A Tribute to you, Muhammad Ali!

I was never a great fan of boxing, but I grew up in a family with three brothers, so I watched boxing along with the rest of the family. When Muhammad Ali arrived on the scene when I was about thirteen, everything changed. His confidence was unreal. He REALLY did resurrect boxing. I loved his poetry, too. I could hardly wait for what he would say next.

Integrity was one of Muhammad Ali’s greatest character assets. He absolutely stood up for what he believed in. Ali was very REAL, and after he lost his world championship title because he was a conscientious objector and would not fight in Viet Nam, I was awed by his courage. I have rarely ever seen an athlete or and other human being give up so much because of his or her integrity. As a younger person, I did not know what to think back then, but today I get how courageous and what a deep spirit he had and maintained throughout his life.

“The Draft is about White People sending Black People to fight Yellow People to protect the country they stole from the Red People.”
-Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali’s deep character showed up in his fight for civil rights, too. He fearlessly spoke about race during some of the worst racial tension the USA had ever seen. He had suffered personally because of racism. He was not afraid to get all the political backlash that he received. However, because he stood up he became known as a world wide hero in Muslim countries and everywhere else.

“It isn’t the mountain ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
-Muhammad Ali

When Muhammad Ali revealed he had Parkinson’s Disease in 1984 when he was 42 years old, he grew again as a human being and accepted his illness with great dignity. Living with Parkinson’s Disease, for more than 30 years, again Muhammad Ali showed me what an amazing human being he was. I knew this disease because my father-in-law had had it, and Parkinson’s disease contributed to his last fall before my father-in-law died of complications 3 months later. Watching my father-in-law., Bill Briggs’ challenges, I had a small sense of what Ali was up against. Also seeing my aunt, Bunny Becker, with her challenges with Parkinson’s disease, I had an inkling what it took for Muhammad Ali to carry the torch for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. I was so proud watching him carry the torch and lighting the Olympic flame. For me that was one of the greatest positive moments of that Olympics.

Here are several other quotes from this poet-athlete-philosopher-life coach:

“What you are thinking about you are becoming.”
-Mohammad Ali

There was one other way that I have been inadvertently affected by Muhammad Ali. He touched the life of my nephew, Reza Izad, who was Muhammad Ali’s agent for a time. When I visit my sister’s home, I see the autographed photo from Mohammad Ali, and I know Ali made a difference in my nephew’s life, and I smile.

I sent a message to Reza after Muhammad Ali died and he messaged me: “It was very special to work with him (Ali). I have been lucky to work with some great people, and he was the BEST.”

NPR has done some great tributes to Muhammad Ali. Take a listen.

http://www.npr.org/programs/weekend-edition-saturday/

Mohammad Ali has been said to have been kind and loving. Some the best testaments about Ali come from his own children. This is a story that Muhammad Ali’s daughter Hana related:

http://www.islamcan.com/islamic-stories/muhammad-alis-advice-to-his-daughters.shtml#.V1npHhQrI1M

And his daughter, Laila Ali, who was a boxer, said:

“My dad lived by example. I lived by watching him. I watched all the great things he did and said. I try to walk that talk with my children.”

These days too often we clamor to watch super heroes in films. For me, Muhammad Ali was a real live super hero. He has been present in my entire life. He has shown me how I can stand up of myself. He has shown me that you will not always be liked when you stand up for what is right. Also by example, I have seen how he grew and changed as he aged. Thank you for being such a positive force and example in my life, Muhammad Ali. I know that you have touched so many people on this planet, as you have touched me and my life.

Rest in Peace, Muhammad Ali, you have helped to make this world a better place.

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Honoring Their Sacrifices

I dedicate this blog to my brother-in-law, Captain Richard Henry Briggs, a marine pilot who died on June 5, 1974. I dedicate this blog to all soldiers, men and women who have put their lives on the line.

Richard’s death taught me many things. He lived his life fully: laughing, pushing the limits, smiling, being kind, being a team player. He also taught me about peace. He only had 28 years on this earth, but he lived his time here to its fullest.

He was known to most of us as Rick; his wife, Marv called him Richard. Rick was one of the soldiers who never killed anyone, or was even deployed to a foreign war. He was a pilot who trained on one of the most difficult planes to fly, the Harrier. He was the first Harrier pilot who died learning to fly it. Three more pilots died after Rick. The first generation Harrier was later no longer flown by the Marines. That plane had had many inadequacies. Rick paid the ultimate sacrifice during the middle of the Cold War. The photo of Rick is from the Naval Academy where he graduated in 1969.

I was in shock when he died. I was getting ready for my 27 birthday when Rick died. Reviewing the pain and loss of Rick has not been easy, but finally this
Memorial Day I went to a ceremony and celebration to honor Rick and all fallen soldiers. The photos in my featured image are from this Memorial Day. I felt deep compassion for families who have lost family members.

A friend from North Carolina, Peggy Cardenas Heller, also knows of the sorrow of losing her husband, Captain Richard L. Cardenas, who flew a F-111 for the Air Force and died in New Mexico on October 3, 1977. He, too, was training as a pilot when he died. A monument in Clovis, New Mexico honors the 115 aircrew members (including Richard Cardenas) who had died in the F-111 from 1967- 1996. On the website for this monument stood the following poem.
“For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon

They shall grow not old.
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun … and in the morning …
we will remember them.”

Since Rick’s death, I have often become angry when I learned about soldiers from the recent wars, being unable to get the medical help they need for PTSD, or any other problems related to their health. The Department of Veteran Affairs even recently declared 0ver 4,000 soldiers dead, who are, in fact, still alive. More details of this story are from May 26, 2016:

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2016/05/26/VA-wrongly-declares-thousands-of-veterans-dead-stops-benefits/2501464256327/

This is a podcast from Afghanistan where during the past 15 years 1832 soldiers, both men and women have died. Take a listen:

http://www.npr.org/2016/05/30/479995844/memorial-day-in-kandahar-a-run-to-honor-americas-fallen

I try not to feel hopeless about what seems like our perpetual wars. I used to think that my brother-in-law, Rick, died in vain, but just yesterday I fully understood what a difference Rick made in my life. Now I stand up for soldiers and for 30 years have been an advocate for peace in a world where we still have a mindset that war is the answer.

However, I feel more hopeful that those soldiers with PTSD may get more help from something called Expressive Therapy, which is helping vets in the Boston area. This story appeared on PRI last week:

http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-05-30/promising-way-help-vets-poetry-painting-even-latch-hooking-rugs

Today I was talking to my chiropractor while he was working on my back. I knew he was a former Marine. I told him the story about Rick, and he thanked me for sharing Rick’s story. In the late 1980s and 1990s, Dr. Matt (as we all call him) was in Europe working around the second generation Harrier as a Marine. The Harrier as it takes off is known for being one of the loudest sounds that exists. I found out today that Dr. Matt has a permanent injury from assisting with the Harrier during take off. We never know what our soldiers and former soldiers suffer, until we talk about them.

What happens to our soldiers who have died and are still among us, I feel all must be honored. They do not instigate wars. Some of the homeless people on the streets where I live are Vets. Since the Department Veterans’ Affairs is falling down on the job, maybe it is up to the rest of us to care more in whatever way we can. Even if it just by giving those Vets a smile.

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