Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Learning Experience

This past weekend, even though I am not a military spouse, I had the privilege of attending SpouseBUZZ Live in San Antonio, at the invitation of Carren, wife of milblogger Chuck Ziegenfuss. I had never met Carren before, but I've been a long-time reader and commenter at Chuck's place. Carren and the other ladies I met made me feel very welcome.

SpouseBUZZ Live itself was very interesting. The two panels ("A Humorous Look at the Milspouse Experience" and "Making the Most of the Milspouse Experience") were both very informative, at times very entertaining, or very touching. It made me understand that some things for the military family have changed quite a bit in the 17 years since my father retired after nearly 27 years of service, but it also reminded me that some things about military family life will probably never change.

After the event was over, some of the ladies wanted to go to Brooke Army Medical Center. There was a specific person one wanted to visit in the burn unit, and Carren and I wanted to see if we might be able to meet service members in the ortho ward. The other ladies were going to knit in the lobby while we went upstairs. When we checked in at the desk on the ortho ward, we were informed that there were actually only a couple of service members currently on the ward. The gentleman we spoke to walked us around the ward and showed us the brand new hospital beds the ward had just been outfitted with, to replace the original, 12-year old, beds. Carren, having become quite familiar with WRAMC and what a Wounded Warrior goes through while an in-patient was very much impressed with the new features of the bed: they will help to tilt the patient to the left or right, based on the doctor's orders, eliminating the need to stack pillows and to turn the patient manually; also, it can weigh the patient without having to move them out of the bed. We were able to meet one of the patients, a young Air Force lieutenant who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident (a woman pulled out in front of him) and his mother. I followed Carren's lead, since I had no prior experience meeting injured troops. Carren spoke to Mom about Soldiers' Angels and Valour-IT while I talked baseball with the LT. He's a Red Sox fan, and at the time, they had yet to be eliminated in the ALCS.

On Sunday, I went back down to San Antonio. The plan was to go to the Fisher House at BAMC to deliver some of the extra (very nice) giveaway bags from Saturday's event (and to share information about SpouseBUZZ, and to see check in to see what's going on. When we got back over to BAMC, and were to have meet a couple of "locals" at the Powless Guesthouse. Unfortunately, there was a family emergency, so we were on our own, but that didn't turn out to be any problem. We went into the Guesthouse and learned that the place we wanted to go, the Warrior and Family Support Center was housed on the second floor. One of the volunteers walked us up and introduced us. Once Carren explained what we were about, we went back out to my car to get the bag. The Center is the main gathering place for guests at Powless and the Fisher Houses, so we could leave all the bags there. Carren spoke at length with the volunteer who seemed to be "in charge", and Kate (another milspouse) and I interacted with the cutest little 2-year old girl who was there with a family member, and also were individually snagged by another volunteer - an older gentleman - to be told about the new facility that will be having it's grand opening on Monday, December 1st, 2008.

The Returning Heroes Home will give the officially named Warrior and Family Support Center about ten times the space they currently have with the second floor space at the Powless Guesthouse. Given all the services the Center provides, they really need it. Many area churches provide dinners for the Center. We were also told that at Christmas and Easter, the Jewish synagogues volunteer to provide dinner: they figure that since they aren't celebrating these holidays, they can gift the gift of their time to allow Christian volunteers to celebrate instead of working.

Seems someone came to Judith Markelz, the program manager, asking what they wished for. "A new building." Now, less than two years later, through the efforts of brothers Steve and Les Huffman, owner of Huffman Developments (a construction firm), that wish is coming true. The 3.589 million dollar project has been funded entirely with private donations. If you would like to help out, you can make a donation. At this point in time you can still make a donation of $50 to purchase a personalized paver brick (about 100 left) ("a tasteful and permanent way to honor your family or loved one"). Returning Heroes Home is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your donation would be tax deductible.

This architectural drawing is impressive enough, showing the Hill Country style that can be seen all around this part of Texas, but it doesn't do justice to the actual building, which we were able to get a glimpse of before heading out to take my new friends to the airport for their flight home.

This building, with the white rock and tin roof, would be at home on any Central Texas or Hill Country spread... While the volunteer who was bragging on it invited me to attend the grand opening, I don't think I'll be able to make it. However, I do hope to work out being able to volunteer there from time to time. I sent an email last night to the contact information I got on Sunday, but I haven't heard back yet. If anyone is interested in volunteering, drop me an email and I can pass along the contact info.

For a little background, this is a video about the Returning Heroes Home from July 2007...

...and this report from WOAI television from September 2007...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An American Carol

I went to see An American Carol yesterday afternoon. I have to say I agree with Wordsmith over at Flopping Aces (H/T: CJ @ ASP):

The movie itself is uneven, crude, unapologetically- nay, proudly- pro-American, over-the-top, simplistic, funny, stupid, less-than-funny, hilarious, offensive, mercilessly lampooning the American Left. I loved it.

I don't usually go for David Zucker movies (Airplane! and The Naked Gun - generally not my preferred sort of humor), but I figured any movie that openly made fun of The Left deserved my support. I went to the first showing - 12:30pm Saturday afternoon. When I got to the 14-screen cinema, the parking lot wasn't very full, and there were maybe a dozen people there to see An American Carol. After the movie ended, someone even applauded! I laughed; I got a little teary-eyed with American pride. I'll try to see this movie again before it leaves the theater...

Judging from what Wordsmith had to say, not all theaters showed the same previews before the movie. The ones I saw were Oliver Stone's W, Defiance, Proud American and Milk. The only one I'd heard of before was W, and I thought to myself that people going to see Carol likely weren't the same folks who would be interested in seeing W...

Defiance, set to be released December 12th, looks to be an excellent movie. It is the true story of three brothers, Jews from Poland, who escape the Nazis into the Belorussian forest where they eventually come to lead a group of resistance fighters and save the lives of many Jews.

Proud American, in the trailer, seemed to be a series of vignettes of different inspiring American stories. The movie's website says:

This story takes the audience to the most stirring and heartwarming scenes in America. History, adventure and spectacular scenery are the backdrop. Opportunity, personal responsibility, and the free enterprise system is the platform in which America's success is molded. We are a nation that owes much to many. This is an American story told through the magic of magnificent music performed by top performers, breathtaking photography, thrilling aerial scenes, and some of the most touching human moments ever presented on the giant screen.

I admit that isn't very helpful, but it could be an interesting movie to see - if I had a clue as to where it is showing, since it came out in September...

Milk - starring Sean Penn - another movie I thought wasn't really for the same target audience as Carol... It is the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to win public office in the United States, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Might be an interesting story, but I've long since decided I won't go see any more movies with Sean Penn in it...

I just hope An American Carol does well, and that Hollywood will figure out that if they make movies celebrating America, Americans and American Exceptionalism, people WILL go. Kind of like the voice from the cornfield in Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come..."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bats At The Beach

I found Bats at the Beach, written and illustrated by Brian Lies, around Halloween, I think in 2006. It's a very original, fun concept. Bats aren't really my favorite animal, but they are made to be very likable, cute, even, in this book. The bats are anthropomorphized, but also retain their "battiness", coming out at night, eating bugs or fruits, and living in dark places.

The story is presented as a poem:

Sun slips down and all is still,
and soon we can't tell sky from hill.
Now from barn and cave and rafter,
bats pour out with shrieks of laughter.

The rising moon can grow no fatter
as sky lights up with gleeful chatter:
Quick, call out! Tell all you can reach-
the moon is just perfect for bats at the beach!

Soon we've got out buckets, trowels,
banjoes, blankets, books, and towels,
strapped on backs and under wings.
- Have we forgotten anything?

Once at the beach, the bats toast bug-mallows, bury each other in the sand, play in the surf, play games, and moon-bathe. As the sun starts to come up, the bats return home for the day.

All in all, this is a cute book, which B&N recommends for children 5 to 8 years old. When I was at Barnes & Noble the other day, I did see that Brian Lies has another book, Bats at the Library, which I now see just came out this month. I'll read it when I have a chance and let you know what I think...