At 53 years old, and at the age when parts of my body start to ache more than they used to, I am reminded of how lucky I am when I see someone less fortunate, or more physically challenged than my infrequent sore knee's or lower back pain, especially during these holidays.
I also have much more compassion and respect for veterans and members of the military than when I was younger. I was too young for the Vietnam draft and too old for Afghanistan. I could have volunteered, but selfishly, I was either in love, in school, too busy working, or " didn't want to go to war, anywhere". And now, members of all branches of the military are my hero's, especially veterans.
I recently became a member of my local Rotary Club in Cedar Falls. I felt the need to join so I could give back and volunteer to help out causes I believed in. As a result, I have had the pleasure of meeting Taylor Morris, the Cedar Falls veteran who had his life changed completely after being nearly killed in an explosion in Afghanistan in May. He has inspired me to treat others with even greater respect. Taylor is my hero.
I have another hero, and his name is Max Morrison.
I work in the film and television production industry, and I had the pleasure of working on the "A Place for Hero's "movie in Traer and Clutier, Iowa. Max Morrison became the films biggest cheerleader, along with Cecilia Podhajsky and Clutier resident, Ardene Cross, and making this film would have been impossible without them all.
Film Director Scott Thompson, told me that Max was his first contact in Traer, Iowa prior to setting the stage to film here. I had the pleasure of getting to know Max and his lovely wife Sue over the course of the near month long filming.
Max was instrumental in helping us make contact with the veteran groups and organizations on the state and local levels, and he was our "GO-TO-GUY", and his efforts helped make "A Place for Hero's", a great movie.
When I was informed that Max was severely injured and burned in a plane crash, I was devastated, and bewildered. "This happens to other people, not my friends".
The news coverage quoted several eyewitnesses that Max was attempting to extract the pilot, another veteran, and his friend of many years, Bill Konicek, from the plane after the crash, despite his own injuries, which were already extensive, and created additional burns on his already punished body. This is, and always will be the sign of a true Marine, "Leave No Man Behind."
Max has always been an up-front champion for others, and volunteered for many activities around the area. Now its our time to return the favor.
On Sunday, January 6th, 2013, there will be a pancake breakfast to honor the memory of the late Bill Konicek with the free will offerings going to his family.
Pancakes, sausage, eggs, coffee, milk and juice will be served from 8am until 1pm at the Traer Memorial Building. Anyone wishing to assist with this project can contact Cecilia Podhajsky, at 319-478-2947.
I would also like to let everyone know that a "BENEFIT FOR MAX MORRISON", including a meal, bake sale, silent and live auctions will be held on Saturday, February 16th, 2013 starting at 10:30am. This benefit will also be held in at the Traer Memorial building.
We are in need of items, services, food, etc to be donated for this cause, as well as many volunteers. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Holst at: 319-415-5814 or Bridgette Barthelmes, 319-415-4307.
Jon Van Allen, Filmmaker
& Cedar Falls resident