Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reflections on My Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of the day my wife, Jennifer, and I were joined together in wedded bliss. While that statement may seem contrived or corny, it really is neither. Bliss is what we have - really.

Though many of you who read this do not know her, those who do know Jen is a wonderful lady. She is a faithful, faith-filled, loving and kind person. Those who take the time to get to know her quickly find she is a gem among women. I could not be more pleased that she is a part of my life.

Some people find it surprising we met via We find that fact to be a great part of our story together. Perhaps one day I will regale it to you here. When we married we filled out a survey on eHarmony and received a very nice crystal candy dish as a wedding gift. It sits on our entertainment center and holds plug adapters for our various electronics.

This is the first year we haven't gone on an "Annual Honeymoon" as I call them. We decided to cut back on our travel a little so we could pay off debt as part of our Total Money Makeover. Next week, though, we're going to see Dave Ramsey live in Houston. I think that will make up for it. Hopefully we'll be able to resume our honeymoon tradition back up next year.

What a great time we've had together. We still smooch and hug often throughout the day. Sometimes people tell us we're "disgusting" and that we need to "get a room." We don't care, because we're "In Luuuuuuv."

So, on this day I declare that I love my wife tremendously and I don't regret one single second of our life together. I am very grateful she's here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Book Review: "The White Horse King" by Benjamin Merkle

"The White Horse King - The Life of Alfred The Great" is an excellent biography of the Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex and Mercia. Alfred is the only English king be called "The Great" and the title is well earned.

Alfred was a wise man who took education and learning quite seriously. He became king during a tumultuous time for his country and led his people in success and excellence. His ascent to the throne coincided with terrible war against Danish Viking invaders bent on conquest and pillage. Although unable to completely drive the Danes from the British Isles, his military reforms set the stage so that his grandson, King Aethelstan, would be finally able to do so.

Alfred was a bit of a Renaissance man, valuing education not only for himself, but also for his people. His efforts to encourage literacy was quite progressive for 9th century Europe. He was also responsible for a renewed interest in literature, leadership development and Christian studies. He commissioned the translation of many great works of the time from Latin into the Anglo-Saxon tongue and was even personally responsible for translating part of the Bible's Book of Psalms into his native language; this being hundreds of years before The Protestant Reformers or King James would create their translations.

But it was Alfred's military campaigns against the Danes which really set him apart. The book tells the story of a man who studied his enemies and looked for weaknesses to exploit. He learned from his mistakes and sought not to repeat them. He also was not afraid to look at his own forces to look for ways to improve how they functioned. His ability to gather people around him and inspire them to loyalty and greatness makes him an example excellence in leadership.

If you have an interest in history, English history in particular, then this book is for you. Benjamin Merkle does an excellent job of bringing to life one of the great kings of history. He makes the story interesting and compelling while keeping it factual and not a piece of "hero worship."

Disclaimer: I am a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger program. Although Thomas Nelson Publishing provided the book at no cost to me, this review is my honest opinion of the work

Friday, January 15, 2010

Desert Storm/Desert Shield 20th Anniversary

2010 Marks the 20th Anniversary of the beginning of the war in the Persian Gulf which was known as Desert Storm. On August 2, 1990 Iraqi forces commanded by Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, an action which brought the world against them and me on a free trip to the Middle East courtesy of Uncle Sam.

I've been regaling you with stories from my military career in this space for some time now. This year I will focus on some of the stories, some humorous and some not, which happened during that time.

To kick things off, I refer you to the story of someone else, Mark Murphy - someone I've never met. He put some of his Desert Shield/Desert Storm experiences on line back in 2007. Please check out "Eye Of The Desert Storm." I found his stories interesting and I suspect you will, too.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Inspection

For a time during my Army career I was assigned to the 66th MI Company, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. At that time, the 3rd ACR was at Ft Bliss, TX, just outside El Paso.

My roommate Jim and I were both from the Detroit area. We tried to bring as much Motor City culture as well as creature comforts with us into our barracks room. When the First Sergeant said we could have cable TV, we had it hooked up within days so we could watch hockey. When we asked for a phone, he gave permission for that as well, provided we paid the bill.

We had things set up very nicely. At the time ESPN carried the NHL nationally, so we had "Hockey Night in Texas" on whatever evening they had a game. That was a night for pizza and beer.

And, not just any beer. I've always been a bit of a beer snob (much so since living in Europe, too), so we weren't drinking just any crappy beer. No, we had to have Molson Canadian. We found one store on the west side of El Paso who would see us Molson Canadian - but he had to special order it and would only sell it to us by the case.

That wouldn't have been a problem, except that the rules our unit had was that there could be only one six-pack of beer per person in a barracks room at any given time. With 24 bottles in a case, that meant two six-packs per person. We felt it was worth the risk, though. After all, what were we to do about it?

Over one Christmas holiday Jim and I both went to Michigan on leave. When we returned, we headed out to our favorite store to purchase our Molson beer. The proprietor informed us that he was closing up for a couple of weeks to go on vacation, so he got us two cases of Molson in case we wanted extra while he was gone. Of course, we took him up on his kind offer.

I had a small dorm refrigerator in which we kept our beer. In good military fashion, all the bottles were lined up neatly inside with the maple leaves on the caps pointed upwards; neat and orderly. Since I just came back from Michigan, I also had the extra room in the refrigerator stuffed with Vernors Ginger Ale, a soft drink which was not available in El Paso at the time.

The Monday we went down and outside for our first morning formation. When we assembled together, we were told the barracks people were going to have a Health And Welfare Inspection. During a "Health And Welfare" the people would go inside and stand outside their rooms until the Commander and First Sergeant came in. Then they went inside their rooms, opened their wall lockers and stood by while the Command, First Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant, and just about anyone else with stripes or bars who cared to would go through all their stuff looking for contraband and checking for cleanliness.

When we got upstairs, Jim and I took our team sergeants aside and let them know we had more than the permissible amounts of beer in our rooms. While in the middle of explaining why we had the extra beer, the Commander and his entourage arrived to check our room. They already weren't too happy as they found more than a few two-liter bottles of pee in the locker of one person who lived in the room across the hall. Apparently he was too lazy to walk down the hall to the latrine when he needed to pee in the middle of the night. I'm glad he wasn't my roommate.

As the people went through our stuff, Jim and I were summoned into the room. The C.O. queried me, "Specialist, why do you have a case of beer in your wall locker? I'm sure you're well aware of the rules about how much beer you can have in your room."

"Um, well, Sir, it's like this; we like to drink Molson Canadian beer. Only one store in town will sell it to us and the guy who runs the place special orders it for us, so we have to buy it by the case."

"Oh, I think we can let that go. What do you say, First Sergeant?" I don't recall what he said, but I assume he agreed.

They made their way to Jim's locker and found two more six-packs in his locker. "I understand one case, but there's another two six-packs in here. What's going on with that."

Jim responded to this one. "Well, Sir, the guy who runs the store we purchase the beer from closed his store for two week to go on vacation. Since we're regular customers, he was nice enough to buy two cases so we wouldn't run out while he's gone. He was so nice about taking care of us, we didn't want to refuse."

"Oh. Well, I guess that's OK."

Then he went to the refrigerator.

"More beer?"

"Yes, Sir," Jim responded. "We have to buy by the case, so we have two cases total."

"Oh, I see," the C.O. replied as he looked back into the refrigerator. "Hey, you've got Vernors in here."

"Yes, Sir," I responded. "I just came back from Michigan, so I stocked up on some while I was up there."

"Wow, I haven't seen that in years. I grew up in Ohio and we drank that all the time."

"Would you like one?"

"Oh, I couldn't."

"Please," I said, "I've got plenty. Help yourself."

"Well, Thank you. I won't drink it now, it's a bit early. I'll have it with lunch."

Then the phone rang.

Neither Jim nor I answered since we were in the middle of an inspection. After four or five rings the C.O. finally asked, "You've got a phone in here, too? Are one of you guys going to answer it?"

I picked up the receiver. It was my mom.

"Hi. Oh, hi mom."

"Oh, I'm fine. Things are going well."

"Yes. Hey, mom. We're in the middle of an inspection. Can I call you back later?"

"No, it's OK. You didn't know. Yes, I'll call you later."

"OK. Love you, too. Bye."

"You guys are living the 'Life of Reilly' up here, aren't  you? Well, everything looks OK here." And with that the entourage left.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

In Memory: Richard Flick

I just found out that one of the men I served with during Desert Storm/Desert Shield was killed in an auto accident in 2006. I was informed of his passing by a mutual friend. Although I'd not had any contact with him since 1992, news of his death still struck me.

Rich Flick was a friendly, funny guy. When I met him he was full of youthful exuberance and excellent at what he put his hands to. He was a quick learner and eager to participate in whatever tasks were going on. He was quick with a joke and often made me laugh out loud.

  • If I recall correctly, he was the one who nicknamed me "Uncle B."
  • I, and the others in the platoon, called him "Flickster."
  • Also, if I recall correctly, he was the guy I was told who barfed on Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Supposedly, he was on a training flight and got air sick, and, rather than barf inside the cabin (a big "no-no") he opted to open the door and let loose over a parking lot in the town.
  • He and another guy were party animals for a time when we returned from the Middle East. Like I mentioned above, he was full of youthful exuberance when I knew him. There was no way I could have kept up with the pace those two guys maintained.
  • At a bar-b-que held at another of our platoon member's home, he and three other guys tossed me into the pool. I remember it scared my, then, 2-year-old son because he thought they were hurting me. Far from it, though. We all had a good laugh over it. At least the host of the party was kind enough to empty my pockets before they tossed me in so my stuff didn't get ruined.
  • He could also be very quiet and contemplative. He was very generous, too.
It was nice to read about the accomplishments he made since the time we served together. I would rather have read them under very different circumstances, though. 

He was a good man.