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Padre Steve’s Top 25 Articles of 2010, some Statistics and a Big Thank You to My Readers

Well we are coming to the end of the year here at Padre Steve’s World and as if you didn’t know from my baseball posts I am a fanatic about statistics.  Last year I published my “Top 10” in order to just get an idea about what my readers were reading and to kind of point new readers to articles that might interest them.

Before I delve into this I want to say thank you to all those people that take the time to stop by my little realm of cyber space and to those that take the time to leave comments, positive and even negative. You help me out a lot both in what I write and making me look at different angles on the subjects that I write about. Likewise various reads comments and suggestions have inspired and sometimes provoked me into writing articles that I might not have written otherwise. So thank you for taking the time to look at this site. Unlike the talk radio hosts that as us to give them 3 hours a day 5 days a week I just hope that you stop by once in a while and if you like what you see to come by more often and recommended the site to friends.

What is interesting to me is the way that some of these essays have almost taken on lives of their own and become much more popular than I could have ever imagined.  Who knows maybe I can actually work on finding a publisher this year and get some of this into print and maybe just maybe actually make a little money for my efforts.  I’ve been looking at the 700 plus posts that now are on the site and I can see a few book possibilities and if you have suggestions please let me know.

So as far as statistics go Padre Steve’s World is coming up on 2 Million total views and should go over that mark late today or early tomorrow.  Of those views about 1,280,000 have come this year, I won’t get an exact count until the New Year but then who but me is counting anyway? With those numbers I am averaging about 3500 views a day with the highest today being on June 17th when I had 9647 views.  I have had readers from almost every country or territory in the world from the United States to Togo and almost everywhere in between.  I think that is pretty cool and shows how the internet can reach almost all parts of the globe and I hope that the people in far off lands are getting something positive out of what I write.

This year I have posted 377 articles of which 169 had something to do with Baseball and 70 were about the military and of the military articles 18 dealt with various types of warships and a further dealt with history.  Another 21 articles dealt with Iraq or Afghanistan in one way or another ranging from historical, operational and theoretical articles interspersed with essays about the human cost of war.  Now the categories dealing with religion were harder to quantify as I posted them in several different categories with some articles listed in more than one category. Of these 24 articles dealt with faith, 29 with the Christian life, 49 in the general category of Religion and 53 fit into the rather amorphous category of Philosophy. I also listed 20 in the Pastoral Care section.  Again many of these posts overlapped so depending on the subject an article might be listed under several categories.

I have also more interactive this year with my readers in terms of the comment section and comments listed on my Facebook page for different articles. If you want to subscribe to the site or a single post and its comments feel free to do so and if you want to be a Facebook “friend” just tell me that you read the site when you do the request.

So this year I am posting my top 25 essays of 2010 as I think it gives me and you a better grasp on what people find interesting on this site.  I have also written a little bit of what caused me to write about those subjects.

Music of the 1970s and 1980s topped my list with 3 articles in the top 25 coming it at number 1, 5 and 9

1. I Miss the Music of the 70’s and 80’s I wrote this because I am went to High School and College in the 70s and 80s and like anyone my musical tastes and preferences were set back then. This year the essay which includes a lot of links to music videos has had over 46,000 viewers.

My article about the Rape of Nanking got me some hate mail from Japan

2. “Revisionist” History and the Rape of Nanking 1937 This article grew out of a research paper that I did in one of my classes for my Masters Degree in Military History. I found the subject interesting because I remember some of the Holocaust deniers when I was in college and the fact that people try to expunge the reality of such crimes against humanity is something for which that I have little tolerance. I did get a couple of nasty responses from some Japanese deniers regarding this article. Almost 20,000 people read this article this year.

3. Padre Steve’s World: Top 10 articles of 2009 What can I say? A lot of people, a bit of 13,000 have found my site and other articles through this post.

4. Halloween Book Burning Update: Bring the Marshmallows Please! I wrote this just prior to Halloween of 2009 on a lark. It was fun but serious and deals with a little church near Ashville North Carolina that publicized a book and Bible burning.  About 10,500 folks read this one.

5. More about Why I Miss the Music of the 70’s and 80’s Obviously I wrote this because I didn’t get enough 70s and 80s songs in the first time. Evidently a lot of people like this one as well as about 10,500 folks read it in 2010 and like the first edition it is chocked full of links to music videos.

The Einsatzgrüppen were a key component of Hitler’s racial war in the East

6. The Ideological War: How Hitler’s Racial Theories Influenced German Operations in Poland and Russia This article also came out of a lot of study and thought. I was a history major in college and my concentration area was in modern German History particularly Weimar and the Nazi Era. In the following 28 years or so I have continued to study and I wrote this essay for one of my Masters Degree classes.  About 10,300 people have read this one this year.

7. Reformation Day: How Martin Luther and Hans Kung Brought Me to an Anglo-Catholic Perspective, a Book and Bible Burning Reaches Ludicrous Speed and Yankees take Game Three 8-5 I wrote this during the 2009 World Series and it was kind of a catch all article for that day. The primary focus was Reformation Day and my journey to a Catholic faith.  It also included an update about the previously mentioned book and Bible burning and game three of the 2009 World Series between the Yankees and Phillies. About 7300 people looked at this article since January 1st 2010.

Star Trek is a part of my spiritual journey

8. Star Trek, God and Me 1966 to 2009 This article came out of my spiritual journey and kind of wove my faith with Star Trek.  I grew up with the original series but find Star Trek TNG and DS9 to be my favorites and I loved the new movie.  When I wrote the article back in May of 2009 I was still struggling with faith and in the midst of a spiritual crisis. Even though it is a relatively old article on the site that it had almost 6000 views this year which I attribute to the popularity of Star Trek and not this site or me.

9. Padre Steve’s Favorite Love Songs…Happy Valentine’s Day! Once again I write about music in this post with many love songs from the 1970s and 80s as well as a few from other eras. Close to 6,000 folks have looked at this since I wrote it in February and it too has a lot of music video links.

10. Can Anybody Spare a DIME: A Short Primer on Early Axis Success and How the Allies Won the Second World War This I kind of wrote on the spur of the moment as I was thinking about the concept of the DIME, or the Diplomatic, Intelligence, Military and Economic factors of national power and how it relates to war, in this case World War Two. About 4800 people read this and though it is to me a rather innocuous post it attracted the attention of a Neo-Nazi White Supremacist who didn’t like it.  The guy would bother me a number of other times and even threaten my life on one of my Norfolk Tides Baseball posts.  Such is the danger of putting stuff in public but the Neo-Nazis can pound sand.

11. Oh the Pain…Padre Steve’s Kidney Stone Naming Contest In February I got slammed hard by a nasty 7mm Kidney Stone that lodged at the top of the bladder and would move. I was out of action for over a month and as I waited for my surgery to get the nasty thing out I had a naming contest. So far about 4600 people have read this and I guess that it is one of the more humorous posts on this very painful subject on the internet. By the way I named him Adolf.

12. Background to “The Pacific” Part One: The Guadalcanal Campaign and the Beginning of Joint Operations I had originally written this article for my Master’s Degree program. When the HBO series The Pacific came out I re-wrote it and published it. Almost 4600 people have read this article.

The Landings at D-Day have always been a favorite subject of mine and this article was written in a more reflective moment

13. D-Day- Courage, Sacrifice and Luck, the Costs of War and Reconciliation This article was written in a more reflective moment before the 2009 D-Day anniversary. It has retained its popularity with almost 4500 views this year.

14. 20 Years: The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the End of the Cold War I wrote this around the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since we lived in Germany where I was a Platoon Leader, Company XO and Company Commander in the Cold War and having travelled to East Berlin in November 1986 I couldn’t help but write about it. We cried when the wall came down and I have had the chance to travel in the former East Germany on a number of occasions since the fall of the wall. A bit over 3700 people have read this article.

The loss of shipmates and friends like Senior Chief Pam Branum played a big role in my writing since I started Padre Steve’s World

15. Turning Points: The Battle of Midway, Randy Johnson Gets his 300th Win and Chief Branum Gets Her Star This was a catch-all article when I wrote it back in June of 2009. I was thinking about the Battle of Midway, celebrating Randy Johnson getting his 300th career victory and remembering a shipmate and friend Senior Chief Petty Officer Pamela Branum who was posthumously promoted at her memorial service.  A bit over 3600 people had read this article.

16. Memorable Recruiting Slogans and the All Volunteer Force This was a fun article because it took me back to the days when I first enlisted in the Army national Guard in 1981.  About 3600 folks viewed this article this year.

17. Operation “Dachs” My First Foray into the Genre “Alternative History” I wrote this originally for my Master’s Degree when I asked permission of a professor to do an alternative history of the Battle of Kursk.  I write it using actual sources but altering one key fact which changes the story. What sets it apart is that I get to kill off Hitler before the battle presuming that the anti-Hitler plotters bomb had gone off in his aircraft as he returned to Germany following his visit to Army Group Center.  Almost 3600 people read this in 2010.

The Battle of Stalingrad

18. The Anniversary of Disaster: Stalingrad 67 Years Later This was an article that I modified from a paper that I wrote for my Master’s degree.  I find I have sympathy for the struggle of common soldiers in hopeless causes, even when they fight in causes and under leaders that are unjust or even evil as the Nazis were. Just over 3000 people read this article this year.

The role of Jackie Robinson and other African American Baseball Players in helping end segregation and give added support to the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr Martin Luther King and others

19. Jackie Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King they Changed America I find the Civil Rights movement to be one of the most important parts of American history and Jackie Robinson possibly had as much or more impact in the movement as anyone with the exception of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior. I know a number of former Negro League players and I respect their struggle on the diamond and how they helped integrate America.  Almost 3000 people read this article.

20. Laughing to the Music: The Musical Genius of Mel Brooks Mel Brooks is my favorite filmmaker and I probably know almost every song in his films by heart. Most people don’t know that Brooks wrote almost all the music in his films. Just over 2900 folks have read this article which like my other music articles is full of links to videos of Mel Brook’s music.

The Battleships of Pearl Harbor essay focused on what happened to the great ladies of Pearl Harbor like the USS West Virginia above

21. The Battleships of Pearl Harbor This was the first article about the attack on Pearl Harbor. I looked at the Battleships which were present and what happened to each of them. Almost 2900 people took a look at this article which spawned articles about the ships on the far side of Ford Island and one about all the ships present.

22. Padre Steve’s Decade in Review: Up Down Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again I wrote this on New Year’s Eve day in 2009. It was kind of a fun but serious look at some of the events of the first decade of the new millennium. Almost 2800 folks read this one.

23. Why Johnny Can’t Read Maps: NCAA Tournament Geography for Dummies and a Solution I wrote this as the 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament began. I just hit tilt on way that the NCAA names the brackets by geographic areas that have no connection with some of the cities in them. Like when is Seattle in the Southeast? Give me a break. Evidently almost 2600 people agree with me.

24. Mortain to Market-Garden: A Study in How Armies Improvise in Rapidly Changing Situations I wrote this originally for my Master’s degree program a few years back. I thought about it more and took another crack at it for the website. Almost 2500 folks took a look a this article this year.

The French in Indochina and Algeria and how we can learn from their experience especially on how such campaigns affect the men that fight them

25. Lessons for the Afghan War: The Effects of Counterinsurgency Warfare on the French Army in Indo-China and Algeria and the United States Military in Vietnam I have studied insurgencies since before I went to Iraq when I started my Master’s Degree in Military History program.  As I studied it I began to buy all the books that I could on the subject and with my Iraq experience still resonating in me, I wrote about how counter-insurgency campaigns affect the Armies and Soldiers that wage them.

So my friends thank you for your support over the past year. I pray that you have a wonderful New Year and hope that you keep stopping by.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Yet another Unexpected Death of a Shipmate and Probable Rough Seas Ahead

SCPO3DIn Memorium Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman D’Juana Hayes-Jones

This has been another difficult week at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.  Once again we experienced the unexpected and unsettling death of a beloved Shipmate. HMCS D’juna Hayes-Jones, the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Director of Nursing Services passed away early Wednesday morning of a massive Heart attack or another sudden catastrophic event.

I was just coming off of duty and conducting the duty turnover when the pager went off.  The chaplain relieving me took the page and came back saying that he had just been informed that we had lost yet another Shipmate and said that he had to go get more information.  I looked at our Deputy Department director and said: “I pray someone that I don’t know; I’m really tired of losing people that I know.”  A few minutes later my friend came back and gave us Senior Chief’s name.  I was pretty tired having come off a night with little sleep.  Initially I looked at him and the deputy and said; “I’m sure I know her but am trying to picture her face.”  We finished the turnover and I started to walk back up to the ICU when I clearly saw and remembered her face, which always had a friendly and caring expression.  I had just seen her and said hello the day before in one of the main hallways.  When this registered I simply said “shit, not another one, damn.”  This was the 5th active duty death that we have had since December.  I had met all five and had a decent number of interactions with three of the five.  Senior Chief was one that I had met a lot in the hallways, had frequent small conversations with and was involved quite heavily with when Senior Chief Pam Branum passed away on June 2nd of this year.  Additionally we had a civilian RN pass away and several civilians in our clinics.  The active duty deaths were all unexpected and tragic.  We have come close to losing a number of other shipmates who were very close to death but have since recovered.  With all the deployments added in we are all showing some strain with the loss of our friends and shipmates, so it is important to take care of each other because we don’t know what tomorrow brings.  With more deployments coming, a flu season that never ended and H1N1 looming on the horizon I fear that this will not be the last shipmate we lose this year.  I pray that I am wrong but my intuition tells me something different.  In the midst of this I am reminded that we must live to the fullest and not waste the life that God has given us. As Marcus Aurelius said “Execute every act of thy life as though it were thy last.”

Losing good people, who care for others, strive for excellence and serve faithfully who are younger than me, is getting old.  Senior Chief from what I had seen and heard was a great leader who really cared for her corpsmen and the nursing Staff.  She could always be found out among her corpsmen on the nursing units and clinics.  She was kind, fair and a caring teacher, coach and mentor to many corpsmen and nurses.  Her loss was met with stunned disbelief by those who knew her and who really have not yet fully recovered from the loss of Chief Branum.  Her death has shaken all of us who knew her, from the most senior officers and Chiefs, to the most junior corpsmen as well civilian staff.  I and most of our other chaplains have spent significant time with our shipmates since this happened.

Senior Chief Hayes-Jones would have had her retirement ceremony on August 28th.  She leaves behind two children, her husband and her shipmates.  We will have a memorial service for her next week; the date is still to be announced as of this post.

God bless you all and take care of each other as we once again walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, Military, Pastoral Care

Saying Goodbye to a Shipmate…Fair Winds and Following Seas Senior Chief Branum

HMCS Pam Branum’s Rules:

Rule 1: Take care of your sailors

Rule 2: Accomplish the mission

Rule 3: See Rule One

chief branum

Today we said goodbye to our fallen shipmate Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Pamela Branum.  The ceremony took place in our main auditorium at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.  Needless to say because of the kind of person that she was and the influence that she had in people’s lives was very well attended with sailors coming in from all over the country.  Likewise it was filled with Naval tradition in fitting tribute to this child of east Tennessee who left home to serve her country and died in the line of duty.  It was a memorial service a celebration of life, a promotion ceremony and retirement all rolled into one.  And Senior Chief Branum deserved all of it.  A woman of faith she embodied the reality of her faith in the care of people and her witness to God in thought, word and deed.

The service was interesting.  I have planned, conducted or participated in more or these that I can count. On this one I was deep into the planning until Friday when after a wild and wearying month I finally began to crash.  What finally did me in was forgetting to save the bulletin which I had been working on with Commander Judy for like two hours before I closed the stupid thing out.  I had deleted the thing and both the document and I were done.  It was last nail in the camel. Thank God for Commander Judy and Chaplain Franklin who took over when I hit tilt.

Anyway what was cool about this was seeing all those who loved Pam and the stories that they shared.  Captain Bonnema our acting commander had served with Senior Chief as his Leading Chief Petty Officer at Naval Hospital Pensacola.  His words, filled with emotion were touching and inspiring as he talked about how Senior Chief was what every Chief should be.  The heartfelt genuineness of Captain Bonnema set the tone for the memorial. Others spoke; Master Chief McNulty talked about having Pam as an instructor at Field Medical Service School at Camp LeJeune.  Pam’s best friend Lisa, spoke of Pam’s friendship and example in her life while also talking about Pam as a leader of Sailors.  Another friend, also named Pamela, a retired Chief who has served with her in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom shared some touching and humorous sea stories about Senior Chief.  The two became known as the Ella’s.  They were big “E” and little “e” Ella.  Senior was the Capital “E” Ella.  I guess little Ella hated the Bee Gees and while in Iraq some Marines or Sailors were playing the progenitors of the Disco era at a fairly loud decibel range.  Little Ella complained and sent Senor Chief to quiet them down.  Later, little “e” Ella was invited by senior into a tent before chow.  Little Ella notice that there were too many people in the tent and about that time Big Ella had someone start the Bee Gees.  One of the last things that Little Ella was given from Big Ella, which she got shortly after Pam died, was a CD of the Bee Gees.  Somehow I think that the Deity Herself used Pam to get little Ella one last time.  I guess in heaven that little Ella will get her back.

Chaplain Cynthia Kane from San Diego who will be doing Pam’s memorial in Tennessee tomorrow and her burial in Arlington National Cemetery in August delivered the homily.  Cynthia traveled her at her own expense. Our last couple of memorial services for active duty Sailors at the Medical Center I have done.  Each has been emotionally draining and since I knew Pam better than I knew the others I was relieved when I found out from Lisa that Pam wanted Cynthia to do this.  Pam and Cynthia were deployed to the Medical Facility for the Guantanamo Bay Cuba prison back in 2005-2006.  Pam was the Senior Enlisted Leader and Cynthia, being a Chaplain was naturally the Chaplain.  They also became good friends and as Cynthia said, Pam made her a better officer and chaplain.  Later, when Cynthia was about to lose her unborn baby, it was Pam that she turned to for advice, counsel and comfort.   From personal experience I can say that there are certain Chiefs or Marine Corps Sergeant Majors that I would go to in a crisis of such proportions.  Command Master Chief Gerry Pierce and Sergeant Major Kim Davis would be my “go to” guys. It is truly a remarkable Chief who cares for their chaplain in the chaplain’s time of need.  As a chaplain I can say that this is remarkable.  In our business it is often the case that we have no one to go to when we are not doing well.  I’m fortunate in my current assignment, but this has not always been the case.

Pam was promoted the Senior Chief on the day that she passed away.  She had been selected by the board which had not yet be released and because of the unusual situation the Navy decided to honor posthumously her with the promotion while the command awarded her the Meritorious Service Medal in the same manner.  Both the promotion and the award were read today.  An article about the promotion in the Virginia Pilot online can be found here: http://hamptonroads.com/2009/06/portsmouth-corpsman-died-day-her-promotion

The most touching moment for me was when Lisa read a letter from a Corpsman currently deployed in the Middle East.  The Corpsman had a rough time early in his career. Senior Chief Branum helped not only to save his career but to teach him lessons that made him a better Petty Officer and Corpsman.  The Hospital Corpsman  Luis E. Fonseca Jr. had been in trouble and it was Pam that helped him out.  In 2003 at the Battle of Al Nasaryah during Operation Iraqi Freedom this young man was a hero.  He saved 5 other Marines wounded when their vehicle was hit.  Under enemy fire the young Corpsman organized their recovery under fire and despite taking fire treated them and got them evacuated to safety. Hospital Corpsman Fonseca was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.  This is the Navy’s highest award apart from the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Now Petty Officer Fonseca’s wife delivered a letter from him to Lisa during the viewing last night.  He credited her with not only saving his career but also credited her with teaching him to be a better “Doc.”  He gave his Navy Cross to Pam.  For a understanding of what the young man did in Iraq please look at this article:

http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=14707

The ceremony was concluded by the reading of “I am the Flag” and passing the National Colors from person to person in an honor guard.  In an unusual twist the honor guard was composed of Junior Enlisted Sailors, Petty Officers, Chief’s and even two Nurse Corps Officers.  The flag was presented to Lisa. A similar flag will be presented to Pam’s parents.  After this the benediction was said by yours truly, and I have to admit that I had a difficult time in spite of using the Book of Common Prayer.  I have done a lot of these services and this was the most difficult time doing a benediction that I have ever had.   As I ended the benediction I posted the “Side Boys’ which is a Naval Tradition done in conjunction with “piping over the side.”  This is a rite where a sailor departs his or her ship or command for the final time. The Boatswain piped Senior Chief over the side and I am sure that her spirit made the trip down the aisle smiling and probably joking with her fellow Chiefs, Sailors and Officers who filled the auditorium.  This completed the mournful tones of Taps played by a Naval Bugler ended the ceremony.

As the crowd of friends mingled with each other, shared memories, hugs, tears and laughs, a slideshow of Senior Chief Branum’s life played on the large screen.  It was a fitting tribute to a wonderful person, shipmate, confidant and friend to so many people.   I consider it an honor to have served with Senior Chief Branum even for the 5 and a half months before she deployed on USNS Comfort on which she passed from this life into the next.  I will never forget her cheerful smile and professional manner; even as she helped her sailors conduct field days and work around the ICU.   Her loss will be mourned by many even as with joy people whose lives that she touched share their stories and memories.

SCPO3D

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our sister Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Pamela Branum.  We thank you for giving her to us, her shipmates and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn.  Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, Military

Outlasting everyone else…The value of Longevity in One’s Chosen Vocation

Soldier Once and YoungForward Observer 1982

“I want to stay around longer than the pitchers who were at the top when I came into the big leagues. I don’t want to be gone and have all the old guys — Seaver, Carlton, Ryan and Sutton — still pitching. I got rid of Palmer, now I want to outlast the rest of them.”   Bert Blyleven

Hall of Fame BaseballBert Blyleven

I have come to value longevity in my career.  In fact I did not plan on this when I enlisted in 1981, but I am am coming up on 28 years on the military.  I enlisted in August of 1981 and was commissioned in July of 1983.  In 1988 I left active duty and went to the National Guard for seminary and my Clinical Pastoral Education Residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital, the Knife and Gun club in the friendly city of Dallas Texas.   I became a chaplain in 1992.  I ended up resigning my commission as a Major in the Army Reserve back in 1999 to enter the Navy.  I’ve been in the Navy now a bit over 10 years.

My plan back in the day was to spend 20 years or more on active duty in the Army and retire as a Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel and then go teach history or military science somewhere.  Things took a very different course.  The Deity Herself somehow had other plans for this at times miscreant Priest.

Berlin WallAt the Berlin Wall, the East Side, November 1986

I can relate to Bert Blyleven’s comments. When I entered the Army in 1981 a lot of folks that I knew had been around for Vietnam and Korea.  My early mentors were all Vietnam vets.  I’m pretty sure that almost all of the people that I came in with are now retired or out of the service.  In fact I cannot think of any of the men and women that I was commissioned with in 1983 who still are in the service.  Likewise, most of the guys that were senior when I entered the Navy are either out or maybe coming up on their last tour.  It is my desire like Blyleven to outlast all those guys who were Commanders and Captains when I came in ten years ago.  I like this longevity thing.  I play hard so to speak and love what I do.  It is kind of like, well heck; it is getting a chance to do what I know I am called to do. For me a second chance because I thought that I would finish my Army career in the obscurity of the Reserves and never get to do what I really wanted to do.  In a sense I am a journeyman who through a lot of ups and downs has finally come into his own.   There is a player named Oscar Salazar who was just called up this weekend from the Norfolk Tides to the Orioles.  Oscar is one of my favorite players.  He is a journeyman who has spent most of his career in the minors.  This year he came into his own.  He was hitting about .380 and was having a great year in Norfolk.  He deserves to be in the majors.  If he can’t stay up with Baltimore then I hope that another team will deal for him.  When you see him on the on deck circle talking to younger players you can tell that he enjoys playing the game.  He hustles and plays hard. I hope that he does well for the Birds while he is up for Caesar Izturis.

WeddingWedding Day 25 June 1983

There is something to longevity in one’s chosen calling.  You get to see a lot, do a lot and experience a lot that other people only get to dream of doing.  When you do what you love and then are blessed to get to do it as long as I have in two military services, the Army and the Navy, you can count yourself fortunate.   There is a certain satisfaction that I have when you look at my career in the long term and see that I have lasted 28 years and that I am still going strong.

In a sense I am a relic, though unlike most of my relic contemporaries I am still relatively junior in rank.  I enlisted at the height of the Cold War a couple of years after the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan and the followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini had overthrown the Shah of Iran, over 8 years prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I have been to what I call the “Commie Trifecta,” East Berlin, Panmunjom Korea and Guantanamo Bay Cuba.  I have served in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, at sea and ashore as well as an exchange officer. I have not always been a chaplain.  I have commanded a company in Europe during the cold war.  I have served multiple tours with the Marines, served on a great ship, the USS HUE CITY and done more in my career than I had ever imagined possible.  I am grateful for the experiences that I have been blessed with and even the adversity has made me stronger and wiser, even the times that I have had my ass kicked by it.

Boarding partyBoarding Party Operation Enduring Freedom April-May 2002

Most of the people who have been in the military as long as me are very senior officers or non-commissioned officers.   Thankfully, I still have a relatively young appearance for someone my age, which was enhanced when I shaved the pitiful remnant of graying hair from my now pristine head.  Likewise I stay in pretty good shape.  I actually want to start playing baseball or softball in some old guy league when I have the time.  People say that I appear and act younger than I am.  The acting part is no lie, I have not really grown up, and I’m still a kid at heart.  I like to have fun and see humor in life even sometimes in the midst of tragedy, which I have seen a fair amount of in my life.

Today was another 13 hour day at work.  Thankfully my department director had taken my duty over the weekend and in a sense sat me down for a game.  We have a couple of kids doing really bad in one of my units.  The last couple of hours were spent working with the families of both of these kids and spending time with our staff.  I also ended up doing country clearances for my boss and I to make a trip out of the US to work with chaplains from another country concerning the people that they are sending into our Pastoral Care Residency Program.  This later thing I have never done before, though I have supplied information plenty of times for others to do my requests.  I was talking to my buddy Elliott the usher of section 102, of which I have seat 102, row B, seat 2. We were talking about baseball and life, which is pretty much par for the course with us.  We were talking about situations that I deal with at work and he said to me, “no wonder you come here to relax.”  It is true.  I have learned that I need to take some time for me, it is imperative for my health if I want to keep myself in the game and like Bert Blyleven outlast the guys who were at the top of their game when I came in.  I have pretty much outlasted most of my Army contemporaries, now I’m working on outlasting Navy guys.

Me and BTT with Bedouin KidsOut on the Syrian Border with the Bedouin

I have come to like Blyleven.  He is one of the more under appreciated pitchers who played the game. He had 287 wins and pitched 242 complete games with a career 3.31 ERA and over 3700 strike outs, 5th on the all-time strike-out list.  He played on 3 All-Star Teams and in 2 World Series.  He played on a lot of really bad teams which probably kept him from winning even more games, yet he is not in the Hall of Fame.  At the same time he did outlast the majority of his contemporaries pitching 22 years in the major leagues.  In a sense I want to be kind of like that.  I want to outlast folks and both do well and have fun when I do it.  I want my last season, or tour in the Navy to be my best.

Pirates Orioles BaseballOscar Salazar

I hope that Bert Blyleven makes the Hall of Fame and that Oscar Salazar makes it in the Majors.  As for me, I just want to do well and have fun doing it while helping as many of the young guys as possible.

Peace, Steve+

Note: Tomorrow I will be taking part in a memorial service and celebration of life for Senior Chief Pam Branum.  She was a great shipmate and tomorrow our Medical Center as well as her many friends will remember he life and say goodbye.

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D-1 Bobbing About, We Made Too Many Wrong Mistakes and Thank God for Good Managers

June 5th 1944 should have been D-Day.  Instead because of a ferocious storm that descended across the English Channel it was a day from hell on the seas for the assault troops embarked aboard troop transports, landing ships and landing craft.  Now those who have never ridden out a storm at sea on anything smaller than an Aircraft Carrier or modern Cruise Ship cannot understand what the thousands and thousands of land-lubber soldiers on those ships and craft went through.  In fact they cannot understand what the sailors on the very largest of the Operation Overlord armada the battleships USS Nevada, Texas, and Arkansas while the British battleships Rodney, Warspite and Ramillies also were on hand.  Most of the ships in the invasion were far smaller, cruisers averaged 9000-10,000 tons, destroyers about 1,500 tons.  I have served on a 9,600 ton Ticonderoga Class Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser, the USS HUE City.  I have also been embarked on the USS Agerholm DD-826, a WWII era Gearing Class destroyer, and a number of other ships including landing ships such as the USS Frederick, LST-1184 and USS Mount Vernon, LSD-39.  I have ridden all of these in somewhat sporty conditions.  I have never been seasick.  However, even seasoned sailors can be sick as a dog and hurl chunks in heavy seas.  I have also been a member of a boarding party and had seas come up on us while we were away from our ship.   In heavy seas things can get sporty.  When I was on Hue City we hit such heavy seas that we experienced a hull fracture that required emergency repairs and a short port call.  My Skipper had me go down and bless the repairs with Holy Water.  We also made a transit down the Arabian Peninsula with a Cyclone on our beam.  We took 15-18 foot seas on the beam for three days.  Believe me Aegis cruisers are top-heavy and do not ride well in high seas.  We had an epidemic of chunks during that period.  Likewise even a few injuries from crew members that were thrown around.  Likewise, the soldiers had to make transfers down nets and Jacob’s ladders in heavy seas.  This also can be a bit sporty.  It is just a tad bit exciting to jump from the deck of a ship onto a boat which is going up and down about 6-10 feet at a time.  Since I have jumped from a ship that was moving to a wildly bouncing boat; my hat goes off to the land lubber soldiers who jumped from ships to landing craft in heavy seas at D-Day.

vicksburgHue City’s Sister Ship the USS Vicksburg plowing through heavy seas. We were doing the same thing

Since the ships at D-Day were far less advanced, and the largest battleship, the Rodney was only 35,000 tons, or about half the displacement of the average modern cruise ship and one third that of a US CVN. Now imagine soldiers who have never been to sea except for the trip across the Atlantic to get to England, who were riding ships and landing craft of minuscule displacement.  These guys suffered, in fact many prayed to land because fighting the Germans on the beaches would be easier than what they experienced at sea.

777px-Unidentified_Allen_M_Sumner_class_destroyer_in_heavy_seas_during_Typhoon_CobraUnidentified WWII Sumner Class Destroyer Taking Heavy Seas

So when you remember the epic events of D-Day remember that the American, British, Canadian and French Soldiers who landed on those hallowed beaches named Utah, Omaha, Juno, Gold and Sword had eaten little, hurled more and endured a hellish ride just to get shot at when they landed on the beaches.  Having been shot at in Iraq I can say that it is not something that I want to do after being sick and puking my guts out. However, that might be better than puking.  I have never enjoyed that…what a bulimic sees in this I do not know.

Yogi Berra once said: “We made too many wrong mistakes.”  I absolutely hate making mistakes, I like to be right and I want my work to reflect excellence.  The past couple of days the Deity Herself has reminded me that even I am human.  The past two weeks I have worked about 132 hours, like who is counting, hours at our medical center.  Part of this was due to being on duty and the other because I had to remain because of mission requirements.  I had done pretty well until yesterday when at the end of the day I locked my keys in the office.  I never do this, how the hell I did it I will never know, except that I had a brain fart because I was tired and pushing myself to handle a multiplicity of administrative and clinical duties over the week.  Well, that was not all, my wrong mistakes continued.  This morning I woke up, however since I didn’t sleep well this was not a great thing, except for the fact that I did not read my name in the obituaries of either the Virginia Pilot or the Stockton Record.  I use my cell phone as my alarm clock.  I have a ritual to go to work.  I set what I am going to wear in one spot, pockets loaded, beat in the loops.  I set my cell as my alarm and as soon as I wake up I put the stupid phone in my pocket so I will not forget it.  Somehow today I didn’t do this last little bit.  My phone was at home.  I was so busy and tired that I didn’t notice this little omission.  As I drove out of the parking garage I searched for my phone.  What the hell it wasn’t there where I was sure that I had placed it.  I turned my silver 2001 Honda CR-V around and drove back into the parking garage.  I retraced my steps.  Going to my office I called my phone.  No answer. Crap. My next stop was Dr Maggard’s office.  Interrupting him while he was on the phone I found the phone was not there.  Damned again, double crap.  Next stop was the head where I had deposited my recently rented coffee. One can never buy coffee only take a short term rental. Of course it was not there and I was damned yet again, in my exhaustion I was thinking crazy thoughts.  So I went to the little Navy exchange where I had picked up a Diet Dr. Pepper for the trip home.  Maude the cashier said I didn’t leave it there either.  Damned, Damned, double damned and even triple damned I was pissed.  I went up to the Critical Care Department Head’s office, damned even more, no phone.  Crap, I was really getting upset, someone probably had it and was using.  So I went to Pediatric ICU to see if by some chance I had left it there. I asked my buddy Cinda and others if they had seen it.  The answer was no and I was yet again damned. So I called the phone one more time and Judy picked it up.  I said “have you seen my phone?” She then said “I’m talking to you on it.”  Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn and crap.  I could have had a freaking V-8.  I knew at this point that I was toast.

not a happy camperNot a Happy Camper: Too Many Wrong Mistakes

Between this comedy of errors I was working on Chief Branum’s memorial service bulletin with Commander Judy, one of our senior Nurse Corps Officers.  We had it set; all I had to do was finish the bio.  This I did as Commander Judy went up to work with Chief’s best friend.  One problem. I was tired and had multi-tasked my ass off.  Trying to answer two different phone calls, and two separate e-mails I started trying to close out the 95 different windows that I had open on my computer.  I was damned yet again, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap and crap.  In the process of closing all the windows I had not saved my document.  All the work was gone.  My brain was fried and I was pissed at myself for making so many far too many wrong mistakes.  Thankfully, Commander Judy had remembered what was on the program and with the template that I provided was able to put it back together.  She helped save my ass. I finally got home and was absolutely bushed.

The Deity Herself has made sure that I am taken care of even in times like this.  I was scheduled for duty this weakened. For me, since I live at the cusp of the 30 minute response time I remain on campus.  However, I got a call from our deputy command chaplain who told me that our Department Head, who had just returned from leave had told me to stay home that he would take my duty.  Thank God for managers who who know when a pitcher has reached his limit. My boss is like this.  He knows when to pull me out of the game before things get out of hand.  I was making far too many wrong mistakes of exceptionally simple nature.  I am really grateful for him. Once again the Deity herself looked out for this miscreant but very tired Priest.

Peace and blessings, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, History, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, Navy Ships, PTSD