Why Do We Say “Happy” on Memorial Day?

                 
Despite all the problems we have here in the U.S.A. Its remains the greatest country to live in. The multiple freedoms that we enjoy came at a heavy cost, the lives of those who chose to fight for our country.

To all the Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force members who paid the ultimate price I owe a debt of gratitude that I will never be able to re-pay. To the 58,000 plus who gave their life in Vietnam for a war that we had no business being involved in, thank you. Thank you for going even though you were treated like an alien  upon your return to an ungrateful country.

Today you can see the enormity of all those lives by visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. It’s a humbling experience.

Iraq and Afghanistan have added thousands more to that toll with most of them in the 18 – 24 years old range. That’s too many lost sons & daughters, brothers & sisters, fathers & mothers, nieces & nephews, & grand children in the prime of their life.

I live near Camp Pendleton, the busiest military base in America and I see these kids everyday ready to pay that price. Kids from small towns to large cities, who would rather be hanging with their friends back in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New York, California & any other state in the U.S. but made the decision to keep us free another day, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Don’t think they’re not afraid, they are, but they also believe in keeping a commitment they made to their friends, family & country.

I don’t have an answer for the Happy Memorial Day greeting but I do believe that it shouldn’t be “Happy” when we honoring those who have lost their life.

So instead of getting wasted on Memorial Day do something for these kids.

 Even if it’s a simple “thank you for your service.”

SEMPER FI

Goodbye 55


Junior Seau - (FILE) Junior Seau 1969 - 2012


Just when you think you’ve got life all figured out it comes up behind you and smacks you in the head with something else.

Oceanside, CA. is an ocean front town about 30 miles  north of downtown San Diego. Its home to a eclectic mix of different nationalities. It’s also just south of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, the busiest military base in the United States. I have come to love Oceanside and some of my favorite people live and work here.

Of course no story about Oceanside can be complete without mentioning our favorite son, Tiaina “Junior” Seau

It’s also home to Oceanside High School, where the Pirates ran amok on the football field. One of their alumni was a Samoan Standout football player named Tiaina “Junior” Seau. Junior created mismatches and struck fear in his opponents. He went on to USC with the same work ethic and earned a ticket to the NFL. In 1990 he was chosen 5th overall in the 1st round by his home town San Diego Chargers and couldn’t have been more excited for the opportunity to play at the highest level in front of his family and friends.

He was known for his passionate playing style, he was a 10-time All-Pro, 12-time Pro Bowl selection, and named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.  He was the focal point of the defense and the team as a whole.

I don’t think there is an NFL football quarterback who doesn’t have their favorite Junior story.

This past May 2, 2012 Junior took his own life leaving behind a legacy that will live on despite him not being here in body. His soul and spirit will live on through his aloha that he demonstrated while he was here on this earth. He left behind his ex-wife Gina  and their four children, brothers and sisters and the family Patriarch & Matriarch, Mama & Papa Seau who all live in Oceanside. Prayers should also go out to Megan Noderer, who seems to have gotten lost in the aftermath. She was Junior’s girlfriend and  the person who found Junior in his home on the Strand. Right below is the call that Megan Noderer made to 911, but it was too late.

http://soundcloud.com/soundcloud-6/junior-seau

There is no question that Junior was Oceanside’s Favorite Son. He was involved in his community and never forgot where he came from. He was always giving back to Oceanside, was always seen with a smile and if he met you once he’d remember you as if you were lifelong friends and he’d always called you “Buddy.”

I had the pleasure to meet Junior twice, the first time was at the LaDainian Tomlinson Celebrity Golf Tournament. My ex-father in law is a huge NFL fan  so I took him. We met Junior at the Reception afterwards and I remember him asking if I was Hawaiian.  He had a special place in his heart for the Hawaiians and Samoans. The second time was at a business lunch at Seau’s in Mission Valley, one of the attendees lived out of state and kept asking if Junior ever came into the restaurant, he wanted to meet his football hero. After the 3rd or 50th time he asked about Junior I looked up to see Junior walking our way. His familiar “Hey Buddy, Howzit” was how he addressed me and then he asked if I had been home to Hawaii recently. I introduced him to the other guys at the table and they were impressed by how “down home” Junior was and his friendliness towards strangers.

The Junior Seau Foundation sponsors three major programs each year to benefit children and was built on the following mission statement:

To educate and empower young people through the support of child abuse prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, recreational opportunities, anti-juvenile delinquency efforts and complimentary educational programs.

Shop with a Jock®  

Each December, the Junior Seau Foundation Teamed up with Target and over 250 local professional and amateur athletes to give 250 underprivileged children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego the opportunity to shop for gifts for their loved ones.

Scholars of Excellence Program

This program was designed to recognize young men and women who are dedicated to both personal and academic excellence. Financial assistance is granted to high school graduates who have the grades and the desire, but not the means, to attend a four year college or university. In 2011 the Foundation awarded 25 scholarships amounting to $107,500 in financial aid.

Thanksgiving at SEAU’s The Restaurant

Every Thanksgiving Junior hosts a dinner for 700+ clients of non-profit agencies, including homeless shelters, rehab centers, victims of domestic violence and military families at SEAU’S The Restaurant in Mission Valley.

Junior Seau Foundation Around Town

Junior’s footprint can be found all over San Diego as it worked hard  to empower and educate young people in the community. From funding athletic fields in La Mesa to underwriting a van to transport special education students enrolled at the Stein Education Center in Chula Vista, his Foundation has focused on making a direct impact in the community and will continue to do so even after . The foundation continues to allocate funds for programs that inspire young people to face life’s challenges with enthusiasm, hope and dignity.

I wanted this to be right so that is why it’s 2 weeks after Junior’s passing, Junior and his spirit of aloha, a smile that could light up an entire stadium, and that now too familiar phrase “Hey Buddy” will be missed

Junior was only 43, far too young to leave this earth, again another sad reminder that we don’t know when our time is up here. Make sure that you tell those around you that you love them. Give them a hug just because. Do something totally unexpected for someone, but do it now, don’t wait because then it might be too late.

Below is a link to the 911 call from Junior’s house. Credit goes to Oceanside P.D. Fire Department & the dispatcher for doing their best to keep Junior’s girlfriend somewhat grounded.

http://soundcloud.com/soundcloud-6/junior-seau

Gratitude

 

A few days ago I sent out a LinkedIn poll question asking people what they were most grateful for. I received some interesting answers. One claimed gratitude for everything from their 2 cars in the garage to always having a fresh roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. Really? I’m hoping that the t.p. remark was said in humor because if it weren’t that would be downright sad.

Then there were the handful that as the reader I could feel their gratitude for everything from learning to walk all over again after an accident to a father being grateful that his son had beat death. I have sons and that one left me asking myself, “What would I do, how would I act if something happened to my boys?”

One kept resonating within me. The responder was just grateful to be alive for the past five years after a life threatening bout with cancer.

Gratitude is just the opposite of having a bad attitude about what you didn’t get versus being happy with what you do have.

I’m grateful to be a good father
I’m grateful to have a good relationship with their Mother
I’m grateful for my health. I look around and see people who are my age who aren’t doing well.
I’m grateful that I can give something back to my community by being involved with the Wounded Warrior Project & we’re also starting another Foundation for Children of which I’ve been asked to be on the Board of Directors.
I’m grateful to the Marines at Camp Pendleton who have made an impact on my life and I theirs.
I’m grateful that I have friends in this world that I can talk to and they can talk to me about what’s going on in their lives.
I’m grateful that I quit drinking 23 years ago. The best part of not drinking is that I’m present for my life, good or bad.
I’m grateful that I can have compassion for others.

I guess I could have a bad attitude about not having a job, but that would prevent me from trying to find gainful employment to take even better care of my sons.
I could use a new car, but mine is just fine. I bought my SUV the day after my first son was born because I didn’t want my son driving around in a small sports car.
There’s lots of things I would like to have but their just wants and not needs.

The bottom line is we’ve all got one shot here on this good Earth (I think) and we should make the best of it. Enjoy the ride because most of the time it’s an “E” Ticket Ride and remember that when things get tough you’re never going to get more than you can handle and I know that to be true.

I love this quote from William Arthur Ward, author of Fountains of Faith
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

Enjoy the rest of the holidays, spend time with those that you care the most about and share your gratitude with those who need it.

Happy Holidays