Saturday, April 30, 2011

YouServed livestreaming 2011 Milblog Conference

If you wanted to attended the 2011 Milblog Conference but were unable to be here in person, you can participate online here. Once again, the Conference will be livestreamed and you can participate in the online chat (and I think you'll even be able to ask questions of the panels that way!). I sat in on the livestream last year and think it's great that it is being done again this year, thanks once again to YouServed's sponsor, the VA Mortgage Center.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Flash Mob of Kindness

Posted by South Park Diva

On April 21st I participated in the amazing "Flash Mob of Kindness" that swept our great nation. It was an experience that I will not soon forget.

I am a teacher at a small community college in Missouri. I have, from time to time, given my students gas money, food money, food or just treated them to lunch, snacks or a hot beverage at the local coffee shop! I know that many of them struggle to not only pay for their education, but to just have enough to buy breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some of them have kids, which makes the struggle that much more difficult. They know they need to stay in school, but it sure is hard when they also need to work and provide for their families. Some of them are international students, who are excited to be here in the United States, but live on almost nothing. So I do understand that there is plenty of need around me.

When Glenn Beck invited his viewers to take part in a "Flash Mob of Kindness", I got all excited about it. I immediately got onto Freedom Connector and posted that I wanted to lead a group in my area. I checked back a couple of days, didn't see much and kind of lost my enthusiasm. I forgot to check back, thinking that Freedom Connector would email me a notice if I got any replies. It didn't. Finally, I received an email asking about it. I replied positively, but inside I was thinking "Okay, how the heck do I organize this thing?" I went back to the website, and saw a few people had posted replies, and posted my own response. I changed my settings to be sure I'd get an email notice. I didn't...

Finally, I received an email on Tuesday, two days before the planned event. My first contact, Steve, was still interested. I thought "Okay, I'm going to do this - for Glenn!". Steve stopped by and dropped off a box of food. He told me he probably couldn't take part in the event, since he worked nights and would be sleeping at the time we wanted to do this. His positive attitude heartened me, and I got back onto Freedom Connector to see who I could contact. A few hours later I'd made connections with another teacher from a different school. We decided that between me and him and his wife and Steve, we could put together five packs of groceries. I then started sending out emails trying to find out who might need our help. I also put in a last minute order for "Tea Party Patriots" t-shirts at the local print/graphics shop. It was only three people, but I figured we needed to show them who we are. We're proud Tea Party Patriots - not racists, not violent - just people who want to help out. Show people in our little community that people care and that we are praying for them.

I received back some replies and realized just how much our small effort was going to help out some people who were just barely hanging on. It was humbling.

I went shopping that night and picked up my list of items - canned fruit and veggies, peanut butter and evaporated milk - and found myself adding in some small hams, a package of gum, some Hershey's kisses and even a pack of raisins. I was excited at the prospect of just being able to help someone out.

On Thursday, I was able to talk to a prospective recipient. A mother going to school, with a teenage son and just barely hanging on. The gratitude in her voice was humbling and I wanted to thank her for allowing me the opportunity to help.

Then another phone call to the sister of an Army retiree. Disabled from a stroke, he's lost his house, car and wife. His sister pays his rent and buys him groceries, because he cannot get assistance. The Army admits that he is due his retirement after 22 years, but it is "pending". That "pending" status means he is not eligible for any assistance at all. His sister was so grateful. She felt he might be too proud to take it from us, but I was more than happy to drop the food off with her.

Finally, a quick text to some international students of mine. Two wonderful "kids" from the Congo. Both great people, always smiling and ready to work hard. And I had no idea that they needed a little help. The coordinator for these students sent the following in an email: "It's always amazing to see this group do well academically, work every opportunity they are allowed by law, and manage each day without the basic necessities. Honestly, I learn from them more than they will ever know." How true!

After knowing for sure who we were visiting, I ran out to pick up our t-shirts and then made a quick trip to Wal-Mart for a few more things. I just couldn't resist. And I couldn't wait for 5PM when my Freedom Connector friends would arrive!

At 5PM, "Doc" Broom and his wife, Lisa, arrived with more piles of food. We sorted things out by groups - mother and son - Army guy - students - and piled into the car to visit our first group, the international students. I know two of them, so we delivered the groceries to them and they promised to distribute them. They were so happy to receive the food and so grateful. It made me feel wonderful. My student asked us to pray and bless their little house. We happily complied. We got a few pictures and we were heading out to the next stop - the mother with son.

The mother was embarrassed about her little house, but gladly let us in and hugged us. Her autistic son was playing some video games, but was very cheerful when we blocked his view. She hugged us enthusiastically and asked "What is this Tea Party thing?" We answered that we're basically a political group, Republicans and left it at that.

Finally, the soldier. His street was flooded, so we had to grab the items and hike across a couple of lawns. His sister warned us that he might not talk much, but he was happy to see us and shook our hands. We talked for a few minutes about his situation, and Doc said he just might know someone who could get the ball rolling for him. We shook hands all around and his sister thanked us for being a blessing. I told her that it was a blessing to be able to help and it was!

As we left, we agreed how amazing it was to be able to help. I spent about $75 and with a few other people was able to help so many. We bought items that really go a long way and the recipients were so grateful. We're hoping to make this into a habit and keep helping people. We threw our little group together at the last minute and were still able to accomplish something important. And the man who not give up and kept asking me about it? Well, he couldn't take part in the actual distribution, but he knew it was important to contribute, and he got me moving when I had given up on the idea.

Glenn Beck gave so many in this great nation this wonderful idea. Get out and help people - let them see you and know that you care and are praying for them. Some may not even know what the Tea Party is, but that's okay. Let them see you and feel your love and compassion.

We knew we could be a great blessing - a force of good. What I didn't realize was what a blessing it was to help - to be able to help. It's a good feeling, and I hope to feel it many more times!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Texas Army National Guard @ the 2011 American Heroes Celebration

I spent much of this past weekend volunteering for Soldiers' Angels. A lot of that time was at the American Heroes Celebration at Camp Mabry in Austin, which is the headquarters for the Texas Army National Guard. On Sunday, they had a couple of demonstrations at the parade ground (there were also various reenactments taking place over the weekend which I unfortunately wasn't able to see).

I wasn't right there on the parade ground when it started, so I didn't catch the very beginning of the first demonstration, so I'm not sure exactly what the setup was (terrorist event, mock insurgent engagement?), but here's what I recorded of it, once I got my camera on and walked from the Soldiers' Angels booth to the parade ground:

The next demonstration we had to wait a bit for. The Special Forces unit out of Camp Mabry jumped out of a helicopter at about 3000 feet. It was very windy Sunday, and it took quite a while before they got their clearance to proceed with jumping out of a perfectly good helicopter. With the display on my camera, I couldn't tell if I had the helicopter, and later the jumpers, in the frame; I could only point it in the general direction and hope I had it right. Thankfully, for the most part, I did. The tiny black spot is their UH-60 Black Hawk, and then the tiny white spots are the canopies for the soldiers. On this one, you can hear the announcer well enough, too:

One guy standing near me (who I think has done this sort of thing before) commented that this was actually a more dangerous jump: windy conditions, nearby power lines, oh, and the Mopac Expressway running alongside the parade ground to the east. Looks like they jumped with all their combat gear, too:

I didn't get a chance to go talk to the guys from the unit that did these demonstrations. We were too busy making sure our canopy didn't blow away on us, when we were down to only two people! Maybe next year...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Carrier Air Group Nine, Introduction

I've been able to scan more pages from the book. Some were done out-of-order based on a comment on the previous post from artist Scott Nelson who was looking for information about the markings for an Avenger attached to the Yorktown for a project he's working on depicting the events of April 7, 1945. While I sent pages along to Scott, I'll not post them here until I "get to them" in page order. I'll do my best to post the pages as they appear with the book open. These are the next four pages.

First is a chronology for Carrier Air Group Nine from the commissioning on March 1, 1942 through to the return to San Francisco on July 6, 1945 with the carriers Yorktown and Lexington on the opposite page.

Next, "The Score". Ships sunk, probably sunk, damaged. Planes destroyed, probably destroyed, damaged, both airborne and on the ground. Sorties by squadron. Personnel lost. Aircraft lost. Operations.

Lieutenant Commander Herbert N. Houck replaced Commander Philip H. Torrey, Jr.

Lieutenant Commander Houck passed away at the age of 86 on February 24, 2002, in Cape Coral, Florida. According to the article, he flew Hellcats. My grandfather doesn't mention April 7, 1945 in his combat diary, but I wonder if he was involved. Surely, he knew Houck. Would that I had been able to talk to Grandpa about his time in the Navy...