Beyond Perseverance; A Veteran’s Journey

This year, we observed the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attack on our nation and remembered the people who lost their lives that day—a tragedy that changed our world. I will always remember where we were and what we were doing the day we heard the news. As I watched the television reports, I remember saying to my wife, “I think we’re going to see our two Army sons involved in a war very soon.”  That day certainly changed the life of young Navy hospital corpsman, Derek McGinnis, who would also be involved in the Iraq War.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek McGinnis, US Navy

An Iraq combat Veteran and a graduate of the Sentinels of Freedom (SOF) program, Derek served in the Navy for eleven years. In 2004, he was wounded in Fallujah, Iraq; a suicide bomber attacked the ambulance that he was driving, blowing it to pieces. Derek lost his left leg above the knee, sustained multiple shrapnel wounds, and suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused intense pain long into his recovery.

At the annual Exchange Club 9/11 Remembrance Event in Danville, our community was honored to hear Derek share his story as the keynote speaker. Derek spoke about love of country, duty, sacrifice, resilience, and faith. It was deeply emotional and inspiring to see someone who has faced such a difficult and long recovery speak eloquently about service above self, and serving our nation.

While Derek’s transition to civilian life has been filled with obstacles, he has always found a way to push through: by having a supportive network, participating in athletic events, seeking care for physical and mental injuries, and sharing his experiences with others. In finding healing and peace of mind, Derek has taken back control of his life.

Through Sentinels of Freedom’s assistance, Derek gained confidence and resources for his journey. One of the services we provide is mentoring—pairing Sentinels with an individual to assist with their personal and professional development. I have had the privilege of serving as Derek’s mentor, and his drive and motivation to help others is inspiring.

A successful college graduate with a master’s degree in social work, Derek now serves other Veterans as a licensed clinical social worker for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. He is a national speaker and advocate of new pain management techniques and protocols for Veterans and their families. Derek is also the author of the book, Exit Wounds, which narrates the details of his experiences of being wounded and learning to thrive.

Derek says, “I’m grateful for all the things that I have, and proud of all I’ve accomplished. In the end though, I don’t measure how far I’ve come by goals achieved, or academic degrees earned, or running trophies won. For me, what counts is that pain no longer rules my life.” And that is what Derek wants to help other wounded Veterans to learn— they are still in control of their life.

Derek’s journey, like the journeys of countless other wounded Veterans, is far from over. With his commitment to his community, he epitomizes a slogan that I often use: “Veterans Never Stop Serving.” His perseverance inspires others in their struggles, reminding them there is a new life to be envisioned and experienced. 

We owe a deep amount of gratitude, respect, and support to our Veterans and to those currently serving in our military; without them, we would not enjoy the freedom and quality of life we have come to know. I encourage you to take the time this upcoming Veterans Day to show your gratitude for these brave individuals.

To learn more and to contribute to our effort in making a difference in the lives of Veterans like Derek, visit


What makes a car a “classic?” Does it have to be a certain age? How many cars have you owned in your lifetime? How about your parents? Do recall certain cars they owned that you wish you had today?

My first car was a 1968, red, VW Beetle. My older half-brother had purchased the car new from a dealer. It had a sticker price of about $1,700. He sold the car to our dad who let me drive it until the engine blew. He told me that if I rebuilt the engine, the car would be mine. So I bought the then-famous How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, by John Muir (no, not that one), and set about de-constructing and re-constructing the car’s engine in our backyard. Halfway through, the scene looked like one of those “exploded diagrams,” with parts strewn in every direction, everywhere on our back patio.

Somehow, I managed to get it all back together (with new parts of course) and was soon back on the road, “Cruisin’ the Creek” (that was driving up and down Main Street in Walnut Creek on Friday night), along with several hundred other hormone-fueled male and female “cruisers,” all hoping for at least a second glance by some—any—member of the opposite sex!

Looking online today, I see listings for my old “Bug” with price tags ranging from about $7,000 up to $18,000. Maybe that’s about the same price as the original MSRP, adjusted for inflation. I don’t really know, but I think old VWs are moving into, or are already within, “classic” territory. I suppose it isn’t and won’t ever be a “classy” classic, like an older Ferrari or a Corvette, because it wasn’t and never will be as “sexy.” But hey, I can tell you, the girls thought it was “cute!” It got the job done.

Speaking of sexy and classic cars, my parents had a number of cars I really do wish I owned today. How about a brown and white, 4-door, 1956 Chevy Bel Air? Or a pink and white Buick Coupe of the same vintage. They had some good ones! I recall a nice metallic blue GTO, and a pretty unusual red, 1961 Triumph Herald—a convertible with a leather top that my little brother managed to fall through while trying to get away from me when I was chasing him across the ceiling rafters in our garage. We even had a white, 62 Corvair Station Wagon—now, quite rare. Prior to my VW, I even took the driving test for my first license (1970) in my parents’ 1962 Cadillac Fleetwood.  

Americans have a love affair with cars, to be sure. So much of our culture is really anchored by them. What would American Graffiti have been without the cars? And what would America be without Route 66 and everything connected to that iconic Highway?

Lots of great cars with lots of terrific memories—I suppose that is what makes any car a real classic.  




Shapiro Speaks at Berkeley

A crowd of students, faculty, and parents from all across the political spectrum cheer and applaud as Bradley Devlin, the secretary of Berkeley College Republicans, finishes his regards and Ben Shapiro takes the stage.

For a brief moment the crowd falls silent and if you listen, you can hear the resonance of ANTIFA’s screams from behind the barriers that line the perimeter of campus. Then it begins “Thank you. If only the administration had allowed us to fill the rest of these seats,” says Ben Shapiro, our featured speaker. This is the third time I’ve heard Ben Shapiro speak and his witty sense of humor never fails to entertain. Ben’s unmatched ability to craft arguments against mainstream leftist views is what we all come to the event for, but the humor is what makes us remember it.

Rewind to a few hours before the event; I just got out of class and headed down to Lower Sproul Plaza to pick up my volunteer pass. Lower Sproul was marked with derogatory statements that oversimplify the ideals of the American Right such as “Nazis go home,” “We won’t stand for fascism,” and a large sign in the Multicultural Center window that reads, “We say no to your white supremacist bullshit.” Shapiro commented on this in his speech stating, “Thank you, because I also say no to white supremacist bull shit. If you stick around long enough in this speech you will hear exactly that. The problem you have with me is that I also say no to your identity politics bullshit.”

I’m satisfied with the fact that he addressed the sign in a positive way; however, the meaning of that sign was to associate Shapiro’s speech with white supremacy. I was taken aback by the fact that the administration would allow comments that slander the nature of this event in a space dedicated to promoting diversity. Regardless, from the moment I walked through Lower Sproul Plaza that morning I realized how serious this event was and had genuinely no idea what to expect in terms of opposition later that night. I was at the venue early enough that I didn’t see the protesters speaking out against the event first hand and before the official start of the event, it was recommended I remain inside the venue for my own safety.

Then the speech began. As someone who has studied conservative politics for years, I was just as anxious and excited to hear Shapiro speak as I was the previous two times. For specifics on his speech I recommend everyone watch it—the live stream was public and is now posted on many sites.

I am of course writing from a conservative viewpoint which has inherent biases, as Shapiro is a conservative speaker, and therefore encourage people to watch the speech first hand and draw their own conclusions.

Shapiro, as passionately as ever, began by denouncing the notion that he is a fascist and/or a white supremacist, citing the fact that he has “been spending his entire career standing up against fascism and the idea of an overreaching government that uses the power of a gun in order to compel people to do what they want.”

Also, I think it’s relatively self-evident that Shapiro is not a white supremacist as he is an Orthodox-Jew, one of the primary targets of said white supremacists. Which is why “In 2016,” according to the Anti Defamation League, “Shapiro was the number recipient of anti-Semitism on the internet.”

Moving forward, Shapiro discussed the fact that the violent actions taken by groups such as ANTIFA and the Alt-Right is absolutely unacceptable. He then thanked people on the left who have condemned the actions of ANTIFA, such as Nancy Pelosi, who Shapiro disagrees with on virtually everything else. Shapiro discussed numerous other topics such as income inequality, institutional racism, intersectionality, and microaggression. He also took questions and actively engaged in discussion with people he disagreed with after the speech.

The main thing that resonated with me was that responding to an individual’s opinion with violence or censorship is absolutely unacceptable. The actions of ANTIFA and the Alt-Right are driving forces of political polarization. Our priority, above all else, is the preservation of free speech and the ability to have intellectually-driven political discussion.

As somebody who always has been and will be outspoken about their political views, my parents were genuinely concerned about my safety in not only attending this event but attending U.C. Berkeley in general. Students in a place of higher education should NEVER have a genuine fear that their beliefs will be met with violence.

As a proud new member of the Berkeley College Republicans, the intent of this event was to ensure free speech remains intact as an institution and that a wide range of opinions remain a part of that institution.




2018 Honda Odyssey

A Sports Car Minivan!

Hello Again. This month’s article is the second part to the question “What type of vehicle works best for camping?” For those readers who missed the first article in August 2017 (2017 Kia Sorento Crossover), my goal is to look at three different types of vehicles and how they stack up to a camping adventure, and highlight the pros and cons of each vehicle category along with my personal camping experiences. 

Our second vehicle category is the minivan and, in particular, the 2018 Honda Odyssey. These days it’s almost unfair to call the current “minivans” mini. When the first minivan arrived in 1984 in the form of the Chrysler minivan, it was only 175.9-inches long compared to a full-size Dodge van stretching 212-inches. The 2018 Honda Odyssey is 203.2-inches long, which is almost as large as what was considered a “full-size” van.

People may also be thinking, “Take a minivan camping? Its purpose is to take the family to school sporting events.” I can personally tell you a minivan can be that perfect camping vehicle. You have two wide doors to get people and things in and out. There is plenty of storage for your camping gear in the back, especially if you lower the third row of seats flat like the Honda Odyssey allows. The overall height is lower than an SUV or truck, so the lifting is a little easier as well.The 2018 Honda Odyssey’s cargo room ranges from 32.8 cu ft. (behind the 3rd row seat), 88.8 cu ft. (behind the 2nd row seat), 144.9 cu ft. (behind the 1st row seat), and 172.6 cu ft. of passenger volume. That’s a lot of room!

For 2018, the Honda Odyssey is completely redesigned. The Odyssey has been the best-selling minivan in America for the past seven years. This fifth-generation Odyssey raises the bar for performance, cabin quietness, family-friendly interior space, comfort and connectivity in the minivan segment. It is available in the following trim levels: LX ($29,900), EX ($33,860), EX-L ($37,360), Touring ($44,510), and the Elite ($46,670).

Offering customers greater value than ever before, the 2018 Honda Odyssey development team substantially increased comfort and convenience features such as standard Honda Sensing® technology, new Display Audio system with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, and new Magic Slide 2nd-row seats™ in EX and above trims, for example. The line-topping Odyssey Touring and Elite models round out the Odyssey lineup with a long list of available new premium features and technologies, including CabinWatch™ day/night video monitor, CabinTalk™ in-car PA system, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, new Rear Entertainment System (RES) with Blu-ray and streaming video, hands-free power tailgate, heated steering wheel, LED accent lighting, and more.

The 3.5-liter engine is new and packs 280 horses under the hood. Now here’s the real kicker: all models except for the Touring and Elite mate the 3.5-liter to a 9-speed automatic transmission with Paddle shifters. If that wasn’t enough, the Touring and Elite both include a 10-speed auto transmission with Paddle shifters! And if you were wondering, yes it accelerates like a performance vehicle, while mastering corners with exhilaration.The styling on the Odyssey feels more like an SUV than a minivan from many angles. The front end is an intentional clone of the brand’s Pilot crossover and Civic with active grille shutters to improve aerodynamic efficiency on the highway. The hood and sides are carved with deep sporty swoops and “lightning bolt” chrome belt lines.

Inside, Honda has added many soft-touch materials creating a more expensive look and feel. In the center of the dash is a large screen that is the main control center. All of the side windows had shade screens helping to keep the sun out and the shade in. Honda worked hard to make the cabin as outside, noise-free as possible – maybe too quiet as I didn’t hear the ambulance until it was about 30-feet away. The only caveat is that the second row of seats does not fold flat or tilt forward. In fact, you must remove them if you want a fully-flat rear cargo area and they weigh around 70 lbs. each. 

My Elite trim included the new CabinWatch and CabinTalk features that allow you to watch the kids in the back two rows and speak to them through the rear speakers or headphones if they are listening to the DVD entertainment system. Other cool interior features include: built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Smartphone-inspired infotainment system, CabinControl App, built-in vacuum cleaner, wireless smart phone charger and digital gauge cluster.

The cargo area is well-suited to carry your camping gear including: a tent, three large plastic totes, a medium size cooler, fishing poles, three folding chairs, two medium-sized bags of clothes, a box of wood, three sleeping bags, three pillows, small cooler and a bag of sheets and blankets and other small items. In the front center console was a 110-volt power plug.

Cool Features:

  • CabinWatch and CabinTalk
  • Standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can access popular smartphone features including: maps, text messages and music
  • 110-volt power inverter plug
  • Rear Blue Ray DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones and remote
  • Built-in Vacuum cleaner
  • Wireless Smart phone charger
  • Built-in WiFi system

The 2018 Honda Odyssey is loaded with safety features including the following: Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) Body Structure, Dual-Stage, Multiple-Threshold Front Airbags (SRS), Front Side Airbags, Three-Row Side Curtain Airbags with Rollover Sensor, Driver’s and Front Passenger’s Knee Airbags, Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System, Smart Entry with Walk-Away Auto Lock and more. Some of these items are optional safety features for purchase.

In Summary – The 2018 Honda Odyssey is a premier minivan at a premier price. The Honda team managed to equip the Touring and Elite models with almost every new high-tech feature available. If they could change the second-row seats to fold in half and flip up, the vehicle would be almost perfect. The power and performance was sports car-like. The new styling is fun and racy. As for camping, I have found that minivans are the most convenient way to comfortably load up passengers and your cargo. My suggestion is to head over to a Honda dealer if your family is looking for the multi-person people-mover that almost has it all.

Stay tuned for the 4-11 as I am in search of a Pickup to complete our final comparison!


2018 Honda Odyssey Elite 
Base price:                  $46,670 as driven: $47,610(including destination & optional

Engine:                       3.5-liter V6

Horsepower:             280 hp

Torque:                       262 lb.-ft.

Transmission:            10-speed automatic

Drive:                          FWD-Wheel Drive

Seating:                       8-passenger
Turning radius:         39.64feet

Cargo space:              32.8 to 155.7 cubic feet

Curb weight:              4,593 pounds

EPA mileage:             City 19/Hwy 28/Comb 22 MPG

Wheel Base:                118.1inches

Warranty:                   3 years/36,000-miles

Also consider:            Chrysler Town & Country, Ford Transit Connect, Kia

                                      Sedona, Toyota Sienna


Make-Up Colors and Textures for Fall

Seasonal change in make-up is not only enjoyable, it is healthy and gives you a nice pick-me-up, allowing yourself some much deserved self-love.  Subtle, natural, sophisticated, or modern changes—it’s time to get the creative juices flowing with some new fall colors to reflect the person you are and to redefine your beauty routine. The quest for beauty is not vanity, but a ritualistic form of self-love that nourishes the soul. It’s a philosophy that promotes good habits, a healthy well-being, and confidence.  For today’s busy, juice-amped, gluten free, yoga-fied woman, it only makes sense to do some soul-searching while getting inspired, all while redefining yourself as you receive an updated look for fall.

What to Look Forward To

Silky Looking Skin. Applying modern face shimmers and highlighters gives the skin that ultra smooth, youthful sheen. I’m not talking sparkle, I’m talking about modern highlighters with a sheen to make the skin look fresh, young, natural, and gorgeously smooth!

No-Make-up Blush. Applying a soft matte light brown pink color to the cheeks makes your skin look modern, updated, velvety, and beautifully natural.  

Modern Lip Balms.  With these ingenious balms, your lips will feel soft and smooth. Better than Chapstick, they include powerful antioxidants, along with Vitamin C and E to give your lips the organic nourishment it needs. Lips feel silky smooth with a surge of moisture, and the best part is: you have many colors to choose from.

New Modern Matte Lip Colors. Fall seasonal changes include swapping your light pinks to a deeper lip color. Deeper hues include changing to a modern nude, mauve, or deep pink. It will enhance your fall trends, while it is essential to go with deeper colors in make-up for darker hues and your fall wardrobe.

Fall Eye Forecast. Cream eye shadows have become the essential fall accessory for eyes. They are creamy, yet dry and contribute to a beautiful, smooth look. It’s so easy to apply and looks sensational all day, without fading, smearing, or smudging.  

HD Mascara. While not new to the locals, we had to include the HD Mascara in our fall preview because of the extraordinary benefits this product has to offer. This fast drying mascara not only delivers revolutionary thickness and buildable lashes, it dries black, creating beautiful, luscious, full lashes.  A definite must-have! 

 Skin Savers for Fall

Feeling a little lackluster? Enhance your skin’s natural radiance with Ongrien’s Ultra Cellular Renewal Peptide Serum. This serum features a proprietary illuminating complex “Neuro-peptides,” for rejuvenating, repairing and smoothing the surface of skin, diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. It’s excellent for combating the effects of environmental damage and early signs of aging.

The Make-Up Pros at The Rouge Cosmetics. Book your appointment today for a Mini Fall Make-Over now through October 30, 2017, or drop by to see all the new color possibilities waiting for you and discover a new fall updated, modern you.





Spooky but Trivial

None of us believe in spooks, do we? None of us believes the monsters, vampires, zombies or ghosts we see on the screen, do we? I have been watching horror movies for 80 years and have enjoyed many of them. In observance of Halloween, let’s see if you remember them as well as I do.


  1. Boris Karloff played the monster, but who played Doctor Frankenstein in the original Frankenstein movie, circa 1931, and one of the sequels?


  1. One of the best was the original “King King.” Who was the beautiful actress who played Ann Darrow, the object of the big fella’s affection?


  1. One of the best remakes of a horror classic was “The Fly.” Geena Davis played the girl who really knew how to pick ’em when she falls for a guy who turns into fly. Who played the Fly?


  1. In the 1940s, RKO Studios released a whole series of horror movies that were short on special effects, but heavy with atmosphere. One of them was an adaptation of Jane Eyre and took place on a Caribbean island. What was its name?


  1. There have been several vampire movies of varying quality. However, the original Dracula is the one we all remember. Who played him?


  1. Alfred Hitchcock will never be considered a director of horror movies. But the most unexpected reaction this old soul has ever experienced at a movie is Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho.” The shower scene in that movie was the all time movie shocker. Released in 1960, I have not taken a shower since. Who were the two performers killed supposedly by   Norman Bates mother in that film?