Regrets, I've had a few.
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t keep in touch with a college friend of mine after he joined the Navy. He was whip-smart, engaging, and one of the funniest people I've ever known. I always thought about writing to him while he was in the service. Sadly, I will never, ever have a chance to do so.
That's because he was killed in the terror attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
So I was personally moved when an American Family customer service center manager, Tom Hanson, recently spearheaded a holiday greeting card-signing drive for military personnel. Along with fellow employees and volunteers from the American Red Cross, Tom supervised card-signing stations at American Family offices in Madison, Wis.
I eagerly joined the employees and agents who dropped by to write their heartfelt wishes and words of support on the greeting cards. As a result, hundreds of American military men and women will get a special surprise in the mail during the approaching holiday season.
Tom's initiative was just one of several grassroots efforts at American Family aimed at celebrating the company's 85th anniversary through community service activities. As Tom puts it, "It makes me feel good that we did this, but I still feel it's a small gesture compared to the large commitment that these folks in the military have made and what they're going through."
It's no accident Tom and his colleagues took the time to show they care about people in the military. After all, he and his Customer Service Center colleagues demonstrate care and compassion every day when they receive claims-related customer calls. They help American Family put customers' lives back together when bad things happen. They are good examples to all of us that caring for others is in our DNA. All we have to do is act on it.
This holiday season, consider taking the time to send cards to men and women in the U.S. military – the American Red Cross "Holiday Mail for Heroes" program makes it easy to do.
I know I'm planning to sign more cards. It would've made my college friend happy.
When I wake up on a weekend, I decide what I want to do. If it’s hot outside, should I put on my T-shirt and shorts and take my dog for a long walk? Is it a day where I meet with my family for breakfast at a restaurant and we discuss a topic of our own choosing?
Whatever it is, I can decide.
These are only two of many freedoms perhaps we take for granted. Living in America, we do have the opportunity to follow our dreams. We owe a great deal of thanks to those who have and currently devote their lives to serving our country and protecting the freedoms we enjoy.
My father served in the Air Force. Growing up on a farm, he was no stranger to hard work. Serving in the Armed Forces only enhanced the values he possesses. While in the service, he worked on planes and was in pilot training when his father sustained significant injuries at home. He was released from his call of duty so he could return home to run the family farm. When asked what his favorite part of serving was, he said it was the friends he made. It’s been 60 years since his discharge, and he still maintains friendships with some of them.
My goddaughter has served in the Marines for 10 years, now as a staff sergeant. She has endured two tours of duty in Iraq. She was near the front line and witnessed firsthand the ultimate sacrifice our young people were willing to make to defend America.
Her husband, Ramón, is a sergeant in a Special Forces unit in the Marines. He has done two tours of duty in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan. He is not allowed to discuss the missions he’s completed. We know that he is a very brave man and gives 100 percent every day so we all can continue to live in freedom at home.
I recently participated in a management course where we talked about being in the present. When Stephanie and Ramón are together, not only do they live in the present moment, they appreciate every second they’ve been given to spend together.
Stephanie and Ramon have a young son nicknamed Rai.
There have been times that Stephanie and Ramon have been assigned several thousand miles away from their beloved son. They forge ahead with the duties and give our country their absolute best. They are both positive, caring, devoted people. Rai stays with his grandparents during the times his parents’ duties take them away from him.
On Veterans Day, we need to remember it’s much more than a day where the mail doesn’t come and the banks are closed. We need to take a moment to say “thank you” to our service men and women, for giving up a portion of their lives so we can live in freedom.
Not long ago, I met a young woman on a plane. She was going home to stay with her parents for a year as she had just said goodbye to her husband, who was on a 10-month tour of duty to Iraq. She said she needed to convince herself every day her husband would be fine and would come home to her.
Many military families experience this same thing, some multiple times.
Martina McBride summed it up when she sang:
“Let freedom ring down through the ages from a hill called Calvary.
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain.
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key.
You can be free and you can sing let freedom ring.”
Editor's note: Starting Nov. 11, join American Family Insurance as we devote 30 Days of Thanks to the everyday heroes in our lives. Who would be on your 30 Days of Thanks list? Visit our Facebook page today and all throughout our 30 Days of Thanks to share your gratitude.
As the fall weather gets cooler and the leaves fall from the trees, I get more and more excited! This means snow will soon be here, and snowmobiling is just around the corner. It also means it’s time for my family’s snowmobiling safety checks.
Even before the snow comes, there is significant work to be done. We have to check over the snowmobiles, make sure all our gear fits: snowsuits, gloves and most importantly, helmets!
As my children grow from year to year, we buy new helmets for them to ensure they fit properly and we never snowmobile without a helmet, not even just going down the trail a little way.
My husband does a detailed inspection of our snowmobiles to make sure they work properly. These inspections include: changing the oil, checking the carbides (or blades on the bottom of the skis), making sure the track has no nicks or tears, checking the sparkplugs and making sure the snowmobile insurance is up to date.
You never know when you are going to need insurance, so making sure you have the proper coverage is very important.
A couple of years ago, my husband was in a snowmobile accident, and he wasn’t even going very fast. He was going around a corner at 20 m.p.h. when his ski caught a rock on the trail and the sled went over. Luckily, he flew one way and the sled the other.
The worst part about it was the kids and I were following him and we came around the corner to find him lying on the ground not moving. It was one of the scariest moments of my life!
He did get up and ended up hurting his knee a little, but the sled was totaled. When we calmed down a little, we called some friends to get us, then promptly called American Family’s customer service center to report the claim. Our agent called back immediately to make sure we were all OK.
An adjuster visited the dealership within a day, and we had a check within three days. My husband was back on a new sled in a week, and we were back on the trails good as new.
It’s important to prepare your snowmobiles and the riders. Go snowmobiling, but do it safely so you can enjoy the wintertime and all its beauty.
Celebrating fall in the Midwest means getting outside as much as possible before the snow and cold arrive. Picking apples, choosing just the right pumpkin and visiting corn mazes are part of the celebrations.
This year, our social media team decided to create a Corny Corn Maze Survival Tips video to celebrate this great fall tradition. This is kind of out there for us: traditionally, we’re not really funny. But we decided to have some fun and with the help of the fabulous team at Treinen Farms in Lodi, Wis., we created the video with practical tips.
Take a look, and let me know what you think!
It was July when we started working on this video, right in the middle of the devastating drought. Looking ahead to the harvest and reading about the impact it would have on grocery prices, we started thinking about the issue of hunger.
We decided we wanted to do something, and fortunately were able to expand on an existing partnership with the National FFA Organization and support their Rally to Fight Hunger. We could have just given them money, but decided to take this on as a social cause, using our Facebook community to help raise the money and spread the word about the impact hunger has on American families.
The support has been impressive. Our customers and other Facebook fans have left many positive comments thanking us for our support, and to them I say “thank YOU!”
They’ve put the social in this social cause, helping us to spread the word about the FFA’s great work.
Celebrating with a little bit of humor, addressing a serious national issue and watching people rally around a common cause. It’s been a good few weeks.
I like to garden, put vegetable plants and seeds in the ground and see what happens. I like to tend the plants, watch them grow, flower and start to fruit. I wait impatiently for a tomato to turn just the right shade of red before picking it.
So it comes as no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to ask for one of the 56 10x10-foot plots in American Family's new community garden on the company’s National Headquarters grounds.
What did surprise me is what happened next.
I talk about the garden with anyone who has five minutes to listen. I explain how proud I am what we've built in just two years. I describe how the community garden is much bigger than a 10x10-foot plot. I show off photos of the garden, gardeners and the produce we harvest. I talk about the 377 pounds of fresh produce we donated to food pantries in the Madison, Wis., area this year.
We call it a "community garden" for a reason. Our community garden has 118 plots, but many more people are involved. I've seen husband-wife teams, entire families and small groups of coworkers work garden plots together.
I'm always meeting new people in the garden. We share seeds, gardening tips and recipes. Together, we celebrate that great big onion (a one-pound onion) and mourn together the loss of a plant or an entire patch of sweet corn (darn raccoons!). And I've met children who wouldn't touch a green bean but after growing them, can't get enough.
My involvement with the community garden is an incredibly engaging and educational process. Not only do I go to work each day, I visit my plot before or after work. I joined the garden committee. Then I volunteered to be a garden monitor. Now in our second year, I volunteered to co-chair the garden's leadership team.
The community garden is also part of American Family's overall sustainability efforts. The garden sits on previously unused land, making it productive. In addition to 118 individual plots, we planted six fruit trees that will eventually be harvested by community members. And being right here on the company's national headquarters campus, people don't have to drive far or out of their way to get to it because most of us tend our gardens before or after work.
The garden has also sparked my interest in writing about it, so I started a personal blog about urban gardening, where I encourage people to comment, share their perspectives and have gardening fun.
Josh Feyen is a social media specialist at American Family Insurance, where he also grows vegetables in a community garden plot. Josh writes about his gardening adventures in The Urbane Farmer blog.