Tag Archives: wurzburg

I Have a Need for Speed: Driving the German Autobahns

no-limit-sign-autobahn

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have driven a lot of kilometers on German Autobahns. Back in the 1980s my cars wouldn’t get me much above 110 miles an hour. Since then I have tried to do better. Frankly whether people like it or not I do have a need for speed.

On American highways that is difficult to do and nowadays its not because our cars won’t go fast enough, it is because are not engineered well enough to make it safe. Likewise, factor in that many American drivers cannot drive nails much less highly engineered cars that are capable of high speed and people who even on good roads in optimum driving conditions manage to make driving unsafe for everyone else on the road. The fastest that I have ever driven in the United States was 114 miles an hour in a restricted HOV lane on I-64 in Norfolk early on a Sunday morning with no traffic. I dared not go any faster despite the fact my Ford Mustang was barely breaking a sweat because the road condition and engineering would have made it unsafe to go any faster.

The highest speed I ever got to in the 1980s was 110 in my 1985 Opel Kadett on Autobahn 3 heading north from Wiesbaden to the Netherlands. In the 1997 I got a rented Fiat Brava with a 5 speed manual transmission up to 130 on the same autobahn between Würzburg and Bonn. In 2006 I got up to 142 miles an hour in a rented 2006 VW Golf 6 speed manual transmission diesel on a Sunday morning between Nuremberg and Würzburg. This year I broke my record in a rented 2018 Ford Mondeo (the European name for the Fusion) up to 237 kilometers per hour or 147.2 miles an hour on Autobahn 4 between Weimar and Eisenach. The official specs say that the Mondeo with a 4 cylinder 2.0 liter turbocharged diesel engine with a 6 speed manual transmission tops out at 137 mph. Despite being fully loaded I took my vehicle to 147.2 mph, ten miles an hour higher than the specs. It wouldn’t go any faster. While driving on newer autobahns in what was once East Germany on a Sunday and on a national holiday it was easy to get a chance to squeeze every last ounce of speed from the car. On one stretch of the autobahn I averaged over 120 MPH for over an hour at a time.

a4-a72-kreuz-chemnitz-5e1f2299-a166-4e13-bf68-b891c60f68ea

So, Lord willing when we go back next year I will try to get a faster car, I really do want to break 150 MPH. But then that’s just me. Judy says that I should take one of those driving courses that certify drivers who carry high value passengers. Not a bad idea.

If you drive the autobahns be aware that not all sections have unlimited speed limits. I think that there are more of these sections in the former East where the German government has spent a lot of money building new roads and completely reconstructing older ones. Most of these roads are 6 lane affairs and on a Sunday or holiday when most long distance trucks are not allowed to operate you can get your vehicle up to higher speeds in zones where there are no limits. Where there are speed limits in on the autobahns they usually are in the 100-130 kph range. Likewise, construction zones are usually limited to 60-80 kph.

Anyway, until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Zen and the Science of Mountain Bike Maintenance

“I only ride ’em, I don’t know what makes ’em work.” 

I know little of Zen other than it is a Buddhist meditation practice that does not involve shouting “serenity now.” I also know little of Mountain Bike Maintenance but using the “serenity now” technique I am I am learning the science of Mountain Bike Maintenance.

Now I’m sure that those that know more than me about mountain bikes will say that this is an art. But for me art is either something related to baseball or Navy ships that I hand on my wall, something beautiful that Judy produces or something that I hate and wonder just how the hell the artist got paid for it.  Of course none of these categories fit in the paradigm that I call the science of mountain bike maintenance.

I have ridden and destroyed bicycles for decades though until I moved to Emerald Isle I have had few places that I felt safe to ride the Mongoose E303 that I bought just before I deployed to Iraq.  My attitude with bicycles through most of my life was like Donald Sutherland’s character in the movie Kelly’s Heroes named “Oddball” who said in regard to work being done by his men on his tank “I only ride ’em, I don’t know what makes ’em work.”

I always had a habit of riding my bikes hard and though I learned to do a few rudimentary tasks I really had no clue what made them work. I remember doing an “Evil Knievil” jump over a wide construction ditch with my Schwinn Stingray which came up just short wiping out my bike and leaving me with a broken arm.  Then there was the 10 speed touring bike with dual headlights that my dad brought me back from Japan in 1972. That bike was a heavy duty warhorse that I used in games of bike to bike chicken against other neighborhood kids in Stockton California.  That bike was like the “Deathmobile” in Animal House, it was not aluminum but steel and its tires were heavier duty than most American bikes.  Those were good times, maintenance other than to patch flat tires was not a priority.  That bike got me through Junior High School but I gave it up like a broken down stead when I got my first car, a 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 with a 287 V-8 and 4 barrel carburetor.  I had a bike when I was a student at Cal State Northridge and nearly ran over Joni Erickson Tada as she motored about in her motorized wheelchair and nearly drove into a filming set of Dynasty to get almost up close and personal with Heather Locklear. Both were unintentional but a product of my rather reckless riding.  Once again maintenance was a secondary concern and I drive that 10 speed into the dirt as well.

The next time that I used a bicycle was when I was deployed to Würzburg Germany to support the Bosnia operation.  I had the use of a used 18 speed road bike which I would ride down the big hill from my apartment to the city center on almost every decent day for weather. I also took it on longer rides around the countryside.  But that was pretty much the last time that I rode a bike until this year. I bought the Mongoose in 2006 as I was recovering from an IT Band injury while overtraining for the Marine Corps Marathon having just completed the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half-Marathon.  Back then I was even more stupid than I am now and would run 12-20 miles 4-5 times a week.  It was great for the endorphin rush but hell on my legs.  Unfortunately there were no interesting places to ride in Virginia Beach unless I wanted to pack my bike on my car to get to the Oceanfront or a rural area.  I hate being bored and feeling like a target for any typical Hampton Roads driver.

So finally I get stationed at Camp LeJeune and bring down my nearly new bike, 5 years old but no wear and tear.  I got it tuned up and then started to ride around the roads and trails near the Island Hermitage which is rapidly becoming the Island Heritage of the Church of Baseball.  I have permission of my land lady to paint outfield walls in the living room to match the baseball décor.  Since I plan to keep it as a place of refuge for Judy and I whenever I am stationed back in Virginia Beach I should not have to paint over it for a while.  But I digress….

I finally have a place where I enjoy riding again even a couple of places to go off road and actually use the bike as it was intended to be used.  I also discovered that hard riding also requires maintenance and that maintenance on a mountain bike is a lot more intensive than the bikes that I rode in times past. It is also a lot more expensive to have done by a bike store so I am learning the science of mountain bike maintenance.  The first thing I had happen was a flat rear tire which occurred about a mile into a ride. I had to walk the bike back because I did not have a hand pump and when I tried to fill it at a gas station the tire blew.  The next chance I got I went and purchased a heavy duty inner tube as well as a Trinitarian Allen Wrench, a hand pump to keep with the bike and lights since I tend to ride near dusk in order to get pictures of sunsets and wildlife.

I discovered something. I had to remove the brake pads to change the rear tire. It wasn’t enough to have to take the damned chain off but I had to take the brakes off to get the tire off. That brought me some measure of discontent but I persevered I got the tire off.  I also got some tire levers to help me with getting the very heavy tire off the rim. Back in my previous life when I rode bikes changing a tire was a snap, the tires were thin and came off without difficulty.  Well if you haven’t ridden one a the walls of a mountain bike’s tires are fricking thick and harder than hell to get off the bike, I even broke one of the damned levers trying to get the tire off. But I was successful despite a number of “serenity now” moments. I replaced the inner tube and put the tire back on the bike. I adjusted the chain and put the brake pads on. I thought that I had cracked the code. Sure I was covered in grease and sweaty but I had done it, or so I thought.  I had no idea that the damned tension on the brakes had to be reset.

So I went to the internet for a “Google how too” session. The sites that I found were no help and I had to travel to Virginia the next day so I said the hell with it. When I returned this week I stopped by the bike shop and asked for a demo of how to fix the damned thing so I could get back on the road.  The man at the shop demonstrated on a bike and I locked the information into my brain housing unit.  I ended up having to leave work early today because I have not slept more than three hours in the past three days. After crashing at home I got up, had dinner and decided to do the brake adjustment which went surprisingly well. I then took the bike out for a ride in the evening, got a couple of nice pictures and came home to watch baseball and relax. Hopefully I will sleep well tonight. I noticed that on nights where I got a ride in that I slept better so hopefully that continues.  I will need to do some more adjustments on the bike to get it where I want but I think I am beginning to crack the code on the science of mountain bike maintenance.  So long as it does not rain tomorrow evening I will do the adjustments and take another ride.

So until tomorrow, have a nice night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Eins, zwei, drei g’suffa! Padre Steve Muses on German Beer

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
-Benjamin Franklin

Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.
-Dave Barry

From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.

–Saint Arnold of Metz, The patron Saint of Brewers

I have lived in Germany a number of times and have a good number of German friends that I have served with either in the Army or the Navy that I am still in contact with.  I have a love of good beer and my taste tends to gravitate toward German Pilsners and Lagers or an occasional Dunkel or Schwartzbier. I do have a fondness for a number of Irish beers and when overseas like Kilkenny which is finally just available in the US in a few locations. Hopefully it will be more available in the coming year.  I also like an occasional English Ale such as Newcastle.  Call me a beer snob but I find most mass produced American beers pretty substandard but I do like Sam Adams and Yuengling lager as well as some beers by some smaller brewers.  I’m sorry but “light beer” scarcely qualifies as beer.  I have to agree with the folks at the Capital Brewery in Middleton Wisconsin which says “People who drink light ‘beer’ don’t like the taste of beer; they just like to pee alot.” Life is too short for bad beer as was known back in medieval times in Danzig Germany where the town council made an edict stating: “Whoever makes a poor beer is transferred to the dung-hill.”

Alan Young, Master Brewer at Gordon Biersch Virginia Beach

In the US I also like a number of the more German type micro brews, especially Gordon Biersch where I am a member of the Virginia Beach Stein Club.  I like Biersch a lot and since I know the master brewer Alan Young at the Virginia Beach location know that the beer is prepared to the German beer purity standards and that the hops used in the beer actually come from Bamberg Germany.  However, today is not so much about the Biersch beer, which I will write about in detail in the near future.

Today is a day where I talk about Germany and German beer.  When we first went to Germany in 1984 we lived in a tiny little town in the Saarland named Eckelhausen and I was assigned to the 557th Medical Company (Ambulance) which was based at Neubrücke, just over the Saarland and Rheinland-Pfalz state border.  These are little towns, Neubrücke is a few kilometers from Birkenfeld and Eckelhausen is in Kreis Sankt Wendel.

The nearest large city is Trier on the German-Luxembourg border. When we were stationed there the local beers severed at the local restaurants were primarily pilsners.  Some of those more local beers included Kirner Pils from the town of Kirn on the Nahe River, Barbarossa Braü from Kaiserslautern and Bitburger Pils from Bitburg. Bitburg has become much more than a local beer and can be found throughout Germany and around the world.

The 557th was moved to Wiesbaden in November of 1984 and this led us to other beers including Binding Bräuerei and their Römer Pils and Henninger Pils. Some of the beers from Hessen were very nice including Licher Pils from the town of Lich northeast of Frankfurt. This brewery also produces an “export” as well as a Weizen. It is advertised as the “number one beer in Hessen.”

Well we came back to the states just after Christmas of 1986 and suffered for years without a lot of German beer available in Texas and later West Virginia.  However, in 1996 I was mobilized from the Army Reserve to serve in Germany supporting Operation Joint Endeavor, the mission to help end the conflict between Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. I was stationed with the 417th Base Support Battalion in Kitzingen but had significant duties at the Würzburg Army Hospital and the 4th Battalion 3rd Air Defense Artillery.

I lived in Würzburg and commuted to Kitzingen and in my time in this area which is in the state of Bayern but historically is the capital of Franken.  Of course I always gravitate toward pilsners or lagers and in Würzburg I came across a very old and good beer in Würzburger Pils.  I also was able to have more access to other Bavarian beers including Bamberger Pils, St Georgen  Kellerbrau, Reichelbräu Pils , Spaten and Löwenbräu as well as beers from just outside the area to include Michaelsbräu of Babenhausen and Braugold which I had in Weimar.

I have travelled elsewhere in Germany I have encountered many other beers.  I do prefer the beers from the more southern and central parts of the country than those of the north.  Probably the most unique beer I had was not so much to the quality or taste was Wittenburger Luther Beer which I came home with a stein which reads “Zum Gedenken an den bedeutendsten Wittenburger Luther Bier “ein kannlein bir gegen den teufel ihndamit zu verachten” or “To commemorate the most important, Wittenburger Luther Beer, a mug of beer against the devil is to despise him.”

So the Germans have taught me well.  I only drink good beer and I think that it is something to be savored and not abused.  I like the way that the Germans do life, unlike others who revel being Puritans, the Germans have balance in life.  Unlike some of the lack of “fun-dementalists” that I have met and spend their time reveling in the misery of their condition I totally agree with Luther when he said:

“God does not forbid you to drink, as do the Turks; he permits you to drink wine and beer: he does not make a law of it. But do not make a pig of yourself; remain a human being. If you are a human being, then keep your human self-control.”

And since I am not as young as I used to be: “We old folks have to find our cushions and pillows in our tankards. Strong beer is the milk of the old.

Amen and peace,

Padre Steve+

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All Saints Day, the “Book and Bible Burning” Turns into a Shred Fest and the Yankees win game four in Philly 7-4 go up 3-1 in Series

Sunday was the Feast of All Saints.  This is one of my favorite Feasts in the Liturgical year. The feast is celebrated in both the Eastern Orthodox and Western Churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, certain Lutheran Churches, as well as some Wesleyans and Methodist. The feast is celebrated on the First Sunday after Pentecost in the East and on November 1st in the West.  In the Eastern expression it is celebrated in honor of all the Saints, known and unknown while in the West, Particularly the Roman Catholic Church it is dedicated to the Saints who have attained the beatific vision of heaven.  Other churches in the West have different takes on this.  I believe that the Orthodox which honor saints known and unknown is the more accurate position while at the same time not demeaning the Roman position.

Willibald-EichstaettStatue of Willibald in the Eichstadt Cathedral

For me this Feast is special as are other feasts commemorating individual Saints and Martyrs.  I feel a special closeness to those who have gone before us and certain days.  I really began to experience this shortly after being ordained as a Priest and being deployed to Würzburg Germany.  My ordination service was head the evening of July 7th 1996 which was already July 8th in Germany.  The 7th is the Feast Day of St. Willibald of Eichstadt which is in Bavaria between Munich and Nurnberg.  Willibald was a Celtic missionary who worked with St. Boniface to help bring the Christian faith to Germany.  Willibald settled in the area and served and the pastor and later the Bishop of Eichstadt serving as the bishop for 40 years.  Willibald’s brother Wunibald was also as missionary to Germany and served in Thuringia, Mainz and the Oberpfalz finally ending up in Bavaria founding the Kloster at Heidenheim with his sister Walburga, who was a Nun. Wunibald died there in 761 AD.  Wunibald’s feast day is December 18th which is also my baptismal date.  July 8th is the Feast of St Killian, the patron saint and Martyr Bishop of Würzburg, the first place that I served as a Priest.  October 6th the date of my Protestant Ordination in 1991 is the Feast Day of St Bruno the founder of the Carthusian Order and my birthday March 27th is the Feast day of Saint Rupert of Salzburg Austria and on the Anglican calendar it honors Bishop Charles Henry Brent.  Bishop Brent was a missionary bishop to the Philippines and later served as the Senior Chaplain to the American forces in Europe and later as the Bishop the Western New York.  There are two things that really connect me to Bishop Brent, first are his ecumenical views well expressed in this quote:

“The unity of Christendom is not a luxury, but a necessity. The world will go limping until Christ’s prayer that all may be one is answered. We must have unity, not at all costs, but at all risks. A unified Church is the only offering we dare present to the coming Christ, for in it alone will He find room to dwell.”

Bishop Brent penned the following prayer which is in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and one of my favorite prayers:

“Lord Jesus Christ, who didst stretch out thine arms of love upon the hard wood of the Cross, that all men everywhere might come within the reach of thy saving embrace: So clothe us with thy Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know thee to the knowledge and love of thee; for the honor of thy Name.”

The prayer for his commemoration in the Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts also is something that resonates in my heart. It is something that as a Chaplain and as a Priest I pray for daily and hopefully that I embody as I work with Christians of many backgrounds as well as those who are not Christians:

Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one: deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance, that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent, we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of thy Son Jesus Christ: who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

For me the understanding that the Saints intercede for us at the very throne of God gives me great comfort, the fact that they too pray for me and hopefully I will pray for others from there when my time comes.  When I have visited various shrines in Europe to include those of Saints Killian in Würzburg, Willibald in Eichstadt and Boniface in Fulda as well as others I have felt a real presence of God that is not ordinary.  But also I realize that Saints who are not on any calendar are also interceding for us encourages me.  When I think of those who taught me in the faith, which showed me the love of God, and left a legacy that stretched beyond their lives here and realizes that they too are in that great company of the faithful is a great comfort.  I feel a connection with those saints whose feast days are somehow connected with days that are important in my life and realize the Communion of Saints as stated in the Creed is more than just an amorphous belief, but the extension of the Church beyond earthly bounds and that this is a reality that we are privileged to be a part of.

The morning the processional hymn at St. James was For All the Saints which is one of my favorite hymns.  I think that the hymn states the essence of the Communion of the Saints more than I can do in my feeble attempts so I have placed the lyrics here:

For All the Saints

Text: William W. Howe, 1823-1897
Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958
Tune: SINE NOMINE, Meter: 10 10 10 with Alleluias

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,

who thee by faith before the world confessed,

thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;

thou Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;

thou in the darkness drear, their one true light.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,

fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,

and win with them the victor’s crown of gold.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

O blest communion, fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;

yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,

steals on the ear the distant triumph song,

and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,

through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,

singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:

Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

Anyway with my beliefs about the Communion of the Saints certainly pegging me as some sort of unbeliever to the Grand Master Pastor Marc Grizzard of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton North Carolina I need to mention how he says the Halloween Book and Bible Burning went.  It seems that the local law enforcement officials insisted that they take their event inside their church building.  I guess that the church does not have a fireplace so they had to resort to other means to be good citizens and comply with the law.  The website in bold letters claims “BOOK BURNING GREAT SUCCESS!” However they didn’t actually burn any books.  It seems that they had to use scissors and their bare hands.  I don’t know if they had a shredder available but Grand Master Pastor Marc puts it this way:

“Some have written praising God that he intervened and stopped the Book Burning because of the rain, protestors, and state laws about burning paper. Nothing was stopped. Our goal was to destroy garbage as noted below, and we did just that. We didn’t care how it was destroyed; only that it was destroyed. These same people must have never heard about “Paper, Rock, & Scissors.” Scissors cut paper, and paper tears real easy. We destroyed everything as planned. Praise God! God answered every prayer that everyone prayed, but they don’t like the answer.”

However they are planning for next year even as Grand Master Pastor Marc blasts his local Independent Fundamental Baptist neighbors: If there were any disappointments, it was that there were no other Independent Fundamental Baptist churches or individuals standing with us locally on the KJV. They hook up with the Southern Baptist and the Freewill Baptist to fight the liquor crowd, and the abortionist, but will not stand with KJV, the Word of God.” Seems that his local brethren can’t stand him or his methods either, thank God for some people with some sense of reality.  However he plans on people joining him next year saying: “Next year we will have others standing with us, as you will see. We have heard from hundreds of churches and individuals from around the world that will be happy to do the same thing next year.” We’ll see….

Anyway, to finish with him until next year or until he posts me on his heretic list, which I am thinking about asking him to do; I will share his one comment that puts everything in perspective.  It seems that the Grand Master Pastor Marc actually places the King James Bible over God himself, or the Deity Herself:     “God magnifies His Word above His name, and so do we.” This is called “Bibliodolatry” and it is as much of a sin as anything else, maybe worse because it involves putting a translation of the Word of God above God Himself.  Sorry Marc, you are playing with fire….

johnny damonJohnny Damon Helped Lead the Yankees in Game Four

Well the World Series is not being kind to the Phillies. Tonight’s game was close with the Phillies tying it on a Pedro Feliz home run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.  In the top of the 9th the Phillies brought in Brad Lidge who got Hideki Matsui to pop up to left and struck out.  Then Johnny Damon fought off Lidge and singled to left.  The Phillies shifted their infield to right when Mark Teixeira came up. Damon stole second and getting around Feliz went to 3rd which was not covered for 2 stolen bases in one play.  Lidge then hit Teixeira bringing up Alex Rodriguez who is returning to his playoff clutch form doubled and scored Damon to give the Yankees the lead.  Jorge Posada singled to drive in Teixeira and Damon to give the Yankees a three run lead.  This brought the Phillies to the plate to face Mariano Rivera who shut them down in order.  The determination on the faces of players like Rodriguez, Jeter, Damon, Teixeira and Posada shows a hunger to win the series. They are not gloating in interviews and keeping their cool.  These guys want to win and I predicted that they would win in six, but it is possible with their bats coming alive that they could win it in five.  In tomorrow’s game the amazing Cliff Lee and his 0.54 playoff ERA will face A. J. Burnett.  I think that the pitching matchup favors the Phillies however it is conceivable that Lee could revert to his past performance against the Yankees and get hit hard.

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Padre Steve’s Highs and Lows of 28 Years Service

Ooops, this should have posted the 25th…all references in the post though it posted today are for the 25th.  The meltdown was the 24th, not my duty night.

Note: I think that I have pretty much recovered from last night’s mini-meltdown, though tired have has a good day working some stuff that is pretty cool that could be a positive thing for Navy and VA Chaplains.  I think success does help mitigate some of the effects of a meltdown.  If today had been crappy and I hadn’t had a good talk with Elmer the Shrink it might have continued.  Now with some sleep I could be cooking with gas even though my house is all electric.

On to the Post:

Soldier Once and YoungEnlisted in National Guard 1982

“So we’re all dogfaces, we’re all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army. We’re mutants. There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us – we’re soldiers. But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years!” Bill Murray as John Winger in “Stripes” 1981

Well sports fans I am at the hospital tonight celebrating 28 years of service in the military. It really doesn’t seem like any more than 27 ½ but who’s counting right? And when I look back at the Army I joined I am reminded of Stripes.

I think that I have pretty much recovered from last night’s mini-meltdown, though tired have has a good day working some stuff that is pretty cool that could be a positive thing for Navy and VA Chaplains.  I think success does help mitigate some of the effects of a meltdown.  If today had been crappy and I hadn’t had a good talk with Elmer the Shrink it might have continued.  Now with some sleep I could be cooking with gas even though my house is all electric.

So 28 years ago today I went down and signed my name on the dotted line.  It was August 25th 1981 two months after the release of the movie Stripes and two months before I saw it with Judy at the $1 movie theater.  On that end of summer day I went down and signed my contract with the Army ROTC program at UCLA with the Chief Lord of Discipline himself, the Captain Bruce Lawson swearing me in.  He had just finished PT and though still in his PT clothes administered the Oath of Enlistment.  It was not much on ceremony but it was a start.  In fact most of my promotions in either the Army of the Navy have not come with much fanfare and I’m actually pretty okay with that so long as I get paid and get to do what I love doing which is being a Priest and getting to serve now as a Navy Chaplain.  So I followed with a trip down to the National Guard Armory on Victory Blvd in Van Nuys to enlist in the National Guard. Since I was not a scholarship student I was allowed to simultaneously enter the Guard.  So the 25th was kind of like a double header for me, I did the oath for the Guard later in the afternoon. It’s like Tommy Lasorda once said: “I love doubleheaders. That way I get to keep my uniform on longer.”

So I went in to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery and met the Company Commander, Captain J.J. Kramer, now a retired Colonel I believe and Major Charles Armagost, the Full Time Unit Administrator and Adjutant.  Wearing his green fatigues the good Major administered the Oath for the California National Guard, which differed from the Federal Oath in that it also included words about obeying the Governor of the State and the Laws of California etc…Following that I was walked down to the supply room where a rather rotund Sergeant began issuing me uniforms and field gear.  I got my first gift of US Military designer clothing and was told to report the Thursday after Labor Day for a “Battery Dark Night.”  So began my rather auspicious career.

I remember being in uniform in those early days without a single ribbon or medal to my name.  I’d look around and see all the guys who had served in Vietnam and some in Korea as well with all kinds of ribbons, medals, unit citations and qualification badges.  I would look at them and once I remarked to Judy that I wish that I would have a lot someday.  She accused me of whining, something that I feel is a mischaracterization of my attitude about not having anything and something that now with a full chest of ribbons, medals and qualification pins that she is not hesitant to remind me of and tell others about.

2LT Dundas 1983Look Mom One Ribbon

So what has transpired in 28 years?  Here are some of the highlights and a few lowlights of the of this adventure.

In 1981 it all began and things happened fast, within two weeks of enlisting I was driving an M-151A1 Jeep to Ft Irwin CA as part of battalion advance party and then spending the weekend learning to call in artillery fire. After going through hell and being destroyed and rebuilt by SFC Harry Ball, Drill Sergeant US Army like Richard Gere was in An Officer and a Gentleman I somehow got commissioned in part due to the forbearance of Major Lawson, the former Captain Lawson who has sworn me in.  Judy asks if I had my own “Puget Sound Deb” when she sees the movie with me that winter. However just prior to getting commissioned during my last annual training period at Camp Roberts I led team of Ersatz East German Kommando’s on raids against battalion rear area as the opposing forces.  I was almost run over in may M-151A1 by an M-548 Ammo Carrier during a strafing run coming down hills firing blanks from machine guns like the Rat Patrol and dropping Smoke and CS grenades in the vehicle’s path.  Later we captured the battery Operations Center during a firing mission. None of this made them happy but the Forward Observers and I had a blast.

After I got commissioned I attended the Medical Department Officer Basic Course at Ft Sam Houston TX and suffered for Jesus for 9 weeks in the Riverwalk Marriott hotel in downtown San Antonio. After this I spent 11 glorious weeks at Ft Knox Kentucky which by the way is in a “dry county” or at least it was back then  going through a 6 week course after being bumped by Saudi Arabian exchange officers.

557th comany command 1985Company Commander

From January 1984 through late December 1986 we were stationed with the 557th Medical Company Neubrucke and later Wiesbaden. Was a platoon leader and became company XO when our XO checked into a psych ward before Winter REFORGER. While in the field was promoted but o one realized that fact until we came out of the field in mid- February. In a late night hastily arranged ceremony which I had to drag Judy in from bed to see I was promoted and got my first real medal. In September I became a “relief pitcher” Company Commander when my new CO got fired. I was told “Lieutenant; clean up that Company.” After 7 months, and having to adjudicate close to 50 Article 15’s, and kicking a bunch of drug users out of the Army I was relieved by a Captain and I had my first and last Change of Command ceremony. Became a personnel officer at our group, pissed off the boss and had a miserable last couple months in Germany. However I completed my first row of ribbons made some really good lifelong German friends and learned to drive really fast and really good and developed a fine appreciation of good beer.

In 1987 I attended the Military Personnel Officer Course at Ft Benjamin Harrison which is in Indianapolis and continued on to Fort Sam Houston where I was assigned as the Adjutant for the Academy Brigade, Academy of Health Sciences.  I got promoted right after I got there and since Judy had not arrived I had the world’s best platoon sergeant, SFC Cynthia Carter help pin on my new Captain bars. Judy was quite happy that Cindy got to do this as she really liked her.  My Brigade Commander wondered what was up with that, but it was an honor to have her do the pinning. While there I worked on AIDS/HIV personnel policy and became “CINC AIDS” at the Academy. While there I collected my second Army Achievement Medal and an Army Commendation Medal.

Berlin WallBerlin Wall 1986

In 1988 I left Active Army to attend Seminary and was appointed as an Armor officer in Texas Army National Guard.  I was told by my boss LTC Jim Wigger that I was moving from the “frying pan into the fire as the chaplains were a cutthroat bunch” and that the “Medical Department was not even in the same league as the Chaplains.” When the Division Chaplain found out that a seminarian was getting ready to drive tanks he pitched a fit and had me enter the Chaplain Candidate program.  In seminary I attended  the Chaplain Officer Basic Course at Fort Monmouth NJ. As Deputy Course leader and Company “First Sergeant” pissed off lots of chaplains and seminarians. Thankfully I was backed up by LTC Rich Whaley who saved my ass for the first time and not the last time.  I met my friend Fr Jim Bowman who kept me from doing anything really stupid. In 1992 I graduated from seminary was ordained and become a chaplain and assigned to 111th Engineer Battalion in Abilene. That year I got thrown out of the Chaplain Officer Advanced Course when school changed a policy on Chaplain Candidates awaiting final approval to be chaplains to enter course. After Billy Martin style tantrum Rich Whaley saves my ass a second time.

In 1993 I went back to Chaplain Officer Advanced Course, made amends and did the appropriate penance.  Meet up with Fr Jim Bowman again. In the fall of 1994 finished the final phase of the Chaplain Officer Advance Course.  Happiness is Ft Monmouth in your rear view mirror. In the summer of 1984 I viewed the O.J. Chase live on miniature TV in M-577 Command Track with Lakers playoff game in split screen while at Fort Hood.

In January 1995 I moved to Huntington WV to take a job as a contract ER Chaplain.  I transferred from one former Confederate Unit to another going from the Texas to the Virginia Army National Guard.  In December I was promoted to Major and transferred to the Army Reserve and got rid of the 410 mile one way trip for a drill.

New MajorNew Major December 1995

In July of 1996 I got mobilized and sent to Germany to support Bosnia mission, lose job. While in Germany get to do a lot of cool stuff, got a bunch of medals and though the Chaplains there wanted me to be brought on regular active duty get told I am too senior to transfer to Regular Army. I actually think that the guy who made the decision remembered me from Chaplain School and did not want someone like me in “his” Chaplain Corps. Upon my return from Bosnia support the Reserves assigned to Ft Indiantown Gap PA as Installation Command Chaplain where in September 1998 I got to close down help close down the Federal side of things and transfer chapel and congregation to National Guard care. In October I returned to the reserves like a journeyman ball-player being sent back to AAA from the Majors. In December the Navy offered me a deal to play “in the show” on active duty and I took it, went from being an Army Reserve Major to Navy Lieutenant. My friend Father Fred Elkin was my first detailer and offered me a choice of East Coast or West Coast Marines when I asked for a ship.  We now serve together and get a good laugh about that now. It did turn out to be a good thing for me. One of the cool things about my time in the Navy has been since I have blown myself up enough in the Army and seen others do likewise that I know where the career “land mines” are and how not to step on them. This has been a great benefit to me.  It was like changing from one league to another in the middle of a baseball season.  The old stats don’t count for or against you when you start playing in the new league.

After Navy Chaplain School I was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp LeJuene NC. From then on my life has been going non-stop.  I was chaplain for 4 different battalions in the Division where Father John Kaul used me as a “relief pitcher” in situations where chaplains had either been fired for doing illegal or immoral things or replacing people who had to move on short notice orders. Did CAX at 29 Palms on multiple occasions and did a deployment to the Far East, Okinawa, Japan and Korea.  Collected more medals got my “old” version Fleet Marine Force Qualification. I was assigned to HQ BN 2nd MARDIV. 9-11 -01 attack happened. A couple of months later I reported to USS HUE CITY CG-66 in Mayport.

Dundas of the DesertDundas of the Desert 29 Palms 2000-2001

Not long after reporting went on the final work up exercises prior to deployment, deployed to the Horn of Africa, Northern Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and Mediterranean.  Was an advisor for a boarding team in Northern Arabian Gulf and made 75 boardings of detained smugglers.  We almost got to see the Indians and Pakistanis get in a nuclear war, that was a bit sporty and we supported air operations in Afghanistan. After a period in the yards during following deployment as well as work with the great Marines who served in the Battle of Hue City I checked off the ship in October 2003, again collecting more medals and ribbons.

Boarding partyBoarding Party 2002

I went to Norfolk where I was assigned to the Marine Corps Security Force Battalion and my Commanding Officers, Colonel Mike Paulovich and Colonel Donald Rogers sent me about the world to care for our Marines.  Over that time I probably averaged 2 trips a month out of the area, many overseas to Japan, Hawaii, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Bahrain, others to places far and wide in the Continental United States.  Colonel Paulovich and I probably worked more closely together than any commander that I have ever worked with and we went through many difficult times in that assignment. We are still friends to this day.  One of the cool things is the people that we work with. I was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in April 2006.  This meant that I had spent almost 16 years of my career wearing Captain or Lieutenant bars.  I again collected more ribbons and medals for the time with the Marines and was one of the first Navy Officers to get the Fleet Marine Force Officer Qualification pin while completing Marine Command and Staff College.

Belleau woodBelleau Wood France 2004

I then went to Navy EOD Group Two in Little Creek where I was the first chaplain assigned to EOD.  While there I got to go to Jordan to the Jordanian Army/UN Peace Operations Training Center and to Sicily.  I was snatched up to go to Iraq in July 2007 and served the most meaningful operational deployment of my career serving our Marine, Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Justice and Homeland Security advisors to the Iraqi Army, Police and Border Forces in Al Anbar Province.  I came back from Iraq with a great case of PTSD, a gift that keeps on giving.  I checked out of EOD in September 2007 again with more medals and ribbons to my current assignment at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth where I get to do what I am passionate about as a Priest and Navy Chaplain serving in a teaching hospital.

My Tom Clancy lookIraq 2008

Looking back it has been a long and strange trip and it is still an ongoing journey.  People ask me how I keep going even with the PTSD and it’s like Tommy Lasorda says “Guys ask me, don’t I get burned out? How can you get burned out doing something you love? I ask you, have you ever got tired of kissing a pretty girl?” Speaking of which now that I am on the way home after 31 or so hours at work I probably need to do with Judy when I see her.

Steve Summer Whites 2008July 2008, Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Navy?

Peace,  Steve+

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Implants? On my 13th Anniversary of Being a Priest…What’s up with that?

cantaloupes

I found out today that I’m going to get an implant….and I can’t believe it. And I find out about this on the 13th anniversary of being ordained as a Priest and I was not a happy camper.  The dentist looked at me and told me that the root canal which I had come in to complete would not be possible.  This kind of pissed me off, not at him but for the fact that I knew that this was going to happen.  Going in to today I knew from the first dentist who examined me two weeks ago that there was only a fifty-fifty chance of saving the tooth, but only a ten percent chance of that.  So when the dentist showed me the live camera images of the abyss that used to be the inside of my tooth and the fractures on both sides of the abyss I was not surprised.  Not happy, but not surprised.  Of course I was hoping and praying that the root canal would be done with and that I would not see dental again until my next exam.

As his team dug around in my mouth the dentist told me that they were going to have to set me up with Oral Surgery to extract the tooth and put an implant in its place.  Since my mouth was still full of crap I had difficult time trying to reply.  The crap included a rubber dam and its suspension system.  I was informed that this was to keep crap out of the abyss and keep it from getting infected. The dentist didn’t say crap, but that is what I inferred. I also had a butt-load of anesthetic aboard.  When he asked me the question: “Are you familiar with what an implant is?”  I mumbled an unintelligible answer that went something like “yam eh ike marl hmmmn wah”  And I kind of motioned over my chest with my hands to try to give as visual but my attempt at communication failed.  He said, I’ll wait until we’re done for you to answer and I said “thang u er.”  Since my woeful attempt at communication was not understood so I relaxed as best I could for the remainder of the procedure.

steve at dentist

When they were finished the resident had sealed the abyss, removed the dam and washed out my mouth.  My mouth, which still hurt some from the work two weeks ago, and the tooth which still had some throbbing as a bit of nerve had survived the first go round caused me some persistent pain even through this morning.   This particular tooth had been repaired twice as a child, the first by Doctor Mengele and once as an adult before it erupted two weeks ago.  Now after being excavated for the second time in two weeks my mouth felt like a battle zone even with the full effect of the anesthetic.

The dentist then asked about if I understood what an implant was and in my smart assed way said, “Yes, it’s like those things that they put in Mariel Hemingway back in the 1980s right?”  The dentist looked at me funny and then, maybe being just a bit older than me then shook his head and started laughing and said “No not that kind of implant.”   The resident and the technician being a bit younger than us took a bit longer to get it, and the dentist said, “I saw you motioning with your hands but just didn’t understand the connection.

So I will be getting an artificial root for the old tooth which will be surgically removed possibly under a general anesthetic.  I wonder which is worse, enduring a great deal of pain or going under as I am a fan of neither.  They say it will take 6-9 months to have the artificial root to be fused into the jaw bone, after which a new crown will be constructed over it.  I’m told that the entire process will take about a year to complete.  I get my consultation with the Oral Surgeons the middle of August so this story will probably go on in future blog posts in the coming months.

Today is also the 13th anniversary of me being ordained as a Priest at what used to be the Cathedral of the Resurrection, Life in Jesus Community when it was part of my Church.  I am ever grateful to the bishop who ordained me back then, in those days he was a teacher and father.  We parted ways when he led his community out of the Church after having his Archdeacon tell me that he was not leaving as the Church experienced a major crisis.  While his leaving bothered me it was the deception that I found most difficult and combined with actions of two other former bishops in the church which impacted me in a very personal and hurtful manner which ended our relationship.  Since he left I understand that he was removed from the leadership of his community and that the community was not doing well.  That saddened me as back in the mid and late 1990s it was a wonderful place where the ancient and modern converged, where hospitality and kindness was shown and people were blessed.  I do not know what happened over the years, but it is sad as I cannot go back to the place where I was ordained and have it be the same.  When the bishop’s council on ordination recommended that I be ordained I was told by one of the priests said “Steve, you’re home.”  Unfortunately only one of that council remains in the church, and that community is no longer home.

891Christmas Eve in Iraq

Since then I have been blessed.  I was ordained on the evening of July 7th the eve of the Feast of Saint Killian and his companions, an Irish missionary to what is now the German area of Franconia where at Würzburg he was martyred in 689 AD.  It was just a few weeks later as a mobilized Army Reserve Chaplain I reported to Würzburg to support the Bosnia operation in my first assignment as a Priest.  I lived in town as there was “no room at the inn” on base and since I spoke German I would head downtown in the evenings for Mass at the Killian Dom (Killian Cathedral) as well as visits to many of the other churches.  I found it interesting that the occasion of my ordination was the eve of feast of the man responsible for planting the Christian faith in the first place I would serve as a Priest.  I feel quite a connection to St Killian as a result of this and whenever I go to Germany I attempt to attend a Mass at the Killian Dom as well as a few steins of Würzburger Hofbrau Pilsner.

killian domKillian Dom Wurzburg Germany

Since then I have celebrated the Eucharist and served God’s people around the world in places that I would have never dreamed.  My first Eucharist at sea was on the USS Frederick LST-1184 on Easter 2001, the same ship that in high school Navy Junior ROTC I first felt the call to be a chaplain in March of 1978.  I’ve celebrated near the fence line at Guantanamo Bay, all over Al Anbar Province, been a base chaplain and served in units and at sea all over the world.  I celebrated my 7th anniversary celebrating at the ruins of the Martyr Church of Saint Phillip the Apostle in Pamukale Turkey, the site of Ancient Hierapolis.

Today for the first time I spent it in a dentist’s chair.  So my mouth feels like a bombed out combat zone, I have the shattered shell of a tooth being held together by a temporary patch and praying that it won’t come apart before it is extricated and I have to wait over a month to just begin talking about the details of how process will unfold with the Oral Surgeon who will perform it.  Tonight I will try to eat something soft so as not to tempt fate, drink a good beer or two or three and get ready for work tomorrow.

Pray for me a sinner.

Peace, Steve+

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