Tag Archives: yogi berra

Rest in Peace Yogi

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You can observe a lot just by watching…

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

When turned on my iPhone this morning in Munich I learned of the death of the great Yogi Berra. Truthfully it is hard for me to believe that Yogi has passed away, somehow, I never imagined the day that the world would be without this wonderful, yet humble and self depreciating great.

I saw hi once in person at an old timers game at Anaheim Stadium back in 1970. There were a lot of greats at that game including Joltin Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Too bad when I was ten years old I didn’t think to get their autographs, and of course that was well before kids had the ability to take selfies without killing their candy budget on film and development.

Yogi Berra has always been an inspiration to me, especially in the way that he made the English language far more entertaining than it really is.

I can’t post much tonight as I have to get up early for a day trip with Judy to Nuremberg, but even so I could not go without saying something about Yogi. After all, it ain’t over until it’s over.

Until my next non-pre-scheduled post…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Saturday Musings: The Same Mistakes

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Not much to write tonight, mainly because I have been avoiding the heat and humidity here in the Virginia Tidewater by doing little but staying inside and working on my Gettysburg and Civil War book, but then as Yogi Berra once said “it’s not the heat, it’s the humility.” 

But really, I have been continuing to do research and work on the text and that continues to lead me to pure gold in the pursuit for truth, historical truth that is as relevant today as it was when it happened over a century and a half ago.

Sadly, the same issues that dominated America in the 1840s, 1850s, 1860s and later following Reconstruction still dominate so much of our social, political and religious debate. Whether it is the voting franchise which many on the political right seek to restrict, the rights of women, blacks and other minorities, immigrants and the LGBT community, to any semblance of political, economic equality or social justice very little has changed. Not only that there are some political, media and religious leaders who argue for the unabashed imperialism of Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism.

Sadly, as it was then, much, if not most of this can be laid squarely at the feet of Evangelical Protestant and other conservative Christian leaders. A century and a half ago men who claimed to be Christian leaders led the efforts to support slavery, discriminate against women, persecute gays and promote imperialistic policies that would have embarrassed the founders of the United States. After the defeat of the Confederacy most of the same people used the same theology to disenfranchise and discriminate against African Americans through Jim Crow laws, as well as discriminate against minorities, women and gays all the while claiming to be the victims of persecution.

Before the Civil War many Protestant ministers, intellectuals, and theologians, not only Southerners, but men like “Princeton’s venerable theologian Charles B. Hodge – supported the institution of slavery on biblical grounds, often dismissing abolitionists as liberal progressives who did not take the Bible seriously.”  This leaves a troubling question over those who claim to oppose other issues on supposedly Biblical grounds. Conservative Anglican theologian Alistair McGrath asks, “Might not the same mistakes be made all over again, this time over another issue?”

In the next few days I will be publishing excerpts of the text relating to those issues here.

I thank all of those who subscribe to this site, as well as those who follow my writings through Twitter or Facebook. The fact that so many people are doing this humbles me, and to repeat what Yogi Berra said, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humility.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Home Opener: Images of Opening Night at Harbor Park

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“A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.” — Yogi Berra

It is the day that I have waited for since the last September, baseball returned in the form of Opening Day at Norfolk’s Harbor Park. Major League Opening Day is always great, especially if you live near enough to a Major League club to attend. For many of us we have to wait for Opening Day at one of the Minor League ballparks. In Norfolk our Norfolk Tides are the AAA level affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

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This evening the Tides hosted the Charlotte Knights, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The Tides fell to the Knights by a score of 3-0. Of course wanted the Tides to win but more important for me was the fact that I was back in my refuge with the people that I have gotten to know each season for the last ten years.

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For me there is something amazing about a ball game. In a way Norfolk’s Harbor Park for me is like Hemingway’s A Clean Well-Lighted Place. I fully understand the feelings of the older waiter in that short but poignant story of life, meaning and a place of refuge. As Sharon Olds wrote: “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”

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So today with contractors still banging around the house I give you these images from my place of refuge.

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Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Future Comes One Day at a Time: Padre Steve’s New Year Eve 2013

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“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”  Abraham Lincoln

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Uo0JAUWijM 

Abba Happy New Year

Well finally we come to the end of the year 2013.  That being said we can say that it was definitely a year. It was a year filled with days which were filled with hours which were filled with minutes, seconds and nanoseconds.  It was a year of triumph and tragedy that filled the hearts of many with fear and unease.  At the same time it is now in the past. It cannot be relieved or changed but we can take the time to learn from it and hopefully build a better future.

2013 like all of the past will be remembered and written about by historians, theologians journalists and philosophers and most will place their own interpretation on it and then go on to surmise the future.  I do not presume to be that smart until someone starts paying me to make such learned prognostications.  However the future is unknown and even Jesus warned us “that we do not know what tomorrow brings.”

I am a historian. For me history is not just something dead in the past but a living reality that influences us in everything we do. As such I thing we need to learn lessons from history and apply that knowledge to what we do now. We do not live in a vacuum, if we did we would be very dusty and always spinning around, but I digress.

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Uncertain Times 

I think that we have to learn from the past in order to be ready for the future. But the future is unknown and often uncharted.  Thus we should as George Patton said  “Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” That really is the reason I study history, not so we have a laundry list of facts events and dates that I can use to prove my point but rather to see how people and nations dealt with things that they either could not or did not foresee. Human nature doesn’t change and while circumstances and technology may change the way people deal with unforeseeable events can help us navigate future difficulties. It is not a guarantee but it is a help.

Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban wrote today that “None of us are born into the world we live in.”  That is so true because we are all born at a moment in time and the world is always changing and changing is ways that will always surprise us. Maybe not some of the events themselves, but the players that make things happen, the places that they happen and the speed of which they happen.  Time stands still for no person.

Though the future is yet to be written though people of faith place the future in the hands of God we cannot erase the past and go back to some point in time where our interpretation of history says that things were better. Such thinking is pure fantasy and is  quite delusional.

Golda Meir said “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.” Unfortunately most politicians and pundits do not understand this as George Orwell so poignantly noted “All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”

I think that is a large part of why we are in the political mess we have been in for so long in this country and probably why my spiritual search will never really end.

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Rat from Pearls Before Swine and I have a lot in Common 

For me 2013 was a year of growth and learning.  After 5 years of doing hospital work I am back in academia teaching ethics, military history and a class on working with IGOs, NGOs and the private sector in humanitarian operations or in combat zones. The new assignment will be quite rewarding and I expect to start work on a Ph.D. this year so that when I retire from the military I will be better positioned to teach and do other things in these academic areas.

In 2013 I made plenty of mistakes and really haven’t deviated too much off of the Mendoza Line.  But hopefully have learned from those mistakes. I thought about making specific resolutions for 2014 but decided against it, I don’t want to have to give myself “resolution absolution.”  I figure that there is no way that I could make it through New Year’s Day if without totally screwing them up so why bother.

However that being said I do resolve this year is to go out every day, do my best and try not to screw things up too badly.  It is the same attitude that I have playing baseball or softball, so why not apply it to the rest of my life?

English poet Thomas Hood penned this:

And ye, who have met with Adversity’s blast,
And been bow’d to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass’d
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury –
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen. Thomas Hood

All this being said I think that the wisest thing ever said about the future was by Yogi Berra who wisely remarked “The future ain’t what it used to be.” But then was it ever what it used to be?

Tonight I will usher in the New Eve with Judy and our Papillon Dachshund mix Molly and Papillon Minnie after going out to dinner and for a few beers with friends at Gordon Biersch.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Blessings my friends, Happy end of the Old Year and all the best for the New Year!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Switch Hitting and Life as a Lefty forced to the Right

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“He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.” Yogi Berra

Back in 1966 my late father made one of the few mistakes that he made in raising me. He turned me around in the batter’s box and turned me into a right handed hitter.

For years I wondered about this because my first grade teacher Mrs Brandenburg took the pencil out of my left hand and put it in my right hand. A few short years later my 4th grade teacher Mrs Gates whacked my hand with a ruler because of my poor penmanship. That didn’t help my penmanship and truthfully if forced to take notes on paper I  cannot read half of what I wrote.

During my first tour in Germany in the 1980s I started using my left hand to eat, and occasionally would just for shits and giggles write left handed. The sad thing is that I now eat left and that my writing when done with my left hand is nearly as legible as when I write with my right hand. But I digress…

Now ever since dad switched me at the plate I have not been a good hitter. We talked about this before he died, not that he turned me around at the plate but the fact that I was a crappy hitter. My life has been spent on the edge of the Mendoza line. (For those that don’t know what this is just google Mendoza Line or Mario Mendoza.) I haven’t hit for power but my dream is to start hitting balls over the fence, that way I can trot around the bases versus having to dig hard to get on base.

In the years since I have wondered what it would feel like to bat left-handed. However I was always too afraid to try it in a practice or game with real people. However today since for the first time in a long time I am playing somewhat organized ball I went to a batting cage after I did my circuit training around the lake in my neighborhood.

My first 40 swings were from the right side. But then I decided to go to the left side. It was amazing. My swing felt natural and not only did I make contact but it felt natural. I realized then that everything that I thought was right was really left.

Come to think of it for years of my life  tried for whatever reason to stay to the political and religious right side of the house. Of course that was before Iraq, PTSD and a major faith crisis. After that I ended up somewhat on the left. I moderate but somehow more to the left than the right. Maybe that makes me a switch hitter too.

That reminds me of an exchange in the TV series 30 Rock. 

Jack: When I was at Princeton I played baseball AND football. And back then football players went both ways.

Dotcom: Really? So you went both ways?

Jack: Yeah! We all did. It was the 70s.

In between as well as later tonight and tomorrow I will be doing some more studying and reading for my class and getting ready for my second exam at the Joint and Combined Warfighting School. Tomorrow after I celebrate Eucharist at my chapel I will do my PT, I think I  might run and then head over to the batting cage again. In the afternoon I will be meeting Pulitzer Prize winning author David Wood to talk about PTSD and suicide in the military. David is a war correspondent and Military Editor for the Huffington Post.

Tuesday, Lord willing and the shutdown not sending half of my team home I will be playing in my first game. By the way I do intend on hitting from the left side. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Pray for me a sinner and have a great night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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“Breaking Bats” Broken Bats and Life

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“Your bat is your life. It’s your weapon. You don’t want to go into battle with anything that feels less than perfect.” Lou Brock

Today something happened that to me that I have never had happen to me. I broke a bat while hitting in a slow pitch softball practice. We play old guy rules in the intramural league that I play in as a student and in about 9 weeks or so as faculty at the Joint Forces Staff College. Last week while pursuing a pop foul ball on the fist base line I pulled a butt muscle and today while throwing a ball tweaked a muscle in my elbow. We were playing in a light drizzle and the wet ball slipped out of my fingers as I threw it and I felt a slight tweak, which remained painful for the rest of the practice.

Both of those injuries are painful and because I am 53 years old are not helpful to my playing days. However, I will continue to play because I love the game and I am at times not very bright. But like Satchel Paige said “We don’t stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing.”

Now as far as the bat goes I am a purist. I bat with a wooden bat, even in softball. Of course it is an approved “official softball” bat as opposed to a baseball bat, but it is still wood. I have tried aluminum or other metal or composite bats but they just don’t feel natural. In fact when I bat with them it is almost like my mind locks up and my batting average sinks like the Titanic. When Yogi Berra said “Baseball is ninety percent mental. he other half is physical” he was absolutely right, you do the math.

Now broken bats are part of life even if you don’t play ball. We all break break bats, be they real bats or metaphorical bats at some time in our life. Hell I’ve broken a lot of things, some by mistake and some intentionally. I have learned the hard way to make sure if I am wound up too tight to make sure whatever I throw is not breakable. Sometimes this is a challenge when the PTSD kicks in and I need to throw something.

About six months ago in my previous assignment I was having a very frustrating day and emotionally hit the wall. I needed to throw something. I looked around my office and realized that all the baseballs I had were autographed. Likewise anything that would have been nice to throw was somehow important to me.

Then I spied a banana on my desk. I looked at it and picked it up. Since I was the only one in the office I walked out, looked down the hallway which was empty and charged for the nearest exit which emptied into a patio on the back side of the hospital. I ran out onto the patio and threw the banana as far as I could. No one saw me, nothing was broken, except the banana which I assume was eaten by local wildlife, thus contributing to the circle of life, and my need to get my physical anger out was assuaged but I digress… That being said throwing something is not the same as breaking a bat.

I liked the bat that broke today. It was like a friend. I am not a power hitter but when I am in a groove everything feels right. In our first practice last week I felt good. I was making good contact and the ball was falling for hits. Ground balls and line drives. However today something didn’t feel quite right. Part I am sure was my arm which I had tweaked the muscle near my elbow, but the bat didn’t feel right. Whenever I hit the ball it didn’t seem right. Maybe I had already damaged it in the previous practice or maybe it had bounced around in the back of my Ford Escape. But whatever happened it just didn’t feel right.

Then it happened. I thought I had a good pitch, went for it and when the bat hit the ball I heard the crack. The ball was inside and I was jammed but the ball was hit sharply to the third baseman who threw me out but everyone was wondering about the bat. I knew it was broken. I went back and picked it up. A couple of us looked at it and sure enough just about the grip on the handle where I hit the ball there was a crack. It was like a hairline fracture, but the bat was now dead.

In my last at bat I had to use a composite bat, with which I did succeed in lining a solid single into left field. However, after practice I took my old Rawlings Adirondack “Big Stick” made of Ash to my car and went home. I then went out to have a couple of beers and a light dinner at Gordon Biersch after which I went out and bought me a new Louisville Slugger “125 SB” Powerized wooden softball bat made of White Ash. It too feels good. I cannot wait to use it at our next practice.

I have broken many things in life as I said, but this was the first time in years of playing baseball or softball that I have ever broken a bat. The fact that it happened in slow pitch makes it even more amazing. But I guess that is life. Maybe someday I will hit a home run. There is a sign in left field that says 230’, I have three years to put it over that wall. It may mean buying a few more bats, but one day I will get my home run.

After all if I can break a bat in slow pitch ball maybe I might have enough in me to put one over that fence.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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To Iraq and Back: A Last Night Together and a Kiss Goodbye

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This is another of my “To Iraq and Back” articles about my deployment to Iraq in 2007 and 2008 with RP1 Nelson Lebron. 

Now the time has come to leave you
One more time Let me kiss you
And close your eyes and I’ll be on my way
Dream about the days to come, When I won’t have to leave alone
About the times, That I won’t have to say

Oh, kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
Cause Im leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

From “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLBKOcUbHR0

The night before leaving on deployment and the actual day of departure are some of the hardest that any military couples or families experience. In time of war it is even more difficult. Judy and I have done this too many times in peace and war.

As I went through all of my preparations to go to Iraq in some was it was a replay of past pre-deployment situations. However, this time I was not merely deploying on a peacetime assignment or supporting a peace making operation, or even deploying on a ship and being part of a boarding team after the 9-11-2001 attacks. In that last instance  Judy did not know that I was part of the boarding team until about halfway through the deployment.

But this time going boots on ground into the most bitterly of Iraq’s contested provinces, Al Anbar. That lent at certain dark pallor to the occasion.

Our last night together was rather somber to put it mildly. Judy and I went out to dinner on Friday night. Since I knew that I would not be having a good beer for quite some time we went to the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach. For us Gordon Biersch is generally a good time kind of place, it has become over the years our version of Cheers a place where everyone knows our name.

That last Friday before the deployment to Iraq it was not a festive occasion, it was almost a wake. Judy and I were both quite subdued. In between the silence Judy talked about her fears about the deployment while I tried to reassure her that everything would be fine. I am a man who is somewhat Vulcan in my use of logic. I figured that even though things were bad in Iraq that my chances of returning were quite high, even of something happened to me. I tried to be calm and reassuring and no matter what I tried it didn’t work, human emotions are quite intense at times.

I also reasoned that since I had taken out the extra life insurance that I would be okay.  For me such logic makes sense. I kind of believe that if I don’t get it I will need it and if I do get it I won’t. It’s kind of like Yogi Berra’s logic when he said “You should always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”

After dinner and several half liter glasses of Gordon Biersch Märzen amber lager we went back home. Judy watched quietly while I finalized my packing. I ensured that all my field gear, uniforms and clothing were packed and rechecked my EOD issue protective gear.

I then packed my Mass kit, Bible, Prayer Book and my Marine Pattern camouflage reversible desert/woodland stole. The stole was special as Judy had made me a few years back from woodland and desert pattern shirts which were way too big for me. They are one of a kind items. I have seen similar, but what Judy made were far better than any others that I have seen. I still use that stole even when I am not deployed. It is simple but quite exquisite, adorned with an embroidered Maltese Cross in tan on the desert side and black on the woodland side it is unique and I treasure it.

The last items I packed were my books on counterinsurgency, a few DVD movies, music CDs and my hygiene items. It is funny to think that now all of this would be stored on my iPad which if I ever make such a deployment again will significantly simplify my life.

I wrestled the big bags down the stairs and put them in the back of my Honda CR-V so I wouldn’t have to fight them in the morning. That accomplished Judy and I just sat together, she was feeling pretty low, the look one of despair.

On the other hand I was a mix of conflicting emotions. I was excited by knowing that I was going to get to do what I had trained all of my life to do. However I was very cognizant of the reality that it would be tough on Judy and that it was a dangerous deployment.

My last couple of deployments had been very tough on her. When I deployed to support the Bosnia mission as a mobilized Army Reservist and newly ordained Priest three of my relatives in Huntington West Virginia where we were living died. One was my maternal grandmother “Ma Maw” who Judy had become very close to over the past couple of years. They had become buddies and Ma Maw had taken Judy in not as my wife, but as “her” granddaughter.

Ma Maw’s death hit Judy very hard and my mom and uncle in the midst of their grief over the loss of their mom they did not understood the depth of the relationship between Judy and Ma Maw. As a result, I was absent and there was much tension, misunderstanding and hurt feelings between them. In the week before Ma Maw’s death Judy tried repeatedly to get her to go to the doctor only to be ignored. The morning Ma Maw died Judy called me in Germany. She was frantic that I call Ma Maw and insist that she go to the doctor. I made the call and insisted that she go to the Emergency Room but she refused and said she would call her doctor. That night she died. I had lost my grandmother and could not go back to help and Judy had lost a woman who had become closer to her than her own grandmothers ever had been.

In 2001 during my deployment with 3rd Battalion 8th Marines to Okinawa, Japan and Korea we lost our 16 ½ year old Wire Haired Dachshund Frieda. Judy did her nest to keep Frieda alive for me, but there was nothing that could be done and finally with Judy being worn down to nothing herself, she was persuaded to have Frieda put down. The interesting thing is that after Frieda died she visited me in Okinawa and Judy about the same time in dreams. Frieda was always a weird animal and even in death has continued to find ways to remind us of her presence.

My 2002 deployment on USS HUE CITY to the Middle East and Horn of Africa came less than six months after my return from my deployment with 3/8. That deployment, coming on the heels of the 9-11-2001 attacks was also very difficult on her. In the space of 6 years we had been apart almost 4 1/2 years. Much of the time following that last deployment was spent on the road as I travelled to visit Marine Security Force and Navy EOD Mobile Units in the Middle East, Europe, the Far East and the Continental United States. In a four year period I averaged 1-3 weeks a month away from home.

With all of this in the background we spent our last night together. That night neither of us slept very well. When we got up I had a light breakfast and then accompanied by a friend from Judy’s Church choir we drove to the base.

Saturday morning traffic is generally not too bad so our trip was uneventful, but tense.  You could cut the tension between us by now with a knife.  It was about the time that we were nearing the base Judy said something about our relationship that I took really wrong. I sarcastically snapped back “Well I’ll just get blown up by an IED then.”

That sarcastic comment really hit her hard and I knew immediately that I had blown myself up with it. The words were harsh and devastating. I should have known better and should have kept my moth shut. After all I’d deployed a lot and taught pre-deployment classes talking about the emotional cycle of deployments. I was supposed to be an expert at this sort of thing, but instead my comment was very cruel.

To be sure the stress on both of us the preceding weeks had taken its toll and both of us were on edge.  For two months we had each in our own way imagined the deployment, me as a great adventure and her as a threat to our mutual existence. I wondered just what I would face when I got to Iraq and those were unanswerable questions. Judy’s great fear that something might happen to me and that she would be alone, not just for the time of the deployment but for the rest of her life.

That is one of the tensions in a military marriage that many people who have not lived it fail to understand. It is not just the wartime deployments it is the cumulative effects of multiple short and long term separations on the health of a relationship.

We got to the base pretty quick, maybe 15-20 minutes but the tension made me feel that the trip was three times as long. As we pulled up in a parking spot near the baggage drop off area we sat there for a few minutes. I got out of the car as did Judy.  I asked if she wanted to wait a while with me and with tears in her eyes said that she couldn’t handle the wait.

I unloaded my gear with the help of Nelson. He looked at Judy and said, “Don’t you worry ma’am we’ll do good and I’ll keep him safe.” Judy gave a soft “thanks” and gave him a hug.

With my gear unloaded I went back to Judy.  We looked at each other, embraced and kissed each other, each of us wondering if it was possibly the last time. We parted our embrace, and she the turned and walked back to the car, handed her friend the keys and they drove off.  It was a moment that I will not forget as long as I live. As she left I said a prayer under my breath and asked God to keep her safe while I was gone.  Then I turned to Nelson and said, “Okay partner, let’s get this done.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under iraq,afghanistan, marriage and relationships, Military, to iraq and back, Tour in Iraq