Advice for my boys- Justin Holder

Strangers that I meet along the way, offering insight & lessons my boys may find valuable one day.
















Stephen, who has an incredible Long Island accent, almost Tony Soprano like, that makes his stories so captivating.  Happiest time of your life?  “Probably getting married.”
How long ago was that?  “Almost 30 years…December 16th.”
Many marriages don’t last that long anymore. “Yes, I understand that.  Generally speaking, if we have a disagreement, we just go our separate ways and we just meet back…when we’re cooled down and then things go on.  That’s all there is to it.”
So, you’re saying instead of an argument, you just get some space for a bit?  “Oh, yeah, yeah.  Space.”
How long does that usually take?  “Uh, not long.  It’s a short period of time.  And also another thing- if she wants to go out with the girls, there’s no restrictions.  She doesn’t put any restrictions on me.  And we trust each other.  Probably the most important thing…trust.”
Over these 30 years, what have you found you appreciate most about her?  “Ah.  Probably, again, her trustworthy character, as well as her ability to crochet, stitch, ceramics…you know, all these little things that help decorate the house and things to wear, too.  Sweaters, scarfs, hats…she’s very good at the whatchamacallit…her arts there…very, very good.”
So do you wear a lot of things she makes?  “Sure, yeah, yeah.  I got the hats you wear in winter (motions to his head).”
Toboggans?  “There you go…yeah, yeah.”
I’m sure it makes it extra special with the time she’s put into it.  “It sure does!  And, I got my two afghans too…you put those over you in a chair, open a book and you’re set to go.”
Toughest time of your life?  “Probably Nam…Vietnam.  I’d really rather not deal with any of that situation.  I’ll just say that I was a medic on a helicopter..it was….just something I never expected…and I will leave it at that.  Fair enough?”
I’ve interviewed several Vietnam vets through this project.   I really appreciate your service and what you went through.  “Oh, yeah, yeah.  No problem.  It’s a…it was an experience.  You move on…like they did or like everyone else did.”
When I was in here earlier, you were so nice to me.  What gives you such a positive spirit with people?  “I don’t know…over the years, I’ve become, hopefully, more of a Christian.  I try to treat people the way I’d like to be treated…let’s put it that way.”
What made you make that change?  “Getting married I guess!  Both of us were not church people and certainly no interest in the Bible or anything.  After the first 4 or 5 years of marriage, she talked to somebody down in Sweetwater…a friend who sort of convinced her…and I picked it up from her.  But, I read the good book on a daily basis.”
How do you feel that’s changed your life?  “Hopefully for the better, I mean I…believe you me, I don’t go out of my way looking for trouble or anything.  I certainly have a fear of Him, let’s put it that way.  But, in return, He’s been very good to us.  We didn’t exactly get the best jobs in the world, but He’s gotten us through.”
Do you feel like that spiritual life has made you a better person?  “Yeah, yeah.”
Advice for my boys?  “Oh, the Golden Rule probably.  I suppose that’s about the best way to go.  Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t follow that, but a lot of people do. “
Seems like you do?  (laughs and says with his fast Jersey accent) “I try, I do.  But…uhhh…once in a while I get a little bent out of shape, but again I try to back off.  Again, I don’t look for confrontations, that’s for sure.  Also, do what you want to do in this life.  If you want to travel, go for it!  If you have an adventurous bucket list, go for it!   I certainly don’t recommend being a couch potato or anything…that’s for darn sure!”
What’s this great accent?  “Born in New York City, raised in Long Island.”
Stephen, who has an incredible Long Island accent, almost Tony Soprano like, that makes his stories so captivating.  Happiest time of your life?  “Probably getting married.”

How long ago was that?  “Almost 30 years…December 16th.”

Many marriages don’t last that long anymore. “Yes, I understand that.  Generally speaking, if we have a disagreement, we just go our separate ways and we just meet back…when we’re cooled down and then things go on.  That’s all there is to it.”

So, you’re saying instead of an argument, you just get some space for a bit?  “Oh, yeah, yeah.  Space.”

How long does that usually take?  “Uh, not long.  It’s a short period of time.  And also another thing- if she wants to go out with the girls, there’s no restrictions.  She doesn’t put any restrictions on me.  And we trust each other.  Probably the most important thing…trust.”

Over these 30 years, what have you found you appreciate most about her?  “Ah.  Probably, again, her trustworthy character, as well as her ability to crochet, stitch, ceramics…you know, all these little things that help decorate the house and things to wear, too.  Sweaters, scarfs, hats…she’s very good at the whatchamacallit…her arts there…very, very good.”

So do you wear a lot of things she makes?  “Sure, yeah, yeah.  I got the hats you wear in winter (motions to his head).”

Toboggans?  “There you go…yeah, yeah.”

I’m sure it makes it extra special with the time she’s put into it.  “It sure does!  And, I got my two afghans too…you put those over you in a chair, open a book and you’re set to go.”

Toughest time of your life?  “Probably Nam…Vietnam.  I’d really rather not deal with any of that situation.  I’ll just say that I was a medic on a helicopter..it was….just something I never expected…and I will leave it at that.  Fair enough?”

I’ve interviewed several Vietnam vets through this project.   I really appreciate your service and what you went through.  “Oh, yeah, yeah.  No problem.  It’s a…it was an experience.  You move on…like they did or like everyone else did.”

When I was in here earlier, you were so nice to me.  What gives you such a positive spirit with people?  “I don’t know…over the years, I’ve become, hopefully, more of a Christian.  I try to treat people the way I’d like to be treated…let’s put it that way.”

What made you make that change?  “Getting married I guess!  Both of us were not church people and certainly no interest in the Bible or anything.  After the first 4 or 5 years of marriage, she talked to somebody down in Sweetwater…a friend who sort of convinced her…and I picked it up from her.  But, I read the good book on a daily basis.”

How do you feel that’s changed your life?  “Hopefully for the better, I mean I…believe you me, I don’t go out of my way looking for trouble or anything.  I certainly have a fear of Him, let’s put it that way.  But, in return, He’s been very good to us.  We didn’t exactly get the best jobs in the world, but He’s gotten us through.”

Do you feel like that spiritual life has made you a better person?  “Yeah, yeah.”

Advice for my boys?  “Oh, the Golden Rule probably.  I suppose that’s about the best way to go.  Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t follow that, but a lot of people do. “

Seems like you do?  (laughs and says with his fast Jersey accent) “I try, I do.  But…uhhh…once in a while I get a little bent out of shape, but again I try to back off.  Again, I don’t look for confrontations, that’s for sure.  Also, do what you want to do in this life.  If you want to travel, go for it!  If you have an adventurous bucket list, go for it!   I certainly don’t recommend being a couch potato or anything…that’s for darn sure!”

What’s this great accent?  “Born in New York City, raised in Long Island.”





Lauren.  Happiest time of your life?  “There have been a couple of weekends, where I took trips with just my husband, that have been perfect.  It was just us and we got time to do the things we love together— riding our bikes, going to museums, going to the zoo and just not really worrying about anything. Those were really wonderful times. Then, a couple of the hiking and camping trips that we’ve taken, all three of us.  Really, just any time that I’ve spent away in an interesting place with my family, whether it be when I was kid, with my parents, or now that I’m grown and have kids.  Those times that you get to spend and kind of get away from everything and explore someplace new.”
Toughest time of your life?  “There was one summer when I kind of unexpectedly lost a job.  Then, the man who became my husband, toward the end of the summer decided we should take a break. I felt like I hit bottom and kind of lost everything.  I wasn’t sure where to go and felt like I had to make some really difficult decisions.  Everything started turning around after that, but that was probably the toughest time.”
What got you through that time?  “Support from my family, from my parents really helped me through…knowing that I had them to fall back on.  The advice of friends was very helpful.  Being able to just sit sometimes and be quiet…and not be talking, but be receptive.”
How have you changed since becoming a mom?  “Everything.  Everything has changed.  It was really difficult for a while.  In the first several months of his life, I felt like I didn’t even know who I was anymore.  I felt like I had to totally rebuild it.  But, now that I see that I can still be a lot of the things that I was before, but now with so many new things that I’m learning…that’s just amazing to me.  I’ve had to learn how to not be a kid myself sometimes…which is hard.  So, I think that’s the biggest change is learning that waht really defines adulthood is learning how to selflessly care for another being.  That can be hard for some people.  And, it is still hard.  It’s always hard, but it’s a challenge that you want to take on.”
Are you proud of the mom you are?  “Not always.  Not always.  I tend to be pretty controlling.  I like to make sure everything is going the way that I need it to go…it’s just kind of my personality type.  I always feel like I’m the best version of mom when I am just letting go and letting things roll…and being attentive, instead of thinking everything needs to go the structured way that I want it to go.”
Advice for my boys?  “You’ll get to some really hard decisions.  But, the decisions are very seldom as weighty as you think they are.  And, whatever you decide, it’s probably going to be ok.  And, whatever happens, it’s probably going to be ok.  Being able to laugh about things is one of the most important things that I know.  And then making sure you’re always giving to the people around you, so that whenever you get to a place where you can’t handle stuff, you’ve got people around you who know that they can rely on you, so that you can rely on them.  Really put effort into cultivating those relationships.”
Lauren.  Happiest time of your life?  “There have been a couple of weekends, where I took trips with just my husband, that have been perfect.  It was just us and we got time to do the things we love together— riding our bikes, going to museums, going to the zoo and just not really worrying about anything. Those were really wonderful times. Then, a couple of the hiking and camping trips that we’ve taken, all three of us.  Really, just any time that I’ve spent away in an interesting place with my family, whether it be when I was kid, with my parents, or now that I’m grown and have kids.  Those times that you get to spend and kind of get away from everything and explore someplace new.”
Toughest time of your life?  “There was one summer when I kind of unexpectedly lost a job.  Then, the man who became my husband, toward the end of the summer decided we should take a break. I felt like I hit bottom and kind of lost everything.  I wasn’t sure where to go and felt like I had to make some really difficult decisions.  Everything started turning around after that, but that was probably the toughest time.”
What got you through that time?  “Support from my family, from my parents really helped me through…knowing that I had them to fall back on.  The advice of friends was very helpful.  Being able to just sit sometimes and be quiet…and not be talking, but be receptive.”
How have you changed since becoming a mom?  “Everything.  Everything has changed.  It was really difficult for a while.  In the first several months of his life, I felt like I didn’t even know who I was anymore.  I felt like I had to totally rebuild it.  But, now that I see that I can still be a lot of the things that I was before, but now with so many new things that I’m learning…that’s just amazing to me.  I’ve had to learn how to not be a kid myself sometimes…which is hard.  So, I think that’s the biggest change is learning that waht really defines adulthood is learning how to selflessly care for another being.  That can be hard for some people.  And, it is still hard.  It’s always hard, but it’s a challenge that you want to take on.”
Are you proud of the mom you are?  “Not always.  Not always.  I tend to be pretty controlling.  I like to make sure everything is going the way that I need it to go…it’s just kind of my personality type.  I always feel like I’m the best version of mom when I am just letting go and letting things roll…and being attentive, instead of thinking everything needs to go the structured way that I want it to go.”

Advice for my boys?  “You’ll get to some really hard decisions.  But, the decisions are very seldom as weighty as you think they are.  And, whatever you decide, it’s probably going to be ok.  And, whatever happens, it’s probably going to be ok.  Being able to laugh about things is one of the most important things that I know.  And then making sure you’re always giving to the people around you, so that whenever you get to a place where you can’t handle stuff, you’ve got people around you who know that they can rely on you, so that you can rely on them.  Really put effort into cultivating those relationships.”








Adam.  Happiest time of your life?  “Wow.  Good grief, I’m 31, so that’s a lot of life to go over.  Pretty happy right now.  I’ve got everything I need.  I’m just happy to be with my family and don’t require a whole lot.”  (looking at his two little girls running around)
How did you change when you became a dad?  “Goodness.  I learned how selfish I was.”
How so?  “Well, when you have to take care of other people, you realize how much you were only taking care of yourself beforehand.”
What other ways?  “Lots of ways.  As far as being selfish goes, how you use your time, your use of resources.”
Toughest time of your life?  “Well, to be honest with you, probably the same time.”
Becoming a dad?  “Being a father and a husband—it’s the best time, but it’s the hardest.”
Hardest part?  “Learning to give up yourself and do what other people need you to do.”
Are you proud of the dad you are?  “Not particularly….I just am the dad I am.  I do the best I can.”
Advice for my boys?  “Submit to the Lord and submit to your parents.” 
Adam.  Happiest time of your life?  “Wow.  Good grief, I’m 31, so that’s a lot of life to go over.  Pretty happy right now.  I’ve got everything I need.  I’m just happy to be with my family and don’t require a whole lot.”  (looking at his two little girls running around)
How did you change when you became a dad?  “Goodness.  I learned how selfish I was.”

How so?  “Well, when you have to take care of other people, you realize how much you were only taking care of yourself beforehand.”
What other ways?  “Lots of ways.  As far as being selfish goes, how you use your time, your use of resources.”

Toughest time of your life?  “Well, to be honest with you, probably the same time.”
Becoming a dad?  “Being a father and a husband—it’s the best time, but it’s the hardest.”

Hardest part?  “Learning to give up yourself and do what other people need you to do.”
Are you proud of the dad you are?  “Not particularly….I just am the dad I am.  I do the best I can.”

Advice for my boys?  “Submit to the Lord and submit to your parents.” 

Ryan.  Toughest time of your life?  “Dealing with an injured back and not being able to work for over a year.”How did you deal with that? “Focused on getting better and getting through it.”  Tell me about the tattoos.  “Wanted them since I was a little kid.  Just something I always liked, so decided to do it.” 

Ryan.  Toughest time of your life?  “Dealing with an injured back and not being able to work for over a year.”

How did you deal with that? “Focused on getting better and getting through it.” 

Tell me about the tattoos.  “Wanted them since I was a little kid.  Just something I always liked, so decided to do it.” 






Tim, whom I spotted fly fishing in Buffalo Valley, TN on the Caney Fork River.  Happiest time of your life?  “That’s kinda hard to pin down just one happiest time, you know.  Had a lot of happy times.  Being outside…hunting, fishing, hiking.  I like doing that kind of stuff.”
What do you like about it?  “Freedom…you know…no times, no clocks. You know, my job I’m required to watch a clock constantly.  So, out here, no clocks.  Freedom.  Do what you feel, be who you are.”
What are you thinking about when you’re out here…or, is that the thing, do you have to think?  “Well, when I’m fishing, I’m trying to outsmart this fish over here.  That’s one thing I like about it….it gives you a little bit of a….the background noise kind of goes away.  I can focus on one thing out here…trying to catch this fish.  You know, you look around and the fish aren’t biting, but at least I’m outside in this river, feels good.”
Toughest time of your life?  “Growing up.”
Why so?  “You know, wasn’t ideal.  Everybody’s got hard times.  Being a young man was hard…trying to figure things out.”  
How did you deal with that?  “I don’t really know.  Best way I could’ve I guess.  I just tried to consume myself with good habits and good things and good folks and hopefully it will turn out for the best.”
Advice for my boys?  “Stay with your family, remember who you are, try not to compromise who you are for anybody.  Be who you are, stay true to yourself.” 
Tim, whom I spotted fly fishing in Buffalo Valley, TN on the Caney Fork River.  Happiest time of your life?  “That’s kinda hard to pin down just one happiest time, you know.  Had a lot of happy times.  Being outside…hunting, fishing, hiking.  I like doing that kind of stuff.”

What do you like about it?  “Freedom…you know…no times, no clocks. You know, my job I’m required to watch a clock constantly.  So, out here, no clocks.  Freedom.  Do what you feel, be who you are.”

What are you thinking about when you’re out here…or, is that the thing, do you have to think?  “Well, when I’m fishing, I’m trying to outsmart this fish over here.  That’s one thing I like about it….it gives you a little bit of a….the background noise kind of goes away.  I can focus on one thing out here…trying to catch this fish.  You know, you look around and the fish aren’t biting, but at least I’m outside in this river, feels good.”

Toughest time of your life?  “Growing up.”

Why so?  “You know, wasn’t ideal.  Everybody’s got hard times.  Being a young man was hard…trying to figure things out.” 

How did you deal with that?  “I don’t really know.  Best way I could’ve I guess.  I just tried to consume myself with good habits and good things and good folks and hopefully it will turn out for the best.”

Advice for my boys?  “Stay with your family, remember who you are, try not to compromise who you are for anybody.  Be who you are, stay true to yourself.” 

An incredible update from my wife:
Had an emotional encounter this evening as we ran into one of Justin’s past strangers at Market Square in Knoxville. For those of you who remember Terry’s story, we met him selling the Amplifier (Knoxville’s homeless paper). In his interview for the stranger project, he explained that he and his wife had been on a waiting list for several months for an apartment with the housing authority. He was trying to come up with the final $25 for the deposit. That Saturday, Justin gave him $35 in good faith hoping he and his wife would be able to put it to good use. Fast forward several months later and we ran into him tonight selling papers on the same corner. He immediately recognized us and our first question was, “Were you able to get the apartment?” Terry explained that the following Monday, he and his wife took the money and paid the deposit, got their apartment, and they’ve been able keep it all this time! Truly a happy ending…a testament to hard work and being able to turn things around for the better…and perhaps most importantly a lesson in how an act of kindness that was so seemingly small can make such a huge impact in someone’s life.— Rachel 
I couldn’t be prouder of Terry.  We’re now 140-something deep in this project and I’ve met just he most incredible people…and true over-comers.  There are good people and there are bad people.  But, when you help, you just have to do it with the best intentions and then it’s up to them how they receive it or what they do with the gift. I just knew Terry was the exception and he’s proved that over and over.  I pray God will continue to bless Terry and  that he can also be an example to those who are trying to get back on track as well.   What an AMAZING day!  Made my whole project! — Justin

An incredible update from my wife:

Had an emotional encounter this evening as we ran into one of Justin’s past strangers at Market Square in Knoxville. For those of you who remember Terry’s story, we met him selling the Amplifier (Knoxville’s homeless paper). In his interview for the stranger project, he explained that he and his wife had been on a waiting list for several months for an apartment with the housing authority. He was trying to come up with the final $25 for the deposit. That Saturday, Justin gave him $35 in good faith hoping he and his wife would be able to put it to good use. Fast forward several months later and we ran into him tonight selling papers on the same corner. He immediately recognized us and our first question was, “Were you able to get the apartment?” Terry explained that the following Monday, he and his wife took the money and paid the deposit, got their apartment, and they’ve been able keep it all this time! Truly a happy ending…a testament to hard work and being able to turn things around for the better…and perhaps most importantly a lesson in how an act of kindness that was so seemingly small can make such a huge impact in someone’s life.— Rachel 

I couldn’t be prouder of Terry.  We’re now 140-something deep in this project and I’ve met just he most incredible people…and true over-comers.  There are good people and there are bad people.  But, when you help, you just have to do it with the best intentions and then it’s up to them how they receive it or what they do with the gift. I just knew Terry was the exception and he’s proved that over and over.  I pray God will continue to bless Terry and  that he can also be an example to those who are trying to get back on track as well.   What an AMAZING day!  Made my whole project! — Justin




Cheryl.  Happiest time of your life?  “I went to medical school in the Carribean.  One of the happiest times was renting a boat with my friends and going out in the ocean and we went to this deserted island and had barbeque.  It was one of the happiest times.”
Toughest time of your life?    “Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (pauses) I don’t know why I’m getting tearful right now.”  How long ago was that?  “I’ll be three years relapse free in March.”
That diagnosis had to be hard to even wrap your mind around.  How did you do that and deal with it?  “How did I?  I think I’m still dealing with it…trying to come to grips with the fact.  I think the biggest problem is that I have no physical manifestations at this time, so it’s pretty much a secret at work.  That’s kind of tough to deal with it silently, but my husband is a great support and reminds me that really there’s no reason for me to be thinking about it everyday if I don’t really have any symptoms right now.”
“Also something that helps me deal with MS is I’m a part of the National MS Society and I do volunteer work with them and we go and talk to our legislators about policies that affect those with disabilities.  And, I’m a physician and see people going through such tough stuff like brain injuries, being paralyzed.”  Bet that helps with perspective?  “Yes, exactly.”
One piece of life advice for my boys? “Keep calm and carry on!”
Cheryl.  Happiest time of your life?  “I went to medical school in the Carribean.  One of the happiest times was renting a boat with my friends and going out in the ocean and we went to this deserted island and had barbeque.  It was one of the happiest times.”
Toughest time of your life?    “Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (pauses) I don’t know why I’m getting tearful right now.”  How long ago was that?  “I’ll be three years relapse free in March.”
That diagnosis had to be hard to even wrap your mind around.  How did you do that and deal with it?  “How did I?  I think I’m still dealing with it…trying to come to grips with the fact.  I think the biggest problem is that I have no physical manifestations at this time, so it’s pretty much a secret at work.  That’s kind of tough to deal with it silently, but my husband is a great support and reminds me that really there’s no reason for me to be thinking about it everyday if I don’t really have any symptoms right now.”
“Also something that helps me deal with MS is I’m a part of the National MS Society and I do volunteer work with them and we go and talk to our legislators about policies that affect those with disabilities.  And, I’m a physician and see people going through such tough stuff like brain injuries, being paralyzed.”  Bet that helps with perspective?  “Yes, exactly.”

One piece of life advice for my boys? “Keep calm and carry on!”

Suzanne, whom I spotted sitting on a deck in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee.  Happiest time of your life?  “Wow.  Probably the most carefree was the first time I came to Leiper’s Fork.”Why so?  “Cause it was a group of people and none of us knew each other and we’d all come here for….we’d just come here.  You know, we’d all just left our lives and we’d come here.  So, we didn’t….”Kind of a fresh start?  “Yeah, yeah.  Not only a fresh start, but it was a time when most of us weren’t labeled by what we had done or who we had known or what we had been in our lives.  It was when I knew, all of a sudden, that I was no longer a mother, no longer a business owner, you know, no longer the bank president’s wife.  I was Suzanne.  And that was it.  It’s like the whole blackboard erases and you are….this.”Some people really embrace their identity and need you to know who they are and what they’ve accomplished.  Sounds like you liked not having that baggage?  “No…it was terrifying.  I mean it was good, but it was terrifying.  It was like being naked.  You had to just get back into yourself and come out again.”Feel like you were kind of reinventing yourself?  “Yeah, totally.”Toughest time of your life?  “Probably the end of my marriage.”How long were you married?  “Fifteen, seventeen years.” How did you deal with that ending?  “Maybe you don’t.  Maybe…yeah, maybe you don’t.  You just, you do something else.  You use it to open up the bottle and see what comes out.  It was the beginning of this….it was the beginning of who I was, rather than what I’d made myself into.  It was horrible, but it was good.”Are you at peace now?  “With life or with that?” Either.  “I think I’m at peace with that.  I don’t know that I’m totally at peace with life.”What would it take for you to be at peace?  “If I knew, I’d probably be doing it.  I’m ok with it, it’s just like hills and valleys.”Advice for my boys?  “Build your frame of reference.  Just build it.  Everything you do builds your frame of reference for life.  Every single thing you do every day builds your frame of reference you have to use, to take the next step.” I found Suzanne absolutely fascinating and appreciate her candor and transparency.  I hope she continues to find that peace she seeks.

Suzanne, whom I spotted sitting on a deck in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee.  Happiest time of your life?  “Wow.  Probably the most carefree was the first time I came to Leiper’s Fork.”

Why so?  “Cause it was a group of people and none of us knew each other and we’d all come here for….we’d just come here.  You know, we’d all just left our lives and we’d come here.  So, we didn’t….”

Kind of a fresh start?  “Yeah, yeah.  Not only a fresh start, but it was a time when most of us weren’t labeled by what we had done or who we had known or what we had been in our lives.  It was when I knew, all of a sudden, that I was no longer a mother, no longer a business owner, you know, no longer the bank president’s wife.  I was Suzanne.  And that was it.  It’s like the whole blackboard erases and you are….this.”

Some people really embrace their identity and need you to know who they are and what they’ve accomplished.  Sounds like you liked not having that baggage?  “No…it was terrifying.  I mean it was good, but it was terrifying.  It was like being naked.  You had to just get back into yourself and come out again.”

Feel like you were kind of reinventing yourself?  “Yeah, totally.”

Toughest time of your life?  “Probably the end of my marriage.”

How long were you married?  “Fifteen, seventeen years.”

How did you deal with that ending?  “Maybe you don’t.  Maybe…yeah, maybe you don’t.  You just, you do something else.  You use it to open up the bottle and see what comes out.  It was the beginning of this….it was the beginning of who I was, rather than what I’d made myself into.  It was horrible, but it was good.”

Are you at peace now?  “With life or with that?”

Either.  “I think I’m at peace with that.  I don’t know that I’m totally at peace with life.”

What would it take for you to be at peace?  “If I knew, I’d probably be doing it.  I’m ok with it, it’s just like hills and valleys.”

Advice for my boys?  “Build your frame of reference.  Just build it.  Everything you do builds your frame of reference for life.  Every single thing you do every day builds your frame of reference you have to use, to take the next step.”

I found Suzanne absolutely fascinating and appreciate her candor and transparency.  I hope she continues to find that peace she seeks.

John, whom I passed on a street corner in downtown Nashville, handing out Gospel tracts…and just had to turn around and meet.  Happiest time of your life?  “Gosh, right now I’m pretty happy, to tell you the truth.”Why so?  “I’ve found a contentment, I think might be the word.  Just a contentment in life’s journey, you might say…not striving to achieve anything particular or not terribly worried or confused.”A lot of us constantly strive for contentment.  Like the Bible verse says ‘I know what it is to have plenty and I know what it is to be in want…and I’ve found contentment in both.’  How and when did you find it?  “I think it’s been a little bit of a process, but it’s been like getting to know somebody and then when you really get to know them on a level of intimacy, just like you and I are just acquaintances…but if I got to really know you, have some meals with you, we’d know each other and feel comfortable around each other.  I think that’s the way my relationship with Christ Jesus has been. I’ve gotten to know him more.  The scripture says that he’s the Prince of Peace and I think I’ve gotten to know that aspect.  Even though I can’t see him, the Bible says he’s sent his spirit here.  In a strange way, just speaking to you today is kind of an encouragement, to me, and kind of reinforces the peace and contentment that I think he wants us to have.”So you feel like your spiritual life has really helped you achieve that feeling of contentment?  “Absolutely, absolutely.  And my contentment is not because I’m doing something good or because I’ve made some achievements, but it’s because I’ve come to understand the gospel message more….and embrace that I’m not good and understand that the world is a terrible and horrible place, in a lot of ways, but when we begin to understand the scripture and understand Christ, it should be really no surprise.  He came to redeem the fallen world and he’s going to do that if we’ll give our heart to Him.  That’s my message today, standing on this corner for a few minutes.”How often do you do this and what gave you the guts to do it?  “It’s sporadic.  Today, I’m going to get a haircut and happened to be down here and had my backpack with me.  I’ve got these Gospel tracts in it, which I handed you, and my message is just to tell people that God loves them and I can only hope that seed will take root.  Really, it’s his word and I hope it will be an encouragement to somebody who’s passing by….whether I get a chance to have a conversation with them, like yourself, or whether people just need to see a smiling face.  A lot of people don’t know that God loves them and I think there’s a lot of resentment and anger in the world…because they just don’t realize the magnitude of God’s love.”Advice for my boys?  “Wow.  I would say to trust Jesus.  You’re their earthly father and it sounds like you’re trying to raise them according to scripture and faith.  That’s exactly what the Bible admonishes you to do, as a parent, because He’s the only one that will always be there for them…and for you and I, for that matter.  It’s like a great exchange…it’s like I give God my ugliness and all the things I’ve done wrong and he gives me his righteousness.  I like to refer to it as the exchanged life.”I wish John the best on his journey of meeting strangers, as well.  I also apologize for often prejudging and for the assumptions I’ve made of people that stand on corners and distribute material.  Yes, sometimes they’re fanatic indeed.  But, sometimes it’s just someone, on their own, carrying out what they believe they are meant and called to do.  That is respectable…and it takes guts.  May God continue to bless John, his family and the people he meets along the way.  

John, whom I passed on a street corner in downtown Nashville, handing out Gospel tracts…and just had to turn around and meet.  Happiest time of your life?  “Gosh, right now I’m pretty happy, to tell you the truth.”

Why so?  “I’ve found a contentment, I think might be the word.  Just a contentment in life’s journey, you might say…not striving to achieve anything particular or not terribly worried or confused.”

A lot of us constantly strive for contentment.  Like the Bible verse says ‘I know what it is to have plenty and I know what it is to be in want…and I’ve found contentment in both.’  How and when did you find it?  “I think it’s been a little bit of a process, but it’s been like getting to know somebody and then when you really get to know them on a level of intimacy, just like you and I are just acquaintances…but if I got to really know you, have some meals with you, we’d know each other and feel comfortable around each other.  I think that’s the way my relationship with Christ Jesus has been. I’ve gotten to know him more.  The scripture says that he’s the Prince of Peace and I think I’ve gotten to know that aspect.  Even though I can’t see him, the Bible says he’s sent his spirit here.  In a strange way, just speaking to you today is kind of an encouragement, to me, and kind of reinforces the peace and contentment that I think he wants us to have.”

So you feel like your spiritual life has really helped you achieve that feeling of contentment?  “Absolutely, absolutely.  And my contentment is not because I’m doing something good or because I’ve made some achievements, but it’s because I’ve come to understand the gospel message more….and embrace that I’m not good and understand that the world is a terrible and horrible place, in a lot of ways, but when we begin to understand the scripture and understand Christ, it should be really no surprise.  He came to redeem the fallen world and he’s going to do that if we’ll give our heart to Him.  That’s my message today, standing on this corner for a few minutes.”

How often do you do this and what gave you the guts to do it?  “It’s sporadic.  Today, I’m going to get a haircut and happened to be down here and had my backpack with me.  I’ve got these Gospel tracts in it, which I handed you, and my message is just to tell people that God loves them and I can only hope that seed will take root.  Really, it’s his word and I hope it will be an encouragement to somebody who’s passing by….whether I get a chance to have a conversation with them, like yourself, or whether people just need to see a smiling face.  A lot of people don’t know that God loves them and I think there’s a lot of resentment and anger in the world…because they just don’t realize the magnitude of God’s love.”

Advice for my boys?  “Wow.  I would say to trust Jesus.  You’re their earthly father and it sounds like you’re trying to raise them according to scripture and faith.  That’s exactly what the Bible admonishes you to do, as a parent, because He’s the only one that will always be there for them…and for you and I, for that matter.  It’s like a great exchange…it’s like I give God my ugliness and all the things I’ve done wrong and he gives me his righteousness.  I like to refer to it as the exchanged life.”

I wish John the best on his journey of meeting strangers, as well.  I also apologize for often prejudging and for the assumptions I’ve made of people that stand on corners and distribute material.  Yes, sometimes they’re fanatic indeed.  But, sometimes it’s just someone, on their own, carrying out what they believe they are meant and called to do.  That is respectable…and it takes guts.  May God continue to bless John, his family and the people he meets along the way.  







James.  Happiest time of your life?  “That kind of answer, sir, is…how should I say…I’ve had a whole lot of happy times in my life.  Which one you wanna know about?”
Well, just tell me about the happiest.  “When I first got my first car.”  (laughs)
What did that mean to you?  “It meant a whole lot.  ‘Specially when I paid for it!  Meant a whole lot.  Meant responsibilities.”
“Second happiest is when I got married.  Third happiest when I had kids.  Fourth happiest is when I raised all of ‘em.  And the fifth happiest is me and my wife starting all over again.”
How’s that feel to start all over again?   “Mighty fine!  Feels young again.”  (laughs)
Toughest time of your life?  “When my parents passed away, for one.  I really hadn’t had a lot of tough times.”
How did you deal with their passing?  “It was rough for the first two or three days or four days, but you got to go on.  The wouldn’t want you to sob, cause they happy…they want you to be happy, too. They want you to use what they taught you.  They want you to be like them.”
Advice for my boys?  “Listen to your mother, listen to your father…whether you wanna do it or not, ‘cause nine times out of ten, they right.”
James.  Happiest time of your life?  “That kind of answer, sir, is…how should I say…I’ve had a whole lot of happy times in my life.  Which one you wanna know about?”

Well, just tell me about the happiest.  “When I first got my first car.”  (laughs)

What did that mean to you?  “It meant a whole lot.  ‘Specially when I paid for it!  Meant a whole lot.  Meant responsibilities.”

“Second happiest is when I got married.  Third happiest when I had kids.  Fourth happiest is when I raised all of ‘em.  And the fifth happiest is me and my wife starting all over again.”

How’s that feel to start all over again?   “Mighty fine!  Feels young again.”  (laughs)

Toughest time of your life?  “When my parents passed away, for one.  I really hadn’t had a lot of tough times.”

How did you deal with their passing?  “It was rough for the first two or three days or four days, but you got to go on.  The wouldn’t want you to sob, cause they happy…they want you to be happy, too. They want you to use what they taught you.  They want you to be like them.”

Advice for my boys?  “Listen to your mother, listen to your father…whether you wanna do it or not, ‘cause nine times out of ten, they right.”








Lori.  Happiest time of your life?  “Going to law school…and I will be done in one more year, so I guess now!”
Has it been tough making it through?  “Yeah, because I didn’t really know what I was doing…first generation college student and nobody in my family had a GED or masters, so it was hard.  But now I’m so excited.”
How does that feel to be the first in your family to go to college?  “I mean, I haven’t graduated yet…but I’m excited!” (laughs)
How has your family responded to your decision to go to college and law school?  “My family is happy.  They’re all there, but we don’t talk as often as we should, because I’m busy with school.”
No jealousy?  “No, they’re very supportive.”  
Toughest time of your life?  “Same thing- getting into law school.  It’s really hard.  You know, your first year of adjusting.  It’s difficult and a lot of responsibility.  Have you been to law school?”  I have not.  “Everything depends on your final grade, so if you study all year, if doesn’t matter…if you fail the test you get kicked out.”
Advice for my boys?  “Do what makes you happy.”
Are you doing what makes you happy today (dancing)?  “Oh yeah, I love this.  This is my happy.”
How long have you been dancing?  “16 years.”  Wow…what made you stick with it?  “I just love it, it’s a stress relief and it makes me happy.”
Lori.  Happiest time of your life?  “Going to law school…and I will be done in one more year, so I guess now!”

Has it been tough making it through?  “Yeah, because I didn’t really know what I was doing…first generation college student and nobody in my family had a GED or masters, so it was hard.  But now I’m so excited.”

How does that feel to be the first in your family to go to college?  “I mean, I haven’t graduated yet…but I’m excited!” (laughs)

How has your family responded to your decision to go to college and law school?  “My family is happy.  They’re all there, but we don’t talk as often as we should, because I’m busy with school.”

No jealousy?  “No, they’re very supportive.” 

Toughest time of your life?  “Same thing- getting into law school.  It’s really hard.  You know, your first year of adjusting.  It’s difficult and a lot of responsibility.  Have you been to law school?”  I have not.  “Everything depends on your final grade, so if you study all year, if doesn’t matter…if you fail the test you get kicked out.”

Advice for my boys?  “Do what makes you happy.”

Are you doing what makes you happy today (dancing)?  “Oh yeah, I love this.  This is my happy.”

How long have you been dancing?  “16 years.” 

Wow…what made you stick with it?  “I just love it, it’s a stress relief and it makes me happy.”





Loum, whom I noticed walking down the road.  He only stands about three feet tall, but I soon learned he’s carries a wealth of experiences.  Happiest time of your life?  “When I have my friends.  I do have a lot of friends, who are good to me.  We share common things and have common goals.  We focus on our future life…that is when I feel the happiest in my life.  We share things together, in terms of advice, in terms of helping each other physically.”
Hardest time of your life?  “This is when it’s the opposite of what I said.  When you lose friendships, life becomes so much more difficult.  That is the opposite of what I said earlier.”
You’re not from the United States?  (Lohm has a great African accent)  “Yeah, I’m from Nigeria.  I got here through…you know, my country is full of corruption and war, so the US government has helped me a lot.  They’ve helped me in the process of coming here.”
Have you found some people, whom you’ve met in the US, don’t always appreciate how good they have it here?  “They do, they do.  This is the land of opportunity, where you can invest your life.  You can have an occupation and a job and a lot of things.”
How has your life changed, since you’ve been here?  “Oh, yeah, yeah.  When I first came here, first of all, I don’t know how to speak English.  I didn’t go to school…but, lucky enough, I got the opportunity to go to high school, completed my diploma and then I went to college and earned my bachelor’s degree in mathematics.”
Wow- how long have you been here in the United States?  “About five to six years.”  
And you’ve done all that in that time?  “Yeah, yeah.  I just came with the aim, because when I was in Africa, I’d heard of this great land that offered great opportunity to people.  So, when I came from Africa, I went to school directly and earned my degree.  So, right now, I’m preparing myself to go to MTSU this fall to study mathematics and earn my masters degree.”
What are you hoping to do, job wise?  “I just wanted to be somebody who has skills.  I need to apply my skill, to help people in need.  So, whatever I learn in school is what I want to give back to my people.”
Did any of your family come to the US with you?  “We came together.”
Have they all been as aggressive as you’ve been?  “You know, the expectation of life depends on what your goal is. So, it’s not like the same.  Part of the family, they went for a job and they have been affected by choosing to work rather than go to school.  So, you know, it’s different ideas and different life.  But, for me, I went to school and was having the opposite…they earn much money, but for me, I earn nothing.  As you see, I don’t have a car, I don’t have whatever I need, because I spend what I’m supposed to do in school, instead of working and earning money, having a car, living the good life…I left that one aside and I focus on school.”
But, it sounds like, in exchange, you’re preparing now for the life you want later?  “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Advice for my boys?  “Actually, for your boys to be good enough is, first of all, respect for the parents is most important.  They have to respect their daddy and mommy, listen to their good advice, so much that they will be a good friend and of good character.  Then, they will extend that good character to neighbors and others around.  Because, what I’ve seen here, is most children don’t have respect.  They are given freedom of acting any way they want to.   But, for me, I see that’s not good.  They have to respect their parents, develop good attitude and then extend that attitude to other people.  That is what I wanted to say.” 
Loum, whom I noticed walking down the road.  He only stands about three feet tall, but I soon learned he’s carries a wealth of experiences.  Happiest time of your life?  “When I have my friends.  I do have a lot of friends, who are good to me.  We share common things and have common goals.  We focus on our future life…that is when I feel the happiest in my life.  We share things together, in terms of advice, in terms of helping each other physically.”

Hardest time of your life?  “This is when it’s the opposite of what I said.  When you lose friendships, life becomes so much more difficult.  That is the opposite of what I said earlier.”

You’re not from the United States?  (Lohm has a great African accent)  “Yeah, I’m from Nigeria.  I got here through…you know, my country is full of corruption and war, so the US government has helped me a lot.  They’ve helped me in the process of coming here.”

Have you found some people, whom you’ve met in the US, don’t always appreciate how good they have it here?  “They do, they do.  This is the land of opportunity, where you can invest your life.  You can have an occupation and a job and a lot of things.”

How has your life changed, since you’ve been here?  “Oh, yeah, yeah.  When I first came here, first of all, I don’t know how to speak English.  I didn’t go to school…but, lucky enough, I got the opportunity to go to high school, completed my diploma and then I went to college and earned my bachelor’s degree in mathematics.”


Wow- how long have you been here in the United States?  “About five to six years.” 

And you’ve done all that in that time?  “Yeah, yeah.  I just came with the aim, because when I was in Africa, I’d heard of this great land that offered great opportunity to people.  So, when I came from Africa, I went to school directly and earned my degree.  So, right now, I’m preparing myself to go to MTSU this fall to study mathematics and earn my masters degree.”

What are you hoping to do, job wise?  “I just wanted to be somebody who has skills.  I need to apply my skill, to help people in need.  So, whatever I learn in school is what I want to give back to my people.”

Did any of your family come to the US with you?  “We came together.”

Have they all been as aggressive as you’ve been?  “You know, the expectation of life depends on what your goal is. So, it’s not like the same.  Part of the family, they went for a job and they have been affected by choosing to work rather than go to school.  So, you know, it’s different ideas and different life.  But, for me, I went to school and was having the opposite…they earn much money, but for me, I earn nothing.  As you see, I don’t have a car, I don’t have whatever I need, because I spend what I’m supposed to do in school, instead of working and earning money, having a car, living the good life…I left that one aside and I focus on school.”

But, it sounds like, in exchange, you’re preparing now for the life you want later?  “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Advice for my boys?  “Actually, for your boys to be good enough is, first of all, respect for the parents is most important.  They have to respect their daddy and mommy, listen to their good advice, so much that they will be a good friend and of good character.  Then, they will extend that good character to neighbors and others around.  Because, what I’ve seen here, is most children don’t have respect.  They are given freedom of acting any way they want to.   But, for me, I see that’s not good.  They have to respect their parents, develop good attitude and then extend that attitude to other people.  That is what I wanted to say.” 














Justin & Krista.  Happiest time of your lives? 
Krista: “I’d say right now. I’m 28 and kind of gone though the hard part of the 20’s…and now have a pretty good idea of where I want to go, so now it’s just getting there.”  
Justin: “Happiest time of my life, whew, I would probably say New Years Eve with this lady…or first, well second official date, but yeah it was pretty good.”
How did you guys meet?  Krista:  “We work together.”
Justin:  “At Volkswagen.”
Beyond her being stunning, what attracted you to her?  Justin:  “She’s a nice lady.”  (both laugh)
What have you found you like or appreciate most about each other?  Justin:  “She keeps me in line…that’s really good.  I guess, for her, she’s really laid back, kind of stress free.  It’s really nice to come across somebody like that.”
Krista:  “For me, it’s pretty much the same.  He doesn’t let me get away with stuff— like being a princess or being ridiculous.  It’s nice when someone can be honest and do that from a good place, not a vindictive place.”
So how long have you been dating?  Justin:  “Seven, eight months.”  
What have you found, so far, is the key to a good relationship?  Justin:  “Trust.”  Krista:  “Plus communication.”  Justin:  “I think it’s also about being involved in a good church.  That’s been very helpful…just to have a good sense of love.  You go to this one place, once a week, where everybody’s engaged…it’s nice.
Krista: “Plus, we brought our families into it together, pretty early on.  My family is here (Chattanooga) and his is in Nashville, but it was very important to us that he know my parents well, and then I got a chance to meet his sister and his folks.  From that standpoint, everyone is kind of in it together.”
If you were to each give my boys one piece of advice for life, what would that be?  Justin:  “Everything happens for a reason…definitely the first one.  Probably one of my favorite quotes of all time was ‘Man was meant to live, not to exist.’  That’s one of the things I’ve lived by.”
Krista:  “I’d say, for them, that their dad’s pretty cool for doing this…for me, getting to know my parents as an adult— I left home, moved to Chicago and then came back, and really one of the greatest experiences has been getting to know my mom and dad again, as an adult.  The advice you think you miss out on as a teenager, that you don’t listen to, it only gets more and more relevant…and more and more powerful.  It doesn’t stop when you’re 18.”
Justin:  “Yeah, so listen to your parents.”
How did that relationship, with your parents, evolve as you got older?  Do you find you appreciate and respect them more?  Krista:  “Yeah, definitely.  For me, because I graduated from college in 2007, so I was part of that whole Recession graduation and had to move back home.  That was a really humbling experience for me.  To come home to a place where mom and dad don’t judge..they’ve been there and they’re there to help me get back on my feet…going through that with them also helped us really bond in a different way than when you’re a teenager.” 
Justin & Krista.  Happiest time of your lives?
Krista: “I’d say right now. I’m 28 and kind of gone though the hard part of the 20’s…and now have a pretty good idea of where I want to go, so now it’s just getting there.” 
Justin: “Happiest time of my life, whew, I would probably say New Years Eve with this lady…or first, well second official date, but yeah it was pretty good.”

How did you guys meet?  Krista:  “We work together.”
Justin:  “At Volkswagen.”

Beyond her being stunning, what attracted you to her?  Justin:  “She’s a nice lady.”  (both laugh)

What have you found you like or appreciate most about each other?  Justin:  “She keeps me in line…that’s really good.  I guess, for her, she’s really laid back, kind of stress free.  It’s really nice to come across somebody like that.”
Krista:  “For me, it’s pretty much the same.  He doesn’t let me get away with stuff— like being a princess or being ridiculous.  It’s nice when someone can be honest and do that from a good place, not a vindictive place.”

So how long have you been dating?  Justin:  “Seven, eight months.” 

What have you found, so far, is the key to a good relationship?  Justin:  “Trust.”  Krista:  “Plus communication.”  Justin:  “I think it’s also about being involved in a good church.  That’s been very helpful…just to have a good sense of love.  You go to this one place, once a week, where everybody’s engaged…it’s nice.

Krista: “Plus, we brought our families into it together, pretty early on.  My family is here (Chattanooga) and his is in Nashville, but it was very important to us that he know my parents well, and then I got a chance to meet his sister and his folks.  From that standpoint, everyone is kind of in it together.”

If you were to each give my boys one piece of advice for life, what would that be?  Justin:  “Everything happens for a reason…definitely the first one.  Probably one of my favorite quotes of all time was ‘Man was meant to live, not to exist.’  That’s one of the things I’ve lived by.”

Krista:  “I’d say, for them, that their dad’s pretty cool for doing this…for me, getting to know my parents as an adult— I left home, moved to Chicago and then came back, and really one of the greatest experiences has been getting to know my mom and dad again, as an adult.  The advice you think you miss out on as a teenager, that you don’t listen to, it only gets more and more relevant…and more and more powerful.  It doesn’t stop when you’re 18.”

Justin:  “Yeah, so listen to your parents.”

How did that relationship, with your parents, evolve as you got older?  Do you find you appreciate and respect them more?  Krista:  “Yeah, definitely.  For me, because I graduated from college in 2007, so I was part of that whole Recession graduation and had to move back home.  That was a really humbling experience for me.  To come home to a place where mom and dad don’t judge..they’ve been there and they’re there to help me get back on my feet…going through that with them also helped us really bond in a different way than when you’re a teenager.” 

Mr. Thune, 94 years old and the gentleman I photographed yesterday, preparing to board an MTSU Hero Flight.  I understand you were shot down multiple times.  Tell me about that.  “Well, the first time we were in trouble, we were attacked by enemy fighters.  We got shot up pretty badly and being the navigator, I have a lot to see about where we land.  But the pilot said with the whole tail session all shot up, ‘I don’t want to crash land in a crash landing area.  That’s just mud.’  So, I said ok.  I said ‘I’ve got you all plotted for a crash landing in a field, you know, and he said ‘oh, I think I can make it just fine.’  So, we start coming in and I’d spotted him at the right place.  He started coming down and as he slowed down, he lost control of the plane, so we overshot the runway.  What they do in England, there, is they plant trees on either side, decorative I guess, and we had two or three of them at the end of the field.  He couldn’t do anything and I couldn’t help him, so he came in and we cut off some trees, they took the wings off.  We plowed right into it (ditch).  That was a mess.  I got hurt pretty badly in that one and we lost some people. Second time, we came in, we were over Germany and got shot up pretty badly again.  Our wing was on fire, one of the engines was acting up and the wing started burning.  All at once, the propeller broke loose.  Another words, we lost so much hydraulic fluid, so he couldn’t do anything with the propellers, so that broke loose too.  We came down and crash landed there, too. The third time we crash landed, we came down but made it back to England.”How did you keep your cool during those experiences?  “Well, I’ll tell ya.  Being a navigator, you’re so busy you don’t have time to get worried.  That’s really what happens.  And the thing is, probably the worst part of being a navigator is…in England, that winter we were there, it was the worst winter they ever had.  It was always either foggy, cloudy, raining or something.  As the navigator, you don’t have anything to assist you.  There’s no radio, there’s no nothing.  You’ve got to get your plane at the right spot, at the right height, facing the right direction and being on either side of the runway…and that’s a tough one.”How did those experiences change your life?  “Well, I don’t think the flying part was it, but what really bothered me was when I first got over there, we didn’t have a decent bomb site.  We couldn’t see through rain or fog or smoke or anything like that.  On the first missions, we were told ‘If you can’t see your target, fly over to the biggest city and just let ‘er go.’  That…cut me to bits. On the last mission, they said  ‘We’re pretty sure it’s a communication center…wipe  the town out.’  That didn’t go well with me.” I would think all these experiences would give you great perspective, when dealing with problems you’ve had through your life?  “Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  But, I don’t think it changed me too much.  I had a job to do…I did it.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I don’t think it really affected me that much.”Happiest time of your life?  “Oh, I had a wife and three children. I really had a wonderful life…raising a family.”Toughest time of your life?  “Well, really, I can’t say I’ve had tough times.  I’ve got a son who’s 70 and an executive with Minnesota Mining Manufacturing Company…he’s still working!  (laughs)He’d got his dads work ethic?  “Definitely, yeah.  They didn’t want to let him go.”Advice for my boys for life?  “Live a good, clean life.  I don’t smoke, I don’t drink…I’m a Christian and I think living a life like that is about the best life you can live.” 

Mr. Thune, 94 years old and the gentleman I photographed yesterday, preparing to board an MTSU Hero Flight.  I understand you were shot down multiple times.  Tell me about that.  “Well, the first time we were in trouble, we were attacked by enemy fighters.  We got shot up pretty badly and being the navigator, I have a lot to see about where we land.  But the pilot said with the whole tail session all shot up, ‘I don’t want to crash land in a crash landing area.  That’s just mud.’  So, I said ok.  I said ‘I’ve got you all plotted for a crash landing in a field, you know, and he said ‘oh, I think I can make it just fine.’  So, we start coming in and I’d spotted him at the right place.  He started coming down and as he slowed down, he lost control of the plane, so we overshot the runway.  What they do in England, there, is they plant trees on either side, decorative I guess, and we had two or three of them at the end of the field.  He couldn’t do anything and I couldn’t help him, so he came in and we cut off some trees, they took the wings off.  We plowed right into it (ditch).  That was a mess.  I got hurt pretty badly in that one and we lost some people.

Second time, we came in, we were over Germany and got shot up pretty badly again.  Our wing was on fire, one of the engines was acting up and the wing started burning.  All at once, the propeller broke loose.  Another words, we lost so much hydraulic fluid, so he couldn’t do anything with the propellers, so that broke loose too.  We came down and crash landed there, too.

The third time we crash landed, we came down but made it back to England.”

How did you keep your cool during those experiences?  “Well, I’ll tell ya.  Being a navigator, you’re so busy you don’t have time to get worried.  That’s really what happens.  And the thing is, probably the worst part of being a navigator is…in England, that winter we were there, it was the worst winter they ever had.  It was always either foggy, cloudy, raining or something.  As the navigator, you don’t have anything to assist you.  There’s no radio, there’s no nothing.  You’ve got to get your plane at the right spot, at the right height, facing the right direction and being on either side of the runway…and that’s a tough one.”

How did those experiences change your life?  “Well, I don’t think the flying part was it, but what really bothered me was when I first got over there, we didn’t have a decent bomb site.  We couldn’t see through rain or fog or smoke or anything like that.  On the first missions, we were told ‘If you can’t see your target, fly over to the biggest city and just let ‘er go.’  That…cut me to bits. On the last mission, they said  ‘We’re pretty sure it’s a communication center…wipe  the town out.’  That didn’t go well with me.”

I would think all these experiences would give you great perspective, when dealing with problems you’ve had through your life?  “Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  But, I don’t think it changed me too much.  I had a job to do…I did it.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I don’t think it really affected me that much.”

Happiest time of your life?  “Oh, I had a wife and three children. I really had a wonderful life…raising a family.”

Toughest time of your life?  “Well, really, I can’t say I’ve had tough times.  I’ve got a son who’s 70 and an executive with Minnesota Mining Manufacturing Company…he’s still working!  (laughs)

He’d got his dads work ethic?  “Definitely, yeah.  They didn’t want to let him go.”

Advice for my boys for life?  “Live a good, clean life.  I don’t smoke, I don’t drink…I’m a Christian and I think living a life like that is about the best life you can live.” 

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