A New Azimuth  The Website of John L. Neel  www.neel505.com
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"Happy is the man, who, like Ulysses, has won the Golden Fleece, and then returns, experienced and knowledgeable, to spend the rest of his life among his family." ~ Joachim du Bellay

I am surrounded by an amazing family.  My life is enriched by them though I am not sure there is a reciprocal relationship. 

Through these folks I have gained what I call "peripheral children" and through the Army and my last job I have gathered a small number of young friends and great Americans I call my "Inner Circle."

Here are the most important players in 505 World.


I'm this girl's husband. I live in her house. I stand back and watch in awe of her greatness as she accomplishes everything in our lives, enjoying the results, a warm home, an easy life, delicious food, and happy retirement.

She's amazing at everything she does and everyone loves her. My children are the strong, intelligent, and motivated adults that they have become because of her. She raised them; I was away.  She was the ultimate Cool Mom.

I married a Birmingham Girl. I let her do what she wants. I recommend both.


Born in Fort Bragg during the year of the 82nd, Jay was probably destined to serve. He joined the Army after high school, was assigned to Korea, then Fort Hood, with a deployment to Iraq, and then to Recruiting. He was Signal Corps, computers.

Now he's a big wig in Computer Security after earning his BS from Maryland and his MS from Carnegie Mellon.

He's also a great father, husband, and friend. I love running my wild -ass ideas and plans by him. I'm very proud to be his dad.


I believe this girl may be proof that Angels are sent to us in our time of need. She came into Jay's life at a crucial time and saved his life. She came to the family as E's best friend and college roommate and then Jay married her.

The mother of my granddaughter, KS is also a fine artist, runs her own business, and contracts to a large architectural firm adjusting their drawings.

She's a supermom and wife.

I'm convinced that one day, she'll take my side.



My baby is an Army officer and so much more.

She earned her BA from Mary Baldwin, commissioning through VMI Army ROTC, earned her MA from American University. She has been assigned to Fort Bragg, Fort Eustis, Fort Gordon, Fort Stewart, with deployments to Germany, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. She's Signal Corps and a paratrooper.

She just finished CGSC, was promoted to Major, and is now in the Mid-West.

She finally brought home a guy I really like and married him last Spring. 


This guy finally showed up.  An Army officer, Acquisitions, and an all-around great guy, he married my daughter and we're all better for it.

He has been assigned to Germany with deployments to Afghanistan and Jordan. He and E are finally assigned together.

Raised in Minnesota and schooled in Alaska, I wondered if I would like him. It was Too Easy. He is the perfect guy for my baby and treats her like the Princess Royal that she is.  


The grandson is too smart, quick-witted, funny, and sharp-tongued.  I have stopped trying to mince words with him.  He's a fine athlete, video game master, and the sweetest guy.  He is good at everything he tries.

He and Kady are best friends.



I claimed this little one as mine the moment I saw her. There is never a visit when she doesn't have me telling stories, or playing guitar with her, or playing a rousing game of hide-and-seek. She has even talked me into playing LOL Dolls.

One day she asked her dad why we see the moon sometimes at night and sometimes in the daytime. Her dad told her to ask me. She sat and listened to my whole explanation and understood...at 4 years old. I'm going to make her a scientist!

Good days include Spirit on Netflix.



The mother of my Grandson and my friend, Bee was always my favorite of the kid's high school friends. Though things didn't work out with Jay, she will always be my daughter.

After earning her BA from Radford, she got a degree in Occupational Therapy, and now works at a prominent hospital in Virginia.



When my dad came home from the war, he got one look at the Lee girl and hit was all over. This country girl, farmer's daughter, and the girl next door war raised three wild Neel boys, administered the monthly payroll at UAB for years and made every recital, concert, show, and dance while serving as the president of the PTA.

An avid bird watcher, she had a serious green thumb and was an amazing Southern cook. From her, we boys got our spiritual side, interest in nature, and love of music. Though never an overbearing parent, she demanded gentlemanly behavior.

We lost her to Alzheimer's long before her passing.


Every kid thinks his dad is smart, but this dad was truly a genius. He was Brilliant.

Raised in west-central Alabama, he joined the Army during WWII and repaired radios and radar on bombers with the 8th Army Air Force.

After the war, he met and married mom, got degrees in Chemistry and Physics from Livingston State, taught high school and ran a radio repair shop until he was hired by Southern Railway. Starting as a signal maintainer, he became the Supervisor of Communications for the company.

He was the finest teacher I ever had. From him, we boys got our willingness to try anything and a love of baseball, science, and debate.

During his long fight with cancer, he taught himself to program basic computers of his design and to read, write, and speak German.



They say, “Have a look at the mom before you marry the girl.” Well, here you go.

I met this wonderful friend, who also happened to be my mother-in-law, long before I met her daughter. She and husband, Bill, were prominent folks at church.

We called her “Ranger Lady” in those days for her support of the church folks who went into the military. A lot of us did and she took care of us all wit faithful letters and care packages.

Her spiritual support and outreach were world-wide, and the world lost a star when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was gone so quickly.

She also helped me here, as editor and proofreader, and in life and my bullshit monitor. She could cancel one of my wild-ass, half-brain ideas with a LOOK.


Wild Bill

The most honorable and giving Christian man I have ever met, I will forever owe him for giving into Sil's desire to have a third child late in life and then giving me his consent to marry that daughter nineteen years later.

He served in the Air Force as an F-84 Jet mechanic and crew chief. Later he would make a fortune in real estate. He was the Vice president of Cole Properties before retiring. He gave freely from his wealth to those in need, to his family, and his church.

At the loss of his great love, Bill grieved himself to death six months later.



The Professor

Here's my amazing older brother. A well-respected artist and teacher, he was a great role model for a younger brother. He was a Boy Scout, a good student, and followed the rules, while I tried the absolute opposite. He has never stopped trying.

Certainly, he made my first date successful by telling me what to wear, making sure I had enough money, and making me check the clock.

I'm happy he is getting the national recognition he and his art deserve.

Drives foreign cars. Plays golf. Alabama Fan. Liberal. I think he's adopted.

I need to, one day, take current photos of his family.



This was my younger brother and the best of the three. A musician, trauma nurse (RN), and great American hunter, he loved animals and animals loved him. He was a great dog handler and trainer who volunteered his time at emergency animal clinics and with the Coast Guard Auxillary.

Don died by accidental shooting at 36-years-old. Forever Young.



This is my twin brother from another mother. I met him when we helped start Machaira Church I 1974.

We served at the same time, only never together, him being in the 101st, Ranger Battalion, and Special Forces, but we remained friends throughout. He lived with us during SF training and helped raise Jay and E. He faithfully comes to every family event.

He is now retired and running his own company, but, still a certified bad-ass.

Alabama grad and fan.  I hate this about him.


Another church friend and one of our closest, she ad Kim became close when I was in Turkey. I just inserted myself in their friendship when I returned.

She is my dancing, smoking, and drinking partner.  She is also our guide to new places to eat in Birmingham; she is never wrong.

As an Alabama grade school teacher, she has lived a tough life.



This warrior-god is my closest Army buddy and the best soldier I have ever met. He is the best shot, toughest fighter, most accurate navigator, finest leader, and most audacious scout. He's the second-best jumpmaster ever.

He fought in Grenada (Urgent Fury), Panama (Just Cause), and Iraq (Desert Shield/Desert Storm), and bars across America. He served in Korea and the 82nd.

He is also from Alabama and lives there now with his lovely bride, kids, and grandkids, driving a big truck.

Another goddamn Alabama fan. I don't see him enough.



Computer Genius, personal help-desk, traveling partner, and Kady's best friend, he came to us via the internet. Originally from Lexington, Kady met him on-line, way back in 1997. He quickly became a part of the family, and a voice of reason for all players, especially me.

He loves making me work my brain by challenging me on my web page knowledge. He starts out asking, “Hey John, have you ever thought about trying _____?”

Since getting out of prison, he lives on his farm in a nearby state.

Now, that's just fuckin' funny.


Boss Lady

My most faithful Türk friend, I met this gorgeous creature playing pitch with a buddy on the by the bay in İzmir in 2001. She and close friend Berna ran Divas Ajans, a modeling agency in Izmir. I found myself there a lot. We became fast friends.

Since I left, she has moved around a lot, to Germany, then to England, and is now back in Türkey building a family. Her little girls are beautiful. Her husband looks like De Niro.

I miss her and those days.



Smart, fun, photographer, dog lover, kindred-spirit, and wise-ass, I met this youngster when I was coaching the hockey team. I love the way she sits back, listens, and then interjects her thoughts at just the right time. I do that.

She worked for a while at the counseling office and the only person there that I trusted and who "got" VMI. If she was in charge, cadets wouldn't be “coloring” for stress relief. It was a sad day when she left Lex to work on her master's degree, but we have stayed in touch.

Just before she left, I made her an honorary Lost Boy for watching the last season of Lost with me.

Inner Circle. Drove Bess.



This young woman, a former cadet and thorn-in-my-side, became a close friend after the death of one of her Brother Rats and one of my former Regimental Sergeants Major.  I tried to be there for her, she was there for me, making me get off my ass and get to barracks that night.

Since graduating, she has posed numerous times for me and I learn something new every time. It is very hard to take a bad photo of her.

Now married to a great American hero and mom of two cute boys, I think I will hear from her less and less. That is normal I think.

Inner Circle. Drove Bess.


The Ranger

There he stands, in the center of the universe, his universe. This man is a Warrior, but that's all I'm saying.

Drove Bess.  Inner Circle.


The PJ

This photo wasn't meant to look heroic, it just couldn't help it.

This guy is an Air Force PJ and all that goes with that He is the most trained guy I know. Same thing, that's all you get.

George C. Marshall misses him. Drove Bess. Inner Circle.

Same thing. That's all you get.


Super-duper Cooper

This is My Dog, Best Boy, Walking Partner, though technically he belongs to E. I didn't think E should get a dog being in the Army. Now, I can't picture life without him.

He keeps me fit, helped me recover after surgery, and makes me laugh. He's smart, well trained, well behaved, knows he is funny, and is so handsome.

Chicks dig him.



A graduate of an elitist college, Marine, beautiful, and sweet, she and I became friends by way of the VMI Cheerleaders, back when we tried that experiment.  She stuck around, they didn't.  She would stop by my office seeking advice on becoming a Marine officer and just to chat.

Over coffee and biscotti, I came to realize the potential in this young lady. Though she didn't realize her dream of becoming an officer, she stuck it out and became a Marine NCO, working at Arlington taking care of young heroes and their families.

Now she helps people whose lives have been destroyed in natural disasters.

I have taken more photos of her than anyone; she is a natural in front of the camera. She is also a fantastic belly dancer, maybe the best I have seen and I lived in Turkey for three tours.



I need to add Rebecca, Vick, and Brian to this list, but not until photos.

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