Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Birthday Major Pain!




A big ole HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Major Bourland, one of Taylor's special buddy's. The Major is a true outstanding person, American and Marine.


Taylor first found the Major (then Cpt) on http://www.anysoldier.com/ while he was deployed. She followed his postings and checked every day to see if he had posted something new. Then she followed him on his website, http://www.onemarinesview.com/


Major B came to visit Taylor while she was inpatient at National Institute of Health in Bethesda. They formed quiet a friendship and he has been there for Taylor every step of the way since they met.


This summer, she was able to surprise him as he stepped off an airplane for a fundraising ride in MO for anysoldier.com


Major B's birthday is tomorrow, 12-23, and Taylor wanted to be sure to give him an outstanding OOHRAH and to wish him good luck, as he volunteered to head back to the big sand box yet again.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAJOR B

MERRY CHRISTMAS


Tis the season to be jolly....... We are so blessed and have so much to be thankful for.


We would like to take this time to thank all of you that have been a part of Taylor's life in one way or the other. Maybe you just read her blog and send her letters of encouragement. Maybe you have helped her out in her many fund raising missions for Toys for Tots, Hope For the Warriors or when she collected for http://www.anysoldier.com/ Maybe you have helped her with her funding in sending care packages.


Maybe you are one of the MANY military personal who have made sure to step into Taylor's life and make a difference for her.


Maybe you send prayers along her way when she is in dire need of them.


We love each and every one of you for being in Taylor's life, however it may be. YOU make the difference for her and give her the strength and courage she needs to keep going strong how she does.


Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What can I do?

"What can I do?" Taylor thought that was a funny question the other day when someone asked her that about supporting the troops. I guess now that she is 'seasoned' she just assumes that everyone else should be.

Taylor's answer is the same as always, go to www.anysoldier.com Get a contact and send a letter or care package. Donate to anysoldier.com so that they may continue being the wonderful outlet they are, not only to the troops, but to us back at home needing to do our part.

Go to www.hopeforthewarriors.org and donate to the wounded. The wounded, so many people think only of those that are deployed. Ever stop to think of how life is for a wounded warrior once they come home? We didn't until we actually met up with them when we were in Washington and then at the Wounded Warrior Barracks.

Get in contact with a hospital and find out how you can send support to these guys, they need it!

How about your local veterans home? Or veterans hospital....THANK A VETERAN!!!!

"What can I do?" There is plenty that you can do Taylor says! Time to get on it and do it, and that is an order from the Gunny!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Power in a picture


Taylor has seen this picture before and since the day she saw it a few years back, it has always stuck with her. I have to admit myself, not just the first time but every time I see it, it makes me cry. So, Taylor was talking about her new mission on getting WW11 veterans stories told and archived and she brought this picture up again. I told her I would try to find it for her because she wanted to put it on her blog.
So many emotions in two different faces. So many emotions only they and those that have served will ever know the true meaning of.....

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What makes Taylor smile?

Taylor had to go to University of Michigan for her heart check up. This is always a stressful time leading up to this, as we know that one of these times, the words 'surgery time is here' is going to be said.

Taylor takes it in stride, but she worries about it. The day before we were to go, she got a phone call. What makes Taylor smile big and hold that smile for days? I will tell you, a special phone call from some special guys at the Wounded Warrior Barracks.

That call came at right exact right time. All of Taylor's fears and worries left as soon as she hung up that phone. She was once again, that standing tall tough as nails Gunny.

I had heard her ask CWO Hedgcorth 'how are the boys doing' She then asked him if he was keeping them in line. I don't know what he said to her, but she said something along the lines of 'roger that, they don't want ME coming down there to straighten 'em out now do they?' Mind you, she is dead serious!!! LOL

She talked with MSgt. Barnes for a bit and I know, she was dying to be right back at Camp Lejeune.

By that one phone call, they once again gave Taylor a gift. One that could never be bought in any store, for this gift is priceless. They reinforced for her how to be brave, how to be strong, how to face your fears head on.

After the appointments were over, she completely shocked us by saying that had the doctors said she had to have her surgery now, she would be ready. Here was this tiny little thing walking down the hall, wishing she could take it to her enemy, for she was ready. How is that for a Warrior?

Things went well at U of M. There has been some changes, but not enough for us to even talk surgery yet, that will wait for another day. Another day to us is a wonderful thing, for it will be one more day of technology on Taylor's side.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Meeting up with a friend



Taylor was blessed with yet another great day, spending with one of our finest, Cpl. Andy M.

If some of you will remember, he is the very resourceful Marine that read about Taylor on Major B's blog, found out she was going to be inpatient at the National Institute of Health and then tracked us down and called me and wanted to come visit her. Not only did he come, but he brought along close to a dozen of Marines in their Blues while she was in the hospital. Now I say resourceful because he called me on my cell phone. When he called, we talked for a few minutes and then I realized he was calling me on my cell.........HOW did he get that number?

He read about the great PGR that escorted Taylor and I from the airport right to the hospital, he called up Miss Katybug and talked to her for a bit and convinced her he was one of the good guys and got my number that way. So, he had to do some leg work to even find us, then gave a priceless gift to Taylor that day all those fine looking men filed into her room and then all stood and saluted Taylor.

Today, Andy gave her another gift. He has left Washington's 8th and I and is going to CA now. He has a small amount of time to be home before he heads out west and he and his brother gave up their afternoon and spent it with us. He, just like all of Taylor's other military pals, has stepped up and over a bit to let her know he appreciates what she does.

Taylor doesn't understand it, because she feels she does nothing special, she just does what is right in her heart. How can she not do right when she has such a wonderful example to lead in all of our military that have reached out to her?

We are so appreciative and so incredibly thankful and so blessed to have had a great inspiring afternoon as today.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy Birthday Lt. Col. Bell



Today is Lt. Col. "Taco" Bell's birthday. He is a pilot.

Happy Birthday Marine,

Semper Fi,

GySgt. Taylor B

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Benefit for our family






The Ladies Auxiliary from the VFW in Kalamazoo heard of Kevin's illness and knew he would be off of work for a long time. They have known of Taylor and all she does for the military and when they found out that we had to stop sending packages until Kevin can get back to work, they decided to have a fund raising benefit for our family.

It was very humbling to say the least, but we were very grateful. It was a nice evening with karaoke(not sure if I spelled that right) There were some patriotic songs sung, some in Taylor's honor. Then, Taylor jumped up on the stage and sang her little heart out to the song Proud to be an American. Everyone stood for her while she sang, and several of the veterans that were there, well, they walked to the other side of the VFW because they were left in tears from her heartfelt song. Later on, she got her brother Tanner up and they sang together Toby Keith's Red White and Blue.

Tanner even got up and danced with Ashley!!! The kid has never even danced with his momma! LOL

We are so thankful for those that came out to help us, many didn't even know us, they just heard of Taylor's story and came out to help. THANK YOU for being there for us!


Veteran Appreciation Dinner


Our town of Mendon held a dinner for the Veterans and Taylor was invited. It was a wonderful evening and an eye opener for us, we didn't know we had that many veterans around us! Taylor was in awe of the men she sat with. It also gave her more incentive for her project of getting the veterans stories told and chronicled.

We had the pleasure of listening to Cpl. Cugliotta talk of his time in Iraq. Taylor wished like heck that our media would listen to people like him, or Major B or any of the guys that are serving in Iraq now and can SEE the difference being made. Cpl. Cugliotta talked of how from his first tour to his second tour, a huge difference was made. When he first was over there, the streets were literally a bloody mess, no markets open....nothing. On his second tour, the same place, markets were opened, children were playing. He spoke of many things, many things you will NEVER see on our TV's because the mess of Britney Spears is so much more important.

It was a great evening and one that Taylor was very honored to have been invited to.


Meeting Sam


For Veterans Day, we went to the Kalamazoo ceremony. It was very cold and very windy, but there was a good turnout.

We made sure to walk around and shake the hands of the Veterans, and to thank them for their service. We came upon a very old man. His face was wrinkled and told of his age, but when we shook his hand, his grip was firm and his eyes were so young looking. When we thanked him for his service, his eyes watered and he said that he had a hard time remembering anything anymore, but he knows what he did was worth it. While he may not have remembered in his head what he did, by how his eyes shined and how proud he was to wear his veterans hat, we know his soul remembers. We were very blessed that day to meet WW11 Sam Poland.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blue Star Mothers





Saturday, Nov 10th, what a special day. We were invited to a Blue Star Mothers Support the Troops Day. This chapter, has held several drives for supplies and today was the day they were going to be packing them up.

It was also the day that 3 Blue Star families were being presented to Gold Star families. Two of these families we know. Taylor was asked to be part of the presentation and she was more then honored. The first family we know, because of their son's deep love for his country and ultimately his supreme sacrifice, that we were brought to the Patriot Guard Riders. The family of Gabriel DeRoo, who we will always hold close in our hearts was the first family.

The other family was of Louis Costillo. At this young man's service, Taylor had the honor of presenting the Patriot Guard Riders plaque of appreciation to his family. Very very hard thing to do, but she was strong and brave as she did.

This was an emotional day, but an extremely gratifying day. There were hundreds of very big boxes packed full going out to our troops over seas and we were there helping, together as a family.

Veterans Day at Dad's work



On Friday, Nov. 9th, Taylor's dad's work, American Axle, had their flag ceremony for Veterans Day. They do a first shift ceremony and a second shift ceremony. We were able to make sure that Taylor was there for the second ceremony.

She stood the line, small as she is, next to some of our country's greatest generation. They did the firing squad, and I am fairly certain that protocol was broken in letting Taylor stand with them as they did so.......but they let her have the honor of being with them.

Taylor's dad is recovering very well from his heart surgery. It has been a long hard ordeal for us as a family, but I am very proud as I type this, Taylor troopered on through all this and I got her report card, all A's and B's!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Seeing the cost of war up close

It was brought to my attention that the story of Taylor visiting the National Naval Medical Center is not on the blog. I have been meaning to do this now for awhile, but with Kevin being down and out, I just haven't had the time.

Good news, Kevin did have his open heart surgery on Monday, Oct 8th *one year to the date that Taylor was sworn in as the mighty Marine she is, so we figured this was a good omen* and Kevin is doing wonderful! He will probably even be able to come home on Sunday. We are so proud of how strong Taylor's dad has been through this, and how brave he has been. He says it is because of the courage of Taylor.

Last Oct. Taylor had to go to the National Institute of Health for a weeks worth of medical testing. Word got out by a retired Gunny of her and that she was going to be in the DC area. He got in contact with the National Naval Medical Center and I got a phone call from a SSgt. wanting to know if there was a way that Taylor could get into the hospital to visit our wounded heroes. HECK YEAH was Taylor's answer to that.

I had talked with Taylor ahead of time about going there, as I was told flat out that she would be witnessing some heavy duty things. She assured me she wanted to go, she wanted to encourage her guys to get well.

We got to the NNMC and as we were ushered into an office, Marines just swarmed Taylor. All shaking her hand, teasing her and treating her just like one of the guys. I immediately felt at ease with these guys. I was pulled aside by a Lt. Col. who wanted to talk to me a bit, he was concerned about how Taylor was going to actually handle what she was going to see. That was the first time I started to feel a bit nervous and after him explaining to me just how badly some of these guys were torn up, there was a slight twinge in me wondering if I was doing the wrong thing. I glanced at Taylor and she was this tiny little thing in the middle of all these big bad Marines, but she was standing tall and holding her ground.

We went up the floor and there was a slight buzz going on with her being there. There was one young man that had heard Taylor was coming and he just had surgery. His roommate was not doing well, so he had his dad get him into a wheelchair to bring him out to the hall to meet her. I was taken back, and on the verge of tears of this. This young man grimaced in pain sitting in that wheelchair, but he did so, so that he may meet my daughter. Amazing.

We were all standing around and I looked around and I didn't see Taylor. I asked where she was and they told me that they had taken her into a room already. I really wanted to be in there with her, because I just didn't know what she was going to see. I walked into the room and and what I saw made my heart go right to my throat. I started screaming in my head to get my daughter out of there. That is, until my mind really comprehended what my eyes were seeing and most importantly, what Taylor was doing.

The very first room Taylor was taken into, was of a young man who suffered a gun shot wound to the head. There is no mistaking what his injury was. I was overcome and started to cry. You can hear about wounds, you can hear about the guys coming back hurt, but unless you actually see it for yourself, you have NO idea. As an adult, I was trying to take it in and I was trying so hard to not leave the room. I looked at Taylor and she was standing right beside the head of the bed. This young man couldn't talk and he even had a hard time with his eyes focusing in on one area.

Taylor was talking TO him, not AT him. She stood there, looking at him, not in fear of what was in front of her. She stood there with pure compassion for one of her fellow Marines, one of her fellow Americans. She talked to him, and while he could not talk, he made sounds. Taylor would wait until he was done making those sounds, and she then would talk to him again. This went on for a few minutes, and as she got ready to leave, she went to shake his hand not realizing he had no control. She held out her hand, then looked down at his hand knowing he couldn't raise it up. She took her other hand and brought his hand up to hers, and then she placed her tiny little hand around his and held it. She laid it back down and rubbed the top of his hand, and as she walked by his legs, she stopped. She turned around, put her hand on his leg and looked at his face and said very clearly, very Marine like, 'Don't give up, don't ever give up' The room was completely silent and by now, I couldn't contain my tears. I had just witnessed something I can't ever describe to do justice to it. As she walked by me and headed out the door, I looked and saw that there behind me, were a whole bunch of Marines that had bottlenecked into the doorway and hall and I can say, I was not the only one that had tears free flowing.

Taylor went from room to room like that. She saw men that had no eyes, no noses, gapping holes. She saw up close and first hand what war costs to the human body. She never once looked away from these men, she was never afraid to talk to anyone. She stood there as tall as she could stand, and talked to these wounded Warriors with pure admiration.

She went into a room of an amputee. I could feel the unease in the room. I don't think he wanted us in there and I can't say that I didn't blame him. He was polite to Taylor, but in a very distant way and in a way to make his displeasure known. He was pretty straight forward with her. I am not sure what made him do it, but all of the sudden, he threw back the covers and lifted what very little was left of his leg. I got upset, as this is the one thing Taylor told me she didn't want to see. The man stared at his leg, then stared at Taylor. I can't say what he was thinking, but his face was speaking clearly. He was angry. Taylor stood there for a few seconds looking at it, then looked up at him and just as defiant as he was being with her, she said to him, 'well you know what? It could have been a heck of a lot worse'. I was ready to throw up and thought to myself.........this is NOT good. He glared at Taylor and then, then.....he broke out into the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. It filled his whole face, heck, it filled the whole room! He said to her in a completely different tone he had been using, 'You know what little lady? You are right, it could have been a heck of a lot worse'. Again, there is just no words to ever describe the feeling. When we walked out of the room, I was told that was one of the few times that young man had smiled. As we walked by the door, she looked back and he was still smiling. She stopped and sent of a perfectly executed salute to him, and he did the same back. AMAZING!

That day, my daughter was shown the horrors of war. The cost of it to the body, to the soul. These guys however, also showed my daughter how strong the body and soul are, no matter what they are faced with. They never treated her like a sick child, she never treated them like a wounded being, they treated her as a person and she looked past and beyond their wounds and saw them as what they are......people. Living, breathing, hurting but strong beings.

There was a young man being presented the Purple Heart and the Commander of the hospital asked that Taylor be present for it. I couldn't believe it. I stayed out of the room as I felt I was intruding. This young man earned the Purple Heart and his family and the people close to him needed to be there for that, not squeezed around because I was in there. As the Commander was presenting the Purple Heart, he spoke of what it meant and what this young man had done and he had Taylor standing right next to him and the young man. He spoke to Taylor of this young man, so she knew of just what exactly it means. He then gave the man his Purple Heart. He then turned to the young man and explained to him about Taylor and her courage. He spoke of things she had done and things she had been through and then he presented her with the National Naval Medical Center coin. Only it wasn't the little one, it was HUGE. The young man shook Taylor's hand and told her it was a great honor to have her there and an even greater honor to be able to witness her presentation.

When she got out into the hall way, she was mobbed by all these guys wanting to see her huge coin. They were all jealous of her and a few tried to bribe her to get it!!!! haha

All of the guys that were involved in her tour and getting her around, at the end of the visit, presented her with an extremely large matted and frame picture of the hospital. Each of the guys had signed the mat and wrote little notes to her on it. It is a priceless gift and one that hangs in her room and she is so proud to show it off to all the come visit. These guys were the best and I am so thankful for them.

That day, once again, Taylor grew stronger and she became more determined to help out in any way that she can and will continue to do so.

I might also mention, that this is the day that she got to meet Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell, the one that had her come down to Camp Lejeune to spend with the Wounded Warriors.

I have tried to figure out how to get the pictures on here from the photobucket site, but when I put them on, they are huge and I can't get them smaller. If you go to the links on the right hand side and click on Taylor's photo's, it will take you to her pics and these ones are the last few pages I believe.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kevin is sick, Military Appreciation




Very sorry about not keeping up here for a bit. On Sept. 6th, Taylor's dad got admitted to the hospital and was there for 2 weeks. He is home now, on IV antibiotics and will have some major heart surgery on Oct. 8th.

Kevin was sick all summer long and come to find out, he got an infection in his blood from going to the dentist and having a routine cleaning and then the infection attacked his heart. He was extremely sick and not doing well at all. Our little Gunny took it pretty hard. She unfortunately understands all this stuff all to well and it hit her hard. She was extremely happy to have him come home.

Kevin is doing better now and once we get over this huge obstacle that has been placed in front of us, we will get back on track.

Taylor was down for a bit, but she didn't let this stop her mission. Once her dad was out of the hospital, she had us go to a school board meeting with her where she stood in front of the board members and said she had noticed that there were tons of trophy's for sports and other things, but no mention of any of her school's alumni that have served in the Armed Forces. She wants that changed.

Taylor wants a plaque to honor those that have gone to her school, past, present and future that are serving our great country. She is also trying to secure a flag that was flown in over the capital in Washington and then once her dad recovers from his surgery and is well enough, we will go to a ball game and during half time, have a presentation of the plaque and the flag. She would like this to be a Military Appreciation Night and all those that have served be admitted free.

During our last football game, she set up a little booth and did a fund raising for the plaque and I have to say, she did quiet well. We were only there up until half time and then had to leave because her dad wasn't feeling well, so we are going to give it a try at the next game.


Monday, September 3, 2007

Just a little down and out

Well, my little Gunny is a bit down and out. My mom's birthday was yesterday and it was a hard day. Taylor really misses her Gram's and today she shed many tears over it. Doesn't help that she hasn't been feeling the best lately. Her chronic fatigue has shown it's head for a little bit now and she has been really tired and not much energy. Right now, she is getting her facial swelling as well.

School starts tomorrow and she is very excited about it. I on the other hand, dread it! It means that she won't be getting the rest her body demands and she will be under more pressure. She of course takes it all in stride and does her best and then some. Never wants to quit and give up, always pushing to do better and to try to stay with the other kids. I so admire her for that. To her, she doesn't realize she is even struggling at times because it has always been like this, so it just feels natural to her.

I am sure the next couple of weeks she is going to be exhausted, but you know, she will have that million dollar smile on her face no matter what.

Next week we go to the Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids for a check up. I always HATE having to go in, in fact, I always dread when we have to see a specialist. We never know what the latest is we are going to find out. But, I always hold onto the fact that she is HERE and that she has beaten the odds her whole life.....

Friday, August 31, 2007

Taylor's new mission

I am proud to announce Taylor has given herself a new mission, but one that will require help from all.

When I posted about Taylor meeting with Floyd, I was almost immediately contacted by Bill (the wonderful Marine who has made Taylor her great plaques). He knows a man who does archiving for the Library of Congress on our veterans. He put me in contact with his friend and through that......Taylor's new mission was born.

Taylor and I kept talking about what a great honor Floyd had given her not only in being her friend, but in talking to her about his time on Iwo Jima and giving her his book he wrote. We talked about his age and how many of our WW11 veterans are leaving us at a rapid rate and it will only be a matter of time before this great generation is gone and there will be no more first hand accounts.

So, here is Taylor's new mission.........
She wants to contact as many WW11 veterans as possible, to make sure their stories are told and then preserved. http://www.loc.gov/vets/vets-home.html Please, check this site out and if you know of any WW11 vets, do all you can do to make sure their stories are told. Taylor will do her part, and we put out the challenge to you all to do your part in this as well.

We have been in contact with the man that does the archiving in our area and we are very excited in helping Taylor out on this new mission she has decided she wants to take on.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Family and Friends Supporting Our Military



We went to a dinner last night for the families who have those serving to show support. Taylor and I went and she brought along a special guest, Cpl Floyd Holes, the Iwo Jima veteran.

When we walked in, 2 smart looking Army guys came right over to Taylor and said they had someone they wanted her to meet (she of course was in uniform!) They whisked her away and she hob knobbed with a Brig. General. She was pretty excited about that! As the ceremony started, the man in charge said he had a few people that he wanted to talk about. He introduced a handful of WW11 veterans. When he talked about Floyd (we had pulled the man aside earlier and told him about Floyd) and said he fought at Iwo Jima and was there for the flag raisings, you could hear the crowd of 120+ gasp. Floyd had such a wonderful smile as they all stood and clapped for him. Well, I would have been teary eyed anyways, but given the fact that he is one of Taylor's new friends and he was there with us.....water works time!

Next, the head speaker talked about Taylor and it was really unexpected because I don't know how they knew about her! To our backside was the head table and there were some very high ranking Army guys there and she got hugs from them. There was a state Senator there as well as a representative of the Purple Heart order who gave a very emotional speech.

THEN, the Brig. General got up and asked Floyd's wife Millie to stand (we had told them she was an Army cadet nurse) Millie looked so shocked! The General wanted to point her out specifically saying that it was women like Millie that paved the way for women today and that these women from back in the day just never got the recognition they deserve. Floyd just sat there, smiling and looking so lovingly at his wife of 60 years, he then reached up and held her hand as she was standing......ok....water works again! I am not sure if Millie has ever been recognized for what she did or not. It was such a wonderful thing to be a part of, and when we got home, Taylor said 'I am so glad we took Floyd and his wife'. I am to.......

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Honoring a Civil War veteran




Today we went to a service dedicated to a local Civil War veteran, Private Daniel Rose.

He was born May 28th, 1843 and died on June 18, 1929 in an unmarked grave at our local cemetery. Today, his service was conducted by the March to the Sea Camp #135. Daniel was given a proper service, as well as a beautiful head stone.

Daniel was 'mustered' into service at Camp Tilden in White Pigeon, MI as a Private in Company A of the Eleventh Michigan Infantry on August 24, 1861 for a 3 year enlistment. He served through General Sherman's "March to the Sea" campaign. He was wounded in Murfreesboro, TN but continued to serve for his entire enlistment.

The rigors of Daniel's campaigns with the Eleventh Michigan Infantry impaired his health for the rest of his life. In spite of this, after his enlistment was over, he graduated from the Louisville Medical College and served with the rank of Major in the Volunteer Medical Service Corps during WW1.

In digging through records on Daniel's life, an incredible find was made in that someone somewhere found a bundle FULL of letters AND pictures Daniel had written to home. He wrote home as often as he could to his mother and one letter even had a picture of John Wilkes Booth in it. He wrote to his mother of going to a theatre and seeing this actor and he wanted his mother to see him. Not realizing he had met and shook hands with the man that would soon take the life of our great President Lincoln.

I believe we will be going to the college that holds all this precious history. It was so interesting. As we stood in the very old section of the cemetery, with many markers with deaths recorded around the early 1800's it dawned on us, just how many of our veterans lay unmarked? How many lay and are unnamed?

Taylor was sure to go to the Civil War enactors and thanked them for preserving our history how they do, then walked to VFW veteran's and thanked them as well. They all just beamed in telling her it was of great honor they did what they did. So amazing.

(pictures to come once I figure out the mess Kodak made of my software and pictures)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Iwo Jima Veteran, a real American Hero



Taylor got the true blessing of being able to sit down and talk to an Iwo Jima veteran, Mr. Floyd Holes.

I can't even begin to say enough wonderful things about this man and his wife, Millie, who opened up their home for us to come in and visit and shared some home made lemonade and let Taylor hear some stories of Iwo Jima.

Floyd was a communicator for the 28th Marines 5th Division and as we asked questions, he never once hesitated or faltered in just what he had or wanted to say. It was as if things happened yesterday and he was very clear. He has some very strong feelings and he shared those along with some of his personal experiences.

He was on the island for 33 hard days of fighting, he came in on the 9th wave of the attack. He got a bit quiet when he talked about coming in on the beach, and Taylor and I understood perfectly why and at that time, asked no questions.....none needed to be asked for that.

Floyd was standing right there as they raised the first flag and was still there doing his work when they came up and took it down and raised the infamous 2nd flag. He is actually standing just outside of the photo. It is felt that he is the last living Marine that was standing right there for both flag raisings. He kind of laughed when he talked about the flag raisings. He said the 1st one didn't cause much of a stir, but once the 2nd one went up, the Japanese put up a small protest as he called it. He got a bit quiet when he said, we then of course put a stop to that.

He could recall people's names without hesitation, those he stood by, those he talked to, those he was friends with, those that were lost. He spoke with true conviction on the taking of Mt. Suribachi in saying that had the Marines not taken control of that, the atomic bomb would not have gone off when it did and that the Japanese would have come in and attacked America and we would have been under Japanese rule. He talked a bit about the atomic bomb and its devastation. Floyd looked right at Taylor and told her that while the atomic bomb killed thousands and thousands, it saved probably millions.

He felt that the communicators had a very important job and a very important role in how things played out. Behind every decision that was made by a General, it was up to a communicator to make sure that the decision got sent out in code properly and to where it needed to go. He laughed about how they had to do things back then compared to now. He just shook his head when he spoke of the vast difference in how communication is now from them.

He spoke of his brothers and his mother and how hard it had to be for her. All 3 of them were off in different battles and there was no way to get word back how there is today. One brother fought at Guadalcanal, the other brother fought with McArthur and he at Iwo Jima. Floyd spoke so lovingly of his brothers and of his Marine comrades. He had a few things to say about the people they had to fight and how feelings were back then and how they are still there today.

He sat down and painstakingly wrote a book about his time at Iwo and what happened before and after, it is called The Iwo Jima Communicators and he gave Taylor a copy of it and signed it. In it, there are many many pictures. Sitting there looking through the pictures with him almost seemed surreal. Here we were sitting with one of our nations greatest, listening AND looking at our American history.

There was on moment that I think will always stand out in my head. Taylor and Floyd were sitting right next to each other and she asked him how long he was in the Marines for. He told her proudly 3 1/2 years, they were hard fighting times, but ones he would never give up. She then asked him what his rank was. Before he answered, he asked what hers was and when she said GySgt, he sat up tall and got this huge smile on his face. He then told her he was a PFC up until the day he got out, and that day he finally got his promotion. He and Taylor looked at each other and just laughed. It was something I guess that only those 2 understood, and it was a moment that was just between those 2. She leaned into him and he put his arm around her and gave her a good squeeze, both of them smiling. To see someone so young and someone so old, but they had an understanding between them and it was just a really neat and precious moment.

When he got back, he got sick and had TB, he believes from a prisoner of war. He spent a whole year in the hospital. He then taught the communication code and said still to this day, he can be somewhere and he will hear a certain sound or tone, and his fingers literally start to move as if he were doing code again.

He went back there for the 5oth anniversary and talked about how that was.

Other things were talked about and Taylor got a real history lesson, one that would never be taught nor learned in a classroom, but most of all she gained a new precious friend. We are making plans to go out for dinner.

Amazingly enough, we found out that yet another Iwo veteran lives maybe 20 minutes from us and we have been in contact with him and he is very excited about meeting Taylor. Floyd was a communicator and a few times had to be infantry and fight, but I believe that our next meeting with the other veteran will be a different type of story. But, I will tell about that after we meet.

I have pictures of Taylor and Floyd and will get them on her and in her photobucket once I can figure out what upgrading my Kodak software did. It has gone through and erased almost all of my pictures on the computer and did a funky set up thing that even the Kodak people can't really help with. So, once I can get that worked out I will get the pictures up.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More Grampy shaving.......






USMC TOYS FOR TOTS






Last weekend we went to a Toys for Tots motorcycle run and it was a blast. The weather was just right and there were many bikes out that day, showing their support for Toys for Tots. We even managed to get a picture of 'Santa' from behind so you all can see what he looks like in the summer!!!!

Taylor and Tanner went around the parking lot and inside the American Legion asking for donations to shave Grumpy. They were able to collect $219 in doing this and let me tell you, they had so much fun shaving Grumpy, or Grampy as Taylor calls him. Tanner did a checker board on the back of his head and Taylor did lines in his beard and mustache. Very funny!

Taylor got a 'smoky hat' given to her while there, we just need to work on getting it back into shape. In the picture, it is pretty funny to see it bent out of shape and she was trying to be all GUNNY in it!

We sent in the checks that Taylor has been collecting and I am proud to say that all in all, Taylor was able to raise more then $2000 to send to Hope For the Warriors and $500 to her beloved http://www.anysoldier.com/ If there is anyone out there that would like to still donate, you can do so! These two fabulous organizations will always need the money and will always need help. Supporting our troops while deployed and supporting them should they come back wounded, it is the best feeling knowing you are making a difference for them........help out if and when you can!!!!

Because of last year's success in the blanket drive for the troops, we are in the process of looking up manufactures of blankets and sheets and contacting them directly and asking for donations of sheets and blankets and pillow cases. If anyone can help in giving us a name, number or website to go to, please please help us!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

B-17 Bomber






Today was an exceptional day to say the least. The the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, they had a B-17 come in. (Several years back, they also had a B-52 come in as well)

Taylor and I hopped in the van and I sped the whole way, praying for no police. We got to the tarmac just in time to see the B-17 come into view and then touch down right in front of us! Talk about a glorious site and sound...knowing we were looking at history. Come to find out, there are now only 9 of these beautiful birds flight worthy.

Taylor stood there just so excited. The bomber taxied down and then came back to where we were standing. The airport is undergoing some sort of major renovations out on their runways and from the main runway to where the plane had to come was a MAJOR swatch of dirt. We watched her slowly inch up to the dirt and then stop. We heard her engines rev up and she moved a tiny bit, but then nothing. Seems that the dirt was more then just dirt, it was soft and the plane actually started to settle down into the dirt. So, they shut down all four engines and brought out one of those plane mover thingies. They got it all hooked up and it tried to pull it out and it couldn't. Pretty soon, we saw on of the big pieces of equipment they were using out for excavating come hook on and pulled it out.

They pulled it right by Taylor and we saw her name, Yankee Lady. So shiny, so beautiful. Pretty soon the doors opened and all these men poured out of her. They unloaded some stuff from her and then opened up her bomb doors and that is when Taylor got really excited! Now mind you, this child sits and watches the Military Channel all the time, and she has a special interest in these type of flying craft, so she is telling me what is what. A couple of the guys noticed her almost trying to melt through the fence and told her to come on aro...................before they could finish the word around, Taylor was through those gate doors and headed up to the Yankee Lady's nose.

They told her that they had a special group of guys coming in to see this plane. Special group? Try several chartered buses FULL of WW11 Veterans! We stood in complete AWE as we were soon completely surrounded by real American Heroes. This was a huge reunion of The Mighty Eighth. Taylor climbed on up into that plane and I followed her. Talk about transforming you right away to a whole different time and era, it was a weird feeling. Taylor even turned around and asked me 'Do you feel it?' Now, neither her nor I know what we felt, but we both know we felt it. There were veteran's in front of her and behind us so we sort of hurried through the plane. Talk about a tight squeeze!

We got out and we just talked with the guys that flew in on the plane and we stood around and listened to the rest of the guys talk to each other. Many came up and talked with Taylor, but it was more of a 'HI how are you doing sweetie' type of thing, they just didn't realize Taylor isn't your typical girl. Pretty soon, one of the guys told her to go back up in the plane and we soon found out why. Sitting up in there was a pilot, one that flew these very planes. He took the time to show Taylor what was what and what did what. It was so fascinating. Taylor stood there soaking it all up, to much in awe to really say much. Then, a really old man came climbing up behind us and he sat down, he kind of looked around. The whole time he was looking around, his face was changing. All of the sudden, he just sobbed. I am talking a gut wrenching sob. Even writing this now, I am crying just thinking about it. He tried to talk, but the words just didn't come out. Taylor and I stood back as far as we could (which was only about another inch from where we were!) He got himself composed as best he could, and he started talking. There were obviously only a few of us there, but it was like he wasn't talking to anyone in particular. This was the first time he had been back in one of these since his last mission.

He said 'Oh God, the memories, the memories' He started to almost caress the metal of the plane, he ran his fingers over the small window opening where he was at. He stood up and looked out the dome above us. He then said something unexpected, 'I have missed this so'. This whole time he was crying, I thought he was crying over painful memories. He wasn't, he was crying because he loved what he did so much, he was so proud of what he had done and he really missed it. It was such an overwhelming powerful moment.

Well, by then, a few more people were trying to peek up from below so Taylor and I moved to the back to let those that really belonged there have their time. We were able to go more slowly through this time and Taylor was able to really check things out. All I heard from her over and over again was....'this IS COOL'.

We got outside and an old man walked up to us. He told us that on his 17th mission, as they were leaving (and I don't know where he said they were leaving from, understandably he was a bit hard to understand) they had a 'minor' mid air collision. Minor midair collision? Is there such a thing as minor? LOL He said they were able to keep going on, but the other plane fell. Again, minor?! He said it was a 'one way' mission and they knew it. Both Taylor and my eyes were just glued to him, holy cow! He said they got near Russia and they were shot down. He told us his squadron had 80% loss. He looked back up at the plane and then he just shook Taylor's hand and walked away. I wanted to run after him yelling WAIT WAIT TELL US MORE, but I figured, he told us what he had to and that was that.

We knew the plane was getting ready to go out for a fly, so Taylor called up her dad and told him he HAD to come watch this. So, Dad and Tanner said they would come. They were lucky, they made it just in time to see the Yankee Lady pull out and take off. They fired up the engines and it sat there for a good 15 minutes just running. Everyone was so quiet, just taking in this amazing machinery in front of us. I looked through the front glass (I am not Taylor, I don't know the proper names to things!) And I will be darned if there wasn't one of those WW11 veterans sitting in there! Then I looked up to the top dome and there was another, standing up and looking out! Taylor and I talked about how excited those men must have been. They were able to be in 'their element', they were home again so to speak.
There was no way they were going to get stuck this time and there was no way they were going to accept a pull out, they told us they were 'going for it'. They told everyone to stand back because dirt was going to be flying.....they reved up those engines and just shot right over the dirt!

We got to watch her take off. It is amazing when you are at this big airport and the whole time you are standing out there with a WW11 bomber, you are right next to a run way that has commercial airliners taking off and landing. These things are so powerful and so loud and so dang fast. The Yankee Lady had a sound all her own. She slowly rolled out and it looked like a turtle pace compared to the big liners. She slowly left the runway and just glided into the sky.

We sat and talked with one of the crew for a bit until we got to watch the Yankee Lady come gliding back down just as smooth and slowly as she took off. Taylor kept saying how neat it would have been to hear and see a whole bunch of them together and flying in formation. He told us that after his last mission, when he came down into where he landed, there were 100 and 100's of those planes, all being scrapped. What a complete shame.

When they taxied in, they decided to go off to another place because they did not want to go through the dreaded dirt again, they said that the plane did NOT like it. So what was really cool was, when we got to where it was, we basically had the whole plane to ourselves and Taylor was able to go up with her Dad and brother.

I have pictures on her photobucket site. What a COOL day to have! We spent darn near close to 5 hours there and wish we could have had more.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Under the weather a bit

My little Gunny is under the weather a bit. She is down and from past history, it will be a slow couple of days before she starts to rebound. If not, we have to call in the Dr. for help. She is going through the one thing that is a mystery and out of all the doctors we have seen her whole life, we can't get any type of answer for this......
Taylor will get really tired and have no energy. She then will start to get pale and her face will swell up. Especially around her eyes.

This is what is going on now. Sometimes she will get put on antibiotics for it and sometimes not. The antibiotics are a whole scary story for us. Taylor has basically been on antibiotics her whole life it seems. I am not talking a dose here and there, it is sometimes for months at a time. Or, be on one and as soon as the dosing is done, she does well for a few weeks and then the same thing is back again, so she has to be put back on. There are many of the antibiotics that simply do not work with her any longer as her system has gotten immune to them. This is actually a tad bit alarming and very scary for us. She is only 13 and already immune to several antibiotics. Antibiotics that she might need in the future for her heart condition. We have had to go up to some pretty big guns so to speak to help her out.

Her whole system at times takes such a hit and has been damaged. As a mom, I wish I had that magic wand that I could just pull over her and it could tell me exactly what is wrong and the exact thing we need to do for it. I see her so tired, I see her so incredibly white and I see her face swell and it makes me sad because I know it is going to be weeks for her to feel normal again.

On a good note though, contact has been made with BOTH of the Iwo Jima veterans and we will hopefully be getting together very soon. Maybe this will give Taylor that little extra umph she needs to start feeling better.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

HONOR COURAGE AND COMMITMENT


Taylor read this story online, she smiled and said 'that is Honor, Courage and Commitment' She told me to remind her of this story when she was 'whining' about something. (I don't know what she meant, this little Gunny doesn't whine much about anything anymore!)

Cpl. re-enlists right after bomb shatters legBy John Hoellwarth - Staff writerPosted : Tuesday Jul 3, 2007 16:28:29 EDTSgt. Andy Hurt /


Marine CorpsCpl. Gareth Hawkins, 23, takes his oath of enlistment from a casuatly litter. Hawkins' leg was shattered when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle. He is a member of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, currently conducting counter-insurgency operations in Iraq's Anbar province with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

A corporal refused to be medically evacuated before he re-enlisted in the surgical station after a massive roadside bomb hit his vehicle near Karmah, Iraq, shattering his right leg.

Lying on a stretcher with his right hand raised, Cpl. Gareth Hawkins, with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, took the oath of enlistment with the backdrop of fellow leathernecks whispering “[expletive] motivating, man…,” and “that’s crazy,” according to a June 29 Marine Corps news story.

Hawkins, in the news story, was quoted as saying he re-enlisted at that moment “cause it’s motivating. I was going to re-enlist anyway, this is what I wanted to do.”

He was conducting counter-insurgency operations the morning of June 29 with Battalion Landing Team 3/1’s Lima Company, when the bomb hit the vehicle, wounding Hawkins and two other Marines. Hawkins was ready to be flown out for medical care when he demanded to be re-enlisted by battalion staff, more than eight miles away.

“Hawkins just got hit in a major blast that could’ve killed him,” 1st Sgt. Gary Moran was quoted as saying. “And, he said, ‘First sergeant, I don’t want to fly out … I want to go to [the Combat Post] first.’

“Hawkins’ platoon commander, 1st Lt. Warren Frank, read the oath to the corporal in the packed surgical area. After the abbreviated ceremony, Hawkins was immediately carried out and evacuated.

“This Marine’s decision to re-enlist [under these circumstances] embodies our core values of honor, courage and commitment,” Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, said in a written statement. “This Marine is truly the backbone of our Corps. It’s because of Marines like Cpl. Hawkins that [the Corps’] war fighting legacy will continue well into the future.”

Hawkins is one of 12 leathernecks with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit who have re-enlisted since the unit deployed from San Diego aboard the ships of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group on April 10.

The unit’s career retention specialists are quick to add that “many more re-enlistments are pending,” so there’s no telling what the final tally will be by the time the unit returns home to Camp Pendleton, Calif., MEU spokeswoman Capt. Pamela Marshall said.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

4th of July

Well, 4th of July has come and gone. We as a family had a whole meaning brought to us this year on what the 4th really means, and we reflected on just how lucky we are as Americans.

We were sort of overcome with emotion at the parade. We sat right at the beginning, and 2 huge floats came by us. I wish I had my camera but didn't. On these floats were veteran's from all eras. Up in the very front was an Iwo Jima veteran. When these floats went by, we stood immediately and started to clap out loud. We were afraid we would be standing amongst some of the same low caliber people that did not stand at the Memorial Parade and respect our veterans but sure did stand up and clap and holler for the pooper scoopers. This was a fear that was unfounded because all around us, people stood and clapped. We were standing kitty corner to where the floats were pulling out of, so when they got onto the road, we were one of the first they saw.

Many of those men made eye contact with us, and there were several that were just over come with the applause they were getting. It was very emotional. Many of them nodded and gave thumbs up to Taylor and Tanner.

Later that night, we talked a bit about how neat it was to see the Iwo Jima veteran, along with many of the older veterans, as we know we are losing many of them at a very fast rate.

We went out to eat tonight and in the middle of dinner Taylor stood up and walked around the table. She sort of headed off and I called her back. I asked her what she was doing and she said 'I saw a man with an Iwo Jima hat on and I need to go talk to him'. I asked her if it was a younger man and she said 'no mom, he is old and he is a veteran'. So, she had me go with her and we walked up to a table that had 4 very old gentlemen sitting there. I excused our intrusion, and said that I had a Gunny that believed she saw a fellow brother with an Iwo Jima cap come in earlier and she wanted to talk to him. One man raised his hand then pulled out his hat. He said 'it is me' Taylor went right over to him, shook his hand and said very loudly so EVERYONE in the surrounding tables could hear, 'Thank you sir, thank you for everything' That man smiled so huge. He then pointed around the table and told us they were all brothers! Two were in the Marines and one was in the Army. WOW! Taylor's eyes got huge and she told them this was a great honor for her to be surrounded by such great men, then went around and shook each of their hands. We then asked if they were in the parade in the town we went to and they were the very same ones we stood in awe of the day before and this was the Iwo Jima veteran we had seen!!!

There was an elderly lady sitting with them (she was never introduced so we don't know who she was) but she asked if Taylor had been in the paper on many occasions, I told her yes she had. She then leaned her head in and said to the men, 'this is the little girl we have talked about' At that, I kid you not, all 3 of them gave HER a salute and then thanked HER! She took it in stride, but man, I had tears! What a great treat it was. We didn't want to bother them any longer, so we gave another thank you and walked off. We pulled the waiter off to the side and slipped some money to him and told him it was to go towards the bill for that table, and the waiter asked what he was to tell them. We just said, 'tell them we said THANK YOU'.

Now as I write this, I wish we would have gotten some names, as it is clear they live somewhere in the area and I think of all the history these men hold with them. I think of the greatness they can tell......maybe we will have to try to do some investigating somehow and see if we can't get Taylor around them again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Few more pictures






A few more pictures, then the rest will be on the photobucket site listed in Taylor's links.