Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Character Does Matter

              A story that has gone viral on the Internet has to do with a 19-year-old employee of Dairy Queen. The term, “going viral” can mean a number of things. In searching for some basic definition for this term I came away with this assessment: Going viral means your video, article, or picture became fabulously popular virtually overnight.

So, this young man, Joey Prusak, working for Dairy Queen in Hopkins, Minnesota has now been crowned “King of Kindness.” Just exactly what did he do to receive such an honor? Well, as the story is told in the newspaper, Joey was working the counter at the ice cream shop when a young customer who was blind unknowingly dropped a twenty dollar bill. Before Joey could say anything an older lady (50-60ish) standing behind the blind customer reached down and pocketed the cash. What happens next should cause each of us to take pride in this young man and his willingness to do what is right. That’s a true sign of character.

When the woman approached the counter, Joey told her that she needed to return the money to the blind man or leave the store, because he was "not going to serve someone as disrespectful as [her]." "She made a big scene, started swearing," he recalls. (That would be a sure sign of a lack of character on her part.) She even claimed that she had dropped the money. Eventually, she chose to leave. A customer standing behind the older woman witnessed this all, as well as what happened next, and was inspired to write to Dairy Queen's headquarters. In the letter, she writes: "What happened next I would have never expected. Your employee (Joey Prusak) approached the young (blind) man and took out his wallet, and said 'Sir, on behalf of Dairy Queen I would like to give you the $20 bill that you happened to drop on the ground as you walked away from the counter. I realize that this is not the $20 bill you dropped, because the older woman stole it but it does still have the same face value.'"

What employer wouldn’t give his eye teeth for such an employee! Because this story has gone viral, countless numbers of people have mailed twenty dollar bills to Joey. I’m betting Joey does something very sacrificial with the money.

The Bible says a number of very interesting things when it comes to your character and the importance of keeping your integrity. In Psalm 15 we are offered a look at the person who would desire to live with the Lord God forever. I like the way “The Message” translation puts it: 1 God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list? 2 “Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. 3-4 “Don’t hurt your friend, don’t blame your neighbor; despise the despicable. 5 “Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe. You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this.”

The response from the big-wigs at Dairy Queen is most interesting. International Dairy Queen has called Joey to thank him for being such an inspiration and told him they will be mailing "something" his way. According to his Twitter, he also received a call from Warren Buffett. "I felt like the right thing to do was to give him the money," Joey said. I can only guess as to what that “something” is, but I would like to suggest that Dairy Queen provide Joey with a full-ride scholarship to the four-year college of his choice with the ultimate goal of having him join their management team.

I don’t know this young man, nor can I be certain what was going through his mind during this incident in his store. But his last comment, “I felt like the right thing to do was to give him the money,” tells me all I need to know about this man’s character.

I applaud Joey for his doing the right thing. Yet isn’t it interesting that a story about someone doing the right thing goes viral on the Internet? We cheer for the person who acts the way they should anyway. It seems we have become accustomed to people’s poor behavior to the point that we’re literally surprised, even shocked, when someone of any age, but especially a younger person, shows such strength of personal character.

This story may never have been made known had that other customer not taken the time to write to Dairy Queen. Because she did, a fine young man has been duly recognized for character traits that strengthen any community or organization.

May God grant our nation more Joey Prusak’s who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Stories of Laura

          Recently my oldest daughter, Laura, has been asking me to write down the stories I used to make up for her and her sister, Jenny. Included in this recalling of stories are also the various things we did during their early years. To be honest, I can’t remember a whole lot of those stories because I made them up on the fly. In hind sight, I suppose I should have written them down. I’m better at remembering actual events that took place in the lives of my girls.

         Laura must have been about two or two-and-a-half years old. We were living in San Jose where I was serving as youth pastor. One of the families from church invited us to dinner. As we were leaving their home that evening, Laura was running around the front yard while we were making our way to the car. Next thing I know Laura is walking toward us crying. She had been walking on the railroad ties which bordered the flower garden in front. She had stumbled, catching her fall with her hands. She was fine except that she had acquired what looked like a hundred wooden splinters in her hands and wrists. What made it worse is the wood from the railroads ties was rotten, so the wood was fairly soft. I knew it was going to be some job digging those pieces out.

         When we got home I had her get in the bathtub where she could soak her hands until they looked like prunes. She knew what was coming next, so she was none too happy when I showed up with a straight needle and rubbing alcohol. It took about two hours of poking and digging to get all the pieces of splinters out. Laura was a tough kid. She shed some tears but she sucked it up and there were no problems as a result. But I never want to do that again!

         A few years later I was at my first duty station as a Navy chaplain. Laura was now five and very much the active hard-charger. I cannot remember her ever being sick in those first years of life. I came home one evening from the squadron only to have my wife inform me that Laura was not feeling well. I went into her room to check on her. Sure enough, she complained of a tummy ache. I’ve seen Laura fall and bounce her head off the concrete floor of our garage and hardly make a sound. She simply got back up and went back to playing. So, for her to complain was my key to try and find out what was actually taking place. Ever since she began to talk she was always very articulate so she could explain things at a level beyond her years. I asked her to tell me what sort of pain she had in her tummy. Was it a dull ache, or a sharp pain? She said it was more like a sharp pain. I experienced a similar illness when I was 18 which resulted in an emergency appendectomy. I wondered if Laura might be having trouble with her appendix. Naw! After all, she’d only just turned five. Her tummy wasn’t bothering her at that moment, so I told her that if she felt anymore discomfort during the night to call for me and I’d come right in.

         Sure enough, about 2:30 AM I heard her calling, “Daddy.” I went into her room and could see she was in considerable pain. I bundled her up and took her to the car for the drive to the Naval Hospital at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, while Isaura called the hospital to alert them that we were coming in. Once at the hospital the corpsmen and the doctors could not have been better. They were very understanding and compassionate. Dr. Rodriguez checked her over, all the while listening to my concern about the possibilities of appendicitis. The white blood cell count was normal, so that seemed to rule out the appendix. The doctor said he was going to open her up and see what he could find. He said he would remove the appendix in the process, even though he did not believe that was the culprit.

         Isaura and I sat and waited until Dr. Rodriguez came from surgery. He smiled and said everything was fine. I asked what had caused the problem. He said it was indeed the appendix. I expressed surprise that someone so young would have a “rotten” appendix. He informed me that sometimes they have to perform emergency appendectomies on babies right out of the womb because the appendix is bad at birth. I was glad I had listened carefully to Laura’s descriptions of her pain! She spent the next several days recovering in the hospital. Each evening I would grab a blanket and sleep in a recliner in her room until we were able to take her home.

         One last story involving both Laura and Jenny. My second duty assignment was as command chaplain on board the USS White Plains AFS 4, home ported in Guam. Being a tropical island, Guam had no end of creepy-crawly critters. Laura and Jenny thoroughly enjoyed collecting frogs, geckos, lizards, and hermit crabs. I was often the instigator in terrorizing my wife which the girls thought was great fun. One time we found a hapless baby gecko that had crawled into our freezer meeting a certain untimely end. The girls and I took the little guy and placed him in a spot in the freezer where their mother would be sure to see him. Then we waited. Sure enough, there came the startled shriek, followed by the stern-voiced, “Charles!” The girls and I loved it! Another time we snagged a frog from outside (there are tons of them on Guam) and placed the amphibian in the bathwater for my wife’s nightly ritual. Low and behold, as she steps into the bath water the frog decides to leap out. Priceless! It was wonderful! You had to have been there to fully appreciate it.

         The girls and I are convinced that the Lord placed us on earth to not only be a blessing to their mom, but to bring some levity into her life! I’m not sure she sees it in quite the same way. We managed to keep things lively during their growing up years. Those were great days!

         I now have two five-year-old granddaughters. Hmmmm. Let me think on that for a bit . . . Yeah! What goes around, comes around, girls! I can’t wait!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


              Today I’m writing about some of the interesting and funny experiences I’ve had during my 65 years. Reflecting on my birthday that officially places me in the “Senior Citizen” category, I found myself looking back on some of life’s experiences.

Case in point: Sledding with my brother, John. Now, here’s the situation. I’m the little brother by five years. We lived on Underhill Road in Milford, Connecticut. Our house was situated on a fairly steep slope about a block from the Long Island Sound. A sidewalk ran in front of our house, which, on the upper end, connected with the street. The lower end ran down to another road which was the main drag into town. In the winter this sidewalk would become slippery from ice and snow. Because it was angled downward rather severely, we used to grab our sleds and zip down the walk. One problem - the sidewalk ended partway down and became a long series of elongated stairs descending to the street below. So what we would do is have two guys placed on either side of the walk where the stairs began. Linking arms, they would catch the speeding sledder, operating much as the arresting gear on an aircraft carrier stops a jet. Since I was the youngest, I went last. My brother and his buddy were positioned to “arrest” me in my slide. All was well as I ran with my sled, diving onto the wooden boards supported by metal rails, thundering down the sidewalk. What a thrill! However, when I arrived at the arresting place, John and his friend quickly pulled their arms away as I sailed passed, a horrified and stunned look on my face. With that much forward momentum you became slightly airborne until your sled hit the first step at which point you became airborne again, sans your sled, bouncing on your chest in a most undignified manner down the stairs. I can still hear my brother and his friend howling in laughter at my comical descent.

Another story had to do with our sister, Joy’s 10th birthday. Our folks took the family into New York City for dinner at the Roosevelt Hotel. Located on the corner of Madison Avenue and 45th Street in midtown Manhattan, it was built in 1924 in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt. The Roosevelt housed the first guest “pet facility” and child care service in The Teddy Bear Room and had the first in-house doctor. In 1947, the Roosevelt became the first hotel to have a television set in every room. But the primary reason for our going there for this birthday celebration was due to the fact that the famed band leader, Guy Lombardo, and his band performed there in the evenings. Another famous band leader also began his career at the Roosevelt – Lawrence Welk. Our table was maybe thirty feet from this famous band. During our dinner, Guy Lombardo came over to our table and wished Joy a happy birthday. Only a couple of years before I had begun to play trumpet at school, so to meet a musician of Mr. Lombardo’s stature left me practically speechless. I remember him patting me on the head and encouraging me to keep practicing my horn. I did and received a scholarship to college on my horn. Later in my early 20’s during Marine Corps Infantry Training I was selected to be the bugler which primarily consisted of blowing reveille every morning at 4:30, and playing taps every night at 10:00.

This last story has to do with Thanksgiving. It was the summer of 1962. We had been in Europe since 1960, so we decided to come back to the States for a visit. While in the New York area with friends and family, my mother’s dad, Granddaddy Lake to me, passed away in Dallas, Texas. Mom and I took the train from New York’s Grand Central Station to Dallas. We stayed to help her mom make the necessary adjustments, which meant I was starting school at Highland Park Junior High. I was beginning my freshman year (Texas had Junior High from 7th – 9th grades).We had a small apartment next to Southern Methodist University (SMU) where John was beginning his freshman year. Through a complicated series of events which are much too convoluted to explain, I was in the apartment by myself for a number of weeks before rejoining mom and pop at our home in Norway. John spent lots of time with me, particularly in the evenings, and my aunt and uncle also lived nearby. At Thanksgiving Aunt Edith called to tell me that I was to fly out of Love Field for Norway in a few days. The day of my departure they picked me up to have Thanksgiving dinner with them before I boarded the plane. On the plane we were served a Thanksgiving dinner as well. We landed at Idyllwild Airport (now JFK international airport) in New York. With a five-hour layover, long-time friends from New Jersey picked me up. We went back to their home where I ate yet another Thanksgiving dinner. Back to Idyllwild, I boarded the flight from New York to Copenhagen, Denmark, then to Goteborg, Sweden, and finally arriving in Oslo, Norway. You guessed it! On the plane crossing the Atlantic we were served another Thanksgiving dinner. My folks met me at the airport in Oslo. What a welcomed sight! When we arrived home mom served up my fifth and final Thanksgiving dinner! It’s a wonder that I still love to eat turkey, stuffing and all the fixings, but I surely do. And it makes me look forward to Jesus’s Marriage Supper of the Lamb which awaits believers in heaven. Now that will truly be glorious!

Thanks for letting me share some remembrances with you this week. Be blessed!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Why Syria?

             I really have been reticent to address this topic, but for the life of me I can see absolutely no good reason for the United States to get involved in the trouble that Syria is experiencing. We have war ships positioned to launch missiles into neighborhoods in an attempt to kill who exactly? And what is the end game? In other words, what is to be gained by taking military action?

Maybe I’m just getting old. I turn 65 this week, so perhaps I’m tired of war. In my 34 years of military service I served in two wars: Vietnam and Iraq. Make no mistake – war is an ugly business. Despite the efforts of Hollywood to glorify war, and apart from fighting for a worthy cause, or the defense of your homeland, very little else can justify bringing people to the point of war.

It has been said that war should be the last resort. I whole-heartedly agree. It’s no secret that Syria has been using chemical warfare against its own people. We’ve been receiving reports on this for quite some time. This is why it was most unsettling when our President made the challenge to President Assad that if the United States finds out Syria is using chemical weapons against his own people then we would be forced to take action. The President made a bold statement about a red line being crossed should Assad and his regime fail to comply with the U.S. wishes. Well, Assad ignored us, which is typical for dictators, and since 2011 he is reportedly responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 of his own people through the use of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction).

I wish the President had not made such a boast about taking military action against Syria. If he had kept quiet, he could then have taken action when he felt the time was right, and not on some predetermined time-line.

Another factor in this has to do with those nations who are supportive of Syria and the Assad regime. Russia has made it quite clear that it does not want us messing around in that region. The threat was real. Then there’s Iran. They have been supplying weapons and men to the Syrians for some time. We’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan, so does it make sense to “beard the lion” by provoking Russia and Iran?

Israel has enough trouble keeping at bay the enemies it has on all its borders. They are the sole democracy in the part of the world. Should the U.S. come into their region and stir the pot without their tacit approval? I think not. We could be unleashing a war-storm that could be a precursor to Armageddon.

Let me explain why I think we could be creating a mess. The Arab countries fight amongst each other continually. It has been going on for centuries. What is happening in Syria is nothing new. Only the modern weapons make this different. However, because the Arab peoples are related, it’s like families that fight amongst each other. They may scratch and claw, but the moment an outsider gets involved they unite against the common enemy. That’s what I see happening should the U.S. make a move against Syria. Even as I write this article on Sunday evening, the news is reporting that the Obama administration is strongly pressuring Congress to vote in favor of military action against Syria.

There’s still another concern I have, and that is our military. Make no mistake about it – should the President issue the order to take action against Syria, our military forces will answer that call. The problem is that we have been at war in two countries for twelve years and there is an exhaustion level that can be reached by those who carry the burden of defending our nation. Add to that the downsizing of our military; the cuts in defense; sequestration, etc… well, you get the picture.

My final thought on this possible military action in Syria is the same old problem the United States has dealt with since we were formed as a nation in 1776. Somehow we keep believing we are the world’s police force and that we can come in and make everything better.

When should we take action as a nation? Which hot spots around the globe deserve our attention? We routinely ignore for instance, the many uprisings, wars, and tribal conflicts which have left millions of people dead, homeless, and ravaged. Why did we not take action in those equally far off places? Who decides where we go?

My prayer is that cooler heads will prevail in our government, and that we will learn to step into situations only when our national defense is required.