Sunday, October 30, 2011

Home Boy on the Train

The last leg of my long trip home from Houston on Thursday began with a 3:45 am wake up call and ended with taking the 10:59 pm Keystone train from Philadelphia to Lancaster.  

There is no quiet car on the last train so I sat across from a guy about my age wearing a suit and dozing off listening to music.  Since he was my age, he would not be listening to Metal, Rap or Lady Gaga so loud I had to listen to 2nd-hand noise.  It turned out he was on the way home from a delayed flight also.

As we talked I learned he works from home advising small companies how to get bigger.  He was a father of eight--two groups of four kids from two marriages.  Group One are in their late 20s and early thirties.  Group two are four kids between eight and twelve.  I also learned he grew up in the next town south of Stoneham MA where I grew up.  Mike grew up in Medford.  

He graduated in 1973, the year the draft ended and was very happy not to go in the Army.  As we talked, it was clear that this 56-year-old guy lived for success, moving up from his blue collar background and being rich.  He made it.  He lives in Lancaster County's best suburb (Lititz) in one of its best neighborhoods.  For him risk has to do with money.  Mike is pro-military, but was never interested in serving.  

Mike was also very candid about his life.  He said his first marriage ended because he could not deal with the transition between being a King on the Road and a chump at home.  The way he said Chump really made me sure he was a Home Boy.  He was a rising star in the business consulting and got handed a "Honey-Do" list at home.  "Hero to Zero when I stepped off the plane," he said.  So he left.

He travels frequently to Europe and was making his first trip to Asia soon.  Another guy across the aisle, Jim, had made several recent trips to Beijing.  Mike was happy to hear Jim had no health problems from the trips.  

Usually, I read or work on the train, but the shared misery of the midnight train home gave me a chance to talk with another guy from Massachusetts whose live took him to Lancaster County.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Traveling in Class A Uniform

This week I was in Texas from Monday to Thursday.  Rather than travel in our digital camo uniform, I decided to travel in Class A uniform.  Actually, it is better for travel than I would have suspected.  This heavy weight (compared to a good civilian suit) uniform resists wrinkles very well.  The shoes are good to walk in and much lighter than combat boots.  The jacket can be folded into an overhead compartment and looks good when unfolded.

On the trip back I was on a delayed flight with a group of women in the Arizona VFW on the way to a ceremony at the Statue of Liberty.  One of the ladies gave me the official coin of their VFW post.  Like most of the other coins I have received, it was mostly for being in the right place at the right time.  As I write this I hope their group had as good a trip as they could.  Today's storm set NYC's all-time snow record for October.  It was an easy record to set since an inch was the previous record.

The uniform got me free meals on the planes, a quick trip through security, a coin, several people saying a heart-felt thank you for my service and many smiles.  But it doesn't make trains and planes run on time.  I slept late today trying to help my 58-year-old body recover from that very long day.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Oldest Company Commander Replaced by Youngest

Today Headquarters Company of the 2-104th Aviation had a change of command ceremony.  1LT Matthew Moyer who will turn 26 on Sunday took command from CPT Paul Ward, age 54.  Ward is moving on to a staff job at higher headquarters.  Like me, Ward has a break in service.  He was a company commander when Moyer was in the 1st grade.

1LT Moyer

CPT Ward

Both men were deployed with 2-104th in Iraq in 2009-10 and were on battalion staff.  Ward was a battle captain in operations.  Moyer was Unit Movement Officer, the officer in charge of moving the battalion to Iraq and back to America.  He organized the movement of almost 50 aircraft and hundreds of containers from Pennsylvania to Fort Sill to Iraq and back to America.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Boys Like Guns

Today I drove to Mifflintown to pick up Emarion for his first visit to our home.  He asked if we could see Army stuff on the way home.

I wrote about some of visit in my other blog, Adoptive Dad.

Of the three boys, Emarion clearly knows the most about weapons.  He has gone hunting, loves fishing and says Cabella's is his favorite store.

He is clearly going to like the family days at Fort Indiantown Gap.  We watched M16 qualification for several minutes.  Emarion liked watching the shooters knock the targets down.  He was fascinated walking through the hangar at FT IG and liked just looking at the trucks and tracks in the motor pools around post.

I could also show him the M60A1 tank in front of the headquarters building and tell him I was a tank commander of one of those 35 years ago.  Since I don't watch football and baseball, it's good that I am in the Army.  Helicopters, camouflaged vehicles and weapons are a great ice breaker with boys.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sunset Here and There

Today I got a call from one of my riding buddies in NYC.  I got the call at 630pm and said I had to go, I still had ten minutes to ride.  He said "No way, it's dark."  I said "See ya" and rode for 10 minutes.  I could have ridden longer because it was a brilliant full moon low in the eastern sky.  And to be exact, I had nine more minutes to ride than my buddy in NYC, not ten.

I guessed at ten minutes as I left to ride, but I knew it was close.  New York is about 120 miles east of Lancaster PA.  At 40 degrees of latitude, each degree of longitude equals about 60 miles on the ground.  The two degrees of difference translates into four minutes on the clock--15 degrees is 1/24th of the one-rotation-per-day spin of the earth.  So the sun sets in NYC just over eight minutes earlier than in Lancaster. And, of course, the sun rises earlier in NYC.

I know.  What good is knowing that?  Maybe nothing, but when GPS and every other gadget runs out of juice, I can still do some rudimentary time keeping and navigation.

Or just write about weird stuff I know.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My First and LAST Army Ten Miler

The Army Ten Miler was my third long-distance event in the last three weeks: my seven in the last year.  And this event has the distinction of being far and away the worst run.

Let me begin with the schedule.  Race number pick up was at the DC Armory near the capital--nowhere near the event itself.  But it did allow the organizers to fill the armory with more than 100 vendors selling shoes, shorts, shorts and other shit.  I drove to number pick up with my sons.  There was a line out the door because having the number pick up in a government building meant metal detectors.  We got to go in a different entrance with my military ID.  But there were only two lines for those who were not military.

This bottleneck told me what the whole event would be like.

Inside, I got my number and went to another table for the t-shirt.  I paid $10 extra for a long-sleeve t-shirt.  But when I got to the table, with two hours left in registration--no more long sleeve t-shirts.  They had a woman's small which fit Nigel, so he got the race shirt.  I got my other a son an under armour Army shirt in the Expo.

We got up at 0540 in Silver Spring MD at Grandpa's house (he cooked spaghetti for us the night before) and were on the way to the Pentagon by 0600.  The race program said to take the Metro so we parked in Arlington and took the Metro two stops to the Pentagon.  So did thousands of others.  It took 11 minutes to get from the tracks to the exit.  We were against a wall.  Most of the riders did know the Metro and that there were other stairs.  So we all funneled up one inoperative escalator.

No one from the event was at the Pentagon Metro station helping with traffic.  There were HUNDREDS of volunteers along the route with nothing to do.  They would have been helpful in the Metro tunnel.

Or moving people from the Metro stop to the start line.  Everyone who drove or took the Metro had to move through one unmarked gate to get to the start.  No volunteers there either.  No announcers.  But along the route there were official volunteers with very good bull horns encouraging us.  These same bull horns would have been great getting people through the funnel.

In the half dozen other half marathons I have run, by mile five I would be in a group of people running about my speed.  In this event I ran a very steady 10 minute pace for the first five miles then ran about 9:20 pace for the second half.  But for the entire event the crowd around me was changing.  I was passing and being passed by others all the way from start to finish.   And in the last half mile I got passed by young guys who were sprinting for 11,000th place.

They shouldn't have bothered.  From a half-mile to the the finish until the boys and I got in the Metro station, we could hear the finish announcer saying, "Don't walk, keep running after the finish.  Keep moving."  The boys could mimic his pleading/commanding tone very well.  When I got the finish line I couldn't cross the timing line because runners jammed up and stopped.  It was about 20 seconds from the time I was in the crowd till I actually crossed the line.

The finishing chute was no wider than the one at the Hamptons Half Marathon which had about a tenth of the runners.   Fifty feet passe the finish I climbed over the spectator fence and went to Nigel and Jacari.  We first tried to walk back to the finish but the mess was getting worse, so we left.

Again, this event is 25 years old.  They knew the number of runners.  Why all these bottlenecks?

The entry fees totaled about $150,000.  The organizers should take some of that money and make a road trip to Philadelphia to see how they can run these events with either side of 20,000 runners and no bottlenecks at all.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Army Weekend without Drill!

My sons are going to have yet another weekend of long car rides, early wake up and greasy food.  This Sunday I am running the Army Ten Miler.  The race is in Washington DC for most of its distance, but it begins and ends near the Pentagon.  Start time is 0800, so we wil be waking at 0600 to get to the start through a very big crowd.

We will leave after lunch tomorrow and drive to DC for packet pickup.  We have free accommodations with Grandpa in Silver Spring MD.  So hamburgers for dinner tomorrow and for lunch Sunday!!!

I will start with Wave 2 of three waves.  It looks like I will be running with 25,000 of my closest friends.

Should be fun!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Benefits of National Guard Service

This morning I was making hotel reservations for New York and Philadelphia and thinking about how many things are cheaper, easier or more fun because I am a Guardsman.  
  • If you book with Holiday Inn (same with other hotels I assume), they offer a Government Rate.  I have a military ID and that's all they require to give you a better rate and a free breakfast.  Part of the Government rate is breakfast.  
  • When I travel to NYC, Washington and Boston on Amtrak, I get a 10% discount with my ID.
  • If I fly in uniform I don't get a different price, but I do get WAY better treatment in the security line.
  • Two days ago we met Emarion who may be our next son if all goes well.  He is 12 and shy and somewhat nervous about meeting what may be his new family.  I could take out pictures of helicopters, machine guns, grenade launchers and talk about flying in the former and firing the latter. Not surprisingly, this ends up being a great ice breaker with a 12-year-old boy.
  • When my daughter organized a day at Richmond International Speedway as part of her internship with the local VA Hospital, she could give me an unused ticket because I am a veteran with a combat tour in Iraq.
  • And it's fun to occasionally overhear one of my kids saying, My Dad is in the Army."

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