Pursue Your Dreams
I never grow tired of stories from those who’ve served in our Armed Forces.
As a young newspaper reporter, I met one of the last surviving veterans of WWI. Though 90 years had shriveled his frame, he stood tall and proud as I took his photo next to an American flag.
On another occasion, I interviewed one of the few surviving crew members of the U.S.S Indianapolis, the last American ship sunk by enemy forces in WWII. He recalled with vivid detail four days floating at sea until rescuers arrived.
And as a child, I listened intently as my father and uncle relived their war experiences from the Army and Navy, respectively. Though serving in a foreign land may not have been the optimal way to spend their youth, they never regretted the role they played in defending our nation’s freedoms.
I’ve met a good share veterans from my own generation as well – men and women who’ve served in numerous capacities, for many different reasons. Some, like me, were stateside in the Reserves, fortunate to have stayed out of harm’s way. Others weren’t so lucky – separated from their families for many months and by thousands of miles to serve our nation’s call.
As part of our 30 Days of Thanks, American Family recognized veterans for their service. We were pleased to hear from numerous people who have worn the uniform. Here are just a few comments we received:
- “I served in the Korean War on the front lines from late Feb 1951 until Dec 31, 1951, A VERY cold place – much like Minnesota – and we had no overshoes or winter sleeping bags....Brrr.”
- Sometimes we’re all forgotten about, and what we give up for our country. Family, health and life.”
- "I am a veteran – 4 years active duty, Security Forces USAF. I show my appreciation to Veterans everyday by acknowledging them when I see or meet them."
- "Yes, I am a Veteran of WWII – one of the few still alive. I was a medic and worked in a large Veteran's hospital as a surgical tech, so I saw the terrible results of war. I also lost some of friends I trained with."
- "Having served 21 years myself, I thank God everyday for these young men and women who keep us safe today. We must never forget however, all our veterans from WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and all the other victories forged by our gallant men and women in uniform."
Thank you to all those who took the time write. And thank you everyone who has served in the Armed Forces – in war, in peace, at home and overseas. We live the results of your service every day.
P.S.: Want to thank a veteran? Leave a comment, or head to our Facebook page and post a message on our Wall.
Imagine being told you have cancer. Just when you think it’s all behind you, imagine being told you have it again.
That’s the story of my 13-year fight with breast cancer.
It started innocently enough. During a routine physical, my doctor found a lump. She was worried and insisted on a mammogram.
The mammogram looked suspicious, so I had a biopsy. The news came back that I had breast cancer. Treatment for me was a mastectomy. Fortunately, my tumor was isolated, so I didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. I did, however, have reconstructive surgery.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a support group, because I couldn’t identify with people there. Many were mad at their doctors and the medical profession. I wasn’t. My doctor found the lump – she didn’t put it there! Also, most support group members were married with children. I’m not married and don’t have children, so we couldn’t relate to each other. I wanted those things too, but I felt like “damaged merchandise.” It took me a long time before I could even watch a commercial with a baby in it!
In 2004, I celebrated five years without cancer! I learned the five-year mark means you’re practically home free. It was a bittersweet milestone. A few months before, I lost my brother in a car accident. Now, I didn’t have one of my best friends to celebrate with. Later that year, I was diagnosed with depression.
Fast forward six years. I noticed a bump below my breast I hadn’t seen before. I saw my doctor who thought it might be fatty tissue. It didn’t go away and became red. My doctor sent me to a surgeon for a second opinion. The surgeon said she’d remove it, but wanted to run some tests. Two MRIs, three biopsies, about six ultrasounds and a PET scan later, I was told that I had breast cancer again. The surgeon said it was already at Stage 3. I know that’s not good, but I wasn’t ready to give up my fight!
Since then, I’ve been receiving a form of chemo that’s non-toxic. I recently had surgery to remove the tumor and started taking yet another medicine.
I’ve tolerated treatment fairly well. Unless you know me personally or saw my name on a “Race for the Cure” poster, you wouldn’t even know I’m sick. I could be the person sitting next to you, your neighbor or your best friend.
My fight continues. I want researchers to find a cure. I need them to find a cure! Not only for the women currently fighting this dreadful disease, but for those who unfortunately will follow in our footsteps. I want to see my munchkins (my friends’ children) grow up and graduate from high school. I want to be one of the first out on the dance floor at their weddings.
I’m not giving up – I want to celebrate life!
Ever since I was a little boy, I dreamed of becoming a Madison firefighter.
Growing up, I was mesmerized by the stories my great-uncle, Mel Troia, told about his experiences as a Madison firefighter. It wasn’t hard to picture myself riding fire trucks, fighting the flames and most of all – helping people. As a firefighter, I’d save people’s homes, their possessions and even their lives!
First though, I had to grow up and prove I was firefighter material.
I was raised by a single Mom who worked three jobs to support us. She wanted to give me a good life and she led by example. She showed me no matter what your dream is, with hard work and dedication, you can reach it. Armed with her guidance, I was convinced my dream was always within reach. I didn’t realize though, that along the road to achieving my dreams, I’d have some bumps to contend with.
As a high school student, I attended a career day and met recruiters from the Madison Fire Department. That sealed it for me – I knew from that point on I wanted to become a Madison firefighter.
After high school, I enrolled in the Fire Science program at Madison College and landed an internship at the Maple Bluff Fire Department. My goal quickly became a passion.
I admit I didn’t have the world’s best background. I had some trouble in high school and my initial applications to MFD were turned down. I was also a single father of two wonderful kids. Like my mother did for me, I had to support them. Fortunately, I was able to find work in construction which allowed me to support my kids but I was away from home a lot and missed them desperately.
My goal of being in the MFD was now even stronger. My kids were the extra motivation I needed. I turned to the lessons my Mom taught me and applied again. A rigorous physical agility test and interview designed to reveal one’s core identity and character were my chance to prove who I really was, rather than be shadowed by a few questionable events in my past.
I’ll never forget the day when Chief Steve Davis called to offer me the opportunity to become a Madison firefighter. I couldn’t believe it. I called my Mom first and could barely keep it together. The proudest moment for me though, was when my 11-year-old son, Garrett, pinned my MFD badge on my uniform at the Madison Fire Academy commencement ceremony this past January. I did it! I reached my dream.
Although the road had a few bumps along the way, I never lost sight of my dream. With hard work, determination and dedication I reached it. If I can, you can. Your dream is out there. Don’t ever stop trying to get it.
Editor’s note: This is part of a Dream Protectors blog feature called Stories From DreamBank, which showcases real-life dreams from visitors to the American Family Insurance DreamBank in Madison, Wis. Visit DreamBank on the Square or online at www.amfam.com/DreamBank.
Once in a while, something happens that makes you stop and appreciate life, small pleasures and big hearts.
American Family really is a big family, and our community is part of that family. One of our American Family members, long-time customer Carol Suchomel, is in hospice care for cancer. In February, learning that her four-year journey with brain cancer was coming to an end, she made a bucket list. It included connecting with Ellen DeGeneres, whom Carol has admired for a long time.
Carol’s niece, Averie Churchill, wanted to help make that dream come true for her aunt. She made a video, reaching out to Ellen. It created a buzz on Facebook that caught the attention of some of Carol’s friends who work at American Family.
Could we help connect Carol to Ellen, and could we do it soon?
It happened this week. Ellen DeGeneres sent an autographed copy of her book “Seriously…I’m Kidding” to Carol. It turns out, Carol is not only a huge fan of Ellen, she’s an avid reader. It turns out, not only does Carol have a lot of friends at American Family, her sister Beth Churchill, works here, too.
I don’t know Carol, and I didn’t know Carol and Beth are related until I ran into Beth yesterday morning, thanking people for helping make this happen for her sister. But last night, I cried as I shared this story with my children. The love this family is showing each other, the love Averie is showing her aunt, the love Beth displays in talking about her sister, and Carol’s strength and passion for life and joy, it’s overwhelming.
Knowing American Family was able to make this dream come true and help bring joy to Carol and her family during this difficult phase of their journey … it’s immensely moving to me and makes me so very proud to be part of American Family.
Once in a while, something happens that makes you stop and appreciate life, small pleasures and big hearts.
I’ve heard the saying a million times. “It’s not the house that makes the home. It’s the love and family inside.”
I truly believe it and live by this philosophy every day. But I’d be fooling myself if I said I didn’t like to dream of awesome things, like a pool for the family, or a bigger closet for my home.
Last year I discovered a girls’ dream: A digital, magazine-like website called Pinterest. It’s full of endless home ideas. Just like 25 million others who use it, Pinterest is a one-stop shop for discovering and organizing everything I love, and dream about.
I quickly had a dream home created virtually on my own Pinterest page. From pets to recipes, hairstyles to inspirational quotes, Pinterest is a popular place for dreamers to organize everything their hearts desire. Never has it been so easy to browse and collect photos of our dream dinners, family photos or even gardening ideas – all in one place.
These Pinterest dreams inspired American Family Insurance to partner with Better Homes and Gardens for a Dream Room Makeover sweepstakes. What better place to gather decorating and remodeling images for your very own makeover!
Whether it’s a single-family home, apartment or condo, many Pinterest users already create and pin their dream room ideas on boards dedicated to their homes. Asking them to pin images from Better Homes and Gardens for a chance to win $5,000 is a win-win scenario. They get beautiful ideas for their dream rooms, and American Family provides a chance to make those ideas come to life.
As community manager for American Family’s Pinterest page, I try to imagine what people living out their dreams in a dream home may want from an insurance company. Quite simply, we want to make sure their dreams are protected. So, we share timely safety tips for homeowners and renters on Pinterest.
For example, we’ve pinned information on protecting your home from spring flooding. Take it from someone who lived in a home damaged by water, these tips are worth pinning. As part of our Pinterest sweepstakes, sharing and pinning American Family’s home-related safety tips can earn you two additional entries. (Check out the official rules for details.)
Every day, Pinterest brings to life ideas to inspire my dreams. I love to think about what I would do in my home by browsing through these beautiful images. I also look for practical tips to make my home safe and secure, whether it’s a dream home I hope to have some day, or the one I’m living in today.
So, if you love to dream and have an ultimate dream home in mind, click here to pin your Dream Room Makeover on your Pinterest board. It could win you $5,000 toward making those dreams a reality.