There will always be evil in the world and there will always be the Hammer of God (Malleus Dei).  Malleus Dei was one of my son’s favorite Latin phrases.  My son, SSG Darrell Griffin, Jr.  drew this picture when he was very young.  I still have it in my office.  On the side of his combat helmet, while serving in Iraq he wrote post tenbras lux, Latin for after darkness, light.  He was always optimistic that the Hammer of God would prevail over evil. He was killed in Iraq March 21, 2007, but he lives on in the hearts of a lot of people.


I will be posting weekly postings of “Last Journey – A Father and Son in Wartime” weekly for the next several weeks.  It chronicles the life of an incredible son and an incredible soldier – My son Darrell (Skip) Griffin, Jr.

LAST JOURNEY: A Father and Son in Wartime

I: Getting the News


May 2007 – Los Angeles National Cemetery






MAR 13 1971

MAR 21 2007




I am standing at the grave of SSG Darrell Griffin, Jr., my son, reading the same words I have read every Sunday for the last month. BSM stands for Bronze Star Medal, w V means that the Bronze Star was awarded under circumstances of valor, PH stands for Purple Heart and KIA stands for killed in action. It took about a month after Skip’s death for his headstone to be carved and placed at his grave. While waiting for his headstone to arrive, the cemetery placed an index sized card in a green waterproof frame at the head of his grave. It said, SSG Darrell Griffin, Jr. KIA March 21, 2007, buried April 6, 2007. Too brief of a grave marker and too brief of a life.

Darrell’s family called him Skip; his wife, Diana, called him Darrell; and  his military comrades called him “Griff.” Not only did Skip get stuck with my complete name with a “Jr” at the end, but he also got stuck with my nickname. When he was younger he was called “Little Skip” and I was called “Big Skip.” Skip grew to be six feet, two inches and two hundred forty pounds of solid muscle. Then the family referred to him as “Big Skip” and me as “Old Skip.”

I normally come to visit Skip’s grave every Sunday before church. Kim, Skip’s mom, often comes with me. I have only missed a couple of weekends since he was buried.

The smell of his favorite incense, Nag Champa, that I just lit and placed in front of his headstone wafts in the air. I like that fragrance. He loved to burn incense in his study while he was reading books by his favorite authors such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant and John Calvin. I will sometimes bring one of his favorite books and read out loud to him if no one is around.

I wrap the lighter and remaining incense and put it in the “Skip Tool Box.” This is a gardener’s small tool box that contains all the items we need when we come to visit Skip: pruning shears, paper towels and spray cleaner to wipe off the bird droppings, clippers for trimming the long grass from around the headstone, and of course incense and a lighter. I got the idea of the Skip Tool Box from watching the other families that come to visit their sons regularly. Since we come to visit Skip every week we keep the tool box in the trunk of the car.

Last Sunday I noticed that the man parking next to me had a similar tool box. He had the same basic accessories, but he also had a number of cigars in his tool box. When Skip was in Iraq, his wife and Kim used to send cigars to Skip every month. Most pictures of Skip taken in Iraq are with him smoking a cigar. I decided to buy some cigars and occasionally smoke one when I visit Skip’s grave. These small acts make me feel closer to Skip.

A lot of graves only have flowers on them for the first week. I assume many of these are the graves of soldiers with families that live out of town. Or maybe the first week is enough for most people. Skip was buried beside Christopher Dwayne Young. He did not have his headstone when we buried Skip next to him. Now his headstone reads that he was killed during Iraqi Freedom a few weeks before Skip and he was twenty-one years old. He was old enough to die for his country and old enough to have a beer if he wanted one. Since Skip was buried, another soldier, Walter Freeman, was killed on April 4, a few weeks after Skip. He was also a casualty of Iraqi Freedom. He was just a couple of months younger than Christopher.

The Los Angeles National Cemetery is a United States National Cemetery in West Los Angeles, at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard, and there are soldiers and their spouses buried here whose graves date back to the Civil War. Interred also are veterans from the Spanish-American war, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and other American conflicts. One of my son’s neighbors is Nicholas Porter Earp (1813-1907). He was the father of Old West lawmen Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp, and Morgan Earp. Section 13 grave A- 18. There are over 85,000 soldiers and spouses buried here.

We had the option of burying Skip at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. We selected the Los Angeles Cemetery so we can visit him weekly. We have a good friend who lost her son in a helicopter crash in Iraq in 2005. He was buried in a group grave at Arlington with four other soldiers who had died in the crash because they couldn’t tell which body parts belonged to which soldier. She wishes she had buried him in Los Angeles. I didn’t ask her but I was curious if she had a choice of where he was buried since he was in a group grave. Two of the other people buried in his grave are Iraqi soldiers.

Kim likes to drive to the hill in the cemetery that overlooks Skip’s grave. When we get out of the car and stand looking at his grave site from the distant hill, for an instant it is as if it didn’t really happen, as if he’s still alive.

I always expect to see a lot more graves with flowers. It seems like the same few graves always have flowers on them. Skip gets fresh flowers every weekend and so do a couple of Skip’s “neighbors.”. Kim came with me today and is placing flowers in front of Skip’s headstone in one of the little cones that the cemetery provides for this purpose. She also brought some for Christopher. Often the same bouquet of flowers that has been put on Christopher’s grave is put on Skip’s grave. We assume that it is Christopher’s family that has been bringing Skip flowers. We often reciprocate by bringing Christopher flowers. We have varied the times we come to visit Skip to see if we could meet them, but haven’t seen them yet. Even though you may see the same people at the cemetery there seems to be an unwritten rule that you don’t talk to each other. There is the normal quiet and dignified nod as you pass one another, but rarely any conversation.

We always take a photograph with our cell phone of the fresh flowers we just placed on Skip’s grave and then send it to Diana, Skip’s wife. Since she lives at Fort Lewis, Washington, and can’t visit Skip’s grave very often it seems to give her some comfort every time we send her a picture. She likes knowing we are taking care of Skip.

Besides Christopher’s family or friends sometimes putting flowers on Skip’s grave, another odd thing we have noticed is that there are often three or four new pennies, always face up, on top of Skip’s headstone. You know they are new because the “tail” side that isn’t exposed to the elements is still shiny. I have noticed this a few times on other soldiers’ headstones, but they are fairly consistently placed on Skip’s.

These are the little questions that perplex me.

There are also bigger questions.

Questions like Why did my son have to go to war? And Why did he die? And What did he die for? These seem like simple straightforward questions, but they are not. They were the subject of numerous conversations that Skip and I had over the course of several years. Philosophy, theology and politics were our favorite topics. Most fathers and sons like to go hunting and to sporting events together; they like to talk about cars. Our favorite father/son activity was to spend an entire evening talking about books – once Skip was old enough, over a bottle of Merlot. We called it The Great Conversation.

I was sixteen when Skip’s sister Rene was born and eighteen when Skip was born. I spent most of my time doing jobs like washing dishes while finishing high school and college. Because these jobs never paid very well there wasn’t much money to buy toys. A good cheap form of entertainment was for me to take Skip and Rene to the library or to buy them used books. They both loved to read.

I said goodbye to Skip and stood up to walk back to my car. I noticed that the incense had burned a hole in the little Army flag that someone had placed by Skip’s headstone. Now it says, “United States Arm.”

As I got in my car I remembered a favorite quotation of Skip’s: Of all the sorrows that afflict mankind, the most bitter is that we have consciousness of much, but yet control over nothing. – Herodotus.

Systematic Creative Thinking for Christians.  Fist I will answer the question I always get asked, “Why Creative Thinking for Christians?” The next question I normally get is “What makes you think Christians can be any more creative than non-Christians?” The answer to the first question is simply that I am a Christian and I have always been fascinated with the the way the mind works. My basic philosophy as a Christian is that I am not sinless, I just try to sin less. There has only be one perfect Christian on earth and that was Christ.  To answer the second question I feel Christians are better equipped to think creatively than non-Christians based on the simple element of FAITH.   Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as follows –“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” As Christians we must have faith in our God that we cannot see and we cannot touch.  We know he is real, we know he is there, we know he answers prayers via our faith.  Faith is the kernel of creativity.  Thomas Edison conducted his experiments and eventually developed the electric light because he had faith that his work would lead to something that had never been seen before – the electric light.

A lot of people do not think they can be creative.  Anyone that can think and can have faith can be creative.  The best way to harness  and develop your creativity is to systematize the creative process.  Random, uncontrolled, creativity can lead to breakthrough ideas but systematized creative thinking has much better odds of success. I have developed a systematized approach (copyrighted) to creative thinking with the acronym W.R.I.T.E.  This process is comprehensively covered in my book “Creative Thinking for Christians,” available at In summary this system works as follows:

W – WRITE down your objective, the problem you want to solve.

R – Gather the preliminary RESOURCES that you think you will need to develop your solution

I – Come up with IDEAS.  At this stage the wilder the ideas the better.  How do you come up with a good idea? Come up with lots of ideas. One tool to do this is brainstorming.

T – Now TAILOR your usable, executable ideas to your needs.

E – Now ENERGIZE your tailored ideas.  This is where you develop plans for your ideas to enhance their chances of success.

Go to to order “Creative Thinking for Christians.”

Send me your thoughts on the subject of Creative Thinking for Christians.



Send me info about your favorite bookstores.  I have been posting information about some of my favorite bookstores I have visited across the U.S.  Please send me your bookstore stories, introductions, reviews, pictures of some of your favorite bookstores.  We have to support our independent bookstores.  They are a dying breed.  When you send me the information about your favorite bookstores tell me about things to do around in the neighborhood of your favorite bookstores, especially good places to eat.  If you like also include some information and maybe pictures about you as a book lover.

I will then post the information that you send to me on various other websites.

Archives Bookshop was one of my late Son, Darrell Griffin, Jr’s favorite bookstores.  The Archives Bookshop has been selling academic and theological books for over 25 years. Most of their staff have graduate degrees in theology or a related degree so they are familiar with many theological topics. They stock over 100,000 books for theological, philosophical and ministerial studies. They also have a broad range of academic and popular books outside the field of religion.  Darrell Jr. and I would spend hours at Archives.  We would get there early in the morning and stay until my stomach started growling from missing lunch.  His mom, Kim, knew that when I went with Darrell Jr. to Archives we would be gone for a long time and our wallets would be a lot lighter when we got home. They carry, “Last Journey,” the book written by Darrell Griffin, Sr., and Darrell Griffin, Jr.

Please remember the sacrifices our soldiers have made to protect our freedom.  Freedom is not free.

Archive Bookshop

They are located at their new location of 509 E. Walnut St., Pasadena, CA 91101.  Their phone number is (626) 797-4556


I am sitting here in Northridge, CA at 9:30pm trying to make sense of why my son had to die in the ugly sands of Iraq as a soldier of the American Army.  We are fighting for a country that does not want us there.  We are fighting for one side of the Islam faith.  No side of the Islam faith is inclusive, they have no tolerance for Christianity or the Jewish faith.  No sect of Islam will allow Christians or Jews to warship beside them. No side of the Islam faith will allow Christianity or the Jew faith to survive. If we are not Islam the Qur’an dictates that we should be killed. The world needs to wake up to the fact that Islam will not tolerate the existence of the Christian faith or the Jewish faith. Read the Qur’an. It calls for the death of anyone that does not convert to Islam.

SSG Darrell Griffin, Jr – KIA March 21, 2007 was an incredible soldier and an incredible son.  He was on his second tour in Iraq when a sniper’s bullet ended his life.

US New Cover

U.S. News and World Report featured him on its cover and did an 8 page story on him a few weeks after he was killed.  He and I, his dad, Darrell Griffin, Sr were working on a book that would reconcile the fact that he had to kill men and men wanted to kill him with teachings of the great philosophers.  General Petraeus allowed me to embed with his combat unit in Baghdad shortly after he was killed so I could complete the book we were working.  The original title was to be “The Great Conversation.”  After I returned from Iraq, my publisher changed the title to “Last Journey.” It tells of Darrell, Jr growing up and becoming a defender for American freedom.  In great detail it describes why he was awarded the Bronze Star For Valor.

Darrell, Jr. and his big sister, Rene were close growing up.  I married at 16 and Rene was born shortly after that.  Darrell, Jr was born a a year after that.  Since I was working my way through high school and college,, and their birth mother disappeared from their lives, we didn’t have much, but we had the most important thing – love.

Darrell, Jr and his Big Sister, Rene

Darrell, Jr. at time felt helpless fighting in Iraq.  He felt the Iraqi people were caught in the middle.  BUT, he always felt there was hope.  One of his favorite quotes was “After darkness, light.”  Here is an excerpt from his journals:

After darkness, light

Darrell, Jr. would send me pictures almost every of his various battles.  This was his way of dealing with it.  Because he truly believed “After darkness, light” he would subconsciously always include pictures of Iraqi kids, with big smiles at the end of his battle pictures.

Darrell Jr. with Irai kids

Darrell’s mom, Kim and I will always miss Darrell, Jr.  His being gone never gets easier. He always called Kim Mom so, I have never referred to her as his step mom.

Darrell, Jr. Kim and Darrell, Sr.

He loved his brothers and sisters, Christian, Sommer, Alexis and Jordan.

We all should take a moment and thank all of our men and women who have served and are serving for their service to our country.

Whenever I go to NYC I ALWAYS stop at The Strand.  They say they have 18 miles of books.  They do have one of the larger selections of books at any bookstore I have been to in the United States.  They have 2.5 used and new books. This is a a cool destination for a trip.  You can spend an entire day in this bookstore and there are tons of places to each within walking distance and lots of other stuff to do.  The instant my wife starts planning a trip to NYC city I start planning how all of the others things we have to do can fit around my day at The Strand.

Their main store is located at the corner of 12th Street and Broadway. They have a kiosk at Central Park located at 60th Street and 5th Avenue directly across from the Pierre Hotel.

In addition to an incredible collection of books at great prices they also have a full slate of author/speakers at their store.

James Franco at the Strand

Here is their story in their own words.

Where it all began: Bound by a Family

The Strand was born in 1927 over on Fourth Avenue on what was then called ”Book Row”. Book Row covered six city blocks and housed forty-eight bookstores. Ben Bass, the father, was all of twenty-five years old when he began his modest used bookstore.  An entrepreneur at heart, a reader by nature, this erudite man began with $300 dollars of his own and $300 dollars that he borrowed from a friend. Ben sought to create a place where books would be loved, and book lovers could congregate. He named his bookstore after the London street where avant-garde writers like Thackeray, Dickens and Mill once gathered and interesting book publishers thrived. The Strand quickly became a Greenwich Village institution where writers went to converse, sell their books and find a hidden treasure to buy. Today, the Strand is the sole survivor of Book Row’s colorful past.

Ben’s son, Fred, by the age of thirteen was learning the family business.  He too a lover of books took quickly to the book trade. After Fred completed a tour of duty in the Armed Forces, he came home to New York where he worked side-by-side with his father.  By 1957, Fred moved the store just around the corner, to our current space at 12th Street and Broadway. Fred came to spend most of his time at the buying desk, cultivating relationships with regulars and scoping out the next great find…

The next in the Bass family to take to the business was Fred’s daughter, Nancy. After college and a short stint in Louisiana, she came back to her roots and joined the Strand team at the age of 25. Today, she co-manages the store with her father.  The jury’s still out on whether one, two or all three of Nancy’s kids will be next in line to join the Strand team.

Where we stand today: Guided by the Customer

Today, the Strand carries over 2.5 million used, new and rare books, covering topics as far-ranging as occult to philosophy to finance. The store also offers an ever-changing array of literary gifts and goods from Moleskines to coffee mugs, and everything in-between.  Really, we mean everything in-between from a Shakespeare insult mug to the wildly popular Strand onesie.

 Our employees are not only knowledgeable about books; they’re also passionate about them.  Not only can they help you find a book, they can also recommend something you might love if you give them a quick description of your literary tastes. With our famous dollar carts outside you can always find a gem, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a hidden treasure inside the store — like a beautiful Rabelais for $15.  Strand continues to house old treasures for reasonable prices while providing one of the largest, most diverse selections of books in the country. 

 Our in-store events feature some of today’s most interesting and provocative personalities from James Franco to Patti Smith to dialogues between such greats as Junot Diaz and Hilton Als to Robert Caro and Frank Rich. If you are looking for a relaxed, intimate evening where you’ll both be engaged and entertained, we have the programming for you.

Where we’re going: Driven by You

In all seriousness, at the Strand, you, our booklovers, are our number one priority. As we change and grow with the times, we will never lose sight of our roots – we are a community bookstore first and foremost. We are forever invested in you and want to make your shopping experience with us a memorable, enjoyable and easy one.  The Strand is a place where books are loved and book lovers of all kind are always welcome—

“Trouble Bound,” my next book to come out, some time in late Summer is about Nathan Ybanez and Erik Jensen.  They were sentenced to life in prison without parole  at the ages of 16 and 17.  Nathan killed his mother after years of abuse and Erik helped him clean up the murder scene.  A third kid also helped clean up the murder scene, but walked away without any punishment because he rolled over on Erik and Nathan and told a number of lies.

Here is a short video that gives a glimpse of the story, “Trouble Bound.”


Iliad Books in North Hollywood is still growing.  Over the last couple of years they have doubled their physical space.  Their brick-and-mortar store is located in North Hollywood, California, they are one of the largest used bookstores in the Los Angeles area, specializing in Literature and the Arts (but carry books on most subjects, except business). The LA Weekly named them “Best Bookstore, Valley” in their 2012 “Best of L.A.” issue, the L.A. Times “Readers Choice 2011” named them as the favorite bookstore for the Valley/Ventura area, the April 2007 issue of Los Angeles Magazine listed them as one of the best used bookstores in L.A., the L.A. Times did a feature article on them, and they have been home to numerous movie and television shoots. they have over 125,000 books in stock, a convenient location with free parking, long hours, an experienced staff, and air conditioning.

You can park in the back and enter through the back.  Their always seems to be ample parking.  If you are going North on  Cahuenga Blvd., you will go over a set of raised railroad tracks that can obscure your view when you get ready to make a right hand turn onto Chandler Blvd. to get into their parking lot.  They are at 5400 Cahuenga Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91601, (818)509-2665.  There are no good eating places within walking distances, but this does not detract from the good vibes you get when you visit Iliad Books.

The store is extremely clean and the staff super knowledgeable.  The one thing missing is adequate places to sit.  If you get tired of standing your only relief is to pop a squat.  To give you a flavor of the political leanings of the owners I remember a few years there was a picture of then president Bush with a target on his face with the number of days he still had in office.

Iliad Books