Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Blessing to Heal

Today I visited Arvydas. He looks so much worse than in his pictures. He couldn’t come to the door. All of his hair is now missing. He had bloody scabs in both ears and his hands are withered and scaly. He can’t open his hands or show his palms.

His muscles have atrophied and his skin condition looks much worse.

He has had some sort of stem cell transplant. We should know in 3-6 months if it takes hold or not.

Although Arvydas is not a member of my faith, I nevertheless asked him if he’d like to receive a priesthood blessing, an invitation which he accepted.

The priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. It was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith in the 1800s and was passed from those holding the authority on to me and other devout and worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today.

While giving the blessing, by the laying on of hands, I wept for my friend. Prior to the holy ordinance I told Arvydas that I had thought to offer him a blessing while struggling myself in Iraq. I was at the lowest point of my life over there. Surely, he knows what it’s like to suffer. I was able to come home and leave my trials behind, but at the present time, Arvydas, isn’t able to be healed. Be it according to the will of the Lord.

To the invalid begging alms in front of the temple at the gate Beautiful, the Apostle Peter, who held the same priesthood authority, declared, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk…and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.”

Sometimes miracles happen. And yet if all ailments were immediately cured it would eliminate the need for faith. Sometimes our trials and ailments are our greatest assets and most worthwhile investments, though we wish they would disappear and ne’er return. Great blessings can come from great struggles and burdens. I believe I’ve changed for the better because of my pains, struggles, trials and burdens. Of greatest mention is a deeper desire to help others – a greater concern and love for all. The whole world could use more compassion and less war.


America is wonderful. I sure love being home.

I’ve been back from Iraq now just over one month. I still have great spurts of overwhelming gratitude, like yesterday when I went to a store and bought a sandwich. Later, I went on a date to a movie with my wife.

I love seeing the kids. I also love mowing the lawn and, yes, even grocery shopping. One friend exclaimed, “Well, if you like doing that so much, please come mow our lawn and do our grocery shopping.”

I laugh and smile more in America; its home.

Texas Polygamy Compound Not Mormon

"To the best of our knowledge, no one at the Texas compound has ever been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." That statement is according to a recent appeal from the LDS Church General Counsel to publishers of major newspapers, TV stations and magazines. I have had personal correspondence with Lance B. Wickman, General Counsel, in the past. He's a Vietnam Veteran and a man of great wisdom and integrity. I respect him greatly.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AP Report: Mormon Church Speaks Up on Marriage in California

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking California members to join the effort to amend that state's constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

A letter sent to Mormon bishops and signed by church president Thomas S. Monson and his two top counselors calls on Mormons to donate "means and time" to the ballot measure. A note on the letter dated June 20 says it should be read during church services on June 29, but the letter was published Saturday on several Web sites.

Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Monday that the letter was authentic. He declined further comment, saying the letter explains the church's reasons for getting involved.

The LDS church will work with a coalition of churches and other conservative groups that put the California Marriage Protection Act on the Nov. 4 ballot to assure its passage, the letter states.

In May, California's Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying
gays could not be denied marriage licenses.

"The church's teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the formation of families is central to the Creator's plan for His children," the four-paragraph letter states.

"We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to ensure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman," church leaders say in the letter. "Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage."

California Mormons - there are more than 750,000, according to a church almanac - have heard and heeded similar calls from their leaders before.

In 2000, a letter from the pulpit asked members to give time and money in support of Proposition 22, a ballot measure prohibiting California from legally recognizing gay marriages performed outside the state. It passed but was later struck down by the courts.

As a member of the LDS faith, I wholeheartedly endorse and support those efforts. It is disturbing to me that the voice of the people has not been heard above the shrill cries of a few. I served a two-year volunteer mission in southern California. Relatives were recently called to serve as mission President and matron of the San Diego temple.

I even have a gay friend who I grew up with that used to be active in the Church that now lives in California. While I love my friend, I do not believe his views of what a family is and should be are correct, assuming he is likewise on board with gay marriage.

No, I believe, as LDS Church doctrine states, that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."

And, moreover, we believe that "All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
" Read more here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

VA testing drugs on war veterans

The government is testing drugs with severe side effects like psychosis and suicidal behavior on hundreds of military veterans, using small cash payments to attract patients into medical experiments that often target distressed soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, a Washington Times/ABC News investigation has found.

Read the disturbing report by Washington Times reporter Audrey Hudson, here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I Vote Romney for VP

Mitt Romney is best suited to run as John McCain’s vice president in the general election, former presidential strategist Karl Rove said Sunday.

“Romney is already vetted by the media, strong executive experience both in business and in government, has an interesting story to tell with saving the U.S. Olympics, and also helps McCain deal with the economy, because he can speak with the economy with a fluency that McCain doesn’t have,” Rove told “Fox News Sunday.”

See full article here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Modern-Day Warriors & Words

Mark Twain once said, "The difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

I had a conversation not long ago with a guy I've known for a while. We shared some more personal experiences this time, however. He told me that while he was deployed to Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, that he shot a clean-shaven man all dressed in white, that was walking rapidly and suspiciously into their camp. He shot him right in the "head", he said. It turned out to be as he suspected: the man was a suicide bomber. His quick actions and good aim saved a lot of people.

I've taught numerous tactical firearms courses. Years ago I developed a course and I've taught those in law enforcement and the military how to identify and stop a suicide bomber. The best place to shoot a suicide bomber is in the head. I usually say, shoot them in the "face." I think that startles a lot of people, even those who carry weapons everyday for a living. It somehow makes killing a little more personal.

We cannot be so dissociated from reality that we fail to keep others safe. Those charged with protecting the innocent have the burden of seeing, knowing and occasionally doing what others don't want to do or don't want to know. Such was the case with my aforementioned friend. His actions disturbed him. If it didn't he would be totally uncivilized.

He told me that the would-be suicide bomber looked at him right in the eyes before he shot him. That means he shot him in the "face". The face or the head -- does it really matter? Yes. I once knew a man who was teaching several special ops guys (myself included). He used the same terminology I use: shoot them in the face. The bureaucrats overseeing the training were so repulsed that all training was stopped for several months.

I guess, the psychology of lyrics and semantics is just as powerful, if not more so, than any suicide bomber walking into a crowded place and blowing up, severing his flesh and sending shards of bone and cutting metals deep into others' bodies. Now that's repulsive.

There are things I wish I didn't know. But if I can shield my children and the majority of my neighbors who really don't understand the real threat some human beings are capable of, then I'll gladly do it. Such is the bane and burden of modern-day warriors.

My Wife, the Real Hero of War

I met the Mayor, and a nice lady running for State Representative, as well as the GOP candidate for the US House. He and I spoke at length. Interestingly, the Mayor and his wife reminded me of the fictional characters on The Music Man -- the town that was conned by Prof. Harold Hill, the traveling salesman.

I was introduced to all of them like this: "This is Jeffrey Denning. He just returned from Iraq." Without exception, each individual I met thanked me in the most sincere way possible. But I responded that it is my wife who deserves the medals and awards.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Brotherhood of Warriors

Aaron Cohen and I met a few years ago after an introduction from a friend. He and I immediately had a lot in common and a lot to discuss when I went to visit him in Los Angeles.

As a former Israeli special operations warrior and the owner of a private security business protecting celebrities in southern California, he appears regularly on the news as a consultant. He was on the news directly following the Virginia Tech shooting rampage, and he called me later that evening to discuss police tactics. Aaron’s good-to-go.

Tonight Aaron was scheduled to be on CNN’s Larry King Live, but Tim Russert passed away. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Russert family and to his friends at this difficult time.

Sometime in the near future, Aaron will be interviewed by Larry King to discuss his new book, Brotherhood of Warriors: Behind Enemy Lines with a Commando in One of the World’s Most Elite Counterterrorism Units. I’ll be watching for it. So should you.

Shocking Debate on al-Jazeera

Anat Berko, who wrote The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers, sent this link to a friend, who forwarded it to me. The interview is of Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a colleague of my associates.

The explanation of the You-Tube post says:

Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University defends the Jewishness of Jerusalem, the Jewish capital for over 3,000 years. He also defends the right of Israelis to settle in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank.

See the al-Jazeera news interview here:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Please Remove Your Shoes"

I smashed my head against the stair rail putting away my duffle bags. The bags I’ve been living out of for the last year in Iraq were put out of sight since my wife and I were interviewed for the documentary film, “Please Remove Your Shoes”, yesterday.

I shaved carefully that morning hoping to get a ‘clean shave’, but I managed to take a huge chunk of skin from my chin – funny, I haven’t done that in years! And, when I hit my head it left a giant bloody goose egg on my balding spot.

Despite my wounds which can likely be seen on camera, this film is bound to be one of great interest to a host of people – not because I might be seen for a few seconds in it, but because of the great line-up of people interviewed both before and after me, and because of the talent of the Producer and Associate Producer. I was honored to be interviewed and I wish the Gevalt’s all the best.

The website can be seen here:

Monday, June 9, 2008

Birds & Bees and Other Things

I had the talk with my children. You should have seen the look on their faces. It was one of shock and disgust. I’m glad kids think sex is so repulsive at this age. It’s a healthy mechanism to help them avoid things they aren’t ready for.

My wife related that my daughter told her friend, “Well, my mom has had four kids and she’s never had sex.” I suppose it was past time to explain the birds and bees.

In the literal sense, I’m not sure I understand the birds OR the bees. Did you know that when equating ergonomic and physical dimensions of a bee that it should be impossible for them to fly? Their wing span is too small for their robust body shapes.

I’m not sure how they extract pollen from flowers or what kind of poison is in their stingers either. I’ve been stung, but I don’t know how to explain it.

I know bird’s bones are hollow, which allows them to be lighter, but I’m not sure how they produce white or red blood cells – or whatever human bone marrow produces.

I’ve had sex four times because I have four kids. At least, that’s what my daughter probably thinks now. And, since my wife is pregnant, I’ve been “lucky” five times, but I still don’t really understand it. The sperm and the egg and the books about gestation all amaze me. Did you know the uterus expands 1,000 times its normal size to house a growing embryo? Did you know that babies in the womb drink the liquid they live in, and subsequently their own urine? That liquid is recreated every so often, and the urine doesn't hurt them.

We all lived in liquid and we didn’t even have gills! One year of our lives were upsidedown in a sealed up kangaroo-like marsupial pouch! I don’t get it. I can’t explain it. I’m really not that smart. None of us are, really. Even the most brilliant scientists cannot recreate what God has. So, I’ll just go on teaching my kids about things I know very little, but enough to get me by. Boy, do I have them fooled.

Adult conversation is interesting. Consider the conversation we had last week in our home when a couple we know came to visit. He’s an OB/GYN. We all spoke rather bluntly about topics that would otherwise be off-limits. It was interested, and…well…downright, weird. But I believe any topic can be discussed maturely. I wasn’t really fearful of telling my kids about the birds or the bees. I told them what I knew, which as mentioned, isn’t very much: the birds live in nests and the bees live in hives. End of story.

But here’s something I do know. I know how a young boy supposed to pee standing up. While I was in Iraq, my wife – bless her soul – had our four-year-old drop his pants and instead of holding and shaking the dew from his blade of grass, she had him let it fly uncontrollably. Afterwards, he smacks his posterior until his tiny buns are bright red, all in an effort to relieve the dribble. “What are you doing?” I asked astonished the first time I witnessed it. “Who taught you that?”

“Mommy,” he replied.

“Well, boys aren’t supposed to do that.” Then I recalled our older son when he was learning to use the toilet standing up. I had to break him of the habit of wanting to use toilet paper to wipe his little thing. What the…?

Well, I’m glad I’m home, and it’s nice to have our youngest potty trained. Her Dora the Explorer panties are her favorite. It makes me think that I should get some boxer shorts with black and yellow-striped honey bees all over them. We’re all just big kids anyway, right?

PS I'm a big kid. My wife has to put up with me. As to not embarrass her, in her defense, our youngest was flinging and shaking, marking his territory on the ceiling and the toothbrushes on the counter. So there is a method to the madness.

A Father's Impact

“Yet in my lineaments they trace / Some features of my father’s face.”
—Lord Byron's couplet, “Parisina”

At church yesterday, I was asked to speak next week during our religious services. It will be Father's Day. Researching this morning has led me to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's message several years ago, which I remember hearing then. I reference it here in italics.

As a father, I wonder if I and all other fathers could do more to build a sweeter, stronger relationship with our sons and daughters here on earth. Dads, is it too bold to hope that our children might have some small portion of the feeling for us that the Divine Son felt for His Father? Might we earn more of that love by trying to be more of what God was to His child? In any case, we do know that a young person’s developing concept of God centers on characteristics observed in that child’s earthly parents. (See “Parent-Child Relationships and Children’s Images of God,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Mar. 1997, 25–43.)

For that reason and many others, I suppose no book I have read in recent months has alarmed me more than a work entitled Fatherless America. In this study the author speaks of “fatherlessness” as “the most harmful demographic trend of this generation,” the leading cause of damage to children. It is, he is convinced, the engine driving our most urgent social problems, from poverty to crime to adolescent pregnancy to child abuse to domestic violence. Among the principal social issues of our time is the flight of fathers from their children’s lives. (David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (1995), 1.)

Of even greater concern than the physical absenteeism of some fathers is the spiritually or emotionally absent father. These are fatherly sins of omission that are probably more destructive than sins of commission. Why are we not surprised that when 2,000 children of all ages and backgrounds were asked what they appreciated most about their fathers, they answered universally, “He spends time with me”? (See “Becoming a Better Father,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 27.)

A young [woman] I met on a conference assignment not long ago wrote to me after our visit and said, “I wish my dad knew how much I need him spiritually and emotionally. I crave any kind comment, any warm personal gesture. I don’t think he knows how much it would mean to me to have him take an active interest in what is going on in my life... or just spend some time together. I know he worries that he won’t do the right thing or won’t say the words well. But just to have him try would mean more than he could ever know. I don’t want to sound ungrateful because I know he loves me. He sent me a note once and signed it ‘Love, Dad.’ I treasure that note. I hold it among my dearest possessions."

I visited a dear friend yesterday. He is of the age and wisdom that he could be my father and I even suggested that I could have him as my surrogate dad.

To paraphrase Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not only can we bless our own families, but we can range through the whole world anxious to bless the entire human race. Austin Howard is that kind of man. He is heavily involved in his Moose Lodge and assists young children through its organizational arm, Mooseheart. I am completely grateful for my neighbor-friend.

As his age is creeping up on him, he is having troubles mowing the lawn and cleaning the rain gutters on his rooftop. I volunteered to assist for he has assisted me with his friendliness, his personality, his genuine kindness.

Neighbors, friends, peers and associates all impact our lives in tremendous ways, but the DNA of fathers is more than just in face or feature. Fathers, whether estranged from their children or not, impact each of us in more powerful ways than through our genes. A fathers habits and actions can -- and does -- impact generations. Even my own mother said often of my grandfather, "Well, Daddy did [this or that], so I will." I've remembered those lessons well.

The burden of responsibility and obligation to men everywhere who have the physical capacity to reproduce, and the divine capacity to love and provide for their children should they so elect, reaches points and origins unable to recognize with a myopic view.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

lust, love and divorce

A couple years ago I heard a wonderful inspirational speech. The theme was on forgiveness and the pains associated with holding grudges. It seems like most often our closest allies, confidants and friends are the ones we can ostracize and condemn when something goes awry. And even more often than that, family members or lovers quarrel. People divorce and children are estranged from parents.

My wife and I have a lot of great couple friends, but our very best friends, the couple we've known the longest and have gotten along with the best through the years, are currently going through a bitter divorce. Their children are torn. A young boy tells his mother that he wants his dad to come home -- that's what he's going to wish for for Christmas. But, the actions of his father, one of my dearest, lifelong friends, have broken the heart of his tender wife.

Love has been described as a flame. A candle gives light to the darkened house and a fireplace warms up a room in the cold, but when that flame goes out of bounds and is un-contained or uncontrolled the shelter and comfort of home and hearth can suddenly burn to the ground.

In love, faithfulness is mandatory.

I saw recently on the news that CBS is coming out with a controversial drama about wife-swapping. I'm repulsed. CBS has gone to an all-time low. Any glitz and glamor portrayed through a big screen conceals the heartache and heartbreak of what it is really like within the souls of those who do wrong.

I've witnessed adultery destroy many marriages and once-wholesome relationships. Cheating is the biggest lie. Men who commit adultery break the tender hearts of their wives and lose the confidence of their children.

Marriage is a solemn institution of devotion. No marriage is bereft of trial and disagreement, and at times struggle, but faithlessness erodes the foundation of trust and burdens the union of bliss.

Sometimes friendships and marriages are ended over minute ordeals. I believe there are most definitely reasons for divorce, yet the trends seen in America over the last few decades suggests that one in every two marriages end in divorce. Half of those who marry split up. I also know a few people who have been married and divorced more than twice. The odds aren't in their favor.

Selfishness is often at the root of the quarrel and problem. As for my friends, I think it's best for them to split up given the multitude of circumstances I've learned. It will take a very long time for that broken heart to mend.

And, what of the step dads? I believe Joseph, the step-father of Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the greatest example of what a step father should be like. We don't know much about him, but surely, he who was visited of angels and heeded warnings from the Lord, took the baby Jesus as his own and had a full, unconditional love, though the Christ-child was not his.

With so many divorces, there are many fatherless children. Surely not all step dads have perfect love for children who are not their own, and not all children who have step dads allow them to act that way -- to make it easy for them to love.

Fatherless children, or children who have fathers who show a bad example before them, burden a society.

Divorce cripples and crushes. But, sometimes separation and divorce is wholly justifiable and better for the short and long-term health and well-being of individuals and their children.

An abusive home is not conducive to anyone's health. Cheating and faithlessness severs trust which can be impossible to regain. Addition to drugs or alcohol, gambling or pornography burdens already imperfect relationships that require hard work and strenuous effort. Illegal activities and poor choices are unacceptable.

While these things can be curbed, sometimes only with serious professional help and penitent prayerful change, there may come a justifiable end -- a point at which continued patience and forgiveness must meet the legal proceedings of divorce court.

In time, forgiving those who've seriously offended and wounded the soul is possible and important in order to go on living a healthy, quality life. The burden of grudges is a festering wound that never heals.

We cannot control the actions of any other person, no matter how much we love them or how patient we are with them. We shouldn't justify our poor behavior based on the fact that we are 'martyrs' or victims, and therefore justified to be spiteful or simply give up while still in a relationship. Nor should we be self-righteous and feel justified to be angry or abusive in any manner.

Now on to my initial point: occasionally divorce and fights occur from differences in the way the toothpaste container is used. That sort of inconsequential thing happened between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They were dear friends at one point, and then through a slight difference and disagreement, they became bitter enemies. As I recall, one even challenged the other to a duel. Best of friends became worst of enemies. Death and murder were at the door.

Isn't that the same with hundreds of marriages? Having worked as a police officer in the past, I can answer a resounding YES with some personal experience and authority to back me up. The flames of love turn from providing light and warmth to scorching infernos that destroy and debilitate.

Like the speech I heard years ago about Adams and Jefferson, referenced from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, John Adams by David McCullough, friends at first can be friends again at last. And all the hate and hardness in between is a wasteful, treachery that darkens and destroys. The one who is hurt the most in hate is the one who refuses to forgive. Forgiveness is a divine quality that imparts great healing and health, even and especially to those who are the victims of unjustified cruelty and so-called heart-wrenching "love affairs."

The Donut Dilemma -- Cop Talk

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Kill bin Laden

I received an email from "Dalton Fury" this morning. Here's what I've written about him before:

A few months ago I heard about the forthcoming book Kill bin Laden from a former Delta Force operator and personal friend of mine. St. Martin’s Press picked it up. It should be out in the Fall of this year. Perhaps a movie could accompany it.

Here’s a quick description of the book:

In late November 2001 forty members of the U.S. Army’s super secret counterterrorist unit known as Delta Force were sent to the Tora Bora Mountains in eastern Afghanistan to kill terrorist mastermind Usama bin Laden.

The author, Dalton Fury, is a retired troop commander. (Delta Force is divided into troops instead of battalion-like elements.) Of course, I know more about “Dalton” (which isn’t his real name) and his unit, but those kinds of things are just not talked about. Speaking of taboo, I’ve heard it straight from the mouths of other Delta Force operators how much they loathe Eric Haney, a former Delta operator who went public and wrote Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorism Unit. The TV series The Unit is based on Eric’s book and he serves as its tactical consultant.

With all the personal struggles Dalton must have faced and with some of his personal contacts who have blacklisted him (or who will), I’d rather take a kinder approach and say, “Good for you, brother. Your decision took A LOT of courage."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Injured War Vet & Old Friend

It couldn't be, I thought. I hadn't seen the guy in several years. We served in the Army together well over a decade ago. Na, that was in another state completely, and I don't live near a military community. Besides, the guy I knew over a decade ago didn't have that scar over his eye.

It was amazing. It was Bryan Gray, our Battalion medic.

I shook his hand and smiled. I couldn't help but notice his left eye. It didn't move as fast as the other one and a scar ran all the way from his forehead, down his eye socket and onto his cheekbone.

"I know you," I said, excited to see an old, familiar face. He had the same expression while looking at me.

"Where was it...Korea?" I asked, then we both said "Fort Carson" [Colorado] together in union.

His handshake was flaccid. He soon told me that he couldn't move his thumb on his right hand. The whole hand was severely deformed and I noticed that he was missing his thumb on his other hand.

"This happened in Iraq," he said, holding up his hand and then pointing to the side of his asymmetrical and partially deformed face, "so I retired."

We spoke about old friends and acquaintances, and he told me details of his three tours to Afghanistan, his deployment to Africa and his first and last tour to Iraq. His wife almost divorced him with how often he'd been gone since 9/11, he said. Of course, he didn't ever volunteer to deploy.

About a month after being in Iraq, his unit had raided several houses and taken a few people. The intelligence section determined they should let a couple guys go. They loaded them up in a convoy and started to drive them back to the local sheikh.

Gray, who retired as a Staff Sergeant with 90 percent disability, was commanding the first vehicle in the convoy driving down the roadway when he noticed what would turn out to be a hoax Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He stopped the convoy and stepped out of the Humvee.

Kaboom! -- an IED buried right next to him exploded and threw him back into the truck. Fortunately, he wasn't injured. Immediately, he yelled at his driver to drive around the hoax IED and get out of the 'kill zone.' As soon as he got the other side, he was blown up a second time. That's the one that took off his thumb and resulted in his fake left eye. The piece of shrapnel that took off his thumb entered into his gunner's leg, but no one else was hurt. His tour of duty in Iraq lasted only one month, but the result was a permanent change of his future.

It was nice to see him again. Unfortunately, he could only see me with partial vision. But he seemed to have a good attitude and good things going for him. "Yeah, I get a nice paycheck from the Army," he said.

"But can you write?" I thought out loud, thinking he couldn't hold a pen or pencil, or grip anything. Normally that would have been totally out of line, but I felt a connection with him and ventured into what would have otherwise been socially uncouth. Before he answered, I asked, "Well, you can still type?" It was more of a statement than a question.

"Yeah, and that voice activated software the military first gave me was crap. It didn't work at all."

We spoke a bit more about other topics. I asked him if he remembered Johnny and told him that he died in Iraq late last year while I was there.