Heart & Soul

oriental beautyHello everyone—I hope you had a great week. I have something very important to tell you but first, just a couple of announcements. They’ll be quick, I promise.

 
1. Last week we had a first place winner who won all three books of the Major’s “Army Brat” series. Congratulations to Kathy! There are still two more chances to win—second and third place. Please see my Blog from last week for details.

 
2. The book, “Walk with Warriors: Journey of Heroes” by Shannon Whittington is now available on Amazon!
Kindle: http://ow.ly/XqMT30etIeF
Paperback: http://ow.ly/5sTD30etIpb

This book is a compilation of stories contributed by 22 veterans, each sharing their own personal journey in the US Military. These veterans represent all branches of our military. The Major has his story about when he was a Private going through Airborne school in 1980. Check it out! Proceeds from books sales go back into Veteran programs.

 

Now, what I was going to tell you that is very important to me. When I was twelve, I accepted the way, the truth, and the life as being Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I mean, I played the church game while growing up and was even involved with the youth program at our church. But…there was something missing—like the song by U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

 
When my dad was in Iraq, I found myself in my mother’s “Prayer Room” more often than not. During one of those times, I asked the Father to forgive me of my sins through the blood of Jesus who died for you and me. Then I felt an overwhelming peace that—that penetrated deep into my heart. You might say that God is my Heart & Soul! I found a verse in the Bible I think is really cool:

 
Psalm 27:8
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

See—cool, right? I think so anyway. I just had to share that with you. By the way, I still try hard to do the right thing and I have to work on my anger issues some…but nobody is perfect, right? Hee hee, ha ha.

So, until next week—bah

Asha

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Ah’sha

beautiful woman portrait, leaned on handsHey everyone, it’s me again, Asha. I hope you all had a great week! I always do! I have some exciting news to share with you! First, please allow me to set three things straight. Here goes:

 
1. Many people may refer to me as Asha, like Ash’ah. That’s okay but the real way to pronounce my name is, Ah’ sha. We’re cool though, right?

 
2. Although I am only a character in the Major’s book, (He lets me call him “Major”) my pictures are very real because I am a model.

 
3. Finally, my sister Miriam is also a character in the Major’s book but she is also very real as are her photos. She is actually an actress.

 
Whenever you go to https://www.PTSIO.org read our Blogs, and like them, why not reach out to us with your questions, comments, and your own Blogs, writings, pictures, or drawings? We would love to connect and communicate! We promise not to send out emails and newsletters unless you specifically ask for either one. We know exactly how our email accounts get flooded with unwanted spam and stuff so he is not all about that type of advertising.

 
Now for the exciting stuff! The first three people who respond to our PTSIO.org site with anything: questions, comments, his or her work, even just a “Hi” will win prizes. Here is what you do:

 
1. Log into PTSIO.org
2. Read about how cool I am and respond with, “I dig Asha” (Hee hee ha ha).
3. The first person to respond will win the Army Brats trilogy-yep all three.
4. The second person to respond will win the first two books.
5. The third person will win the first book only, about how my parents met in Afghanistan while being chased by the evil Taliban. Even to this day, they are still evil! Yikes!

 

You would just let us know, once notified, whether you want an ebook or hard copy paperback.

 
Well, looking forward to hearing from you! Until next week!

 
Bah (as they say here in Tennessee),
Asha Hawkins (One each)

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Hawkins: Army of One

Portrait in darkHello everyone, it’s me again, Asha—trying to look “BAD…” Hee hee, ha ha. How has everyone been doing since I last communicated with you? Some of you took my advice and wanted to know more about my parent’s story. For the rest of you, you can find it here: https://books.pronoun.com/the-prince-the-princess/

All’s cool with me—thanks for asking. School is about to start again and I look forward to my junior year. My adopted sister, Miriam, will join me as a junior also, which is good because we are the best of friends. I’d like to tell you a little about her so here goes!

When I was almost twelve, my dad was sent on a Top Secret mission. My mom, brothers, and I did not know at the time where he was going but it turns out he was sent to Iraq to rescue another oppressed victim from tyranny. In this case, she turned out to be Miriam.

Back in 2006, my dad and his team were conducting operations in Fallujah, Iraq. This city in the al-Anbar Province along with Ramadi was the birthplace of the “Awakening”. This movement, also known as “The Sons of Iraq” or the “Sahwah” was a unified effort between local Sunni tribal leaders and Coalition forces to remove the influence of Al-Qaeda.

When my dad treated a young five-year-old girl for shrapnel wounds and nursed her to health, she was like his shadow. He also became close friends with Sheik Abdullah from the Albu Nimr tribe as a result—particularly because she, Miriam, was his daughter.

Anyway, seven years later in 2013, ISIS began a sweep back into Iraq from Syria and took over the cities in the al-Anbar province. At first, Sheik Abdullah’s Albu Minr tribe welcomed them warmly because of what they saw as a corrupt Shi’a led government in Baghdad. Then, the people saw how ISIS commanders committed atrocities against anyone opposed to their view. This was the first sign of alarm for many of the local Sunni tribes.

When an ISIS commander took Sheik Abdullah’s oldest daughter in a semi-forcible marriage, he got word out to the CIA with a specific request for my dad, “Commander Hawk,” to come get his youngest daughter to live in the United States and in exchange, he would provide valuable intelligence about an ISIS plan to attack Baghdad.

When I later found out about what my dad went through to get her, I was extremely upset. I’m not going to tell you why though. You’ll have to read it for yourself.
https://books.pronoun.com/the-hawkins/

Well, gotta run! Stay cool—like me! Hee hee, ha ha.
Asha

P.S. Here is a picture of my beautiful sister, Mariam. She’s come a long way since arriving from Iraq. And oh, I have been teaching her Martial Arts for almost three years, so…

Mariam

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Stronghold

007 Baghdad belowYou, Lord, have been and still are my light that guides me through the darkness. You have been and are my salvation—saving me from physical danger and from spiritual annihilation…from Satan’s schemes and clutches. Because this is so, whom shall I fear? The leftist guerrillas in Colombia, South America? You rescued me from their evil scheme and saved me from their destructive bombing in 1976.
Of whom shall I be afraid? The Soviet KGB? You prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies and I enjoyed several delicious meals with the shrewd agent. In the end, I handed him your Word—the Word of God.
How about the Sunni insurgents? Yes, I went to battle in the Middle East four times and came back each time unscathed…despite being on the front lines with the Marines during the Gulf War, residing in Camp “Bombaconda” for a year, and flying around the country of Iraq day and night, making high-risk deliveries to our team. The fact is, you even provided me the information that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein himself.

Because you are the Lord my God—the stronghold of my life…I need not be afraid of anyone. I just need to be still and know that you are God.
(Scripture based on selections from Psalm 23, 27 and 46).

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Post Traumatic Stress In Order by Asha Hawkins

beauty in white

Welcome to Post Traumatic Stress In Order (PTSIO). Hello, my name is Asha Hawkins. I was born in 2002 to Staff Sergeant Ron (Hawk) Hawkins and Sarah (Rajiv-Tamarov) Hawkins. I must begin by telling you that I am the fictional creation of an author and am not a real person. However, I think you will find me quite intriguing even though I am only fifteen.

You see, my father was sent to Afghanistan with his Special Forces team from Fort Campbell, Kentucky not long after terrorists flew commercial aircraft into the New York Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. He was part of a team that was sent to extract the Al Qaeda terrorist network and Taliban government who harbored them.

It was there during this period he met my mother, Sarah. Dr. Mohammed Rajiv took her under his loving care after her mother was shot and killed in crossfire between the Soviets and Mujahedeen. He raised her for twenty years, teaching her many skills under his tutelage, which included multiple languages and medical nursing.

This is how my parents met. When wounded Northern Alliance forces came into the clinic in Dehi, my dad brought medical supplies from his team to assist with treating the casualties. Well, my mother was there also doing the same thing. Because they had been seen speaking to each other, my mom was scheduled for a public execution by the Taliban. I know–Craazzy! Right?

Word of this execution got to my dad who was back with his team. Pleading with his commander, he and another soldier, Staff Sergeant Chris Short, along with her uncle, Abdul Mohaqeq and some of his men went to rescue my mom. During the rescue, there was a “firefight” causing a lot of confusion and separation of the rescue team. As fate would have it, my mom and dad escaped together to a secret hideout in the harsh Hindu Kush Mountains.

After spending a few nights in a cave hideout that my mom knew about, my Christian father and my Muslim mother fell in love. I am very happy they did…for obvious reasons.

I mentioned that my grandmother was killed in one of those “firefights” but what I did not tell you was my paternal grandfather was also killed in battle. He was in the U.S. Army Delta Force and was shot during a 1993 battle in eastern Africa. My dad does not like to talk about it even to this day but he does bring all of us to my grandfather’s gravesite to honor him every year. I wish I would have known him.

Oh, who is all of us? I have two brothers, Caleb who is thirteen and Seth who is eleven. Anyway, back to the story. Although mom and dad fell in love, they both had to escape past the Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces hunting them down and unite with his team. Here is where I will stop for now because if you want to know the details, you should read their story yourself. Trust me, it is good! Oh, the book is called, “Love in the House of War.” Please check it out for yourself: https://books.pronoun.com/the-prince-the-princess/

It is also in paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Love-House-War-Army-Brats/dp/1533218854/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500927821&sr=1-1&keywords=9781533218858

Yes, that’s my mom and dad on the cover! Cool, huh? I think so anyway. Hee hee, ha ha.

Being an “Army Brat” I am a strong advocate for “my creative author’s” Post Traumatic Stress In Order (PTSIO) campaign. He has launched a website for all Veterans, especially those who have been diagnosed with PTSD (I hate that “D” word) and their family members to express themselves through the arts and literature. He, Scott A Meehan, wants to replace that dreaded “D” word with “IO” because he believes that those who have Post Traumatic Stress, like himself, should not carry around the stigma of being associated with a “Disorder.”

I can see his point. Afterall, this guy served twenty-five years in the Army, received a Bronze Star for actions in Iraq, provided information that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein, and retired as a Major. In addition, he has a Master of Arts degree in Computer Resources & Information Management and a MBA in Business Administration, and he is the Lead Business Instructor at City College in Orlando, Florida.

Oh, I do not want to forget. He has been married to his wife (they met in the Amazon jungle—really) for thirty-six years and they have two grown kids and four grandchildren. That does not sound like anyone with a disorder to me, does it to you?  Hee hee, ha ha. Hey, I’m fifteen and can laugh however I want to, you know?

One last thing—no two, sorry. The first is Major (Ret.) Meehan wants to push free education for all Veterans who were deployed overseas during all campaigns, along with their designated family member. No, unlike all the GI Bills and other benefits, this would come from legislators in the House and Senate to pass a Bill enabling this free education without any stipulations or limitations. More to come.

The second is really cool–a contest! Although I am mentioned briefly at the end of the first book, “Love in the House of War,” it isn’t until the sequel, “The Hawkins: Army of One” set twelve years later, when I was twelve years old obviously, is when I become one of the main characters. In this book, I meet my adopted sister, Miriam for the first time. That’s another story I will talk about later. Anyway, my author, the Major, is looking for aspiring writers, especially military brats—but can be anybody, to write a story filling the gap for the time beginning with my birth until his sequel, “The Hawkins: Army of One.” Oh, and don’t forget to include my two brothers. Here is the link for that book:  https://books.pronoun.com/the-hawkins/

Yep, my dad! Cool, right? Hee hee, ha ha.

Signing off for now!
Later,
Asha Hawkins

 

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FEAR

FearEven when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. —Psalm 23:4

A thunderous blast jolted me awake immediately. Struggling to focus in the dark room where I was sound asleep, I wondered whether the sound was in my dream or real. I closed my eyes seeking the restful peace that separated my restless reality…of a broken relationship. Then, I heard voices outside my room! I listened intently, hearing the distinct word, “FIRE!”

My reaction was swift-a burst of perpetual motion starting with my feet hitting the floor, clothes haphazardly thrown on my body, and my hand fumbling for the door knob, all in record time…whatever that was! As I stumbled out my bedroom door, there were several people wandering around in confusion. “What happened?” I asked anyone willing to answer.

A friend, Bob Wheeler, walked over. “Somebody said a bomb went off downstairs!”

“WHAT? Hey, I didn’t even know you were here!”

“Yeah, been here a few days now. Are you all right? You don’t look so good.”

“Not really. Marci and I broke up.”

“No, I mean you are white as a sheet!”

“Oh, I got up too fast and got a blood rush to the head!” I answered while leaning against the wall. “Come on. Let’s go see what happened!”

The two of us headed down the stairs and the sight that met us halfway down was astounding! “My God!” A pile of rubble lay at the bottom of the stairway and a huge, gaping hole gave a perfect view into the gathering crowd of Colombians trying to walk around the glass-shattered streets.

While roaming the crowd, observing the carnage, my eyes caught sight of a young American girl that I had never seen before. She looked to be around fourteen-years-old and appeared to be in shock. I watched her wide, terror-filled, blue eyes piercing through her strands of dark hair streaming down her delicate face for a moment. Her facial expression displayed what I felt deep inside of me…a fear I could not explain.

Over time, my fear only grew, manifesting itself on my next trip to Bogota a month later. Nearly thirty days after the terror-filled night, I was with friends, going to a movie, shopping, and eating at restaurants, the part of life that was void on our mission base in the Llanos.

While walking from the cinema, where we had just finished watching a movie, to a local food café, called Crème Helado, I trailed the pack, purposely, leaving a twenty-meter distance between us. I struggled—not being able to wrap my mind around the mental battle waging between a force of fear and a feeble human attempt to overcome it. The former was growing stronger by the second!

Janet, a girl two years younger than me, with long, wavy blond hair and blue eyes hidden behind wire-rimmed glasses, yelled, “Hey, Scott, are you coming?” as the rest of the group stopped and turned around to face me.

“Yeah, keep going. I’ll catch up.”   The fear swelled inside of me for no apparent reason. I started to sweat, feeling drops of liquid run down my cheeks. The intensity of the emotion caused me to look quickly to my right and left as if in a state of paranoia. I saw nothing—I felt something…but what? It was like an evil invisible force that I could not explain.

Suddenly, this force became a heavy weight pressing down on me, trying to crush my soul! Like in a nightmare, I yelled for help…but no words left my mouth. What happened next was something I will never forget. Like a flashing neon sign on Madison Avenue, the words from Psalm 23:4 lit up. I responded by verbally blurting the words aloud: “When I walk through this valley of death, I will not be afraid, because the Lord my God is with me, his rod and staff comforts me.”

Immediately—no, not one second—but instantaneously, the plunging grip weighing me down disappeared! Not only had the feeling vanished, it—it was replaced entirely by an overwhelming sense of comfort, strength, and peace…a feeling of euphoria! The dark streets of Bogotá seemed to have literally become like day!   Without question, a supernatural event had just taken place that night…and my fears were gone!

Lesson Learned: When facing hardships, such as fear, I found comfort, strength, and peace in God’s word. His words are alive and powerful, sharper than a double-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12).

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Psalms

17-scott-meehan-at-workI discovered throughout my life experiences the book of Psalms–how it contains words that are the foundation for a close relationship with God. Many key words relevant for specific circumstances during unique times were a hallmark or milestone along my journey. Psalm 23, for example, was very real during a time in Bogota, Colombia (1976); Psalm 40 at Fort Bragg, NC (1980); Psalm 91 during Desert Storm (1991)…just to name three out of many.

Not only does the book of Psalms provide personal comfort and strength, especially in the middle of a war zone, it accurately predicts the Messiah’s birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Discover Psalms today. When the words from Psalm 23:5 says, “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” I mentally quoted this passage on several occasions, in Berlin, Riyadh, Bogota, Balad, and many others. In every situation, the rest of the passage was fulfilled: “He anoints my head with oil; my cup runs over.”

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Just Another (War Zone) Day.

010 portrait at LZ WasWhenever I fell asleep, it was sound. I worked from 0700 hours until midnight, six days a week. I had to—in a war zone. I remember when morning came too soon once. It was an hour too early. The thunderous boom jolted me awake instantly. My eyes opened and I stared at the metal ceiling above me. Based on the explosive impact, I assumed there would be casualties, and likely…death.

I lay flat on my bed, closed my eyes, but remained wide awake. Outside my window, I heard recognizable voices and surmised that the team members had gathered beneath the concrete bunkers to take shelter. “Wow, look at that smoke,” I heard one of them say.  Curious, I sat up and looked out the window, trying not to be seen. The thick cloud was a hideous dark black and it moved across the horizon like a slow moving train bent on reaching a destination that was far from its point of origin. The plume loomed low just above the ground as if it was sneaking away from the scene of chaos.

Deciding to get out of bed, I slid myself to the edge of it and looked around the room. No rats. Good. Still in a sitting position, my legs dangling over my boots, I reached for my loaded .9mm pistol on the chair next to my pillow and removed the clip. Sleeping next to a loaded gun became a new habit for me when I arrived to Iraq in the middle of a war. My quarters stood approximately 100 yards from the barbed wire fence separating the military base to the wild frontier, simply referred to as, “Outside the wire”.

With a yawn, I slid my desert camouflage trousers over one leg and then the next, put on a clean pair of socks, and bent over to shake my boots upside down, dumping anything that may have crawled into them during the night. Convinced that it was safe, I methodically pulled them, one after the other, up over the bottom of my pant legs and laced the shoestrings at the top.  Thus, my feet were spared the cold linoleum floor as I ambled to the bathroom sink.

I was in no hurry—the explosion sounded more like an Improvised Explosive device (IED) rather than a barrage of incoming rocket or mortar rounds. Leaning over the sink, I turned the running water on and splashed the cold wet liquid across my face and hair. It was refreshing to have such luxury in the desert.  I looked into the mirror and noticed the aging features behind the clear droplets sticking to my face. I felt that I had aged faster than usual during the past year. I was a forty-six-year-old man with piercing, yet compassionate, hazel eyes and I could not help but notice the shadows forming below them. I was growing weary…and for good reason.

Unlike Desert Storm in 1991, when we confronted the enemy, took care of business, and came home, the picture for Operation Iraqi Freedom was rapidly fading to “bleak.”  By the Spring of 2004 it was apparent to me as a Contingency Contracting Officer, whose mission was to procure supplies and service support for the American soldiers, that there was a shift in the military philosophical strategy—one that indicated we were in this mess for years to come…and no doubt, at a great price. When the soldiers who first attacked Iraq in 2003 began leaving for home after their one-year tour of duty was complete, they were replaced with an increasing amount of soldiers…as well as a large influx of American contractors.

Our service and support procurements were increasingly transitioning to massive base build-ups—swimming pool and theatre renovations, increased dining facilities and post exchanges…all clear indicators of long-term residence.  I did not want to contemplate the matter—it was too depressing to consider any further.

As for me, I patted my face with a towel and forced a smile. I had a date—for home. Though it was still two months away, I looked up towards the heavens where my help came from and said, “Lord, may you continue to cover me beneath your wings and shield me from the fiery arrows from the enemy. Thank you. Thank you, Lord.”

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The Perfect Holiday

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.   —Psalm 16:11

In 2004, I was home in Orlando, Florida on “Christmas Leave.” Being away for seven months in Saudi Arabia and Balad, Iraq (Camp Anaconda) during Operation Iraqi Freedom drained me emotionally. My faith in God never wavered but conducting 24/7 operations in a war zone with the responsibility of providing for thousands of American soldiers required a positive attitude and a lot of prayer…prayer without ceasing type of prayer.

I remembered praying earnestly before the holidays for my vacation to be perfect. What was my definition of “perfect” at that time? The joyful presence of being with my family—with those I loved the most. I desired nothing else and had no specific requests in mind. I just wanted to be full of joy in their presence.

On this day, I certainly did enjoy my time. We watched college football (I do not even remember who), shopped, and my wife Trena made her famous homemade pizza, my favorite dish! The best part about the day? Their presence. I relished it because I knew when it would be time for me to leave home and finish my tour back in the war zone; they would no longer be physically present with me. I felt consolation in the fact that once back in Iraq, my Lord and Savior would still be there with me. His presence had never departed from me. Because this was true in my life, I felt confident and was ready to face the road ahead.

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Congratulations Major! The Dream That Came True.

All I Could Be

On a late sunny afternoon in September, 2002—only one year after the events on 9/11, I prepared to leave my cubicle workspace at the Program Executive Office for Simulations and Training Command (PEO STRI) in Orlando, Florida. Before departing for the exit door however, my immediate supervisor, a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) and the Project Manager for Training Devices (PM TRADE), a full Colonel (COL), blocked my “escape.” The LTC was first to speak.

      “Congratulations…Major!” he announced while holding up a Ziploc bag full of Major insignia pins that once belonged to him. He extended his hand to congratulate me and was followed immediately by the Colonel.

      “Yes, congratulations Major Meehan!” he added.

      I vigorously and proudly shook both of the officer’s hands without even trying to hide my “professional” grin. Inside of me, my heart was doing the “Side-straddle-hop!” (Civilians know these as “jumping jacks”).

      After an exchange of small talk, they departed, leaving me totally astounded. I could hardly wait to arrive home and share the good news with my wife, Trena. I was sure she would be as shocked as I was when hearing the news. Both of us could stare at each other with our mouths wide open in disbelief—one that was going to be joyful!

      Two years before this extraordinary event took place; I learned that I had been “passed over” for a promotion from Captain to Major. When I heard the news, I was devastated. I was shocked beyond belief. Why shouldn’t I have been? I just completed a successful Company Command at Fort Bliss, Texas and was sent by the U.S. Army to a civilian college to earn my Master’s Degree in Computer Resources and Information Management. A follow on assignment to STRICOM (Simulation, Instrumentation, and Training Command, as it was known then) was all lined up immediately following graduation. What happened? When I shared that news with Trena, we stood there staring at each other—our mouths wide open in disbelief.

      A year later, I was not only passed over for the second time, I was told that I had seven months left in the Army before they would force me out of the service. Fortunately, I had just completed eighteen years with my enlisted time accounting for seven of them and the Army had to keep me in until I reached my twenty-year retirement milestone. The second Passover was not as shocking. In fact, it was expected, which is normal for an officer that had been passed over once.

      “Get your packet turned in before the convening of the next major’s promotion board!” my commanding General ordered.

      “But sir, you know the situation; I have already been passed over twice!” I exclaimed.

      “Do it now, Major Meehan!”

      I woke up from this vivid dream and looked at the alarm clock. It was in the early morning hours of 3:00 a.m. I was not about to wake Trena from her slumber to share my dream. I’d wait until the next morning, which I did, and without soliciting much response from her.

      That morning, I left for work as usual and at the end of my day in February 2002, I decided to call the Acquisitions Branch Manager to ask if it was even possible for me to submit another packet before the board. His answer surprised me while at the same time, motivated me to take action.

      “Hey, you are still in the Army and have just as much right as any other Captain. I’m not going to stop you.”

      When I arrived home and shared the news with Trena, she also became excited with renewed interest. “What are you going to do?”

      “I’m going to put a packet together based on my performance this past year and pray.”

      There were obstacles to hurdle to be sure, such as when the Deputy Commander, a Colonel, did not want to bother the General with something that would never happen, at least in his mind. Mustering up some boldness (I had nothing to lose), I told the Colonel that he couldn’t stop the process and that if he did not take it to the General, I would use his open door policy and take it to him myself.

      He gazed at me and said, “Who is giving you this idea that you can even submit a packet?”

      “The Branch Manager in D. C.,” I answered.

      Fixing his gaze on me, he reached for the phone and called one of his contacts (another Colonel most likely) and inquired about my “cockamamie” idea of being promoted to Major after two passes. His eyes never left mine as he mumbled, “uh huh, uh huh, I see.”

      After hanging up the phone, he looked at me and said, “Okay, I’m going to give it to him…against my better judgement.”

      “Thank you sir!” I stood up, saluted, and walked out.

      Later, I heard through the “grapevine” that the General even sent my promotion packet Fed Ex to Washington to ensure its timely arrival.

      Four months later, the two colonels walked into my cubicle with the news of my promotion to major. The impossible happened again! With God, all things are possible.

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