Childhood cancer killed my 14 year old son AJ on January 5th, 2008.

Instead of reciting the usual statistics and why money and awareness is needed, I want to tell a little story. It’s not really mine or about AJ or other kids. I think it’s about the power of youth, not knowing any better, ill (well) behaved young women and men....

It's from a book by a reporter who’s been in Iraq and Afghanistan covering the war since 9/11. It’s not about strategic decisions, or politics. Just short stories of the real shit that happens over there. Here is one story, called Blonde….

In the morning, the Captain and I had walked down a road lined with craters. We’d walked slowly, checking for wires, animal carcasses, loose dirt. Bomb stuff. It was a sweltering morning in Ramadi, with the mist of the Euphrates infiltrating our lungs.

Later on, sitting in a walkway of one of Saddam’s palaces, the captain started telling stories. We hadn’t spent much time together but we’d walked this road and survived, so the air around us for the moment was light and full of trust. We were both from Florida.

“So we came up with this great way to search villages,” the captain told me. He pushed his knife into an MRE.

“We’ve got this girl here in the company – blonde, she’s hot,” the captain said. “This is when we were up in Mosul. We had to search all these villages for guns. Those villages are awful up there. So we went into this village and put the blonde girl we had on top of one of the Bradleys. We just rolled in and put her up there and took off her helmet and let her hair spill out.

“So she’s standing there on top of the Bradley, blonde hair and everything, and we called out on the loudspeaker, ‘This woman is for sale. Blonde woman for sale!’ And I’ll be da$ned if every Iraqi male in that village wasn’t gathered around the Bradley in about two minutes. You know the Iraqis are crazy for blondes. Crazy for them. They don’t have any here”

The captain started eating a strawberry Pop-Tart.

“So she’s standing up there on the Bradley, and we’d have an auction. Highest bid gets the blonde! They’re going crazy, the Iraqi’s, offering their goats, trucks, all their money. Children. Everything. I’m standing up there saying, ‘Nope, not enough! Not enough!’ And they’re bidding more. One of the guys had his hands on the big machine gun just in case it got out of control. The Iraqis were wild. Just staring at her.

“So, we’re up there having this auction, and during the auction I sent our guys around back into the houses to look for guns. We’re having this auction and all the Iraqis are at the auction yelling for the blonde while our guys are collecting guns from the houses. It was totally quiet in the houses, just the women in there. We got this huge pile of guns. Searched the whole village. No problem.

What happened with the auction I asked him?

“We just shut it down. Told them the bids weren’t high enough.” The Captain laughed. “The Iraqis were pissed off but it was okay.”

I was laughing and the captain got quiet for a second.

“We did that in three villages. Worked every time. Then we got reprimanded. Somebody found out about it. They didn’t like it,” he said, chewing on his Pop-Tart and staring at nothing.

“I thought it was brilliant myself. Smartest thing we ever did over here.”

The Forever War – by Dexter Filkins

So, not even sure if I have a point...I just love the story... ......i know each of these kids, if given the chance, will grow up to be somebody that makes a difference, someone like these men and women above. We, as the warriors for these kids, can’t let anyone tell us what we are doing is right or wrong. Our only criterion for success is if it’s working. If it’s shaving our head; that’s cool. If it’s telling everyone you know about childhood cancer; do it. If it’s some other crazy scheme; please, go for it.

But do something....'whatever it takes'.....right?

(...or; Is it blond?)

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Comment by Michael Puckett on October 25, 2010 at 10:45pm
Nice one! That is an interesting story indeed!
Comment by Stephani Cahalin on March 31, 2010 at 9:10am
WELL SAID !!!! I am sorry for your loss...the pictures say more than you know...they are AWESOME!!!
We all need to do what is right for each of us and can only do the best that we can do. My daughter, Erin now 12, was diagnosed with HIgh Risk pre-B ALL on 6/11/07, has been through almost 3 yrs of chemo, now recently done with chemo...she has suffered so much, almost always falling into the 1-2% side effect risks that were life threatening and altered her chemo protocol, putting her more at risk they say...and thus now has many other chronic medical condition that have made her daily life difficult. But we are "keeping on" as best as we can and staying active in awareness-raising and fund raising efforts.

Thanks for reaching out.
Comment by Angela Williams on January 13, 2010 at 9:13am
Right On!!!
Comment by The Seany Foundation on December 15, 2009 at 12:33pm
We lost Sean in 2006. Now we're working to carry on the battle he began, too. His birthday is coming up on Dec. 27. We're having a party going bowling to raise some funds.

Nice to know we are all in this together. Strength in numbers, right?
Comment by Andrea Cherry on December 13, 2009 at 10:20pm
Thank you for sharing your story of AJ with us. My husband and I are thankful for the healthy children that we have in our family, but we know that cancer can strike at anytime and anyone.... We've watched far too many other children with pediatric cancer lose their battles this past year to sit silent....So, we're looking to get involved and help find funding to find a cure for childhood cancer. I saw that you are organizing Steps Across Texas....please let us know if there is anything that we can do to help promote it/bring in donations so you hit your goal of 500,000. Anything that I can post on FB or otherwise. AJ was blessed to have a father like you. Keep up the war....together we will find a cure for childhood cancer!

Many blessings!
Andrea Cherry
Kingwood, TX
Comment by Karina J Bonilla on August 21, 2009 at 12:21pm
Thanks again...You are a true warrior!!! Thank you for sharing this story with all of us.
My son was my HERO and he will always be.

God bless
Comment by laura m zabicki on August 3, 2009 at 1:59am
Dear AJ's Dad. I also have lost my son to cancer this past year. CAREPAGES DANNYZAB. YOUR POSTS HAVE INSPIRED ME TO JOIN PAC2. WE ARE IN PROCESS OF PLANNING A FUND RAISER FOR PAC2 (MY NEW MISSION) TO BE HELD ON SEPT. 6, ONE DAY AFTER DANNY'S 18TH BIRTHDAY. I WOULD LIKE TO ASK SOME ADVICE IF POSSIBLE. WE have a very supportive community, I just need help with a petition sign up booth and who to give the proceeds to. Off the top of my head, Childrens Oncology group or curesearch or does pac2 act as an oversight agency? I am rambling but if you have some time to discuss this my perception is that you have more experience than I at this. Thank you very much ,
Laura Zabicki
Danny's Mom
Comment by Helen Achuff on July 27, 2009 at 5:17pm
I too couldn't think of Maggie as a warrior-a beautiful,silly flower,not a warrior.
Comment by Debbie Smith on July 27, 2009 at 4:52pm
Great story. I like that you don't call the kids warriors. I never could see Kenzie as a warrior - ballerina maybe but never a warrior.
Quick question. I have been racking my brain trying to remember something. Did you have info posted on where to get all media outlets for whatever area you live in? I thought I used it in the past but can not recall. Thanks in advance my fellow warrior!
Comment by Lisa Molina on July 27, 2009 at 12:18pm

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