Monthly Archives: March 2009

Finishing Well-For the Love of the Game (The Perfect Game)

One of my favorite movies is the baseball story For the Love of the Game which starred Kevin Costner.  This is the film rendition of Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Perfect Game. Both the book and the movie tell the story of “Billy Chapel” a pitcher who played 19 seasons with the same team, in the movie the Detroit Tigers.  The story focuses on the last game of the season in which Chapel is to start.  The game for his team is meaningless, they will not be going to the playoffs.  In fact the long time owner who signed Chapel out of high school is about to sell the team.

The book and the movie present a tapestry of the pitcher’s life in between pitches.  Unlike most baseball films this focus’s not on a season, but a game, a single game.  Woven in this rich tapestry of this game are the lives of several people.  A manager who has a wife with cancer, a catcher who is linked to Chapel as “his” catcher.  A former love who has drifted back into his life, a former team mate now playing for the other team and the son of a former team mate.

The story is built around the last game that Billy Chapel will pitch.  He’s old.  He has had a mediocore or for him a bad season.  His all star days are past.  His dad who taught him the game and witnessed his greatest moments is dead.  It is a story that could end like so many stories in sadness or despair.  Instead it is the story of triumph.  It is the story of how in spite of a whirl of emotions and a lot of pain from past injuries he triumphs.  He does so against an opponent that is going to the playoffs, the always dangerous Yankees in the venerable Yankee Stadium.  Chapel pitches a perfect game against the odds.  Supporting players who had failed during the season make stellar plays.  The team which had nothing to look forward to celebrates one of the rarest of human events, a Major League perfect game. Not just a “no-hitter” which I have been specially graced by the Deity Herself to see in person, but a perfect game of which only 17 have been thrown.  Perfect games are unforgettable and this story gets it right.  The game itself is a story of redemption, in life, love and the pusuit of excellence.

The story of Billy Chapel is one of finishing well.  So many people start their lives full of promise and somewhere along the way give up. For whatever reason they stop living, stop striving for excellence and forget about love, life and friendship. They forget what loyalty means.  They have lost their love and passion and simply go through the motions of existance.  In the military we have a slang term called the “ROAD program.”  It means “retired on active duty.  These are the guys who have stopped trying, they know that short of committing a criminal act  they can retire.  They go through the motions.  There are these kind of folks everywhere, not just the military.  Somewhere, somehow they have given up. I don’t want to do that.  I want my last game to be my best.

Billy Chapel is the epitome of a man who gives his all in what he knows will be his final game, a game that for everyone else but him is meaningless.  However in that game everyone finds meaning.  As he pitches and the tension builds, those who had just been along for the ride get caught up in the magic.  His manager, his journeyman catcher “Gus,”  his team mates, and even the opposing players and the hostile Yankee fans.  People who had given up find inspiration and hope. Billy Chapel creates magic on the mound which in that moment of time makes life right.  Sure it is just a novel, it is just a film, but it is life.

I find the story of Billy Chapel in The Perfect Game to be compelling.  I love baseball and for me the story of someone at the tail end of their career achieving the next to impossible is inspiring.  I find inspiration in other old ball players who keep doing well.  Jamie Moyer of the Phillies is one of those guys who inspire me.  I could well be finishing my career in the next few years.  I want my time in the Navy to matter in my last few years. If I get promoted and remain a few more, that is okay, but even then I want to finish well.  When I’m done with that I hope that God Herself will give me the grace to continue to strive for excellence in serving Her people as a priest.  I never want to be on the ROAD program even if I live to be 90. I want my last years, be they a military career, or my life to be my best.  I want to finish well. Peace, Steve+

Note: As I wrote this and thought of the book and movie I was having waves of emotion which occasionally brought tears to my eyes.  There is something that hooks me in this and I know it.  Part is the magic of baseball. Part is the story itself.  In a few days baseball begins again.  I’ll watch the Orioles and Nationals play an exhibition at Harbor Park. Today I got my season tickets for  the Norfolk Tides.  In every game I’ll see something new, I’ll find something to ponder and I’ll find inspiration.

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666 Who is the Beast?

I can’t believe it.  Today I looked at my numbers on my blog dashboard and much to my surprise I noticed that the number of hits as of 8PM EST tonight I have 666 visitors to my site.  I am wondering  just who is the beast? Who has the “666”  and dropped it on me this evening.  Why didn’t 677 show up today, or why didn’t it just stop at 665?  This is distressing, it is like the Dodgers sweeping the Giants in AT&T Park to take the NL West the last home-stand of the season.  Thankfully, this at least on this blog is the only time that heinous number will show up.  So whoever grew the horns for the evening that I do appreciate your visit to the site just click on it again to move me off of that foul number.  Blessings! Steve+

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The NWU- Now we all have different camouflage

Back in the early 1980s the Army adopted the BDU, or the Battle Dress uniform.  I was issued my first sets back in late 1981 along with the old green permanent press fatigues. The old fatigues were phased out in 1985 and I wore mine up to the last day.  The were comfortable, you could starch the hell out of them to the point that you would “break starch” to get into them in the morning.  The BDUs initially were pretty sorry looking.  You were not even allowed to iron them and the material never came out of the wash unwrinkled. Eventually ironing but no starch was allowed. Rebellion broke out in the ranks. A general showed up in a badly wrinkled uniform for a speech and angered a lot of soldiers. He looked terrible. People who couldn’t stand to look like dirt bags started with sizing and then graduated to starch.  Eventually realizing that no one was obeying the order anyway the Army modified the design and allowed soldiers to starch the uniform.  The other services adopted this uniform in the 1980s and 1990s along with its desert counterpart, the DCU. Pressed and starched with spit shined boots the BDU finally looked pretty good.

These were the standard uniforms until about 2000 when the Marines decided that they were tired of being mistaken for soldiers due to the BDU.  It was in 2000 that the Marine Pattern (MARPAT) Digital Camouflage uniform test and evaluation designs were introduced.  I was with 3rd Battalion 8th Marines in Okinawa when they were field tested.  Several variations were tried and eventually the current Desert and Woodland uniforms were introduced.  To keep the Army from simply appropriating the design the Marines put little Eagle Globe and Anchor insignia in the digital pattern.  The uniform is well designed and functional and the suede boots made life easy.  The Marines also kept their tradition of pin on rank insignia that could be taken off in field environments if needed.  It became the envy of the rest of the US services and the military services of other nations soon went to variations of digital camouflage. As a Navy Chaplain assigned with the Fleet Marine Forces I found it to be a great improvement over the old BDUs.

The Army was the next service to make the change.  Thus was born the ACU, or Army Combat Uniform, not that anyone else would have it, but the Army made it their own.  The ACU is kind of an off green or light green and nearly puke colored uniform that was designed to be worn in either the desert or the woodlands.  In the desert it stands out, it is simply too dark and the wrong color.  Likewise I don’t think that it blends in that well in the woods havinf seen soldiers walking through the woods in them.   The  Army did a couple of things that broke tradition big time on this uniform.  First they changed the location of the insignia from the collar to a tab on the chest.  The placement of it on the chest and the subdued color make them hard to see. Soldeirs have to gaze at the chest of the other soldier to see if they need to salute.  I’m sure many male soldiers have used this excuse to scope out female officers.  “Sorry ma’am, couldn’t see your rank.”  They changed the manner in which insignia were applied from sewing to Velcro.  There is Velcro all over this uniform. Children have been known to have their hair get stuck in the Velcro and pulled down hallways and driveways. Soldiers have bumped into each other and become stuck like Siamese twins while marching. Pranksters find the placement of “hit me” or “kick me” stickers much easier.  The front pockets are angled so oddly that it looks unnatural.  The collar is not symmetrical, supposedly so it more easily can be buttoned around the neck. I wonder when the Army will modify this uniform to make it look better  I admit that  looks aren’t everything, but the Army at one time had some pretty great looking uniforms.  Frankly we have to do better.  I saw my first pair in about 2004 when visiting a Marine in an Army Medical Center. Seeing me in my Marine uniform an officer remarked about his ACUs: “Yes they do look as bad in person as they do on TV.”

So the Air Force came next and fielded their Airman Battle Uniform or ABU.  It was the product of several failed attempts to get an acceptable design.  It has a “tiger stripe” pattern similar to a pattern worn in Vietnam It is is a combination of light green, tan, gray and Air Force Blue.  In my humble opinion it is better looking than the Army uniform.  The Air Force at least did keep to their tradition in placement of insignia and name tapes for both officer and enlisted personnel.

The Navy was the last to join the parade.  It began testing the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) a few years back. Two patterns were tested a Blue,, gray, gray green and black; and a gray and black pattern. Sailors allowed to vote for their favorite.  The gray and black uniform was in my opinion a better color scheme.  That design could be worn on ships and shore stations and if need be could have been used in the field.  We would have looked like the Wehrmacht but who worries about that.  The Blue pattern was voted in by the sailors and it  is now in the process of being fielded throughout the fleet.  It is not a field uniform.  It is a work uniform and will replace a number of other work uniforms found throughout the Navy.  The Navy will field woodland and desert versions as well for units like the Expeditionary Forces, Riverine, EOD, SEABEES and SEALS.  The camouflage includes a Navy Eagle and USN in the digital pattern similar to the Marine design.  It is a similar fabric to Marine woodlands, permanent press and wash and wear.  It has smooth leather boots for sea platforms and optional suede boots for shore commands. I got the suede because I got spoiled by the Marines.  The Navy has kept tradition in some parts of this uniform. The lettering for the name tapes is silver for enlisted and gold for officers and Chief Petty Officers.  Officer and enlisted qualification devices are the appropriate color.  We have kept the traditional 8 point cover (hat to non-sailors). It is actually a nice looking uniform, a little strange at first but decent looking.  I sometimes joke and call the NWU the New Weird Uniform, but after my first day I confess that I like it.  However, if you fall overboard in this uniform you will blend in to the vast expanse of the ocean and never be seen again. The blue camouflage may not be that great on land, but hopefully sharks will have a harder time picking you out while you wait to be rescued.

So we now all have our own pattern, at least no one will confuse us for the Army.  In good fun,

Peace, Steve+

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Bull Durham- Crash Davis and Journeymen Like Me

I’ve always related to the characters in Kevin Costner’s baseball films, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game. The main characters in each of the films touch me each in a different way.

The character of Crash Davis strikes a particular chord in me.  Crash is a journeyman minor league catcher with the dubious distinction of having the most minor league homers. He also played by the way 3 weeks in “the show. ”   He is a consummate professional, loves the game and actually cares about the development of the young guys, even if they try his patience.  His dealings with Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLooche (Tim Robbins) is case in point.  Crash is demoted by the big team from a AAA contract to a single A contract to develop the young bonus baby.  He’s not happy with the job, he’s proud, but he takes it on with a mixture of skill and humor in a manner that benefits not only the young pitcher but motivates the rest of the team.  It does not matter that he is in the minor leagues as he still plays his heart out and spends his time teaching the next generation.  He even gets thrown out of a games if it helps motivate his team and let’s his young charge learn the hard way when young “Nuke” decides to ignore his advice.

My life is like a journeyman ball player.  I started in the Army,and to use the baseball journeyman analogy I played one position for a number of years and then so to speak left the big team to train for a new position while playing in the minors.  When I graduated from seminary and becoming a National Guard and Reserve Chaplain  while doing my hospital residency and first hospital chaplain jobs it was like working my way up through the minors.  When I was promoted to the rank of Major in the Army Reserve it was like moving up to Triple A ball.  When I got mobilized it was like getting promoted to the majors.  When that time ended and I returned to the reserve it was like being sent back to the minors.  I honestly thought that I would spend the rest of my career there, maybe getting called up for brief periods of time but knowing that my career was destined to end in the minor leagues.  That changed when I was given a chance to go into the Navy.  I reduced in rank and came in with no time in grade meaning that I was starting from scratch with a new slate.  Now all of my experience was still there, but I was starting over.  It was like when a player gets traded between from the American League to the National League in mid season, or is called up from the minors to play on the big team.  His slate is clear, it is a new start.

I’ve been blessed, I got a chance to go back and live my dream serving as an active duty Navy Chaplain.  I’ve gotten to serve on ship and with the Marines and EOD.  I’ve travelled the world and I’ve gone to war.  I’m not the same as I was as when I started.  I have issues, maybe even the full subscription.  I have streaks where I am hot and when I am not, I have my slumps.  I’m somewhat superstitious but I make do.  However, what drives me now is twofold; first to care for those in my ICUs, patients, families and staff.  Second to help the young guys and gals along.  I’ve been in the military since before many of them were born.  In a sense I’m a Crash Davis kind of guy.  I love the movie and the character. I hope we can all find something or someone to help connect us to what we do in life.  Somehow in Her grace the Deity allows me to find this in baseball.

Peace, Steve+

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Baseball Movies- Bull Durham and Carolina Baseball

With baseball season under two weeks opening night on April 5th and opening day on the 6th I am really pumped.  Today has been one of those recovery type days, a couple of busy weeks, travel and just being tired and run down,  It also rained, so there isn’t much to do.  So I put on one of my favorite baseball movies Bull Durham.

For anyone who has travelled about the south watching minor league ball or had the meandering career that I have the movie is really fun.  I’ve seen a lot of Carolina, Southern and International league games.  I probably have seen almost all of the teams in those leagues play at least once and seen a few games in the South Atlantic league as well.  There is something about minor league ball in the South.  A lot of the teams are in small and out of the way places, just like the movie, Durham now, which is in the International League is in one of the larger cities.  To get the real feel of Carolina ball one needs to go to places like Kinston and Ashville.  These are single A teams.  The Kinston Indians are the Advanced Single A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.  They play in Grainger Stadium in Kinston just north of downtown.  The town is one that has seen better days as much of the textile industry has disappeared, but the Indians, or the K-Tribe as they are known are a great show.  The field is immaculately taken care of, the stadium has been modernized since it opened in 1949.  It seats 4100 people, tickets for reserved seats are $6, $4 if you are military or a senior citizen.  It measures 335 feet down the lines and 390 feet to dead center.  The outfield wall is interesting, on left field it is low but a series of stair steps makes it higher in right field.  I’ve been able to throw out the first pitch there twice.

Ashville is the home of the historic Ashville Tourists of the South Atlantic League.  They play in McCormick field which opened in 1923.  Though the grandstand has been rebuilt the playing field is the same as it was when it opened.  It measures 326′ down the left field line, 373′ to center and 297′ down the right field line.  This is a magical place especially at night.  The outfield backs up to a tree covered hill and home runs almost disolve into darkness.  The team is affiliated with the Colorado Rockies.  The field played host to various major league exhibition games in the 1920s and 1930s and Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb played there.  On one visit Ruth remarked “My, my, what a beautiful place to play. Delightful. Damned delightful place!” Ruth actually developed a severe stomach ailment arriving in the town in 1925 and was erroneously reported to have died by the media.  He did recover and after a long stay in the hospital started the season late.  The inicident is sometimes known as “the bellyache heard around the world.” The tie in to Bull Durham is where Kevin Costner “Crash Davis” drives up to the stadium and hits his minor league record home run before retiring from the game.

Carolina baseball is magical, it touches the soul.  The small towns, relaxed atmosphere and many times historic ball parks each having their own particular charm make it a wonderful place to fall in love with the game again.  I’ll have to take a trip to Kinston this year.  Until then I will settle down in section 102, row B seat 2 at Harbor park to cheer on my own Norfolk Tides.  God is good, and basball one of Her most wonderful gifts to us.  As George Will noted “Baseball is Heaven’s gift to mortals.” Peace, Steve+

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The Practical Side of Gays in the Military

Note:  This is not a political or social screed.  I am not advocating immediate changes in law. this is really how I have seen military culture evolving over the 27 plus years of my career. These patently are simply my observations and have both a bit of seriousness as well as humor.  I am most definitely a dyed in the wool heterosexual, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I think that someone without a political axe to grind on either the gay rights or anti-gay rights movement who is in the military have to have a say.  I know that I could be wading into Vietnam here but here I go….

When I enlisted in August of 1981, gays were not allowed to serve in the military.  It was even on the recruiting form. Applicants were asked under the penalty of making a false official statement “Are you a homosexual?”  Who can forget the scene in Stripes where Bill Murray and Harold Ramis are asked by the Army recruiter “Are either of you homosexual?” Their reply was a hoot.  They looked at each other and Bill Murray replied “you mean like flaming or…” The recruiter then said “It’s a standard question we have to ask.” Harold Ramis then quipped “We’re not homosexual, but we’re willing to learn.” Bill Murray adding “Would they send us to someplace special?”  The recruiter then ends the exchange  “I guess that’s a no on both.”  It was a hilarious scene as we all had to answer the question.

Plain and simple if a person lied about being homosexual and was later discovered he was in deep dung, even an accusation of being gay could result in being charged under the UCMJ or at the very least investigated.  Soldiers could be taken to Article 15 proceedings  (Captain’s Mast in the Navy, Office Hours in the Marines) or possibly even a courts-martial. Depending on the charges one could recieve a punitive discharge, such a Bad Conduct Discharge, or administrative discharge under a General, General under Other than Honorable, or Other than Honorable conditions.

Back in my days as a company XO and company commander in the 1980s I had a number of soldiers, male and female who I knew that were gay.  I had grown up in California, had gay friends and even when someone was hiding it I pretty much knew.  If I was homophobic I could have made accusations, began investigations and made these soldiers lives hell.  At that point in time there were a good amount of people in the military who would of done just that.  These soldiers were exemplary in the way that they conducted themselves at work.  They were professional, knowledgeable and I never once had to take any of them to article 15 proceedings for any reason. They never refused missions, they were exceptionally responsible, and good leaders.  As far as their personal lives they were discreet. I am sure that if they stayed in the military that they probably maintained that balance.  I don’t know what happened to them later on, but they were great.   I took over company command as a very junior 1st Lieutenant. The unit had the highest drug abuse rate in Europe with more disciplinary problems than you could shake a stick at. I wasn’t about to go after soldiers who were not giving me problems, I had far more pressing matters on my plate.  I guess you could say that I was exercising the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy 7-8 years before it became policy.  My philosophy then as is is now, is that if someone is willing to serve honorably and endure the hardships and dangers of the lives of military professionals then they should be able to regardless of the way that they are wired.  My issue then and now applies to both homosexuals and heterosexuals who are predatory or push themselves sexually on other soldiers causing problems with good order and discipline and unit cohesion. I have to say had far more problems with my heterosexual soldiers in this regard than my homosexual soldiers. My homosexual soldiers were discreet in their personal lives and very professional, some of my heterosexuals were neither discreet nor professional in thier sexual lives and relationships.

When I served as a personnel officer at the Academy of Health Sciences I became CINC AIDS.  I was the most junior of the Medical Personnel Officers, serving as the Training Brigade Adjutant.  It was at this time that we began having soldiers test positive for HIV and develop AIDS.  I worked with representatives of the Army Surgeon General’s Office to develop personnel procedures for HIV positive soldiers.  These policies gave them the opportunity to serve honorably and at the same time ensured that they did  not endanger others through their sexual conduct.  Since I was the junior guy I got to deal with all the cases of officers who had been diagnosed with HIV.  No one else wanted anything to do with them. While the world around me raged with apocalyptic screeds of those convinced that this was God’s judgment on homosexual; those who prophsyed how this virus would become a pandemic infecting people willy-nilly through casual contact, I dealt with real people.  These officers who wore the same uniform as me.  Some I knew were gay, but some were straight.  When an officer came to my office who was not on our brigade staff and the door closed, there was a good chance that the visitor had just received the news that they had an infection that would cause a process that would kill them.  They had received a death sentence.  I was a Christian and knew that I was going to be going to seminary after this assignment.  I could not see how Jesus could reject these folks.  While assigned there we had the first trial of a soldier who was intentionally attempting to spread the HIV virus among his coworkers.  He was a heterosexual and was a sexual predator.  He was taken to courts-martial and convicted.  As he was now in the latter stages of the disease process and battling the opportunistic infections which actually kill you he was sentenced to 6 months in Leavenworth.  I doubt that he lived that long. The experience of dealing with these officers taught me the torment that many homosexuals go through.  Following my time in the Army while in seminary and after it I worked in a variety of social service organizations and hospitals.  I knew many and work alongside many gays without a problem.

When President Clinton enacted the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy there was public outcry, especially in the military,  I had no problem with the policy as I think that everyone should be somewhat discreet in their sexual habits, especially in the military. Regardless of sexual orientation it is always important for military members to conduct themselves in professional manner, and  not only in sexual matters.  It is always a matter of good order and discipline.   While the policy made no one happy, gay activists did not think it went far enough and anti-gay forces hated it, I think it was a wise policy.  The President may have erred in the way that he announced it, but I think it was still the right thing to do at the time.

Since then our society as a whole has changed in its view and treatment of homosexuals.  There is a lot more acceptance of them now and many more people are openly gay.  I think that those who hid that aspect of their lives in earlier times now feel safe enough to come out.  Yes there are those who vehemently oppose any form of equal treatment for homosexuals, but there is a lot more acceptance. There have been famous military leaders who were gay  including Frederick the Great who was forced to marry but kind of liked other guys better.  Lord Kitchner and Sir Hector Archibald MacDonald, both distinguished officers were homosexual, MacDonald committed suicide when notified that he would be courts-martialed for his homosexuality.   There were constant rumors when I was in the Army about senior leaders who were suspected of being gay.   While a majority of military members polled opposed the Clinton administration change of policy, it seems to have worked.  There still are objections by gay rights activists that the policy is too restrictive and opponents who desire for it to be repealed, but in large part there is no problem.  Other countries  the British, Canadians and Israelis and a number of other European nations all allow homosexuals to serve in the military. Contrary to claims that the policy would destroy the military there is nothing to support that.  In fact the US Military has been more heavily engaged on multiple fronts since the policy went into place and done well despite being undermanned and often over-committed.

The Rand Corporation had a study of how allowing gays to serve would impact the military suggested the following was of ensuring that such a change would not endanger good order and discipline or unit cohesion, the two most critical aspects of any change.  They suggested:

  • A requirement that all members of the military services conduct themselves in ways that enhance good order and discipline. Such conduct includes showing respect and tolerance for others. While heterosexuals would be asked to tolerate the presence of known homosexuals, all personnel, including acknowledged homosexuals, must understand that the military environment is no place to advertise one’s sexual orientation.
  • A clear statement that inappropriate conduct could destroy order and discipline, and that individuals should not engage in such conduct.
  • A list of categories of inappropriate conduct, including personal harassment (physical or verbal conduct toward others, based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical features), abuse of authority, displays of affection, and explicit discussions of sexual practices, experience, or desires.
  • Application of these standards by leaders at every level of the chain of command, in a way that ensures that unit performance is maintained.

It has been over 15 years since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy went into effect.  I have noted that while some military members still vehemently oppose gays serving in the military, that quite a few, officer and enlisted, especially those under the age of 30 are much more tolerant than were those of my era.  I was talking with a couple of military doctors and a hospital corpsman, all of us committed heterosexuals, not that there’s anything wrong with that the other day and the subject came up in a humorous way when discussing ways to get out of the military.  The corpsman noted that saying you were gay was one way, and I said, at least for now it was.

As we talked we all agreed that anyone willing to serve in the military at this point of time should be able to so long as they meet the professional standards of the services.  This is no gravy train.  Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen are constantly deployed and putting themselves in harms way.  If a gay wants to commit his or her life to the service of this country, who am I to object?

From a practical and somewhat humorous standpoint we have to acknowledge a number of things about gays, especially gay men.  Many are very well educated successful professionals.  Most seem to have a far better sense of taste and style than most of us on the heterosexual team and quite a few are very physically fit and health conscious. Anyone who has ever served in the military knows that we are not known for the greatest living conditions, food or ascetics.  Military housing, both barracks and family quarters tend to be rather boring, and often substandard.  There is not a lot of imagination in most military dining facilities, and the ascetics and design of many of our buildings and bases leaves a lot to be desired. Can you imagine if we let these guys serve.  Our bases would look a lot better and well kept.  Our living quarters would be nicer and more ascetically pleasing. The food would definitely go up in quality and we would get some highly qualified folks in the service, especially in some of the more scientific and medical specialties.  As a married heterosexual who is a uniter and not a divider I see all of this as a win win situation.  Who could be against that? I would have loved to drive onto bases where buildings and landscaping were done well, where you didn’t feel like you were driving onto a prison.  I’d love to work in buildings where there was some sense of style and artistry, where when you walked in you didn’t think you had walked onto the set of a WWII movie.  I would love a nice selection of food that was both healthy and tasty.

Will this happen anytime soon? I don’t know.  I suspect that at some point the President and Congress will address the issue and if it is changed I expect little practical change in the military.  We will keep deploying and doing our job, some people will be upset and some won’t, but I think there has been enough societal change over the last 27 years to allow this to happen relatively smoothly.  Will some people be unhappy, will crusades be mounted against it by some?  I think that there will be and some of this may take an ugly turn.  However I think that this will come more from the outside, but that in the end the military will survive and continue to do well.  After all, this is all well above my pay grade.

Peace, Steve+

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Friends and the Low Holy Day

Today was my 49th birthday.  Hard to believe that I am that old.  Time flies when you are either having fun or going through hell.   Today I must say was rather cool.  Judy planned a party, a “low holy day” celebration for this most auspicious of days.  We figure that you can’t get much lower than my birthday so what better way to mark the day. The days is also the feast day of Saint Rupert of Salzburg, lousy name great city…the hills really are alive there.  It is also the feast of even lesser known saints, and one theologian who was condemned at one ecumenical council and restored at the next, Saint John Damascene.  He was condemned for his defense of Icons, sometimes known as the Iconoclast controversy.  Obviously this was done by folks who were not cool with art.  However, he was restored by those with more artistic sensitivity at the next council, but I digress, but without me how many of you would have linked my birthday with the Iconoclast controversy?

I have now had a good number of birthdays.  A decent number I have spent away from home, often overseas.  Places like Jordan, Germany, Korea and at sea in the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Aden.  I’ve had some  birthdays where we barely had anything and others where Judy and I just did something together or with another couple.  This I think was the first that was an actual party.

Anyway….tonight was a good night.  My ever gracious department head let me out a bit early to help Judy around the house.  We had friends from work and church, unfortunately the weather was lousy and the normally bad Friday evening traffic was compounded by the rain causing nasty conditions.  Thus some others were unable to attend.  Nonetheless we had about twenty friends over.  It was really cool to see how lives of all the people that came intersected, hometowns, churches, work, other friends.  It was a wonderful evening. I think the highly for me was being back together with my assistant and body guard in Iraq, Nelson Lebron.  Nelson is great, he took care of me, we went through a lot together and it is my opinion that he is the finest at what he does in the Navy.  In addition to this he is a Golden Gloves boxer, kick boxer and MMA fighter. He does more martial arts than I can count.  He has fought with Team USA and has a humongous number of title belts.  He has more personality in his little finger than most anyone that I have ever met.  It is so good to see him again after his second trip to Iraq in under a year.

dynamic-duo

Me with my Friend and Body Guard RP2 Nelson Lebron on our way out of Iraq, February 2008

In addition to Nelson we had a variety of other friends and colleagues over.  What I thought was cool was the way that this diverse group of folks had a great time together, for me it was kind of cool.  It’s the way that I think things ought to be.  The food and beer were great, it was cool to see the reaction of people to the half gallon of Gordon Biersch Marzen Beer, which is my favorite beer.  Our little dog Molly was enjoying all the attention ebing a complete suck up.

So this is what it is like to be 49. With friends like these I think that I can handle it.  Peace, Steve+

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