Friday, November 5, 2010

Good Deed #25: Going the Distance

The theme of a lot of my good deeds throughout this experiment have involved a combination of fundraising and running. This one is no exception. As I donated to my former basketball coach, mentor and friend's campaign to raise money for his 1/2 marathon endeavor, I began to think about the cause that he was running for. See, for each runner there is often a higher purpose than just the activity and pushing the physical boundaries. Often, it is about a higher purpose, whether that is setting a goal for oneself, becoming a better athlete, the drive of competition or giving to a charity. Philanthropy in endurance athletes often go hand in hand. Rarely do I do an event that doesn't contribute to some higher mission somehow. There is just something so pure and so inspiring in athletes who prepare and put themselves through agony (or what Coach considers "suffering") for someone else's cause. That's real sacrifice in action.

This race in particular is going towards Child and Family Services. The aim of this organization is to provide social services in order to strengthen families. It's a tremendous organization and one I hope you would consider donating too as well. You can donate to:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Good Deed #24: Voting

Recently I've been procrastinating. Let's face it, this blog is a great example. And while I'm trying to play catch up, I've allowed my procrastination to spill into other areas of my life. Next Tuesday is the general elections, 6 emails, 3 fax machine attempts and $18 later, I have cast my absentee ballot. I don't know if my vote is worth $18 but I know my freedom to vote is priceless. It was surprising to walk around work today asking my colleagues if they had voted and to receive negative responses. It is because voting (especially in mid-term elections) is so rare that I consider it not only a good deed but my patriotic duty. Apathy has taken hold in our country. We are becoming more reliant on others to do things for us. We feel that we have less influence and control over our own destinies. We are fast moving towards a country of whiners and complainers instead of a Nation of problem solvers, doers and believers. Hope may have died on that historic day two years ago when we saw our President elected. In return, we've been cursed by a disease of resentment, finger pointing and pessimism. Those same people who see the country's glass as being half empty, I'm willing to bet are the same ones who wouldn't bother trying to vote.

Absentee voting in the military is not too difficult. I've been doing it for years. But when the clerk at the post office tells you that in order to guarantee delivery for Monday morning the cost will be $18...well then you start to get a "values" gut check at the door. I can't put a price on what that ballot means for me. Go ahead and ask Afghanis who risk being shot or blown up on their way to the polling station what the "freedom to vote means." It's your civil right to vote. And if you're worried about the future of the country and want to effect change, it's your obligation!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Good Deed #23: Combined Federal Campaign

Each year government employees have the opportunity to donate to thousands of charities via the "Combined Federal Campaign" fund. Since non-profit organizations are not allowed to solicit from government employees throughout the year, annually they are given the opportunity to donate to a charity of their choosing. This year I decided to give a portion of my salary each month to the Wounded Warriors Fund and two charities that fight hunger. I am so thankful for those warriors who have put themselves in harms way so that I can maintain my way of life. I am also appalled that with all that we have as Americans that we can still allow people to go hungry each day. It doesn't add up and it doesn't make sense. I wish I could do more and I know that I'll have to start donating my time at a soup kitchen eventually. But for now, I hope I have reached some of you and perhaps even compelled a few of you to think about what you ate for dinner (or what you didn't eat) and ask yourself if people in this country should go to bed hungry?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Good Deed #22: Talking to Students

When I was a teenager I always wished I had the opportunity to talk to somone about life after high school. While I knew college was in my future, it was that question of "what am I going to do after I graduate?" that always haunted me. So last month during my leave, I took it upon myself to visit with my alma mater and speak to students about my "AF" story. I didn't go as a recruiter who told them to "drink the kool-aid." Nor did I walk the party line and give them the usual propaganda that most high school students have become accustomed to. Instead, I provided them w/ useful information on my journey with an unbiased, agenda free motive. I'm not sure if I reached anyone or if I sparked interest in the next generation of leaders, but I know that the students I talked to were more educated about the military then they were before I walked in the door. I spoke to them because I felt an obligation to pass on what I have learned, for my experiences serve no purpose staying in my memory. I do what I do not because I get to travel or because of the money or promotions. I serve because I love my country and I am willing to defend it. I believe in the cause of freedom and I know that it's worth the fight.

Good Deed #21: Promises Kept

241 days ago I pledged to run a marathon in honor of my friend Roslyn Schulte. On September 18th, I made that goal a reality. Promises kept. Not only did I finish the race, but I also did so within my goal of 3:30 minutes and rasied $1,000 towards her Memorial fund as well.

After training for 18 weeks, the marathon was a culmination of over 350 miles on my feet. I endured blisters, back/knee/hip pain and a fear that I may not meet my goal. No matter where I was in my training though, I never once forgot why or who I was running for. Marathon weekend consisted of great memories for me. I sent the medal that I was given for completing the marathon to Bob and Susie Schulte. I felt like it belonged to them, not me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Good Deed #20: Good Will

I was recently informed that I have a lot of catching up to do with this blog. I suppose I have been so busy with my day to day life that I've stopped looking for ways to make a difference in someone else's life. It's safe to say that I've been selfish, a feeling that I get each time I do things for myself. That feeling is only magnified when I buy things like clothes.

As I cleaned out my closet this past weekend I began to wonder how many clothes could one person have? Over the years my closet has served as a storage unit for my pack rat-like tendancies. It has become a museum for all of my t-shirts that I have acquired over the years that now pass as "vintage." While each shirt serves its purpose as a reminder of memory lane, what function does it serve today? What good do dozens of shirts that I will never wear have? This question led me to my latest deed and that was to take my clothes to the thrift shop on base known to most as the "Airman's attic." It is here that I hope my former clothes find a re-birth on someone else. As I clean out my closet, maybe someone else may be filling theirs.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Good Deed #19: Sachem Pride

It's almost been a decade since my last home football game as a Sachem. I remember vividly those last moments as well as many of the events that day. These memories of mine will forever share a special place heart. It's been quite sometime since I've seen a game from the bleachers. But like being on the field, I remember how much joy the "Friday Night Lights" atmosphere brought to me. More importantly though over the years it has brought a small NH town together. And while I probably overestimated the support we had back in my playing days, I know that there has always been a real sense of community that has come to support the Sachems year after year. There is something magical in those lights. The band, the cheerleaders, the smell of popcorn, the sound of cleats as they march up the concrete from the locker room through the back gate.

I shared some of my favorite high school memories with the guys I played football with. It was amazing to look around the huddle and see the faces of people you grew up with. There was such a sense of security and comfort knowing that no matter what, those guys had your back. What a great feeling!

What I always thought was most important though was the fact that no matter what one's social status or income, we all came together both on and off the field. Football is certainly an equalizer. On the field there is little room to fake performance. You can either hit or get hit, catch the ball or drop it, run fast or get caught. From a fan perspective there were few disigenuous spectators. I'd challenge an alumnus who didn't know the school song that was played after each touchdown, "Rah, Rah for Ole' Laconia!"

There is something very near and dear to my heart in the backyard of 345 Union Ave. One day I look forward to going back and watching the next generation of Sachems take the field. I hope when they grow up they will have as fond of memories as I and other former Sachem alumns have today.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Good Deed #18: Sending a Care Package

In the past five years I have seen many of my closest friends head off to what we in the military affectionately call the "sand box." It has become so commonplace to see my friends go off on their 2nd, 3rd and 4th tours that I forget the significance of their sacrifice. Yesterday I decided to get out of the routine of just accepting deployments as a fact of life. For the first time I sent out a care package (sad huh?) It was long over due. This care package represented all of the boxes that should have been sent out but never were. It was a reminder to myself of how precious life is and how thankful I am for those who are keeping mine just as I like it. The contents in the box aren't too significant but the meaning behind it is. I know that in a year when my name gets called for a deployment I will welcome care packages not because of what's inside but because who it came from.

For those of you who follow my blog and don't know where to send care packages to I have plenty of friends and contacts who would be more than happy to receive a box filled with goodies! Feel free to contact me and I'll get you in touch with them.

Good Deed #17: Racing for Reasons

There's an old addage that you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. If that's the case, then it's safe to say that I'm walking down the right paths in my life. Like myself, many of my friends have chosen race for some type of cause. Perhaps it is because I am enduring my own marathon training (i.e. the time committment, the sore limbs and exhaustion) that I relate to them more so then if I were just an average spectator. As I support them 100%, I realize that they are my friends because of their hearts and what they stand for. When my friend Steve told me that he was partnering with Team in Training for the Luekemia & Lymphoma Society I eagerly awaited for his letter to come in the mail so that I could contribute to his cause. His letter was remarkably well written and one that deserves the attention of this blog. His goal is to complete an Olympic distance triathlon (1 mi open water swim, 25 mi bike and a 6 mi run). His goal is to raise $2900 and knowing the person he is I have no doubt that he will make that goal a reality. On September 12 I will once again eagerly await to hear from Steve and get the results.

If you would like to donate to Steve's goal please visit his Team In Training page!

Good Deed #16: Texting for the Gulf

I realize that I have missed the entire month of June and so in an effort to play catch up I had to think of an easy and effective way to make an impact on our world. No sooner after giving it some thought did I look at my phone and see a text message from my sister who had been watching the telethon on CNN for the Gulf asking me to donate via text. On an average day I probably text several times to friends and family and on weekends it's my primary method of communication. Her request required no more effort then what I do normally and therefore no excuse for not doing it. For those of you who have solicited money from me for a charity or cause you already know that I would never turn one down. At this moment and with the magnitude of the oil spill effects of the Gulf Coast, all I could think about is how man is slowly destroying mother earth. Technology is often blamed for one of the reasons why we are polluting our environment. Ironically, in this instance it is a way to help it.

I know it sounds like an easy way out to uphold a pledge, but nevertheless, the money that I donate to such causes gives me a sense of satisfaction that I did something thoughtful for an area where others had been so reckless. The opportunities to contribute are right there. It doesn't take skill, courage or time to help out. All it takes is 10 seconds out of your day.

By texting GULF to 50555 you will have made a $10 donation to help Waterkeeper Alliance and Save our Gulf. 100% of your donation will go to these two nonprofits who are working to alleviate the effects of the oil spill in the gulf.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good Deed #15: Giving to my Alma Mater

Since graduating from College I have given each year to my alma mater's endowment. My first donations were directed to the football program. Despite my proud affiliation with the program, I have since made my donations to other areas of the school upon my father's suggestion. "Wouldn't you like to donate your money to an academic department or to minority students?" He asked.

I am awfully proud of my alma mater. I don't think I would continue to give each year if I wasn't. Even though I pay more each month in student loans than my annual contribution back to the school, I still feel a sense of pride in giving to the school that gave me the opportunities that I have now. Logically, it only makes sense that I would want to pass that on to others like me. Another reason for why I give is probably because I doubt I would be accepted again if I were apply nowadays. It seems that like the job market, colleges are raising their standards and admitting fewer of a percentage of applicants.

While I am proud to have gone to Merrimack I am equally disppointed in many of the decisions that are made at its highest levels. In order to attempt to spread the little influence that I hold, I have made it a point to put contingencies on my contribution so that it reflects those values that I believe are important to being a member of the Merrimack community.

Before I left on my flight to Las Vegas my friend BJ gave me one of our alumni magazines. On the cover read "Alumni in service of their country." My initial thoughts of the magazine were not very pleasant. I knew that it would talk about profiles of students who serve or served and the kinds of things the College was doing to prove they were "Patriotic." While I don't discount their genuiness, I do have to bring up their credibility or lack there of based on precedence. This magazine mind you is coming from the school that had denied giving myself and my friend Travis credit for our ROTC courses while we were Cadets on campus. Even after we brought the issue up to the President's staff, it quickly fell on deaf ears as we were relegated to obscurity without the college's recognition that we would soon commission as 2nd Lieutenants.

Last year was the first time that I reversed the trend of giving to the athletic department and instead asked the college to accept my donation on behalf of my fallen comrade who had died in Afghanistan last year. Enclosed with my check was a brief description of my friend as well as why her sacrifice was so tied to Merrimack. I suppose after getting the Quarterly Alumni magazine this year I could argue that someone may have actually read the letter!

This year I have chosen to make a donation on behalf of future minorities for which I hope there will be more. I have decided to also send along letter that I had balked on from last year.

I give back to Merrimack because I'd like to leave the little corner that I occupied as a student a little better than it was then or is now. Through my travels and experience I have seen the value of diversity in organizations as well as the sacrifice of young men and women who protect our way of life. These are not issues that are merely owned by politicians wishing to hold a public office nor are they theoreticals that hold little substantive water. Diversity and Service to Country are things that I deeply believe in and I hope one day my Alma Mater will believe in them too.

It seems like most things, we pay lip service to such topics. They sound great on paper and probably from a PR or marketing perspective make us look like we are doing the right thing. What bothers me as an alumnus is that I don't get the warm fuzzy that my Alma Mater is doing everything that it could to advance diversity or support veterans and troops attending their school.

This year I am finally asking the College to match any funds that I raise for the betterment of the institution. My requirement is that it goes towards the advancement of minorities in the admissions process. I don't think it is an overly advantageous goal, nor do I think it is outside the realm of the mission of the Augustianians. I hope that my donation is used in a proper fashion that would make the entire Alumni network proud of being a Warrior.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Good Deed #14: Globalization

Tomorrow, almost 4,000 miles away from my home in North Carolina, a group of eighteen teachers from a small Catholic school in Northern Sierra Leone will be able to purchase school supplies for their 549 students. Besides our religious beliefs, there is not much that connects our two worlds separated by the vast ocean. An hour ago I had never even known that such a school existed nor did I think that our paths would cross. However, with the power of the internet to unite us, a new kind of globalization has taken foot in the form of micro lending.

Three years ago my Aunt gave me a gift certificate to for Christmas. Three years later it has been the gift that has kept on giving. My first micro loan was to Otila Sanele of Samoa who used my money to purchase supplies for her agricultural business. By August of last year my $25 loan to her was repaid in full. Since then I have re-invested my credit to Sua Tupuola also of Samoa, Monica of Peru who uses my loan to run her grocery school and Obadiah Kariuki of Kenya for his local market store. Three years later the $50 gift from my Aunt has now helped five separate entrepeneur's from around the world to achieve their dreams.

Micro lending is a non-profit way of banking that invests in the future of those people who otherwise wouldn't have the ability to take out a loan from a bank, either because they have no credit or because there simply are no banks where they live. Kiva is just one of many non-profits that have begun this transnational micro financing. They don't charge interest, they simply allow you to connect to other citizens of the world so that they may realize their dreams.

Down the road I don't know if I'll ever see my investment first hand. Perhaps I'll bump into a successful businesswoman somewhere in the future and find out that she attended a Catholic School in Sierra Leone. Or maybe I'll go to a market in Kenya and eat some of Obadiah's fresh produce. Who knows? The real investment I'm making is in my heart. It sounds selfish (and probably is), but deep down I know I sleep better at night knowing that my money is going towards something positive and instead of letting it collect interest in my savings account, I'm letting it spread to as many people and places that it can. And that is surely in my best "interest."

Check out Kiva Today!

Also, if you get a chance check out my friend's cause "Helping Hands Hawaii." She is going to swim an 8.8 mile channel from Lanai to Maui in order to help purchase school supplies for young students in Hawaii.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Good Deed #13: Forgiveness

This Lenten season I gave up the consumption of alcohol. In past years I have done a poor job at sacrificing things and routinely have forgotten about not eating meat on Fridays. With that in mind, I knew that this year would be difficult given my track record. Fortunately, with the help of my girlfriend (who gave up fried foods), we have been able to avoid those things that tempt us and in a sense have felt closer to the Holy season.

If Lent is about prayer and fasting, then it is as much about repentance as well. Before I can welcome home the One who died on a cross and forgive my sins, I know that I have to welcome back those in my life that I have not forgiven myself. Extending my hand to someone who has given me reason to question their trust and integrity has proven a tough challenge to me and just because it's Lent does not make it any easier. As I think about the circumstances that have led to me shutting them out of my life, I know that this is not the way that Jesus Christ would have wanted it.

People are given second chances here on earth and that is courtesy of our maker. It's not my decision to determine who or what deserves another try, it's just my duty to forgive, and that I can do.

In the past I would just assume shut someone out who had lied or betrayed me. But with the spirit of Lent upon me I know that what I should really be doing is reaching out.

Many of us ask our God for forgiveness for our mishaps and past mistakes. We do so with embarrassment and humility. It takes courage for us to identify what we have done wrong and what areas we need to improve on, but probably more so when we confess this to the ones that we love here on earth. Admittedly, I have not been the best Brother (to my immediate family or my fellow neighbors), I've taken more than I given and I'm stubborn to a tragic fault. This Lent I'm confessing this all to my God and to those who may read this blog. I want others to know that while I'm offering forgiveness, I'm asking for it too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Good Deed #12: Getting the Big Picture

Growing up my parents were notorious for never having a camera on them during big moments in my life. High School/College graduation, games, family reunions, holidays? These are all moments in my life that if not for my Aunt and Sister, there would virtually be no documentation of the events. The few times when they did have a camera, my Mother whose photographic nickname ought to be the "guillotine" for cutting out our heads in pictures, was always too afraid to take our pictures for that very reason.

As I grew up I was very cognizant that my family had relied on our collective memories to serve as the lasting scrapbook. I decided some time ago that I didn't want this same fate and thus I have taken pictures of most of my experiences since I have left home. With digital technology I don't have to worry about film and I just have file folders filled with pictures. Still, a crash to my computer could easily wipe all of my photo libraries (I know I need to back them up) and I'd be without anything.

As I thought about how important photographs are to me, I began to think about the two teams that I coached this past year (football and basketball). The pictures that I took of them with my camera are not for me. They are of them and for them. I knew that I had to disseminate them so that they could reminisce like I had. Today I sent both teams a team photo that I had taken during one of the last games of both of the seasons. Hopefully, they will look back on their youth as fondly as I did mine with or without pictures.

Good Deed #11: Keeping the Pace

Several years ago I was handed a heavy dose of reality. After graduating college I was quickly humbled by my peers who seemed to possess an infinite amount of talents beyond my own. As I searched for those special ingredients that my teachers had informed me that I had been blessed with, I began to see that running was something that had come as naturally to me as writing this blog. It was first through the observance of others that this "skill" was noticed and through their insistence, I learned to accept it, albeit reluctantly.

Throughout this blog, you will see that a lot of the "good deeds" that I do involve running. I will have you know that it wasn't until 3.5 years ago that I ran over a mile at a time. I just never liked doing it. However, I learned that I was good at it and through my quest to make a difference I have found that my legs can help contribute to a lot of causes (beyond my own). People who see me run assume that I love to do it, when in fact, I couldn't see a more useless waste of time. What I enjoy about running is the relationship it has with athletics and competition. Since I have always fashioned myself as an athlete, I think about running in the same terms as I did when I competed. That is to say, I used to play for my teams to win. Now, I run to make a statement. This year I will log a lot of miles on my feet. In many cases I'll probably run the same loops, trails and dimly lit streets listening to "Journey and Eminem" on my iPod more than I care to acknowledge right now. In the back of my mind though I can accept that I ran for a purpose and that my motivation is to contribute in whatever means I can. Step by step, stride by stride and race by race.

On Tuesday my boss was taking his semi-annual PT test. He had worked very hard at trying to slim down in the previous months so that he was prepared. When he asked me if I would pace him, I said yes right away since it's easy and I don't have to ice my knees after 10+ miles (not yet) and I am pretty good at it. The only thing that running cuts into is time. And as I've said before, it is the time that makes the biggest difference in other people's lives.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Good Deed #10: Going the Extra Mile

This past Tuesday I went to the Community Center on base to give blood for the Red Cross. It turned out that since I had been to the Mayan Ruins where a suspected case of Malaria still exists that I was disqualified from giving blood for one year. As you can imagine I was fairly disappointed and thought that I had missed an opportunity to do something for others that day. Later that evening I received an invitation from an old friend of mine requesting that I help sponsor his Boston Marathon run for a charity called "Horizons for Homeless Children," which benefits homeless children back in Massachusetts.

Although discouraged from earlier in the day I realized that I had an opportunity to do help someone else fulfill their goal. As I thought about it, I decided to make my donation tonight despite my feeling that money donations alone are somewhat disingenuous. I came to accept the idea that fairly soon I too will be going to call on my friends and family to make donations on my behalf and that I believe their thoughtfulness in that act of giving will be quite selfless.

My friend inspired me to register early for the AF Marathon along with the Marine Corps Half Marathon in May. Through helping others I found that I am indeed helping myself. Seeing that site which was dedicated to my friend's charity inspired me to put my money where my mouth is and take that first step towards the 26.2 which I plan on running. Join me and sign up for the AF Marathon on September 19th in Dayton Ohio or give to my friend's charity for his race on April 19th in Boston.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Good Deed #9: Walking for Cancer

In the middle of the Caribbean it was a hard week to relax completely knowing that my promise of doing a good deed was looming over my head like a rain cloud. While I was excited to kick back and enjoy the fruits of life with my girlfriend, I couldn't help but think of what I could be doing to make a difference. And although we were generous with our tips and even helped the local economies of Cozumel, Grand Caymen and Ocho Rios, I don't think that my consumerism would quite qualify for a good deed.

Since I started this project the one thing that I've learned from doing this project is that when you get an opportunity to do something for other people, JUST DO IT! And so it was a no brainer for me when I saw on our itinerary that Carnival Cruise lines was sponsoring a walk for breast cancer on its top deck 1,500 miles from our US port in Miami. Before our mile walk we were told that by 2020 everyone in America will know someone either family, friends or co-workers with breast cancer. As I heard those words and looked around at the half dozen breast cancer survivors around me, I thought of my own family and my Grandmother who I never knew who lost her life to breast cancer when my Mother was only 14.

No words that I type can describe how much more work must be done to cure this disease. I'll just leave you with a few figures:

-500,000 Americans will die of Cancer this year (40,000 from Breast Cancer)
-1,500 Americans die of Cancer each day
-1 in 8 women (12%) will develop Breast Cancer in their lifetime
-Cancer will surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death this year
-Approximately 200,000 cases of invasive Breast Cancer will be diagnosed this year
-The American Cancer Society estimates that 25-30% of all Cancer deaths could be prevented by early diagnosis and treatment

*There are 2.5 million Breast Cancer survivors in the US today!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good Deed #8: Recycling for Mother Nature

This Saturday I will set sail to the beautiful Caribbean islands. As I thought about the paradise that awaited me on behalf of Mother Nature, I began to wonder what I was doing in return. After some contemplation I looked at my trash and knew that I had a few house keeping items that had to be taken care of before I left. One of these items being the recycling of plastic that I have neglected since I got here. Whether or not one buys into the whole global warming theory, any reasonable person can agree that recycling and taking care of Mother Earth is the right thing to do. It might shock some of you that only 23% of Americans recycle anything. With the world population continuing to rise and the natural resources diminishing at a constant rate before our eyes and wallets we ought to rethink and recycle. It takes approximately 100 years for plastic to decompose in a landfill but about 1 minutes to recycle. For those of you who think you don't make a difference by recycling, take a lesson from the young man and the starfish. It goes something like this:

There was once a wise old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. One day as he walked along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man, and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead was reaching down to the shore, picking up starfish, and very gently throwing them into the ocean. “Good morning! What are you doing?” asked the wise man. The young man paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The sun is rising, and the tide is out. And if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.” “But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish all along it? You can’t possibly make a difference!” The young man, listening politely, bent down and picked up another starfish, throwing it into the sea past the breaking waves. Turning to the old man, he modestly replied, "It made a difference for that one!"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Good Deed#7: Saluting the Flag

Ask yourself when was the last time that you saluted the flag? Pause, think about it and then ask yourself when was the last time you saluted the flag out of respect, not obligation or prior to the first pitch at a baseball game but because you genuinely wanted to? This was a question I found myself asking this week during our squadron PT. After our group exercises our PT leader’s final instructions were to go for a run and meet up at 1625. To many of us this meant that we would have just enough time to cool down for a minute and then race back to the safety of our cars before retreat at 1630.

For my non-military friends, retreat is the retiring of the colors in which a base will play the National Anthem over the loud speakers. Military members that are outside are required to render the proper salute while in uniform upon the first tune that is played. Service members then turn and face the nearest flag or in the direction of where the music is coming from. Those not in uniform are required to stand at attention and place their right hand over their heart. This applies to when the National Anthem is played off base as well.

It may come as a surprise but most of us in uniform do not regularly salute the flag during retreat. In fact, in a lot of units it’s almost a game “who can time up their work day so that they can RETREAT from retreat.” Around the military you will often hear the phrase “I don’t want to get caught in retreat.” Caught huh? There are those who truly see saluting the very flag that they swore to defend as a hassle and impediment to their day. Instead, shouldn’t that be the very thing that kick starts it?

This past year I can literally count on my fingers how many times I’ve been outside for retreat. Subconsciously I probably know exactly why I’m shuffling around papers, pretending to do work at around that 1630. I think if my comrades were being honest with themselves, they would also admit that they do the same and that don’t voluntarily go out of their way for retreat.

During my run this past Tuesday I checked my watch several times to get my splits. Towards the end I toggled over to the actual time and started thinking about how much time we had left, when we were supposed to meet back up guessed it, thought about retreat and how longer it might take me to get to my car. Then as I started winding down I caught myself glancing to the black metal bracelet on my right wrist and began feeling ashamed for myself. I thought about Roz and her integrity. I though about how her inclination would be to get outside when our National Anthem was playing rather then finding ways to avoid it. I thought about all of those who had gone before me and sacrificed themselves so that the red, white and blue would always fly high. I thought about how complacent I had gotten and how I had taken the whole meaning of retreat for granted.

As I saw the rest of the squadron race by me to their cars, I slowly walked towards mine. I looked at my watch for the first time hoping to “catch retreat.” I waited awkwardly as others in their vehicles looked at me with suspicion and then I heard the music. I stuck my chest out, took pride in my appearance and saluted.

I consider saluting the flag as a “Good Deed” because service members don’t generally do it as I have sadly pointed out. There is so much meaning in doing so that I think many of us who have been in for some time have forgotten the essence of why we raised our right hand in the first place and how proud we were when we first rendered that salute to our flag.

The salute is one of the strongest signs of respect that a person can offer. It means that the person offering the salute recognizes that something before them is in a sense larger then themselves. The flag is the ultimate symbol of that idea. It outranks Colonels and Generals. Even our Commander in Chief has to render the proper courtesy to the flag. As a civilian you too can salute the flag. Although us military members have restrictions, you do not. Let it be as important to you as it was for all of those who shed blood to keep it flying. And the next time you see some unruly teenager talking or joking around during the playing of the National Anthem, tell them about one of our American heroes who aren’t coming back from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. Talk to them about World War I, World War II, Vietnam or whatever war you remember. Tell them about the Revolutionary War and what those Patriots sacrificed. For in those stories, that is where the meaning is embedded. That is exactly how serious saluting the American flag should be.

There are some who have chosen not to salute the flag such as Tommy Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Mexican Olympics. And while I still believe that was one of the single most courageous acts of defiance about the treatment of blacks and ultimately a very powerful symbol, moments like that come once or twice in a lifetime. I can understand these circumstances, but as for the rest of us, you better give me a damn good reason not to.

Next time you hear the National Anthem in the distance or see a flag being raised or lowered by a neighbor, take a moment, reflect and pay your respects. If you start getting choke up or feel goosebumps, then you'll know exactly how I feel.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Good Deed #6: Sharing the Faith

During my last trip home to New Hampshire I went to Mass with my father. We parked in the same parking spot at Jack & Jill nursery school and walked through the same side entrance across from Holy Trinity. Like creatures of habit we even sat on the same right hand side of the church, somewhere in the middle-to-back section.

In my time away from St. Joseph’s, I had come to see that not much had changed since the days that I had attended regularly. The same faces smiled and greeted us as we walked in. The same songs were sung throughout the service, with Mrs. Keifer playing the same acoustic guitar and the same four chords and strums that I had heard while a student of hers in Kindergarten.

As I looked past the back of the gray and bald heads, I made the observation that other than a few toddlers, that I was the youngest person at Mass. Although I enjoy the familiarity and going back to my roots, the thought of an aging church with nobody representing them from my generation on a weekly basis made me very concerned for the future. It seems that Catholics are losing more members than they are bringing in.

Lately I have tried to educate my girlfriend about Christianity. Her natural curiosity has led to some interesting conversations about the Catholic Church and the origins of Christianity. Even though she has far more questions than I have answers for, I am encouraged that she is willing to explore her faith and tap into a spiritual side that has been dormant, awaiting to be awakened.

Two weeks ago we both attended our first Latin Mass in Washington, DC. It hadn’t been the first time that we had been to Mass together. Together we attempted to follow the Mass as best we could. Somewhere in between the Nicene Creed and communion, I received a feeling of purpose and belonging that wasn’t caused by the Sermon. It was a feeling that I got when I held out my hand and she grabbed hold.

This past Sunday I took my girlfriend to Mass with me at St. Mary’s in Goldsboro, North Carolina. It is through this activity together that I find one of the strongest bonds in our relationship. My girlfriend has restored a much needed fire within me. She has been eager for us to attend church each Sunday and has motivated me to be a better Christian and a catalyst for her spiritual exploration. Ultimately though she is going to have to find her way towards God and figure out for herself where she belongs and which section of church she feels most at home in. Throughout her journey, if the only real thing that I do to influence her is to hold her hand while we walk into church, then at least I'll know that I gave her the opportunity.

As Lent approaches I’m not so concerned with “what” to sacrifice as I am with the “who." The "who" is myself. And by doing so I am opening myself up to a power so much bigger than anything on earth. I have had wonderful experiences knowing that God is on my side and walking in step with me as I navigate through life. I was able to feel this because I listened. I’d like my girlfriend to hear the Good Word also by bringing her to Church. I’m thinking that’s a Good Deed, indeed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Good Deed #5: Feeding a Stranger

The Boston Celtics beat the Washington Wizards 99-88 on Monday night at the Verizon Center in front of a sold out crowd. As I exited the arena along with the 20,000 other fans in attendance that night, I decided that I would get a bite to eat with my girlfriend who bought the tickets for us.

Like the previous days, Monday night’s temperature was in the 30s. As we briskly walked towards the ESPN Zone where we agreed to eat dinner, we came across a a pile of blankets tucked away in the dark entrance of a store that was closed up for the night. Without thinking much of who or what may be beneath those blankets, I continued on my way with a single target track aimed at the ESPN Zone which was now within visual range.

The next thing I heard was my girlfriend “I feel bad, let’s get him dinner.” My initial reaction was “no, I’m cold, I’m hungry and tired.” Just as soon as I was about to dismiss the idea, I thought of this blog and my reason for starting it in the first place. I then thought of who may be under those blankets and how “cold, hungry and tired,” they had been.

Conveniently there was a McDonald’s up ahead and so we slipped in and bought 3 McDouble cheeseburgers, 2 four-piece chicken nuggets and 2 waters.

“Excuse me,” I said as I stood over the pile of blankets, “I got you dinner tonight.” Slowly a women with one front tooth rolled over from shielding herself from the rest of the pedestrians walking past and said “thank you.” I don’t know who was more surprised. Was it the woman awakened by a complete stranger with a bag full of food or myself, who 10 minutes previously was only thinking about his own needs?

After a night where my girlfriend spent over $200 on tickets, $100 on a hotel room, $20 on parking, $50 on matching Paul Pierce shirts, $7.50 beers (x2), cotton candy, hot dogs, dinner for two at the ESPN Zone and games, money wasn’t something we could really complain about or use as an excuse for NOT doing something. The $5 we used for McDonald’s was ironically the best spent money all night.

I traveled 280 miles to Washington, DC to watch the Celtics play the Wizards and between Goldsboro, NC and DC, I never thought in a million years that spending $5 on a complete stranger was the thing that would bring me the most happiness. When the Celtics won I was excited but probably not more so than knowing that somebody had a hot meal that night who otherwise would have gone hungry.

Unfortunately, I was unable to watch Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards play on Monday night since he and a fellow teammate were suspended for bringing guns into the locker room earlier in the season. Because of this, the commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas for the rest of the season. Each GAME that he misses will cost him $147,000.

I don't know what he would have spent that money on. But I do know that it sure could buy a lot of sandwiches.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Good Deed #4: Running for Roz

Good deeds are done nearly every day. Every hour thousands of Americans are sharing their good will to support the victims of the earthquake that devastated Haiti. Teachers, nurses, soldiers and social workers equally do their part to go out each day to do a mission that they are committed towards. These good deeds are rarely noticed on a daily basis nor are they recognized the way that they should be.

It would be very naive for me to think that I could keep pace with doing a new good deed every week without sacrifice, planning or thought. Although good deeds often happen seemlessly and without preparation, great deeds require forward thinking and an offering of something much greater than the day to day sacrifices. In fact the best deeds often come with a heavy price and a simple promise.

It may seem odd that I give myself credit for this deed that will not have an impact on anybody this week or the next. However, it is the promise that in 233 days I will have made a difference.

On September 18th, 2010 I promise to cross that finish line in Dayton, Ohio after 26.2 miles to honor the memory of my friend and comrade 1st Lt Roslyn Schulte. My goal is to raise $1,000 for a Memorial fund at the United States Air Force Academy in her honor. I will be supporting a group called "Running for Roz" which is composed of friends of Roz's who too are participating in races across the country in order to carry on her legacy.

My preparation began yesterday, my sacrifice will be tomorrow, my promise starts now.

On May 20th, 2009 Roz was killed by a roadside bomb near Kabul Afghanistan. She had been stationed in Kabul for about three months, with the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. As an Intelligence officer, her job was to help teach Afghan forces how to handle military intelligence. While off duty, Lt Schulte spent three hours nearly every day organizing a charity for Afghan refugees. Today at Camp Pawan, (a U.S. training facility in Afghanistan) a building has been named the Schulte School and Clinic in her honor.

For Roz, she too made a commitment and that was to her Country and the mission in Afghanistan. Her devotion to duty and compassion for the Afghan people was her promise. Her life is what she sacrificed.

I don't think any of my good deeds across the my lifespan will equal to her sacrifice. She is what inspires me to be a better person. I am running for Roz and by that I am running for everything that she represented. I will cross that finish line, this much I promise.

If you would like to make a donation please email me at I intend to run the marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes. If I do not succeed I will personally donate the money that you had pledged to contribute and in return give you back your money. For more information check out

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good Deed #3 Letter to My Little Brother

Like conversation, writing a letter is a lost art. With email and text messaging, who really takes the time to write an old friend? Are our lifestyles getting that much more busy that we require a blackberry, ATMs at every corner and instant coffee? Or, are we just getting lazier, better at procrastinating and worse at maintaining the basic social skills? I think that if we look internally, we will see that it's more of the latter. With the advent of technology, cell phones, zip drives and blue tooth everything, computers aren't enabling us to manage our fast pace lifestyles easier, they're just giving ourselves excuses to seem more busy. Afterall, is the world really working that much harder? Probably not.

Almost two years ago to the day I met Noah and his Mother for the first time at a Starbucks. At first I was a little cautious since I wasn't really sure what to say. After a little while I couldn't help but notice the permanent smile that was sparkling from ear to ear on Noah's face. At that moment I knew that we were going to have one heck of a journey together.

Being a Big Brother mentor was one of the best experiences that I could have had in Hawaii. Noah became one of my best friends on the island. I never had to worry about him judging or criticizing me. He wouldn't sugar coat things or be afraid to speak his mind. I often thought that if only adults could communicate the way that he did, that we'd have a lot less arguments over petty and insignificant topics and more discussion on real topics that affect people. He was the best little brother I could have asked for and ever since I've been in North Carolina, I've missed him terribly.

Today, I decided to call him after nearly 5 months from the last breakfast I had with him in Hawaii before I left. It was so great just to hear his voice and to know that he was doing alright. I followed it up with a letter which I wanted to initiate as a way of correspondence. I don't know when the last time I wrote one myself or when I even received one for that matter. What I do know is that taking the time to write to him was time well spent and made me feel closer to him just by writing and thinking about him. After all of the many outings that we shared together where he was so great at communicating with me, I hope that my letter is clear to him that no matter how far a part we are, that I'll always be his Big Brother.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good Deed #2: Reaching Out to Haiti

Last week the outdoor temperatures at night dropped below 20 degrees. It was a no brainer that I agreed to give a mother and her two children a ride from the gym to her home that was 4 miles away. For the past several days I considered hanging on to this one as my "good deed" for the week, but after hearing about the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, I couldn't reasonably turn my head away and pretend that this incident didn't touch me.

My first exposure to Haiti was through several of my college football teammates. Through them I didn't see a small creole speaking Caribbean country, but family oriented people who had brought much perspective to my life.

Ordinarily I don't believe in monetary donations as doing a "good deed," but in this instance, I decided to make the exception. With our own government making a massive military response for humanitarian aid, the only way that I felt that I could contribute was a donation for the victims of this earthquake which registered 7.0 on the richter scale.

With 80% of the population of Haiti already living under the poverty line, there is lots to do.

Join me in donating to the American Red Cross!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Good Deed #1: Coaching Youth Basketball

My Father was hands down the best coach that I ever had There's not coincidence that he has also been my greatest role model. My favorite teachers in life haven't necessarily come from the classrooms but on the football fields, baseball diamonds and basketball courts. It is there that I believe I learned more about integrity, competition, teamwork and inner strength then any book I could have read or lecture I could have heard.

For my first good deed of 2010 I have chosen to coach youth basketball. Basketball is a sport that I grew up playing with great passion. I believe I owe it to my community to pass on what I have been taught along the way. My father has a saying that goes, "there's a reason why gyms were built in schools, it's because we want to teach you something." There was much truth to that statement when I played for my Dad and an equal amount of it now. This past fall I coached flag football. My team lost in the Championship game. I recall telling them that "If all I ever taught you was how to throw, catch and run with the football, then I didn't do my job. This season was about a lot more than football and hopefully you will remember those things above everything else."

Our first practice was Jan 5th. We will have practice every Tuesday and Thursday with games on Friday night and Saturday mornings. In many ways I feel that this deed is more for myself then for my players. I almost feel guilty for posting this!

My Dad always said that community service wasn't about grant money or donations, it was simply about the time you spent helping others. I think I could very easily pick a charity each week and give a donation, that would satisfy my standards for my resolution. However, it wouldn't fill that empty void within me that knows that I can do so much more.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome to my New Blog

Welcome to my new blog which was created in reaction to my New Year's Resolution to do 52 good deeds for 2010. Please continue to drop by and see how I'm doing. If you have any suggestions then please send me an email

Thanks for checking in, here's to a great New Year!