Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Get by with a Little Help from My Friends. . .

On Monday I called my high school classmate Marty Anderson.  We reconnected at the reunion after 40 years.  Marty works for Boeing in their Chinook helicopter assembly plant in Ridley Park (Philadelphia) PA.  Marty served for 30 years, much of that as a Chinook pilot and rose to the rank of Colonel.  There were not a lot of veterans in my Boston-area, Viet Nam-era high school class, but one made Navy Captain and one made Colonel, so that's pretty good for 12 kids out of 370.

Anyway, Marty offered to help me stay in part age 60 if there was anything he could do to help.  But it is beginning to look like I won't be staying into my geriatric years.  Next Tuesday, September 6, I am taking a day off from work with my wife to meet the social work of the next boy we may be adopting.  Actually, we are at the beginning stages of adopting two more 12-year-old boys.

On Tuesday we will meet the social worker for Emarion who currently lives with a foster family in the Erie area.  The other boy is named Wenky Pierre.  He lives in Haiti.  So I will have a small army of my own.  But I will definitely stay through May of 2013 when my current enlistment is up.


Monday, August 29, 2011

No Call for Irene

On Friday I received several emails about a possible need for volunteers if Irene turned out to be a bad storm.  It wasn't.  I never got a call.  It would have been exciting to get called up, but it is better for millions of my neighbors that there was no reason to call up additional National Guard soldiers.

Irene stopped trains along most of the Northeast Corridor so I will be working at home today.  We had no damage at all.  If you were in Irene's path, I hope you were just as fortunate.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Expertise is SO Entertaining

One of the very odd things about the current wave of populism sweeping America is the "I am as good/smart/whatever as anyone else" sentiment is the opposite of what soldiers really admire.  And calm expertise is what the civilian world admires about soldiers.

Navy SEALs were cheered and admired across America on May 2 when the news was confirmed that two quick shots ended the life of Osama Bin Laden.  Two months later when 21 Navy SEALs died in a Chinook shot down over Afghanistan a woman I worked with said, "What a waste.  All that training and they died like that."  I reminded her (gently) that the Chinook crew, the Afghan commandos and the other soldiers on board that ill-fated helicopter were a great loss their country and their families.  But I understood what she meant.  The SEALs are so clearly at the top of their game.

We all know what expertise looks like in sports.  It's Sam Fuld horizontal in the air catching a fly ball.  It's Barry Sanders eluding five tackles in as many seconds and looking like he could run full speed sideways.  I love expertise.  When I broke my neck I was lucky to have a great neurosurgeon be on call.  No one is a populist when they have cancer or heart disease.  The want the best surgeon, not one who is as good as anyone else.

I had an expertise moment when my wife and drove our sons to visit their aunt Francesca in Ithaca NY.  Annalisa reads aloud during car trips.  She started by finishing a book about the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi.  She then read Tom Sawyer till she noticed me getting bored listening to the explanations of the unfamiliar words in this book.

So she read the book Zen To Done by Leo Barauta.  Annalisa carries a Franklin Planner, really uses it and is one of the most organized people I have ever known.  She reads all kinds of self help books, but organizing and time management books are among her favorites.  Zen To Done borrows a lot from the very famous Getting Things Done management system, but also borrows from the Franklin Covey system.

I thought Annalisa would just read this very short book.  But she stopped on nearly every page to explain the shortcomings of what she considered a very thin and ill-conceived time management system.  The ZTD system is based on ten habits, which I would have accepted at face value, but Annalisa knew what was wrong with every one.  If I remember correctly, two were not really habits.  She was animated for much of the five-hour drive home reacting to the obvious (to her) flaws in the the ZTD system.

I only heard of the system because my friend Brother Timotheus in Darmstadt said he liked some of the book.

I love expertise and I love the expert I married.  I hope she decides to write her own time management book that really does meld the best of Getting Things Done and the Franklin Covey systems.  Because clearly ZTD does not own the field.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Different Reunions

Last year I went to the 70th Armor reunion, this year to my 40th high school reunion. I wrote about the reunion on the Stoneham High School Facebook page as follows:

The reunion was a wonderful event. Better than I could have hoped. Not just because Murrie, Chickie and the other organizers put together a great event, but because after 40 years I am finally old enough to appreciate what a great thing it is to reconnect across decades.
The first person I talked to at the pre-event mixer was Pat Daly. He told Frank Capuano and I just how tough his childhood was. I had no idea. The more important thing he said--if I can quote correctly--we were all fucked up in our own way. Which was very true for me.
Coming to this reunion let me see that I shared a very difficult part of my life with some really great people. We were trying to figure out who we were while the rest of our country was trying to figure out what kind of world we would live in.
For me, basic training was a relief from life as a teenager. Everyone in the military seemed to know what they were supposed to do.
I did not get to talk to even a quarter of you and hope to talk to all of you in future reunions or mini reunions. But for those I did get a chance to talk with--Mike Katz, Pat Daly, Mark West, Gary DePalma, Dottie Crocker, Beverly Smith and others, I got a chance to see how they got through the turmoil of teenage life in the 60s and early 70s and lived good lives. I also talked to some of the spouses brave enough to come to somebody else's reunion. Murrie's wife was delightful to talk with. Next event I will be their. Thanks again for a great evening.
Neil

I realized today that one big difference in the reunions is that the 70th Armor reunion was almost entirely officers. They remembered a different unit than the one that we sergeants served in. At my high school reunion, we were all enlisted--just trying to get though it.

I am very much looking forward to the next high school reunion, but I will pass on future 70th Armor reunions.

I would love to go to a reunion of all the enlisted men in Bravo Company, 70th Armor.

By the time anyone has a reunion of my current unit, I'll probably forget I went to Iraq.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Firing the MK 19 Grenade Launcher

During last drill Echo Company set up and ran the MK 19 range.  The weapon is a belt-fed, fully automatic grenade launcher, mounted on a tripod or on a vehicle.  In combat it fires 40mm high explosive rounds at a rate of more than 300 rounds per minute--although the actual rate is 60 rounds per minute when feeding new belts of ammo into the weapon.  It can fire effectively up to 2000 meters and put rounds on a point target at 1500 meters.

We fired the non-explosive training rounds on Range 36 at Fort Indiantown Gap.  The range looks down into a valley from up on a ridge.  All of the gunners had 32 rounds each and were able to put effective fire on vehicle targets at 500 meters.







Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Viet Nam Vet from My High School Class

From Murrie Hubbard, USMC

I also belong to a FB group called "The Walking Dead", which is the nickname of my Marine Battalion from Vietnam and Okinawa during 1972-73. I just posted the below captioned in that group, as I knew my Marine Brothers would be honored to learn that they had been recognized at our 40th Reunion the other night. Thought I'd share it with you...

I graduated from Stoneham High School in Stoneham, MA in 1971. I had already been sworn into the Corps' 180 day delayed entry program in Boston, MA on New Year's Eve of 1970, and then left for P.I. 15 days after HS graduation. There were 364 graduates, only 12 of whom eventually became military veterans, and only 3 of us, to include 1 female, who became United States Marines. As you all of you ...know, very few wanted anything to do with going into the military at that time, and even fewer into the Marine Corps... And of the 12 veterans from my class, 8 were Vietnam Era veterans, and I ended up being the "ONLY" one of the 364 graduates from my HS class who actually spent some time within the designated Vietnam combat zone by that time, and that was off the coast of the DMZ in the Gulf Of Tonkin as part of two BLTs' 1/9 between 6/72 and 1/73. Anyway, the reason for this story is this: When my class recognized certain graduates for significant things at our 40th Class Renunion this past Saturday night, they recognized me for being the only Vietnam veteran in the class, and also told everyone in attendance the story about how The Walking Dead received it's nickname from Ho Chi Minh in the '60's, that the 1/9 had the most KIA's between '65-69 during Vietnam than any other single Marine Battalion in history, and that we were the last Marine battalion to leave the Gulf Of Tonkin just after the peace treaty was signed in Jan of '73. Needless to say, I was extremely proud and wanted to share this with everyone. Semper FI Brothers, Murrie

Class of 71 Reunion--Going Home


Last time I wrote was about going to my 40th high school reunion.  After driving all day Saturday from Lancaster PA I arrived in Stoneham MA.  I got a real Boston traffic welcome too.  Since it was Saturday, I decided to go through the city of Boston.  I drove through the infamous Big Dig on my way to Stoneham.  Just I left the city I saw I-93 was squeezed down to two lanes for a bridge replacement project.  

I got off the highway in  Medford thinking I could go through the two center to Stoneham.  Bad idea.  Medford was jammed with hundreds of cars with the same idea as I had.  Since I always have a bicycle with me, I stopped at a donut shop on route 38 and circled around in Medford until I found a good back road into Stoneham.  I arrived a half hour early so I parked at Robin Hood Elementary School (my elementary school!) and road around the streets in the area of Stoneham where I grew up.  

I went to the reunion with my best friend from High School, Frank Capuano, and his wife Diane.  They live in Stoneham.  Diane works in Stoneham,  Frank designs medical devices.  His current commute is to Rhode Island!!!  I know its not a long commute, it may be shorter than my 70-mile commute to Philadelphia.  But Frank commutes from the north side of Boston to Providence.  That's a long commute in Boston traffic.

I am at 300 words and haven't even gotten to the reunion yet.  Next post more reunion.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Class of 1971 Stoneham High School, Stoneham, Massachusetts

Here's the latest update from Murrie Hubbard on the service of my classmates.  Either or 11 or 12 of the 371 graduates in our class served.
Since my first enlistment was USAF, I guess I could be double counted in who served where.  It is interesting that we got all five branches with just 11 people.


As far as we know right now, we have a total of 11 military veterans from our class, and there could be a 12th (George Zanni), but I've never been able to confirm whether he really had served time in the Marines or not.  If any of you know anyone else who is a veteran, in addition to the below list, pls let me know before our reunion this coming Saturday.  
 
As you can see, the USAF was best represented by the Class Of 1971 (4), followed by the USMC, and we have served in all 5 branches of the military.  We have 3 designated war veterans, 2 retired high ranking officers, and at least 4 out of the 11 of us who have various types of service-connected disabilities.
 
1)   Murrie Hubbard, USMC, disabled, Vietnam war veteran
2)   Neil Gussman, USA, Iraq war veteran and Vietnam era veteran, still serving as well as seeking a tour in Afghanistan 
3)   Alan Jones, USAF, Iraq war veteran, still serving
4)   John Holmes, USCG, retired Captain and Iraq era veteran
5)   Marty Anderson, USA, retired Colonel and Iraq era veteran 
6)   Joanne LeFave, USMC, Vietnam era veteran
7)   Walter Carroll, USMC, Vietnam era veteran 
8)   Pete Lang, USN
9)   Richard Warren, USAF, retired/disabled, Vietnam era and Desert Storm era veteran
10) Dan Mahoney, USAF, retired/disabled, Vietnam era veteran
11) Michael Brown, USAF, retired/disabled, Vietnam era veteran, seriously injured and medically retired as a result of being involved in USAF plane crash around 1981   
 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Who Fights Our Wars: Contractor on the Way to Afghanistan

On the flight home from Kentucky yesterday, I was seated with a 27-year-old named Matt who was on his way to Afghanistan.  He will work in S-2, military intelligence, as a contractor.  This will be his third time serving in Afghanistan.  The first time he was a 19-year-old gunner on top of a Humvee.  At age 24 he had retrained and was in an intelligence unit in Afghanistan.  Now he was on his way back with no weapon and much higher pay.  I know he is not serving in the sense of being a soldier.  But IEDs don't discriminate and he will be working 12 hours a day, seven days a week in a very dangerous place.

Matt and I talked about flying long distances, hassles, chow, rockets, heat and dust.  We also talked about civilian jobs.  Matt lost his jobs when he came back both times.  The employers had been supportive and intended to keep his job, but they went out of business.  Like many soldiers, Matt is taking the contracting job because he will make more than $100,000 mostly tax free for the year he works in a war zone, and because he can't find a job that pays $20,000 back here.  Matt and his wife have no kids.  He is thinking of starting a business with the money he makes in the coming year.

When we landed in Charlotte, we each hurried off to connecting flights wishing each other well.  I hope his year goes well and his plans work out for him.  He went on inactive status with his National Guard unit.  If he returns to his unit and the war does not end, he will be back in Afghanistan as a soldier within a year after this tour.

Monday, August 1, 2011

40th High School Reunion in Two Weeks--2 Combat Vets in Class of 71

In two weeks I will be driving to Stoneham, Massachusetts, for my 40th High School Reunion.  One of the organizers is Murrie Hubbard.  He, Chickie Taylor, Tom and Diane Mayo and others worked to put the event together and track down many of our classmates.  In the course of getting reacquainted with many members of the class of '71, Murrie found out he and I were the only combate veterans of our class. Several others served.  Marty Anderson joined in 75 just after Viet Nam and rose to the rank of Colonel in the Army.  Mike Brown was a career Air Force sergeant.

But at age 18 Murrie Hubbard USMC went to Viet Nam.  On my 56th birthday, I stepped of the plane at Tallil Air Base, Iraq.  Funny that the only two veterans in our class served so far apart in space and time.

It's Murrie's birthday today.  Happy 58th birthday Murrie! See you soon.