I've been writing columns since 1999 and have written on a wide variety of issues, controversies and noteworthy stories. This is one of two that I've struggled with; the other one was when I lost my hero, my mother, in 2002.
Part of this is addressed to four little boys: Bryce, 8; Hyrum, 6; Harley, 4; and Bryan, 1; and the other part is to their dad. Boys, your father was a Mesa High School football kicker from 1995 through '97 who had a mean linebacker mentality, always wanting to participate in full-contact drills. Back then, most kickers would shy away from those drills. The coaches would tell him: "You're our kicker. We can't afford to have you injured." He'd reply, "Coach, I'm a football player first."
I'll never forget him jumping in for "hut drill," which happens on the first day of wearing football pads. To make a long story short, it separated the men from the boys. Your dad jacked up the big star fullback, who required trainer assistance to get up. Former coach Bill McKane told him, "Son, you need to start practicing with the defensives backs."
Your dad holds several records in Mesa's football program. After graduation, he became a foot solider for Jesus Christ, serving his two-year mission. He then went on to become one of Mesa's finest in 2005, proudly joining the Mesa Police Department. In April while at the shooting range he noticed it was a struggle to hold his firearm. After a visit to the doctor in May, he was informed that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
At 29, your dad is the youngest patient his doctors have ever diagnosed with ALS, and now six months later is confined to a motorized chair. He has the support of the Mesa community and his south East Valley law enforcement brothers and sisters, who through a fundraiser in August organized by Mesa police dispatcher Barbara MacReynolds have been extremely helpful with medical bills as he fights this battle.
Boys, as I'm writing, your dad's out with your grandpa and family up north in the motor home deer hunting. Grandpa told me that the family is looking forward to the planned elk hunt in late November. Your grandpa is a strong and brave man who loves your dad and you boys dearly.
Your dad also loves your mother, you boys, grandpa, grandma and his whole family. Boys, always remember the greatest thing in life is to love and be loved in return as you come from a family full of love.
Officer Mark Kelly, I think back to our conversation at Mesa's homecoming game where I met your wife, Elizabeth, and your boys in the locker room, and you said, "Coach Goodie, I will fight as long and hard as I can for them."
Officer Kelly, just get that "hut drill" mind-set, as I know you possess the courage of steel with strong and unmovable faith in God and family. As Mesa High's current coach, Kelley Moore, said as the team prayed over you in the locker room, "Lord, you've never lost a patient ever that you didn't plan on."
Officer Mark Kelly, I'm hoping to see you on the Mesa sidelines for the Hamilton game this week. But your dad told me you guys weren't leaving until the family got that deer, so maybe we'll see you by Mesa's first playoff game on Nov. 13.
Good luck bagging that big trophy buck. I've got my crackers and Tabasco sauce ready, waiting and salivating for some deer sausages - yummy.
John Goodie Jr. of Gilbert is a volunteer assistant football coach for the Mesa High School Jackrabbits. Readers who wish to send encouraging words to officer Mark Kelly can write to his parents, Mike and Carla Kelly, at email@example.com, or to Goodie at firstname.lastname@example.org.