Oh my GOODNESS...... It's finally working. The problem was with my lircd.conf file the entire time. I almost feel silly that the problem was this simple. My problem was that I was trying to use everyone else's lircd.conf from the web. I guess this wasn't working because their raw output codes were different from mine. I should have caught this 20 hours ago. Anyhow, I used irrecord to capture data, copied it to my lircd.conf and magically it's working. Learn something new every day.
Thanks so much for your help and troubleshooting. As I become more familiar with the applications within linux, I would like to be able to contribute to this forum. You all rock!