Calling Old Friends on Patriot’s Day… and Remembering


I called Lee Ielpi today, just like I’ve done for the better part of a decade. I can’t really remember how I first met Lee… but his story is one you’ll never forget. 

Lee Ielpi is a quiet hero. He knows heartache and tragedy better than most. He’s witnessed the unimaginable with his own eyes. Through it all, however, he has helped maintain the real and relevant part of the 9/11 story while also remaining one of the most solid and squared away individuals I know.

If you happened to be in the area of southern Manhattan today, chances are you’d make it a point to visit the 9/11 Memorial. Some call it “Ground Zero”. The Memorial does an incredible, albeit sobering, job of telling what happened at 1 World Trade Center on that day. 

The Memorial is as much a museum as it is a Memorial. As you descend under the rebuilt streets of Manhattan you’re gradually surrounded by the sights, sounds and even smells of our generation’s day that will live in infamy. 

You begin to hear the voices of firefighters calling for more support equipment. You hear New York Police Department officers requesting backup and emergency equipment. Knowing the final result, you begin to ponder how strong their commitment was to their mission. You consider how heartbroken they must have been when their initial efforts to save lives and property would seem to have been in vain… for whatever period of time that realization may have been. 

As you delve further into the Memorial, you witness some of the scenes and voices of tragedy as people, innocent victims, in the Twin Towers begin to realize their fate.

In and amongst the voices are steel beams that appear to have been twisted like spaghetti as the building fell. There are fire trucks, crushed almost beyond recognition, which were left abandoned by teams of lifesavers who were never able to return to the place where the trucks were parked. 

If you’re like me, when you visit the 9/11 Memorial, it’s about that point in the “tour” that you begin to remind yourself that this was an event which occurred a long time ago. It becomes a little too overwhelming and you want to remind yourself you can walk away. You remember, almost like waking up from a bad dream, that the scenes you’re seeing and voices you’re hearing are from a bygone era, envisioned and enacted by very evil individuals. 

You remember that you’ll walk out the door of the Memorial in a few minutes, hopefully into a glorious Manhattan afternoon… and you may even begin to ponder where your evening meal might be. You remind yourself of your Freedom. 

For Lee Ielpi, and many others like him, the nightmare of 9/11 can’t be left behind by simply walking out the doors of the Memorial, however. 

Jonathan Ielpi was in the middle of a shift on the morning of 9/11/2001. He was a Firefighter in Squad 288 of the FDNY Special Operations Command located in Queens, NY. Major incidents and Hazardous Material events were their specialty. Jonathan and Squad 288 were the tip of the spear for the FDNY and people of NYC. 

From l. to r.: Brendan Ielpi, Lee Ielpi, Jonathan Ielpi and Jonathan’s two boys Andrew (in front) and Austin (held by Jonathan).

Chances are Jonathan heard the 757 come in low over southern Manhattan, as most everyone in New York City did that day. 

When the call came in to Squad 288 the report was that a twin engine aircraft had flown into the World Trade Center. Jonathan suited up. He and his team knew there was work to be done.

I’m sure the scene, on that crisp and clear September morning, looking up at the Twin Towers, must have been more than Jonathan could fathom. Regardless, Squad 288 launched into action without hesitation.

And then, at 9:59 the South tower fell. 

We can only speculate if any of the team members had any idea of the magnitude of the situation. There are survivors who can tell the story, but a total of 9 lives were lost on 9/11 from Squad 288 alone.

No one could have imagined the towers would actually fall. The unimaginable day just got inifinitely worse.

If you’ve seen any of the videos of the aftermath of the towers falling, you’ve experienced some part of the deafening silence that enveloped the area afterwards. You may have also noticed the continuous chirps that sounded from beyond the haze and remnants of paper that swirled in the air. Each of those chirps was a firefighter’s alarm that automatically goes off when the firefighter doesn’t move for a period of time. One of those chirps was the alarm that had been connected to Jonathan’s tank and equipment. 

Lee Ielpi, who was in the waning years of his firefighting service on September 11th, rolled onto the scene, in a support role, about 30 minutes after the second tower had fallen. 

It was no longer his job to drag hose and don the turnout gear. Those jobs were for the kids in the service. The kids like his son Jonathan.

As any Dad would do, and as the reality of the situation began to set in, Lee began to wonder about Jonathan’s location. Ofcourse it wasn’t a time to lose focus on the task at hand, but Lee began to worry. As a result of his years of experience, he quickly realized that things may quickly get untenable.

Only moments later he realized Jonathan was gone. 

When you meet Lee Ielpi today, he’s a face of peace and contentment. When I spoke to him today, he thanked me for the call. We asked each other about family and shared a tear for loved ones gone home. 

He reminded me that he was now a Florida resident and that I needed to come visit. And, as he always does, he invited me to come to The 9/11 Tribute Center sometime soon. 

The Tribute Center is across the street from the 9/11 Memorial. It’s a private effort and is supported by selfless giving. The Tribute Center is Lee’s tribute to his fallen son, and many other families who have stories similar to the Ielpi family’s. 

As we chatted, Lee mentioned, with a smile “in his voice” that the Center had recently expanded to over 3 times its original size. He said they had officially changed the name and now referred to it as a museum. 

You can find out more about Lee Ielpi’s vision which became a reality here.

As was Lee’s vision, many years ago, on any given day, in and amongst the throngs of people venturing into the 9/11 Memorial, you can find the Tribute Center open, eagerly welcoming visitors to come in and hear “the rest of the story” firsthand. 

The Tribute Center does not employ many people. Most of the people you find there are volunteers. They’re not just any volunteers, either. At Lee’s behest, if you want to volunteer there, you must have had some direct impact to you or your Family on 9/11. You’ll only find family members or First Responders there volunteering. They help to finish telling the story of what happened, to them, on September 11, 2001. 

The Mission of the Tribute Center is to honor and remember the lives lost on that day. No one can help us remember better than those who felt it, saw it and were impacted by it themselves. 

The Tribute Center is the true personal side of 9/11.

And with that… I’ll wrap up my story. It’s one of heartache but happiness. You hear both when you talk to Lee. It’s easy for the rest of us to say we’ll never forget. Lee doesn’t have a choice and yet he knows he’s blessed and won’t hesitate to tell you that. 

His therapy is honoring those who did NOT die in vain in the first battle of the War on Terror… and what a therapist he is for the rest of the world.

If you’re lucky you can catch Lee at the Tribute Center sometime soon. If you don’t find Lee, you can still find plenty of other volunteers willing to share their stories. You can also see Jonathan’s turnout gear, just the way it was found, months after 9/11, lovingly displayed as only a father can do.


Let us always remember. Let us never forget. 

On Cat 5 hurricanes and Bad Politics…

The past 7 days have been one of records made and records broken. I’ll forego personal topics for now… except to say that it was a perfect football weekend. One in which the Dawgs won and the team from the North Avenue Trade School suffered a gut wrenching loss in double OT. Perfect. Thinking of you, Mrs. Higgins.

But on to other pressing issues-

As the first leaves of fall begin to accumulate on back porches and hummingbirds begin to make their annual trek across the Gulf of Mexico, it’s an interesting time to be an observer of world issues… and wonder where it all leads.

They call it “Category 5”, and the main stream media loves the click bait. Rarely, though, does anyone ever really ponder that. Mostly because, I imagine, we haven’t seen one in decades. With regard to Irma’s magnitude, some say we’ve never had a storm of this scale. Ever.

It sounds ominous, and rightly so.

Little bit of detail- and a whole lot of uncertainty:

A “Cat 5” is only a measure of the sustained winds in a hurricane, measured at approximately 30 feet above land or ocean. To measure as a Cat 5, the winds must be in excess of 157 mph. Irma’s winds have currently been measured at 185 mph. From the National Hurricane Center’s website regarding category 5 storms:

“Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

You can read more from the NHC here.

The disconcerting part of this measure is that it does not take into account one of the more damaging and deadly results of a hurricane- Storm Surge. That’s not part of the Saffir-Simpson scale.

The reason is mainly because it can’t be estimated on a wide scale or, in many cases, imagined. Walls of water, dozens of feet in height, become very real possibilities with a storm like Irma.

Huge accumulated rain amounts are another dramatic result of a storm. Keep in mind that Hurricane Harvey, the storm that has so adversely impacted Houston, had minimal, relatively speaking, wind impact on Houston. Flooding is still rampant, however. Additionally- one major Hurricane that impacted the Georgia coast, many years ago, measured 16 inches of rain in 48 hours… in Highlands, NC.

Suffice it to say that this storm, if and when it hits land, will be unlike anything we’ve experienced in recent history. That statement stands for my home state of Georgia, any other part of the United States, the Caribbean or Mexico. The initial statement above seems prophetic: “Catastrophic damage will occur.”

A week from now we will know what impact this storm will have, or had, on the continental US.

From experience- I’m concerned. The potentially devastating impact of the storm aside, the politics of storm response and recovery can be very ugly as well.

Having seen firsthand how politics, mostly local, plays into the response and recovery process, there’s reason for concern.

My thought- Elected Officials should trust the experts… and the experts are the First Responders.

Stated simply- If Mayors, County Commissioners, Legislators and Congressional members try to be the problem solvers, they traditionally make things worse with regard to storm response and recovery.

The reality is that these policy makers are the least qualified and trained in rescue, recovery and life saving in general.

So, to the elected officials (and I know you’re out there): If the time comes to engage your government entity in a Hurricane response in the not-so-distant future, do the right thing. Get out of the way. You’re not going to be the smartest people in the room when it comes to saving lives. The best thing you can do is let them run the show and follow their lead. Your experts will thank you later, I promise.

Good Lord willing, we will watch, pray and hope that this storm will turn out into the Atlantic and dissipate. Don’t forget, however, that hope is not a plan. We must prepare at every level and it starts with personal responsibility.

Last thought- If you’re in Irma’s path- head for the hills, so to speak. It’s never too soon. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.

May God Bless those who are in harm’s way and also those serving anyone who will be impacted by this impending adverse weather.

18 days into a Blog and what a ride it’s been!

So, that’s how long it’s been since my first post in St. Louis. If you haven’t seen that one, you can scroll all the way down to see it. The short version is that I am absolutely amazed and humbled, once again, at the power of communication in the technology age. For the longer version, read on.

First of all, as I write, the response phase is ongoing for the Houston area and the victims of Hurricane Harvey. 

Coming from a background of National Guard leadership as well as Emergency Management and Homeland Security, I can say that the response teams must truly have their hands full. The families of the heroes who are actively responding are also in the response, too, and cannot be forgotten. 

Additionally, we must keep a watchful eye on the Atlantic where more storms are forming. 

It’s an interesting time to be alive and, perhaps, we’re being given a reminder of what is truly important in the next chapter of our Country… and what’s not.

So… back to my update…

In the last 18 days I have made 8 posts (this one makes 9). The number of times these posts have been read amazes me! 

There is a capability called “analytics” (who knew) that has the ability to geographically show where the blog is read (generally), how many times, for how long, what time of day, what day of the week, etc. 

It doesn’t get extremely specific with who is viewing, but it is good feedback that lets a blogger (that’s me) get an idea of whether anyone is reading or not. 

So, how’s it going, you may wonder? Astounding is my answer!

I have linked my posts to several places including Twitter and LinkedIn. As a result of these “feeds”, each of my blog posts, up to this point, have an average number of 2500 solid views. Those are views that aren’t just a “click through” but actual reads. To that end- I’m truly honored. 

As a result of this blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with people I haven’t spoken to since my freshman year of college. It’s absolutely amazing to get updates from people who were great friends during a chapter of life, and now hear about their lifetime achievements, careers and families. That’s all just because of a little idea I had about putting my thoughts in writing. 

This blog has also led to speculation of “What are you up to now….”

Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten comments like, “What are you running for, because I’ll support you!” I’ll quickly answer that’s not part of the plan right now. I do have opinions on the political front, and we know that sometimes those opinions turn into action.

Regardless, throwing a hat in the ring is not part of the plan at this point. I’m enjoying being a recovering politician too much.

Another comment I regularly get is, “It’s so good to hear from you and know you’re doing well.” Fact of the matter is, I’ve almost never been better. 

 Leaving government and returning to airline flying had been the plan for Amy and I for quite some time. There was some speculation about what may have “actually occurred” but the reality is that there’s never really a good time to make a career shift like the one we did. Regardless of timing, people draw their own conclusions as to why events occur when they did. As they say, that’s just politics and it was all just fine with me. I’ve grown immune to that speculation since there’s really nothing that needs to be done about the “fence watchers” that sometimes seem to only want to assume the worst. 

The reality is that Amy, my family and I are truly blessed. Daily. I get to do what I love and then I get to come home and see the people I love. I’ve never felt more fortunate or blessed. One other quick comment along these lines- today is payday… and paydays are a lot more fun than they used to be, too!

Where does it go from here? Who knows. If it’s fun I’ll give it a try. I have a few interesting projects that good friends are helping me get off the ground. None are self serving, they all have to do with serving others. It feels great to truly serve others in need. I’ll pass along some of those stories when the time is right. 

The bottom line is that I am truly humbled by all of you who have followed, liked, commented and told me you’re reading these somewhat lucid thoughts. Keeping in touch and being able to re-initiate old lines of communication means more than you know. 

Thanks for your kindness. 

In closing- As I write, our oldest son Blake is home for the first time from college. He’s here, hanging out with us, watching Batman on tv. Just like old times. 

As I was writing, I heard one of Batman’s lines to his “love interest” Rachel Dawes. His comment to her was a repeat of what she had said to Bruce Wayne earlier in the movie. She said, “…It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”

While I think there’s some truth somewhere in the middle of that statement, that’s probably a little bit of “The World” and Hollywood talking. Truth is, God and The Bible say it a little differently. 

It’s still definitely a good statement to ponder in this day and age… and as for me and my family, we believe that it’s what we do for others that helps to define who we are underneath… and vice versa. Hope that makes sense. 

I wish you all the best on this Labor Day/First College football weekend. I pray it’s filled with family, blessings, fun and a University of Georgia win over Appalachian State. 

May God Bless you all and keep you safe. 

Thanks to all of you who have already made this blog special. I’ll do my best to continually bless you the way you’ve already blessed me. 

If this kind of “straight talk” is being challenged then I truly don’t know our Country anymore

It turns out that two Law professors, from opposite sides of the United States, published an op-ed entitled “Paying the Price for the Breakdown of Bourgeois Culture” in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The article starts out quite bluntly:

“Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.”

Ok. Sounds like a fair tenet to me. Harsh, but true, as they say.

Apparently, their opinion column has now been labeled “hate speech” or “racist” and has become the root of some sort of scandal.

The National Review has also taken note, and in an almost defensive tone, continued further comment with its own opinion piece, “Bourgeois Scandal Tars Law Prof Amy Wax with Racism Charge

In that piece, writer Heather MacDonald, an admitted colleague of Wax, states:

“Throwing caution to the winds, they (the writers) challenge the core tenet of multiculturalism: “All cultures are not equal,” they write. “Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy.” Unless America’s elites again promote personal responsibility and other bourgeois virtues, the country’s economic and social problems will only worsen, they conclude.”

Penn Law has distanced itself from the developing situation, but only after asserting:

“The administration should make it crystal clear that reasoned argumentation is not ‘hate speech’ or a ‘discriminatory act’.”

Bravo, Penn Law.  I couldn’t agree more. Now stand behind that statement!

If we can’t debate and discuss, without fear of ignorant and abusive reprisal, then Freedom of Speech, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution, has truly been lost, now and forevermore.

Just to say I did, that text is posted below:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

And that, my friends, is One Man’s Opinion… and I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in that opinion.

The Greatest Atlanta Mayor you’ve probably never heard of

A few years ago I was looking for a few profiles of military service members to use as examples of the sacrifices military people make. As I dug through old pictures of the Bell Bomber Plant in Marietta, I found a posed picture of several dapper looking gentlemen, hats all propped at the proper jaunty angle. Little did I know how great the story of one particular man in the picture really was. 

Credit- New Georgia Encyclopedia
President Franklin Roosevelt, Atlanta Mayor Roy LeCraw and other leaders at the groundbreaking of the Bell Bomber Plant in Marietta (Circa Feb. 1942)

One of the men in the picture was the Mayor Of Atlanta, Roy LeCraw. As I researched Mayor LeCraw further, I saw that he had actually defeated a very well known Atlanta Mayor, William B. Hartsfield, in the Mayoral election held in November 1941. 

The story seemed even more intriguing when I saw the length of Mayor LeCraw’s time in elected office. Mayor Roy LeCraw resigned in May of 1942 after being sworn in earlier that year. As it turns out, he resigned from elected office so he could fulfill a call to go to war.

Mayor Roy LeCraw was also known, in Georgia National Guard circles, as Major Roy LeCraw. 

He was not new to military service and the possibilities of deployment. He was also not new to public service and running for elected office. Regardless, as he campaigned against incumbent Hartsfield throughout the summer of 1941, he surely could not have fathomed the dilemma his challenger victory would soon create.

Shortly after defeating Hartsfield, as we now know, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, on the day that lives in infamy. In an instant, LeCraw’s two separate worlds collided as the Country was drawn into WWII. 

It’s only speculation on my part, but I’m sure the days between Early December 1941 and May 25, 1942 were challenging ones for LeCraw, to say the least.

Ongoing Mayoral issues of the day aside, I’m sure LeCraw knew what the resolution to his conflict of service roles would be. His call to military service would come, and there would only be one answer for a man of honor. 

History now tells us the rest of the story. 

Mayor Hartsfield ended up serving longer than anyone as Atlanta’s Mayor, serving over a quarter of a century in office. He led Atlanta through challenging times of desegregation. He is probably best known for having the world’s busiest airport named after him and also for coining the phrase, “Atlanta- The City too busy to hate”.

As for LeCraw- you might not be as familiar with that part of history. Major LeCraw’s military service took him to the front lines of battle throughout Europe during World War II. His service in Europe earned him a Bronze Star. He returned to the States, at War’s end, to try and fail at regaining his former Mayoral position. Ironically, he lost an election bid to Hartsfield in a resounding defeat. Not to be denied, he later ran for a State Senate seat and won, serving one term. 

Lecraw returned to military service in Korea several years later where he earned a second Bronze Star. After serving in Korea in the military, LeCraw and his wife Julia later returned as missionaries. The LeCraws had 5 sons, all of whom graduated from The North Avenue Trade School (also known as Georgia Tech).

In dedication and memoriam to Mayor LeCraw’s service to his city and state, a gas lamp was placed at 2970 Peachtree Rd, in the heart of Buckhead. The Buckhead business community placed it there and you can find the lamp, still burning brightly with two flames, to this very day.

Roy LeCraw’s life of service was, unquestionably, a response to a higher calling. He was rewarded with a fruitful blessing of family and fiscal reward. Over the years, we may have forgotten the name, but surely we can’t forget the indelible mark the LeCraw family made for service… to God and Country. 

In closing – if you’d like to hear an incredible 20 minute testimony, in Roy LeCraw’s own words… you can find a link below. I think he’ll bless you with his wisdom, just like he’s done for me in many, many ways.

COL. Roy Lecraw

Roy LeCraw, in his own words, on Vimeo

Our backyard view of Eclipse 2017

I set up my GoPro and filmed some of the eclipse today. Unfortunately my battery died about 10 minutes after the totality. 

Regardless, I got enough footage to show how dark it got here in northeast Georgia. ​

I also slowed down the video during the totality, in hopes of being able to show how dark it actually got here. 

This was absolutely amazing. It was an incredibly memorable family day! I wish we could have a total eclipse three or four times a year!

C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on what fuels us

One of the great blessings of the modern day, in my opinion, is the fact that movies about Christianity have become en vogue.

I love taking my family… and anyone else who will go, to see one of the many movies about being a Christ follower, becoming a believer or the struggles Christians face. It’s such a pleasant change from the standard Hollywood efforts that contain too many “F words”, bad jokes and downright goofy story lines.

There’s quite a list of Christian movies, in case you’re not familiar, from makers like the Kendrick Brothers and Sherwood Pictures.

While I don’t pretend to be a movie critic, the Sherwood Pictures movies tend to be a little quirky, have lots of great actors and, at times, a few fill-ins who seem to be movie rookies. That’s usually because they are.

Sherwood Films is based in Albany, GA and has used sites and actors to make movies across the Southeastern US. Regardless of the occasional non-Hollywood critiques, the message in each of the films comes through, crystal clear. There’s lots more about the Kendrick Brothers efforts here.

Another one of the amazing productions is CS Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” It’s actually a Walt Disney Film and is an amazing production of CS Lewis’ installment in the Chronicles of Narnia series of 7 books. Maybe Disney will continue making the other 6 movies in the near future. Just a thought.

So I give you all of that background to get to this- if you’re not familiar with one of CS Lewis’ other efforts, “Mere Christianity“, you should be. It’s an amazing and incredibly thought provoking read… but probably isn’t the kind of book that will be struck for movie production anytime soon.

The reality is that Mere Christianity was actually a series of Lewis’ radio broadcasts from London during the 2nd World War. Only after the broadcasts were complete, and requests for the “script” of the audio kept streaming in, did anyone think about making a book out of the dialogue.

And oh what a book it is.

Quite frankly, I credit Mere Christianity, and my wife Amy, for bringing me to Christ. I won’t jump into my Testimony now, but that’s the truth. To that end, if you want to analyze the technical side of Christianity, with a book written by an atheist who had set out to disprove Christianity itself, then this is your read.

One of the great analogies that Lewis walks through is the idea that humans, in the world, must run on God, just like cars runs on “petrol”. In his words,

“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”

There’s lots more to the analogy than that, and it only gets more enlightening as you read on…

Lewis adds-

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could “be like gods”—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

…And that, my friends, is where we find ourselves today. We take the words, written by an atheist-turned-Christian writer, from over a half century ago… and we find that nothing could be more true in the present day. People, on too many occasions, don’t realize what the real human fuel actually is.

But the fuel is out there! If you feel like your tank is a little low today, God is right there, ready to not just fill your tank back up, but to keep it full. All you have to do is pray over it and ask, just like we’re told in Matthew 7:7-

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

May God bless you and yours, today and every day! He’s blessed me… and I certainly don’t deserve it.

We dropped our oldest child off at college today…

img_5332-119 years and 21 days ago, Our son Blake came into our lives. Today he started college. Whether you’ve had that experience or not, it’s a big step.

Here’s my take:

I cried a little the day before Blake graduated from high school. Today didn’t hit me as a cry day. It seems like there’s just too many amazing opportunities and too much excitement. It’ll definitely be adjustment time for all of us as this new normal sets in. For now, though, it’s nothing but grand life opportunities ahead.

I’ve wondered about whether he is ready for life. There’s still a lot of growing and learning left to do. I believe he’s ready for this step, though. I saw a glimpse of God telling me “he’s going to be alright” during a recent whitewater kayaking trip a few weeks ago.

When it comes to true whitewater, we’re both relative newbies. We decided to take our boats out late in the afternoon and make a run. It didn’t take long for me to roll my boat and have to get out in the middle of the river. It’s an eye opening experience to be in that position, trying to keep up with a kayak, a paddle, keep your head above water, all while working as hard as you can to get out of the current.

When I finally recovered… I looked around for Blake, who is an infinitely better paddler than I am.

I glanced down the river and finally saw him, about 100 yards away, in about the same condition as I had been. It hit me at that moment that there was literally nothing I could do to help him… he was on his own… with only our previous training and a life vest I bought him to help.

I pulled my boat out of the water… ran to the car and drove down river to try and catch him. I found him, only a few minutes later, pulling his kayak up from the river, looking like a wet rat, but smiling ear to ear. As we gathered up our gear and assessed bumps as bruises, it struck me, again, that Blake is going to be just fine.

We’ve done about all we can for him at this point. His Mom and I couldn’t be any more proud of the young man he’s become. All parents say that… none mean it more than we do.

We believe we’ve given him life preservers of all shapes and sizes… and we think he’s ready for most of the whitewater rapids that are downriver from here. He’ll probably hit a roller every now and then but that’s just life. He’ll be able to get to the shore and dry off if he needs to.

And that’s what we do for kids. We owe it to them to give them our best. I certainly got more than I deserved from my parents when I was trying to figure out this thing called life… and now we’ve pushed our first out, off the shore, and into the current.

It’s a push of Faith but we know God’s in control.

His room at home will be quiet for a while, and that’ll take some getting used to… but oh how sweet Thanksgiving will be this year!

We’ll have a college student home to visit! And off we go… to the next chapter.

A comment on our lifeboat…

So it’s times like these that people in the public arena can really make a name for themselves… one way or the other. Say too much and earn an ugly moniker that may never get outgrown. Don’t say enough and miss the opportunity to “be a leader.” In the end, they’re all just words that evaporate daily like the morning dew in late August.

It’s for both of those reasons that I’ll try to stay above the specifics of recent events, tragic and unfathomable as they are.

In the larger sense I think we need to consider the impact of events like those in recent days ultimately have on this lifeboat we call the United States of America.

First- the facts:

Total square miles in the USA? 3.8 million.

Total population in the USA? 323 Million… and growing.

As a matter of fact, the Census Bureau maintains a pretty cool clock of births, deaths and immigrations into the US Right Here. I have no idea how accurate it is, and I have a feeling they don’t, either, since the baseline is the census data last gathered almost 8 years ago.

Regardless- some of their assertions are:

One birth every 8 seconds

One death every 12 seconds

One international migrant (net) every 33 seconds

Net gain of one person every 12 seconds

So… our population is growing. No surprise, right? The point? Our geography isn’t changing. We’re all in this together… living in some portion of the inhabitable 3.8 million square miles of the US. As we grow and become more diverse (key point alert) we must become more respectful of diverging opinions. Must. It’s not complicated. If we don’t, we’ll… well let’s just leave it at “must”. It’s a mathematical fact… and I’m not much of a fan of math.

So… to tie those thoughts together, we need to realize, and admit, that we all have bias. It’s a result of our maturity process, or lack thereof in some cases, and the environment(s) we have been exposed to. None of our experiences have been the same and not many would want to go back and change anything, even if we could.

Add to this thought that most people are proud of who they have become. We believe strongly in our positions, probably never more so than here in the 21st Century where we do our best to prove it, sometimes through the amazing tool of social media. The result of these times and technology tools is the potential for a serious divergence of opinion on a nationwide scale. Overnight.

So what was it about the lifeboat thing? Bottom line is that we must exist together and somehow get past the things we perceive to be ugly and vile. Offended? Disagree? Hang on, I’ll explain.

The reality is that what you perceive to be unnerving, others may view as palatable. The things that “shake your inner being” may be open and acceptable to someone else. Truth.

No matter the issue, and I’m doing my best to not get specific, someone will inevitably view it as acceptable while someone else will disagree. Is that engaging in dis-unity or creating a lack of acceptance? Only if we let it and, believe it or not, some people and even industries thrive on that dis-unity for some very selfish and short-sighted reasons.

Unity, acceptance, diversity and all of the other buzz words that get tossed around must be used for everyone, that is, if they’re going to be used for anyone.

Why is that important? Because these United States are mine AND yours. If you think it’s ok to scream “F the Police” as a form of protest, then you and I are going to disagree.

I’m not a fan of that. No one in the circles I roll with (and my circle usually turns in earlier than we used to, btw) will, either. Am I going to light a torch or brandish some form of a weapon as a result of my disagreement with you? Nope. Will someone? Apparently. Then what? More protests?

-or-

Do we decide to agree to disagree, in the name of true respect, unity and acceptance?

If we do the latter, in short order, and respect the public discourse we can then get back to building infrastructure, molding our next generation, loving our kids, being good role models for them, reducing the national debt, solving world hunger, supporting good government, finding those who should be in elected office and generally just making our world a better place.

As for me and mine, I’m for building a better United States, leaving it better than I found it, helping it to become truly more accepting and just getting over the rest of it, all in the best interest of the Common Good

Here’s the deal, though, you have to do the same. It can’t cut just one way.

Lord knows we have bigger issues to resolve than finding another online or public comment to get mad about and light a torch or grab a can of spray paint.

If we don’t focus on the bigger issues, learn from our past, and ultimately move on, this lifeboat may start sinking, or worse, capsize.

And that’s One Man’s Opinion.

Yes… this was me… but I was just doing my job (and maybe having a little fun, too)…

The truth and reality is that I had no idea Jeff Haden was a thing. Turns out he writes about some neat stuff! 

Maybe you should follow his posts on Inc.Com

To that end, he had a good trip home not too long ago:

A little story about a Delta pilot doing what Delta pilots do…

By way of explanation… Jeff felt the need to “diss” (not a big fan of that word, but it fits) Delta a little. 

Reality is that when we’re at work, doing work things, the Company is actually very protective of the team. Jeff could have gotten my name on the day of the flight… and I’m not really hard to find after that… but since that didn’t happen… as they say, it just gets complicated. That’s the world we live in!

In the flying business, as well as business in general, here in the Information Age, you never know when the next “Insta-Post” may go virally negative, so protection of potentially sensitive info is the result. Regardless, it wasn’t long ago that little exchanges like the one Jeff wrote about were commonplace. As a matter of fact, I think they still are pretty regular… but we’ve all just gotten a little “too busy” to catch them when they happen. 

So… thanks for the visit and kind words, Jeff. All the best to you and yours. Hope to see you out on the road again soon.