Too Poor for Water

bear-feet-robin-lee-vieira

We were always
needing, asking
for something we didn’t have.
Living on the kindness
from strangers —
the church folks
with the a dutiful goal
of giving to those
without.
Wood stove for heat
Water from milk jugs
filled across town.
Too poor for water —
Looking with wonder
at houses where
the normal people
lived —
our outhouse symbolic
one terrace down —
wondering what it
felt like
to wear the normal life
and live in a common town.

Photo Credit: Bear Feet by Robin Lee Vieira

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One American Soldier (I)


I am writing this a few minutes after midnight on September 11, 2011. The tenth anniversary of an event so tragic and destructive that it is known worldwide simply as  “9-11.”

Almost everyone has a 9-11 story to tell – a pivotal moment when their personal life came to an abrupt halt and suddenly collided  with universal differences, political-religious ideologies, and intentional terrorism.A simple fall day, colored by the blood of family and friends, now defines a generation and its place in American history.

The events of September 11, 2001 – the meaningless destruction, overwhelming loss, intense sorrow, amazing courage, riveting compassion, and dark anger – play through our minds like a Technicolor movie. That day remains frozen in the slow motion replay of my memories just like all other Americans. But, this is not about 9-11 and my memories of that day. This is about one American soldier.

1986: Laser Light Show at Stone Mountain, Georgia

I was listening to the radio a few days ago when the Lee Greenwood song, “Proud to Be An American,” started playing.  My eyes misted in tears as a vivid memory from twenty-five years ago played through my mind. In the Summer of 1986 I was sitting on the grass lawn at Stone Mountain, GA with my then-husband, my two-year-old daughter and my 9-month-old son waiting for the Laser Light Show to begin.

It was our first trip to Stone Mountain Park, following a move to Atlanta the previous year because of a job transfer, and we had a wonderful day visiting the park features and nature trails with the children. We settled down on a blanket on the lawn in front of the mountain and watched a beautiful laser light show (which was a big deal back then!) accompanied by a soundtrack of various songs.

The song, “Proud to Be An American,” began playing, the American Flag appeared on the side of the mountain, and fireworks exploded over our heads. It was a beautiful and inspiring end to the show.

My eyes filled with tears as I looked at my daughter, asleep beside me on the blanket, and then looked into my son’s eyes as he was nursing. I expected the fireworks to scare him, but they didn’t. He kept nursing and staring into my eyes as I sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed by the joy in my life and the patriotic pride I felt as an American. I would never have imagined that, eighteen years later, my son would join the Army and go overseas to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan as a soldier.

 

On August 31, over seven years after the war in Iraq began, President Obama announced the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom with a withdrawal of combat troops. Obama emphasized that U.S. domestic problems, mainly the flailing economy and widespread unemployment, are more pressing matters to his country. The U.S. will continue to be a presence in Iraq, mainly with civilian contractors but also with a smaller military contingent of approximately 50,000 troops. The remaining troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Read more: Iraq War Timeline, 2010 — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/spot/iraq-timeline-2010.html#ixzz1XfYUxRyw

 

 

 

Artist: Lee Greenwood
Song: Proud To Be An American

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there’s pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

Fact Sheet: Iraqi War

  • Length of official combat operation, Operation Iraqi Freedom: March 20–May 1, 2003.
  • Deployment: More than 300,000 coalition troops deployed to the Gulf region: about 255,000 U.S., 45,000 British, 2,000 Australian, and 200 Polish troops.
  • Post-conflict peace-keeping forces: About 130,000 U.S. and 11,000 British troops were stationed in Iraq following official end of hostilities, May 1, 2003.About 49 countries have participated in some form in what was called the “coalition of the willing.” At its strongest, the coalition provided a total of 25% of the troops in Iraq. About 13 countries have withdrawn their personnel as of March 2006. Coalition forces remaining in Iraq in March 2006: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom
  • U.S. casualties: Deaths March 20–May 1 (official end of hostilities): combat, 115; noncombat, 23; total, 138. Deaths March 20, 2003–Nov.9, 2006: combat, 2,275; noncombat, 562; total, 2,837. 134 civilian contractors were killed as of June 2006.
  • U.S. soldiers wounded in action: 21,572 (Nov. 7, 2006).
  • American POWs: 8 (6 captured on March 23, 2003, in Nasiriya; 2 pilots shot down on March 24 near Karbala). All were rescued.
  • Coalition casualties: Britain, 119; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, 6; Slovakia, 3; El Salvador, 3; ; Thailand, 2; Estonia, 2; The Netherlands, 2; Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Latvia, 1 each (Oct. 24, 2006)
  • U.S. cost of stationing troops in Iraq: in the first years, it was estimated at $4 billion per month, by 2006 it was $6 billion per month1
  • Iraqi civilian deaths: over 55,000 (according to Iraq Body Count in Mar. 2006)

1. U.S. government figures

Sources: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), CNN, BBC, U.S. Dept. of Defense.

Read more: Fact Sheet: Iraqi War — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0908900.html#ixzz1XfpJ0xL8

 

 

Today we remember the victims of the 9-11 assault on our shores. Let us also be mindful that the number of deaths resulting from 9-11 continue to grow with each passing day.

It’s been ten years – it’s time to bring our children home!

Autism: An Interview with the Founders of William’s Garden

An Interview for Whippoorwill Journal with Marilyn and John Winright, founders of William’s Garden: A Camp for Autistic Children.

WJ:  In the Testimonial section of your website, you and John describe the initial decision to start William’s Garden and your belief that it is a God-given mission. Can you elaborate for our readers how you came up with the idea and what it means to you as Christian to be able to serve in this ministry?

Marilyn: I’ve always loved children and working with them.  For years I’ve worked as the girls club leader in our church, as well as teaching Sunday School and assisting with the teens. I was immediately on board when John approached me with the idea of starting some sort of a camp for children as a retirement career. This was something that I could get excited about because of my love for children.

We originally thought about a “camp” for children with Down’s Syndrome. We were familiar with illness and felt a strong desire to try to make life more complete and fun for those special kids. Then, after sitting down with our consultant, Ms. Dee Moody, also of Gaffney, SC, we learned that there are many programs available for children with Down’s Syndrome. However, we discovered a new, growing type of special needs children, those suffering with Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders, and very few local programs  or other assistance available to help them and their families. We didn’t know that much about Autism. We’d heard it mentioned, but knew few details. John and I did some research and realized there was a great need for help in the Autism community.

As to what it means to us as Christians to be able to serve in this ministry: we feel that God has laid this project on our hearts and has given us the desire to do whatever we can to make William’s Garden a complete success. We are excited and hopeful every time we sit down to discuss our next step. We consider it an honor to be used of God to make the life of children with Autism and their families happier and more productive. We also hope that William’s Garden will help remove some pressure and aid the parents of autistic children as they try to find a place within our community and work toward their child reaching his or her greatest potential.

We believe that God leads us every step of the way and guides us in this effort. We feel confident that he confirms His Will in this for us through some awesome signs. That’s what we write about in our Testimonial on our website, www.williamsgarden2010.com.  There’s just nothing more fulfilling then knowing that you are doing the will of God.

WJ: What were the most difficult steps in the journey once you and John made the decision to start the William’s Garden project?  And, how did you overcome those places of struggle?

Marilyn: William’s Garden is still a work in progress and, so far, we’ve been blessed not to have what I would call “struggles”, but we have had to learn more patience. Creating a non-profit organization is not an easy task. There are many rules and regulations to follow. I’m sure that as we move forward there will be difficult times, but we know that God will provide the way for us to get this done.

WJ: Tell us about the struggles and the joys so far in this endeavor?

Marilyn: The hardest part at the moment is waiting for the finalization of our 501(c)3 Tax Exempt Status. We’ve gotten a head start by getting our name out to the community, we are working with developers  create the plans for the facilities and the campsites. It’s a process that takes time. Sometimes it’s a struggle to be patient, but we are making progress, and that’s what matters. Slowly but surely, William’s Garden is coming into being. We’ve met, emailed, and had comments on our website from parents who are so excited about what we are doing and how it will benefit them and their child with Autism. That’s a real joy. To know that we are already making a difference.

WJ:  Can you give us an idea, a description, of what you see William’s Garden becoming in the next 3 years? Five years? What are some of the goals and benchmarks you’d like to meet?

Marilyn: Wow! What we envision for William’s Garden? Lots! That’s for sure.

Our plans are to have a facility constructed on 7 acres of land that will include a shelter-house for outside activities and gatherings, campsites for 10 children and their counselors for a week long summer camping experience, outdoor gardening projects as well as nursery garden, and a “petting zoo” with farm animals and a few exotic animals. We have hiking/nature trails and will have horse riding  for the children as well. We plan to build “dorm” type sleeping facilities, offices for professional service providers which will include psychologists, therapists, family counselors, etc., as well as a Sensory Room, a computer lab and a Media Room for photography.

We plan to work with the school system and provide after-school programs for those kids who need extra help with homework, and communication and socialization skill sets. A swimming pool will be available to teach swimming lessons and water safety (which is very important because the Autistic child is often drawn to and sometimes has a deep fascination with water). As William’s Garden grows, we plan to offer various job training programs such as growing and selling produce, pottery classes, basket weaving, all types of arts and crafts, and some specialized training for industry within our community. We will begin with those children/youth from Cherokee county, SC and then expand into surrounding communities. We hope to one day be a national program.

A BIG part of our focus will be on making our program affordable. Most of what these special children need is not federally funded. We hope to raise enough in donations, contributions, and sponsorships to make it possible for ANYONE who wants to participate to be able to do so.

WJ: On your website, you mention that you do not have an autistic child and explain why you felt pulled toward this project. Can you explain that a little here for our readers? Also, how do your children feel about the project and will any of them be involved in it?

Marilyn: John and I love children and wanted to do something in our retirement years for children with special needs. It’s just something that we feel the need to do in our hearts. What really solidified the decision for me was an event that happened a few years ago in Spartanburg, SC. A 2 1/2 year old little boy was playing outside with his siblings when his mother needed to run back into the house for just a moment. When she returned, he was gone. She searched for 2 hours with no sign of him so she called 911.  There was a massive search. two days later his little body was found not far from his home –  in the river behind where he lived.  His mother said he had always had a fascination of the water. Investigators assumed that he could hear the sounds of the river, which was full because of recent rains, and went looking for it.  He apparently slipped and fell.  I followed it on the news very closely – there was just something in that little boys eyes… he had such beautiful, sweet, precious eyes! It just tore at my heart when I heard that he had died. His name was William. It just seemed fitting to name our program William’s Garden in his honor. His mother is aware of what we are doing and is supportive.

John and I, between us, have 6 sons, (as well as a foreign exchange student that we had several years ago that we also consider a son), 2 (3) daughter-in-laws, 1 (3), grandsons and 6 granddaughters.  They all support what we are doing with William’s Garden and are as excited as we are about it. Our youngest son, Caleb, lives with us and will be helping us with the gardening/landscaping/maintenance aspect of William’s Garden. He loves helping us with the planning and is really looking forward working in the gardens with the kids. The rest of our family lives all over the US, but if they were here, I’m sure they would be willing to do whatever it took to help make William’s Garden  a success.

Originally published in Whippoorwill Journal, Spring 2011 edition. Http://whippoorwilljournal.com