Year’s end has always been a time of deep reflection and introspective thought for me. Much has happened – professionally and personally – in the last year. Some of which was well received, some of which was handled with grace, and some of which just passed me by….
Some thoughts and retrospection on the year closing tonight….
In March, I passed the latest milestone in my life by turning 30 on March 5th.
During April and May, we disappeared for ten days into the lovely sands and waters of St. Croix, and nearly didn’t come back. An island oasis so much like heaven I thought perhaps I had died. As I look out the window today at 12 inches of snow I wonder why we didn’t stay.
In late May, in the midst of some spring rain and in the flash of a moment’s inattention, I crashed my five year old Toyota Camry. After the insurance company totaled out the car, I bought a snappy new Honda Civic Hybrid. Since that time, I’ve saved nearly $517 in gasoline costs. And I’m still quite happy with the car.
June brought us the dedication of the National World War II Memorial. At that time, I wrote of my upbringing in Covington, Indiana:
The war – even though it occurred nearly thirty years before my birth – has always been a part of the fabric of my life. Its impact on my hometown – and on the people who lives there – was huge.
My father, a Vietnam Veteran, was active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. He twice serves as Commander of American Legion Post 291 – housed in an old historic log cabin in Covington’s city park. As a Boy Scout in Troop 291 – sponsored by the same American Legion post, I would stop and read the plaques and study the pictures mounted on the wall.
Post 291 was named the Fulton – Banta American Legion Post. I remember an old black and white photograph of Ensign John William Banta – for whom the post was co-named. Ensign Banta was Covington’s first casualty in World War II. Fulton, whose background escapes me at the time of this writing, was Covington’s first casualty in World War I.
Something about the way that I was brought up – the combination of small town Indiana and the military service history of my family and neighbors – has always instilled in me a deep respect for the sacrifice of those of served – and those who gave their all. It may come from a deep understanding of freedom – an underlying theme that I heard growing up. From the 4th of July Fireworks, to planting flags as a young Boy Scout on the graves of hundreds of veterans in Fountain County, Indiana, that message was reinforced in my head over and over… and I also learned from the veterans and others who had lived through the Second World War that freedom came with a price. I knew that from the honored pictures of Fulton and Ensign Banta in the American Legion Post.
This weekend, we finally gave them their due with the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
The summer brought on a huge crush of work as I headed up efforts to prepare for the 2004 Democratic National Convention. It was a huge learning experience for me and has opened up all sorts of new career possibilities for me in the future. Hopefully, as things work out, you’ll hear more about those in 2005.
September, I believe, will always be a difficult month for many in the United States. I have memories and feelings that are deeply held about the events of that day and their aftermath – but it was a simple gesture by a peer of mine that has helped me remember how I felt that day.. and why.. I wrote back on September 11th:
In the end, I think we all have the responsibility to remember what happened that day – to us – to our fellow man – here in our own country.
A few weeks ago, while having coffee with a peer in Minneapolis, our conversation steered towards the impact of September 11th on our lives – both personally and professionally.
She pulled out her PDA – tapped on it a few times – and spun it around so that I could read it.
It was her calendar – turned to September 11th, 2004 – and it showed just one word:
September also brought a new hobby – exercise. For the first time in nearly a decade, I picked up an athletic hobby and started what I hope will be a life altering experience for me. And I solidified that statement with a simple wristband signifying that change in my approach to living:
With October each year brings the World Series. In my six years in Boston, I’ve watched other teams play in the great dance and watched one of them go home happy. This year, after eighty-six years, it was our turn:
November brought, after nearly two years of campaigning, the re-election of President George W. Bush. I danced the happy dance when John Kerry gave a wonderful concession speech:
With that gift also comes obligation. We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion.
I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years. I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. I know this is a difficult time for my supporters, but I ask them, all of you, to join me in doing that.
Now, more than ever, with our soldiers in harm’s way, we must stand together and succeed in Iraq and win the war on terror.
We lost many friends as a nation in 2004 as well. Two that I’ll always remember were Ronald Reagan and Pat Tillman.
Former President Reagan had one of the most stunningly beautiful funerals I have ever seen. The image of the sunset to the west as he was carried to his final resting place was the perfect epitaph on this man’s life.
Much was written this year about Pat Tillman – but I thought this simple tribute from blogger Sgt. Hook said it best:
We landed at one of the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) yesterday to drop off supplies and pick up some equipment, a somewhat routine mission for us. The crew suddenly became very solemn when we noticed a ceremony being conducted about 30-meters away. A KIA ceremony.
The flag draped coffin was placed in the position of honor in front of a formation of Soldiers while a chaplain said a few words. We were all humbled and reminded of our own immortality and that everyday out here, we are in harm’s way.
As taps played we rendered our salute to the fallen Soldier, hero, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. News of the firefight resulting in one dead and two wounded a couple of days ago had reached us. We had no idea it was Pat Tillman. Tillman turned down a big fat NFL contract with the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger shortly after 9/11.
Sgt Tillman is a hero not because he walked away from the Cardinals, but because of where he walked to. He like all the rest of the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coastguardsmen volunteered to put himself between the bad guys and our way of life and fight for its preservation. Rest In Peace Sgt Tillman, your service to our nation is an inspiration and you will not be forgotten.
And we couldn’t recognize these two without acknowledging the sacrifice of hundreds of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen in Iraq and Afghanistan who died for the liberty of total strangers – and who have helped forge a country where I can sit in peace on my couch and write this recap of the past year. We will never forget you.
And so we close the books on 2004. There’s much more I could write but can’t because this is a public forum. There’s more news coming early in 2005 along with my New Year’s Resolutions – but you’ll have to wait until the next year has begun before you can read those.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I’ll be mine,
And we’ll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne
Happy New Year, my friends…. Happy New Year…