked logistics.

Peter told Lena that he’d gotten a route that kept him in Tennessee. “I’m living in a townhome not far from a hospital and the truck’s terminal,” her told her. He also mentioned that he was going to school on the weekend taking EMT classes. He invited Lena down to take a look.

Using a one-week vacation, Lena came down to Tennessee with her mother Alma. Lena wanted her parent’s blessing on marriage to Peter. Lena also wanted to get back to nursing.

Lena submitted her resume to a clinic outside Nashville. The clinic assisted women and couples facing unexpected pregnancies, offering them life- affirming, free, and confidential medical services including pregnancy testing and ultrasounds. The OB/GYN who ran the clinic hired Lena. She was told that she could start in six weeks to allow for the move to Tennessee. Lena broke the news to her mother and to Peter. That same day and with Alma’s blessing, Peter proposed to Lena. The trio went out to celebrate.

A month later Peter left Chattanooga, drove north to Nashville, and parked his rig. He then drove his car north to Carmel Indiana for the six-o’clock wedding rehearsal. Peter, his eyes burning from driving his rig from Chattanooga to Nashville and then up north through constant sleet in southern Indiana, closed his eyes for a moment.  

Peter’s father received a call at seven-thirty. Peter hit an overpass and died on the scene.

©Jennifer Ann Johnson, Kingdom Venturers, 2022, All Rights Reserved

****

(While a student at Moody Bible Institute, I had a close friend named Denny. Denny had a Culbertson Hall roommate named Steve. The three of us were in the concert band. During out-of-state concert tours we spent a lot of time together.

Steve was the nicest guy in the world. You could tell that he loved Jesus. He liked working with kids during his PCW assignments.

During a winter break Steve left Chicago and drove back to Kansas for his wedding.

We learned later that Steve, back in Kansas, drove to his wedding rehearsal in blinding snow. High winds whipped the snow across the open highway. The family said that after the long drive from Chicago, Steve may have closed his eyes for a second. He hit an overpass and died that night on a Kansas road.)

*****

“Episode_1611 We discuss the Olympics, Soros, the military, and take a deep dive with Dr. Robert Malone.”.

*****

*****

Informed Dissent:

Dissident Covid Report #3: Why are Myocarditis Rates Surging in Europe? (substack.com)

The US Public Health Response has been a Colossal Failure (substack.com)

“Statutory rights have attempted to be bypassed through the issuance of Executive Orders and Emergency Rules … This type of evil is exactly what the law was intended to constrain.”

Judge blocks schools from enforcing Pritzker’s mask, vaccine mandates, refers to policies as ‘type of evil’ | Illinois | thecentersquare.com

Hospital Director in Israel Says 80% of Serious COVID-19 Cases Had Received at Least Three Shots of COVID Vaccines (VIDEO) (thegatewaypundit.com)

CDC Makes Major Admission About Rushed Vaccine Timeline and Heart Inflammation (townhall.com)

Tragic: 6-Year-Old Child Develops Myocarditis Two Days After Receiving COVID-19

Devastating Presentation “Exposing Military Corruption During COVID-19” Sent to Members of Congress (thegatewaypundit.com)

EU Investigates Reports of Menstrual Disorders Following Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccinations — As We First Reported Last Year (thegatewaypundit.com)

Steve Kirsch Blockbuster — Embalmer Richard Hirschman finds ‘novel, bizarre clotting’ in 65% of deaths… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

O Canada:

Must See Video: Justin Trudeau Gets Outed by His Own Brother Kyle as Pawn of New World Order Taking Orders from Bilderberg and the Council on Foreign Relations (thegatewaypundit.com)

Judge orders Ottawa police to return all fuel they seized from Truckers… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

Calgary Pastor Artur Pawlowski Arrested Again at His Home by Armed Police on Alleged “Mischief” Offense (thegatewaypundit.com)

Mask Not What Your Country Can Do for You:

‘Free’ and contaminated: Look what happened to Biden’s taxpayer-funded N95 shipment (substack.com)

Democrats are Obsessed with power and control (as of 4-7-2022):

As of February 1st, only nine states, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington, require residents to wear masks indoors regardless of whether or not they’ve been vaccinated.

Some states are removing mask mandates. Illinois is removing masks but not from children. Gov. Pritzker wants to please the teacher’s union for their support in the upcoming election. It was never about science.

Illinois High School Students Told to Put on Masks or Leave — So They Walked Out (VIDEO) (thegatewaypundit.com)

Taking It to the Streets:

SCOTTSDALE SCHOOL BOARD | YOU’VE BEEN SERVED – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

How is this NOT Evil?

“This Is Us” Actress Milana Vayntrub Calls Killing Her Baby in an Abortion a “Beautiful” Experience – LifeNews.com

SUNY Professor advocates for sex between children and adults… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

School Tells Kids to Stop Sending Valentines Featuring White or ‘Gender Normative’ People. (thenationalpulse.com)

Book banning in Texas schools: Titles are pulled off library shelves in record numbers (msn.com)

Illinois HB4244 Mandatory Vaccine Registry is Now in Subcommittee – Lawmaker Proposes HB4640 to Quarantine Exposed to Infectious Disease (thegatewaypundit.com)

Disney teaches kids about Microaggression… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

Exclusive: Dr. Li-Meng Yan Reveals CCP Plans to Spread Hemorrhagic Fever Bioweapon Via Olympics, and She Shares the Cure (substack.com)

A direct attack on the First Amendment – You are a Domestic Terrorist if You Question the State:

If you have an opinion and/or fact that counters the government narrative about the election fraud and COVID-19 you are now considered a domestic terrorist. Who determines what is “unsubstantiated”, a “conspiracy theory” or a “misleading narrative”?

DHS: Here is a list of top COVID misinformation spreaders you should investigate ASAP (substack.com)

Illinois Expressway shootings:

Illinois Reported Expressway Shootings (arcgis.com)

The Left – Democrats, Progressives and the like – destroy everything they touch. Soon, “the end of days”:

“Year Zero” – Thread by @pmarca on Thread Reader App – Thread Reader App

COVID Relief Spending Your hard-earned money:

Is This How Walmart Works?

1) They contact city/county governments of potential store sites to make nearby localities compete with one another by offering Walmart free infrastructure (roads, sewage, drainage) and tax rebates (typical store gets $10M in tax rebates for their first few years)

2) They build a store using their national contractors, depriving most of the local tradesmen of any of the work to build the store

3) They offer wages above the prevailing market wage to lure employees away from other employers (don’t worry, these go back down later.)

4) They scout locally owned competitors for pricing, and undercut them

5) Let’s say that your town happened to have a Carhartt factory, Walmart Corporate starts demanding lower and lower wholesale prices. Because Walmart represents 50% of Carhartt’s sales, they can’t afford to say no. So they start making cheaper products. Then they start manufacturing overseas. Soon the plant closes. You’re still paying the same price for a Carhartt jacket, but now it’s poorly made, and your neighbor Jim, who worked at the plant, is out of a job.

6) Your local mom & pop retailer, having lost some of their employees and still having to pay normal Carhartt wholesale prices, can’t compete with Walmart. They go out of business. So now your neighbor Barbara is out of a job.

7) Your town is now devastated, with no manufacturing and no retail other than Walmart. As employees are treated poorly and quit, new employees, having nowhere else to turn, are forced to accept lower wages and part-time positions. They are forced to rely on welfare to feed their kids. Every year, everyone gets a little bit poorer as Walmart’s corporate profits & stock price go up, and the last bits of wealth are extracted from your town and sent to Chinese manufacturers and Wall Street Shareholders. Many people now leave your town to look for better opportunities, splitting up families. Young adults go off to the big city and lose touch with their roots. Others turn to drugs out of despair, fueling an overdose epidemic. All the while, they have no choice but to shop at Walmart, due to a lack of options or due to the financial blight that the Walmart itself has brought to them and their family.

Now repeat this story 3,000 times across the country. So no, I don’t care if people shoplift from Walmart. Walmart made the calculation that the cost of security plus the risk of a lawsuit wasn’t worth stopping shoplifters when they can just let them take whatever they want and charge you, the consumer, for it.

Walmart sold out Americans for profit.

The Subject line: Honor Them

playing taps

A group of vets from our company met for lunch yesterday, Veteran’s Day.

 I received this in an email today from one of them. The Subject line: Honor Them.  I was asked to pass this along…

 

WITH DEEP REGRET
Charlie Sheen is 45 and his story is all over the news because he is a substance abuser, an adulterer, sexually promiscuous and obnoxious.
Lindsay Lohan is 24 and her story is all over the news because she is a celebrity drug addict and a thief.
The same can be said about drug addict Philip Seymour Hoffman who died with a needle stuck in his arm.
Alec Baldwin, actor, who is constantly in the news for his public disorderly conduct and inappropriate language and behavior involving the police or photographers, among others, continues to stay in the news.
Something as frivolous as Kim Kardashian’s stupid wedding (and short-lived marriage) was shoved down our throats, while……..

 

Justin Allen 23
Brett Linley 29
Matthew Weikert 29
Justus Bartett 27
Dave Santos 21
Jesse Reed 26
Matthew Johnson 21
Zachary Fisher 24
Brandon King 23
Christopher Goeke 23
and Sheldon Tate 27…
…are all Marines who gave their lives last month for you.
There is no media for them; not even a mention of their names.
They were young men who most likely came from rural America seeking a chance to better themselves and to serve this country.
Honor THEM by sending this on.
I did, will you?
Rest In Peace, and THANK YOU TROOPS.

The Rectitude of Silence

The Memorial Day weekend and the recent retirement of my boss, a Vietnam veteran, tugged at some heart-strings drawing me back home…

 At 6:00 am dad nudged me out of a dream where I had been standing over Grandma Johnson’s gravesite.  Half awake I got out of bed and dressed being sure not to wake the rest of the family.  When I reached the kitchen I could see from the window that dad was already in the car waiting for me.  The car was running.  I walked quietly back to my bedroom, grabbed my trumpet case and walked out the door.

In the car I sat silently as Dad drove us to the nearby Village Hall. There the Memorial Day ceremony would take place on the front lawn.  Earlier in the year of ‘69 my father had become the village’s mayor. He was now to deliver the Annual Memorial Day Speech during this service of remembrance.

 As we drove up a podium with a microphone was placed on the lawn outside the entrance to the village hall.  All around us dozens of people were streaming out of their cars and joining the semi-circle facing the podium.  Behind the podium there stood several men from the local VFW. 

These veterans were decked out in their dress uniforms. Several of the uniforms bore chevrons and gold braids with medals festooning their chests.   Thin ribbon bars, their colors revealing the military campaigns, the theaters of battle, they had been involved with.  Bronze and silver stars and medals of commendation glinted in the morning sun light. An aged vet who had served in WWI sat in a wheel chair. There were many there who had served in WWII.  And there were some, home from their first tour in Viet Nam, who looked like teenagers compared to the older vets.

I watched as front and center on the grass a detail of vets, each representative of a different branch of the armed services, practiced presenting the colors, recalling a formation they had learned years ago.

To one side of the podium my father talked about the order of the service with the speakers and presenters.  A pastor would pray for the men and women in the military. A Marine captain would present the colors. A Navy ensign would recall Guadalcanal. An army vet would speak about things he held dear such as duty, honor, sacrifice and friendship.  He would choke up as he spoke about comrades lost in battle.

At fifteen years old it was not lost on me that guys at the age of seventeen were going off to war and some were not coming back.  The specter of going to war loomed ever larger for me, especially as horrific scenes of the Viet Nam war were shown on almost every nightly newscast.  There seemed to be no end to the conflict in sight. 

  I knew guys just two years older than me who were being drafted.  I knew that I could possibly be drafted and sent to off to Vietnam.  I knew that would have to register with the selective service when I turned seventeen.  The possibility sent chills down my spine.  I picked up my horn out of its case and began nervously pumping the valves.  Buzzing my lips against the mouthpiece I blew warm air through my trumpet. I wondered if I was good enough horn player to play with the U.S. Army Band.

 At 7 am my dad moved to the podium and spoke a welcome to all who had “come out on this beautiful Memorial Day morning.”  He acknowledged the members of the VFW and each Village trustee who had attended.  To open the service he asked a pastor to come forward and lead the service with a prayer.

 Before my father gave the pastor the microphone he asked that there would be a moment of silence in memory of those who had fallen. We bowed our heads. 

Before me stood a WWII vet, head uncovered, head bowed.  Overhearing him earlier talking to another vet I understood that he knew full well the horrors of war better than any acid-eyed tie-dyed peace protestor. This veteran had paid a significant price for any protestor’s right and the rights of Europeans and Asians to live free from tyranny’s aggression. 

American men and women were able to assemble and protest because of the sacrifices men like this soldier made on their behalf. The strength of our republic lay in our individual resistance to evil where ever it threatens us – at home or abroad. And, here at home, an evil grew which was just as insidious as foreign aggression– licentiousness.

 Carl Sr., a Presbyterian minister and the father of one of my close friends, prayed a blessing on the cherished memory of the fallen and their families.  He prayed for those in the midst of battle that very day in Southeast Asia.  He sought comfort and succor for those who live on with injuries received in battle, both physical and mental.  He prayed for all those friends and families who had grieved the loss of loved ones.  He then prayed for our nation, a nation openly riddled with discord and godlessness, submitting our country “to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”  

 After the prayer my father spoke. Dad’s words honored those who had gone to battle to protect our liberties and the liberties of our allies. He spoke of their commitment to freedom, to a higher purpose. He spoke of their courage not often found among men and women of this age.  He spoke of their ultimate sacrifice:  “greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friend.”  In closing, he hallowed their memory, echoing Abraham Lincoln’s words, saying, “…that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

 The flag ceremony began.  White gloved hands unfolded the American flag. Two vets held the corners of the flag, keeping it from ever touching the ground.  Unfolded the flag was hoisted to the top of the nearby flag pole. My father, placing his hand over his heart, began:  “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” I could see that the Stars and Stripes, at ease on this serene morning, moved the veteran’s hearts to their throats, pushing tears into their eyes.  There were no placards of “Make Love Not War” here this morning.  The bearers of those signs must have been sleeping in, secure in their beds.

 After the pledge of allegiance a high school senior came to the microphone and led the singing of our national anthem.  There were more tears and more memories halting reverent shaky voices. 

I sang the anthem thinking about the year before:  while young men and women were fighting in the steamy death-laden jungles of Southeast Asia east coast hippies gathered at the Fillmore East in New York City to hear Grace Slick sing about a White Rabbit.

 Even at fifteen I knew that the peace-loving hippies had ceased fighting against the tyranny of drugs and the unbridled desires that come with it. They thought that all they needed was “Love.” And while “Peace” and “Love” became the mantras of their drug-infused songs, some of the protesters became aggressive and violent in their anti-war protests.

Bill Ayers the co-founder of the Weather Underground, a communist revolutionary group, began bombing public buildings as a sign of contempt over theU.S.involvement in the Viet Nam War. The contradiction, violent murderous aggression to obtain peaceful ends, didn’t make sense to me and it surely didn’t respect the freedom they clearly enjoyed, freedom paid for with the lives of decent peace-loving men and women.

 “Now we will have the presenting of colors”, the loud-speaker sputtered dad’s words.

 The honor guard, waiting in the background, marched to the front of the assembly.  The commander led them through the drill.  Once the men were in formation the American flag was presented and the other flags were lowered. The vets came to attention and saluted the flag.

 Commands were given to the small rifle squad.  Rifle barrels were inspected and loaded.  The vets were then commanded to raise their rifles. “Ha-Ready,” “H-Aim,” “Fire!”  The crack of twenty-one bombastic gun shots sent shock waves to my ear drums.  The air began to fill with the smell of sulfur, chalk and burnt paper – gun powder. Smoke, in small billows rose above the rifles, seeming to carry the memory of fallen soldiers up into heaven.

 After the twenty-first shot there was a long silent pause, lasting five minutes.  Then my father nodded over at me. I stood outside the assembly with two other trumpeters, the three of us standing at fifty yard intervals within a cluster of cottonwood trees. Taking a long deep breath I began to play Taps.  The second horn echoed a response after the first phrase and then the third trumpet echoed the second horn. From the corner of my eyes I could see the vets with their hands on hearts, their caps off and their heads bowed in solemn reverence:   the fallen are remembered.  Honor.  Chivalry.  Courage.  Sacrifice. The fallen are remembered.  Not forsaken. Never forsaken.

 Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is near.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is near.

 A gust of wind lifted the branches above me as the third trumpet’s final echo fell silent in the distance.  The leaves shuddered and then the wind seemed to hold its breath, as if muted by grace.  In that ethereal silence with ears already deafened by the sound of a twenty-one gun salute I was reminded of love’s supreme sacrifice, of a mother’s prayers rising up, of songs tearfully sung at gravesites and of sacred words commemorating lives offered in the line of duty.  Though war will always be near because of mankind’s ungodliness God is always nearer.

That Memorial day I mournfully sounded the last trumpet call “Day is done” as a prayer of eternal rest for those men and women in the United States military who made the ultimate sacrifice.  And since that day, as I’ve grown more silent, my soul again hears that last trumpet call.  It is calling me to live a life worthy of the lives laid down for me, a life near to God.

© Sally Paradise, 2012, All Rights Reserved

Straight Arrow

A few years ago I was interviewed and hired by the company I now work for.  I am not allowed to talk in detail about the company.  Suffice it to say, though, that I work with Professional Engineers (PEs) in a major industry.  Bill is the man who read my resume and sought me out for a position in the company.  It was on an ice-cold Friday one day in January 2007 that I was interviewed by him. During the first minutes of the interview I learned that Bill had served in the military – 101st Airborne,U.S. Paratrooper Division – – The Screaming Eagles, in Viet Nam, 1968.

I wasn’t sure why he told me his background during my interview.  He certainly had a right to be proud about his service.  Perhaps he wanted me to know who I was dealing with – a no-nonsense, disciplined kind of guy whose word was his bond. He was completely kind, overly polite and very desirous that I was being dealt with properly by the people interviewing me.  That day I was interviewed by five other people besides Bill.  Later, in the afternoon, Bill began gently pushing me to decide in favor of working there.  This was a surprise to me in that I didn’t think I would walk in and get a job that quickly, especially at a company that was so professional and technical. My previous jobs were with small companies.  These companies often moved slowly when choosing someone to hire, being very careful of every nickel and dime spent.

I liked Bill’s demeanor, his history of service in the military and his quiet gentle way that hid his strength. I also liked the fact that Bill had worked at this company for thirty-some years.  That meant something to me. I had cycled through many different jobs in the manufacturing industry due to the industry’s dependence on the up and down economy. I shook hands with Bill at 3:00 pm that day. I had agreed to work for him at this company.  I intuitively knew that he could be trusted to do right by me.  He was not like those in the past who had used me to just balance their books.

Over the course of the last few years Bill has directed our design group meetings.  He has reviewed me annually and has given me raises. He has been involved in most of the design review meetings that I have been involved in. Bill held everyone strictly accountable to the standards that our company had developed over the years.  In our industry, high standards and accountability are paramount to staying in the select stream of business offered by our clients. Bill made sure that each of us adhered to those standards on each and every project.  He made sure that our “deliverables” matched the high quality standards set by the company.

During the first year of my work with Bill, Bill held a “Boot Camp”.  He had developed a set of classes to give us an overview of the subject matter behind our daily tasks.  The camp was informative and again, matching Bill’s character gently pushed each one to a better understanding of our company’s work at hand and to be better people. 

Recently a retirement party was held by our company for Bill.  Bill decided it was time to go home and stay home.  His wife has been dealing with two cancers.  Bill needed to be with her on this battlefront.

Here are some of the reflections written out in Bill’s “Farewell Notice” to his team members:

“Th(e) boot camp was intended to teach you technical skills, to be a team player, focus your attention to details, to understand how to use verified design inputs and to be accountable for your actions – but it was also to show you how to be Respectful with each other.

As the time for me grows near for me to pick up my gear and head out, one phrase that I picked up from the years past is one that I may have used in conversation with you.

The phrase is that I am being a straight arrow with you.

The meaning of this phrase has had a deep and everlasting impact on me and for the person I hoped to be.

The meaning is of Trust, Loyalty and respect for each other.”

Bill went on to talk about his military experience in Viet Nam with the 101st Airborne,U.S. Paratrooper Division known as the Screaming Eagles. This happened in 1968.

Bill served in Viet Nam for thirteen months “where I lived in mountain caves in the Central Highlands with my unit.”  He shared the cave “with one of our allies who were Viet Nam native mountain soldiers who carried cross bows and wore their native clothes.”

It was in a cave on evening where Bill first heard the phrase “Straight Arrow”, from the lead scout of these mountain fighters. A relationship of trust developed – he had Bill’s back and Bill had his.  In broken English, French accents and many hand gestures, the scout explained what he meant by “Straight Arrow” – “a straight arrow is good (trusted) and a bent arrow is not…if you try to bend a straight arrow, even a little, it can never fly straight again and eventually this arrow, if bent too many times, will become a broken arrow that will not fly at all.”

Bill:  “This message came to me from this Loyal friend one evening in a cave so many years ago…I took this message to mean that we needed to be straight with each other to co-exist.”

“I believe, by straight, that he meant we should be there for each other – something I have carried with me as a way of life.”

“My hope is that I have always been a straight arrow with you and that you will always be a straight arrow with each other.”

Much more could be written coming out of Bill’s Farewell Notice to the company and out of his example set before me during my time with him.  He now wants to do the right thing by his wife. He wanted to be there for her during this enormously difficult time.  As he said, “I chose to do the right thing.”

My time of knowing Bill, from my interview to his farewell party just a few weeks ago afforded me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to “serve” with a man who is honorable, honest, decent and trustworthy – a gentle giant of a man.  My quiver is now becoming full with “Straight Arrow” choices of my own.

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved