Memories of 911

September 4th, 2011 by John Morris

In January 2002, I was visiting my son, Adam at his school in Tianzin, China. It was easy to walk everywhere we’d go, and as westerners we stood out wherever we went.

During one walking stretch, I was approached by a woman of undeterminable age. She was dressed in the standard work blues worn by the hundreds of thousands of those who cleaned streets and buildings. She had stopped her chores and seemed to want a word with me.

I stopped short and she was soon facing me directly. She reached down inside herself for words. They came out with great effort and emotion as she said,

“9 1 1   Sorry.”

She kept her glaze down and walked away. I probably said something lame like “Thank you”, but the impact of her words was so strong I’ve blanked it out.

For the first time, I understood our nation’s grief was being felt around the world.  Not just by savvy international types but also by those who live their lives in the bottom strata of world’s societies.

For the flash of a second, this woman and I bonded in a global way I have not experienced since.

On one cold January day, a hardworking Chinese cleaning lady showed one vacationing Father that America was not alone in its grief.

Is there a Freedom to Pray?

September 3rd, 2011 by John Morris

This month’s VFW magazine had a small 1/4 page article that caught my attention. It’s titled “No Prayers Allowed at Vets Burial” and tells the story about how Houston, Texas’ National Cemetry tries to control praying at grave sites. It’s okay to do so provided the Veteran’s family submits an application including the prayer’s wording for pre-approval.

I am troubled by the conclusions I made about this article. We all have a Freedom of Speech that has had several pushing of the envelope. Larry Flynt used it to defend the publishing of his racy magazine, for example.

But recently, the Westboro Baptist Church has fought and won all legal battles allowing them to shout the most vitriolic things like “Thank God for dead Soldiers”. Their website is They swoop in at Veteran burials all over America to shout these hateful barbs within earshot of the Veterans’ loved one. Their right to say these things is protected by our First Amendment.

If so, then why is prayer – of all things – being censured.

It reminds me of the old joke about a teacher who walks into a classroom to see several students kneeling along the back wall. He asked, “What are you doing?”. One kid turned and said, “We shooting craps.” The teacher said, “I was worried you were praying.”

Way back when prayer in school was eliminated the folks pushing for the band talked endlessly about the Freedom from Religion. Seems like this is now the most powerful phrase where the words Freedom and Religion are used together.


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.