Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tribute to CSM Lonnie Bagwell

In just a few lines his life is summarized:
Lonnie M. Bagwell
CSM U.S. Army
Aug. 16, 1951
Jun.16, 2006
Loving Husband
Beloved Father
Dear Grandpa
Proud Veteran
Until We Meet Again

There are notable achievements recorded on this piece of stone, especially in this day of quickie divorces and fathers who abandon their kids. This man did neither, and that alone makes him great.

But, what those few lines don’t tell is the story of how he positively affected a group of soldiers, some young and impressionable and some older and in need of focus.

I was a young man in the Army in 1986 stationed at Ft. Bliss serving with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. I was certainly in need of guidance at a time when, as happens in the military, a large group of our leaders left and some new ones came in. Included in that group was the new First Sergeant, Lonnie Bagwell.

A few of us were a bit concerned about this particular change. Bagwell had a reputation of being tough, mean and ugly. For a group Military Intelligence “weenies” this was hardly the type of leader we thought we needed. For my part, I was completely wrong about what kind of leader we needed – First Sergeant Bagwell was exactly the kind of leader our company (and I in particular) needed.

He came in and cleaned house. He was tough, expecting a lot from those in his charge. But, he was also fair, publicly praising those who deserved praise and privately correcting those who needed correcting. He pushed us to achieve more than we thought we could.

As I watched his example, I learned many important things helped me along as I progressed through my own Army career. Among these were taking care of soldiers, accomplishing the mission, doing the right thing even when no one is looking, working on and with a team to get things done. To be sure, I already knew these things in my head, but his example was a huge encouragement to follow through and start doing them.

Even now, over 20 years after my experience serving with him, I still remember those lessons. Many of those who served with me at the time also hold this man in high esteem. That also shows the tremendous positive impact he had on so many of us even though our time of working together was relatively short. I have no doubt he affected many more soldiers the way he did us through the rest of his career; eventually retiring as a Command Sergeant Major.
Recently, while on a trip to the Midwest, I was able to take a short detour and stop at the cemetery where this man's body now rests. It was an honor to place a small flag on his grave as a small gesture of my respect for the man.

Yes, being a loving husband, father and grandfather make a man great. Achieving the rank of Command Sergeant Major can also show greatness. In this man's case, the inscription on the stone only tells a very small part of the story. I'm sure are hundreds of people this man touched in a positive way which will make this world just that much a better place.

Monday, August 20, 2007

NHL - NASCAR Hockey League?

On Saturday I was shopping for school clothes with my boys at the local Wal-Mart. As we were perusing the merchandise I happened to notice a rack with hockey jerseys on it. In Texas, it's a little unusual to find hockey jerseys at the Wal-Mart, and I expected to see Dallas Star jerseys as they are the closest NHL team to us here in the Heart of Texas.

Imagine my surprise when I pulled one out and saw that it wasn't the Dallas Stars, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the thing.

Just in case someone doesn't believe me, I couldn't find the jerseys on Wal-Mart's web site, but I did find them on the NASCAR Things web site.

I know NASCAR is very popular and there are items ranging from toilet paper to underwear and everything in between with images of cars and drivers on them. But, hockey jerseys? Next thing you know, NHL teams will sponsor cars in some kind cross-promotion deal.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hugo Chavez - Consolidating Power

Chavez proposes unlimited re-election

Chavez proposed changing the Venezuelan constitution to extend the term for presidents from 6 to 7 years and to allow a sitting president to be re-elected to an unlimited number of consecutive terms.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Of course there would be elections every year - elections with just Chavez and his cronies on the ballot. Just like the elections held in Germany during the '30s and '40s, or like the ones in the former Soviet Union, or those which are held in Cuba today.

In the end it's the Venezuelan people who will be the losers in such elections.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Return of the Son of Innocent Until Proven Guilty

When you think you have problems, often you hear about someone who has much bigger problems than you. I read an example of this in today's column by Ted Nugent in the Waco Trib entitled "Punks in black robes, courts of corruption." I feel a little ashamed for feeling sorry for myself dealing with my child support problem (See "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" and "Return of 'Guilty Until Proven Innocent'")

Ted tells the story of a man who was forced to pay child support despite the fact that the DNA evidence proved he wasn't the father of the child. Even the child's mother asserted she had never met the man who was paying support for her child. The DA and the judge both admit there were serious holes in their case, but that someone had to pay.

This man's story is amazing. In our country, with all the technological tools available to the police, prosecutors and courts - that someone can be forced to pay support for the child of a person he never even met is absolutely incredible. Instead of spending their time and resources trying to find the real father of this child they waste it putting the screws to an innocent man.

Yesterday, a friend told me of a man in Michigan who was forced to pay child support based not on actual salary, but based on what his salary should be when the average salary for his occupation was factored in. I'm would certainly be glad to hear that judge will force this man's employer to give him a raise. Oh, wait, that would be unfair to the employer. We certainly can't have any unfairness, now can we?

I wrote in an earlier blog I believe real deadbeat parents need to be prosecuted and forced to pay to support the children they helped bring into this world. But - some common sense and real justice needs to prevail as well.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Return of "Guilty Until Proven Innocent"

"Last time on 'Guilty Until Proven Innocent:'"

The State AG Office did a check of my child support payments and did not have a record of over $7000 in payments I made directly to my kids' mom. They immediately got a court order to garnish my wages for $100 per month to make up those payments without any type of communication with me to find out why those payments might be missing. I spoke with someone at the AG office and found out how to show I made the payments. Our story continues ...

I got the form from the AG Office, got the information about the payments I made directly to my kids' mom, and filled the form out. She was nice enough to meet me at the notary's office and we finished up the form.

Here's where the trouble starts over again:

My wife picked me up for our regular Friday lunch date. I planned to drop the form off at the AG's Child Support Office in my town. After we had a nice lunch, we headed towards the office. Right then, my phone started beeping - that's never a good sign. It was beeping to let me know I got some text messages that there was a problem at my office. My wife, being the great sport she is, agreed to drop the form off for me.

Fast-forward to that afternoon after work when I go to pick up my kids. Their mom comes out and tells me that the AG office called to ask whether the form was actually signed by her.

I was incensed at that.

Not only did they now question my integrity, they also questioned the integrity of my wife and the notary who innocently witnessed my kids' mom sign it. Amazing.

Thankfully, my ex-wife was kind enough to go to the AG Office and verify she signed it. The people there told her that those forms are never dropped off by the "current wife" with the ex-wife's permission. If that's the case, perhaps they should include instructions on the form as to how it should be delivered. If a notarized signature isn't good enough to prove the form's validity, the form should be changed.

Still in all, I am amazed at the mess this caused. Hopefully we have it all cleared up and I have been proven innocent.