Sailor Recruits Enjoy A Magical Thanksgiving

“Welcome aboard the USS Thanksgiving! At the helm today, we have Captain George who will be steering us into a magical port called Oak Park, Illinois — a place where they have TVs….computers….phones….and good food.”

The thirty-four sailor recruits cheered and ooooorah’d as we pulled out of Great Lakes Naval Training Center heading for a Thanksgiving Day to remember. Most of them had been told they would be picked up and taken to a community soup kitchen to serve dinner to poor homeless people — they had no idea that Mother Goose and Company had made other plans for them!

The day started at 7:30 a.m. at the garage of Mid-America Charter Lines in Elk Grove Village, IL. Mother Goose had been chosen as the hostess with the mostest for this most exciting day — of course, as a Navy Mom, Mother Goose is very familiar with young sailors and relished the idea of riding the tour bus to pick up the recruits at the boot camp so bright and earlie in the morning.

Mother Goose and Captain George Kousakis in front of the 46 passenger tour bus!

Mother Goose and Captain George Kousakis in front of the 46 passenger tour bus!

We arrived at the base in plenty of time and with just a little bit of run-around, we loaded up the recruits. The U.S. Navy has implemented the Adopt-A-Sailor program for the recruits who can’t get home for the holidays. Organizations can apply to adopt as many recruits as they can accommodate, and if the application is accepted, you get to pick up your sailors for the day! It’s such a GREAT program! Look at their smiling faces!

Onboard the USS Thanksgiving...

Onboard the USS Thanksgiving…

We arrived in our magical port where the computers, phones, TV and food were warmed up and ready for them. The sailors politely lined up to remove their coats, scarves, gloves, and covers (hats) and then politely asked where the computers and phones were. AND THEN THEY STARTED SMILING AND DIDN’T STOP SMILING FOR THE NEXT EIGHT HOURS!!!

In boot camp (also referred to as basic training), the recruits are completely unplugged. There are no TVs, no radios or music, no computers, no phones, no internet — nothing but marching and training and discipline and eating their meals in five minutes. They learn new names for things — the bathroom is now the “head”, hats are now “covers”, time is now measured in 24-hour segments, they are known by their last names only and there is no hugging.

So Mother Goose hugged them all day long.

These sailors immediately found their way to Facebook, their emails, their favorite online games and surprised their moms and dads (and in some cases, their wives!) with phone calls. Most of the guys and gals had not heard the voices of their families since they left their hometowns for boot camp five or six weeks earlier! Imagine the tears on the cheeks of the moms all across the country as they heard the voices of their young sailors…

"Thank you, Ma'am.  Is this Heaven?"

“Thank you, Ma’am. Is this Heaven?”

Checking in with family across the country.

Checking in with family across the country.

This is Edward -- he's from Puerto Rico and not especially liking the Chicago winters...

This is Edward — he’s from Puerto Rico and not especially liking the Chicago winters…

Ms Melvina, her caterer friend Kimberly chatting it up with some happy recruits.

Ms Melvina, her caterer friend Kimberly chatting it up with some happy recruits.

Besides the young recruits, our amazing team at Easter Seals also invited the veterans in our community who participate in our programs and services. It was a wonderful mix of young and old, squids and old salts, volunteers from all walks of life serving turkeys and the fixin’s donated and cooked by so many gracious helpers. It was a team effort and those are the best kinds of efforts according to this goose.

Dear Erin cooked a turkey and connected us with the amazing bus!

Dear Erin cooked a turkey and connected us with the amazing bus!

Retired Army Drill Sergeant Daniel, his wife and son Ethan served all day long.  They are the owners of an amazing online biz, Gruntstyle.com.  GREAT place to go on Cyber Monday for some VERY cool and patriotic American apparel.

Retired Army Drill Sergeant Daniel, his wife and son Ethan served all day long. They are the owners of an amazing online biz, Gruntstyle.com. GREAT place to go on Cyber Monday for some VERY cool and patriotic American apparel.

So many smiles...

So many smiles…

IMG_0536

The food line was amazing!  Seven turkeys, two hams and a partridge in a pear tree!

The food line was amazing! Seven turkeys, two hams and a partridge in a pear tree!

Our dinner with the recruits and veterans had a full agenda, including the Presentation of Colors by the Oak Park Police Department, poetry reading by Ms Josie Pierce of the American Women of Oak Park and Austin, presentations of roses to veterans and live music by a really talented musician named Ernie.

Ernie sang with passion and style about America and love of country, love of God.

Ernie sang with passion and style about America and love of country, love of God.

And then it was time to climb back aboard the USS Thanksgiving and head back to the base…hugs and tears all around. As Mother Goose climbed onto the bus, the sailors started singing at the top of their lungs!

“Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh. Farewell to foreign shores, We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay. Through our last night on shore, Drink to the foam, Until we meet once more. Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

Blue of the Mighty Deep; Gold of God’s Sun Let these colors be till all of time be done, done, done, On seven seas we learn Navy’s stern call: Faith, Courage, Service true, with Honor, Over Honor, Over All.”

When we arrived at the base, thirty four sailors filed out of the bus with thankful hearts and happy faces. Each and every one of them gave Mother Goose a GREAT BIG HUG and said “thank you” and “happy Thanksgiving” and “God bless you”. Mother Goose smiled…

Mother Goose Speaks Out

I’m just a goose! How do I find myself in these amazing places with such wonderful people? I’m baffled and honking about it!

M.Goose addressing Marine families at the Park Ridge VFW Post.

Once upon a time, Mother Goose was a regular mother with just the barest notion that our nation was at war. Whilst soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen fought valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mother Goose turned her beak in the other direction. In fact, she buried her head in the sand. You may have called her Lady Ostrich in those days.

And then the impossible happened — my twin sons enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and my ostrich life came to a screeching halt. Even though they are still stateside, training for a highly technical and difficult position onboard nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, to this goose, military family life has already begun. Of course, when they eventually get deployed and head out to sea to see the world, Mother Goose will probably have a nervous breakdown. Maybe a double, twin-sized nervous breakdown…

Last evening, Mother Goose and her ever-supportive gander attended a wonderful meeting of Marine families in a nearby suburb of Chicago. Let me just tell you right now, these are some of the bravest, kindest and most gracious moms and dads that I have ever met.

As the sharing time progressed around the room, several parents reported that their sons had returned from active duty around the world, including combat action in Afghanistan. Two families had just experienced the gut-wrenching days of knowing their sons were now “boots on the ground” in the hot war zones of Helmand Province. Some were active and stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. There was a new “poolie” present with his family — just freshly enlisted and in preparation mode for boot camp next summer. All stages of U.S. Marine life were shared — hugs and tears and common wisdom were served up as easily as the delicious potluck dinner.

I was there at the meeting because I wanted to speak to the group about Blue Star Banners, an American tradition dating back to WWI. Military families are encouraged to hang the banners in their front windows to inform the neighborhood and the community that one of their sons or daughters is serving in a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces during a time of war or hostility. Each star on the banner represents one soldier or sailor — of course, Mother Goose is proud to fly a banner with two blue stars.

We left the meeting humbled by the patriotic hearts, the faith and the love of these U.S. Marine Corps families. We will return to their next get-together to present Blue Star Banners to these amazing moms and dads. Now it’s time for Mother Goose to get to work. Honk! Time to buy more gold fringe at the JoAnn Fabric Store to glue to my banners.

I buy my banners from the American Legion online store. Then Mother Goose attaches the gold fringe to the banners — it makes them look extra special.

P.S. Do you know of a military family in your neighborhood? Please let them know about this wonderful old tradition. Please visit my Facebook page to see pictures of Blue Star Banners in the windows as well as pictures of our many friends’ sons and daughters in the service. Feel free to “like” our page if you are so inclined and share it with your friends. And, of course, please continue to pray for the troops — until they’re all safely back home with their families.

Standing Guard

This picture was taken at the National Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN on a June morning, and appeared in the Minneapolis Star/Tribune…

Standing Guard

Mother Goose has been busily posting it all over the place this morning, and would to thank dear friend, Cathy, for sharing it with us. Cathy’s son, Nathan, is a U.S. Marine in training right now for deployment to Afghanistan. Please pray for Nathan’s safety and peace of mind for Cathy and the rest of his family.

Mother Goose Meets a Real Navy SEAL

“Hello? Sir? Excuse me, sir,” Mother Goose was nearly squawking as she wheeled her bicycle into the driveway. The man turned from loading the back of his SUV to see who could be honking at him. Quickly dismounting, Mother Goose stuck out her wing and said, “Sir, I just want to thank you for your service to America!”

When he smiled warmly and shook her hand, Mother Goose knew she had made the right decision to stop and meet this man. His handshake grip was the strongest and friendliest she had ever experienced. Having passed this home countless times in the past two years, I was at an extreme advantage in this meeting. I had seen his American flag flying from the porch next to the POW/MIA flag. It was his Blue Star Banner hanging in his front window that had gotten Mother Goose all in a flap about that old tradition. His car parked in the driveway with the license plate holder that read, “Retired Senior Chief” and his bumper stickers all told the same story: in this home lives a deeply patriotic and retired U.S. Sailor, possibly even a Navy SEAL.

I told him about my twin sons who are training for nuclear operations in the U.S. Navy in Charleston. He was proud to tell me that he had joined the Navy in 1960 and retired in 2000 at an E-8 level, senior chief petty officer and, indeed, a SEAL. My mind whirled around the life he must have experienced.

“So your boys will be going into the bubbles?” he asked with a grin.

Mother Goose stared at him with a blank look on her feathery face and then turned her head to contemplate what he might mean…

“On a submarine?” he graciously clarified for the goose who is rather ignorant of Navy terms.

“Well,” I replied with a thankful smile. “They have gone back and forth on that. Possibly now they’ll want to be on an aircraft carrier, maybe one that ports out in Washington.”

As we chatted back and forth about boot camp and this and that Navy policy, different neighbors walked by us on the sidewalk — moms and kids going to soccer practice and baseball practice, folks walking their dogs, or getting their own exercise in the late afternoon sunshine. He addressed each and every one of them with a cheerful and heartfelt greeting as if he knew each person on the avenue. He smiled fondly at every single one. Later, I thought about this at great length.

This soldier/sailor has knows every form of danger known to humankind — probably fought in the jungles of Vietnam and the deserts of Iraq and possibly the mountains of Afghanistan. He’s certainly survived the most atrocious and fearful situations. The number of SEALS who actually retire is relatively small in the general military population — most just don’t make it. But here he is, smiling at all these neighbors and passersby, including a strange goose on a bike. He seems to have time for everybody.

I wonder if he looks at each and every person he meets as someone he would rescue or protect.

For forty years, it was his job to defend America and bravely serve our nation. To most of us that sounds noble in itself, but what if he doesn’t just view it as service to America, but something much more personal. Maybe he looks at us with such fondness because he was protecting and defending Leslie or Dianna or Debra or Jeff or Erik or Linda or Mark — real people in his neighborhood with real names and faces, with children and dreams and daily occupations.

His name is Bill. He looks like a regular retired guy, but he’s so much more than that. He’s a real hero!

The Blue Star Banner in the window is for his son, a U.S. Marine who has recently returned from tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Another hero.

Of course, you know Mother Goose…she’ll be privately obsessing about this for awhile. I already downloaded a book from Amazon entitled, Service. It’s the story by Marcus Luttrell of his service to America as a Team 5 Navy SEAL. In just a few weeks, the Act of Valor DVD will be in the stores. Memorial Day is in ten days. My own two sailor sons will be home on leave for a few days later this month.

These guys are looking good, but they are not the sons of Mother Goose…

Mother Goose thinks this is a good place to insert a “call to action”. If you see a uniformed service man or woman, go up to them with your wing extended and thank them for serving America. If you know of a veteran in your neighborhood, thank them for their service. If there’s a military family with kids at your school, get to know them — they have special needs, especially if mom or dad are deployed. Please pray for the safety of our brave soldiers and sailors — pray that wars would cease.

God bless America and God bless you.

Important Stats for a Goose

  • 63,327 honks to date

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