Power in Presence

 I was asked by another Veteran to write down a story from my term in service for a book she is writing. There are many, this is one. Leaving to go back was the worst. It was the fastest two weeks I had ever experienced in my life. Two amazing weeks, sharing cups of coffee each morning with my wife, laughing with my precocious daughter, deer hunting with my son, and Thanksgiving with all our extended family and it simply came to an end. What was waiting on the other side was not something I prepared for or even considered.   My time on R and R came to an end. I had been in Iraq for 6 months and was staring down another 6. The days flew by and they dragged by, time was somehow bent. But there it was, another airplane waiting to take me away from my family, again. It's something we get used to in an Army at war, the continual separation and reunion. It can get pretty exhausting. But there it was, the plane. I boarded and set my mind on what was next, back to the desert and taking car

19 years today

 This is an email I sent to our employees today.  On this day 19 years ago I was installing a sliding glass door for a lady in Troutman with my buddy Nathan. It was a normal day, crisp clear skies, fall had arrived a bit early that year. I was just trying to earn a living and take care of my wife and my 6 and 3 year old kids. Then, at 08:49 everything changed. I saw it happen live on TV as peered through the new door I was installing. I was just a normal man and 35 years old.  Because of that, at 37 years old I found myself at the Chaplain Officer Basic Leadership Course and it wouldn't be long after that I'd find myself far from home in the middle of a war.  I've buried many friends killed in combat who joined after that fateful day In fact, I am serving here at Purple Heart Homes because of that day, for had that day not happened, I would have gone on putting in sliding glass doors for nice people and caring for my growing family.  It's funny how one singular event ca

The songs of life- Thanks to mom

My home was filled with music and people growing up. Mom loved music and can play an assortment of instruments but her favorites are the lap dulcimer and the hammered dulcimer. I'm not certain of when she took up these pieces, but her talent and ear for music made the learning curve much shorter than most. Mom also loves people and there was always someone over at our house playing music and enjoying fellowship. Mom was always having dulcimer parties and with some of her friends played weddings, church events and parties for folks. My favorite was down at my aunt Becky's house just a 1/4 mile from our home. Becky would take the whole month of May to celebrate her birthday and it would culminate with a big party called "The Strawberry Jam". I'm sure there were strawberries there but I was never real sure the origin of the name. Everyone would gather in my aunt's carport, musicians would arrive with instrument cases and chairs. There was lots of conve

The Light Shines

I was 28 years old and I was blind. I had been this way since birth. I didn't know I was blind. But I knew something was wrong. Blindness leads to fumbling in the dark and bumping into things. You don't know when you are in danger, close to a cliff or near a something that can hurt you. You do a lot of wandering when you are blind. In my blindness I was unable to help my own state, incapable of changing anything. I tried, believe me I tried. Over and over again I set out to see, but blind people cannot see. Blindness is simply the inability to perceive light. Light is everywhere, but if you cannot perceive it, you can't see the world or yourself for what it really is. Then it happened. I'm not sure why it happened. I'm not sure why in respect to the timing that my healing took place. All I do know is that its much like the song, I was blind and then I saw and now I continue to see. It wasn't because I was special or talented. It wasn't

One year out- Remembering Dale Beatty

I looked down the hallway at Walter Reed Hospital and saw a Veteran in his late 30s being pushed in a wheel chair. At first, it was just a normal sight at Walter Reed to see someone missing legs, but then I noticed a familiar crooked grin and a familiar hat atop his head. The hat read, Purple Heart Homes and the smile meant that it was my friend Dale Beatty. He didn't recognize me in my Army uniform and clean shaven. I looked down at him as we both waited for an elevator and I said sarcastically, "Hey son, what do you know about Purple Heart Homes?" He looked up at me and said, "I'm the co-founder and we do critical home repair for disabled Veterans!" The excitement in his voice was contagious. I smiled back and said, "I know you Dale" Then the reunion began as we rode up in the elevator and for the next 2 hours we continued in conversation, Dale, his wife Belinda and me....just reconnecting. As I was leaving that day, Dale gave me a coin

A Meaningful Memorial Day

Most days I ride my bicycle with a group of friends and there's chatter and joking and all around good fellowship. But some days, I enjoy a solitary ride on roads I seldom ride. This Memorial Day weekend I've been with my family in Boone celebrating my mom's 80th birthday. There's been a lot of laughter, food and this spring for some reason, copious amounts of rain. Its been a green, muddy spring in Western NC. So when the forecast in Watauga County says sun, I try to take advantage of that. Yesterday that was the case and I headed up the mountain near our family home here in Boone. Riding solo, there is a lot of time to think and I had a lot of names running through my head. Names like Alan, Ben, Steven, Mike, Ben, Marty, Joseph, Aaron, Dusty, LaDavid, Bryan, Jeremiah and Dale. Lots more are there taking up space in my head. As I rode and looked at the scenery around me I thought of those names, the circumstances of the loss, the funerals and the families w

Thanks Dale Beatty: A life well lived

I've been asked by several folks to post the sermon I gave for my friend Dale Beatty at his funeral. It was an honor to speak on his behalf and to speak words of hope from a living Savior. Please understand that words delivered in 15 minutes are inadequate to sum up a life well lived. I walked through the hallways of Walter Reed almost exactly a year ago o in my Army uniform on a mission to see my one of my soldiers who was being treated for terminal cancer. On my way to his room I saw a nurse pushing a wheel chair with a young man missing two legs and oddly enough on that day wearing a Purple Heart Homes hat. I looked down at him and said “Hey son what do you know about Purple Heart Homes?”. And with that crooked grin Dale Beatty looked up at me and shared with me the 30 second elevator story of Purple Heart Homes. I said I know who you are Dale and he again smiled and “Hey Brad, how are you, so good to see you” I spent a little time with Dale and Belinda