Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rest in Peace, Ranger

A small crowd stands, shivers, nervous, unsure
The family, numb from raw emotion, does as told
Wait here - first the Old Guard band will go
A sharp rap of drum sticks will mark tempo

Then the caisson, horse-drawn
Full with majesty, history, sorrow, bearing our fallen
A casket, covered in cloth of red, white and blue
Field of stars aligned over a gallant heart now still

Next stern faced men in tan berets, black boots gleam
The set of their jaws reveals determination
This unit has taken a loss for our nation
Yet unsung, unknown, the fight does not pause
Their comrades unhesitatingly Ranger on

The family, clutching each other, drawing strength
Taking steps forward they don't want to take
Old veterans, some stooped, some limp, all with pride deep
Proud to have worn the scroll, proud to have earned the tab
These Rangers are here a vow to keep

We follow, family but not family
Past rows and rows, aligned perfectly
Memories of soldiers standing at attention
While the caisson passes in review
A breeze seems to whisper, then words that soar
Normandy, Vietnam, Grenada, and more

A final parade, witnessed by living and by dead
Many with deeds unsung, deeds unsaid
Privates and generals, sailors and airmen
All the same, all in formation

 Finally we halt and strain to see
Soldiers from the Old Guard
Pulling another comrade from the caisson
The metallic squeal of the rollers protesting
As if wanting to keep the burden

In perfect step the comrades move
Past an honor detail of stern faced men in tan berets
The beautiful, horrible coffin
A warrior Chaplain speaks the final words of comfort, of love
"In life he honored the flag - In death the flag honors him"

A sergeant barks
Crack! The rifles bark back
Ca-chink the soldiers the slides rack 
Bark! Crack! 
Bark! Crack!
Three perfect volleys
A final salute

Beautiful, horrible
Majestic, haunting
My eyes grow hot, I remember
Too many times I've heard it play
Standing by a Ranger grave

Perfectly folded by perfect soldiers
A flag given to a mother
Forever now member of a club
She didn't want to join

The Secretary of the Army
The Chief of Staff
Kneel and whisper words
Numbly she clutches the flag

An airplane overhead engines howl
Taking off from Reagan International
Do the passengers know what goes on below
The history, the tradition, the pride, the pain, and the wounded soul 

A warrior class, men in berets of tan
The finest warrior clan in the history of man
Serving a people free to be ignorant
Of the sacrifices made on their behalf

These men ask not for medals, honors, or fame
All they ask is to serve their country
To be part of this unit, to experience the camaraderie
To have the word "Ranger" before their name

Rest in peace, Ranger
For you no more danger
Your work here is done
Valhalla now your kingdom come

Absent comrades we will toast
In our memories, always foremost
We will continue to lead the way
Til we join you on the high ground someday

Rangers, Lead the Way.

- Karl Monger, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Old Me vs. The New Me

 The military had provided my network for nearly most of my adult and professional life. I had no idea how important my peers, superior officers, and non-commissioned officers were to my success in the military. Leaving the military separated my network and it basically disappeared. Rebuilding my network sounds easy but having no idea what I wanted to do made it very complex.

 The military had shaped me into a stone cold killer so to speak. I was sometimes afraid of myself because of my past military experiences. That fright kept me from being the confident person I have always been. I had leaned on my confidence so much to stay alive through the scary moments but unsure of myself without combat.  I was never sure of my reactions or reactions I would get from others. Stereotypes and lack of understanding who I am after I left the military had drove me into a deep hole. I became very depressed, easily startled, and dependent on medication to keep my sanity. Through this I thought about suicide and ending my life. I had been in some very stressful situations but rarely faced them alone. I was alone when I came home and very scared. I felt empty.

My family is the reason I came home after the military. In my mind I thought moving closer to my family would help with my transition process. They helped and they supported me with love and understanding. But I was missing a special person in my life. My mom had worked with a young lady for nearly a year. She would tell me things about her, all good things of course. She told me about her smile that can light up a room. Recently out of a bad relationship I thought to myself, "I need some light in my life!" So I asked my mom to get her number. All I wanted to do was talk. Little did I know the impact a text message would make on my life. 

A text message turned into a call, then a date, and then a year went by that we had been together. We only knew each other for one year and I new I wanted to marry this beautiful woman. I could feel the warmth from her heart on a daily basis. She made an impact on the person I started to see in myself. I was in a dark place when I met her but she brought me back to seeing the positive things in my life. She added the light that had been lacking for the 4 plus years I had been out. Courtney has been the most important person in my transition. I can lean on her when I am down and I can confide in her when my thoughts race. She has a heart of gold and epitomizes the image of a ranger wife. Shes strong, loyal, and compassionate. Her patience and persistence has allowed me to find the side of me that I wasn't sure was there.

What Courtney and I face on a daily basis is rough and at times very challenging. I was diagnosed with PTSD after my military service. Nothing really out of the ordinary but it can be very challenging. That challenge can take you places you thought were never possible. Keeping your thoughts stored away will only compound your problem. Let yourself talk, write, and understand the feelings and emotions inside you. Find that light and use it as a guide.

 The reason I am talking about this is because I challenge anyone who has faced a rough transition to take the step of reaching out.  If I hadn't taken that first step I would not have found Courtney.  Reach out and you may find that person that will stick through it with you. Having issues from war can hide the good parts of someone's personality. Being open, honest, and willing to accept the changes that have made you different will pay dividends with how you interact with others. Courtney has taught me to be honest about my situation and to never be ashamed. Be yourself, be happy, and remember never forget what the military has instilled in you. 

I will pick back up on other parts of my transition, thanks for reading. God Bless.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Time Flies!

Time is flying!  It seems like yesterday that I had just started Nursing School, and I already have found myself making it through the first finals week.  It has been hard to concentrate on school with all that has happened in the past few weeks in Washington.  I would find myself worrying about Veterans that were being placed in the position of possibly losing benefits, from disability to education.  But, I guess were safe for another few months until politicians go through this all over again.  I digress...

Getting back to what's going on in my world.  In case if anyone reading this didn't know, I am currently attending Marian University's Accelerated Nursing program.  When I say accelerated, I mean smashing four years of education into sixteen months of time.  I find myself studying about 30-40 hours a week, working 24-32 a week, and being a full time dad.  Needless to say, I am constantly tweaked out on coffee and Red Bull (and thinking about starting to use Copenhagen since it is the Ranger thing to do, haha).  But it is moving by quickly.  Last week I finished the courses of Human Nutrition, Nursing Concepts and Human Growth and Development with two B+'s and an A-.  Not too shabby for the first half of the semester.  Since being an accelerated program, a majority of the classes are eight weeks, which sounds nice but is really just half the time to complete the course load.  For the second half of the semester I am taking Nursing Fundamentals, Dosage Calculations, and continuing full semester courses of Pharmacology and Pathophysiology. 

This past week, I started my first clinical course. We are going over basics of bed baths, range of motion, mechanics, taking vitals, and making a bed.  I'm gonna say this, it is a lot harder making crisp hospital corners when someone is actually lying in the bed.  I was the best bed maker in Basic Training, but I have failed my DS this time around.  Moving forward, I am looking forward to getting into the hospital and working with patients.  As much as I like learning new things, I am looking forward to when I get pinned in December 2014 and all this madness ends!   

This program constantly reminds me of life at Benning and being in the 75th Ranger Regiment.  The curriculum moves fast and is very stressful, much like a JORT cycle.  Talking with students in other cohorts, they told me that the main keys to success is to "stay ahead of the game, and to be able to adapt to changes."  The first thing that I thought of was RLTW!  Although I do not have the tan beret, I do have a uniform that I take pride in wearing. There is a dress code in our nursing handbook, or I refer to as AR 670-1.  Much like a couple years ago, I still notice individuals for being "out of uniform."  I have to quickly remember that I am no longer in the military, and not getting paid to do that.  But what reminds me most of being in the military is that I have peers, nursing buddies, that I share a mission with.  And much like my friend Boone Cutler always says, "All a Warfighter needs is a mission and a battle buddy."  I am very thankful to be here today.  It is a great feeling to have a mission in life and putting in the work to get there!     

If anyone in the Indianapolis and surrounding area is looking for information on the Marian University Accelerated Nursing Program, contact Kris at or call (888) 370-4837

Friday, October 18, 2013

Life of an 11 Bravo Wife

Today we welcome Marcia, one of the newest GallantFew volunteers.  She is already making an impact by action, and now through words as well.  km

My name is Marcia and I am an Army wife.  Okay, technically I am a former Army wife but while my mind keeps telling me that, my heart keeps telling me you can take the family out of the Army but you cannot take the Army out of the family.  I am okay with that.  There isn't anything in my opinion more important to the morale and well-being of the soldier than the family so I have no problem with the Army life coursing through my veins.  It is who I always have and always feel I am.

Gary spent 20 years in the Army and I was lucky enough to be with him for 19 of those years. The Army taught me how to pack up my entire house and move from one country to another with only a few weeks’ notice, how to fit two suitcases worth of gear into one duffle bag, the meaning of the BRAS chart, how to plot a grid on a map and how to send my husband off to combat with the understanding his unit expected 80% casualties, a point they explained to all the wives during a very educational meeting at the beginning of Desert Shield.  What the Army did not teach me was how to sit back and not prepare and send him off to combat and how to live life not being an Army wife.

We just celebrated our 37th anniversary on September 18th and though he has been retired almost as many years as he served on active duty I still find it difficult to consider myself anything but an Army wife.

While Gary's career included memories others can only dream of, travel to beautiful cities and lifelong friendships it also brought with it a lot of injuries.  From a the beginning stages of a back injury from an LCM during an exercise while stationed in Panama to a C7 fracture which occurred during our time at Ft. Knox the Army has taken a toll on his body.

I always joke that the things which happened to us were not speed bumps in the road but rather just another chapter in what would surely be a very long book about our life.  There were things we endured and struggled through due to his military career that most people would swear were made up and others would never want to go through.  If they were speed bumps we must have great shocks on our life because while it was hard we have made it through each and every one of them and are still surviving, still together and believe it or not still like each other!

I wish there was a manual for the new Army wives to help them navigate the valleys and curves of Army life but so far nobody has taken the time to sit down and write one.  I often wonder if some of the things we have been through would have been easier if I had known where to turn or where to go by reading an article or listening to someone's advice.  My hope is to talk about some of the things we went through and hopefully give other wives an idea where to turn if they find themselves in need of help too.

As this writing journey begins it brings back a lot of memories that I can now see were times that helped build character and strength.  I guess God knew one day I would have the time to help other military wives out with some of the struggles they are going through and figured on the job training was the best way to be able to help to the fullest.

Gary’s first surgery was for spondylolisthesis in the L-5 S-1 area. The injury began during an amphibious assault mission in Panama when he was hit in the lower back by an LCM.  That on top of thirteen more years of being a Grunt didn’t quite get it to the point of surgery.  That took slipping off a porch during a really bad storm January 26, 2000.  After fighting with his place of employment and workers comp for six months they finally did his surgery July 26, 2000.

When I say fight, I mean fight.  We were first told he had to stay at work until workers comp decided to tell him they had his paperwork and he needed to go home.  This was my first experience in learning how to look for and find information to help him that nobody else would give us.  After a few hours of research on line I found articles that stated no workers comp claim can be filed until the employee was off work for at least seven days.

Next came a supervisor who didn’t like him for the simple fact he was retired military.  Once he realized we knew the truth about the workers comp and Gary left work he was furious! At that point he filed a form with workers comp stating that the injury was not a work related injury.  We received a call from workers comp with that information and a “sorry but if it’s not a work related injury you cannot file a claim”.  Then a funny thing happened.  Two weeks later Gary was called in to the office and given a complaint from his supervisor.  In bold letters across the top it stated “reason for reprimand-failure to report a work related injury in a timely manner”.  He received that letter on a Thursday afternoon.  I called the workers comp office first thing Friday morning and did not get an answer.  Wasn’t surprised, they were understaffed and always busy.  I thought we would get a call before the end of the day on Friday.  No such luck.  

That weekend I learned that it is a true fact, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I quickly learned how to squeak with the best of them.  I called the workers comp office 68 separate times that weekend, each time telling them about the letter.  Monday morning at 9:00 am I had a return call from the case worker.  I made one simple statement that it seems impossible for a claim to be turned down for “not work related” then the same supervisor write him up for not reporting a work related injury in a timely manner.  Her response was “you are right and we are going to move forward with filing the claim”.

The next thing I learned was if you are former military they look through all your records and try and turn you down for an injury that began in the military.  A little more research showed me that each state has revised codes.  Not sure what all states codes say but in Ohio an injury can still be work related with a pre-existing injury if that injury was accelerated or aggravated by the new injury.

A whole new respect for the internet began for me that day.  I learned a lot by looking up things that pertained to our situation, his injury, past cases and how they were decided.  Unfortunately for us in the end I was not able to find enough to keep us from losing everything we worked for.  We lost our house, had to sell our truck, all our savings was gone and the animals were given away to people in our area who had room for them.  I have to admit I cried more when I watched people drive away with my animals than I did my truck and I thought things could not get worse.

But they did.  After 9/11 I watched young service members deploy and some return injured and some not return at all.  Though we lost everything we were lucky enough to have a friend let us live in their rental property until we could get a place of our own.  We found a used vehicle to drive and while I didn’t have all my animals back we were able to get a family dog.  People brought us food when we need it and found clothes for the kids when we couldn’t afford them.

I learned during that time a valuable lesson-no matter how bad we had it someone, somewhere had it just a little worse than we did.  We didn’t still have our farm, but we had a house, we didn’t still have our beautiful red Diesel Truck but we had transportation.  And most importantly we had our family together.

I remember a friend asking me one day how I could stay so positive and keep laughing, and do I always look at the glass as half full instead of half empty?  I told her it wasn’t always easy.  There were days I wanted to scream and I would go in the basement and cry.  But when I was done nothing had changed.  The problems were still there, still had to be addressed only now I had to do that with a horrible headache.  Then I told her I never look at the glass as half full or half empty....I’m just always glad I own the damn glass.

Now it’s my time to pay it forward.  To help Veterans and their families find resources, information and if they need it, just a place to vent and let it all out.  I am strong enough for that.  I have survived 37 years of marriage, a war and two teenage daughters.  I am an 11Bravo wife and through strength that came from all we went through I can handle whatever someone wants to throw at me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Salute Seen Around the World

President Ronald Reagan on May 15 1982 delivered a radio address in which he spoke of the Armed Forces.  This from his last few paragraphs:
"Our national determination to defend freedom at the borders where it's threatened is fully matched by the quality and spirit of the more than 2 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who proudly wear the American uniform.
I received another letter from one of our ambassadors in Europe. He wrote that a 19-year-old trooper in our armored cavalry had asked that he send me a message. It was: "Tell the President we're proud to be here, and we ain't scared of nothing."
In James Michener's book "The Bridges at Toko-Ri," he writes of an officer waiting through the night for the return of planes to a carrier as dawn is coming on. And he asks, "Where do we find such men?" Well, we find them where we've always found them. They are the product of the freest society man has ever known. They make a commitment to the military—make it freely, because the birthright we share as Americans is worth defending. God bless America."
Last week in Afghanistan a Ranger unit was ambushed as it surrounded a home containing a High Value Target.  Several military bloggers have written about it including Ranger Up's Rhinoden, and Blackside Concepts.  Today, a friend forwarded me a moving piece by Guardian of Valor.  In it, one of the Rangers severely wounded in the attack salutes his (our) Regimental Commander after receiving the award of the Purple Heart (picture linked below from the Guardian of Valor blog).

Immediately the phrase from Michener's book, quoted by Reagan popped into my head.  "Where do we find such men?"

I know exactly where to find them.  The 75th Ranger Regiment.  RLTW!

Read more at the American Presidency Project:Ronald Reagan: Radio Address to the Nation on Armed Forces Day

Friday, October 11, 2013

Complexity vs Perception

Perception is reality.  The first impression is what counts the most and often has a huge impact on a relationship, right or wrong.  But relationships are not what I want to really get after.  The real perception I'm talking about is how we look at what we do and how we go about doing it.  And it is that first impression of the task, that does make a world of difference.

Over the last year, my life has been "interesting".  I think I painted that picture pretty well in the first post.  But it got "better".  Trust me.  I had to do something about it and had to force a shift in how I saw my situation.  Starting to study again on my own, constantly reading and writing has done more for me than I think I anticipated.  Over the last few months life has started to calm down a bit and I'm doing a lot more reflecting.  Trying to make sense of what I've gone through and what I've learned.  Believe it or not, at one point in my life, some one called me cerebral.  It caught me off guard based on my propensity for pulling shenanigans and losing my temper; but I'd like to get back to acting more like that man said I was.

First, let's look at how we look at a task and the time we give to complete that task.  Parkinson's Law states that work expands to fill the time available for it's completion.  Simply put, if we allot a week to do something that should take a few hours, it will take a week.  That mundane task becomes ever more complex to justify the time allotted.  At best it really is nothing more than a psychological effect.  At worst, it's a result of bureaucracy.  We create buffers, over plan, add too many resources, stress out over it; whatever.

Here's a link to a pretty good article to look at this from a civilian or managerial point of view.

But let's break this down like a fraction, Barney level.

All you need is a Task, Purpose, Standard (to include a time hack) and an Intent.  It's pretty bare bones but I'm pretty sure at one point or another, that's all we got from our commander or platoon leader or whatever.

Don't get me wrong, planning is important.  But don't over think things and always, always ALWAYS come back and spot check.  The execution and the plan.

Now let's look at Multi-Tasking.  I'm convinced that the ability to do this is a myth.  You can do one thing great or you can do 2 things half-assed.  That's my opinion anyways and if you do some research, there's a lot of others that will support me.  So let's look at the next topic.

Uni-Tasking (ability to prioritize):  This does not mean that you tell everyone to pound sand and you can only do one thing at a time.  What it means is you prioritize the tasks at hand, focus on one and knock it out to the best of your ability.  Then you re-prioritize what's left and repeat that process.  Yes, you can stop and shift your focus to another task as priorities deem.  But whatever you're doing, that is what you're doing.  I know this sounds a bit confusing but it is what it is.

Here's an example.  I'm writing an email, someone comes in and wants to talk.  I can (a) ask them to please wait while I finish the email, complete that email and then give them my undivided attention.  (b) Stop writing the email, focus on them and come back to the email later.  (c) I can keep typing and allow the person to talk, then have to go back through the email before sending it or risk looking like some half-wit with brats for fingers; meanwhile, that person's issue was only half understood.  Sure, you can do both, to a degree.  But it will yield greater results if you focus on one.

Essentially what you're doing is maintaining control.  If you have more control, you tend to be more calm and perceive things differently.  And you don't even have to be forceful with it.  Diligent and perhaps assertive, but not forceful.  When we are faced with demands and stress for whatever reason, we feel like we're not in control and therefore lack security.  Which creates more stress.  From a personal standpoint, I'm a control freak.  If I don't feel safe, I'm constantly on the defensive and the GAF meter is constantly pegged.  By sticking to this and letting everyone else know that this is how I work, has been a life saver.  I'm calmer, fewer folks bug me, I get a bunch of stuff done AND I miraculously have more time to help other people.

There will always be competing priorities and it can seem overwhelming.  If you let it become that way.  That's not saying you have to do everything yourself, but it's your butt so it's probably be a good idea to be involved and know what's going on.  SPOT CHECK.  Like any other mission or task you've done in the past, life is the same way.  Bills, jobs, taking out the trash and doing the dishes.  Nothing is cut and dry and that's ok.  Hell, I'd be bored if it were.  We thrive on a level of chaos and we love to be challenged.

It's like being on that road march late at night and you see that blinking tower that's the end of your misery.  You've been staring at it for hours and it just isn't getting in closer.  Perception.  You know it's there and you know if you keep moving, you'll get there but every step seems to hurts more than the last.  And then you finally get there and cuss that light for the next week or the next road march.

Any transition in life is difficult and ours is very much so.  But a little planning and a lot of patience goes a long way.  Sooner or later it's gonna happen.  Whether you retire or separate, change jobs, or move.  And the person that makes it harder than anyone else is yourself.

An old paratrooper told me a very long time ago "Trust your equipment as well as your training and never hesitate in the door."  And we've always heard to push through the "fatal funnel" because it is the most dangerous place in the small portion of your world at that moment. Once you commit, that's it.  Stick to it and get it done.  It might be harder than you thought.  But what are you gonna do, quit?  I didn't think so.


Remember the TLPs and the 5 Principles of Patrolling.

Check or Hold?

"Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor."

Friday, October 4, 2013

I Will Never Quit

Giving up is an easy task, taking the easy way out may not always be the right decision.. I learned that quickly when I took my first steps after I was injured. Doctors told me I would never walk or run again. They basically said I will always be in a wheelchair or on crutches. If anyone knows anything about me, I will never quit. When someone tells me that I can not do something, its game on. I will do whatever you think I can not. I will do just about anything in my power to overcome the doubted. . This competitive nature is something I adopted well before the military. The military only made me more of a competitor. This competitive spirit is the spirit of the united states infantry. This spirit will never be broken.

After spending 1 month in ICU and 1 month on the 5th floor of Walter Reed Army Medical Center I was ready to go home. Days here were long, it started off with a nurse taking blood from my arm at 0500. Then I would go to physical therapy followed by occupational therapy. By breakfast time I was tired and ready to take a nap. I had lost nearly 40 pounds in 2 weeks. I felt very weak and was easily tired. My mom and any other visitor had to wear a mask, rubber gloves, and be covered in a weird looking yellow gown. I was very prone to infection because my immune system was so weak. I had lost a lot of blood and fought off a fairly large infection. My ankle had contracted an ugly infection and I nearly lost my foot a second time.. But my body kept fighting back.

I usually bathed in the morning before I went to PT. My mom had the great task of giving me a sponge bath. It was frustrating not being able to take care of myself. I went from running, jumping out of planes, and fighting terrorists to being in a bed most of the day and wheeled around in a wheel chair. I managed to stay positive and was constantly reminded of how lucky I was to be alive. Afternoons were spent hanging out on the floor with other injured guys. There were men and women missing legs, parts of their skulls, blinded and deaf from traumatic events during combat. We all had something in common; we had a spirit that few possess,that spirit helped us all to overcome what we had been faced with. The moments I spent with other injured veterans were humbling and very inspirational. I came to the conclusion that someone always has it worse and dwelling on the negative will never get you anywhere.
Evenings at Walter Reed were spent watching television, playing cards, and talking with visitors. Some visitors were famous individuals from NBA All Stars to Presidents of different countries. I could always tell when someone very important was coming because trained working dogs came to sniff the place out and guys wearing suits came in blocking off floors and were posted at doorways. The president of Afghanistan came in one evening to pay a visit to some of the veterans. My roommate was an above the elbow amputee from a an RPG blast. He was hilarious. He was not very fond of President Karzai and gave him a few words of what he thought about the situation going on in Afghanistan.  It was very entertaining.

Night time at Walter Reed was a little somber. My roommate would wake me up by screaming that his arm was hurting. I would call the nurse and they would have to remind him that his arm wasn't there. What he was experiencing was phantom pain from losing a limb. I used the quiet time to reflect back on my life events which helped me process the situation I was in.   They then put an ex-fixator on my ankle to keep my bones in place so that it would heal properly. Every day I had to use a wrench to tighten a nut that was screwed into my tibia and fibula. It was incredibly painful.

After I was medically retired in 2008 I wanted to move closer to my family. So I moved back to Wichita, Kansas. But Wichita, Kansas was not the same as when I left. My friends were either still in college,  moved away or married with a family. My community had no idea that I was coming home and essentially I felt abandon. This problem seemed to perpetuate after a few years of being home. My network of friends in the military had virtually disappeared and struggling without them was not something I was used to. I tried to lean on a few friends and family but felt I was being a charity case. Society just added to the problem. I often was questioned about how it felt to take a life? Why did I serve during a time of war? I felt the wrath of being a combat veteran. All the VA could offer me was a heavy prescription medication that made me feel like I was on a different planet.

Stay Tuned for more!

This is a picture of my ankle with the external fixator.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pride In Professionalism

You know, I've been thinking and have had this conversation with a lot of different people over the years.  More so recently.

Do you really take pride in what you do?  Personally, I take pride in everything I do.  Why?  Because it's professionalism.  A job worth doing is a job worth doing well.  What I do, what I build, how I act is a direct reflection on me.  It doesn't matter if the customer or whoever ever even sees my face or knows my name.

Everyone wants to be a doctor, lawyer, millionaire.  They want to be engineers, computer technicians.  Everyone wants to be the CEO.  What about the folks that make that company run?  Who's gonna do that?  Is it glamorous, no.  Does it need to be done?  You bet.

Now lets look at some discussions I've had with some fired up young Soldiers and NCOs who wanted to become an Officer.  The first thing I asked them was if they hated what they were doing right now or if they genuinely liked it.  Based on that answer, I asked them why they wanted to be an Officer.  Usual response?  More money and Officer's don't work as hard.  So I made a few of them shadow me for a while to show them what "we" really did.  Usual response?  Yeah, no thanks, I'll stick to this.  NCOs and young Soldiers ARE the Army and as an Officer, I needed every last one of them.  But they saw something shiny and lost sight of how important they were and what they were doing.  They lost sight of what they enjoyed about what they did.  They were proud of being an NCO, but not so proud to not look elsewhere.  The grass is always greener on the other side.

A caveat to that is some of them had put a lot of thought into it and gave me solid answers.  Some of them became Officers and some of them stayed NCOs, damn good ones at that.  No matter what route they took.

This country was founded on the notion that you can make your own way, with your own hands and better yourself.  Education was valued because it makes you a better person who is more capable or making a contribution to society.  Trades were valued and craftsmen were respected.  Be honest, who do you think is more successful, the guy with the big house who works in a bank or a guy with a big enough house and probably built that huge house?  My how times have changed.  What's funny is, that guy outside my office welding?  He goes home tired and dirty but he's smarter and makes way more than you think.

You are basically moving to another country where they speak a different language and have a completely foreign culture when you get out.  So yeah, to a degree, you have to step back and start over.  You have to learn so much and once you do, if you're boss doesn't wear a special helmet, they'll see it and you're moving on up the ladder.  All those things that you have been dying to show everyone that you were capable of, what the Army taught you, will finally get put to use.  Be patient.  Be diligent.

Another way to look at it is, you are trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up.  Except now, you are jam packed with skills and experience and you more than likely have a lot more responsibility (like a family).  So there's more risk involved.  Work hard and constantly educate yourself (college, trades, certifications, READING THE NEWS, etc) and make that impact.  Don't forget to look at the long term.  Seek improvement at every opportunity and take pride in what you're doing and where you're going.  Everything you do, every job you have or course you take is a stepping stone to something better.

There truly is a lot of work to be done out there.  There are a lot of jobs, good jobs.  But for whatever reason, a lot of people look down on those jobs.  I see a lot of people that are unhappy at work and they constantly make mistakes and honestly, it seems like they don't care.  They do care; it's not that they come into work and say "I can't wait to mess something up again."  It's simply because they don't take pride in the work that they are doing.  They aren't realizing that what they do, what they make, is them.  The man isn't keeping them down; they're keeping themselves down.

As we speak, I'm hand stamping steel plates that are going into a new nuclear facility's floor.  Ok, well not right now, but you get the point.  Not very exciting but it's a part of a huge project that will benefit a lot of people for a long time.  When you look at the big picture, it's pretty cool.  I'm a college educated, world traveled, Commissioned Officer in the US Army and I'm swinging a hammer, all day.  I should be up front, learning sales, making spreadsheets and taking that next step to run the company right?  Maybe I am and don't know it.  But it's an honest day's work, it's kinda fun, it pays the bills and somewhere down the line, it'll make a difference.  So who cares.  In the not too distant future, folks are going to have hot water and be able to turn their lights on because I made a lot of noise swinging that hammer.

The point here is that it needs to be done and I'm the man for the job.  I'm proud of that.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


unedited, posted as received.  km


1 Oct 13

Services to Veterans not impacted by potential lapse in appropriations

Operational National Phone Numbers for Veterans

* VA National Call Center: 1-800-827-1000

* All VA Medical Facilities & Services: (411 or )

* Coaching into Care Call Center for Family Members of Veterans: 1-888-823-7458

* Debt Management Center: (Collection of Non- Medical Debts): 1-800-827-0648

* Homeless Prevention Line:  1-877-4AID VET (877-424-3838)

* Home Loans: 1-888-244-6711

* Insurance: 1-800-669-8477

* Mammography Helpline:  1-888-492-7844

* Meds by Mail: 1-888-385-0235 (or) 1-866-229-7389

* National Caregiver Support Line: 1-855-260-3274

* NCA's Scheduling Office: 1-800-535-1117

* Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

* Women Veterans Call Center: 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636)

* Federal Service for the Deaf: 711

* Vet Center Combat Call Center: 1-877-WAR-VETS

* Discrimination: 1-888-737-3361

* Denver Acquisition and Logistics Center: 1-303-273-6200

* Health Benefits Customer Service: 1-877-222-VETS(8387).

* CHAMPVA: 1-800-733-8387

* Children of Women Vietnam Veterans; Foreign Medical Program; Spina Bifida Health Care Program:
1-877-345-8179 (or) 1-888-820-1756

All VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational, including:

1. Inpatient Care

2. Outpatient Care

3. Prescriptions

4. Surgeries

5. Dental Treatment

6. Extended Care

7. Mental Health Care

8. Nursing Home Care

9. Special Health Care Services

for Women Veterans


Updated Sept. 30, 2013

* Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted

* VBA Regional Offices public contact services will not be available

* No decisions on claims appeals or motions will be issued by the Board of Veterans Appeals

* Freedom of Information Act queries will not be processed

* Privacy Act requests will not be processed

* VA's homepage ( will be updated intermittently

* VA's main and hospital Social Media Web sites will be updated intermittently (Facebook, Twitter,Blog, etc.)

* Recruiting and hiring of Veteran job applicants will cease with the exception of the Veterans Health Administration

* Presidential Memorial certificates will not be processed

* Interments at National Cemeteries will be conducted on a reduced schedule

* Overseas Military coordinator operations will be suspended

* VA Secretary correspondence with Veterans and VSOs suspended

* Outreach and Public Awareness Activities

* VetSuccess on Campus suspended

* Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Counseling will be limited

* VBA will not be able to continue overtime for claims processors

* Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted

Suspended National Phone Numbers

* Billing Issues: 1-866-842-4357

* Education Benefits: 1-888-442-4551

* Consumer Affairs: 202-461-7402

* Income Verification and Means Testing: 1-800-929-8387

* Inspector General Hotline: 1-800-488-8244

* Special Issues: Gulf War/Agent Orange/Project SHAD/Mustard Agents and Lewisite/Ionizing Radiation 1-800-749-8387

* Status of Headstones and Markers: 1-800-697-6947

* Whistle Blower Reprisal: 1-800-872-9855

Services to Veterans impacted by potential lapse in appropriations


VA call centers and hotlines will cease to function, including:

1. VBA Education Call Center 1-888-442-4551

2. Inspector General Hotline suspended 1-800-488-8244

3. Consumer Affairs (; VA's home page "Contact Us" function and 202-461-7402 will be suspended)

4. Congressional Liaison Veterans queries suspended

For or Additional Info


October 1, 2013

As of 12:01 this morning a government shutdown has gone into effect. Yesterday the House passed several continuing resolutions (CRs) for government funding which included different policy riders to delay or otherwise inhibit the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); each one was tabled in succession by the Senate. Early this morning the House voted to establish a bicameral conference committee to negotiate the differences between the two chambers, and that too was tabled by the Senate shortly after it convened, leaving the path forward unclear.

As painful as a shutdown may be for government employees, in some respects the impacts are worse for federal contractors. While those federal contracts with funding from fiscal year 2013 will continue, federal contracts funded by fiscal year 2014 dollars face the discontinuation of federal payments until Congress passes a spending bill. (For specific information on federal contracts that impact your business, we recommend you seek the advice of your company's contract experts and the relevant federal contract officials for the most accurate assessment of your company's situation.) Unlike federal employees, during previous shutdowns contractors have not been retroactively reimbursed for lost work. While some companies may make their employees whole, they must do so without the retroactive support of the federal government.

The Office of Management and Budget provided guidance to departments and agencies in mid September about how to address contracts and grants during a shutdown. We believe this information will help you and your staff as you consider the impact this shutdown has on your company. The document is available here <>  and the particularly relevant information begins on page 5.

Although it is not clear when the government will be funded again, another critical date is likely to force some resolution before the month is out. On October 17, the United States will exhaust its statutory authority on federal borrowing <>  and the Congress will need to authorize more debt to allow the government to make good on its current obligations. While no one is quite sure what might happen in the event of reaching the debt limit without an increase in authorized borrowing, it is certain that the federal government would have to delay the payment of its obligations until revenue receipts provide the needed funds. With obligations vastly outstripping revenue receipts, this delay would inevitably grow lengthier and more painful with the passage of time, as Social Security, military pay, and other obligations pile up. Of particular note, the Treasury faces a $12 billion Social Security payment on October 23, a scant six days after the debt limit is reached. Because our country has never failed to make good on its obligations, the federal government does not presently prioritize its payments; whether and how it might do so is anyone's guess at this point.

In the meantime, in case it may be of use to you, the Office of Personnel Management has posted its furlough guidance here <> , and the Office of Management and Budget has linked to all federal department, agency, and program shutdown contingency plans here <> . Some of the linked websites, including the website for the Pentagon's contingency plan, have had connectivity issues this morning.

Both the House and Senate are presently in session and their leaders are presumably discussing the way forward. We continue to hope Congress will resolve these fiscal challenges quickly and in the least disruptive way possible.