Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flag Day June 14, 2008

Flag Day...June 14th. As I sit here I am not sure how to put into words all that I would like to say. We were invited to Pennsylvania to attend a Flag Retirement Ceremony. I truly had no idea exactly what to expect. I've grown up knowing that there are certain protocol and rules pertaining to our Flag; knowing that when it is worn and no longer able to be flown there are proper ways to "retire" it. BUT I had never been to a retirement ceremony until this year.

As we arrived we wondered how it would go as it was raining and the ceremony was outdoors. We grabbed our umbrellas and went toward the site where everyone was gathering and tried to keep as dry as we could! Eddie was in his dress blues, he had thought earlier he might not wear them if the weather was bad...BUT he knew that there would be others there in uniform and so he wore his.

As the time for the ceremony neared the rain let up some and then stopped. A large crowd had gathered at the site for the retirement.

Eddie had been asked to give the opening prayer. Each part of the ceremony was packed with emotion! So much talent...and wonderful patriotic songs! I could not keep the "sweat" from my eyes. We are so blessed to live in this wonderful nation of ours! The land of the FREE, the home of the BRAVE.

There were children from an elementary school that performed and Boy Scouts as well as many talented singers and musicians. Each part of the program was full of emotion. I am so proud to be an American...I was so glad we had been invited to be here.

Later in the ceremony Eddie was asked to speak again and mentioned where we had been earlier in the week, at Walter Reed and Bethesda, giving honor to those who have served and are serving...keeping us safe.

When it was time to "retire" these grand flags the Boy Scouts reverently carried in the flags to be retired. There was one from each of 48 states. The Scouts presented the flags to the military personnel standing around the pit. Each branch of our military except the Coast Guard was represented. These men and one woman carefully unfolded the flags and laid them in the pit. It was something to see. When all the flags had been brought in several dignitaries came forward with flames and set them on the flags. The flags began to burn and my eyes continued to "sweat".

As the ceremony ended most of those in attendance stuck around. Several made their way to the pit to watch the flames lick at and burn the flags piled there. Many were taking one seemed to be in a hurry to leave. Eddie was able to visit with Brigadier General Papak and give him a book. The General apologized to Eddie for not having a challenge coin to give him, but gave him a small bottle with sand from Iwo Jima! WOW...what an honor! AND what a treasure. It will be proudly displayed with all of Eddies other precious Marine "stuff." (Our living room just off the kitchen is the room where we display all of Eddies wonderful things. We recently painted it a Marine Corps red to better show off everything.)

I wish that every American could participate in such a ceremony. It will be something to always remember and treasure. Our flag should always be treated with great respect and honor.

Several of us stopped for a late evening meal and visited some more before saying our good byes. Eddie and I started on our trip home early the next morning.

Our friend and editor Joyce Faulkner has posted a slide show of pictures from the ceremony.

Connie Beesley

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Flag Day Ceremony at Flag Retirement Plaza in South Park, Pittsburgh, PA


These are some of the pictures we took while in Kansas City.

Here we are with our friend Ed Slater who is a Korean veteran. He was a POW and a survivor of the Sunchon Tunnel Massacre. (He and several other survivors have a book detailing their ordeal.) Ed set up the visit for us at the Kansas City VA. The sweet lady who was our "tour" guide at the VA is Shari....and of course the other two in the picture are "The Beesley's....Eddie and Connie".

We spent the morning of June 3rd at the VA hospital...
visiting and giving out books. These are two of our Iraqi veterans; Michael and Josh.

After lunch we went out to the Truman Library. What a surprise to see the nice poster they had put up announcing that Eddie would be speaking there today!

Our friend Ed Slater introduced Eddie to the audience. AND while doing so he mentioned when we had met in Branson, MO. Ed was seated next to me in the front row so he would be handy for his time on program for the opening ceremonies of Veterans Week. He was nervous...wondering what he would say. I told him to speak from "here" pointing to his heart. I never knew until this day what that had meant to him! He did a great job and didn't seem nervous at all!

Eddie spoke and then opened it up for questions. It was a very good question and answer session. We enjoyed our time in Kansas City.

Connie Beesley

The Wall

It is so wonderful how things happen for is a good feeling to be in the right places at the right time. We always give thanks for this "wonderful timing".

We had originally planned on going to the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Tuesday after visiting our injured troops at Walter Reed hospital....but as we got in our car to head that way...we changed our minds and went back to our hotel in Rockville to just spend the remainder of the day "resting". Good decision!

By Thursday we were ready to head to the Wall...having no idea what was just ahead for us. In our travels we have often been in just the "right place at the right time". And this day was to be exceptional for us!

This time it was much easier to find wheelchair parking. (We have a nickname and call it "cherry parking".....because that is what our youngest grandson Jace called it when he was learning to talk) We parked and put about 10 books into Eddie's bag that he carries on his wheelchair...."just in case" we needed them.

As we neared the Wall there was a gentleman in a wheel chair sitting by himself....obviously a veteran. Eddie stopped to talk with him. He was waiting there for his wife who had returned to their car to get something. He told Eddie that they had been out the day before but he had not been able to get to the Wall so they had returned today. Eddie gave him a book and spoke with him till his wife returned. We met her and still continued to chat for a while. He asked for another book for a friend. We both remember how hard it was for Eddie that first time we came to this place of honor and remembrance. A few other veterans passed by and Eddie spoke to some of them, giving out two more books. Eventually we left to go on to the Wall...and soon noticed that they had come as well.
Coming to see those on the Wall is always emotional. For Eddie it is remembering them as they young. For me it seeing them through his eyes...and I have come to feel as though I "know" them. As we approached the second panel....there he was without even looking for him...Daniel Duffy. He was in Eddie's fire team. From there we looked at James Mitchell Jr. Eddie's Lt. Both of them were killed when Eddie was injured. He had carried such guilt for so long because he had been point man that day on patrol. Then we searched out all the many...too many. We then moved down to panel 11 to search for Eddie's nephew William Beasley. (not a typo....part of his family spells their name Beasley and part Beesley...still the same family).
As we started back to the center of the Wall we noticed a large group of veterans, a diverse group....Vietnam veterans as well as many from our current War . Some he had talked to earlier were in this group and they asked Eddie if he wanted to get in their group picture. I asked if I could take a picture...and they said "yes." It was so good to see this group of men together...their wars were in different places and times...but together they can help each other deal with the memories of war...not an easy thing to do...I have lived with Eddie's memories for almost 42 years now.

After the picture we gave out the remainder of our books....but did not have enough for everyone. I felt so bad...but the car was too far away to run for more books so I told them to email us with an address and we would send more books to them. (Today, I got an email so we will be sending books off to them soon!)

We left the Wall and stopped for a snack...and got to talk to these veterans for a while longer before their bus came for them. What a wonderful day! We felt so glad that we had come today and not on Tuesday!

Connie Beesley

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another Warrior Pays the Ultimate Price for our Freedom

Just a short note...we were at Bethesda Naval hospital today. The local Marine Corps league does a cook out for our warriors every week and we were privileged to be with them today. It was good to sit and chat with hear how they are progressing and to let them know how much we care. AND to let them know that they have so much to look forward ahead of them when they leave the hospital.

But in the midst of this good time was a monumental sadness because one of our young Warriors went to his final home early this morning. LCpl W. We had heard yesterday that he would be taken off life support. I talked with a female Captain who was shaken at losing this precious young man. He had never regained consciousness that she knew ...but I told her that even so...
it gave his family a time to say their good byes before he was actually gone. I know how meaningful this can be first hand as we had that time with Eddie's mother before we gave permission to take her off life support and also with our 7 year old grand daughter Ariel. The loss is still just as hard...but somehow softened since we had some time to grasp what was happening.

Those who care for our wounded troops need our do those they are caring for AND their families. And now I will have another warrior to remember...another name on my list...

Connie Beesley

Monday, June 9, 2008

Life in The Fast Lane

What a hectic past few weeks we have had! I've heard it said that if a couple can withstand a remodeling project they have a solid marriage! Guess Eddie and I have accomplished that! We will celebrate our 42nd anniversary at the end of this month! AND we are in the 6th week of living in chaos at home! Poor Eddie has only narrow pathways between the furniture and "stuff" stacked everywhere to empty the rooms being worked on! Our bedroom and bathroom were finished before we left for our trip...BUT we had to stack "stuff" from the other rooms in there so they can finish laying carpet while we are gone. Once he commits to going somewhere in the house...he cannot turn around!! I'm glad he has a lot of patience. At least by the time we get home we can finally begin to put ALL things back where they belong AND enjoy being home instead of feeling "closed in" with things in such a mess!

Before we left Eddie and our grandson Dillon had a lot of furniture to move from the rooms that will be carpeted while we are gone. Picture this....a 16 year old and a 62 year old amputee moving LARGE pieces of furniture! You know it is so true...where there is a will there is a way!
Nothing stops Eddie from doing what he needs to do! He can improvise and overcome and just plain get the job done! It still amazes me. But he believes in the motto Semper Gumby....
always flexible...and will always find a way to do what ever needs to be done. I am also thankful that we have such a wonderful grandson who lives close and is willing to help his grandfather.

In the midst of all of this we had one night where our daughter and children needed to spend the night....oops...we'd just taken down the guest bed and emptied that room! Semper Gumby again
...move a few things...put the mattress on the living room floor...make pallets for some of the children and know that if it gets real stormy she'll already be here and wont have to wake the children to get them here! Soon we will have a storm shelter for us all to go to when it storms!
Our daughter asked why we were building one now when we wouldn't do it for her and her brother. I told her that since our grandchildren are our reward for not killing her and her brother...IF they want a shelter, THEY get a shelter. AND they do want one!

We've also been busy with travel...

On the 3rd of June we were in Kansas City at the Veterans Hospital in the morning. We visited patient rooms and then veterans in the waiting areas. We gave out over 67 books as we visited with the veterans there...veterans from WW2, Korea, Viet Nam and our current war. What a privilege it is to be able to talk with these wonderful men and women. In the afternoon we went to the Truman library where Eddie spoke to VA health care workers. At a later time I will post pictures.

This past Friday we were asked to attend the reception for athletes attending the Endeavor games at the University of Central Oklahoma. We met many of our wounded warriors who are participating in the games! Some we had met already in our travels to the hospitals. After the reception we went to the opening ceremonies. Eddie attended some of the events on Saturday and in the evening we were at a party in their honor.

And tonight we are in Rockville, MD. It was a hard 2 day drive to get here tonight and we are exhausted...BUT will be 'bright eyed" in the morning as we meet with with our Marines at Walter Reed at formation at 0800! On Wednesday we will be going to Bethesda. From there we go to PA for a Flag retirement ceremony... We plan to be home by next Monday so we can actually start putting our home back in order! Would be nice to have that done by our anniversary on the 29th!

Life is hectic for us at times but we feel so blessed to be able to be doing what we do! Being around our veterans is a privilege and a blessing.

Connie Beesley

Monday, June 2, 2008

Our first hospital visit March 2006

From the very first moment our brave young men and women became involved in the war, Eddie wanted to "do something" to help. But what? Even if he weren't injured he is past the age of re-enlisting...though some warriors I was writing to in 1st Battalion, 4th Marines told me to "send him over....and we will weld a machine gun to his chair and take him with us". If he could have gotten away with it, I think he would have gone! But that was not to be...

THEN...what else could be done? I had managed to to find a contact with the Marine Corps League in the Washington DC area. I sent them a book AND then doors began to open leading us toward a visit to Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals. When I was a young girl it was no problem for me to visit at the Navy hospital in California where I would meet Eddie; but today that is not so. It is difficult to get in. But Eddie's book Lucky Enough helped open those doors and in March of 2006 we were headed to DC.

We met with the Chaplain of the local Marine Corps League, Lou Stavely. He took us to both Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals where we were able to visit our injured troops and give them a copy of Eddie's book.

At Walter Reed we went to the Occupational therapy room for a Pizza Party! Eddie was able to speak to a room full of young men and women...he told his story...our story. I was sitting across from one young man who had lost an arm and a leg. When Eddie told the group that he had met me while in the Naval hospital...AFTER he was injured AND we'd been married going on 40 years! His young face lit up like a Christmas tree! I could just imagine him thinking "I can still get a girl friend!" After speaking Eddie gave each one a book and talked with them individually....of course by then we had eaten all the pizza and none was left for him!

As we were leaving the occupational therapy room Lou said there was a young Marine he wanted Eddie to meet. He hadn't made it to the pizza party. As we neared his room we met his mother sitting in the hallway. We talked with her a while...when one of our warriors is injured it also affects everyone they know. How does a mother deal with seeing her son injured? I remember Eddie telling me that when his mother came to visit him in the hospital when she was purchasing some things for him she picked up some socks...then cried...he didn't have any feet for socks!

Then we went into Travis' room. Traumatic injury takes such a toll. When I saw him, I thought of the first time I had seen thin... He was a polite young man and Eddie began to visit with him. As they talked they learned they had much in common; both just 19 when they lost both legs, both liked running, both were VERY independent young men...and Travis seemed to want to know more about driving as Eddie told him how a car could be fixed like ours. (Later I would see even more similarities between the two...and Travis has become very dear to us. I am not sure he quite understands just how glad we are to be able to follow his progress as he starts the journey Eddie has been traveling since 1965.)

When we left his room we eventually ended up at Physical Therapy. I couldn't help but smile when I saw Travis there exercising!

Keep "tuning in", his name will come up again! His story continues. I am so very thankful that we have been able to keep in touch with him. He reminds me of a young Eddie and I see so much in his future!

Connie Beesley