Friday, December 29, 2006

Ensign C.A. Carpenter

When I was out at my Grandma's house for Thanksgiving dinner, I was helping to decorate for Christmas. It's become a tradition for us female grandchildren to do this, since Grandma can't do it herself (she has been wheelchair bound from polio since my mother was a girl). In looking for something (can't remember what), I found a box full of old pictures. I asked Grandma if I could take it, to scan them all, and I would bring the box back when I was done. Well, I only got around to going through the box today (and still have much to scan). In addition to photos, I found some of Grandpa's high school term papers (one on the 1940 election, another on wrestling, and a third on social security - should make for interesting reading...), as well as some letters from him while he was in flight school, and once he was commissioned in the United States Navy.

From going through this box, and the items it contained, I learned that my grandfather went by the nickname "Shorty", and that he was captain of his high school wrestling team. He graduated high school in 1941 and was only 19 when he was accepted by the Navy as an aviation cadet.

Of the letters I found, I liked this one best:

U.S. Naval Air Station
Livermore, California

26 November 1943

Dear Dad;

I got your letter today and it makes me feel pretty good. This will be short but I’m supposed to muster for chow in a little while.

I’ve finally finished my regular scheduled flying so all I have left that I have to do is fly three more hours of night flight. I have one hour of dual and one of solo to my credit in night flying but we get 4 hours of solo night flying so I have the 3 hours left. It’s quite an experience to fly at night for the first time but I like it.

It’s getting along about to the time when I have to decide if I want to stay in the Navy Air Corps or transfer to the Marines. In the Navy I’d probably have to fly off of carriers (if I get a “fighter plane” like I’d like to) while in the Marines I’d probably be land based, which appeals to me quite a bit. They can sink a carrier but I never heard of that happening to a land base. See what I mean. It doesn’t really make any difference to me though so if you’ve got any suggestions or preferences as to which I should try for – let me know. Whether it’s one of the other the rest of my training will still last the same length of time and I’ll be trained at the same place whichever I choose.

It’s time to muster and since I’m the platoon leader I have to be there so I’ll close and wait for an answer to this.

Don’t work too hard and don’t wear the davenport out


(side note)

As far as Christmas presents go – send a little list to me with suggestions for you – Mother – Helen & Doug & Verna, Ken and Kenneth Alan. As for myself I don’t know yet what to suggest.

Grandpa did stay Navy. I also have a photocopy of his combat diary. He was awarded 3 Air Medals. He was sent to the Pacific Theater and was assigned to both the USS Essex (CV-9) and the USS Yorktown (CV-10) in 1945. Unfortunately, I never talked to Grandpa about his time in the Navy during WWII. I don't know if he really talked to anyone about it, but I was a girl, we were away in Germany much of my growing up, and he passed away my sophomore year of college. It will be interesting to talk to Grandma about what it is I discovered in that old box...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Miss Ladybug, M.Ed.

Well, I've done it. Today, I graduated. Miss Ladybug, Master of Education, Summa Magna Cum Laude. Thankfully, I didn't have to sit through some cheesy commencement address - apparently, that honor was reserved for those candidates who were assigned to this morning's commencement ceremony.

I started work on my Masters in June 2005. I wouldn't have been able to finish it so quickly if not for my parents. It was tough at times, but I had my goal in mind, and I was determined to meet it. So, after 19 months, 12 classes and student teaching, I'm done.

My dad, who became a teacher after retiring from the Army, had advised it was best to student teach in the fall. Doing so would allow for more time to secure a teaching position for the next school year, while allowing for gainful employment through substitute teaching. I tell you what - those applications for teaching positions are much more complicated than for any other job I've ever applied for.

I have a particular district in mind for where I would like to teach, but I'll just have to wait and see how things turn out. I'm better off than some of my fellow graduates, since I will have the freedom to relocate for the right job - I'm not tied to the district where I currently live. I don't have a spouse, or a lease or a house to sell. As I continue to submit applications, I'm sure I'll post an update when I have found a place to teach. I might get lucky and find a position to begin in January, but more likely, it will be later in the spring when I find something for next fall.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Honoring Corporal Jason Dunham

One of the things I like best about teaching is educating children about social studies topics. Recently, I presented a lesson focusing on presidential memorials. As an extension, students were asked to select a person they would like to honor, and draw a memorial for that person.

My cooperating teacher is the wife of a retired Army officer, so she also stresses an appreciation for the sacrifices made by our military. After it was announced another Congressional Medal of Honor would be awarded to a service member from the Global War on Terror, she mentioned it in class during the morning announcements time, which includes the Pledge of Allegiance. Being a frequent reader of milblogs, I knew the name of the newest recipient, and what he had done to earn it. I shared that information with the class.

So, back to the lesson on memorials: one student came up to me and asked for ideas about who to honor. I suggested presidents, police officers, firefighters, and the military. This little boy, who says he wants to be a soldier when he grows up, liked the suggestion of the military, and asked about the most recent person to be selected for the Congressional Medal of Honor. I hopped online and looked up and printed some information on Corporal Jason Dunham. Another student also liked that idea, so I printed out some additional information for the second student. What this second student drew was very touching, I thought. I wanted to share it with my friends in the military, but I first had to request permission from his parents to do so. I received that permission today. So, above is a third-grader's memorial to Corporal Jason Dunham...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Project Valout-IT Update

Well, the fundraising goal was met. The fundraising competition raised over $185,000 dollars. The goal was $180,000. Although the competition is over (for now), I've decided to leave the link on the sidebar. It is a worthy cause, and I'd like to do what little I can to help.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

What is a vet?

I don't recall where I got this piece - I'm sure I received it in an email years ago, and ever since, I always dust it off and sent it out in email to most of my address book. This is the first Veterans' Day since I began my little blog, so I thought I would post it here. I don't know who wrote it, and it is becoming dated, only describing veterans through Desert Shield/Desert Storm, but that shouldn't matter. I would be willing to take suggestions for additions to this list.

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg, or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.

You can't tell a vet just by looking.

What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She or he is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another, or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat, but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in the Tomb of the Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket, palsied now and aggravatingly slow, who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being, a person who offered some of life's most vital years in the service of his country and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot "Thank You".

Remember November 11th is Veteran's Day.

"It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag."

Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC

And don't forget, some of our most recent vets could use your help through Valour-IT. Go click on the "Make a Donation" button and give as much as you are able.

And from me to any vet who reads my post, THANK YOU!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Project Valour-IT

Voice-Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops
In memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss

"At that time I had no use of either hand. I know how humbling it is, how humiliating it feels. And I know how much better I felt, how amazingly more functional I felt, after Soldiers' Angels provided me with a laptop and a loyal reader provided me with the software. I can't wait to do the same, to give that feeling to another soldier at Walter Reed. "
--CPT Chuck Ziegenfuss, on the inspiration for Valour-IT

I don't remember exactly how I stumbled across Chuck Ziegenfuss's blog, but it was after he was severely injured as the result of an IED back in June 2005. I became very interested in following Chuck's progress, both from his wife, Carren, and from Chuck himself, as he began to use the voice-activated software, since he was unable to use his hands. If you are a follower of milblogs, you might already know Chuck's blog.

Chuck is now out of the hospital and back at work, now at a University in Pennsylvania doing ROTC stuff, if I recall correctly. It is because of Chuck that Valour-IT got started, and there are many of our military men and women who have gotten injured who are unable to use their hands to type on a computer. Through Valour-IT, these service members are able to be somewhat independent in communicating with friends and family. Please do what you can to help out this worthy cause by clicking on the link on the right.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Well, I had a huge load taken off my mind last night. I sat for my Masters Comprehensive Exam on October 6th, and didn't feel that I was properly prepared and was worried about how I performed. It is a strictly pass/fail exam. I received an email last night notifying me that I had passed all sections of the exam and would be recommended for graduation, pending successful completion of all my coursework. Since I successfully completed all of the courses that apply towards my degree this past summer, I am proud to say I will graduate with my Masters in Elementary Education (M.Ed.) in December. Now, all I have to worry about is completing my student teaching assignment and passing the state certification exams, and then (of course) securing a permanent teaching position somewhere in the Central Texas area.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A little bit of wisdom from Aesop

The Wild Boar and the Fox

A wild boar was sharpening his tusks busily against the stump of a tree, when a Fox happened by. Now the Fox was always looking for a chance to make fun of his neighbors. So he made a great show of looking anxiously about, as if in fear of some hidden enemy. But the Boar kept right on with his work.

"Why are you doing that?" asked the Fox at last with a grin. "There isn't any danger that I can see."

"True enough" replied the Boar, "but when danger does come there will not be time for such work as this. My weapons will have to be ready for use then, or I shall suffer for it."

The moral of the story?

"Preparedness for war is the best guarantee of peace."

You might wonder how I came upon this story. As a teacher-in-training, I have been slowly building a library of children’s books to place in a classroom library once I have an elementary school class of my own. My most recent acquisition was a book of Aesop’s fables. I haven’t read them all, but I did flip through the book to read the moral for each story. This story’s moral popped out at me.

Aesop was right. This story made me think of all those people who think we spend too much money on the military and/or expensive weapons systems or what have you. We will always need a standing military, properly armed and armored, to be prepared for the threats against our country, both current and future.

What specifically comes to mind is the “Star Wars” missile defense system, officially known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). I was not even a teenager when Ronald Reagan first proposed it. Too young to remember, I’ve heard the “Star Wars” moniker was really intended to make fun of the program. Although SDI fell by the wayside after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the first President Bush continued missile defense on a smaller scale, but development went more slowly under the subsequent Clinton administration. Thankfully, missile defense was considered to be important to the second President Bush, and the program was given new life.

Now, with Iran pursuing nuclear weapons and North Korea having just tested a nuclear device, the need for missile defense is all too clear. If critics of missile defense had had their way, we would have nothing to protect American cities from missile attacks from rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran. Missile defense is far from perfect at this point, but we are better off with what we do have than if it had been completely abandoned. Just like the Boar sharpening his tusks, our weapons need to be ready for when we really need them, or else we will suffer for it.


Questions mark missile defense
Missile Defense Program Moves Forward

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More summer baseball fun

Well, I'm done with summer school, and student teaching hasn't begun yet, so I am pretty much free to go to as many baseball games as I want for the remainder of the season. Luke Scott got called up to the Astros some time after the All-Star break, and he's been doing great! I went to the game tonight, and as I was sitting in the rocker under the Home Run Porch, Travis Driskill, one of the bullpen pitchers was out in left field with his oldest son, who I'm guessing is about 10 or 11, hitting to him with a "fungo bat" - fly balls and grounders. BP was over, and the Express hadn't yet all come out to stretch before the game. The first player to come out was Joe McEwing. Joe came over to Driskill's son and coached him a little on how to field the grounders. Since Joe Mc has played in the Big Leagues, that's one lucky kid! That's one thing I love about The Dell Diamond - for the most part, the players are nice, good with the kids and appreciative of the fans. I guess I have a slightly different perspective on it, since my sisters both work out there, and they know a lot of the guys. Although the guys are chronologically adults, they are really just overgrown little boys. Driskill has been known to toss balls at my sister from the bullpen during games.... Anyway, today's game ended well. They played the Iowa Cubs, and won 6-3, with 3 of the run batted in by Joe Mc, with his two home runs on the night. Two more games this home stand, then the last home stand of the season is August 23-31. Here's to hoping the Express can maintain their 1st place standing in their division!

Friday, June 30, 2006


I said I would probably publish my "personal piece" here when I was finished with it. We each read our pieces in class today (this being the last day of Summer I), so I was able to share this with 20 classmates and my professor. I did fine until I got towards the end - I'm sure everyone could tell this is a subject that is very important to me - but I was able to get through reading the whole thing.

Nothing gets my blood boiling more than people implying, either blatantly or subtly, that the US military is full of immoral psychopaths who enjoy nothing better than killing innocents. We hear rumors and accusations in the news about actions in Haditha, with the Marines in question being convicted before investigations are complete or charges have been brought. Some people seem to be of two minds about when US military force is useful. There are those who today call the military action in Iraq “illegal” but didn’t seem to have a problem with our involvement in the former Yugoslavia in the mid 1990s when the troops would “be home by Christmas”. Now, more than a decade later, the US military is still there. Never mind the US military in Iraq includes some of the same people who participated in the “approved” intervention in the Balkans. Others say there is absolutely never any justification for violence. I am not a violent person, and I don’t think violence should be used unless or until all feasible non-violent options are proven to be ineffective. George Orwell’s commentary in his 1941 essay “Pacifism and the War” still holds true in today’s conflict:

Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’.

We cannot forget there are evil, violent people in this world. We have seen it throughout history. These people are found across the country and around the globe. LTC (ret) Dave Grossman, in his essay “On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs”, refers to these kinds of people as wolves. The analogy goes on to describe those of us that are productive members of society as sheep – we are kind and gentle and can only hurt one another by accident. The wolves prey on the sheep. Thankfully, there are also sheepdogs – law enforcement, our military and others – who protect the sheep by killing the wolves.

No one will ever be able to convince me that violence is never justified. One of my favorite quotes on this subject is attributed to Orwell: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Another thought comes from John Stuart Mill in “The Contest in America”, first published in 1862:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

How would history be different if we did not have these rough men, these sheepdogs, standing between the wolves and us sheep? What would have been the result if the Spartans had not sacrificed themselves for the sake of all Greeks, delaying the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae? Would a modern Western Civilization have developed if Polish king Jan Sobieski III had not defeated the Ottoman Empire at Vienna in 1683? Would the United States of America ever have come into being without the Revolutionary War? How long would slavery have been tolerated without the Civil War? Would Hitler have been able to realize the complete annihilation of the Jews if countries like Great Britain and the United States had not opposed Nazi aggression? What would have happened if Soviet expansion had not been halted because of US military might? Today, the sheepdogs might look a little different than they did in the past, but they are no less important to the welfare of the flock than they were before.

I grew up around the military. Although I am one of the sheep, I have always been surrounded by sheepdogs. I was born in Kimbrough Army Hospital at Fort Meade. We always lived in base housing, except for when my father was stationed in San Antonio, and my parents bought a house.

When we were living in Germany from 1978 to 1982 and I was in elementary school, I was eventually allowed to go places by myself. I never felt unsafe when walking to and from the PX, school or a friend’s house. The members of the US military were my father, my best friend’s dad, my neighbors and friends of my family.

It was no different at my father’s next duty station in El Paso from 1982 to 1986. The members of the US military were my father, my best friends’ dads, our neighbors, my dad’s company commander for whom I babysat.

In the fall of 1986, we moved back to Augsburg. I was a junior in high school. Being a teenager, I had “things to do and places to be.” My friends and I would go to the base movie theater, bowling alley, Burger King or snack bar. When I was a manager for the high school basketball team, we would sometimes use a non-school gym for practice. I remember riding my bike home one night. I was more concerned about having forgotten my gloves than for my personal safety – it was winter, it was cold and it was dark, and I would have to ride from the gym on Sheridan Kaserne, along Augsburg’s city streets to our building in Sullivan Heights, something that probably took me between 15 to 20 minutes to do. The members of the US military were my father, my best friend’s dad, classmates’ parents, people I babysat for, a volunteer coach for the boys’ basketball team and my customers at the PX.

One summer while I was in college, but before my father was re-assigned to Fort Hood, I dated a GI whose best friend was dating my best friend. I would sometimes visit with my boyfriend at the barracks, even helping on a “GI Party” or two so my boyfriend’s chores would be finished sooner, and we’d be able to get on with our plans. Not once did I ever feel like I was in a dangerous, risky situation.

My father has been retired from the Army for about 15 years. Some of the faces of the military have changed over the years. Now the US military are people I went to school with, as well as my pen pals.

The vast majority of the US military are good people, ones that have chosen the warrior’s path and live that life with courage and honor. I have never felt threatened because of the sheepdogs. I felt unsafe or uneasy because of the wolves: terrorists setting off bombs at the Oktoberfest in Munich, terrorists gunning down people at airports in Rome and Vienna, terrorists kidnapping Americans and holding them for years somewhere in the Middle East, terrorists bombing the Marine barracks in Beirut, the Iranians taking over our embassy in Tehran, bomb threats called into my school, or the prospect of being evacuated out of Germany with all my family except my dad – he was one of the sheepdogs, and he’d have a job to do.

Today, what makes me feel uneasy are the terrorists who wish to destroy our way of life. These terrorists are the wolves. They are the evil ones, who take pleasure in killing innocents. They are the barbarians who recently captured two United States soldiers. These soldiers were brutally tortured: unofficial information indicates their genitals were cut off and their hearts were cut out before they were beheaded. Their bodies were so badly mutilated that the only way to confirm their identities was through DNA testing. When these two soldiers were found, they had been booby-trapped by the terrorist, no doubt in the hope that more people would die. Nothing that any of our military has been accused of compares to what the terrorists are doing as a matter of course.

Personal experience confirms it: members of the US military are the better men, the rough men, who allow the rest of us to be the sheep. They are not the wolves. They are the sheepdogs, sniffing the air for any hint of a threat. They are there to protect the flock, and for that I am grateful. They are noble creatures, willing to sacrifice themselves in order to keep the sheep and their fellow sheepdogs safe.

This being a "touchy-feely" class about writing ("Connecting Reading & Writing in the Classroom"), we all had to share "positive" comments about each piece, written on strips of paper, to be read later. I finally read the comments I received this evening while working on getting all the links. Only one said something negative about my topic - "I felt that my desire for PEACE was attacked." - but she also said it was well written and that I was "brave for saying what you think." The lady whose poem inspired my writing picked up on that fact, and commented on it. She did, however, say I had done a good job. Most comments were truly positive, with some being supportive of my views.

Linked to Mudville Gazette

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Summer school

I'm now one week into summer school. I'm still on track to graduate Magna Cum Laude in December with my Masters in Elementary Education. I'm down to my last four courses before student teaching in the fall. So far, I've kept up with the course work in the two classes this first summer session. One is a reading diagnostics class, for which I am seeing very practical application once I am in the classroom (not necessarily the case for all the required coursework....). The other is also a "reading" class - connecting reading and writing in the classroom. This course requires I keep a "writer's notebook", something I've never done before. Something someone wrote and read in class today really got my blood boiling, and it's inspired today's entry into my notebook. I think this entry will be worked over and will become my "personal piece", a required assignment due some time before June 30, the end of the first summer session. Once I have this piece to my liking, I'm pretty sure it will end up being posted here.....

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Ultimate Sacrifice

I have been enjoying my two week "vacation", but summer school begins on June 5th. I still needed to buy my textbooks. I also still wanted to have my sister's boyfriend gives me a tour of the McKenna Children's Museum where he works. So, yesterday, I drove from Austin down to San Marcos, bought my books, then drove down to New Braunfels to go to get my tour - you can't just go into the McKenna Children's Museum unless you have kids with you.

It was about 2 o'clock when my tour was complete. I told J I would see him at the ballgame later that night, and went to my car. As I was getting in the car, I noticed a funeral procession going down the street. When I saw all the motorcycles with American flags, I just knew it was a military funeral. This thought was further reinforced when I saw one of the riders wearing the new Army camoflauge. Once all the motorcycles had passed, I also noticed some passengers in the cars were also in military uniforms. When I got home, I checked the Patriot Guard Riders website, but didn't see any Mission for New Braunfels listed - today, I see it was listed as San Antonio.

Today, I went to the website for The Herald-Zeitung, which serves New Braunfels. There, I learned whose funeral procession I had seen as I was leaving the museum. LTC Daniel Edward Holland was killed on May 18th in Baghdad while on a humanitarian mission when an IED detonated near his HMMWV. Also killed in the explosion were 1LT Robert A. Seidel III, SGT Lonnie C. Allen Jr., PFC Nicholas R. Cournoyer, and an Iraqi interpreter.

LTC Holland leaves behind a wife, Sheryl, and two children, Garrett and Rachel. He is also survived by his parents, his in-laws, nine siblings (and their spouses), as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He liked spending time with his family, and sharing his love of animals and the outdoors with his children. He had earned his DVM degree in 1988. Had LTC Holland not been killed, he would have trained Veterinary Corps troops at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio upon his return from Iraq.

Rumor had it that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church were to be protesting the funeral. Luckily, they didn't show, but the Patriot Guard Riders accompanied the funeral procession from Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church in New Braunfels to Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, where LTC Holland was buried with full military honors.

The family has requested memorial contributions be made either to
The Christian Veterinary Mission (206-546-7569) or any fund that supports wounded soldiers (I would recommend either Operation Comfort or Soldiers' Angels.

DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Herald-Zeitung obituaries, May 28, 2006
The Herald-Zeitung, Soldier’s life, legacy celebrated, June 1, 2006
The Herald-Zeitung, Riders come to honor soldier, June 1, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

Summer baseball fun

My family is big into baseball. This is the sixth season of the Round Rock Express, currently the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. My dad has always been a baseball fan, but my sisters never really followed baseball before that first season of minor league ball the summer of 2000, but they fell in love with the game. They are currently on their way back from Houston after watching the Astros lose 10-1 to the Giants. At least Barry Bond didn't hit his 714th home run tonight.....

When the Express first came to Round Rock as the Astros Double-A affiliate, I was still living in Arkansas, but I always managed to take a summer vacation. I enjoyed going to the games with my family, but it gets really hot and sticky, sitting out on the right field berm in the Texas summer heat. Berm tickets were only $4, and when my dad bought them with his military ID, he got another dollar off, so it was cheap entertainment.

My sisters learned the players and learned the game. They have enjoyed seeing the players they have watched with the Express get called up to the majors. Players like Roy Oswalt, Jason Lane, Eric Bruntlett, Mike Gallo, Wandy Rodriguez, and most recently Joe McEwing who got the call after Chris Burke (also an Express alum) went on the DL as a result of running into a wall…. My sisters befriended a lot of the ushers out at the ballpark, and now work out at the games.

My sisters are ushers, so although they have to ride herd on often unruly children out at the ballpark, they get to see most of the ballgame. Not bad, getting paid to watch baseball. In addition to ushering, they also help out in the clubhouse (after the players have cleared out, of course…). My sisters get to talk to the players, and some are sort-of friends. My sisters love being called “sweetie” by, and getting pecks on the cheek from, Luke Scott, and they have been known to bake “Home Run” cakes for the players, especially when it helps to win a game. So far this season, Luke and Brooks Conrad have both gotten cakes, and for the same game…

As a family, we haven’t had to pay for tickets much for the past several seasons. My sisters “know people”, and more often than not, we get put on the pass list. The last game of the last homestand, we got some really choice seats: first row next to the Express dugout – the seats belonging to the “Ryan family”. As in Nolan Ryan. That was pretty cool! We were only “in danger” once, when Luke Scott fouled in our direction, but it hit the wall in front of us. We won’t get seats like that too much. I usually make the rounds of the ballpark a couple of times during the game to visit with my sisters while they are working, but I wanted to make the most of our front row seats last Monday! So far this spring, the weather has been great for all the games I’ve gone to (except for one with a rain delay). Last spring, I had to go into the Railyard and buy a blanket, it was so cold. We won’t have to worry about that for the rest of this season. It’s been hot, and it will only get hotter...

I told Ben that if he can get to the point this baseball season where he can leave the hospital for a few hours, I’d take him to a game. Football might be his favorite sport, but going to baseball games is lots of fun. And right now, the Express are a half game out of first place in their division, with a record of 22-13.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Never Forget

I read this over at Cassandra's place this morning. This kind of thing just pisses me off...

I will never forget. Although my father was in the Army for almost twenty-seven years, he never saw combat. He enlisted in December 1964, but instead of becoming a helicopter pilot, as was his first choice, since all four of the available slots went to active duty personnel instead of recruits like my dad, he ended up going to DLI (Defense Language Institution), becoming a German linguist and going into MI. My dad was a Cold Warrior. He would go into the field, and although people can get hurt in training exercises, nothing ever happened to my dad. I can only think how things might be different if he had become a helicopter pilot like he had wanted to. I have no doubt he would have been sent to Vietnam. That being the case, I realize I might not be here today if he had become a helicopter pilot, because he might not have come back to my mother.

Several years ago, while living in Arkansas, I "adopted" an MIA. The MIA I was given is James William Holt. The information I received gave his rank as "SFC", Sergeant First Class. However, I found myself in DC on a business trip in the spring of 1998, and when I looked up his name in the books to find his name on The Wall, it showed him as "MSG", Master Sergeant. Not sure why there was a difference, unless he was promoted after he was MIA. I guess that's not unreasonable, since I've heard of posthumous promotions. James Holt was born in Hope, Arkansas. I don't know if he left behind any family.

Here is the story of how James went MIA from the P.O.W. Network:

Shortly after midnight on February 7, 1968, a combined NVA infantry-tank assault drove into Lang Vei. Two PT-76 tanks threatened the outer perimeter of the camp as infantry rushed behind them. SFC James W. Holt destroyed both tanks with shots from his 106mm recoilless rifle. More tanks came around the burning hulks of the first two tanks and began to roll over the 104th CIDG Company's defensive positions. SSgt. Peter Tiroch, the assistant intelligence sergeant, ran over to Holt's position and helped load the weapon. Holt quickly lined up a third tank in his sights and destroyed it with a direct hit. After a second shot at the tank, Holt and Tiroch eft the weapons pit just before it was demolished by return cannon fire. Tiroch watched Holt run over to the ammunition bunker to look for some hand-held Light Anti-tank Weapons (LAWs). It was the last time Holt was ever seen.

LtCol. Schungel, 1Lt. Longgrear, SSgt. Arthur Brooks, Sgt. Nikolas Fragos, SP4 William G. McMurry, Jr., and LLDB Lt. Quy desperately tried to stop the tanks with LAWs and grenades. They even climbed on the plated engine decks, trying to pry open hatches to blast out the crews. NVA infantrymen followed the vehicles closely, dusting their sides with automatic rifle fire. One tank was stopped by five direct hits, and the crew killed as they tried to abandon the vehicle. 1Lt. Miles R. Wilkins, the detachment executive officer, left the mortar pit with several LAWs and fought a running engagement with one tank beside the team house without much success.

Along the outer perimeters, the mobile strike force outpost was receiving fire. Both Kenneth Hanna, a heavy weapons specialist, and Charles W. Lindewald, 12th Mobile Strike Force platoon leader, were wounded. Hanna, wounded in the scalp, left shoulder and arm tried to administer first aid to Lindewald. The two were last seen just before their position was overrun. Harvey Brande spoke with them by radio and Hanna indicated that Lindewald was then dead, and that he himself was badly wounded. Daniel R. Phillips, a demolitions specialist, was wounded in the face and was last seen trying to evade North Vietnamese armor by going through the northern perimeter wire. NVA sappers armed with satchel charges, tear gas grenades and flamethrowers fought through the 101st, 102nd and 103rd CIDG perimeter trenches and captured both ends of the compound by 2:30 a.m. Spearheaded by tanks, they stormed the inner compound. LtCol. Schungel and his tank-killer personnel moved back to the command bunker for more LAWs. They were pinned behind a row of dirt and rock filled drums by a tank that had just destroyed one of the mortar pits. A LAW was fired against the tank with no effect. The cannon swung around and blasted the barrels in front of the bunker entrance. The explosion temporarily blinded McMurry and mangled his hands, pitched a heavy drum on top of Lt. Wilkins and knocked Schungel flat. Lt. Quy managed to escape to another section of the camp, but the approach of yet another tank prevented Schungel and Wilkins from following. At some point during this period, McMurry, a radioman, disappeared.

The tank, which was shooting at the camp observation post, was destroyed with a LAW. Schungel helped Wilkins over to the team house, where he left both doors ajar and watched for approaching NVA soldiers. Wilkins was incapacitated and weaponless, and Schungel had only two grenades and two magazines of ammunition left. He used one magazine to kill a closely huddled five-man sapper squad coming toward the building. He fed his last magazine into his rifle as the team house was rocked with explosions and bullets. The two limped over to the dispensary, which was occupied by NVA soldiers, and hid underneath it, behind a wall of sandbags.

At some point, Brande, Thompson and at least one Vietnamese interpreter were captured by the North Vietnamese. Thompson was uninjured, but Brande had taken shrapnel in his leg. Brande and Thompson were held separately for a week, then rejoined in Laos. Joined with them was McMurry, who had also been captured from the camp. The three were moved up the Ho Chi Minh trail to North Vietnam and held until 1973. The U.S. did not immediately realize they had been captured, and carried them in Missing in Action status thoughout the rest of the war, although Brande's photo was positively identified by a defector in April 1969 as being a Prisoner of War. A Vietnamese interpreter captured from the camp told Brande later that he had seen both Lindewald and Hanna, and that they both were dead.

Several personnel, including Capt. Willoughby, SP4 James L. Moreland, the medic for the mobile strike force, and Lt. Quan, the LLDB camp commander, were trapped in the underground level of the command bunker. Lt. Longgrear had also retreated to the command bunker. Satchel charges, thermite grenades and gas grenades were shoved down the bunker air vents, and breathing was very difficult. Some soldiers had gas masks, but others had only handkerchiefs or gauze from their first aid packets.

The NVA announced they were going to blow up the bunker, and the LLDB personnel walked up the stairs to surrender, and were summarily executed. At dawn, two large charges were put down the vent shaft and detonated, partially demolishing the north wall and creating a large hole through which grenades were pitched. The bunker defenders used upturned furniture and debris to shield themselves. Willoughby was badly wounded by grenade fragments and passed out at 8:30 a.m. Moreland had been wounded and became delirious after receiving a head injury in the final bunker explosion. Incredibly, the battle was still going on in other parts of the camp.

Aircraft had been strafing the ravines and roads since 1:00 a.m. Throughout the battle, the Laotians refused to participate, saying they would attack at first light. Sfc. Eugene Ashley, Jr., the intelligence sergeant, led two assistant medical specialists, Sgt. Richard H. Allen and SP4 Joel Johnson as they mustered 60 of the Laotian soldiers and counterattacked into Lang Vei. The Laotians bolted when a NVA machine gun crew opened fire on them, forcing the three Americans to withdraw.

Team Sfc. William T. Craig and SSgt. Tiroch had chased tanks throughout the night with everything from M-79 grenade launchers to a .50 caliber machine gun. After it had become apparent that the camp had been overrun, they escaped outside the wire and took temporary refuge in a creek bed. After daylight, they saw Ashley's counterattack force and joined him. The Special Forces sergeants persuaded more defenders fleeing down Route 9 to assist them and tried second, third and fourth assaults. Between each assault, Ashley directed airstrikes on the NVA defensive line, while the other Special Forces soldiers gathered tribal warriors for yet another attempt. On the fifth counterattack, Ashley was mortally wounded only thirty yards from the command bunker.

Capt. Willoughby had regained consciousness in the bunker about 10:00 a.m. and established radio contact with the counterattacking Americans. The continual American airstrikes had forced the North Vietnamese to begin withdrawing from the camp. Col. Schungel and Lt. Wilkins emerged from under the dispensary after it was vacated by the North Vietnamese and hobbled out of the camp.

The personnel in the bunker also left in response to orders to immediately evacuate the camp. They carried Sgt. John D. Early, who had been badly wounded by shrapnel while manning the tower, but were forced to leave SP4 Moreland inside the bunker. 1Lt. Thomas D. Todd, an engineer officer in charge of upgrading Lang Vei's airstrip, held out in the medical bunker throughout the battle. That afternoon, he was the last American to pass through the ruined command bunker. He saw Moreland, who appeared to be dead, covered with debris.

Maj. George Quamo gathered a few dozen Special Forces commando volunteers from the MACV-SOG base at Khe Sanh (FOB #3) and led a heroic reinforcing mission into Lang Vei. His arrival enabled the Lang Vei defenders to evacuate the area, many by Marine helicopters in the late afternoon.

Sgt. Richard H. Allen - Survivor
Sfc Eugene Ashley, Jr. - Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Lang Vei
Harvey Gordon Brande - Captured - released POW in 1973
SSgt. Arthur Brooks - Survivor
Sfc. William T. Craig - Survivor
Sgt. John D. Early - Survivor
Sgt. Nikolas Fragos - Survivor
Kenneth Hanna - Missing In Action
James William Holt - Missing In Action
SP4 Joel Johnson - Survivor
Charles Wesley Lindewald, Jr. - Missing In Action
1Lt. Paul R. Longgrear - Survivor
SP4 William G. McMurry - Captured - released POW in 1973
James Leslie Moreland - Missing In Action
Daniel Raymond Phillips - Missing In Action
Maj. George Quamo - Killed in Action April 14, 1968
Lt. Quy - Survivor
LtCol. Daniel F. Schungel-appointed deputy commander of the 5th Special Forces
Dennis L. Thompson - Captured - released POW in 1973
SSgt. Peter Tiroch - Survivor
1Lt. Thomas D. Todd - Survivor
1Lt. Miles R. Wilkins - Survivor
Capt. Frank C. Willoughby - Survivor

Never forget.

(Updated 2/4/11 with new link, as Cassandra will eventually shut down Villainous Company, but has given me permission to re-post selected pieces of her writing elsewhere.)

Friday, May 5, 2006

What I will do with my two week vacation:

In two weeks, I will be an unemployed graduate student. In order to be able to complete my course work in time to student teach in the fall and graduate in December, I will not be able to continue my employment this summer. Summer classes are only offered during the day, run two hours long, and are five days a week for a four week session. I will be taking four classes over the two summer terms. That kinda puts a wrench in the 8:30-3:00 part-time office job I'm in....

All this being said, I haven't had two weeks of no real responsibilities since graduating with my Bachelor's degree in May 1992. When I was looking at the calendar to determine my last day of work in relation to the beginning of summer school, I decided to allow myself a two week break. But, I also didn't want to just sit around doing pretty much nothing, and I'm not in a position to go off somewhere at the moment. I also know that I'd go stir crazy sitting around the house for 16 days straight. So, I will be doing some volunteer work for a group of people who are near and dear to my heart. I will be supporting our soldiers.

Being supportive of the military is something I grew up with. After all, I grew up in the military, in a manner of speaking. My father enlisted in the US Army in December of 1964 and made a career of it. He did not retire from the Army until August 1991. So, I'm not one of those people who just jumped on the "Support the Troops" bandwagon - it's a part of who I am.

I first "supported the troops" during Desert Shield/Desert Storm by writing a letter to "Any Servicemember" through Operation Dear Abby. I received a letter back, and had a pen pal. I sent lots of mail and care packages, to include "homemade" from a box brownies packed in an empty coffee or Crisco can, to help keep the brownies from getting crushed. As can be expected, when my soldier was no longer deployed, I stopped hearing from him. I sometimes wonder what became of him.

Then, when we sent troops into Bosnia, I did the same thing again, and again got letters back. But, as is the usual pattern, once the soldier returned to the States, I no longer heard from him.

Even though we continued to have our military deployed or stationed in Saudi Arabi and Bosnia after it was no longer in the news all the time, the drives to get the American public to send mail and care packages weren't really publicized, so I never "replaced" pen pals once I stopped receiving mail from them. However, after a number of years, I decided I wanted to pick up this "hobby" again, but I found that the Operation Dear Abby was only in operation at the holidays, so I couldn't send off a letter at that point in time. Then came 9/11....

I had posted a comment somewhere on the internet saying I was looking for a pen pal. I received an email back from a man asking me to write to his son, who was with the 10th Mountain Division, and had been involved in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. I wrote letters, but never heard back. After all, what do I have in common with a young man barely out of high school?

After 9/11, people wanting to support the troops started showing up and/or getting publicity. I found both AdoptAPlatoon, and eMailOurMilitary, and signed up to get pen pals. Didn't get much snail mail back. Had mostly Navy e-pals, since they have much easier access to email all the time when they are on a ship. Then, I found two years ago. I can't tell you how many contacts I've sent letters off to through that website. I read every single new post daily until last summer when I became a grad student, and my free time shrank dramatically. I still kept up with my pen pals that I already had, but I stopped sending out new letters because I knew I wouldn't be able to respond to anyone I heard back from like I would want to. This past semester really had me swamped!

With my semester winding down, and knowing I might have more free time in the summer months, I signed up with Soldier's Angels when they put out the word they needed people to send mail to new contacts they had. I got a new address, and have been sending (usually) weekly notes to this new pen pal over the last couple of months, but I've only been able to send out one package (takes time to do the packing and filing out of the customs form, and then you still have to go stand in line at the post office) to this new guy. Haven't heard back from him, but that's okay. I'll continue until he's not deployed anymore.

Now that I am a member of Soldier's Angels, I receive emails about what is going on. I recently received an email that an injured Marine was coming to my neck of the woods. This young Marine had recently returned from Iraq unscathed, only to be hit by a car almost immediately upon his return. This Marine was very seriously injured. His family is from my state, and since he will have to undergo lots of physical therapy, his family arranged to have him transferred closer to them. The rehab center is about 3 miles from my house. Although I haven't visited yet (he's just barely arrived here), I plan on visiting him regularly. I don't know his exact condition, but at this point, he's not really able to speak, although he has been responsive. I emailed his family last night, and got a response back. I'll be calling later this afternoon to get an idea of when would be good for me to visit him.

Also through Soldier's Angels, I checked into volunteering at Brooks Army Medical Center. Since I only have two weeks with no specific commitments, volunteering there at the hospital isn't really practical, as there is extensive training that is required to be a hospital volunteer. I was given some alternative volunteer opportunities, though. Soldier's Angels could use some help with data entry, so I'll go to San Antonio a few times to help with that. I was also given information on an Austin-based group called Operation Comfort. I've emailed them, but haven't heard back yet. Also, I was given contact information for the lady that (I think) runs the Fisher House at BAMC. Haven't had a chance to call her yet. If nothing else, I figure if there are kids at Fisher House, I could read to them or something, and give the parents a little break. It will be good practice for becoming a teacher, too. Plus, any excuse to go to San Antonio will make it easier to stop by Karam's on Zarzamora for their fabulous tamales & chili!

In addition to my volunteerism plans, I also may go to visit an old friend from junior high I haven't seen in over ten years. Depends on if my free time schedule works with her schedule, since she has a husband and two kids. Another thing I'll be doing lots of is going to AAA baseball games. I've missed most of them so far this season, since I had class three nights a week. But, I took my last final last night, and the Express are in town through the 8th. My family is big into baseball, and my sisters "know people" out at the ballpark ;-)

Don't get me wrong - I also plan to take advantage of the fact that there will be days when I don't have to go anywhere and I'll be able to sleep in as late as I want. I'm just glad I'll have the time to do some of the things I would have liked to have done long before, but was unable to because of work and school commitments. I'll tell you what it's like, visiting that young Marine, and the other activities I end up doing on my two week vacation later this month.....

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Making the plunge....

Today, I finally made the plunge and created a blogger profile after being invited to post a letter I wrote to my elected representatives on my best friend's blog. Not sure how often I will post to my own blog. After all, I am still a graduate student, and my studies (should) come first. We'll just have to wait and see how prolific I am....

A letter to my elected representatives in Congress

The following is a letter I sent to each of my three representatives in Congress. A slightly modified version of this letter was also sent to the President.

I am concerned about the current illegal immigration problems our country is dealing with. I want to see my federal government enforce the laws currently on the books before more laws are created.

I am old enough to remember when nearly three million illegal aliens were given amnesty in 1986. This legislation was originally only expected to legalize about one million illegal aliens. Also, there were to be consequences for those who employed immigrants who were in the United States illegally, and increased control of our borders. Sadly, neither of these things happened. Employers who hire illegal aliens, if caught, are given a slap on the wrist – hardly a disincentive for continuing the practice of hiring cheap illegal immigrant labor. Our southern border leaks like a sieve. After twenty years, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 would appear to me to be a failure. Illegal immigration has only gotten worse.

I am adamantly against any form of blanket amnesty for people who are in the United States illegally. I realize attempting to deport the estimated twelve million is not a feasible option. I also understand that over the past twenty years of continued illegal immigration, there are families with illegal immigrant parents and American citizen children. It would not be moral to deport minor children who are American citizens along with their illegal immigrant parents. We need to end that problem by changing the law as it pertains to citizenship being granted automatically solely based on being born within the borders of the United States, regardless of the status of the parents of that child. Using anchor-babies as a way to remain within the United States needs to stop. In order to gain citizenship, any baby born in the United States must have at least one parent who is a citizen or legal resident alien. This would eliminate the problem of illegal immigrant parents and American citizen children.

I am also tired of hearing that “illegal immigrants do the jobs Americans won’t do”. My family has never hired an illegal alien to mow our lawns. My parents raised their children – they did not hire illegal immigrants to do it. I have heard small business people tell of how they have had to close their businesses and lay off their American citizen employees because they are being undercut by unscrupulous employers who are hiring cheap, illegal immigrant labor. I’m sure there would be American to fill those jobs if those jobs paid a decent wage.

By turning a blind eye to the illegal immigrants coming to the United States, we are importing poverty. The majority of illegal immigrants are coming from poor countries with not much more than the clothes on their backs. They are being paid sub-standard wages. They cannot afford to pay for healthcare, so it is paid for by the American taxpayer. They send their children to American public schools. This put an additional burden on American taxpayers. These children require more support than their English speaking classmates whose parents are American citizens, through things like the need for ESL teachers and free and reduced-price school lunch programs for those living in poverty.

We need to know who is in our country, and we need to control those who enter here. In the days of immigration through Ellis Island, people were screened to ensure they were healthy. Those people who were sick were denied entry into the United States. Today, with uncontrolled illegal immigration, our healthcare system is beginning to see diseases that had formerly been eliminated within our borders. This is a healthcare nightmare waiting to happen, especially with the specter of a bird flu pandemic.

Another aspect of the illegal immigration problem is the risk of terrorists coming into the United States illegally. The director of the FBI recently announced that Hezbollah terrorist had been apprehended after crossing our southern border. I’m sure the coyotes that extort money from Mexicans to sneak them over the border into the United States would have no problem accepting money from terrorists for the same service. The terrorists only have to be right once. We have to be right all the time to keep our citizens safe.

I am also deeply disturbed by the protests by illegal immigrants and their supporters. Since the majority of the illegal immigrants come from Mexico, the hypocrisy is overwhelming. Mexico treats their immigrants much differently than we currently treat our immigrants. If you are in Mexico illegally, you have committed a felony and are immediately deported. We should do the same thing. In Mexico, immigrants are not allowed to demonstrate against the government. We have allowed this, and have not done anything to catch these illegal immigrants as they protest for rights they are not entitled to. Mexico does not allow immigrants to own property, to join the clergy, or to become cabinet members. Yet, the Mexican government wants us to grant amnesty to their citizens who have violated the sovereignty of the United States and completely disregarded our laws. Mexico has not been a partner in attempting to stem the tide of illegal immigration over our southern border. In fact, they have aided and abetted that illegal activity.

One aspect of these protests that are not being reported by the mainstream media are those people seeking Reconquista of the American southwest. These people do not want to assimilate into the American culture. They seek to “take back” parts of our nation they view as being stolen from “La Raza”. I am also disturbed by the leftist, communist elements that are supporting blanket amnesty and a no borders/open borders policy. This is not just about lawbreakers. This is a fight for what the United States of America is. We have always welcomed immigrants into our country, but they have to want to assimilate, and they have to follow the rules to get here. I do not see the desire to assimilate in a lot of the protests that have been held over the last number of weeks. What does giving amnesty to illegal immigrants say to all those people who have or are currently following the rules, and have had to wait years for the privilege of coming to the United States?

I would venture to guess that a majority of those protesting are not citizens of the United States. That being the case, those people are not your constituents. The American people are who you should be listening to. The vast majority of American citizens want to see our borders secured and do not favor amnesty for illegal immigrants. You don’t answer to a mob, you answer to the American people. You cannot equate these protests to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s as some are trying to do. The Civil Rights movement was to right wrongs being perpetrated on American citizens. The current movement seeks to reward those who do not respect our sovereignty and are not entitled to the protections of the Constitution granted to American citizens.

Although I live in Texas, I thankfully do not live along the border. If I did, I think I would have to move away. Illegal immigrants have no respect for the private property they trespass through and leave their garbage on during their illegal journey into our country. I know for certain I will not ever want to live in a border town. I would be too concerned about my personal safety. I am aware of the incursions over our southern border by armed men wearing military style clothing and driving in armored and heavily armed vehicles. The Mexican government may deny these incursions are done by the Mexican army, but it doesn’t look to me like they are doing anything to prevent these incursions if they aren’t being perpetrated by the Mexican military.

Another aspect of granting amnesty to the majority of illegal immigrants is the fact they would then be able to start bring any family they have left behind in their country of origin. Our nation is not capable of absorbing such a massive influx of addition immigrants. I have read some estimates stating this would make an estimated 60 million additional people eligible to come to the United States. The majority of these people will be poor, and will be living in poverty, becoming a further drain on our social services, healthcare and educational systems.

I will be paying attention to voting records for all my elected representatives. Right now, the immigration and border issues are trumping all other issues. Having said all this, I want to express to you that I will never vote for a candidate who is not for tough border and interior enforcement of all our existing laws in regard to immigration, and I do vote, and I will not vote for anyone who supports or votes to approve blanket amnesty for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants who are currently in the United States. I would rather see no new immigration laws passed and have the existing laws strictly enforced. Once we stop the flood of illegal immigration, then we can address the problem of what to do about the estimated 12 million and counting illegal immigrants that are here now. If we grant amnesty and don’t secure our borders, we will have an even larger illegal immigration problem, and next time, I don’t think it will take 20 years to get to a crisis point.

I appreciate your attention to this issue, and I look forward to hearing your position on illegal immigration and border security.


Miss Ladybug