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Breaking News…

Hey Y’all,

 

Got some breaking news for you. It is really cold outside. It is really cold almost everywhere. It is so cold I am about ready to believe in Global Cooling. It is so cold that I am thinking about going out and buying a fleet of SUVs and leave them all running and parked in my driveway. It might not change the carbon mixture for the planet but it might warm up the neighborhood.

 

Last week, the family bailed out of West Virginia and went to Memphis to visit the my family down south. The kids were on the very appropriately named “Winter Break.” We escaped this winter storm just in time. When we pulled out of the driveway, it was starting to flurry.

 

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7 to 10 inches of snow later my neighbor Dave took this at 12:00 EST, Monday February 16th by Dave W.

 

 

But we were caught up in this.

 

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The Mid South got a 1/2 inch of ice Monday morning. It was a total mess. Later that day, the neighborhood kids were ice skating and playing hockey in the street. I mean with real skates and everything. Photo from Rob Akers.

 

A week later things haven’t changed for most of us. It is still cold and the frozen slush is still on the ground making driving and walking difficult. But I do have at least one smart friend who made a much better decision last week.

 

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Our good friend Billy G. took this photo at the same time I was taking a picture of my sister-in-law’s car. He was nice enough to text it to me. It is tough to see but it is the sunrise from his hotel balcony in Maui. He and his family were there for “Winter Break.” I don’t see any snow anywhere in the picture. Photo taken by Billy “You Mother Trucker for not inviting me to go on your vacation” G.

 

Every year I try to convince my wife into letting the family move to Hawaii. Every year she has another lame excuse, like she needs to paint her nails or pluck her eyebrows. I know it is important stuff, but I think she could do all that from the beech in Hawaii. She is like a broken record with all of her excuses. Last year, I got her to start watching the shows about people buying houses in Hawaii on HGTV. You know the one where the used car salesman and the substitute teacher want to buy a little house in Hawaii. They have a budget of $650,000 but they always go over budget and get the 15.4 million dollar plantation next to the Robin Masters Estate. Like most of this post, it is all comical.

 

Three minutes into the trip to drive back from Memphis last week, she asked me to talk to her. I guess 9 hours of silence doesn’t work for her.  I started up with the “lets move to Hawaii” conversation again, and to my surprise she said something different.

 

“I can’t go without some friends.”

“I thought I was your friend.” I replied.

She gave me that look. You know the one, that I get when I ask dumb questions. She pulled out her cell phone and started texting all her friends. Within minutes the texts were flowing back to her and everyone wanted to go with her.

 

The good news is that my wife is packing her bags and is going with all her friends. They are calling it a “Girls Only Trip.” The bad news is that they were buying one way tickets. It seems I, all the other husbands and all of the kids have to stay behind. Opps, my plan didn’t work out exactly as I had envisioned. All is not lost because in four months the snow will probably melt and they might come back.

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

 

 

 

My first son…

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As he aged, his face turned white so that he resembled a raccoon. His sister is the exact same age but she washes the gray out.

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

I know I owe you something and I have been a little slow getting something out. There is so much to talk about from the Super Bowl to another story time. But to be honest, my motivation is severely lacking.  One of my puppies pasted away this week. Legend was named after Larry Bird and was just over 13 years old. He and his sister who is named Magic after Ervin “Magic” Johnson were a surprise gift to my future wife in the winter of 2002. I went to the local dog pound on a Monday looking for a dog. I found a great litter of seven or eight dogs that were perfect. But the problem was that I couldn’t pick one and I didn’t have a lot of time to spend with them. I left and went back two days later and there were two dogs left. I couldn’t leave one behind so I left with two.

 

Legend giving his sister a little kiss. Yes I know it is weird.

Legend giving his sister a little kiss. Yes I know it is weird.

 

I went to the store and bought all of the supplies including a couple of baby gates to limit their freedom to roam then I took them back to my house and got them set up in the kitchen.  It was a Friday evening and my wife and I had a date planned with some other friends. I was late and when I showed up she was less than pleased. We had dinner and she kept asking me why I was late. I really wanted to surprise her so I kept talking around the answer. She is so sharp and kept pressing me for a good answer so I said I had to go to the store. She asked if I had the receipt in my pocket and I showed it to her. She scanned it and focused on the baby gates. It took her mind about thirteen nano-seconds to figure it out. “You got a dog!” She said. Deflated I held up two fingers. “You got two dogs! I want to see them.” We left and went back to my house where she met her first babies.

 

I don't have any puppy pictures on this computer but when they were newborns, we could hold both in our lap at the same time.

I don’t have any puppy pictures on this computer but when they were newborns, we could hold both in our lap at the same time.

 

So the whole family is just bummed out because our little puppy son has moved on.

 

Running and happy, miss you little buddy.

Running and happy, miss you little buddy.

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

Super Bowl time…

It is party time. photo from yahoo.

It is party time. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

I guess I am making up for lost time because this is the third post this week. Sometimes when it rains you get wet. I think it is time that we start talking about my favorite American holiday, The Super Bowl. Yes some people like Christmas, I just like watching my kids excitement that morning but of course that means I have to get up to see it.  Other people like Easter, who can argue with chocolate bunnies? Thanksgiving has turkey and the Fourth of July has the fireworks. But nothing says Super Bowl Sunday like a small group of friends having a little fellowship over chicken wings, nachos, pizza, chips/salsa, and other finger foods. I know there are two teams playing but since it isn’t Dallas (again), I am just there for the food and commercials.

 

I guess there are some people out there (Karlene) who actually will be watching the game with more than a passing casual interest. To those folks, I dedicate this detailed analysis of the game. For others who don’t care about football, I will give you a couple of names and titbits of knowledge that you can throw down at your party and it will give you street cred. New England and Seattle both finished the season as the top ranked teams in their conferences. That earned them each home field advantage in the playoffs and it quite possibly propelled Seattle on their near miraculous comeback two weeks ago against Green Bay.

 

Seattle has the number one ranked defense and was the number one ranked rushing team this past year. Those two stats go hand in hand. As the game wears on and Seattle was able to pull ahead in the score, they became very one dimensional with a heavy run first offense. This gave them a huge advantage in time of possession and racked up the yards. When the defense was on the field, their opponent was largely playing from behind and trying to pass the ball. The Seattle defense is geared to play against the pass. They are very fast and teams find it difficult to run sweeps. As a result of their philosophy, they usually have the advantage going into the fourth quarter with a lead and in those situations they are almost unbeatable. The quarterback is not a classic stay in the pocket thrower. He is very mobile and will run anytime there is an opening. Their offense is a power eye and pistol style that uses a read option running philosophy.

 

The halftime entertainment is Katy Perry. photo from yahoo.

The halftime entertainment is Katy Perry. photo from yahoo.

 

New England is a pass first offense built to pass with effectiveness and run as a second option. Although they are a pass first team, they are not a finesse style offense. They have a very respectable power run offense style offensive line that uses a zone blocking scheme. Their primary running back is a power back that has a mean streak a mile wide. The Patriots have arguably one of the best quarterbacks of all time and the most dominating tight end in football. They play a spread style passing game that spreads the ball around to the open receiver. The New England defense is a hybrid style defense that is more of a match-up defense than a classic 4-3/3-4. They will blitz when the opportunity presents itself and they were able to rack up 40 sacks on the season.

 

Both teams have excellent special teams, kickers, and punters. If this game comes down to a battle of field position and field goals, I would think that would be a huge advantage to Seattle. Both teams have excellent coaching staffs. They know their teams intimately and are master game planners. Do not expect either team to have an advantage in preparation.

 

You mad, bro? love this picture and wonder if Brady will get his revenge? photo from yahoo.

You mad, bro? love this picture and wonder if Brady will get his revenge? photo from yahoo.

 

Players to Know with a little tidbit:

Seattle Offense:

Russell Wilson, Quarterback. He played three years at North Carolina State before transferring to Wisconsin for his Senior year.

Marshawn Lynch, Running back. Played three years for the Buffalo Bills before being traded to Seattle for a fourth and a fifth round draft pick.

Luke Willson, Tight End: He is from Canada but played college at Rice University.

 

Seattle Defense:

Richard Sherman, Defensive Back. Played college football at Stanford as a wide receiver until his Junior season.

Kam Chancellor, Defensive Back. Played football at Virginia Tech and is considered the best safety in school history.

Bobby Wagner, Linebacker. Was considered a two star recruit in California and only had a single college scholarship offer to Utah State.  Four years later he was the WAC defensive player of the year and was a second round draft pick.

 

New England Offense:

Tom Brady, Quarterback. No need to mention anything about him, just listen to the blowhard at your party and he will tell you everything you want to know about Brady.

LeGarette Blunt, Running back. Played for the Oregon Ducks in college. He was undrafted after college in part to an incident following a game with Boise State where he punched a Boise player, a Oregon player and a couple of fans after the game. He was suspended for the season but was reinstated after four games. You can see the fight on YouTube if you want. He has played for four pro teams and this is his second stint with New England.

Rob Gronkowski, Tight End. One of five brothers. The oldest was a minor league baseball player, two brothers are former college football players. One was drafted into the NFL, and the youngest brother plays football at Kansas State. Their great grandfather was an Olympic cyclist in the 1920s.

New England Defense:

Rob Ninkovich, Linebacker. Drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 2006.

Patrick Chung, Defensive Back. Born in Jamaica. His mother was a Jamaican Reggae star in the 1980s and his brother is a professional dancer in New York.

Devin McCourty, Defensive Back. His brother, Jason McCourty is a defensive back for the Tennessee Titans.

 

Prediction sure to be wrong:

It could be a close game and if it is then I think Seattle has the advantage because of the defense. However, I don’t expect it to be close. I think New England is going to be focused and will want to erase all doubts about deflated footballs. I expect New England to come out running the football up the middle. I expect that Seattle will be forced to move an extra player up to combat the run and then New England will start to pass the football. I expect that New England will force Russell Wilson to throw the football from the pocket and will leave their defensive backs in man on man coverage.

 

I predict that New England will come out fast and gain control of the momentum early. Look for a 10-0 score at the end of the 1st quarter with New England possessing the ball for the majority of the time. The second quarter New England will take control and will have a 27-7 lead going into halftime. The third quarter will be Seattle’s desperation quarter but they will be too far behind and Wilson will throw two interceptions. The Patriots will be ahead 37-7 and will run out the clock to finish the game winning 47-7. I predict that LeGarette Blunt will be the MVP.

 

I'm looking for three touchdowns from Blunt. photo from yahoo.

I’m looking for three touchdowns from Blunt. photo from yahoo.

 

There you go, sorry Karlene but that is how I see it.  Tune in Tuesday for postgame reaction.  Until next time, keep on rockin.

 

 

 

 

Giving a General a ride…Part Two…

Ridding into the sunset. Or maybe taking off into the sunrise. Not sure that it matters but it is a cool picture. Photo form yahoo.

Ridding into the sunset. Or maybe taking off into the sunrise. Not sure that it matters but it is a cool picture. Photo form yahoo.

 

Hey Y’all,

 

The funny thing about weather men is that they are very often right. In fact, they can very accurately forecast the weather at an 100% rate when they just take the time to look out the window. But as they start to peer into the future their vision, just like ours, becomes increasingly fuzzy.  Not bragging but just stating a fact, I have the equal to or better training as the average weather man on television. I have dedicated the last twenty four years of my professional career, looking at and studying weather as a daily part of my job. I have taken several in-depth courses devoted to the study of weather and I can analyze a forecast map just as well as anyone in that profession.

 

What I am telling you now is a fact that is as certain as the sun rising tomorrow.  The only time the weather man knows what is going on is when he looks out the window and anything he says about a period of time more than an hour in the future is a guess. Most of the time they get it right or close to right, but the weather is not beholden to them. Case in point the dud of a blizzard in the northeast, it snowed and some placed got dumped but most of the area escaped the snow apocalypse. The weather guy is in a very unfortunate position because if they fail to predict the severe weather accurately then people might be in a real danger. And if they call for the worst weather ever and they get it wrong then the people might be safe but they are ticked because the social services have already been cancelled.  It doesn’t help when every knucklehead reporter is on television spreading lies and half-truths because that is what sales. I guess the point is that I am glad that the East Coast didn’t fall back into an ice age.

 

Onto story time, yesterday we left off as the airplane took off with a Four Star General and two of his staff members.  The General was the Commander of the Air Education and Training Command. A massive part of the Air Force, AETC is directly responsible for the initial training and continuing education for every Air Force service member. To illustrate the size of AETC, when I went to pilot training at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio Texas a part of the welcoming briefing was the fact that if the base was its own country, it would rank as the fifth largest Air Force in the world.  AETC has four initial pilot training bases the same size at Laughlin and more training bases for each airplane in the inventory. By itself AETC would be the second largest Air Force in the world that is twice the size of the entire Navy. The General was in charge of a lot.

 

This is patch of AETC. Photo from yahoo.

This is patch of AETC. Photo from yahoo.

 

As we climbed out, I distinctly remember that everyone was talking to the General. I expected it from Carlos because he is a true extrovert.  He never met a stranger and he lived to be a social monster. I know that Carlos wasn’t talking to the General just because he thought the General could help his career. Carlos is from the Dominican Republic and his skin tone is much darker than my lily white backside but he is not a brownnoser. I was always impressed with him because he would go out of his way to talk to the lowest Enlisted person with just as much passion and zeal as he was talking to the General. It was just his nature.

 

I wasn’t surprised that Bobby was talking as well. Back home Bobby was the Squadron Commander and there is some type of unwritten rule that Commanders talked to other Commanders regardless of rank. Bobby is a very engaging type of guy, naturally funny and a bit on the sarcastic side. He is more so when he turns on the charm and he can be very charming. Like Carlos, Bobby comes by it naturally.

 

I was surprised that Richie was talking as much as he was. Richie is not an extrovert nor would he be considered an outgoing personality. This isn’t to imply that he isn’t very friendly or personable. It is more that he is guarded until someone gains his trust or respect. Once earned then Richie is the guy that you call at 2AM when you have a problem. He will always be there and is only upset if you don’t call. But on this flight, I remember that Richie was a Chatty Cathy with the General. Somehow, the General had earned Richie’s respect and I know for a fact it wasn’t because of the stars on the General’s shoulders. Men like Richie always saluted rank but that didn’t mean that they would ever cross the road to shake the hand of the man wearing rank.

 

Even if I wanted to make a comment there was no time or space to get a word into the conversation. So we droned up north and the General told us that he was in the theater to see firsthand how what AETC taught and how it was being applied in a real war. I remember thinking that this guy actually got it. Training wasn’t an end result but it actually needed to be applied in the real world.  He was looking for what worked, what didn’t work and how those lessons needed to be applied in training. And he didn’t send a few staff people to tell him what they saw. He wanted actual eyes on the men and women doing their job in combat. He was going to spend several days with the troops, out in the field, asking questions and taking notes.

 

Some days were just like this. Dust and sand everywhere. Photo form yahoo.

Some days were just like this. Dust and sand everywhere. Photo form yahoo.

 

The General was a pilot and he talked about how one of the best parts of his job was being able to fly every airplane in the inventory. Richie asked him the redundant question if he flew the C-130 and he said yes. I chuckled because most fighter pilots don’t consider the C-130 to be a real airplane. But the General talked about going to Little Rock and making an airdrop on the “All American” drop zone. He talked about making an assault landing and how the little runway looked tiny when compared to a normal sized runway. Then Richie asked if the General had any “combat time.” The General said no, he had always been in the wrong place when each war kicked off and he had missed them all. Richie asked the General if he could take instruction from a Captain. The General hesitantly said yes and I turned around. Richie was smiling and he ordered Carlos out of the co-pilots seat and he ordered the General to strap in. It is rare that a Master Sergeant orders a officer to do anything but this was a order that none of us could refuse. After they did the seat swap Richie told the General that he was officially logging “combat time.”

 

The General and I just looked at each other for a minute. I confirmed that if I told him to do something that he would do it. He said that he would so I started talking about tactical arrivals. I explained how if he was in his fighter that he had a gun, missiles and bombs to attack the bad guys and for defense he had a highly maneuverable jet with the ability to go supersonic to escape a bad situation. If we got into a bad situation, the General would need a sundial to time how long it would take us to escape to a safe zone. But all we had was the ability to fly in a random pattern and be as unpredictable as possible. That meant that we were going to descend early, not over fly any geographical point on our chart and we would be going as low and fast as possible. It was a different mindset but he grasped it.

 

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“General, I am getting a nose bleed at this high altitude. You are a chicken if you don’t go lower.” photo from yahoo.

 

 

I talked him through the tactics of defeating a missile and how to avoid small arms fire before talking about performing a tactical approach. We spoke about power settings, maneuvering capabilities, approach speeds, and landing techniques. I assured him that I would be with him on the controls but he was a pilot and he was going to fly the whole thing. After all of his questions were answered, I told the General that if we bought the farm it would be his fault. The General laughed and we descended early and flew a low level for about 100 miles. The General did a great job and happily took his flight log with him when he left he gave us all his personal coin as a way of thanking us for the good time.

 

The tradition of the coin goes back to the early days of the Air Force. It is the primary method of determining who buys drinks at the bar. Someone puts a coin on the table as a challenge. Everyone else at the table has to produce a coin. If someone doesn’t have a coin then they get to buy everyone else a round of drinks. If everyone meets the challenge, then the first person who put the coin down must produce another coin or buy the round. I always carried three coins with me anytime I was on a trip. The General’s coin was a great coin because it was oversized, heavy with a detailed engraving on one side and four stars on the other. When we got back to our base that night, I gave it to “Opie” who is one of the crew chiefs. Opie is a avid collector of challenge coins he said it was his first four star coin. He gave me a big smile and a hug. I assumed that he was happy to have a new coin to add to the collection. All things being equal, it was a good day.

 

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Not the General’s coin but I am sure it looked like this. Except it was Air Force, not Marine. And it was blue not red. And there was a different name on the front. And it was much better looking. But there were four stars. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

 

 

Giving a General a ride…Part One…

Look like there might be a chill in the air. photo from yahoo.

Look like there might be a chill in the air. photo from yahoo.

 

Hey Y’all,

 

Hello from non-snow bound Indianapolis. I caught a glimpse of every news station tonight and they all led with the same story. It is snowing in the northeast. I am shocked by the sudden arrival of snow and beyond traumatized that it is snowing in late January.  I have never heard of such a calamity. Since the entire world must stop while the poor, unfortunate folks in New York and Boston deal with this week’s storm of the century, I thought that it might warm your hearts to have story time.

 

This is another story from a rotation to Iraq in early 2004. I was with the same crew as last week’s story time. Carlos P was the co-pilot, Bobby I. was the Navigator, Rich L was the Flight Engineer and Mark C was the Loadmaster. All these times and dates run together so please forgive me for not being more specific in some details. I should say for the benefit of our new friends, that I am relying totally on my personal memories from that time eleven years ago. I reserve the right to be wrong about some facts but this is the story as I remember it. A lot of the guys I deployed with follow this site and I promise you that if I am wrong they will let me know. Finally, the real purpose of story time is for my kids to have a record of who I was and what I did before they were born. My kids still aren’t old enough to know what I am writing about and my fear is that when they are old enough to understand, my brain will be totally full of mush and these stories will be gone. So here is the perspective of someone who was once somebody doing something, somewhere for some reason.

 

The day started out like all the others. An easy twenty hour day that hopefully end with us crawling into a bed at the place we started. That was never promised and we always carried a small bag with a tooth brush and a change of clothes in case we were lucky enough to break down in a real city with a real hotel. It would be a shame to miss an opportunity to go out and get a real meal on the economy just because you didn’t have some civilian clothes.  This particular morning started out well before sunrise and making the first leg of the day from Ali Al Salem to Kuwait City a very short twenty mile flight. Once we shut down, we all found a place to sleep on the airplane and wait for something to be brought out to us. About half of the time nothing showed up and some ramp guy would come by and tell us to go to the next stop.

 

We called them Air Medal missions because we were hauling Kuwaiti air to Baghdad. Then we would haul Baghdady air to Jordan. Jordanian air back to Iraq and so on. Of course no matter how many trips we made to Iraq, we only got credit for one day’s worth of points towards a real Air Medal. I think we got five points per day and we needed one hundred points to qualify for a medal. The math be wrong but it worked out to be about a medal for each rotation. By the way, when the war started the point level per day was worth twice as much. I always thought that was because the fighter pilots were there and they were racking up points flying against the Iraqi Air Force that was buried in the sand. Ironically, when the fighter pilots left Iraq the value for the medal dropped by half.

 

If you fly around long enough, you too can look like a Polish Private with a chest full of hero bling. photo from yahoo.

If you fly around long enough, you too can look like a Polish Private with a chest full of hero bling. photo from yahoo.

 

So there we were trying to get some sleep in random places in the airplane and in various states of dress. I wore a two piece flight suit but most of the other guys wore a traditional jump suit flight suit. When Iraq kicked off in 2003, one of our pilots was a former Army helicopter pilot named Gerry E. Gerry is the kind of guy that everyone loves because when you first meet him, you are his best friend and he has a way of leading you into trouble. Not only that, he was a scavenger on a mythical level. Like everyone else in the unit at that time, I have about fifty Gerry stories and I can tell exactly none of them in this forum. Some I don’t tell because they would end with Gerry and a friend spending time in big boy prison and others because that someone would be me. Anyway in March 2003, Gerry had the bright idea that we all needed the two piece flight suits. He went around to every person deployed and got the right sizes and put the order into supply. I was hardly shocked when a month later, Christmas came to Tabuk and we all got two sets of the Army two piece flight suits.

 

I thought I wore the two piece flight suit all the time, but I don't have a picture to prove it. Tracy (with the baseball hat), Paul and JR are all wearing the two piece. Deron and Carlos are standing and I am kneeling wearing a traditional flight suit. photo from my collection.

I thought I wore the two piece flight suit all the time, but I don’t have a picture to prove it. Tracy (with the baseball hat), Paul and JR are all wearing the two piece. Deron and Carlos are standing and I am kneeling wearing a traditional flight suit. photo from my collection.

 

Immediately, I feel in love with that uniform and that was all I wore afterwards (even though I cant produce a picture to prove it). The shirt was easily removed and the pants made it easy to sleep in. I would carry an extra change of clothes in my overnight bag. After we took off to the next place, I would go to the back and change into the other set of under garments and I would lay out the sweat soaked clothes in the back. By the time we took off on the next leg, it first set would be dry and I would repeat the process. It was nice to be in dry clothes in flight. So back to that particular morning where I wasTune  sleeping underneath the wing of the airplane using the outer shirt of the uniform as a pillow, in an irregular uniform wearing an obnoxious Metallica black tee shirt, looking unlike a leader of men when someone woke me up. I don’t remember who but I would guess Mark C. because no matter what he was always a first class professional in everything he did. Unlike me.

 

We had three passengers and they were already on board. I didn’t bother to put on the shirt, I just poured some water on my head to cool off and finished the bottle before I drank the rest and pulled my illegal Arkansas State baseball cap on and climbed up the steps. I am sure I looked like a wreck looking for a place to happen. Of course, my crew didn’t let me down because they were all in their seats, strapped in, smiling like they know something I didn’t. They are ready to go to north and what they knew was that sitting on the flight deck was a real live Four Star General and in the back were his two Full Bird Colonel aids. All I could think was this really sucks. I welcomed the General on board and told him to make himself at home before I climbed into my seat and off we went.

 

Tune back into here tomorrow and I will give you the conclusion of the story. Maybe this will be just enough to give you all the will to life for one more day. Good luck, until next time keep on rocking.

 

Building a better mouse trap…

Every part of a mouse trap is designed to be re-used. Except the cheese. Photo from yahoo.

Every part of a mouse trap is designed to be re-used. Except the cheese. Photo from yahoo.

Hey Y’all,

I just submitted an interview with a local Iraqi Freedom veteran. Butch lives a few miles down the road and I was introduced to him by a mutual friend named Roger. Both Butch and Roger are in leadership positions in the local VFW and Roger has a bar-b-que restaurant where he can be found burning pig for locals like me. Here is a link to the article I wrote about Roger in September.  http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/putnam/x1814463328/Story-of-local-veteran-and-owner-of-R-L-Catering-in-Hurricane

So far I have interviewed about ten veterans for the local newspaper but Butch is the first veteran that is the same age that I am. I had never met Butch until I interviewed him and it was kind of weird talking to someone who had a similar experience that I did although it was completely different. I’m not sure that I am explaining it well, but it is 1 AM so that is to be expected. Butch was an Army Water Purification Engineer and was based on the shores of a massive lake in the middle of the Iraqi dessert. This is an excerpt from the article that hasn’t been published yet. “Lake Habbaniyah, is a shallow natural lake in al-Anbar, Iraq, west of Baghdad. Camp Ridgeway was actually a forward operating base, attached to the 82nd Airborne that was based at the former Iraqi Air Force Base known as Al Taqaddum.”

As Butch spoke to me about life on Lake Habbaniyah, I couldn’t help but to think about my own experiences flying over the lake. This story comes from a rotation to Iraq in February to April 2004. Carlos P was the co-pilot, Bobby (Robert G. I.) was the navigator, Rich L. was the Flight Engineer and Mark C. was the Loadmaster. This is the third story from this particular rotation.

We were well into the rotation by the time of this story. February, March and April were very active months in the Iraqi war. Even though Saddam had been captured in December 03, the insurgents were gaining in experience and aggressiveness. The night time seemed to bring an increase in missile attacks on us, we theorized that the Iraqis were working during the day for the coalition and then went home to have a meal with the family. When the kids went to bed, the men went back out to their part time job of being an insurgent.  Making a little extra money and ensuring that they were playing both sides of the fences, it was tough being an Iraqi. The hottest spot on the map was the Sunni Triangle that formed from Baghdad to the south and ran up north to Balad then to the west to Fallujah.

mouse 4

Small map of the area but hopefully it gives you an idea of where everything was located. Map from Yahoo.

In the states, Fallujah would be a wonderful lake community like Lake Norman in the Charlotte NC area. Resting on the eastern side of the lake, the city of Fallujah would be perfectly situated to provide tourists a splendid view of the sunset over the massive twelve mile wide lake. In Iraq, Fallujah is just another city where everyone hated the American invaders. Just south of Fallujah is a former Iraqi Airbase named Al Taqaddum, we reverently called it Al Take-A-Dump. For a myriad of reasons, the people in Fallujah were in a near insurrection over the American occupation in February and by April 2004 it was a city in revolt that cost several hundred lives of United States Marines to put the city down.

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Lake Habbaniyah taken from Al Take-A-Dump. It almost looks like a place that would be nice to visit. In reality is isn’t very far from the ruins of Babylon and the cradle of civilization. You would think this should be the most advanced nation in the world because of the head start they had. Photo form Yahoo.

On a nightly basis, most aircraft that took off and landed from Al Taqaddum were being targeted by shoulder fired missiles. In fact, the odds of being shot at were well over 50/50 so that it was a near certainty that either landing or taking off, you could expect a missile shot. Armed with this knowledge, we rolled into the pre-mission intelligence briefing for another trip up north. A quick check of the schedule reveled to us where we were going and what we were doing. Not that it mattered what the schedule said that we were going to haul because we were going to take whatever or whoever showed up to the airplane.

Rich and Mark went to life support and collected our pistols, NVGs, and other necessary equipment. Bobby and Carlos went to tactics to get the mission folder called the Book of Knowledge and I went over to the operations center to make sure there were no last minute changes but mainly to pester the duty crew and make myself a general irritant to the support staff. After our Intel brief, our crew would go back to the operations center for a few minutes of computer time to send an e-mail or check on what we were missing from life back over here before we went out to the airplane to begin another twenty hour day.

Before we could get to the computer for a few moments of escapism, we had to endure another long winded briefing from an Intelligence Analyst.  Armed with a power point slide presentation that went on and on, filled with facts, graphs, pictures and other useless information we all sat quietly and were all less than inspired.  The briefer was a young enlisted guy from another unit and he did a great job or trying to deliver the news that basically ended with sure death for us. Finally, he got to the end of his presentation where a new slide was added for our enjoyment. “In the last seven nights, several C-130s have been fired upon by surface to air missiles. You guys will have a fighter escort tonight consisting of two F-15 Strike Eagles. Their call sign is…”

Bobby sat up in his chair and interrupted the briefer. “Cool, We have a fighter escort.”

I twisted in my chair to roll my eyes to Rich. Rich never skipped a beat. “Bobby, do you know how a mouse trap works?”

“Well yea.” Bobby sarcastically replied.

“We’re the cheese.” Rich said.

Bobby’s face suddenly turned serious. “Oh, not cool.”

We went out and did the mission but fortunately there was not a mouse willing to take a bite of the cheese. We got in and out without an incident.

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Chicken. Photo from Yahoo.

Until next time, keep on rockin.

How do you live?

Sarah Elizabeth Copley was a great mom and grandmother that will be missed by everyone.

Sarah Elizabeth Copley was a great mom and grandmother that will be missed by everyone.

Hey Y’all,

I know I have been irregular posting articles lately and I really have no excuses other than just busy with life. Today, I am going to go slightly religious on you so if you continue reading it isn’t my fault. You have been warned.

My family is a part of a weekly Bible study on Sunday evenings. It was good timing this week as I was slightly frustrated with the early NFL football game and the creative way that my Dallas Cowboys found to lose a playoff game. During the course of the Bible study, it was humorous to the other people in our study that my phone kept beeping from a constant stream of texts about the game. I hardly ever get a text except when Arkansas State plays in a nationally televised game or Dallas finds a new way to lose. My phone’s constant ringing gave everyone a good laugh at my expense.

There was a question asked in the Bible study that perplexed me and I will bring it to you. The subject verse is from Matthew 6:31-34. I would summarize it like this: “Don’t worry because God will take care of you.” This might be a good time to go to the source document and read the entire thing because there is more to it. I can wait…Wow that was fast, you are a quick reader.

So here is the question. How would you show a neighbor with examples from your life that you are not a worrier and that you trust God to provide for you? To be honest, I am kind of at a loss of how to honestly answer that. I could say that I don’t sweat out every penny and that I try to give back to the community. But the reality is that I am over paid and underworked. I don’t give back enough and it is easy to be relaxed when there is enough in the emergency savings to cover a couple of missed paychecks.

I might say that I am happy and at peace with the world. But the reality is that I watch too much Fox News and internally I fume at the actions of the Government (Both Parties). It really ticks me off when a couple of two bit want-to-be criminals shot up Paris. That isn’t the life of someone who lives without worry.

The verses that I referenced don’t say to trust in your 401K and Glock. It doesn’t mention Smith and Wesson, not does it say anything about being a good Republican or a good Democrat. It says to not worry about tomorrow and be focused on today. It says that God will take care of us and that we should live like it.

This past weekend, I saw a first-hand example of what a Godly life should look like. My mother-in-law passed away last Thursday. Her death, while very sad was not tragic nor was it totally unexpected. She had been in a nursing home for a couple of years and honestly her quality of life was very poor. Her funeral was Saturday and my wife expected a small gathering of people to attend the ceremony because in the last several years of life, mom’s health prevented her from being out in the world actively living. She couldn’t attend Church, go to the Marshall football games or even go to the store on a regular basis. When you’re entire existence is within a house or a nursing home, your opportunities to be a social being are severely limited.

The funeral was Saturday afternoon to accommodate the family members that live out of town or that work during the week. Since I am considered family, I had to give up my packed Saturday afternoon schedule of picking my nose and scratching my butt. In addition to family, my wife expected that her lifelong friends would be there too.  I guess the rule is that if you know someone for over half their life, you are required to attend the funeral as well. That pushed the number higher to almost thirty people that would be attending and she anticipated that there might be another five or so people that knew Mom from way back so we guess-a-mated a final total of forty people to be in attendance.

When my son and I pulled up, the parking area was filled with cars. So many that I thought that there was another funeral going on at the same time. Walking into the foyer, there were faces of people that have a less formal connection to my wife. Most of them never met her Mom; they didn’t know her Sister or her extended family. They were there just to show their love for my wife. Some folks came from our Church, not because they were required too but because they know how instrumental my wife is in the mission of reaching out to others. Some folks from our old Church came because they know how vital my wife was to ministering to others during that time of life. My wife’s mentality is that just because we change a Church, it never means that we still can’t be friends.

Five co-workers came from her part time job because they know how she throws herself into the work and never leaves without completing her tasks.  That is kind of crazy to think that five people you see once or twice a month would take the time out of their Saturday afternoon just to support a part-time employee. Several mothers from my kid’s school came out as well along with one of the teachers. I never expected that. But they were there because my wife treats ever kid in the school as her own always going out of her way to make sure all the kids are safe and healthy, she has an active role on the PTO and is always ready to help . Other close friends and neighbors were there as well and they were all untied in a single purpose. They all were there to support my wife during this tough time.

When I ask the question of how would you show to someone else that you trust God to take care of you. I can’t give a great answer for myself but my wife can because of the way that she lives her life, the way that she loves everyone in her world and how her positive, forceful spirit is infectious to the world around her.  Of course, you all know that she will down play the significance of her wonderful personality and loving spirit. She will say that she likes helping others but the truth is that she does everything because she is serving a higher power. She is amazing and I am blessed to have her in my life. I love you, baby.

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Until next time, keep on rockin

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