Celebrating Life

First things first, time to announce my Vega Energizing Smoothing winner.  Congratulations JenniferLynn I will be contacting you shortly for shipping details.

Now that I have that out of the way, I want to talk about today.  Today used to be just plain ol’ November 16th, nothing fancy to it, no reason to pay it any special attention until 7 years ago.  On this day, November 16, 2005, my family found out that my brother had been killed in Iraq. Instantly, November 16th became a day that I would never forget.

I still remember every single detail about when and how I found out, what time of day it was, even what the weather was like outside.  It’s fascinating to me how our brains lock in certain details and keep them forever.  I will probably be able to recall the same vivid details when I’m 80.  Some day I’ll share them, but this post isn’t the right time.

Roger had been killed with several other Marines while searching farm houses for terrorists as part of Operation Steel Curtain.  They came under gunfire and a terribly fierce battle erupted that altered the lives of countless people.  My brother was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his heroism.  I encourage you to read the short citation from his Bronze Star; it gives you some idea of what happened that day.

This is from the memorial in Iraq. So many lives lost in a period of 3 days.

From Roger’s funeral; just a few days after Thanksgiving.

Each year on this day I stop by and visit my brother and say hi to him from my Mom and Dad since they live too far away and can’t.  I drop off flowers and give him an update on what’s going on.  I try not to play the ‘what if’ game but, inevitably, I’m going to lose and sometime today I’ll find myself wondering ‘what if’ he was still here or some variation of that scenario.

While this is a very sad day by all means, I try not to let the past dictate my happiness.  I choose to celebrate life instead of pine over death.  I choose to remember my brother and all the silly/dangerous/ridiculous things we did together as kids.  All the fights we got into.  All the advice he passed on to me.  His infectious grin.

And tomorrow, I choose to be a kid again.  I will run carefree through the streets of New Orleans in a tutu while strangers throw powdered paint at me.  (Sounds like fun, right?)  When I signed up for The Color Run last February I knew that it would fall this weekend and I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate life.  Roger was a fun guy and I can imagine him having a blast throwing paint at random people.

Everyone deals with grief differently.  It’s ok to be sad, angry, numb, confused, whatever.  But it’s important to remember that it’s also ok to be happy.  Nothing says that you’re bound to sadness; it’s a choice that’s made and I choose happiness.  I choose to cast my excess baggage on God and let him carry the burden for me.  After all, his shoulders are much more broad than mine.

The first year after Roger was killed I dreaded today like the plague.  I didn’t know what to expect or how I would  react.  Over the years, I’ve realized that if I make a conscious effort to address that this day (or other significant days like his birthday) are going to be emotionally charged, I have a much better chance of it not affecting me.  It’s the times I’m not prepared that really catch me off guard and knock me on my butt.  Trust me, I have plenty of spontaneous pity-parties during the year but today, and this weekend, will not be one of them.

To say I’m excited about The Color Run tomorrow would be an understatement.  I have been talking about this race since before I even knew it was coming to New Orleans.  There’s just something about finishing a race looking like an Oompa Loompa that really appeals to me.  I have all of my neon gear and I’m ready to go get pelted with paint! I know Roger would have liked that.

I miss my brother dearly and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, the other families that lost their hero, and also the men that were survived.  I honestly think today is much harder for those Marines that survived and I pray for peace of mind for them.

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3.1 for Roger’s 31

Monday was Roger’s 31st birthday (if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram I apologize for blowing up your news feed with sappy posts).  So in memory of what would have been the beginning of his 31st year, I decided to run 3.1 miles.  It seemed only fitting that I should run a 5k on his birthday since I’ll be running a marathon for him on my birthday.  Yep, October is filled with both birthdays and memory miles.

There was a happy birthday balloon attached but it flew away before I could get the picture. At least his team colors (University of Michigan Wolverines -Go Blue!) stayed.

This run wasn’t about time or speed, just merely reflection.  So I grabbed my tennis shoes and Ipod and headed out the door to run the route that Roger and I ran many times together.  I rarely run with music unless it’s at the gym or a race but I was feeling particularly masochistic so I cranked up “Roger’s Playlist” which is patriotic songs like American Soldier, If You’re Reading This, Arlington…You know, the songs that make you cry even when you haven’t lost someone to war.  Fantastic choice, Gina…..

About 1/3 way through the run I turned a corner and had a flashback to the last time we ran together.  It was right before he enlisted in the Marines and he was getting ready to go through all the testing.  I was having trouble keeping up with him and he kept harassing me for it.  I smile now, knowing that I could totally lap him a million times over if he were still alive. (Ah, sibling rivalry at its finest.)

About the same time ‘If You’re Reading This’ by Tim McGraw started playing.  There’s a particular verse in the song that always gets to me.  “If  you’re reading this half way around the world, I won’t be there to see the birth of our little girl. I hope she looks like you, I hope she fights like me. And stands up for the innocent and the weak.”  My niece was born 2 days before Roger’s birthday; she never got to meet her daddy.

Commence the water works.  I have never cried while running but I guess there’s a first for everything.  Between the combination of sweat, snot and tears I’m sure I looked like Ms. America (ha!) to the construction guys I ran by.  I’m surprised nobody called the cops.  “Um, yeah, there’s this crazy lady running around our construction site….You may want to come and check her out….make sure she’s not rabid or anything.”

Luckily the tears were short lived; but the memories just kept coming.  Which is nice because after so many years, I worry I’m going to forget him.  Memories of rollerblading, ice skating, and building snow forts when we were little, hanging on for dear life after he got his driver’s license (The Fast and the Furious didn’t have anything on him), going shopping with him to help match clothes (he was color blind), getting yelled at to ‘get that boy out of your room before dad gets home’ (whoops…), and I also remembered the not so great memories – we were after all brother and sister and fought like it.

After all was said and done, it was a very cathartic run and I’m glad I was able to do it.  I still had my scheduled training run to do Monday night but I really wanted to dedicate this time to Roger.

Happy 31st birthday, Roger! Love, your annoying little sister.

RFR: Run for Roger

In loving memory of Roger Deeds, 10/1/81 – 11/16/05

I can’t believe that yesterday marked the 11th anniversary of the most heinous attack on American soil in recent history.  On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my zoology class watching the whole thing unfold; my adolescent brain not being able to reconcile the images on TV and the fact that everyone’s lives had just been instantly transformed.  I still can’t watch any footage from 9/11 without tears streaming down my face but I find comfort remembering the days after the attack when our country became totally unified.

If there is one singular event that I can pinpoint as the reason my brother became a Marine, it would be September 11, 2001.  Anybody that knew Roger would tell you that he was born with the military gene; he just kind of oozed it (even during his rebellious teenage years).  I’m pretty sure scientists haven’t discovered the “born to be in the military” gene, but whatever it is, Roger had it.  Kidding aside, my dad was career military so I guess you can say it kind of rubbed off on Roger.  Roger loved history and you could always find him reading a military novel or biography.  He was in JROTC in high school and it came as no surprise when he joined the military.

Boot camp graduation pictures of my Dad (L) and my brother (R).

 As you know from reading my blog, in 6 1/2 short weeks I’ll be running my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon.  When non-runners (and even some runners) find out I’m training for a marathon they automatically want to know why I would put myself through something so intense.  “Why would you do that? You must be crazy.”  My answer to their question why leaves little room for argument in whether or not a sane person would run 26.2 miles.  So what’s the answer? I’m running in memory of my brother.  Then there’s the typical awkward silence.

Roger (L) pictured with Cpl. Jeffry Rogers (R) who was also killed on 11/16/05.

Memorial Day 2006. The first time I fully understood what the holiday was about.

Even though this is my first marathon, I really don’t look at it as my own.  This one is totally for Roger. Now that training is getting harder, the race getting closer, I’m constantly reminding myself of the reason I’m running it.  When I want to give up during a particularly hard run, I think about everything that Roger and his fellow brothers-in-arms endured to secure my freedom.  How they would never give up when the going gets tough.

On November 16, 2005, Roger, my big brother, my only sibling, was killed in action in Iraq on.  Almost 7 years later I remember every detail about the night I found out he was killed.  It’s strange how some things are seared in your memory; half the time I can’t even tell you what I wore yesterday.  Roger was killed 10 weeks after Hurricane Katrina had devestated the city that I lived in.  I was at work when I found out; Jody came to get me saying that my mom who lives in Minnesota had called and left a message asking he take me someplace private and then call her.  I knew at that moment someone had died.  I naively hoped it wasn’t Roger, but my hope was misplaced.   I remember Mom telling me in a calm voice and then asking if I was ok, her priorities focused on her living child and not the one she had just lost.  I responded by asking her to put me on the phone with the casualty officer.  He confirmed what Mom had told me, Roger had been killed by enemy fire.

Taken at Roger’s funeral.

Now, I don’t really know a lot of the details, which may be for the best, but from what I know is Roger and his fellow Marines were searching for terrorists during Operation Steel Curtain.  They were tasked with the job of searching and clearing farm houses and were met with enemy resistance.  The story that my family has pieced together is that Roger was shot while attempting to save another Marine.  Obviously, I wasn’t there to verify the story but it’s definitely something he would do.   He was selfless like that. His Bronze Star Citation states that he “launched a recovery effort”…”to secure and render aid to embattled Marines”.  After everything was all said and done, Roger and 7 others had paid that ultimate price for our freedom; countless other Marines still carry the scars (both physical and emotional) from that day.

Makeshift memorial in Iraq of the fallen members of Fox Company 2/1.

I miss him terribly.  I miss hearing his voice, I miss being harassed by him, I miss play fighting with him.  I miss that he didn’t get to see his beautiful children  grow up or help me tease our mom and dad about turning grey.

Running the Marine Corps Marathon is part of my journey, part of the healing process.  I know that the 26.2 miles of the marathon in no way compares to the hell that Roger went through (and the hell our soldiers still go through) but for me it’s my way of paying tribute to his sacrifice.  It’s a way for me to ensure that he’s not forgotten; that none of the sacrifices our soldiers make are forgotten.  And some small (ok, very big) part of me also feels that running this race would make him proud of me.  Now, I know it’s silly to think a dead person can feel pride but, hey, I’m a silly girl sometimes.  So my mantra for this marathon is “RFR” – run for Roger.  I know that this will be an emotional run for me but I’m so excited to toe up to the start line and listen for the canon to fire.  To read more about growing up with my brother, check out my My Brother, My Hero.

Question of the day: Have you ever run an event in memory of someone? I would love to hear about it!

Freedom

Happy Memorial Day everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying this amazing three day weekend.  I just got back from a quick trip to Colorado where I was spoiled with awesome, humidity free running weather with temps ranging from 40 in the morning to 70 in the afternoon.  It’s such a switch coming back to Mississippi where you’re immediately assaulted by the hot temps and humidity.

Ah, lovely Colorado. How I miss your gorgeous scenery and perfect temps already! (Side note…I have no idea why the picture is date stamped 1995…..)

While I know we all love a good three day weekend (no matter what the reason) it’s especially important to recognize the reason behind this particular extended weekend.  A bit of history first.  Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, while not a federal holiday until 1971, was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, as a way to honor the lives that had been lost during the Civil War (both Union and Confederate were honored).   Hundreds of thousands have sacrificed their lives protecting America in countless wars.

Biloxi National Cemetery. Final resting place to approximately 17,000 of America’s finest men and women. This was taken Memorial Day 2011.

Fast forward 138 years to Memorial Day 2006.  This was the first Memorial Day that I fully realized that the three day weekend I had always enjoyed was more than barbeques and picnics; that it was a gift given to us, purchased with the blood of heroic men and women.  Four of those men are pictured below.  On November 16, 2005, they made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can continue to enjoy our barbeques and picnics.   Thank you to all who have given their lives to keep me (us) free and all of the men and women currently serving to keep us free!!

As you enjoy today, please take a moment to reflect on the reason why we’re able to enjoy it in the first place.  Then grab your spouse, kiddos, friends (heck even a stranger. Ok, just kidding on the stranger bit.) and head to the beach or a barbeque; it’s a beautiful day to enjoy your freedom!

Welcome to My Blog!

Hi everyone! Much to the chagrin of my husband, I have crossed over into the blogging world.  I fought the idea for a long time but finally caved to pressure from family and friends.   Since I work full time, go to school full time, and still attempt to have a life with my hubs, I’m really bad at keeping in touch with my family and friends from across the country.  This blog is a way for me to keep everyone updated (mainly my parents – hi, Mom & Dad!) on the ups and downs of marathon training and share my thoughts on clean eating, healthy living, and life in general.

Oh, yes! This is where I’ll be spending my birthday and I can’t think of a place on Earth I’d rather be! {Photo credit}

This fall I’ll be running my first marathon (26.2 miles – EEK) in Washington, DC.  In honor of my brother.  With some amazing women.  On my birthday!  I am so excited and honestly get emotional thinking about it.  I just keep thinking this is the least I can do to pay tribute to my brother (Lance Cpl. Roger W. Deeds) and his friends (Cpl. Jeffrey A. Rogers, Cpl. Joshua J. Ware, Lance Cpl. John A. Lucente) that were KIA Iraq. I know that I’m going to face my fair share of struggles (the main one being training in the South Mississippi heat) but it’s going to be totally worth it!  If you want to get notified when I update this blog, there’s a subscribe button to the right and you’ll get an e-mail whenever I post something new.  Thanks for stopping by and checking out Noshing on Asphalt!