Who Will Remember The Heroes of Peace?

Who Will Remember The Heroes of Peace?


My personal connection to our veterans has always been through my father, Frank, and my brother, Greg. They are buried a few steps from each other at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

A year after Greg was killed in a fighter jet crash near Ellington Field outside Houston, my sister Kathy wrote the following Veterans Day meditation. It was published in the Houston Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times and several other newspapers nationwide.

On Veterans Day over the years, I have read it on the radio and shared it online.

* * * * * * * * * * *

“Who Will Remember The Heroes of Peace?”

by Kathleen Simpson

Veterans Day 1981

The vast Texas sky was cloudless, silent. An Indian summer sun baked the rows of small white crosses. The honor guard dressed in Air Force blue raised the flag above the casket of the young pilot. Five times the jolt of rifles cracked the air. The bugler raised the trumpet to his lips. On the breeze the strains of “Taps” lingered, faltered, breathlessly faded away. From the widow and the mother, from the sisters and the brother, from the small sea of blue-dressed men and women, there was not a whimper to hear, not a sigh.

Suddenly the silence shattered. Thundering toward the grave of the young pilot, four Phantom fighter jets screamed across the sky. Once they circled low over the rows of small white crosses, over the small blue human sea. Racing again toward the grave site, one plane broke the formation, thrust its steely nose straight up into the sun and vanished.

It is a farewell reserved for heroes. For combat aces and high ranking officers of distinguished career, the acrobats of the air fly by. But the young pilot, who was my brother, had never flown into battle. His prayer was that he would never fly to kill. Educated in the classroom of war, he abhorred the lesson that the innocent are the ultimate victims of the bomb and the sword. When he flew an F-101 jet fighter of the Texas Air National Guard on October 22, 1980, he believed in his mission to protect the innocent with his quicksilver wings of peace.

But the winged horse my brother rode that day was destined to be a Pegasus of power and peril. Seconds after he lifted the huge machine into the air from Ellington Air Force Base, an explosion ripped part of the tail from the plane. On the ground below him a crowded subdivision lay in the path of the flaming, flailing craft. A horrified witness reported: “The jet banked steeply to the left, went into a steep climb and then fell into the open field. It looked to me like the pilot intentionally turned away to avoid hitting those houses.”

In the last 60 seconds of his life, my brother’s only thought must have been of the innocent people living in the innocent safety of their homes below him. The airplane burned into the dust of a pasture just 500 yards away from those homes. The investigators retrieved his helmet from the crash. They bequeathed it to his widow, who keeps it for their small son. Sleep well, brother Greg; your prayer is answered. Never will you fly to kill.

Sifting still through the wreckage of my grief, I wonder. On the day of the Armistice of the first global war – the war that Woodrow Wilson called the war to end all wars – I wonder about the price that the governments of this century have elected to pay in the purchase of peace.

I wonder about all the brave young warriors of this peace, men and women proud of their mission, honored by their duty to safeguard our shores. Do their spouses sleep soundly while they fly through the night? Do the children play fearlessly in the schoolyard as their fathers or mothers crawl into the missile hole at day? Who will remember the heroes of this peace?

A few feet from where my brother now rests, another pilot sleeps. This man, our father, also abhorred violence and war. But as a young man my father saw havoc in the skies above Europe. Dreams of the innocent, the faceless victims of the bombs that fell from his plane, haunted his sleep every night he lived.

Dreamless now, father and son together sleep. The old veteran of war shares the soil of liberty with the young veteran of peace.

Today, the 11th day of November, at the 11th hour in the morning, flags fall to half-staff across the country in honor of the nation’s veterans. The statesmen lay huge floral wreaths at the monuments of the nameless soldiers. The widows crown the crosses of their loved ones with garlands from their gardens. Silence falls for a moment over the burial grounds of the warriors.

Then cannon volley and bugles blare. It is festival time in the graveyard. The 5-year-old son of my dead brother cheers as the mighty Phantom jets scream their power across the sky. He delights in the pageant of the parade marching by. His mother takes his small hand in hers when she cries. What will she tell him when he asks her why?


Every Time I Hear An Airplane…

My Brother Greg and His Family

Today would’ve been my brother Greg’s 67th birthday.

He was a smart, funny, loving father, husband, son, brother and friend.

He left this world much too young, just days after his 32nd birthday in 1980, while piloting a military jet near Houston.

My family and I seem to have had two lives – our life before Greg’s crash and our life afterwards. Our life before his crash was much more innocent, carefree and blissful. This second life is colored by grief and often sad, but the moments of love, joy and bliss are heightened by the realization that someone or everyone you love can vanish in the blink of an eye.

The photo on the left I took of his family the last time I saw him.

While his wife and children look to the camera, Greg notices an airplane and points to the sky.

I’ve found this photo foreshadowing and comforting over the years. To this day, when I hear an airplane, I look to the sky and think of Greg.

Happy Birthday, Greg!


Autumnal Equinox



(2am 9/22/2013)

summer has ended

i felt this coming

light and warmth waning

portending the fall
and the coming winter

while days draw shorter
and the chilly darkness grows

but for this moment

this one moment

this Now

all is equal



light and darkness

hope and fear

pleasure and pain

chaos and serenity

laughter and tears

koyaanisqatsi and bliss

the unseen world appears
translucently amid the twilight

i open my arms

gaze to the delirious sky

listening intently

to the music of the spheres

and I am equal

to the love

to the fear

to the euphoria

to the yin and the yang

of the great unknown

and I surrender

to the autumnal equinox

Life Is Not Ordinary


In Marfa, Looking For The Lights

In Marfa, Looking For The Lights


Life is not ordinary

Yet we often believe it is

Life is not fair

Yet we often believe it is

Life is not long

Yet we often believe it is


Why are we prone to illusion?

Why are we wired for fear?


When love will set us free

Another Dying Friend

Tracy Frost

Tracy Frost


(In memory of Tracy Frost)


Every time it happens

We remind ourselves

That life

Is so fragile

So fleeting

We took this friend

For granted

So we resolve

To appreciate

To revere

To affirm

To celebrate

The amazing friends

In our life


We slip back

Into the trance

And forget

That all of this

Is a miracle


The next friend dies

And we remind ourselves

All over again

And again

And again

Until that dying friend

Is finally you

Shielding My Eyes



Another horrific act of violence in America today and it was apparently captured on video.

This happens all too often. And we are presented with an option to view the day’s most senseless act on our computer and television screens.

No, thanks.

I choose not to see it.

I have read the story. I grieve and pray for the victims and their families. I lament that we live in a society where such murder has become so very commonplace.

Out of respect for the victims and their families and as a conscious choice to determine which images I allow into my mind, my psyche and my soul – I will not watch it.

May we all find a path to love, light and peace as we continue our journey through this wondrous life.

Once in a Blue Moon

Blue Moon of 2015

Blue Moon of 2015

Once in a Blue Moon.

How many times have we heard the phrase?

I just stepped outside and glimpsed the rising Blue Moon.

Ascending amid the trees in the Eastern sky.

Not blue, but golden, reflecting sunlight in the lower atmosphere.

The rare second full moon of the month.

We haven’t seen one since August 2012.

The next one arrives in January 2018.

On average, Blue Moons occur every 2.7 years.

That’s rare enough for me.

Once in a Blue Moon.

Once in a day.

Once in a night.

Once in a lifetime.

Once upon a time.



Holy, Holy, Holy.

Awakening to a Long Lost Friend


My final photo with Bill

My final photo with Bill

I awakened to a bittersweet surprise this morning.

Facebook features a reminder of memories you share with friends from your page.

Fumbling for my phone upon waking from a deep sleep, I saw the message, “You have memories with Bill Gandy today.”

Bill is my brother-in-law, who was diagnosed with metastatic cancer on his 53rd birthday – December 15, 2010.

I woke up this morning to a photo from the final day we spent together as I visited him in North Carolina four years ago.

He was staying in New Bern, North Carolina at the home of Lisa Ontiveros, a friend he knew since high school, and had started a romantic relationship with in the months before his diagnosis.

Bill was a Crew Chief for American Airlines at San Antonio International Airport for many years. After the diagnosis, Lisa brought him to North Carolina to be his caregiver through chemotherapy and other treatments to battle the cancer.

On the last day I saw him in late-July 2011, we went for a ride to the beach, had pizza for lunch and sat by the pool before I had to fly home.

His last words to me at the airport were, “I love you, man. You know that.”

I love him too.

Three weeks later, on August 16, 2011, he left us.

It was almost exactly eight months after he learned of the cancer.

Bill was a wonderful friend who became a devoted, treasured member of our family.

For more than three years after his death, I never had a dream about him.

Night after night, I would hope to dream about Bill, as I have dreamt about my father, my sister, my brother and other family and friends who have transitioned into the non-physical realm.

I found it odd that I would dream about so many departed souls, yet never Bill.

I wondered if perhaps he learned something negative about me on the other side and chose not to visit me in the dreamscape.

Then, a couple of months ago, he finally appeared in one of my dreams.


Bill, as he appeared in my dream

Bill, as he appeared in my dream

He was young, vibrant, smiling and funny as always.

When I awoke, I could feel that I had just been in his presence.

It’s amazing how a dream can make you feel near to someone who has passed on. I don’t discount that we’re actually spending time with the spirits of loved ones in our dreams.

For all of its flaws, Facebook does have a few virtues.

In this case, it sent me an unexpected gift: waking up to the memory and the smiling face of Bill on my phone.

Bill Gandy 1957-2011

Bill Gandy 1957-2011


In the Moon’s Shadow

Henry In The Shadow of The Moon

Twenty-four years ago today, at high noon, I watched day turn to night on the soil of the ancient Aztec village of Ixtlán de las Garzas, Mexico.

For nearly seven minutes I was bathed in the dark, fleeting shadow of the Moon.

The Sun disappeared. The stars sparkled in eerie twilight at midday as the temperature fell several degrees.

It was an experience so cosmically profound that its mystical echo reverberates through my psyche all these years later.

Within minutes, the Sun emerged from behind the Moon and daytime returned as usual.

For human beings to be in the shadow of the Moon is a very rare event. You must either find a way into the path of a total solar eclipse or have been one of the few Apollo astronauts who circled around the dark side of the Moon in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

While viewing a lunar eclipse (the Moon moving into the Earth’s shadow) or a partial solar eclipse (the Sun not fully obscured by the shadow of the Moon) is relatively common, a total solar eclipse is one of the rarest celestial events to be witnessed from this planet.

This transcendent moment was especially meaningful because I shared it with one of my dearest friends, Henry Iglesias.

Henry and his family were originally from Mexico, so we were watching this eclipse from his native soil.

Henry was my guide into his ancestral homeland and into the shadow of the Moon.

Those moments in the Moon’s shadow with Henry were among the most magical moments of my life.

In 2007, much too young, Henry left this Earthly existence.

Every July 11th, I think of Henry and I think of those fleeting, wondrous moments in the shadow of the Moon.

This poem is my remembrance of our time in the Moon’s shadow…


With Henry, In The Shadow of The Moon

Another time

Another century

Another life.

But the time

And the century

And the life

Were mine.

And his.

Planets were aligning

Celestial spheres inexorably drawn.

Eleventh of July, 1991.

When the heavens offer a gift

You must be present to receive.

He led me into Mexico

The land of his birth

The land would birth me

To transcendence

To bliss

To awe.

I knew he was my friend

I know he was my shaman

Guiding me to the light

And the shadow

Where few have truly been:

Astronauts orbiting the lunar dark side

And fortunate few on the planet

Or dreamers like us

Who seek the shadow.

We arrived on hallowed ground

On ancient Aztec soil

Eyes cast skyward

The shadow rushing toward us

We felt it coming

The animals, birds, insects, trees felt it coming.

All became still

Temperature dropped

Time fell away

And then, oh, so suddenly

It… all… merged…

Sun, Moon, Shadow, Earth

Moon, Earth, Shadow, Sun

Earth, Sun, Shadow, Moon

Sun, Moon, Shadow

Moon, Shadow






Day turned to night.


I. See.

I. See. Stars.

I. See. Stars. At. Noon.

Henry, look at the stars!

And the Sun eclipsed by the Moon





Bathed in the splendor

Of the cosmic dance of spheres

In holy, holy, holy communion.


My friend, my shaman

Thank you for guiding me there

Years fly by.

You find true love

You write and sing

About the Smile of God

And Brothers of The Sky

And then, oh, so suddenly

Your body eclipsed by a brain tumor

Henry, look at the stars!

They shine with you among them.

The shadow lingers

Your spirit lives.

Another time

Another century

Another life.

If I go back

To seek the shadow

Will you meet me there?

Heading to the 1991 Mexico Eclipse with Henry

Traveling With Henry

1991 Mexico Eclipse

Eclipse Animation from July 11, 1991

Above: Animation of the Eclipse path on July 11, 1991

Chris & The Total Eclipse 1991

In Contemplation of Tonight’s Full Moon

Full Moon


Sometimes the New Year or the Mid Year or the Full Moon whispers to you that your time is now. And like the year and the Moon, your days are full, but waning.

Perhaps now is the time to become more of the person you came here to be.

I wrote these words last night, as we moved into the midpoint of the year, in contemplation of the Full Moon and how it can symbolize not only the progression of our year, but of our lives.






(Followed by Rebirth)

The fullness of the year, the fullness of the Moon and the fullness of your life is right now.