Monday, June 29, 2009

The Shadow of the Flag

I could take no more, and I nearly collapsed on the front porch step. I had a ways to go before I finished my Saturday chores, but I've been way too inactive these days, and it was either take a break and catch my breath or become the center of a dramatic front yard 911 emergency scene.

I chose the porch step... and with a glass of ice cold water in hand, I attempted to undo the effects of 3 1/2 hours of yard work in the Florida summer sun by doing something I rarely do... being still... even on the inside.

I sat to calm my heart rate as the sun burned like a laser across my shoulders. With my chin in my hands, I breathed a deep sigh and just enjoyed the scene laid out before me, topped with an overwhelmingly beautiful sapphire sky. Ahhhh... There was a nice little ocean breeze carrying the scent of the freshly cut, ultra-green grass my way, and the hum of the air conditioner nearby kept me company along with my front porch thoughts and the trickling beads of sweat running down the side of my face. Neighbors passed and waved, birds were singing pleasant tunes and my mind was lulled by the the gentle sound of the dull flapping overhead as Queen Palm shadows swayed around me, briefly cooling me as they passed.

That sun was fierce though. I started to wish some of that shade would just stay put long enough to cool me off before my skin disintegrated. Then, as if on cue, a cheerful breeze kicked up, and a refreshing shadow fell over me completely. It was heaven. What a relief. I looked up, and with a sinking sense of guilt, I realized that I had been unmindfully sitting all that time in the shadow of the flag. I cringed. While enjoying the colors around me, I had forgotten the colors of Old Glory that snapped to attention just above me out of sight. Yet there it was unfurled and faithfully laying it's shadow over me.

I was sitting in freedom on my own front porch, sipping cool water, practically swimming in green grass and touched by a salty breeze. The men for whom I pray each day as I pass that flag, have in contrast, faithfully traded treasures like my front porch moment, and family members like those on the other side of my front door, to stand against the enemy of our freedom and keep that enemy from the street where I live. It is these men who have purchased this beautiful Saturday scene for me.

Even now they've got me covered. They are the faithful and protective shadow that covers our entire nation like that flag waving overhead... covering it with their one and only life. Sadly, they rarely show up on the American radar, yet they relentlessly defend our personal American freedom even when we don't bother to look their way.

This 4th of July, as you enjoy the fireworks that light up the night, and as that beat pounds through your chest, remember that even at that moment, you are standing in the shadow of someone who is paying for the gift of your liberty with his sacred honor. As you "ooh" and "ahhh" at the sight and sound of the rockets' red glare, keep in mind that the heavy boom of explosions that echo to his very core day and night does not come from a colorful, entertaining display. It is a fearsome assault he endures to maintain and defend our incredible life of freedom. He faithfully engages that battle so we can lie back on a blanket and enjoy the show in the greatest nation on earth.

When the colors fill the sky, take a minute to ask God to go above and below, before and behind and on every side of our "boys"... to wrap his protective arms around them, whispering into each one's ear that they are loved and they are not alone.

Then pick up a pen and "whisper" a word of encouragement and thanks of your own to one of these men of valor who give all while life goes on in your America. Send it to, and it will be delivered with an "Operation Buddy" package of goodies to the sons of other moms and dads, husbands of other wives, fathers of little ones who wait for daddy back home. To these Marines, we owe a debt we rarely begin to fathom.

Celebrate your freedom this 4th of July, and remember those who represent the flag whose shadow is always waving a reminder of our freedom. And when the colors explode across the sky, instead of "ooh" and "ahh", perhaps it might be more appropriate to whisper a heartfelt "OOOH RAH".


Recap of our 2008, July 4th Love and Support Project

Here's something I forgot to post before. After our first project last year during our guys' deployment to Iraq, Diane/PA got local news coverage for our Love and Support From Home project.

From the Punxsutawney Spirit

Support group packs up goods, love for troops away from home

Written by Julie Ciaramella
Saturday, 14 June 2008

Postmaster John McBee helps to unload packages for troops
with Dot Hanley and Don Slovinsky at the post office. Hanley and
Slovinsky are grandparents of LCpl. Shane Hanley, who is
stationed in Iraq. (Photo by Julie Ciaramella/The
Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY -- The Fourth of July is about to get a bit
brighter for some Marines in Iraq, thanks to care packages
being sent to them in time for the holiday. A local group has
organized a project using donations from all over the country,
hoping to boost the morale of the Marines and let them know
that people are thinking of them at home. “It is our goal to bring
smiles to the faces of those who are so unselfishly serving our
country,” said the organizer of the project, Diane Hanley. “We
want to lift their spirits and morale as we send love and support
from home.” Hanley has a son serving in Iraq with Operation
Iraqi Freedom, LCpl. Corporal Shane Hanley, stationed with
the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine, 2nd Marine Division from Camp
LeJeune, N.C. He is a 2006 graduate of Punxsutawney Area
High School, and is engaged to Brandy Hoffman of Florida,
originally from Punxsutawney. Hanley’s parents, grandparents
--Don Slovinsky, and Dot and Pat Hanley -- and parents from
all over the United States whose sons are also serving in the
battalion, wanted to send packages to show appreciation for
the Marines’ service. They came together with volunteers,
many of whom worked nights and weekends on the project,
to put together 1,300 bags. Each soldier will receive socks,
candy, gum, drink mix, apple pie, water balloons -- for fun –
U.S. flag bandanas and messages from their parents. Children
from Bell Township, Jenks Hill and Longview Elementary
Schools -- as well as students from Alabama, Florida and
Virginia -- wrote letters to include in the boxes. Volunteers
then placed the items in bags and tied them with red, white
and blue ribbons. “This is important to me because of my
grandson,” Dot Hanley said. “We want the kids over there to
know that we care about them back home.” Diane Hanley and
her son’s grandparents went to the post office Thursday and
Friday to mail the packages, sending 40 boxes weighing a tota
of 600 pounds. State Rep. Sam Smith donated money to help
pay for the postage, as did several businesses around
Punxsutawney. “Without the help of many in our community
who contributed, this project would never have been possible,”
Diane said. “We wholeheartedly thank those who were so kind
to donate.” They plan on coordinating another shipment in the
next few months. Diane Hanley noted that this would be a great
senior project for a Punxsutawney Area High School student.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering to help put packages
together or donate items can contact her at 938-8104.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Our 2/2 Superheroes Return

In keeping with the theme "Where We've Been"... Here is the video I put together of our homecoming at the end of last year. Sorry for the blurry quality :(

Soon, we will have some current events and hopefully some of your photos to post! I am thinking of collecting one 4th of July photo from each of you who want to participate. More on that this week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Love and Support From Home during OIF 2008

It was a busy year for the families of the 2/2 during 2008. We formed a Parent Network with the cooperation of the Commanders... AND of course, thanks to the persistence of Diane, aka: "MomProud", leading the way. 

Our guys deployed to Iraq around the second week of April, 2008 and we immediately got to work preparing for our first 1,300 packages to go out. Our goal: Delivery by the Fourth of July!

What it took: 

1,300 Pair of Socks
5,600 Water Balloons
300 American themed bandanas hand sewn by 2 people
1000 American themed bandanas purchased through donations given by 9 families and The Thank You Foundation
25 Rolls of Packing Tape
Hard Candy
Tootsie Pops
Apple Pie (What is more American than apple pie?)
2,600 Letters From Children
1,300 Drink Mix Packets
A Postcard
A Letter From the Families of the Warlords
Lots of Love and Support From 14 States

All of these items were packaged in Ziplock bags tied with red white and blue ribbons!

Check out some sights from our Love and Support efforts during OIF below.

Where We've Been (click photos to enlarge)

Enclosed in each Fourth of July package.

The assembly line set up at Diane's house.

Engulfed in a whole lot of "love and support"!

The packages arrive!

The letters are read...

We said thanks to those who donated...

Sent with our second package in September, and shows some of those who helped make that package possible.

This was awaiting the guys when they returned from deployment along with a pack of goodies...

The mock-ups of the shirts we made available for the homecoming celebration...