July 12, 2011

Family as usual

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It was a regular Thursday for me in Washington, DC.  I often have dinner with colleagues or friends when I’m in town – and I always eat out!  Other than boiling water for oatmeal and cooking a chicken pot pie, my stove in the condo has gone unused.  Tonight’s dinner was with new friends that I had only met online – the Kennedy’s… Marshall, Chelsea, Ethan and Caleb.

I took the metro from our office at McPherson Square over to Gallery Place; got off and went to Capital Q for three orders of barbecue.  Got back on the metro and went to Medical Center; got off and got in a cab to Bethesda Naval Medical Center.  Had never been there before.  Had never visited a soldier in the hospital before.  Had no specific expectations; just anxious to meet them face to face and enjoy some good barbecue together.

Staff at the Medical Center were very helpful.  I needed directions to the right building, the right floor, the right room.  And when I entered Marshall’s room, it was like a little slice of home life compacted into one room.  We introduced ourselves and then started inspecting the barbecue ribs, the brisket, and the pulled pork (along with the baked beans, slaw, potato salad, and mashed potatoes).  It was too hard to choose just one, so we ate family style, with everyone sampling a little bit of everything.  Caleb loved that pulled pork!

Most notable and inspirational was that this was family as usual.  Marshall telling Ethan, “Don’t throw that, son” or “Say thank you, Ethan.”  And Chelsea picking up the play dough for use at another time, all the while lugging around Caleb, who took a little while to warm up to this stranger visiting his Dad’s room.  Marshall talked about future jobs in the Marines with a real gleem in his eye; you could tell he just can’t wait to tackle what’s next.  And he produced a huge smile when showing me the photo of him and the Marine Commandant – the top Marine.  Chelsea talked about his visit and how surprised she was that he stayed and talked for awhile.

When Marshall talked of his injury, he said, “Well, it happens.  I knew the risks.”  And that’s it.  Discussion moved on to the next topic.  We talked a little about Forrest City, where Marshall is from, and about Drasco, where Chelsea is from.  They mentioned the church where they got married.  I’ve driven by that church a hundred times making the trip from Batesville to Greers Ferry.

It was a real blessing to join the Kennedy’s for dinner that Thursday night.  To meet Marshall, Chelsea, Ethan and Caleb.  To hear the plans for the future and feel the hope in their voices as they face what comes next … one day at a time.  Thanks, Marshall and Chelsea, for having me over for dinner.  Let’s do it again soon.

There is a benefit concert planned for the Kennedy’s.  It’s on August 13th at the Batesville American Legion.  Three performers are lined up: Chelsea Savage, Bo Ashmore, and Sinful Saint.  Sherri Traw has done a marvelous job of pulling this all together.  Please contact Sherri at 870-805-8579 with questions about donations, join the Facebook group, and let’s show our support on August 13th.  Donations can be made to the Kennedy Benefit Fund at any Liberty Bank office throughout Arkansas.

In addition, there is a Benefit Ride for the Kennedy’s being sponsored by the Hellfighters Christian Motorcycle Ministry.  It was be on the same date – August 13th.  Call 870-834-5030 for more information.

     Loving the Journey,


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