Menu   Email

a different azimuth
the website of john neel


"Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us." ~ Oscar Wilde  

26 December, 2012: A day of Christmas

Elise got in on the 24th...early afternoon.  She got up the next morning and turned on A Christmas Story, demanding it stay on all's a tradition when she is home for Christmas.  Barbara came in about noon and Jay, Jake, and Kelly got here about an hour later on Christmas day.  We opened presents and then we all sat down at Kim's table for a great dinner.  I massacred the Ham...that's MY job.  Everything else was perfect.

 Of course we got Jake presents with a Thousand pieces...which were all over the house in about an hour.  He was the best young man all day long.

Jonathon and Kelly got me a sushi book, some Super Grade A chop sticks, çai, and Türk kave.  Elise got me a fly now I have no reason not to get out there and learn.  Fly Fishing for Dummies?  Probably.  Kim got me some Bluetooth-capable Dr. Dre Beats which are simply awesome.  Bill and Sil gave me a Türk cookbook.  Yum.

Most everyone was gone by 1900hrs, and we all settled in for more of A Christmas Story.

It snowed a bit during the night and the Parade Ground was pretty nasty when I went to put up the flags this morning.


22 December, 2012: Waiting on the Kids

Bill and Sylvia got in on Monday, ready for the holidays.  We had Barton and Gail over for Lunch on Wednesday after Commissioning and December Graduation.  The last of the Cadets left after the last exam on on Wednesday and the staff went to the new Mexican place on Highway 11 at exit 195, Muchacho Alegro..  If you haven't eaten there, it's a must.

Right now it is like I'm on hold until Elise gets here on the 24th and Jay, Jake, and Kelly get here on Christmas.  I'm certainly not getting much done around here.

One thing I have done this Furlough is buy Kim a car.  I went through Michelle at Town and Country again, so I'll ride to Birmingham with Bill and Syl to pick it up.  More on that later.


12 December, 2012: The Days Before Christmas Furlough

It's pretty boring around here right now.  The Cadets are taking Exams and then leaving tor Furlough as they finish them.  I'm waiting until the last one leaves on the 20th, with not much to do until the 19th and Graduation and Commissioning.

Kim surprised me the other day by agreeing with me that we ned a car...something to augment Bess as she gets older.  Her Choice?  A Ford!  We both really like the 2013 Fusion.  Amazing, right?  We went to look at them down at Rockbridge Ford and there was a really nice looking one in maroon with the 1.6liter Ecoboost engine.  However, the 1.6 has had three recalls on it for engine fires, so that probably isn't our best bet.

Last week we got the news that Wes '03 died in a car wreck in Dallas,  His family sent a private jet to pick up the Color Guard to assist and post the Colors at the funeral.  I did all the coordination for that.  Wes was my RSM back in 2001-2002,.  He was a fine young man.  I was happy to help out.

Last Saturday I took two small gifts to the Toys-for-Tots station on Main Street.  The VMI Brass Quintet was there playing Christmas Carols, so I went to support them.  Kim, Sarah, COL Gary, and I went to Roanoke to SFC Ech's. Holiday party that night.  It was really nice and I loved his house.  It was a newly re-furbished early-1900s home and I loved everything about it except the neighborhood..which will get better, I'm sure.

Sunday Kim and I drove to Charlottesville to spend time with Kelly, Jonathon, and Jake.  We went out to lunch and then drove to Greene Meadows Tree Farm to cut a tree.  Jake had a great time running around among the small trees.  We were too late though.  Literally every tree of any size was gone.  Luckily, there was a nice pre-cut tree that was the perfect shape and size.  It was the last one left, and we bought it.  Kelly made a really good chicken and beef kebab dinner that night while we watch Sunday Football.


1 December, 2012: Thinking of Izmir

I had duty last night, all night, but it was super quiet.  The Rats and Cadre marched the Christmas Parade, so that helped.  It was an open house weekend on Post, so there was a lot of attention on the 4th stoop making sure they were being sensible.  All of which left me with a lot of time on my hands.  All I could think about was Izmir. I thought about the pizza at Venedik's, Octopus Pie at Miko's, everything at Reci's, the coffee at Matisse, hanging out with the girls at Diva's Agents, tequila and dancing at Equador, singing with the band at Carnivale, Beers in frosted mugs at Sardunya and , of course, the doner at Altin Kapi.  I really need to go back.


26 NOV: A Short Work Day

I put the flags up about 0745 this morning and then unlocked the Barracks Rooms.  After unlocking all the gates, the 24-hour doors, and moving the Bollards, I took the rest of the day off. I went to Wal-Mart with Kim and washed Bess.  Since, I've been playing on my computer all day long.  I did manage to watch The Exorsist III with Kim before going in for the Sweat Party.  Welcome back Rats!


24 NOV: I’m not watching this shit.

Ugh.  Auburn Football.

For our last night, Elise, Jonathon, Kelly, Tori, and I met Sal at The Sly Fox in Southern Pines for dinner and then did a little minor bar hopping after.  Kim stayed home with Jake Man.  Dinner was great, but the next two places were unremarkable.  Perhaps that was because I was the only one drinking.  I got them all safely home about 0130hrs, got in bed, and set my clock for 0600hrs for the drive back to Lex.


23 NOV: Park and McDonalds with Jake

While the girls went shopping, Jake, Jonathon, and I went to the park to play.  We googled the closest place and Rim Lake Park looked promising.  It was pretty nice, but had a lot of vandalism damage.  The playgrounds only held Jake’s attention for about an hour, and then it was time to feed him.  You can always tell when Jake is hungry; his mood changes to the dark and everything becomes “BORING!”


22 NOV: Thanksgiving at Elise's

I went for a little run first thing Thanksgiving Morning.  I returned to a house full of yummy smells and four gorgeious women hard at work in the kitchen.  When I asked if I could help, they told me to just watch football and play with Jake.  I can do that!  Jake and I built an obstacle course in the back yard with Elise’s ballistic plates, her lockers, and a few pieces of her exercise equipment.  It kept Jake occupied for hours.

Dinner was delicious.


21 NOV:  Driving to Elise’s, lunch at El Cazadore

Kimberly and I got up early, and after I put up flags, we drove to Ft Bragg for family Thanksgiving.  We met Elise and her roommate Tori at El Casadore for lunch and then drove to her house in Raford.  Jay, Kelly, and Jake-man got there about midnight.


19 NOV: AOC off early

AOC duty was boring.  Since it was the day before furlough, about a third of the Corps was already gone.  The rest were in the process of leaving, so there was no one in the academic buildings or library.  After checking those, I walked the stops a bit, and that was boring too.  When the night OCs arrived, I left.  I had had about enough of VMI for the month.


20 NOV: Barracks Closeout for Thanksgiving Furlough

I spent the morning doing my own preparation for Furlough and then the afternoon clearing rooms and locking them.  The rest of the staff was helpful, especially CPT Sarah.  I took care of the arches, took down the flags, replaced the bollards, and, as usual, I was the last one to leave that night.


18 NOV: Pick up at Mountain Shepherd

When I arrived at Mountain Shepherd, no one was around, so I checked my compass and struck out tracking the freshest footprints.  I went about a quarter of a mile when I heard the dogs barking down by the school lodge, so I turned back.  Reggie’s mom hailed me from the lodge, let me look around inside,  and gave me coffee and pumpkin spice cake until the class returned.  On the way back we stopped at Hardees and let them feed.  I think they were pretty hungry.


17 NOV:  Hotel Coverage

After Parade, March-down, and a sad loss to Citadel, I took a couple of hours off before reporting to the Howard Johnson’s for hotel coverage.  This is relatively easy duty to covet the Hotels where the cadets are partying, responding only when the rent-a-cops can’t handle things.  I put a note on the door explain that I was "Not 2014" and watched movies until bed time.  There was one knock at the door, but the only thing there when I opened it was a beer and a note that said, “Happy to be Part of the Brotherhood of the Ring.  Have a good night SGM.”  I got up at 0600hrs, headed home, and then drove to Mountain Shepherd to pick up the Cadets.


15NOV: OC vs. 2014 Class Dinner

Like I usually do, I covered Officer in Charge of Barracks on the evening of the Class Dinner.  This is a high risk night, part of the Ring Figure Weekend, where lots of drinking and shenanigans takes place, and it takes a strong hand to keep them under control.  I was amazed.  2014 came back a bit rowdy but settled into their rooms and quieted down in about ten minutes.  I walked the stoop constantly, stepping in rooms to look at combat rings, and advise them to keep sane for the evening.  Most had been drinking, but they were cool.  At CQRB, they came out around the Sentinel Box and did Old Yells for their Grand Dykes, Dykes, and then their Class. Then, to my amazement, they went back to their rooms and quieted down before Taps.  I was home and in bed by 0200hrs, happy that I had had no problems.


15-18 NOV: Mountain Shepherd

I took five Cadets to Mountain Shepherd Survival SchoolHunziker, Roe, White, Hastings, and Wood.   The Humble Thunder course is four daus and three nights in the Appalachian Mountains.   The goal is to bring the things learned there to the New Cadet Military Training Land Navigation, Field Skills, and First Aid classes. 


13 NOV: Greensboro Dinner

I got an invitation to come speak to the Greensboro NC Alumni group and had a great time.  It was a small group, about 25, and we met at Logan’s, so I was more comfortable than I thought.  I planned the talk as if I was talking to Cadets, with an attention span, and my instincts were correct.  I think the talk went well, and they really loved my photos of the Post construction process.


9-10 NOV: Kentucky Shoot

The very next weekend, we were on the road again, this time to Kentucky and the University’s Fall Open at Blue Grass Sportsman League.  We couldn’t leave until after Parade because two of our team members are members of the Cadet Battery and they had to fire the volleys for Founder’s Day.  We didn’t get on the road just before 1800hrs.  To make matters worse, as we were getting close to the toll road on I64, I realized that I didn’t have my billfold.  Since I was paying for all the food and gas with my government card, I had to turn around and go back for it.  I don’t think the team minded much; it gave them a good two hours in the Beckley Hooters.  We got to our hotel about 0230 Saturday morning.

Tired as they were, the team shot really well.  Shortridge came in third overall in Double Skeet, Curtis came in second in Sporting clays, and we saw good results in Trap, including one of our new shooters, Schmidt, out-shooting the entire rest of the team.

The return trip was uneventful and we got back in time to make Taps. 


2-4 NOV: Tennessee Shoot

The team and I left for Nashville TN and the Bethel sponsored trap and skeet shoot on Thursday.  Yhe drive was so much easier than going to Kentucky—no curves.  The shoot was over three days, shooting Skeet on Friday, Trap on Saturday, and Sporting Clays on Sunday at the Tennessee Clay Target Complex. 

It was a good shoot, but not great.  There was too much gamesmanship among some of the other teams and too many external organizations involved for it to be great fun.  I really got tired of people trying to get me to join their organization or buy things.  I stopped the Bethel girl in-briefing us when she got to the process for filing a formal protest.  “We don’t do that; we came here to have fun,” I said.  She looked at me as if I had a penis growing out of my forehead.  Our team shot well, but not to the level at which we practice.  It had to be nerves.  We were dropping easy shots we normally make, but, still, we came in Third as a team.

For lunch on Friday, I took the team to Jim ‘N Nicks Bar-B-Q.  Of course they LOVED IT!

Sadly, I missed a face book message from my Brother Rat Libbi, who said she lived in Nashville about ten minutes from Jim ‘n Nicks.  When I got it, I answered back, but she was at church.  If we go back next year, linking up will be a high priority. 

12 August, 2012: A photo trip with Nohelia

Nohe and I took a short trip back out to Collierstown to have another go at some good photos of her.  She looked really good and her hair looked amazing.  What a difference from the last two tries...the first where she was so self conscious and the second when I had a stomach problem.  We spent the whole time at the bridge and around her car and most every shot looked good.  This one, however, really captures how beautiful she is and is the first one where I've gotten close to how I see her.

23 July. 2012 Photos with Sarah and Natalie

Today I took Sarah and her really cute little sister out for photos.  It went so well...when they weren't giggling and cutting up.  They are obviously great the whole family seem to be.


23 June, 2012: Birmingham and Back

Last Saturday we had Jake's birthday party out at McKethan Park.  It was a lot of fun and very low key, a smaller affair than last year, which made cooking the dogs and burgers a breeze.  Jake's best buddies the Park Boys came and they all had a blast running around the park. 

After cake and presents, Kim and I left for Birmingham.  The trip down was great; having Kim along makes the miles go by quickly.  Since Kim was born on Father's day, she always tries to be home with Bill when the two days fall on the same day.  I know Bill loved it.  My father's Day as great.  My soldier called from Afghanistan and Jay called from Virginia.  Jay gave me The Complete Book of Mustangs by Mike Mueller which is about the most definitive book on Mustangs I've ever seen.  Kim and her Dad decided they wanted to go to Zaxby's for lunch to celebrate their day together, so we all met there.  I think they chose that because I wanted to bring Mom along and it was close to her house and easy to get in and out.

On Tuesday, I went to Noxubee County again to continue my search for John Clayton, this time on the hunt for Mohegan Cemetery and little Effie E. Neel, daughter of Nicholas Neel and Georgia Ann Byrd, who died at in childhood.  I had a distant relative tell me that he thought there was a sign on the side of U.S. Highway 45, at the entrance to the road.  By map recon, I had it figured for Firth Lake Road.  That's where I began my search.

Firth Lake Road was in pretty good shape, but I came to a rut that Bess couldn't pass, so I went on foot for a while.  No Luck.  I drove to the Macon Library and asked if they had old maps or reference material I could see.  The lady behind the desk had never heard of the cemetery and seemed unwilling to invest any time with me.  She did give me a modern county map.  On it, I noticed something I had never noticed in all my searches on map or by satellite, a "Card Cemetery Road."  It was located almost equidistant between Firth Lake Toad and Mahorner Road, the road I searched last summer.  I took US 45 south to US 145 and I took that slowly.  Sill, I missed the turn and had to double back.  As I turned on to Card Cemetery Road (unmarked) and approached US 45, there was a big sign, up on top of a hill, that said "Mohegan Cemetery."  I had driven by this sign many times but had never seen it because of its position on top of the hill.

I stopped under the sign and climbed the hill, but there was no cemetery there.  I didn't think it would be there, I was just making sure.  Every description I had ever seen said it was about a mile off the road on a bluff over the Noxubee River.  I set my odometer and drove a mile, exactly, and the road ended.  There, on my left was a small overgrown clearing.  An American Flag was flying on a twenty foot flag pole and there was a small plot of new stones.  These were all Card family members, hence the name of the road.  Checking more closely, I could see a few stones among the weeds and small conifers in the center of the clearing.

I grabbed my camera, my phone, and my pistol (for snakes), and began breaking brush.  I need to remember to wear long pants, bring some work gloves, use bug repellant, and load shot-shells in the future. 

After about an hour of searching, I found Effie on the far side of the cemetery. She was buried, as I anticipated, with the Lindley family and her step-grandfather James Frank Lindley.  Sadly, the two infant Lindley graves listed in the online grave roster are broken and or crumbling. 

Mission Accomplished. 

 Her little stone was well preserved, though leaning back a bit.  On top was a little broken lily, her name, the dates, then a little epitaph that reads, "Budded on earth to bloom in heaven."  I wondered at the sadness the family must have felt at the loss od a two year old little girl.  I wish I could have talked to Nicholas, Georgia Ann and Carrie about this time in Mississippi and Alabama. 

Now I have another mission and that is to contact Noxubee County about preserving the history in this cemetery, not just my family history, but there are at least two Confederate graves hidden out there in the weeds.

 I think the next step in my search is to go to the Archives in Jackson.  I want to find a record of John Clayton Neel in Confederate service, perhaps a newspaper clipping after Shiloh naming the dead, and look for deeds, marriage records, and such.  If I could just find which unit he was with, I could follow that unit through the war and walk the same ground.

 Wednesday I tried to get mom a Photo ID.  Her purse has come up missing, either hidden, left somewhere, or stolen, we're not sure which.  I stood in line for an hour or more and presented the guy at the counter her social security card, her certified marriage certificate, and her certified birth certificate.  He ran up her, still current, drivers license information on his computer, but said he couldn't issue her a card because the social security card was in her maiden name.  So, he had all the same info on her drivers license to include a photo of my mom, who was standing next to him, but he "couldn't" give her a simple ID Card.  Good Job.

Thursday I spent the day with Kim and Sil shopping at the Summit.  I stayed, as long as I could, at Books-a-million.  I bought a book I have wanted to read for a while, Old Man's War by John Scalzi.  It begins well.

It looks as if my trip to Türkiye is off.  The 82nd has changed the rules for post deployment leave and Elise will only get two weeks.  I'm sure she will want to spend her two weeks soaking up America as I did after returning from overseas.  So...another time maybe.  I'll spend the money on Bess.


14 June, 2012: A Mile-a-Minute!

Yesterday I got out Jake's Pirate Ships and Pirate Base, which he had a blast destroying.  The Battle of Kady's Living Room was epic.  By they time he was finished there were Lego parts and Lego bodies everywhere. My best idea of the week was by far the slot car track--no parts, no bodies--simple rules to follow.

We kept him out of school yesterday to take him to see Madagascar 3, which we all enjoyed after I went back to the car to get his car seat because, "I can't see and I'm afraid I'm going to fall in the seat crack."  I think he was tired after it because he turned down a chance to go to Sweet Frog for ice cream and sprinkles.  After watching a little TV, I took him to the park to give Kim a bit of time to clean up.  I opened the door to the car and he ran around like a Tasmanian devil for about an hour and a half.  I couldn't keep up with the boy.  I finally corralled him on the swings and we swung until I was loopy on the head.  Too old to swing; GREAT!

After Pizza for supper, he spent the rest of the evening dodging bedtime.  Kady got him asleep by 2100hrs, to the relief of old people everywhere.


11 June, 2012: Port Republic

I drove Bess up to Port Republic yesterday for a little Civil War study time.  It was a beautiful day for a drive so I took Highway 11 down the Valley, through Staunton, Weyers Cave, and Grottoes. This was the last battle of Jackson's brilliant Shenandoah Valley Campaign.  I took my copy of Stonewall in the Valley by Robert G. Tanner and read along as I walked the ground.  My first stop was where the old covered bridge crossed the north fork of the Shenandoah River.  Jackson was almost killed here as a union battery aimed a gun down the bridge at him.

My next stop was the little road (SR 708) that runs from the Coaling down to the river, which closely approximates the dividing line between the two forces, then back to the Coaling, the key terrain on the battlefield and the spot of the turning point of the battle took place.

Jake was at the house by the time I started back home, so I drove I-81 back up the Valley--faster but less enjoyable.  The trip was a good way to begin two weeks leave.

Entertaining Jacob is a full time job as anyone who has been around him for more than a few moments understands.  We're keeping him until Thursday while his Dad is at the Beach with Kelly and her family.  Kim gets up with him each morning and puts him to bed after supper and play time.  I take him to and from school each day.  Play time is a tag team event for Kim and I.  For this, I had the brilliant idea of digging the slot car track out of the basement and, hopefully, get it operating.  I thought at first I had made a huge mistake because I couldn't get the cars to go more than a few inches at a time.  With a couple of fine sanding blocks, I scrubbed down the rails and with an eraser I polished the contacts of the cars.  That did wonders and Jake and I started our first Race.  Suffice to say, Jake has the Neel competitive gene, the hand-eye coordination to beat the hell out of me, and the temper to let me know that winning for me isn't an option.  This morning he divulged his trick--"What I do, Granddaddy, is put one finger under the trigger so I don't go too fast and wreck."  I ask you, what five-year-old thinks of stuff like that? 


8 June, 2012: Channeling Buddy Baker

Yesterday we had a big group of Antique Cars drive on Post for a visit.  They were all headed to a show somewhere and stopped to see the VMI and Marshall Museums.  I had my camera at the office so Iwent out and took photos of every vehicle; they were all beautiful.  I even got Kim out for a few snaps of her own.  Kim is always about the details and not the whole car, so her photos are more interesting than mine.

Last Friday after work, Kim, Jay, Kelly, Barbara, Gail, and I converged on the Col Alto for Jake's graduation ceremony from day care.  All the kids wore cap and gowns and were really cute...not overly well behaved...but cute.  The ceremony seemed more about the staff than the kids, but ended well with three songs and each child walking up to a small stage and getting his or her diploma.  Jake, of course, made the best of the opportunity to make faces at the family. 

CPT Sarah and I drove to Charlotte after Jake's ceremony to drive race cars at the Richard Perry Driving Experience.  We stayed overnight and arrived at the track at 0900hrs for our class.  After a briefing on what we were to do, and covering the safety equipment and procedures we went to Pit Row and waited out turn to drive.  Sarah opted to take a ride along first where a professional driver took her up to 165.  When it came my turn to drive, I'll have to admit I was a bit nervous but I was ready.  I had a bit of a problem getting into the car, there is a definite technique to it, but everything else was good.  My lead driver took off quickly and I caught him without spinning the tires, exiting the pits at the recommended RPMs, taking it up to "4" and shifting.    After letting the two cars ahead of us pass, he took off and I stayed with him.  I got to do seven laps, my last averaging 133mph (I think they try to keep you at 130-or-so).  The last lap was for slowing down.  It was a great experience.  The car was fantastic!  What I'd like to do is take Bess out there and let her go.


27 May, 2012: Running

I was out on the Chessie Trail for a run this morning for the first time in almost a year.  It was hot and the katydids were raising a ruckus, but it was so enjoyable.  I parked at the Pure Station and ran past the first three gates to the 3-mile marker, turned around, and ran back.  There were only a few people out there today which is the way I prefer it.  Next Sunday I'll owe eight miles after I return from Charlotte.


26 May, 2012: Photos with Nohelia

Took some photos of Nohelia today, mostly with her and Her School,  I thought they turned out very nicely.  She seemed pleased.

  Then we went for a drive in her Jeep.  My plan was to take them at the bridge at Collierstown but I ran into a small problem.  I tried Silk with my cereal and coffee Saturday morning, trying to get away from milk and other dairy products.  Well something, I blame the Silk, went straight through me, so Nohi and I had to take a few snaps and speed back to the house. 

I used Kim's new Nikon for this shoot, a very cool camera.  I asked if I could take it to Turkey in October and she said, "Yes."  I'll probably just take mine.  It's more compact and I have more storage and battery power for it.

Friday night, Kim and I cooked flank steak on the grill while she made a cilantro salsa and a creamy corn dish to go with it.  It all turned out spectacular.  She is amazing.  It was so good, that I've asked her to do it all again for the Kids when they get back from Ohio tomorrow.


 24 May, 2012: Driving!

I took Bess out for her Birthday Drive late Saturday afternoon.  I drove her down 39 toward Goshen Pass, but turned onto 252 for the long straightaway.  I stopped her at the old gas station at Brownsburg for a photo session, then cruised the straightaway making sure the coast was clear.  Turning around, I brought her quickly up to speed and kept her there until the first curve made me back off.  She is still so damn fast!

Sarah just set up our Driving date at Richard Petty at Charlotte on 3 June.  We have both been given gift cards from the Petty/Luck family to drive a Car-of-Tomorrow, 8-laps around the track of our choice.  Can't wait.

I took Sarah out in Bess to teach her to drive a stick before the day and she did great.  A few more practice trips and she'll be ready.

Yesterday, Nohelia and I went to New Market for the battle reenactment.  It was a small but spirited group of Rebels and Yanks and they did a fine job.  Sadly, only three actual Cadets were there to take part in the charge across the Field of Lost Shoes as the Corps did 148 years ago.  Nohelia is a former Cadet and worked at the Battlefield for a summer, so she was the perfect tour guide, offering interesting snippets of information at every stop.


20 MAY, 2012: The End of the Academic Year

The past month has been typically full and fast paced. 

On 29 April, LTC Bither conducted the first North Post Challenge for Company Teams within the Corps.  It consisted of a swim relay, a road march to McKethan Park, 20-rounds of trap shooting, a speed march back to post, a timed rock climb and rappel, obstacles, and a graded shoot on the new Range.  Company teams consisted of four cadets, were formed from all four classes, and required to include one female.  The Trap and Skeet Team ran the trap portion.  The competition was well administered and well received by the Corps.

Early May was spent preparing for the 4th Class FTX.  Most everything was done like past years, but this year I tried putting rising corporals in charge of forty-five groups.  That worked well, and I had a lot less problems with discipline and accountability this year.  We departed on 1600hrs Friday 11 May and were back on Post by Sunday about 1000hrs.

We got back in time for parade practices and the rest of Dead Week.  This year, for New Market Parade, the firing party used M1903 Springfield rifles, donated by an interested Alum. It went very well, and I liked the look more than with M14s.

Pushing the Corps out of Barracks after graduation was a mad house, but not unusual.  The were all gone by 1800hrs when I took down the flags and headed home.  Thursday was a short work day and I took Friday off.

Sarah took some time off work on the 4th to go take photos.  I love photographing this girl; she is such a natural in front of the camera and the camera loves her.  She really looked amazing and I didn't have to give her any instructions.  She'd pose, I'd snap, and she'd immediately take another pose.  I've never had so much fun during a shoot.  It was a blast.


21 April, 2012: Real Estate Management

Today's plan was a big failure.  I was to open the trap and skeet range for Cadets participating in the "North Post Challenge," a physical and marksmanship competition between companies, could practice.  I got out there early, got it all going, tested the shotguns, and shot a little skeet while we waited.  About 0900hrs the Army MS1s, close to one-hundred of them, showed to do the McKethan Land Nav Course.  Well, the points to the course are all around the range so I couldn't really shoot.  Since we hadn't seen any competitors, and since the Army made the 4ths march the two miles out to McKethan, I chose to take the higher ground and shut down the range.  Bummer, because it looked like a long morning of practicing Skeet and oh boy do I need practice!


19 April, 2012: Mid-Tour R&R

I'm guessing our young captain was more tired leaving here than she was when she got home.  We took her to the airport this morning to begin her trip back to theater and all went smoothly.  We left about 0900hrs, drove the 45 minutes to ROA, and got her there in plenty of time.  She should have taken off about thirty minutes ago from ATL for her trans Atlantic.  I'm not sure where her mid-way stop will be.

We had a good two weeks with her.  Friends and family arrived from all over, so many that I had to bring home three hays from Barracks.  The place looked like a flop house for about three days.  There was a lot of drinking and Kim made loads of great food.  We hit all the good paces to eat and going back to Don Tequilas, after a self-imposed hiatus, was so good!  Jonathon, Kelly, Tory, Jim, Mitch, and Kathy all closed in the day after she got back.  Bill and Sylvia came in for the weekend and first few days of week two.

There was a trip to Vegas, but I think everything stayed there except a few fun photos.

I was not happy to see her go, but she had to so we can get this shit over with.

Tonight was Jake night.  That makes everything better.


29 March, 2012: A Fast Semester

We're almost there.  Our soldier comes home on mid-tour leave in less that a week.  For me the time is flying by. I'm very busy at work and I'm glad of it.  For Kim, I think the opposite is true.  We all very excited and friends and family will be closing in for a two week celebration.  If she is like me, what she'll really want to do is take long hot showers and sleep for about three days.  After that she'll want to go out and eat all her favorite foods that she's been talking about and dreaming about the entire deployment.  Taco Bell!  I wanted Taco Bell.

I'm not nearly so busy as last week, but I still have a lot to do.    Last Saturday was the 4th Class Range where we let the class of 2015 fire M4s and M9s.  We fired about three-hundred and fifty of the 448 4th class.  That is better than we usually do.  Having SFC Ech and SFC Bean there made it really run smoothly.  The new Range is fantastic!  Though it rained all day long, we were able to conduct our training in complete comfort.  Holding the range in March was also a better plan; it was warm the whole day.

Now all I have to concentrate on is the 4th Class FTX, putting together the new School of the NCO, and, a new initiative by the Class of 2015, a Cadet service organization for community service and disaster relief.

This weekend is the Corps Spring FTX.  The Army is going to Ft. Picket, and the Other ROTCs are training around Post.  The leftovers are doing various jobs around the county like helping out at schools and supporting a half marathon.  I'll check on Hotel Company at Waddell Elementary tomorrow, have duty all day Saturday, and will take a Color Guard team to post the colors for the Goody's 500 Sprint Cup race in Martinsville on Sunday.


19 March, 2012: Fifteen Hours To Missouri and Farther to Birmingham

I got back from spring furlough early Sunday morning about 0130hrs.  I stayed around a couple of days longer to be with Mom.

 It was the most taxing trip home ever and I had no break in Spring Break.  The trip seemed like a good plan.  I was very excited to see the Dogwood trees at the Alabama Welcome Station in bloom.  Kim was already there with her folks, but broke out in a bad rash and was itching head-to-toe.  We spent a little time together Sunday and went to see her old high school, Banks, which has been closed and vandalized.  It was pretty shameful. 

Kim headed back home to her doctor and to take care of Jake on Monday.

While we were at Banks High, Stephanie, mom's sitter, called to say Mom had hurt her back and that I needed to come home.  I went straight there and mom was in a bad way, but, from the last time, I knew taking her to the emergency room was a great waste of time.  We medicated her and I called the Back Surgeon the next morning.

When time came to take her to her appointment, we discovered Mom's car was dead, and in the process of trying to jump start her car with mine, I fried Bess's computer.   Stupid Mistake!  I broke my own rule about jumping anyone with my car.  I didn't discover the problem until I loaded mom in my car, and took off down the road, only to loose power a block away. 

So, I piled mom in a stranger's pickup truck, with poor Stephanie in the Bed, sent them on their way to the hospital, while I took care of Bess who was sitting in the middle of the road.  I called Lynn to go meet them at the hospital, Jim to let him know what was going on, Ford for Road-side Assistance (which ran out last May), and then GEICO who were GREAT and sent a truck.  I rode to the ford place in the truck, checked Bess in to the Service Department, explained what happened, and then walked back to Mom's house.  Lynn brought Mom and Stephanie home, Jim came over and we bought a new battery for Mom's car, and, four days and $1000 later, Bess was fixed.

I wondered a thousand times last week if any of this would have happened if I had gone to the Bahamas.  You think about such things as you see your 83-year-old mom drive away in a pickup with her sitter in the bed, while your car sits in the middle of the road deader than a doornail.

There were some good points in the Week. 

Spending time with Bill and Sylvia, when I could, was a great repose.

Jim, Lynn, and I went out for dinner at El Barrio one night and that was nice.  My Polo Taco's were super and they make a great Margarita.

I stopped by to see the construction work at my old high school and met some of the staff as I asked what the heck the were doing to our stadium. 

Bil, Sylvia, and I also went to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum one afternoon and that was fantastic.

AND...I had two all-the-way and a pint of milk at Sneaky Pete's Hotdogs!  Nothing Better!

The weekend before, I took the Trap and Skeet Team to Missouri for a two day shoot.  We left on Friday and returned on Monday, a thirty hour trip.  It was a fun shoot, with all the lads getting to shoot four-hundred rounds in competition and placing Second overall, but we are not going there again; the driving was just too much.

This week is busy.  NCMT training tomorrow night, then Rank Selection Board for RSM, then Hotel's 3ds shoot on Wednesday morning.  We have a Parade for the Governor on Friday and he's certain to grant amnesty.  Saturday is the NCMT 4th Class Range where they get to fire the M4 Carbine and the M9 Pistol.  Saturday night I have AOC in Barracks...which should be pretty quiet if Amnesty is granted...the Corps will be mostly gone for the whole weekend.


20 February, 2012: Stuck in West Virginia and it wasn't pretty.

I took the team to Kentucky for a trap and skeet competition last weekend.  It was smaller than usual, only about six teams, but it was fun and the weather was pretty good.  Saturday was great and we were one shooter form taking 5-Stand and looked like we'd take second or third in Trap.  Sunday the weather turned cold and, though we shot well at Sporting Clays, it was less fun.  The drive back was where it got a bit dicey.  It began to snow on us as we crossed into West Virginia and really picked up as we approached Beckley.  We got off the highway to ead dinner at Hooters, but they were closed, as were most of the nice restaurants, sending their staffs home.   McDonalds was open so we ate there, with the rest of the people traveling down Interstate 64.  The snow really began coming down as we ate.  I decided the smart decision was to get a hotel for the night.  We rented the last four rooms at Country Inn.  We slept in and left the hotel at 1130, ate at the worst Hooters ever, and then drove back home on clear roads with some of the most beautiful scenery.

We've just hired two new NCOs for the Commandant's staff and they are working out great.  I think the Corps thinks we have hired two more guys like me, but the goal here is to train the Corps better in things like leadership, drill, marksmanship, inspections, and a thousand other little things.  Their primary focus will not be to discipline the corps, but rather coach and mentor.  Right now, I have them learning.

This weekend is a quiet one and I'm enjoying it.  I was going to watch some VMI baseball, but it it too cold outside.  Next weekend I'll take the team to Missouri for a 400 round competition.  We'll depart on Friday and return on Monday.  The long drive should be worth it if the shoot is a fun as it sounds like it will be.


4 February, 2012: Breakout and Super Bowl

Last weekend the VMI Class of 2015 Broke out of the Rat Line.  Sal came in for the event to speak at their Breakout Dinner.  Roger was home in Maryland and drove down too.  Breakout was tough and fun and the Rats did a fine job.  I think 2015 will be a strong class.

I like this time of year best.  We started NCMT last Tuesday and had another session on Thursday.  With the Fourth Class out of the Rat Line, Barracks is a much quieter place.  Mornings are light enough at Breakfast Roll Call (BRC) to inspect the Corps, so personal appearance, which has waned in the dark days, begins to pick up. We're beginning to select the leadership for next year, so the Second Class is motivated to take over the Corps, the Thirds are vying for Sergeant positions, and the Fourths are trying to make Cadre Corporal...while the Firsts are dying for them to take over, study hard to pass their final classes, and spend as much time with their Brother Rats as possible.  Basketball and Baseball become Neel family pastimes.  Big events like Mid-Winter Formal, Rank Announcements, The Leadership Retreat, Finals, the Fourth Class FTX, Commissioning, New Market Day, Graduation, and Summer Furlough loom on the horizon making this the fastest semester.

The new Marksmanship program here at VMI is in full swing.  We're actually zeroing and qualifying the Third Class on our new M4 Carbines.  We do this two companies at a time, the first taking Primary Marksmanship Instruction (PMI) and the Second firing on the new range.  The best thing about this is that we're collecting all the NCAA guys and girls who miss out on NCMT.  The class of 2014 will be the first class where every cadet has fired a weapon.  Next year, 2014 will qualify on our new M9 pistols and 2015 will shoot the M4s. Shortly, we will offer , on a volunteer basis, the NRA home and outside the home defense courses for the First Class.   We are also hosting open range days this semester for Faculty and Staff to come practice with their Personal weapons.  Finally, the vision of Magnus Nordenman, the Father of NCMT, is taking place.

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl.  Kim and I are going to Jay's place in Charlottesville for the game, so I'll get a little Jay, Kelly, and JAKE time.  Mike, Ann, KP, and Barbara are supposed to be there as well, so it should be pretty fun, I just wish Elise was going to be here.


21 January, 2012:  Dad's Photos

There isn't much going on around here but the same old stuff--Basketball, Rat Line wind-down, New Cadet Military Training (NCMT) spin-up.  LTC Gary, The Commandant, and I are in the process of interviewing NCOs for two positions who will work for me...two extra sets of eyes around the place and trainers to get the NCOs in the Corps trained up.  We have gotten some pretty good guys to come in to talk.  Deciding on just two will be tough I think.

Monday we found out that Elise won't be home for R&R until April.  That news bummed out a lot of people, especially me.  I keep telling myself that April will be more fun because the weather will be nicer, but I was really looking forward to having her home for her birthday.

Wednesday night, Kim handed me two small bags of Dad's slides that she brought home from Mom's house and I have begun scanning them.  There are some real treasures in each box...mostly photos from the late 50s and early 60s when dad was most proactive with his camera.  The family photos are the most fun for me and those posted on Facebook are getting rave reviews in the family.  It is great fun for me, looking back to a time when Mom and Dad, all my aunts and uncles, and their friends were much younger than I am now and my grandparents are my age.  This is a  photo of  my ncle James Lee and Aunt Martha Lee Goyette, mom's brother and sister, with Mom, at my grandparent's house in Berry Alabama.  Sadly, they both passed a way years ago.  They were nice folks.

Breakout is next week.  The first class will give the Rats a hell week, ramping up to Saturday for the culminating event.  Sal is coming in Wednesday to be the guest speaker for the dinner that night.  I'm looking forward to that.


5 January, 2012: Back to Work

Yeah.  Back to work.  It occurred to me, sitting at my desk a few minutes ago, that I may get a lot done when Cadets aren't beating down my door, but that It IS Boring Around Here Without Cadets.

The movers are back in Barracks, this time moving the Hospital into Third Barracks, front side, third stoop, while we refurbish the hospital building. And, I thought we were finished in Barracks.  Silly Me.

 Cadets come back Tuesday and we'll begin cranking up NCMT.  I'm all over that!  I have another good team of cadre this year.

I got a new phone--Motorola Electrify--Love it!  This Android stuff is super fun.  I'm playing around with the camera now.


1 January, 2012: Home For New Year's Day

I got up a little after midnight on New Year's Eve to drive home to Lexington so I could see the VMI vs. Presbyterian basketball game, watch the Auburn vs. UVA game with Kim and the kids, and be with Kim at midnight.

I went home on the 27th to help Jim buy Mom a car, clean up her house a bit, replace a few items around the house, and to take her out for her eighty-third birthday.  Jim and I hit Car Max on the 28th and had a nice little Altima for mom by noon.  I still don't think she knows it is her's.

VMI played a masterful game against a much higher ranked conference team.  It went to over \time, but that was all VMI.

The Auburn game was great.  I watched UVA all season and knew they were a team on the rise, and AU had a rough year, so I was a bit worried.  But Auburn came to play and even though we lost our primary QB in the first few minutes and were missing our star running back, Trotter and McCalebb really stood up and picked up the slack. It was a fun, old-time, SEC ass-kicking to watch.

Christmas was a hoot with Jake man.  We all had a really good time with Bill and Sylvia here from Birmingham and Kelly in from NOVA.  The highlight of Christmas Day was Skyping with Elise from Afghanistan.  I miss her. 

2018    2017    2016    2015    2014    2013    2012   2011    2010    Older