While We Have Time, Let Us Do Good The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run in Columbia, SC

by Shannon Boatwright

image 1I had the honor of being a part of this most incredible event on September 20th, 2019.  My aunt Susan Vaughan McPherson, who is the Director of Public Policy & Military Affairs at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, works with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and helped to organize this event. She invited my family and me to participate last year, but due to a hurricane, they, unfortunately, had to cancel the event. So, this year, we really looked forward to being a part of this special event. And when I say special, goodness do I ever mean it! To understand the impact of this event, you really must be there in person.

A little info on the meaningful purpose behind this event…

The info below is taken from the Tunnel to Towers website.

image 4“Firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller was the youngest of seven children born to Mae and George Siller. At the age of eight, Stephen lost his father, and a year and a half later his mother passed away, leaving him an orphan to be raised by his older siblings. For a while, Stephen went through a period of struggle, but thanks to the love of his siblings, and the values instilled in him by his parents, he grew up to be an extraordinary individual and dedicated firefighter. More than most, he knew that time was precious and accomplished much in his 34 years.

On September 11, 2001, Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.

Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he lost his life while saving others.

Stephen had everything to live for: a great wife, five wonderful children, a devoted extended family, and friends. Stephen’s parents were lay Franciscans and he grew up under the guiding philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, whose encouraging and inspirational phrase, “while we have time, let us do good,” were words that Stephen lived by. Stephen’s life and heroic death serve as a reminder to us all to live life to the fullest and to spend our time here on earth doing good – this is his legacy.”

My daughter, Mina, who is on the cross-country team at her high school, ran the Tunnel to Towers for the first time this year. She ended up doing an amazing job, coming in 64th out of 1278 people total who ran and 11th out of all the women who ran, placing 2nd in her division. She had the priceless opportunity to run alongside our firemen and first responders. Words really cannot describe how inspiring and motivating it is to run for such a great cause and in memory of so many precious people.  To recognize and applaud the people who fight for our country and help to keep us safe, to run alongside and cheer on all the first responders, military and fellow supporters, well, to say it fills the heart is an understatement. Let’s just say, we plan to be a part of this truly special event every year and I encourage you all to do the same!

Stephen Livingston, Lexington Fire Department, Station 2, congratulating Mina, my daughter, on placing in her division.

 

Please do check out the website https://tunnel2towers.org/ and mark your calendars for next year’s run!

 

 

Remembering our Veterans at Christmas Time

By Tina M. Cameron

Recently a friend of mine Beryl posted something on Facebook that she had just signed up for as a volunteer. She shared the link and I opened it to see what it was about. It is called Wreaths Across America. It is an annual day to honor our veterans by laying a wreath on their grave. According to the Wreaths Across America website, Congress voted December 13th, 2008 as Wreaths Across America Day. On that day over 100,000 wreaths were laid by over 60,000 volunteers. This occurred in 300 locations and included cemeteries in every state as well as 24 overseas cemeteries and Puerto Rico.

Banner_IconicArlingtonInSnow

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor or a volunteer can go to their website (which I will include at the end of my blog).  Arlington Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries that wreaths are laid at.  Wreath laying at military cemeteries began when the Worcester Wreath Company had a surplus of wreaths leftover and decided to honor Veterans. It began small and has now spread worldwide. This eventually led to the non-profit Wreaths Across America.

This opportunity to lay a wreath to honor our military is a great way to include your children in volunteering and to teach a valuable lesson to them on what it means to give back, to honor someone who fought for our country and to spend time together. When wreaths are laid at each grave site, you are to say the person’s name out loud to remember them and to let them and their families know they are not forgotten. I am looking forward to this on December 15th at Fort Jackson National Cemetery in Columbia, SC.

If you want to participate, simply go to the Wreaths Across America website and either choose volunteer, your location closest to you and sign up. If you are unable to volunteer to lay wreaths, you can choose to sponsor a wreath and donate money. I plan on making this a yearly experience and would love to eventually go participate at Arlington National Cemetery. My friend and I are trying to get a group together so if you are interested feel free to contact me via email and we can discuss meeting up on Saturday, December 15th.

To learn more: https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

(On the right-hand side, use the drop- down box to choose volunteer and follow instructions from there)

Here is my email address if you want to join us at Fort Jackson National Cemetery: tmcameron@crimson.ua.edu

 

 

 

 

WOW! This child is amazing!

By June Headley-Greenlaw

I was watching the news this weekend, and a story came on about a child that was honoring veterans.  Of course, being a military family, it got my full attention.  This was a story about a child in 7th grade that has been working for three years to honor veterans.  As I listened to his story, I completely went into the ugly cry!  As Carrie Underwood says, “you can’t cry pretty.”

The story on the news was a follow-up with a child they had featured last year.  They didn’t dig a lot into the backstory so, of course, I went looking for it and found it on the web.  This young boy, his heart and his actions, astound me!

He went to visit his Grandfather’s grave to place a flag and some flowers on Veteran’s Day and noticed that many of the graves didn’t have any flags or flowers.  Disturbed by this, he vowed to do something about it.  He started raising money by vacuuming floors, and he set a goal to place a flag and flower on the graves of each of the veterans resting in the cemetery where his Grandfather was buried.

His mission grew from there, and he has now honored over 180,000 veterans by placing a flag and red carnation on their graves.  He doesn’t stop there.  You can read the rest of his story at www.prestonsharp.net.

The story touched me so deeply because I remember the first Christmas after we lost our Marine, Jared Greenlaw.  He was only 25 years old when he died in April of 2017.  That Christmas, my husband and I donated to an organization called Wreaths Across America.  The organization was started in Maine, which is where Jared’s gravesite is located in a Veteran’s cemetery, and their mission is to place wreaths on the graves of veterans across this country.  However, we didn’t know if they would specifically get to his grave.Capture

We were devastated that we couldn’t be there to do something ourselves that year because we were in South Carolina, so we ended up calling Jared’s uncle Mark and asking him to do it for us.  Without hesitation, he did.  We were blessed to have family members close to the cemetery, but the sting of thinking that our son’s grave might be bare for Christmas was overwhelming.  It might not seem like a big deal to some, but when the only way you have left to take care of your child is to dress up their grave, believe me, it’s important!

I was touched by the actions of this child so deeply partly because of his age and partly because of his dogged determination.  Not many kids his age understand what it means to be a veteran and certainly kids his age have things more fun to do than visiting cemeteries.  Yet Preston seems to truly understand the importance of what he is doing.   I’m certain that the veterans he is honoring in the cemeteries are just as grateful to Preston as those veterans he’s visiting with that we are blessed to still have among us.

I am proud of this young man and his cause, and I’m hoping that you will be too.  If you’d like to help him carry out his mission, read more about him, purchase a t-shirt or a challenge coin, or donate funds for him to purchase more flags and flowers for our veterans by visiting his website at www.prestonsharp.net.