Saturday, July 28, 2007

More Grampy shaving.......


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 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 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


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.