Be a Wingman – Napalm in the Morning

“You never know what battles people are facing. Be kind.” – anonymous

You ever watch the movie, Apocalypse Now? There’s a scene in the movie where the soldiers on the ground are taking heavy fire down by the river. It’s chaos. There’s yelling and gunshots everywhere and the commander gets on the coms and radios back to someone and pretty soon the scene shifts to some bomber planes off in the distance just moving in on the scene and they light up the enemy’s encampment with a huge wall of fire. I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

In life, we have a pivotal moment.

We can see a friend in need taking a beating from life and we can choose to do one of 2 things: we can come in hot and heavy for them and bring the heat or we can choose to be silent.

“Evil thrives when good men do nothing.”

You never know what battles a person may be facing in their life. In the TV show, Unbelievable, we see someone named Marie who was assaulted and chooses to tell the truth of what happened to her. She is then hit by doubt from police officers, doubt and mistrust from those closest to her, and begins to falter in life through failed jobs and failed opportunities and through internal sadness and depression.

You see, there are 2 parts to trauma.

First there is the initial battle we face in life. There is the first shock to our senses and our system. But the second shock and a shock I would argue is actually worse than death, is betrayal.

What is betrayal?

Betrayal is when we are taking heavy fire and we radio back on the coms for help and no one comes to our aid. We are not believed. We are ignored. We are told to be silent. We cannot speak our truth. We are isolated. We are mistreated. We are told to just keep going as if the betrayal wasn’t a giant knife wound straight to our heart making us question everything about our existence and our value to others and our trust.

The second level of trauma is a fate far worse than death because nothing breaks like a heart. It will take years upon years to heal this second part for the individual.

Go watch The Passion of Christ. Watch the moment, the worst moment in the movie.

It is the most sorrowful one.

It is not the actual death on the cross. It is not the scourging at the pillar. It is not the walk towards the end.

It is when Peter denies Jesus three times.

Jesus is standing before the tribunal. He finally speaks his truth knowing full well it will lead to a very painful death. Immediately, the crowd bears down on him, yelling and slandering and smacking him around till he falls to the ground. But it is not the crowd that has Jesus’ attention in that moment.

It is Peter.

Jesus takes the hits and the hits keep coming. He is bloodied and bruised and on his knees when Peter, remaining silent, hides a bit in the corner and people approach Peter not once but 3 times and say, “Aren’t you his closest friend?”

Peter gets scared. He doesn’t want the crowd to turn on him.

He says no. He is fearful.

On the third no, that is the sorrowful moment. Jesus is knocked to his knees, we think by the pummels of the crowd, but no, by the betrayal of a person he loved. He turns so slightly and looks Peter right in the eye, even as he continues to take the hits and that is the saddest part in the whole movie.

JF Kennedy’s wife was interviewed once. They asked her, “What is the best trait a woman can have as a wife?” The First Lady’s answer was loyalty. Now, think about that for a moment. Think about all the stories about JFK and Marilyn Monroe and all that and yet that still was the answer…..loyalty.

If that wasn’t the definition of a wingman, I don’t know what else is.

Sometimes we can get hurt, really hurt, by our friends and family. They can do god awful things to us. But, to come in hot, to bring the heat, to lay down a row of napalm on their life’s enemies whether physical or mental, there is no nobler thing for a soul to do on this planet.

Be a coward. Be silent. Be in the corner.

Or bring the heat.

It’s your choice really.

Me, I’d prefer to try to be a wingman. When I go to my maker and I’m asked what did I do, I can reply with all honesty, I did my best when the moment came. I went to bat for my friend, despite our differences, despite our internal arguments, etc. When the moment came, I did not shirk my responsibility to them.

We all make mistakes. We all have times in our life when we could have been better to others. But to have awareness and to not lend aid, that is a nearly unforgivable offense to another’s soul. You may not be able to do much. But if you can do even a little, it is far better than doing nothing at all.

For remember, your friend is not watching the crowd, they are watching you. When we go out on a limb, when we speak our truth out loud, we are more vulnerable in that moment than any other time. And to betray someone in their darkest hour is a far worse act than the brutality of enemies and villains.

What do we love about the story of the Red Baron? He was a dogfighter. Think of a dog. What is the best trait of a dog. Loyalty. Devotion. He’d drop outta the sky, outta the clouds, and start gunning the tail end of some bad guy blazing up and trailing his friends in the sky….one of the best wingmen that ever lived. To be a wingman is to have honor.

My grandfather died an honorable death. He was surrounded by friends and family and the military came to pay him tribute at the funeral. You see, my grandfather was the very definition of a wingman himself. At Wendling Air Station during WWII, his job was a mechanic chief to bomber planes. They’d fly out during the day on their bombing raids over Europe and at night, he and his crew would repair their planes all night long, refueling, and fixing bullet holes in the sides of the plane.

That’s what a friend does. It may not be the best job. It’s more like being Samwise than Frodo. But without Samwise, where would Frodo be?

I started donating monthly to St. Jude’s. Its a place where kids battle cancer. They sent me a letter and asked me to send 1 kid a holiday card. This Saturday, my husband and I were working up Christmas gift list and budgets. I asked him for 50 bucks to send some more cards to St. Jude’s.

You see, years ago…I was really sick and in a hospital. A friend sent me a card. In the card were just a few messages of hope and some biblical quotes. To this day…I remember, “We can do all things through our creator who strengthens us.” And I remember “For I know the plans for you…to give you a future and a hope.”

Sometimes being a friend is not really the napalm. It’s the little things that keep us going in life’s battles. Being someone’s wingman in a clutch moment…it’s a very good thing to be.

Thanks!

Great news! My dog Sushi is now doing well in the group phase of voting for Dogster Magazine: America’s Favorite Pet contest. Super happy and thank you so much if you placed a vote in the contest! He is currently holding 1st place!

Here’s the link to see all the cute and cuddly dogs in his group!

https://americasfavpet.com/browse/2022/dog-group-c8961b26

Here’s my Vocal Media page where I wrote about my dog. The story is titled “My guardian, my best friend.”

https://vocal.media/authors/janea-speer

Thanks again!

Dogster Competition: America’s Favorite Pet!

I entered my doggo in Dogster’s online competition for America’s favorite pets!

Little did I expect him to do as well as he has so far! He is 23rd in his category. But I do gotta admit he’s loveable ❤️

If he reaches one of the top 15, he’ll be featured by the site. Come check out his profile at the following link and look at all the cuddly doggo photos submitted around America. Cast your vote for your favorites. It’s fun!

Here is the link:

https://americasfavpet.com/2022/sushi-97bd

Coincidence

In his book, Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey talks about love. He compares it to archery. He says, “The arrow doesn’t seek the target. The target draws the arrow.” He was probably talking about romantic love.

Many of us spend much of our lives chasing romantic love like Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner. It evades us when we force it. But if we go with the flow enjoying life and the present moment, if we stop to “smell the roses” so to speak….that love will come sit down right beside us and we don’t even have to try…much like the Roadrunner going “beep beep” to get Wiley’s attention.

Bottomline, as I get older I don’t chase love as much. For one, my knees are bad. Chasing is exhausting and makes you want to drop an anvil on someone’s head with frustration when you fail. For another reason, there’s no point in it. Policing a man or woman gets you nowhere. Love will come to us when love is ready.

Beep, beep….

But tonight, I talk of a different kind of love…the love from pets. There have been only a few times in my life that I have been drawn to something or someone like a strong magnet. One of those times is the day I first encountered my second dog.

When I saw him, I knew in my heart I wanted that dog. I didn’t go to Petsmart to get a dog. That was the last thing on my mind. I was there to get fish food. I had brought my son and one of his friend’s along to the downtown shopping district. We were just enjoying the day.

Do you believe in random occurrences or are our steps ordered in some way as if predestined? Why do I say such gibberish? I will tell you why in a moment.

This is my second dog. I took him home from the pet store that day as a spur of the moment decision. I said I’d take him the moment the volunteer said his name.

Slushy.

Such an odd name for a reddish brown border collie like this:

Slushy was his name.

Why would that name make me instantly buy him?

This picture right here:

A 1982 Slushy doll on sale.

In 1982, my grandma bought me an Avon toy called Slushy the dog. I carried Slushy everywhere. I slept beside Slushy. I ate beside Slushy. Slushy never left my side….for years. He was my favorite toy comparable to a favorite blanket. I loved Slushy with all my little girl heart.

Slushy.

How is it possible that years later I would encounter the real life look-alike to my favorite childhood toy friend? Coincidence? Random fate? Or something more…

Today, I type this by the fireplace as Slushy sits beside me napping. The fire is warm and toasty. He is resting. His eyes are closed but I know if I shift just a little, he will open them to peer at me curiously….my toy brought to life in later years, just when I would need him most. I would need his friendship once again.

I sleep beside Slushy curled up near me sometimes. I eat beside Slushy. Once again, we are inseparable. And we will probably be inseparable to the end of the road for one of us, whomever that might be.

The Unconditional Love of Dogs

Man’s best friend.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate romance. But what of the other types of love, including the love for our pets?

I have two dogs. One is a mix of different breeds, probably Italian Greyhound and Jack Russell. That’s what my vet said. To me, he’s just a little white dog I got at the pound.

I tore my ACL in my knee and was limping around. In a few weeks, I planned to have surgery to repair it. It was a Saturday afternoon when the kids and I drove out to the Humane Society.

I did not pick the little white dog at first. In fact, no one seemed interested in him.

He sat in a steel cage alone in the small dog room. He looked miserable. He didn’t seem excited by my arrival like some other more bouncy dogs. He didn’t bark nor make a noise. He lay with his back facing me. I bypassed him and went to a cuddly little black furball dog and a few other cute and energetic ones.

We played with the others and were set on the black furball pup. Then one of the volunteers brought the little white dog out of his cage to clean the cage.

That’s when I realized exactly why everyone bypassed him…..he limped around on three legs. There was something wrong with him. I looked down at my own busted knee.

“What happened to his leg?” I asked the volunteer curiously.

“He needs a minor surgery on the ligament. Sometimes some breeds of dogs like Chihuahuas and such can be born with a leg problem.” She said sympathetically.

His leg was messed up. So was mine. We seemed fated to be together I suppose. We took the quiet, little white dog home that day. We named him Gizmo.

He had surgery for about $170 at the vet clinic. My knee surgery cost much more in the thousands. I shoulda had the vet fix my knee.

We walked together a lot in the weeks that followed. I hobbled along behind him grimacing in pain every now and then while he still hopped around on three legs. My knee got stronger every day with his help. Eventually he figured out too that he could step down on that fourth leg and it would work. I remember watching him that moment. He gingerly placed the leg down as if afraid of the pain but soon found there to be none. Now he bounces around the house. He runs and plays and wrestles with our other dog.

Nothing makes me smile bigger after a long day of work than to be greeted by the dogs at the door. I do believe all dogs go to heaven. They seem to bring out our better nature. Over the years, these dogs have greeted many visitors to our home with equal measure of love. Young and old. Pretty or not so much. Thin and thick. It doesn’t matter to them. And I think that’s what I like about dogs best. How unconditional their love and support can be. They treat every person like a good friend.

Yes, cats are softer and fluffier and easier to take care of. But a dog will lay beside you when you’re feeling blue. So this Valentine’s Day, remember not just the romantic love but also the love of companionship, an unconditional love mastered by dogs.