RUSH: Now, most of you are gonna know the story I begin telling here. Those of you new to the program will not. Let me give you a brief background on this. The invasion of Iraq was in the spring of 2003. Sometime later that year — I forget exactly when; I think it was summertime — I arrived home, and there was a FedEx package that had been sent to the New York office that somebody there then forwarded down to me at my home here. I opened it and I was in awe of what I found. There was an American flag, a large American flag properly folded in a Ziploc bag. Accompanying the flag were five or six certificates, each certificate signed by a pilot, each certificate a picture of an American warplane. The flag had been flown on each those aircraft during the original invasion, the first bombing runs, in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The flag, unbeknownst to me, had been flown in my honor by a bunch of pilots who, also unbeknownst to me, were regular listeners and supporters of the program. The ringleader of this was Lieutenant Colonel Mark Hasara, who flew tankers, KC-135s, which is the military version of Boeing 707, and occasionally KC-10. But Mark has flown the KC-135 tanker all over the world. As they say: ‘Nobody kicks ass without tanker gas.’ There was also enclosed a handwritten note on legal-sized yellow paper. The note was from Lieutenant Colonel Hasara, and it was a long note, and it explained what had happened and why, where the flag had been, the names of the pilots who had flown it. I’m getting teary-eyed, misty-eyed reading all this and looking at these certificates and looking at the flag, knowing that this had been done in my honor.
Here are a bunch of guys whose mission was to take out Republican Guard, whatever targets they were assigned, in sandstorms or not, in the original invasion. And they passed that flag around from airplane to airplane, to fly it — and this is common, by the way. Flags are flown on missions for people constantly and the flags are then presented. It was the first time it had ever happened to me, done in my honor, and I was floored by it, and began the process of trying to get to know Lieutenant Colonel Hasara. I wanted to personally express thanks and tell him how honored I was by all of this. And I’ve since gotten to know by e-mail some of the other pilots. One of them has called this program, Joe Katuzienski, ‘Tazz.’ The last time he called he was in the control tower at Baghdad International describing throwing a faulty French refrigerator off the roof.
It was a hilarious story. So in the course of the ensuing years, Kathryn and I got to know the Hasara family really well. Last December, the middle of December, they found themselves (Mark’s now retired) in Florida, so we invited them to come to Palm Beach for dinner. They brought the whole family. That flag has been framed. It’s on display in a position of honor in our house. Kathryn commissioned a giant eagle on a giant pedestal, a sculpted eagle, and we have placed the eagle in front of the flag. There’s a little sign, a plaque on the frame of the flag denoting what it is — and around the corner from the flag are all of those certificates of the jets signed by the pilots. They are framed, along with the legal pad note written by Lieutenant Colonel Hasara explaining what that flag’s all about, where it went, why it was flown and so forth and so on.
We took a number of pictures of the Hasara family in front of the flag and picture with me and Lieutenant Colonel Hasara in front of the flag standing next to the eagle. Now, those pictures, if not already, will soon be posted at Facebook on our Facebook page which is Facebook.com/RushLimbaugh, and the whole family is pictured in one of these. One of the children at the time was 15, Jeff Hasara. Prior to the family’s arrival at our home last December, Jeff was diagnosed with bone cancer, which is tragic in and of itself. He was a classic violinist; was interested in learning the piano; and a skateboard, a longboard aficionado. He went to MD Anderson in Houston for diagnosis. The doctors decided they had to amputate his left arm as the best course of action to get rid of the cancer. That was the best thing they could do.
So they did.
Unfortunately… We thought, by the way, in December when the family was here for dinner that everything was fine. Jeff was in great spirits; the whole family was. It was right before Christmas. These are very deeply and devoutly religious people, by the way. So we had a great time at dinner and had a lot of fun posing in front of the flag and just talking about life and stories of that kind. Sometime this spring, I forget the exact month, Mark let us know that Jeff’s cancer was back and it was back very aggressively. They went back to MD Anderson and a number of other places in Houston, which is one of the premiere cancer research centers and hospitals in the country. It eventuated that the doctors said that there really wasn’t much more they could do. There were numerous tumors and they were large.
An insidious, ungainly, large tumor had grown in his left shoulder where the amputation had taken place. Well, that brought a whole period of time of time of prayer and hope, a lot of positive thinking. There wasn’t any denial. I mean, they realized what they were dealing with. Throughout this whole period the young man, Jeff, remained… I mean, he obviously got depressed but he was making jokes. He said right before the amputation, ‘Dad, you know, you realize I’ll never be able to do this again.’ He said this while he was playing the piano. That was very hard on the whole family and eventually the cancer won the battle and it was last Monday at 4:15 in the afternoon that Jeff Hasara passed away. The family was there. The family live in Iowa. That’s where Mark is now working after his retirement from the military. But the whole family is in Utah, both grandparents, Val’s parents (that’s Mrs. Hasara). Story continues when we come back.
RUSH: It was a week ago Monday, ten days ago now, that 16-year-old Jeffrey Hasara passed away. It was I guess six o’clock in the evening Kathryn and I are in the kitchen at home, and I got an e-mail from Mark telling us what had happened and it caught us by surprise. I mean, everybody was aware it was inevitable barring a miracle (and there was hope for a miracle, by the way). So I was reading the e-mail. We’d been out to see Jeff and the family in Utah a couple months ago. Jeff had asked to go out to Utah to see family, ’cause all the family is out there. All of his family’s friends are in Iowa, but all his family is in Utah. He’d requested to go out there. So they drove him out there. He was in great discomfort. He had to lay on a mattress in the back of a van for 16 hours or 19 hours on the way out to Utah.
But his spirits were constantly up. So we went out to visit and say hello, and we stayed in regular e-mail contact with the whole family, and we have ever since I figured out how to track down Lieutenant Colonel Hasara after he sent the flag. By the way, I want to read you what his note said that accompanied the flag. He said, ‘Mr. Limbaugh, please accept this flag as a small token of our appreciation for your support of the troops currently in the Gulf as well as in other conflicts. This flag flew on five different aircraft stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. My fellow airmen would appreciate an e-mail from you when you have the time so that we know you got the flag. There are a few items folded in the flag, two coins from two of the squadrons. It flew just as you see it in the plastic bag.
‘He,’ talking about the one of the airmen, ‘was the first….’ This was ‘Tiny,’ by the way, this man. He ‘took it into Baghdad on a defensive counter Arab mission in his F-15C. This is why he wants to make sure you get the flag. We’ve flown this flag for you to show in some small way our appreciation for your support of the troops in Iraq. Many of us are avid followers, and though we didn’t get the chance to listen to your show, we stop by your website as much as possible. From all of us to all of you at EIB and for all you do for the men and women in uniform, we salute you,’ and that was from Lieutenant Colonel Hasara. So that’s what… That brought some tears to my eyes and heart was beating rapidly and my chest was swelling with pride, all at the same time. So that’s what started all this. We tracked down the Hasara family and they became good friends and remain so.
In fact, they were special guests at our wedding on June the 5th, that weekend. They weren’t going to come because of their son’s condition. He wasn’t doing well back in June and Jeff — who we had been out to visit before the wedding — knew how much they wanted to come. So he told ’em to go. He insisted that his parents go. He said that they had had a tough year and they needed it. So Mark and his wife, Valerie, showed up. I introduced them. Kathryn and I introduced them at our wedding dinner on Saturday night. Of course, the… We told everybody not to bring gifts. We asked if there was any desire to contribute to do so to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation. So we had those people there — and everybody that met the Hasaras loved them, and they learned of the story of their son.
When I mentioned Monday wasn’t going to be here yesterday, a whole bunch of people sent me notes from Kansas City (Vince Flynn and his wife) asking us to pass along their condolences. Anyway, I got the e-mail last Monday announcing the death, and Kathryn been in regular contact with Jeff. In fact, shortly after our visit to Utah, he went out — and remember, now, he’s in not good shape. He barely weighs a hundred pounds. It’s just terrible to see what this cancer is doing to this 16-year-old young man. But he interpreted something in an e-mail that I had sent him about plugging on and not giving up.
He went and got a longboard, a skateboard (he loved skateboarding) and they sent us a video of the kid actually on a skateboard in front of the family abode out there whizzing down the street with one of his friends who had flown out from Iowa with him to spend the summer for whatever length of time they were going to be in Utah. And Kathryn is staying in regular touch via e-mail, so the note that he had died really caught us by surprise because it was just a couple days prior that he had sent a note to Kathryn updating her on his condition, but there was no allusion to any imminence of the death. So that was a shock. So Kathryn said when she got it, ‘I’m going out there. I’ve gotta go out there.’
So Kathryn flew out on the next day on Tuesday, a week ago yesterday. She flew to Iowa and spent the week with the family, ’cause all their family is scattered — most of them in Utah, many of them in Texas — and they all work. So Kathryn went out and helped them make arrangements, and it was last Friday that Jeff’s body was flown to Utah. They had a service for his family friends in Iowa on Thursday, and then Friday flew his body out to Utah for the family to pay its last respects and for the funeral, which was — which was yesterday. And Kathryn spent the whole week there. She got back late on Thursday night of last week, and we started making plans to fly out for the funeral, which was yesterday. Now, I want to tell you a little bit about the day yesterday and this family, because it was — as all funerals are — very sad.
But I also thought, in its own way, it was a beautiful day. It was a wonderful celebration, and the Hasaras made us members of the family. They seated us in the front row with the family yesterday at the funeral, which is an honor that we won’t ever forget. I’ve told Mark and his buddies and his family how much love and appreciation I have — and, consequently, all of us, meaning you and we have — for him, his family, people like him who serve in the military, volunteer to do so. And he’s always said to me that he appreciates that. He understands that we have a great appreciation for his military work, and I sent him a note last night to tell him that throughout my life and career, I’ve always appreciated the people who I define as ‘making the country work,’ and as I grow older I’m in greater awe and appreciation for the people who make this country work each and every day, and Lieutenant Colonel Mark Hasara and his family epitomize the people who make the country work. They are unsung. They do not seek fame in any way. They don’t compromise their values for any temporary, fleeting, surface gratifications.
They epitomize American exceptionalism. This family is like a lot of American families that you’ve never heard of, but the kind of families that define our greatness. They’re filled with love; they define it. They make the most of what they have, and they feel blessed for what they have. And they consider whatever it is they have to be their good fortune in life, and they’re devoted to decency and goodness. But the things they do, the heroism and the good works they do are known only to their family and friends. Nobody knows who they are. Yet the country wouldn’t be what it is or remain what it is without them and people like them.
As we were leaving yesterday after the funeral — and this is the father of the man who was just been buried — he’s walking us out and he’s telling Kathryn and me that I am the last voice for this country and so forth. And, you know, I thanked him very much for that, but in truth it’s people like the Hasaras, and I’m sure many of you are just like them and you know people just like them, who are keeping the country alive and well and will sustain it. They’re the backbone of the country, people like this, in many ways. We always wonder why such tragedies happen to people like this. And these questions are the type of questions that we will never, ever have the answers to on this earth. Now, there’s a reason why this happened, but it’s inexplicable to the living. It makes no sense whatsoever. Nobody in this family and this young man ever did anything to anybody. Quite the contrary.
I’ll never forget a story, and Mark told Kathryn and me this story in the most casual way. One day there was a knock on the front door at the home in Iowa and it was a neighborhood kid who said, ‘I want to move in with you.’ Things at his house and his family were not all that well. Now, I don’t know about you, but if some neighborhood kid who I know well, knocks on the door and said, ‘I want to move in,’ the last thing I do is take ’em in. I try to find out what’s going on. But the circumstances were known, and Mark Hasara said, ‘Well, if you want to move in here, here are the rules,’ and those rules are going to constitute a major change for this kid, and they took the kid in, with everything else that was going on. They took the kid in seemingly without question. The idea of it, the questioning of it never crossed their mind, just how to do it right was what concerned ’em. And they told us this story as though it’s a common thing that anybody would do. And, of course, it’s not common. Most people wouldn’t welcome a troubled neighborhood kid to live with the family just because the kid knocked on the door. Something like that is special and unique and shows the kind of people the Hasaras are.
Anyway, all of this and more is why we both profoundly appreciated being included in their moment of pain and anguish yesterday, a pain and anguish that no parent ought to ever experience. But, they were dealt a hand and they played it with class and dignity, and their fine qualities have rubbed off on us, and we’re thankful to have made their acquaintance. You know, you talk about circles closing, loops closing and things happening for a reason and why and how they all happen. The Hasaras are one heck of a great family. They have now included us in the family, and that’s to our benefit. Last week we got an airplane to take Jeff’s body home. And this airplane, our pilot sent us a picture of it, looked like a military airplane. It was a jet, a Gulfstream III, but the way it was painted and outfitted it looked like a military airplane. And Kathryn said, ‘You know, it’s amazing how circles get closed, loops get closed.’ In 2003, Mark Hasara arranged for that beautiful flag to be flown in the original invasion of Iraq in my honor, and in all the thousands of pieces of mail we get here every day somehow that was found and forwarded on to me. And then seven years later we have a chance to, in some really small way, return the favor by arranging for his son to be flown home to Utah for burial.
It was actually a very heartwarming thing, and for us it was a mixture of all the emotions that attach to something like this. There was pain, there’s questioning, ‘Why this?’ But it was also beautiful in its own way to see the family, to see the entire community out there come together and learn of the stories of how this young man had impacted and changed the lives of people that he had met, and by virtue of his strength and compassion and deportment during this illness that he’d suffered. So he was an amazing young man and Kathryn and I feel very fortunate to have met him. But it’s just a shame, 16 years old, 16 too-short years on the planet. So he was buried at a family grave site, and they return later this week to Iowa to try to continue and move on, but this is, as I say, you well know, this is something no parent should ever have to do and no parent really ever contemplates it.
So I wanted to explain all this to you. I’ve tried to make a point here of sharing as much of my life as possible because you and I have a familial type relationship, you and I in this audience. I wanted you to know about the Hasaras, and I wanted you to know about Jeff and their family and what happened to them because in the midst of the day-to-day grind, facing battles in which you question whether the country’s gonna survive and the economy is going to survive and so forth, you have a chance to be immersed in a circumstance that is the epitome of unfortunate sadness but yet at the same time that event inspired confidence that this country is going to survive because these are the people that make it work and these are the backbone. I think they are exemplary and emblematic of the kind of things that Americans that you’ve never heard of, and never will hear of, experience and go through every day. So from Kathryn and I and all of us here to the Hasaras, we love you; we have a great, profound appreciation for you as human beings, not just your military service, and I wanted to take the time here to recount the story and say God bless.