Saturday, November 19, 2011

Colleen Creegan - Champion for Women's Rights

Our family's dear friend, Colleen Creegan, is a grad student at NYU, pursuing a master’s degree in Global Affairs.  (She is also Leo's sister and Linda's daughter.)

This winter, she will spend three weeks in Kigali, Rwanda, participating in a Young Leaders Human Rights Delegation, through Global Youth Connect

She will work in collaboration with Rwandan young adults to raise awareness of and advocate for Human Rights, both regionally and globally. 

Her personal area of interest is in Women’s Health and Re-
productive Rights.

She will be partnering with Health Development Initiative, a local health advocacy organization, to improve the current family-planning situation in Rwanda.   

She is interested in ending the unsafe, unregulated and illegal operations that are happening everyday worldwide by protecting every woman’s sexual sovereignty. How? In part, by decriminalizing abortions but also by promoting female education, increasing male and female contraceptive use, financially empowering women, ending sex trafficking, ending preventable maternal mortality, persecuting and convicting every genre of rapist and sexually based war criminal...

So that she may be a member of the growing movement that speaks for women worldwide, she needs a team, a team of supportersPlease consider making a donation.

If you are unable to contribute but want to be involved, she asks that you tell your friends, post on Facebook or your blog, tweet, send smoke signals and stay in touch with her at

Colleen, I, and the women she will help thank you.

He Wasn't Having Any Fun

While we were waiting outside, for a seat to open up, in the restaurant, I was heartbroken by one panhandler who seems to be having an incredibly difficult life. 

We'd just walked through Union Square, past a giant Christmas tree.  Nearby, people were ice skating.  We'd passed a Starbucks, a Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co., billboards for Niketown, and the iPad2.  Meanwhile, this man slowly shuffled along, hunched over, in his wheelchair, with an empty cup in his lap, too downtrodden even to hold up his head. 

He knows we won't meet his gaze or do anything to help.  It sickens me.  It also reminded me of another man, in a different town, on an earlier holiday.  It shouldn't be this way.

On the way back to our car, we were stopped by man who said he was with the Fun Patrol, somehow affiliated with the SF Police & that they were collecting donations for a local soup kitchen.  I was happy to be able to make a small donation but wish I could do more.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ten for Joplin - Helping Neighbors Rebuild

Proud of my dad, Bill Powell, and others from his Rotary group, who traveled to Joplin, early this morning, for their second day of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity teams there, as part of Ten for Joplin.

This home-building blitz provides an opportunity for those in surrounding communities to contribute their time and money to help their neighbors in need.

After volunteering on Thursday, 11/10/11, he traveled home to put up & take down flags, on Veteran's Day, with the Rotary group.  That night, he said, "The body is sore but the work was good...  Building houses again tomorrow." ~ Dad  

One of the people who traveled with my dad, on Thursday, wrote, "The three of us worked in Habitat House #3, at 2209 Kentucky, about three blocks west of the Joplin High School, where no clean-up has occurred.  Although we arrived on a frosty morning, prepared to work in the cold, we spent the day inside a heated house with only occasional trips outside for tools.  Bill did spend a lot of time at an outdoor saw but as least it was on the sunny side of the house."

"The Habitat people were very organized from our arrival until we departed.  Just as we were ready to leave the owner arrived for an inspection visit and we were able to meet him."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Uncle Joe - My Dad's Brother

Joseph Vernon Powell was – and still is - my brother. We shared a special relationship. While he was 16 months older than me, we both, from time to time, were called upon to help – to protect each other. When I was hurt, he felt my pain. When he was being teased at the playground at Grandview Elementary school because of his birthmark, I cried, but was too little or too afraid of the wrath of those evil bullies to do anything to ease – to end his pain.

Once, it must have been when I was 3 years old, Joe was in the hospital and I was called upon to give him my brand new, bright, red fire truck, to play with, in the hospital. At 3 years old, we don’t understand these things, but I was so glad when he came home from the hospital that I never asked about the bright, red fire engine. Having Joe home was far more important than a toy.

Joe paved the way and blazed trails for me all of our lives. In fact, I blame him for a story we’ve heard all our lives. Sometime shortly after Joe had gotten home from the hospital, we somehow moved a very large and very heavy, metal bunk bed set across the room and made a fort to play under. Years later, and often only after a few drinks, adults would add gross details about the stinky and unsanitary mess we smeared on the walls to keep the evil ones away from this, our special fort.

While Joe paved the way and blazed many a trail for me, he was not always the one that caused, or even came up with the things that we did - with the messes we made and the punishments we received. No doubt, he was purely angelic that Saturday morning when we got into a fight and managed to break both his and my brand new eyeglasses. We feared and had fully earned the punishment and mayhem that followed when our Mom and Dad saw what we had done.

Joe taught me to ride a bicycle and together we would roar down a gravel road and across an open field. We were free from parental oversight for a few minutes. We had escaped into a pretend land. Sometimes, we were mountain men exploring the Wild West on our stallions. Sometimes, we were cavalry chasing renegade Indians. Sometimes, we were soldiers charging an unseen but ever present enemy.

With Joe, being just boys was never enough. Joe had ridden these bicycle trails many times. Joe had already blazed these bike trails. He had gone down the road before and he knew where the dangers were and how to avoid them. Joe was my brother and even though we fought over little things, and sometimes we fought just for the fun of fighting, he was always ready to protect me.

When we were given large jobs to do, Joe always found ways to make work more fun. Of course, sometimes, having fun would also mean we were doing something that would get us in trouble later.

When we were sent out to pick up rotting pears, we’d dawdle around. Then, instead of picking up pears, we’d play with the toy soldiers Joe always had in his pockets. No one knew then that he’d later give his entire life to military service and to the veterans and wounded warriors about whom he cared so deeply.

But, when we were little, Joe and I couldn’t just pick up the rotting pears. Instead, we’d pick up a few, stomp on a few, and then we’d very carefully hold them in one hand and yank out the stems, as if they were the pins of hand grenades.

After we’d successfully used these rotten pears to drive off all our imaginary enemies, we'd begin pummeling each other with the most rotten pears we could find. But, due to his wisdom and experience, when we were bored with the pears, we found, nearby, even more powerful weapons. Joe taught me that rotten pears were nothing compared to the long lasting and biting stench of a rotten tomato carefully thrown to land just under a brother’s nose.

Joe was ahead of me in school. He paved the way and blazed trails for me time and time again. The teachers he had, somehow, expected me to be as smart as Joe. I never matched his intelligence, his wisdom, or the understanding he had of philosophy.

Joe excelled in high school ROTC. He paved the way, he blazed trails for me in ROTC. He taught me how to read a topographical map. He taught me how to use a lensatic compass. He showed me how to shine brass, how to iron wool uniforms, and how to do close order drill. At that age, we didn’t fight anymore, but we did practice what he’d learned about hand-to-hand combat.

Outside or inside, it didn’t matter to us. We’d practice the one man carry. We’d practice bayonet: thrusts and parries, and blocking moves. But, the most fun was taking turns with hip throws, leg sweeps, and the other moves we learned in ROTC and in Judo class.

Joe taught me about marksmanship. While we were little, he dared me to use a BB gun and shoot the buttons of shirts hanging on the clothesline. He showed me how to shoot a mud dauber with a BB gun. Joe had shown me the path to great marksmanship.

Because of Joe's teaching, before I ever heard my first screaming drill sergeant, Joe had taught me how to obtain and maintain a sharp sight picture. It was Joe who taught me that while shooting I always had to go through the process of: breathe, relax, aim, slack and, only then, gently squeeze the trigger of a rifle or pistol.

Joe left home and joined the U.S. Army, after high school. He stopped back, in his uniform, after Basic Training, and between his assignments. I would see him, from time to time, but sadly we did not keep in touch, as we should have. He served his country in foreign deployment after foreign deployment. He faced dangers and horrors about which he never told any of his family.

Joe paved the way and blazed trails. He dedicated his entire life for you and for all of us. When he finished his military career he had a burning desire to help those, who, like he, had become wounded warriors.

He knew, because of the trails he had blazed, the ways he had traveled, and the post-traumatic stress that he had endured that he could help those who followed in his footsteps. After retirement, he used his superior intellect and he quickly finished his undergraduate requirements, studied hard and earned his Master’s degree in Social Work.

Joe was special. His experience had given him a perspective and a depth of understanding those he served could just sense. Joe had faced, time and time again, the horror that is war. He had fought and learned to deal with the ever present memories of Post-Traumatic Stress. Once again, Joe was paving the way, blazing safe trails for those who came after him.

As Joe’s military career continued, he and I, for no good reason, never kept in close contact. That was my loss. Folks, we all know that when Joe was serious, we could tell. I remember him, from time to time, saying, “Listen up, and pay attention. What I am telling you is not BS."

So, folks, now that Joe is not here to say it, I’ll say it, "Listen up, pay attention. This is not BS." Let me tell you, if you have brother or sister, never, never lose touch with them. Reconnecting later in life is good, but it’s not the same. Spend time with them before they are suddenly diagnosed with a terminal illness. As a trained therapist, Joe would, no doubt, challenge – dare you - to leave here, this morning, committed to face your fears, to overcome them and to embrace life and love.

Joe paved the way and blazed, for me, a trail, in Vietnam. I will never forget getting a letter from him, while we were both in Vietnam, telling me to come and see him. I will never forget walking into his supply depot, in Pleiku, Vietnam. I will never forget having coffee with First Sergeant Joseph Powell, thousands and thousands of miles away from here. I will never forget as he told me that since he had returned to Vietnam I didn’t have to stay in Vietnam any longer.

Joe’s return to danger paved for me a path to return to the good ole USA. I will never forget listening to Joe as he told me that he was much safer as a supply sergeant than I was as an Infantry Platoon leader, going out into the bush, day after day, on “search and destroy” missions.

I will never forget when Joe shoved an already signed U.S. Army form across the table, releasing his right to be transferred back to the US, to me. I will never forget when Joe stood up and said, “Now get your ass back to your unit, fill out the rest of this form and get the hell out of Vietnam."

Thank you. Thank you, Brother Joe. Once again, you prepared the way. This time, you saved my life.

Joe, I wish that I could have done the same for you, as you lay there, in that hospital bed, and at Rosewood. When you called out and said, “I am going to die. I don’t want to die. Bill, make it go away," I could do nothing but pray and cry.

As the horrible brain tumor was eating away at Joe, my brother that had always blazed trails for me and had always paved the way, I could do nothing. I could remind him of the fun and mayhem we had caused as kids. I could remind him of the rotten pears. And, yes, when he laid there in that hospital bed and asked me to pull his finger, I did. Then, a sly smile would come to his face and the odor of the room changed.

Oh, I so wish I could have done more for you, Joe. I could not blaze the trail for you, or pave the way for you. I could do nothing to save you, Joe. I could not even go with you. Joe, I am so sorry that I could not ease the struggle of this, your last and hardest, battle.

But, I know, deep down inside of my soul, when I, like you, lie on my hospital bed, when I, see the bright light, and when I see angels coming for me, you will have, once again, gone before me to prepare the way.

Thank you for being my brother. -  Brother Bill

MSG (Ret.) Joseph Vernon Powell - Obituary

MSG (Ret.) Joseph Vernon Powell, 67, passed away at a Killeen nursing home, August 29, 2011. Mr. Powell was born April 27, 1944, to Vincent and Mary Powell in Kansas City, Missouri.  He married Somjit Boonpan on April 10, 1972 at the American Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.

Mr. Powell retired from the U. S. Army in 1991 as a Master Sergeant.  He served during the Vietnam conflict and received the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, Good Conduct Medal (8th award), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with 2 silver and 2 bronze service stars, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon Numeral 6, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation Badge with Palm, Expert Rifle Badge, and the Army Achievement Medal.

Mr. Powell was deeply committed to his fellow service members, especially to those who had faced and were struggling to deal with Post-Traumatic Stress. Following his retirement from the U.S. Army, Mr. Powell completed his bachelors’ degree and then completed a Masters in Social Work (MSW). He then committed the rest of his professional life to working with veterans and Wounded Warriors at the Austin Vet Center.

Mr. Powell is preceded in death by his parents, one daughter, Tassanee Carver, and a sister, Cathy Wilson.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Somjit; one daughter, Varnee Baney; one son, Sakda Powell; five brothers, Jerry Powell of Raleigh, NC; Bill Powell of Bella Vista, AR; Brian Powell of Los Fresnos, TX; Mike Powell of Fresno, CA; Patrick Powell, of Tijuana, Mexico; two sisters, Alice Pita of Houston; TX; and Maria Norton of Logan, UT; one granddaughter, Kathleen Kile of Virginia and Chawarat Boonpan of Thailand.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Wounded Warrior Project, – or call 877-832-6997.

Master Sergeant Joseph Vernon Powell - Remembered

"I was really sorry to hear of Joe’s passing. The Viet Nam vets I referred to Joe were VERY selective as to who they would cooperate with.  Many of them had pretty much given up on the VA and society in general, but he was able to reach those men, they just loved him.  God rest his soul, he will be missed." ~ Susan Lewis, Asst. Veterans Service Officer, Travis Co. Veterans Services.

Words from His Beloved Veterans:
“We spent a lot of time together at the traveling walls. He was always there. We would spend all day together. I gave him a hat. He gave me a hat.” ~ Danny

"He was a patient man. He understood. He was a great help. He was a man who wanted to help you. He would do his best to help. He will be deeply missed." ~ Rafelio

“To me, Joe was special. He had more influence than anyone in my life. He gave me back my self-respect. He wouldn’t let me give up. He was a soldier’s soldier. He knew his history. Joe always had a good joke, too.” ~ Tom

“Thank you for all you have done for us.” ~ Ron

“He was always there to help you understand what a person needed in help.” ~ Samuel

“Rest in Peace. You’re home now.” ~ Ron

“Joe, you were a great person. I will never, ever - forget you." ~ Manuel

“We will miss you, Joe, but we have wonderful memories we will carry with us.” ~ Clarence

"I never saw him as overbearing. He had a lot of patience with people. He would bend over backwards for vets. He was not judgmental." ~ Doug

“Joe, thank you for saving my life. If it hadn’t been for him pushing me to come to the group, I wouldn’t be here today. He made time for me which was something I needed. Joe loved the Buffalo Soldiers—on behalf of the Buffalo Soldiers, we thank you.” ~ James

"He experienced what the people went through and what they felt." ~ Roy

"I though a lot of Joe because he had been where we had been. Those top sergeants kept us alive (in Vietnam) and I felt that Joe did that here (Vet Center)." ~ David

“He always welcomed me to the Vet Center. He would always smile at me.”~ Raul

"When I first saw Joe, he was very committed to helping the vets. He said to me, 'Don't ever, ever give up.' 
I am very appreciative for what he did for me." ~ Ruben

"The first time I saw him, he patted me on my shoulder and told me that I had done a good job dealing with my PTSD. That made me come back. He encouraged me." ~ Jose

"His presence was soothing. He was committed to one thing above all--the veteran. We have good memories of him." ~ Roman

"He would disregard his own pain to help us." ~ Lawrence

"Joe - He was one of us." ~ Tony

"Our sincere condolences to the Powell family, you, and the veterans of the Austin Vet Center.   Please inform us of the services and wishes of the family.   All are in our prayers.  Since the family is here in the Killeen area please let us know if there is anything that we can do to assist them."  ~ Lori A. Spencer, Office Manager, Kelleen Heights Vet Center. 

Comments provided from various Vets’ Centers by those who served with and those served by Master Sergeant Joseph Vernon Powell.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Bone Marrow Transplant?

So, the Stanford guy seems to have said I will probably need a bone marrow transplant.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea.  It still seems pretty unreal & I guess it is unreal still, as they don't even have the report from my last bone marrow biopsy, yet.

He says my brother has a 1 in 4 chance of being a match & that they can collect bone marrow in a relatively pain-free way, similar to how they collect blood, these days.

He says a transplant could be curative.  Or, it could kill me.  Or, it could give me a condition that would negatively impact my quality of life forever.  Not completely on board with the idea of letting them do more horribly invasive stuff just yet, especially because I basically feel fine now.

Aplastic Anemia?

About noon, on Sunday, we got this treat from my hematologist, "The bone marrow biopsy appears to show Aplastic Anemia, but the results are not final."

We decided, rather than freaking out about it, we'd follow his directive to, "Have a great Halloween!"
Yesterday, he clarified that while I do have low red blood cell & platelet levels, they aren't scary low, the way my Neutrophil counts have been. The concern is that whatever has been keeping my Neutrophil counts low might be starting to impact my RBCs & Platelets too.

My doctor's never treated anyone with Aplastic Anemia & wants me to be treated by someone who has dealt with it before.

Today, I've been on the phone w/Stanford & UCSF. We're working on coming up with a plan.
Cam found this great, short video that does a good job explaining Aplastic Anemia, my new bad "A" words.