Saturday, September 25, 2021

Warrior Expeditions” Visits Caruthersville

Warrior Expeditions” Visits Caruthersville

Report by Don Jeffries, California ANG, retired

23 September 2021


At the last VFW meeting, over at Daylight Donuts mid-morning of the previous Saturday, the subject of a canoeing group coming down the Mississippi River was discussed.  There would be three of them to be taken care of by the Caruthersville VFW Post in four days.  I listened to the discussion and thought no more about it.




On the following Tuesday, I received a phone call asking if I could assist in getting the canoes over to the Police Department’s secured area the next morning.  I do not have a pickup, only a sedan car.  The VFW officer said he would find out if the Police Chief could have the canoes picked up.  Any equipment could stay with the canoes.  Personal supplies and items would go with the Warriors over to the Drury Inn in Hayti where the VFW had obtained rooms.  Another officer, Bill, would take them over to Walmart to re-supply, after they were checked into the hotel for the night.  However, he had to take someone to a medical appointment that morning.  I agreed to provide transportation over to the hotel. 

Annie and I arrived down at Reynold’s Park at ten the next morning and waited until a little after ten when the first Warrior arrived.  He guided his canoe with the double paddle from deep water into the shallow water of the boat ramp and pulled it up from the lapping water.  After introductions, Harry and I brought his personal belongings up to the car.  I popped the trunk.  Once his items were in the trunk, he took a lookout position to spot the other two canoers coming into view upriver.  We waited for them to arrive at the boat ramp and they maneuvered their canoes as Harry had.  By the time most of the personal items were loaded, except what was going to be held on the lap, the Police Chief drove up with a long wide trailer.  Tony and the Warriors soon had their canoes ready for transport.  They could not believe the Chief himself as assisting them.  They understood when he informed them he was Army.  During all of this time, Annie had been taking photos.


Thursday morning, Bill and I arrived at the hotel.  The troops were rested, fed and cleaned.  Their laundry was done and they were re-supplied.  Their personal items went into the bed of Bill’s pickup.  Harry rode with Bill and I drove Brian and Eric.  Chief Tony arrived with the canoes just as we pulled in and parked by the river.  The reverse order of procedure for getting the canoes loaded with the equipment and supplies and ready to be back into the water was conducted. 


Mayor Sue Grantham and Annie arrived.  Annie began her photography.  One of the VFW officers was also on hand to take photo record keeping.  Soon the canoers were gathered for Sue to present a couple of souvenirs; each one received a color, double, tri-fold brochure of Caruthersville and a white, hand towel embroidered with “Caruthersville” and a hook on it for attaching.  They expressed their gratefulness and Annie took a photo of them and the Mayor.



They walked down the ramp and seated themselves in their canoes.  One by one they pushed off into the lapping water and peddled out into deep water.  The sun was still rising and shined its rays onto the water just ahead for them to glide into.  Annie got some really good photos.


The Warriors Expedition Organization has a list of towns along the Mississippi River who support the Warrior Peddling.  For six years now, the Caruthersville VFW Post has supported Warrior combat veterans in their effort to transition back into a normal life, after learning how to live with their experiences.

Donald Jeffries


Check out the website “warriorsexpeditions.org”.  Since 2015, the organization will accept forty applications from combat veterans, for Warrior Hike, Warrior Bike or Warrior Paddle, per year.  The expeditions are all across America.  One might hike the length of the Appalachian Trail or one of the other seven major trails of the United States.  The Great American Rail Trail is used as the bicycling expedition.  It runs from Washington, D.C. to Washington State, as a conservation project of converting old railways to cross-country trails.  It is only 50% plus completed.  Each year the Mississippi River is used for the paddle expedition, from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.  The idea is to give the Veterans a form of therapy using an endurance challenge of nature.  It also puts them out in a team by themselves for a lengthy period of time, with the opportunity to talk of their experiences with someone who understands from their own similar experiences.  These are combat veterans from all branches of the military; both men and women.  These challenges take months and are fully funded by the organization itself.  The organization is supported by individual and business sponsorships.


Seventy-three years old now and looking back

 So many of my happiest memories are from my grandparent's kitchen. Home baked bread, flapjacks, donuts, and my ever favorite deep fried donut holes . The flurry of flour dust and smell of yeast in a warm kitchen make me nostalgic and happy even now, so many years later.


Today as I reflect on turning 65 (tomorrow), it finally occurs to me that those memories are of my grandparents at an age that I am just now turning to.  Where did the lifetime go?  I was 3.  I was 7.  I was 12 when we lived in Rhinelander, WI.  Summer was fireflies and gigantic black bumble bees on the dash of my grandfather's car. It was also many trips down Thayer Street passing under the viaduct and visiting the penny candy store and Aunt Mar's Treasure Chest gift shop.

 I remember grandpa's hand, like a huge gnarled paw, smashing down on the dashboard smashing the flying monster that terrified me.  And then just like that, the tears and fears were gone because the country backroad we were traveling on took a dip and suddenly I felt the tickle belly feeling that comes from the road dipping down then rising quickly back up as the road moved on.

Winter was clearing the sidewalk of snow and the steps leading up to the porch.  It was ice fishing with my dad and being defeated from taking a prize home because the local muskrat was swimming around claiming our lakeside fishing hole.  Winter was snowballs and snow angels and snow men with real coal for eyes and a carrot for a nose.  A hat and scarf from grandpa finished him off.

Now, at 65, I'm looking forward to grands of my own someday.  Nothing on the horizon yet but I'm not concerned.  Children are a gift and we are each allowed a certain number to share our life with.  Whether they are our own or whether we become the best aunt and uncle ever, children are almost always there to enliven our lives. 

So now I think about what I would like to give my own potential grands and the dream doesn't stir far from what I remember.  Someday I too shall be making donuts and flapjacks and bread.  There may not be fireflies and I definitely won't be saving anyone from a bumble bee but just as I have these gifts to pass on from my grandparents, I have also the memory of peanut brittle (thank you, dad) that I can also share with them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Shared and Intertwined


Sebastian turned seven at the end of July and I saw in his future, and that of his siblings, a potential for a future I never had.  Until now, birthdays were mainly small family affairs but seven for Seb was very different.  The kids don't have cousins nearby but there is a tight group of family friends with children ages 5 to 16.  Adding to that William's Godparents with their young ones and Matteo's best friend, Frankie, I saw lives shared and intertwined down through the years.  

Growing up in one place, going through school with a changeable but stable group, I foresaw a future where there would be people who might remain close and tell and retell stories of shared experiences, job successes (or disappointments), weddings, births of their own children, and even the tragedies of death and despair.

But on this hot and sunny day there was nothing but noise, laughter, and visiting, oh, so much visiting.  Concerns about Covid were put on hold as people joined together in celebration, to relax and have fun as they celebrated the future of the life on one little boy and, by extention, all of us.

My pleasure in this imagined future is doubly gratifying because I felt its absense so keenly in my own life.  Growing roots doesn't come easily when you move countless times, finally settle in one place and with high school graduation, whatever ties formed, unravel.  

I don't write this as a poor, pitiful me, sob story.  No, I write it with joy and celebrataion.  You see, feeling a sense of aloneness and disconnectedness isn't a life sentence.  Rather, it has become an understanding of the value of the role people play in one's life.  It isn't about numbers of friends but quality of friends.  Seek the friend that sticks closer to you than a sister or brother (Proverbs 18:24).  

Friendship is a gift and as it forms, it can be sweet and exciting, and create a place in ones heart that feels safe and sheltered.  But friendship can also be messy.  Like marriage, friendship takes work to maintain it and keep it healthy.  We're human.  We make mistakes but, true friends will be there, will see you through the rough times and tell you the truth.  So, take the time to learn that while friendship and experience are related, they are very different and distinct from each other.  Friendship is the person.  Experience is what happens to form that friendship.



Saturday, July 17, 2021

Help Me To Live Simply


 Help Me To Live Simply

Simplicity - It's more than just divesting one's self of material goods.  It's also a way of looking at the world with clarity, with the innocence of a child, an innocence that resonates with a wisdom we all but lose by the time we reach adulthood. With openness and honesty, trust as a child but not with naiveté.

Simplicity of heart is needed to hear God's words with clarity and for receiving it most fully. To hear clearly, one needs to successfully resist cunning thoughts, be able to recognize duplicity, be direct, not evasive, and not resort to schemes and scams. Simplicity of the heart leads us to wisdom and the grace of simplicity. This wisdom and grace allows us to understand that a simple yes or no will often be all that is needed when a question is asked.

With simplicity, you have directness of communication, dignity, wisdom, and grace.. You are accessible to others. Friendship is available. Respect flourishes and sincerity shines through.  With simplicity, you cannot despise, cannot reject, cannot be close-hearted.  Simplicity isn't vain, nor is it false.


Dear Father,

Help me to be simple. Help me to be clear in thought and avoid complicated words and deeds that only sow confusion..  Save me from those who would re-interpret your words through their own confused "understanding" and give me the courage to speak with clarity and directness and to speak the unvarnished truth

I ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother, Mary.

Amen.

 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Lord, Make Me A Peacemaker

We cannot have true peace without trust in each other. Peace in our hearts is a necessary tool to create peace in our world. St. Francis of Assisi knew this and the innocence of his love for all was his gift of peacefulness toward all.

We live in terrible times, is a phrase echoed down through history and the more we have tried to be peacemakers, using man's tools, the worse things have become in our world. We aren't meant to keep peace by ensuring a balance of armaments. We are meant to create and keep peace by keeping Christ, the great Peacemaker, the one who confirmed and made complete, the message of the ancient prophets.  We are all God's children. His son's great gift of peace is meant to be shared by us all, believers and non-believers, alike.

In John 14:27, Jesus makes clear that the peace He gives us is not the same as the peace the world gives.  God's peace is strong and everlasting. We have seen many peaces come and go in the world but the Peace of Christ never passes and with that peace, we have unity with others. We recognize our oneness with and responsibility to and for each other. We have peace and love, undivided from each other.


Dear God,

Make me an instrument of your love, mercy, forgiveness and openness to your Will.  Make me a keeper of peace within myself and I might share that peace with others.

Give me the words to encourage respect for all and a willing heart to help those who cannot help themselves.

Help me to share the knowledge that helping through our own efforts is preferred to mandating help as an enforcement placed upon others.

Help us to understand that by each offering what one can do for the least of us, we can create a world of peace and unity.

Help us to understand, it’s not the poverty of the body that suffers more but rather a poverty of the spirit that spreads hate, fear, and violence in the world.

In Christ’s Name,

Amen



Friday, April 30, 2021

Lord, May Your Will Be Done

Dear Father, Help me to greet each day without fear and with the expectation that you will show me opportunities to serve others in your name. Amen. 


God's Will for us is to do His work. We are each called whether in great ways or small, to do His Will. Even Jesus acknowledged that he was sent to do the Father's Will, not just his own (John 6:30). 

To follow His Will is to love. How imperfect our love and actions are when we stumble in our efforts. But, we are human; how could we not stumble? Fear, the great weapon of Satan, is always there waiting to block our efforts to serve. Prayer, only prayer and communion with He who loves us without restriction, can help us to overcome and defeat Fear. 

When we feed on the food of God (John 4:34), we consume the food which is His Love and Will. Our work, however small, is complete and completed when we do the work in God's name. 

A recent viewing of the movie "Of Gods and Men" is the perfect illustration of men called to serve in a way that might end in their deaths. They struggled with their personal fears privately, with each other, and they prayed, at times, desperately. They had no way of knowing their fate but they suspected and then accepted the Will of God. With acceptance came peace. They trusted in His love to sustain them as they continued to obey His Will and serve.

Not all of us will be called to martyrdom but each act of service teaches us more of love and God's Will for us and we are strengthened. With this strength, we are enabled to follow in the footsteps of Jesus to the knee of God, the Father of us all.

In the words of St. Pope John XXIII, from his diary in 1947, we read, " . . .liv(ing) in continual obedience gives me courage and dispels my fears".

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Increasing Goodness Within Myself

 

Increasing Goodness Within Myself

Anne Jeffries

 

Only one man, in the entire history of the world, has obeyed every Commandment of goodness found in the Old Testament. God and His son are the only good and we are called to be good as they are (Romans 8:28 and Luke 6:31).

 We are told (John 6:38) that Christ was sent by His Father to do His Will. Doing the Will of God is not easy and even Christ suffered, asking for His cup of suffering to pass Him by (Matt 26:39). His humanity begged to be released from this final act that would renew the man to salvation. But, knowing He was called to die for our sake, He did so. His glorious resurrection put His followers and all of humanity on a firm path to God and salvation. Serving Him helps us then, to work out our own salvation (Matt 7:21).

 As I read Pope Francis' book, The Way of Humility, I am overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of true humility. His words, so simple and direct, flow against our world today, pushing like hardening sap. If Jesus can humble Himself before His destiny of physical death (Phil 2:7-8) how much easier it should be for me to bear my call to humbleness before God. I am not being asked to die physically (not at this moment in any event) but I am being asked to die to myself.

 If we are to follow Christ fully, we need to ask ourselves what cross it is we are meant to bear for His sake. In recognizing our own cross, we are more fully prepared to serve, in all humility, others, in His name.

 Serving is no chore done out of duty or obligation. We may feel duty and obligation but, done in love, there is no effort. In fact, the act itself is so freeing that communion with God can only increase. Obeying a call to serve and love are the same thing but the road to that union of service and love can offer up unexpected roadblocks. The road to a practice of good acts through service and love is fertile ground for Satan's minions - Doubt, Fear, Revulsion, Shame, and Embarrassment. The struggle through these barriers to goodness and into the light of God's waiting love and companionship is a deeply personal road, a steep climb out of a dark pit that is always waiting there for us. Holding to the hem of His robe, I cling to His love to stay on the path of doing His Will.

St. Pope John XXIII's motto was "Obedience and Peace". There is no clearer road for me to follow. The dark minions are held at bay as I look up to Him and ask His Will for me. Once known, once answered, peace in His love becomes my shelter.