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Married to my childhood sweet heart, father of a teenage daughter, amateur poker degenerate by day, cape wearing super hero by night.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Life Variance

So I'm driving southbound on I-95 the other day thinking about my lack of luck. Not that I ever complain about it, seriously, ask my wife. Ok, maybe once in a while I might mention the black cloud that follows me like Schleprock. I'm not talking about health, or family etc. No, I'm talking about pure, out of the blue, random luck. The kind you need to win a game of chance, or find a twenty dollar bill on the ground or the kind you need to hit a one-in-five flush draw on the river. That kind of luck...I just don't have it. Experts say that luck evens out over the long run. You'll have exactly the same amount of good luck as you will bad luck if you live long enough. There's a term for it in poker: variance. At the rate I'm going, I swear, I'd have to live to be 176 years old for my variance to even out. 
As I continue my ride down I-95 I notice that there are no cars driving in the northbound lanes. There is a complete absence of any vehicles until a single Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Unit motorcycle appears with it's emergency lights on. No siren, just the red and blue flashing lights.  Fifty feet behind that lone motorcycle rider is another, duplicating the first. And then another, followed by several police cars and trucks, as well as several PA State Trooper vehicles.  All of them riding silently with just their emergency lights flashing. I immediately thought "The President must be in town" and expected to see his motorcade any second. But the limousine I expected was not the one that appeared. It was a silver colored hearse. At first I couldn't imagine who could be inside. No Philadelphia Police officer, that I knew of, had been killed or died recently. I tried to recall any news stories of a dignitary who may have passed away but I couldn't. Then it dawned on me. The person resting in the rear of that silver limo was none other than Navy Petty Officer First Class Michael Joseph Strange. 
"Petty Officer Strange, who grew up in the Wissinoming section of 
   Philadelphia, was among 30 U.S.service members killed Saturday, 
   Aug. 6, in the crash of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in eastern 
     Afghanistan."-Phila. Inquirer,8/14/11

This American hero was met at the Pennsylvania state line, where he was in route from Dover Air Force Base and escorted to his home town of Philadelphia where his final services would be held. Without thinking I made the sign of the cross as my car passed the hearse. My heart sunk and I felt goosebumps cover my arms. I was immediately saddened by my realization for who this nominal sign of respect was being made. Deep down inside I was also proud to be a member of The Philadelphia Police Dept at that moment. I thought of P.O. Strange's family, friends and loved ones and I grieved for them. I tried to imagine what he went though during his last moments alive, halfway around the wold in an unforgiving land, serving his country in battle. 
As my heart grew heavy I suddenly felt a wave of shame come over me. I remembered what I was complaining about moments before I saw this somber tribute to an American soldier. I was thinking about how unlucky I was because I can't win the lottery, or hit a set on the flop while playing a stupid card game. I thought the bad luck gods must be against me because the axel on my car broke last month.  Selfish. Petty. Trivial. I'm not unlucky. Most of us are not unlucky. We live everyday in a country where we can choose to do as we wish, how we wish to do it and with whom. Unlucky is a rocket propelled grenade clipping the tail rotor of the helicopter you are in as you are heading back to your base for r&r. Unlucky is an improvised explosive device on the same road as your armored column, as you are traveling on to the next town to search for terrorists. Unlucky is dying in a war torn, uncivilized country and never having the chance to hug your child or wife again. 
Petty Officer Strange's variance will never even out. None of the heroes who have given their lives in service to the United States will ever have their luck turn around. And I will always appreciate that thought, and their service, whenever I start to complain about my own lack of luck, because I AM lucky, after all, I can still hug my child and wife.
 God Bless P.O. Strange and all of the men and women who serve and protect us in the armed services. And, thank you.


  1. Live at the compoundAugust 20, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    Wow, very well put. Excellently displays how well our armed forces are doing the job...fighting a war against people who want to kill us, while most of us amble along complaining about mundane things. The US military sacrifices all, so that we don't have to sacrifice anything at all.

  2. Live at the compound: thanks for reading, and thanks for the comment!

  3. Well said. It is hard to puts things in perspective but sobering things like the situation you encountered makes all the little frustrations in life seem very small indeed.

  4. Loach: thanks for reading and commenting. You are right.