31 October, 2006

Valour-IT: The Need

I saw the headline the other day:

101 Die in Iraq in October

Of course I instantly thought of 101 radiating circles of devastating pain and loss. It hurts my heart when I think of the tears and emptiness so many must be feeling. And coming on the heels of those meditations was the realization that in the wake of each fallen warfighter are likely several seriously-injured brothers, brothers who are still among us and in desperate need of all the love and literal support we can give them.

It's been a rough month in Iraq. Most of the deaths came from IEDs, which usually hit a multi-passenger vehicle or gathering of military personnel. This means that each death we heard about probably included several wounded warfighters who are now arriving at places like Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda). And we never even hear about the cases in which no one dies, but passengers are severely wounded.

And that's why Valour-IT and this fundraiser are so important. Valour-IT supports the wounded that are quietly coping and attempting to heal, that don't get the headlines, whose families are not on the front page of local newspapers.

As has been said so often before, Valour-IT isn't about simply giving an emotional boost. It's about showing the severely wounded that they are still connected to us, that they are capable, that there is still a future for them.

I'm reminded of my conversation with the executive director of Soldier Ride, which sponsors adaptive cycling events for the wounded (including a cross-country bike ride). As we talked, we realized that Valour-IT and Soldier Ride are bookends on the path of recovery. Valour-IT is psychological first-aid, the beginning of it all, a connection to their support network and tangible hope that they are not going to spend their lives isolated in a hospital room or dependent on others who are more mobile. Soldier Ride is the proof of that all, a physical mountain they climb, proving to themselves that the world is their oyster, that their lives are not over and they can accomplish great things.

Valour-IT sets the foundation for a future. Please donate; help us show these wounded warriors they have a future. And help them reconnect with the world.

It's beyond patriotism--it's simply the right thing to do.

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A Silver Lining?

In this post, I wrote about how Valour-IT is non-partisan. I firmly believe it is. But the wonderful thing about being non-partisan is that individuals can have all sorts of personal motivations for donating. Here's a great letter I got this morning:

We have much to thank the brave men and women of our armed forces for, but in this instance I have to give credit to a complete jackass for inspiring me. I was so disgusted by John Kerry's comments that it reminded me I had not given a donation to our troops in a while. I am from MA and have the dishonor of being represented by that fool.

Captain Ed at Captains Quarters blog alerted me to the program you are running. I am very happy to make a small contribution. As the father of two children under two, I give thanks every day for this great country and for the men and women that give so much to keep it that way.

Thanks for your efforts in creating this opportunity to for me to thank our true heroes.

And thank you for taking a negative and using it to spur a positive reaction.

Every cloud has a silver lining, huh? Maybe we can get Kerry to join Valour-IT as Motivator in Chief...

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Support Valour-IT? He Gets It

In surfing the fundraising competition links and trackbacks this morning, I found a very interesting site. The blogger writes on his introduction page:

This website is mainly about self discovery and exploration of self. [...] But even more so, this site is an opportunity for myself and others to explore and apply the Elias teachings on a personal level and implement in daily life what Elias calls the shift in consciousness.

My idea is to exchange personal experiences, musing, observations, deductions, ramblings about this idea-complex with others of like intent and in that process discover more about self.

Well. I'm guessing this guy isn't much into military issues. Yup. But that doesn't mean he's not interested in Valour-IT. Check this out:

I'm normally not interested in military issues and for what it is worth, I'd be more a peace activist than a soldier, although in fact I'm neither.

But when I read about Project Valour-It, which tries to give speech enabled computers to veterans with hand and arm injuries, I immediately wanted to lend some energy in form of money and blog attention, because I see it a project that is first and foremost for people and not the military and a fine example of humanity and brotherhood.

I think that has to be one of the best endorsements of Valour-IT I've read in a long time. A great reminder that this is not a partisan matter, but simply a matter of humanity and human connectedness.

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30 October, 2006

Valour-IT News and Notes

Here's some news you can use...

  • Day 1 stats for the funraising competition are up.
  • Valour-IT has now delivered over 650 laptops to America's wounded warriors.
  • Make sure people are donating through your team button and not the main website. Donations to the main website are not counted in team totals.
  • Yes, the flyers have the wrong address on them, but it's still a Soldiers' Angels address, so it won't be disastrous is someone sends a donation there. We're working on fixing it.
  • This is a true grassroots effort, so it's important to "get local." Contact your local radio stations and newspapers that you think would be interested in Valour-IT as a story or just in publicizing the fundraiser. It can make both a great human interest story or technology story (online fundraising, online grassroots, etc). You can find tips for dealing with media here. If you "hook" someone, email me or your team leader.
  • Team Leaders and others with major media connections are working that side of things very hard. If you have a major media connection, please let us know so that we're not buggging anyone who's already in touch with Valour-IT.
  • Don't be afraid to email your friends and family, talk about it at your church or community organization, share it with co-workers. Valour-IT is truly a non-partisan project that practically sells itself once people hear about it. So get out there and tell them!
  • Be sure to check out the useful links on the project blog sidebar.
And finally...
  • You guys are all awesome!!!
Cross-posted at Valour-IT Project Blog

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Valour-IT Fundraising Competition 2006

What: a friendly competition to raise money for Valour-IT.
When: October 30 to November 11.
Where: starting on blogs and spreading everywhere.

Where does the "friendly competition" part come in? We've divided the milbloggers into four teams, according to military service branch to see who can inspire donors to raise the most money. Anybody can join any team, and all the money goes to the same place--wounded servicemembers of any military branch. Team leaders are:

Army: Blackfive
Navy: Chaotic Synaptic Activity
Marine Corps: Villainous Company
Air Force: Op-For

If you're a donor, click on a link above and donate to Valour-IT. If you're a blogger, you can sign up and join a team here, then go visit your team leader for more info.

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28 October, 2006

Challenge to the Navy

Update: Chaotic Synaptic Activity has stepped up!

The Valour-IT fundraising competition will begin bright and early Monday morning. So far the team leaders are:

Army: Blackfive
Air Force: Op-For
Marine Corps: Villainous Company
Navy: ????? Chaotic Synaptic Activity has stepped up!

Yes, once again we find Navy slow to step up. Last year we started the competition without a leader for Navy. Fortunately they found someone after a day and managed to pull it together to be the first to meet their fundraising goal. But alas, they fell a few hundred dollars short of Army in the final totals. Kinda makes one wonder what might have happened had they had a leader from day one... Hmmmm? ;)

All teasing aside, we need a team leader for Navy: either a big blogger or a coalition of smaller ones. Who's going to step up to the plate?

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27 October, 2006

Flirtation by Flashlight

I just happened to find this lovely British obituary and had to share:

Stephanie Batstone, who died on October 17 aged 83, published her recollections of life as a signaller in the WRNS, describing how she cheered up a lonely young American seaman awaiting D-Day; her account of flirting by flashlight ranks as one of the more unusual romances of the Second World War.

It's a wonderful story; do read it all.

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26 October, 2006

More Fun With Journalists

The setup: a reporter for a smalltown newspaper writes an article about Michael Grout, a former Vietnam veteran and SEAL suffering from injuries and emotional anguish who finds comfort with a fellow vet. Details such as his time as a POW are included among his amazing adventures.

The complication: Reporter's editor is informed that no SEALs were POWs in Vietnam, that "Michael Grout" is not in the "SEAL database," and that there are myriad oddities in Mr. Grout's story that sound right out of Hollywood.

Editor's reply when confronted by a real-life SEAL with this information?:

He claims that because he was working as a CIA agent, he did not use his real name, and is still not at liberty to divulge the name he used and further information about his CIA mission. [snip]

I don't know what the truth is, and we'll probably never know. However, the reporter who wrote the original story is writing another story as soon as he gathers his information. He will quote what Grout told us Friday, and note that we have received letters that say he is a fraud. I guess the people will have to determine what the real truth is.

I think Grout's story is believable, but then I've never served in the military and don't know much about the CIA. But if the TV show "The Agency" that was on two or three years before it canceled bears any resemblance to to the way the CIA really operates, his story is believable.

Well, there's journalism at it's best. And these are the types of "informed people" we're supposed to rely on for our news. Unbelievable.

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25 October, 2006

The Heart of a Lion

Soldiers’ Angels has a form through which a wounded soldier (or his family/friends) can request assistance of any kind. Since it goes to the same place Valour-IT laptop requests go, I usually see a copy.

Today we got a very special request that just blew me away.

Corporal X suffered his war wounds a couple years ago. Here’s how he describes his current situation and reason for requesting assistance from Soldiers' Angels (with a few edits from me to maintain his anonymity):

I am a TBI (Tramatic Brain Injury) patient at [a US military hospital]. I have completed my medical boards and the army was trying to put me out. I fought my boards (on my own) and I am now eligible to stay in the army, but I have to reclass out of the infantry (MOS 11B). As a result, I am going into [another MOS—Military Occupational Specialty].

In the class I have been going to to help me know the info before I go to AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I have a hard time remembering things because I have approx 15% to 20% of my brain removed. The classes I am going through are given by [a rehabilitation-related department at the hospital]. I got this website from [name and number at the hospital].

The classes I am going through are requiring a laptop, and I do not have one and I do not have the resources at this time to buy one. I have done everything on my own up to this point but now I really need help. I cannot complete the labs without a computer. I need to learn this before I go back into training or else I will fail and be left behind by the military.

I’m thinking he definitely deserves that laptop, huh?

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A Marine in the Making

Sometimes someone who passes through the USO makes such an impact on me that I wish I could keep on eye on his future and see how things develop. Last week I encountered one of those people, a young recruit I suspect I will never forget.

A group of four Marine recruits had nervously approached the reception desk. After they received their instructions and a verbal tour of the facilities they stood around a moment, seemingly a bit unsure what to do next. Seeing their hesitation, the volunteer seated next to me teased them a little, commenting loudly to a Marine Corporal standing nearby, "Poor things, they look so lost."

Three of the recruits shuffled their feet and looked a little bashful, though they tried to act like they were comfortable and unafraid. But one recruit who had already started to walk away, turned suddenly when he heard the volunteer's teasing comment. Standing proudly, he raised his eyes to her and replied with a firm voice of absolute confidence, "No, ma'am. I just now found my way."

"Now that's the right answer!" I exclaimed as I turned toward the corporal who quietly nodded his head and tried to disguise his approving smile.

What I wouldn't give to see where that young recruit is in 15 or 20 years...

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24 October, 2006

Change of Pace...

It's been a bit serious 'round here lately. So... just to stir things up... *grin*

Dreamy, romantic, and ultra-feminine, you're a womanly woman who makes guys feel like men. Your perfect guy is strong, determined, and handsome... with a softer side that only you can draw out.

You Are a Lace Bra!


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23 October, 2006


Update: A Rose By Any Other Name has more, including an email from the chief himself

This is Air Force Medical Chief John Gebhardt and a Iraqi orphan. Terrorists killed her family and shot her in the head. Miraculously, she survived. As reported in the email that has been making the rounds:

She was cared for by John’s hospital and healing up, but has been crying and moaning. The nurses said John is the only one she seems to calm down with, so John has spent the last four nights holding her while they both sleep in that chair.

As John at Op-For points out, "With a wounded Iraqi child in the Chief's arms and a pistol holster on his shoulder, the photo does seem to capture our purpose in Iraq rather succinctly." Yes, this is another demonstration of the fundamental compassion of our military men and women that underlies their professional lethality.

But I was struck with the reminder that these pictures do not capture merely a one-way street; this is more than military man comforting the victim of war. Once, in the middle of a very painful time, I found myself stretched out on the couch with an friend's sleeping infant snuggled into my neck. The feelings were overwhelmingly powerful--both enlivening and soothing, almost instantaneously centering me in who and what I was. And I suspect it is similar for Chief Gebhardt in this case; in the middle of the soul-challenging insanity of war, it's a reminder of who he is--Human. Man. Brother? Father and husband, perhaps? Protector, most certainly. Grounded in the reality of this helpless child snuggling at his neck...

Sometimes I think babies are magical.

Update II: Just for clarification, I believe the 2nd picture is a different child. It's the same chief, though, and he is reportedly known for comforting wounded infants and toddlers at the hospital.

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A Question of Ethics

This is a bit of a departure 'round here, but it's something that's been on my mind...

I believe that honesty is almost always the best policy. In my opinion, the only areas that are open to debate are matters of life and death or things such as, "Does this make my butt look big?" directed at a significant other (personally, I think the response should be something like, "I think you're incredibly sexy, but I think I've seen other clothes on you that show off your butt better than those pants/skirt/jeans do." But when I ask something like that, I'm usually looking for an honest answer because I want to look my best).

Anyway, what about things that aren't little white lies? I value my integrity and the (relatively few) times I haven't been able to look myself in the mirror, I've found that the lie just gets compounded. And I tend to be of the theory that lying in one area is indicative of the ability/penchant to lie in another. It's not that I'm truthful because "you'll go to hell if you lie." Rather, I believe it is part of an ethical way of life that allows me to respect myself and to interact with others in ways that ultimately get me what I want--both professionally and personally. In short, I try to be an ethical person, and truthfulness is part of good ethics.

I'm not talking big giant lies here... just things like fudging income taxes, mildly embellishing work history, or even pretending to have a background one doesn't have in order to be considered for a job that is reserved for a particular type of person.

No, though I'm starting to get financially desperate, I'm not considering lying to get a job (not only does that make me respect myself less, it's a recipe for disaster). But I'm somewhat surprised at the people I know who think I should "lie if it's necessary."

It makes me terribly uncomfortable that friends are encouraging me to lie. To those who want me to lie, I think the following questions in my head: 1) Just how low is your expectation of my character--i.e. what kind of loyalty and honesty do you expect me to show you if you want lying to be a part of my character? 2) If you are telling me to lie, how much/often do you lie? 3) If lying is a non-issue for you, how can you expect me to trust you? 4) What are the standards by which you decide when you will and won't tell the truth? And if you have no consistent belief in the importance of being truthful, how do I know you will apply your when-to-tell-the-truth standard consistently?

Am I overly idealistic, naive, or acting as if I'm morally superior because I refuse to join those who tell me to lie? Are my standards in this area for myself and others unreasonably high? Are there really so few honest people in the world? And if so, why should I trust anybody I haven't known about half a dozen years, at least?

[Friends, be advised that in many ways I'm playing Devil's Advocate here, but I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on this subject.]

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22 October, 2006

Oops, We're Sorry

The New York Times' "Public Editor" (aka ombudsman) has had a change of heart. He's decided that maybe the NYT shouldn't have published all that information about the efforts to track terrorist financing earlier this year after all. And wonder of wonders, his change of heart is for some of the very reasons people argued against publishing the info in the first place!:

Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone’s private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of “the most substantial argument against running the story,” but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column. [snip]

Also, there still haven’t been any abuses of private data linked to the program, which apparently has continued to function. That, plus the legality issue, has left me wondering what harm actually was avoided when The Times and two other newspapers disclosed the program. The lack of appropriate oversight — to catch any abuses in the absence of media attention — was a key reason I originally supported publication. I think, however, that I gave it too much weight.

There's more (scroll down to "Banking Data--A mea culpa), all in a similar breezy vein.

So glad to know that four months after spreading secret info around the world they've decided they're sorry. Perhaps they will be more circumspect the next time they have the chance to put something classified on the front page.

Yeah, and pigs will fly.

Update: Captain's Quarters thoroughly fisks it.

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20 October, 2006

Blood Brothers Book Tour, part II

Here's the rest of Michael Weisskopf's book tour schedule for Blood Brothers:





1:00 PM

Washington, DC — Politics and Prose



West Point, NY — USMA Bookstore


7:30 PM

Bethesda, MD — Barnes & Noble


2:00 PM

Camp Pendleton, CA — MCA Bookstore



Boston, MA — Hingham Barnes & Noble


7:00 PM

Durham, NC —Regulator Bookshop


7:00 PM

Raleigh, NC — Quail Ridge Books


11:00 AM

Fort Bragg, NC


7:30 PM

St. Louis, MO — St. Louis Jewish Book Festival


7:30 PM

New York, NY — Upper West Side Barnes & Noble


6:00 PM

Mobile, AL — Page and Palette


2:00 PM

Camp Lejeune, NC — Levy Books

Once again: if you haven't yet, go get a copy of this amazing book.

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Return of the Valour-IT Competition

This post will stay on top. Scroll down for new stuff.

Once again we will be having a fundraising competition for Valour-IT in the days leading up to Veterans Day. Details will be coming out in the next few weeks, but here's some food for thought...

This is a great opportunity to do a local fundraiser that can be included in the Valour-IT competition. Start planning now and you could include it in your team's fundraising totals. If you're in Arizona, how about a car wash? Or in a colder climate, this is the perfect time for a spaghetti dinner or an indoor food fair. Get creative! Hmmm... A competition team that can bring in the proceeds of a community fundraiser would have a definite leg up on the others, now wouldn't they?

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16 October, 2006

The Journey

All the military people in my life where either already mid-deployment when I got to know them, or their deployment/war was usually long over by the time we got close.

But that changed last night. Somebody I know and care about was informed at monthly drill that his unit will begin training for deployment as early as January. They'll be in Iraq and outside the wire.

It certainly looks different from this side of the starting line.

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14 October, 2006

FbL, Sharpshooter

Okay... maybe someday. But I'm feeling like I got off to a pretty good start.

[All my well-educated friends, please forgive what I know is going to be a post full of errors and improper nomenclature.]

Last Thursday I fired a weapon for the first time in my life. And much to my surprise I generally hit what I tried to! If my memory is correct, I started with a .38(?), then a 9mm, then a .45 that was described as a "combat sidearm." I also loaded magazines, but found that my apparently weak thumbs make that a lot of work!

Surprisingly, the smallest was the one that was most uncomfortable because it bounced around in my hand and knocked against the space between thumb and forefinger. The .45 was the hardest to shoot simply because of the weight, but it felt the most comfortable in my hand and seemed to have less kickback.

With only one exception, all the rounds from the .38 hit within the "kill zone" of a small target (actual distance was about seven yards, but the target was sized for 100m).

Here are the results from the 9mm and .45 (the collection of shots on the left are not mine):

I believe the distance was seven yards and more. It was described to me at one point as "the distance at which a majority of police engagements occur."

I started out very solid on the 9mm, with all but one round from the first magazine hitting center. But after a certain point, my aim actually got worse as I went along. By the end of the .45, I was consistently low--due to just plain tired muscles (aimed for the head of the target with the .45, but majority of shots hit the upper chest).

For a moment with the .9mm I suddenly felt it all click into place and knew I could solidly hit the target over and over again at will. For that moment I think I put 6 in the center of the target in about 8 seconds. But I'm still learning, so I'm not even sure what I did that put me "in the zone" for that time.

It was at that point I realized I'm hooked. I'm extremely competitive, with high standards, so something that is all about control and small adjustments that have big payoffs is right up my alley. If my hands/arms hand't gotten tired so quickly, I would've happily kept going for hours.

I also stood by as someone fired a rather serious rifle. I wish I could remember what it was (used bullets that weighed 240, I believe), but I certainly won't forget what it sounded like. Standing six feet back, I could still feel the percussive burst in the air at each firing. It looked interesting, but I think I'll wait a little before I try and cuddle up to something like that!

Still, I'm hooked. I can't wait to do it again!

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13 October, 2006

Fun With Loud Things

Yesterday: Handguns and Rifles

Today: Blue Angels (Miramar) Air Show

Pics and AARs to follow...

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12 October, 2006

Stupid Civilian Tricks

I'm sitting at the USO reception desk last week when these two pencil-necked, sucken-chested, snot-nosed little 20-somethings with minimal muscle tone amble in. I give them the benefit of the doubt and take them for recruits, but they say they aren't. When I ask for ID, one of them hangs back a little nervously while the other immediately hands me his drivers' license:

"No, military ID."

"We don't have our IDs. We just got out of training and they're sending 'em in the mail."

Yeah, right... I'm starting to think this could be fun. A Marine Sergeant decked out in his dress blues happens to be visiting at he same time, and out of the corner of my eye I see him inch over to me to better observe this little drama unfold. So I ask where they're stationed.

They look confused. "We're coming back from leave."

"Yes, but where are you headed?"

"Back to base."

"Yes, [idiots!], where have you been assigned, though? What's your duty station?"

They continue to look confused.

"What's your base called?!"

The first one glances nervously at the Sgt and then back to me. "MCR.... uhhh... CU.... uhmmm... uhmmmm.... "

I let them keep hanging themselves.

"MJ... uh... UCMJ!"

I'm amazed, "UCMJ??!" The kid who'd hung back stage-whispers to his friend, "No, you idiot, MCRD!" as he starts to inch back to the front door.

I turn and look at at the Sgt, just stunned at the stupidity of these two. He merely gazes at them and the hesitant kid backing up starts to look downright panicked. The Sgt lets the mood develop another heartbeat, then growls in the finest DI tradition, with just a slight lean in towards them, "Get the hell outta here." They both turn and run like scared cockroaches.

Well, I suppose I should give them a nod for at least having the guts to try something that stupid, haha!

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11 October, 2006

Blood Brothers Book Tour

As promised, I have some basic information about Michael Weisskopf's book tour for Blood Brothers (btw, if you haven't yet, go get yourself a copy. It's worth it).

Reportedly, he will be giving talks/speeches at the various stops. The following list is unfortunately not complete, but it should be enough info to get you headed in the right direction if he's in your area. For this week (the rest of the schedule here):





7:30 PM

Dallas, TX – Barnes & Noble



Ford Hood, TX


11:00 AM

Fort Campbell, KY



Georgetown College Lecture Series and Joseph-Beth Booksellers


7:00 PM

Brentwood, CA – Dutton’s Brentwood Bookstore


7:30 PM

Dallas, TX – Barnes & Noble


6:00 PM

Nashville, TN – Davis-Kidd and Joseph-Beth Booksellers

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USO Vignette

Yesterday was a very busy day, with over 300 Marines passing through in just the morning hours. They used the facilities to change into their Class A uniforms before reporting for SOI/MCT (post-boot camp training).

Into the middle of this swarm of new 19 and 20-year-old Marines walked a smallish and dignified man of at least 80 or so. He approached the desk on slow but steady feet, carefully set down his small bag to the left, and wordlessly signed in as he handed me an ID card that identified him as a retired lieutenant general. He then commented on the number of people in the room, so I told him they were headed to SOI/MCT.

As I asked how I could help him, a young Marine stepped up on his left to sign in. The elder turned and looked kindly at the youngster. "Here son," he said quietly, as he reached up with slightly-clumsy but gentle hands to tuck the errant tip of an epaulet on the younger man's uniform under the collar. The young Marine simply said, "Thank you, sir," as a frail hand lingered on his shoulder for just a heartbeat longer than was necessary.

The Lt. General just stood there as the young man returned to signing in, a self-contained quietness about him. His expression was what I first interpreted as "a little lost," as he calmly glanced around the room, so I started to describe the facilities available to him (computers, etc). He smiled kindly at me for a moment, but I soon realized he wasn't interested. It then hit me: he was a Marine, and he was standing there simply enjoying being in the middle of so many young Marines again. A small smile flitted across his face as he took in the vibrant busyness swirling around him, and I could've sworn that for a moment he was somewhere else.

But then the young Marine finished signing in and stepped away. The Lt. General reached past where the youngster had just stood, retrieving his own bag. "There's coffee and pastries around the corner; make yourself at home," I said. He smiled as he turned away and I resisted the urge to pry, "I'm just here to check something on the computer."

And so, having momentarily conquered the divides of time and space, the generations returned to their respective positions at opposite ends of the warrior's path... and I felt rather like a peeping tom.

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09 October, 2006

The Code of Thieves

I had to share. It's just too funny...

A couple of weeks ago I had dinner with a cop. As we sat in the restaurant, his personal vehicle was stolen right out of the parking lot. It wasn't particularly new and it had no alarm system, so apparently nobody noticed when the thieves absconded with it. The particularly painful part was that it was equipped with a DoD sticker and contained all his work gear.

Fast-forward two weeks: His vehicle was found early this morning. The contents were gone, the door locks were damaged, and it had hundreds of miles added to the odometer. And where was it discovered? In the same parking lot where he'd left it... three rows over.

Maybe the thieves just wanted to "borrow" it...?

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War Widow

Update: Deb's friend has written an extended post about the funeral.

I don't know how to introduce the following, other than to give the background and let the emails speak for themselves. It was written by a woman who attended the funeral of Marine Captain Justin Peterson, who died in a non-combat accident in Iraq. He left behind a wife and three young children, including an infant. I think it speaks volumes about the Brotherhood and the strength of a great lady. Deb of Marine Corps Moms forwarded it to me with a preface:

A friend of mine attended his funeral - not a Marine mom, her son tried but was kept out because of allergies and asthma. She'd e-mailed me to ask if it would be appropriate to go and that the Phelps crowd had threatened to show up and was a bit apprehensive about that. I encouraged her and told her that the Patriot Guard riders would run interference with Phelps. So, she packed up her 4 sons and drove down [from Canada]. Here's her e-mail to me:

I am just whacked, but I wanted to send you a quick note. The funeral was really quite something. The most memorable part was when the message from his company was read by one of his friends. He was in a really small 11-man unit, so almost all of his men were there. The young man trying to read the message from all of the men nearly didn't make it through. He stood there for nearly five minutes before he could stop clenching his jaw, began reading, then choked to a stop, blew his nose and said,"Allergies" then tried to start again. After stopping again and trying to keep going, the captain's widow walked up onto the podium, put her arms around the young Marine reading and stood there holding him and giving him tissues as he needed. He barely managed to get through what he had to say, and there wasn't a dry eye in the place. The other Marines had been holding up pretty well until the widow went up, and then they started crying, too. There was one man there whom everyone saluted, and he had a lot more medals and stuff (I'm hopeless about ranks, etc. ) and he just sat with kleenex in both hands, tears rolling. When the young Marine finished reading, the widow walked him back to his chair, gave him a hug, and wiped away his tears with her own hanky.

Later in the day, she added more:

Yes, Mrs. Peterson is quite a strong lady. She wrote a message to be read there, at her husband's funeral. Her sister read it, as her family wouldn't let her read it herself. They said it wasn't done, and that it would be too hard on her. That lady had to keep bailing everyone else out, I'm telling you! She kept worrying about everyone else at the funeral, and personally escorted some of the Patriot Gaurds into a pew. We were told that usually the families are grateful for their presence but don't invite them into the funeral. However, Mrs. Peterson insisted that at least the Ride Captain and a few of his men should come inside and stay with them.

There's just so much to think about, but what an amazing woman!

As Deb said, "Amazing, yes. Her husband would be so proud of her."

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I've wanted to write about this from the first day I read Lex's original post and his many thoughtful commenters, but I both didn't know what to say and feared treading elephant feet on a such tender ground. But reading Chapomatic finally kicked things loose for me.

For three glorious years Lex has taken us inside the fighter jet to experience just a hint of what goes through the mind and body of a fighter pilot as he accomplishes the amazing feats required of a naval aviator. But lately he's put his literary skills to a very personal use: showing us some of the other side of naval service--what happens when a man of honor, duty and devotion stands between Family and Service, when a sheepdog gets a whiff of distant battle, when ego strains against judgment, when dreams thought put to rest attempt to revive and there is no answer that satisfies all demands.

Lex has several times written heart-wrenchingly on what it means to look back on a career that brought tremendous adventure and personal satisfaction in service of a greater good, but realize the career's impact on one's family. And there came a point where he didn't want to do that to his family anymore. So (as he has written on his blog), he asked to be taken off a career track that was headed for something special and has spent two tours flying a desk in San Diego.

He's still being asked to fly a desk, but now in either a war zone or foreign-country, rear-echelon support of that war zone. He could get out of it if he wanted to, but Lex is a man of extremely serious integrity and honor, so that's not his way. And yet he stands torn between the two duty fields in his life, with the realization that there is likely no way to satisfy both...

He is not the only member of our military who must live with these tensions, and I am reminded of what is done on our behalf, of the sacrifices that don't show up on lists of wounded and killed in action.

I cannot know what is best for him and his family, but I am left with two wishes: 1) That it all work out for all involved, and 2) That someday the daughter who possesses the ability to shred his heart understands what his love for her inspired him to do.

Men (and women) like Lex make decisions like this everyday, quietly and without fanfare. Lex, thank you for once again pulling back the curtain a little and letting the rest of us see...

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

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06 October, 2006


Yup. Still here. It's just that life has been staking out use of most of my brain cells. There seem to be not so many left for blogging. For those who may care, here's a sketch:

The search for temporary work until the right permanent job comes along is not going well and the financial reserves have more than scraped bottom. Apparently I'm both over-qualified and under-experienced, believe it or not. Further complicating it is that most "temporary" jobs are temp-to-hire, which would keep me from the very volunteer work that is part of developing my new career. And the whole process takes longer than it should because I'm fighting myself here--run-of-the-mill office work (which I am eminently qualifed for) makes me want to cry.

On the brighter side, someone is generally rearranging my brain and adjusting my perspective in a positive direction. A wonderful process, but its myriad repercussions are creating quite a bit of preoccupation on my part. A side benefit is that it apparently makes me too preoccupied to eat much, so I'm effortlessly losing some weight, haha.

And throw into the mix preparations for another Valour-IT fundraising competition... Anybody got tips or suggestions for approaching a business about offering incentives/matching funds?

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