This Veterans Day, Resurrecting Lives Foundation (RLF) set out to uniquely honor those who so bravely served our country. Using social media to reach a wider audience, RLF created our first annual “24 Hours of Honor.” Every hour, a different veteran was honored with a tweet and Facebook post from RLF’s social media channels, sharing their photo and story. Nominations were collected through resurrectinglives.org in the weeks leading up to Veterans Day. Service members from far and wide were nominated by friends, family members and colleagues and represented Hawaii, New York and everything in-between. We continue to honor these heroes, and all other US veterans.
SFC Natalie Dorris
SFC Dorris, of St. Helena, CA, is a Healthcare NCO at Fort Polk, LA where she serves as a Treatment Platoon Sergeant and a SHARP Victim Advocate at the Brigade Support Battalion.
SGT Randy Taylor
Randy was an Army Supply Specialist and deployed to Somalia and then later to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
LTC (Ret.) Erica DiJoseph
LTC DiJoseph was an Army Licensed Clinical Social Worker who served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and as Chief of Behavioral Health Sciences at AMEDD Center and School.
Dr. John R. Evans, M.D.
Dr. Evans was a lifelong resident of Marysville Ohio, U.S. Air Force Veteran, respected clinician and accomplished administrator.
SSG Jay Musson
SSG Musson is President of the Musson Foundation and former Army Staff Sergeant who fought gallantly in the Mekong Delta in 1968/69 and who received the Bronze Star for his service.
Colonel (Ret.) Skylar Burgess
After nearly 30 years in the U.S. Air Force and USAF reserve, Col. Burgess now serves as the lead Client Service Partner at Deloitte and continues to serve his fellow service members on the Board of Directors for Resurrecting Lives Foundation.
Brian Clark, of Davis, Illinois served in the Air Force and is a veteran with the 90th Missile Security Forces.
U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson
Congressman Johnson is an Air Force Veteran fighting diligently on behalf of veterans in our nation’s capitol.
SPC Nadine Garcia
SPC Gardia, of Montebello CA, is an Aviation Operations Specialist in the Army Reserves who serves her fellow veterans by volunteering in her community.
Air Force Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Don Accamando
Director of the office of Military and Veterans Students at Duquesne University, Don leads the charge on addressing veterans’ issues at Duquesne.
US Congressman Steve Stivers
Congressman Stivers serves proudly in D.C. and in the Ohio National Guard as a Brigadier General.
SGT Jason Valentin-Diaz
Jason, of Las Vegas Nevada, is an Army Veteran who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007 and Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010.
SSG Patrick Witt
SSG Witt, of Hubbard Ohio, is a former Army Medic who deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti during his 20 years of service.
Congressman Warren Davidson
Congressman Davidson is a former Army Ranger and officer now serving Ohio and our nation’s veterans on Capitol Hill.
CPT Noelle Durfee
CPT Durfree, of Hicksville, NY, is a former Army Medical Service Corps Captain who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and now serves her community as a Physician’s Assistant.
Paul, of Merrillville, Indiana, was a Vietnam Veteran and a champion of veteran causes for all branches and eras of service.
Dr. Ernest Mazzaferri, Sr.
Dr. Mazzaferri, of Henderson, Nevada, was a devoted husband, accomplished physician, and member of both the Air Force and U.S. Army Reserves. Dr. Mazzaferri had an uncompromised drive to serve his country and his patients.
U.S. Congressman Brad Wenstrup
Congressman Wenstrup, an Army officer and Iraq War Veteran, is continuing the fight for veterans representing Ohio’s 2nd district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
CPT Seth Freshly
CPT Freshly is a Purple Heart Recipient, former active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain and 3rd Infantry Divisions, and current Ohio National Guardsman, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation.
SGT Cameron Meddock
SGT Meddock, of Spearman Texas, was animage2 Army Ranger, patriot, and father who died January 17th, 2019 from injuries sustained in Afghanistan.
CW4 (Ret.) Donnie Furr
Chief Furr, of Jackson Kentucky, was a Health Services Maintenance Warrant Officer in the US Army and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008 and Operation Enduring Freedom in 2013.
SGT Giovanni Berdejo-Gallegos
SGT Berdejo-Gallegos, of Fountain Valley California, is an Army Veteran of Afghanistan who authored the book “One Angry Veteran” to help his fellow vets.
Paul Carlson, Secretary to the Board of Directors;
Senior Consultant to the Global Institute for the Study of Intelligent Communities, Dublin Ohio
Paul has served on the RLF Board of Directors as Secretary since 2016 and brings years of experience in information technology project management, entrepreneurship and leadership to the table. After holding impactful roles at the State of Ohio Treasurer’s Office, Paul went on to serve as the first IT Project Manager for the City of Columbus and facilitated Columbus becoming recognized as the 2015 Most Intelligent Community in the World by the Intelligent Community Foundation. Paul has participated in panel discussions across the country as an expert on smart cities and transportation.
Paul earned a BA in Political Science and an MA in History from Youngstown State University, and pursued an Engineering degree at the US Naval Academy.
Sharing stories helps to bring meaning into our lives. They also help to bind generations together and they can often solidify friendships. I remember my father telling me how proud he was, when he was nine years old, watching his brother Carl march down the main street of Ridgway, Pennsylvania in the welcoming home parade at the end of WWI.
Paul R. Carlson served in WWII as a SeaBee in Guam as an enlisted man. He told his brother-in-law Ted Tate that he would volunteer to serve in his place if Ted would agree to stay home with his youngest sister Martha. As the story goes, my dad, who was not married at the time and was living in Akron, Ohio, proceeded to get drunk one night, parked outside what he thought was an Army recruiting station, and ended up joining the Navy by mistake. At the age of thirty-four, he volunteered primarily to make sure that his sister would not become a widow. His nickname was pops! Because of his war experiences, he could never buy any other car but an American one.
During the last twenty years of my father’s life, my three brothers and I would spend Memorial Day with him traveling to his hometown of Ridgway. We would leave my father’s house in Youngstown precisely at 6:30 am to meet our cousins John and Paul Frederick for breakfast at the Pennsy Restaurant in Ridgway at 8:30 am. From there, we’d go to plant ﬂowers at the Oakmont Cemetery on family grave sites. Our next stop was to go to the Lone Pine Lodge hunting camp that was built by Glen Blakesley, my father’s cousin Oscar Nelson, my father, and Bob Plaster (see picture). We would then return to the cemetery for the Memorial Day celebration. It was always a wonderful event with much of the small community attending, paying tribute to our fallen heroes. Serving in the military is a big deal especially when you are from a small town.
Every year, we made the same stops, in the same order. After the grave site celebration we’d stop at the VFW, where my father’s name is on a plaque that hangs on the wall, being one of the founding members. An outdoor cookout at Cousin John and Andrea’s house, on Vernon Avenue, was always the highlight of the day, talking with Pastor Horowitz, neighbors and relatives. The ﬁnal stop before our drive home, with me as the designated driver, was to visit cousin Lilian Mackalay and (large) family in Johnsonburg. My father kept Lilian’s letter that she wrote to him when he was serving overseas. We heard my father tell the same stories, year after year and they became more precious every time he repeated them, each year with more enthusiasm. It seems that military traditions became woven through the fabric of our lives.
My oldest brother Dave served four years in the Air Force and my brother Don, a 1972 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, recently retired after serving twenty-three years in the Navy. I left Annapolis, Class of 1973, after spending two years, primarily because I did not understand the Vietnam War and believed that I could not lead men in a war that I did not believe in. Now, it appears to experts who have studied the war, that we totally misunderstood the Vietnamese culture and caused irreparable harm by our ignorance of history. Yet I have the greatest respect for the military who served out of honor for their country.
Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, the founder of RLF, and I both attended Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio and when she asked me to serve on the Board in 2016, I felt a special obligation to say yes. What I enjoy most about being on the Board is the ability to meet veterans at military gatherings and, together with the other Board members, help those vets who suﬀer from TBI.
As an RLF Board Member, I am grateful for military families and for the sacriﬁce that is being carried by fewer and fewer of those families, and especially for the veterans who continue to serve our country by actively participating in the political process by serving in oﬃce, irrespective of party aﬃliation.
Randy and Brenda Johnson just wanted to start up a little fun- a regular country get-together for friends and neighbors to have a good time. They recall sitting in the Bollinger County (Missouri) Country Club Bar and Restaurant, chatting about their idea in 2013. Their buddy, Warren Miller, liked the idea, and figured they ought to have some seed money…. so he sent them a check for $1000. With money in hand, they realized the idea was “starting to get real now.”
Brenda suggested that since they were getting organized, they should use the opportunity to do something for charity. Another buddy had a Down Syndrome family member, so the first several Scopus Family and Friends Fests benefitted the Down Syndrome Association of the Heartland. Randy and Brenda’s idea blossomed because “our kids are healthy, so we need to give back to others who aren’t so fortunate.”
Randy has been giving back virtually all of his life, starting with his enlistment through the Delayed Entry Program in the US Army in March, 1972. As soon as high school was finished, he turned up for Boot Camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. His training readied him to be a Vulcan crewman headed for the Vietnam War, but by the time he had achieved his MOS (military occupation specialty), the Army had pulled the Vulcans out of Vietnam. Of course, the Army found other things for him to do, including several stints on “canvas duty” – or recruitment – as well as some turns driving for officers at McGregor Range in New Mexico and Fort Lewis, Washington.
After the service, Randy built his skills so that he could do just about anything. He trained in TV and radio repair and refrigeration and air conditioning; he was a welder for a while and had a TV/radio shop. “When the first cable company came to town,” he recalls, “I worked for them. Then I worked for a company that made the big dishes; I installed them.” Randy managed a Western Auto store, and then discovered he had a knack for building houses. He likes to say, “my wife got to live in 12 new houses- we’d build them, live in them, then build another and move on.”
Oh, and he was also in the National Guard until 1981.
The physical work of building that he enjoyed so much was curtailed by an accident in the 80s – a log fell on him – and he’s had to adjust his approach to the world a little bit. But Randy and Brenda can’t sit still: they moved to “town” – Jackson, Missouri – about a year ago, but soon realized that town life was not for them – so they’re back in Bollinger County. They bought the very country club where their idea was born in 2013 and are turning it into another home. And of course it’s the perfect place to host the (now) annual Scopus and Sedge Fest, renamed in honor of their first benefactor, Warren Miller, after he died suddenly a few years ago.
“Maybe,” they say, “we’ll slow down a little after the country club project is done.”
Resurrecting Lives Foundation Board member Stan Crader, a lifelong friend of the Johnsons, had a hoot of a time at the 3rd Scopus Fest, and asked Randy if he’d ever thought about raising funds for other organizations. Stan outlined the mission and vision of RLF, and Randy and Brenda were all in. The Fest, which continues to grow, has donated half of its proceeds to RLF every year since the 4th Fest in 2016, splitting the funds with charities that help kids.
What drives their generosity? Randy and Brenda don’t hesitate to say, “if it’s given to you, you need to give it back.”
That spirit seems to be in the drinking water around Scopus and Sedgewickville. A large group of neighbors come together to plan and stage the Fest each year, and have a heck of a good time doing it. About 30 of them give their time, both before the event and on the day. Randy calls them the backbone of the Fest. The volunteers canvas local businesses and residents for donations to auction, organize games and competitions (don’t forget “Chicken Poop Bingo”) and pull together publicity.
Randy – who plays a little music himself every now and then (like the guitar, banjo, and mandolin) touts the volunteerism of three local band members who attended last year and played to entertain the crowds. This year they each showed up with their full bands to hold a full-blown concert: Curtis Cook & the Damn Band, Silver Fox, and Route 67. Guitars signed by these guys, and by Travis Tritt, and by the Lynard Skynard Band, have brought in some fine prices at auction at the Fest over the last few years.
And did you hear the one about the loaves and fishes? The Fest continues to see relatively the same number of attendees – mostly from Bollinger County and its surroundings- but continues to raise more money for charities. Huh.
Randy’s had a few surgeries (17 to be exact) since his run-in with the log, but Brenda points out that her health has been great, so clearly they were meant to be together. They credit being on the go all the time, with a little rest in between, as the tonic for keeping them moving. And of course there’s that giving back thing.
They’re looking forward to a relaxing Thanksgiving Day, when they band together with other friends to serve free meals at the local VFW. They’ll play a little music, clear a few plates, and enjoy the giving. They’ll do the same on Christmas Day.
Thank you, Randy and Brenda, over and over again, for your service.
November means Thanksgiving in the US, with the turkey-and-pie it implies….but it also signifies the time of year when we generally express our gratitude: “thank you” gifts to teachers, the mail carrier, friends and neighbors; prayers at the dinner table focused on things for which we are grateful; handshakes and hugs and carols and greeting cards to those in our lives we don’t want to forget.
The other US holiday in November is, of course, Veterans’ Day. Fittingly, we take a day during this time late in the year to say “thank you for your service,” attend a parade, volunteer. But the freedoms that our military has preserved for us do not expire at the end of the day each November 11. Those freedoms – like our gratitude – are deep and unending.
We are grateful for the young men and women who join the military looking for direction in their lives. We are grateful for those who sign up in order to pledge their leadership to the US. We are grateful for career military, who give a large chunk of their lives to service. We are grateful for veterans of all wars and conflicts, for veterans who saw no action, for veterans who saw too much action. We are grateful to veterans who came back whole, veterans who came back scarred or damaged or limbless or angry.
Veterans, we hope you know that Resurrecting Lives Foundation is profoundly grateful to you and your families for your honor, your sacrifices, and your legacies.