Monday, July 30, 2012

A Salute To Our Troops

Lately I've been reflecting on how our current troops and veterans are under-appreciated. I used to never give a second thought to our military men and women except on holidays honoring them. But then my brother joined the National Guard and he was sent to Iraq. I know what he did over there in general, but I'll never know the full effects of his tour there. And recently I've become great friends with a guy who was a Navy Corpsman and also served with the Marine Corps. He did three tours in Iraq and while he's more open to talking about it than my brother, there's still so much myself and others simply will not understand. And he even said he's just now realizing that.

I can't justly compare it to my time in Echo, but there are similarities in that only the 17 of us in Echo 5 will understand our bond and love and all the crazy things we experienced in our two years of the program. Even if some stories are shared about our troops overseas, we will never understand. And unfortunately, those effects of their service run deep. Our veterans are struggling when they come back, and knowing and caring about two of them breaks my heart thinking about their hardships.

Yes, sometimes I question the reasons for our US presence overseas, and yes, these men and women freely choose to enter the military now and know of the chances of going and serving a tour in the Middle East. But despite your own opinion on our military and the wars we're fighting, these men and women risk their lives and livelihood. And coming back home they risk the chance of ever having a normal life. I'm not trying to say we should "feel bad" for our veterans; what I'm trying to convey is that we all need to be more understanding and respectful of them. And thank them often.

Even those who are still in the military here in the states continue to serve their country with right duty and honor. The other day I came across a story about a marine who stood guard at the hospital room of a dying 12-year-old boy. That is honor. That is a true hero. That is what it means to be an American. Yet so many people have lost that... You can find the full story here:

At Country Jam, a three day music festival in my hometown, the country music artists did a great job of honoring and saluting our troops. They gave them shout outs, had them on camera, even brought them up on the stage at times. And Trace Adkins played one of his newer songs, Semper Fi, a song honoring the Marines. After the song, my brother said it didn't do justice to what the Marines actually do for our country. I think it's still great that they still write songs like that though.

To all those who have served, are serving, and will serve our country in one of the branches of the military, thank you. I don't say it enough and I don't pray for you all enough, but I hope to start doing so now.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Recognizing Volunteers

I always knew it was important to recognize our volunteers, no matter what sort of organization you're a part of, but I didn't realize the full impact until a couple weekends ago.

Every summer we attend DCYC, our Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference. Throughout the weekend awards are given out to youth and adults who have committed their time to youth ministry at their parish. Last year I didn't give any awards to my parish youth, so this year I decided to do so. Three went to high school youth who have been very involved in youth group this past year; they're always reliable and want to do more. I also gave a "Light of the World" award to one of my chaperones, a mom who has been a great help with my middle school youth ministry. Earlier in the summer I thought of giving her a gift card as a thanks for all she has done, but I think this award meant way more.

When her name was called out on Sunday morning, she was so surprised! She said she was going to cry because she was so honored. I don't think she did, but I was fighting back tears of joy at seeing how happy she was. I have been so blessed to have her support and volunteer time, but I probably didn't show my appreciation enough. That morning was definitely a reminder of the importance of recognizing and appreciating our volunteers. They do things because they want to and would volunteer even without recognition, but we still need to show our gratitude. Without our volunteers we wouldn't be able to do anything! So from the bottom of my heart, whether you volunteer at a church or different organization, thank you for all you do.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Last week I saw the new Disney/Pixar movie "Brave." The only thing I knew about the film beforehand was that it is not your typical princess movie. The wild-haired protagonist  wasn't looking for a prince charming, rather she sought out independence and freedom. Now I'm a fan of "traditional princess" movies, but I gave this a shot and thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Here's a great review of the movie by a Word on Fire contributing author. There are some spoiler alerts, so be aware, but it has great lessons in it and I will definitely use this for a youth night some time!