One of my least favorite times of the year is this week. I really don’t like Veteran’s Day and all the things that go with it. On the front of my truck, I have a yellow license plate from my former squadron in Charleston, WV. Otherwise, I don’t wear any clothing that advertises that I was in the Air Force. I don’t have any bumper stickers celebrating that I was in Afghanistan or Iraq. I don’t have any tattoos remembering that time of my life either. I do have some pictures on the computer and occasionally, I will share them on here. But generally speaking, I don’t go out of my way to tell someone I don’t know that I served. When I do share that knowledge, it is on my own terms and on my own timing kind of like this article.
Sunday at Church, the pastor asked that all the veterans stand up for the preverbal recognition from those in attendance. I sat still until my wife very nicely reminded me that I needed to stand up. I have never liked being recognized for serving in the military. In 2003, my wife’s church was having a special service to recognize those who were serving and my wife asked me to go and wear my uniform. That was just about the last thing I wanted to do, so I conned my buddy Billy G. into going with me. It didn’t make it any better, but I was glad to have him there.
A year or so later, he and I were returning from a rotation over there. We didn’t know it, but the local TV station reporter was doing a story about our return. They were following my wife and Billy’s wife around before we arrived, they wanted to video our wives greeting us when we got off the airplane and then they were going to interview us all for a couple minutes of fame on the nightly news. Billy and I had no idea all this was going on when we landed. As our wives ran up to us, I saw a camera man out of the corner of my eye. I ignored him and embraced my wife, when I opened my eyes he was standing right there recording it. We were taught that we didn’t have to be video recorded if we didn’t want to be and that the media people knew that if we asked to not be recorded, then they had to honor our wishes. In the middle of the embrace, I told him to stop filming me but he didn’t drop the camera. I got irate and told him with some language that was not polite to turn the camera off. He reluctantly did and moved over to Billy. My wife got rather upset that I was not being pleasant with the camera guy and she explained that she was part of the story. I don’t remember what I said but it wasn’t the ideally romantic reunion. Later that night, we watched Billy on television and laughed about it so all was okay.
A few years ago my daughter’s second grade teacher, Ms. P, found out that I was a veteran. One day at pick-up time, Ms. P asked me if I would be willing to come into the class room and talk to the students about Veteran’s Day. I really didn’t want to do it, but since I would be talking to my daughter’s class I was going to do it. Surprisingly, it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the interaction with the kids. Every year since, Ms. P asked me to come into her class again and talk to the kids. It wasn’t long before I reverted to my find a buddy technique. Now I take some friends with me each year, I call it show and tell.
I tell the following stories so you know that I am consistent in my uncomfortableness with Veteran’s Day. I don’t mind people thanking me and I don’t mind people going out of their way to say something nice. I am glad that people take time to remember the veterans and I am pleased that we as a nation take pride in our neighbors, friends and family members who served. If I were to be honest with myself, I think that I don’t like the recognition is because I didn’t serve to be recognized. I didn’t serve to protect the constitution and I didn’t serve to risk my life for freedom. Everything I did in the military was because it was something I wanted to do. It was a very selfish time for me and I was seeking adventure as a member of the military. One of the reasons I got out at thirteen years was because there was no more adventure to be found for me. There were no more dragons to be slain and I was out of the business of rescuing fair maidens.
Before you write me off as a grumpy old man, I do find great pleasure in helping other veterans have a great Veteran’s Day. Once again this year, Ms. P asked me to come to her class and talk to the class. I called up two Marines and one Air Force veteran to go with me. These men are from different sections of my world, they have never met each other and any other group of men, it might be uncomfortable. But they bonded on the drive to the school, asking each other where they served, when they served and all those types of questions. Twenty minutes later, they were fast friends. We spent about an hour with the kids as they asked all kinds of great questions. Afterwards, I took my hired veterans out to lunch and had another veteran meet us there. The fourth veteran was Bert C., a Marine who fought in Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands in World War II. Bert is 94 years old and while being relatively healthy, he doesn’t get around so well so he has a lady who is his caregiver during the day. His presence in the restaurant was the best part of the day for me and I think the other veterans too.
I tell this story to help explain what veterans want most tomorrow. Of course, I don’t want to speak for every veteran but I am speaking for myself and you can assume it will earn the respect of other veterans. Words of thanks are great and we all need verbal encouragement. But what really counts is taking the time to write a short letter of thanks, or buying them a coffee at the gas station or Starbucks, or even buying their meal. Tomorrow is one of the few days of the year that you will not find me in a restaurant because of the commotion that is Veteran’s Day. But if you want to make an impression on some day other than Veteran’s Day if you see a guy in a military hat or driving a can with a sticker on it; buy him a cup of coffee. If you must do something tomorrow to celebrate the day, take the time to write a real live letter to a veteran; That will be more memorable to them than a kind word on November 11th.
I am enclosing a link to an article my friend Padre Steve wrote yesterday about Veteran’s Day. I think it is the most honest description about the day that I have ever read. https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/770114/858207004
Until next time, keep on rockin.
Today’s article is very specific to writers and those participating in the National Novel Writing Month. If you aren’t actively writing or doing the NaNoWriMo. You have my permission to spend the next five minutes of your life doing something more important and move on. Should you choose to read on and you feel slighted for any reason. Go look in the mirror and blame the person looking back at you for you have been warned.
On a dark and stormy day, the flight of two C-130s flew over the West Virginian mountains at breakneck speed; The formation dropped into a valley for some general purpose, low level, good natured, enjoyable flying. From the lead aircraft, not much changed except that they were looking up at the tops of the hills. From the second aircraft, not much changed except that from time to time, the lead airplane disappeared around a bend in the valley. On the ground, not much changed except the deer hunter in his tree stand never got a shot off because of the thunderous sounds that echoed down the valley from the four fans of freedom attached to each of the whale sized aircraft. After wasting precious minutes running up and down the valleys doing some off course maneuvering, the Mission Commander needed to get the formation pointed back in the correct direction to make the air drop.
“Pilot, this is the Mike Charley (Mission Commander). Fire up the ELINT-DP (Electronic Intelligence Data Processor). Establish a secure phone patch to the ABCCC (Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center). Inform them the CARP (Computer Air Release Point) has been modified. The new TOT (Time Over Target) is Zulu minus five. Come left to a heading of 275 towards the DZ (Drop Zone).”
If this was a scenario you were using as a plot device in your work, you might be tempted use this dialogue in your work. Lots of verbiage here, most of it is gibberish and to the lay person it might seem realistic. To someone with experience in aviation, it would make absolutely no sense. The point is that dialogue like this might sound cool, but it draws an informed reader away from your words and draws attention to the fact that you might not have a good grasp of the subject matter. As writers we should strive to make dialogue and our plot twists relatively accurate.
In my former life, I was inundated with acronyms to help me remember acronyms about something that had a fancy name. It drove me crazy and only made sense to a handful of people but I still used them in my speech. As a writer, I have found that it takes a balance between official sounding jargon and well written words to make a story come alive. Between 2003 and 2005, I was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. That was before easy access to communications and the internet so I had a lot of free time. I spent a large majority of that time reading. Faced with a limited selection of books; I read every genre imaginable. From Thrillers to Romance, if it was a book, I read it. I am not saying that I am a better writer today than I was a reader then, but I found that the vast majority of novels then and now have some type of aviation component in them. It might be a simple as taking a commercial flight to something as complex as an aerial battle. But the point is, if someone like me reads your description and finds fault with your use of aviation. Then I am going to doubt the rest of the story.
I started writing my own novel in 2008 and am still working on it. Kind of like the tortoise with dementia; I don’t really know where I am going but I am taking my time in reaching the destination while being relatively happy about the process. In the last six months, I have taken a break from writing and have focused on reading. I’m sure all of you can tell because I went from an average of two articles a week, down to an average of two articles a month. My life hasn’t changed and the thoughts are still flowing out of my brain. The only difference is that they are not making it too you via the blog.
Today, I would like to share a common theme that I have observed in the last six months of reading real live, published authors. Writers, as a group, don’t know jack about airplanes, aviation, and travel. I took pictures of all of the books that I have read and to be fair some of them are from some very famous authors. Others are from authors that are not as successful but they all share one astounding fact. They all got the aviation parts of their works, completely wrong. For that reason, I am not going to share any of the titles or the authors that I read.
An example off the top of my head was reading where an ultralight which is a small fabric and aluminum frame aircraft with a lawnmower engine out maneuvered and shot down a Soviet style Hind attack helicopter. An Ultralight does not, cannot and will never do this in real life. I don’t care how cool you make the ultralight, I don’t care how stealthy it is, I don’t care how top secret it is or if the pilot is Chuck Yeager himself. It will not be able to carry a weapon that will shoot down a helicopter and it cannot out run an attack helicopter. I wish I had been there for this author because he had a pretty good book going until he threw that out crap for me to read. I finished the book under a self-induced, highly skeptical protest.
So here is my offer to you, the writer. If you have an aviation theme in your work and you would like some expert advice. Please e-mail me and ask the questions you want to know. I do not want any reimbursement for this and my only goal is that when someone else is stuck in the middle of a war and they have to read a romance themed murder mystery. It contains some realistic descriptions of airplanes specifically and military themes in general. I’m not going to re-write your work but I will give you some idea of what works and what doesn’t from the perspective of someone who has been flying airplanes for over twenty-five years.
I am serious. Send me an e-mail and let me clean up your ideas so that when your time comes to be published, you will be found credible. This is my primary e-mail address, it is probably dumb to give it out so please don’t spam me. The last five e-mails in my inbox are from my financial advisor, my union, my church, my fantasy football league and an estimate for some work to be done in my neighborhood. I am as real as a heart attack, so please let me help make your work better.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
Way back when, in the days of yesteryear I imagined that I would have two dogs. I imagined they would be large dogs, active in all things that are dog. I imagined they would be like Zeus and Apollo and I would be Higgins. They would be like an ideal me. Well mannered, intelligent, and furiously loyal to family and friends. I imagined I would sit in the study reading philosophy, wearing my red man-slippers and smoking my pipe while they laid at my feet, watching over me and awaiting my command to attack. Walking in trail of me and mirroring my every move they would greet my family with a sweet bark and every danger stranger with a toothy growl.
In the winter of 2002, my wife and I were still “just dating” but after she kicked me to the curb three times earlier it was apparent to everyone that we were destined to be together. I made the decision, that it was time in my life to get the dogs of my dreams. The thought about the dogs of Magnum PI; scary Doberman Pinchers that would frighten the neighbors. But that was not in the cards because those types of dogs are expensive and I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. So I went to the local Animal Control Shelter and started looking. There was a litter of seven puppies that I was immediately drawn too. Pound puppies, the attendant said they were a mixture of Lab and something. I couldn’t pick one from the litter so I left and returned two days later.
There were just two puppies left. I sat on the concrete pen and held one. The other vied for my attention. I grabbed the second one and the first started to nudge me. We ended up playing musical puppies. They were exactly one more dog than I wanted but I couldn’t leave one behind. I surprised the attendant when I said I wanted both of them. They filled out the paper work and took my check without even to see if it would bounce. I left the pound and went to a friend’s house to grab a crate. I was starting from zero and headed off to the store to buy baby gates. Already the negligent father, I locked the dogs in the kitchen, left some cold hot dogs on a paper plate, water in a bowl and puppy pads in the corner, I ran out the door late for the with my wife and some other friends. At this point, she had no idea that I had the dogs. In the middle of dinner, she started grilling me about why I was late. I had given her plenty of reason to doubt me in the past so I didn’t take any offense. Finally, I said I had to buy some stuff from the store and she asked to see the receipt.
Looking over it, she asked me if I got a dog.
I said. “No, I got two.”
She grabbed me by the arm and we left to go see the dogs. On the way to my house, she asked what their names were. Magic and Legend. You know after Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.”
When we got to my home, they had tore up the pack of hot dogs, relived themselves all over the kitchen, knocked over the water and eaten all the puppy pads. My wife scooped them up in her lap and for the next thirteen years the only time she was separated from “her little monsters” was when we were on vacation. Legend passed away in February.
Magic passed away Monday. Since Legend passed, she assumed the role of chief protector for the family. When it was time for bed, she led the charge of kids and cats upstairs. She would fall asleep in my son’s room. After my wife went to bed, Magic would go into our bedroom and lay on the floor while I was downstairs watching TV. When I came to bed, she would migrate to my daughter’s room and position herself where she could see the entire upstairs floor. In the morning, my wife would wake her up and they had their coffee together and then she would come back upstairs to sleep in the floor until I woke up. One of the most comforting feelings in the world was knowing that the first thing I would see when I woke was her wagging tail.
In the past few weeks, she had lost some strength so we put a baby gate blocking the stairs. Stubborn as a mule, she would claw at the gate until we let her come upstairs. Over the weekend, she deteriorated rapidly losing her strength and ability to walk. After we took her to the vet for her last visit, we walked into the house for the first time ever without being welcomed by a black snout and wagging tail. It has been a long week of firsts for the family. The kids have never lived without a dog and we all are trying to readjust to our new reality. Given a choice, I would take the genuineness of a life with Magic and Legend every day and twice on Sunday over the imaginations of a life with Zeus and Apollo.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
I know the posts have been few and far between lately but I promise to have a good excuse. Well at least one that comes with a doctor’s note. A couple weeks ago, I caught the pre-flu season flu bug and it kicked me in the backside. I don’t really like to be sick although I like to take time off from work because I have anal glaucoma. That is the disease where I can’t see taking my butt to work. Anyway, I really got sick a couple weeks ago and it literally took me a couple of weeks to shake everything off and to feel right.
So here I am now, back at work watching the computer words pop up on the screen and waiting for 4AM so I can drag my tired butt to Knoxville, Tennessee for sleep. This morning, Monday the 14th I took the kids to school and then drove from my house outside Huntington, WV down to Knoxville. Many of you might be asking yourself why I don’t fly commercial to Knoxville especially considering the fact that my employer is good enough to buy me a ticket. From my front door to the door of the hotel room is a 4.5 hour drive. I like that I go on my schedule, that I don’t have to listen to the flight attendant tell me when I can turn on the electronic equipment, that I don’t have get up at 3AM to make the 5:30 AM flight out of Charleston and that I don’t have that overweight guy sneezing on me and getting me sick again.
So there I was driving down the road when I spied a single engine airplane towing a rainbow banner over the interstate today about 10 AM. I thought that was odd until I saw the sign for the Morehead, Kentucky exit. I almost keep on driving but then I started thinking about how many times I have been able to witness history. I just happened to be in Los Angeles during the OJ Simpson trial and drove downtown to see courthouse. I saw the last Metallica concert with Jason Newstead playing bass. I was in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and I was staying in the Des Moines hotel that Rick Perry’s delegation used when he pulled the plug on his 2012 Presidential campaign. Matter of fact, I had a free meal at the hotel restaurant because his people had to spend all of his campaign funds. I offered to pay my own bill, but some 5 gallon guy in a 10 gallon cowboy hat told me that they would put it on Rick Perry’s tab. So much for campaign finance reform and the thought that Republicans are fiscally responsible. By the way, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was a Democrat. I am like a real life Forrest Gump and with that kind of front row seat to history there was no way that I was going to pass on the opportunity to see the epicenter of the marriage controversy.
Jetting across two lanes of interstate and slamming on the breaks, I pulled into Morehead Kentucky on a mission; Find Kim Davis. I tried to follow the airplane with the banner but he was circling the interstate and not the courthouse. I thought that was odd but soon realized that there were more people at Kroger than the courthouse. I pulled up the map on my phone and 4.4 miles later, I found the courthouse. I thought something was wrong because I was able to find a parking spot easily. I would have parked in the court parking lot but all of the spots were taken by the massive television trucks that normally show up for a football game. By the way, there were no big TV trucks in the parking lot of Rick Perry’s hotel back in 2012. Anyway, I started walking towards the sounds of an animated speaker on a microphone. I had to walk through the parking lot and up a gentle incline to get to the courthouse grounds. When I first saw the protesters, I thought I had missed it but on further inspection, they were really there standing in a circle, holding their signs and listening to the speaker in his preacher voice. Again, I didn’t believe that I was in the right spot so I walked to the other corner where a much larger crowd of journalists were standing in a circle listening to one guy talking. It was probably Mrs. Davis’ lawyer but since I don’t have a picture of him, I can’t pick him out of a line-up.
I retraced my steps back towards a set of tents where the media had set up camp. While I was walking, the speaker started asking rhetorical questions. Before I go into the questions, please know that I have matured over the last 25 years. Earlier in life, I would have been running my mouth, talking loud and generally trying to be an agitator to the rabble-rousers. Today, I had no desire to start trouble and I really didn’t want to tell my employer that I would not make my trip because I was in the Morehead city jail sitting next to Mrs. Davis.
So the speaker asks the question; “Are you a Christian?” Under my breath I said. “Yep.”
He asked. “Do you believe that marriage is only between and man and a woman?” “Maybe.” I replied.
He asked. “Are you willing to stand here with us today and publically fight this outrage?” “Nope.” I said.
He stated. “If you won’t stand here and fight today, then surely you will burn in Hell.” “Sucks to be me.” I said to myself.
I did start to laugh but not because it was funny but out of disbelief and outrage. It isn’t the first time that I am going to Hell and it probably will not be the last. Normally, I don’t put much thought into the comments of people that don’t know me but there was something that was just flat out wrong about what was going on in Morehead today. For about ten seconds, all I could think of was 1 Corinthians 13 and how I wish I had it memorized.
I walked up to the CNN tent where the cameraman was sitting in a chair looking at his laptop probably looking at his fantasy football team. I asked him if this is what was going on last week. He told me that this morning there were no protesters (gay marriage supporters) on the other side so the crowd was about half of the size it was last week. I said they probably had to go back to work. He laughed and said they would be arriving about noon but that today was the end of the story because Mrs. Davis wasn’t going to block the marriage licenses from being issued. I apologized for the guy with the microphone and he said that he had tuned him out early on last week. Before I left, I told him that CNN was my go to station for the news, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was down on the list after ESPN, History Channel, Discovery Channel, VH1, HGTV and the Food Network.
I was walking back to my car when I passed two Morehead City police officers. They stopped talking when I came into ear shot. I was wearing shorts and plain gray tee shirt so I was about as nondescript as I normally am. I asked them how much trouble I would get into if I unplugged the speaker’s microphone. One officer said it would depend on what I did afterwards but the other one had a better idea. He said that if I brought some doughnuts that they would escort me to the wire. We all laughed at his joke and I thanked them for keeping the peace and apologized about the controversy. I was almost out of the parking lot, when another guy pulled out his megaphone and started yelling at the speaker who banished me to Hell. I thought this would be good so I made my way closer. His beef was that John 3:16 was not being quoted by the self-appointed judge. While I was watching the commotion, two State Troopers walked up behind me just to be ready if a fight broke out. When it was obvious that nothing was going to happen, I snapped a couple of pictures with my phone and started to walk away.
Before I did, I once again thanked the Troopers for keeping the peace and apologized for them having to deal with this. One of the officers said that he didn’t mind because of the freedoms we get to enjoy and that if we lived in Iran none of this would be possible. I agreed and walked off. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if the guy who was handing out free passes to Hell had his way, America and Iran would have a lot more in common and my head would be stacked on the courthouse steps.
I didn’t see anyone from the Pro-gay marriage crowd but in all there were about 50 police officers in the crowd and another 50 or so media members. There may have been 25 protesters but that might be overstating the crowd a little. Driving away, I reflected on what I was feeling and that could be best described as shame, anger and sadness at a missed opportunity to tell people that the vast majority of Christians are embarrassed by that guy with the microphone. The only thing that keeps me going is the belief that an all-powerful God created me perfectly with no mistakes just like he created the homosexual guy perfectly. I believe that God loved all of us all enough to allow someone like me the opportunity to have a chance to spend eternity in Heaven. All I have to do is to return his love and to reflect his love to other humans. I really think that we are missing the point in this contrived drama. It isn’t that marriage is only between a man and a woman and it isn’t about an elected official not following the law. It is that everyone should have the opportunity to be loved and respected. Especially the guy with the microphone who dammed me to Hell.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
I know I haven’t been posting much lately but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been watching and thinking about things. Since time is limited (both yours and mine) I am going to say some things with pictures. Hope this makes sense.
Until next time, keep on rockin.