Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Fiebelkorn Brothers Were All Called to Serve

Growing up in Alexandria, Virginia, I was surrounded by military families. Most of my friends from high school were military kids. They either lived on Ft. Belvoir or their parents worked at the Pentagon and they lived in the neighborhoods that fed into my high school. Today, the internet allows us to keep in touch, and I was privileged to have an old high school friend share about those in his family that served our great nation. Today I walked 5k in honor of the Fiebelkorn heroes. I give you the words of my friend, Karl Fiebelkorn.

The veterans I remember most are my father, and his 2 brothers. 
My father, John A. Fiebelkorn, enlisted into the Army Air Corps in the last few months of World War II following his brothers Roger and Ernest (Red) into the service.

Roger Fiebelkorn’s job was to restore communication lines. He was killed in action in the south of France while trying to restore communication lines in late 1944. The Germans would cut the lines, and then lay snipers out to take out whoever tried to repair them. Roger did get the line repaired, but was shot. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously.

Red Fiebelkorn was the leading ace of his squadron with either 10 1/2 
or 11 1/2
kills depending on which reference you want to read. This 
included the downing of a Me262 jet piloted by Maj Novotny, one of the 
leading German aces. Red has the dubious distinction of being one of the 
very first United States Air Force pilots killed in action. With the 
formation of the USAF in 1948, Korea was the first battle for this 
organization. In the very early days of that action, Red lead a flight of 
F-86s into North Korea. He did not return. When allied forces moved north 
a couple years later, they found the crash site and a shallow grave. Red 
was brought home and buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My dad (John Fiebelkorn) did not see any battle action. He left the service after his enlistment was up and used the GI bill to get his engineering degree. He reentered the service as an officer in 1952. He flew as a navigator in a series of bombers in service throughout the 50s and into the 60s. Utilizing his degree he moved in to the Air Force Systems Command, supporting projects such as the rocket sled tests in New Mexico which led into the initial manned space program. He was stationed in the Los Angeles area when I was born, assigned to get his Masters at the University of Michigan through the Air Force Institute of Technology and then to his last station in 1966 at the Pentagon. My dad retired in 1974, but stuck around Northern Virginia until 1977 so that I could finish school there. My folks moved to a small town in Michigan, and he ran the small town airport for 15 years. My dad died almost exactly a year ago after a long slow decline into Alzheimers. I miss him greatly. ~ Karl Fiebelkorn

Karl was quite humble as he described the service of his father and his uncles. In case you’re interested, I did a Google search on the Fiebelkorns. Here is one of many links about Red Fiebelkorn He was quite the pilot and you could spend all day reading about his accomplishments and his bravery.

In my search, I found that Private Roger Fiebelkorn, HQ Company/3d Battalion, 397th Infantry, 100th Division, (Bertrichamps, France) (Missing in Action) was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action.

I also found that among the many accomplishments made by John A. Fielbelkorn, his work on the Agena rocket earned him two Air Force Commendation Medals.

What an incredible family and what an incredible contribution to the USA!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thanks to all the officers serving in the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government - Division of Police

I have a couple of friends who are police officers here in Lexington, Kentucky. I’ve heard a few stories and I’ve seen enough news coverage to know that I really appreciate the job that these men and women do for us. I am sure I don’t know very much at all about what they do when I really think about it. I don’t know many of them personally, so for today, I ran four miles to honor all of those that serve in the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government - Division of Police.For starters, these men and women show up for work everyday not knowing what the day will bring. Most days they probably have the typical issues to deal with like car accidents or traffic violations, but they never know when they will get the call to respond to a violent situation. They have to be ready. Their families have to be ready. I’m not sure I could deal with the stress of letting my husband or children go out the door on a daily basis knowing that someone with a gun just might lose it and they would have to respond to the situation. I’m pretty sure that these officers deal with plenty of stress. I’m also pretty sure that they get a lot of complaints and deal with a lot of unhappy people. Most of us are angry when they stop us because we are speeding. We accuse them of filling their quotas or trying to make our insurance rates go up. We don’t think about the fact that our speeding could be dangerous and these officers are trying to prevent us from causing an accident. I know I have a lead foot. When I finally get pulled over, I am just going to be thankful that it hasn’t happened more often, that I haven’t caused a wreck, and remind myself that the officer is actually trying to help me out.

Another side of the coin is the fact that our police officers have to do all sorts of mundane tasks such as directing traffic. When the lights go out, the police have to stand in the intersection and keep us from running into each other. Do you honestly think that these people wanted to be police officers so they could direct traffic? Maybe a couple of them aspired to do that for a living, but my guess is that most of them have other jobs in mind when they join the force. My police buddy says that most people blow past him and he is lucky he isn’t run down. I’ve heard that some people actually spit on our police officers! I hope I never see anyone do that. Why are we in such a hurry and why are we so ungrateful? If I wouldn’t cause a traffic jam, I’d stop my car, roll down my window and thank the officer for keeping us from ourselves. No matter what these officers are doing, whether it is mundane or dangerous, we owe them our thanks. There is a lot going on out there that we will never know about because our police officers are always on the job keeping situations from escalating into something big, bad, and ugly. Thank you to all our officers. If I knew you by name, I’d thank each and every one of you!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Honoring all those at Boot Camp

Today I thought I’d dedicate my four miles to all those that are currently at Boot Camp. Most of us would never have the courage to even consider going to Boot Camp. We’ve all heard the rumors. We know it is difficult and we know there is a lot of yelling. Most of us don’t need to know anything else. Each branch likes to think that they have the toughest boot camp. Personally, I think any of them would be too much for me. I can tell you a little something about being the parent of one that goes to Marine Corps Boot Camp. It is THE longest 13 weeks of one’s life. There is absolutely no contact between your Marine recruit and the outside world unless he can find a way to write a letter. There are no phone calls home and the best way to know what your recruit is doing is to get online and check the website calendars. I know the lack of contact is for the recruit’s benefit, but I can tell you that there is some sort of training going on at home too. You are forced to learn to trust the Corps and trust the Lord. There is no way “Mom” can call the Corps and ask about her darling recruit. I’ve heard of a few moms that have tried to do that....and I’ve heard what happens to their recruits. So boot camp is a growing experience for everyone involved. It is tough because the training may mean the difference between life and death for that recruit when he/she is ready to serve.

I have a friend that is former USMC Senior Drill Instructor from MCRD San Diego. While SSGT Michael W. Nichols was serving, a documentary was made about the reality of USMC Boot Camp. If you watch the documentary, you may find this hard to believe, but he is actually a really nice guy. He took his responsibility to train our Marines seriously. He had to be tough and he had high expectations. He had no choice. He was training men that would face danger and death and he had to make sure they were prepared to survive any situation that they might face.

I’d like to thank SSGT Nichols for his service as well as all those that have the guts to enlist and go through boot camp. I’d like to thank the Drill Instructors for their willingness to be tough and train our military to be the best fighting force in the world. To check out the documentary "Ears, Open. Eyeballs, Click", go to

A Memorial Day to Remember

It was a rainy day in the Bluegrass, but the rain stopped at 11:00 am for the Memorial Day Ceremony at Lexington Cemetery. The 30 minute ceremony was a touching tribute to all those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for each of us. There should be a ceremony in your local area each year. If you have never done it before, you need to be sure to attend one next year. You will be glad you took the time to honor those that have given you your freedom.

The rain poured down as soon as the ceremony was over, but the skies cleared again for our STEPS to HONOR walk at 1:00 pm. Several of us got together and walked through “car-free downtown” Lexington yesterday for a couple of hours and wrapped things up at 3:00 pm as we gathered together for prayer during the National Moment of Remembrance, a nationwide moment established by an act of Congress in December, 2000, to honor those who died in service to our country. I know there is no way to repay those that gave their lives for our country, but I’m going to be sure to make Memorial Day about our heroes every year. It’s the least I can do to say thanks.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Soccer Coach Gives All

SPC Michael Hayes was the girl’s soccer coach for Butler County High School in Morgantown, Kentucky. While he was home on leave in June, 2005, he was asked by his principal if it was worth it to be over in Iraq. Hayes said, “You should see the kids going to school over there. It’s worth it.” Hayes loved his job as coach and emailed the girls on his soccer team twice a week while deployed. He was serving with the Kentucky National Guard, 617th MP Company. He was killed in Iraq on June 14, 2005, just a week after returning from his two week R&R in Kentucky. Hayes’ commander said that “Hayes was a consummate soldier, always in the right place doing the right thing.” All who knew Michael Hayes would agree. We had the privilege of sending SPC Hayes care packages while he was deployed. His brother and his sister were also deployed with the same unit at the same time. Fortunately, his siblings were not with him at the time of the incident that took his life. We are truly grateful for the sacrifice of SPC Hayes and the service of his brother, James Hayes and his sister Melissa Stewart. It was a privilege to walk two miles in their honor on this Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

LCPL Sean M. Langley made the ultimate sacrifice for us on November 7, 2004. He was assigned to the 2nd BN, 5th Mar Regiment, 1st Mar Div, I MEF, Camp Pendleton, CA. Sean was killed in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was only 20 years old at the time of his death. I remember well the day I heard of Sean’s death. My own son was just about to finish his SOI (School of Infantry) training and this news scared me to death. Sean came from a family of service. His parents are both police officers and Sean planned to follow in their footsteps. He enlisted in the USMC on the Saturday after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read about Sean and get to know the hero that stood in the gap for you and me. Two miles were walked in honor of LCPL Sean M. Langley today.

Two more miles were run in honor of Sgt. Joshua J. Frazier, who was killed by a sniper on Feb. 6, 2007, just a few days after being promoted to Sergeant. Josh was serving his third combat tour. He was so sure about what he was doing that he changed units so he could go back soon after his first deployment, and extended his stay in the USMC so he could help fellow Marines by allowing other service members to come back home. He felt like the guys that were married with kids needed to be home with their families. I had the privilege of making a condolence book for Josh. Making these books is a journey. As I read the letters written for the book, found pictures to include, and read articles about Josh’s heroism, I felt as if I had gotten to know him through the words of others. Nothing said it better than the video Josh made for his family about 6 months before his death. Josh was a true hero who put everyone else before himself. I've since had the privilege of corresponding with his step-mother and it's obvious that Josh was an amazing man who has an amazing family.
I am thankful that Beth has come up with another way for me to honor our fallen heroes. I know Steps To Honor is for more than just our Fallen Heroes but they hold a very special place in my heart that my miles will be devoted to show the thanks that I have for them. I've never been a runner and haven't even been exercising lately, I just put exercise on the back burner. Now will not only be able to start getting in shape but I will be honoring the Marines that served with the 1/6 Marines, the same that my nephew has served on 2 deployments with. There are Fallen Heroes that I will be "stepping" for also and as I go along I'll fill you in on each one of them.
Since I am not in great shape I had to start of slow and only able to do a couple miles today before having some pretty bad shortness of breath, that is only temporary and before you know it my stamina and my lungs will be able to go much further. Even though I was only able to do 2 miles today, my heart and my thanks were in both of them. When my nephew joined the 1/6 I joined a group of friends and families of the 1/6 Marines. The deployment to Iraq was really bad and they (we) lost 12 of our own, 11 Marines, 1 "Doc". They will be the first 12 that I will honor, though in my heart I honor every fallen hero this country has lost. It was during that deployment that my eyes were opened, I saw and felt wat a military family goes through. That is when I began making condolence books that Beth has mentioned, I felt I had to do something to honor the heroes that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The first 2 Marines that I am honoring, are 2 of the first 3 that the 1/6 lost.
My first mile is dedicated to Sgt. Julian Arechaga, 1/6 Marines KIA 10/9/06

Sgt. Arechaga was on his third tour in battle and his second mission in Iraq when his Humvee came in contact with an improvised explosive device.

Arechaga wanted to enlist a fter 9/11. He made his way up through the ranks to infantry sergeant in the 1st Battalion Sixth Marine Charlie Company, and was in charge of a platoon.

Acting as a parent as much as a sister, Sheyla had intervened in her brother's life early on. Their father, Julian Arechaga Sr., had been separated for many years from their mother, Mirna Martinez, who died the previous June of cancer.Sheyla took her brother out of Baldwin Senior High School before his junior year, hoping he would fare better at a different school, and made sure that he graduated from Oceanside High School in the summer 2002. Andy Randazzo said that Sheyla and Russ's interventions like these turned Julian's life around.Arechaga, always athletic and thus a good fit for the Marines, according to Sheyla, made a tremendous improvement at Oceanside, where he joined the wrestling team and won medals. Mike Janosko, head football coach at the high school, was Arechaga¹s varsity wrestling coach. Janosko described him as a model student. "He was one of those good, hard-working kids," Janosko said. "He came to school every day. He really cared a lot about wrestling and always went to practice. And he held a job and helped out his family. He was a kid with high character. It's really devastating what happened to him."Arechaga also began to do well academically in school, and Sheyla smiled with pride as she recalled his making the honor roll at Oceanside.
Arechaga married 19-year-old Felicia on June 17. The two Marines had met while both were stationed in North Carolina. "He just fell in love with her," Sheyla said, adding that the two had known each other for a few months when Arechaga told his sister he was going to propose. The newlyweds bought a home in North Carolina in July, but planned to move in with the Randazzos and their daughters when Arechaga's tour was finished in March.Randazzo said that both of her children, Alexandra, 5, and Ava, 17 months, were close to their uncle. Alexandra would say Arechaga was in "kayak" when asked about his location, because "Iraq" was not yet in her vocabulary.
Sgt. Julian Arechaga will be missed, is sacrifice has not gone unnoticed, I honor his memory.

The Second Marine I honor is LCpl Jon Eric Bowman, 1/6 Marines KIA 10/9/06

First of all I have to say that I met Jon Eric's mother Jill at the last homecoming for the 1/6. She was there to welcome home the Marines that served with her son on their previous deployment when Jon Eric was killed. She is such a strong woman and does everything she can to honor her son. I am proud to be able to call Jill a friend of mine. We spent quite a bit of time together at Camp LeJeune. She reached out to the other Gold Star families that lost their son during this deployment. I had made the condolence books for those families also and found out Jill had never received one, so I made her one when I got back, then my brother and his wife delivered the book to her. She has shared many stories with me about her son and so it is like I know him more than a lot of the others, this is one of the ones that has become very personal to me.
Lance Corporal Jon Eric was about one month into his second deployment to Iraq and was conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the Anbar Province in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
Two fellow Marines from the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina were with him. Pfc. Shelby J. Feniello, 25, of Pennsylvania and Sgt. Julian M. Arechaga, 23, of New York were with Jon Eric, who was on top, manning a .50 caliber machine gun, when their Humvee was hit by two IED’s (improvised explosive devices), killing all three.
I know Jon Eric is looking down on his mom and grinning ear to ear with the pride he has for her, and Jill is looking up to the gates of Heaven so proud of her son.
There is so much behind every one of our fallen heroes, I just hope to share a little about these heroes. I will never forget! They will always have a place in my heart.

Memorial Day Group Walk! Join us to honor our heroes!

STEPS to HONOR Group Walk

Memorial Day - Monday, May 25, 2009 1:00 PM (Weather Permitting)

Lexington is hosting a “car-free downtown” for Bike Lexington on Monday. The streets will be open from 1:00 to 3:00 PM and available for everyone to bike, walk, run, or skate.

Meet us downtown at Phoenix Park (right in front of the Lexington Public Library, 140 E. Main Street) at 1:00 pm. Wear your STEPS to HONOR t-shirt so we can remind everyone to honor their heroes...after all, isn’t that the purpose of Memorial Day?

This event is FREE, but the cost of your freedom wasn't free so come on out and honor someone that made the ultimate sacrifice for YOU!

Need a STEPS to HONOR t-shirt? Contact us at

T-shirt cost: $10

Friday, May 22, 2009


Join us at the UK Arboretum on Alumni Drive this Saturday, May 23, 2009 at 9:00 AM for a two mile walk to honor our heroes. Meet us in the parking lot at the top of the hill. Be sure to wear your STEPS to HONOR t-shirt so we can get the word out about the program. Let's get everyone to think more about those that serve and sacrifice on our behalf. Questions? Contact us at or

If you are planning a group walk in your area, please let us know and we will post it on the website to help you get the word out in your area!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Five miles are logged in today for five heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us.

Cpl Nicholas Dieruf, USMC, made the ultimate sacrifice on April 8, 2004 while serving in Iraq. He would have been 27 years old yesterday (May 20, 2009). I had the privilege of being invited by a friend to attend a memorial service for Nich yesterday. The service was held by a flagpole that has been erected in Nich’s honor. We said the Pledge of Allegiance, listened to patriotic songs sung in Nich’s honor and prayed for the family members that must continue to go on without Nich. The sun was shining and Nich would have been proud to see his family standing strong as they honored him with yesterday’s service. Though Nich only lived 21 years, he touched many lives and made a huge difference in this world for each of us. Thank you for your service, Nich. This world is a better place because of your efforts.

LCPL Thomas P. Echols was serving with the 1st BN, 6th Marine Regiment when he was killed in Ar Ramadi, Iraq on December 4, 2006. Tom was 21, married and had a baby on the way. His sweet wife, Allyson was pregnant at the time of his death. I had the privilege of delivering a condolence book to Allyson. As a member of Marine Families Online, we create condolence books that include letters of appreciation written by people all over the country. The letters are displayed throughout the book and delivered to the family members of the fallen hero. My dear friend, Terri made the condolence book but she lived in Florida, so she asked me to deliver the book to Allyson. Because I had never met Allyson, I was very nervous as I drove to Shepherdsville, but she put me right at ease the minute she opened the door. It was wonderful to watch her look through the book and read the many letters written by people that knew Tom and the letters written by those of us that did not have the privilege of meeting him but appreciated his sacrifice. A few months after Tom was killed, Allyson gave birth to their baby girl. Tom would be proud of his beautiful daughter. I am sure that when she grows up she will know all about her daddy, the American hero.

LCPL Robert A. Lynch was assigned to the 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Mar Division, III MEF, Okinawa, Japan. He was deployed to Rishidiyah, Iraq when he was killed during combat operations. He was only 20 years old at the time of his death. LCPL Lynch was a graduate of Seneca High School in Louisville. He was a valued member of the school’s ROTC program. I attended the funeral and presented the Gold Star Banner to LCPL Lynch’s family. It was the first time I had ever presented the banner, and it was extremely difficult. I’ll never forget his mom’s tears and sobs as I presented the banner to her. Many people spoke about LCPL Lynch during the funeral. It was inspiring to hear about his life and his walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. He touched many lives while he was living, and he continues to do so after making the ultimate sacrifice. I look forward to meeting LCPL Lynch when I get to heaven.

PFC Sammie Phillips was only 19 when he made the ultimate sacrifice. He was killed on September 10, 2007, while serving in Iraq with Battery B, 2nd BN, 138th Field Artillery, KY National Guard. His commander said that Sammie was an excellent soldier with unlimited potential. He was one of the best gunners in his unit and always ready to go. Capt. Mattingly also said that he never met a person that didn’t like Sammie Phillips. That was evident at his funeral. I attended the funeral and presented the Gold Star Banners to his wife and his parents. The church was filled with people that knew and loved Sammie. I was glad that I got a glimpse of this hero and what his life meant to so many others. He served his country well and I am grateful for his sacrifice.

Capt. Eric D. Terhune was a devoted Marine and a devoted Christian. He was killed on June 19, 2008, in Afghanistan’s Farah Province at the age of 34. Eric was born in the Quantico Naval Hospital in Virginia, while his father was stationed at the Marine base there. He was the son of a Marine and the grandson of a Marine. He was raised in Lexington, KY, and had a very interesting career in the USMC. I would suggest that you read some of the local articles written about him at the time of his death. This man really wanted to serve his country. I met Eric’s extended family at the visitation prior to his funeral. If you don’t have the assurance of knowing Christ, and you have never been to a funeral where everyone there has that assurance, you couldn’t begin to understand the peace that surrounded this family. Everyone was sad that Eric had made the ultimate sacrifice, but they all knew without any doubts that they WOULD see him again in heaven. There is true joy in having that assurance. Eric’s grandparents, in particular, made an impression on me that I will not forget. I wish I had known Eric. I know he was an amazing man.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

As Memorial Day approaches, our Fallen come to mind

If you have been reading this blog, you know that STEPS to HONOR is not just about our fallen heroes. We are honoring those that are currently serving as well as our veterans. We are honoring our military, as well as our law enforcement officers and our firefighters. Because Memorial Day arrives in just a few days, I do plan to honor our Fallen Heroes through the rest of this week.

SSGT Richard T. Pummill of Cincinnati, Ohio, was killed by an IED while conducting combat operations near Nasser Wa Salaam, Iraq on October 20, 2005. SSGT Pummill was a husband and a father, as well as a son and a friend. Before he was assigned to a Weapons Unit and deployed to Iraq, SSGT Pummill was a recruiter in the Lexington, Kentucky recruiting station. He just happened to be stationed there at the same time that my son worked there as part of his high school co-op. David entered the USMC in the Delayed Entry Program at the age of 17....yes, I had to sign the papers.......and yes, I had a LOT of questions for SSGT Pummill and the other recruiters! Anyway, David worked in the office daily from noon to 5 pm assisting the recruiters and preparing for boot camp for 11 months before he graduated from high school and headed to Parris Island.

David deployed to Fallujah in March of 2005, and returned to the US in late October 2005. Just a couple of days before SSGT Pummill was killed, David ran into him over in Iraq. He called me to tell me he had run into Pummill and was really excited that he had run into his old recruiting buddy. Due to the fact that David's unit was soon to be heading back to the states, he did not realize that SSGT Pummill was killed until he returned to the states about 10 days later. Needless to say it was quite a shock and a huge loss. It's hard to picture that friendly face that greeted us at the door of the recruiting center and realize that he has made the ultimate sacrifice at such a young age. I'm glad I had the opportunity to know SSGT Pummill and I'm glad he had a chance to be an influence on my son. The next time you see a recruiter, take a second and say thanks. Chances are they have already seen a few deployments, and will probably see a few more. They are also the ones that can pick out a "hero in the making". We need people to recognize them and send them along the path of service. Running for SSGT Pummill, who made the ultimate sacrifice for me, was a true honor!

Thank You

I wanted to write and thank you for this blog.

I am Joan, mom to LCpl Garrett, 3/8 Battalion, Weapons Co., CAAT Platoon, currently deployed to Afghanistan. I have been following Kenny Bowen's progress as much as possible. I was looking for an update today and found your blog during my search.

Our son called us the Monday after the IED explosion that injured Kenny and Kevin, and killed Julian. Garrett called home when he could to let us know what happened and to ask us to pray for the men and their families. We have been praying ever since.

Please tell the Bowens as a group, and Kenny in particular, that we remember him and are still praying for him. We also pray for Kevin Preach's family, and Julian Brennan's. Both died during or following that IED explosion and our hearts are heavy for their loss. I keep their names in a notebook in my purse and pray for them regularly. We will not forget them, nor their ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

Please tell your son, also that we thank him for his service from the bottom of our hearts. Ours is also a military family, with several generations of service members from five branches. One uncle lies at Normandy; he was in the 101st Airborne, a Screaming Eagle of the 501st Parachute Regiment, kia 6/8/1944. There are no words to express the honor and appreciation we have for brave heroes like these men and women. Also, like you, 3/8 is very near and dear to my heart. Garrett has a year left with 3/8, so we're still on that rollercoaster. :-)

I will definitely share this blog link with other friends and 3/8 family. Thank you, and blessings,

Walking to Remember

I used to run. A lot. Not fast, but a lot. One day, I climbed a set of stairs and realized that my running days would be few and far between. So then, as life will tend to teach you, I learned that it was ok to walk. I have been walking for several years- sometimes for health, sometimes for a size 10 jean, sometimes to re-connect with old friends who also walked (often watching from the sidelines while I ran). But then I found Beth and Military Missions and Steps to Honor and now I walk to remember. Although I don't know as many soldiers, police officers and firefighters as she does, I hope that in doing this, I will meet more. Until then, please forgive me for what may seem like trivial blog posts - honoring the family or the famous. It is my hope and my prayer that this will bring so many more names and stories into my life, just as Beth does with her posts everyday. So, here goes with day 1: 3 miles

Mile 1 is and always will be for my husband, Capt. Neal Miller. A veteran of 2 tours to the Middle East and currently home, serving as Chief Husband, he serves this country because it's what he wants to do. He joined the Army when he was 17, opting out of ROTC and moving up through the ranks at a steady pace. He is modest about his service and dedicated to the greater good. And I am dedicated to him.
Mile 2 is for my father, a retired warrant officer and veteran of the Vietnam War. He served in the Big Red 1 during his deployment and was going to remain in the regular Army - but y'know that's sort of hard on the family life. So, in order to be able to continue serving our country, he joined the National Guard. Thus, I am not an Army brat. But he did set the standard for men in my life: he's honest, hardworking, and believes in what America stands for. He knows that nothing worth having comes easily - so I've chosen a picture of him receiving an award. Heaven knows he's earned it.
Mile 3 is for my grandfather, Elmer "Red" Halcomb. He was a WWII veteran and served our country at the Battle of the Bulge. I looked high and low for a picture of him in uniform, but this is how I remember him anyway. One of the greatest memories I have of him is going to the local VFW on Friday nights and playing pull-tab lottery tickets until the table was littered with scraps and the men had told a hundred stories. He loved the Army, he loved his Army buddies, and he flew a flag outside of his house until the day he died. He loved this country.

Monday, May 18, 2009

SSG Delmar White was loved by everyone. He was a great daddy, an awesome husband, a good friend, and a good listener. He had quite a sense of humor from all reports. SSG White was killed by a roadside bomb while escorting a convoy in Iraq on Sept. 2, 2007. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery, Kentucky Army National Guard at the time of his death. SSG White joined the KY National Guard in 1998 and was also a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf War. SSG White’s death hit our town of Lexington hard. Though I didn’t know him personally, it seems like everyone else did. I can’t count the number of people that knew this man, loved him, and was torn up by his passing. I attended his visitation and was overwhelmed at the outpouring of love for this soldier. I met his wife, Michelle at the visitation. She and I have some mutual friends so we know of one another, but I had the chance to meet her again just a few days ago. She saw me wearing a STEPS to HONOR shirt and asked me where I got it. As I started to explain, she quickly interrupted me saying she knew all about the program and all about Military Missions. You shouldn’t be surprised to know that she is now busy helping to get the word out about Military Missions and STEPS to HONOR. I know that Del would be so proud to see Michelle carrying on as a Patriot for her country. Del’s ultimate sacrifice has forever changed her life and the lives of their children, but she is going to honor his memory by continuing to support our troops and their willingness to serve. My three miles today were in honor of SSG White. Remember to honor him for his ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day next week. It’s the least we can do after what he did for all of us.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A couple of days ago I received a registration from a Marine Mom who wanted to participate in STEPS to HONOR. Colleen Johnson will be honoring her son, Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson who was killed in Afghanistan on January 27, 2009. In “meeting” Colleen via email, I had the opportunity to learn a little bit about Trevor. Now knowing about Trevor and his sacrifice for all of us, I decided to learn more about him. I did a google search before I ran in his honor today.

Trevor was raised on a ranch in Montana. He knew he wanted to serve in the military by the time he was 8 years old. He enlisted in the USMC at the age of 17 in the Delayed Entry Program. (Eligibility to enlist begins at age 17 if a parent signs and gives permission. Individuals can enlist on their own at the age of 18.) One news article described Trevor as a prankster and a bit of a renegade. I am already fond of Trevor as I read more about him. One could be describing my own son! Trevor was also described as athletic, handsome, and bright. Trevor served his commitment of 4 years and made the decision to reenlist. He knew he was not finished serving his country. Trevor was serving on his third deployment with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, when he was killed by a roadside bomb. From what I have read, Trevor was a son, husband, father, friend, and dedicated Marine. I wish I had known him because I’d like to thank him for his service and sacrifice face to face.

I feel privileged to have met Trevor’s mom, Colleen through email. She and Trevor’s dad, Tom are amazing people. It has only been a few months since Trevor’s death, but they are opening their ranch to Marines that are suffering from PTSD and TBI. They also have extended an open invitation to the Marines that served with Trevor. Colleen has even extended an invitation to my son, a Marine Sergeant. That blows my mind! The Johnsons have every reason to be in mourning right now....and I am sure that they are mourning Trevor’s death, but they are remembering their son in a positive way and they are going to make a difference in the lives of our Marines that do make it back home safely. Trevor is not the only member of the Johnson family serving! He obviously learned something about service from his parents. Today’s three miles were all run in honor of Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson and his amazing family!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SSgt Matthew Burke - USAF
I had the pleasure of meeting SSgt Burke one day when he called to see if I could take 2000 bags of Cheese Nips off his hands. The snacks had been donated by the local ice skating rink. The students had packed all of these snacks into boxes to be sent overseas. SSgt Burke just completed a three year assignment at the Lexington, Kentucky USAF recruiting office. I had a few opportunities to work with SSgt Burke during his last year in Lexington. It was sad to see him move on to his next duty station just last month. He has a real heart for military service and a heart for Christ. It was my honor to run a mile for SSgt Burke today. He and I actually worked out at the same gym so he knows how much I hate to run. It isn’t so bad when you do it for someone like SSgt Burke. Thanks for your service, SSgt. May God bless you as you continue on.

CDR Gordon D. Ritchie, Chaplain. I ran to honor Chaplain Ritchie today. He is the nicest Marine I’ve ever spoken to over the phone. I am usually a bit scared to talk to USMC officers (they are all SO serious!), but Chaplain Ritchie is warm and friendly. He has a difficult job as he serves as the chaplain for the Wounded Warrior Regiment in Quantico, Virginia. Dealing with the issues that face our wounded Marines and their families has to be at the very least, challenging, but Chaplain Ritchie is obviously the man for the job. I’ve only met him over the phone and have no idea what he looks like, but I can assure you that his eyes twinkle and he has a very warm smile. I could hear it in his voice. Thank you Chaplain, for all you do every day to make things a little bit better for our Wounded Warriors. It was an honor to run mile #2 for you today.

MSG Gary Mabley, Army Reserve, has served almost 35 years in the reserve. He is on his third deployment in the past 4 or 5 years. Gary is a friend that I met several years ago at church. I knew he was in the Army Reserve, but I mainly thought of him as Christian, church friend, husband, father, and USPS employee. This was years before my own son was old enough to enlist in the USMC and force the reality of military service on me. I know that Gary has been deployed and away from home more than he has been home over the past 4 or 5 years.......and he is a reservist. This should open your eyes to the reality of the role for what some of us would like to call “Weekend Warriors”. These people are just as committed as those serving active duty. Sadly, their families don’t have the benefit of living on or nearby a military base when their loved one is called up to serve. Most of them live through a deployment “on their own” because those of us in “civilianville” don’t seem to notice! Thank you Gary, for serving THIRTY FIVE years! Thank you to your precious family who has served here on the home front! We pray for your safe return! I ran the third mile for you. The third mile is always the hardest, but honoring you and your 35 years of service was worth it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

On January 24, 2009, three Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force were struck by a roadside bomb blast during a combat mission in Afghanistan's Farah Province, a growing hotbed of Taliban activity. LCPL Julian T. Brennan (left), 25, of Brooklyn, New York was killed in the explosion. LCPL Kevin T. Preach (right), 21, of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, was severely burned and lost both legs and a hand. LCPL Preach died from his wounds on Feb. 7, 2009. To read more about these two men, you can do a google search and you will find several articles that can give you an idea of who these two men were and you will be glad you took a few minutes to get to know them. After all, they made the ultimate sacrifice for you, so spending five minutes learning a little something about them is worth your time.

The third Marine in the truck that day was CPL Kenneth Charles Bowen. Kenny was also severely injured in this IED explosion. Kenny was the squad leader riding in the passenger seat when the armored vehicle was hit by the roadside bomb. He has been recovering at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, since he was brought back to the states four months ago. Kenny is going home to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a visit this weekend. It will be the first time he has left Brooke Army Medical Center and the first time he has been home since the explosion.

If you have been reading this blog, by now you have probably noticed that everyone I’ve honored so far has a personal connection to me in some way. (Once I finish running in honor of everyone I can possibly think of, I will start honoring people that I haven't had the privilege to know, but served for me anyway.) I didn’t know of LCPL Brennan, LCPL Preach, or CPL Kenny Bowen until Saturday evening. I received an email from my good friend, Val. Her son, Chas served with my son during two deployments to Fallujah. I had just sent her our new Military Missions t-shirt. I figured she would want one since the logo features her son....he’s the Marine on the far right if you check out the back side of the shirt! Val loved her new t-shirt and wore it over to her friend, Wendy’s house. Wendy just happens to be mom to Cpl Kenny Bowen. Chas and Kenny grew up together and both ended up serving in the USMC. (By the way, Kenny even called Val to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day yesterday because the two families are just that close!) Wendy is really excited about Kenny coming home and she wanted to order a bunch of our everyone could wear one when Kenny comes home. (In case you’re wondering why these t-shirts are so appealing, it might be because the front of the shirt says “Freedom Isn’t Free” and the back is pretty awesome too!). Val sent me an email to see if she could get some shirts and told me the story behind her request.

It turns out that Kenny was in the TOW Platoon, which was in the Weapons Company of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. It just so happens that we (Military Missions) has been sending packages to 3 different guys in 3/8 Weapons Co. since they deployed before Christmas in 2008. We were sending unit boxes to these guys because we heard they were in a pretty remote place in Afghanistan and didn’t receive much mail. Now, I have no idea if any of our mail ever reached Brennan, Preach, or Bowen, but I do know that I have been praying for 3/8 daily since I first found out they deployed. Honestly, I’ve been praying for 3/8 for years. My son was attached to 3/8 during part of his first deployment and one of my dearest friends’ son was in 3/8 for two deployments back in 2005-2006. After learning of the connection that Kenny has to Chas (the guy on the right in our logo), and the fact that 3/8 holds a special place in my heart, this situation just became personal too. I actually felt myself overcome with emotion and unable to speak for several minutes. Most anyone that lives in the extended military family can tell you the same type of stories over and over. We love everyone single one of these men and women that are willing to serve and sacrifice for us.

So, even though I didn’t make a long story short today, I did run three miles in honor of three Marines that served for me and for you. If you can find a few minutes, please read up on these heroes and their families. Keep the families of the fallen in your prayers, and keep Kenny and his family in your prayers as he goes through a lot more recovery and healing. My deepest gratitude goes out to families of LCPL Brennan, LCPL Preach, and CPL Bowen. Thank you for raising men willing to stand in the gap for all of us.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I’d like to wish all the moms out there a Happy Mother’s Day! I especially want to thank all of you that are military moms, as well as those of you that are called "mom" by a firefighter or a law enforcement officer. It is definitely a tough job. None of us “enlisted” (or volunteered) as our children have done. Instead we were “drafted”....with no choice but to accept our new role the day our kids took the oath to protect this nation. I remember being pretty upset the day I officially became a Marine Mom....but it was really because I was scared. Looking back 5 years later, I can honestly say that it has been a blessing and an honor to be a Marine Mom. I wouldn’t change a minute of this experience.

Because it is Mother’s Day, I think it’s appropriate to honor my own son when I run today. He is my first born, and was the one that made it possible for me to add the role of mother to my resume. Sgt. David Pennington is an active duty Marine. At this point, he has been deployed three times. This photo is one of my all time favorites. This was my Mother’s Day gift in 2006. There is no better gift than this when your son is deployed to a war zone. Thank you, David, for serving your country. I am proud of all of your accomplishments and I am thankful to be the one you call “Mom”.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Retired Major General Donald C. Storm was appointed as the Adjutant General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky by Governor Ernie Fletcher on Dec. 9 2003 and served in that position until Dec. 11 2007. I ran my first mile in his honor today.

If you read about all of Gen. Storm’s accomplishments, one would think that it would be an intimidating experience to meet such a man. I had the privilege of meeting Gen. Storm in May of 2007. Upon entering his office, I was nervous for about 2 seconds before I realized that Gen. Storm was warm and friendly. He immediately put me at ease. Not only is the man brilliant, but he is full of interesting stories about his experiences in life. He has a huge heart for all that serve and has a strong interest and concern for the family members of our military. Gen. Storm shared the story of his feelings of concern for his parents during his first deployment many years ago. He told me of their reunion when he returned from deployment and the fact that he would never forget seeing their relieved faces when they were reunited. He took that experience with him throughout his career and made sure to set the family of our soldiers as a priority. I can tell you that from the perspective of this “Marine Mom” I find it very comforting to know that such a leader would be truly concerned about family members of our military. We need to know that someone is looking out for our loved ones. When one joins the military, it has to come first. It is a lot easier to understand the commitment one is making to serve when the families are considered a priority. Thank you for all you have done to make this nation a better place, Gen. Storm, and thank you for showing me a side of military leadership that I would have never thought existed!

My second mile today was run in honor of CPL Josh Watkins, USMC. Josh made the ultimate sacrifice on October 21, 2006. Josh served with my son in 2nd Tank BN, Tow Platoon. Josh and a few other Marines in the Tow Platoon stepped in to work with the new replacements for one last shift. Most of the unit was packed and ready to come home to the states. That small group was met by sniper fire in the last hour of the last mission of the deployment. Josh was hit and died a few hours later. I don’t think anyone will ever understand the timing for this one. Josh served two deployments in Iraq. He was a good Marine and a special friend. He will always be fondly remembered. We are forever grateful for your sacrifice Wookie.

Form a STEPS to HONOR Walking or Running Group in your community!

One of our group members at Military Missions had a great idea. Allyson suggested forming groups to walk or run together for STEPS to HONOR. There are a lot of us that prefer exercising with a friend or a group. It keeps us accountable and it's a lot of fun.

We've decided to form a group here in Lexington. We will meet together (details TBA) and walk or run together once a week. We are all going to purchase STEPS to HONOR t-shirts and wear them while we are walking. All participants will be walking to honor the heroes of their choice.

Imagine how many people will start to ask questions when they see your group walking by and everyone is wearing a STEPS to HONOR t-shirt! Your group is sure to catch the attention of people in your community and you can get even more people involved in this awareness program.

Here in Lexington, just like most communities, we have a lot of walks and runs scheduled throughout the summer months. Why not train together for one of the events and then participate as a group (wearing your STEPS to HONOR t-shirts of course!).

Do you have any good suggestions to help us get the word out about STEPS to HONOR? If so, please contact us at We'd love to share them with everyone so we can get people all the way across the country involved.

By the way, our t-shirts arrived yesterday. If you want to purchase one and get things started in your town, go to

Friday, May 8, 2009


The response has been great since we launched STEPS to HONOR! Though the program does not "officially" start until Memorial Day, we have been receiving registrations all week long. People from 26 states, Washington, DC, and four foreign countries have registered.

We hope to see all fifty states represented before Memorial Day (May 25, 2009)! Spread the word and get everyone you know to register. Think about all the different contact groups you belong to and consider sending them the information about STEPS to HONOR. We have flyers and a press release that you can forward to anyone you know that benefits from the service of our heroes. Send a request to and we will forward the information so you can send it to all of your friends.

Here are the states and countries represented so you see your state?
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Belgium, Canada, France, and South Korea.

Please register so we can add your state to our list! Let's show our heroes how much we appreciate them in EVERY state!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

We actually saw the sun shining today in the Bluegrass! We haven't seen much of it lately so with the cool breeze and 65 degree weather, I decided to run my three miles outside today.

GySgt. Tony Rider was a platoon leader during my son’s first deployment to Iraq. Tony is a Marine reservist from Kansas City. His platoon was activated and deployed with the Tow Platoon back in 2005. Tony is a hero in more ways than one. Not only is he a great Marine, but he is a good mentor, a good friend, and a terrific husband and daddy to three beautiful girls. Knowing my son was deployed with someone like Tony made it a lot easier to sleep at night. Thanks for your service, Tony!

Major Walter Leaumont serves in the Kentucky National Guard, working full time as a training and administrative officer for a Brigade Support Battalion. (I do have to mention that he started his military career as a Marine!) He is a source of encouragement, always has a smile on his face, and is a HUGE UK sports fanatic! I actually met Walt as somewhat of a penpal. He started out as a name on my care package list, but he and I wrote a few letters back and forth and four or five years later, I’ve had a chance to get to know him. Walt goes beyond the call of duty to make this nation a better place! Thanks Walt!

Capt. Chris Conklin is a Chaplain in the USAF. He is currently deployed. He has a heart for Christ and has been faithful to share Christ’s love with our troops. We need guys like Chris! He is there to keep our troops encouraged when they are separated from family and dealing with all the harsh realities of deployment. I know he is changing lives and it was a privilege to run a mile in his honor today.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tomorrow my own personal battle begins....

I hate running. I can't run that far, I can't run that long. My life could be full of i can'ts, i wonts, i hates....however, my husband gives me the strength and inspiration to want to be better. To want to honor. He didn't want to get up at 4:30am for PT every morning. He never wanted to do field training for a week, or a month without getting to come home. He didn't want to go to Iraq for the second time. Everyday he does things he doesn't nessesarily want to do. And this is the day I begin honoring him in a way that is healthy for the both of us. This is the day i have the motivation. For him, for me. I may not be running in the sandbox in 100 degree weather, but im running. I miss you SPC. Bentley. I wait for you with all my love.
Today I ran 3 miles and walked 2 miles. Here is an update on the heroes I honored with today’s STEPS.

Mile 1 - Tow Platoon, 2nd Tank BN, 2 MAR
When I was trying to come up with today’s heroes, I started thinking through all the guys that deployed with my son back in 2005 and again in 2006. There were so many of them that I realized it would take me weeks to get on to the next group of heroes. I decided that I would run a mile in honor of the platoon today. These guys will always be very special to me. I had the privilege of getting to know many of these Marines and their families. We had a close-knit group of family members that supported each other through two deployments. The Tow Platoon extended family became my family. I know that the Marines that served alongside my son will always be his brothers. I can’t possibly understand the bond that these men will always share, but I do know that I share a pretty special bond with their family members. To all of you in 2nd Tanks, Tow Platoon serving in 2005 and 2006 tours to Fallujah......thank you for your service! Semper Fi!

Mile 2 - Jeff Smith, Veteran US Army
I am proud to call Jeff Smith my friend. He is one of the most patriotic people I have ever met. He loves God and country more than most of us put together! He comes from a long line of military service. His grandfather served in WWI, his father served in WW2, his brother served in Vietnam, and Jeff’s army service took him to Germany. Jeff’s son served three tours, 2 to Iraq and 1 to Afghanistan. Needless to say, Jeff and his family deserve at least a mile of my STEPS today! Thank you to ALL the Smith family veterans. We are a better nation because of people like you!

Mile 3 - Lt. Brenda Cowan, Fallen Firefighter, Lexington, KY
I did not have the privilege of knowing Lt. Brenda Cowan, but I know that she was an amazing hero. Lt. Cowan was the first female African American to join Lexington’s fire department. She was killed in the line of duty, February 13, 2004, just a week after she was promoted to Lieutenant. Cowan was a dedicated member of the fire department who is remembered as a courageous and humble woman. She is dearly missed here in Lexington, and we are all truly grateful for her service.

Mile 4 - LCPL Chase Comley, Fallen Marine, 2D Assault Amphibian BN, B Co, 2 Mar Div, II MEF
Chase Comley was only 21 on August 6, 2005, when he died while serving his country in Iraq. Chase was a graduate of Sayre School in Lexington, Kentucky. He won a number of athletic awards at Sayre, was the starting center for his basketball team, and played pitcher and catcher for Sayre’s baseball team. Chase was always a good athlete. He was the pitcher for my son’s baseball team at Gardenside Little League. Coincidentally, even though Chase and my son, David, were not in the same unit, they both served together at the same FOB, Camp Smitty. We think the world is a big place, but two kids from Little League found themselves serving together to establish a forwarding operating base back in 2005. From all who knew him, it is said that it was an honor to serve alongside LCPL Chase Comley. Thank you for your sacrifice, Chase. We will always be grateful that you stood in the gap for each of us.

Mile 5 - Gunnery Sgt. Michael Anderson, USMC
When I met Michael Anderson he was “Sgt. Anderson”. His name was mentioned quite regularly around our house. He was the Marine recruiter based in Lexington, Kentucky at the time that my son was begging us to sign the papers for the Delayed Entry Program which allow one to enter the Corps at the tender age of 17. I had some serious doubts about one of my kids entering the USMC, but Sgt Anderson spent plenty of time helping my husband and I work through our concerns. I’m sure you are shaking your head. Recruiters get a bad name. People accuse them of just wanting to reach their quota and more. Perhaps that is true for some, but “Sgt. Anderson” took my boy under his wing and spent an entire year preparing David for boot camp and his life as a future Marine. Sgt. Anderson is now Gunnery Sgt. Anderson. He is a career Marine. Shortly after he left the Lexington recruiting office, he was deployed to Iraq. He continues to move to the places where he is called by the Corps. After 5 years, he still keeps in touch with my son. I don’t know if he is still mentoring all of his recruits, but I do know that he is faithful to be there to advise my son to this day. Thank you Gunny Anderson! You will always hold a special place in my heart!

Monday, May 4, 2009

STEPS to HONOR officially starts on Memorial Day (Monday, May 25), however, I have been running and/or walking in honor of heroes for several months so I thought I would go ahead and start blogging about it so you would have an idea of what this is all about. First of all, you don’t have to wait until May 30 to get started. Right now is a perfect time. The starting date is set only because most programs have a beginning and an end.

Today I really had to motivate myself to get moving. I had some sort of virus and didn’t darken the door of the YMCA for ten days. That is the longest I have been away from daily exercise in over 20 months. Typically, I might miss two days in a row over a weekend, but never ten! I actually handled it much better than I would have thought, but I may feel it when I get up tomorrow!

I think I have mentioned previously that I really don’t like to run. I know it is good for me so I do it, but I absolutely have to listen to my iPod. I make playlists with favorite songs and try to change the music up about once a week. Today I ran with a great mix of music by The Wrecking and Remedy Drive. By the way, both of these bands are going to be at the Ichthus Festival. We (Military Missions) will have an exhibition booth at the festival and I am hoping to get the band members to write a couple of cards to our troops!

I ran three miles today and ran in honor of the following heroes:
Retired Lexington Police Officer, Tommy Puckett
PFC Adam Puckett, USMC
ENS Jeff Milward, US Navy

Tommy Puckett happens to be Lexington's longest serving patrolman. He retired in January, after 36 years on the force. It is an honor and privilege to be able to call Tommy a friend. He would probably be embarrassed if he knew I ran in his honor and then posted it on the internet....but that is because he is a humble guy who would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need. He helps out a lot at Military Missions. Last December he helped me load 605 care packages into a borrowed police van. (Yes, it was just the two of us loading the boxes in the van!) On the way to the post office, Tommy came up with some help and we had a big crew helping to unload the packages.

Adam Puckett just happens to be the son of Officer Tommy Puckett. I guess service runs in the family! Adam is a US Marine. He just returned from a deployment in Iraq and is now training for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. I had the privilege of sending Adam and his unit some packages while they were deployed and the blessing of meeting him at the airport when he returned home to Lexington for R&R after deployment.

Jeff Milward, an officer in the US Navy, is currently serving in Afghanistan. I haven’t met Jeff yet, but I know his parents and his uncle. If Jeff is anything like the rest of the family, he has to be one amazing guy. I’m looking forward to meeting him when he gets back to Lexington!