Saturday, September 16, 2017

A fellow Vietnam veteran gave me a life-changing perspective

We both served in Vietnam, but we didn't meet until a few years ago -- the small Vietnam vet group in which Paul participates invited me and Fritz the Sassy Service Dog to join them every Wednesday evening in Burbank.

What happens in the group stays in the group, but I can tell you that Paul is a wonderful photographer who sees beyond the camera.

Following last week's meeting, he took me aside and gave me a perspective so powerful that it has changed how I see my own life and legacy.

In the group meeting, I had expressed my envy of others there who smile and laugh when they speak of their grandchildren. They spend much of their time, it seems, doing things with or doing things for the family members they created.

Indeed, I was envious of the legacy they would be passing along in their DNA and in the memories of their children's children. While they gaze into the future, they seem to take pride in what they will have passed along.

I, on the other hand, was lamenting about having no such visions -- it was all going to end when my life ends.

Outside on the sidewalk that evening, Paul re-framed everything for me.

"Don," he said, "you do have a legacy to pass along. Your legacy will be in the stories that you are passing along to everybody.

"Your wonderful stories are your legacy."

It took a couple of days for it to sink in, but I soon realized he was right -- and that I do have offspring that will carry my DNA into the future.

My stories are my children.

They have names such as "The Vietnam Nuclear Detonation," "Traveling with Larry Flynt," "The Inside Story of Barry Minkow's ZZZZ  Best Company," "Saving a Dog's Life in Vietnam," "Breaking the Michael Jackson Child Molestation Story," "Ronald Reagan's Gift Mansion," "Accidentally Greeting Fidel Castro in Managua," "Teaching African Journalists How to Investigate Corruption from the Bottom Up,"

"Helping to Free Khadija," "The Spy of Shadow Hills," "Reuniting Adoptees with their Birth Parents," "Homeless in the High Desert," "Fritz the Sassy Service Dog," "A Midnight Copter Ride to Saigon to Save Another Dog's Life," "Inspiring Journalists in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Bosnia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Warsaw, the Ukraine and Malawi," "Inspiring and Empowering Journalism Students Throughout California," "The Mystery of the Spanish Kitchen," "The Endangered History Project," "Uncovering the Jim Jones Lewd Conduct Arrest," "Creating a Newspaper in Spanish -- La Prenza del Mojave," "Diggin' Up Gold on the Old Paper Trail; A Workbook for Investigatin' Folks," "A Public Records Primer and Investigator's Handbook," "Scores of Oral Histories -- Gifts to the Future," "No School in Burbank Has an Official American Flag," "Traveling Alone in Cuba," "Writing for Ralph Story,"
"Don Ray's Dazzle Tour of Los Angeles," "Forensic Fridays," "Story Time Thursdays with Don Ray," "Americans Held Captive in the Philippines by the Japanese during World War II," "Was My Father Really My Father?" "Digging Up the Truth about My Stepfather's Prison Record -- And How it Led to Me Finding Two Stepbrothers Who Would Change My Life," "Don Ray's 103 Privacy Tips," "The No-Questions-Asked Interview Technique," "Don Ray's Investigative Mindset Tips," "D.B. Cooper,"
"25 Ways to Deal with #%@* Reporters," "Don Ray Trains Thousands of Law Enforcement Investigators," "Coming to Grips with Child Abuse, PTSD, ADHD and Assorted Learning Disorders," "How I Cheated My Way Through School and Still Learned," "Doris Tidrick at the Wheel," "Checking Out Lawyers," "Without Warning, Diary of a Disaster, The Night the St. Francis Dam Collapsed," "Finding O.J. Simpson's Hidden Property," "The Roy Radin Murder Case -- And How I Traveled with His Killers," "The Years of Serving Dangerously (in El Salvador)," and many other Don Ray creations.

My veteran friend Paul awakened me to the urgency of completing many of the projects and stories that have been, patiently, waiting on the shelf for me to get my act together.

The rest of them deserve to be in a book that will inspire others to overcome obstacles and to contribute to mankind in their own ways.

Thank you so very much, Paul.

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