Beware of the “Silent Killer” #Diabetes

One Christmas morning in the late 1970’s, Santa Claus brought bicycles for my brother and me.  My brother, who is almost two and a half years older, already knew how to ride but I still needed to be taught. I’ll never forget my dad teaching me to ride that bike in the front yard of his Montgomery, Alabama, home that chilly Christmas morning.

My dad, Randall Fuller, was just like any other dad, albeit with one exception; he was blind.

Factor in his blindness with my stutter and it was an accident waiting to happen and boy did it ever. He simultaneously held the left handle bar and the back of the seat, took off running and told me to pedal. As a person who stutters, I have particular difficulty with words beginning with the letter S. I tried yelling “S-S-S-S-S” but by the time I got out “STOP!” it was too late. I was already lying face down in the sticker bushes.

Before losing his sight, he was a barber.

For a short period of time, he cut hair at Campus Barber Shop in Auburn.  He even cut former Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan’s hair a time or two. Although he was a devoted Alabama fan, he swept up and kept some of the Heisman Trophy winning hair in an envelope. I remember that envelope full of hair being around the house for a few years. I’m not sure what ever happened to it.

Later, he owned the Playboy Barber Shop in the breezeway of the Midway Plaza shopping center in Opelika. Perhaps some of our readers remember the pet mongoose he kept in a cage there.

My dad was also a champion coon hunter. People came from miles away just to go hunting with him. I can’t go anywhere without someone telling me about some of the late night coon hunting adventures in the freezing woods of Tallapoosa County.

Predictably, after losing his sight, he couldn’t get anyone to go with him. I can’t say that I blame them.

My dad was a diabetic. He had “the sugar.” In fact, he was diagnosed with what has been coined the “silent killer” when he was just four years old.

I’m not here to bash my old man, but the cold hard truth is that he didn’t take care of himself the way he should have. He didn’t go in for checkups, because, according to my mother, he said he felt fine. By the time he started experiencing problems with his vision, it was too late.

He did, however, immediately enroll at the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega, which helped him cope with his impending predicament.

In spite of his blindness, he continued to work every day, just not as a barber. He set a great example for his two boys. My dad was a flawed hero.

He would have turned 67 years old on November 16; however, this dreadful disease prematurely ended his life at 35. His boys were only 11 and 8.

This is one of only two pictures I have with him. The other is from a large family gathering. Glad to see my parents had the same haircut. Wylie was growing into his. I always was a little different.

This is one of only two pictures I have with him. The other is from a large family gathering. Glad to see my parents had the same haircut. Wylie was growing into his. I always was a little different.

The startling statistics below come from JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.)

Diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans.

In the U.S., a new case of diabetes is diagnosed every 30 seconds; more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed each year.

Forty-one children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each and every day.

More than $174 billion is spent annually on healthcare costs related to diabetes in the United States.

Diabetes kills one American every three minutes.

November is “Diabetes Awareness Month” but we should always be conscious of the “silent killer.”

Don’t be a victim. Educate yourself. Get tested. Add exercise to your daily routine and watch your diet.

The author of this article needs to do the same.

Jody Fuller is comic, speaker, writer, and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com

Advertisements

Snakes have a bad rap

After graduating from college in 2001, I fell on hard times as I awaited orders for Officer Candidate School. The Army has a justifiable reputation for messing up paperwork, so it was almost a year before Uncle Sam finalized my departure date.

During those hard times, a buddy of allowed me to move into his trailer, which was located way out in the country. I was appreciative of it then, and I’m appreciative of it now.

One day, I was chasing a mouse around the living room trying to exterminate the little varmint when it decided to run behind the couch. I can proudly say that I had a confirmed kill that day, but that’s not the story.

What I saw next almost cured my stutter.

I saw what appeared to be about four feet of snake skin, so, naturally, I started packing my stuff up like Gene Chizik and his entire coaching staff after the 2012 football season.

I slept at a buddy’s house that night and never went back to that snake infested trailer again.

It’s not that I’m afraid of a snake; I just don’t care to live in the same dwelling as one, but that was over a decade ago. I would’ve handled it differently today.

I caught this little fella last year while cutting grass.

I caught this little fella last year while cutting grass.

To the best of my knowledge, I’ve only killed one snake in my life and that is one too many.

This time of year, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see at least one photo of a dead snake on Facebook.

Much like seeing a Bama fan at Target, many of us, including yours truly, are startled when we first see one, but this is a natural reaction; however, it doesn’t constitute the killing of this amazing creature.

Some people just enjoy killing them as if it solidifies their manhood or something, whereas others legitimately suffer from ophidiophobia, which is the abnormal fear of snakes.

“It’s a shame that so many well-educated people have an irrational fear of snakes and refuse to acknowledge that they suffer from ophidiophobia and refuse to be treated for their psychological disorder, “ said my friend, geezer, and resident snake expert Dr. Bob Mount.

Some people claim they kill them because they might bite. Well, a koala bear might bite, too, but in 41 years on this earth, I’ve been bitten by neither.

Another guy says he kills them simply because he is bigger. Well, I encourage him to keep that in mind if he ever has an altercation with Shaq.

Then, of course, there’s the old saying “the only good snake is a dead snake” which couldn’t be further from the truth. Snakes are not the enemy. Snakes are our allies and serve such a vital role in the ecosystem.

Texas Indigo snake eating a Rattler (courtesy of the Texas Hill Country Facebook page)

Texas Indigo snake eating a Rattler
(courtesy of the Texas Hill Country Facebook page)

I don’t condone but I do understand the killing of venomous snakes, particularly if there are small children and outside pets present; however, I’m partial to relocating the critter myself.

That being said, if you come upon a venomous snake while out in the woods, let it be. Remember, you are the one encroaching upon its territory at this point.

When I was a kid, I remember riding down a country road with my baby sitter’s husband who was the proud owner of a late seventies model Camaro. We sped by a snake trying to cross the road. He saw it, slammed on the brakes, put the car in reverse, and ran over the snake.

At the time, I thought that was cool. Now I know better.

The other day at lunch, one of my best friends told me about a similar incident with him and his daughter; however, in this case, it was his seven year old daughter encouraging him to back up.

Apparently, it’s ingrained in the minds of children that snakes are inherently evil.

That very day, I caught a six foot long gray rat snake on my back porch. It was one of the most beautiful creatures I’d ever seen, and this particular snake was as docile as a lapdog.

I caught this beautiful gray rat snake on my back porch. If you don’t want critters on your porch, keep it free of clutter.

I caught this beautiful gray rat snake on my back porch. If you don’t want critters on your porch, keep it free of clutter.

Snakes have a strong wrap. On the other hand, they have a bad rap.

According to the University of Florida, the chances of dying from a venomous snakebite in the United States is nearly zero, as only one in 50 million people will die from a snakebite. You are nine times more likely to die from being struck by lightning than to die of a venomous snakebite.

I know a veteran with three tours in Vietnam who was bitten by a venomous snake and struck by lightning twice. For the record, he was an idiot and put himself in those predicaments. I loved him, but he was an idiot, nonetheless.

So for goodness sake, leave the snakes alone. Let them be, and above all else, when your wife tells you to stop welding and to come inside because a storm is approaching, put down the torch and heed her advice.

Update: I wrote this on Wednesday but am posting it today, Friday. I scolded my buddy for running over that snake the other day. He just texted me a picture of a very large rat snake in his yard and he let it live. In the past, he would’ve killed it. See, we if we truly believe in something, we can all make a difference, one person at a time.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Freedom isn’t free

Freedom isn’t free

Penland Wall edit

I took this photo at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor in 2012.

I took this photo at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor in 2012.

Memorial Day weekend is upon is. The kids are out of school. It’s time to fire up the grill. It’s time to head to the pool, lake, or beach. It’s time to party with family and friends. It’s the beginning of the summer. That’s what Memorial Day is all about, right?

Wrong.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday which occurs each year on the final Monday of May. It should not be confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, whereas Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead.

I took this pic at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.Not taking the time to reflect upon the fallen service member and his or her sacrifices on Memorial Day is akin to not taking the time to reflect upon Jesus Christ and his sacrifice at Easter.

Unlike other holidays, we don’t receive tangible gifts on Memorial Day; however, thanks to all of the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice, we do receive the intangible gift of freedom.

One of those brave warriors was Sergeant First Class (SFC) Raymond D. Penland.

Penland 2

I first learned about SFC Penland by way of his son and my dear friend, Opelika native and resident, Steve Penland.
Raymond D. Penland was born July 5, 1921, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Although he started his senior year of high school, he never finished, but that wouldn’t prevent him from living a remarkable life.

He enlisted in the Army on Feb 23, 1940, at the age of 19.

Unfortunately, SFC Penland’s service record is largely unknown.

On July 12, 1973, there was a fire at the National Personnel Records Center, located just outside of St. Louis, that destroyed 80% of the records for U.S. Army personnel discharged over a nearly 50 year span from 1912 to 1960. Additionally, 75% of the records for U.S. Air Force personnel discharged from 1947 to 1964 were also destroyed.

None of the records that were destroyed in the fire had duplicate copies made, nor had they been copied to microfilm.

Regrettably, up to 18 million service records were destroyed leaving veterans and families alike looking for answers.

The family has no record of where Penland attended basic training, but older son, Raymond (Ray) C. Penland, through due diligence alone, has been able to obtain some of his father’s records.

After completing basic training, Penland was assigned to 2nd Infantry Division (ID) as a rifleman from 1940-42, which is significant to me, because I, too, was assigned to 2ID, albeit 61 years later.

Over the next few years, Penland’s stellar performance would allow him to rise up the ranks of 10th Infantry Regiment holding such positions as squad leader, platoon guide, and platoon sergeant.

Penland was part of the greatest generation and saw action in the European theater during World War II. While serving with 10th Infantry, he was awarded his first of two Purple Hearts for injuries sustained along the Moselle River in Northern France.

In 1946, Penland was assigned to recruiting duty in, of all places, Opelika, Alabama. His time here would be very productive.

Raymond D. Penland married Opelika native Sara H. May in Troup County, Georgia, on March 1, 1947.

Over the next few years, Ray and Steve would come along, respectively.

Also, while in Opelika, Penland would go on to earn his GED.

In 1949, SFC Penland returned to 10th Infantry where he reassumed his role as Platoon Sergeant.

He departed Ft. Benning, Georgia, for Korea in July of 1950, just weeks after the outbreak of the Korean War.

Due to the fire of 1973, the family has little knowledge of his duties in Korea, although they do know he was assigned to Company L, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

According to a letter from CPT McCaffrey, his Commanding Officer, on December 16, 1950, Penland departed the Company Headquarters with the Executive Officer and a driver in order to go to the rear for ammunition. During their return, they were ambushed by a group of North Korean soldiers, and, sadly, Sergeant First Class Raymond D. Penland was killed in action by machine gun fire.

His XO and driver were wounded in the attack.

His unit was evacuated by sea just three days later.

He was just 29 years old. He would leave behind a young wife, the mother of his two sons.

For his leadership and valor, SFC Penland was awarded two Purple Hearts, the American Defense Service Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military.

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military.

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military.

He was most likely awarded additional medals including the Bronze Star. Unfortunately, that can’t be verified at this time due to the fire at the records center.

Records show that SFC Penland is buried in what is registered as United Nations Military Cemetery #2 in Hungnam, North Korea; however, there is no evidence of him actually being there. They were intentionally hidden so the enemy wouldn’t dig up the remains for their clothing. There are 48 other soldiers buried there with him. Furthermore, there are thousands of other U.S. servicemen still buried in North Korea.

In the early nineties, Ray, retired U.S. Navy, was stationed in Japan and went to Korea on assignment. His unit visited the U.N. base in P’anmunjom on the demilitarized zone. This is the closest any member of the Penland family has ever been to SFC Penland’s grave.

His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. This Honolulu memorial is also known as “The Punchbowl.”

Penland Cemetery

I took these photos in Jan 2014.

Penland Wall edit

Korea has often been referred to as “The Forgotten War” because of the lack of public attention it received both during and after the war, but I can assure you that neither the Penland family nor the families of the more than 33,000 casualties from the Korean War have ever forgotten.

“I was 9 months old and my brother was almost 3 when my mother received the telegram. There’s never a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and wish that one day he can be brought back home and given a final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery,” said Steve.

Ray sums it up well, “Each memorial day I remind my friends that there are missing servicemen and women all over the world. They are in unmarked graves in cities, jungles, deserts, and at sea. As we celebrate our nation’s greatness, let us not forget those who gave their all for their country and may never come home again.”

So enjoy the freedom that this holiday allows. Enjoy the outdoor recreation, the barbeques, and the start of summer, but I encourage you to take a moment and reflect upon those men and women whose sacrifice paved the way for you to do so, because a true reflection of this sacred day clearly shows that freedom is not free.

kid with flag

This is what Memorial Day is really about.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

jody044 (1)

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

In honor of this National Day of Prayer, I’d like to share with you the Power of Prayer.

I graduated from college in August 2001. A month later, the tragic events of 9/11 unfolded and changed my life forever.

Before attending college, I was an enlisted man in the Army. In the wake of such a catastrophic event, I felt the need to serve once again; however, that didn’t happen right away.

Foolishly, I’d quit my job at Kroger six months prior to graduation with the rationale that I’d have no trouble finding employment upon graduation. In fact, I anticipated having a job prior to graduation. Both were miscalculations on my part.

I’d saved enough money to make ends meet as long as no monkey wrenches entered the equation. Unfortunately, the monkey wrenches kicked in the door and brought baboon hammers with them.

To say times were tough is like saying Harvey Updyke likes Alabama.

I experienced everything from an eviction to a blown transmission to harassing phone calls from bill collectors to strained relationships with loved ones. If it was negative, there’s a good chance I experienced it.

My credit got so bad that I got turned down for a paper route. Times were tough.

Along this dark journey, I’d often find myself in prayer, simply asking the Lord to help me make it. At the time, I thought it meant I was asking Him to absolve me of the challenges in my life. In hindsight, He did exactly what I asked of Him. One day at a time, He helped me make it.

I reported to Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Georgia, on September 11, 2002.

OCS

As my luck would have it, I was assigned to Alpha Company, notoriously known as “Alphatraz”, for a grueling 14 weeks of training.

I’m not exactly sure when, where, or how but sometime early on I injured my right knee. What initially began as mild discomfort would eventually become unbearably excruciating pain.

I was hesitant about going on sick call, because an extended profile, which restricts physical activity, would cause me to miss training and to likely be recycled to another company.

The culminating event of this ordeal took place in the wee hours of a chilly Fort Benning morning as we started what was to be a relatively short road march fully equipped with ruck sacks and training weapons known as rubber ducks.

Within a matter of minutes, I was using the rubber duck as a crutch as tears streamed down my face. I was forced to abandon the march and take refuge in the truck that was following our formation.

Make no mistake about it; the pain was immense but the tears had more to do with the trials and tribulations I’d experienced over the past year coming to a head combined with a real sense of hopelessness.

By the time I got to sick call that morning, my knee was about three times its normal size. I was given an initial 10-day profile and would indeed be recycled. I was devastated.

I prayed that night. I mean, I really prayed. I felt connected in a way in which I have only experienced on one other occasion. Perhaps one day, I’ll share that story.

As usual, the lights were abruptly turned on the next morning at “o dark 30.” Upon first call each day, we had only five minutes to be standing outside in formation ready to start the day.

As I readied myself to jump down from the top bunk, I grimaced while anticipating the agonizing pain that would soon follow, but much to my surprise, I stuck that landing like Mary Lou Retton at the ’84 Summer Olympics in LA. There was no pain. Zero. Nil. Nothing. The swelling had disappeared, too.

I was astonished by what appeared to be a miraculous healing but wasn’t completely convinced so I maintained my profile for the remainder of that day.

The next day, however, I returned to sick call and convinced the doctor to rescind my profile. Although there were other speed bumps along the way, none of them involved a bum knee.

I went on to graduate from Officer Candidate School and was sworn in as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army on January 10, 2003.

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my "grandpa."

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my “grandpa.”

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.

The day I raised my right hand and stated the oath of office is undoubtedly the proudest moment of my life, and without blinking an eye, I can say that it never would have happened without the power of prayer.

The power of prayer got me to and through OCS and has allowed me to serve admirably as a commissioned officer for the past decade, which includes three tours of duty in Iraq.

Prayer fuels me daily and is a whole lot cheaper than that stuff you pump into your vehicle.

Without it, I hate to think where I’d be.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.