The Darkest Hour

Embed from Getty Images

Too many times, our hearts sink to the darkest hour of despair. We have lost these beloved soldiers. Sergeant Shawn M. Farrell II, age 24, died April 28, 2014 and is survived by his wife and parents. Shawn, an infantryman in the 10th Mountain Division was killed of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire in Afghanistan.

Private First Class Christian J. Chandler, age 20, of 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team was also killed during service to our nation on April 28th. Christian is survived by his mother and stepfather.

Your beautiful sons are gone too soon. Both men had numerous awards and decorations.Their courage, dedication, and character define them as heroes. Thank you for giving everything to protect our freedom.

Emily Dickinson writes in her poem,The Bustle in a House, that we are “sweeping up the heart.” How can we pick up the pieces of our broken hearts? We hold Shawn and Christian, and their families and friends in prayer. We pray that God will give these families the strength and courage not to lose heart.


SGT. Farrell II Photo Courtesy of Fort Drum Public Affairs




PFC Chandler Photo Courtesy of Fort Drum Public Affairs

Cards for Cam

Sergeant First Class Cameron Corder

Sergeant First Class Cameron Corder

Sergeant First Class Cameron Corder, an Aviation Medic serving in Afghanistan, was injured with a devastating spinal injury on December 21, 2013. Cam was working at the time taking care of an injured Marine.

Cameron was flown to Frankfort, Germany where he received medical care and now is in the US at Walter Reed where he is undergoing many surgeries and treatment for infections. His wife, Bethany is by his side.

The family is asking for your help by sending a get-well card or a thank you card to Cameron to show that we appreciate all he has done and sacrificed for us.

Cameron has been deployed overseas 3 times and worked Search and Rescue during Hurricane Katrina. He is currently an Aviation Medic, but was a Combat Medic during his Iraq deployment.

Let’s show Cam how much we care. Please send your cards to:
CARDS FOR CAM 176 Apollo Circle, Flushing, MI 48433

Please continue to pray for Cameron and his family. You can visit, their Facebook page set up for this Card Campaign.

My Littlest Angel: A Soldier and Her Pen Pal

Veronica and Sofie

Veronica and Sofie from their Face Book page

Chief Warrant Officer Veronica Davis completed three tours to Afghanistan.  One of the bright spots of her time during deployment was receiving letters from her youngest pen pal, Sofie Deck from Illinois. Sofie is in third grade. Not only did she write letters to Veronica, Sofie also sent drawings.

Veronica said, “Sofie’s letters are about everything good.” Sofie and Veronica continued to write, even after Veronica’s tour was over. Sofie describes Veronica as her hero and her best friend. Sofie memorized what Veronica wrote,” Take care little one. Continue to do great things. Make the world your canvas and paint joy everywhere. Love Veronica”

Sofie was recognized for showing home town support for our troops. We can follow this little angel’s lead. Sophie and Veronica are working on a new project. It’s called Sophie’s Soldiers: A Pen Pal Program. The project is to help students connect with soldiers overseas if they’re not doing it for school.

A Marine Gives His Life

Last October, I was in Minnesota helping my daughter with the triplets. I went to my daughter’s hair stylist, Megan Scheffler. Megan was in her sister’s wedding to Marine Lance Cpl. Dale W. Means. Dale was deployed to Afghanistan soon after the wedding.

This past week I saw that Megan had posted on Facebook, that another Marine In Dale’s unit had been killed. I messaged her to see how Dale was doing. I cried when she wrote back that Dale had been killed the week before. He and his wife had just been married one year. Dale was laid to rest on Wednesday.

Please hold Megan, her sister, and their families and friends in prayer. Please pray for the Marine’s in Dale’s unit and all of our troops. Rest in peace, Lance Cpl. Dale W. Means.


I Promise

Every week, someone asks me to pray for a son, daughter, friend, or in-law, deployed to Afghanistan. Last night,I saw my friend, Noel Burr at the grocery store. Her son and son-in-law are serving our country again.

When I was checking out, Becky Huston told me her son has a deployment coming up. I promised to pray for all their safety. Please join me in holding Dave, Thomas, Tim and all of our troops in prayer.

Almighty God, We ask your blessing upon our deployed troops, those on land, at sea and in the air in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Hold our Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen in the palm of your hand as they enter Harm’s Way. Protect them as they protect us in defense of liberty and the increase of freedom. Bless them and their families for the sacrifices and selfless acts they perform. Remind us all that courage is not the absence of fear, but the strength to do the right thing in the face of fear. Be with us also here at home as we pray for their safe return and peace in our time. Amen.

-Chaplain (CAPT) Jane Vieira, USN

To Kandahar and Back Home: A Year in the Making

US Army Specialist Timothy Sheaffer is welcomed home by his wife, Amanda.

A warm welcome  and special thank you to my guest blogger today, Debra Estep, author of “Shoulder to Shoulder” in Love You More Than You Know. She is the proud Ohio Air Force Mom of SSgt Vincent Aleandri. This is Debra’s blog.

In early June of 2011, family and friends of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1484th Transportation Company gathered to attend a Call to Duty ceremony. 180 members were preparing to mobilize for active duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Some were heading out for their first deployment, and others had been down this road before embarking on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th deployments. The soldiers and their families were well aware of the long year that lay before them. As the buses rolled away, tears rolled down so many faces. Young children could not grasp why Mommy or Daddy had to leave them.  Grandparents who could grasp the why, still had the same tears.

It takes great strength and perseverance to join the United States all volunteer military.   We’ve been at war for over a decade. Many of these young troops were in middle school when our engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq started. With the percentage of people serving being less than one percent of the population, many Americans don’t personally know anyone in the military.

I happen to know one of the soldiers from the 1484th Transportation Company–US Army Specialist Timothy Sheaffer. I met Tim when his Mother, Tanya Phillips, and I became friends years ago. I will never forget the first photo I saw of Tim in uniform. I did a double take thinking, this can’t possibly be that same KID. My heart filled with pride, grateful that we have individuals willing to stand and protect this country.

Tim said goodbye that June day, to his young wife, Amanda. In less than
six months, Amanda was due to give birth to their first child. Tim was in Afghanistan where he was able to view the birth of his baby girl, Brooklyn, via a Skype internet connection.  Family back here in Ohio, surrounded Amanda and supported her through the labor and birth.

Several weeks later, Tim was able to take his R&R returning to Ohio for a short visit.
Those of us who have a family member serving, thank God for today’s technology that allows us to stay connected to our loved ones far away.  Emails, videos, and phone calls, are all life lines to ours and our military member’s mental well being at such a stressful time.

On Saturday June 2, 2012, family and friends again gathered at the University of Akron’s Rhodes Arena. This day, there were tears also. These tears were tears of joy and gratitude. The Ohio Army National Guard’s 1484th Transportation Company rolled in on buses after flying into Akron/Canton airport.There were cheers, flag waving and a band playing as the unit marched in. Some speeches were made, as the unit was thanked for their service.

The unit was stationed near Kandahar, Afghanistan. No one from the unit was killed in this deployment. Sgt. Michael Barkey, 22, a Lawrence Township member of the unit, was killed in Iraq in 2004 and eight others were wounded.

As this unit acclimates back to civilian life, we know that another unit has replaced them. Freedom is not free. The safety and security we enjoy is paid for by those who serve and those who give their lives.   Pray for them and please THANK them for their service !!!

Mom and Dad with darling baby, Brooklyn.

A Red Paperclip, a Toy Soldier, and a Nine Year Old Heart Full of Grace

Brendan Haas photo from ABC news.

Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve.You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Melissa and Eric Haas have instilled in their children that desire to serve others. Their nine year old son, Brendan heard the story of the red paper clip  from his father about Kyle McDonald completing 14 trades in a year, starting with a paperclip for larger things, until he got a house. That inspired Brendan to try and barter his way to doing something for someone else.

ABC News reported, in February, Brendan set up a Facebook page called “A Soldier for a Soldier,” hoping that he could trade his toy soldier for a trip to Disney World to give to a fallen soldier’s family. “I just think they do something good, so I wanted to do something good back,” Brendan said of his toys and their real life counterparts. Brendan accomplished his goal, and gifted a trip to the family of 1st Lt. Timothy Steele killed in Afghanistan.

To reward Brendan for his generosity, the Disney Company, the parent company of ABC, awarded Brendan’s family with an all-expense paid trip of their own, and made Brendan an “honorary citizen of Walt Disney World.”

This amazing young man turned down his own Disney trip saying, “We can’t accept a trip to Disney but we have many more people who would like to have an all-expenses paid [trip] …so we can do another raffle.”

Brendan commented that he was a messenger from God and was happy to make others happy. Thank you Brendan for showing the world that anybody can serve. You are a wonderful example for all of us. We know for certain that you have a soul generated by love.

The Sorrow Weighs Heavy on Our Hearts

I am currently in MN helping my daughter with my triplet grand babies. It doesn’t matter if I am at home in Ohio, or in another state, the sorrow is the same. It weighs heavy on my heart. One of our brave soldiers from Minnesota was killed in Afghanistan when the enemy attacked his unit. Army Sgt. Nicholas M. Dickhut was only 23 years old. The news reported the many awards he received.

His commander said,”His positive attitude and eagerness to share lessons learned made him an invaluable member of our Company. There is no way to describe the loss created by his absence.”

His friend and peer, Spc. Connor Higgins looked at Nicholas as the best at what he did. Higgins said,”More importantly, he was a great friend and someone who would always help you out no matter what. He was the kind of NCO that the Army needs more of. He was dedicated to his job and his fellow Soldiers.”

The dedication of our soldiers is overwhelming. Their selfless service needs to be recognized. Our soldiers and their families put their lives on hold for all of us. How can we even begin to say “Thank You.” Such small words for such a big sacrifice.  Please hold Sgt. Nicholas M. Dickhut’s unit, family, and friends in prayer. Rest in peace faithful servant.

Afghan Women Write Poetry Risking it All

I write poetry and invite young authors to write poetry in workshops I teach at schools. Finding the Words is the name of my program. It is amazing to give students a voice. A second grader wrote this poem:

Stars Gathering by Brad

My mom is like the stars above me

Tickling her feet

All of the stars are gathering up

Like a crowd of people

People whispering

Quietly thinking

It is their time

To leave their homes

Like a lightning bug flying away

The Afghan women have no voice. An article by Eliza Griswold, Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry gives these statistics, “Of Afghanistan’s 15 million women, roughly 8 out of 10 live outside urban areas, where U.S. efforts to promote women’s rights have met with little success. Only 5 out of 100 graduate from high school, and most are married by age 16, 3 out of 4 in forced marriages.”

The Afghan women use poetry as a form of rebellion. “Mirman Baheer, Afghanistan’s largest women’s literary society, is a contemporary version of a Taliban-era literary network known as the Golden Needle. In Herat, women, pretending to sew, gathered to talk about literature. In Kabul, Mirman Baheer has no need for subterfuge. Its more than 100 members are drawn primarily from the Afghan elite: professors, parliamentarians, journalists and scholars. They travel on city buses to their Saturday meetings, their faces uncovered, wearing high-heeled boots and shearling coats.

But in the outlying provinces — Khost, Paktia, Maidan Wardak, Kunduz, Kandahar, Herat and Farah — where the society’s members number 300, Mirman Baheer functions largely in secret.” The group’s mission is to teach young women not just to write but also to speak aloud and with confidence. Young poets like Meena who call into the hot line, Amail told me, “are in a very dangerous position. They’re behind high walls, under the strong control of men.” Herat University’s celebrated young poet, Nadia Anjuman, died in 2005, after a severe beating by her husband. She was 25.”

This is one of the women’s poem:

You won’t allow me to go to school.
I won’t become a doctor.
Remember this:
One day you will be sick.

Because the women have no say in what goes on in their lives, they turn to poetry to express their feelings.Now that Afghan women are aware of their rights, they fight for them in their family,”Griswold said. “If they get their rights, that’s good. If they don’t, they kill themselves or get beaten up.”

In the United States, we can reach the stars. Use your voice to write, speak, and talk about the good life we have here. Find the words to shout out about injustice. Can we be as brave as the Afghan women and write?

Students Send Thousands of Cookies Overseas

Nothing says “home” like cookies–chocolate chip, peanut butter, and sugar cookies! The 25,000 soldiers from the 4th Battalion of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade couldn’t believe their eyes when they started receiving shipments of thousands of cookies in the remote regions of Afghanistan during their deployment. The sweet treats were sent with love from Kenston High School’s Interact Club.

Follow the lead of these teenagers. Show our troops you care!  Jean Bonchak, in her article in the New-Herald gave this information. Those wishing to send letters or snacks to the 4th Battalion of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade should address them to 4-401 AFSB, KAF; ASMC-LSE, BN XO; APO AE 09355.