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To Iraq and Back: Living Wills, Immunizations Gone Bad and More Sleepless Nights

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This is another installment of my To Iraq and Back series which tells of my deployment to Iraq with RP1 Nelson Lebron in 2007 and 2008.

One of the sobering things as you get ready to go to war are administrative issues that deal directly with your mortality. They are mundane actions when we do them in peacetime but chilling when you put them in context of going to war.

In our society in which people do all they can to push back even thinking about death discussing the issues that deal with your possible dismemberment, disability or your death are taboo. The month before I deployed  Iraq Judy had me take out an additional life insurance policy that doubled what the military would provide in the event of my demise.  At that point Iraq was a cauldron, hundreds of casualties each month and I was going to the heart of the action in Al Anbar province.

Part of our processing to go to combat was a will and power of attorney update.  We had not updated our wills since well before coming to the Hampton Roads area so I took advantage of this time to get it done.  The will itself was pretty easy since we have no children and have not been married to anyone else.  That was the easy part.

The next part was dealing with various powers of attorney, a general power of attorney and a medical power of attorney. The medical power of attorney is something that I routinely deal with at the hospital. I have dealt with them before in other places.  At the same time they become somewhat disconcerting when you are getting to go into a combat zone where there is heavy fighting going on. For most that is disconcerting enough, but chaplains go into action unarmed.

Sometimes when I fill out one of these I pray that I don’t end up like Karen Anne Quinlan or Terri Shaivo.  When I did it this time all I could think about was me being so badly wounded that it would be like the movie The Naked Gun.  I someone telling Judy “Doctors say that Dundas has a 50/50 chance of living, though there’s only a 10 percent chance of that.” While this is going on I could just see me unable to respond trying to say “give me one more at bat skip, just one more chance…please.”  This may not seem like the most spiritual thing for a Priest to be saying but I don’t want to be in the afterlife before my time. It would be bad form.

Legal matters finished we had to get our immunizations. When you deploy the military always ensures that you are vaccinated against about everything imaginable. These include typhoid, anthrax, smallpox, malaria, yellow fever, certain regional diseases and probably others that I have forgotten.

I had received many of these before at various times. This included my first Anthrax vaccine. On this second occasion something happened and ti had a reaction to it.  My bicep felt like someone had shoved a baseball in it and the sucker hurt like hell. By the next morning I knew that my reaction was not “normal” because the first one I had did not do this.

I thought back to the Anthrax scare right after September 11th 2001 and I didn’t want to take any chances regarding something that the media said could be dangerous. What if they had messed up and given me a bad batch of the vaccine. Hell, just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not out to get me. Besides if I was going to die for my country I didn’t want it to be from a reaction to a vaccine and not something heroic.

So I went back to the immunization section. Like a typical officer I simply “excused” my way past the queue of sailors waiting to get PPDs read and went to the desk. I figured that I wasn’t going to wait in line behind people with routine stuff when things looked like they were getting sporty for me.I call it “self-triage.”

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The Corpsman at the desk was polite and asked what he could do.  I told him that “I think I’m having a reaction to the Anthrax vaccine.”  He gave me a funny look and asked which one in the series this shot was. It was the second and since I figured that the next question would be “did you have a reaction the first time?” I continued “This didn’t happen the first time.”

The Corpsman looked at my arm and said “Obviously sir the first time you had no antibodies to Anthrax so it had nothing to react to….”  I was thinking “no shit Sherlock” when the young man went to get his Chief. The Chief came in, looked at my arm and said: “Gee sir it looks like you are having a reaction to the shot.”

I was thinking well no shit but didn’t say it. So the Chief took me back to his office and started having me checked to make sure that I didn’t have a fever or a number of other things, like if I was dizzy or was having trouble breathing. No I was neither dizzy nor experiencing breathing difficulties but was simply in pain, a bit scared and really pissed.

After his battery of questions and a couple of phone calls asked me “do you think that you are safe to drive?”

At that point I would have said anything to get the hell out of there and get on with what I needed to do to make sure that I wasn’t going to die.  So I said “of course I am.”

He asked if I was sure and I reaffirmed this to him in a convincing enough manner for him to send me over to Portsmouth by ambulance.

Portsmouth Naval Medical has a small office manned by a couple of nurses whose job it is to report bad vaccine reactions up to the FDA and God only knows who else. These ladies were very pleasant and when they got a look at my arm they were impressed.  Once again I heard “Yes sir you are having a reaction.”

I got to answer yet another battery of questions and they took a couple of pictures of the baseball sized knot on my left bicep.  One of them made a couple of phone calls and a few minutes later I was told that I would be okay. The explanation was that the subcutaneous injection had caused the vaccine to be encapsulated in my arm rather than doing what it needed to be doing. I was told to inform whoever gave me my next shot in the series to make sure that they got in the muscle. I was told to take some Motrin for the pain and swelling and do a lot of push-ups, pull-ups and massage the bicep to help the swelling dissipate faster. My fears eased and I left the hospital and reported back to the processing site where all of my fellow sailors had already left for the day.

I spent another tense and sleepless night with Judy, the emotional distance still there.  We talked about various things but nothing serious. I don’t think that either of us was able to vocalize well what we were feeling.

Even Molly seemed differed, I’m sure that she sensed that something was going on as I had continued to pack and re-pack my gear from EOD. Molly does not like it when either of us pack as it usually means that one or both of us is leaving.

The next morning I repeated my “Groundhog Day” trek back to Norfolk Naval Station fighting the idiots driving to work on the I-264, I-64 and I-564 battle zone where matching wits with the witless I safely picked my way through traffic while drinking my black coffee.

This was our next to last day of processing and we checked and re-checked paperwork, received our signed wills, living wills and powers of attorney. That morning I met with Father Pat Finn a mobilized reservist and Episcopal Priest from South Carolina and we had a nice chat where we were joined by Fr Steve Powers a retired Navy Chaplain and Rector of St. Brides Episcopal Church in Chesapeake.

Following that I was asked to assist with a sailor who was having some personal difficulties getting ready for the deployment.  These tasks completed I went back to muster with the others and sat down next to Nelson. Following this we went out where the Storekeepers and other supply staff had our gear.

We gathered outside where we lined up and given a sea bag in which to put our issue.  There were boxes of stuff everywhere and a couple of civilians and sailors stood by to ensure that we got what we were going to get.  Uniforms with all of our name tapes rank insignia and qualification pins sewn on were there as well as more socks, t-shirts and other assorted gear.

Our stash was a bit lighter than the others as we already had much of what was being issued. When this was done and we were released. I told Nelson to go home as his family was coming into town from New York.  Taking the newly issued gear home I again went about packing and repacking and took Judy out to dinner after which we spent our time alone together pondering the future.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under iraq,afghanistan, Military, ministry, to iraq and back, Tour in Iraq

Super Bowl XLVI: Commercials, Madonna and a Football Game

Well the Super Bowl is over, my predictions were right and amid the commercials and halftime show a football game was played.

I didn’t have a dog in the fight this year so I was able to watch the game and do running commentary on it, the commercials and the half-time show starring Madonna on Twitter. I tweeted more tonight than any single night that I have been on Twitter and it was really fun.  Seeing what other people were saying about the game, commercials and Madonna actually made watching the game a lot more enjoyable than I normally find it.

There were a number of commercials that I liked for various reasons and some that I thought could have been better.  My favorite was the Apocalypse commercial for the Chevy Silverado.  How could you go wrong with Manilow’s Look’s like we Made It playing amid scenes of destruction and Twinkies?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxFYYP8040A

Likewise I found that the Bud Light commercial involving the rescue dog Weego was really well done. My little dog Molly is a rescue and the commercial was cute.  I love my rescue dog.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoplehNzYoI Budweiser had a great commercial on the end of prohibition but if I had to choose a beer to celebrate the end of that sad period I would do a craft beer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGgosT-v5sw

Honda had a commercial for its Acura NSX starring Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, a space alien and Jay Leno that showed that Seinfeld has not lost his touch.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUFSHzT2xuY It was too bad that he didn’t have a hand in the Jockey underwear commercial featuring David Beckham. That would have been so much better if they had used George Costanza doing the photo shoot with Kramer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NL5wSs-9kI

Honda had a great commercial with Matthew Broderick reprising his Ferris Buehler persona for the Honda CRV.  I love Ferris Buehler and have had a Honda CRV since 2001 so for me it was two memories. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhkDdayA4iA

A different automaker had an ad which was far too funny and that I didn’t expect. It was the ad for the Fiat 500 Abarth. The commercial was really quite well done as only Italians could do mixing sexuality, Cappuccino and cars. This is not how I viewed Fiat for most of my life. When I was in Germany in the 1980s it was not uncommon to see Fiat 500‘s littering the roadside broken down.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7q1Ry0udQY

From an inspirational point of view the best commercial of the evening was Chrysler’s Halftime in America with Clint Eastwood doing the voice over.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8VpW8P8_kU

The halftime show by Madonna was better than I expected. It was kind of a retro 1980s Techno show, the only thing missing was Hans and Franz to pump you up. Madonna did the lip-sync thing well and didn’t do anything scandalous although guest singer MIA evidently have the middle finger salute during one of her solos. I didn’t see it because I was too busy tweeting pithy comments about the show to notice.

As for the game itself. It was about what I expected. It was close, the teams were competitive and it wasn’t a blow out. I really didn’t care who won so that took the pressure off. I saw the game as close enough that either team could have won and New England blew a chance to practically seal a win with about 4 minutes left in the game when Wes Welker dropped a pass that he would normally catch inside the red zone.

Eli Manning as he has shown all of this year showed that he could win when winning mattered. He, the Giants and their coach Tom Coughlin seem to have the Patriots number in big games.  The Patriots season ended with a Super Bowl loss. Tom Brady could not bring the team back in the final minute after the Patriots appeared to let the Giants score a touchdown in order to get the ball back with time on the clock. The move was a bit of twisted genius by Patriots coach Bill Belichick and if the “hail Mary” pass tossed by Brady in the final seconds had been caught by Rob Gronkowski the Patriots might have come out with a remarkable and miraculous win.

So football season is over and we can now get serious. Baseball season is just ahead and not a minute too soon.  Within minutes of the end of the game I flipped the channel to the MLB Channel.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Musings at the end of Busy Week, the Penn State Scandal and Barry Bonds Sentence…Padre Steve has a “Gracie Jane” Moment

It has been a very busy and tiring week.  However I am in good spirits and though tired am feeling more in the Christmas spirit.  Ho.  I’m not up to more than that yet but it is a start. When we get back to North Carolina from our next excursion to home in Virginia on Monday it is time for some housecleaning and decorating for Christmas. We have been so busy with Judy’s surgery, recovery, travel and work around the Virginia house the month has gone by fast than I could imagine. I mentioned to a coworker that it hadn’t even felt like theChristmas season  because we were so busy.  Thankfully I have gotten a bit better sleep and have a couple of evening where I could actually stop and rest my brain by doing some reading and writing.  I still have to do the mid-month bills but that will be my arithmetic for the week. However all week I have felt like doing a Gracie Jane type article, finally

Anyway a few “Gracie Jane” thoughts…

What is up with Jerry Sandusky, his lawyers and the knuckleheads that ran the Penn State Football program and Athletic department?  I could never have imagined what is continuing the be revealed and the banality with which such evil was tolerated and covered up for years.  Nor can I imagine a more loathsome defense team and their arrogant yet inept handing of the case. I can understand trying to defend your guy but these guys are second rate yokels.  This is no O.J. Dream Team and they are rapidly securing their place in legal and moral infamy with their defense strategy.  Johnny Cochran would never had let Sandusky continue to hang himself and speaking of hanging himself I was aghast at the comments of former Penn State Senior Vice President Gary Schultz to the Grand Jury that after allegedly being told about the sexual contact between Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in a shower in 2002 that “I had the impression that Sandusky wrestled the boy in the shower and grabbed his genitals.”

He went on to say that “Not all inappropriate conduct is criminal” and that “I don’t know if it’s criminal.” I don’t know about you but if anyone even hinted to me that they were reporting such an act my next call would be to the appropriate police authorities and child protective services offices.  The only thing Schultz and the University did was to tell Sandusky to not bring the kids on campus.  The fact that he knew about a 1998 incident where the police were involved and had a copy of their 95 page report Schultz refused to report the incident to police saying that “The allegations came across as not that serious. We had no indication that a crime occurred.”  However he was were told by both Paterno and the witness former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary and Paterno even contacted Schultz on a Sunday. Not exactly SOP for something “not serious.”

Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley are being charged by prosecutors with lying to the Grand Jury. Their lawyers maintain their innocence but the more that we learn the worse the situation looks. Yes they are innocent until proven guilty and a jury will decide that when they and Sandusky go to trial.

I know that I’m starting to sound like Boston Legal’s parody of Nancy Grace “Gracie Jane” but all of these guys look guiltier every day and their sleazy lawyers look like lowbrow hacks.  You can be sure that Jerry Seinfeld and Kosmo Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles would run these guys out of his office.

Enough said about those guys but what about Barry Bonds. The prosecution threw everything that they could imagine at the former Giants slugger and only got a “guilty” count on a single charge of “obstruction of justice” for misleading Grand Jurors in 2003.  Today Bonds was sentenced to 30 days home confinement, a $4000 fine, 250 hours community service and 2 years probation. Now many believe that Bonds used steroids and he may have. That being said I cannot imagine spending millions of dollars to investigate and prosecute Bonds and only come out with this verdict and sentence.

The prosecutors could have given up this case at several points when their charges were thrown out and evidence deemed inadmissible.  But they continued and got their verdict but at what cost? The lead prosecutor called the sentence “a slap on the wrist” and the fine “laughable.” But really why would any of us want to spend even more taxpayer money keeping Bonds in prison when our country is in so much debt? I think that Judge Susan Illston got the sentence right and if it prosecutors believe that it was a “slap on the wrist” they have nobody but themselves to blame.

When I took a Military Law course back in college our instructor made a comment told us that he felt that if we didn’t feel that evidence would support a guilty verdict at a General Courts Martial that we should probably resist preferring charges in an Article 15 Non-Judicial Punishment proceeding. This is basically a misdemeanor proceeding handled by the unit commander that is  is not considered a criminal conviction at which a defendant can request trial by Court Martial instead of accepting the commander’s judgement.  As a company commander and Brigade Personnel Officer I worked with some excellent prosecutors.  The prosecutors in the Bonds case got embarrassed and deserved this.  They wasted millions of dollars of our tax money to try to convict a man of cheating in baseball by using steroids.

Bonds supporters will support him and his detractors will continue to criticize him for “cheating.”  People will make up their minds and Baseball will have to come to terms with how it will handle the records and legacies all of those that played during the Steroid Era.

Anyway my Gracie Jane moment is over for the night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Suddenly there Came a Tapping… Tide Watching in Baltimore and People can Say I’m Not a Christian but…

From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.–Saint Arnold of Metz, The patron Saint of Brewers

050Oktoberfest at Gordon Biersch

Tonight was nice, after a tough couple of days dealing with the death of a baby that came into our PICU over the weekend, continued unsettledness about my parents and some other considerations that I am not at liberty to talk about I got a break.  I heard a tapping, rapping at my office door.  Actually I didn’t hear a rapping, but there was a tapping, a tapping at Gordon Biersch. Yes the new seasonal is out and tonight was the tapping party for the Festbier complete with German Oompah band and full liter steins, or as they are called in Germany “Bierkrüg,”

Now as any reader of this website knows I like good beer and the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach is like our version of Cheers. We love the young guys and gals who tend the bar and pour our beer as well as the other regulars of the “Stein Club” which I was inducted into back in the last tapping party where the Kölsch Sömmerbrau was tapped.  It is nice to be around folks and just talk about life.  Many are getting to know that I am a Priest and Chaplain but also that I am approachable as is the Abbess who accompanies me to our favorite restaurant.  It is cool because it means that our view of the world includes a lot of people who we probably would meet if we remained cloistered with church people not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So tonight I donned my old 1996 “Bayern München” jersey with the number and name of the great Jürgen Klinsmann and one of my hats from the German Navy Sail Training ship the Gorch Fock.  We got there ahead of the tapping and got our liter size steins of the Festbier and ordered some dinner chatting with the various people that we know and having a nice time.  When we were done we said our goodbyes and took our newly issued liter steins home with us, and yes we did pay for them.

001Orioles Outfielder Jeff Fiorentino taking Bartolo Colon Yard while with the Norfolk Tides

When we got home I turned on the Orioles game against the Tampa Bay Rays on MASN2.  MASN is the Mid Atlantic Sports Network and televises both the Orioles and the Nationals in our area.  Watching the Orioles late in the year is like watching old friends as many of the players have come up from Norfolk this season.  From my View from 102 I got to see a lot of these players in Norfolk.  The players who have been especially fun to watch are Left Fielder Nolan Reimold, a potential American League Rookie of the Year; catcher Matt Wieters who had a single double and three run home run tonight, both of whom have been in Baltimore since May, Michael Aubrey and recent September calls up Jeff Fiorentino and Justin Turner.  Reimold and Wieters will be linchpins of the Orioles offense and key players for years to come.  The other three are all playing like they belong in the majors. Readers of this website as well as my Padre Steve’s View from 102 in the Virginia Pilot know that I like the way Fiorentino played in the field and at the plate with the Tides, something that he is continuing in Baltimore.  I’ve said before that I don’t know if the Birds will have room for him with an outfield composed of Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis but he needs to be in the majors.  A solid contact hitter who can take a pitch where it needs to go he hits for a high average, he is very fast and a spectacular defensive outfielder, the best that I have seen in Norfolk since I have lived here.  I have seen him continue this with Baltimore and his consistent hitting and great play in the outfield have been fun to watch.  There are a fair amount of Tides alumni on the O’s many who were called up at various points during the season as well as the September call ups.  It think that it will interesting to see just how many remain of the 26 and 40 man rosters come October.   Unless I am wrong I think that Jeff Fiorentino earns a place on the O’s or gets picked up by another team.

Finally… a brief note on something that I will write more in soon, but wanted to bring up now.  As someone who sees a lot of blogs I see a good number written by folks who are Christians or at least say that they are.  However it seems that many profess things that lend more to any number of real heresies yet profess to be the purveyors of the truth.  Some of the heresies are matters of doctrine, others in the matter that they seem to have forgotten a couple of big things in regard to faith and life.  I want to say up front that I have labeled by some who have visited this site as a liberal heretic which interpreted that I am somehow to the left of them and don’t believe the way that they do.  So I approach this matter with some trepidation.  The first big stumbling block that I have with some of them is the whole “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you thing.”  It seems that there are a lot of folks who claim the name Christian who are so angry, bitter and even dare say paranoid that they can’t say a good word about anyone that they have a disagreement with, to the point of condemning them to hell as unbelievers.  I think that is kind of a Talibanish view of life and others but it is what it is and it’s a free country.   My observation is that when you get out in the blogosphere and there is some weird angry stuff out there.  There are also some things which though not new, seem to be getting even stranger as the days go by.  One of these which I first noticed back when I was taking Church history in seminary was that a decent number of folks are for all practical purposes “Christian Gnostics.”  They speak and act as if they have the direct word from God, the correct knowledge that allows them to be somehow more in tune with God than the rest of us schmucks.  Like I said I see a bunch of this in the blogosphere not to mention on many of the more popular Christian TV shows and ministries as well top selling authors.  To a one it seems that all have acquired special knowledge that no one else seems to get.  This way of doing life has much more in common with the Gnostics than Christianity.  A great blog for which incredibly well done from a conservative Evangelical Christian perspective is The Church of Jesus Christ http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/ the blogger who runs it is quite good, very balanced and even handed but manages to show some of the craziness affecting many Christians in the United States.

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I’m going to hold off on the rest for now, but to finish it seems that many have become arrogant, increasingly dualistic, narcissistic and yea verily even paranoid and increasingly intolerant .  However I shall save the bulk of this for later when some who do these things label me a heretic and unbeliever.  It kind of reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kathy Lee Griffin plays a comedian who after being criticized by Jerry who is attempting to help her develops a show called Jerry Seinfeld is the Devil. Until then they can just assume that I am after I do drink beer, hang out in bars and with people that they wouldn’t want in church.  But since Jesus did the same thing I guess I am in rather good company.

Peace, Steve+

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Going to War: Wills, Living Wills, Immunizations Gone Bad and Christmas in July

This is part three in my “Going to War” series. Previous parts are noted here:

Part One:Going to War: Reflections on My Journey to Iraq and Back- Part One

Past Two: Going to War: Interlude July 4th 2007

One of the sobering things as you get ready to go to war is issues that deal with your possible dismemberment, disability or yes even your death.  In the month or so before going to Iraq Judy had me take out an additional life insurance policy that doubled what the military would provide in the event of my demise.  Part of our processing to go to combat was a will and power of attorney update.  We had not updated our wills since well before coming to the Hampton Roads area so I took advantage of this time to get it done.  The will itself was pretty easy since we have no children and have not been married to anyone else.  That was the easy part. The next part was dealing with power of attorney.  We did a couple of them, a General for most stuff and a couple of specific POAs for various things.  I also had to do a medical power of attorney.  The medical power of attorney is something that I routinely deal with at the hospital.  I have dealt with them before in other places.  At the same time they become somewhat disconcerting when you are getting to go into a combat zone where there is heavy fighting going on and that you know that you will be in places that the enemy likes to attack and by the way, you are as a chaplain unarmed.

When doing a Medical Power of Attorney I am always reminded of the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer sees part of a movie called The Other Side of Darkness which supposedly is about a lady who ends up in a coma.  Since Kramer doesn’t want to be in a coma he makes his own Power of Attorney for Jerry to be his representative.  Jerry refuses and Kramer gets Elaine to go to a lawyer played by Ben Stein to get his “living will” done.  Without going into too much detail the interview with the Ben Stein is funny as hell as in his monotone voice he asks Kramer what he would want to do if….and Kramer turns to Elaine and asks “what should I do?”  Of course after Kramer makes this out he sees the rest of the movie only to find out that the lady in the coma comes out of it.

I digress, but anyway sometimes when you fill one of these out you pray that you get it right so no one offs you before your time, but also so you don’t end up like Karen Anne Quinlan or Terri Shaivo.  All I could think of when doing this was me being so badly wounded that people were telling Judy that there was only a fifty- fifty chance of me living but only a ten percent chance of that and did she want to pull the plug.  While this is going on I could just see me unable to respond trying to say “give me one more at bat skip, just one more chance…please.”  This may not seem like the most spiritual thing for a Priest to be saying but I don’t want to be with Jesus or in Purgatory before my time.

Legal matters finished we had matters of health and preventive medicine to accomplish.  As always when you deploy the military ensures that you are vaccinated against about everything imaginable including typhoid, anthrax, smallpox, malaria, yellow fever, certain regional diseases and probably some that I have forgotten.  Many I had received at different times, including my first Anthrax vaccine which I  injection was done into my muscle. This time the corpsmen given the shot did it sub-cutaneous which means just below the skin.  Well something happened and the little reaction area became a big one that night.  My bicep felt like someone had shoved a baseball in it and the sucker hurt like hell.   By the next morning I knew that my reaction was not “normal” being that the first one I had did not do this. I thought back to the Anthrax scare right after September 11th 2001 and I didn’t want to take any chances regarding something that the media said could be dangerous.  Who knows, what if they had messed up and given me a bad batch or even a weaponized form of the vaccine.  Hell, just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not out to get me.  If I was going to die for my country I didn’t want it to be from a reaction to a vaccine and not something heroic that would actually matter to someone and maybe even get a ship named after me.  So I went back to the immunization section, excusing my way past the queue of sailors waiting to get PPD’s read I went to the desk.  I figured that I wasn’t going to wait in line behind people with routine stuff when things looked like they were getting sporty for me. It’s called triage. The Corpsman at the desk was polite and asked what he could do.  I told him that “I think I’m having a reaction to the Anthrax vaccine.”  He gave me a funny look and asked whoch one in the series this shot was.  It was the second and I said.  “This didn’t happen the first time.”  He told e to show him my arm and then with a look of surprise on his face said: “Obviously sir the first time you had no antibodies to Anthrax so it had nothing to react to….”  I was thinking “no shit Sherlock” when the young man went to get his Chief.  The Chief came in, looked at my arm and said: “Gee sir it looks like you are having a reaction to the shot.” Wow, he could have floored me with that bit of news.  So he took me back to his office and started having me checked to make sure that I didn’t have a fever or a number of other things, like if I was dizzy or was having trouble breathing.   No I was neither dizzy nor experiencing breathing difficulties but was simply in pain, a bit scared and a lot pissed.   After his battery of questions and the phone calls asked me “do you think that you are safe to drive?”   At that point I would have said anything to get the hell out of there and get on with what I needed to do to make sure that I wasn’t going to die.  So I said “of course I am.”  He asked if I was sure and I reaffirmed this to him in a convincing enough manner for him to send me over to Portsmouth.  Now Portsmouth Naval Medical has a small office manned by a couple of nurses whose job it is to report bad vaccine reactions up to the FDA and God only knows who else.  These ladies were very pleasant and when they got a look at my arm they were impressed.  Once again I heard Yes sir you are having a reaction.”  Once and I got another battery of questions and they took a couple of pictures of the baseball sized knot on my left bicep.  Another couple of phone calls later I was told that I would be okay.  I was told by the ladies that he next shot of the series would have to go into the muscle as this batch had encapsulated itself in my arm instead of going to the rest of my body.  I was then told to take some Motrin for the pain and swelling and do a lot of push-ups, pull-ups and massage to help the area dissipate faster. My fears eased and I left the hospital and reported back to the processing site where all of my fellow sailors had already left for the day.

Another tense and sleepless night was spent with Judy and I with the emotional distance still there.  We talked about various things but nothing serious as I don’t think that either of us was able to vocalize well what we were feeling.  Even Molly seemed differed, I’m sure that she sensed that something was going on as I had continued to pack and re-pack my gear from EOD.  Molly does not like it when either of us pack as it usually means that one or both of us is leaving her employee for a time, we being the well treated and loved hired help.  So the next morning I repeated my “Groundhog Day” trek back to Norfolk Naval Station fighting the idiots driving to work on the I-264, I-64 and I-564 battle zone where matching wits with the witless I safely picked my way through traffic while drinking my black coffee.

Arriving for our next to last day of processing we checked and re-checked paperwork, received our signed wills, living wills and powers of attorney.  That morning I met with Father Pat Finn a mobilized reservist and Episcopal Priest from South Carolina and we had a nice chat where we were joined by Fr Steve Powers retired Navy Chaplain and Rector of St. Brides Episcopal Church in Chesapeake.   Following that I was asked to assist with a sailor who was having some personal difficulties getting ready for the deployment.  These tasks completed I went back to muster with the others and sat down next to Nelson my ever faithful assistant and body guard extraordinaire.  We were then told that we would collect the gear that we were being issued.  We gathered outside where we lined up and were given a sea bag in which to put our issue.  There were boxes of stuff everywhere and a couple of civilians and sailors stood by to ensure that we got what we were going to get.  Uniforms with all of our name tapes rank insignia and qualification pins sewn on as well as more socks, t-shirts and other assorted gear.  Our stash was a bit lighter than the others as we already had much of what was being issued and did not need the issue boots having already been issued non-issue boots courtesy of EOD.  When this was done and we were released I told Nelson to go home as his family was coming into town from New York.  Taking the newly issued gear home I again went to packing and repacking and took Judy out to dinner after which we spent our time alone together pondering the future.

Peace, Steve+

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