“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.” – Zig Ziglar
Each new day that arrives does not add age to my life. It seamlessly offers opportunities with moments meant to be captured for me: to take measure of myself, live more peacefully with myself, share more about the best of myself, and at the end of those 1,440 minutes, learn and expand upon what I knew about myself. With that being so, I will never grow older but just grow! – Joe Dico Continue reading
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
I’ve also learned from experience that it’s not about who strikes first or last; it’s about understanding the distress and anguish that could have been prevented had I never stuck at all and if so required, how it could have been better delivered if tempered by an appreciation of my own intrinsic and fundamental humanity. – Joe Dico
(Marine Sergeant Joe Dicochea, Korean War veteran, and my dad – Original Posted Memorial Day, 2015)
“Just give me tomorrow.” – unidentified Korean War Marine soldier
Jason, I think you’ll like this given your admiration of the Marine Corp.
I was watching a Military Channel documentary “Against the Odds” about a company of Marines who fought in one of more iconic battles in the history of the Corp at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War or “police action” as it was officially referred to. I guess this was to avoid the stigma of the conflict that ended just years before called “WWII”. I’m not sure that the soldiers in the field during the later action felt any different than the ones who were part of the earlier one. However if that description made it more palatable to the politicians and public at the time, so be it but again, I’m sure the consequences and emotions associated with the battles faced by both “boots on the ground” were vastly similar regardless of it’s presentation to the masses.
Now back to the “Frozen Chosin” and the company that eventually was known as “Bloody George” because of it’s casualty rate. Their role became famous within the grander story that makes every Marine proud to be part of that tradition. Just a quick breakdown of the story, the George Company of the 1st Division after landing on Inchon (another iconic battle) and fighting in Seoul drew, more by circumstances than choice, the responsibility of having to hold their ground serving as “Spartans” to fend off what seemed to be the inevitable annihilation of the entire division by an unexpected attack by a Chinese forces. The Chinese army vastly outnumbered them while the division battled unforgiving terrain and the most severe elements of the winter that struck during this engagement.
I was riveted in fascination by the story and interviews with the surviving members of that company. Since my father (your grandfather) was a Marine veteran of Korea who continually referred to ideals of his beloved Corp as I grew up, I look upon just about every Marine combat veteran with an abundance of respect and personal pride by just having that connection with my father as well as other family members who wore that uniform. J I know you carry that pride and still hold my father’s Marine emblem in your hand during each pre-game prayers and rituals. Interestingly, I was informed after my father’s death by a Marine Corp vet who knew my Dad that he was involved in that epic battle while he was still still only a teenager. I’ve never bothered to verify its accuracy nor do I question its veracity since it wouldn’t affect the “hero” I’ve always viewed him as during my whole life. Moreover given his character, it doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t share that information because as I’ve learned, it was an awful engagement to be a part of and it was a memory reserved for a different audience than someone who could never understand the basic and personal ferocity of war.
So back to the point (thank goodness). George Company, who continuously battled for months of fighting culminating in surviving and escaping from a relentless onslaught of attacks by the Chinese (who outnumbered them 10-1) and the environment at Chosin, were nearing the end of their organized march to the deliverance of their home base from this personal “hell”. At this juncture, a correspondent approached one of the beleaguered company and asked what probably sounded like a ridiculous question at the time considering all the Marine had been through. However his response gave a profound meaning to not just his or his comrade’s existence but served as a reminder to mine.
Paraphrasing the question to that soldier, he was asked “if I were God and I could give you anything for Christmas, what would you want?” A picture was taken of his face with the vacant stare often seen on those in combat, fatigued and almost indifferent to the death he’d witnessed, answering with this simple response: “just “give me tomorrow!”
It would take way too long to share my own history to fully capture how important those words came across to me when I first heard them and all the times I’ve repeated them in my head since then. I think of all those times when I probably exaggerated the despair over the pseudo and “faux” ordeals that I unnecessarily burdened myself with at the expense of valuable time lost and the damage it caused. As I sit where I’m at now in my life, I can only say that I’m so ashamed of myself and I apologize to my Creator for all those days I despised and destroyed, along with all those “tomorrows” whose future occurrence I dreaded – how’s that for honesty?
I understand now, and thankfully not too late given my close calls with mortality, that each day was my own personal gift with resources to invest as I saw fit and that the “tomorrows” were only a privilege with no assurance that they would ever begin. I was such an f’ing fool and I also apologize to those who continually attempted to point out the overwhelmingly numerical reasons why my life was better than the few I chose to focus on and torture myself with – again, how’s that for honesty?
So my point, especially to you Son. Never under-appreciate the simple, basic elegance of the days afforded to us since they pass out of our vision too quickly and thinking what’s ahead of us to replace it just may never be there. It shouldn’t take that particular Marine or some old guy who fell on his head leading to a massive brain bleed, with the odds numerically against them more than most others for getting another “tomorrow”, lead you to understand what is right here in front of us is the only time that we are guaranteed to make the best difference for ourselves and everything around us.
J remember what I told you: until the last sun sets on the days we are given, every tomorrow has the potential to be the best day of our lives with the odds dramatically in our favor based on what we do, how we live, and the hope we carry towards the next day and it matters not how it ultimately turns out.
So I dedicate this message to my father, the Marines, and all military veterans given that this is Memorial Day and it’s important to me that I do something even if it’s sharing this particular story and associated message. Referring to the Marine Corp credo of “semper fidelis”, I think it’s pertinent to the ideal of being “always faithful” to acting for the betterment of ourselves and those especially close to us.
In my case in thinking about the story above, if we try to practice with that faith and tragically are not “given tomorrow”, at least what is left behind for others is a memory and it should reflect the following: We did the best we could, despite any adversity we had to endure, and capitalized on every internal and external resource available to us to make a joyful difference in the only life that we’ve been given, regardless of whether our own expectations of perfection are met.
I’ll end with this quote because I’ve been waiting so long for the right opportunity and I think it relays such a strong message regardless of the particular religious beliefs that are individually adhered to.
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” – Marcus Aurelius
(Heart among the clouds. Excerpts from a favorite post.)
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
…But getting back to the “love” that I think Dr. King refers to or at least my my take on it and how my understanding of it has been woven into my life. I’ve written quite a bit about the transformation (of sorts) and rediscovery that’s occurred since my injury and how I’ve expressed a better comprehension of the love I needed to afford myself, those around me whether biologically or geographically, and degrees of love I needed to afford the basic elements in or near my life…
Now to be clear, anyone who knows me would never make the assertion that I express “love” for everything that happens in my life, or “love” about the totality of each person that surrounds me and those I have come across. By virtue of me being “me” with my own personal tastes, preferences, and varying tolerance for certain traits, some things eventually fall into the category of “less than loved”, under-appreciated, or tangentially annoying over time. I’m sure there may be a more tactful presentation of the foregoing blunt characterization but in lieu of an apology, I’ll just attribute this translucent honesty as a product of my age and brain injury.
However there is a precursor to whatever final conclusion is reached in my individual dealings and exploration of people and things so bear with me for a bit longer and I’ll start with this quote that I think is as spectacular in its message and presentation as the one by Dr. King: “Keep love in your heart. A life is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring. Who, being loved, is poor?” – Oscar Wilde…
I have before me each day a gift of 1,440 minutes and there are generally static elements that I awake to with the comfort of knowing that love for and from them will continue to surround me absent any traumatic disruption in the forces that bond us together. But by freeing and opening up myself to not just my normal routine but also the unexpected elements that present themselves, I’ve afforded myself the opportunity, possibility, and increased the probability that I will discover different aspects of “love” that can be so readily available in a life that is too magnificent to habitually ignore. It seems that the further I lean in that direction, the farther I distance myself from patterns that lead to the intractable management of more undesirable feelings and their manifestations.
The beauty of parts of our humanity is due to the fact that we are able to experience a wide gauntlet of emotions although it is rare that we entirely become masters of them no matter how diligently we attempt to keep them cornered. How often is it that we are immersed in moments where we attempt to command the sensations of heart and mind so they somehow correspond to both the adulation and criticism directed our way?
Still I’m fairly confident that it boils down to a choice of how we approach each day. Oftentimes they don’t end up as perfect as we hoped for but I’ve never been sure of the number of guaranteed outcomes we’re entitled to even when we think our best efforts have been made. Still, we can better define how most days develop for ourselves and the proportionate amounts of “love” that can be summoned from all things gently explainable and even those supremely mysterious.
And so it goes that “the way you perceive and react to the world is a choice.” – David Foster Wallace. And if given that choice, wouldn’t it be better that our expressions be symptomatic of emotions more associated with anything resembling “love” that reflect the brightness surrounding the beauty we can be behold, as opposed to anything diametrically different that darkens the best of each of those particular aspects.
It seems like a logical choice once I get past the illogical distractions and given the alternatives that could erode them, I’ll just try to seek and express the “love” that lightens all those things that continue to surround me!
“You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down as long as it’s one fewer than the times you get back up!” – Andrew Sorkin
As “Dicos” and my sons, please remember this about each one of us. Not one person, thing, or set of unfortunate circumstances can defeat us spiritually, mentally, or physically, even though we may be bloodied in the process. The only one that can defeat us is ourselves and only when we lose hope and faith in what lies inside of us and surrender, forgetting that there is still so much more we can draw upon to continue the fight.
As I learned from my parents, they did not finally lose to cancer until they could dictate the final terms of their existence. If you can’t change how life presents itself, change your approach so that you can adapt and change how you present yourselves it so you can overcome and achieve on your terms.
And in closing: “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald