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a different azimuth
the website of johnny neel

my people

" The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilage,." ~ Charlaes Kuralt

Happily, I am surrounded by amazing people.  

I was raised by great parents, with two amazingly talented brothers, married the perfect sweetheart and into her family who accepted me unconditionally. Two of my best friends are also my children.  They have brought great young partners into the family, and through them, the best thing ever, two grandkids.

My careers have introduced me to outstanding folks, people with smarts, integrity, and drive...Great Americans. .
Here, then, are my most important ones.


I met this beauty during a very trying time in my life; she saved me.  Since 1981, we have been together, laughing all the way, having the times of our lives.  

Younger than me by less years than she claims, she has steered me along a path of moderate beliefs and sensible action.  She has softened my reactions to the children and taught me to be a loving parent.  Our kids are who they are because of her; I was away...a lot.
She does everything well.  She is highly sought-after where I worked for her administrative skills; she types about a bazillion  words a minute and is organized in everything she does.  She can do most anything on a computer.  Her Christmas Tree and her home are sights to see.  She is a great cook, wonderful photographer, designer, and event planner.  Everyone adores her and seeks her advice.

I try to just stay out of her way.

Buddy Son

Born in the year of the 82nd Airborne, this man was destined for greatness. He processes everything. Yes, everything.  His interests are broad, he is well informed, and he is opinionated based only on information.  He has always been inquisitive, but that has grown to an insatiable thirst for knowledge.  I can't count the number of times he has called to discuss a subject with me, about which he thinks I must be well informed, and I am always surprised at his grasp of the information.

He is a gentleman and a gentle man.  He is a loving husband, a faithful and true friend, and a fantastic father.  I am more than proud to call him son and friend.

Bored senseless in high school, he let his grades slip, ruining any chances for scholarships to college. I encouraged him to go in the army.  Encouraged is probably not the best word.  Hopeful he would love it like I did, he didn't.  We chose for him a job in the growing field of computers at which he was a natural.  After assignments to Korea, Texas, recruiting, and a deployment to Iraq, he got out of the army and began work at VMI in the Information Technology department.

After finishing his BS in Computer science, he took a job at a much larger college, working in computer security, while working on his MS at Carnegie Mellon.  

Somehow, along the way, he has found the time to build a lovely family, fathered my two delightful grandchildren, and married an absolute angel.


This one is JUST like me.  I guess you could say she she got the best of both of Kim and me, but she also got my hard-headedness and love for arguing.  She's so adorable.

She is very good at what she does and serves our nation faithfully in the Army, stationed in Ft. Bragg, Ft, Eustace, deploying to Afghanistan with the 82nd, to Africa to kick some Ebola ass, and is now stationed in Georgia.

From her mom, she got her decorating, organizational, and cooking skills.  She keeps a warm home that I love to visit.  I was the perfect place for me to recover after surgery.  She has a love hate relationship with the Army.  It usually revolves around the fact that she is smarter by far than the bosses for which she works, and that she has few peers and no mentors.  If the Army would just put her in charge of everything, she'd love it.

     She also has two great men in her life, Cooper, her golden-doodle, and The Guy, Andrew, who took his own sweet time about showing up, making me put up with knuckleheads I didn't really like for years.  I like this one, and I love me some Cooper.

     Too soon, she'll probably get out of the Army and move off to the mid-west.  That'll be a sad day for dad.


This is my grandson.  We once did everything together.  Now he's just a mile away .  That will change soon, but not soon enough.

He's plays soccer and baseball, but enjoys golf, lacrosse, and just about any sport. He has the temperament of a hockey player though, so watch out when playing any game with a stick.

My favorite times with him are practicing Baseball.  He can really Hit!  He must get this from his mother's side of the family.

He has recently taken up my hobby of collecting knives.  Actually, he has taken up the hobby of collecting my knives.  He has beaten me out of quite a few.  Soon, I hope to interest him in a few of my other hobbies.  Astronomy and Photography come to mind.

I assume I'll have to become interested in Video Games..


My son's wife, my new daughter-in-law, is my daughter's best friend from college (amazing how that all worked out), and my grandson adores her.  She is sweet, fun, and smart. I have loved the match from the beginning. 

The wedding was bright, warm, and beautiful, though the weather was cold and dreary.  The view of her walking down the stairs was breathtaking. I am excited to watch them begin their life together. 

She is such a sweetheart, and a great match to Jonathon's drive and intellect. 

She just gave me a granddaughter who is just as beautiful and sweet as she is. Add Blue Eyes and Blond Hair to the Neel Gene Pool. Soon she will have to sit for a few portrait shots with me...which is how my people normally get included on this page. But...I found this one from a day at the park.  It'll do for now.

Hey Baby

Here's a sweetie for an old granddaddy.  I told my son and daughter-in-law that I wanted a granddaughter and here's what I got.  PERFECT!  
This girl is the most important reason I have for retiring and staying here in Virginia.  She is the sweetest thing and already showing everyone how bright she is.    Her vocabulary is amazing and she will try anything.  The absolute cutest part is that she always refers to herself in the third person, never using me or I.     She, for some reason, is drawn to me and, of course, I love that.


My beautiful former daughter-in-law will always be my daughter.  She and my son have been best friends since high school and she was always my favorite among all his friends.

I am pleased she is the mother of my grandson.

She just finished up her graduate degree in Occupational Therapy and was immediately hired by some pretty smart folks.

I hope to spend more time with her now that we're living close.


I grew up in a household led by a hard-working railroad dad and run by a mom who enforced the rules of gentlemanly behavior, self-reliance, and fun.  

My two brothers and I were taught to be life-long learners, open-minded, and respectful.  We learned to play baseball, love music, wonder at the heavens, read for enjoyment, and show grace under pressure.

I loved the days past when my friends would beg to come to Sunday dinner, knowing mom would be setting a table of fine Southern cooking.  She was simply an amazing cook and entertainer.

From Mom, we Neel boys got out love for nature and music.  Mom could identify trees, flowers, and birds at a distance, and she had the sweetest little soprano voice I've ever heard.

She died in 2015 after sad years of struggling with Alzheimer's.


My dad was the smartest man I have ever known.  He raised his kids to question everything and and did so himself.  He was the most amazing teacher and would explain our subjects in seconds where it would take our teachers days.  My head would actually tingle as he explained things to me and taught me things.  It was magic. 

No subject was taboo in this man's house.  We watched every NASA launch, debated everything from ancient astronauts to "true sport," and watched hours of Lawrence Welk and Hee Haw.

After World War II Dad put himself through school and taught for awhile, then went to work for Southern Railroad.  He retired as the Supervisor of Communications for the company.  He came back from England, engaged to a British girl; then he saw the little Lee girl, and that was that.

In his last years Dad taught himself to program the first computers and to read, write, and speak German.  He died in 1991 after a courageous struggle with cancer.

The Smart One

I want to be like my big brother when I grow up.  He is like dad; he can do anything and does everything well.  He is a well respected artist and art professor.

He was the perfect example for his younger brothers as we followed him through school.  My first date would have certainly been a disaster had he not called me aside, dressed me, told me I needed more money, and made me check the clock.

He still does the same things with his students and it's easy to see how much they love and respect him.  It is fun watching his art finally getting the recognition it has, for so long, deserved.

I don't get to spend nearly enough time with him.


DC was the best of the three Neel boys.  He was the real musician in the family.  He could play anything as was a Guitar and Mandolin virtuoso.  He and his band had quite a following in the clubs of Birmingham's Southside.

The man loved animals and volunteered his off time at the emergency animal clinic in Birmingham.  He trained hunting dogs and was an avid hunter.  When his lifelong dream of becoming a Veterinarian, was, for some reason, denied him, he became a Trauma Nurse...and a great one.

He died in his own emergency room, operated on by his friends, after an accidental shooting.

I miss the days we would strum along together, singing our favorite songs.  Had I known his time would be so short, I would have done that a lot more.

Wild Bill

My father-in-law is the consummate Southern Christian Gentleman.  He will always be my human spiritual pattern by which to live, though I know I will never measure up.  

Bill was a fantastic businessman and vice president of a prominent real estate company back home.

Bill didn't even flinch when I asked him If I could marry his daughter, but he took the time to give me sound advice.  I still remember everything he said.  I believe he may have been the only one who had no reservations about me marrying Kim, or, at least he didn't let on.

The only times he has ever lost his temper with me have been on the tennis court and while playing Uno.  He is a bit competitive.

After losing Sylvia, the love of his life, he gave up on living.  We buried them together in 2016.


Sil (my spelling) was my spiritual mentor and bull shit monitor; I truly do not know what I will do without her edits to my life.  Sylvia never had a problem putting me in my place.  

We were good friends before I even noticed her daughter; we called her Ranger Lady in those days.  She was the most supportive person in my life as I struggled with going in the Army and while I was in for my first enlistment.  She was like that with many people.

I have always heard that you should have a look at the mother if you're thinking about marrying a girl...well, there you go. 

Sil was the most thoughtful, caring and giving person I have ever known.  I never went home for a trip, or had her visit, without receiving a book, article, or some other reference to a subject we discussed long before.  She remembered everything. 

She was gone too soon.  Fuck Cancer.

Sevda Hanim

My most faithful Türk friend, I met her playing ball on the First Kordon in Izmir. A former model in Istanbul, She and her best friend, Berna, ran a very successful modeling agency, Divas Ajans, in Izmir.  Before long I was hanging out at her agency, traveling to shows with her, and taking photos of her models.  Those were excellent days.

We still talk on Facebook and by the occasional phone call.  

She moved to England and then to Germany after I left Turkey, but is back in Türkiye, living in Ankara.  She's married to a lucky guy who looks just like Robert de Niro and has recently given birth to her first child.

C1C Salvatore

Once my Regimental Sergeant Major and then Cadet First Captain, this guy came to the Institute after a tour in the Air Force.  He is a natural leader and did some great things here at the I.  Since graduating he has trained as an Air Force Combat Rescue Officer.  

I enjoy the times he comes home, sitting out on my back porch, smoking cigars, downing beer, and telling stories.

This photo is from Independence Day 2009.  It wasn't meant to be "heroic," it just came out that way.

C1C Roger

Once RSM and then Regimental Commander, this great young man continued the good things going on at VMI, but added fun to the equation!

Now a captain in the Army, he is Ranger qualified and is already back from his second deployment, and commanding his second company.

With roommates Phil and Evan, he was one of the original "Lost Boys" who would arrive ant the house every week, just before Lost, to consume pizza, popcorn, chips, salsa, and Mountain Dew.  I miss the speculating that would take place before and after each episode.

No E

This lovely girl is the only Mid-westerner I've ever known.  Catherine is fun and smart, and comes to the family by way of the VMI Hockey team.  She was dating one of the coaches as I gave up the team and I would see her at the rink.

Later, she began work at the VMI Counseling office and became the only person I trusted down there.  She "got" VMI and understood what worked and what wouldn't.  She has even taken the VMI Trap and Skeet Team all the way to Kentucky when I couldn't go.  She is quite a good shot as well.

It was a sad day for me when she moved away to do her Masters program, but is gave me a good reason to visit Charleston and a personal tour-guide when there.

She's a bit of a wise-ass, but in a very adorable package.


This one came into my life when a Cadet, her Brother Rat and a mutual friend, suddenly died. She graduated early and she asked me on Facebook about the situation.  I had her call.

She was the only one from VMI who realized that I needed to talk about it too.  She got me off my ass and down to Barracks to do my job, instead of sitting at the house feeling sorry for myself.

Since then we've become fast friends and talk most every day.

She is smart and funny, sweet and hot tempered, total girl and tomboy...all in one tiny little package.  Happy are the days I get to play Combat Softball Pitch with her.  Actua
lly, now that I think one it, her pitching arm scares me.  She and one of my great American heroes have the sweetest little boy.

We've taken some amazing photos together.  How could photos of someone so beautiful not be easy.


Kim met this super guy on the Internet and he has become an important part of our family.  We're traveling partners and enjoy times hanging out here in Lex and at RV parks all over in his 5th Wheel.  

Trust me, this ain't no ordinary 5th Wheel

He is great help when I need computer help or advice or want to check out some new electronic piece of kit...he knows his stuff.  Together we just solved my problem with up-grading to Windows 10 with a Windows 7 Enterprise computer. 

He never let's me get complacent, challenging me in my quest for more computer things to learn.  First it was a Website with Frames.  Then it was a responsive site.

I think I need to take him and his drone out o a few battlefields to test my Idea for a Civil War Video Blog with overhead shots.

Preacher Man

Former VMI Football player and Honor Court President, he is another member of the Inner Circle.

Probably the most fit guy I know, we all cringe at the suggestion of one of his workouts.  No Lie.   I have only done one,  and I swear, I will never return for another beasting like that ever again!

The man is an ordained minister and Army Chaplain.  If it weren't for that, I think he might have a bright future as a CIA Interrogator.


Fifteen years in this place and I have only one Washington & Lee friend.  This either shows good taste on her part or a lack of common sense.  Either way, this is a friendship built on a love for coffee, biscotti, relaxing mornings of conversation on my back porch.

Her one flaw...she's a Marine.  OK, two flaws...she's also Military Police.  We came to know each other while she was in school.  She sought my advice on seeking a Marine commission and on preparing for herself for military service.

She visits often and I meet up with her when I'm in her area, but I miss her being in Lex and chats out on the back stoop.  I enjoy taking her photo.  Pretty Girl.

Colonel John

John was one of the first guys I met when I arrived back on Post in 2001.  I believe him to be the most beloved teacher on the hill.  

He has built an award winning Band from almost nothing and takes them all over the world, getting the school name "Out There."  He started the VMI Hockey Team which still thrives today and brought the Cadet Glee Club back from almost certain extinction.  Everything he touches around here turns to gold. 

He and I travel to Civil War battlefields each May and it is great to travel with him.  The hours in Bess fly by as he reads Shelby Foote in a perfect Southern accent; not a small feat for my favorite Yankee.


This warrior and I grew up together, we just didn't know each other until we were in our twenties.  

We met when we helped form Machaira Church (called Doctrinal Studies now) back in 1974.  We went in the Army at about the same time, but we never got to serve together...probably because he was so High Speed

My favorite time with him was when he was in training at Camp McCall and moved in with my wife and me.  We also spent some time in London together.  He is out of the Army now, and runs his own corporation.

But he is still a bad ass operator type.  Don't cross him.


This is my daughter's college roommate and a frequent visitor to the Neel house all four years she was in college.   You'd think my daughter could have brought home attractive friends.

She commissioned in the Army in the MP Corps, but a military career was not in her future.  She  worked here at the school, in the Commandant's office, for a while and did an outstanding job.  Then she took a civilian job with the Navy, where she ran the Morale programs on a ship during a 6-month deployment.  

Now, she's a nanny to some pretty lucky kids out west, recently married, and entirely too far away.


I met this lovely lady at the Old Dominion Cotillion back when I took cadets to act as escorts for the debs.  After about 5 years, that got to be too much work and became more and more problematic as VMI did more and more each summer.  Since I could not get them to change their schedule to match ours, I had to pull my support.

I haven't heard from any of the others since, which makes their "friendship" with me a bit suspect, but this wonderful lady has remained faithful and has become one of our closest friends.  When she needed a break from NOVA and DC, she would usually in Lex.  I liked those times.  Now she is in Atlanta, so seeing her is less frequent.

The Army Buddy

By far, the finest soldier I have ever met, I ran into this guy in the 2-505 when I joined the Scouts.  He is the best navigator, best shot, and the toughest man I have ever met.

I was his boss when I left the Army in 1980 and he was my boss when I re-enlisted in 1981.  We never let our friendship interfere with business, but you had better not mess with either of us; we're like brothers and we watch each other's back.

Sadly, there came a time when I left the scouts, then he left the Division, and we never worked together again.  We lost contact for awhile when we left the Army, but I was able to track him down through his daughter on Facebook.

He's back in Bama enjoying his family, driving a truck, and riding his bike...loving life.  Good On You, Brother.

The Brother Rat

This is, by far, the member of the class of 2004 to whom I am closest.  He has adopted this family and we have adopted him.  

I really don't know what we would have done without him at Ft. Bragg while the daughter was there.  This man had to pick up furniture, move furniture in, put furniture together, move furniture out, pack up furniture, and did a thousand other things.  

The girls in my house absolutely adore him.  There is no finer Southern Gentleman on the planet.

The Ten Never Sleep!


This is my drinking and dancing partner.  She is also one of the folks I met when we formed the church, but it took Kim getting to know her while I was in Turkey on my first tour. 

I basically inserted myself into the friendship...and I think they accepted it. Sal is my source for good places to eat around Birmingham.  We get together every time I'm home and she picks the place.  She is never wrong.

My favorite time with her was in England when we would sneak off to hit the local pubs in Eushot, Church Crookham, and Fleet, bimbling back home on single track roads, causing way too much commotion.

Super Duper Cooper the Trooper

Nobody loves me like this fluffy guy.  I may not love anyone more than him. 

I, pretty much, showed my ass when my daughter said she was getting another, bigger, dog.  The first pup she bought she gave to friends.  I saw more trouble in the future, knowing she's have to leave her damn-dog with us if she got deployed.

But This Guy!  He is no trouble, smells like flowers, was super easy to house train, is playful, smart, and loving.  He is very protective of Elise, just the kind of guy a dad wants for his daughter.

Great are the days I get to keep him.  We're always out walking and fetching.  He is such a chick magnet.  Had I known about this as a young man, I would have gotten a golden doodle long ago.

His only issue--He knows he's cute and thinks he is funny.

The Writer

I have recently reconnected with an old high school classmates, now a prolific and well respected Southern writer.  

Vick and I weren't that close in school, though she was the pianist for the male vocal group in which I sang, but in the last couple if years we've been talking over face book and it's a rare day that we don't exchange an e-mail or message.

She is so talented and I own all of her books.  I have been able to help her with her newest, a copy of which I just received.  It is great.  It is fun to see how she used the ideas, military ideas, that I provided.

My brother Jim took this photo.
  I'll take my own one day.
The Last Cadet

Adopted during my last few months at VMI, Cadet Rebecca and I have tons of things in common and our conversations over coffee and lunch ran the gambit from Movies to Music, Religion to Photography.  So enjoyable were these moments that I cleared a place for her to study and chill out in my office.

My job, as I saw it was to give her lists of things that she has missed by being such a youngster...Movies and things like that.  I also gave her my Canon AE-1 program after she did an amazing job with her first Black and White roll of film.

Soon she'll graduate and go off to be a fine USMC officer, I just hope it's on the Eastern Seaboard.