Sunday, June 26, 2011

You Know It's Been A Bad Day When......

You walk out of the back door to leave the office and find your boss dumpster diving!

Grumble, grumble, grumble

Almost out of there


This happened one day last week.  Joe was leaving the office for the day and had a bag of trash to put in the dumpster.  He forgot, however, that in the same hand he had a another bag that was NOT for the dumpster. 

I HAD to record this for posterity!  LOL

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Work Environment Is Inspiring To Me Each Day - I Am Beyond Fortunate

OK, and a wee bit cluttered with paper, too.  I rarely notice the paper.  :)

Not only do I love my job and the people with whom I work but each day I walk into the following.  How could life be any better?

It has been and continues to be a privilege to support our men and women in uniform, our Wounded Warrior, Veterans and their families.  I don't do what I do for recognition but when it comes my way like the treasures you see in these photos it means more than there are words to express.  Thank you all for your sacrifices and your love.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Against All Odds With No Losses - The Rescue of Capt Roger Locher

One of my very dear friends and a Vietnam Veteran shared the link with me for the video below. WOW! Just WOW! It reminded me of how many stories of prior wars are out there that should be told or have been told but not heard by so many of us. My friend who shared this with me was the Commander of Company B (Bravo Co), 2-503rd, 173rd that was brought up on Okinawa and part of the first combat jump into Vietnam.

It also reminded me of another Vietnam Veteran friend of mine, Pete, who I've been meaning to write about for a few years now. I'll devote an entire post to Pete.

Meanwhile I hope you will watch this video about the rescue of Capt Roger Locher as told by Brig. Gen. Steve Richie.  I recommend tissues.  I am grateful EVERY day for the men and women who place everyone else before themselves to keep each other and our nation safe and free.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tim Hetherington - A Celebration of Life Departed - May 24, 2011

"There is no way to express my devastation and sorrow at the death of my dear friend, Tim Hetherington in Misrata, Libya.  Tim was one of the most courageous and principled journalists I have ever known. The good that he accomplished – both with his camera, and simply as a concerned person in some of the most devastated countries in the world – cannot be measured. I can’t believe he is truly gone." Sebastian Junger; April 20, 2011

Tim Hetherington
December 5, 1970 to April 20, 2011

Like so many who knew Tim I'll never forget the morning of April 20, 2011.  About mid morning I got a text message from someone wanting to know "where is Sebastian?"  I thought that was an odd text message.  I replied that I knew he'd been in New York a couple of days prior.  Then I got a message that their was "chatter" that Tim Hetherington had been killed in Libya.  I replied back that I didn't believe that could be true as Sebastian had told me Tim had left Libya and was on his way home.  But then I got a message that their were definitely reports that Tim "may" have died in Libya.  So I called Sebastian.  To be quite honest I remember very little about our short conversation other than him confirming it to be true.  Within a half hour the media exploded with news of Tim and Chris Hondros' death.  I, like many, was devastated.

On Tuesday May 24, 2011 a Celebration of Life Departed was held for Tim Hetherington at The First Presbyterian Church in New York City.  I was honored and grateful that Sebastian invited me to attend.  The Gothic style church built in the mid 1800s was packed; even the balconies were filled, with friends and colleagues.  Tim's parents, sister and brother from England were in attendance.  It was a somber, joyous, moving and painfully emotional celebration.

After the Welcome and Invocation followed by a time of Meditation, Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven was played on the church's grand piano.  Sebastian Junger left his seat to stand before the crowd and eulogize Tim.  I had spoken briefly with Sebastian a few times since Tim's death and his voice always gave away his sorrow and anguish.  But seeing him that day really brought it all home how deeply Tim's death was affecting him.  His grief was visible.  In true Sebastian style when he spotted me he came over to give me a hug.  I didn't want to let go.

As Sebastian walked up the steps and to the pulpit I couldn't stop the tears.  I was grateful to have a dear friend, Jo Lombardi, sitting next to me.  In part he said, “He was terrifyingly brave, and he made them laugh. If you can do only those two things and not fall behind on patrol they [the soldiers] are good to you.”

Junger said, “Tim changed the world with his work, and the world changed him. He was seeking those changes.” He said Hetherington “allowed people access to his heart.” In his work in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, Junger said, Hetherington was a better journalist thanks to his openness to experiences and people.

At one point in his eulogy Sebastian recommended to all those who knew and loved Tim to "talk to him."  He said he had done a lot of talking to Tim over the past weeks and it had helped him immeasurably. 

Franz Schubert's Piano Trio in E Flat Andante conmoto  was played by a trio of piano, cello and violin. The musical interludes were an incredible touch throughout the service. They allow time to reflect on what each speaker had said and for most of us it allowed time to pull ourselves together.

Brendan O'Byrne, Aron Hijar, Santana Rueda and Marc Solowski quietly moved from their seats to the pulpit.  All four men are former Paratroopers of Battle Company, 2-503rd, 173rd.  Tim and Sebastian spent many months with these men and their battle buddies at OP Restrepo in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.  As Brendan approached the microphone the other 3 men quietly stood shoulder to shoulder in support of him.  Brendan began to deliver a speech he had written on behalf of the Soldiers.  Not long into his speech he paused and said something along the lines of "this prepared speech doesn't feel right.  I'd like to just speak about what Tim meant to all of us." 

“He came a stranger and left a brother,”  said O’Byrne. “He went out there again and again and again. He didn’t have to.” He noted, “If it weren’t for him, our stories would have been lost in the chaos of war.”

O’Byrne said Hetherington continued their friendship after their time in Afghanistan. “I came home with a massive amount of PTSD. Tim let me stay in his house,” and asked for nothing in return. “He said, ‘Get your feet on the ground, and don’t drink.’ ” O’Byrne said he had no words to describe what Hetherington meant to the platoon. “We cared about him so much.”

There wasn't a dry eye in the church at the end of Brendan's eulogy.  As the four men quietly walked back to their seats I couldn't help but notice how they had allowed the "Warrior" to take over.  Total professionals.  No outward showing of emotion but their eyes gave them each away.  I've never been so proud of four men in my life.  My heart was physically hurting for them and there was nothing I could do.

After another musical interlude the love of Tim's life, Idil Ibrahim, stepped to the pulpit.  Idil's

Among many things, Idil said of Tim, "many mourned him as a talented photographer, filmmaker, teacher, colleague, friend, “and brother from the front line.” To Ibrahim, however, Hetherington was, among other things, “partner, love, future, friend,” as well as “movie star,” “preferred dance partner,” “poet,” and “fashion stylist.” Though she said, “I mourn the loss of our future together” and “the children we’ll never have,” she noted that shortly before Hetherington left for Libya, they had a conversation about death. “I’ve truly lived,” Hetherington told her. She said Hetherington “exuded joie de vivre,” and was “the most brilliant person I know.” She said, “He taught me most about love and for that I’m truly grateful.”

Christopher Anderson was next to eulogize Tim.  He and Mike Kamber (who followed Christopher) are both photographers who have known and worked with Tim.  Christopher said "that while poring over Hetherington’s work recently, he forgot about photographic craft, and felt that he was seeing into people’s lives. “His work was not about reporting a story but about recording an experience he shared with people,” Anderson said, before reading an impressionistic passage from the foreword to Hetherington’s first book, "Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold," in which he had described the sights and rhythms of a street in Monrovia."

I am fortunate to have an autographed copy of "Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold".  It is a moving and powerful work about the people of Liberia during their civil war.  It already was a cherished item but is even more so now.

Between Christopher and Mike, Meta Dia and Shahar Mintz sang Redemption Song by Bob Marley.  I struggled to remain composed as I watch Sebastian's shoulders shake from grief as the two men were singing.

Mike Kamber told "that for a generation of photographers, Hetherington seemed to be “leading us forward. He was changing photojournalism. He was also leading us forward as a human being” through his humility and imagination. Hetherington, he said, was capable of “flights of fancy,” like an idea he had to do a piece on soldiers sleeping in their outpost in Afghanistan. The idea became Hetherington’s acclaimed multimedia installation, “Sleeping Soldiers.”

After Mike spoke there was a video tribute to Tim.  A selection of photos that Tim had taken as well as photos of him throughout his professional life filled a large screen that was wheeled to the center of the church.  Stay Together for the Kids by Blink 182 played as the imagines by Tim and of Tim passed one by one.

Tim's sister, Victoria, and his brother, Guy, made their way to the pulpit.  They, along with Tim's parents, had flown in from London for the service.  Victoria stepped to the pulpit and told story after story about growing up with Tim.  She had us all laughing and smiling as we remembered him. 

She spoke of how Tim's energy, curiosity and desire to engage with people were evident even at a young age. Both siblings emphasized that Hetherington, who was born in England, “loved his life in New York,” and in particular, Victoria noted, “the lifelong friends” he made there. Victoria noted how much Hetherington enjoyed the company of his friends’ children and his own nephew and niece. After she informed her children of their uncle’s death, she said, her four-year-old daughter worried that God wouldn’t let him into heaven: “Because he’s the naughtiest person. He throws us in the swimming pool with all our clothes on.”

Victoria quoted a line attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “In the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years,” and expressed her gratitude that her brother had experienced so much in his 40 years.

Meta Dia and Shahar Mintz again stepped forward.  This time it was to perform One Love by Bob Marley.  It was next to impossible but some how I kept from making a fool of myself as the emotion took over.  As I sat there thinking of Tim, listening to the lyrics and watching Sebastian, Tim's siblings and parents and those who had worked with him give in to the emotion it was overwhelming.

Towards the middle of the song Brendan, Santana, Marc and Aron quietly moved from their seats, stepped towards the front of the church them, single file, made their way around the side and to the back.  Thankfully I knew what was coming but I still found myself ill prepared.  I turned to look towards the back of the church and saw them moving silently up the aisle.  Santana and Marc were each holding a folded American flag. (I apologize for the poor quality of the photo)

Sebastian described this part of the service best in a recent Vanity Fair article:

"Finally four American vets stood up, men from Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne who had been under fire with Tim and me many times in eastern Afghanistan. They filed out of their pew carrying two folded American flags that had been sent by Senator John McCain, himself a veteran of Vietnam. The young men presented my country’s flag to the Hetherington family and then to Idil.  (Note by blog author - the men didn't file from their seats with the flag - rather they came from the rear of the church).

I missed most of that beautiful moment because I was crying too hard, but later I did savor one comforting thought: this may be one of the few countries in the world where a senator would see fit to present the national flag to a woman of Somali origin in honor of an Englishman killed in Libya. Whatever criticisms one might level at our county, we are sometimes capable of including the entire world in our embrace. In the midst of our painful debate about immigration, about war, and about our responsibility to other countries, it is an important thing to remember. It was perhaps one of the reasons that Tim had moved here—to escape what he felt to be the stultifying atmosphere of London."

Santana and Aron presented a flag to Idil:

While Marc and Brendan presented one to Tim's parents, sister and Brother.  (This photo is awful but it's all I have)

I am grateful to Andi Fehl for contacting Senator McCain's office and hand delivering the flags.  VERY GRATEFUL.  Thank you Andi.

After the service concluded the crowd made its way quietly out of the church.  There were many hugs exchanged but very little in the way of conversation.  It was an exceptionally somber time and evident that Tim Hetherington was missed as much that day - if not even more - than the day the news of his terribly early and untimely death raced around the globe.

After the service a reception was held at aperture gallery where Tim's works of "Sleeping Soldiers" and his introspective film "Diary" are still on display.

A friend of Tim's from their high school (boarding school) years had brought along a stack of photos from those early years.  I wish I had written his name down but didn't.  He shared photo after photo with us (including Aron, Marc, Santana and Brendan) while telling very animated stories about each photo.

Photos of Tim in High School:

Sebastian graciously introduced me to Tim's father, Alistair, at the reception.  I cannot even begin to tell you what a privilege it was to speak with him for a few minutes.  The sadness in his eyes was immeasurable and struck me to the core of my heart. As I conveyed condolences to he and his family from a number of people who had asked me to do so his composure, thankfulness and  graciousness were comforting.  He expressed his thankfulness to all of those who are mourning Tim's loss and for all of the kind words and support.

I really don't know how to end this post.  I think of Tim, Idil and Sebastian every day.  Even though I attended the celebration of life departed for Tim it still just doesn't seem real or possible that he is gone.  And in so many ways, so very many ways, it just seems so wrong and unfair.  He did so much for so many- many who don't even know him .  I know that his legacy will carry on forever.  But to think of what he would have done if given more years on this earth, well, I cannot comprehend all that he would have accomplished and all of the lives he would have touched.

So I guess I'll just close with this photo of the men of Restrepo, the ROCK Paratroopers, who were there to represent their Platoon and Regiment.  Beyond that they were there to remember and mourn one of their brothers - another one of their brothers taken way too soon.

Marc, Brendan, Aron and Santana

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Delta Air Lines Didn't Do Anything Wrong

I've been at work all day and attempting to monitor this flap over Delta Air Lines charging excess baggage fees to a group of Soldiers returning from deployment.  The longer the day went on the angrier I got.  But NOT at Delta.  I'm angry at all of those who made the choice to slam Delta for their policy. 

Whether you know me or not I can assure you that there are few people in this nation who support our military as much and as fervently as I do.  But I can also assure you that this attack on Delta Air Lines is, to me, without merit.

I TOTALLY get it that this group (and I'd love to know what unit they are from) was tired, ready to get home, in no need of hassle or issues.  I absolutely get it that we don't pay our military enough to start with.  And I completely get it that these men were returning from a deployment and only wanted to get home to their loved ones, a hot shower and comfy bed and a home cook meal.

But I also get it that this policy that Delta has been smeared for all day is shared by many, if not all, domestic airlines in the US.  Well, it was.  By now I'm sure many are scurrying to update their websites with the new policy that Delta has now accepted.  If there is any blame to be placed here perhaps we should look to the DoD.  Or the Army.  Or maybe even some Rear Detachment person who dropped the ball on this.  Unfortunately this happened to a group that had some people traveling and in a piss poor mood.  I'm "ok" that they had a piss poor attitude after being in Afghanistan for so long.  But I'm disappointed as hell at their lack of professionalism on this matter.  Quite frankly I'd be happy to hear that they got a good ass chewing from their Command when they got home and that they are made to apologize to Delta.

It's too bad that this group of returning Soldiers wasn't big enough to warrant military airlift all the way to their home base.  If that had been the case then none of this would have happened.  But this isn't the first group or individual to face having to pay excess baggage fees to an airline for baggage they are required to have with them on domestic flights.  And, I dare say, it won't be the last.  I know many Soldiers, usually Reservists and National Guard, who have run up against this issue.  They pay then get reimbursed.  That's the way the Army works.  I have no idea about the other branches of service.

I've flown Delta Air Lines 2 million miles in my lifetime.  I've flown about 600,000 on other airlines.  They all have good days and bad days; good employees and not so good employees.  The Delta employee who charged those Soldiers DID NOT do anything wrong.  He or she was doing their job as they have been instructed to do - as agreed to by the airline WITH the Department of Defense.

I've seen a plethora of nasty comments all over the web today directed towards Delta.  I venture to say that most of those comments have been made by people that I HATE to fly with.  People with egos and demands that make flying unpleasant for everyone.  It's bad enough that flying isn't what it used to be - smaller seats, less cabin service, more restrictions on ticket purchases,, changes, etc.  Add in the "I don't give a shit about anyone but me on this plane" attitude by so many and I'd just rather walk anymore.

I know from personal experience that Delta Air Lines is a HUGE supporter of our troops.  I personally know Delta employees who have, and continue, to bend over backwards to assist military personnel and their families.  But then there is the handful of Delta employees who make them all look bad at times.  Like the afternoon I was in the Atlanta airport a couple of years ago and several Soldiers were trying to get home to the Kansas City area for R & R.  There were severe thunderstorms and tornadoes throughout the Midwest.  Flights had been cancelled all day and when I fight was finally about to board for Kansas City people were volunteering their seats to the Soldiers who were on the wait list.  The Delta gate agent, who told me he was a Veterans (and I didn't buy it at all) refused to allow those volunteering their seats to give them to the Soldiers.  He told me that he HAD to go down the list in order of priority.

I stepped down the concourse to find a supervisor.  Long story short, when it was all said and done and because of flight ops being a mess, Delta was able to change the equipment for the flight from a smaller jet to a 757 in order to accommodate everyone and get them home.  They didn't have to do that because now that put the 757 in a location Delta didn't serve with 757 equipment but by doing so those Soldiers got home that night instead of one or two days later if Delta hadn't made equipment changes.  That is just one of many stories I could tell about various situations when Delta stepped up to make it right for our troops.

And as for people commenting about how Delta should automatically put the Soldiers in First Class let me tell you a little about that.  ANY TIME I see a man or woman in uniform board a flight and I have been upgraded to First Class I ALWAYS change seats with them.  But ask the other douche bags who are ensconced in their upgraded seat to do the same and it is RARE they will do so.  I hear things like, "I earned this seat by flying so much" or "It's not a long flight so it won't matter" or "They can't drink anyway so they won't get much out of having a first class seat."  Yes, I've heard those excuses and many more.  The airlines cannot take people out of the first class seats but I sure don't see many of you Patriotic sorts who are giving Delta hell today moving your sorry rear ends to the back for our troops.

Throughout the day as I've had the chance to read some of the comments I've found myself wondering - why don't these same people bitch about our Soldiers having to buy their own uniforms, boots, ribbons for their dress uniforms, etc?  Why aren't they bitching that the Army doesn't issue enough in the way of uniforms and basic equipment for a Soldier to make it through a deployment in Afghanistan without having to buy items they are required to wear or have?  You know, things for which they ARE NEVER REIMBURSED but required to have.

Fair warning United Air Lines.  I'm hearing some scuttlebutt about changes the military is considering.  If it happens the haters who have jumped all over Delta today will be on you all and you'll be fighting to stay out of bankruptcy.

I am happy those Soldiers are home safely with their families and friends.  There is never enough I can say to thank them for their service to this nation or for the sacrifices they and their families have made.  But this can of worms they opened was totally and completely uncalled for.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

UPDATED with new payment option - LAST CALL - ROCK Throws (I cannot call them afghans)


I've had a few inquiries lately for the throws that we sold last year.  I don't have any on hand but will place ONE MORE order for them on 30 June.  This is the LAST CALL for these so please spread the word.

When we first decided to sell them it was to raise money for a welcome home party after OEF X (that we never developed).  We donated all of the procedes to charities that help the Wounded Warriors and that use at least 85% of all funds towards helping the Wounded Warriors and not for admin costs.  At that time we were selling them for $40.00 plus $9.95 for shipping.  Since we are not in fund raising mode anymore they will be $40.00 each.  IF there are any procedes over the cost of the throws and the shipping it will be donated to Defenders of Freedom.  Why Defenders of Freedom?  Because they have supported many of the ROCK Paratroopers and continue to do so.  And because they fall within the guidelines of not having admin costs over 15%.  Defenders of Freedom is a non-profit 501c3 organization.  Your payment is tax deductble.


Payments can be made by clicking on THIS LINK which will take you to the Defenders of Freedom "donation" site.

  1. Select $40.00 in the amount drop down then click on "Add to Cart" 
  2. If you want two throws you will then need to click on "Donate" and select the $40.00 again and "Add to Cart"
  3. Once you have the correct amount in your "cart" ($40.00 for one throw, $80.00 for two throws, etc) click on "Checkout"
  4. VERY IMPORTANT - at the bottom of the Secure Checkout page you will see "How did you find out about Defenders of Freedom?: In the field next to that you must type Leta then the quantity & design of the throw(s) you are ordering.
     Leta 1 Cat Patch or
     Leta 1 Cat Patch and 1 BDEBN or
     Leta 2 Cat Patch

A receipt will be generated with your name and mailing address.  That is the address to which your order will be shipped once we have the throws.  Remember, they will not be ordered until June 30, 2011 and it usually takes about 6 weeks to receive them from the manufacturer.

If you prefer to mail a check please either leave a comment here, email me or send me a facebook message.  Please get the word out.  This is LAST CALL

Cat Patch Design:

BDE/BN Design:

Chosen Few Embroidered Golf/Polo Shirts

A couple of weeks ago three of the ROCK Chosen Few participated in a golf outing in Dallas.  I had these shirts made for them:

Some of you saw the photos and have inquired as to how to get one.  I talked to the company that made them for me and the prices are:

Small to Extra Large - $ shipping
2XL - $26.95 plus shipping
3XL - $28.95 plus shipping

I anticipate shipping to be around $5.00

I will order ONE TIME on Friday June 24th.  If you are interested email me, leave a message here or message me on facebook.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fun With The Blaskowskis, Their Family & Friends - What a Treat!

As I mentioned briefly in my prior post, I have several meaningful posts to write and publish.  I've been working on them but just don't seem to "have it in me" to do them justice these days.  So I thought I'd write this fun one in hopes of it motivating me.

Over the Memorial Day weekend I was in northern Michigan for the dedication of a Memorial Monument at Washington Park in Cheboygan, MI.  The Memorial is in memory of all local citizens who have given their lives in OEF and OIF.  SFC Matthew Blaskowski's name is etched on that monument. 

While I was in Michigan I had the absolute pleasure of staying with the Blaskowskis.  WHAT A TREAT!

As I pulled up to their house

Cheryl, her sister Celeste and their cousin Carol brought the limo around

It was a very stressful visit.  We spent a LOT of time doing this:


And this (eating):

Brisket & ribs - smoked right!

There were bears EVERYWHERE and this one almost got me!

Cheryl Blaskowski actually killed this bear.  Eh...she used a gun (not her bare hands) that she picked up when she threw down her cheese sandwich.  WHAT A TREAT for that mouse.

I got a little Ranger training in on the beach in the shadow of the Mackinac bridge.  Some of you may remember my Ranger training photo from when I was in Italy back in January. 

I got a part time job packing fudge at a local shop.  Didn't last long.  They said I was eating too many samples.

Cheryl was my first, *sigh*, and last customer before I was let go.

My best Vanna White impersonation

Later that day I tried my hand at bar tending.  MUCH more fun to be on the OTHER side of the bar doing shots!  Once again the job was short lived.  Gotta love a boss who doesn't understand "quality control".

Just a fabulous time with FANTASTIC folks.  WHAT A TREAT!