It Builds Character

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Oh, the cuteness!

Come on! Even if you're not a "cat person, " you have to admit that this is adorable!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Funniest thing I heard all day...

As we were driving out of the Target parking lot tonight, Lauren was trying to put her new candy necklace on.

"I can't get it over my big melon head!"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

J.R. Salzman

Wow, it's been over 2 months since my last post. Time flies, huh? It seems that when something unusual happens, or one of the kids says something hilarious, I think, "Oooh! I've gotta remember this so I can write a blog post about it!" And then a couple of hours later, I find myself thinking, "Crap! What was it that I was going to remember so that I could write about it?" I'm pushing 35 here, people. Cut me some slack.

So what brings on this sudden urge to post? Something pretty major has happened. It's something that really makes you think about the things that are important and makes you very grateful for all the soldiers fighting for our country.

Jason has a friend who was in Iraq. His name is J.R. Salzman. He got in touch with Jason when he found out that he was being deployed, just to let him know what was going on. That all by itself was an eye-opener--that was the closest that the war had come to us. We didn't personally know anyone else who had been over there.

I don't know J.R. myself, I've never met him. Jason used to work with him a few years back up here in the Minneapolis area. Then we moved down near Rochester, MN, and after a while, Jason found out that J.R. had moved to Rochester as well. He was in the construction business, and if I remember correctly, had started his own business. All I really knew about him can be summed up in this paragraph from the Lumberjack World Champion website.

"JR Salzman, 25, a carpenter from Hayward, Wisconsin and a National Guard Army Reservist has been competing in logrolling for the past 19 years. JR has held 5 world titles simultaneously with his sister from 1998- 2002."

Not only was he a world champion, he won an ESPY award, did some modeling, and was in "Cheaper By the Dozen 2" with Steve Martin. I haven't seen the movie, but from what I understand, he was in a log-rolling scene with Steve Martin.

Jason got an email from J.R.'s wife yesterday saying that he had been injured in Iraq. His right arm was blown off, and he has nerve damage in his left hand. He also lost the ring finger on his left hand. He seems to be doing amazingly well in spite of all that. He's at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington DC, where he'll be for the next year or so. Here's a bit of what he wrote on his blog,

"I'm doing the best that I can, considering. I spend a lot of time really pissed off or really upset. I know I am getting better at a pretty good rate, but still. In Iraq I was the go to guy for anything that could go wrong with my CET's (convoy escort team) humvees. I was the guy that could build or fix anything. Heck, I even built the door and a bench for the building our company stages in for convoys, simply because I was bored and had a little extra time before I went on R&R in November. There was nothing I couldn't fix, build, or do. Now I'm struggling with the mentality that I'm just a one armed, four fingered gimp. I have sharp memories of the accident that haunt me everyday; the sudden explosion, the taste of blood in my mouth, realizing the bottom half of my arm was missing with nothing left but a couple of fingers and part of my hand hanging of by some skin and tendons, and then realizing how much pain I was in. All I could do was hold the end of my blown off right arm with my shrapnel filled left hand and wait for the medic to arrive and put a tourniquet on my arm. The most terrifying part of the memories is constantly remembering my gunner screaming and then looking down and realizing my arm was nothing more than some ragged meat and two bones sticking out."

"I spend a lot of time crying and I don't know why. Sometimes I look at my hand or I look at my arm and I just start crying. I think of when my hand used to be there, or when my arm used to be there, and what it was like. The arm that was there for the last 27 years is suddenly gone. All the little blemishes, all the little battle wounds, all the little scars from being a carpenter, everything is gone. The ring finger that held my wedding ring that was put on by my loving wife is gone. The last time I saw my wedding ring it was being snipped off with a pair of bolt cutters at the hospital in the Green Zone in Baghdad. It was also here in the Green zone that I also got to look at my arm and see that it had been sheared off by shrapnel. It was a gruesome sight, but I couldn't help but look. It's an image that will forever be burned in my mind. Sometimes the loss feels overwhelming for me and I just start crying. Other times I'm very positive and look forward to getting out of here and getting on with my life. Other times I just don't know what to think."

The parts that really hit me are where he talks about looking down at his arm and realizing that it's gone and where he talks about the scars, blemishes, etc. just don't exist anymore.

Obviously, things could have been a lot worse for him, and he is well aware of that. Please check out his blog and read some of his entries. Also, click on the links on the right hand side under the "Navigate" heading. You can look at some photos of him modeling as well as competing in log rolling competitions. If you want to know more, just Google his name and plenty of websites will come up. And remember to keep J.R., his wife, Josie, and all of our soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. They are making some huge sacrifices for us.