Sunday, May 25, 2008


Take a look at that face.

See it.

Study it.

Imagine what kind of life led up to that photo.

Imagine the countless people touched by that face.

Please look at it one more time.

That's Sgt. John "Kyle" Daggett, 22, Airborne Army Ranger from Phoenix, AZ.

He died earlier this month from injuries sustained when an airburst mortar exploded over the armored vehicle he was traveling in.

Daggett was in the rear gun hatch, exposed, along with another soldier when the explosion occurred in Baghdad.

Sgt. Daggett's injuries were overwhelming yet he made it from Baghdad to Germany to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he finally succumbed.

I know absolutely nothing about Sgt. Daggett's life, except that he died a hero. And that, after the mortar exploded, the driver of the vehicle who recovered enough to drive "like a bat out of hell to the evac site, taking out vehicles, utility poles and anything else in his way" was my nephew James McCarthy.

Jimmy is still there. In harm's way. And now he is a veteran — he is still on active duty, of course, but he is a veteran. For our sake — he now knows what most of us will never know and has seen what most of us will never see.

For our sake.

I can imagine, but I cannot comprehend, what that reality is like.

It seems the only way to be a truly concerned and engaged citizen, not only of this country but of the world is to make it personal. Make it specific.

Look at that picture of Sgt. Daggett once again.

See what was sacrificed.

That is specific.

Imagining my nephew in the chaos of battle.

That is specific.

The burden of the unknown carried by his mother — my sister — every day.

That is specific.

The injuries sustained by SPC Shane Stuard — who was riding alongside Sgt. Daggett — are specific.

Shane, a father of three, is recovering from his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

We hear he digs mail — especially from kids.
Take a minute, remember and send it to:

SPC Shane Stuard
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Ward 57
6900 Georgia Avenue NW
Washington DC 20307

I'm anti-war. I think any sane person is.

But I am pro-soldier ... because war is the worst thing on this earth and soldiers know it and they choose to do it anyway — so the rest of us don't have to.

I once was in a room with four Vietnam veterans and a Desert Storm veteran. The conversation centered on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the realities of being a soldier. At one point, the Desert Storm vet looked me in the eye and asked, "How come you never served your country?" There was no malice in the asking, but all conversation stopped and everyone waited for an answer.

I had no answer that seemed adequate so I told the truth, "I made the choice to avail myself of the freedoms that you have fought to provide me ... Thank you."

And one of the Vietnam vets stuck out a hand and said, "Fair enough. You're welcome."

I shook his hand and remembered my old man talking about fighting in the South Pacific in World War II. And what that cost him.

Now I remember my nephew Jimmy in Baghdad and his buddy Shane at Walter Reed.

Most of all, though, I think I'll remember that face in the picture.

And I'll try to remember the cost of my freedom.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

It’s not often than anyone here at Brothers McC feels that they can speak for all three of us. Well, this is one of those times. I know my brothers, I know that they are (regardless of how they try to portray themselves) big, soft hearted lugs.

And, in being such lugs, there are certain movies that melt their hearts and turn them into the knuckleheads that we know and occasionally love.

Son Of Rambow is one of those movies. It’s a British independent flick that knocked me on my ass with great humor, super cast, and a story about how great is can be to find a best friend when you’re just a kid!

Set on a English summer in the early 80's, SON OF RAMBOW is a comedy about friendship, faith and the tough business of growing up. We see the story through the eyes of Will, the eldest son of a fatherless Plymouth Brethren family. The Brethren regard themselves as God's 'chosen ones' and their strict moral code means that Will has never been allowed to mix with the other 'worldlies,' listen to music or watch TV, until he finds himself caught up in the extraordinary world of Lee Carter, the school terror and maker of bizarre home movies. Carter exposes Will to a pirate copy of ‘Rambo: First Blood’ and from that moment Will's mind is blown wide open and he's easily convinced to be the stuntman in Lee Carters' diabolical home movie.

Will's imaginative little brain is not only given chance to flourish in the world of film making, but is also very handy when it comes to dreaming up elaborate schemes to keep his partnership with Lee Carter a secret from the Brethren community. Will and Carter's complete disregard for consequences and innocent ambition means that the process of making their film is a glorious rollercoaster that eventually leads to true friendship.

They start to make a name for themselves at school as movie makers but when popularity descends on them in the form of the Pied Piper-esque French exchange student, Didier Revol, their unique friendship and their precious film are pushed, quite literally, to breaking point.

Make Believe. Not War. – That’s the tag line to this movie and a perfect fit. For those who are fans of “War Of The Buttons” or “Billy Elliot” this is right up your alley. I don’t know of the actual release date, but when it’s out – see it; and when it comes out on DVD – rent it!! Keep the spirit alive so that more movies like this will be made.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Best Homerun Ever

If only sports could always be about honor. If only the athletes that we pay millions of dollars to could follow the lead of those who play for the love of the game. Let me now take you to where the “spirit” of the game is still more important than the outcome.

The following is and edited version of the Graham Hays story that can be found here:

Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky had never hit a home run in her career.

Central Washington senior Mallory Holtman was already her school's career leader in them.

But when a twist of fate, and a torn knee ligament, brought them face to face with each other and face to face with the end of their playing days, they combined on a home run trot that celebrated the collective human spirit far more than individual athletic achievement.

Both schools compete as Division II softball programs in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Neither has ever reached the NCAA tournament at the Division II level. But when they arrived for Saturday's conference doubleheader at Central Washington's 300-seat stadium in Ellensburg, two largely anonymous groups prepared to play the most meaningful games of their seasons.

"I just remember trying to block them out," Tucholsky said of the hecklers. "The first pitch I took, it was a strike. And then I really don't remember where the home run pitch was at all; [I] just remember hitting it, and I knew it was out."

But it was what happened after an overly excited Tucholsky missed first base on her home run trot and reversed direction to tag the bag that proved unforgettable.

While she was doubling back to tag first base, Tucholsky's right knee gave out. The two runners who had been on base already had crossed home plate, leaving her the only offensive player on the field of play, even as she lay crumpled in the dirt a few feet from first base and a long way from home plate. First-base coach Shannon Prochaska -- Tucholsky's teammate for three seasons and the only voice she later remembered hearing in the ensuing conversation -- checked to see whether she could crawl back to the base under her own power.

Umpires confirmed that the only option available under the rules was to replace Tucholsky at first base with a pinch runner and have the hit recorded as a two-run single - instead of a three-run home run. Any assistance from coaches or trainers while she was an active runner would result in an out. So without any choice, Knox prepared to make the substitution, taking both the run and the memory from Tucholsky.

"And right then," Knox said, "I heard, 'Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?'"
The voice belonged to Holtman, a four-year starter who owns just about every major offensive record there is to claim in Central Washington's record book.

"Honestly, it's one of those things that I hope anyone would do it for me," Holtman said. "She hit the ball over her fence. She's a senior; it's her last year. … it was my idea first, but I think anyone who knew that we could touch her would have offered to do it, just because it's the right thing to do. She was obviously in agony."

Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Tucholsky off the ground and supported her weight between them as they began a slow trip around the bases, stopping at each one so Tucholsky's left foot could secure her passage onward. Even with Tucholsky feeling the pain of what trainers subsequently came to believe was a torn ACL (she was scheduled for tests to confirm the injury on Monday), the surreal quality of perhaps the longest and most crowded home run trot in the game's history hit all three players.

"We all started to laugh at one point, I think when we touched the first base," Holtman said. "I don't know what it looked like to observers, but it was kind of funny because Liz and I were carrying her on both sides and we'd get to a base and gently, barely tap her left foot, and we'd all of a sudden start to get the giggles a little bit."

Accompanied by a standing ovation from the fans, they finally reached home plate and passed the home run hitter into the arms of her own teammates.

Then Holtman and Wallace returned to their positions and tried to win the game.

"It kept everything in perspective and the fact that we're never bigger than the game," Knox said of the experience. "It was such a lesson that we learned -- that it's not all about winning. And we forget that, because as coaches, we're always trying to get to the top. We forget that. But I will never, ever forget this moment. It's changed me, and I'm sure it's changed my players."
For her part, Holtman seems not altogether sure what all the fuss is about. She seems to genuinely believe that any player in her position on any field on any day would have done the same thing. Which helps explains why it did happen on that day and on that field.

Graham Hays is a regular contributor to