He gently placed the rose petals on the bench and stood back.  He smiled to himself as he adjusted the positioning so that it would be seen the minute anyone walked through the door.  For weeks now he had been telling his daughter that he had a special surprise for her wedding.  She was like a six-year-old when it came to surprises – she kept trying to guess – she never got close.  As he stood there looking at his handy work, he remembered the day she first talked about him.

She had been at the park with her best friend Betty.  When she got home, she just could not keep from talking about him.

“Mom, he was so cute.  Betty and I were sitting on the bench next to the open grassy area of the park.  Some boys were playing touch football – that was when I first saw him.  Betty said his family had just moved to town and he would be going to high school with us.  We tried not to stare, but, oh, he was just so cute.  Suddenly, we realized that the ball was sailing toward us.  Before we could react, he was flying through the air just in time to catch the ball.  He hit the ground hard and we jumped up.  I remember saying, “Are you okay?”  And then it happened.”

She paused to take a sip of her drink.  It seemed like forever causing my wife to finally say, “Well, what happened?”

She was so excited, “He winked and said, ‘Hi, Gorgeous.’  He called me gorgeous!  Ahh!!!”

By the time school started, Tom became a fixture around our house.  I learned that after football season, he would walk her home from school and they would sit on the bench at the park and talk.  Soon it was obvious to all that they were deeply in love.

Tom graduated the year before our Mary – she wanted to quit school and get married but we made it very clear that she was just one year from graduation.  They would just have to wait.  Tom left for Parris Island shortly after his graduation to begin his career as a Marine. Mary would go to the park, sit on the bench, and write long letters to him every day.  We got permission for her to miss a couple of days of school so she could see him graduate from boot camp.  She lived to receive his letters – their love was strong – I knew I had lost my little girl to this good man.

So today, when they walk into the reception, they will see the bench where they first met and spent so much time.  I had to talk to a lot of local politicians to get it but it was worth it.  Now, just one more finishing touch and I will go walk my baby down the aisle to the man she will love forever.  I picked up the sign and placed it on the bench.

“Hi, Gorgeous!”


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Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.
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Johnny Johnston

Where have you been pastor? That is one great work! Short, sweet, to the point and then pow! Love your work Len and hope someday we can meet in person…. JJ

Bharat Mathur

If anyone knows how to paint a picture, infuse it with life, and then present the same to the beholders’ awe, only one name comes to mind. The name is other than Len Bernat, the wordsmith par excellence.

Thank you, Len Sir, for this real-life journey packed into such beautiful words!

Larry Tyler

Strong Ink with a touch of tenderness

Johnny Johnston

Reading it again tonight I have to say that you Len have such a great way in molding your stories and keeping our interest with each and every turn. I’m always looking forward to your next work and traveling with you down your road where surprises and heartfelt memories provide joy and unknown secrets! jj