Tag Archives: USA

Change of plans

Forget Spring in Paris, Portland is Glorious!

Are you surprised to hear that we’re writing from Portland, Oregon? We are. Gladly, we will share with you the days in between, but first we must recount for you some present blessings.



[Jerusalem Old City and Western Wall]

On April 1, we were in Jerusalem when the bloodwork results revealed numbers where there should not have been numbers.  My adrenaline rushed through my body as even I could tell this wasn’t what I’d hoped to see.  It was the kind of heart pounding you get moments after swerving to narrowly avoid a highway collision.  We spoke with our NJ multiple myeloma specialist at midnight Israel time and he encouraged us to return to the States for treatment. He asked if travel was the priority, we responded that Brent’s health was the priority. The remission that we enjoyed had come to an end and Brent needed treatment soonish. Now became the time to enjoy a new season, but we had to adjust our plans and expectations.

As we celebrated Holy Week in Israel, we wrestled with disappointment that the grand adventure was changing drastically.  Part of us was dazed at the head-spinning change of direction and another part determined to relish the Holy City before we left. 







[Incredible experience at the Garden Tomb]

We cancelled plane tickets and hotel rooms and booked new ones. Imagine our surprise when we attempted to cancel our tickets out of Jerusalem only to find that they had already been cancelled by the airline! Too bad they hadn’t informed us! In this case, it worked out — $1800 back in our account. Thank God for the international credit card’s trip insurance, they refunded the tickets to Thailand, the most expensive of our trip (~$2000). We had not yet booked the home in Thailand. And, the hotel in Dubai: Hotwire plans to reimburse – how wonderful. 

The kids have grasped the vision of this trip but also show the signs of homesickness.  Ana had begun to ask how long the next travel day would be—especially the distance we’d be dragging our bags.  They were amazed that Daddy used to do “bag drags” when on Air Force missions.  Will had explained to his aunt that he had a dilemma.  ‘Auntie, I love this trip and want to see Australia and Hawaii but I miss my toys and friends in the USA.”  Once we announced the news, the kids were thrilled to hear we’d be heading back home.  Luke brought up that we could return next summer to pick up the trip in Israel and complete our trip by hitting our planned stops in Dubai, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii. 

The girls are making plans for the horse they want to get for their backyard.  All the kids have conspired on zip lines and trampolines and X-boxes. 

We bought discount Easy Jet tickets out of Tel Aviv to Paris for about $120 per person, not bad for five days notice. Lisa’s brother gave us miles to get from Paris to NYC – $75 each. American Airlines was the most luxurious flight we’d had all year. Despite an Air Traffic Control Strike in Paris, our flight was part of the 40% not cancelled. We made it to the USA.

Arriving in New Jersey eight months to the day from our departure from New Jersey, we sensed God’s presence even in this unplanned-by-us trip. Our friends helped us with the equipment for Brent’s lab work, picked us up at the airport, and lent us a car. We stayed at two friends’ houses, had more friends offer their homes and had three other car offers. We enjoyed food with some friends, the kids had sleep overs, and we visited other friends. DC’s Cherry Blossoms bloomed and the weather warmed. These visits were breath and hugs and love. As a bonus, everyone spoke English and the shops accepted dollars. 

In some ways, this adventure has felt like what we’d imagine a spacewalk to be.  The astronaut’s views are spectacular, the experience once-in-a-lifetime.  A unique perspective is gained among an orbit far outside of normal, daily life.  But the astronaut must be most interested in that mother ship.  That traveler is tethered to that all-important ticket home by a thin lifeline or a maneuverable jetpack. Your notes, calls, emails and this blog have been our lifeline back to you and our “home” nation, family and friends.  We’ve missed you so much and are so glad to be back to give you hugs.  We also relish the new friends we’ve made along the way and hope to see them again in the USA.  God has blessed us richly. 

We’ve loved being back among the quick-draw smiles and frequent waves of strangers in America.  The churches here seem full, and there’s a high standard of common kindness.  There’s never anything like home.  Of course, people are people all over the world.  But it sure is helpful to be able to read the signs and speak the same language as the people around you.  Our eyes are readjusting to giant fridges, vanity license plates, funny car stickers, ice in drinks, water-in-the-fridge door, dryers, utility costs that make us forget to turn off the lights, cheap gas, supermarkets and parking lots so big they need their own zip code, baseball caps, public transit seen as an exotic adventure, cars the size of boats, Tex-mex food, pickup trucks, ‘the customer’s the king’ attitude, cowboy hats, the crush of over-scheduled kid activities, a pervasive optimism, lower taxes, cupholders, more large families, loads of free wifi, plentiful water fountains, streets without bakeries, drive-thru coffee joints, men in cargo shorts and tennis shoes, moms in yoga pants and the American flag everywhere. 

As we visited Dr Siegel in New Jersey, he reminded us that Brent’s disease is the high-risk version and that we should act appropriately. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a “silver bullet” but he was hopeful our new doctor in Oregon had some ideas. We reserved an appointment with our new doctor in Portland before leaving his office. We were glad to be seen and have access to good care.

Again, with one week’s notice, we bought more plane tickets. Brent needed to start treatment and couldn’t until he saw Dr. Emma Scott here in Portland. Five of us were traveling to Oregon while Brent hustled to Ft Worth to get the car and stuff ready to travel to Oregon.  He’d need to get our enormous cargo box and old mini-van’s load out of Texas to the great Northwest.  He ordered a rack to be able to attach the box to the top of his sedan and make preparations for the 3+ day drive to OR.  Then, we received a call from Dr Scott’s staff that we had an earlier appointment and Brent would not have time to make the drive.  We didn’t yet know how we were going to get the car to OR but had kind offers of help.  The tickets to Oregon were cheap and we know the airline lost money on them since they overbooked and had to offer seven people $300 vouchers so that the rest of us could stay on that flight. Scattered throughout the plane, we five sat in our $200 seats with gratitude that we were getting to Oregon. Simultaneously, Brent flew courtesy of a pilot friend’s pass to Dallas despite severe thunderstorms. Again, we were blessed.

While Brent was boarding his flight to Dallas, a friend called to say that he was buying tickets to fly to Dallas and drive the car to Portland for us. Folks, that’s over 21 hours of pure drive time. Wow.

After a long day, in the late evening, Brent’s mom fetched Lisa and the kids from the airport in a mini van we purchased at a below market rate from Brent’s uncle. We love our new van and in many ways it is nicer than the mini van we totaled last summer. It’s also not totaled. Wow again.

Tuesday night, flying on another mileage ticket gifted by our brother, Brent joined us in Portland. Can this possibly be a move that is permanent? Could we be coming, dare we say, home? Our ex-military minds are struggling to grasp this idea. The beauty of this city is extraordinary.

Our new oncologist seems bright and kind. She speaks with more frankness about the statistics of Brent’s myeloma. She encouraged us to consider an allogeneic (donor) transplant and gave us the expected immediate treatment plan. So, we started treatment a couple Thursdays ago and begin praying about the allo- transplant.

During our first weeks here, we are enjoying Grandma’s generous hospitality. The kids are delighted with some of their old toys and clothes. Meanwhile, we’ve used two tanks of gas traveling the city looking at neighborhoods and one tank of gas waiting in the DEQ line for an emissions inspection. We have some seemingly big decisions in front of us. Where in Portland should we live? Do we rent? Do we buy? When do we get to try the world famous Voodoo Donuts?

While on our trip, we had decided that Lisa would return to work part time and the kids would attend a private school in Portland. Wow again. How is it that God would have changed our hearts in advance of our new circumstances?

So, you see, while sadness weaves itself into this story, hope remains. We had hoped this day would not have ever arrived. We can’t see more than a step in front of us. Even so, we know God is here and we are here! Three thousand years ago, King David experienced what we are experiencing.

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” and “…in your book were written, every one of them, the days formed for me, when as yet there were none.” Psalm 139

How good to know and to see that we are not alone!

What a difference a month makes.  The blog has lagged behind real time partly by design but primarily due to trip planning, illnesses and the actual daily adventures of life on the road.  We have so many more stories to tell.  We earnestly hope you’ll keep reading and keep us in your prayers. 

Our heads spin with reflections from the Big Trip and new goals as we scour the websites for a house, practice the potential commutes as we learn our city, shine up the resumes for the job search, continue to teach the kids and unpack the suitcases from the road.

Life is precious and though there are clouds, a bright Son pokes right through them.  Hope burns through ready and dazzling every time we remember we lift our eyes to Him. 

We now have a signed contract on a house and hope to close about June 23rd!  We would never have guessed that we’d be buying house so soon but rents are very high here in this hot housing market. 

The Legos and plastic horses are still everywhere!

Psalm 27….Wait for the Lord, Be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord.




Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

“Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”    —John 15:13

I never thought I’d get to see an actual American military cemetery in Europe.  Picture the opening scene of the movie Saving Private Ryan with the older man in the military cemetery before the headstones. 

There is power here beyond words. The force of love and sacrifice. 


Sturdy gates, decorated with laurel wreaths for valor and topped by golden eagles greet the visitor.  This is undeniably a place of honor and clearly revered by its nation.  Before you even get into the cemetery, you see the proud American flag atop a tall flagpole overseeing its venerated graves. 

A tour bus and its driver wait in the parking lot with “Beyond Band Of Brothers” written on its side.

Upon entering, we find a small group of WWII veterans and spouses exiting the cemetery.  This place is still visited—and loved—by those who fought for that good cause. 

A chapel reaches towards the sky bearing the seal of the US and the inscription “1941-1945  In Proud Remembrance of the Achievements of her sons and in humble tribute to their sacrifices this memorial has been erected by the United States of America.”   Inside, there is a tall, stained-glass window of the armies whose dead are held here.  High above your head, a circular mosaic of angels paying homage to a dove and standing on the words “In proud and grateful memory of those men of the armed services of the United States of America who in this region and in the skies above it endured all and gave all that justice among nations might prevail and that mankind might enjoy freedom and inherit peace”.  We try to leave some semblance of respect in the guestbook.





An enormous stone plaque spells out D-Day and its aftermath in Europe in both English and French.  Another takes up the story of Germany’s last-gasp Battle of the Bulge beginning in December 1944. 



We poke into the visitor’s center and meet the Luxembourgese man at the desk.  Once he sees we are interested, he is quick to go the extra mile to explain the cemetery’s background.  We talk quietly as the other half of the visitor’s center holds a small meeting chaired by the two American overseers of the cemetery. 

US armed forces began burying soldiers here in December 1944 as the fighting still raged around them. The Germans shelled the construction of the cemetery until Patton told his troops to return eight artillery shells for every one the Germans sent the cemetery’s way.  The shelling stopped.  The dead primarily came from the fighting from this area during the bloody Battle of the Bulge.  We are not far from Bastogne and Brig Gen McAuliffe’s—and his surrounded division in that battle— famous response of “Nuts” to the German request for the Yanks to surrender.  The men were buried in bags and whatever was available as there were no caskets.  We did not have the ability back then to quickly return remains to the States.  Thousands were buried here, quickly. 

The visitor center man shows us a book of pictures.  The fresh mounds of earth rise before wooden crosses in December 1944.  Another shows a shot of 1948 when the cemetery was transferred over to the stewardship of the American Battlefield Monument Commission.  Every person was exhumed.  Any family that wanted their loved one returned was obliged.  They don’t know exactly how many were originally buried here but about sixty percent returned to their families in the States.  Those left were reburied in sturdy, five-hundred-pound metal caskets.  A picture shows them being reburied with either a pastor or a rabbi speaking over them.  A crane lowered 5,076 back into the ground.  Concrete beams were buried beneath the grass in concentric circles to bear the weight of the heavy headstones.  Another picture shows a wreath laid by Winston Churchill on the grave of Patton.

We learn later that Lisa’s grandmother’s cousin is one of those who was sent back home.

Twenty-two sets of brothers lie here side-by-side.  In just this one cemetery.  A female nurse rests in peace here.

Two Medal of Honor winners rest here.  Luke recounts one of the synopses to me.  His name is  Sgt Day G. Turner and his Medal of Honor citation is below.


“He commanded a 9-man squad with the mission of holding a critical flank position. When overwhelming numbers of the enemy attacked under cover of withering artillery, mortar, and rocket fire, he withdrew his squad into a nearby house, determined to defend it to the last man. The enemy attacked again and again and were repulsed with heavy losses. Supported by direct tank fire, they finally gained entrance, but the intrepid sergeant refused to surrender although 5 of his men were wounded and 1 was killed. He boldly flung a can of flaming oil at the first wave of attackers, dispersing them, and fought doggedly from room to room, closing with the enemy in fierce hand-to-hand encounters. He hurled hand grenade for hand grenade, bayoneted two fanatical Germans who rushed a doorway he was defending and fought on with the enemy’s weapons when his own ammunition was expended. The savage fight raged for four hours, and finally, when only three men of the defending squad were left unwounded, the enemy surrendered. Twenty-five prisoners were taken, eleven enemy dead and a great number of wounded were counted. Sgt. Turner’s valiant stand will live on as a constant inspiration to his comrades. His heroic, inspiring leadership, his determination and courageous devotion to duty exemplify the highest tradition of the military service.”

At least six members of Easy Company—of “Band of Brothers” fame—are here. 

Are we teaching our generations about the bravery of these mighty men and women who stood up against tyranny?

The dead were buried as they came in.  Entire cemetery sections list days of death as January-February 1945.  The first tombstone Lisa reads lists the date of death as the date of birth of her mother, January 23, 1945.  Her mother’s father stationed in the Pacific on the day she was born.

In all, 25 American military cemeteries reside in Europe with over 100,000 buried.  Worldwide, we have over 200,000 Americans interred overseas after giving the last full measure of devotion.  The American Battlefield Monuments Commission administer the cemeteries.  The departed come from both World Wars and the Mexican-American War,

The cemetery is not far from the highway and down a side road.   But it is quiet here.  It is not warm, but somehow it is inviting.  I notice a small group of similarly-dressed men carrying implements among the marble headstones.  Upon closer inspection, we see the green uniforms of groundskeepers.  They are tending to the grass.  Later, we smell fertilizer.  The same group of men, or possibly another, seem to continually buzz the roads in the five-acre cemetery with maintenance equipment.  They drive around and I wonder if they are concerned about disturbing those who come to pay their respects, as if we might be visiting our grandfather.  They are respectful but seem accustomed to this environment, as if they have seen this scene everyday.  They have an oversized golf cart-type vehicle that holds lawn equipment, barricades and at least four men. 

We wander down the concrete paths laid out around the dignified marble headstones.  5,076 heroes lie here.  Over one hundred Stars of David mark the Jewish soldiers.  Small stones have been left on many of the Jewish headstones, as a part of their tradition.  We read that stones were originally left on Jewish graves to hold down notes and prayers left for lost ones.  The notes would wither or blow away—leaving the stones.  Over time, the stones became symbolic and a way of remembering their departed.  We lean in over the grass, to strain to get a little closer to the names on the headstones.   Flowers lean up against some of the graves.   Christian crosses and Jewish Stars of David stand side by side.  The headstones are of equal height and color.





I suddenly want to be closer to the headstones, and to take our family there.  It seems too aloof to stand on the perimeter road, at a distance.  We step onto the cushion of that soft, green grass.  It is dewy or recently watered.  We are closer to them now.  Every state looks to be represented.  We stumble across even Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana.  We can read so many more names now.  There are Army Air Corps men and many, many Infantry.  A sea of headstones state the rank of private, some are TEC 4 or TEC 5, far fewer officers.  We find a few TSGTs, a LT COL, a BRIG GEN, several LTs. 



We stand before several known only to God. 


We climb the gently-sloping hill of green dotted with white back towards the two, tall flagpoles.  One grave lies between the flagpoles seemingly surveying his troops. 



Concrete squares have been thoughtfully set in the grass to hold those who’ve stood before the grave of General Patton.  He’d asked his wife to bury him with his solders and she chose this cemetery.  He was killed in a senseless traffic accident with a US Army truck in December 1945.

A tour group and their French-speaking guide enter the monument and stand before the giant plaque maps.  A group of German military men in uniform stroll beneath the eagle gates and stop to read the informational display sign on their way into the cemetery. 

As we leave, the maintenance men carry on in their work.  They don’t say anything to us but seem to be constantly moving.  The grass is everywhere green and stands tall and trimmed to a consistent height.  The headstones are white and in perfectly ordered concentric rings.  I don’t see any of the green marks from grass cuttings so often thrown onto fence posts and street signs from string trimmers.  The men have shown care.  The flowers are in wonderful bloom.  The colors of the grass, the flowers, the small fountains and the trees against the blue and cloudy sky look like the bold colors on an artist’s palette.  The edges here are defined, they stand out from one another, they do not blur.  All is clean, all is neat.

As we walk out to our car, Camille tells us how it makes her proud to see how our country remembers our soldiers. 

It is overwhelming to see the respect lovingly meted out for our American war dead.  These men, and one woman, are gone from the face of the earth, but not forgotten.  Thank God our Nation still holds them close.  War is terrible, we wish that none would seek glory in it.  MacArthur said that it is the soldier above all others who prays for peace. I wonder, now, if it is the parents of the soldiers who pray even more. 

After seeing Auschwitz, what can we say about these courageous men that stood up and gave all for others?  How many families’ generations are shadows because of this terrible war?  There must be enduring honor for those who fought the good fight.  Great names are carved into the marble stones before us.  They are giants upon the earth and it is humbling to think of their legacy in standing before the face of evil.

Back in 1944, the Allies also began to bury the German war dead in this region.  The Americans and Germans who fought each other in the Battle of the Bulge are buried just 1.5 kilometers apart.  I must give the benefit of the doubt here and I am no military historian.  The Germans must have been retreating and unable to take care of their own.  The Allies buried the Germans in groups of four.  They must have noted their identities in some way.  The Allies buried just over 5,500 Germans at the time.  Years later, a German agency recovered about another 6,000 soldiers buried at over 150 sites in the area.  Many of these men were buried in a mass grave at the back of the cemetery. 

A high, dark stone wall marks the entrance of the German military cemetery.  A narrow entryway focuses your attention onto the cemetery as you walk through the wall.  We enter the unmanned Visitor Center office.  A poster explains the German War Graves Foundation administers this site.  I may have accidentally grabbed the English guestbook—we mainly see names from the USA and England—but we sign what we find.  Since my German is non-existent, I am sure I am missing a lot.



An imposing stone cross towers over the rows of stones.  A flagpole stands to one side of the cross.  The flag must belong to the German War Graves Foundation.  Heavy, grey headstones hold two names on one side and two on the other.  There are many listed only as “Deutsch Soldat.”   There are no Jewish star headstones.  Though we saw a few cars in the parking lot, we seem to be the only ones here.  The stones list birth and death dates.  We find many in their late thirties and forties and many at just eighteen or seventeen years old.  At such a late date in the war, the Germans were having to recruit deeper into their society.  The elevated mass grave, behind the stone cross, has hundreds of names engraved into metal plaques.  Beside the names of the deceased, there are very few clues this is a German cemetery.  We wonder aloud if the Germans are not allowed to fly their flag here or have chosen to do so out of sensitivity to others.  The German nation was devastated by WWII so it is unlikely their society had discretionary funds available for cemeteries after the war.  There seems to be much here that we don’t understand and it is difficult to draw any conclusions.

It makes you wonder if any of these assembled Americans or Germans knew what was being done to the Jews at the camps.  

For those who sacrificed so much for others, did they know what example they were setting for us in looking beyond ourselves?  I am inspired by our family’s heroes when I think of the words of Proverbs.   

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”        —Proverbs 22:1