Honor, Live and Never Forget

Landing zone flagTo our First Responders across this great land, the many souls who have died as innocent civilians and brave Warriors since September 11, 2001, the families and friends who to this day miss and love, and to our living Warriors who continue daily to keep America safe,

LZ-Grace Warriors Retreat honors you today and each day.

We will Never Forget.

My heartfelt gratitude and special thanks to:

Our local Fire and Rescue Captain and Firemen;

John “Jack” Dye, NREMT-B, EMT Scott, and Maria Rataiczak for honoring us with your presence;

Loretta Morrison on bagpipes and the beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace;

Diane Van Campen for organizing and proving nourishment to all;

Sherry Van Campen, Toni Donlinar, Kristine Mynes, and Aaron Bukowski  for working so hard to prepare LZ-Grace for this solemn and beautiful day;

to an unnamed and loved individual for wisdom, magic and guidance;

and to Nancy Watters, for filming, editing and producing a brilliant video on a moment’s notice.

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