Tag Archives: army

Saturday: Those Who Serve

5 Jan

“…It is a proud privilege to be a soldier – a good soldier … [with] discipline, self-respect, pride in his unit and his country, a high sense of duty and obligation to comrades and to his superiors, and a self confidence born of demonstrated ability.”
― George S. Patton Jr.
Those who serve their country are a special breed. I was strolling through DFW Airport this morning, with a travel bag over my shoulder and pulling my roller suitcase. Though my hands were full, I found time to extend a handshake to the soldiers that I passed on the way to my gate.

The earlier flight out to Denver was delayed because of a snow storm and I was hoping that wouldn’t delay the next flight to Chicago. That would be me. I saw a young uniformed soldier sitting with his duffle sprawled on the seat, earbuds plugged in, just waiting for boarding. I walked over and said, “Thank you for your service,” then sat and chatted a bit. I always get a kick out of the extreme formal and polite,”Thank you, Mam.”

Private Zane Milegar was heading back to Fort Carson in Colorado. He had spent a wonderful twenty-two day leave with his family in Dallas. It was funny, he wasn’t one bit shy and happy to talk about his family and friends. He said he was born and raised in Dallas, graduated from Abilene Christian, then immediately joined the army.

I didn’t have a long time to chat with Zane, but I did ask him if he was familiar with Zane Williams, the local McKinney musician., singer/songwriter. He was not, but said he’d check it out. He enjoyed learning about and listening to hometown artists. The flight to Denver was summoned and I shook hands with Zane again and just said, “Stay safe.”

He said, “I will. Very nice to meet you,” then off he went. I sure hope private Milegar keeps his promise.


Friday: Flesh and Blood Friendship From Chaplain Jim

30 Nov

Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.
George Eliot

My friend Army Chaplain Jim shared a heart-warming Thanksgiving story from his childhood. You never know when an selfless act of kindness might influence another human being for the rest of their life. It will make you think how you might be able change a life or perhaps how someone influenced yours.

One of my most memorable Thanksgivings was when I was in 5th grade on a rainy fall day in north Florida. My dad had disappeared– his binge-drinking alcoholism that he had hidden for I don’t know how many years, had in the months before Thanksgiving that year, become the guiding theme of my family’s life. The church had a community Thanksgiving dinner that day in its basement– probably because they knew the pastor’s family– my family– would be needing it with the pastor– my dad– disappeared, and God only knew where.

What was most memorable about that Thanksgiving was David, another 5th grader, who had quickly become my best friend in that town. He walked from his house to mine in the rain– probably about a mile or so– and the two of us walked together to the church through the rain with his new baby brother in the stroller he was pushing. That simple act of grace by another kid still brings tears to my eyes as I write about it 39 years later. David was enfleshing the presence and love of Christ for ME, in the midst of MY shattered world–not just for “somebody” who might need it, but for ME. That one incident of grace, of Jesus enfleshed for me in another kid, is one of the handfull of experiences in my life that immediately comes to mind when I think of what grace and what Thanksgiving is all about.

For all I know, maybe his parents put him up to it, I don’t know. He may not have even known how powerful his little walk in the rain was for me. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is a flesh and blood kid became the flesh and blood love of Jesus for me when I needed it most. David didn’t have any special training to be Jesus for me– other than having been brought up in the church by a loving, Christ-centered family.

I’m guessing the kids you have are flesh and blood kids too. I’m guessing they have friends too, and at any given time– even this Thanksgiving– some of those friends are as desperately in need of the flesh and blood love of Jesus as I was on that rainy Thanksgiving day. I’m guessing you have friends. Knowing just enough statistics to be dangerous, you can count on the fact that someone among YOUR friends and acquaintances is in need of the flesh and blood love of Jesus this Thanksgiving, just as much or more than I was 39 years ago this week.

A little paraphrase from an old show you probably don’t remember can be a reminder: “Who knows what suffering lurks in the hearts of men– Only the Spirit knows…”– But the Holy Spirit is also eager to use you and your kids– young and “untrained” as they may be– to be the flesh and blood love of Jesus today, this Thanksgiving, and each and every day. Are you willing and able to work miracles of grace with something as simple as a walk with a friend? Are your kids aware that, young as they are, they can make a difference for eternity in a friend’s life without even knowing it? Your welcome to share my story, or your own story this Thanksgiving, to remind them of God’s calling in THEIR lives too.

Thanks David– and keep being a blessing- Rev. Jim

Chaplain (Major) James R. Lewis
371st Sustainment Brigade
Brigade Chaplain
DSN: (318) 430-4106
NIPR: james.r.lewis1.mil@mail.mil
SIPR: james.r.lewis1@swa.army.smil.mil



Tuesday: Take Time to Say Thank You

6 Nov

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.
Sun Tzu

Today, I am grateful for my freedom, my life, my family and friends. We often have the opportunity to thank our family and friends for their love and support, but how often do we thank those who ensure our freedom? There are so many men and women defending our country, far from home, far from their loved ones, who won’t be home for the holidays. What can just one person do? Well, they can share this with all their friends, then hundreds, perhaps thousands can participate. When I saw this post on my Facebook page, I decided that I should share this info with as many people as I could. Spread the word…let’s be heard!
From my friend Chaplain Jim:

Family Matters- Christmas is Coming!

Christmas is just around the corner! Well, maybe not…UNLESS you are trying to put together Christmas Stockings for thousands of Soldiers-THEN it starts sneaking up real quick! This will be my third deployment over the Christmas season (I made it back JUST in time to have Christmas itself on American soil the first time around), my third time being involved with some version of an Operation Christmas Spirit. I’d like to invite you and your church to be a part of supporting Soldiers who won’t be coming home for Christmas this year, from Ohio and across the country, through a simple project of sending Christmas stockings and stuffers for our troops.

Christmas CAN be a challenging time in the Christian family, when all the culture around us and our kids is in countless ways, telling our kids that Christmas is about THEM, and that their worth and their families’ love is measured in how much stuff the kids get. But I thought it was JESUS’ birthday, right? So whatever we can do to get kids out of themselves, and thinking of the Jesus heart of Christmas–and this Christmas Stocking project for Soldiers that can’t make it home for Christmas is a good example– will be a great way to help our kids see and LIVE the CHRIST of CHRIST-mas.

The numbers should be a bit easier this time around– we’re looking at needing only about 1,500 stockings to care for our troops this year. While that may sound like a lot, our people have a lot of groups and churches eager to help, so it should be an exciting, yet easily manageable project. In order to keep it manageable, PLEASE restrict your Christmas Cheer to just what is on the list so that Santa’s Elves in uniform can have a manageable job of sorting things and stuffing the stockings!

Christmas away from home can be hard, and I’m hoping that this project can help bring a little of the comfort of the Christmas Spirit to our Soldiers whom I doubt will get a “White Christmas” (that song was also a Solders’ Christmas project)! With your help, we can make it happen, and make it memorable. Thank you for all you do!

Keep being a blessing-
CH Lewis

Operation Christmas Spirit Stocking Stuffer Ideas:

(Please remember in ALL your items that this is a CHAPLAIN sponsored RELIGIOUS SUPPORT program. I don’t mean that we can’t have any fun with it, but be mindful of what kind of fun would be appropriate for this kind of program. Also, as these Stockings will be given to ALL Soldiers under our the care of the 371st, we need to be respectful of the “religious pluralism” that is essential to maintain in order to ensure continued Chaplain ministry. I will be putting together a carefully worded CHRISTMAS (not “holiday”) card to go with each to point to the Star of Christmas, and the real meaning of Christmas, but this must be carefully worded, so let me take care of that end.)

* DVDs/BLU Ray-preferably Christmas themed movies, cartoons
* CDs-preferably Christmas themed; the Christmas comedy types will be great, but be careful with them, as some can be inappropriate for a CHAPLAIN sponsored project
* small nativity scene/projects, whether complete or pocket crafts they can put together
* a small and memorable, UNBREAKABLE Christmas tree ornament
* SMALL travel/office/desk games, brain-bender puzzles
* Gift cards for books, movies, music download, etc. for internet use (unfortunately none of the eating establishments here accept gift cards)
* SMALL bottles of flavored syrups for coffee
* Pocket packs of tissue
* Gum (a GREAT winner that we never get enough of!)
* Christmas soaps
* Slim Jim, beef jerkey
* INDIVIDUAL Tooth brushes and holders
* Hard candy
* small bags of nuts
* Baggage name tags
* Puzzle books- Suduku, word games
* White CREW length socks, no logos
* mini-lego gift sets
* a small toy like a koosh ball, key ring, D ring, etc

PLEASE keep your gifts within these categories to simplify our process. For security purposes, send UNSTUFFED stockings, and the stuffing items in BULK, preferably in commercial packaging (but toothbrushes should be individually packaged!). Packages take about a week to get here, but don’t wait too long so we’ll have time to sort and stuff! Send us an email address of your church or group that you would like us to send pictures and our thanks to.

Our address here is:

CH (MAJ) James Lewis
Operation Christmas Spirit
371st SUS BDE
APO AE 09366

Thank you SO much, and Keep being a blessing!
CH Lewis, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Chaplain (Major) James R. Lewis
371st Sustainment Brigade
Brigade Chaplain
DSN: (318) 430-4106
NIPR: james.r.lewis1.mil@mail.mil
SIPR: james.r.lewis1@swa.army.smil.mil

Theme Song Thursday: Remembering WWII

30 Aug

History has taught us over and over again that freedom is not free. When push comes to shove, the ultimate protectors of freedom and liberty are the brave men and women in our armed forces. Throughout our history, they’ve answered the call in bravery and sacrifice.
Tim Pawlenty
My father served in the army during World War II. The majority of his time was spent in the Philippines. We heard stories, but we never thought to record or write down any of those memories. Today, while I was going through some of my zillion picture frames, I ran across the flag that my father carried with him during the war and brought home with him. He is no longer with us, but this flag speaks volumes about the men who he served with. They wrote down their names and what towns they came from. They were comrades in arms, but most importantly, they were friends.

This flag probably sat in a drawer for over fifty years. I’m not sure how I ended up with this treasure. I probably asked my mom if I could have it and she agreed. I glanced at the names, but I’ll have to take more time and write down the names of all those army buddies. It’s sad to think that some brave soldiers made it back home to their friends and families, but others didn’t. Here’s to all those who keep us safe.



Wednesday: Words of Wisdom and “Perfect” Strangers

30 May

We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.
Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dallas Fort Worth Airport. It was a busy Memorial Day weekend. Terminal A was already bustling with stranded passengers from the bad storms that had grounded and cancelled dozens of flights the night before. Servicemen were scattered everywhere. I was catching a flight to Chicago, but my flight was delayed too, leaving me with few hours to kill.

I tried to shake hands with all the soldiers and thank them for their service, but I’m sure I missed a few. As fate would have it, I struck up a conversation with a soldier sitting all alone, and I asked him if I could buy him breakfast.

To make a long story short, we sat, ate a nutritious McDonald’s breakfast,(humor) and chatted for well over an hour. It turned out that Chaplain James Lewis was an army Major heading home on a four day pass before being deployed. He had been stranded overnight at DFW, losing a day of precious family time. We shared more than stories and email info that morning. We shared a small moment in time where The Lord lets you meet a fascinating, kind, and special person; a stranger who now becomes a friend.

Here is my first letter to Chaplain Jim and his response. I am truly blessed to have made a wonderful new friend.
(May 28, 2013)
Dear Chaplain Jim,
It was such an honor to meet you Saturday. I always say The Lord puts certain people in my path for a reason. I’ve had so much fun visiting with my sons, Mom, and my sister, and of course, sharing my story of the wonderful Chaplain I met at the airport. I hope you made it back home to your family without more delays.
As I told you, I write everyday, and thought I’d share my blog from Memorial Day. I’d be honored to hear from you now and then, and hope you don’t mind if I keep you in my email ramblings. I definitely will keep you in my prayers.
Your new friend,
Toni Andrukaitis

(Chaplain Jim’s response on May 28, 2013)


Thanks for breakfast and the chance to share. I do intend to keep up with you and will include you in my Chaplain’s Chats weekly mailings, starting up again probably next week once we are in country.

It was fun to tell my wife that I got picked up by a gal at the airport eager to connect with a lonely Soldier! She’s a fun one– I think I’ll keep her. Next week will be our 26th anniversary.

She kept my trip home a secret from the kids– a good time was had by all, despite the rather cool weather as we were camping on the lake– counldn’t tell it was summer!

If I miss you next week, send again so I cann get you on my list when I’m building my new routines.
Keep being a blessing-


I look forward to hearing from you, Chaplain Jim. Stay safe!

Monday: Memorial Day and Memories

27 May

“America without her Soldiers would be like God without His angels.”
― Claudia Pemberton

My father is no longer with us, but his memory is not forgotten. He served his country during World War II and fondly spoke of his fellow servicemen. Elijah Armenta was active in his local VFW Post to the very end, and was honored with many serving and veteran military personnel at his funeral. He served in the army, but the army also served him by instilling personal pride and pride in his country.

Elijah Armenta

My watercolor rendering of Dad while serving in the Philippines.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend and a special prayer goes out to our faithful military. (God’s Angels)

Monday Memories: My Art, My Father

30 Apr

Today, my Monday memories are of my father. He was born in Amarillo,Texas in 1925, and passed away in the Chicago area in 1999. The many years in between were peppered with the good, the bad, and the ugly, but when all was said and done, he was my dad and I loved him.

Dad served in the army during World War II, and often spoke about being stationed in the Philippines. Of course, like most veterans, he never talked about the negative aspects of war. All we knew was where he served, and about his buddies that he served with. He was very proud of his service, but very quiet about those years.

A few years back, I created a watercolor montage of the Philippine Islands, layered with palm trees, then a rendering of my father in his uniform in shades of jungle/army greens. I was always fascinated by his old army stories, photos, and medals, and this was my way of combining these memories and honoring my dad. My only regret was he never got a chance to see it. But, I see it every day. So, I’m sharing this painting and these memories with you.

Quote courtesy of brainyquote.com:
My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.
Jim Valvano