What's In a Year


There are times in one's life that are clearly marked, times where dates are etched in one's mind forever. I am certain many of those within my circle of life can agree with me on this.

 The etched times that are obvious to all are the mundane ones, the wedding dates, birthdates and graduation dates. We all share those, but for some there are more terrible dates.

The date your friend died in combat.....

The date you or a friend were wounded in combat.......

The date your child died.......

The date your child was wounded in combat...........

The date someone close to you chose to die at their own hand........

The date your son went to prison........

  These kind of memorial dates cannot be truly understood until one has owned one.  I know folks who own more than one of these. I own a couple myself. I think once you own one of these you are drawn to those who also own them. You begin to understand, to truly feel the weight they carry, to be grieved by it, to hurt with those who hurt.

 I have known many moments of sorrow, and yet in this past year, an exact year from 3/12/13 to 3/12/14, I have begun to see things more clearly.

the grief between the lines of the mother who posts phrases from songs.......

the grief from the mother who posts words of endearment to her departed son........

the struggle of the young wife left behind to raise children alone.....

the pain and sorrow in the Vietnam veteran's words as he struggles with PTSD and panic attacks.....

the sorrow of holidays for those missing someone....

the soldiers who like a well-oiled clock, post their memorial comments and photos on the exact day, on a monthly basis…....

the young warrior weeping in front of the computer.......the site a memorial site for the fallen....

the song….”Paint Me a Birmingham” and the sorrow he feels when he listens to it.....

the young warrior and his bottles of Jack left on the memorial stones.....

the mother and her website declaring all out war on the PTSD that took her son's life....

the soul angry at God for allowing such loss......

the soul clinging to God for the strength to endure such loss......

the sister feeling guilty for that moment of happiness......

the father who wishes he could have changed things......

the warrior drinking to excess, seeking to drown the demons, to shut their voices, to squelch the memories...... 

the mother begging for prayer for her incarcerated son....

the mother waging war on the Army on behalf of her incarcerated son....

the feelings from many that they are forgotten, that people don't really care.....

the young warrior who twists his prosthetic foot around and around making us laugh....but behind his eyes you can see pain.....

the young warrior and the dog who just might have saved his life......

the angry young warrior in the parking lot instigating a fight....and the sad father of another young warrior who rose to the occasion.....until he saw his own son in the young man's eyes and walked away.....

the worry in the little boys eyes as he tries to be the man for his grieving mother.....

the frantic intensity of a mother as she drives back and forth countless miles, as she prays, as she frets, as she seeks with all her heart and soul and strength to make it better..........and she can't make it better....

 And so many more that I could write and write and never capture them all....

    These many years of war have caused a lot of pain, pain felt personally, pain witnessed from a distance, and yet this past year, the year that brought all the pain to a head, to an eruption that simply could no longer be contained, also brought healing, and a stronger faith, and a deeper love, a pain that ripped open the heart and laid it all bare, torn beyond human capacity to repair.....but not beyond His capacity. Throughout it all He has been close and I stand here today, this March the 12th, 2014 forever changed, forever scarred, but able to behold the beauty and grace in those scars and in the scars of others who suffer. I am grateful for every bit of this journey, from the broken times when I could not stand, to the moments of joy when I caught the glimpses of His grace.

 I have learned that I cannot save people, no matter how hard I try, in fact often when I rely upon my own strength and ability I often make things worse. I have learned that sometimes there simply are no words to say, and pretty much anything you do say will not help, and in fact may make things worse, and the best thing to do is to let people know that you care, that you love them, and that you are praying for them. Sometimes in life there just are no answers.

 I have learned to look between the lines, for this is where you often see the heart of people. What may appear to be hateful, cynical, hard or sarcastic is often a mask that hides deep hurt and terrible pain and grief.

 I have learned to hope, not that type of hope that is most common in life, as in "I hope I win the lottery" but the hope that comes of a deep and abiding faith in a personal God who works for my good and His glory, who works His most glorious works in the painful places, often unseen, unfelt and not understood, but present always. Hope that comes from the knowledge that He redeems and He loves, and He blesses.

 I have learned to see, to open my eyes to the many gifts He gives to all, the simple things, like a hawk in flight, a flower blooming, the song of the trees as they bend in the wind, the look in a dog's eyes as his head rests in your lap, the sound of the breathing of a loved one as he sleeps, the laughter of a child, the feel of the sun upon my face, the beauty of poetry, the mountain covered in snow, sun striking white until the peaks gleam like gold, the look on a young warrior's face as he sits quietly with dog in lap, the photo of the old guy, beloved brother as he crosses the finish line, the moments of peace, the moments where love is felt strong within the breast, the moments so often missed but when noticed take your breath away............life is full of so much beauty, beauty often missed. We only have this moment right now.

 I have learned to believe in His promises, to listen to dreams, to look for His grace, to sing in the mundane, to rest in His love and mercy. I would like to say that I have found happiness, but as we all know, happiness is an elusive creature, dependent upon circumstances, and sometimes the truth of the matter is........circumstance suck......but joy is in the knowing that He is working, that all is for a purpose, even if I never come to know exactly what that purpose is, and that this place here is temporary and one day everything will be made right, and I will dwell with Him, and there will be no more sorrow, no more sickness, no more despair, no darkness and best of all......there will be no death and He will be the Light there!

 There is joy in that knowledge, indescribable joy.

  So here I stand, on this Memorial Day, one year ago today my daughter in law, Melanie Griego, stepped from this life into the arms of her Lord, leaving behind nothing but questions and sorrow and guilt and pain. A few months ago God was gracious to me and sent me a dream. It was a long dream, but I can only recall one portion of it. My father was there, and Melanie was there, we talked a lot, I felt such a sense of peace and purpose. At the end she laughed, a laugh full of joy and childlike delight, and she said to me, "do not worry Ma, it is all going to be okay, in fact it is going to be more than okay!" and I awoke. I could recall nothing that my dad had said in the dream, but I knew I had seen him for the memory of his presence was strong in my mind, and I could recall nothing of what Mel had said......except that one sentence and her laughter. If I close my eyes right now, I can see her laughing, I can hear it; can hear her clearly saying......

"Do not worry Ma, it’s all going to be okay, in fact it's going to be more than okay!"


It’s been a long road and I know not how much longer the journey will take, but I move ever onward, over obstacles, through the deserts, and the valleys, sometimes running, sometimes walking, sometimes crawling and occasionally just curled up on the side of the path weeping for a moment……then onward again, my eyes are upon Him, the Author and Finisher of my faith, my hope is in Him, my trust is in His goodness, His righteousness, His grace and mercy.


I remember…….I have not forgotten…….dance for Him, sing for Him, it must be glorious……I look forward to the day when I can join the dance.




I'm thinking today of friends that I used to know
Who lived and suffered in this world below
They're gone off to heaven, but I want to know
What are they doing there now?
Oh, what are they doing in heaven today
Where sin and sorrow have all gone away
Peace abounds like a river they say
Oh, what are they doing there now?
There's some whose hearts were burdened with care
They spent for their moment with fighting and tears
But they clung to the cross in trembling and fear
Oh, what are they doing there now
There's some who were poor and often despised
They looked up toward heaven with tear-blinded eyes
While people heedless and deaf to their cries
Oh, what are they doing there now?


 I cannot speak for everyone, but I know that she is dancing and singing and laughing...............


Rest in peace Gunnar Goodheart Griego

Today (March 31st, 2013) around 5pm, Gunnar Griego, eater of bees, affectionately known as Gunny Roo Roo, Smeagol, the Wrymn, and lately The Old Man, passed from this life. He was almost 13 years old. He was the best of dogs.

 He passed in peace after spending some time with me, his person, and with one of his boys, and with hugs sent from afar from his other boy, and from his Dad. We played a little fetch, although he had to lay down and rest after only two throws, he had a little bit of chicken, although he really was not much hungry, and when the time came to go, he lay down upon the blanket and received more love from his person and his boy, we told him what a good boy he was, and how much we loved him, and how blessed we have been to have him in our lives. He closed his eyes and crossed over.

 Where To Bury A Dog

 There are various places within which a dog may be buried. We are thinking now of a Vizsla named Gunnar, whose coat was a flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought. This Vizsla will be buried beneath a sage brush, in his back yard, where he loved to hunt for lizards.

 Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any shrub of the garden, is an excellent place to bury a good dog. Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavorous bone, or lifted head to challenge some strange intruder. These are good places, in life or in death. Yet it is a small matter, and it touches sentiment more than anything else.

 For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long and at last. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppy hood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land, where most exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained, and nothing lost -- if memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog. One place that is best of all.

 If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, he will come to you when you call -- come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they should not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he is yours and he belongs there.

 People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them then, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.

The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.

 Gunnar Griego you will forever be buried in our hearts....rest in peace my good boy.


Original by Ben Hur Lampman, edited for Gunnar Griego



Beautiful Gunnar

Beautiful Gunnar



Gunnar and Hektor

Gunnar and Hektor



In his prime

In his prime.



Eater of bees

Eater of bees

Dig Dig Dig Gunnar would dig on command

Dig! Dig! Dig! (Gunnar would dig on command)

In His Presence All is Well

A young woman awakens, she is lying in a field of lush grass, a beautiful blue sky above her, she feels no discomfort. She does not know who she is, nor where she is, nor where she came from, but she is unafraid. She stands and looks around. She knows that she is gazing upon the most beautiful scene she has ever seen, although she still has no memory of who she is, or of what scenes she has gazed upon in her life.

 The field is a vivid green, full of flowers of all shapes and colors, their scent fills the air with fragrance, there is an abundance of life around her, trees filled with singing birds, the field filled with animals, some lazing about, some frolicking in the grass. Deer, antelope, zebra, even elephants, along with lions, and leopards and wolves. All are at peace here, as if they are accustomed to living together and causing no harm to one another. There are hundreds of butterfly's wisping about the various flowers. It is a glorious place! Her heart is filled with elation and joy!

 Across the field she sees a black and white shape, low to the ground and running fast, it is a dog, in a moment a name comes into her mind, she knows this dog, it is Charlie, he is her dog, although still, she has no idea who she is. Charlie leaps into her arms, as he has a hundred times in the past, and as he was created to do, he lies limp in her arms as she hugs him. She has held him and hugged him like this a great many times, but he knows that this time is different. She sheds no tears, she does not moan or weep, there is no anguish of soul, as there often was in the past. This is why he must lay still in her arms, it is his purpose to comfort her, to simply be there for her. He is delighted when he hears not weeping as she holds him, but laughter, a sweet melody of laughter, like beautiful bells ringing gently in the breeze.

 Something alerts the dog, and the animals, she notices, and allows the dog to drop gently to the ground. All of them are moving towards a sound, it is the sound of singing. A beautiful male voice singing, but she cannot understand the words, she moves along with the animals towards the sound.

 A man is approaching, a strong and rugged man, he is surrounded by a multitude of animals and birds, as she approaches closer, puzzled by this, for there is something within her that seems to say she knows this man. She is at last close enough to see him, to make eye contact with him, and at that very moment when her eyes meet his..........she knows......she remembers her name.....she remembers her life......and in a split second she knows the answers to so very many questions she has asked across the years. She knows without question how much her family and friends loves her, she sees all the people across the years, who have been part of her life, she understands now the why of things that may have caused her pain, and she forgives each one, for she now knows fully the love that many of these people had for her. She sees with clarity the mistakes that were made, she knows the why of the hurts she has suffered..........she knows all this and understands completely.

 She drops to her knees at the feet of this man, her face to the ground for she cannot bear to look upon him......for at the same moment that she knew her own name, she also knew His.....He is the Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He is her Lord, how often she failed him she thinks to herself, how can she look upon Him, how can she bear Him to look upon her. All of this takes place in an instant, she still face down on the ground, gazing at His nail scarred feet, timidly she raises her face towards Him, as tears begin to fall down her cheek.

 His rugged hand, His nail scarred hand, gently reaches down and with the thumb he wipes the tears from her cheek,and He says "welcome home my child" and in that instant, the sorrow is gone, her soul, her very being is filled with a radiate love. She is home! All is well! Peace, and hope and love and joy flood her soul! He lifts her to her feet and she is overwhelmed by the joy, once again she hears the music and the song that heralded this man's approaching, and now, now she can understand the words! She begins to sing, and she dances, her feet lite as air, she whirls and spins and sings, all for Him.....and as He watches her joyful dance, He laughs, a deep laugh, from the heart, He is not laughing at her, He is laughing in the joy of watching her. He is thrilled and pleased by her joyful dance.

 Her dance concludes and she stands before Him, she feels full of life, full of joy, full of energy, she is at peace......He takes her hand and smiles at her and says,  "Melanie, I have prepared a place for you.....come and see." They walk off into the light, the black and white dog following at her heels.

 Dance with the angels Melanie, lift your voice in song to the King, the dark night of the soul has passed, you now stand in His Light. All is well. Give Charlie dog a hug from me. I will see you again one day. We will dance together.



  This was originally written on March 13th, 2013 and is a tribute to my daughter in law, Melanie A Griego, who passed from this life into His arms on March 12th, 2013.

Sgt William Vile, Specialist Ryan King, and Sgt James Pirtle (Fallen Heroes who gave their all May 1st, 2009)

Today we remember three of our fallen, all of which laid down their lives in service to the United States Soldiers Creed, despite receiving no support from the Afghan troops also charged with the duty of defending Bari Alai Outpost.


I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.


  In the early hours of May 1st, 2009, at a small remote base in Afghanistan called Observation Post Bari Alai, three American soldiers laid down their lives in a fierce firefight, the details of which are not all clear, as they were the only Americans stationed at this outpost, they served along side Afghan troops.

 It is suspected, by American troops serving elsewhere in that area, that the Afghan troops may have assisted the Taliban by laying down their weapons and might even have actively assisted the enemy in their plans to overrun the outpost.

 On that day, three men Sgt William Vile, Specialist Ryan King, and Sgt James Pirtle fought to the last breath, as more than 100 Taliban fighters launched an all out coordinated uphill attack on Bari Alai.

 While Taliban forces pinned down coalition troops with machine gun fire, their comrades scaled the mountain and advanced on the post. Coalition troops killed 19 Taliban fighters.

 United States Army Sgt William D. Vile, who was 27 years old, was wounded; he continued to return fire, calling in for reinforcements and artillery support. He at last succumbed to an explosion and died. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day.

 The blast from the explosion that took the life of Sgt William Vile breached the perimeter of the post, and the Taliban poured inside. Sgt James D Pirtle, 21 and Specialist Ryan C. King were killed defending the base. They were both awarded the Bronze Star for their actions that day.

 After overrunning the base, and killing its three American defenders the Taliban “captured” 11 Afghan soldiers and 1 Afghan interpreter.

 These  “prisoners” were released just hours after the United States embarked on a mission to recover them. They were released in good condition, “too good actually” according to Marine Lt Col Ted Adams.

 The 12 Afghans were questioned for six days before being returned to duty. US officials have declined to comment on their conduct.

 Read more about these brave men who gave their all, who fought to the very last breath on this day, May 1st, 2009:



 The news report regarding the attack:



 Army Staff Sergeant William D. Vile :


 “Then during his first tour in Afghanistan, he was watching as a helicopter landed with troops. As soon as it landed, the surrounding hills “lit up with enemy fire,” he told her.

He ran to get his flak vest out of his tent and took a bullet in the arm. He pretty much fought off the medics trying to attend to him.

“I need something to stop the bleeding,” he told them. “I have work to do here.””

 Army Specialist Ryan C/ King:


 “At a memorial, Spc. Gregory Landgraf read stories of King publishing a newspaper lampooning the soldiers in his unit and a time when King tied his arm behind his back and took on a sergeant during a combative match.”

 Army Sergeant James D. Pirtle:


 ““He just wanted to be part of something bigger than himself,” said Andrew Thurn, one of his best friends. “He was OK dying if he was serving his country".