Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank YOU Veterans

Thank A Veteran

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a Jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, A piece of shrapnel in the leg or perhaps another sort of inner steel: The soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe Wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking.

What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She or he is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Danang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor remains unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket, aggravatingly slow, who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a Soldier, Marine, Sailor or Airman, and also a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember each time you see someone who has served our country. When you see one just lean over and say Thank You.

That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".

God Bless Our Veterans!

I originally had a great idea to get photos and years of service for a big elaborate post thanking all of my family and friends that have served in uniform on behalf of our country. However I soon realized that I couldn't do everyone justice as well as how comfortable some might be with me sharing their photos over a public blog like ours. So as the "Thank A Veteran" suggests I will just use those two little words that mean a lot.

So I just want to say thank you Dad, Jeff, Todd, David, Jim, Dale, Clay, Orson, Paul, Sam, Dirk, Andrew, Bill Sr., Bill Jr., Wes and many more I'm sure I've forgotten to add.

Thank you all for serving our country.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Summer Road Trip, pt 5

Welcome back to the vacation pics! We spent the afternoon exploring the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and it was such a wonderful afternoon. We wanted to watch the sunset, so we drove to an overlook that wasn't too crowded.

We wanted to go a bit off the beaten path, so I explored a bit while Chuck was switching batteries in the camera, and we found a path that led to a nice spot (kind of on the edge, below the paved "tourist area") with room to relax on the rocks and have a great view of both the setting sun and the colors against the far rim of the canyon.

As the sun dropped in the sky and the shadows lengthened, it brought more detail out in the canyon below. I loved being able to turn west and watch the colors in the pink and orange sky, and then turn east and see the waning sunlight paint the canyon with pinks and orange as well.

This was an unforgettable evening.

After sunset we headed back to the hotel. There was a forest fire nearby (it had been set by lightning several days earlier and the Forest Service was letting it burn itself out, controlling the direction of the burn) so the little town was smoked out, you could barely see across the street. We had intended on walking around, picking a restaurant for dinner and shopping, etc. Instead, we ate at an Italian restaurant (cutely named "Spaghetti Western"!) and then headed for the hotel and clean air.

Luckily, the smoke wasn't affecting the views at the canyon, so it was more of an inconvenience

Next up- we travel north to Utah and visit several more National Parks. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Summer Road Trip, pt 4

Welcome back to the road trip series. Sorry for the short delay in posting, I had the flu last week and wasn't feeling up to anything but sleep (and re-reading the entire Twilight series in 4 days, but that's an entirely different subject!). I'm feeling much better, and ready to share more pictures with you.

After a fun weekend in Havasu, Chukani headed for Phoenix to spend an evening with our friend Donna's parents. We needed to pick up a toddler bed for Bill and Donna, and her parents offered to host us for the evening, so it was win-win all the way around.

What a fun time we had hanging out over there! Chukani went for a long swim in their pool after Joy made us a delicious lasagna dinner that evening, and Dan-Dad even served us a yummy breakfast the next morning before sending us on our way.

As we traveled back across Arizona and then up to the Grand Canyon the next day, we experienced the stark desert beauty that Arizona has to offer. The Saguaro cactus are amazing. We drove through a whole forest of them one afternoon.

And you get a real sense of how far in the distance you can see with no mountains in the way... the pic above with the gorgeous thunderhead cloud developing looks deceivingly close. But when you can see for 50+ miles, everything looked closer.

We visited Montezuma's Castle and enjoyed the trail around the monument as a chance to stretch our legs. The cliff dwelling ruins were great, the trail takes you right up to them.

And the first of many self-photos. This became a tradition over the week's adventures. In every National Park, we had to take at least one of these photos with some cool scene behind us. Silly, I know.

We left the monument and drove through Sedona on our way to the Canyon. I wish we had been able to spend more time in the Sedona area, it was breathtakingly beautiful. We took a Forest Ranger's advice and drove up to the Airport overlook for wonderful views of the city and red rocks.

The sky was so blue against the magenta-red of the sand sculptures.

Our destination that afternoon was the Grand Canyon... my first visit! We stopped in at our hotel to check-in, and then headed for the south rim to catch sunset on the canyon's edge. It was amazing... cooler temps at the higher altitude, and the view was perfect. Words cannot describe the Grand Canyon, pictures cannot truly capture the immensity and beauty. You just have to go see it for yourself! But don't worry- we took lots of pictures, so we'll share some with you anyway.

Chuck's Aunts and Uncles have a long-standing tradition of calling each other from crazy places and saying... "guess where I am?" Here's Chuck calling his Aunt Nancy to include her in the fun.

There was a rainstorm travelling across the canyon, this is looking towards the distant north-eastern rim.

See... here's another self-pic. We made good use of Chuck's long arms to capture the photos. :)

I have another post set to go later this week, so stay tuned for more pictures of the Canyon.
Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Summer Road Trip, pt 3

After driving across the lovely (and HOT) state of Arizona, we finally made it to our weekend destination- My Aunt & Uncle's house in Lake Havasu.

There we got to meet my cousin Jason and Lori's newest addition to the family, baby Luke. He is so precious!

My parents were in town (from Cali) and my brother and his family too. My grandpa Mac hung out with us, along with my Aunt Phyllis and her family. It became an impromptu Mansfield Family reunion.

I don't have as big of a family as on Chuck's side- that's for sure. I think there was only 22 of us at the most. (Chuck has like 30 first cousins or something like that.) We were missing my Aunt Cindy and her family, so it wasn't quite the whole gang. But what we lack for in numbers, we make up for in fun! :)

We all gathered at my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Dave's house. Lots of bbq's, hanging out, catching up and reminiscing about the old days. The little cousins all had fun playing together too, which was great to see.

This pic is my Grandpa, Uncle Dave, Aunt Phyllis, her kids Sean and Katie, and her hubby, my Uncle Dan. I think this is after the great "Quillo" debate, lol!

We got some nice group photos- below is my parents, bro and sis-in-law, niece and nephew and Chukani, with Grandpa Mac in the middle.

I was kinda worried vacationing in Arizona Mid-August. Hot doesn't begin to describe the desert heat out there, especially late summer! But the weekend we were in town it rained nearly every day, so the blistering heat was held at bay, much to my delight.

That's not to say it wasn't HOT, mind you! :) Here's a great pic of Todd and Randi hanging out in the dining room. Coolest spot in the house- right under the a/c vent. This was prime seating!

That evening after dinner we all sat outside on the patio and watched the sunset. You can't see the lake in this shot for the housetops, but it's out there, and the mountains on the other side are actually California.

I think I took more sunset photos this trip than ever before. Every single night was different, and each sunset better than the one before.

goodbye, sun.

Typical summer evening in Havasu- twilight, and still above 90 degrees. It was, however under the century mark, so we decided it was "cool enough" to go for a walk.

My little niece Shae got tired pretty quickly, so I volunteered Uncle Chuck to give her a piggy back ride. Oh so cute!

The next day we decided to go out on the river in Jason's pontoon boat. We toured around a bit, then found a nice beach to hang out and swim for a while.

Hanging out at the river brought back tons of memories for me. When I was growing up, our families spent nearly every summer camping at the river for weeks on end. I remember wading in an inner tube for most of the day, even sleeping in the boat at night. I loved camping at the river.

We'd all get up really early to water ski when the water was smooth and still, like glass. In the cool of the morning, it was amazing to be out there. I was flag-girl the times I didn't ski, I really used any excuse to be in the ski boats. I'd sit up in the bow with the wind in my face for hours. Great memories.

After a while, we packed it up and headed back for the marina. Jason took us on the scenic tour, and the little ones had a blast watching all the speed boats zoom past us in our leisurely pontoon.

Havasu is famous for its London Bridge, so we had to be real tourists and boat underneath it. There are lots of shops and restaurants in the area, but I've been to them all zillions of times, so we skipped that tourist destination this time.

Later that evening, another storm rolled into town.

It was amazing to watch the storm develop. And that's just what we did- we all sat out on the patio and watched the storm move closer. You'd think none of us had ever seen rain before, it was pretty funny.

We finally got some rain, and the cooler, humid evening to follow. The sunset that night was particularly gorgeous with the clouds and glowing colors.

Ok, next up- Chukani head for Phoenix, and then the Grand Canyon. Part 4 in a few days.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Summer Road Trip, pt 2

Welcome back to the Road Trip series... After we left the petroglyphs and Albuquerque, Chuck and I drove across Arizona. The road was long, but not so winding, as you can see by this photo:

We made a few stops along the way, the best one was our visit to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. It was a beautiful day for sightseeing... even though it got hotter and hotter as the afternoon progressed. Thank goodness Chuck had loaded an ice-chest with water and gatorade for us, we definitely needed to stay hydrated walking around in that heat. Phew!

Once in the park, we came to the Painted Desert first, and we walked along several easy trails. Amazing colors... it was true to the name. I love this shot with the blue sky and green scrub brushes framing the reds and violets of the canyon below.

We had a picnic lunch from eats in the cooler, (yes, we ate in the truck with the a/c on. It was over 100 degrees out!) and then drove along to the Petrified Forest.

Along the way there were some nice vistas and geography... these are some of the "teepees" that eroded eons ago.

It was eerily quiet and still out there. We were practically the only living things moving around in the heat of the afternoon. And the landscape seemed almost alien after a while. So incredibly different from the forests I'm used to in the Colorado mountains.

The petrified logs dotting the landscape were very cool. Until you walk right up to one and inspect it, it looks completely like an old, fallen tree trunk. And then as you get close, you all of a sudden realize that it's actually a big 'ol rock now. Completely mineralized. Fascinating.

After our side tours, we headed west, eventually meeting the setting sun.

After sunset, we finally made it to Lake Havasu City, to spend a fun weekend with nearly my entire family.

Ok, that's it for now... Stay tuned for part 3, the Mansfield Family Reunion.