Yesterday I got a gift from Cpl. Josue Barron. He didn’t know he was doing anything to inspire or help me but he did. I get motivation to keep pushing against my limitations in a lot of places and yesterday, my “grit glass” was filled up by this man. Thank you Cpl. Barron!
Some would say the two-minute video captures everything that is best about the Marine Corps — a one-legged vet pushing through immense pain to conquer a colossal hill that memorializes fallen comrades. Beside him, brothers in arms shout words of encouragement and motivation. Within him, the memory of lost Marines provides strength to endure.
The climb was part of a five-year reunion that honored the Marines and families of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, which completed Afghanistan’s deadliest deployment in 2011.
The “Dark Horse” battalion made great gains, but at great cost, when it deployed in and around the town of Sangin, in Afghanistan’s embattled Helmand province. In seven months, the battalion saw 25 Marines killed in action and another 184 wounded. Nearly three dozen of the wounded returned home as single, double and triple amputees.
Among them is former Cpl. Josue Barron, who lost a leg and his left eye in the conflict, and is shown in the April 30 video.
“When I saw that steep hill, I doubted myself a little bit,” Barron told Marine Corps Times. And with good reason — First Sergeant’s Hill rises far above the regimental headquarters at Camp Pendleton, California, and is a beast for even healthy Marines.
Worse yet, the hill’s grade prevented Barron from performing the swinging motion needed to propel his prosthetic leg, which reaches to his hip. He decided to ditch the leg and press on.
“After a while my body went numb, but I wanted to get up there,” he said. “I have friends up there, and there was no way I was coming back down without reaching them.”
The friends of whom he speaks are names engraved on nearly two dozen wooden crosses. Marines put them up to honor their fallen, and the site has become hallowed ground. It is so special that a team of seven leathernecks rushed to rescue the memorial crosses just before wildfires consumed the hill in May 2014.
“We used to do that climb before we deployed, but the crosses didn’t go up until after that so I had never seen them,” Barron said. “It took me five years, but I made it.”
As Barron stood triumphant with friend and fellow Marine veteran Will Makaafi, who provided the loudest shouts of encouragement, the two were soon joined by four Gold Star families who also made climb.
“It was their way of honoring their boys,” said Mark Soto, who organized the reunion. He is also the father of a sergeant wounded in Sangin who has since been medically retired. Soto had started a Facebook page titled “The Boys of 3/5” as a way to help families share information and encouragement during the difficult deployment.
It was evident the bond and brotherhood fostered by the page would be needed long after the Marines returned home, Soto said, so the page never shut down. This led to the five-year reunion, which included 125 Marines and 350 family members. It even got a salute in a tweet from Commandant Gen. Robert Neller on Monday.
“We are trying to facilitate more of that this year,” he said. “We are just going to encourage people to stay connected. That is the best way to help each other because they trust each other.”
That is not lost Barron, who said many vets still face serious challenges. He is especially concerned about the high suicide rate among veterans.
“If someone sees me overcome my challenges, maybe they will think twice about overcoming theirs,” he said.
The reunion included honors from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego during a graduation parade, a barbecue and other typical events, but Soto said it was the hours spent atop the hill that made the event truly special.
Barron said it was an emotional time as he gave special tribute to his platoon commander, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, who was killed instantly when he stepped on a landmine during a Sangin patrol in 2010. Though known by most as the son of retired Gen. John Kelly, Barron remembers the mustang officer differently.
“He was a good man, a good platoon commander, and a good Marine,” he said. “So were all of the men whose names are on that hill.”
The other day I was looking down at the top of my legs when I was rowing and I made the assessment that I was getting too fluffy. The first place jiggle shows up on my body is my hips (kinda like the saddlebag area). The rest of me isn’t showing a problem…yet. I made the decision, right then and there, to increase my cardio in order to de-fluff. That’s the way I do it. If I see a potential problem looming, I address it while it’s still easy to head off. I’m not a perfectionist, I’m a realist. What I always keep in mind is that it’s far easier to tighten up when you’re dealing with shedding 2-5lbs than it is to wait until you have 20 or more to lose. A 20lb fat loss seems much more daunting and I don’t want to have to put that much effort into it. Goodness knows, I want to take the easier fitness path when I can! I suggest doing the same to anyone who asks how I stay relatively lean all the time, year after year. Don’t wait until teensy, hardly noticeable unwanted gains turn into big, fat, hard to deal with problems. There’s no reason to wait and you only make it hard on yourself if you do.
There’s a fairly popular sport you’ve probably never heard of. It’s played on college campuses across the nation and there are plenty of people who take it very seriously. I’d never heard a thing about it until my son introduced me to it…and informed me that he’s going to try out for the team when he heads off to college in a few months.
It’s called Quidditch. Sound familiar? Yes, the same Quidditch that Harry Potter played in the J.K. Rowling series. Yes, that game where they fly around on broomsticks!
Quidditch is being played by young men and women all across the country. The school my son is attending is nationally ranked…and he wants to join up! Yet another point of proof that we’re a family of nerd-aletes (nerd athletes).
There’s actually a contingent of players pushing hard at the national level to make Quidditch an Olympic sport. Who knows, we may see guys and gals riding broomsticks for Team USA one day in the future.
You aren’t allowed to whack another player with your broomstick although that would certainly draw the crowds. On a serious note, you do have to have considerable athletic ability to do well in the sport. It’s a non-stop activity with lots of running and bumping involved!
*This is an off topic post. I’ll post a gym related piece next time.
I keep hearing that Islam is a religion of peace. Each time there’s a bombing, beheading or shooting where the perpetrators are screaming their devotion to Allah, that’s what I’m told. I thought it would be worthwhile to examine that notion using the words of some prominent Islamic leaders. I’m not an expert in Islam. They are. I’m not saying anything about whether Islam is peaceful or not. They are. I’m not advancing statements about their beliefs. They are.
Before we begin, you may wonder why I don’t just shut up about all this Islam stuff.
I guess it’s because one day I will have to stand before my maker and account for myself. If I see a tidal wave in the distance moving toward land and my friends, loved ones or even total strangers are standing on the beach, don’t I have an obligation to at least point out to sea and say “Beware?”
Besides, I have devoted my life to the nurturing and protection of children. They can’t speak for themselves nor keep the wolf from the door without help. There are times I want to turn away from the subject completely but then I run headlong into a report like this. It’s an article about an 8 year old girl who set herself on fire in an effort to escape her fate as a rape toy for men of the Islamic State. Read it.
The Islamic men who engage in this behavior think this is acceptable. They use religious teachings to support their actions. It doesn’t matter one iota to that little girl if there are lots of “moderate Muslims” who don’t read their texts this way. There are millions who do and their ideology is moving just like a tidal wave into western societies that seem utterly unable and unwilling to grasp what this means. They captured and tortured that particular little girl in Iraq. I suggest you arm yourself with knowledge and prepare yourself to defend your culture because if you don’t, one day you’ll wake up and that little girl will be from Des Moines, Iowa…Santa Rosa, California…Miami, Florida… or any point in between. Maybe she’ll be yours.
And knowing that, I cannot stop.
A Religion of Peace?
Abu Bakr al-Bahgdadi, now known as Caliph Ibrahim ibn Awwad (the leader of the Islamic State) said in a 2015 declaration
And say to them, “We spilled rivers of our blood to water the seeds of the khilāfah, laid its foundation with our skulls, and built its tower over our corpses. We were patient for years in the face of being killed, imprisoned, having our bones broken and our limbs severed. We drank all sorts of bitterness, dreaming of this day. Would we delay it for even a moment after having reached it?”
And say to them, “We took it forcibly at the point of a blade. We brought it back conquered and compelled. We established it in defiance of many. And the people’s necks were violently struck, With bombings, explosions, and destruction, And soldiers that do not see hardship as being difficult, And lions that are thirsty in battle, Having greedily drunk the blood of kufr. Our khilāfah has indeed returned with certainty And likewise our state, becoming a firm structure. And the breasts of the believers have been healed, While the hearts of kufr have been filled with terror.”
In video presentation he explained
“Islam was never for a day the religion of peace. Islam is the religion of war.” He continued on saying “Do not think the war that we are waging is the Islamic State’s war alone. Rather, it is the Muslims’ war altogether. It is the war of every Muslim in every place, and the Islamic State is merely the spearhead in this war. It is but the war of the people of faith against the people of disbelief.”
Anjem Choudary is a well known British Muslim who went to school at the University of Surrey and the University of Southampton. He is a lawyer and outspoken activist. He comments
“You can’t say that Islam is a religion of peace because Islam does not mean peace. Islam means submission. So the Muslim is one who submits. There is a place for violence in Islam. There is a place for Jihad in Islam.”
When asked about this thoughts on the bombings that took place on London’s transport system, he said
“If you look at the will of the 7/7 bombers Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tawnier, they would be justified. And there are many verses from the Koran and many statements to say that’s the Islamic argument. And that’s a difficult Islamic argument to refute. And there are many scholars who support that argument as well.”
In speaking about Islam he reported that
“This particular belief is more than just a religion. It’s not just a spiritual belief. It is, in fact, an ideology which you believe in and you struggle for and you are willing even to die for, because you believe in that: That is your whole life”
He also emphasized that
“The Koran is full of, you know, jihad is the most talked about duty in the Koran other than tawhid—belief. Nothing else is mentioned more than the topic of fighting.”
He also reminded us that
“As far as Muslims are concerned, you are innocent if you are a Muslim – then you are innocent in the eyes of God. If you are a non-Muslim, then you are guilty of not believing in God.”
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden (better known to us as Osama bin Laden) was the head of al-Qaeda and took responsibility for the mass casualty attacks in the US on September ll, 2001. On one occasion reminded us that
“We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two.”
Sayyid Qutib was born in Egypt. He learned the Koran by heart by the age of ten. He spent time in the United States as an exchange scholar from 1948 to 1950. He wrote in his book titled Milestones
“No political system of earthly power should hinder Islam. If someone does hinder Islam’s spread then it is Islam’s duty to fight that person until he is killed or until he declares his submission.”
Omar Bakri Mohammed, born in Syria and leader of the Savior Sect was recorded saying
“When you meet [Infidels], slice their own necks. And when you make the blood spill all over, and the enemy becomes so tired, now start to take from them prisoners. Then free them or exchange them until the war is finished.”
“Verily they remind the sunnah of removing the head of the enemy. They remind the sunnah of slaughtering the enemy. They remind the sunnah of how to strike the neck of the enemy. We saw him in his brother’s house. They removed the head of the enemy. Use the sword and remove the head of the enemy.”
In another pronouncement he said
“We don’t make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has no value. It has no sanctity.”
He also declared
“Yes I condemn killing any innocent people, but not any kuffar.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan the Prime Minister of Turkey quoted a Turkish poet in a fiery speech saying
“The minarets are our bayonets, the domes our helmets, the mosques our barracks and the faithful our army.”
Abdul Malik Mujahid and former ICNA President was born in Pakistan and educated at the University of Chicago. Imam Mujahid has been selected four times since 2011 as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. The list is developed in cooperation with the Georgetown University in the United States. He stated that
“Qital [killing] is an essential element of Islam. And sometimes you don’t like it. Qital is ordained upon you, though it is hateful to you, but it may happen that you hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you…. And one example is, now we have 60 or so Muslim countries, and not a single one of them wants to go for Qital and Jihad for Bosnia. Qital is ordained upon you though it is hateful to you.”
Ayatollah Khomeini the Iranian religious and politcal leader, stated plainly
“Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. . . . But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Qur’anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.”
Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau (the group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”) said in a recent video
“In every Nation, in every region, now have a decision to make. Either you’re with us, I mean, we’re Muslims who are following solid footsteps or you’re with Obama, Francois Hollande, George Bush. Bush! Clinton! I forgot not Abraham Lincoln. Ban Ki-Moon and his people generally and any unbeliever…Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! This war is against Christians, I mean Christianity generally.”
Another time he stated
“I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams.”
In another video posted after slitting the throats of local villagers and the subsequent shooting deaths of 44 people (with many others injured) he said
“We have killed countless soldiers and we’re going to kill more. Our strength and firepower is bigger than the army of Nigeria. Nigeria is no longer a big deal to us. As far as we are concerned we will now comfortably confront the United States of America.”
These are just a smattering of quotes from Islamic religious and political leaders. There are plenty more that you can unearth yourself if you want more confirmation that these attitudes and beliefs hold significant power in the Islamic world. The video below is worth watching. I wonder…of what account is it that the majority of muslims are “moderate” when millions of others have joined hands in not only preaching the death of those who don’t share their ideology but in acting on their murderous impulses? It makes no difference to the irreparably damaged, like the little girl who set herself on fire. It makes no difference to the dead.
Pay attention. Many of your political, educational and religious leaders are betraying you.
There’s a tidal wave coming.
Anjem Choudary appeared on the BBC program HARDtalk where his final quote in this piece is taken from. It appeared (at 4:20 minutes) during an exchange with the host, Stephen Sackur
Taheri, Amir. Holy Terror: Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism. Adler & Adler, 1987, pp. 241-3.
Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau: ‘Kill, Kill, Kill!’ The New York Times https://youtu.be/sLAKoJYTLfa
Boko Haram Threatens U.S. In Video. CNN. https://youtu.be/s6flerfasbk
This is as true in the gym as it is almost anywhere else. Persistence is more important than fancy equipment or perfect exercise and nutritional plans. It’s the key to success especially for those of us who train for life and not just for an event like a particular race or fitness competition.
Attitude is everything. You must avoid beating yourself up when you have a setback or your motivation flags for a while. If you can’t do your normal workouts, change your routine and do what you can. Perhaps you can only walk around the block. Maybe you can only manage some bicep curls or a little stretching. Fine. Just don’t quit.
There’s nothing to add.
When you’re a little out of the mainstream in terms of strength or the amount of muscle you have, it’s inevitable that you’ll run into someone who accuses you of doping. It’s always someone out of the loop, a non-lifter, who points the finger and says “steroids” with great authority. It’s happened to me and last week, believe it or not, it happened to my son. Yes, the 12 year old was taking heat at school from a regular-sized kid for his supposed steroid use.
It’s true, he’s very strong…and he also happens to be tall. He’s an athlete so he’s also more muscular than his classmates.
The funny thing is that the boy who was giving him grief didn’t know that my son takes his cues from me and considers accusations of steroid use a funny and in an odd way a complimentary thing. Let me explain.
Having put countless hours and immense effort into my workouts these last 20+ years, in a quest for that beautiful muscle (and strength) I love so much, I’m delighted when some ill-informed person thinks I’m on steroids. I’m immediately cheered by the comments and consider them proof I’m doing something right. I suppose I could get angry but all I can think about is that my hard work shows! I don’t care one whit what an average person on the street thinks. Anybody whose spent even a little time in the gym KNOWS my physique isn’t built on drugs. That fact is obvious to people involved in fitness.
So it wasn’t the harassment, the repeated accusations of steroid use and daily name calling that upset my son. He’s one of the most laid back people I’ve ever seen. He’s almost unnaturally even-tempered. He never gets wound around the axle. He never did; not in even when he was tiny guy in preschool, not even in the most heated football games when the other team is taking repeated cheapshots and saying all manner of terrible things (like “take that guy out”). I think the whole thing went south when the mouthy kid threw a Wet Wipe in his face. That act resulted in one little “love tap” which culminated in the kid running, screeching, into the school clinic to see the nurse and me getting a call from the Vice-Principal.
Hmmmm….know what my dad used to say? “Mess with the bull…get the horn.” The older generation had more sense than some give them credit for.
At any rate, the kid didn’t show up at school the next day.
I suspect he was out looking for some steroids to take.
A couple of days ago I stopped in to visit a friend’s page on bodybuilding.com. Steve is one of the first people I started communicating with when I joined the site. He’s dedicated to the lifestyle and has been fun for me to watch (and get motivation from) over the years.
I found myself enjoying his fitboard posts immensely and wanted to share some of them with you. Perhaps you’ll end up with a smile on your face, like I did, as you head into the weekend.
As a die-hard bacon eater, the next few photos particularly delighted me!
A couple of other funnies….
Happy Friday…enjoy those weekend workouts!
As you know, If you’ve followed this blog for a while, I’m a nerd. I’m proud of it. My boys are nerds too. We’re also athletes. We exist in that rare space of nerd-aletes.
(To be perfectly accurate, we’re more egghead than nerd, but the difference is slight so use of the word “nerd” will suffice).
If you’ve got a bit of nerd in you and you want a laugh, you’ve got to see this video. My youngest son brought it to my attention. It cracks me up every time I see it (particularly the first part). Mind you, I was a student for MANY years. My undergraduate degree is in English Literature I have an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, a teaching credential and a Doctorate in Organizational Development.
I taught and then ran a school for many years and now edit papers for graduate level engineering students at a local university which is probably what makes this so darn funny to me. It’s a slice of my life from the student side and from the teacher side…
If this doesn’t make you laugh, you’re just don’t have enough nerd in you….carry on….
Rest days are an important part of any fitness program. Truth be told, they don’t present much of a problem for most people since motivation to exercise at all is usually the problem, not motivation to take a break. Still, we all know people who go whole hog with their fitness program…until they burn out and then give up entirely for a long while.
You have to seek proper balance….balance between too much exercise and not enough. It’s an easy concept but sometimes not so easy to accomplish. It takes thought, attention and commitment. You can use official “programs” as a guide but each of us has different needs and our bodies require varying amounts of down time.
I discovered long ago that I could be successful with a 5 days on, two days off workout program. That fit into my lifestyle when the boys were very young and continues to the present day. I typically squeeze workouts into the week, which leaves the weekends completely free for family activities.
I typically re-assess my program every 8 weeks. If I’ve completed an 8 week block and I feel unenthusiastic about my workouts or my body is tired, I’ll skip a week (doing only cardio and light lifting as I wish) and then go back to my more formal workouts. It works better that way, psychologically, since I always feel like my workouts are on my terms. I can take time off when needed so I don’t get into that “I’m on a never-ending grind” mindset.
Vacations fall under that “my choice” category too. Sometimes I workout a lot when I’m on vacation, sometimes a little and there are times when I don’t do a thing in the way of exercise. I play it by ear. If I want to exercise, I do. If I want to sit on a beach chair with my feet up the whole time, I do. You have to be gentle with yourself if you want to be successful over the long haul.
I was lucky enough to be able to take a little trip to Mexico recently. I visited the gym once and did a light workout, I did my push ups, pull ups and squats daily, I walked along the beach and played in the waves. I did a little swimming and that’s it. It was relaxing and refreshing and now I’m hitting it HARD. It feels great after the break.
Make sure you fit those rest breaks in too!