Sharing Strength

Many of us have never lived through such uncertain times as we are living right now, but as I listen to my 95 year old Mother tell stories of the life during the Great Depression and World War II, it occurs to me that this tenuous time will also one day be history. We’ll tell our grandchildren about the pandemic of 2020 and how, though uncertain of the unknown, we held fast to our faith and pulled together as families and neighbors and communities to help one another. 

I wrote this years ago, but the lesson is timeless. 

Iron sharpens iron. As one man sharpens another.  (Prov. 27:17)

This is the miracle of human connection: we do not need to be in the same room, the same state, or the same country to reach out our hands and lay bare our hearts and say, I stand with you stunned – in silence and prayer, I will hold your hand, I will share your tears, I will take the impact of your pain and fear as my own and bear it with you. We are all one. I feel this loss because this too is my brother, my parent, my child, my beloved. And I will stand with you – the left behind, the living – and share my strength.

There is such comfort in knowing we are never really alone.

It is a poignant reminder of the first time in my adult life I learned this lesson.

On September 25, 1978 I began my drive to work from Coronado to San Diego.  Half-way across the Coronado Bay Bridge, a perfect 230 feet above water, sun glanced off my windshield and created a tunnel-like view of a small plane as it clipped the underside of a passenger jet and dropped from the sky.  I slammed my foot on the breaks and stepped out. As cars on the bridge screeched to a stop behind me, I stood and watched with horror as the jet banked away, paused, and began a nose down dive.  The sky shrieked wildly until it didn’t.  For one brief moment I imagined the plane was landing, until it hit the earth and exploded into a pluming black cloud.  Movement around me slowed to half speed, then quarter speed, as if the air in the blue sky had thickened with sorrow.

Those of us watching from the bridge began to scream; the sound inhuman, swallowed whole by the eerie howl of a sudden hot wind.  The heat roiled in my stomach and I bent over where I stood and vomited.  A man, a complete stranger, came to me and held my head, smoothed my hair back.  He made kind sounds, non-words that echoed through the blood buzzing in my ears.

I don’t remember the drive to the crash site.  I do remember following my stranger’s silver Mercedes as though it was a lifeline, a reality I needed to stay with.  We parked blocks away, but we felt the heat, even then, as he took my hand.  We ran, or he did.  I stumbled beside him, keeping pace with the sirens, praying, passing stunned people who staggered into the streets.  A wall of heat and smoke stopped us and we stood, useless.

My stranger fell to his knees then, pulling me down with him, crushing my hand to his chest while he wept; long crawling gasping sounds.  We huddled there in the street on our knees, and between sobs he told me that he’d been running late, on his way to the airport to pick up his daughter.  She was 25, working in LA and coming for a visit.  Surely, she’d forgive him for leaving her stranded.  He whispered the last words and I put my face close to his, looked into his eyes and took the full impact of his words.

I felt then like elderly people must feel when they forget who they are, where they are, what shoes are for, when each gesture calls meaning into question, unbuttoning a button, breathing.  I had just turned 20, a mere child, but I forced myself to understand we were taking turns, as people do, in sharing strength.

I learned later that the 727 was carrying more than six tons of fuel, much of it in the wing tanks.  The news reported that from the moment of impact with the Cessna, it took just 17 seconds to transform PSA Flight 182 from a fully functional airliner into a mass of burning wreckage encompassing four city blocks.  The crash destroyed 22 houses in North Park, and killed 7 residents, as well as all 144 people on board the jet and both pilots in the Cessna.

Jeff told me later that he knew his daughter was on the plane the moment he witnessed the impact, but that tending to me and having me with him gave him the strength he needed to “keep the fist out of his gut long enough to know, without a doubt, that he couldn’t save her.”

Jeff and I remained friends from that day on. He was finally able to go home to his daughter in September, 2002.

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as true strength.” ~Sales

Grace meets us where we are.

“There is tenderness in the presence of true strength; it fairly grips the soul and stays long after the moments fade, years I think. Perhaps even a lifetime.” ~L. Bukowski

Lynnette Bukowski ©2012 All Rights Reserved

Lynnette Bukowski is a freelance author and the Founder/Director of LZ-Grace (Landing Zone Grace) Warrior Retreat. (www.lz-grace.org)

Let Go of the Reins

dream-board-1
Actual Dream Board – 2013

I began once again to dream about the future at 10:02 pm on a Friday night eleven months and 26 days after Steve died. I only know this because at the exact moment I entered the dark barn on our North Carolina farm that evening, a full moon reached in and illuminated only the hands on an old kitchen clock and the rusty nail it hung on.

Restless and angry at God, my intention was to pack boxes in the loft and organize every square inch of life for my children because I was not willing to live through another night. I no longer had time for time, but I did have whiskey, sleeping pills and a spotless house. Our kids were grown, strong and smart. Our dogs and horses and barn cats would love them through this. My papers were in order, our bills were paid off, Steve’s life insurance was in the bank and the only way I was going to see Steve again was to find him where he was. I’d work out the whole mortal sin thing with God once we were face to face and I’d had my say.

There are no words large enough to describe the arrogance and insanity of a grieving heart.

But that damn clock. The precise time hovered over me like a necessary memory I could not quite reach. The woman once known as Lynn would have paused, noticed, waited patiently for the message, or the memory. But I could not find that woman. Frustrated and empty, I stood on the dirt floor of a dark barn until Pretty Girl, our paint mare, sauntered up behind me and rested her big head on my shoulder. I nudged her away. She nickered, nosed her halter off its hook, dropped it on the ground at my feet and stared at me with big eyes.

Two years earlier I was bucked off a Palomino and broke four ribs. In half. I had not climbed onto a horse’s back since. She knew and I knew it, but her energy both softened and emboldened me. I slipped on her halter, made a loose rein from the lead rope and used the barn wall to climb up onto her bare back and fold myself around her.

We walked all seventeen acres of the farm that night, around the ponds, through the trees, past the solid fencing I helped Steve build. I don’t know the exact time I let go of the rains, but it was then that my heart beat wildly with memories, my hands rested on my thighs, my body gave in to the movement and all the feelings and dreams of the woman known as Lynn returned to my mind and my soul.

I still do not know why God waits until we’re on the edge. I do know his timing is impeccable and it is not my imagination that this beautiful horse, who came to us the year before with the name of “Teacher”, would pause at precise moments, stand perfectly still to let me cry, catch my breath and begin again to dream.

I just had to let go of the reins.

 

Lynnette Bukowski ©2016 – All Rights Reserved

When my mother was a child she used to escape to her “rock in the sky” and dream. Usually about words. And if you’ve ever read her writing (www.gracebeyondgrace.com) you would understand how God poured His giant Yes all over that dream.

Fast forward a few decades and God is still pouring out His YES all over her dreams. These pics are part of her “Dream Board” she did maybe 3 or 4 years ago. Before we found this farm. Before we knew how things would go.
Almost every picture on this has come true. We pulled out this dream board and realized how precise some of the photos were – from statues serving as “signs” to the pool surrounded by trees. We knew horses would be involved but certainly didn’t know we’d have a horse farm. Even the veg garden looks like this – wild and full. Most incredibly, there’s a photo (not shown) of some interior guest rooms that weren’t designed by us but incidentally ended up looking EXACTLY like the magazine cut out.

All this to say. DREAM. Dream with God. Make it plain on tablets. Poster boards will do. 🙂

And one more thing, guys, there’s a picture of zebras on this poster. Don’t ask why but the way things are going I’m pretty sure there’s a Zebra in our future. Just sayin’. ~Sheri Bukowski

sheri-dream-board-photo

Founded by Grace…

Everything comes with risk, but when a Warrior lives through war and lands at LZ-Grace, it is to overcome, reconnect to family and community and achieve the peace that comes from within.

When we acknowledge and release what we’ve lived through and find connection with one another, our souls are inspired to hold tight to the edge of the cliff until help arrives; to live on; to use scars as road maps; and to pass strength and experience forward to all the world.

Grace is the voice that calls us to change and the power to pull it off.

LZ-Grace Promotional Video produced, edited and donated by Nanc Waters.

 It is with the love and generosity of our kind supporters that LZ-Grace Warriors Retreat can make a difference and begin the healing process.

http://www.lz-grace.com

Lynnette Bukowski All rights reserved ©2014

NAVY SEAL WIDOW REALIZES HUSBAND’S DREAM OF WARRIOR RETREAT

Steve and Lynnette

NAVY SEAL WIDOW REALIZES HUSBAND’S

DREAM OF WARRIOR RETREAT

LZ-Grace, a Facility for Special Operations Veterans, Home

Breaks Ground November 16th

Virginia Beach, VA — Master Chief Steve S. Bukowski passed away suddenly in 2010 after serving thirty-two years as a Navy SEAL, but his wife Lynnette is carrying on the vision they shared together of a healing sanctuary for Special Operations Forces, Veterans and their families.

On November 16th, Lynnette will celebrate the groundbreaking and dedication of LZ-Grace Warriors Retreat in Tidewater Virginia.  The facility will specialize in recreational programs and alternative healing therapies for the purpose of decompression and healing through community rather than isolation.

“Four months ago it was an abandoned horse farm with peeling paint and overgrown

"Mema" Sherry Van Campen (89) trimming trees at LZ-Grace
“Mema” Sherry Van Campen (89) trimming trees at LZ-Grace

grass,” Lynnette says of the property, “but with the help of many good-soul volunteers and donors, it’s really shaping up.”  Even Lynnette’s eighty-nine year-old mother is pitching in – the five-foot tall octogenarian has painted walls and trimmed branches to the limit of her short reach.

“We want it to feel like home away from home for our warriors,” says Lynnette, “Steve and I frequently hosted gatherings of his SEAL brothers at our house, and we saw the healing that occurs when these men rest and reconnect outside of a war environment.”

Once complete, LZ-Grace will offer traditional and non-traditional services including:

  • Equine therapy
  • Service canines
  • Chiropractic
  • Yoga
  • Meditation gardens
  • Climbing
  • Kayaking and more…

 

The groundbreaking ceremony is by invitation only and will be attended by many in the Special Operations Forces community, Virginia dignitaries, community supporters, volunteers, donors and selected media teams from local newspapers and national television news affiliates.

“The outpouring of support has been humbling and wonderful,” says Lynnette, “Steve

Eagle Scout Project - Warrior Fire-Pit. Materials donated by Lancaster Farms, Belgard and Luck Stone!
Eagle Scout Project – Warrior Fire-Pit. Materials donated by Lancaster Farms, Belgard and Luck Stone!

would be thrilled.”

LZ-Grace Warrior Retreat Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose operations have relied solely upon the help and generosity of donors, volunteers and family members.

To donate, please visit www.lz-grace.com

ABOUT LYNNETTE BUKOWSKI

Highly versed in military family issues, Lynnette Bukowski spent over 15 years as a Navy Family Ombudsman and mentor at numerous Naval Special Warfare Commands.  She advised Navy families through the difficulties of disruptive deployments and loss of life and experienced those turbulent waters herself as the widow of a thirty-two year veteran Navy SEAL.  Lynnette was also a Court Appointed Special Advocate member and guardian ad litem, serving as a therapeutic foster mother to over a dozen special needs children.  She is now an author, speaker, mentor, mother of three grown kids and founder of LZ-Grace Warriors Retreat. https://gracebeyondgrace.com/about/

ABOUT MASTER CHIEF STEVE S. BUKOWSKI

Steve S. Bukowski was a graduate of BUD/S Class 91 and served over thirty-two years as a U.S. Navy SEAL and silent professional.  He was an operator, instructor and mentor with SEAL Teams ONE, THREE, FOUR, EIGHT, SDVT-1, JSOSE, and served globally at numerous other Naval Special Warfare commands. https://gracebeyondgrace.com/2013/06/21/heres-to-not-crying-by-sheri-bukowski/

 

one red maple
Flag flying at LZ-Grace in Honor of our fallen Warriors and all who serve.
Spike & Selah Meditation
Morning mediation with Spike and Selah
Willow Tree Limbs - Going Down
Volunteer Arborist Greg Walker clearing dead trees on the grounds.
morning ferns
LZ-Grace Front Porch
Lynn picking up Mema's tree-trimming debris
Lynn picking up Mema’s tree-trimming debris
St Francis
St. Francis with a hole in his heart and needing a hand.

Rainy Morning Letters – Moon Dance in Baguio (revisited)

It is only by risking ourselves from one hour to another that we live at all. ~William Jones

Late at night we gossip about small events and the largeness of life. The darkness softens and I am nearly asleep when I remember one last thing I want to tell you. You know this about me. How my thoughts swirl and settle until they are ready for my voice. My final sigh, just before words, is always your cue to reach for me and hush me with a kiss.

“Tell me tomorrow,” you say.

Just before dawn you pull me around you and love me awake and whisper, Tell me now, and of course I can’t remember what I was going to say… seven long years ago.

I burrow under the guilt and try so hard to remember my one final thought and that one final day. The way the corners of your mouth turned up waiting to hear my thoughts, the way your beard scratched my skin, the way you moved in just the right way so I fit like a perfect puzzle piece against you and where that beautiful thought takes me is back to the beginning.

WhiteFeather LBJ MoondanceI’m on stage looking into lights so bright they blind me. I wait for the thrill to kick in, the adrenaline rush, and the wave that fills my lungs and lets my voice rise. I’m edgy tonight and the lyrics I need feel trapped in my throat. The bass vibrates through my bones as the opening bars to Van Morrison’s Moondance backdrops the club owner’s introduction. I hear, “Welcome Whitefeather…” and the drum brush strokes soften the bass and the piano chords kick in and it’s time to let go.  I grip the microphone with both hands, breathe deeply and sing, Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance…. And there you are front and center – blue eyes blazing – with the stars up above in your eyes… I stare at you and sing with my eyes open and you seem to wait for the lyrics, You know the night’s magic, seems to whisper… and hush… before you ask me to dance.

In the middle of my song.

Because you already knew I’d say yes.

The audience thought it was part of the show, the band thought it was kick-ass, and you… well, you were always the master of calculated risk. You still are. You step into my space and back into Heaven as though you’re simply leaving for work.

I hope I can fully learn how to live in both worlds.

In this world the dawn pulls at me and I lie very still and wonder aloud, “Don’t you think that two souls connected must take turns being alive? You know, like pearl divers do. Whoever is on the surface must count the air time left so the one below can dive freely.”

I so often feel the tug on the line these days. Are you counting my breaths?

When the dogs coax me awake, I get up and wander through the house toward the scent of brewing coffee and in the dark, I trip over a pile of photographs waiting to be packed. I flip the light on and the two photos I find under my bare foot make me know without doubt you are still very much alive – somewhere – calling the shots. One is of me, posing for a band shot and the other is a distant shot of your antics on the way to our platoon honeymoon in Baguio.

I have no idea who said, I take nothing for granted now. A photograph is as precious as the moment it became a detail, but they are lovely words and poignantly true. I place the photos on the table, pour coffee and take the dogs out into the dawn.

Somehow, through your magic, I look over and you are dangling off the top of a giant Lion’s head carved into rock on the way to Baguio in the Philippines. You grip a piece of the carved mane with one hand, reach out to me with your other hand and say, “Don’t close your eyes.”

I close my eyes and wonder how I let you talk me into this.  Steve Baguio

While the platoon yells encouragement from twenty feet below, I worry about how I look in these jeans and, of course, falling to my death, and I shout at all of them to close their eyes and get back on the bus. Of course they ignore me and stay where they are; ready to catch both of us if we fall.

I reach across to you and hold on with both hands.

Lynn Baguio

 

I find a foothold and then another and you lower me slowly into the waiting arms of your Brothers. You follow me down and when you reach for me a cheer goes up. Your grin and their antics let me know what kind of honeymoon I’m in for and you whisper just to me, Never be afraid to live on the edge, babe, I’ve got you.

I wonder now if you knew then I would never be tied in and to do this alone I’d have to live on faith and grip life with both hands.

In this dawn, the weight of you gone is so heavy. Grace is the only hold I can find.

Inside, I leave the lights off and sit cross-legged in the center of the floor surrounded by half-packed boxes. I try to imagine how I will make sure with this final move that your tenderness and presence of strength is gently moved and firmly planted at Grace. What size box do I use for living dreams and night whispers and favorite songs?

Steve LZGRACEI touch one photo and then another and God says, this is not the beloved, this is not the beloved, this is not the beloved. And I begin to understand that I am the container, my heart is the wrapping, and nothing will fade if I keep all of this within me.

There is nothing left to do but keep dancing. And by dancing I mean living. And by living I mean step by tiny step. I know this much is true now: we do not become all of who we are until we’re forced into it. Hemingway called it, “a grace under pressure,” which suits me these days, but I believe he meant it as a strength that rises up when we’re faced with a larger than life challenge.

This is mine: taking your impromptu visits, our memories and our dream and using them all to step into my future.

I’ve got this with both hands and enough of you in me and around me to love whatever gets in my way until it ceases to be an obstacle.

What a marvelous night for a Moondance… 

Lynnette Bukowski © 2014 All Rights Reserved

June 2017 update: It has been three years since I woke in the wee hours from this dream and each day that followed has been a whirlwind of miracles, generous hearts, and tremendous hands-on help from family and Steve’s “Brothers”.  I’ve met brilliant new life long friends and united with old friends who, as I do, care deeply about our Warriors finding a bit of peace in the midst of 16 years of war.  Through God’s Grace, since March 2015, 383 souls have graced this land. Never doubt  that miracles are real. With Steve’s spirit urging me on, I will continue to grow and hold dear, this sacred place of rest and renewal.

To learn more about LZ-Grace, please visit http://www.lz-grace.com. Thank you for your prayers. 

LZG_logo HR

 

 

My Emily Friend Who Smells Like Pine…

A Christmas Glimpse… Fir Tree Needles

Please take a moment this season to adopt a Warrior who cannot be home with family, give to a foundation to assist the children of fallen Warriors, feed a hungry family, or find a child to “light up” with Love.

navysealsfund.org; semperfifund.org; TheJoelsFund.org; navyseallittlewarriors.org; marsocfoundation.org; 

Emily Diedra, small girl who smells like pine, like a tree cut fresh that Daddy shakes and brings through the door on Christmas Eve. Something like the crisp of the woods—it gets in my nose, the way her head smells when she’s leaning close to me over a jigsaw puzzle or on the porch where we are squatting over jacks and trading shiny rocks that we pretend are from different countries where my Daddy goes.

In my memory we say prayers and then for the fifth night in a row she takes a twig of pine needles and wraps a ragged towel around it, gently, like we tuck in our baby dolls. She puts the towel under her pillow and tells it something. I never hear what she whispers and I tell her again, “Mama doesn’t like us to whisper,” but she smiles, just before I turn the lights off, and promises someday to whisper loud.

In the dark Emily Diedra tells me a story about her mama with green eyes and about so many brothers there’s no time to count them. And how they would all sleep in one bed, some at the top and some at the bottom, because that way her mama could hug them all at one time from one side, like bundling up big fluffy pillows. I tell her I think it would be fun to all sleep in the same bed and I ask about her daddy and if he hugged them all from the other side and she rolls over and pretends to fall asleep.

Even though it’s cold the sun heats up the leaves and they crinkle under our feet and we step carefully because we’re on an adventure in my special place in the woods. Emily Diedra sits on a sappy log and wipes the back of her hand across her face. I think it’s because the chilly in the air made her nose run, but then I see the drops well up in her eyes and spill down over her lips. In a tiny voice she says her daddy went away because he was angry too much and when her mama went to find him, she never came back. She breathes hard and asks if I still love my daddy and I laugh and say, “Of course, silly.” Then I stop laughing and tell her in my best serious voice that Mama says sometimes people have to learn how to love. When I sit on the sappy log with her I give her my special friend hug with my arms criss-crossed around her neck.

We run half way home backwards and some of the way sideways. We trade shoes Little Girls Adventureand wear them on our hands. We lay down with the leaves and stare up at the sky so blue and heaven inside the white clouds. I give Emily Diedra three M & M’s I’ve been saving since yesterday. She asks me if I think Santa knows where all the foster kids live and if it’s too selfish to ask for paper doll cut-outs so we can color in their clothes with crayons.

We somersault off the rail of the front porch and Emily Diedra runs to pick up a fallen pine twig. She tells me pine twigs help Santa’s reindeer find kids who don’t have a Christmas tree because they can smell the fresh needles and tell Santa to land. I tell her I don’t get it. But she looks sad and crosses her heart that it’s true because that’s what her daddy told her a long time ago when they couldn’t get a tree, and even though Santa didn’t find their house it was true. I tell her not to worry because we do have a Christmas tree and Mama will make sure Santa knows Emily Diedra lives in our house now.

When we go in Mama says, “Didn’t I tell you?” and we get it because we weren’t supposed to tromp through the mud and sit on sappy logs and we have leaves dangling from our hair and sweaters. But she smiles with her lips all tight and gives us hot chocolate anyway.

This Christmas Eve we tuck our own girls in, one each, with braided ponytails and red cheeks and pine twigs under their pillows. We sip coffee and make cookies and laugh about so many years ago waiting for teeth to fall out and breasts to grow in, for dads to come home and Santa to land. And when we look at each other, our arms gummy from cookie dough we split in two bowls, we could be sisters, right? We could be, she and I back then, born of secrets and dreams, because blood owns no promise and love is learned. Tonight we can whisper loudly and laugh at the memories we hold dear, me and her, my Emily friend who smells like pine.

Lynnette Bukowski © 2006

No Longer… Sleeping With a Terrorist.

Author’s Note: 4/19/2013 –  I wrote this article in response to political gesturing about a DHS Report by the present Administration in 2009. It was published then in Stars & Stripes, and local newspapers.  It appears that the Administration keeps repeating itself like a broken record, issuing a new version of the “same” report every few years. They simply change a few studies, update the latest craze in “terrorism” lingo and keep pushing an agenda that includes our brave men and women… not as heroes, but as threats. 

I believe in honoring  – not disparaging – our Warriors who so bravely fight on against the “actual” Terrorists. To that end… I present a re-posting of my 2009 article:

In 2009…

I went to bed last night with a hero and woke up with an extremist – a potential terrorist. Imagine my surprise.

For 30 years I’ve enthusiastically climbed into his bed, helped him raise three children and fifteen foster children, prayed for and with him, cried, fought, laughed, moved the household around the world and country – all in support of his job as a US Navy SEAL.

As an intelligent and intuitive woman, mother and wife, you’d think I’d know who I’m sleeping with. Not so, according to Janet Napolitano and her Homeland Defense team.

Sarcasm aside, I’ll just say this straight up. I know this man. I know many, many of his fellow SEALs. I’ve fed them, cried with them, buried them, and commiserated with their families. Not for one moment have any of them – active duty and retired – forgotten these words: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Let me climb out of bed and get up on my pedestal so I’m equal to you when I ask this: Which part of that oath don’t you understand, Secretary Napolitano? Between you and me, Janet, woman to woman, words hold meaning.

I noticed in your feeble mea culpa to our Military Veterans your reference to only the wording of a footnote regarding the Department of Homeland Defense’s assessment entitled, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Please note that Page 7, Section (U), is not a footnote. Read in its entirety, the memorandum (which was certainly not written for us silly citizens to read) refers to sociopaths like Timothy McVeigh, violent Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists in the same sentence as… “the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.

How dare you disparage the men and women of the United States military to further your own political agenda. There are indeed real terrorists out there among us, but they are not made up of our military men and women or our veterans.

For 32 years my husband, alongside his brothers, endured the rigorous, constant training of Special Forces, lived the life and perfected the skills that are second to none in this world. He took an Oath and by GOD, by our love and support of him and his career choice – this entire family has lived that oath for all these many years.

You, Secretary Napolitano, and your DHS Team, by accepting the memoranda as truth, albeit a few unfortunate words, have equated our brave men and women to sociopaths.

Indeed, there are a few sociopaths who have managed to serve and train with the U.S. military over the years. All walks of life endure such people. Ironically, though, when I researched the definition of Sociopaths – those who are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others – I was startled to note that the behavior of a large majority of Congressman, Senators and members of our current administration exhibit several symptoms of a Sociopaths mindset, to wit: not learning from experience, no sense of responsibility, inability to control impulses [especially with our money], lack of moral sense, lack of guilt, self-centeredness, just to name a few.

But I digress.

As a military wife for 30 plus years, I tend to observe closely and speak frankly. So here goes: You most certainly are tracking ideological differences and it appears that where it does not suit the administration’s agenda, you label it extremism… or a threat.  Further, any attempt you’ve made at an apology is not accepted. I do not want to shake your hand or discuss this. I am an American, Ma’am. I am not politically correct and don’t want to be. I’m on God’s side, the Country’s side, the People’s side and as such, the Military’s side… If loving this Country, supporting our military and believing in God is now labeled as Extremism, I give.

In 2013… 

I no longer have my very own extremist to sleep with. He’s dead. He served this Country his entire adult life with honor and integrity and I will not — for one moment — think of him as anything but the hero he was.

In addition to giving up my husband to this Country, I will make one other concession: If I gladly accept the label of being an Extremist, will you step down and take the entire administration, democrats and republicans alike, with you?  I’m sick of all of you and quite frankly, consider the lot of you a threat to My Country.

© 2009 Lynnette Bukowski (updated 2013)

Lynnette Bukowski is a freelance writer, the founder and director of LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat and the proud Widow of a Veteran Navy SEAL. She presently lives in Virginia Beach, VA

Sharing Strength

 Iron sharpens iron. As one man sharpens another.  (Prov. 27:17)

This is the miracle of human connection: we do not need to be in the same room, the same state, or the same country to reach out our hands and lay bare our hearts and say, I stand with you stunned – in silence and prayer, I will hold your hand, I will share your tears, I will take the impact of your pain as my own and bear it with you. We are all one. I feel this loss because this too is my brother, my child, my beloved. And I will stand with you – the left behind, the living – and share my strength.

Two years ago (tomorrow) the world lost 30 brave men and Bart, a Warrior Dog – all heroes – aboard Extortion 17 in Afghanistan. The families, friends and loved ones of the fallen are scattered across the country and globe and while it is impossible to reach each of them in person or by phone, for the past week entire communities came together to raise funds, show support and share in the grief of loss.

Today, hundreds of people – many who do not even know these men and their families – join virtual hands in support and prayer via Facebook and Twitter to uplift and share strength.

There is such comfort in knowing we are never really alone.

It is a poignant reminder of the first time in my adult life I learned this lesson.

On September 25, 1978 I began my drive to work from Coronado to San Diego.  Half-way across the Coronado Bay Bridge, a perfect 230 feet above water, sun glanced off my windshield and created a tunnel-like view of a small plane as it clipped the underside of a passenger jet and dropped from the sky.  I slammed my foot on the breaks and stepped out. As cars on the bridge screeched to a stop behind me, I stood and watched with horror as the jet banked away, paused, and began a nose down dive.  The sky shrieked wildly until it didn’t.  For one brief moment I imagined the plane was landing, until it hit the earth and exploded into a pluming black cloud.  Movement around me slowed to half speed, then quarter speed, as if the air in the blue sky had thickened with sorrow.

Those of us watching from the bridge began to scream; the sound inhuman, swallowed whole by the eerie howl of a sudden hot wind.  The heat roiled in my stomach and I bent over where I stood and vomited.  A man, a complete stranger, came to me and held my head, smoothed my hair back.  He made kind sounds, non-words that echoed through the blood buzzing in my ears.

I don’t remember the drive to the crash site.  I do remember following my stranger’s silver Mercedes as though it was a lifeline, a reality I needed to stay with.  We parked blocks away, but we felt the heat, even then, as he took my hand.  We ran, or he did.  I stumbled beside him, keeping pace with the sirens, praying, passing stunned people who staggered into the streets.  A wall of heat and smoke stopped us and we stood, useless.

My stranger fell to his knees then, pulling me down with him, crushing my hand to his chest while he wept; long crawling gasping sounds.  We huddled there in the street on our knees, and between sobs he told me that he’d been running late, on his way to the airport to pick up his daughter.  She was 25, working in LA and coming for a visit.  Surely, she’d forgive him for leaving her stranded.  He whispered the last words and I put my face close to his, looked into his eyes and took the full impact of his words.

I felt then like elderly people must feel when they forget who they are, where they are, what shoes are for, when each gesture calls meaning into question, unbuttoning a button, breathing.  I was 20, a mere child, but I forced myself to understand we were taking turns, as people do, in sharing strength.

I learned later that the 727 was carrying more than six tons of fuel, much of it in the wing tanks.  The news reported that from the moment of impact with the Cessna, it took just 17 seconds to transform PSA Flight 182 from a fully functional airliner into a mass of burning wreckage encompassing four city blocks.  The crash destroyed 22 houses in North Park, and killed 7 residents, as well as all 144 people on board the jet and both pilots in the Cessna.

Jeff told me later that he knew his daughter was on the plane the moment he witnessed the impact, but that tending to me and having me with him gave him the strength he needed to “keep the fist out of his gut long enough to know, without a doubt, that he couldn’t save her.”

Jeff and I remained friends from that day on. He was finally able to go home to his daughter in September, 2002.

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as true strength.” ~Sales

Aboard Extortion 17 that day were 17 of my husband’s brothers – U.S. Navy SEALs. It is this brotherhood of men and their families who sustain me today as the widow of a veteran Navy SEAL. And I know without a doubt that on August 6, 2011, my husband Steve welcomed all 30 – and Bart – into a brotherhood that lives on in Heaven as a Platoon of Warrior Angels. Such Grace.

There is tenderness in the presence of true strength; it fairly grips the soul and stays long after the moments fade, years I think. Perhaps even a lifetime.

Lynnette Bukowski ©2012

Lynnette Bukowski is a freelance author and artist and the Founder/Director of LZ-Grace (Landing Zone Grace) Veterans Retreat. (www.lz-grace.com)

No Longer… Sleeping With a Terrorist.

Author’s Note: 4/19/2013 –  I wrote this article in obvious response to political gesturing by the present Administration in 2009. It was published then in Stars & Stripes, and local newspapers.  It appears this Administration keeps repeating itself like a broken record, issuing a new version of the “same” report every few years. They simply change a few studies, update the latest craze in “terrorism” lingo and keep pushing an agenda that includes our brave men and women… not as heroes, but as threats.

I believe in honoring  – not disparaging – our Warriors who so bravely fight on against the “actual” Terrorists. To that end… I present a re-posting of my 2009 article:

In 2009…

I went to bed last night with a hero and woke up with an extremist – a potential terrorist. Imagine my surprise.

For 30 years I’ve enthusiastically climbed into his bed, helped him raise three children and fifteen foster children, prayed for and with him, cried, fought, laughed, moved the household around the world and country – all in support of his job as a US Navy SEAL.

As an intelligent and intuitive woman, mother and wife, you’d think I’d know who I’m sleeping with. Not so, according to Janet Napolitano and her Homeland Defense team.

Sarcasm aside, I’ll just say this straight up. I know this man. I know many, many of his fellow SEALs. I’ve fed them, cried with them, buried them, and commiserated with their families. Not for one moment have any of them – active duty and retired – forgotten these words: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Let me climb out of bed and get up on my pedestal so I’m equal to you when I ask this: Which part of that oath don’t you understand, Secretary Napolitano? Between you and me, Janet, woman to woman, words hold meaning.

I noticed in your feeble mea culpa to our Military Veterans your reference to only the wording of a footnote regarding the Department of Homeland Defense’s assessment entitled, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Please note that Page 7, Section (U), is not a footnote. Read in its entirety, the memorandum (which was certainly not written for us silly citizens to read) refers to sociopaths like Timothy McVeigh, violent Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists in the same sentence as… “the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.

How dare you disparage the men and women of the United States military to further your own political agenda. There are indeed real terrorists out there among us, but they are not made up of our military men and women or our veterans.

For 32 years my husband, alongside his brothers, endured the rigorous, constant training of Special Forces, lived the life and perfected the skills that are second to none in this world. He took an Oath and by GOD, by our love and support of him and his career choice – this entire family has lived that oath for all these many years.

I’m guessing here, but I do not think a certain Merchant Marine Captain would liken the special ops men who saved his life with the pirate terrorists who nearly murdered him.

You, Secretary Napolitano, and your DHS Team, by accepting the memoranda as truth, albeit a few unfortunate words, have equated our brave men and women to sociopaths.

Indeed, there are a few sociopaths who have managed to serve and train with the U.S. military over the years. All walks of life endure such people. Ironically, though, when I researched the definition of Sociopaths – those who are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others – I was startled to note that the behavior of a large majority of Congressman, Senators and members of our current administration exhibit several symptoms of a Sociopaths mindset, to wit: not learning from experience, no sense of responsibility, inability to control impulses [especially with our money], lack of moral sense, lack of guilt, self-centeredness, just to name a few.

But I digress.

As a military wife for 30 years, allow me to say this straight up: You most certainly are tracking ideological differences and where it does not suit the administration’s agenda, you are labeling it extremism… or a threat. Therefore, your attempt at an apology is not accepted. I do not want to shake your hand or discuss this. I am an American, Ma’am. I am not politically correct and don’t want to be. I’m on God’s side, the Country’s side, the People’s side and as such, the Military’s side… If loving this Country, supporting our military and believing in God is now labeled as Extremism, I give.

In 2013… 

I no longer have my very own extremist to sleep with. He’s dead. He served this Country his entire adult life with honor and integrity and I will not — for one moment — think of him as anything but the hero he was.

In addition to giving up my husband to this Country, I will make one other concession: If I gladly accept the label of being an Extremist, will you step down and take the entire administration, democrats and republicans alike, with you? I’m sick of all of you and quite frankly, consider the lot of you a threat to My Country.

© 2009 Lynnette Bukowski (updated 2013)

Lynnette Bukowski is a freelance writer, the founder and director of LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat and the proud Widow of a Veteran Navy SEAL. She presently lives in Virginia Beach, VA