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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



     I finally gave up on finding the remote that the kids have hidden away after a weekend with Dad and find myself stuck on channel 8.2 watching Dr. Phil reruns which can lead to nothing but trouble. So rather than actually exerting the energy to rise out of my comfy chair and turn the television to something more entertaining or educational, I decided my time was best spent here with you during our weekly visit.

     This is a special week at the farm. It has nothing to do with the planting of the garden, or the fact that there is a chance for snow less than five days after our first 90-degree day of the year. This week is special to me simply because it is the week that comes around every year where thousands of young people put on their blue and gold and descend on Des Moines for the Annual State FFA Leadership Conference. It was 23 years ago this week that a young farm boy from Dexter who first saw an FFA jacket hanging in a spare closet when he was 9 years old stood in the back of the Vets Auditorium, only a basketball court’s distance separating him and the stage.

     I stood there holding hands with my best friend Sherry as we nervously awaited the announcement of the new State VP from the South Central District. Suddenly a slap on the back, a momentary stumble as I struggled to understand that my ears had actually heard my name called and a look back at Sherry as I was shoved towards the stage to take my place. That day I joined a very special group whose members have stretched back and forth across this great state for decades.

     It was an exciting year and one that I will never forget. So as this time of year rolls around I think back at the friends I’ve made over the years because of the FFA organization. From Slush, to Bill, to Grin, to Christi those friendships stretch across the miles and across the years reminding me of a time when we all for a brief moment held the world by the horns.

     This week is different from the past ones though, as it brings a melancholy feeling. This week an era in Iowa FFA ends with the retirement of Wayne Natress who served as State FFA advisor, El Capitan of The Iowa FFA Foundation, and all around good guy. Oh sure, Nat used to pick on me relentlessly and tease me about girls, but never did I feel like he wasn’t genuinely interested in how I was doing as a person. It’s been years since I had visited with him, usually running into him at the State Fair, or seeing him on a few visits to the old FFA Foundation headquarters in Mitchelleville. Every time I saw him with that grin, he would ask, “Hi Weez, How are you?” I always appreciated the time he gave me even though I knew his schedule was busy and he had more important things to do than to sit and visit with an old “has been”. I probably never told him, as I know that I’ve never told Mr. Lambers or the late Alan O’Neal, but those three men were my hero’s that year, and I was truly honored to be associated with them.

     It is also a week of great sadness and worry that brings me here to the computer, a little later than my editor would like I’m sure, but I’ve spent a number of hours reconnecting this week with my fellow past state officers and being reminded of just how deep the Blue and Gold bond is. I don’t know that I’ve ever asked of my readers what I am going to ask of you today, but I know that for many of you, you have seen the power of prayer. My friend and former officer team member Perry Mogler recently has been diagnosed with brain cancer. This has haunted me somewhat not only because I’ve regretted the lack of contact that the group of us have had since that final day of our year, but because he is my age, with four kids, another on the way, and there isn’t a thing I can do to ease the pain and suffering his family must be going through at this time. Each of us former state officers have taken the time this week to write a note to Perry and his family offering what little hope and comfort we can. It’s been filled with laughter and a few tears, but is simply an amazing reunion that I would never have expected.

     So if you have the time and can offer up a prayer, or light a candle for my friend Perry I would appreciate it. If you would like to learn a little more about him, or leave a note on his web page you can visit here He has great faith in his doctors and the hope and love of so many people, but I’m sure that he’d be thankful for the extra words, prayers and good wishes as he travels this path.

     As for me, I’ll be sitting here running my fingers over that old blue jacket and remembering back to a time when we were all really alive and didn’t have a care in the world. To all FFA members, past and present, I salute you, and I sincerely hope that the friendships you make last as long and are as deep as the ones I have.

See you next week…Remember, we’re all in this together.