Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pat's Run

Photo: 42 yard line is set inside Sun Devil Stadium... see you at the start line bright and early! #PatsRun #NeverStop
Photo of the field at Sun Devil Stadium the finish line for Pat's Run, photo credit to The Pat Tillman Foundation, fair use/public domain claimed,

Greetings All:

Yesterday was Pat's RunPat's Run is a fund-raiser for The Pat Tillman Foundation.  The first run was in 2005 and it's going strong.  For those of you who are not familiar with Pat Tillman, he was a former standout college and pro football player.  He made headlines when he decided to walk away from football (and the accompanying fame and money) to enlist in the U.S. Army.  He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.  

Pat Tillman with the Arizona Cardinals, public domain and/or fair use claimed.  Link to web below.
I remember watching his funeral in 2004 and immediately thought of the F. Scott Fitzgerald line, "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy."  It was sad and tragic.  Here was this true "All-American" who had so selflessly elected to serve his nation, now amongst the fallen. 

Then the news broke about what really went down in Afghanistan on 22 April 2004. After a series of botched investigations, it was finally confirmed that Pat died from friendly, not enemy fire.   I cannot image the agony this news caused his family.  I do not want to dwell on this part of the story for this blog post.  Not that it is not important, it is.  It is why I have attached the link to the Department of Defense Inspector General's report in the source section.  I encourage everyone to read it.  

I do not want to dwell on it as that could easily take up a couple of blog posts (even by my self-indulgent word counts).  Instead, I want to focus on the reasons I love Pat's Run.

Pat's Run is held annually in Tempe, Arizona.  It raises money for the foundation and is also a flagship p.r. event.  The length is 4.2 miles as a nod to Pat's number at Arizona State University.  The race finished in Sun Devil Stadium on the 42 yard line.  I've had the good fortune to run it three times.  It is an amazing feeling to come charging (or in my case panting) onto the field celebrating the life of Pat Tillman.  It was an honor to be part of something, in the words of Arizona's senior U.S. Senator John McCain, "...bigger than myself."  Did I mention it's a ton of fun?  If I didn't, I should have.  It's a event where runners, walkers, families, students, alums, veterans, locals, visitors, Tillman admirers and the list goes and on of people who come out to honor the memory of someone taken way too soon.    

When you run the race, you'll see signs on the path with some of Pat's quotes.  One that I remember, "Don't tell me about the pain, show me the baby!"  From all I have read about Pat and from the first-hand accounts I have heard about him, he was all about action.  He wanted to make a difference and was without pretense.  

When he elected to join the Army, he did so quietly.  He told only those who needed to know (his agent, his coach, the Arizona Cardinals owners.) and that's it.  No press conferences, no exclusive interviews.  I was particularly impressed that although his college degree qualified him to seek a direct commission, he declined that route.  Instead of serving as an officer, he served as a Soldier.  He sought out the incredibly difficult assignment as an Army Ranger.  He was about service.

It was not until I listened to John K book, Where Men Win Glory:  The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, that I learned Pat Tillman could have pursued an "out" with his enlistment contract.  Unlike officers who must resign their commissions, enlistment contracts may be honorably terminated.  Pat had already served a combat tour in Iraq.  He could have asked to be released from military service.  Surely, he would have received an Honorable discharge.  He had been to combat, more than any other active professional athlete (I recall, if I'm wrong on this fact, call me on it, please!) at the time.  He could have returned to football and as a private citizen done a ton to raise awareness about those serving in harms' way. 

He demurred.  Well, I doubt he used that word.  He likely said, "No thanks."  He had made a deal with his country and his Army.  He would honor every day of it.  He could have gone back to the bright lights of football.  Instead, he went back to war.

Pat's Run celebrates many things.  It celebrates learning.  The Pat Tillman Foundation has a wonderful history of supporting our military through its military scholars' program.  Out of the 28,000 who run it each year, there are those running who have not done so in years.  There are people who learn that they can run 4.2 miles.  That is something that I think would cause Pat to smile.   

My Pat's Run T-shirt from 2010, photo (and shadow) credit, Jeno Berta

Pat's Run has spread across the country.  There are shadow runs across the country.  There is a link below to a story of how the legacy of Pat Tillman extends beyond the ASU campus.  It is a great way for for people to celebrate the day, the event, who cannot be in Tempe.

Speaking of those who wanted to be in Tempe, count me in that crowd.  I would have loved to be there.  However, there were other priorities that prevented this.  One year, I do want to go back and run it.  However, upon reflecting on yesterday, I was fortunate to experience the spirit of Pat's Run.

The day started with my youngest daughter and I attending the Lion's Club pancake breakfast.  It was a nice meal for a great cause.  The gentlemen below was kind enough to let me snap a photo of the back of his shirt.  It summed up the reason why organizations are so important to our communities.  

From this morning's Lion's Club pancake breakfast fund-raiser.  This says it all about the virtue of public service.  Image used with permission of the wearer, photo by Jeno Berta.

From there, we moved onto our community's March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon.  About a thousand people showed up at the Rock Island Arsenal to support a wonderful cause.  A good time was had by all.  I'd write more about it, but seeming how I'm w-a-y long on this post, I'll have to leave it there.  I will share a photo, though.

A couple of banners from our local March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon.  Photo by Jeno Berta

These are just a couple of examples of good deeds going on in my community.  I have no doubt there were a bunch I missed.  Multiple these events by those across our country and it's clear to see people are living the legacy of Pat Tillman, of service and leadership through action.  Even if people do not realize it.

I am so glad I had the chance to participate in Pat's Run and more than once.  Do I want to do it again?  You bet.  Even if I don't I've got some great memories and even a few shirts.  Here's the logo for this year's.  I may be buying a shirt and if you'd like to as well, the link is below.  

Pat Tillman Foundation (Official)
Here's the logo for this year's Pat's Run, courtesy of The Pat Tillman Foundation and their Facebook page, implied limited use and public domain claimed.  The link to the Facebook page is listed below.  

It's easy to look at someone like Pat Tillman and be in awe of his life, thinking there is no way you could "measure up" to him.  In a way, you'd be right.  You can't be Pat Tillman.  What you and I can be is ourselves.  We can (and should) take inspiration from Pat's life, his values, his accomplishments and his utter unapologetic zest for life.  

And then, go run our own races.

Be well my friends,

April 27, 2014

(Just a quick FYI that the comments expressed in this and every Cedo Pontis blog post are mine alone.  I am writing strictly in my personal capacity and do not reflect the position of any governmental or corporate agency.  Thanks.)


Photo of Pat Tillman in Arizona Cardinals (National Football League) uniform, from this web source:  This image was available to "share" from the website, thus the claim of public domain/fair use.

For Buying a T-Shirt-

Friday, April 25, 2014

It's Strictly Business

Michael Corleone in "The Godfather" moments before he utters the words, "It's strictly business," photo credit Paramount Pictures/YouTube, fair use claimed/implied use authorized
Greetings All:

So I was all excited that I could embed a video directly into my blog from YouTube, I thought I had turned a technological corning in my blogging.  Well, for whatever reason, it's not working (sigh).  So friends, Ill need to invite you to check out the link below.  It's short and permission is implied via YouTube's site, so please enjoy:

I'm guessing most of you will recognize the movie as "The Godfather."  Before I get too far into this blog post, please take a moment to watch.  Go on, I'll wait...

“The Godfather," for those of you who might not know, is the story of a 1940s American organized crime family.  In the scene above, Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, has recently saved his father, Vito “Don” Corelone, (played by Marlin Brando) from a second attempt on his life from rival gangsters.  Until now, Michael had rejected the “family business.”  However, Michael crosses over from a "civilian" to a "soldier” and is going to war for the family.  In this scene, he signs his enlistment papers.  He decides to commit two murders, one of a rival mob boss and the other a corrupt police captain.

When the rest of the "family" laughs at him, mocking his proposal as "emotional," he fires back at him (bad pun, I know) with that famous line: 

"It's not personal, Sonny, it's strictly business."

I've seen this scene dozens of times.  It's great cinematography.  As the camera moves up on Michael, we’re able to watch him formulate the plan to commit a double murder.  From the gestures of the actors, the background, it is a terrific scene all the way around.

I also think that movies can provide opportunities to reflect on things that are going on in our world.  We can, if we chose, use movies, literature, even current events to evaluate what we believe, how we feel, even how we act.

Case in point- the iconic line, "It's strictly business."  In the above scene, is it?  I'd argue no.  

Oh sure, Micheal rationalized what he was doing.  "They tried to kill Pop.  I'll kill them to save Pop.  It's the only way I can be sure to save Pop.  Family is the most important thing, the ONLY thing.  I'll do whatever is necessary to protect him.  Protecting him is protecting the family, the family business..."   

This makes logical (albeit twisted, immoral) sense.  Still, the fact remains that he was, in his twisted logic, saving Pop, his father, Don Corelone, the Godfather.

I'd argue that Michael made the statement to assure his brothers, Sonny and Tom (the consigliere), and the rest of the inner circle that he had the proper distance and detachment to carry out this act. Just watch Michael's eyes as the scene ends.  It is an image of determination covering up boiling rage.  This is far from strictly business.

Recently, a story came up about a candidate for governor in Maryland who made a crack about his opponent that really set me off.  I even started doing a blog post on it. Yet I declined to publish it.  Here's why: 

When I re-read it the next morning, I concluded I was just venting.  At the time I was pounding out my, "scotch no ice," reply on the keyboard, I was certain my retort was adding something to the social discourse.  Upon reflection, I concluded...I wasn't.   I was just pissed off that some politician said something that I took umbrage with.   In other words, my reply was not "strictly business." It was personal.  

"The Godfather" is a great movie, no doubt.  Yet it is just that- a movie.  We can view it as entertainment, social commentary, a cautionary tale, or all of the above. 

I'd suggest the lesson offered from this movie is that almost everything we do is personal.  This can be good or bad.  It's up to us to figure that out as the camera of our conscious and moral compass zooms in on us. 

Be well my friends,


Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Untipped Chair

Photo credit to ISNA, AP Photo/ISNA, Arash Khamoushi, fair use claimed

Greetings All:

This is Easter weekend, meaning Friday was "Good Friday."  For Christians, particularly us Catholics, it is a somber day.  It is the observance of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  

Pope Francis continued to preach to the faithful (even those cafeteria/drive thru Catholics like me) and reminded us that while he is beyond hip and as genuine as my oldest pair of Levis, he still is telling it straight.  His tweet:

"It is not easy to follow Jesus closely, because the path he chooses is the way of the Cross."

Whether you agree with him or not, he's telling it as he sees it.  

Moving along, at one point during the service, a 13th Century hymn was sung the recalled Mary, Jesus' mother, and her suffering at his execution by the Romans.  This is all part of the tradition of Good Friday.

The day before another tradition was taking place not too far away from Vatican City in Iran- a public execution.

Iran is not exactly a progressive place.  According to Amnesty International, Iran had hung 40 people in 2014.  Oh, and that's not by April, this was the January.

This post is not a critique of the death penalty.  That subject warrants one (or a bunch) of posts on its own.  I simply offer this as background to the photo that opens up this blog post.  That being-  the photo of another condemned man in a county that is not shy of imposing the ultimate punishment.

And unlike Christ, who went to his death with stoic calmness, this guy was freaking out.  He was scared (and understandably so, death is something I'm not anxious for myself).  It was all but certain he would die.  The noose was around his neck.  All that was needed was for the chair his shaking body was on was to be tipped.  Once that happened, well then, presuming the gravity was on, he was dead.

That chair remained untipped.

As the link posted below shows, the mother of his victim demurred.  All she had to do was tip the chair.  Just tip the chair and your son's killer would die.  Justice, at least by Iranian standards, would be served.

Then an amazing thing happened.  Nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing.  The victim's mother slapped her son's killer, and hard, I might add.  But did she tip the chair.  Nope.

Here was her chance to avenge her son's death (and have the state pick up the tab).  She passed.  Now as the article states, there was the matter of "blood money," an amount of cash the family would be paid to spare the killer.  Fine, I'll grant that's a reason to pardon the killer.  However, I will argue any amount of money mattered none to the pardoning mother.  What's my proof?  Look into the mother's eyes.  It reveals what happens at the emotional impact of a crash at the intersection of rage and grief.  Just my observations of course, but this mother could care less about blood money or anything else except the loss of her son.  I suspect she made a decision that even if the chair was tipped, her grief would remain.  

So the killer was spared.  The link below tells the story and you can judge for yourself if my comments are worthy of validity.  I will say this:  The fact that this pardon not only happened but this story got out tells me it is no coincidence.

It also tells me that the act of mercy of the grieving mother was not easy.  It was a hard road for to walk.  It would have been so easy for her to tip that chair.  To tip that chair and both watch and hear the life run out of her son's killer.  She did not.  She took the hard path.

I can't prove this of course, but I like to think that someplace else far away (or maybe not) there were two other untipped chairs.  In one, sat Christ.  In the other, the grieving mother's son.  They sat and watched the act of profound benevolence, watching a grieving mother pardon a crime.  A mother not so unlike a mother who was the subject of that 13th century hymn.  Two mothers, separated by faith, yet joined in grief.  

 I'm struggling with a clever way to wrap up this blog post.  I'm out of Schlitz.  All I can can offer is this:

1.  I don't think it is a coincidence this story broke during Holy Week; and

2.  We all have chairs in our life we can tip over or remain standing.  The challenge is to figure out which ones to walk away from.  It might not be much of a clue, but perhaps a hint may be this:  The one you want to tip over the most is the one that should remain standing.

Happy Easter.

Be well my friends,


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Old School

The lockers at my high school, Davenport West High School, photo by me

 Greetings All:

"...And I'm never going back
To my old school..."

Steely Dan, My Old School

First off, happy Passover.  I've got some ideas for a post on that, but as I'm behind schedule on posts, I need to catch up on one that's been in the works for a couple of days.

Ah high school.  It's a topic that is cemented in popular culture.  From American Graffiti to American Pie, we as a culture have both mocked and cheered this time of life.  For those of us in middle age who have had (ahem) multiple class reunions, it is enough to stop keeping track.

On Saturday, I found myself back at my high school, Davenport West High, home of the Falcons.  My daughter and a bunch of her very talented friends were performing at a music competition there and the rest of the family came along to watch.

The West High Fight Song, photo by me

 I'd be less than candid to say there was not just a bit of nostalgia.   Of course there was.  This was a place that I spent a lot of time for three years and have a bunch of good memories.  

So what is nostalgia, anyways?  Well, thanks to our friends at, please see below:

noun \nä-ˈstal-jə, nə- also n-, nō-; nə-ˈstäl-\
: pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again

I suppose there is some truth to that.  I would not mind to go back and experience a few aspects of it.  I saw this sign and it caused me to laugh:

A sign at West High, photo by me

 I'd love to say I was a rebel in high school.  I wasn't.  But like any kid, I found any number of rules to be, what's the word I'm looking for...stupid.  One such stupid rule was having to stay on the school grounds.

Well one day Mr. Vern Murdoch busted me and sent me to the office.  He seemed to take particular pleasure in sending me there.  I tried to play it cool but I had a streak at state-  zero detentions.  This was now in jepardy.

Enter Don Gano, excuse me, Officer Don Gano.  I told him that "Mr. Murdoch sent me here."  I don't know if it was that Officer Don was in a benevolent mood but he simply told me, referencing Christ, more or less, "To go forth and sin no more."  

Thanks Don.

As much as I like telling this story, upon reflection here's the deal.  Murdoch was right.  I broke a rule and he called me on it.  I just got lucky that I caught the school officer on a good day.  Sometimes it is true, it's better to be lucky than good.

And when I look back at high school, I was lucky.  I had parents who supported me.  I had teachers, especially Coach K, my debate coach, who gave me knowledge and direction.  I was lucky to have a great group of friends, many of whom I stay in touch with, even if it's via Facebook.  

So viewing it in that light, yah, I'm a bit nostaglic.  I wouldn't mind to see Vern.  Although who I really would want to see is Coach K.  We lost him in February.  I would very much like to see him again.  I'd gladly serve some detentions to make that happen.

Be well my friends,

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Year Without Sugar

The view from my pantry.  Yup, there's all that bad stuff (and more).  Photo by J. Berta

Greetings All:

I haven't written a whole lot about health matters.  It's not an area of particular interest to me, although it probably should be.  I also think that life is w-a-y too short to deny yourself simple pleasures, such as food.  However, when I saw this post, "A Year Without Sugar," I knew I had to check it out.

Eve Schaub is the author of this article and led her family on a year without sugar.  I'm not just talking about sugar in cakes and cookies, but EVERYTHING!  Wow.  Although the year is up, both Ms. Schaub and her family elect to hardly eat any sugar.  The article is an interesting read and offers a lot to chew on, so to speak.

Ms. Schaub offers a number of reasons why she and her family pursued this path.  A couple of the key ones were to be more healthy and have more energy, both laudable goals.  Still, seems a bit...extreme to me.  

Of particular interest to me was her comments about energy.  She observes that after this year, "I don’t worry about running out of energy."  For me, that's an easy fix- coffee, lots of it.  (And I drink mine "sans sucre" thank you very much.)  Granted, one day back in 2009 when I was on an extended business trip, I did ingest more caffeine than usual.  I'll even admit that the one day I had 7 cups of coffee (and 4 Diet Cokes) might have been a bit much.  

There is a more serious side to this story, that would be the health issues related to obesity and other heath diseases.  Ms. Schaub makes her case in her article by saying:  "One in three Americans is obese.  The rate of diabetes is skyrocking and cardiovascular disease is America's number one killer."

The Center for Disease Control back up her numbers.  Here's a quote from their website:

"More than one-third of U.S. adults (34.9%) are obese."

Here's another way to look at this stat:

From the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Public Domain/Fair Use Claimed

Phil Gramm, the former Texas Senator quipped, "America is the only country where its poor people are fat."  Some might accuse him of being a cultural imperialist.  However, if you look at the numbers, he has a point.  Here's another serving of facts for you:

"Are poverty and obesity associated? Poverty rates and obesity were reviewed across 3,139 counties in the U.S. (2,6). In contrast to international trends, people in America who live in the most poverty-dense counties are those most prone to obesity (Fig. 1A). Counties with poverty rates of >35% have obesity rates 145% greater than wealthy counties." 

The thing about stats is they can be both shock and anesthetize at the same time.  As Mark Twain warned, "There are lies, damn lies and statistics."  

Here is an example of an individual we recently lost.  John Pinette died on April 5, 2014.  The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism.  

John Pinette, who passed away on April 5, 2015.  Use authorized from the owner (dbking on flickr)

John Pinette was a talented actor and comic.  He got to open for none other than "The Chairman" Frank Sinatra.  He also was, unfortunately, obese.  He did have gastric bypass surgery and that helped.   However, he still was a large man.  There is more about his life and career in the New York Times editorial link below.

I did not follow Mr. Pinette's career closely.  I had forgotten he had a part in the final Seinfield episode.  I do think it is a loss he died at 50.  That is not old. The shame in his untimely passing is that having been at his heaviest 450, he got down to 250.  He also had substance abuse issues yet was clean and sober at the end.  Here's what CNN reported:

"Although past addiction problems "took a toll on his body," Pinette was "clean and sober" at the end, his longtime manager Larry Schapiro said Monday."

CNN went on at length to describe the person John Pinette was on the inside:  

"He had a reputation among his friends and fellow comedians as a brilliant, incredibly funny and kind man."

There are in this nation today millions of people who may die, likely will die before their time due to heath issues.  That is sad.  I suspect of these millions, many are wonderful people who do good deeds for their community and are beloved by their families.  The fact that early deaths could be prevented is the tragedy.

So where does that leave us?  That's a tough question.  For me, I'd offer this:  Find your own way.  Perhaps giving up sugar is the best thing you could do.  It might save your life.  Then again, is it worth it to make it to 86 instead of 84 but silently curse when you want an ice cream cone and say, "NO!"  I'm certainly no expert on health but after working on this post, I think I'll be at least a bit more aware of what I'm eating.  I'll also concede that my 2009 coffee intake is a record that should stand and not be duplicated.  

I firmly believe that people should think for themselves, make their own decisions and be open to changing their positions.  With that in mind, if you'd like to try out a day without sugar, here's your chance- tomorrow.  Here's the link:

Good luck and if you do elect to go a day (or more) without sugar, let me know how it goes.  Who knows, maybe next year I might join you.

Be well (as well as you want) my friends,

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Don't Call it a Comeback!

Tiger Woods. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images, this photo is purported to be in the public domain.  Fair use is also claimed, full source is lsited below.

Greetings All:

"Don't call it a comeback
I been here for years
Rockin my peers and puttin suckas in fear..."

LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out

Although the weather isn't cooperating, spring's here.  That means baseball (cue the "Death Star/Darth Vader" music) "Go Yankees!"  It also means pro golf begins in earnest.  The Masters' tournament kicks off soon.  Two guys who will not be there are my favorite golfer, John Daly, and Tiger Woods.

I'll do a post on John down the road as there's just so much to talk about.  He'll actually be in the local area of the tournament, just not on the links.  There's a link below if you're curious about him.  However, today's post is about Tiger Woods.  Love him or hate him, his place in golf history (and popular culture) is secure.

For the record, I am not a Tiger Woods fan or foe.  I do respect what he has done on the links.  As for his personal life, that is between him and his wife, er I mean ex-wife.  I have never talked to him so this is pure conjecture on my part.  However, I strongly believe that he has profound regrets that his past acts have costs him time with his kids.  Such is life. 

For those of you who might I wonder In the book, Talent is Overrated, the author Geoff Colvin did a profile on Woods.  He acknowledges that Woods is an incredibly talented golfer.  However, Colvin argues that the primary reason for Woods success lies more with his training and work ethic.  Tiger Woods father, Earl Woods, a former Special Forces Soldier, trained Tiger to be an excellent golfer and practice with a ruthless pursuit of excellence.  I recall a line in the book (and I am para-phasing) "You cannot be Tiger Woods because your dad is not Earl Woods."

And Tiger Woods was known for his legendary work ethic. Perhaps the best contrast between John Daly and Tiger Woods is the story Daly tells in his book about how he invited Tiger to have a few beers with him.  Tiger declined, stating the need to practice/exercise.  When John bemoaned that answer saying Tiger could take a break, Woods replied, "If I had your talent John, I wouldn't have to work out...."  Personally, I'd have probably had a beer with John, but that's just me.

A few years' back, Tiger Woods seemed to have it all.  Fame, a gorgeous wife and cute kids, staggering amounts of wealth and wins, lots and lots of wins.  The conventional wisdom was not when he would pass Jack Nicholas' wins, but when. He was all but certain to be the greatest golfer ever.

Then it all came crashing down for him.  His marriage ended after affairs were exposed.  His game, always something he had control of, got away from him.  He missed shots, botched putts.  He stopped winning.  

Then there is the health aspect.  Although still a relatively young man, not overweight, not known for abusive intakes of food/drugs/alcohol and still a dedicated trainer, found his body giving out on him.  He recently announced that he would not be playing the Masters Tournament this year.  According to his website, the surgery was successful but that he will be out of professional golf until the summer.  

Although the medical aspect of golf is not something I have thought about much, it is a factor in the game.  Competitive golf is not about riding around in a cart, smoking cigars and drinking whatever.  It's a grueling endeavor that taxes ones' mind and body.  Tony Robbins has an expression:  "Repetition is the mother of skill."  That may be true.  However, repetition of golf swings (thousands of them in the case of Woods) all day, every day, will take its toll on even the most in shape and healthy golfer.

Still, one could agree with LL Cool J in reference to whether Tiger Woods is in a "comeback" mode.  After all, he is still winning and according to the Official World Golf Rankings he is #1.  This is a position he's held for an astounding 677 weeks.  

The photo below is one most of us are familiar with seeing, the victorious Tiger Woods.  I wonder if the question to ask is not whether Tiger Woods will come back, or has already come back, but what lessons he's learned.  Fair or not, he's a public figure and that has caused his most personally private (and painful) matters to be on tabloid display.  Then with his medical issues, he's seen for being what he is- a man.  A talented man with an amazing work ethic and drive to win.  He seems determined to get back on the path to victory.

I think the trick is to learn from set-backs.  Zig Ziglar put it this way:

"Getting knocked down in life is a given...getting up and moving forward is a choice."

The iconic photo of Tiger Woods,, public domain and/or fair use claimed
I think that Tiger Woods has elected to get up and move forward.  I think that is good for golf.  I hope he wins again.  I hope that some kid fighting for his PGA Card in Q School is dreaming of beating Woods.  And not beating a sore, injured Woods, but a Woods at the top of his game.

Perhaps we will again see Tiger Woods moving forward as he walks down the 18th fairway in some important tournament in the last pairing on the last day, chasing yet another championship.  That would be a victory for him over the course, over his physical pain and perhaps over the mistakes of his past.  I'd like to see that.  The only thing that would make such a sight better is to see Tiger's talented friend John walking down with him. 

Be well my friends,


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Outpost

Cover of Jake Tapper's book, The Outpost, Little Brown and Company, Fair Use Claimed

Greetings All:

Most of my blog posts are intentionally meant to be funny, poking fun at me mainly.  I try not to take myself too seriously and attempt to be optimistic and grateful.  Fair warning, this is not one of those posts.

This post is about the book, The Outpost, by Jake Tapper of CNN.  I recently finished listening to the audio version of the book,   I like history, particularly American history, so when it was time to use my monthly credit, this book was an easy choice.

An easy choice, maybe, but far from an easy listen.  This is the tale of American Soldiers who were sent to a remote part of Afghanistan to establish small, austere bases.  The story begins in 2006 and concludes in October 2009.  This was a rough place to be.  Unfortunately, the enemy was profoundly aware of that.  The photo below shows where the base was located and the surrounding high ground that offered the enemy an effective platform to kill Americans.

The main location of this book is Combat Outpost Keating.  It was named for 1LT Ben Keating who died in a tragic vehicle accident. 1LT Keating's commitment to service reminds me of another young man who died tragically and way too young, Nile Kinnick.

The book begins around 2006 when this base was established.  As I mentioned, this was not an ideal strategic location.  However, there were other concerns.  The justification for this base was to engage with the local population and also take the fight to the enemy.  For a while, things were going pretty well.  Then, things got bad.  Really bad.  It culminated with a massive attack on October 3, 2009.  

Pictured is a view of Combat Outpost Keating on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in a remote pocket of Afghanistan, known as Nuristan. According to soldiers who called the outpost home, being at Keating was like being in a fishbowl or fighting from the bottom of a paper cup. It was there, surrounded by mountains and insurgents, that former Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha and his fellow soldiers fought back the enemy in a fierce 12-hour battle, Oct. 3, 2009.

As I listened to this book, I discovered a disturbing pattern.  Every time a new Soldier was introduced in the story, I had a dread feeling that he would die.  More often than not, I was right.  

This is an inspiring, thought-provoking and yes, heartbreaking book.  I also found myself getting angry at the Afghan soldiers who (in my opinion) failed miserably to prove themselves at the moment of truth.  I try not to judge others, especially when I was not present for a situation.  However, after listening to this book, I'll make an exception for these guys.

On the other end of the courage spectrum were the American Soldiers who served there, fought there and for some of them, died there.  There were awards for valor, including two Congressional Medals of Honor, presented to Staff Sergeants Ty Carter and Sergeant Clint Romesha.  I've included a link to their stories below.

And there were losses.  All of these loses are tragic.  One in particular stuck with me.  Specialist Stephan L. Mace.  Although severely wounded, he was kept alive first by his comrades who got him to an aide station and then by a physician's assistant.  Stephan Mace even made it to an Army hospital, only to die on an operating table.  Damn it.

Specialist Stephan Mace, original photo presumed to be U.S. Department of Defense, current source, "Freedom Remembered," full internet source listed below, fair use claimed

This book needed to be written.  It told a tale that otherwise would have been but a footnote of history.  It is a tale of valor.  Valor is one of those terms that we hear and (kinda) know what it the abstract.  This book replaces the abstract with the here and now, with the real world.  A real world where brave, young men with wives and children bleed and die.  

Thanks to our friends at, here's a definition of valor: 


boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in 
battle; heroic courage; bravery: a medal for valor.


from Late Latin valor,  from valēre  to be strong.

Those who served at this outpost were, like at the core of valor, strong.  Strong in spirit, strong in effort, and strong in commitment. That commitment was to a cause greater than themselves.

That, in a word, is strength.

Be well my friends,