So please humor me for an article before I return you to your regularly scheduled commentary on the mundane. And I know what you’re thinking. I haven’t actually posted in a hot minute. Well, I’m sorry, give me this one, and maybe I’ll put together this content calendar I’ve been telling Slim Mex about (oh yeah, and I’ll even put together a write up on The Duckers. So far The Dude, and Slim Mex have been mentioned, but there are others).
Let me tell you how I spent my morning. I sat at a table, soliciting money from people from 9 AM until 2 PM. Spent 5 hours with a big smile on my face hoping to get a little something something. It was like prom all over again, except I was somewhat successful…. and I won’t be ending the night passed out after chugging a bottle of Jose Cuervo!
I had volunteered to help out by manning a table for a charity that a friend is incredibly active in ( Defending Freedom is their organization, if you’ve got an extra $10, $20, $100k kicking around, don’t be afraid to jump on and donate, its a worthy cause and the money actually goes to help those its intended to help, which sadly is not the case with all charities.)
This is a group of people committed to assisting our troops, both currently deployed and vets from Southern Nevada (I live in Vegas, and yes we do more here than gamble, drink, and go to strip clubs…. don’t ask me why we do anything else, but we do, including trying to make our community a better place).
As I sat there, I of course spoke with various people walking by about the organization, the gist of what they do, how they go about accomplishing their goals, and why any little bit they could donate would help. A few asked if I was military (don’t ask me why, I suppose my hair cut may indicate former military, but everything south of that screams McDonalds, not General MacArthur… and if you don’t know who MacArthur was go back and slap your high school history teacher). I of course politely advised that I couldn’t claim the honor of having served my country, nor could I take any real credit for the accomplishments of the Defending Freedom organization.
Every single person I spoke with was very respectful as I explained the goals of the organization. Old, young, black, white, Hispanic, men, women, it didn’t matter, when I was done explaining, each one of them advised it was a worthy cause, and thanked me for what I was doing trying to help.
I don’t know the history of each of these people. Where they came from, their back story, if they’ve been touched by those who serve, or if its all truly abstract to them. I admit, that I have tremendous respect for those in uniform, but have not felt a personal impact from their sacrifice (that isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the freedoms that their service provides me, it means that I haven’t experienced someone close to me being deployed, or giving their life for their country), for me its an appreciation, it doesn’t wrap around the core of my being, and for that I am incredibly thankful. My grandfather served in World War II. I have uncles and cousins who have served, all returned though, and I was either too young to understand, or not even born when they were off ensuring my liberty.
But I have people that I consider to be friends who have had the military touch their lives in very real ways. The manner in which they’ve taken the love they have for those deployed, lost, or returned, and channeled it into positivity is absolutely awe inspiring. One of them, whom we’ll refer to as “She-Hulk”, is especially fond of using the phrase “Be the Change” (Side note, because I am contractually not able to be serious for more than 30 words at a time…. I keep suggesting her and her group of friends dress as change for Halloween… one be a quarter, one be a nickel, a penny, etc. The only issue is that there is more than one Dime in the group). She and her family, from her mother, to her husband, to her young son ARE the change for Southern Nevada. They donate time, money, sweat, energy, both physical and emotional. Randomly bringing stacks and stacks and stacks of pizzas to feed homeless vets. Spending their Christmas cooking for and serving those in need, and countless other endeavors. To say they are the definition of the word inspiring wouldn’t be an understatement, as they in fact do inspire others. Myself, and others like me routinely donate our time, our money, and our energies, and it is directly attributable to seeing them be the change in our world.
But as inspiring as she and her family are, its not her I want to talk about today (I know, what the duck is going on, he’s 850 words into this thing, and hasn’t gotten to what he wants to talk about yet? I told you, humor me!)
I have another person who I am incredibly proud to call my friend, lets call her McNugget. McNugget, aside from being a dog whisperer, and the poster child for big hair, has her main gig going to work for an organization called American Dream U . On top of also spending time helping She-Hulk with Defending Freedom work, she works for American Dream U, assisting soldiers all over the world with their transition to the private sector, meeting and working with various speakers, and business entities to provide the best information, and contact networks she can in the hopes to set our brave men and women of the military up for success. If you were to say that She-Hulk’s work with homeless vets was trying to treat the disease, you could say McNugget was working on the vaccine for prevention.
This is where we circle back to my tiny contribution this morning. As I was setting up my display table, putting out little flyers, money jar, etc. I stumbled across a flyer. It was a short bio, and remembrance of a man I never met. I’ve heard his name. I’ve met his sister, and I know the cliff’s notes version of his story, but I didn’t know him. But McNugget did, he is the ever present muse for her works. What struck a chord in me this morning was seeing that today was the 6th anniversary of his death.
Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross, on deployment to the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan out of Fort Hood in Texas made the ultimate sacrifice for his country when an improvised explosive device caused his military vehicle to roll over.(Please note, if you’ve read any of my previous postings, or just this post even, you may have noticed that when I reference people from my life, I use nicknames, partially for branding them as “Duckers”, and partially because I’m a narcissist. But this man deserves more than a nickname, he has more than earned any amount of respect I can provide him) Here I was just starring at a picture of a young man, just shy of his 26th birthday.
The first thing I did was sit down for a moment. I admit, I had volunteered earlier in the week when I heard they needed people to man the tables this weekend, and while I’m not incredibly socially active, I do try and help my friends when I can. As I had left my wife and dog to sleep in after hosting pool party for my co-workers (I know, hard to believe this website isn’t my full time job!… well spread the word damn it, let me get some serious web traffic going, and maybe it can be) I was regretting my decision. I really just wanted to turn around and crawl back into bed, or find a Scrubs marathon, or something that didn’t involve leaving my house.
Then I saw this flyer, and for some reason, volunteering for Defending Freedom, on the anniversary of his death, made it real for me. After I gave a silent prayer thanking Frank, and blessing his soul, I reached out to McNugget to let her know that I was thinking of her and of Frank, and that if there was anything I could do, I wanted to do it.
So for the next 5 hours I sat there, a smile on my face (which is tough for me, my default position is to look like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh), saying good morning (or eventually good afternoon) to everyone that walked by, trying to do my best to be a drop of water in an ocean of commitment and sacrifice surrounding me.
What I kept coming back to is the greatness of this man I had never met. Intellectually I know what he gave up for his country. But what amazed me, what truly amazed me is that not only did he serve his country, but even in memory his service is so incredibly astounding. Everywhere McNugget travels, she takes a stuffed eagle with her, Frank the Eagle. I’ve seen pictures of Frank the Eagle traveling world wide, east, west, he goes everywhere. And I know wherever he goes, McNugget is telling his, Frank’s, story to anyone who will listen. He inspires her to do what she does. I know his memory inspires She Hulk. Every homeless vet helped. Every care package sent, every deployed troop returning home helped by American Dream U, every ounce of an infinitely deep reservoir of passion these women have, is fueled at least in part by the memory and need to honor this fallen soldier.
These are the women that inspire me. And here I was given the opportunity to, in an incredibly minute way, honor the man who inspired greatness in them. Now this article may seem like just the ramblings of a man with too much time on his hands (tip of the cap to Styx). But if one soldier happens to see this, and takes an ounce of pride in knowing how revered they are, or one person volunteering their time and effort knows they’re appreciated, or one person who has lost a loved one to war, knows that others who haven’t even met their soldier have hurt in their souls, and inspiration in their heart from just hearing of their courage, then this is a worthwhile article.
So to those that have made it all the way through this, thank you for humoring me. For those like She-Hulk, and McNugget who selflessly give of themselves in honor of others, know you are an inspiration, and it is with tremendous pride that I call you my friends. And to those like Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross, and the many thousands like him who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedoms, know that your service lives beyond you, the memory of you is an inspiration to others who make the world a better place in your memoriam, and I don’t know if there is anything more honorable than that. May you rest in peace knowing you still make the world a better place, even for those you never met.
- Jason Sullivan
- Find me on Twitter @TopDucker