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The first veterans memorial I remember seeing was a statue of Francis Marion on the lawn of the courthouse in Marion, South Carolina. His nickname was “the Swamp Fox”, which as a kid I thought was funny so the memory has always stuck with me. Marion fought in the American Revolution not the Civil War but I thought of the statue again when war memorials began being removed from public places in recent years. I asked my dad, who was born and raised in South Carolina in the 1940’s thru early 1960’s, what he thought of the removals. He said, “I suppose it depends whether you think a statue memorializes the event or the person.”

Since 1971, on the last Monday of May, we memorialize the men and women who died in service to their country as members of the U.S. military. We also honor and celebrate others we have lost in our lives, friends and family, but Memorial Day became a national holiday to honor fallen soldiers.

The remembrance and recognition of the holiday takes place largely in cemeteries but in many places the sacrifice of our military men and women is acknowledged every day. Which is the focus of my May 5K as part of my “Year of 5K’s to Raise Awareness”.

Veterans memorials in our part of the country likely don’t face the same controversy as in other places but are really meant to memorialize the people. Men and women who join the service do so knowing they may lose their lives as a result. The families left behind know that, too. But if that possibility became the sole focus of the decision, no one would sign up and their families wouldn’t let them go.

When you’re at the cemetery today, look for the American flags. Think of the people buried beneath them. And if you want to remember them after today, visit your local veterans memorial. To find them in South Dakota, go to vetaffairs.sd.gov.

Next month will be the halfway point in my 12 months of walks. Got an organization, event or cause you’d like me to highlight? Post a comment with your ideas and details.

Happy Memorial Day.

 

 

When I was a kid, misbehaving could get you a swat on the butt, and mouthing off, the threat of tasting soap. It was considered discipline and the practice was fairly common among everyone we knew. We considered ourselves punished, not abused. Abuse was breaking a child’s arm, burning their hand, leaving them out in the cold with no jacket. That wasn’t happening to us.

Under the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, child abuse and neglect occurs when a parent or caretaker takes an action (or fails to take an action) that results in the death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and it’s why I was walking the streets this morning:

I cannot conceive of the horrific things parents are doing to their children in our world. I’ve known since I was 20 that I couldn’t have children and I’ve often wondered why God has granted that privilege to monsters that hurt, maim and kill their kids instead of to someone who would love and protect them.

Despite not being a mom, I’ve been fortunate to always have special kids in my life – nieces and nephews, the children of friends, kids I’ve come to know through where I live, work and volunteer. When I hear the terrible stories of children being neglected and abused, I think if anybody did that to a kid close to me, I would beat the hell out of them. I get the irony of that statement – punishing violence with violence. But it’s hard not to feel that an abuser deserves the same treatment they’re dishing out.

So how can we help? Pay attention to the kids you know. Watch for signs of abuse. And if you see them, report it. If you missed the numbers in my video, the National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-422-4453 and in South Dakota where I live, you can also call the Department of Social Services, Division of Child Protection Services, at 1-877-244-0864.

I’ve no shortage of causes to walk for in my “5K A Month” challenge for 2018, but if there’s a group, organization or event you’re passionate about, give me a shout and some information and I’ll add it to my list. Logging miles that have meaning is kind of my thing and I’m happy to help.

Some of the best times in my memory involve fire.

Relaxing with Jay beside the fire pit on our patio. Laughing with friends around a campfire. Blowing out candles on a birthday cake. The “warmth” of fire – inviting, glowing, happy.

Not the “heat” of fire – destructive, ravenous, terrifying.

I wonder which of the two a wildland firefighter thinks of when they see a flame.

I’m on month #3 of my 12 months of 5K’s to raise awareness about organizations you may not be aware of that are doing good in our world. For March, I want to tell you about a group that helps protect the people who work to protect us when the world literally goes to hell:

Fighting a wildfire seems impossible, doesn’t it? Trying to contain a roaring blaze in an area with few if any boundaries where everything is combustible. But they do it, time and time again. In a volatile world, the people holding fast the front line can make all the difference.

Want to thank them and their families? Visit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation at wffoundation.org. The organization not only offers services on a national level, they also support local events like the Run for Ruhl fundraiser coming up in May in Rapid City, SD in memory of fallen wildland firefighter Dave Ruhl.

So far my 5K quest has highlighted a program that provides travel and lodging funds for cancer patients, a center that offers education and career resources for those just starting out or starting over, and a foundation that reminds us that even the invincible can use our help. Nine months to go – who will I hit the pavement for next? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Some years ago I was among a small group of people interviewing a woman for a job. When we asked about her computer skills, she hesitated. Then she explained that she’d been out of the workforce for a while but had been proficient in Lotus and WordPerfect at her previous job.

The interviewer across from me rolled their eyes and snorted.

That ticked me off.

We didn’t know the circumstances that had kept that woman from working. Or what had thrust her back into the job market again. But I knew it took guts for her to tell us that.

Ours is a world in which we need to keep up. Not just to get ahead but even to be where we’re at. Knowing where to get the skills you need is crucial. In my community, a good place to start is the focus of my February 5K:

The circumstances that bring people to the Right Turn vary. Maybe you’re recently divorced or widowed and need a job to support yourself and your family. Could be you’re a high school student who had trouble fitting in at a conventional school but still want a diploma. Perhaps you were raised in a home where English wasn’t spoken and having it as a second language will help you to communicate.

Nobody there will judge you. But they will empower you. Find out more at therightturn.org.

Who will I be hitting the streets for next month as my Year of 5K’s continues? I’m still undecided – what do YOU think? Drop me a comment with your suggestions.

If you ever see me running, I’m either escaping from danger or trying to get somewhere that’s closing in 5 minutes.

I’m a walker. Which is the same as a runner except it takes me longer to get there.

We all walk a certain distance every day to get from one place to another to do whatever it is we need to do. I also walk for exercise, physical and mental, mostly alone or with the dogs, but sometimes in groups to benefit causes.

Our community plays host in the spring and summer to a variety of runs and walks to benefit local organizations and events. If it’s a cause I support, I sign up, pay my fee and walk. The longest benefit walk I’ve ever done was the Breast Cancer 3-Day in St. Paul, MN, which was 60 miles walked over the course of 3 days. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of doing in my life.

Planning a walk/run takes time, money and good promotion. While many organizations do it successfully, there are other groups who could benefit from the exposure but may not have the resources. In 2018, I’ll tell you about 12 of them.

Each month this year I’m doing my own 5K to highlight one program or organization that’s doing good in our world. It’ll just be me (and whoever wants to join me) walking 3.2 miles to raise awareness. No entry fee, no tee shirts, no time limit. My first walk was this morning in 8-degree South Dakota weather with barely any wind or ice (which you’ll appreciate if you live in snow country). This is who I was walking for:

Maybe we don’t all have the opportunity to do good things on a grand scale affecting millions of people but as long as you’re upright and breathing, you have the ability to do SOMETHING. Even if that something is telling a couple of people about something good that’s going on in your corner of the world. They could tell a couple friends who tell a couple friends and so on and so on and so on. It worked for selling shampoo – why couldn’t it work for raising awareness?

If you missed it in the video, the program is the Pennies for Robert Bed and Breakfast Program through Countryside Hospice in Pierre, SD.

One month done, 11 to go. If you have an organization or event you’d like me to highlight in the coming months, drop me a comment and some information. I’m always up for a GOOD, long walk.

blog santa(Don’t be put off by the negative, gang – stick with it to the end, O.K.?)

On the first day of Christmas, I looked around to see: a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the second day of Christmas, I looked around to see: two massive earthquakes and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the third day of Christmas, I looked around to see: three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the fourth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the fifth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the sixth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the seventh day of Christmas, I looked around to see: seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the eighth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the ninth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: nine hackers hacking, eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the tenth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: ten terrorists bombing, nine hackers hacking, eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I looked around to see: eleven crooked leaders, ten terrorists bombing, nine hackers hacking, eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I looked around to see: twelve sexual predators, eleven crooked leaders, ten terrorists bombing, nine hackers hacking, eight addicts using, seven crazy shooters, six wildfires raging, five flowing floods, four racists ranting, three hurricanes blowing, two massive earthquakes, and a world lacking peace and harmony.

It’s been hard to see past the negative in 2017. Which makes it even more important to look for the positive. What good things happened to you this year? Can you come up with a dozen, or half a dozen? Nothing coming to mind? How about this: the year is ending and you’re still here. Maybe better off than you were last Christmas, maybe worse but YOU’RE STILL HERE. It’s a positive place to start for 2018, isn’t it? Peace and hope to you and yours.

Care Package

Hand out or hand up?

He could be lying. That’s the thing: we just don’t know.

In the two and a half weeks we’ve been driving to and from a city 150 miles from where we live, we’ve seen him less than half a dozen times. A small, worn man on the shoulder of the highway ramp holding a sign that says “Homeless Vet. Anything will help.”

There are four ramps at the intersection where we see him: two eastbound, two westbound, two exit, two entrance. He rotates among all of them to better his odds, I suppose, and because there’s a lot of construction in that area.

I’d guess him in his 60’s, maybe older, his beard is white and I can’t see his hair because he wears a cap with a hood pulled up over it. He’s hunkered down on the gravel, his gear on his back, his sign out in front, his gaze stoic.

“What’s the story on the homeless vet?” I ask at the gas station where we stop every day.

All of the regulars acknowledge they’ve seen him but nobody knows anything because none of them have stopped to ask him.

“Do you think he’s really a veteran?” the clerk asks me.

It bothers me that we don’t believe him. I’ve heard the stories same as you have about unscrupulous grifters conning sympathetic do-gooders out of their hard-earned money. My husband and I discuss it during our daily trip.

What kind of proof would make a person believe him? His military service records? An eviction notice? An empty wallet with a faded picture of him in uniform? Who would really ask him for it?

Is he making a statement? He doesn’t wave the sign or shout anything or directly approach any vehicle. He stays away from the traffic lights (a good idea because the intersection is always busy) and he must not be bothering anyone because even law enforcement drives right past him.

Why would he do it if he didn’t actually need help? It’s getting colder in South Dakota and on several recent days, the winds have been gusting over 50 miles an hour. He’s out in the open, on the side of the road. Aside from the weather, he could get run over or have things thrown at him or even be dragged into a vehicle and robbed of what little he has. Why take the risk of being out there if he didn’t have to?

On today’s drive, we made a decision. If he was on our ramp today, we’d stop next to him, thank him for his service to his country, and give him something.

We saw him but not on our side. The construction crews were grading the shoulder by the overpass and he was across the intersection on the eastbound entrance ramp, the opposite direction of where we were headed.

We have four more trips to make and if he keeps his usual rotation, he’ll be on our ramp one more time.

Yeah, he could be lying. And here’s the thing: how much does it matter?

Would you stop and give him something? Or look the other way and keep going?