I generally like to reminisce on Memorial Day because some of my fondest memories are associated with my military experiences and the people I know from those days. I met John Castro In Navy bootcamp in San Diego. John was a stocky wrestler from Superior, Arizona with a Mexican heritage and I was a lanky hillbilly from Knoxville, Tennessee. Later on in A-School at Great Lakes Naval Station and finally aboard the USS Missouri, Juan Fernandez, Terry Shultz, and the late Tom Wisecup helped make up the crew I fondly remember from my Navy days. Tom was an upstate New Yorker. Juan a proud Cuban-American from Miami. And Terry was a mid-western kid from Illinois.
We were a diverse group and I never would have had the privilege of being exposed to such different cultures were it not for my time in the Navy. I lost track of everyone but Terry and only learned through web searches that Tom passed away years ago. Those guys saw my youth at its best and worst. I hope they are all doing well and I look forward to tossing a few back and catching up at some point in the future.
I switched from the US Navy to the Army Reserves in order to participate in ROTC during my college years. At that time I considered a military career a distinct possibility. At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville I got the opportunity to qualify for the Military Order of Tennessee Rangers (MOTR) with Stacy Corn and Phillip Barr. The qualification was physically tough and required a lot of extracurricular activity. I learned a lot about myself and I learned that sometimes I’m not as tough as I think. More importantly I learned that sometimes your friends are tougher than you give them credit for being. Thanks friends for pulling me along when I needed a good tug.
I got to lead a team in the annual ROTC Ranger Challenge at Fort Campbell in 1990. We made a decent showing that year despite having a very young team. The weather was particularly nasty, and the event coordinators did us the disservice of canceling the main patrol exercise. It still pisses me off to this very day that we weren’t allowed to conduct the exercise due to the weather. I think my fascination with continuous improvement was born during this event. I always feel I could have done better and led better given the chance. Maybe that is where my interest in Baldrige truly lie. David Adler, Beason Layne, Sergeant Bault… I owe you the world for helping me see that there is a mental switch each one of us can flip to access the cave man.
I spent a few years as a Scout Platoon leader in Troop E, 2/278th ACR in Newport, Tennessee. Jeff Solomon was the platoon leader for the other Scout Platoon during my time there. Jeff made me appreciate more than anyone else that practice was not a time to go easy or to give half-ass efforts. Jeff was a consummate professional and taught me that practice was for going hard and giving it your all because sucking in practice was a prelude to sucking in general.
Finally I want to say that there are a few of my brothers in arms that were able to gut out the long run and actually serve 20 or more years. I am impressed, because I was worn down by all of the bureaucracy and did not make it that long. My big brother Chris, Mike Collier, Beason Layne, Jesse, Stacy Corn, and others (?)… Thanks for your willingness to overcome great obstacles to serve.
Happy Memorial Day!