Tag Archives: USO

My Boss …

The following was posted on Facebook by Randy Baker, who is my boss/ client/ friend/ leader along with Kelli Willoughby for the USO of North Carolina. I have been super11899758_10103428198369907_2915072052119474779_n privileged to be a part of the Warrior Reset program for the past couple of years. Kelli and Randy have several extraordinary programs they created for the USO.

Her words moved me, so I’m sharing them (with her permission) with You.

“This will probably be the longest post I ever make but I have had something heavy weighing on my heart for the past few days and I felt compelled to share.

On Sunday morning I was having breakfast at the Waffle House off Western Blvd. in Jacksonville. As I sat there with my friends, recovering after a night out, I started to sit quietly and observe the very young Marines interacting all around us without a care in the world, almost like boys pretending to be men. Even with vulgar sense of humors, they still had innocence about them.

I started to feel really emotional as I compared them to my Marines and couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized that it was because I had never seen my Marines so care free and it actually broke my heart. Of course I have seen them be silly and they are some of the funniest people I know but I have known them all through war, which stole their innocence and that thought caused me physical pain. These are men and women who I love dearly and they don’t get to have that innocence back. They are warriors and they are scarred. Then seeing these young Marines who have no idea that the places they go will change them and I wanted to protect them.

I remembered the infantry Soldiers I met when they first arrived at KAF before they went to their FOB in Afghanistan. So excited and full of life and motivation and so innocent and how their eyes and souls changed when they came back to our base on their way home from R&R. I wish I could give that innocence back to them.

I was then comforted by a song from one of my lost Marines and immediately felt a call to action. No doubt from Jimmy who made me promise to never forget his friends and to always of his Marines.

This week, I have spent my days with 40 service members, some career soldiers but most of them young Marines.Through these thoughts that side swiped me on Sunday morning and through my involvement in our Warrior Reset program, I find an even more renewed passion for caring for our troops. I want to continue honoring the amazing Warriors who have turned into family for me and the sacrifices they’ve made on my behalf and to give new skills to our military’s future leaders so that they can cope with the inevitable challenges they will face. Maybe just maybe, I can help them preserve a little bit of their innocence just a little bit longer than they would have.

Thank you for everyone’s support of my love and passion for caring for our military and for the military itself. I consider myself so blessed to be a part of this amazing family and even more fortunate to be able to support my peers through my work with USO of North Carolina. This is my life. This is why I was put on this planet.”

Courage, Heart, Determination, Action.
She speaks and  on it so beautifully.

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Double Journey

This week I have the honor to once again present my magic and storytelling for the USO during the Reset program. I’ll be in Jacksonville, NC.

It hit me this morning that I’ll be just 30 minutes from one of my true homes: Topsail Island. At some point I’m going to make a quest and locate the places from my youth. The piers are gone, and over 35 years have lapsed, but perhaps a memory awaits me.

Or maybe I’ll make a new one …

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Aware

If I think it, my hands do it. Often my hands do their work without me having to consciously command them. Naturally, this is from thousands of hours of rehearsal and performance. I can deliver violence, tenderness, inspiration, blunt love and delicate touches on the fragile leaves of the deck. Such is my gift.

I try to be a good steward of the gift. The gift in my hands and the gift in my mind and my mouth. I consider it a responsibility.

Tonight I’m aware of the work of my hands. They hurt … the joints are sore. My throat is raw and swollen. Along with most of my body …

This morning early (early for your humble author, anyway) I went to the local airport to entertain troops returning home for the holidays. Nearly four thousand came through and I performed for dozens of them. I watched faces come alive. I watch somber become beaming. I experienced … gratitude. They were grateful for the humor, the stories, the magic. I got to do good things for brave people.

I got the chance to help friends with an unexpected vehicular inconvenience. As a bonus, I got to listen … to (hopefully) offer verbal support and encouragement.

I helped a friend find healing and comfort. This allowed her to make art for loved ones … a path to smiles and joy.

I performed card tricks for a company that, within the past few days, has been sold. Everyone was a little nervous and unsure … should they be celebrating? My hands and my humor put the worries away. The nervousness turned into exuberance. We laughed. We did the dance. In the end, it was glorious. It was magic.

I’m tired. The ‘did a good, hard days work’ tired. I’m pleased to be exhausted from building my dreams. (Man … have my dreams changed  over the years.)

All this to say: I have gifts and I spent my day using them in benefit of the souls I met. Believe me when I say: the feeling of doing so is indescribably fulfilling.
You have gifts … and there are people who need you to share them. People who are having trouble finding their joy. Be aware of who you are … and be aware of those in need.

I am gifted, and I am a gift.

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USO (a week later)

IMG_20151102_144812The entire experience left me wanting to do more. To dig deeper into my mine and deliver more comfort. Comfort. Is that really the word for what I was doing? Every other word I thought of using seems pretentious, and I don’t want that image to get in the way.

The final day was not as intense as Tuesday. They focused mostly on financial instruction and communication between couples and children. I did get the opportunity to speak individually with a few special people.

I was lucky to serve those who serve. To share my words and my talents, to make them laugh and ease their burden if only for a short time. I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life.

There’s an image I want to leave you with, and it’s not exactly pretty. One of the presenters showed a video of troops returning home. The families and friends waiting for their loved ones to land. There was a party, hugs, kisses … laughter and tears and long embraces. There were infants and toddlers meeting their fathers for the first time.
And then there were a few warriors standing alone on the fringes. “I don’t have anyone coming.” “My parents couldn’t afford to make the trip.”

I was suddenly very cold. The chill hasn’t left.

This … isn’t fair.

All I can offer you … all of you who served and are serving … is my sincere thank you.

I pray you’re not alone.
I sincerely hope that there’s love where you are.

h

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Damage. (Warning: Intense words)

He sat on his parent’s bed, at the foot, so that the splatter would be bigger and cover both sides equally. In his mouth was the barrel of his father’s revolver. Pearl handles, expert engraving … really deadly, beautiful engine. He had taken it from it’s hiding place, loaded it and spent time considering the best delivery angle. He could feel the front site digging into the soft tissue on the ceiling of his mouth. He fully cocked the hammer and applied slow pressure on the trigger.
He was thirteen, and he was just done. Done with the pain, done with the abuse and the indifference of callous ‘loved ones’. Done with life.

And then a voice. Inside his head? In his ear? Doesn’t matter. Just four words:
“You’re stronger than this.”

And he let go. Removed the bullets and put the gun away. Lived. Today, he told me (and a group of servicepersons) all about it.

USO, day two.

Suicide. PTSD, Depression … and Spirituality.

Dark and grim, at times. Cut through with truth, foundations and real world exercises in dealing with anguish and stresses. I opened today with ‘This Strange Engine’ (the same version I did for the TED talk). I spoke on relationships, passion, and following the road. “There are no useless cards.”
And I did card tricks.
My topic proved apt as the day progressed. Difficult topics were explored. Hearts were revealed, some in between sessions. I listened and I shared. I was able to boost morale a bit with an impromptu show during lunch.

I made friends with a remarkable group of people …

In the midst of my darkness, there is love. When I was at my lowest, I was sent rescue. Strong friends and positive voices in my head. Sure, it’s ‘kinda woo’, but I have faith in the power of love.

I realize that today’s post is rambling, so let me just say:

Communicate.
Reach out. REALLY reach out.
Love, even those who seem unlovable.
Believe in the unbelievable power of your gift, the unfailing direction of your road.
Damage can be healed.

Love. Wins.

h

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Bleak

USO, day one.

I’m privileged to be here. Let me say that right up front. Someone recognized that my skill set and personality were right for this and I am glad for the chance to give to those that offered their lives.

The weather is bleak. Just getting here was a chore: dark driving on twisted back roads through heavy rain and thick fog. The day was grey, the town seemed tired and the general feel from the people I encountered was just a deep weariness. As the troops attending came in, I got a sense of grimness. I understand that. Therapy isn’t exactly a party, and three days of therapeutic workshops? Well, it wouldn’t be my first vacation choice.

But … the event is being held in a botanical garden. Big windows look out into a million different shades of living green.

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Today I listened to stories both horrific and hopeful. The grey of the sky and the pelting rain made the vibrant greens outside shine and move like Ents dancing. I shared my craft and my heart. I listened and spoke and joked and quietly wept a bit. I saw haunted, tense expressions break and shine with smiles.

I made new friends. They changed my perspective and I … maybe changed their lives.

I do card tricks. Today I did them for heroes.
And from my hands and my heart, I helped them get a little closer to home. Away from the bleak things.

I hope.

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Worthy?

Sometimes on your path you will encounter experiences that will make you ask of yourself: “am I ready?” and “am I worthy?”.
Tomorrow I begin three full days of entertaining veterans at Fort Bragg for the USO. I am charged with providing mirth, heart, and inspiration as they strive to re-enter a ‘normal’ life.
I ask myself :
Am I ready?
Am I worthy?

I do card tricks.

(To be continued.)

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