My Journal: What's going on in 505 World
"Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us." ~ Oscar Wilde
Monday, 26 December, 2016: A White Christmas
After traveling all day on I-10, which was a pain, we're back in Savannah, having spent Christmas with Kim's family in Florida. We rented this great place, about a mile from Seagrove beach for Kim, Elise, Kim's sister Sheri, and me, for three nights.
It was actually hot down there.
Saturday, Cooper and I started walking toward the beach and kept going until our feet were in the surf. We had to climb a few gates since the locals have fenced uin the whole peach, but we weren't deterred by their pettiness or rules about No Dogs. Supposedly, there is a law that requires a permit costing $40 to take your dog on the beach...in Florida. What nonsense.
I can only assume this is because dog owners have not been picking up after their dogs, an epidemic problem at every rest stop on the way to and from. Cooper and I aren't those people.
After the walk and play time on the beach, I decided to call Elise to come get us. She and Kim showed up and we went to a public access beach to play.
That evening, the three of us went to dinner at The Great Southern Cafe at Seaside. Everything was good. Elise and I had the Flash-fried Calamari to start. That was super. I had a shrimp and grits dish called "Grits a' Ya Ya" and it was really delicious. I'd give it a solid A+ and rate it the third best restaurant shrimp-and-grits so far...the first being Langdon's in Mt. Pleasant SC and second place in New Orleans at Bourbon House. The best S&G I've ever had was prepared by my personal chef, Kimberly.
We all went to Buck and Heather's for Christmas Dinner. There was way too much good food there and loads of nice folks. It was a happy time. I love Buck's farm. It was pretty and all, but it would be way too much work at my age. I'll take a town house with a pool, internet, cable, and Panera's and Starbuck's across the street please. I bet it would be a great place to star gaze though.
I was happy to get on the road this morning. I think my family is in agreement: it was fun, but Christmas weather is supposed to cold, not 80 degrees. Next year, we'll spend it in Charlottesville at the new house.
We'll spend the balance of the year here in Savannah. I'll leave early morning on the 2nd to get to Lex in time to take down flags and watch the Sugar Bowl. War Eagle!
Sunday, 18 December, 2016: A Quiet Weekend
My main focus last week was preparing for Closeout, December Commissioning, and December Graduation. I wanted everything done so all I had to do this weekend was...nothing. I haven't even looked toward Barracks until this morning to make sure the flags were at full staff...a change to the honors for John Glen.
I've watched movies, worked on my web page, watched more movies, and started packing for our Christmas trip. Looking forward to this trip, just to get out of the cold here in Virginia. We'll start with Christmas at Jays, then do a few days in Savannah, and then go to Lower Alabama to the beach for Christmas Day.
I'll be taking the camera and computer so I can stay up with things.
We still haven't heard anything about the Inaugural Parade. Wouldn't it be easy if we didn't go this time. That's not the right answer, but it would simplify my life. Ah well. It'll be my last one.
Sunday, 11 December, 2016: A Week That Will Live in Infamy
My very long week actually began on Thursday, last week, as I drove down south on family business. I had been awake since 0500hrs that morning, taking the 2nd Battalion Color Guard to the Homestead to post the Colors for a Virginia Farm Bureau event.
I took Monday there as well and drove back that night, getting back to Lex around 0030hrs Tuesday morning. I was back up at 0600 to administer a urinalysis test.
Tuesday was our anniversary, so Kim and I went out to eat. The place was not what I had planned, but I was pretty tired.
Wednesday, Pearl Harbor Day, was another urinalysis test. That night, I had AOC in Barracks, so I didn't get in bed until midnight that night.
Thursday, I was up early, again, to take 13 Cadets to a WWII Vet celebration in Clifton Forge. The even was a state-wide event called "Dawn of Infamy: America Goes to War," simulcast around the state from several locations. The 2nd Battalion Color Guard posted the colors and they, and the other cadets, acted as escorts for the Veterans. It was a nice ceremony, though a little disjointed caused by the switching back and forth to Richmond for the main speakers.
I gave the Corps upper three classes a brief on how we'll probably do the inaugural parade. We've applied and usually get the invitation. We're still waiting but I can't imagine the President-elect's committee not wanting us there. I gave the brief to, hopefully, get them to take the practices we'll do seriously, and to show them what we looked like 4 years ago, which wasn't our best parade. I hope it helps; we want to look good. Great Actually. America expects it.
Saturday, I had OC, all day long, in Barracks.
Today, I cleaned my room at the house and caught up on my TV shows. That's All.
Friday, 25 November, 2016: Thanksgiving in Savannah
Elise set the most beautiful table last night for Thanksgiving. She, Andy, and Kim cooked up all the food, traditional fair, and it was amazing. I kept my portions small, but had to have seconds of Kim's dressing, Andy's turkey, Elise's sweet potatoes, and the ham Kim and I brought. Andy made a fantastic apple pie and Elise made a bourbon pecan pie...fantastic.
Wednesday, Sandy and I took Cooper to Bonaventure Cemetery, a beautiful and peaceful place, though hit hard by Hurricane Matthew. There were a lot of old trees down, which destroyed a lot of old grave markers, and there were piles of rubbish all over the place from the cleanup process. Still, it was beautiful; it's just going to need a lot of work. If I were in charge, I'd completely clean one section at a time; the amount of work would, otherwise, look overwhelming.
Elise took us to a Mex place called Los Bravos. It was amazing and a must if you're in the Pooler area. Jake, Brasco, and Jay got here in the afternoon.
I love the Spanish moss hanging from the ancient live oaks in this city. Thanksgiving morning, the family walked the 8th Annual United Way , 4 Mile, Turkey Trot around Daffin Park. The weather was perfect and the route took us through nice neighborhoods and along streets with huge live oaks that made each street a tunnel. It was a great way to begin the day.
Today I was back on schedule--get up late, eat a light breakfast, walk cooper, ... We're headed to an arcade to race go-carts, play putt-putt, and, if Jake has his way, to play air hockey. He's the master.
I plan to leave tomorrow morning in time to make it home for the Auburn-Alabama Game.
Monday, 21 November, 2016: Savannah (Pooler)
After closing Barracks on Friday, I went home and packed for my trip to Georgia. I woke about 4am, packed the car, and then got on the road by 6:30, after putting up flags. The trip went great until the last 30 miles where the traffic came to a standstill. Someone ran two Harley drivers off the road about 20 cars ahead of me. Both were air medevac'd. The hour wait made for meeting new people out of our cars in the middle of the highway, like the nice people from New York headed to Florida for Vacation, the long haul UPS trucker trying to drop off his load and make it home for Thanksgiving, and the little old lady walking her Scottish Terriers.
Since arriving, I've spent most of my time with Cooper. I love this boy. We've been out for two 3-mile walks already. Elise got in last night from New Port News and Brittany's baby's 1st Birthday. Jonathon and Jake will be here for Thanksgiving. Sandy is Here.
I like it down here. The air smells different. At Elise's house in Pooler, I'm surrounded by swamp, so I get lots of cool birds and critters right out in her back yard.
Sunday, 13 November, 2016: Preparations
Elise is on her way to Atlanta pick up Summer who is flying in from Arizona. Jonathon Came in last night. Yesterday morning we met with Jefferson Memorial Gardens to make the arrangements for cremation and a small grave side service for both Bill and Sylvia, and then went to Sherry's Cafe for lunch, always a favorite.
The afternoon was spent watching Auburn get handled by Georgia, not a happy time. The only thing that kept us in the game was defense, a couple of bad calls, and Georgia's own mistakes. Auburn couldn't run, throw, or catch all day. Sadly, every thing I said that needed to happen to put Auburn in the playoffs, happened. A&M lost again, Clemson lost, Washington lost, among others. That left open a road to #1 for Auburn if they could beat Bama, a tall order for sure, but a possibility at least. Well, until the Georgia victory. No Chance now boys.
After Jay arrived, we all walked to Hot Diggity Dogs for dinner and then watched MMA on pay per view. I called every match but the last one; that turned out to be a draw.
Friday night, we all went to Babalu Taco and Tapas, a fun place with good food. The Babarita, though it looks a little foofoo, was one of the best margaritas I've ever had. I had the shrimp and grits...which were...interesting. The grits were not really grits, more of a paste, I got four medium sized shrimp which were decent, and the whole dish was soaked in a gravy that gave the whole dish a fishy tacste. it wasn't bad, just not great. The cheese cake, too, was only so so. Everyone else raved over their food. I either made a bad choice or have just had much better shrimp and grits, which, if offered, I always order (read: I'm a S&G Snob). We had a great little waitress.
I'm headed home Tuesday, where I'll organize the close out of barracks for the week of Thanksgiving. I hope to sit down and write about the election...my thoughts, hopes, the good/bad/ugly. Perhaps writing will help me sort through it all.
Friday, 11 November, 2016: The Passing of a Great Man
Bill died today.
While the nation struggles with how to come together under President Elect Trump, my little family is once again assembling in Birmingham to say goodbye to one of our great loves. Kim and all the girls are doing fine. Buck, Jonathon, and I seem to be handling it differently. I guess this is because Bill had such a strong influence on our lives as a father figure, roll model, and confidant. He impacted everyone's life that he met.
Kim drove down on Tuesday when he went into hospital after a fall from which he could not get up. He was disoriented and weak, and his heart rate was down. He couldn't eat. They gave him what he needed to be comfortable. Kim called me Thursday to come home. Before I got to the hospital the next morning, Heather called to say he had passed away.
Bill was a graduate of West End High School, a veteran Air Force jet mechanic serving during the Korean War. Later he worked at Hays Aircraft in Birmingham and then for the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission. He married Sylvia in 1953 and became a real estate agent, land developer, and home builder. He was Vice President of Cole Company, Inc. when he passed.
We'll hold a memorial service for him at the church Monday night and bury them together Tuesday morning. Jonathon and Summer are on their way. Buck and Heather are already here.
Bill will be sorely missed but it is, as Elise said, fitting that he and Sylvia are back together on Veterans Day; they were a wonderful patriotic couple.
Sunday, 6 November, 2016: The Quiet
The kids just left and Kim and I have settled in for a quiet Sunday of TV Sports and little else. I drove to get her breakfast at Hardees and it's cold out there. As I'm sitting here, drinking a nice Junior Mint Hot Chocolate, I keep thinking how life will be after VMI. Just 19 months to go.
Yesterday, I think, was illustrative of how it may be.
Kim and I got up a little early, not too, and drove to Blandy Experimental Farm, near Winchester for a photo trip. She has been wanting to go see the ginkgo grove in Autumn for years, so we timed our visit by watching the photos of the grove on the web. Yesterday turned out to be the perfect day for colors.
The drive was nice. Even I-81 wasn't crowded, I assume because we left early. Once we got off the Interstate, we traveled little back roads through the rolling hills west and east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is gorgeous this time of year. We listened t the Auburn vs. Vandy Game on satellite radio as we drove. It was a close one where Franklin kept Vandy in the game with his ridiculously terrible level of play. Even the kicking game was off.
Our second stop was my choice and I chose to go back to Waterloo Bridge. The day I went this summer was incredibly hot, so there was no fun to be had that day. I remember thinking, "I should come back in the Fall."
I was right.
This whole day gave me a picture, a hope, of how the next phase of my life will be. I'm anxious to begin now. I've got my list. I know what I want to do. I can't wait to begin. I've been here too long, but the time here has set me up to do what I want in retirement.
"If memory is malleable, then the future is too, right?" ~ Lucy in As Cool As I Am
Sunday, 30 October 2016: Homecoming Weekend
I usually hate homecoming weekends. This one, however was mostly fun. Everyone seemed happy to be back, were, mostly, well behaved, and the physical plant did a great job with parking. The weather was perfect and both parades were well attended and the Cadets looked sharp. My Guard Teams were all over it and did a great job of denying access to people wanting to wander Barracks , sending them to the Guard Room to sign in.
Elise and Andy came in for the weekend. They brought along her friend Joel and his son Josh, a sharp kid intent on attending VMI. Kim and I set up the Canopy in the side yard and we all tailgated between Parade and the football game. Furman beat us pretty handily.
The balance of the day was spent eating, drinking, and watching Auburn beat a very good Ole Miss. Awesome Game! It all came down to the Third Quarter and Auburn finally intercepting a pass in the last few minutes of the game. After that, it was our ball game and even the Mississippi fans knew it.
Today has been quiet. The kids left about noon so I cleaned up the grill, yard, and took down the canopy, took care of the re-cycling and trash, and fed the birds. That being done, ...I think I'll take a nap.
Saturday, 22 October, 2016: Because Last Night I was Too Inebriated to Type
Yesterday was Airborne This and Airborne That, all fun, all day, all the way. We visited the new 82nd HQ and the JOC, Mitch and I argued about Land Nav in Area J. I won for the first time ever. The Group visited the Museum and I got to show Mitch his photo that Bob Anzuoni posted of him in Grenada, firing the M60 from his Gun Jeep.
We went to the pack shed and watched the riggers pack and do a deployment demonstration of the new parachute. All of the JMs there bet we could still conduct JMPI, no matter what chute was on a Trooper.
Then we went to the 2nd Battalion 505th PIR HQ and looked at weapons and other gear. I wanted to see the "2-Pantherville" sign, but it was being replaced after being stolen, but I got to show the CSM my photo under it with the 2-Panther NCOs in Panama out in his hallway.
Today, we all went to the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville. Nice Museum, but it will NEVER compare to the 82nd Museum which rivals any war museum in the world. Kim, Kendall, and I went for lunch down on Hay Street at the Blue Moon Cafe. The food there was only so-so and the service not so good. I wouldn't call my Club great, that's for sure. I'd call is bland. PLUS, it was 1400 and they weren't even crowded. They need a system. AND, their rest room was out of order...or a sign said it was, though I saw one of the waitresses go in and use it.
Tonight we had a banquet at the Iron Mike Conference Center on Ft. Bragg. I was balking, not really wanting to attend, but stayed, and we had a pretty good time. The highlight of the night was the Division Chorus who were fantastic. Yep, I just said that. I've never been a fan, but they were really good with a couple of new songs and not so many corny antics and in past years.
OK, the real highlight of the night was Auburn beating the crap out of Arkansas.
Thursday, 20 October, 2016: 1983 Revisit
Kim and I left this morning for Bragg and the Task Force 2/505 Grenada Reunion. We're staying in the Double Tree out on I-95 and we've already run into quite a few of the old boys from back in the day.
It should be a good time with visits to the 82d and Airborne and Special Warfare Museums, lunch in the 3rd BCT (that's Golden Brigade/2-505PIR to us) Dining Facility (Mess Hall), tours of Division and Brigade HQ Buildings, and a visit to Green Ramp.
I'm looking forward to seeing a few of the people who have signed up--Mitch Pigg (my all time best buddy), Tony Arguello (our platoon sergeant in Grenada wo none of us have heard from since), Kendall Nash and Todd Sigmund (if Todd is well enough to attend), and LT Jacques (out platoon leader during the invasion).
The Platoon was the first element of the Battalion to arrive in Grenada. We landed and exited the C141 in the dark and no one met the plane. We moved into a small wooded area at the end of the run way, locked and loaded, set up 360 security, and sent out contact patrols. It seemed like a short night as the battalion began arriving and assembling. At sun up, we organized and began moving out on our first missions to Mt Hartman Estates late the morning of 25 October.
It all starts again tomorrow at 0830. Can't Wait. Where's my M203?
Saturday, 8 October, 2016: My Buddy Comes Home
Elise and Cooper, and the entire community, evacuated Savannah ahead of hurricane Matthew. I met them Thursday night at the Ft. Lee exit on I95, loaded Cooper in Bess and drove him back here. Elise had plans with Andy in DC for the weekend and wisely brought Cooper along. He and I made it back to Lexington in time for a midnight walk around the parade ground.
Friday morning the rain began, cancelling both parades, and making for a stinky puppy. Now I'm trying to fit his walks and bathroom breaks inbetween the downpours.
Afton and Adam came by yesterday afternoon. Adam just finished Ranger and then Airborne schools. He's headed for Bragg and 1st Brigade on Monday. I envy him. Given the opportunity to do it all again, I'd jump at the chance.
Cooper and I went to Barracks this morning. Cooper loves Barracks. From 8-9 we had Open House. I went in, did an azmuth check with the guard room, made sure Barracks is cleaned up, handed off the key to the elevator to the Visitor Center Orderly, and unlocked the Little John storage closet. Then I went back home to wait on the start of the Auburn Game.
I checked on Catherine and she, her mom, and Bailey are all safe, but riding out the storm in Charleston. That's probably not a bad call since the storm has calmed down a bit and they aren't planning on traveling today. She says they still have electricity. I guess that's the biggest thing. Adore this girl; we're so alike.
Both teams, VMI and Auburn, had big wins today. Auburn looked like a winner, destroying Mississippi State in the first half. VMI played like I have never seen them, beating against East Tennessee State. They were all over ETSU's offense and were doing things on offense I've never seen them do. The croud was fantastic, loving every minute.
Tuesday, 4 October, 2016: The Greatest Generation
I didn't get a weekend, though it was better than expected. We had a heavy rain come through Lexington that lasted two solid days. It drenched the parade ground so thoroughly that we cancelled Friday and Saturday's parades. It made the cadets happy. It made me happy. I'm guessing the only people disappointed were the '61 and '71 Alumni who cwere here for their reunion weekend. Sorry Fellas.
The football game went as planned and I supervised the Little John Crew. Little John is our little cannon that we fire after touchdowns. It's made of brass and when I say little, I mean, not really. This thing has a four inch bore and packs quite a wallop. We have to be careful and make sure no one is down range when we fire it.
I stayed for about half the game, then the sun came out and drove me indoors. I'm going to have to take my baseball cap from now on. The team played well and took the game into overtime, but lost by three, kicking a field goal when the other team scored. Sad.
On D-Day, 6 June, 1944, the little town of Bedford Virginia lost nineteen young men on Omaha Beach. By the end of the campaign, three more had died. No community in the nation suffered so great a number, so when the families and veterans of Bedford proposed the idea of a National D-Day Memorial located there, there was a large about of support. It took years and the gargantuan efforts of a few good men, but it was finally built and dedicated on 6 June, 2001.
The park has struggled financially, but it grows steadily and it is well visited by the American people and visitors to the States. It is beautiful...a Garden. It is a quiet and solemn place. It is a place of reflection, of remembrance, and a beautiful history lesson.
Since 2002, we have taken each Rat Mass there to teach them their heritage, to begin their understanding of the Citizen-Soldier concept, and to begin teaching them Warrior Ethos. We show them Saving Private Ryan on the bus ride to and from. Once there, we send them in round-robin fashion, to ten stations, where Veteran's teach a portion of the event, concentration on the sea, land, and air battle, as well as the commanders, the political environment. When we first began in 2002, we had actual WWII vets at a few of the stations. Sadly, they are all gone now.
Still, I think it makes an impression. It seems to touch me a different way each time. I'm always drawn to Le Monument aux Morts as my first stop. The statute is a recasting of the original in France, commissioned to honor the forty-four men from the small town of Trevieres who died during WWI and damaged during the D-Day campaign. I love this piece of art. I like to think of it as perfected by war and sacrifice.
We arrived late. There was a wreck on I-81 and the bridge across the James River was closed, sending us all the way north of Lynchburg to get to the park. I kept the rotation at ten minutes so the rats would get the whole briefing at each station, and then the Commandant posted a wreath to honor the fallen and all who served.
We made it back to Lex by 1930.
Monday, 26 September 2016: Busy-Busy
Today was a wild day. I was up at five to go in for a random Urinalysis Test for twenty cadets. That went well with a good bit of help from LTC Kevin and the guard team. There is always THAT GUY....the one who can't go. Sometimes its a stalling tactic, hoping that if they take in enough water that they will somehow beat the test. Then there are the bashful few who just can't go on demand. Every once in a while, I get one who went just before we arrived at his room to wake him up.
I don't know what today's guy's problem was, but I knew how to fix it--Sit him in my office and give him two bottles of warm water and tell him to chug them, while I answered e-mails. Five minutes later, he was ready. And clean. Who Knows!
I went home for a quick breakfast and then back to the office to organize my day. At 1100hrs, I went to the range for the third class marksmanship program. Alpha Company was first up, firing the M4 Carbine. It took us a little over two hours to get all forty-one kids zeroed and qualified.
The rest of the afternoon went by quickly, answering a couple of specials and coordinating future U-Tests.
Kim and I went out for dinner as she got back in town from watching our grandson. Now were curled up in the living room, PJs on, about to watch the debate.
Monday, 19 September, 2016: The Morning After
I slept in this morning.
I had AOC in barracks last night, after a trip to Delaware with the T&S team, and two nights in a hotel. I was pretty beat when I got home. I checked out four academic buildings and the Library last night. I probably walked five miles. Mostly, the cadets were well behaved and properly dressed. I only had to write about five of them up.
The shoot went well, but we were thrown off by their Skeet ranges. They shoot from shorter distances and the birds fly a little slower. It took a while for the guys to get the hang of the different timings and leads. Mostly we had scores in the mid 80s and high 70s. One of the guys shot his first perfect 25 in Skeet. It's hard to beat people on their own fields.
We stayed at the Baymont Hotel and it was one of the nicest hotels we've ever stayed. My room was clean and comfy with a big flat screen TV. It didn't have a tub, but the shower was top notch. The internet was easy to access and fast. Breakfast could have been better, but it was you're standard free breakfast of sticky buns, coffee, and cereal. if we go back, we'll stay there again.
On the way back, we made the mandatory stop at Manassas to honor Jackson.
Friday, 16 September, 2016: On the Road Again
We practiced hard this week. Each cadet shot at least 350 rounds of Trap and Skeet, over three days. For us, that's a lot. We have precious little time to train, but we got it done. I'm hoping we're going to do well tomorrow.
We left today at 1300 and Google maps brought us here, around all of the bad traffic. It's great capability. The drive wasn't bad at all. We're at the Baymont Inn which i like a lot, though the Desk Clerk is a little set in his ways. I was going way too fast for him as we tried to check in. My room is very nice and clean. The range is only 12 minutes away.
Now for a good night's sleep.
Sunday, 11 September, 2016: A weekend off
Friday, 2 September, 2016: Narc Neel
For the past week, I've been up, Tuesday through Friday, at 0500, to go in and conduct a random urinalysis test. This an unhappy part of my job, one I've taken control of because it was a broken program, not really accomplishing much and unwieldy in it's process.
I began by researching a better test and found one built into the sample cup, with a top, clean and simple. It tests for just about everything and is very sensitive.
IT set up a random logarithm that selects cadets in groups of twenty for the days I'll conduct the test. I run a roster of staff to help, and the Guard Team wakes the selected cadets up at 0600. It goes fast and efficient.
This week we've had three cadets indicate positive for THC. Once that happens, my morning is ruined. I have to escort the Cadet to the hospital for another test to go to the lab. This is usually a two hour process. It's an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Drug use is a suspension offence for the the cadet, dismissal for hard drugs.
Still, they do it. It makes no sense to me.
Back in the late 1970's, when I first joined he army and the 82nd, drugs were everywhere, a holdover from Vietnam and the draft. These were mostly really bad people, hard cases, not soldiers. Even as a Private, I helped go after them and push them out of the army. I have never tolerated drugs, and I sure as hell didn't want to be serving with and jumping with druggies. A small corps of young officers and enlisted helped take back the barracks. We used drug dogs, health and welfare inspections, 100% piss-tests to catch them, and the army changed the rules to make kicking them out very easy. The heads started calling me Narc Neel. It wasn't a term of endearment. There were threats, but by this time I had built a reputation as someone with whom you didn't mess. As a Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, and First Sergeant, I became a terror to these people and an expert at putting them out of the army, even when the army soften the rules.
Still, they did it.
But here, I see the sadness in putting these kids out of school when everything in our culture tells them "It's not that big a deal." Almost every movie has someone lighting up. Their music is inundated with references. Their friends at regular colleges do it. Hell, I bet most of their parents do too.
It's a bad mistake here. Scholarships, commissions, and thousands of dollars are at stake. Still, they do it.
I took the afternoon off at 1500. I was tired.
This weekend I have duty in Barracks Saturday, but I'm off Sunday...not going to New Market.
Monday, 29 August, 2016: SSDD
Groundhog Day is over. How it all seems the same looking back over the years...same successes, problems, corrections, events, personalities. The danger is becoming complacent...thinking we have it all figured out. That's when the bad stuff begins to sneak back in.
Still, all I can think about is that I only have one more Cadre Week. One More Matriculation Week. One more of this; two more of that.
I got home tonight at 5:30pm...a good change.
Tuesday, 9 August, 2016: Respect
I was certain that Google Maps had me on a wild goose chase in South Carolina, Again. "Your Destination is On Your Right."
No it wasn't. There was nothing on my right but an old trailer, a lot of sand, and a few pine trees.
I was on my way home from Elise's new house in Savannah (actually Pooler), dropping off her share of Mom's furniture, pieces she picked out the day after the funeral, that I had stored in my basement until she moved to this new duty assignment.
I left Friday after work in a small rental truck, hoping to make Savannah by midnight, spend Saturday with Cooper, Kim and Elise, and then drive back Sunday. That plan was going well until I found out, after loading the truck, that the air conditioner didn't work. It was all down-hill from there. I sweated my arse off the whole way there. No AC on a 90 degree day. AWESOME!
Just before the I-81/I-77 split, I hit a gigantic thunderstorm, not a good thing when you have your windows down and, I discovered as the windoes began to fog, No Defroster. Luckily, there is a rest stop there, so I pulled in. It was so crowded that I had to park at the first slot, about 50 yards from the restrooms. Since the surgery, there is no "holding it" in my life, so I was soaking wet before I got to the restrooms, and completely drenched by the time I got back to the car.
Now the windshield was REALLY fogged up, so I had to sit in the cab, with the windows up and the heater on full blast, to make and headway. After about 45 minutes, I was back on the road. I made it to Elise's by 0100hrs.
Saturday was spent, traiding the truck for a small SUV (with AC), moving furniture, putting furniture together, and playing with Coop. Love that boy! That evenig, we went to Savannah and had dinner with Captain Sean, his wife Jamie, and his little girl Averie, at Treylor Park, a great little place just off River Street. The wait was long but the food was worth it. I tried everyone's food and it was all delicious, but I had the BLT on toasted Brioche and I'd get that again. I didn't share.
I had one stop to make on my way back, a visit to Pat Conroy's grave. I promised myself long ago that I would go visit his "Low Country" and his town of Beaufort, but didn't make it before he died. I met him a while back and was able to tour him around VMI and Barracks. On this tour, he told me I needed to see Beaufort. He spoke about it in such beautiful terms; I could tell he loved the place. I would call him my favorite Author, so his death saddened me.
I did my map recon, I knew where I was supposed to be going, but this looked nothing like where Pat Conroy would be burried. I had in my head something like the cemetery in Winchester, sculptured lawns, large oaks, shady lanes. As I looked for a place to turn around, I found it. It was a small, barren place, mostly new headstones, lazer etched with faces of Aftican-American people, in a sandy field, with a few pine trees and palmeto schrubs. I had to watch where I stepped to stay away from the fire-ant beds.
Pat's headstone was right up front on the right. It was a shrine, which I'm not sure he would like. People had placed all manner of objects there...something I assume that they felt connected them to Pat. The site was outlined with pinecones and littered with dried flowers, a little basketball, sea shells, pebbles, a quarter, a couple of crosses, and, what I thought had the best touch, two pencils, presumably a comment on Pat's inability to type and his writing out his books in long-hand.
I didn't bring him anything, but I came. And I drove through his town. It's as beautiful as he said.
Saturday, 30 July, 2016: Belle Grove, Cedar Creek, and Turner Ashby
I closed down Barracks last night about 1900hrs. Now I had a weekend with nothing to do. That's always a good thing. Since I did not finished my Civil War trip last weekend, I decided to go back up north to see the Cedar Creek Battlefield and Mount Hebron Cemetery. I woke up at 0430 ready to go
Since it was so early and traffic was light, I took I-81 all the way to the battlefield exit and turned south on Hwy-11. I was an hour too early for the Welcome Station, so I opted for a Bess Recon using the maps I took from The Civil War Trust web site, a great resource. It took me a while to orient the maps I had, mostly because I began at a small way-side describing the battle. The maps there were not orented to the ground and pretty confusing, but I figured it out. The battlefield is beautiful and pretty well protected.
The best place to begin, actually, is at Bell Grove Plantation. That's basically where Jubal Early's early morning attack began, pushing the sleeping Federals north. I was too early to visit the plantation as well. Nothing, it seems, happens around this little town before 0930hrs.
I drove around the back side of the farm and headed in the direction of the attack, desturbing some of the locals a bit as I drove down their road. One guy actually stopped and tried to flag me down, perhaps trying to be helpful, but I just waved and kept going. I reached the road that parralled the line of Phil Sheridan's counterattack, turned right, and followed it back to Hwy-11. Like so many of the smaller battlefields, this one is pretty devoid of markers. I went back to see one that I drove by, right at the entrance to Belle Grove, and it turned out to the the marker where Major General Stephen Ramseur died. A North Carolinian, he was only 27-years-old.
Next was the cemetery and finding Turner Ashby.
I took Hwy-11 up to Winchester, discovering that the locals refuse to wait for you to pass, but pull out in front of you even though your're going 60 and there's not a soul behind you. This happened four times. Sorry for using your road!
The cemetery, right in the middle of Winchester, is an absolutely beautiful place. The map at the entrance took me right to the Confederate area, so I walked from there through the garden, listening to the birds and the wind in the trees. It is a very peaceful place. I began in the Alabama area, then visited the Mississippi boys, the Texans, and the Virginians. I took a long time at the mass grave where the unknowns were burried. It's never lost on me, when I visit one of these mass graves, that my own Grear-great-grand father, John Clayton Neel, is buried in one at Shiloh.
Somehow, I missed the officer's graves and had to circle back around to find them. Ashby is one of my great heroes and one I used to teach my Scouts about when I was a young Staff. He and Chew's Artillery operated, during Jackson's Valley Campaign, very much like we did as Scouts back in the late 70s and early 80's. His cavalry tactics were a big reason Jackson was so successful and able to evade the three federal Armies sent to destroy him. His use of Artillery was why I trained my boys over and over again on Calling For and Adjusting Indirect Fire until they could do it without thinking. Standing at his grave was emotional enough, but next to him, was the marker of a young major who died at High Bridge in Virginia, a few days before Lee's surrender at Appomattox. At the base of the monument for the fallen of the Third Battle of Winchester is a quote that says it all, "These Honored Remains: Destiny's Debris When Diplomacy Fails."
I took Hwy-11 home.
Wednesday, 27 July, 2016: After the Rain
It is perfect out on the back porch tonight. We had a cooling thunderstorm this afternoon, a respite from the oppressive heat we have had the last two weeks. Now there is a gentle breeze blowing as the clouds head northeast over the Blue Ridge and the sun is slowly sinking behind the Alleghenies. I moved outside for the first time in about a month to type, taking along my Irish Mist, my new Watch Cup, a gift from buddy Paul Balassa '98, and a nice Aston Heritage cigar.
I love nights alone out here. When I leave, I'll miss this porch the most. We entertain guest back here almost all year, but the best times are like now, cool breezes, Kim's lighting and furniture, my favorite music playing, and nothing to do but what I want to do. Every old soldier needs a screened back porch. Wherever we end up in 2018, I'll have to have one or build one.
Kim, Cooper, and Elise are in Savannah. Sandy is headed that way with the RV. Elise will close on her house this Friday. I'll head down with Elise's share of Mom's furniture next weekend. That will be a fast trip.
Last weekend I took a trip up to northern Virginia to search for J. S. Mosby, Turner Ashby, and to see Waterloo Bridge. It was too hot and there was too much traffic for it to be an enjoyable trip. I came on home that night, missing Ashby, because the cemetery was closed before I got to Winchester. But, I was able to spend a little time with DJ. We had sushi at a nice place in Old Towne Winchester.
This weekend promises to be cooler, so, if it is, I may drive to Tazwell VA to see an old Neel cemetery there.
I'm thinking we settle in Savannah. I can think of no place I like better. The real estate is good there, it's hot, but there's little snow, it's the "real" South, and love the restaurants and Tybee Island. There is a military base nearby with all the facilities. They have live oaks and Spanish moss there. And the list goes on. I made one last night and sent it to Kim for input.
I'm definitely not going to Alabama. There is nothing there for me anymore.
Friday, 22 July, 2016: Bama, Barracks, and Bess
I'm in Barracks for the last night of my Summer Barracks Supervisor duty. As a matter of fact, this is the last night I will ever sleep in Barracks. That's HUGE! I am super excited about that. I can't believe it just dawned on me.
I won't be doing supervisor next summer and we don't stay here overnight any more, so tonight is IT!
I will be here to close down barracks on Friday as my last duty day of this job, but I'll be done with that by 1600hrs or so.
I just got back from a quick trip to Birmingham. I needed to see Bill. He's such a great man, and doing so well to have lost his wife a couple of months ago. He is so frail these days.
Kim, Elise, Cooper and I stayed in a little house, very nice, over by Avondale Park, that we have rented before. I like to take Cooper for walks in the Park, but the place is really getting run down again. The people who visit the park trash it every day and Birminghan does nothing to clean it up regularly. I wrote the Parks and Recreation Board this letter:
Hi. You guys need to fix the entrance to Avondale Park. There are a number of missing, bent, and broken Bollards around the entrance that make this beautiful place look run down.
I'm a Birmingham boy back home for a visit and this is the first chance I've had to walk the park in a very long time. I find that you have to stay on these things and, like graffiti, fix them immediately or they begin to pile up.
Some other things I noticed:
1. The old bleachers behind the ball field: an accident waiting to happen.
2. The mismatched bollards along 5th Ave So: why are those even there?
3. The eutrophication and trash in the pond: looks bad.
4. Trash: not bad and I picked up some of it: this should be a daily thing.
Please pardon my directness.
Crusader Arrogance or typical Sergeant Major? You decide.
The food in Birmingham was great. We ate at Fancy's on 5th, and great oyster and burger place. We met jim, Lynn, and Colin and I invited Owen to join us. The food was super, especially the Key Lime Pie! We met Sally and Sherri the next day at East 59 cafe and that was good too. I really like this place, though they'll probably need to move soon...the revitalization attempt of this area just isn't happening. This is what I'm looking for in a place to live...fun eating establishments...just not in Birmingham.
Kim and Elise stayed, to travel to Savannah for her new job and move in. I'll follow up in a couple of weeks with a van of furniture.
Tomorrow and Sunday, I'm off on a Civil War trip to NOVA. I'm visiting DJ in Alexandria first, then plan to stay in Culpeper and use it as a base as I hunt for Mosby and Ashby, photograph Waterloo bridge before it's gone, see the train station at Montpellier, and walk the battlefield at Cedar Creek.
Sunday, 17 July, 2016: Bad Juju
The world is fucking nuts! Cops attacked while protecting a peaceful demonstration in Dallas, Bastille Day celebrators run over by a truck in Nice France, and now an attempted coup in Turkiye...and this was just this past week.
The first two are easy to explain--There are bad, crazy people in the world. The coup is not so simple.
Many of my friends have asked me, "What's going on over there?" I guess because I have been assigned there three times and because I love the place and my Turk friends, they think I have some kind of insight into the Troubles.
Maybe I do, but I also think you have to be a Turk Citizen to understand.
So, here's my spin:
Wading through this current situation is tough. There is a lot history here that would take days to explain.
Turkiye is a democratic republic by constitution less than 100 years old. Before that they were called the Sick Man of Europe, a declining Muslim caliphate that at one time ruled the Mediterranean basin. After WWI, when the allies split the country up and gave it away to each other, a small group of Turkish military types, led by Mustafa Kemal led an uprising that deposed the Sultan and kicked the Europeans out.
Mustafa Kemal, called Father of the Turks (Ataturk), became the first president of the republic, changed the alphabet, enforced separation of church and state, banned religious attire like the fez and the hajib, and made the military the protector of the constitution. He was a genius.
The military had stepped in many times in the past to protect the secular aspects of the government.
For the last few years, the ruling party of Erdogan has been voted in by a majority vote. Erdogan has strong Muslim leanings and has taken aggressive steps to solidify his position, squashing dissent, other parties, military leadership, and the media. He has pushed legislation that is clearly for religious observance. He becomes more autocratic and dictatorial by the day.
There is a large part of the population that believes in the secular Turkiye of Ataturk and see changes by the Erdogan government as an affront to that institution. Some of these folks reside in the Military.
This attempt, was probably believed by the perpatraters to be for the good of the country, but it was ill planned and poorly executed. It will be used, I believe, by Erdogan, to crush any and all opposition to his rule and help him solidify his position of Power. He's already requested extradition from the US of a self-imposed Turk exile. For What, having a dissenting opinion?
No Matter. The people have spoken. They want democracy, not a military take-over. What they will get for their efforts remains to be seen.
I fear the worst but wish for my wonderful Turk friends happier days.
I have heard from them all and they are safe and sound.
Saturday, 9 July, 2016: Virgil
I no longer believe in divine providence. No, all things don't happen for the good to them who love the lord. Life is a random mess. Sometime it works out for your good, sometimes it doesn't.
No doubt I lived a charmed life. I had great parents, I wanted for nothing, but it wasn't easy for my parents to make ends meet. They raised me well. I live outside, on my bake, playing ball, and traipsing the woods behind our house, so I was fit, and chose a profession that kept me that way...though it could have just as well killed me under the silk of a parachute or at the wrong end of a bullet.
There were times when my former belief system convinced me that there must be a divine design for my life. "God loves you and has a perfect plan for your life" we were told.
One of those times was in Jump School.
I got to Ft. Benning injured, a result of the 20-mile march at the end of Advanced Infantry Training. My knees were shot and walking was agonizing.
As soon as I got to my airborne unit, I asked to go on sick call, the first time I had had to do that since joining the Army six months earlier. After x-rays and a lot of does this hurt bending, twisting, prodding, and poking, the Doctor explained I had irritated the muscles that held my knee caps in place, letting them rub up and down the knees with every step. He told me it was doubtful that I would ever jump out of planes, gave me an extremely limiting profile, some crutches, and set up appointments with the physical therapist.
I was devastated.
As I sat out on the front steps, trying to regain my composure and figure out what I was going to tell my family, a pair of sparkling jungle boots appeared in front of me. "Hi John. What's Up? It was Ranger Virgil Geiger, one of the guys from my church who preceded me into the Army, a bit of a hometown hero, and a guy I looked up to in a big way. He was one of the hardest looking men I had ever seen, built like a fireplug, darkly complected, with skin pockmarked since childhood. In his black beret and starched fatigues, Sergeant's Stripes, Jump Wings and Ranger Tab and 2nd Battalion Scroll, he was an imposing figure. I struggled to my feet, stood at parade rest and explained. He quietly listened.
When I was done, he looked at me sternly and said, "You need to be Airborne. Rip that profile up, stop your whining, live with the pain, and get your ass back in training." Then he walked away.
I did exactly that. I tossed the profile in the trash and caught the shuttle bus to the Post Exchange. There, I bought two elastic knee braces. I went back to my room and rubbed my knees from the top down to position the muscles where the doctor said they should be, and pulled the knee braces down over them. I reported to the first sergeant who asked no questions, but sent me right back to training. Every evening I stretched and did 100 deep knee bends. By jump week and graduation, I could do the runs without limping and made all the jumps without much pain.
Back then, I took it that Virgil was sent by god in my time of need. Now I know it was just a coincidence, happenstance...serendipity. Once you're in the army a while, you realize how small the army is. It was not even great odds that he be at Ft. Benning that day, at that time, in the hospital. These kind of things happen all the time in the army. Had he not been there, would I have passed Jump School? Who knows, but I appreciate what he did for me that day
Virgil made it to Command Sergeant Major. He fought heroically in more than his fair share of wars. He died after a long struggle with cancer a few years ago. I hope I thanked him.
Monday, 4 July, 2016: A Gloriously Wet Independence Day
It's the 4th of July and Nothing is going on on post here at VMI. All of the celebratory events planned by the downtown rotary club were cancelled this morning because of the heavy rains. Of course, most everyone is disappointed, and of course the weather is perfect out there right now. Aww. Too Bad.
If you know me well, you know how I hate the 4th of July here at VMI. I love the holiday. Independence Day is my favorite holiday, Kim and I always invite friends over for food and drinks, but the day is practically ruined by the locals who come for the carnival food, hot air balloons, mediocre music, and bouncy castles. I call the vendors Carnies and the locals Riff-Raff. They park wherever they want, set up picnics in my front yard, walk right past the "Cadets Only" signs into Barracks, and generally act in a garish manner foreign to this place.
In the past they have hit my car, taken break from the sun on my front porch, walked through my yard right through where we're hanging out as a family, and I've even seen one female let her kid urinate in the gutter in front of my house.
So, when I say I'm hopeful that the day will be nasty and no one comes, you had better believe I'm being truthful. This year was the best year in the eleven years I've lived on post...and I was at work most of the day.
One more and I'll celebrate in my own house, away from the Carnies and Riff-Raff idiots.
Sunday, 3 July, 2016: Back in Barracks
I'm back in Barracks for the next five nights, all day to day and tomorrow. I took this weekend to pay back the others for taking up my slack last summer. I owe them.
Saturday, 2 July, 2016: A Bit of Reflection
It seems appropriate to me that I should do a comparison, now that I'm into July, on the past year and the differences I hope to experience in this coming year. Most people, I assume, do this in January, but last year's paradigm began in the summer, reached a crescendo in the winter, and maintained the pace and direction through April and May of this year.
Last this year at this time, I was in the hospital hoping to save my eyesight. I had just gone through one surgery and would have to do another on Independence Day. The first surgery fixed the problem with my eyes but left my cranial spinal fluid seeping out of my sinuses. The second surgery fixed that.
When they finally let me go home, I think I slept for about 36 hours. I was tired. There is no rest in the hospital. They prod and poke and test and stab you all during the day and night...I assume to cover their asses, but if sure doesn't make for a relaxing time.
Before school began in the Fall, I took 20 days on convalescent leave and went to Elise's. I knew I had to get away from here, because every little thing angered me and sent my blood pressure through the roof...not a good thing for a guy who has just had people tinkering around inside his head.
I tried getting away in the Keys before the surgery, but that didn't help, thought I loved it, because my eyes seemed to be fading faster and faster. Driving was becoming an issue as I lost my peripheral vision. I couldn't run because my footfalls were getting dangerous.
In the Fall, Mom took a turn for the worse. She passed away in November, a blessing for her, really. She was in such completely bedridden, in pain, scared, and so confused. I know she felt alone; all of her loves had disappeared from her memory. But she remained the sweetest woman who ever lived until the very end. After the funeral and clearing up her affairs, I hoped for a little upturn.
In January, Sylvia was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer, the killer. She elected to live out her days drug free and at home, as I knew she would. She bravely lived life to this fullest until the end. We were all surprised how quickly it took her life, one of the the most beautiful lives ever lived. She was gone by April.
May was a blur. I barely remember it.
My Summer has gone well so far and I expect things to get better and better for me. This is my next to the last year here at VMI and I plan to concentrate on the things I know are important and put aside the minutia that invades my job. I also plan to work a lot less in the next two years. Next year I'll hand off the Trap and Skeet Team to a new coach, stop doing AOC and OC, and stop supporting the Mid-winter Formal and Ring Figure drunk fests at the Hotels. Starting this year, I plan on declining all invitations to social events and gleaning down the away events that are absolutely necessary. I just bought a set of OG 107s that I'll have sewn soon with rank, name tapes, CIB, Master wings, and sandwiched 82nds. I found brand new jungle boots and have a new beret. My plan is to have it ready for the last week I'm here and wear the uniform of my time favorite times in the Army.
One thing that will make me happy will be to transition from being called Sergeant Major to being called "John." I want to hang up the uniform sooner rather than later. 42 years in uniform is too long for any man.
John. I like the sound of it.
Sunday, 26 June, 2016: Cooper Watching
Cooper and I just got back from a rousing game of fetch. This boy may be part poodle, but he is all retriever. He's so big and fast these days, that I had to go to Wal-Mart and get a tennis ball thrower; my poor thrown-out little league baseball arm just has no distance anymore.
He's so well behaved these days that I can take him out on the parade ground without chancing an escape attempt. I still have to keep a look out for other dogs, pretty girls, and little kids. He loves greeting them, even when they are halfway across the field.
I've never been a dog person. When I was young, the family had a dog, Mitsy, a white Spitz. Mom and dad got her for Jim when he was a little boy, so she was about a year older than I was. She was a sweet dog, but I was more of a cat person. We had a lot of cats during the Wahoma years- Jinx, Oscar, Miki, Grendel, Griselda, and finally Tiki. Mitsy, Miki and her last kitten, Tiki, moved to the Huffman house with us when the highway took the Wahoma house. Tiki ran off not long after, and Miki died of old age when I was eighteen. Mitsy held on until I was twenty or so, making her at least twenty one.
When the kids began talking about getting dogs, I was against the idea. I didn't want to become a puppy sitting service and I knew I would, especially since Elise was in the Army. Shamed by Kim into submission, I went with Elise to pick out this "damn dog."
She got pick of the litter, so we got there early. They were all the cutest pups I had ever seen, and most were wrestling around together, except one. One of the puppies stopped playing with the others and stared right at her the moment she walked in. When she approached them he watched her. As she looked at the other pups, he watched her, played a bit, then watched her some more. He honestly had the cutest face of them all and when she picked him up he nuzzled into her neck and closed his eyes. I said, "this is your dog." She agreed and we were on our way home in minutes. We would pick him up a month later.
He has become a big part of the family. Everyone loves him He is a sweet boy and smart like a whip. He's fun and mischievous, but never destructive, eager to please, obedient, and well behaved. As far as I know, he has never had an accident in the house, and Elise has done a great job training him. I'll claim part of that.
Now I look forward to his visits. I get to keep him during field training exercises, two deployments so far, and he was my best therapy as I recovered from my surgery. It was as if he sensed that I had to go slowly and gently paced me every where I went. Now he's my fitness partner. We've been walking three miles or more each morning and walk three times a day around the parade ground. His mom will be in this weekend, so I'll have to share him. That's OK.
Saturday, 18 June, 2016: Better and Better
I'm back in Barracks today, but that's fine. Tomorrow will be a whole lot better. Elise is coming in and bring Cooper to stay with me a while. She's packing out for her next duty assignment next week. Kim and Sandy are headed back to town and should be here Sunday night as well.
Can't wait to spend time with my boy. I'm buying him a baby pool and hope to take him to the river for some swimming. I also need a tennis ball launcher to save my bad right arm (too much pitching as a kid) and give him more distance to fetch.
I'm spending the day watching Key West again. I'm dying to get back down there. I can't do it this year, but I may make it to Beaufort and Savannah. Kim and I will go see Bill soon....sometime after the 7th of July, after my next 5-day stretch here in Barracks. That's when Summer will really begin for me.
Thursday night I drove to Charlottesville and had dinner at Panera with Barbara, Jake, Kelly, and Emily. Kim pointed out that I don't make the effort to see everyone while she's gone and that may be true. OK, it's true. I'll blame the little bit of time off I get around here and my desire to do MY Stuff. I could say Need. But, Thursday, I figured out that I can go see them, also a need, and combine my love for driving and my love for food in the trip. It just takes a little preparation and four fun hours out of time I would probably spending doing nonsensical things.
Tuesday, 14 June, 2016: Mountain Vista?
By Monday morning, I had had just about enough of being alone in the house. I missed Kim and decided to make the six hour drive to meet up with Kim, Kathy, and Sandy in the Poconos a campground called Mountain Vista. It is so beautiful up here. The trees are huge, it's super quiet, and the area reminds me of when I was at Indian Town Gap. I remember thinking while I was there, "This is what the Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood should look like." That what this looks like.
Last night Sandy and I sat outside in our lawn chairs, the ones we had in Key West last Summer, and started a nice little camp fire. It was almost as relaxing as Key West. I can't wait to get back there next summer.
We're supposed to be in the Pocono Mountains, but I sure can't tell. I'd call them hills. Hell, we have bigger hills than these in Alabama. Maybe I'm not seeing them for all the trees. This is serious hardwood forest up here.
We went into Stroudsburg today to look around and it was nice. It looked a bit like the town went sleep in the 1940s and never woke up. Most of the people were pleasant and friendly and the place was clean. We ate at Siamsa Irish Pub and they fed me the best pastrami sandwich I have ever eaten...seriously. Sandy Agreed.
After that, we went to an old mill, now an antique mall, the Olde Engine Works Market Place. The old machine works were cool, but I'm not really into junk malls. Kimberly, LOVES them.
I'll head back to Lexington tomorrow with Kathy riding along. I have duty tomorrow night and must be back by 1600hrs.
Saturday, 11 June, 2016: Bess and Ashley
I'm back in Lex; drove in Yesterday morning.
I got up and washed Bess from top to bottom before it was 9am. Met Ash, Nolan and Eric at Foothill Mama's for BBQ.
Friday, 10 June, 2016: Zombie Attack
This morning, just before Midnight, Cooper woke me up barking and quing on the back door to Elise's apartment. I was there supporting her through some really messed up Army bull shit, but that's another story for another time.
Next we heard someone banging on her garage door. I dressed, grabbed my pistol and headed out to investigate. The first thing that she and I thought was that it was one of the disgruntled soldiers she was putting out of the army. I went out back and couldn't see a thing, so I went back in and grabbed my little flashlight. I didn't take my cell phone, which was a mistake.
When I turned the flashlight on and began scanning the woods behind her house, I heard a male voice yell, "Fuck You Bitch." I began moving in that direction and almost stepped on a young guy, completely naked, in the front-leaning-rest, in the middle of the road, mumbling, over and over, insults directed toward the Stairmaster. As I walked toward him, his arms gave way and he hit the ground with a loud splat. I asked if he was OK and if he needed help, and then, quicker that I've ever seen anyone move, he jumped up and was all over me, arms flailing.
I quickly parried and gave his left ear a hard Cupped Ear Slap, what we once called a Ear Cuff in hand-to-hand combat. It is an effective technique that drives massive amounts of air pressure into the ear, and had the perfect result this time. He stumbled to his right, almost fell, and I side-stepped, drew my pistol, and began to quietly explaining to him how badly I would hurt him if he came at me again.
I'm assuming, because I had the light in his eyes, that he couldn't see that I was almost twice his size. He couldn't have weighed more than a buck fifty and stood six inches shorter.
The fight was out of him. He said simply, "You Win."
I told him to begin walking away and trailed him at a good distance until he was well past Elise's house, then I went in and called the Police. It took them about 20 minutes to get there. By then, he was probably gone. I hope thy got him.
Here're my AAR on the incident.
Sunday, 5 June, 2016: Uuugghhh
Surprise! I'm back in Baracks for the night.
I came in last night to take a look at the flooding damage in Barracks, and while talking to Colonel Gary, I realized that I had Barracks duty for one more night before my long break. What an unhappy realization that was.
Yesterday was Jake's Birthday party and Kim and I drove up early to help with set up. Well, Kim helped while I watched Emily. It was really the first time I've had her all to myself and we had a good time playing and walking around the pool. Jake ahs his buddies played with maximum effort at he pool for two hours, and by the time we got him home, he was too tired to enjoy the presents and cake. He was just over tit, mostly over his two buddies that he invited. I'll have to say, they were pretty obnoxious. I. however, was not to tired to enjoy the cake.
Just before Kim and I got to Lexington, there was a downpour like we haven't seen is a while. We noticed the problems righat as we hit Post. A large portion of the water catchment area wall had washed out into Saunders Drive and the road was blocked off as the P2 crew worked to clear it. What I didn't know was that the drains were clogged in New Barracks, and the overflow went down the TAC Stairs into the concourse, flooding the hall, the Barber Shop, the Barracks Study Room, the Flag Room, the Commandant's Conference Room, and probably the Mail Room and Armory...OUCH! By the time I was made aware of this, the mess was pretty well cleaned up.
Today, I've doing a little clean-up myself, but mostly, I've been watching movies.
Friday, 3 June, 2016: Change of Command
Yesterday was Elise's Change of Command. She's off soon to her next duty station. I got up early in Barracks, came home, changed to civvies, and met Sandy out front at seven. The drive went better than ever, no traffic, and we made it to NN in almost exactly 3 hours.
Kim had come in the night before, so we picked her up at E's house before going to Eustice. The ceremony was right inside the gate at the Museum and under a shed among a cool display of Army vehicles, boats, and planes. The ceremony was short and sweet, and we were at lunch in no time. Elise chose Jose Tequila's, I think for the gigantic margaritas, but good food was really good as well.
I rode home with Kim, she drove because I was still super tired from my 6-night stay in Barracks. About Charlottesville, we rank into a heavy rain that lasted until I-81. We got back in plenty of time for me to get back for my last of seven nights straight in Barracks.
Sunday, 29 May, 2016: Eight Days and Seven Nights
I have allowed myself, by trading, to get stuck in Barracks for , what may be, an unbearable amount of time. While everyone else is cooking out or wading in their back yard (Texas), or dodging trees on I-95 in South Carolina (Kim and Elise), I've moved into Barracks until Friday morning. It is so boring! There aren't many kids here, so the place is quiet as a church. Happily, I have my things around me. I brought food from home which is good, because the PX and mess are both closed. I brought books to read. I have my laptop for fun and my work computer to do work.
Netflix and Xfinity are my friends. I have run out of Supergirl episodes.
Kim and Elise made it to NN safely, but I think it took them about 14 hours. Then my girl decided to drive back to Lex after that. She's a road warrior.
Three nights Down! Four to go.
Tuesday, 24 May, 2016: Summer School
For the last three days I've been checking kids into Barracks rooms for Summer School. This is a simple process because we have a plan. First, we have to decide where we'll put them. This is usually determined by where work needs to be done. This year we'll be working on some concrete repairs and window refurbishment in Old Barracks, so that puts the summer students in New Barracks. Depending on the numbers, I try to compress them to as few rooms as possible, leaving the rest to be cleaned and waxed by the custodial staff, and then locked until Fall. Butch and crew appreciate that.
I opened up Barracks early on Sunday, made sure the room doors were unlocked, posted a few directional signs, then sat in my office for them to show up. It went smoothly and I was in bed by midnight. I moved a a rack from an adjacent cadet room into my office, moved the furniture, borrowed an admissions hay (mattress), and made my barracks bed with two poncho liners, a quilt from home, and one of my pillows. It's pretty darn comfortable, but not like my bed at home.
The next night belonged to others on the staff, so I only worked days.
Sunday, 21 May, 2016: Sal and Patricia
Saturday, Kim and I slept in late, then dressed and headed to The Inn on Pamlico Sound for Sal's wedding. It was beautifully done and held on a beautiful veranda overlooking the Sound. I expected a traditional Catholic Italian wedding, but this was more "new-age" and very well done by a young pastor of unknown religious leanings. I liked the service he led, especially the part where he had them stop to take it all in and just look into each others eyes. Nice Touch!
I thought about what I'd say to Sal when I had a moment, but he stole my thunder with a surprise announcement about his future to Kim and I. I was planning to tell him that when you meet the right girl, you begin to think in different terms than you did before. Instead of dangerous terms, you begin to think about a home, a life, security, happiness, the future... children. It seems that he has figured this out for himself.
After the wedding, Kim and I got on the road. I wasn't looking forward to driving in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, and this was a better way of doing it. I think we'd done about everything there was to do out there on the island, and the day looked like heavy rain all day, anyway. It was a nice time, but I was ready to be in my room, in my house, in my bed, surrounded by MY THINGS!
This morning I got up late, got ready, came in, unlocked Barracks, prepped the room sheets, and posted a few signs directing the cadets to New Barracks through Marshall Arch. I've been signing them in one at a time all day, since Noon.
While I waited, I just watched the best movie--From Time to Time, a time travel movie set in England during WWII. Loved it.
Friday, 20 May, 2016: Ocracoke
Today was eventful. After a nice run and breakfast, Kim and I drove to the ferry landing for the trip over to Ocracoke. We drove almost right onto the boat, and the forty-five minute trip went by quickly. The traffic on the drive down the island was light, so the thirteen miles slid by with not problem. I liked this place better than Hatteras; it's much better kept.
We went shopping for a while, but she didn't find anything she really liked. While she shopped, I played with the cat out front. I miss having a cat.
Lunch was at my favorite place yet, Howard's Pub and Raw Bar Restaurant. I had a oysters on the half shell and a bit of Kim's very delicious burger. The decor in this place was what I like the most, starting with the huge 82nd Airborne flag hanging from the ceiling. Personalized car tags were hung all about and I thought how nice one of my "Neel 505" tags would look hanging there. I may just have to send him one.
On the way back, Kim and I took a walk through Buxton Woods, a self guided tour explaining the ecosystem of the Outer Banks. It was beautiful and very educational. Kim was a little spooked after the panel showing all the snakes that inhabited the area. We didn't see a one.
On a final exploring drive, we found another great story, two British Sailors, buried on the Island, after their ship, the HMS Bedfordshire, which was torpedoed by U-552 in May 1942.
Supper was at Sandbar and Grill, moved to Buxton and reopened after Hurricane Isabel of 2013 completely destroyed it. My crab cakes were yummy and the staff was fantastic.
Tomorrow we'll commune with Sal's family as he and Patricia get married, then we'll head home to Virginia; I have duty Sunday night.
This has been a great trip.
Thursday, 19 May, 2016: Hatteras
Kady and I left Newport News after breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I tried a new special they were featuring after seeing a photo entering the dining room and having a huge Pavlovian response. Lemon-Blueberry French Toast!
The drive down was a bit rainy, but nice. My favorite part is having to pay $3 to leave Virginia. "Thanks for visiting, now give me three dollars."
We drove almost all the way to the end of Hatteras, exploring the area, before checking in. We're staying at the Cape Hatteras Bed and Breakfast and it's a really nice place. Our room is a little small, but efficient and well furnished. After a well deserved nap (Elise woke me up at 0630 to play with Cooper), Kady and I went for food. We chose The Captain's Table just down the street. It was delicious. Kim had fried shrimp and a crab cake. I had broiled shrimp and pickled vegetables. Everything was delicious and the service was really good.
After dinner, we drove to the ferry landing and to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, thinking we'd like to see that and take the ferry to Ocracoke Island.
Today, I got up late and went for a short run. Not having run since before the 4th Class FTX, made for a pretty slow pace before I warmed up. I twa quick to realize that there are not a lot of places to run where we're staying, but we took a walk today and I found a few roads I didn't find this morning. The only problem getting to them is the very deep sand here. This isn't like California or Virginia Beach. The sand is deep and loose here.
We're staying at a bed and breakfast, so after my run, Kim and I went up to the dining room. The Chef made me the tastiest omelet I've ever had and Kim's looked equally delicious. I can't wait till tomorrow.
After breakfast, we drove to the museum, stopping on the way to watch the kite boarders. This looks to me to be a pretty cool pastime, but I'm not sure I have the multi-tasking capabilities to do all the tasks at once.
After visiting the museum, which was very cool, we went to the lighthouse. I climbed to the top while Kim took photos; Kady doesn't do heights. She and I came away with a couple of books, Kim's about the Hatteras lighthouse light and me a small book of Outer Banks Stories. Kim also bought a fun print of the lighthouse, illustrating the architectural corbels and stairs.
Lunch was at Buxton Munch Company and we had Fish and Steak Tacos... gigantic portions and very good. After lunch we went exploring the dunes along the Atlantic side. I was cold and very windy, so not very enjoyable, but we were able to se the erosion taking place here. Home owners are bringing in loads and loads of c[sand hoping to save their property, buy the ocean levels continue to rise and the storms seem to be getting stronger and more frequent. You can see the frustration of the people. Storm damage has been left uncorrected, wear and tear stay unrepaired, and the place looks unkempt. It is a shambles. I'm guessing Jake's kids won't have the Outer Banks to visit.
Supper was the best meal so far. We ate at Rusty's Surf and Turf, the place run by the chef here at the bed and breakfast. I had the Low Country Shrimp and Grits, the best shrimp and grits I've had in a very long time. For desert, Kim and I shared a salty caramel cake with fresh whipped cream. It was delicious.
Wednesday, 18 May, 2016: Getting Away
I got up early this morning an took Mister Cooper for his morning walk. It was misting out, but he and I didn't mind. We made it a quick trip. then came back in so I could get ready for our trip to the outer banks.
Yesterday was barracks close-out. Graduation took a bit longer than usual because Senator Kane was quite longwinded. I bet there is not a soul who sat in the audience could tell you one thing he said. Blah-blah-blah. The guy droned on for over thirty minutes. I will forever remember him as the governor who made little kids stand out in the freezing rain so he could have his inaugural parade. I didn't mind that we were out there; we were wearing big wool overcoats, but the high school and grammar school kids were out there in light jackets. Bad Call Tim.
My plan kicked in as soon as Commencement let out. I had a Commandant Staff assigned to each stoop with a ATAC assisting. The Cadet S4 had twelve cadets roaming barracks. All were inspecting and the Staff pushed. I locked the gates at 1730hrs. Done!
New Market Day was Sunday. My favorite parade of the year is New Market Parade. This year, I tried marking the parade ground early, then COL Fridley decided to put them at close interval, which messed up my plan. No biggie. I'll have it fixed for next year. The Firing party was great...most every round fired and the were well synchronized. The pass-in-review is always emotional.
The 4th Class FTX went well. Nobody died, nobody got lost (one team was a bit off track, but still headed in pretty much the right direction), and the weather was fine. Each year, there is a glitch, and this year it was the missing water barrel, the 100 gallon tank that we haul on the back of a pickup truck to water the Cadets out in the forest. It seems, two members of the staff decided it would be a great idea to store it off post and not tell anyone who uses the thing. This took three hours of searching out of my already busy day. I think someone owes me a bottle of scotch.
I just took Cooper to Femmes and Fidos for puppy day care. I miss him already, but I get to keep him for two weeks at the end of the month.
Sunday, 8 May, 2016: First Trip of Summer
Kim is away in Birmingham and I'm caught up at work, just waiting for the NCMT FTX to begin. That left me with a Saturday with nothing much to do. Bess was clean, so I didn't feel the "need" to do that. I did have some photos from one of my old troopers to scan, so I spent the morning to do that. I recently found Craig Fluharty on Face Book. He was my driver from back in the early 1980s, before Grenada, and had a stash of decent photos of the Scout Platoon from back then. I asked him to loan them to me, and he obliged.
Sandy called about noon needing my filter wrench. He's in town, staying up at the Lee-Hi RV Park for the next month. I actually have a wrench, though I never do my own oil any more; I ran it out to him.
After lunch, I decided to hike a bit of Douthat State Park, so I took the drive out through Goshen Pass and Goshen to SR 629. The drive was fun and beautiful though I had to follow some pretty slow cars and trucks.
I parked at Stony Run parking area and started up the trail. It was an easy climb, but crossed the stream about six or seven times. Sometimes there were stepping stones, sometimes not. I was happy I chose my Timberland hiking boots instead of my Asics running shoes. On the way up, I kept my feet completely dry. On the way down, I sloshed through the streams with abandon, having the best time, and was pretty wet by the time I got to the car. I went home by I-64.
When I got to the house, Sandy was there on his computer--better reception than at Lee-Hi. He and I went to Edelweiss German Restaurant, my first trip there. I have seen it from I-81 for years and never gone. No Excuse. Well, it was great. The place was nearly packed, but they sat us right down. The staff was great and there was a guy playing guitar. He was really good. Sandy and I both got the sampler platter and everything was delicious. I personally think the Germans met their culinary peak with Jagerschnitzel. This is what I have always ordered at German places and this was the best dish on the platter last night. I really liked this place. The atmosphere was nice, dimly lit, quiet dining, nice food, attentive but not overbearing staff, and not too pricy. I'd love to take Kim, but that's not going to happen.
The trip to hike Douthat was the beginning of my Summer plan. I spent most of last Wednesday looking for battlefields that I haven't visited and places nearby that I haven't seen. I've chosen two Cavalry commanders, J. S. Mosby and Turner Ashby to research and visit. Since I can't go to Niagara, I need to find something to do.
I'll be taking the 4th Class out to the national forest on Wednesday. That's a lot of work, but always fun. After Graduation on the 16th, Kim and I will be taking a OBX vacetion and attending Sal's wedding. I'm really looking forward to that.
Eight More Days!
Sunday, 24 April, 2016: The 70-year-old Cadet First Sergeant
Sometimes I don't like this place much. Once again, I was put in a bad position, asked to play the bad guy, and stand between what the Administration thinks is right and what Alumni think they can get do while they visit post. I had no help, no support, and though I accomplished the intent, the situation ended badly. Thanks VMI for a fun time. There is nothing like being screamed at by a 70-year-old ass-clown dressed like a cadet. Awesome.
The afternoon was so much better. The T&S Team supported North Post Challenge competition and coached teams of novice shooters from each Company through the Trap Range. Afton came out about three and she shot with the guys on my team, in between teams. We were done about 1700 and I took her to Tongs for chow.
This morning I got up and cleaned my office (read: Man Cave). It suffers during the week and is in a sorry disarray every Friday. I'm doing whatever I can to make the time go faster so I can watch the premier of Game of Thrones tonight. as we take that downward slide to summer. This has been one shitty academic year for my family; I'll be glad when it's over.
Wednesday, 20 April, 2016: Light Ahead
This week has been spent catching up on work.
Today was practice for the North Post Challenge event. The T&S team supported by running the Trap range for the teams. We shot from 1700 to almost 1900, but it was fun and the teams got to shoot 25 rounds. Some did really well, others struggled.
Ours is just one of the events they'll do on Saturday after Parade. That means I'll be working all Saturday.
I had been dreading the weekend. Kim Leaves tomorrow for Newport News, then Saturday I have North Post Challenge all day. I had nothing planned on Sunday, so I figured I'd just run and then hang around the house. Then Kim pointed out that Game of Thrones started Sunday.
Well, things just got a whole lot better.
To add to the fun, Afton called today to see if I wanted to shoot Friday afternoon. Of course I said Yes.
Saturday: 16 April, 2016: Kim Through It All
Perhaps, when you are surrounded, everyday, by greatness, it becomes invisible to you or you come to expect it. Maybe you take it for granted. I know that is not the case in my marriage, but it is the lame excuse I'll use for not mentioning the one person upon whom everyone leaned these past few weeks. Kim is our Rock.
Through the course of this whole thing, She has maintained her poise and dignity, never losing her temper, always calm in the decision making process, thinking of and taking care of all the details, assigning and checking on tasks, and making sure everyone was comfortable. She communicated with Sylvia's friends via e-mail, phone, and on Face Book. She financed home care, hotel rooms, gas, airline tickets, flowers, funeral arrangements, and food for the entire family. When the sink backed up, the internet went out, and the air conditioner failed, she took care of it. She was the calm in the middle of the storm. She was strong for everyone, especially her Daddy.
None of this surprised anyone, she has always been this way. She has gave birth to two ten pound babies, naturally and without a whimper. She ran the family while I gallivanted around the globe playing Army. Somehow she budgeted a miniscule Army paycheck so that the family never wanted for a thing. She flew to Turkiye, by herself, with newborn Elise and two-year-old Jonathon. I watched her suffer through the loss of her brother with grace and determination, unable to go home, choosing to be with her children on their first days of school in a new and foreign environment. She held down the home front during five combat deployments as wife and mother, sending all three of us off to do our duty, knowing she was there if we needed Anything.
Through good times and bad, Kim is always there for us as the glue that holds the entire family together.
Friday, 15 April, 2016: Honoring an Great Lady
We celebrated the life of my friend Sylvia last night. It was a long day full of family and friends from her life and our past. Bill was a champ. There was a moment when he decided sitting through the service would kill him, a quick intersession by Ron with a craftily worded prayer about strength, the needs of the gathered crowd, and setting an example of "grace under pressure," got him back to his feet and back in the classroom. Buck moved people out of his seat, the one he sat in every Sunday, and he was more comfortable there. We put Heather next to him, always a calming spirit for the whole family. I sat in front in case he tried another escape.
Al, Elise, Heather, and Ron did a wonderful job highlighting her life and reminding everyone of Sil's personality, quirks, and amazing writing ministry of encouragement, while a beautiful slideshow of her life played in the background, thanks to Elise and Tony. Elise was lighthearted, Heather was sweet and thoughtful, and Ron was, well, Ron. He did an amazing job for Bill and Sylvia, his best friends.
We saw folks we hadn't seen in years last night. Sally and Dan were there. Kathy came twice during the week and was there and Sandy spent the week with us. My favorite surprise was Katie, one of Sally's friends and one of my favorite people. Kent, one of Kim's high school friends was there. There were, of course, loads of people from the church, most of whom I couldn't remember their names, but that's OK; it has been nearly 20 years since I've darkened the door to that place, and I will only have to do that one more time the way I see it.
Kim and I will be on our way home in a few minutes, another trip up 59 to 81, but it will be happily done because we're leaving things in good shape here, in Sherry's capable hands, and headed back to our life in Virginia.
From now on, our focus must be Bill's happiness and comfort.
Wednesday, 13 April, 2016: Goodbye to an Icon
Yesterday, I had the honor of writing Sylvia's Obituary. She passed away on Monday a little after noon. With help from the whole family, I tried to encapsulate her beautiful life into a few small paragraphs. It was a daunting Task. I knew I had to please a lot of people, but mostly, I wanted it to please Bill. Everyone gave me ideas, Jonathon corrected my punctuation and grammar, and Elise edited my draft. Bill read the proposed finished product and gave a silent, tearful approval.
Sylvia is survived by her loving Husband William “Bill” Dennis; Daughters Sharon Ann Dennis of Birmingham and Kimberly Ann Dennis-Neel of Lexington, VA; Brother Edwin Thomas Bragg Jr. of Alvin, Texas; Granddaughters Heather Hoskin of Ponce de Leon, FL; Summer Lawrence of Tempe, AZ; and Captain Elise Neel of Newport News, VA; Grandson Jonathon Neel of Charlottesville, VA; and Great Grandchildren Haley, Drew, Shelby, Jake, and Emily. She is preceded in death by her Parents Edwin and Margaret Bragg, and her Son Michael Dennis.
Sylvia was born in Birmingham on August 12,1934 and attended Jones Valley High School, graduating in 1952.
Sylvia was an amazing and influential Southern, Christian lady who positively impacted the lives of many people. Her gift of encouragement, impacting a large circle of family and friends, is felt worldwide.
Her devotion to the Lord, her marriage, her family, and the nation were absolute.
Her marriage to Bill was a shining example of unconditional love, faithfulness, unwavering support, and evidence of how life together should be lived.
A celebration of Sylvia's life, with a reception to follow, will take place at Doctrinal Studies Bible Church, 324 Camp Circle, Birmingham, AL 35215 at 6PM on April 14, 2016. Pastor-Teacher Ron Adema will officiate the ceremony. All are welcome to attend to celebrate Sylvia's life with her family. Flowers may be sent to their home or, in lieu of flowers, please send donations to Doctrinal Studies Bible Church.
Sunday, 10 April, 2016: The VMI North Post Range
Yesterday was NCMT Range Day for the 4th Class. We brought them up, one company at a time, to shoot the M4 rifle, M14 rifle, and M9 pistol. Each Cadet got twenty rounds of 5.56mm, seven rounds of 7.62mm, and ten rounds of 9mm.
This year, for the first time, Ech, Bean, and I acted as Safety officers and the Cadets ran everything. They were Range OICs, Lane Safeties, and Controlled everything from the Range Brief, Safety Brief, Ordering, Medical Coverage, Rotations, and final brief and Declaration. We have come such a long way.
The new Range is a big reason for this shift in focus. At the beginning of NCMT, we had to borrow weapons and ammo from the Army. They didn't really care for the extra work, and it was always a struggle to coordinate everything. To make it as difficult on me as possible, the ROTC Colonel at the time, my formal boss, wouldn't let me run the range because I was "retired" and I would be using his stuff. It may have been more about being his normal difficult self.
I had to fit into his schedule, let his people run the range, and shoot what he wanted my program to shoot. It didn't matter to him that just a few months before, I had run his entire fucking program and that I was better and more qualified than any of his officers and enlisted men, he just wanted to make it too hard so I'd stop asking. Obviously he wasn't paying attention when he worked with me. I don't get tired, I don't quit, and I don't forgive a slight like that. I still don't like this guy.
Hell. I had built the range that we were firing on at the time.
To shoot pistols, we had to borrow from local national guard units, and that was exceptionally hard. Most years I could get pistols if I promised to shoot only Military Ammo out of them, and there was no way I could get "military ammo." Even though I could buy 9mm anywhere, and even though it was probably better ammo than Mil Spec, it wasn't allowed by people who didn't want me using their firearms anyway.
I began to see The Way of The Future a few years ago, when I asked COL H, the Commandant, if I could buy ten M9 pistols and ammo. He allocated the money and all I needed to do was find an approved source and get a form for multiple firearms purchase signed by the State Police.
Back at the beginning of the program, we were shooting outside, on a range with Pipes for foxholes, with our rifles chained down, controlled from a cinderblock tower. Before I got to VMI, it was even less inviting, just a muddy field, with rotting target frames. When I arrived, with big help from a Great Boss, Col C, I rounded up some money from the dean and got a project approved to put in a drainage system, concrete pipes for fox holes, a road, improvements on the range shed, and a sound system. We lived with it like that for ten years.
As part of Vision 2039, the Superintendents program to bring VMI into the next century, an large North post Improvement Project was planned. This included three new sports/drill fields, a new Baseball Stadium, obstacle courses, and Air Assault Tower, a new High Ropes Course, new Tennis Courts, a parking area, a Leadership Reaction Course, a building for grounds equipment, and a NEW RANGE.
During the planning, I drove the train. I fought with the Supe to keep it on Post; he wanted it at McKethan Park. I fought for lights, a baffled system, ventilation, heat (lost there), and a public address system.
We began Construction in the Summer of 2010. I got way more range than I asked..and way more than we needed.
They gave us pneumatic flipping targets and a computer system that we never use, but the PA is great, the vent system works super, the lights are awesome, and the entire thing is enclosed. With the Rugby Team and the Timber Framers, we had a Picnic/Assembly Area built adjacent to it that is perfect for a holding area, concurrent training and safety briefings.
And then I had the same problems with the Army, except that now, I could run the range, because the new PMS was a lot more user friendly. He even had no problems supplying 5.56mm ammo as it justified his ammo budget. Still, I had to have a Captain come up and watch me. Ridiculous.
What I didn't realize was that the Supe had a Plan. With the Range Came MONEY!
First, when the old NCAA Rifle Coach died, we hired an old ROTC officer buddy of mine, LTC Bill, a Green Beret from North Georgia College, who became the coach and the Director of Corps Marksmanship. He assumed responsibility for the Range and all of North Post. He was given a big budget and told to take cadets shooting. He took control of "my range" and "my pistols" and got busy. He ordered ammo, supplies, had sandbags made with canvas and plastic beads, bought shooting mats, and bought M4 Carbines and lots of pistols...all kinds of pistols.
Then he began training. He took every qualification course the NRA offered. Then he trained us as NRA Range Safety Officers and Rifle, Pistol, and Shotgun Instructors. Then we began training Cadets.
A year or so later, we hired two awesome young NCOs. Their mandate to the Commandant was to see what needs doing and do it. And...They Have. The have their hands into everything, to include the Range, NCMT Training, and mentoring our Cadets. Since hiring them, the Corps has grown in maturity by leaps and bounds.
With the Range, money, resources, and all these great people, the VMI Shooting program has grown far beyond what it was when I arrived in 2001, when Cadets were leaving VMI having never shot a firearm. Now they fire as 4th Classmen, Qualify on the M4 as Thirds, and can take the full spectrum of NRA Courses. We host Open Ranges for Faculty, Staff, and cadets to practice their skills and try out a large number of pistols. We have a Three Gun Team, a Pistol Team, a Clay Target Team, and the NCAA Rifle Team. The VMI Post Police and local police forces use this range. The ATF visits often and bring every firearm you can think of and thousands of rounds of ammo for Cadets to shoot.
I'm hoping that all of this makes one person happy. In 2001, when I first arrived, a young Cadet, Magnus, approached the Superintendent and Commandant with a plan for a core military training program for all cadets. That idea grew to become NCMT which sparked the new Supe's interest in a new range and a robust shooting program for the entire VMI Community.
This coming weekend, if we actually make it, is the Family Outer Banks Weekend on Roanoke Island. I'm looking forward to walking Cooper, playing some board gams, running the Pirate 5K, and generally just hanging out with my great loves. Kim and I will get out of here on Wednesday after work, drive to Newport News, and leave Thursday for OBX. I'm pretty pumped.
Thursday, 7 April, 2014: Long Days
Today is the first day I haven't worked a 12-hour day trying to catch up since coming back to Lex on Monday. I have a lot coming up--Parade Friday, the NCMT Range Saturday, an inspection at Fishburne Military Academy, Color Corporal Selection, preparations to send the Trap and Skeet Team to Delaware for a shoot, and coordination for the FTX coming up next month. All of this before Thursday morning, because the Family is still planning on going to OBX for four days next weekend. Luckily, I have great folks to help out.
Sunday, 3 April, 2016: To and Fro
Jonathon, Kim, and I will head back to Virginia tomorrow morning. The situation here has calmed down quite a bit and there is a routine that seems to work, though Syl's condition continues to deteriorate. I think that it won't be long before we have to drive back down.
Bill hangs on to every small improvement in her mental state asking when she'll be able to get out of bed. We all try to remain positive for him, but we have seen no improvement in days. Her breathing is labored and raspy and There's a chance that pneumonia may be setting in.
Kim thinks we can have our yearly OBX weekend in two weeks, but I am not so sure. I hope she is correct; she needs as much time away from this as she can get.
To pass the time here, we have all been playing Klaus Teuber's Catan. Great fun, but I am NOT good at it...yet. I think I need Coffee before each game to spark the neurons; playing at night when I'm tired isn't the best idea. I'm getting it down, though, experimenting with different strategies, none of which has worked so far. I was close last night, leading the game most of the way, but the dice were against me in the last part of the game. You can't do anything about that.
We've also brought Cards Against Humanity. The others have played, but I haven't. That's more of an OBX game, played best with alcohol and rowdiness.
Bess is a mess! The pollen down here is crazy. She was so beautiful when I drove her down here.
Thursday, 31 March, 2016: Back to Birmingham
After a bit of organizing at work, and getting a crown put on a tooth, I headed back to Birmingham yesterday. I made it by 7:30, not my best time, but decent.
I felt bad leaving, the job always being secondary to Kim, and talking to her and listening to the situation for the five days I was gone, I couldn't take it anymore. I told the Boss, he was super supportive, and I got my self back down here.
The situation has settled down.
Kim and I are planning on heading home Monday, but not until Sherry realizes she hast to pick up the slack. Happily, Buck and Heather will be around.
Sunday, 27 March, 2016: Easter Angry
I've been mulling over this post all day. I left Birmingham pretty angry...at god.
I left a great man and great lady, close to the end of their days, who have worshiped god with every ounce of their being for over half a century. These are two lives lived with honor, civility, caring, and grace. They have lived faithful thorough prosperity and ruin. Bill watched his business grow and gave freely of his wealth to his children, family, his church, and total strangers. When the real estate market crashed, he took the time and effort to pay back every single supplier. Sylvia has been by his side for 63 years, the consummate Southern Lady, mother, and friend. Her circle of friends extends across four continents. She is the most encouraging person I have ever met.
Bill and Sylvia's 50th Anniversary
They have lived through their share of trials, the hardest of which had to have been the murder of their only son on the Southside of Birmingham. Was that a "Test?" Was god checking to see if they would lean on him for strength? Were their lives of service to him and others not enough? Was there something else needed in their over a half century of marriage?
If there is a god, he is one cruel bastard.
This loving, gentle, faithful 86-year-old man now has to watch the love of his life perish under the weight of the rapid killer, Pancreatic Cancer. If that was not cruel enough, god gives her a stroke which may rob her of any sibilance of independence, any means of communication other than squeezing her hand, and may have taken away her last chance at dignity. We can only hope that she improves so that her last moments, his last moments with her, won't be total anguish.
It is heart rending to see this young lover sitting by the bed of his bride holding her hands and crying.
I know all of the religious arguments. I studied, lived, and believed this stuff for many years.
Is this Dying Grace? Fuck That Bullshit!
Saturday, 26 March, 2016: Back "Home"
Tonight, I sat at my desk watching the sun go down behind the Alleghenies. This time of year, the sun shines in my office window, making it painful to work n my computer unless I pull the curtains. My timing was perfect; I sat sown right at sunset.
After clearing it with Kim, I decided to leave Birmingham this morning so I would not be rushed getting ready for work beginning Monday morning. I hated to leave, but, as Kim put it, I had done my part. Probably True. There was little more I could do and there was more than enough Help there to get things set up to take care of her. Kim's sister, her son-in-law and daughter, Kim , and Elise are all still there.
Today, they met with the RN from Hospice and hired a cafe giver to help with hygiene and meals. That all went well, and I think even Elise was happy. The Captain is very particular about her Nan.
My drive went well, but I sure hate some drivers on the road, especially when the traffic is heavy, like, the day before Easter.
Mini-an drivers have to be the worst. Maybe they have a chip on their shoulder for having to drive one, but, they have to be the most aggressive drivers on the road.
Then there are the Subaru drivers. I hate those bastards. They all think they are driving sports cars and have to weave in and out of traffic. They have replaced the Saturn Drivers for second place in my worst drivers list.
Volvo drivers think they are driving Super Cars and have to go at least 20 MPH over the speed limit. 90 was their average speed today.
Then, of course, are the clueless left lane drivers, always going 5 mph below the speed limit and refusing to move, or just clueless. They were all out there today.
Happily, the traffic in Chattanooga and Knoxville was light when I went through, so the trip took me only 8.5 hours. Not a record, but a good time.
I'm happy to be home, but It was a backwards situation. Normally, when I drive home, I'm headed TO Kim, not away from her.
Friday, 25 March, 2016: Evidence to the Contrary
So, we've had a stroke. The doc says, after looking at the last two tests, a EEG Scan and CAT Scan, he sees conclusive evidence that she had a stroke on top of the severe dehydration. So, we're to expect her to recover a lot of consciousness in the next couple of days. Kim got her to eat a bit of Yogurt and sip some water, so that was encouraging.
They kept her in hospital last night, and hope to move her home tomorrow. I'll head to the hospital in the next few minutes to sit with her.
Thursday, 24 March, 2016: An Unhappy Change of Plans
A member of the family went into hospital Tuesday, so Kim and I went back to Lexington on that night. She left a little before me while I took Bess in for an oil change. We anticipated that I would be coming back first, so we'd need both cars. She beat me by about two hours.
I checked into the Homewood Suites off of Interstate 280, a nice place that would take Cooper in case Elise decided to drive in. I like it as I get my own TV, my own bathroom, and a bed that will support me and Cooper.
I went to St. Vincent's East after checking in and met Kim there.
Though things didn't look good when I got there, they have improved a bit. More tests are being run to see if the docs can figure out what is causing the problem. Yesterday it was dehydration, but I believe they are thinking that she may have had a stroke.
The goal as we see it is to get her home as soon as possible and let Hospice come in and take care of her during her remaining days.
Monday, 21 March, 2016: Meeting Magruder
During Lunch, Kim pointed out the the battle of Lee's Mill and Dam #1 took place just up the road. We went to Cheddar's for her favorite meal there, talking up what we'd do for the day. We were focused in on indoor activities to stay out of the cold and windy weather, but we had seen most of the close-by things.
We went back to the house and I began researching the battle and checking out the site she was raving about- What Was There. The site was truly, just up the road, not more than about ten minutes drive, at the Newport News Park. I decided to drive up and have a look.
The battle that took place here was a small skirmish during McClellan's Peninsular Campaign. MG John Magruder flooded the low area at Deer Run Creek, by building dams across the Warwick River, making a formidable obstacle that stretched from Yorktown to Newport News. Magruder's small force put on such an aggressive show that McClellan overestimated their numbers ten-fold, his normal modus operandi, and went into siege operations, begging Washington for more men and giving the Confederated time to reinforce the line.
When he finally attacked, he chose Dam #1 at Lee's Mill, sending in a regiment of Vermont Infantry. These studs captured the dam and ran off the defenders, then held on as long as they could, without support or reinforcements, until forced to withdraw under pressure from a bunch of Georgia boys.
Like standing at on Chamberlain's rock at Little Round Top, I was honored to be standing at this point today. As an American, I honor the heroes on both sides, something we all should do.
Sunday, 20 March, 2016: Chilly in Newport News
I just got back from a nice Sunday morning walk with Cooper. It was cold and wet out there, but I came prepared with all my VMI Underarmor gear. I look a bit like Jonny Cash, the Man in Black, with it all on, but it works. Cooper the water dog didn't seem to mind the weather at all. He was mostly interested in the smells, the other dogs, squirrels, the Great Blue Herron, the Mallards, and the Canada Geese. He was interested, but didn't loose his mind like he did as a puppy. He's such a good boy.
Our plan for yesterday and Brunch went to hell. Getting all of these people moving in one direction at a certain time seems to be more difficult than we thought on Friday night.
We ended up going to Chili's for "Dunch" about 1400hrs. Chili's! Of all the great places around here, we end up at Chili's. I will admit, apart from the loud, obnoxious, extremely gay waiter, the food was good. I had a the ten ounce Surloin and it was perfectly cooked. My mashed potatoes were , likewise, delicious.
Afterwards, we walked around the McCarther Center mall for a little shopping. I stopped in Barnes and Nobile and picked up a Dummies Book on CSS3. I've been wanting to learn style sheets and I've found these books to be an excellent place to begin.
On the way home, we all stopped at Brickhouse Tavern for drinks and the stop turned into a dinner of Crazy Bread and Wings. I was happy that I didn't gorge myself on the Jose Wings, my personal favorite.
Kimber left this morning and James headed back to work, so the house is less full. Tomorrow, Elise will go to work and Copper will be at Femmes and Fidos, puppy day care, which will give Kim and me time to roam the countryside. I want to go see the actual site of Jamestown and walk the Yorktown Battlefield. I imagine I'll be doing those kinds of things on my own.
Thursday, 17 March, 2016: The First day of Spring Furlough
My plan worked great; we were done by 1645 last night and I was home by 1700hrs.
Basically, I enlisted the help of 9 cadets, who I briefed on the job and issued a door key. They did most of the inspecting and locking of doors, and really did a great job. I had a few of the young officers and NCOs come up from Kilborne Hall, but the were , really, unemployed.
At 1600hrs, the Commandant Staff took two stoops each, ran the last of the cadets out, made sure the doors on their stoops were locked, and turned off the lights. I took care of closing down the guard team, taking down the flags, forwarding the phones, charging the radios, and putting up the bollards.
Today, I went back in, put up the flags, made sure the LAX rooms were locked, and closed a couple of windows. Bess went to the shop for new tires this morning and I had her back by noon. Kim and I had Breakfast and lunch together.
Tomorrow, we're off to NN for the rest of Furlough.
Taking down the flags tonight, is was so peaceful out front. The sky was blue. A warm breese was blowing. The grass is turning green. The trees are budding. The cars are gone. There's not a cadet in sight.
Monday, 14 March, 2016: Off for the Weekend
I may or may not have been a little drunk last night.
It was the first weekend I'd had off in a while where the weather was nice enough to clean Bess. Saturday, I pulled off the wheels and scrubbed them, the wheelwells, and all the suspension parts I could reach. In the process I discovered that I need tires! Badly! I can't believe I've been driving on these things.
At the end of the day, I joined COL Gary and the Commandant on Gary's porch for cigars and drinks. I tool over a nice Garcia y Vega and my new bottle of Irish Mist. I also took along my whishey stones, compliments of MAJ Jim, and my VMI whiskey glass compliments of the Class of 2017. We drank, talked about retirement and work, and just relaxed. By the time I got back to the house, just before Kim came in from Alabama, half the bottle was gone.
Amazingly, I was up for a run on the Chessie on Sunday and that went better than expected. The the rain started, so Bess didn't get a wax, but I was left to my own devices and did very little more than read my new book on Troy, The Trojan War by Thomas and Conant. So far I'm not seeing any new info from what Michael Wood put out in 1984.
Kim and I leave for a week in Newport news on Friday. I'll be taking my new laptop, which I'm typing on right now, so I can update from there.
Tuesday, 8 March, 2016: Quail Ridge
Today at Mil Duty, I took the Trap and Skeet Team out to Quail Ridge to shoot 50 Sporting Clays. We had a great time and the boys loved it. Wel'll go back after Furlough for a full round, before we head off to Delaware and the Blue Hen Classic in April.
The owner is selling, so I brought it up to Smith Hall. Heavily wooded 90 Acres, ideal for military training, with two houses and a club house...not to mention a Sporting Clays Range. Hummm. Sounds to me like VMI needs this. I can see all of our trophies on the wall of the clubhouse already.
I took Cooper home Monday night; I had way too much to do around the office, and I get nothing done when he's there. We play way too much and the Cadets have to come visit him when he's there.
Sunday, 6 March, 2016: NCMT
We tried something different this year for New Cadet Military Training. Instead of eight weeks of training every Tuesday, we decided to do it all in one weekend. It went amazingly well. On Saturday, we formed in four, non-unit specific companies, Kilo, Lima, Mike, and November. Two marched out to Mckethan Park and two went stayed on Post.
At Mckethan Park, the companies rotated between Land Nav and Survival Training, eating the first MRE some of them had ever eaten for lunch. The other two rotated between Weapons and First Aid training, eating lunch in the mess. On Sunday, we flip-floped that.
This yea, the SFCs did the cadre train-up, leaving me to do the admin. That's the way to go for sure. I had a good plan, they did great training, and it all made for a well-run event.
Elise brought me Copper to watch for the weekend while she went to pick up one of her troubled soldiers. He went every where I did and was a the best boy. The cadets loved seeing him out at training.
Saturday, 27 February, 2016: An Unscheduled Day
COL Gary called me yesterday and asked if I was working all weekend, which I was scheduled to do, 0800 - 1600 both days. When I confirmed that I was, he asked if he could have Saturday. I told him "Yes, so long as you'll give one of your weekend OC duties. He agreed and I came home a completely different man from the guy dreading a 14-day-straight sting at work wh had been moping around my office and complaining to poor Kim all week long.
What a difference having one day off makes!
Kim and I watched the Republican debates the other night. I sat there numb through the whole show. The only two people I could possibly vote for were a side show, while the three in the middle, Trump, Rubio, and Cruise acted like high school boys. No one wanted to listen to a brilliant, good man like Doctor Carson, who was teaching us how we should be as a nation, or a proven leader like Governor Kasich, who was trying to show us an actual plan. No. CNN was more than happy to turn it into a New Reality Show for , I assume, the ratings a good playground shoving match would produce.
We have totally lost our way. Seriously, when the lesser of our normal "two evils" may be Hillary Clinton, what does that say about the Republican Party. What the hell do I do on Super Tuesday? Do I vote for John Kasich, or do I vote against Trump? If I vote against Trump, that means I have to choose one of the other middle runners, Cruise , who will accomplish nothing as president, or Rubio, who is a little punk, a mosquito buzzing in everyone's ear.
Maybe if the Governor and the Doctor would announce early a Kasich-Carson Ticket, they could pull off an upset. It's the only Idea, the only Hope I have, for the next four Whitehouse years.
Sunday, 14 February, 2016: Ad Nauseam
Breakout happened yesterday. It was cold, rats were worked out, miles were run and marched, there were pushups, and lunges, and ever other kind of exercise you can imagine, sandbags were carried, lifted, stacked, moved, and moved again. The First Class was happy, the rats were happy, the RDC stood down (probably not happy), and I'm happy I only have two more of these to endure.
It feels like -3 degrees outside, I have duty tonight, Kim is away in NN on Valentine's Day...
Mer-mer-mer. Piss-poor attitude? You Bet!
Monday, 8 February, 2015: The Super Bowl in NN, How That Went
I left for NN about 1530hrs, running a little late because the heat went out in Barracks. I did what I could do, like making sure the Cadets knew what was going on, suggesting they close their transoms, and talking to the RDC about putting Rat hays down so they could bundle up if necessary. Luckily, the situation was repaired a couple of hours after I left. My Drive was fun and Bess ran strong,; I got there about 1900. Jonathon, Kelly, Jake, Emily and Brasco got there a few hours later.
Kim, Elise, James and I went to Harpoon Larry's Oyster Bar for dinner. I had the Shrimp and grits, but didn't like it much. The chef includes spicy sausage in the recipe and it is too strong. I ate around it. The grits were OK, but too creamy. I prefer a more traditional plate of grits. The Shrimp, however, were perfect!
I spent the weekend walking Cooper and working on my family tree. The DNA test I took really opened my information up and gave me a lot of info. I also started adding Kelly's info on her family for Emily. She was impressive and knew the names of three generations on both sides...by memory! By the time we were finished for the day, we were in the 18th century. Jake seemed to take an interest.
The Super Bowl didn't end up like anyone thought it would. We all cheered hard, but it just wan't to be. Cam looked confused the whole night and I think it came down to coaching. The Bronco's had a fantastic defensive plan and threw stuff Cam's way that broke his rhythm, rushed him, covered his receivers, and shut down his ability to run. His offensive line failed. His receivers dropped the ball. His running backs were totally ineffective. I think the pressure got to the whole team and to the coaches. Everyone on that team was overwhelmed.
There has been a lot of trash talk about Cam after the game as if being upset with the loss was a chink in his character. That's BUNK! He's a kid! If he's disappointed, that's normal. That's American! We HATE to lose!
Sunday, 31 January, 2015: Good and Bad
Today is Em's first birthday party. The family is converging on Charlottesville about noon for what promises to be a huge event. Understandable; the baby girl is adorable. More to follow. I must remember to take my Camera.
Wednesday we got bad news from Birmingham. Sylvia is very ill. We'll know more when she sees a specialist next week. I've stopped reading about it; that just scares me. I have already begun preparing myself for the hard fight. This will be tough on Kim and Bill, and I need to help in everyway I am able. So, we'll wait to see what the doctor say.
Meanwhile, Kim's sister is proscribing every holistic remedy except aroma therapy, but I'm sure that is coming. Anyone know where we can buy cannabis oil? Kidding.
We got snow last week, about ten inches, and it is still out there. I frigging hate snow, but it sure cuts my work load.
I got my DNA results back from Ancestry on Friday. Very Cool. It seems we're, as my brother deciphers it, "Vikings who settled in Normandy then went to Britain and Ireland with William the Conqueror." Sounds right to me.
Monday, 18 January, 2016: A Bit of Nonsense
I haven't written for a while, because "fitbit" has taken over my life. Tuesday, my fitbit flex came in the mail. The kids and Kim were all planning on getting them, so, I told Kim to get me one too. This thing is a Motivator. I'm up and more active, running more, walking more, and generally moving more.
This past weekend, the whole family challenged each other and I came in Third. I kept it close and was in Second, until I went to Bed, and then Sandy logged about 4000 steps more than me. That's not going to happen again. I may never actually win, because my daughter is a crazy person. Yesterday, as she went out for a run, she warned me that if I got on the treadmill while she was out, locking myself off from Cooper, that she wouldn't bring him back. I'm not sure if she was kidding or not, but it was her way of saying that she would win no matter what.
Now we're in a week long challenge and, because of my job, I'm in the lead. I'm sure that will be fleeting.
I've lost two pounds since putting this thing on my wrist.
And Glen Frey Died Today.
Wednesday, 6 January, 2016: "California's Wasted on Me" ~ Toad
This is the last week before the Cadets return from Furlough and I'm taking the time to catch up on a lot of personal stuff. I took Bess in for her yearly inspection this morning, That's done. I ordered Ammo for NCMT Range Day, made a dermatologist appointment, took care of some banking things preparing for the move to Alabama, and went shopping for a guitar. That's one of my retirement plans items and I've always wanted a guitar of my own, so I spent a little money and got a 50th Anniversary Alvarez. This guitar make my playing sound good. It has such a gorgeous rich tone. I am thinking of it as my early Birthday Present.
Last week, I went to California with the VMI Band for the Rose Parade. The trip was a crazy plan moving Cadets from all over the nation, on Furlough from school, linking up for four days of activities.
COL John and I took about 12 Cadets from Lex to Andrews AFB to link up with most of the Band for our ride on a C17 to Los Alamitos Army Airfield. Tuesday was Band Fest and float viewing. Wednesday we went to the beach for an Alumni Cookout, or what was touted as such. We ended up getting a couple of slices of Pizza or a Chipotle burrito. Thursday we went to Universal Studios, and Friday was the Parade. I was back at Andrews on Saturday night just before midnight, and drove six kids to Richmond International and then headed back to Lex on Saturday morning.
It was a lot of work but worth it for the kids and the Institute. I had an OK time, but missed Kim and realized right off that I was happier doing solidary things when I had the chance. A beach is a beach, no matter which direction it's facing, and I love the beach. Most of the things we did were designed for youngsters, so I left it to the youngsters. I definitely fell in love with In-N-Out Burger and Bubba Gump's Shrimp. I watched Star Wars in IMAX; that was cool. Otherwise, I wasn't into California.