Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Two trips to Arkansas, a Birthday, and a Maximus update!

I took a little blogging break recently.  Maximus doesn't like to grant me time alone on the computer, he gets jealous and then rambunctious (in that order).  

In January, Marc, my brother-in-law Jason, our friend Steve, and I went to Arkansas (home sweet home) for the guys to go duck hunting.  It's our 2nd annual wild game weekend.  We had a few more friends join us this year, and the guys have now an unofficial duck club called the Fat Mallard Duck Club.  It's led by the Phantom Guide, Hugh.  His wife, Priscilla, has been my friend since we were 10 years old.  She and Hugh live right in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway and there is some really good Duck hunting to be had near their home.  We were also joined by another lifelong friend, Derinda, and her boyfriend, Paul.  Jacob came down from Northwest Arkansas to hunt with the guys.  We had a great time visiting, cooking, and hanging out in our PJ's and the guys had fun hunting each morning.  We love that we have this little tradition with our friends!
Me & Marc with a few ducks

Priscilla & Derinda

Jacob, Brandy, Me & Marc

The WHOLE group at the DU banquet

Brandy, Me, Priscilla, & Derinda

Class of '98 good friends, good times...Brandy, me, Jacob, Priscilla & Derinda

Steve, Marc, Hugh, Jacob, Jason & Paul at the Ducks Unlimited banquet

Hugh, Paul, Jason, Marc, Steve, Jacob & Drake(The Dog)...and their Ducks for the weekend
The day after we got back from Arkansas, Marc got rear-ended in his Kia by an older fellow who wasn't watching the road.  He hit Marc so hard that he was pushed into the car in front of him at the stop light.  Marc's car was totaled.  Thankfully, No one was hurt, but we did have to buy another new car. This time, we went big.  We bought a 2008 Dodge Ram bighorn with a hemi.  It's big and loud and we love it.

I drive it back and forth to work because my commute is 3 miles and Marc's is 40.  He has weekend visitation and I have custody.  Ahh, it reminds me of home!

Maximus has been busy growing like a weed.  He has tripled his weight since we got him. Remember what he looked like?

It's hard to believe how little he was, because we're pretty sure we should have named him Frank the Tank.  He's huge!  He weighs 74 pounds now, and there's no way I could hold him like a baby anymore!
My favorite spot on the couch

Just relaxing in the sun

I LOVE the sunshine!

Waiting for Marc to get back home
He had his appointment today to get neutered.  Marc dropped him off at the Vet this morning early, and we went to pick him up around 6 this evening.  The Vet said he was a really good boy, but that he has to wear the cone of shame for about 7-10 days.  He looks so pitiful in the cone, and it completely freaks him out when he bumps into something with it.  He's really unsure of how to handle it.  Hopefully tomorrow is better when he is less groggy from the anesthesia.

my poor baby in the cone.  I feel so bad for him.
My birthday was at the end of February.  Marc took me out to dinner at one of my favorite places, The Old Homestead Steakhouse, in Manhattan.  8 of our friends joined us for dinner and it was one of the best birthdays I've had to date.  So much fun, so much great food and wine, and wonderful friends.  The wine we were drinking was Eponymous Cabernet Sauvignon, and I have GOT to buy a case of this for the house.  SO DELICIOUS!!!  
Marc & Me for my Birthday

Me & Eric

a very giddy me

Marc's steak before...

Marc's steak after...Eric said that Marc eats steak like a surgeon

Truffle Mac & Cheese and WINE!

the very full dinner party

Brent & Me!

Vinny, Eric, Chris, & Mike

Vinny, Me, Eric, & Chris

Mike, Me, & Danielle

Eric, Me, & Chris

Me, Russ, & Brent

Chris & Marc
Tex was there too, but apparently was outside when we had our little photo shoot.  Grrr.....

This past weekend, We went to Arkansas again for a memorial for my brother, Justin.  The Oden High School Fellowship of Christian Students raised money to dedicate the flag pole to Justin's memory. It was very sweet of them, and the result of their hard work is priceless to us.  

This year, March 5th marked 5 years since Justin and 6 other soldiers were killed in Iraq.  The Ceremony at Oden School was on Sunday, March 4th.  Members of the community, the Patriot Guard Riders, and the VFW were present to honor his memory.  It was a beautiful day with just enough wind to keep the flags waving gently in the breeze.  It was gorgeous, and the kids worked hard to make a lovely memorial for Justin. 

The Stone Memorial.  The other three sides read: THE FREEDOM OF THE MANY IS PROTECTED BY THE BRAVERY OF THE FEW. FCS 2012

Heidi, Jacob, Paul, Derinda, Me, Marc, Priscilla, Hugh, Sarah, Dessie, Christian & Blake

The whole crew

One of the State Representatives, Mom, & Me

Me reading Justin's Silver Star Narrative

The VFW color Guard

Mrs. Couch, the FCS sponsor and organizer of the dedication

Flagpole with flagline in background

The Flags in the wind


The Patriot Guard Riders' Flag Line
We couldn't be more grateful for the students of the FCS for honoring Justin's memory, the Patriot Guard Riders for supporting our fallen without fail, and our fantastic community members who show up to remember Justin with us whenever we call.  THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!!!!!

And I know that was a REALLY long blog, but I had a pretty long hiatus to catch up on.  I hope you all have a great week and I'll try to be better about keeping caught up on here too!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Gold Star Sister

I decided to link up with Kelly's Korner for her show us your life: Military Families.  
I, myself, am not married to a member of our armed forces, but I am a Gold Star sister.  Anyone with any military background at all knows what this means.  

My only brother, SSG Justin Michael 'Dutch' Estes, was Killed in Action on March 5, 2007 in Samarra, Iraq.  He was 25 years old.  He and I were very close, being only a year and 10 months (to the day) apart in age.

Justin was a soldier in every sense of the word; he loved his job and was really good at it.  He was a natural leader, and at 6'5", he was easy to find.  He was really quick-witted and ready with a smile for anyone.  He is missed by anyone who had the great fortune of meeting him.  

March 5, 2007 is a day I will never forget about for as long as I live.  I was at work at the Cheesecake Factory when a call came through for me.  It was my Mom, and she called to tell me that Justin was gone.
He had been in the third vehicle of a convoy that was patrolling the berm outside of Samarra.  The first hum-vee ran over a pressure switch that detonated the buried IED.  The vehicle was literally blown in half and 4 of the 5 occupants were killed instantly.  One of the soldiers was still alive, but badly injured and on fire.  Justin saw this, and left the safety of his vehicle with a fire blanket at the same time as the commander of the 2nd hum-vee brought forward a fire extinguisher.  Together, they administered first-aid to their injured comrade and called forward the evacuation team.  Just as the evac team got close, the Iraqi insurgents remotely detonated a secondary buried IED that Justin was standing directly over.  He was killed instantly, as well as the commander of the second vehicle, and the soldier they were trying to save.  The medic died later of his injuries, but he made it back to US soil.  Justin was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action.  It is the third highest Honor the ARMY gives out. 

I wanted to link in today to talk not only about him, and how he died, but also about what the school in our very small town in Arkansas is doing.  Oden High School is the school where both Justin & I graduated.  It has a club called the Fellowship of Christian Students.  They decided to have a fundraiser this year to raise money for a memorial for Justin.  They are dedicating our school's flagpole to Justin's service and memory.  They paid for a granite slab to be engraved with his credentials and service information, as well as lights for the flagpole so the flag can be flown around the clock.  It's such a blessing to be from a small town where everyone remembers him, because all we have left of him are our memories.  The presentation will be on Sunday, March 4, 2012.  March 5th will mark 5 years since he was killed.  There is never a day that goes by that I don't think about him.  Just remember that Freedom most certainly is not free. 

I attached a video that shares about these brave men who gave their lives so that we may continue to live free, please take the time to check it out.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend. " John 15:13

Rest in Peace to the Samarra 7: You will be forever in our hearts and minds.

SSG Justin Estes
SGT Andrew Perkins
SPC Justin Rollins
PFC Cory Kosters
SSG Robert Stanley
SPC Ryan Bell
SGT Josh Boyd