What Are Your Plans for The Hole-y-days?

By Heather Randall

Christmas wreath on a new grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

Christmas wreath on a new grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

“I am so proud to be an American on this day… Glen is proud. Glen is honored. Glen is home.” I reread these words written by Kate Quigley, Glen Doherty’s sister. Most Americans are familiar with Glen; the 42-year old United States Navy SEAL killed in the September 11 Salafi-Jihadist assaults on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Kate forwarded this letter to family and friends following a solemn ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, which honored the lives of her brother, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods. My cousin Glenn e-mailed me this letter as he and Glen Doherty were close high school friends in Winchester, Massachusetts.

As many Americans will fret about their shopping list or decorating their home during the holidays, we must pause and think about Kate, and thousands of other sisters, wives and daughters “left behind” by their loved ones who died fighting for our country and our freedoms. For these women, these special days are no longer holidays, they are, as I call them, “Holeydays” – there are holes in their hearts as they welcome relatives into their home or place a home-cooked meal on the table. They are thrust into holiday traditions as the family matriarch, despite their feelings of shock, loneliness, confusion, and sadness.

Further, many surviving women can’t afford to buy traditional holiday dinners for their families. How will they show their children the loss of their father was worth the sacrifice? How will they, as President Obama stated, “…preserve the legacies of our fallen”?

We must support these women in their struggle to carry on and show them our gratitude for the personal sacrifices they made in supporting their loved ones’ desires to defend the United States of America. Most of these women understood the unthinkable possibility: their loved does not return to the U.S. alive. Despite this possibility, they carried on, sometimes raising a family alone.

To all women blessed to have our husbands, brothers, fathers and sons alive this holiday season: please take time to help inspire a woman who lost the most important person in her life. Help her to persevere even though it’s most difficult during holiday gatherings. Relay a prayer, give a gift or volunteer at a local outreach program, to show your appreciation for her sacrifice and to honor the men who meant so much to them – the men who dedicated their lives to make ours richer.

If you’re among the women suffering from the loss of a husband, son or father, you may find added comfort and support from organizations that work to help women like you. Wounded Wear (www.woundedwear.org), one of several organizations supported by Boot Campaign, provides for families of fallen service members. Boot Campaign also supports Special Ops Survivors (www.specialopssurvivors.org), an organization dedicated to serving needs of surviving spouses. In my area, Operation Homefront – California (www.operationhomefront.net) provides holiday meals to military families.  And by the way, Operation Homefront has an ongoing Boot Drive with the Boot Campaign!  That means for boot purchases made in the Boot Campaign’s online store that acknowledges Operation Homefront, the organization will receive $25 of the proceeds from the sale of boots from the Boot Campaign.

This holiday season, let’s remind surviving spouses, daughters and sisters, like Kate Quigley, we’re proud of them. Although Holeydays are upon these women, it’s my hope each will smile at some point during the season, realizing they are among the most treasured women in our country.

For more ideas on ways you can help visit bootcampaign.com.

Click here to read Boot Campaign’s most read blog:  Operation Red Wing: A Widow’s Perspective

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Solemn Pride Honoring Our Veterans

By Heather Randall

“For such arrangements and covenants we are willing to fight and to continue to fight until they are achieved; but only because we wish the right to prevail and desire a just and stable peace….” – President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points (January 8, 1918).

There are 23.2 million military veterans in the United States today (www.History.com).
Although I’m certain I’ve encountered only a few compared to most of you reading this
post, I believe President Wilson’s thoughts are indicative of what’s in the hearts and
minds of our veterans today.

As we celebrate Veterans this week, I’m grateful for opportunities to reflect upon,
and better understand, the bravery and heroism of millions who served and fought
honorably for this great nation. Just yesterday, I met Ed, a U.S. military veteran who
lives in the same assisted living community as my father. As I listened to Ed tell me his
story of being stationed in Alaska during the 1940’s, I thought to myself how wonderful
it is (and how lucky I am) that men like Ed are alive and willing to share real stories of
courage and valor.

Ed continued his story, but paused to say, “Heather, I didn’t want to stay here [the U.S.],
I wanted to be overseas, on the front lines.” This wasn’t the first time I heard a veteran
or a military service member proclaim his or her desire to enter combat for our country.
My grandfather, a First Lieutenant, U.S Army Corps of Engineers, camped in France in
1918, wrote in his diary (November 11, 1918), “…it is frightfully depressing…not to have
fought at the front. I am very much disappointed.” Of course, this was the day President
Woodrow Wilson signed the armistice.

Although the military drafted so many of our veterans, I’ve never heard one say he or
she didn’t want to fight and contribute to protect our great nation. I’m always amazed at,
and thankful for, the mindset of our veterans – an unyielding dedication to serving our
country. My father, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, told me, “I wanted to go…” referencing
his desire to protect our country during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Strapped into his F-
105 at Florida’s McCoy Air Force Base, he anxiously waited for President Kennedy’s
direction to begin combat over Cuba. (Ironically, he would later pilot that same plane as
a member of the flyover during President Kennedy’s funeral.)

Last week, I watched “Judgment at Nuremberg”, the 1961 American film, which tells
the story of the Post-World War II Nuremberg Trials. The movie reminded me of horrific
moments in the history of many nations and the devastation and death faced by our
WWII veterans. Inspired, I took my father to see, “Lincoln”, director Steven Spielberg’s

most recent account of constitutional and military history. From “Band of Brothers”
to “The Pacific”, and now to “Lincoln”, Mr. Spielberg uses his talents to educate us
about the lives of young men and women who sacrificed their limbs and lives, their
comfort and families, to ensure freedoms that all Americans enjoy today.

As a female civilian, who never served in the military, I can’t imagine what it’s like to
hunker down in a foxhole, the wounded and dying to my left, and artillery firing at me
from the right. I can, however, seek opportunities to learn from our veterans and show
them my appreciation for their service.

To celebrate this Veterans Day, take the time to hear a veteran’s story and thank him
or her for their commitment to our country. Read a little U.S. military history or watch a
historical documentary on the subject. It’s only by understanding and learning from our
history that the United States will maintain peace, freedom and American values in the
future.

Check out our Boot Campaign Home Page to learn more about how you can show
your appreciation for our veterans and cultivate awareness of the challenges so many
continue to face upon returning home.

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It’s Not Too Late to Lend Support

By Heather Randall, Guest Blogger

Recently searching for voting information, I googled my way to an article written my Mathew Clark for the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ). According to Mr. Clark’s article, absentee ballot requests from military personnel declined by about 70% since 2008. Disturbed by this fact, I read on to discover that although Congress passed The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act) in 2009 – a law designed to help overseas-based military citizens vote in U.S. elections and to streamline the military absentee ballot process – only 15 states complied with the law (Wikipedia – September 7, 2012).

This is unacceptable. Local, state and federal governments must work to ensure voting
accessibility to all American citizens, particularly those of our military service members.
There’s no other organization in this country that does more to protect peace than the U.S. Military. As General Douglas MacArthur stated during his Farewell Speech to West Point Cadets (May 12, 1962), “…the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

Throughout history, hundreds of thousands of military service members sacrificed their lives to protect our constitutional rights. By exercising our right to vote, we give purpose to those lives lost and sacrifices made by our service men and women every day, at home and abroad, in the name of democracy.

Regardless of our political positions, it’s our responsibility to vote as American citizens. James E. Koutz (National Commander of the American Legion), recently stated, “Voting is not a political act. It’s an act of citizenship.”

Our votes not only influence governmental reform and progress; our votes serve to prevent threats against our liberty – an American value for which our Armed Forces fought and died for over the past 200 years.

There’s still time for you to vote if you haven’t done so, and there’s still time to make sure our military members cast their ballots. If you know a military-serving family member or friend challenged to get to a polling booth, please offer to help them.  When you do that, you assist those who protect your right to vote, with their right to vote as well.

Why do you vote? What will you do today to help a military service member vote? If you’re a military service member, was it challenging for you to vote this year?

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Milestones

By Boot Girl Myra

Lately I’ve been keenly interested in how others celebrate milestones. This may be due to some record ones coming up in my family in the next six months. My parents celebrate 60 years of marriage at Thanksgiving. And my husband will celebrate a stellar birthday in 2013. I’m still trying to figure out how to top the last decade party we threw for him; which was totally nerdy and fun just like him. Speaking of birthdays, one of our fans is celebrating a milestone with a very creative and apropos adventure in mind and agreed to send us updates each month along the way.

After witnessing a wounded veteran receiving a mortgage free home at one of our recent events, Michelle Soza realized her freedom cost others something. For her birthday this month her mom gave her a pair of our signature combat boots. She decided to spend her last year of her 20’s with the mission to wear boots every day. She knows the project will bring  a new perspective about life and liberty as she approaches her next milestone on October 24, 2013. We will check in with her each month as she journals her experiences. And to get things started,  here are Michelle’s first posts from this week.

October 20th: My year in Boots starts October 24, 2012. As I sit here and look at my boots I realize that for so many of our fighting men and women boots just like these are the very last pair of shoes they will ever wear. Every morning they wake up in whatever part of the world they have been asked to go and step into their boots to fight for freedom and the American way. Today in their boots will see and experience things that many of us cannot even begin to imagine. They do this because it is right and necessary. We as Americans have been given so much, and these men and women ensure that we can continue to thrive and enjoy the freedoms so many of us take for granted. Putting on my boots is a way to say “thank you” to our soldiers and their families. Wearing the boots shows that I appreciate all that they do for us and the sacrifices they make.

October 24th: Well, I am just a few hours into day one of the year in boots, and already it is generating interest. I talked about it in my online class and was contacted by a fellow student who just happens to be an intern at the Veterans home in Chula Vista. They shared the Boot Campaign website and the “programs we support “page on their Facebook!

As you can see, Michelle’s year in boots is off to an interesting, exciting, and unexpected start!  Perhaps you have an upcoming milestone where boots may be just the thing to bring fresh perspective and let us know what you’re up to!

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Animated Army Guys Strike with Force

By Boot Girl Myra

Disney’s Toy Story 3

It’s amazing how an innocent little animated show I was watching with my daughter completely changed my mood from happy to somber. It is a good sort of somber, the kind that made me stop and  take accounts. Maybe it will do the same for you too…..

“So long guys, we’re heading out.”
“Wait, what? You’re going AWOL?”
“We’ve done our duty, Andy’s grown up, let’s face it when the trash bags come out, the Army men are the first to go.”

That dialogue between the other toys and the Army men in Toy Story 3 struck me hard. Their exchange sums up something that’s been occurring a lot more often in conversations lately. A growing number of people are asking; with troops coming home from Iraq, what’s the point of the Boot Campaign? As if to say that since our “official” role in Iraq is over, we no longer need to support our military. Two things disturb me about this thinking.

First, there are 1.4 million active duty military working daily in 150 countries (including operations still going on in Afghanistan) and stateside. Our military provides humanitarian aid in the name of all Americans (that’s you and me) to starving people in places like Somalia and Sudan. When disaster hits our own nation like the deadly tornadoes last year in Alabama and a Tsunami of millennial proportions last April in Japan, US forces were there to offer a cup of cold water and food to a crushed and shocked nation. If I could thank every service member feeding a starving child or family member displaced by disaster, I would.

And I do……….with my boots.

Second, it’s never been about war; it is about appreciating the people who choose to serve our country and protect our rights including the right to demonstrate. That is something Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Chinese, Burmese and many other countries don’t have as an inalienable right.  As a matter of fact this week Iran cracked down on the population’s social media activity, locking down certain sites linked to the western world for fear of it causing an uprising.  These governments don’t allow for free speech, rather, they imprison anyone who dare object.

I wear my boots for these, the ones who continue to protect my freedom so I can say what I want, live how I want, pray to whom I want, and so much more. Boot Campaign has always been about thanking those who are the protectors of our independence.

As we settle into another year of liberty, 47,266 American men and women (as of December 15th, 2011) are wounded from operations since 2002. If we pull out of supporting them now, who will provide them assistance? In my mind there will never be a day when boots are not necessary.   As long as we remain the land of the free and home of the brave, there will be people to thank, with boots ON!

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Voices Cry Out In Oil Leak

By Boot Girl Myra

photo courtesy James G. Howes

It would be easy to cap this oil leak, and in the grand scheme of things it would probably cost very little to do.   At the time of the ship’s sinking it still contained approximately 1.4 million gallons of oil.  Every day for the last 70 years the USS Arizona leaks approximately a quart and a half of oil (that’s 6 cups) to the surface. It’s estimated there are less than half a million gallons of oil left today, leaking one drop at a time to the top.   It isn’t so much that it demands our attention because of an oil spill as much as the symbolic “black tears” of the thousand plus men who are entombed there.   Every day their voices rise to the surface begging visitors to take notice of them.  Perhaps it’s a cry to never forget what an enemy can do if given the chance.    It might pose as a small environmental disaster but who would dare silence the loud, inaudible cry of 1,177 men, whose voices rise to the surface daily?

There will come a day when these black tears stop flowing, but not before all those who survived the attack have faded into the abyss.  Who will tell their stories then? Time is of the essence for them.  Several of the passers-by in the memorial above are some of remaining ship’s 200+ survivors.  They go there daily as volunteers  just to tell their stories in hopes complete strangers will pick up the torch, when theirs fades, and the black tears flow no more.   Many choose to be buried with their comrades when they die, asking for their ashes to be spread over the memorial.  A request respectfully granted by the National Park Service.

On December 7, 1941, just after 8:00am the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  Most history books will tell you the key detail of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor was it ushered the United States into WWII.  For the 2,390 Americans who died that day, with nearly half of them serving on the USS Arizona, the most important detail is the “voices” (in the form of a rhythmic oil leak) from 1,177 entombed soldiers rising to the surface daily, shouting in complete silence “Never Forget”.

DOD – Navy Salute to USS AZ

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Not What But Who

By Boot Girl Myra

Several of my friends took the November challenge.  It’s the daily challenge to post something you’re thankful for during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.  I’ve been pondering this all month.  Instead though, I was challenged not to list one single thing but to list people who, if they weren’t in my life it would be lacking.

Friends from Elementary School 1972

I looked through my friends on Facebook and relished knowing I am still friends with people I’ve known since kindergarten.  I am thankful for  David Grace, who pursued his dreams of being a television and movie producer, even with uncertainty of when the next job would materialize.  Michelle Olivas’ mom taught me the importance of a perfectly tee-peed (“wrapped” if you live in Texas) house.  That was one which the recipient was reticent to take down for the art-form that it was!  My date to homecoming my sophomore year, Steve Keough taught me that guys can do the splits to DEVO’s song “WHIP IT” with such precision, it can stop a dance mid-stream with people shouting “do that again”.   I think of my friend Shari Wilson who, for no other reason than we love to laugh, has sent me gifts of laughter for over 25 years.  Laughter is the salve that heals deep wounds.  If she weren’t around I’d probably be dead.

My parents, are the kind of people everyone needs in their life.  Married for 59 years, you can still catch them holding hands.  I love it that my dad still tells my mom she’s beautiful.  Scrolling through our Heroes album, I look at Chad Flemings’s photo and become thankful for him, though we’ve only met in passing.  When so much about this world is about appearances, his ability to make prosthetic legs something more of an in-your-face challenge motivates me. It’s as if he’s saying “just TRY to beat me”.

I am thankful for each of the Boot Girls; for their love of country, so much so they will work inordinate amounts of time without pay to inspire others to appreciate their freedom.  Today I’m especially thankful for BG Mariae’s parents.  Their chilling escape from Vietnam in 1975 with little more than the hope of living free was worth risking their lives.  My life would be lacking without some Mariae flair.

For the next few days as you travel, stuff yourself with every possible deliciousness, shop beyond the dropping stage and manage your things, take time to think of people in your life who, without them, would leave you lacking.

It’s not the “what” I am thankful for today but the “who”.   Do me a favor, tell me WHO you are thankful for, and if you have opportunity, tell them as well!

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