Praise Is Always Appreciated

We participated in and finished the Marine Corps Marathon, the Bataan Memorial Death March, Climb For A Calling, the Suck It Up Ruck, the Watermelon Run For The Fallen, The 1Lt Robbie Welch Run, The Riley Run, The Heroes Race, The Warm Place Run, The CW2 Jennifer Hunter Running Free race, Fort Campbell Run For the Fallen, Carry The Load, and a few others, all of them more than once.

I’m 62 freakin’ years old. We never trained for any of that before five or six years ago. But we did it.

A few weeks ago, we participated in the 22-mile Red Dirt Military Moms Warrior Walk Against Veteran Suicide, started by our good friend and No Slack veteran, Bob Evans and his family Eva Turner and Pat Apperson. Beth and I first met Bob at a screening for The Hornet’s Nest in Oklahoma City back in 2013. I remember walking into the reception for the film and this tall, handsome, tattooed soldier comes charging at me. He embraced me, told me how much he had admired Sgt. Burgess and how pleased he was to finally meet Bryan’s family. Bob is now “family.”

Bob organized his first 22-mile ruck for the 22 Veteran Suicides per day in 2014 at Boomer Lake in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Bob himself has been in the danger zone. And I’m not talking about Iraq or Afghanistan. I’m talking about here at home in the good old USA. I won’t go into any details because that is Bob’s life and his business. If you know him, you probably know his struggles. My point is that he DID something positive and created a lasting tribute and awareness-raising event for a problem that is claiming lives at an alarming rate far above the quoted “national average.”

Less than a year ago I was feeling a need to push myself to the point of punishment. I didn’t care if I fell from heat exhaustion or sprained joints. I had a sense of needing to pay penance for Bryan’s death. Call it reconciliation, forgiveness, pigheaded, or whatever you want, I pushed myself to the breaking point. And you know what happened?

I got stronger.

Not just my leg muscles, or my lungs, or my heart, but my spirit, too. Many of you know that I am not a religious man. I am, however, a spiritual man thanks to Bryan’s visitation on the morning of his death. A strong spirit can belong to anyone from a warrior to an athlete to a business-person, to a grieving parent.

Bob Evans has a strong spirit. Elisabeth Burgess has a strong spirit. My son, Bryan Burgess IS a strong spirit. My strong spirit comes from each of them, and many others like them who will not let me fall or fail.

I am no one special. I’m just plain ol’ Terry. And I carry my son.


Beautiful Gold Star Mothers

Beth and I first met Marilyn Olson through the organization Medals of Honor, which was created by Amy Cotta. Marilyn organizes teams and training for events like the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range and the Washington, D.C. Marine Corps Marathon. She is a Realtor in Montana, and has become a dear friend. Her patriotism and loyalty to the military is deeply appreciated and far-reaching.

From Marilyn Olson…

They are some of my most beautiful friends. Not because of their physical beauty, but because of their inner strength and resiliency. As they should, they rise up, time and time again and stand strong against a society that often times sees loss as a brief moment in time where one is to grieve for a period of time and move on; that if they speak of their loss or their child, they have not healed. They speak of their sons and daughters so that we might know something about their life and who they were as an individual rather than just a DoD statistic that died in combat or even took their own life as result of war or the inability to cope the loss of comrades before them. They not only support one another, but yet our men and women serving today; sending care packages and visiting our injured service members in hospitals while the rest of the nation goes about their day. Who does that? Who loses a child and yet rises above their own grief to ask about and even care for our living children? These beautiful Gold Star Mothers.

I am in awe by their ability to shine in what I could only imagine is the worst life could throw at them and when a society instantly distances themselves because we no longer share the common bond of a “living” child. I don’t think society does this intentionally, but it is sad and true. Perhaps many don’t know what to say or fear they might exacerbate the mother’s grief. Yet that is so far from the truth as I’ve learned. They need you. They need you to ask questions, to say their name and we need to give them that voice and “be” their voice until they can stand.

So many are my friends and every day I can smile and be proud to know such beautiful souls. I can assure you that if you take the time to even observe them from the side lines, you will want to come to know them and close that distance.

~Marilyn Olson~

Check Writing

I was in line at the H.E.B. checkout and an elderly gentleman in front of me pulled out a checkbook. I just sighed. The other lanes were packed full, and I wasn’t in that big of a hurry, so I stayed where I was. I sighed again, trying not to be too obvious about it.

Then I remembered when I worked at Harber’s Grocery back in 1974 and every customer either wrote a check or paid cash. No one ever seemed to mind the time it took to fill out a check by hand.

I admit that after a whole three minutes had passed I got impatient with the check writer. When he was finally done and the cashier started scanning my groceries I inserted my debit card into the card reader thanking the technological gods for the convenience. Then I got a beep from the card reader saying it’s a bad read. I removed the card, reinserted it making sure the chip was facing the right way (because that’s the awesome technology of the day) and again I got a bad read. The cashier suggested swiping the card. I tried that.


The reader screen said to please insert my card.

By this time the elderly gentleman had probably left the store, loaded his car, stopped at Wendy’s and paid for his meal with another check.

The cashier came across an item that didn’t want to scan so while she’s on the loudspeaker asking for assistance, she told me to reinsert the card, and I’m rewarded with a message that tells me to enter my PIN. Hooray! Progress!

While we’re waiting for the price check, I see the lady in line behind me glaring at me. She sighed. I sighed. The cashier sighed.

A tiny little H.E.B. employee who looked like she was all of twelve years old told the cashier the price of the rogue item. I got my groceries and my receipt and pushed my wobbly-wheeled cart out to the parking lot and my truck.

We get used to doing things a certain way. Sometimes we are forced to make a change. Other times we can ignore the change and keep doing things the way we have done them forever.

Traffic lights now tell us to use caution when making a left turn through an intersection.

We were warned by some futurists that technology would be our undoing.

Remember when we were warned against drunk drivers? Now it’s texting.

Remember when you had to learn to parallel park? Now your car does it for you.

Change is inevitable. It can be resisted, accepted, or improved upon, but it’s always there.

Grief will change your life for you. The only choice you have when it strikes is how you’re going to handle it. It took me a while to figure that out after Bryan was killed. The Hornet’s Nest Movie helped me figure out the dream that I’d had about Bryan. I made a choice to honor Bryan in any way possible, but to do that I had to change my life from one of crushing grief to one of uplifting honor and respect. I did not do that alone. Beth was utmost in helping me change. In the following months and years, we found hundreds of friends that would help us continue navigating through the traffic on the highway of grief.

When a person volunteers for the armed forces, some call that writing a blank check. There’s a quote that goes; “A veteran is someone who wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including their life.”

Far too many of our sons and daughters have willingly written that check.

For those Americans who have not suffered the tragic loss of a son or daughter in service to our country, please be patient with those of us who have. It takes us a while to adapt to that change.