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the website of john neel


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

30 December, 2014: 1000 Miles in Two Days

Bill, Sylvia, and I left Lexington early on Sunday morning.  I figured on a 1000hr start time, but when the hall lights went on at 0430hrs, I guessed, correctly, that they were ready to get home.  We were on the road as soon as Cooper was fed, walked, and the flags were up.  The weather was rainy, which made driving through Knoxville and Chattanooga, always a pain-in-the-ass, even more painful.  The "Rents" did great, and we only stopped a few times for gas, at rest stops, and to get some food.  Still, it took 11 hours instead of the normal 8 and a half.

I crashed in Kim's room, almost immediately upon arrival, worn out from the drive, two weeks of interrupted sleep, and the lingering effects of the flu.  I slept for 15 hours.  When I got up, I felt better than I had for months, but still made the call that I was too ill to chance seeing mom.  About noon, I decided to head back home.

I began the trip getting gas, then swinging across the street for Milo's.  Have you ever tried to eat a Milo burger while driving?  It is a fine art, let me tell you.  By the time I was finished, I has good old Milo's sauce running down my arms, all over my face, and at least two spots on my t-shirt.  Messy, but Delicious.  The rest of the trip was uneventful and I stopped only once for Gas.  I was home by 2000hrs,  Kim had walked Cooper so I went to bed and slept in.  Cooper woke me late, about 0630, for his morning constitutional and breakfast.  Flags were already up (Thanks Post Police!) so Cooper and I took a little walk, then came in so I could get my day going.

I feel better this morning than I have in a long while...a month or more.  My cough is more satisfying and I can feel the stuff in my lungs breaking up.  The tickle in my throat is finally gone and I'm breathing easier.

Had a coffee date with Ryan at 1100hrs; always fun.


27 December, 2014: Homeward!

I will be driving to the Ham with Bill and Syl tomorrow.  Oh Sweet Home.  I think I'm still too ill to go see mom; it would not do for her to catch what I have/had.  I just don't know, so I'm leaning toward the side of caution.  If I can't see her, I'll leave and come back here to be with Kim (and Cooper) for New Years.  I'm not looking forward to 18 hours on the road in holiday traffic.


24 December, 2014: Gift Delivery and Turkish!

Yesterday I took the kid's Christmas gifts to Charlottesville since the flu has cancelled our gathering there.  I dropped them off and spent a little time talking to Jake and Jonathon out front.  Kelly was at work.  Brasco came out too, and he has changed so much.  He was very well behaved and seemed a lot more mobile than when he was a puppy.  His eyes look great after the surgery, and he is about double the size I last saw him.

I met DJ at Sultan Kebab for lunch.  It had been two years since last I saw her, so we worked on a plan to get together while she had some time off from the Marines.  She drove down from Quantico just for lunch, a nice thing to do.

Bill, Syl, Kim and I watched White Christmas tonight.  I love that movie.


22 December, 2014: Patient Zero

I just listened to Patient Zero, plus the  new addendum about Ebola, on Radio Lab.

Sidebar: Are you listening to Radio Lab? You should be. 

Anyhow, this episode is about particularly bad viruses like Typhoid, AIDS, and Ebola and how they came into existence.   Aids, for instance, began in monkeys, transferred to chimps, and then to humans...a process of mutation and infection called Spillover.  Super interesting and smart stuff.

While listening, it occurred to me that, within the family, I am "Patient Zero" Typhoid Mary.  Spilling over from that strange little creature called the VMI Rat, a sequestered little animal community that we keep up on the 4th stoop, this unusual and unexpected  viral mutation was allowed to grow and prosper, until it infected higher creatures on the lower stoops.  Then one of the Cadets, moments before entering the PX, coughs into his hand.  Moments later, headed home for the day, I touch the same, now infected door handle.

Thinking all I had was the Barracks Cough, I kissed Kim on the cheek as she left for Birmingham to pick up her parents and bring them back here for the holidays.  Twenty-four hours later, she has it and spends the next day, driving them back to Lexington, in the closed environment of the car.

Twenty-four hours later, Bill and Sylvia have it.

This, of course, ruins all the Christmas Day plans we had; we surely can't chance Kelly or Jake getting this stuff, and I'm sure Jonathon can do without it.

Happy Holidays!

The search continues for an up-scale dog groomer for Cooper. 

The last place we took him did not enthuse me at all.  The place was dirty and smelly and the people were...well...not my kind of people. 

The place we dropped him off today was...WORSE!  I wanted to leave immediately after seeing the crack addict walk around the corner to take him around back.  Had Kim not been with me to calm me down, I would have probably walked out. 

So, I worried about how they are treating my dog until I got him back an hour and a half later.  I pictured him backed in a corner, defending himself from junk-yard dogs.  I worried they might lock him in a kennel and hose him down with a fire hose.  At the very least, I could picture some big dog named Butch calling him names and stealing his snacks.

When we went to pick him up, he looked really good, but the lady at the counter wanted to instruct us on the finer points of taking care of our dog.  Everybody's a frigging expert.  Bitch!  I know we need to keep the hair out of his eyes; that's why we brought him in for grooming!  Let ME tell YOU how to run your business.  First, clean your self up, get off the drugs, and then clean up this pigsty. 

I have never seen Cooper so eager to leave a place; he still acts like he is in shock.  We'll not be going back there.


12 December, 2014: Catching Up and Counting Down

Just seven more days until Furlough!

Thanksgiving Furlough consisted of walking Cooper and putting up and taking down flags.  Nothing else was going on.

I’ve been pretty ill, starting with the Barracks Cough, a raspy, back-of-the-throat tickle that was more annoying that it was an illness.  Then, the cough got into my lungs, accompanied by a low-grade fever and chills.  Trying to “drive-on,” I took Cooper for a long walk on Sunday and injured my Achilles tendon on my left foot.  Looking the injury up on the internet, it seems this is common in (1) Men, check! (2) In their 60s, check! (3) Exercising in cold weather, check!

So, after a visit to the doctor, I’m on an inhaler, taking a Z-Pack, taking a high-octane cough syrup at night, icing my heel, stretching before walking, hobbling around work, and staying inside as much as possible…which is no help at all with Cooper.

But, I’m getting better.  I better be…I have Cooper all weekend while Kim goes to Birmingham to fetch her parents.

Christmas Furlough looks quiet for us.  Bill and Sylvia will be here, but that’s it.  We’ll go to Jay and Kelly’s house for Christmas Dinner.  This will be a big change from past years when everyone converged on our house.  I’m not sure about that, but with Elise deployed in Africa, I’m thinking this is best.

I’ll celebrate Christmas when she returns.  There some happy news about that, actually.  Her return date has been moved up and she should be finished with her Quarantine sometime in March.  So Much Better!


26 November, 2014: Locked Down

I walked out of Barracks yesterday at about 1530 hrs.  That's got to be a record.  By the time it was my turn to clear rooms, hell, the deed was pretty much done.  Those I found in their rooms waiting on rides, I pushed out of Barracks to wait in the PX, signed their sheet, and locked their door.  I checked the bottom level, then shut off all the bathrooms lights I felt like getting to, then made one last e-mail check before going to the Commandant's office to say bye.  No one was there.  I was the only Bobo left.  I couldn't take down the flags that early, which meant I'd have to stay or come back, and I sure as heck wasn't staying.  I got home, took Cooper out for a quick pottie break, then changed into jeans.  No Uniform for Six Days!!!!

This morning Cooper and I braved the pouring rain to go in to raise the flags over Barracks.  Cooper had the best time hitting ever puddle he could reach.  When I got to Jackson Arch the wind was whipping through, so while I put up flags, I put Cooper in the Guard Room.  Not a good plan.  Coop was NOT happy about being left there and began barking.  He was louder than any turn-out.

Attention in and outside Barracks!  I have been deserted and left to starve in the Guard Room!  Sent Help ASAP!  It's Dark in here and I'm not sure where I am!  There is no water food!  There are no chew toys!  HELP!!

Or...words to that effect.

I'll have to have a better plan tonight.

It began snowing while we were out.  The ground was covered in about 15 minutes.  Cooper was actually at the window watching it.


24 November, 2014: Ring Figure

This past weekend was Ring Figure here at VMI for the class of 2016.  Just to show how long I've been here, as an honorary BR to 2004, 016 Cadets are my Great-Great-Great-Grand Rats.  My biggest contribution to the event was getting CPT Sal here to speak at the class dinner.  I hear he did very well; it was surly good to see him.  I also sat out at the Days Inn on Friday night, making sure the Bobos didn't get in trouble, but I wasn't needed all night.

Saturday was Parade, the football game against the Citadel, and then I came home for the Auburn game.  That was not good.  I actually turn it off and went to bed, more because AU looked like they didn't care than for my cough and fever and lack of sleep.

Sunday morning was, of course, Cooper time.  Kim slept in which was well deserved and she paid me back with a great breakfast.

This morning I taught my "Buying Your First Car" class to COL LE's leadership section.  It was a fun time and good to be back on the podium.   The rest of the day was doing busy work, ending with a long walk with Kim and Cooper.

Tomorrow we lock down Barracks for Thanksgiving.  I'll take that!


20 November, 2014: Life Consumption by Canine

If you follow Kim and me on face book, you will have no doubt noticed the change in our lives by the departure of Elise to Liberia and the entrance into our home by Cooper her one-year-old Golden Doodle.  Our pages are full of his photos doing various adorable things, from guarding the house from every moving object to long walks on the local trails.  It may seem there is little left to our lives that does not include Cooper.  I'm atraid this is so.

I remember how much work it was to keep Jake from about 3-years-old until he started school.  When he was here, there was never time for self; it was always about Jake and his wants and needs.  But that was absolutely fine with us.

Cooper is very much the same.  Our daily schedule has become his daily schedule.  Wake-up is at 0600 hrs with a short walk outside and then breakfast.  0700 hrs, when I normally like getting to work, is emergency potty break time.  1100 hrs is fetch time down at the Women's Soccer Pitch or a walk on Woods Creek Trail.  Supper is around 1730 hrs with another potty break an hour later. Some nights we take him for a walk late just to tire out his puppy brain.

I wrote this to Elise today from work:

So, Captain, I need to tell you this story. 

Yesterday afternoon, while home feeling a bit poorly and with Mom away in Charlottesville, I decided to work in my “home office.”  Cooper, on the other hand decided that it was play time and that he deserved all my attention.  It didn’t matter to him at all that there were over 70 rooms in Barracks that had no heat and that it was in the 20s outside. 

Each time I would turn my back to him, I would hear him run down the stairs.  A few seconds later, he would come right back up and “ruff” at me.  I’d show him a little love and then go back to looking at the terminal.  Down the stairs he’d go. 

The last time, he jumped on my day bed, something he knows is forbidden, and ran away as soon as I turned around. 

I followed him downstairs and, at the bottom, found a neat pile of two gloves from the dining room table, a boot sock from the dirty clothes, two running socks taken from inside my shoes where I tucked them down so they “couldn’t be stolen,” and my knife pouch complete with Jump Master switch blade and combo tool. 

Your dog is a little thief.  


Such in my life now.


19 November, 2014: Shootin’ at VPI & Welcome News from Army

Last weekend I took 10 members of the team to Blacksburg and the surround area for a small shoot.  We fared well, coming in third in Sporting Clays and Skeet.  Those two events took place at Fun Gun Farm down in Pulaski on Saturday.  It was a very basic range, minimalistic in its approach to facilities, and it was pretty cold, but it was FUN, and the name suggested.

Sunday, we shot Doubles Trap, an event we don’t get to shoot much, but the boys loved it.  The first round was spent figuring it out, and once the settled down, the second round of 50 went well.  We shot first and it wasn’t as cold as the day before, but once we finished, the boys wanted to come on back to Lex.  I was home by 1300hrs, which was nice.

From the moment we found out that Elise was deploying to Liberia, we’ve have all steeled ourselves to the possibility of a year-long deployment.  This week, the Army announced that the deployments would be 6-months-long with a 21-day quarantine after returning to the States.  Here replacing unit has already been notified for deployment.  We’re hoping that she will be done completely by mid-May.  BETTER!

Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel, her mental attitude has picked up and she has begun joking around with everyone over fb.  That is good to see.  We’re, of course, worried about her, but she’s smart and will not take chances with her health and the health of her team.


8 November, 2014: 149

On the goal-line, about to win the game, this seemed to happen--

" Here Cameron, take the ball."  "OK"

"Wait, no, give it back!" "No Nick, I want to make the touchdown and be the hero."

"No, ME!"  No, Me!

"OK, You take it."  "No, You take it."

Fumble!!!!!!  A&M Recovers!  AU loses.

 Ridiculous.  Still love you, but damn lads!  What the hell was THAT?

 You really can't blame the Offense, they did the business and can't be blamed for not making a TD everything they get the ball, but we should definitely be looking at the defense.  Just two stops in the first half would have made all the difference in the ball game, and they let A&M run all over them.  We have to stop waiting until halftime in the locker room to make adjustments.

Back in the Scouts, we had a list of brevity codes that we could use so no one else would know what we were saying.  For example, when the S3 or Bn. Commander called would call us to voice some kind of complaint or to give us a ridiculous order, you hear "Roger, 234."  234 meant' "Go Pound Sand."

Well, another code fits this situation nicely, 149.  "Shit, Piss, and Corruption!"


3 November, 2014: Sunday/Monday

I'm going to blame the weird weekend, time change, my crazy schedule, and lack of sleep on my morning.  I don't remember the alarm going off at all, and I never sleep through an alarm.  I woke with the sun coming in the window, convinced that it was Sunday.  I listened for Cooper and Kim but heard nothing, so I pulled the covers snug around me and went back to sleep.  Then a reminder went off on my phone telling me I had 15 minutes to be at the CLE for a Color Guard posting rehearsal.  But Wait!  That's Monday.  I looked at my watch, it said 0745.  Why is there light coming in my window at 0745!?

I got up and stumbled over to the computer and shook the mouse to wake it up.  0747 AM 11/3/2014.  THAT'S Monday!!

NOW I have to get dressed and in record time, but I can't find my beret, or my duty jacket.  Oh, They are in my office because I wore Parade uniform home after Parade on Saturday.  Was that Saturday?  So, I have to go to the office to get my shit.  But it's FREEZING out there.  Maybe I should change.  Screw it, I'll put on my old beret and my Black Fleece, no one will notice, or they'll think it's black fleece day and they didn't get the memo.

So, I ran downstairs, and realized I didn't have my phone.  I ran back upstairs to find I didn't have my keys, billfold, or notebook either. Back downstairs, I realized I hadn't brushed my teeth.  Back upstairs.

I made it to my office only running into one Rat.  I'm sure he was clueless, because he saluted me.  I changed quickly and headed to the CLE for the start of the Reagan Conferencing and the posting of the Colors.  Happily, the Color Guard was there and ready to go.  I sat upstairs and watched.  They did a fine job and the Herald Trumpets played the National Anthem beautifully.

I stayed long enough to hear the presenters, then I went back to the house and got back in bed.  I set me clock for 1230 hrs, and was asleep in seconds.  I woke up a new man, knew where I was, my name, and that it was Monday.  Better.


2 November, 2014: Boo!  Rah!  Yay!  Kelly!

Friday night was Halloween in Barracks.  It was the biggest crowd we have ever had.  The first Stoop was full all the way around in all three barracks.  The kids were cute, but I think the Cadets had the best time.  They really went all out with their costumes this year and there wasn’t a lot of make shift stuff that has gotten us in trouble in the past.  Super Heroes and Villains were everywhere.  Star Wars characters were in vogue for sure, and, of course, the storm troopers couldn’t shoot very well.

Ryan, Eric, Shep and Ryan’s family came by the house on the way to Barracks.  Ryan and her little sister dressed up as Mickey and Minnie and she wanted photos.  I got a couple of good ones, then we all headed for barracks.  I had to crate Cooper because he was out of control with them coming in the house and all the activity outside.  He was only there for about 30 minutes; I didn’t like him there, so I hurried home.

Saturday morning it was supposed to rain and stay nasty until the afternoon, but didn’t rain and it was pretty, though cold most of the day.  I was counting on no Parade, but it went.  The amount of people tailgating was way down, probably by two-thirds, and the crowd for parade was very small for a football weekend.  That was too bad because Parade was pretty good and we finally won a football game.  I didn’t go to that, because I had duty Saturday night.

Duty was quiet.  Restrictions were lifted, so the Corps left as soon as the game was over.  The Auburn Game was the craziest game of the season.  I never seen so many unnecessary penalties and they were all at the worst of times.  Rugby kicks should, certainly, be left on the rugby field. and I'm thinking we need some help in the defensive coordinator area.  But, we pulled it out, I'm just sad that the Old Miss player had to break his leg during that goal-line play.  He is one fantastic athlete.  I sure hope this injury doesn't end his career.  Game Ball to Laquon Tredwell!

My relief arrived 30 minutes early Sunday, which was nice since the time change added an hour to my duty.  I got home in time to take Cooper for a walk, eat a little breakfast, and finish watching Cross Pointe Blank.  Love me some John Cusack.  I left for Charlottesville to have an early dinner with Kelly and Jonathon, TURKISH!, and then watch The Other Boleyn Girl with Kelly.  I nodded off and on through out the first third of the movie, but Brasco, their English Bull Dog pup, kept me awake for the rest,  He's like al little R2D2 with the noises he makes.  He has the same body type too.


29 October, 2014: A Dog.  I have a dog.

I took me a while, but I finally accepted that with Kids, you get more kids.  Over time, the peripheral children, come and go with the ebb and flow of friendships, relationships, and geography.  I learn to love them, then they are gone, or rarely show up.  I got that.

 Now it seems I have to accept dogs as well.  When the kids started talking about getting dogs, I took a strong, and totally unrealistic stand--no Dogs in the house, no dumping the dogs on us for the weekend, ...I am NOT a dog person.

Well, after an earful from Kim, I knew I was outgunned, and began preparing for the worst.

Elise was smart about it.  She talked me into going along to pick out the puppy a couple of weeks before he was ready to pick up.  She brought him straight to house on pick-up day, and I had to agree, he was pretty cute.  She did a good job training him and sought my advice at times.  She asked Kim and me to keep him for short periods of time.

Now my little girl is in harms way again and Kim and I have Cooper.  The amazing thing to me is that I'm having fun with it.  I haven't really settled into a solid routine; I just do what needs to be done and Kim does the planning.  We find that a tired puppy is a happier puppy, so we take him for lots of walks.  We've figured out when he needs to go out, and that makes him more comfortable.  Play time is all mine.  He's a great fetcher, so I take him to the Drill Fields for some off leash baseball fetching.  He's so excited by this that he takes a few laps of the Rugby pitch before fetching, which means only ten or so throws are needed to wear the boy out.  I have even started to take him to sporting events with small crowds.  The Cadets love him and he loves the attention.

There is an added benefit to having Copper--Kim and John time.  We've been going for walks on the Chessie Trail and Woods Creek trail together and it's been great.  If we keep this up, it's going to really help with our fitness.

Bottom Line: I might not be a dog person, but I am definitely a Cooper Person.


22 October, 2014: Deployment Begins

Elise departed for Liberia today.  She flew out of Langley a little before noon, headed to Massachusetts, but they have been diverted to Dover. Her next stop will be somewhere in Germany.

Sandy and I got up early and made it to Fort Eustis and hour or so before her Deployment Ceremony.  Elise was headed to the airport to pick someone up when we arrived, so he and I went for breakfast at Burger King on Post.  I sure as hell didn't want to go through the gate screening process again.  She was back from the airport by the time we returned to her battalion headquarters.

Sandy and I went to the Anderson Field House for the ceremony while Elise road the bus.  When we got in the door and =ound our seats, Elise showed up with very pretty lady who looked familiar.  It was the general's wife and Cassandra's mom, who told the flappers at the door, that she was not sitting in the VIP seating, but with Captain Neel's dad.  I wish I could have seen that.

The ceremony was short and to-the-point, and then they let family and friends come down on the floor to say goodbye.  By the time I got there, a line had formed to see the staff.  I broke line, not willing to wait, but accepting I would have to share some of the last few moments before she had to leave.  The one person I didn't mind sharing with was Ginger.  She was fantastic through the whole thing.

Elise was in good spirits and excited to be going.  She reminded me of myself as I got ready to ship out.  Once she had resigned herself that she was going, she was all "mission focused."

It's going to be a long deployment, but, like my soldier asked, "Who is going to help these people if we don't?"

Sandy drove her truck home after we all said goodbye.  He followed me until I took a right onto exit 222 in Staunton to swing by Jimmy John's I figured if anything would make Kim and I feel better it would be Jimmy John's.


20 October, 2014: "We need a photo shoot in this dress."

I receives a photo by text from Ryan on Sunday morning, a selfie she'd taken as she headed for church.  She was standing in front of the mirror in a little black and white dress, and the caption in the message read, "We need a photo shoot in this dress."  Well, I may be a little slow, but I am not stupid.  Monday, I arranged a time and place to make this photo shoot happen.

One of my first memories of Ryan was last fall semester, about this time of year, as she was going to a job interview.  She looked sharp in a very nice dress, walking toward the 1st Class Parking Lot.  I was walking a few feet behind her as I headed to the house.  Realizing I was probably staring, I crossed the street, to continue down the sidewalk in front of housing, but not before noticing that she was one of the few people I know who can really walk in heels.  Kim can do that; it's an art.

For the shoot, I chose McKethan Park for the scenery and the fence, I love fences.  It was a beautiful spot, the time of day was perfect, the grass was bright green from the recent rain, and the leaves on the trees in the distance were turning rust and gold.  We met at the Trap and Skeet Range at 1400, a late lunch hour for me.

Ryan arrived right on time and looked great.  She was natural in front of the camera, from the start this time, and we went right to work.  She'd try a pose, I'd critique.  I would suggest, she would make it better.  The difference between this shoot and our first shoot was amazing.  I think her comfort level really shows in the photos.


19 October, 2014: The Send-Off

Wednesday, Elise will depart with her unit's Advanced Party for Liberia.  She came in this weekend and friends gathered at the house to send her on her way with as much love and well wishes as possible.  Kimber and Courtney came in from NOVA, Sandy has been here for a while, and Jay, Kelly, and Jake came in as well. Ashley was there for a short while for her first experience into the family dynamic.  James got here a little after Ash left.

The day was all about Elise and she was the center of attention.  The kids had a good time telling stories, and a few came up about me, I think, for Ashley's benefit.  The  "I'm NOT Drink" story was my personal favorite.

 We went for family dinner at Don Tequila's and, though we had to wait for a long time,  the food was good.  I ended up at the end of the table, so the background noise drowned out the conversation.  Except for the occasional comment from Jay, I was pretty left out.  That was OK.  I enjoyed listening to the laughter and watching the smiles around the table.

Everyone was gone a little after lunch today.  The only thing that got to me was Elise saying goodbye to Cooper.  She mad it quich and to the point, saying, "Bye Buddy, I'll see you later."  I made it a point to look away when she drove off.  I didn't want to see her cry.

I will be attending her deployment ceremony on Wednesday, leaving here Tuesday night and getting a hotel room for the night.

The balance of the day, I took for myself, occasionally walking Cooper, but watching a bit od TV and a movie.


12 October, 2014: Food Poisoning or Something

When I die, it's probably going to be food poisoning.  Man!  Last night I was hit by it again.  I had a burrito at one of my favorite restaurants with the team, and I was violently ill about an hour later.  No, it wasn't the Auburn Loss to Mississippi State.  I was the only one who had pork, so I'm blaming that.  This very same thing happened a few months ago, and it wasn't fun then either. 

I was passing out and falling to the floor during trips from the bed to the toilet and back.  I tore up my knee, bumped my head on the luggage table, and woke up in the floor more times than I can count.  When things weren't as urgent, I learned to crawl to the bathroom and back.  Even then, there were times I'd wake up somewhere in the middle.  I had chills.  Cover up, I'd break out in a sweat.  About midnight, I thought about calling 911, but couldn't find my phone.  Note here-The hotel phone was right beside me.

 I remember thinking, "If I get up one more time, I am going to the middle of the bathroom floor."

I woke about 3am, somehow in the bed, covered up, with my phone stuck on my ear between my head and the pillow.  I was feeling better, but still pretty ill.  I didn't feel like I needed another trip to the toilet, so I drank a little water and went back to sleep...wondering if I had been in contact with someone from West Africa. I'm not trying to be funny here, I actually thought that.

I met the team for Breakfast at 7am, which consisted of Coffee for me, then had Jimmy drive my vehicle to the Range.  I was still shaking all over, and was weak as a kitten.  I didn't start feeling well enough to drive until about noon.

Otherwise, it was a pretty good trip.  The team shot well, just not great, which is what we need to do to win.  But they had fun, so much so, that one of the old men asked them to stop talking while they shot, because IT WAS DISTRACTING HIM.  Thanks for sharing buddy.

Kim comes home tomorrow, bringing Cooper along.  Elise is on short final to depart.  We're hoping she get's home for a few days beforehand.


10 October, 2014: Chamberlain's Rock*

All my life I’ve loved the discovery of new things while studying something connected.  I’m certain I had what is now classified as Attention Deficit Disorder when I was a kid.  Going to the encyclopedia to look up a subject, I would always be distracted by something that interested me as I thumbed through the pages of that volume.   Once on a subject, I loved following the links under, “See Also…”  I was such a bad student that I firmly believe I educated myself with World Book and Britannica.  Research and organization became my strong suits.  I could categorize information for easy use and access.   I read slowly, but never forget a thing.  The slow pace and haphazard way I learned, sadly, made for poor grades.

On a trip to Gettysburg in 1986, what was the bane of my academic studies, brought me to one of the great loves of my life-Civil War Battlefields.

I sat on what I have begun calling Chamberlain’s Rock, as the officers of the batallion moved down to the Devil’s Den.  I believe they noticed how the day had affected me, so they kindly left me to my thoughts.  This spot was a nexus, an axis mundi for me and my appreciation for the war.  It was the focal point of my first real endeavor into the history and feelings that permeated this piece of ground. 

Earlier, I had briefed the fighting on the big hill and talked about the Alabama boys who had marched all day, counter marched, and then attacked the few federals who occupied that hill. Then they swept down toward the small hill, where they ran into a small regiment from Maine, holding what was for the moment, the far left of the Federal Line.  They need only crush that unit and the whole federal line would more than likely fall like dominos. 

I was, at the time, the Scout Platoon Leader for my battalion; there weren’t enough officers to fill all the slots, and I surely didn’t need one.  When I came back from Turkey and my first deployment there, my Battalion Command Sergeant Major told my Battalion Commander that I was THE SCOUT, and that he should give me the Scout Platoon.  After an interview, which showed, actually, how little the BC knew about scout capabilities and employment, he agreed.  I operated under three different Commanders in that job, from 1985 to 1988, before being assigned to the Parachute Regiment. 

This trip was billed as an Officer Staff Ride to Gettysburg, and since I was filling an officer slot as well as being the Scout Platoon Sergeant, I talked my way onto the trip.  It was a three day trip, after lots of study and ranges where we shot period weapons, where we would walk the three days of the battle.  Each officer was assigned portions of the battle and a commander to research.  When we arrived at the site of our portion, we’d tell what happened, talk about the decisions of the commander, and lead a discussion on mistakes, successes, and application to today’s battlefield. 

In the process of studying the action on Big Round Top, the Alabama units, and William C. Oats, their commander, I ran into a guy named Chamberlain. 

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was the commander of the 20th Maine, the soldiers on the far left of the Federal line.  Many say that we are the country we are today because of their stand and Chamberlain’s leadership.  Certainly they, and he, saved the day for the Federal Army.  It is an amazing story and I began my first life-long appreciation a Yankee Soldier. 

As I researched, using my haphazard method of study, I ran across a quote by Chamberlain, from a speech he made 2 October, 1889 at the dedication of the 20th Maine , in the last few years of his life. 

"In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”

I wondered, when I read that, if it was true.  Sitting on that rock, where the fate of a nation hung for those long anguishing moments, I knew it was.  Everything confirmed the stories I had read.  In the stillness I strained to hear the echoes of commands, hearing only the hushed voices of the officers walking away in the distance.  In the rustle of the leaves I thought I heard the clatter of bayonets.  Perhaps the passing of the cars down on the road was actually the sound of the Confederate guns on Seminary Ridge.

I was hooked.  Since that day, I have visited many of the battlefields.  I am reverently "heart-drawn."  I read, do my research, then walk the ground.  Walking History I call it.  During every trip, I try to take a moment's respite, sit, and take a moment for the "vision."  It is felt, not seen, but it is there.  And, it is overwhelming.

* an explanation for my good friend Vicki Covington, Author.


7 October, 2104: Cold Harbor

Over twelve thousand Union and over forty-five hundred Confederates died. were wounded, captured, or were listed missing  at the battle of Cold Harbor.  In the final Union assault over seven thousand federal men fell in  a little over seven minutes.

This was meant to be my last stop of the summer, but life and VMI got in the way.  I had been tracing the Overland Campaign for the 150th Anniversary, but ran out of time.  OK, that's not true.  A lot of things happened at the end of the year that took a toll on my desire to go.  Plus, my traveling partner came up ill at the end of Summer.  At times, I was simply unmotivated.  Many of the times I could have traveled, I spent around the house.  I did make it to three of the primary battles after Wilderness, but this was THE battle.

Cold Harbor was one of the most, if not the most lopsided Southern victory, though it was the beginning of the end for Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.  I had been once before but didn't have the time to walk the ground and I was with a group of Cadets, so I spent no time with the ghosts.

I drove to Newport News to take Cooper back to to Elise on Saturday morning, early.  She and I took lunch at Fin, extensibily so I could have their Shrimp and Grits, but they have taken it off the menu.  The shrimp and steak pasta I did have was super.  I love that place.  For supper, we had wings and Crazy Bread from Brickhouse and settled in , beer in hand for the Auburn vs. LSU game.  How good was that?  We were one of two teams in the top seven who didn't get upset, and we kicked LSU's ass.

Sunday Morning I watched Cooper while Elise ran a half-marathon.  Hero!

On my way back home Sunday Afternoon, I headed to the battlefield.  This time I was alone, except for the little man walking his dog.  I had time to walk the ground and, as the sun sank below the trees, to commune with the soldiers.  It was hard to believe anything bad could have ever happened there.  It was so beautiful, quiet, and peaceful. Seventeen Thousand Men.

"This was not war, this was murder."


1 October, 2014: Last Weekend.  Yeah, I Hated That Shit

Last Saturday was homecoming.  That was fine.  The parade went well, I saw a lot og guys from 2004, we lost a football game we should have won, and Auburn won what should have been an easy game with a bit of a struggle.  The unpleasant part came from having to go out to the hotels to make sure the cadets did not ruin the reputation of the Institute, drink themselves to death.  To me it is enabling bad behavior for us to be out there, but I go, to support the decisions of the leadership.  I do not have to be happy about it and my obvious anger and Teutonic attitude about every little Cadet misstep shuts a lot of stupid shit down before it escalates.

The only problems came at about 3 am when two guys, started punching the ceiling tiles.  The security guys caught them and I ended their weekend and sent them back to Barracks.  Their Class plans on punishing them. 

Then there was the missing girl.  He parents called the police because she didn't check in and all they had was a first name of the cadet for us to go on.  Luckily, there was only one guy with that name in the hotel where her Cell was pinged, so it took me knocking on only two doors before I found her.  We had her call her folks and I bet she's grounded for the rest of her life.

Sunday I took a day off from just about everything.  I tried to lay on an Alumni shoot, which at first everyone seemed excited about, but I had only three Alums say they were coming.  I cancelled.

Monday after work, I drove to Newport News pick up Cooper .  Elise will be working late all week as she and her unit ready for a short notice deployment.  Pretty much the worse case scenario has played out and they are going to West Africa.  Dad is Pissed Off!


23 September, 2014: Photo Weekend

I had the weekend off, unusual for this time of year, so Kim and I got up early on Saturday, and left for Charlottesville.  Jake had a soccer game at ten and, though we got a late start, we mas it on time.  Jonathon, Kelly, and Barbara were all there when we arrived, as were the dogs.  Barbara has two little beagle pups and Jay and Kel brought Brasco.

 The soccer game was fun to watch.  The ball was the focus of attention to a sqarm of kids, who collapsed on it and began kicking it with no discernable aim except to kick it.  There were a couple of kids who seemed to have beter skills and training, and they worked the ball toward the goal, but even though there was no goal keeper, goals were few and far between...kinf of like any other soccer game.

Jake had an interesting plan.  He waited on the periphery of the swarm, for the ball to roll his way and he would kick it toward the goal.  He got a couple of good "tries" like this, but I couldn't tell if this was timidity or shear genius.   I'm going with genius.

After the game, she and I went of lunch at Chipotle, but the line was wrapped around the inside.  We opted for Zin Burger next door, which was very good, but three times the price.  Not worth $57...sorry. 

Next, we drove up Barracks Road, north, following highway 601 into the mountains.  I asked several times if she wanted to stop and take photos of this and that, but she was a gorl on a mission.  She had been lost on this roas a while back and had seen a bell tower on the side of the road.  That's where we were headed and she would not be denied.  It was beautiful, I'll give her that.  On the way back to link up with Shauna, we got to stop anywhere I wanted for photos.

 She and Shauna went to Newport News to see Elise and Brittany, while I headed home.

Sunday I got up and drove to Lynchburg where I linked up with friend Ryan for photos.  We met at Target by the Airport and then drove to Peaks View Park.  I was disappointed at first, looking for some place to take Ash's photo, but the place seemed devoid of character.  Certainly I saw no Peaks in View.  We started under a little corps of trees and a small fence by the parking lot, then she mentioned a couple of bridges a short walkaway.  That sounded a lot better, so we walked to the first one, which spanned a small creek.  It was nice and had a decent bit of foliage for the background, but the second was a lot better.

This bridge was a small arched bridge, and beautiful.  It was the best setting of the day. 

Ryan showed wearing a Lilly Pulitzer top and white pants.  She looked amazing,  She was a little shy at first, so I began telling her stories of how I got into photography, taking photos of my friends, lessons learned when photographing Sevda's models and such.  She began to relax, I think, when she realized it was just "me with a camera."

As soon as I got back to Lexington, I downloaded a few of the best ones onto Facebook and Instagram, to rave reviews by friends and family.  Out of 234 photos we took that day, only about five were bad...sleepy eyes, not in focus, and so on.  I do believe that not even I could take a truly bad photo of this woman; she is so beautiful.  The photo here is in color because you can't do Lilly Pulitzer in black and white.  I swear, I'm her best girlfriend.


5 September, 2014: Yee Yee!  The VMI Trap and Skeet Team

Thursday was the first day if Trap and Skeet.  We added a lot of new shooters this year, bringing our bench to sixteen counting our favorite W&L girl, Chance, and seven 3rd Class cadets.  We had a good time and everyone shot pretty well, but we'll need to pick it up before out first shoot.


31 August, 2014: A LOT going on.

Last night around 2230, Kim and I accompanied Cooper on his nightly walk around the VMI Parade Ground.  It was warmer than previous nights, but still a calm respite from the days Rat-line activities.  The weather has been very cool for August which has helped with Rat retention.  So far, only seven have left, and I only count five.  Two left in the first few hours.  The should have never come here.

Cadre week went well.  Training and briefings filled the days and everyone was in good spirits.  Matriculation went without a hitch and we in-processed 500 Rats from 0800 - 1130 hrs.  After the march up, the training process began, and I started my day down in the Barber Shop.  It's always fun to watch the guys with long hair get it cut.  This year I told them they came in looking like a Beatle and now look like a 'Merican!  I enjoy the look in their eyes when I make them turn around and look in the mirror.  Cruel? I think so.

Thursday I took a couple of hours off to go to Charlottesville to get Cooper.  Elise and boyfriend, James, drove in, picked up dinner for us all, and we linked up at Jonathon and Kelly's house.  When I got back, Cooper and I went to Barracks and the LOVE began.  The Cadets absolutely adore him.  I'm pretty sure he loves them back.

I'll take him back to Newport News Monday night after duty Monday night.


16 August, 2014: 

Cadre begin arriving today and in preparation for Cadre Week.  Rats will be here next Saturday.  I went in, put up Post flags, unlocked the rooms (kinda forgot about the concourse rooms), and unlocked the gates.


7 August, 2014: Young Friend Time

Last week, CPT Brian came in town.  We had a great lunch solving all America's problems.  He is such an impressive young guy-- Captain, USMC Special Operator.  He's smart.  He has one of those intellects that needs to know everything, so he studies all manner of things pertaining to war and fighting.  He spent some time uploading things he thought I'd be interested in from his external hard drive to my computer.  It will probably take meyears to process this stuff.

CPT Q also stopped by the office for a quick visit.  It was good to catch up with this super USAF chopper pilot.  He once flew Huey's but has transitioned to Blackhawks.  I tried to get him on the parade ground; the sound of a UH-1 on the parade ground would have done me good.  Sadly, the brass here wouldn't go for it, a lost historical opportunity.

Yesterday, Nohe came in to retrieve her bears that I held for her while she was in Bolivia with Engineers without Borders and working in the hospitals there.  She is such a helpful, caring person.  She makes teddy bars out of old Cadet uniforms and sells them in the VMI book store.  She made some changes to the new bears, so, while she was gone, I picked up the old models from the manager and stored them for her over the summer.  We grabbed lunch at Muchacho Alegre.  This year she will be teaching seventh graders biology.   She'll be great at that.

Today, Ryan came by for a quick visit.  I promised her she could drive the car, so we took a quick spin to the K-Mart parking lot to check out her standard transmission skills.  She did really well, so we drove out to Buena Vista and stopped on the way back to eat at Foothill Momma's BBQ Juke Joint...quickly becoming a favorite place.  I really enjoy listening toRyan's Barracks stories.  I believe she may have had the best time at VMI ever.

Drill Training for the football Rats is going well.  They are catching on quickly, usually a good sign they'll be good Cadets.  I have one more day with them tomorrow.


3 August, 2014:  Summer's End

Today is the first day of the school year for me.  I began my morning putting up the flags and unlocking the Old Barracks 3rd Stoop rooms for the return of the football team.  The should beging arriving at noon today.  I'll have time off during the day, but will stop by periodically to check on how things are going.  Tomorrow is an early start.  I'll meet Ms. Monika at her office around 0500hrs to help her load the equipment for the VMI Fitness Test (VFT).  We'll start the test at 0600hrs.

Tomorrow afternoon I will give the Football Rats an hour of drill and ceremonies training.  That's always fun, and it looks as if the weather will be better this year...cooler.  It's very cool for August in Virginia.

Though I will be "working" I have promised myself I will do as little as possible.  I have a list of jobs I need to accomplish, the old Check-the-block List, which keeps me organized.   I will begin working that on tomorrow...beginning with a haircut....and a shave.

I have two Saturdays and one Sunday left.  I need to put them to good use.  I hear Cold Harbor calling me.

I will miss Summer.


30 July, 2014: Spotsylvania and North Anna

Yesterday, using Jonathon's house as a base, I took off for the Spotsylvania Court House battlefield.  From Charlottesville, it is a little more than an hour away, driving Virginia back roads.  Bess was happy.

Aside from the occasional walker or runner, I was the only one there.  I threw my camera bag across my back, my battle map and my study notes in my pocket, grabbed my walking stick and struck out for the Salient, entering along the path that General Upton took to attack the Bloody Angle.

 This is a well preserved battlefield and though the trenches are weather worn from the past 150 years, you can still trace the Confederate positions and look across the same fields where the Union soldiers charged.  This battle is an incredible story of courage and carnage...a precursor to things to come at North Anna, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.   I wondered, when I read one quote, what I would have done had I been faced with charging the fortified Confederate position.

"Pulling my cap over my eyes, I stepped out..." ~ Corporal Clinton Beckwith, Company B, 121st New York State Infantry.  The Corporal survived the battle, but at the time, he and those with him thought they all faced certain death.  17-thousand did.

Three Miles later, I happily got back in the car, satisfied that I had seen all the major points of the battle, drank some water, and headed for North Anna.

Now, I thought it would be easy to find this place, so I did only a half-ass map recon before striking out.  Yeah.  Not so much.  The roads to the river are pretty confusing, and, though I got close, I had to go back to my phone and Google maps to GPS in.  I confirmed where I thought it was by phone with Kim too....just to save time.

Though the paths in the battlefield area are good, the rest of the area is completely grown over.  There is not much to see, but as I told a friend, it was not the battlefield but the ground and being there for the story...and what is left behind.  Whenever I go to one of these sites, I like to think on what General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain said at a Gettysburg anniversary--

"In great deeds, something abides.  On great fields, something stays.  Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls.  And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done to them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls."

I hope that remains true in future generations here in America.  North Anna was not a major battle, but could have been.  Had Lee not been ill with dysentery, ...well, you can say "what it" about almost every battle.  However, the Union was split in three forces, separated by the North Anna, presenting the Confederates a rare opportunity to destroy them.

As I walked back up from Ox Ford, I was surprised by two Rottweilers.  Happily they were friendly and well fed.

The drive back was great.  my GPS took me on a wonderful trip across the Virginia countryside where I saw no other cars and no cops.


26 July, 2014:  The John/Bess Overland Campaign

I just put the flags up on the first day of my week off after STP and Summer Session.  Post is so nice and quiet.

I pushed out the last of the kids yesterday about 1600hrs, locked the gates and went home.  I went back at 1900hrs to take down flags.  I'd like to thank the knot master Guard Room Worker who put flags up yesterday morning for his Gordian puzzle which turned my normal five-minute, honorable duty of taking flags down to a twenty-minute cussing session.  I don't have a clue how he did it, but it was a masterpiece.

I'll spend the weekend here, doing as little as possible, then, Monday, take off for my Civil War trip.  COL John won't be going this year as he has just had surgery, so I'm on my own.  My plan is to start with the battles after Wilderness, and visit them, in order, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the end of the war next year.  I'll hit Spotsylvania Court House and North Anna Monday.  Tuesday or Wednesday, I'll visit Cold Harbor.

I hope to use Charlottesville as a base and get some time with Jake Man.  I miss the days when he and Jonathon lived in Lexington.  Soon I'll have another reason to visit there; Kelly is pregnant with a little girl...MY Granddaughter.  I should be able to begin spoiling her rotten in late January.

This is a sad day for me each year.  Thirty-seven years ago, my first wife and I had a little girl, Leah.  Ah but that is a long and sad tale...about which I don't talk.  Perhaps one day.


19 July, 2014: 100miles - 44.25miles

Kim and I have been doing a 100 mile walk challenge.  We're a bit behind from Cooper watching, but, if we walk four-and-a-half miles a day till the end of the Month, I'll make it.  I'm not sure where Kim is on her mileage.  I did seven-and-a-half miles on the Chessie Trail this morning to catch up a little.

12 July, 2014: Cooper Sitting

Once my summer schedule settled down, I added two 5-day leave periods to it, for some rest, relaxation, and a couple of day trips to battlefields.  This past week was one of them.  What I got was a lot of Cooper watching.  Elise had him neutered the week before and asked us to watch him while she did range week with her battalion.  I was more than happy to help, thinking he and I could play and walk the countryside.

By Sunday night the little buddy had licked and sctatched himself so bad we had to take him to the emergency vet in Verona.  They gave us a steroid spray and puppy drugs to knock him out, and we had to sit with him all the time to make sure he didn't lick.

Kim slept by his side every night and I took the days.  We did this until Thursday morning, when we took him off the meds and let him sober up.  I began taking him for longer walks to tire him out and to take his mind off of the itching.  I took him to the drill fields to give him some off-leash time.  He loved it.  I loved it.  He is such a good little buddy. 

Elise came in last night for the weekend and to pick him up.  I go back to work Sunday morning.

I have one more week of leave coming up the last week in July.  I wonder what everyone has planned for me for that week.

5 July, 2014 : Independence Day Cones

Normally, I friggin hate the 4th of July on Post.  Every year we open our gates to the town of Lex and with that comes a bunch of what I call Riff Raff...knuckleheads that invade my space, parking in my parking places and in my yard, picnicking in my yard, sitting on my porch, letting their kids urinate in the gutter out front, and, one year, a guy backed his trailer into my car.  Yeah, my baby, my 2005 Roush Mustang,...and then her ran.  Add to that the Carnival people with their hot air balloons, cotton candy, funnel cakes, and junk food stands, too much traffic, not enough parking, trash everywhere, generators blasting, and bad music blaring, I think you can see why I hate the event.

I love the day, but the Carnies and Riff Raff usually spoil it for me.  It's a constant fight to invite my people over.  I usually pray for rain.

I've tried everything to negate the incursion on my parking places and yard, but this year, I borrowed orange traffic cones from Barracks.  It worked like a champ.  My car was surrounded by Kim's car, Sandy's Harley, and COL Gary's Truck.  I marked two other places out back and two in front of the house for friends and family.  It made all the difference.  I was actually able to join the day and  my family and had very few problems.

Kathy came in, Kimber drove down from Nova, Sandi rode his motorcycle in from parts unknown to surprise us, Elise and Cooper came from New Port News after the poor buddy was nutered, and Jonathon and Kelly brought Brasco the new puppy.

 I put up big flags this year and the STP Students came down to help recover them and fold them up.  The kids were amazing.


25 June, 2014: A Great Trip to Birmingham

After four long, boring days and nights in Barracks and after a good, much needed nap in my own damn bed, Kim and I loaded the car for Birmingham and drove through the night, getting there a little after 0100hrs Alabama Time.  Traffic was light and we had only one delay, just before we got out of Virginia.  We slept in the next morning but got up for chicken mini's from Chick-fil-a, beginning a week long food fest.

Jonathon and Kelly came in on Friday night and we stayed in a little rental house in Avondale, about a block from the park.  It was nice and comfortable, but we could never get it very cold...the way I like to sleep.  The poor air conditioner was working overtime in the Alabama heat.  It was very hot and humid last weekend.

During the weekend, we did Birmingham-things and made sure Kelly met the family.  We spent time with mom, Bill and Sylvia, and Jim, ate at Birmingham specific places like Jim-N-Nicks, and visited Birmingham landmarks like Vulcan, Sloss Furnace, 16th Street Baptist Church, and The Civil Right's Institute.  I drove from place to place showing Kelly and Jay all the old places like Woodlawn High, Kennedy School, where the Polar Bear and Gather's Filling Station stood, and Wahoma Park where I played ball.  It was the best time I have had in Birmingham in a very long time.

Vulcan was a lot of fun.  We went at night and it is the first time I've been up to the top in years and since the renovation.  It was beautiful and I loved it.  Kim, not so much.  The open-air feel of the top platform was just way too spooky for my girl.  She grabbed ahold of the limestone wall and refuse to move, waited for us to have a look, then got back on the elevator.  The glass elevator didn't help much and I don't think she breathed until she got back to the ground.

The Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Church were good history lessons.  It is hard to believe that that stuff happened in America so few years ago.  I'm glad I grew up apart from all that.

Sloss Furnace Park was incredible.  I grew up seeing and smelling the smoke coming off of the furnaces, but I had never visited.  So much better than tearing down the Terminal Station in 1969, this piece of Birmingham History has been preserved to help tell the story of the city.

I'm assuming that it is safe for me to post this now-Kelly is Pregnant with my next Grandchild!  I'm very excited.  I'm hoping for a girl, but a little boy will also be most welcome.  Early February is the prospective arrival date of this golden child.

I didn't spend as much time with mom as I usually do, but she has her routine and certainly likes getting out of the house with Stephanie more then she likes sitting, doing nothing.  So, I let them go and do what they always do, and it made it more enjoyable for me as well.

Monday night Kim and I went driving to my old neighborhood, or, what's left of it, to refresh my memory on how we used to drive there in the days before the highway came through and cut it in half.  I am writing a short story, at the urging and with the help of high school friend and author Vicki Covington.  I needed to confirm a memory of a path that led to our neighborhood across a small ditch next to a beauty shop.  I went right to it and there it was, so, I guess I remember well.

I talked Kim into coming home a day early so I'd have an extra day doing things around here before STP begins this weekend.  Sunday will begin the harder days if Summer Barracks Supervisor as the pre-strains arrive.  I'll start it all off with a standards briefing, telling them what they can and can't do here at VMI.  Most listen, but there are always a couple who think, coming out of high school, that they are smarter than I am.  But, that's OK; I can always use a personal slave or two around Barracks.  There are cigarette buts to pick up, laundry rooms to clean, weeds to be pulled, stairs and stoops to be swept, and laps that have to be run by someone.

8 June, 2014: D-Day Celebrations

Jake's birthday party was yesterday and I missed it.  I had to take a Color Guard to Bedford for the 70th anniversary of D-Day parade.    This is a hard thing to do during the summer with Cadets away, uniforms being stripped, ranked, and cleaned...preparing for Fall.  Bur the new color guard folks weally came through and volunteered and the Taylor Shop and VMI Laundry folks really helped out a lot.  Basically, I had every thing drawn and prepared for depart by the time the Cadets arrived at 0700hrs.  The trip went fine and we had plenty of time to dyke out once there.  They stepped off at 1000hrs and we were done by 1100.  We were on the road to Roanoke and Chipotle's for lunch by 1130.

Elise and Cooper came in for the weekend Friday morning.  It has been fun having them around.  Elise and I took Bess out for a spin yesterday and took the county roads roads where they led us.  We ended up in Arcadia on SR614 which runs along the James River.  Very Beautiful.  I love this part of the Country.

As we drove, Elise entertained us with music.  She started with Iggy Azalea's Fancy, but quickly switched to Country..which seemed a lot more appropriate in a Mustang running down back roads...since every country song these days is about back roads and a pretty girl riding shotgun.  We stopped on a small bridge over the James a took a "selfie" that we titled "We don't know what road we're on or where we've been" borrowed from Luke Bryan's song I don't want this night to end.  Driving has always been our Daddy-Daughter thing.

1 June, 2014: Summer Duty

Last night was my final night of a 4-day stint in Barracks as Night OC.  The only people in Barracks right now are the first session summer school kids, so things are pretty quiet right now.  I've been using the time to work on flags, radios, and a few hundred other things, Sill, there are more hours in the day than things to do, so I've also used the time for catching up on the last season of Longmire before A&E picks it back up on 2 June...TOMORROW.

I have a night again on Thursday, but then don't pull duty until next week, another four nights in a row.

I drove to Newport News last weekend to linkup with BR Jim and Kim at Elise's.  I got in a couple of runs, Elise and I took Cooper on a 5-mile walk around a lake, and I ate a lot of good food, but sensibly.  Elise made a couple of rely delicious meals where I was not quite so sensible.  She cooks well like her mom.  I like running in Newport's so flat and it feels like there is so much more Oxygen than in Lex.

I took some time before the death walk wit Elise to go see the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia museum.  It was GREAT!  They have really done a great job with displays and with telling the story.  On my way home I decided to go visit The Crater at Petersburg...another fantast story.  I have always wanted to see it.  I even have a panoramic photo of the Corps of Cadets sitting around it with Mary Custis Lee, borrowed from the VMI Museum, on a wall in my house.  I took 460 back from there so I could visit the site of the last big battle of the war in Virginia, Sayler's Creek.

This coming weekend is Jake's birthday party, which I will miss because I have to take a Color Guard team to march in the D-Day Memorial Parade in Bedford.


17 May, 2014: Summer Arrives

The final weeks at VMI come along like machinegun fire, a rapid staccato of events leading up to Commencement and Barracks Closeout for the summer.  For me it is my busiest, most challenging, and most eagerly awaited time.  By the end of it, I am wiped out, tired, sad, frustrated, happy, pissed-off, and relieved.

The first event is the fourth class field training exercise (FTX) which took place Saturday through Monday this year.  It takes a hell of a lot of preparation and coordination to get the kids out to the woods, and a lot of scrambling, pushing, and adjusting to circumstances to get them all to the end point.  After fourteen busses out and back, four vans, two trucks, two SUVs, six POVs, fifteen OPFOR, 425 Fourths, four EMTs twenty Cadre, 1500 meals, 400 gallons of water, 74 Radios, , maps, compasses, whistles, protractors, bug repellant, toilet paper, iodine tablets, eighty fires, three truck loads of trash, a small rain storm the first night, and fifteen miles over the rugged terrain of the George Washington National Forest, we were back in Barracks with no lost teams, no one injured except for a cut hand, some twisted ankles and a few dozen blisters, and only one vehicle left stuck precariously on the side of a cliff.  We ended the day with a nice picnic on the Parade Ground, then I took my Kimberly out to eat.

As I recovered equipment and boxed up radios from the FTX, we rehearse the final days events.  This had me running in and out of the office trying to get it all done, operating on fumes.  I "borrowed" the help of a great young cadet, about to become a Lieutenant in the Army, who was trying to work off his final penalty tours, to get it all done, and he did most of the accounting, cleaning, and packaging of the radios for shipment.  I really couldn't have done it all without him and by the end of the day, he had my office looking presentable for Graduation Day.

Wednesday was Graduation and Change of Command Parade where I passed the Hotel Guidon from Kyle '14 to Ky '15, Then the Institute Awards Ceremony...or maybe I have that reversed.  At 1300, I had my Summer School "Stay Out of Trouble" briefing in JM Hall for all the Summer School Students.

Thursday was Commissioning in the morning, and the New Market  Ceremony in the afternoon.  My day began at 0600hrs putting out the little New Market and Virginia Flags on the ten New Market Cadet graves. We had to conduct the ceremony indoors because it rained heavily all day long.  A few alums were pissed at this call and lost their minds, but it was just noise.  I responded to a friend who asked about it on Facebook, like this:

I do not question other people's Command Decisions, but my BRs are upset and as Class Agent I feel it is my duty to ask.  
You may tell them I said this--"Common fuckin' Sense prevailed and we decided not to put the Corps, families, and guests out in a downpour. We conducted a nice, well rehearsed, solemn ceremony that honored the NM Cadets. We are all disappointed and wish, too, that we COULD have marched. Had we marched in this kind of rain when you were cadets, you would have whined about it being a crime against humanity. The Older You Get, The Harder it Was."

That evening I had duty in Barracks until an hour after Taps.  I used the beginning of the evening to recover the small New Market Flags and begin their drying process in my office.  I stayed in Barracks, constantly walking the stoops, until about an hour before Taps, then, knowing Cadets, headed to the farthest Academic Building to find the drinkers.  Sure enough, in the lowest level of Mallory I found three knuckleheads with a bottle of booze in a room.  I sent them back to barracks, poured out their bourbon, and boned them.  The next morning they got to see L-Train for their Number 1s, starting off next semester on confinement, conduct probation, and lots of fun penalty tours.  Smart!

Friday began with BRC Formation...the best one all year.  As usual, the 1st Class showed in all manner of Improper Dress.  Mu favorites this year were the two dressed as Rats in Gym Dyke, black socks, low quarters, holding their laundry bags at arms-length.  Graduation formed up at 1030 and I did my best to catch all the Bobos who needed haircuts and to dress them properly before crossing the stage to get their diplomas.  By the time I'm done with this, I'm usually a sweaty mess, so I don't watch Graduation any more, preferring to go get a shower and a meal before the real work begins.

COL LE had a great closeout plan with cadets hired to clear rooms and about four of us per barracks to help.  It went super smoothly and we were on out way home by 1700hrs.

Kim made dinner for Jim, Chris, and me, and then I crashed, hard.  I woke this morning before sunup in time to raise the flags over Barracks.  Summer Furlough, Finally Here!

5 May, 2014: To the OBX for Some Motivation

A few weeks ago, Elise came up witht he idea of renting a house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a family weekend built around a couple of runs she wanted to do.  We all pitched in and she rented a nice little place in Manteo.  We all began closing in as work allowed, Kim and I departing first thing Friday morning, Elise after a day of golf with her command team, and Jonathon, Jake, and Kelly after work.

I had  to set up the computer for the BOV briefing and check on the flag set up for a meeting, but I had all that done before 0800hrs and we were able to get on the road pretty early.  We decided to take a leisurely drive down highway 60 and then cut over to 460 and it turned out to be a good call.  It was a beautiful day and traffic there was light.  We stopped at a nice little place called the Virginia Diner in Wakefield off 460.  I had the biscuit platter which came with three medium sized biscuits with thin sliced ham, a side, which escapes me, and a Waldorf Salad with a peanut dressing.  Then I had a piece of peanut in Pecan Pie...but nothing like it.  It was good, but I am not a huge fan.  The Waldorf Salad, however, was delicious and I'll go back to this place again just for that.

We linked up with Elise when she made it to Manteo and I watched Cooper while the girls picked up Elise's race packets.  Once we moved into the house, we pinned Cooper in the kitchen and went for food  We settled on a little place just down the road, Darrel's Restaurant, and it was great.  Though we arrived just before closing, the staff was friendly and accommodating. I had grilled crab cakes, some of the best Mac-and-Cheese ever, and some darn good fried okra.  The Hushpuppies were super.

Jay, Kelly, and Jake closed in after I went to bed.

Elise ran a 5K the next morning so I was up at five.  My job was to get her there on time, be the keeper of the 4-runner keys, and take care of Cooper.  The implied tasks were to support the daughter and act as cheering section.  Lunch was at Avenue Grill a short walk from the house on the waterfront.  I had their Shrimp and Grits that were not bad....not great, but not bad.  Jake got chicken strips which he normally loves.  When he balked at eating them, I tried them,  Absolutely TERRIBLE.  If we ever go back, I won't be eating at this place.

Before the sun went down, Jake, Jay, and I went to play Putt-Putt.  We all had a blast.  Jake was in a super playful mood and could have cared less about his score...while Jay and I fought each other stroke for stroke.

Elise and I started out even earlier the next day.  She was set to run a half-marathon and we prepared for that, while the others cleaned up the house.  I was amazed at the different fitness levels out there to run this race.  Very few lookd very fit and it made me take a look inside.  Why wasn't I running this with Elise?  Surely there were plenty of people in their 50s and a few in their 60s, but hardly any of them looked like they were in the shape that I am in.  It was a motivator.

Linking up wuththe others, we saw Elise at her 8.5 mile mark, her 11 mile mark, and when she came across the finish line.  She was amazing.

Before heading back we went to see Bodie Lighthouses down the island.  Jay was a stud and carried Jake, afraid of the open stairs, all the way to the top.  Elise left before that for her tow hour trip home and a shower.  Kim and I, though we said we'd stop here and there on the way back, just drove.  I was happy to get home.


28 April, 2014: Ah.  The Last Week of Classes

Saturday I punched out a Color Guard teal to Augusta Military Academy to post the colors for their Reunion luncheon.  We love these old guys.  They really take care of us when we pass through marching to New Market.  I stayed back for Alumni Weekend Parade, which went well.  Sunday afternoon I ran the Skeet Range for our North Post Challenge teams.  It didn't take as long as I thought, and I had it timed almost perfectly.  We only had two teams bunch up at the end.  Hopefully we'll have the Trap Range fixed by next time.  That's the optimum thing to shoot.

I have OC Tomorrow, with the FTX Brief for the 4ths, and then have to take a team to DC to post the colors for an Atlantic Council event at the Ritz-Carlton on Wednesday.  Thursday is the Club Sports Dinner, and then Friday Kim and I are taking Highway 60 to the Outer Banks to link up with Elise, Cooper, Jay, Jake, and Kelly for a little family time.  Looks like a busy, but easy week.


24 April, 2014: Taps for a Cadet

Kim and I were watching a movie Tuesday night when my phone rang.  It was L-Train telling me that one of our cadets was dead.  It was my RSM from last year ans this years 2nd Battalion Commander, an amazing guy about to graduate, commission in the Marines and marry an absolute doll in June.  What a loss. I sat for about two hours just staring at the screen where Kim stopped the movie.

I went in about 2200 just to see if there was anything I could do to help and ended up talking to a few Cadets about it.  I'm not sure if I helped any of them, but it sure helped me to talk it out.  At 2300 the underclasses were assembled in JM Hall and given all the current information and the Chap said a few words.  Particularly outstanding were the Cadet First Captain's comments.  That we would be continuing on with our daily routine was the best thing for all of us to hear.

Taps was quiet and solemn.  The C1C said a few words, the Bugler's played Echo Taps, and then the Pipes played Amazing Grace.  It was a fine tribute. 

Goodbye RSM.  You were a fine young man.  I feel for your young lady, your parents, your BRs, and your friends.


21 April, 2014:  New P News (as Jake calls it)

I chased Kim all the way back from Elise's place, getting back to Lex Vegas just in time to unload the cars and watch Game of Thrones.  The whole family converged on her place to visit/put together her furniture.  So Many Pieces!  

Kim had been there a week, and I left Friday night after supervising the range as a reserve transporter company zeroed and qualified about 40 people.  They were so slow!  What was supposed to be a 10-2 job, went from 0900 - 1645hrs.  There were so many times I wanted to tell them to get the hell out of my way and run that range that I couldn't even read my book.  But they were pretty professional and polite, so I acted as if it didn't bother me.  Just so you know, we can do the same number of folks in an hour and a half.

Jay, Kel, and Jake got there Saturday night.  Sunday we had a nice dinner around the table, just like a normal family might have one.


14 April, 2014: Last Shoot and The Premier

After a pretty relaxing Week, except for practice parade, where I lost my mind, I took nine of the Trap and Skeet Sports-fans to Maryland for a one day shoot put on by Washington College.  We left on Friday about noon, and we were about an hour up the road when I got a call from Holly telling me that the Commandant needed me on the Parade Ground ASAP.  Seems there was a third who had no clue how, was out there trying to mark the Parade Ground for parade, by himself, with no supervision.  Not Good!  There was no way I could help, so I sent the boss a text and told him not to worry, that the cadet in charge would be there in time...which she was...and it would be fixed.  I can only assume it went OK.

The shoot went well and as I've been predicting all along, Afton outshot all the boys except one.  She shot a 45 out of 50 in skeet and a 41 in trap, but it was bitter-sweet since it was her last shoot with the team.  The other two seniors weren't able to make the trip.

We drove back to Lex that night so a few of us could get right back on a bus and go to Richmond for the special viewing of Field of Lost Shoes, an independent production of the story of the cadets who fought in the battle of New Market in May 1864.  We marched about 250 Cadets around the Capitol building, stopped for the new governor to have a few words, the led the VIPs to the theater about three blocks away.  While we waited for everyone to file in, the boss and I went down the street for a Philly Cheese Steak at a little dive down the road. It was a pretty damn good sandwich.  Sadly I have forgotten the name of the place.

The movie was good.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The music was even better.  I need to watch it again.  I lost a lot of the dialogue sitting where I was; the sound was terrible there.


7 April, 2014: The Wedding

Welcome to the family my new daughter, Kelly. Though she has been around for quite a few years now, first as Elise's friend, then as Jonathon's girlfriend, and loved by all, her place is now official as of 291730(L)APR14.  The ceremony was wonderful and everything from the rehearsal dinner through the reception was well put together by Kelly, Kim and Elise.  Our accommodations at the House Mountain Inn were absolutely perfect and relaxing.  Except for the rain and snow moving everything inside, the whole thing was perfect.  Nothing, I think, could have spoiled the fun...not even the two drunks who arrived drunk, got more drunk, and even after being cut off at the bar, somehow found more to drink.  They were happy drunks I didn't have to kill anyone. This weekend has been the Spring FTX at VMI. 

I spent Saturday walking to McKethan Park with Hotel Company non-commissioning cadets so we could dig up the old sandbags from about four years of Breakout.  Surely it must have been a great joke to assign this task to me...the guy who says every year how much I hate the sandbag idea because of the mess it makes and because we never have a plan for emptying them.  We only take them to McKethan Park where they dry rot and make an even bigger mess.  I'm going to undermine that crap next year.  Watch! 

Yesterday, after being Saturday Night Officer in Charge in Barracks, I took the day off.  Hotel only had one task all day, policing Woods Creek with P2, so I gave myself a Hay-down and Optional BRC.  Today I organized for Tomorrow's Post Clean-up, then spent some time with Conor E. who was here in town with his wife working with Timber Framers.


24 March, 2014: Savannah and LOTS of VMI

My Spring Furlough ended early.  I picked up a Van from the Physical Plant last Friday and on Saturday I drove to Dulles to pick up the Rugby Team returning from England.  That was another 8-hour day. 

Last Sunday, I went with the Band to Savannah for Saint Patrick's Day where they marched in the parade.  It was a good time, but a young person's trip.  Our hotel was sub-par, but doable.  The bus rides to and from were easier than driving.  Everyone was really nice and I only saw one bit of trouble and that was just a super drunk teenage girl.  I went looking fro Shrimp and Grits, but finding none, I settled fro Crab Cakes and Fried Green Tomatoes at a place called Belford's Savannah Seafood and Steak.  These folks can fry up some green tomatoes, they were great, but their crab cake was bland and boring.  How does a seafood place do a bland and boring crab cake?  I think I've been spoiled by Elijah's in Wilmington.  I didn't do any drinking myself, but the Cadets sure did.  They seemed to have had a great time and did well in the Parade, regardless of the the rain that drizzled on us and the cool temperatures that prevailed throughout the day.

We got back Tuesday after work, so I went straight home.

Wednesday, I got back to a full in-box and a thousand things to do, including a Rat Certification Inspection on five Rats...who still hadn't passed.  Only one passed my inspection.  A few threats and a little instruction later, I sent them on their way to correct and try again the next morning.  Thursday and Friday were 15-hour days, beginning at 0600hrs with random urinalysis tests both mornings. and re-inspections, again, at 0700hrs both mornings.  Thursday night the rising Cadet First Captain and I held a board to choose the new RSM and Battalion SsGM.  Friday ended "early" at 1830hrs with just a "few" things to do after Parade.  Lunch was good.  I took Nohelia to the new Mex place.

This weekend was a bust.  Because of a trade to be able to take the T&S Team to Kentucky, I had duty Saturday Day and yesterday morning till TAPS, 22-hours in Barracks.  And they wonder why we get tired and irritable this time of year.

Kim came in with Bill and Sylvia last night.  The wedding is next weekend.


12 March, 2014: Day Trips with Kimberly

Monday and Tuesday, Kim and I took a couple of day trips to photograph some things around Virginia we have been meaning to get to for years.  Our firs stop was the old Mill down on the other side of the Maury River...which, much to our surprise, and been completely demolished and removed. Next up was an old Barn which caught Kim's eye a few years ago.  She has driven by it many times and has looked for the right spot from which to photograph it, but has come up short every time.  I was determined to get the shot, so I trespassed a little bit, ticking off the landowner, but finally getting a good perspective view.   While there we got some good shots of a photo that she missed, of cows by a wall at the McDowell Grave site.  We took a few shots of an old church, a Paxton cemetery, and then made ourselves unwelcome at the ruins of an old Mill.  It would really help if people would post no trespassing signs of they don't want people with camera around.

Lunch was at Muchacho Alegre...which is ALWAYS yummy.

Yesterday we headed north, hitting Jimmy John's for lunch, headed for, I thought Waterloo Bridge.  Kim had other ideas.  We ended up driving to Crozet and Afton looking for the tunnel that Claudius Crozet engineered under Afton Mountain.  Our directions to the Crozet end were shaky, but we had detailed directions to the Afton side.  This turned out to be a nice hike, though a little muddy in places, and made for a good photography trip.  Kim's photos of the old wire poles and insulators are super.  I was super pumped to find out that Jackson used the tunnel during his Valley Campaign.  Holy Ground!

I hope we make lots more trips like this; it was a lot of fun...well...except for the part where I didn't stop where she could get a shot of the Afton VA Train depot and then we found that I had dropped my glasses back on the trail.  I really want to get to Waterloo Bridge before they tear it down and She tells me next trip is to the Crozet end which is more "finished." I, also, want her to get a shot of the sign at Tally Ho Farm between Charlottesville and Orange.  She thinks it is the cutest thing, ever.  I think She Is


11 March, 2014: The Loss of Old Friends

I guess I should begin getting used to losing friends.  Once you hit your 60s, it seems they begin passing regularly.  We have recently lost a number of folks from the class of '71, but none to whom I have been close.

My desire to reconnect with people that I appreciate began a few years back with a search for my old mentor, Alfred H. Gainey.  Top Gainey was my 1st Sergeant the day I got to the 82nd Airborne and he took me under his wing and taught me everything he could about being a Trooper.  I really wanted to see him and to tell him that I appreciated his time and effort...and that it must have worked.  My search was short and bitter-sweet.  When I Googled him, his obituary came up.  He has passed away in 1999, not surprising for a guy who fought in WWII, but sad.  I was late.  Way Late!

I began looking for others.  I found Lynn, my high school girlfriend, just before she died.  We talked via e-mail a few times and it was a lot of fun.  In her last email to me, she mentioned that she had breast cancer, again.  Though I knew what this meant, I asked her to tell me her next steps, her plan.  That e-mail was never answered.  I found out that she died a couple of months after the funeral.  I was not aggressive enough.

Through Face Book, I have re-connected with a lot of people: Army Buddies, High School Friends, Turk Arkadas...Hell, I just found Steve Flora, my old XO and Scout Platoon Leader.

People I'd still like to find: Andy Vickery and Rand Marshall from 1Para Days, Drill Nickerson from Basic Training, Garland Chrisp and Tony Arguello from Scout Days, Sophia Sarris, Sherie O'Neal, and Roy Ledbetter from High School days, Yvonne Williams from a magical summer at Wind Creek in 1979, David "Crash" Baxley from Motion Industries days, and Gülümser Esen from Turkiye days.

I know that I lost Linda a long time ago.  I let life get in the way and we just went on with our lives.  What saddens me (read: chaps my ass) is that my young stupid self let that happen.  I wasn't aggressive with keeping in touch and I was late getting around to looking for her.

I just found SSG Garland Chrisp on Face Book.  Sent him a message.  Hope I'm not too late.


9 March, 2014: My Search for Linda

Back in the late '60s, my big brother Jim dated a fabulous girl, Linda.  They met just before he went to college and dated for a long time.  I thought he would marry her.  The family adored her and to me, she was the big sister I always wanted.  She became a friend and confidant, and to tell the truth, I had a huge crush on her, hoping one day I could find someone just as great.  My first dates in High School were doubles with Jim and Linda and she spent time coaching me through the process, making sure I didn't act like my goofy self.  When Jim broke up with Linda, I was devastated.  I didn't get it, I fought it, I never accepted it, and I never liked the girl that caused it all...even when he married her.  Witch!

A little over a year ago, I began scanning my father's 35mm Slides and at mixed in with them, I ran across photos that I took of Linda, when she came to see me at Wind Creek after the breakup.  She wanted to tell me herself, rather than having me hear it from Jim or from someone else.  That's how close we were.  We stayed in touch as she finished up Nursing School, but geography and life took over when she moved to Chattanooga (as I remember) and I started college.

As I continued to scan Dad's slides, I found more of Linda that Dad had taken at the house.  What a beauty she was.  I decided to have a look on fb to see if I could find her.  Sure enough, there was a profile of a nurse with the same maiden name, who was the appropriate age, who went to the same high school, attended the same college, and who lives in Alabama.  Though the profile was little used and had no photos, I was convinced it was her.  I sent a message and the Wind Creek photo, hoping to hear back.  That was a year ago.

Yesterday, I noticed my unanswered note in my message box.  I thought, "Well, It was a good try," about to move on.  Then, being true to my nature of never giving up, I decided to look for more clues on her profile.  There, staring me in the face the whole time, was a "friend" of hers, about Jonathon's age, baby in arms, who looked JUST like Linda.  It was uncanny.  This HAS to be Linda's daughter!  Searching through this young lady's photos was Linda's high school senior photo...or, a photo of someone who sure looks like Linda.  I called Kim upstairs.  She agreed.  She NEVER agrees when I say someone looks like someone else.

I think I am such a detective!!

So, I write this girl a note and send this girl the photo.  Now, I'm waiting. 

And I'm Wondering: To me, if I never find her, she will always be the beautiful nineteen-year-old quintessence of feminine charm, and she probably remembers a nice kid, rail-thin, caring, idealistic...all the things I am no longer.



John, yes you have the right Linda. She was my aunt- I am her younger sister's (Karen's) daughter. I have often been told that I look like Aunt Linda, definitely that side of the family.

Unfortunately. Aunt Linda passed away two years ago in January. She got sick and went into the hospital, developed sepsis, and passed away. It was unexpected, and I miss her so much! I'm not sure if anyone has access to her FB page, which is why you never heard back. I'm so sorry to have to share that news with you- I'm sure she would have loved catching up and reconnecting with an old friend.

Thank you for sending the picture of her- it's a great picture!

John Neel

Such sad news. Thank you for getting back to me. If I may, I would like to send you the rest of the my Dad took. Perhaps you could share them with your mom and the rest of the family. We all loved her very much.

I shall go pay my respects when I am home.

What started out as a fun search for an old friend has ended in a sad way. 

Perhaps I will talk about this later, but not now.


Later in the day, Nohelia came by for a visit.  We had a good talk, mostly about VMI stuff, then we took a walk around Post.  Luckily, I took my camera.



6 March, 2014: Headed to Spring Break

Tomorrow Starts Spring Furlough here at VMI.  My start will be a little later than most, as I will be delivering the Rugby Team, or at least a part of it, to Dulles to fly to England.

Last Saturday, Ech, Bean and I ran the 4th Class Range Day,  We had most of the 4th Classmen fire the M4, M14, and M9.  It went very well and we were done by 1400hrs.  The rest of the weekend was spent goofing off.

NCMT Cadre finished up training on Tuesday and Thursday.  Now we'll begin the FTX planning process.  That will happen, like every year, after exams in May.  I'm looking forward to that; it is always such a fun time for me, planning, coordinating, organizing, and executing.  I love it!  More than anything else at VMI, the FTX is closer to what I did best in the Army.

Rank for next year was announced on Tuesday night.  My RSM is the new Cadet First it should be.  Hotel, the company that I supervise, had so many great guys that finding them all a good job was tough.  Luckily, India Company needed some leaders for next year, so I was able to get every guy a Cadre position.  My team looks very solid in Company next year...if they can work together.

My BR Jim Bean was promoted to Major the other day.  That was great to see.  Well Deserved!  He found a quote that I have been looking for for years...a quote that was once posted on a wall at the old 82nd Airborne Division NCO Academy when I was in PLDC/CA as a young acting-Sergeant.  This quote shaped my way of thinking in a huge way, and though a tight personal appearance is important to me, I realized it was not the mark of a Warrior.  Warriors come in all manner of dress, shapes, sizes, ...

“I'd like to have two armies: one for display with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, staffs,... an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country. The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage uniforms, who would not be put on display, but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That's the army in which I should like to fight.” -Jean Lartéguy author of Les Centurions

Thanks Brother Rat!


26 February, 2014: Shooting in Kentucky

Friday, I took most of the team to Kentucky.  We left town early enought to get to Nicholasville by check in time, giving the team lots of time to have some fun.  We went to the Bar-b-Q place across the highway, and the meat was pretty good, it was just needing a good sauce.  I need to always travel with a bottle of Costa's.  We shot well on the trip, though we didn't place.  Jim shot 99 out of 100 in Trap putting him in first place.  Ky came in fourth in Wobble Trap.  Afton was just off the pace for over-all female shooter.  The team shot above center of mass on every discipline.

We started back late because we waited on the awards ceremony for Jim.  By the time we got to West Virginia it was snowing quarter-sized snow flakes and visibility was down to a few yards.  I decided to stay put in Barboursville, staying ant the Hampton just next to the Cracker Barrel where I stopped for supper and check the weather reports.  We slept in and left about 1000hrs, taking a quick side trip to New River Gorge Bridge.  We were back in Lex and on Post by 1600hrs.

This seems to be a typical February problem...getting stuck in West Virginia.


19 February, 2014: Family Weekend at Elise's

The snow ruined or, depending on how you look at it, saved the weekend.  The original plan was to go get Jay and Kelly on Thursday night, and drive to Elise's.  Friday we were to go to Bragg to get David, and then drive to Birmingham.  We planned to visit with family, party a bit, and watch Elise run a half-marathon, then return on Monday.  I ended up working on Friday and Monday, having Saturday to myself, and spending Sunday with the kids and Kim.  This was so much better if you ask me.  I have spent enough time on the road and have more to spend this weekend.

David made it up from Bragg too, and it was good to have him there.  I like this guy more and more.  He's the kind of guy a dad looks for to date his, he drives a F150.  I had some Cooper time as well.  He was such a good dog all day.  Elise has done a great job training him.  We ate lunch at the Brickhouse Tavern, which everyone seems to love.  I am not a big fan.  Maybe I just don't order the right things...or, when I order something, I get another thing entirely.  Italian Sub is not an Italian Sausage Sub.  Disappointment.  Supper was better at Plaza Azteca.  I had Fish Tacos, not as good as Muchacho Alegre, but pretty good.  We spent a couple of hours Sunday looking at Ford Explorers for Elise.  These things are fantastic!  Now I want one.

I leave Friday morning for Kentucky, with the team, for the University of Kentucky Invitational Trap and Skeet Shoot.  I'm looking forward to the trip, just not the fifteen hours on the road.


13 February, 2014: Snow.  Again.

It began snowing last night.  By the time it was finished we had about ten inches.  I had duty and I tried to get as much shoveled as I could by grabbing all the shovels I could find and offering PTs to the Cadets.  They did a good job.

I cancelled SRC formation as the path to the Mess was too slippery.  The Corps was mostly going to the Basketball game anyway.  We were playing Coastal, who is top of the other half of the conference.  The game was for first place in the Big South.  We lost.

The Corps came back to Barracks in a mood, and snowballs began to fly all over the place.  It took me about five minutes to push them out to the Parade Ground where a gigantic snowball fight ensued.   I waited until it looked like they were too tired throw any more snowballs and then ran them back in Barracks before CQRB.  Barracks was quiet after that.

Last weekend was Elise’s Birthday, but I had a lot of duty first.  I covered the Basketball game at 1230 on Saturday, and then went to the HO Jo’s to watch our cadets that night after the Mid-Winter Formal.  It was a wild one.  I had to bus two under-age cadets to the hospital for being way too drunk, had to have one kid arrested for being drunk and violent, and had a kid run from me after I apprehended him for doing something dastardly.  I tracked him down by noon on Monday…proving that you just don’t run from the Sergeant Major.  Silly Cadet.

Kim and I had Cooper through the weekend.  He’s a lot of fun and is such a good puppy.  Elise has done a great job with him and he already sits and waits on command, shakes, and lies down.  I taught him to go “up,” putting his paws on my chest.  He’s getting to be a big boy!

Elise, Jonathon, Jake and Kelly all arrived about 1300hrs for Elise’s Birthday lunch.  Kim made Chicken Tetrazzini, one of my faves, and Banana Pudding and Cream-Cheese-and-Strawberry Cupcakes.  Loved it!

This weekend, we were all supposed to visit Birmingham to watch Elise run a half Marathon, but the weather has ruined that.  There’s a chance we can all make it to New Port News by Sunday for an Elise Dinner. 

5 February, 2014: Cooper (and Elise) Time

Saturday, was Breakout and it went prettty well, except for the part where I was in charge of the Smoke on the Parade Ground  when the Rats attacked the Bunker built in front of my house.  Yeah, I kinda messed that up.  I was told the attack would begin when the Howitzers fired their first, I told the cadets popping the grenades to pop them both, two at each station, as that happened.  I was across the Parade Ground waiting on the Rats to come out of Barracks and moving toward the smoke stations when the first howitzer round went off.  I looked toward barracks and the Bricks and only about half of the Rats were outside.  Oops!  By the time the attack started, the smoke had dissipated.

Oh well.

I hit the house as soon as the attack was over, changed clothes, and left for Elise's.  I made it there in a little over three hours, after on slight misstep where I missed my exit.  My weekend was spent walking Cooper and walking with Elise, up Virginia Beach.  We did a little three mile road march in some pretty nice much different than the drive home on Monday morning.  Brunch Sunday was at a little place in Yorktown called Food Craft.  Everything was great, especially the Mimosas and Biscuits.  Even the grits were good and I'm a real stickler for how grits are made.  On the way home we hit Dunkin Donuts and I got a Blueberry, my favorite.  The heavy rain and stupid people driving entirely too fast for the conditions made the drive home zero fun.  Bess is a mess and I have no time to give her a scrub.

Tuesday was my fist day of NCMT; I was on the way to Texas for day one.  We took one of the companies to McKethan to run the Land Nav course.  That went well, but we have a few things to change, and it became pretty obvious that the course needs some work.

Today, I watched Bill Nye debate Ken Ham.  Both were very gentlemanly through the whole thing, something I wish others would learn to do, but Nye missed a few points he could have made, pointing out, perhaps too many times, that Ham based his beliefs on a book, written thousands of years ago, translated into English.  I knew what he was inferring, but I think he should have spelled it out for the casual viewer.  Like a good scientist, he refrained from attacking belief in a god...leaving the possibility open...just in case god, someday, shows up...I presume.


29 January, 2014: To Texas and Back

Last weekend I took the Trap & Skeet Team to College Station for a bit of warmth and some shooting.  Administratively, the trip went well, but warmth?  There was none.

I left Wednesday morning in a huge Chevy Suburban after we loaded up the Guns, Ammo, shooting bags and luggage the night before.  I drove to Birmingham for the evening, and then on into College Station on Thursday.  That night the area got about an inch of snow and ice, making me wonder if I'd make it to puck up the team Friday afternoon at DFW.

 SFC Buck drove the team to Roanoke Friday morning for a flight to Charlotte and then to DFW.  Afton texted me their status as I drove up to DFW on some pretty bad roads.  I made it there about thirty minutes before they arrived.  Once we linked up, we picked up the rental van and went for food at Whataburger on our way to the hotel.  I love their vanilla shakes.  So Good!

We stayed at the La Quinta on Texas Avenue where I stayed the three other times I have been to College Station.  A&M used to have a good leadership conference and I always took the Cadet First Captain, The First Class President, The Honor Court President, and the highest ranking woman in the Corps.  Those were good trips.

The first evening, I put no restrictions on the team and let them go find fun.  Like always, Rule #1 was, "Don't Wake Me Up," and Rule #2 was, "Don't do anything stupid."  The didn't do either, and the stories the next morning were pretty entertaining.

It was twenty-eight degrees and windy when we got to the range.  We were shooting at the 4H Range in Snook, a good range that worked well.  They had a good plan and the shoot was well organized.  We were up first, so, because of the cold, our scores suffered.  By the afternoon it was fifty degrees and the wind had died down.  Our scores were much better once it warmed up and the team had a lot more fun.

Dinner that night was a recommended place, next door to out hotel, Fuego Tortilla Grill, which was really good.   I had fish tacos and it was more than I should have eaten, but I probably could have eaten two more.  I loved them. Afterwards, I settled in my room to Skype with Kim while the kids hit the town again.  I got a good nights sleep because i knew the next day would be long.

We left the hotel in good order and got to the range in time to get ready to shoot as soon as the were ready.  We had to get on the road so we didn't chance missing the flight to Charlotte, and we wanted to eat at In-N-Out Burger.  After lunch, I dispatched the team while I waited for their call saying the van was turned in and they were at the gate in time to check in and make their flight.  After I got that teaxt, i turned right on I20 and headed east.  Texting helped me kep track of the team, who made it back, a little after midnight Monday, after about an hour delay in Charlotte.  MAJ Chris was waiting on them with a van and got them back to Mother I in good order.

I got to Birmingham about 0130 Monday morning, got a few hours kip at Bill and Sil's house, stopped by to see Mom (who was still asleep), and then drove to Lexington.  One I got here, I called the team who helped me unload the Chevy (which, buy now, I loathed), and Dave helped me go turn it in to Enterprise.  It took me five days and three-thousand miles to make this happen, but I think it was worth it.  Next time I'll fly the kids straight into College Station, which would have made it so much simpler.  Sometimes saving time is better than saving money.

When I look at all the things that could have gone wrong on this trip, I feel pretty lucky.  Had the Alabama Snow Storm happened one day earlier, I would have been caught in it.  That was some pretty bad stuff.  My Brother walked home from Birmingham Southern, six miles, in sub-freezing weather, through some of the most dangerous parts of a bobo...falling twice, bumping his head and losing his phone.  I'm taking him a Hay for his office next time I go and will issue a threat about what will happen if he tries that shit again.

Break Out is this Saturday.  I'll be so glad that the Rat Line is done.  If it will just stop snowing, I'll try to drive to to see Elise on Sunday and watch the Super Bowl with her...and Kim...who is already there.  I am not driving Bess on sloppy, salty roads.


19 January, 2014: Too Cold, No Fun

I took three Alums out to the T&S range yesterday do shoot a few rounds of Trap.  It was 24 degrees and the wind was blowing about 20 miles per hour.  It was brutal, but they wanted to shoot, so we did.  The Cadets I asked to help were really good sports about it and tried to get in some shooting of their own.  No one was overly successful.  Had it not been a buddy I worked with in Army ROTC here, I would have never gone out there.

I had duty last night and it was very quiet until about midnight, then we had a couple of incidents that made the time to Taps go by quickly.  It is really just too cold to do anything out there, so I walked the stoops, hid in the office for a while, walked the stoops some more, and kept this going till about 3AM.  I hate Friday Night, Saturday Night, and Sunday duty.

I turned sixty-one on Monday.  It was a quiet one with lots of well wished from the fb friends, old and new.  Kim and I went out to eat when I got home and I really appreciated her effort to do so.  She is only now feeling better from her respiratory infection.  My steak and lobster was delicious.

I'll be packing a bit tonight, getting ready for my solo drive to Texas for the A&M Clay Target Invitational next weekend.  I'll be taking the bags, guns and ammo so we don't have to carry them on the plane.  I'll leave this Wednesday and , hopefully, returning next Tuesday night.  The kids are flying down Friday morning and returning Sunday night.


12 January, 2014:  I Hate Politicians

Saturday we took about 150 Cadets to Richmond for the new Governor's Inauguration Parade.  We knew two days before the event that the weather was going to be shitty, but, the new Governor paid to see the Rabbit Jump, and he was going to see the Rabbit Jump!  It didn't matter to him or his flappers how many little kids got soaking wet as they lined up and waited for the two hours to step off.  He and his cronies didn't care about the fog and the hazardous road conditions we had to deal with to get us there and then get us home; they just wanted their all inclusive parade.  Politicians.  A Leader would have cancelled the parade early Friday.  We didn't care one way or another; we are used to embracing the Suck.  I just feel bad for the little kids.  And the folks in the wheelchairs.

We brought the cadets in on Thursday and practiced on Friday.  It was so easy with so few people.  We're used to taking the entire Corps on these things, so one tenth of the normal numbers made working with them a breeze.  Because we wanted to allow them to complete their furlough, we had some administrative hurtles, but the LT did a fine job on those.

I had to take Kim to the emergency room this afternoon.  She has an upper respiratory infection and though we tried to wait it out, she seemed to be getting worse.  The doctor proscribed a Z Pack for her.  I hope it works; she is pitiful.



8 January, 2014:  Canada Invades Virginia

Since January of 1982, extreme cold weather equals Canada.  This week, I have been reminded of the trip to Petawawa for Exercise Response Speciale.  The temperatures outside yesterday were below zero with, a 15 to 20 mile-per-hour wind.  Putting up and taking down flags has been high adventure and painful.

This morning I walked into New Barracks and the courtyard looked like an ice rink.  Icicles were cascading down from the railings on the second and first stoops.  Hummm.  Obviously, something was amiss.  It seems a window blew poen on the third stoop and one of the water lines froze and busted under a sink, flooding that room, the two next door, and six room below, three on each lower stoop.  The third stoop rooms are OK, but when water drains down, it goes through the electrical conduit passages and onto the desks below.  Think computers, monitors, clocks, gaming systems, bedding...

It's a mess.

The physical Plant guys are on it, and we're lucky that it should get above freezing today, but it is going to be a huge cleanup job.  I'll probably go in today and list the cadets in the flooded rooms to let them know what to expect when they return.


6 January, 2014: An Awesome AU Season

There have been and will be other Auburn Teams, but few will measure up to the 2013 Auburn Tigers.  They may have lost the national championship game, but they will be the Number 1 Tean on the eyes of War Eagle fans for a long time to come.  Starting the season un-ranked, after the miserable season or 2012, the slowly climbed the rankings defeating one team after another, falling only to LSU.  After that game, I told everyone, not only could we have won that game, it was an indicator of the quality and courage of this team.  After the A&M Game, I said to Kim, "We're going to beat Alabama."

Yes, we had some miracles along the way that resulted in tow big wins, but all games have their miracles.  Look at FSU's win tionight: Cody Parkey missed an easy field goal.  Our Hero CODY PARKEY!  Cody does not miss field goals.  The run-back made possible by a pulled hamstring or cramp and a returnable ball kicked by a kicker who always boots it out of the end zone...which didn't happen all night.  Two AU defenders running into each other and falling down on a pass play in our territory with just over a minute left, giving, allowing a run after the reception, setting up FSUs last and winning scoring drive.  The Fates favored ESU tonight.

This team will forever be remembered as one of the greatest teams in Auburn Tiger History.


1 January, 2014:  New Year's Together

Kim and I came back from Birmingham yesterday, which was a better plan than returning on the second.  Traffic was comparatively non-existent.  The trip down to Birmingham was not so lucky.  We hit two massive traffic jams in, where else, Knoxville and Chattanooga.  I hate those places.  Our normal nine hour trip took over thirteen hours.  Luckily the good company of Kim, Bill, and Sil made it bearable.

I made it home for Mom's eighty-fifth birthday.  Jim, Lynn, and Colin joined us at Sherry's Cafe in Trussville.  Mom loves the place.

So, with bad weather on the way, it looks as if Kim and I will spend the weekend quietly together until she leaves Monday for Newport News to hang out with Elise.  That leaves me to my own devices Monday through...whenever she gets home.  Next Saturday will be the Governor's Inaugural Parade and we have 200 or so Cadets returning Thursday Night, with Practices on Friday.

But the Big Big event is, of course the National Championship game Monday night.  There is no one in the Auburn Universe who thought we'd ba saying that this time last year, but here it is.  Let's Go, and War damn EAGLE!

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