Batshit Crazy

Although it’s beyond my pay grade, I prefer taking a long view of the health of the world, civilization, and the human race over spans of decades or more, out to thousands and millions of years. But let’s just look at the shorter term for the moment, shall we?

It’s not looking good. The world is very unstable and getting worse. We have a marginally insane leader in Russia named Vladimir Putin who has expansionist ambitions and a finger on a nuclear button. Then we have a completely insane leader in North Korea named Kim Jong-un who itches at the chance to extend his nuclear arsenal, including missile-launching submarines, and—not only that—brags about using them. Soon. Like tomorrow. That’s not even to mention the even more insane ISIS folks, Al-Qaeda, and other unhinged fanatics in the middle east with an ideology that yearns to metastasize around the word.

Insane? By that, I don’t mean stupid. Far from it, some of these people are brilliant, as well they need be, since it takes a very smart person to defend an indefensible position. By insane, I mean not having a complete grasp of reality. By insane, I mean seeing the world lopsidedly and delusionally, and not understanding which actions are reasonable and which lead to disaster.

Insanity. My prime example is Hitler, who may not have been clinically insane, but was totally batshit crazy when looked at through the lens of normalcy. Hitler was smart, very smart and persuasive, but he was so warped in his own reality and ambitions that he didn’t understand that taking the actions he planned would lead not only to world-wide disaster (which he probably didn’t mind), but also to the destruction of both himself and Germany. This is insanity by any sane reckoning.

Another example was Mussolini. Although I’m not enough of a student of biography and history to say for sure, I would count Mussolini’s insanity as being driven by pure narcissism—maybe not up to the mark of batshit crazy, but not far below. He was a strongman who could see no other reality than his own.

We’re all insane to at least a small degree in that our versions of reality, the ones constructed in our heads since birth, are not the reality, by which I mean the real physical universe and all its rules and consequences, but an imperfect model of it, rooted in cultural, tribal, primordial, evolutional, environmental biases. We do not see the world perfectly as it is, but only approximately at best.

For some, that personal model of reality we carry around in our heads improves with age, getting better and better as we reach out for the golden fleece of truth and understanding that’s nearly within our grasp. Then we die. For others it more or less ossifies at an early age, and remains static for the rest of our lives. No more inputs or facts needed from the exterior world, thank you Mother Nature, for we already know the truth and the truth is … whatever we’ve decided it to be, or whatever ideologies and memes have decided for us. For these, Morris Berman’s truth reigns supremely descriptive: “An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you.”

Which finally brings me around to my current point, which is the US presidential election. I won’t beat around the bush. We have one candidate who is certifiably batshit crazy, with more narcissism and divergence from reality than Mussolini ever displayed. And it’s not Hillary Clinton.

It’s someone named Donald Trump, who would like to rest his finger lightly on the nuclear button and dare Kim Jong-un or Vladimir Putin, or any wacked out radicals in Pakistan who come to power over its arsenal, to a nuclear stare-down—the insane goading the insane. It’s someone like Donald Trump who is so wrapped up in himself and his own needs, and who has such a warped view of reality that he thinks Mexico is going to pay for a wall that he builds, who thinks he’ll deport 11 million aliens, who sees imaginary Muslims in New Jersey dancing over the graves of 9/11 victims, who thinks defaulting on US financial obligations would be a good thing, who thinks torture and killing the families of enemies is delightful. And that’s only scratching the surface.

Make no mistake. We have the ability in this next election to make a disastrously wrong choice. We have it within our grasp to empower a self-absorbed adolescent-minded person named Donald Trump to lay his finger atop a nuclear button, real or metaphorical, and dare anyone to insult him.

This is unacceptable. We can make a decent choice this November or an astoundingly bad one. Being a space cadet type, I’d like to see the human race devoted to the cause of exploration and settlement of outer space over the long, long term, but there are obstacles to that in our current reality, and we face the possibility of global destruction of biblical proportions if we add—to the chaos of an already unstable world—a leader who is batshit crazy by most human standards.

Who am I to say these things? I say them from the authority of my experience as a Human Being. I am one. Have been for quite a while. Over the long-long haul of centuries to thousands to millions of years I am optimistic for the human race—whatever we will evolve to and wherever we will go—but I’d rather we not suffer a series of disasters and recoveries before getting there, such struggle and despair as happens in Walter Miller’s classic A Canticle for Leibowitz. Read that prophetic yet poignant novel if you want to get chills over what looks more and more likely nowadays.


Press Release — Eric Hoffer Book Awards




Sedona author Tony Taylor has two reasons to celebrate. Both of his novels, Counters and The Darkest Side of Saturn, recently won awards in the prestigious international 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award contest.

The Hoffer Award honors the memory of the great American philosopher Eric Hoffer by highlighting salient writing, as well as the independent spirit of small publishers. Since its inception, the Hoffer has become one of the largest international book awards for small, academic, and independent presses.

Both novels made the Short List—an honor in itself—for the Grand Prize. The Darkest Side of Saturn went on to win First Place for the Commercial Fiction category, while Counters won Honorable Mention for the Legacy Fiction category (published prior to 2014).

This is the first award for Counters, a story of air combat informed by Taylor’s fighter pilot experiences in the Vietnam war. Excerpts from the Hoffer description state: “This book is destined to become a classic….It’s a searing question of survival….The author is an extraordinarily gifted writer, who claims to have navigated spacecraft to every planet in the solar system.”

The Darkest Side of Saturn—a story of two astronomers who discover a dangerous asteroid—has won several other awards, including the 2015 Arizona Literary Contest “Book of the Year.” The Hoffer description includes this: “Deftly juggling sly satire, romance, suspense, and metaphysics, the author, a former NASA navigator, offers fascinating insight into the procedures and politics of space exploration.”


Pilot, spacecraft navigator, author — Tony Taylor flew fighters in the Air Force and later navigated NASA spacecraft to all eight planets of the solar system. For insurance, in order to claim all the planets in case Pluto is promoted again, he added that one in 2015 as a member of the New Horizons Navigation Team. Taylor lives with his wife, Jan, in Sedona, Arizona.

– end –


The Darkest Side of Saturn


The Hoffer Awards

Too Much Sun

Guest Post 

Chelsea Taylor

Chelsea‘s essay was published in the The Grand Canyon River Runner in the Summer Issue of 2012. She still runs the river, dances ballet and modern, and writes better than anybody I know, including myself.

IMG_1373The greatest man I have and possibly ever will work for tossed me one of the most enlightening nuggets of wisdom as pertains to human vanities I might ever get: “From birth until mid-twenties, you care desperately about what everyone thinks of you. From your mid-twenties until fifties you desperately don’t care what anyone thinks of you. From fifties on, you realize no one was thinking of you in the first place.”

If I was feeling slightly more sentimental, I would tell you he bestowed to me that adage on my birthday at Fat City Camp after I had scraped over the Cheese Grater rock and almost lost the only passenger that had been brave enough to ride with me in the worst run through Lava Falls Rapid I hope (against hope) to ever have. We sat together on my boat listening to Erica and Walt belt out Fire on the Mountain upstairs, me on the verge of trying not to blubber in front of Bill Gloeckler and, thereby, give away the fast apparent FACT that I was not cut out for this. Truth be told, the only thing he said to me on my 18 foot Avon that night was, “What the hell happened at Lava today?” I explained, he exited, and I sniffled myself to sleep wondering if my old bartending boss in San Francisco would hire me back on short notice.

IMG_0927It was the next day, celebrating the warm weather in October and enjoying a beer (or maybe three), chatting about nothing in particular with no significance whatsoever, when the Midas Gold popped out of Gloeckler’s mouth, knocked me right on my nose, and changed my view of the Grand Canyon and humanity within it forever. Well, not forever. That’s the point I would like to make.

What hooked me on my first trip through the Grand Canyon was not the beauty—there’s too much to untangle the first few days of a trip before you develop an eye for it—nor the geologic implications of the fluidity of space, time and matter. A nineteen year old girl from Los Angeles couldn’t possibly comprehend that, nor the thrill of the rapids—terrifying! What reeled me in was the unavoidable heat, and the ungrudging acceptance of it the group adopted. I had never spent much time out of temperature-controlled climates, and giving in to such obvious discomfort without complaining about it was a new and freeing philosophy. After all, we were all experiencing the same thing. Taking my boatman’s lead, I decided to not take the 120 degree offense personally, and started sliding down a slippery rabbit hole into a new world where I was no longer the center, axis, and jeweled possession.

I won’t go into the beauty of the Grand Canyon because many have explained it with more color and eloquence than I could ever hope to express. But I will say this, and mean it: the Grand Canyon is BIG. Big place, big weather, big geology, big time. Staggeringly big. Stephen Hawking big. Incomprehensibly big, which is why I think it will always draw scientists and artists alike who must comprehend it. Dinosaurs weren’t even a glimmer in Evolution’s eye when the youngest layer within the canyon, the Kaibab Formation, was hardened. The canyon itself was formed twice again as long ago as the first Homo sapiens appeared. I’ve heard it speculated that it took roughly 4,000 years to form each inch in the towering 500 foot cliffs of the Redwall Limestone. Come on—that’s fourth dimension Big. More importantly though, maybe more so than it is big, we are just so so so small. It’s only big because we say so, and who are we?

As I rack up more years as a guide for Arizona River Runners and Grand Canyon White Water, I am finally starting to understand what 250,000,000 years, the age of the youngest layer in the Grand Canyon, means. It means that evolution’s greatest trick on the human race was to bestow us with a notion that we are significant in the grand scheme of things. Heat, Lava Falls Rapid, 18 foot Avons, good bosses, Los Angeles, ALL fleeting. Not that they are not important and very real in my own little “desperately don’t care what anyone thinks” space-time continuum. I won’t be presumptuous enough to imply that I more so than any other human have transcended my biological and hormonal make-up to an enlightened, unaffected plan such as that. But I do think that spending copious amounts of time in the canyon tweaks one’s perception processes. (“Which canyon?” one of my close friends always asks ironically, implying that Grand Canyon guides suffer from an elitism similar to San Francisco’s “the City” locals). A general though not completely universal pattern has appeared to me as I’ve befriended and slyly studied the guides I have been privileged enough to spend arguably too much time and too little sleep with.

I have noticed that newbie swampers, armed with knowledge from this geologic book and that historical canon about Powell read over the winter, tend to turn the Grand Canyon into a clinical, chewable, fragmented case study. A few years down the road in the realm I now occupy, the Grand Canyon evolves into a cohesive idea more so than a collection of facts. Even further down, say a couple decades, the Grand Canyon turns fickle lover. A female lover for that matter, since the majority of those boatmen tend to be men. And once you get into triple and quadruple decades like one of my favorite people to row with, veteran boatman and story-teller extraordinaire Jimmy Hendrick, everything is just funny. I like this progression.

It seems that our continual proximity to the notion of the Grand Canyon’s seeming infiniteness coupled with our developing awareness of our own mortality warps the brain a little. At first, like children, we want to understand it all, and right away. It is very important that everyone we know knows how much we know. As we relax a little and escape just enough carnage to finally be able to sleep through the night, we start to take ourselves out of the equation and live through the enjoyment and discoveries our passengers reap for their first times, while relishing the fact that the canyon is so much greater than all of us. Then, as we live through more and more carnage, seeing good friends and role models drop off but somehow luck out enough to stay in the game ourselves, we start morphing the canyon into a goddess-like entity/consort that will continue to allow us through if only we can keep saying the right words and refrain from hubris. “She loves us in Her way.” How generous of Her. The fortunate few, whose dedication to the place outlives most men’s dedication to their wives, have a common Buddha-like sense of humor, and quite a healthy dose of crazy to boot. An acceptance of impending death, because statistically speaking, they should have been dead long ago.

Finally, “Nature wasn’t thinking about you in the first place.”

All just thoughts from a still-novice city girl turned river guide with too much time during the off-season to overanalyze people who deserve more from her. There really might be something to it though—maybe obscene amounts of time spent in the Grand Canyon could be just what our society needs to pull our collective head out of our collective arse and stop taking this life so seriously. We will all be dust before “She” even notices we’ve been here, after all. Or maybe we’re just getting too much sun down there.

In 2002 I discovered the Grand Canyon as a passenger with my mom on a 13 day row trip, and spent the next five years elbowing my way— WFR, CPR, and Back Country Food
Handler’s license in hand—back into the most majestic ditch in the world. Since 2008, I have been blessed with the best job a city girl could dream for herself. I hope to spend the rest of my life learning more about the canyon, and sharing our little world with
people just as excited about it as we are.


Thank You, JK Rowling!

Guest Post 

Kayenta Schmidt

Kayenta won a college scholarship on the strength of this compelling tribute to the story-telling artistry of JK Rowling, and in so doing, illustrated the refreshing and touching appeal of her own artistry. I hope to see much more of her writing!

IMG_6412_CroppedYou are known to millions of readers, millions of eyes, millions of fingers reverently turning the pages of your magnum opus. You are spoken of; praised; adored – in every corner of the Earth.

And yet – you have always been mine.

Yours were the words tickling and shivering in my eardrums; you in the scent of fresh paper and fresh ink that I closed my eyes to breathe; I laid cautious palms flush with your hardback spine; I tripped clumsy-footed through labyrinthine bookshops in search of you. Yours was the mind superimposed upon my own for the better part of nine years. Yours were the hands that reached for mine through the pages and led me to the path of literature that now, nine years further on, I still tread.

From my earliest reading days, I remember Harry Potter. The bedtime ritual of a few delicious pages intoned before I was left, clutching my blankets in small, sweaty fists, to imagine just what my best friends were getting up to without me – so close, just behind those damned slips of parchment. Hermione was my idol; Harry my first crush; Ron the antidote to my dull Muggle life. They guarded me against the Dementors under my bed and in my closet; taught me spells alongside my spelling; imbued my lovingly crafted Lego creations with breath and soul.

In first grade, weary of the never-enough doses of magic jealously rationed, I took matters into my own hands and wrested The Order of the Phoenix from the dozing clutches of my mother at bedtime. Cradling the book that weighed perhaps a quarter of my own small bodyweight, I remember the furtive lamplight and feigned sleeps when my parents would check in on me, a corner of this navy-silver Bible of mine digging into my stomach beneath my sheets.

Hogwarts didn’t leave me when I left home to move across the globe; I threw a tantrum on the day of The Half-Blood Prince’s release to coerce my parents into driving miles out of the way to a backwoods Walmart. I scudded with high winds across a sea of linoleum and dust-bunnies in my white socks and sneakers; my quest in search of the Holy Grail lead me to a container-sized bin of the green-and-purple swirl that was to consume me for the next two and one-half days. I emerged teary but with my passion for Potter re-kindled.

The last book was black and gold; its jacket flimsy and ethereal. When I turned that final page, I felt an indescribable falling away, a finality, as though my existence too had turned over a sheaf.

I cried.

If I had been able to collect those tears as did Snape, perhaps I could have shown you these fragmented recollections in a Pensieve; share with you the incredibly personal space in my life that you held, and will perhaps never know. But for your ever-present guidance, I could not thank you in any other way than to solemnly swear that I, still and forevermore, am up to no good.


Writer’s Block II &etc

authorThis is an interview, slightly re-edited, that originally ran on Blogher wherein I talked about writer’s block and other things more or less associated with The Darkest Side of Saturn. Embedded within it are a  few tips on how to waste time and avoid writing which new authors, young and old, may find helpful.

I do not like to write. I like to have written.
— Gloria Steinem

Do you have a daily writing routine?

Not a perceptible one. Sometimes I write in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, but the main rituals that come into play are my excuses to avoid writing: Check the online news, read the online comic strips, make a list of things to do today, check the email, visit twitter, sharpen pencils (metaphorically; I don’t use pencils), go back to the news to see if there’s anything new, brew more coffee, balance the checkbook . . . Oops, time for lunch!

It’s hard to get started! But once the delaying rituals play themselves out and the butt hits the rolling chair at my desk and I start focusing on the writing, I usually get into the groove and go at it for a few hours at a time. Sometimes it helps to start writing in a scratch file or a junk file until the imagination gets in gear. I have a file on my computer named “The Daily Drivel.” Sometimes I start there and just write nonsense—the first things that come into my head—and that sometimes lights the fire.

Where do you do most of your writing?

I do all of it in my office. I have an unfettered view of the red rocks and green Junipers of Sedona, Arizona from my second story office window (not to mention the vortices!). Unfortunately, when I finally begin to write, that landscape just disappears and becomes invisible since I can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. For the same reason, I never play music while I’m writing because I can’t handle distractions. It’s basically blinders on and bore straight ahead—all background either gets turned off or fades away.

Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a little about it?

I grew up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, but my fondest memories were at my grandmother’s house in a village in a forest in the flatlands of North Carolina not far from the coast. The name of the village is Como, after Lake Como in Italy, and it’s just a fly speck on the highway maps if it can be found at all. I devoted a good part of a long chapter to it, renamed Roma, North Carolina in a back story of the protagonist where the young boy lives with his parents and falls into dreams every night listening to tires sing along the asphalt of a lonely rural highway, trucks and cars passing, eeeooo, in the dark, coming from unknown pasts and humming into deep and distant futures. One night he has an epiphany there, in the starshine of his back yard, and it affects the rest of his life. I think this is some of my best writing in the book, and maybe ever. Maybe because I wrote it out of love.

What is your motto in life/writing?

In life: Answering the Navigator’s question: Where are we and where are we going? By that I mean curiosity about science, nature, and humanity. Never mind that it’s an unanswerable question, Where are we going on this incredible life-trip that we’re all on? What’s the end goal, if life (or evolution, same thing) can be said to have a goal at all. I’d love to live forever to see how this all works out. But in true Navigator form, the destination is less important that the journey.

In writing: There’s no discernible difference that I can see. Where are we and where are we going?, that’s what I like to write about.

What inspired you to write your book?

I was at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the early 80s watching the first pictures come down from the Voyager 1 spacecraft after it flew by Saturn. The planet had grabbed Voyager with its gravity and flung it northward out of the plane of the solar system, and now we were looking back and down at the night side nested inside the crescent of the day side, and from that higher perspective came a view that had never been seen before. Saturn had always, in all of history, never been more than a 2 dimensional disk painted onto the celestial sphere from where we saw it on Earth. But now for the first time, from that new exalted perspective, the shadow cutting across the rings and that darkness nested into light made the planet real. It had finally become a three-dimensional sphere floating in space, and the title popped into my head. “The Dark Side of Saturn” (Darkest came later). The dark side contrasted against the light made it real.

I didn’t start writing the story until over a decade later and by then I’d figured out what that meant: the yin and yang aspect of the world. How opposites taken together from a larger perspective make a whole. Good and evil, science and religion, faith versus understanding, male versus female, each provides context for the other, and out of that you get something more complete than either one by itself. That’s one of the deeper reaches I intended for the story, successful or not.

Added 2016/04/10: By the way, I’m still figuring out what the hell the story’s about. New meanings and connections continue to pop into my fevered brain.


If I Could Tell You . . .

Guest Post 

Kennon States

This well-written and very touching piece by Kennon States is about someone she knew only indirectly. It is a wonderful and fitting tribute to a man I will never forget. He affected both our lives profoundly as you will see in Kennon’s piece. I put a tiny part of his story into my novel Counters, in the guise of a fictional character named James Hoskins.

IMG_7843_cropDavid J. Rickel, I never knew you. And yet I can barely tell your tale without choking up and shedding hopeless tears. For you are my family’s hero, and I am forever in your debt.

I’m sure your life was meaningful, quite apart from my perspective. You surely had your share of joys and sorrows, hard work and playful interludes, moments of grace and periods of doubt. I know for certain that there were good friends and bitter enemies.

These are the bare facts of your story, which the casual seeker of your life history can uncover with ease. Date of Birth: October 5, 1942; Home of Record: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Branch of Service: U.S. Air Force; Date of Casualty: May 16, 1968; Country of Loss: North Vietnam; Status: MIA – even after all these years.

David J. RickelThe tale I tell is more than telling of your loss. You were a Captain at the time of the “incident.” You had graduated from the Air Force Academy four years earlier, where you had been named to the Superintendent’s List each of the eight semesters you were a student there. It was widely predicted that a promising career awaited you.

On this day in May, you and your navigator/bombardier, Lt. Gerald Crosson, Jr., were assigned an F4 D bombing mission over North Vietnam. At a point some 20 miles southeast of the city of Quang Khe, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam, your F4 was shot down. Other aircrews in the area reported seeing no parachutes to indicate you had ejected from your aircraft, nor were any emergency beeper signals detected. Searches were eventually cancelled, and both of you were classified Missing in Action.

There was a good chance that you and Gerald were captured, considering the nature of the loss and the location – the terrain and the presence of enemy forces in the immediate area. Your comrades and superiors finally settled in to wait for the war to end and hoped for some word to come – one way or the other.

In the spring of 1973, 591 American POWs were released from Southeast Asia. You and Gerald were not among them. There were no reports from returning POWs that they had been held with you, and your names never appeared on any lists supplied by the Vietnamese. North Vietnam denied any knowledge of you.

When Saigon fell to the Communists in 1975, tens of thousands of refugees fled Vietnam, carrying with them stories of Americans who were still being held in captivity in North Vietnam. By 1990. the number of reports of captive Americans reached nearly 10,000. Many authorities believed – still believe – that there are hundreds of Americans still in captivity, waiting for their country to set them free.

It is not known whether you survived the crash of your aircraft and were subsequently captured. There are those, however, who believe that someone knows what happened to you. Until you are found and returned home, living or dead, you are still a POW/MIA. Your tale is unfinished.

Where do I come into the story? What is your relationship to me?

My connection begins with Tony, Air Force Captain and pilot whom I married in July 1969, one year after he returned home from Vietnam. The year was 1973. My son, Steve, from my first marriage, was 12 years old and active in the Boy Scouts. We were living in Tucson, Arizona at the time, and Tony and I had a daughter, Louisa, born in July 1971. The four of us were enjoying a Boy Scout Jamboree one warm spring weekend, especially a popular exhibit, manned by personnel from nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

It consisted of a large cafeteria-style table, piled high with chrome, chain-link I.D. bracelets, each bearing the name of a known POW/MIA. For a modest donation, the public could “purchase” one of these bracelets. Steve picked up one of them and turned to his stepfather, asking if he might have it to wear in honor and memory of the one whose name was engraved upon it.

Tony did not speak for several moments, and when he did, his voice shook with emotion. “David Rickel. I knew him.”

The story Tony told us was like an epic tale in a storybook, of heroes, wars, and twisted destinies. You and Tony had been classmates at the Air Force Academy. As students, Tony remembered you as “an all-around guy, athletic, extremely intelligent and thoughtful. I remember once walking into his room and finding him reading the Oxford Book of English Verse – not because of an assignment, but because he wanted to.” Your Senior write-up in the Academy Yearbook mentions that you spent much of your free time enjoying classical music.

Tony told us more about you during your Academy days. He remembered you introducing him to Mexican food. (Tony was “born and bred” in Rock Hill, South Carolina; you can imagine how uncommon Mexican food would have been there, in the 1950’s and 60’s.) The two of you feasted on tacos and tostadas at a restaurant in Colorado Springs.

Always shy and somewhat of a loner during his years at the Academy, Tony said of you, “I liked him because he became my friend at a time when I had few true friends there. I liked Dave a great deal.”

After graduation and pilot training at different pilot-training bases, the two of you were reunited at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1966 for upgrading to the F4 C, and then again in the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Bentwaters/Woodbridge, England in 1967. You had recently married an Englishwoman when your name came up to go to Vietnam. The Air Force allowed personnel to delay their tour of duty in Vietnam by exchanging dates with another pilot. Pilot A would go to Vietnam in Pilot B’s place, and vice versa, when A’s name came up in the next year or so.

(To anyone who is a believer in destiny, as I am, or has simply been paying attention to this narrative, you have already guessed the fateful twist in this story. Tony went to Vietnam in 1967 in Dave’s place, and having survived his tour of duty, returned home to marry me. Serving in Tony’s place in 1968, Dave was shot down and remains MIA.)

Steve wore your bracelet throughout high school, Dave; Louisa took over after that. Over the years, with all the moves and the comings and goings in our house, the bracelet has been, if not lost, then – like its honoree – “Missing.”

Your legacy, as far as I am concerned, consists of my daughter and her two sons, none of whom would be alive, but that you and Tony switched tours of duty, nearly 50 years ago.

JJ_Rickle_CropLouisa’s older son, Jeffrey, is visiting Washington, D.C. with his 8th grade class, as I write this remembrance. He is the third of my four grandsons to be charged with the same mission, as they make the eighth-grade trek to our capital: find David Rickel on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall and remember with gratitude your sacrifice.

Although my two older grandsons, Todd and Travis, Steve’s sons, are not connected to you in the same way Louisa and her boys are connected, they know your story and how important it is to me, their grandmother, and they know that their father wore your bracelet for six years and what that meant to him.

Jeffrey and his younger brother, Harris, will grow up and teach their sons and daughters to remember David Rickel and to bless him and thank him for the gift of their lives.

I say, Thank you, Dave. You were a true friend. I will never forget you.