Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 5 - "Leta Week" The Big Finish!

I cannot thank my friend enough for making this last week with them so special in many ways.  Yes, the food was incredible but all of the emails, cards, phone calls, gifts and well wishes meant so much.  It is not going to be easy to leave this group and move on with my life but I am forever grateful that I had this wonderful time with them.  We accomplised so much because of their hard work.

The Chefs for Day 5 - Amanda, Marie and Paula.  Not pictured is Zach

The lunch menu - Homemade chicken and dumplings, broccoli & rice casserold, chicken strips 3 ways (Hooter sauce, bbq sauce and plain), corn and strawberry cake.  Oh so yummy!

Paula spent three hours making the dumplings.  Holy cow!  I have so much admiration and respect for mothers who find/make the time for everyone other than themselves.

Lunch was just delicious!  The most difficult part was having to smell the yummy food all morning until lunch time.  OK, I confess, I sampled a little throughout the morning.  But when the dinner bell rang...

My lunch plate

And then there was desert.  The first round of desert.

Strawberry cake

Then at 3:00 we had an ice cream sundae bar. 

Ice cream and toppings

Blue Bell ice cream with fresh bananas, fresh strawberries, Hershey's syrup, hot fudge, Reese's topping, caramel topping, nuts and whipped cream.  OR you could go for the root beer float option.  A perfect ending to a very special week.

Here they come!

My sundae.  It was delicious.

The Operations and Service Center Team

Pam & Connie with a very special gift

I almost made it through the week without tears.  UNTIL Pam and Connie "stalked" me after everyone had left on Friday afternoon and I was packing up my office.  They presented me with the blanket in the photo above.  The two of them along with a friend of Pam's, Sharon, made the blanket for me.  I guess they know me all too well because they told me it was for me - to keep me warm - and that I'm not allowed to give it to a Soldier.  Ha ha ha ha ha.  I will keep that promise.

Again, my deepest gratitude to all of you for making my last week so special. And my sincere thanks to all of you for the great team work during my tenure with you. It has been a pleasure.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

CPT Warren "Bing" Evans - One of the first (and few surviving) Darby's Rangers

I'm having a very difficult time doing justice to this post but I hope you will read it all the way to the end.

I encourage you to read the history of "Darby's Rangers" if you are not already aware of who they were.

From Ranger Family dot org:

Christmas at Oflag 64

"Let me tell you a story. There were two times in my 15 months at Oflag 64 Prison Camp, that I cried. One of them was the 4th of July. We were standing in an appel formation and the orchestra came out. We wondered what in the world was going on. After they were through counting us, we all still stood there. From somewhere, somebody produced an American Flag. There was a strong enough breeze to make it stand out and it seemed to be flapping at us- cocky like. As it waved in the breeze, the orchestra played the Star Spangled Banner. And I stood there looking at it. Although we heard afterwards, the Germans had tried to confiscate the flag, remarkably, they didn't interfere. That surprised us! At that moment, I was so proud! Tears came to my eyes.

The other time was at Christmas. We had a play that night, one of our small theater productions I had been a part of it, I remember- in the chorus. Later, we started to sing Christmas Carols with the orchestra and the piano. The Germans enjoyed that, too. I remember while we were singing Silent Night, the guards were singing along with us in German. So, we sang a lot of Carols.

Then afterwards, we went back to our barracks. It was deadly serious again. The spotlights were on us, rotating around. The lights were shining on our Christmas tree. Earlier we had all helped a couple of guys who were pretty adept. make a Christmas tree out of the Red Cross parcel boxes. It stood about two feet high. They had fit some branches in and had used the opener ribbons from the Wooly Beef Cans for decorations. The Wooly Beef and the Spam cans had metal ribbons about a quarter inch thick. The cans were opened by rolling up these metal ribbon keys. They were our icicles for the Christmas tree. We even had made little Santa Clauses out of cardboard and hung them on the branches.

We put the Christmas tree in the window. And of course, it was cold. But when I went to bed that Christmas night, after it was all over, I laid there in the dark in my bunk. Every now and then the spotlight would come by and the light would flash on our little Christmas tree. Because of the change in temperature and the wind outside, it would move the ornaments and make them twinkle and shine. I got to feeling kind of blue- kind of lonesome. I thought of home and what they were doing for Christmas. That night I cried myself to sleep."

-Contributed by Warren (Bing) Evans
Excerpt from "Heroes Cry Too"
1st & 3rd Ranger Battalion

From Amazon

""Heroes Cry Too," a first-person dialogue, is the story of Captain Warren Evans - a WWII 1st Battalion Ranger. It is a tale of determination and fortitude describing a poor South Dakota boy’s struggle to feed his family and just stay alive. It is a story of love between a young soldier and the love-of-his-life, Frances Wheeler - a love that would survive three years of separation and months of not knowing. It is a war epic, battle after battle laden with close calls for the hero while others die around him. And finally, it is the remarkable reliving of a seasoned soldier’s capture and the surprising prison days that followed, his daring escape, recapture, and then the giant emotional effort to survive the brutal treatment his captor’s unleashed on him. Read "Heroes Cry Too" and experience the sacrifices given so freely by Evans and a group of America's finest sons - the WWII Rangers!"

Today, as I walked through the lobby area of a small, rural country club in southern Indiana and made a turn into the bar area I knew immediately the man I was there to meet.  CPT (r) Evans sat proudly on a bar stool, smartly dressed in slacks, a white button down shirt, a red tie and a blue a vest.  He was sporting a golf style hat and had his right hand firmly gripped around a glass of, what I was soon to learn, was scotch and water.  "No ice" he said.

To back track a little, yesterday one of the sales professionals I worked, Tadd, with came to my office.  He told me he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of this before but knew of a WWII Veteran that he thought I might want to meet.  That Veteran turned out to be CPT (r) Evans.  Tadd made a few phone calls and today when I got to work he was at my office and gave me a "thumbs up."  I started jumping up and down.  I was SO excited.  Around 11:30 Tadd picked me up and off we went to meet CPT (r) Evans.

Just before Tadd picked me up I called my dear friend, LTC (r) Roy Lombardo, Jr.  When he answered the phone I asked him if the name CPT Warren Evans rang any bells with him.  Both Roy and CPT Evans are in the Ranger Hall of Fame.  Roy thought for a minute but didn't respond.  I began telling him a little more about CPT Evans.  Suddenly Roy said, "Oh, you mean Bing.  Yes I know him, why?"  I explained that I was about to meet him for lunch.  Roy told me to give his regards and ask CPT Evans if he still has the Ranger necktie that Roy gave him. 

As Tadd and I approached the bar CPT Evans, in true Ranger fashion - always aware of his surroundings, turned towards us and said, "You must be who I am waiting for."  He took off his cap, leaving his white hair tousled about.  We introduced ourselves and shook hands.  CPT Evans stood up, glass in hand but leaving his cap on the bar and lead us towards a table "over in the light."  As we took our seats I was amazed at how immediately I felt comfortable with him.

He asked if we would like to join him in his daily noon drink.  I answered that I would.  Then I said, "that's scotch, isn't it?"  He replied, "Yes.  Scotch and water.  No ice."  I asked if it was single malt scotch.  He replied, "No, it's black label - the best they have here."  I was in love!  He motioned for the lady behind the bar to come over.  Tadd and I both had what the Captain was having.

I extended LTC (r) Lombardo's regards and inquired as to whether CPT (r) Evans still had the Ranger necktie that LTC Lombardo had given him.  CPT Evans replied that he did.

We sat for an hour and a half talking as if we were old friends.  Tadd and I listened as CPT Evans talked about some future travel plans he has, his family (most of whom are deceased), his work after the military, etc.  From time to time he would talk about his time in service.  I was beyond captivated.

He mentioned that he was in five or six major campaigns during WWII.  He threw out names of European cities, rivers, roads, etc. with no hesitation.  I was in awe of this 94 year old man and how sharp he is at that age.

Then he began to talk about his time in Oflag 64, a German POW Camp.  I steeled myself for what was to come and was happy that he didn't go into great detail.  I would have listened if he had gone into great detail but I'm not sure how I may have reacted.  Towards the end of our time with CPT Evans he began to talk about the time he escaped from the POW Camp and was caught.  I was not prepared for what he had to share with us.  I imagined he was going to talk about how they beat him and the pain of that.  But it was so much worse.  He told about how the Germans took him to a Polish farmhouse nearby.  The house was occupied by a family.  They lined the family up and began, one by one, executing them beginning with the father, then each child and finally the mother. 

I sat there quietly not knowing what to say or if I should say anything at all I simply reached over and ran my hand up and down his arm.  As I did so he continued by saying that it was beyond torturous to watch as the German's executed the family but that he was never so relieved as when, finally, they executed the mother who was suffering beyond what any human should.  And then he slightly hung his head.

Although Tadd and I needed to get back to work we stayed a little longer.  There was no way we were going to leave this kind, gentle man at that moment.  We made plans to have lunch together one day next week.  Then I asked him if he would mind if Tadd took a photo of us?  He replied that he didn't mind at all.  As Tadd was stepping back from the table with the camera, CPT Evans said, "Let me get a little closer to you."  I smiled and we both moved our chairs closer together.

Me and CPT (r) Evans

When Tadd showed us the picture CPT Evans said, "Oh my!  Look at those big white eyebrows.  I didn't know they were so white."  I giggled.

Tadd and I had stopped at a local store to buy some of CPT Evan's books.  I asked him if he would mind signing them for me.  He was delighted to do so.  I pulled out the books and reached for my purse to get my Sharpie out.  CPT Evans asked me if I wanted him to use his pen.  Well, of course!  He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small day planner.  Tucked inside the day planner was an ink pen.  Not just any ink pen.  One that his son's had made for him out of shell casings.  He's had it for years.

The copy of his book that CPT Evans signed for me with his special pen laying on top of the book.

He inscribed my book as follows, "Leta, thank you for making me feel important.  Warren Evans".  I fought HARD to keep the tears from flowing.  While I was successful at controlling the emotions I am forever changed by getting to meet this incredible American and cannot wait to have lunch with him again next week.  I'm also anxious to read his book but am in the process of moving.  I want to be able to read it without distraction so it may be a week or so.

As we said our goodbyes CPT Evans said, "I think I'll have one more scotch today.  I don't usually have two but I've got some memories to deal with."  It was heart wrenching.

I am forever grateful to Tadd for allowing me to meet CPT Evans and equally as grateful to CPT Evans for such an enjoyable foodless (LOL) lunch.

Day 4 - "Leta" Week

The food coma continues - in a GOOD WAY!

This morning I walked into the office to find a wonderfully delicious breakfast!

French toast, link sausages, breakfast casserole, chocolate muffins, pigs in a blanket, peanut butter chews and fruit pizza.

The chefs of the day:

Derek, Rose and April

Just like the team from day 2 these great chefs work for our Financial Services Division but with whom we share office space.  I'm touched and grateful that they wanted to participate in the festivities this week.

Second guy from right is Andrew.  His wife, Shaunda, was also one of the chefs.

I love how everyone was "encouraging" April to hurry up and cut the fruit pizza so we can EAT!

It was another incredible day.  The food was so delicious but the comraderie was even better.  As much as I've loved every minute of this week I'm going to be sad to see it end - not because there will be no more awesome food but, because I'll be saying goodbye to an wonderful group of people that I have really enjoyed working with.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 3 - "Leta" Week

Well I guess a few people can't go to bed until I post about Day 3 of "Leta" Week.  Sorry to be so late in posting but I'm in a food coma - one that's probably not going to end for a couple more days.

Thank you to Heather Ostlund for calling me to tell me she's waiting for this post.  I may have just slept right through the night.

We started the morning with Sausage Bread (YUMMY) and about a bazillion donuts.  Sausage Bread is this amazing creation of sausage (DUH), peppers, cheese, etc., wrapped in fresh bread dough and baked.  Did I say YUMMY yet?  Man it is good.  Washed that down with a donut and some Starbucks coffee.

For lunch:

Homemade vegetable beef soup, chili (with cheese to put on top), homemade chicken salad sandwiches (3 kinds of bread), summer sausage and crackers, chips and dip, cookies, pink lemonade and iced tea.

My gratitude and compliments to the chefs - Suzanne, Sharon H., Sharon W. and Pam.  I appreciate all of the time and trouble you all went through to make today's breakfast and lunch so enjoyable.

But I really should digress.  After the huge breakfast Connie just wasn't sure she could make it to lunch on her own power.  Brandon helped her out in our office rickshaw.  Yeah, we've got it all here, folks!

Brandon and Connie - man I'm going to miss these two clowns!

Throughout the week "things" have been appearing on my desk.  For example:

A lone but very delicious chocolate truffle

And these, one per day:


Sorry for the poor quality of the photo.  They are tiny little guys.  About an inch tall.  This one is wearing a parachute.  Heck yeah!



This is the stamp on the bottom of them:

I think they are neat as heck and I'm very touched that someone knows how much "my" Soldiers mean to me.  I know, these are marked "Union of S Africa" but it's the thought that means so darn much.  And they are cool as heck.

Yes, I've seen the menu for tomorrow.  Holy smokes!  I'm so very touched by the kindness and generosity of all of the people in our building and from around the region, too.  The emails I've been getting are incredibly thoughtful.  Sure, there are a few who won't miss me (is what it is) but to know so many will really makes me feel like I've made a difference here.  I couldn't have done it without so many of them pulling their weight and then some.

Speaking of weight...anyone have the number for Weight Watchers?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 2 - "Leta Week"

Well, it seems they meant it when they put up the sign for "Leta Week".  I punched in my security code, opened the door to the Operations Center this morning and found this:

Prepared by these ladies:

Janelle, Elizabeth & Donna

These ladies don't even work in our division. office is on their side of the building so they see me more than our division staff does.  Despite the fact that they probably listen to me growling and yelling at people all day they still wanted to be a part of "Leta Week".  That's pretty darn special to me.

Not pictured above is Libbie, the wife of our EVP/COO.  She sent a delicious oriental salad.  I could have eaten the whole bowl.

So lunch time the entire building smelled DEELICIOUS and looked like this:

Pulled pork, a humongous crock pot full of homemade mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, ribs & kraut and the oriental salad.  Off to the right side are onions, pickles, bread, cream puff cake and beautifully decorated cookies.  What a wonderful midday feast!

Then the vultures showed up:

Shoo!  Go away!

Here's a shot of the cookies.  Believe me when I tell you that ALL of the food was just delicious but the cookies seemed to be deserving of their own shot - especially given the theme.

You know I was lovin' that!

Towards the end of the day I received an email with this pic:

And this text:

It’s going to hard to beat the treats we’ve enjoyed the last two days – but we’re gonna try.

Tomorrow we will be serving:

     Breakfast Menu: Donuts and Sausage Bread

     Lunch Menu:  Soups - Chili and Vegetable, Summer Sausage and crackers, chips, Chicken Salad and dessert

I think I'm going to need a "to go" box before this is all over.  What an amazing team of people to work with.  I'm so thankful!

Monday, February 6, 2012

I'll Bet You Didn't Know That It's "Leta Week"

Yep, here's the proof:

OK, a little explanation here.  I've been working on contract for a client for the past 23 months.  The initial contract was for 4 months.  I guess they liked me, well maybe not all of them.  We did accomplish a lot of great things together.  I stayed around so long they decided to name me Operations Manager.  Not too shabby, huh?

Some of my AWESOME team members working on a problemo.
Pam, Brandon and Connie - man I'm gonna miss you guys like heck

So I walked into work this morning and this is what I found:

French Toast Casserole, Pigs in a Blanket, Breakfast Casserole, Fruit Salad, Cranberry-Orange Muffins and Cinnamon Rolls all laid out on a beautifully decorated table.

I loaded up my plate and headed into the Monday Morning Management Meeting.  Oops...none of the other Managers brought in food.  Oh, well.  I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting.

This afternoon "the boys" kept with tradition:

Butch & Sundance aka Brandon and Zach, making my EVERY afternoon Starbucks one Splenda latte.  How spoiled am I?

And then there was tonight.  Tonight they had a dinner in my honor at the Chicken Ranch.  Ok, ok, the name is really the Chicken Place but I've always called it the Chicken Ranch.  I've written about the Chicken Ranch, uh, Place here and here.  I was touched that team members and management from each of our six offices around the region took the time to come tonight.  We had the BEST crowd. 

Annette, Amanda, Janet, Tom, Joe and Tony
(Tony is a fellow pig wrestler)

Marie, Sharon W, Martha, Sharon H, Bonnie & Paula

Corporate Accounting - in the house!
Vicki, Quintin & Annette

Bonnie, Paula, Tim, Marie, Pam

Dana (sorry about this shot of you), Lori, Loretta & Brenda

Sarah (in jacket), Brittany (in purple) and Sandy (standing near the door talking - NO! Sandy talking?  LOL)

Christi, Vicki, Quintin, Kim L and Kathy

And they even had a cake made for me.  Can you tell they know what my passion is?

Along with the breakfast, dinner and cake they presented me with a very generous check made out to Defenders of Freedom.  When Joe presented it to me he commented that they thought I would prefer that to a present.  I told him he was right - the check was a gift - a gift that would go towards helping some combat Veteran.  Nothing gets any better than that.  THANK YOU SO MUCH!

My major "partners in crime"
Brandon (Systems Administrator) and Connie (Service Manager)

No, "thank YOU" everyone!

If it's Leta "week" I can't imagine what is in store after the amazing day today.  I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to get to work with so many incredible people.  As for the rest of the week - just spending it with you all is more than enough.

I do know one thing about tomorrow.  I have a massage scheduled after work.  YAY!