MAY 23,& 24, 2013

Happy military Appreciation month. I have been writing a tribute to someone in my life associated with the military everyday to honor the month. Today, I am going to write a twofer – and talk about my sister in law Alane and brother in law Danny. Alane served 10 years as a Machine Repairman in the US Navy. She served the bulk of her career on the USS Vulcan, which is a Tender. A tender is the type of ship that is a floating repair shop. The Vulcan was also a pioneer in the Women in Navy Ships (WINS) program, females made up one-seventh of its crew. Prior to the WINS program being a Machine Repairman would have been a difficult rating for Alane- she would not have been able to serve her sea ratio. Alane went to college right after high school and then decided to follow her brothers and father into the US Navy. She, like Jack was an east coast sailor, meaning she spent her career on the east side of the country and her deployments were primarily to the Med. She also served on the USS Spear which is a Submarine Tender. While in the Navy, Alane met her husband Danny. Danny was a 6 years sailor who was Navy welder. He served on the Vulcan, which is where they met. They married in 1986. Danny separated from the Navy in 1992. He began working for General Motors using the skills he acquired in the Navy and Alane finished the remained of her contract. The settled in Millersville Maryland on a 5 acre hobby farm. Alane went on to do machinist work for Vulcan stoves- (too bad she wasn’t a Star Trek fan, it would have completed the theme.) Alane and Danny remain happy and active, living the dream life of hunting, fishing and fun on the Chesapeake. Danny grew up on the Bay and salt water is in his blood. They are the favorite aunt and uncle to my children. It is hard to compete with someone who takes you fishing for your first fish,(in the Bay) which turns out to be a 31 inch striped bass. My children spent their childhood learning gun safety and how to properly shoot at the hands of Dan and ALane. My kids appreciate Crabs because they caught them themselves, working hard under the summer sun, swimming in the Chesapeake Bay while waiting for the traps to fill. Dan and Alane taught my kids how to weld, how to drive, how to shoot, how to fish, how crab and most importantly- how to respect the cycle of life that feeds us all. They taught my kids the responsibility of hunting and crabbing, how to give back and why it is important to work hard. I couldn’t have asked for a better influence on my children in the early years. My memories are of roaring laughter and eyes filled with wonder as the kids followed animal tracks, repaired a small engine or learned to make Johnny cakes over a fire. Dan and Alane are no nonsense people who are practical and kind. They taught my children to respect others and helped model that with their own conduct, whether it was properly cleaning and stowing your gear no matter how tired you were or aiding an elderly neighbor because they needed help.
Danny and Alane live a great life on a beautiful farm near the Annapolis dairy farm. They were “green” before it became chic- because it makes sense to use resources wisely and prudently. Danny would rather repair something than buy something new- because it makes sense to do so. Alane cans her own food because it taste better when you grow it yourself. Their lifestyle was so foreign to a suburbanite like me when I first met them- in fact, I was a bit judgmental about it. But their frugality led to owning their home in 5 years so they were free to do what they wanted because they were free to make choices most of us can’t. As I have aged, I find each year, I get closer and closer to where they started- and each year I am happier and happier. Live simple. Laugh often. Love Always. It is the motto they taught my kids and me, as well. I can not thank them enough for the memories they created for my children, for the support they provided me as a parent and for their service to our country.

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MAY 25, 2013

Happy Military Appreciation Month. In honor of the month I am writing a tribute to a person in my life associated with the military. Today, I am going to honor Master Chief Shelby Miller. Shelby was born in Portsmouth, VA- the son of a retired Chief petty officer. He grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. He joined the Navy in 1969 after working briefly as a civil servant in NAS Norfolk. He went to “A” school at Great Lakes and “C” school in Dam Neck, VA. He had a illustrious career serving on the USS LUCE (DLG-7), USS HARRY E. YARNELL (CG-1), USS JOSEPHUS DANIELS (CG-27), Missile Systems Instructor GMS/SMS Dam Neck, VA, USS BIDDLE (CG-34), USS JOSEPHUS DANIELS (CG-27), and in December 1993, he reported on-board USS BRISCOE (DD-977) for duty as our Command Master Chief. This is when I met him. I was the Ombudsman for the USS Briscoe- which means I was the link between the command and the families. Think back to the days before cell phones and the internet. Back to the days when military wives would number their letters so their husband would open them in the correct order. Being an Ombudsman meant managing young wives who had no support system, parents who needed to get ahold of their sailor at often the worse times- terminally ill parent, the death of a loved one, or something equally critical and unpleasant. Instead, they called me and I relayed the information to the ship. Shelby told me in the beginning to “ be sure to keep my head and not to get wrapped around the axle.” It is was never boring, One time, I even had a Congressman call me- but Shelby took it all in stride. My favorite memory of Shelby was the Briscoe Bear. In an effort to connect kids with their deployed parents, we sent a stuffed Bear named Briscoe ( our ship name) as a stow away on the ship- he came on in a sea bag, and worked his way around the ship, staying with each unit and sending home a letter about his adventures. Shelby was the voice of Briscoe. The photos and letters sent “home” and published in our newsletter were a huge hit- kids had a better understanding of what their parents did for a living, the stories were a way to break up the boring days of deployment and the sailors stepped up. Of course, the natural competiveness kicked in and the stories got better each time. Someday, I will tell you about the tour with Engineering. Leave it to say, Briscoe will never be the same and has the tattoo to prove it. Shelby was an important part of my life as a Navy wife. He was my confidant. My boss. And My partner in crime. I knew too much, about ships movement, about their work and the ugly side of sailors – often before my husband knew. But Shelby kept me focused and sane. He had this laid back manner that help me KNOW things would be ok in the end. Shelby lived as a Geographical sailor so that his children would not have to move around. He lived away from his wie and kids so they could stay in one place. His son Aaron followed him into the Navy and spoke at his retirement ceremony. His daughters Anelise Marie, and Amy Elizabeth grew into beautiful young women who loved their father. His wife Mary Jane met Shelby on the pier after Shelby’s final deployment – in her arms was Mrs. Briscoe Bear- waiting for the return of her sailor. Master Chief is the highest rank you can achieve as an Enlisted Petty Officer. The Master Chief of a ship is a unique and highly respected position- the highest ranking enlisted personnel. You are the authority. You are the mediator. You are the no more bull shit stop. Shelby was all that and more to me. He had a heart the size of Pennsylvania with a manner that reminded you of Bob Marley. I could think of no better ally as I navigated broken toes to avoid ships movement, long dead mothers found in Brooklyn apartments and lonely days of blacked out communication to families. I don’t regret the absence of email for ship’s company. It made my job easier- more contained. I am sad that Congress is considering eliminating the role of the Ombudsman given the technological advances. It wasn’t the access that made my job easy- it was the relationship I had with Shelby. I will forever remember Shelby being piped off that final time at his retirement, turning to take his wife’s hand and passing through the raised flags with her. I think of Shelby often and wish him nothing but the best.

 

MAY 26, 2013

Happy Military Appreciation Month. I am writing a tribute to the members of the military in my life in recognition of the month. Today, I am honoring Micah Barcus. Micah served as a Sniper in the US Army from 1996-2001 and then later joined the Coast Guard to serve four more years as a Helicopter Mechanic. Forever looking for excitement and an adrenaline rush, Micah became a Paramedic. Micah is a force that enters the room before his body. He is a presence. He is an extreme athlete- running races, triathlon and even bicycling from Mchenry to Denver. When we met recently for coffee, he casually told me he ran a Xeterra Triathlon the day before. That is a swim in a lake, a mountain bike leg and then a trail run. Clearly not for the faint of heart. He is like the energizer bunny. Micah told me he knew he would join the Army long before he did- he grew up listening to stories from his father’s service in Vietnam and his grandfather’s service in Korea before him. It was the family business. He was assisting with drug operations in the jungles of Columbia before he could drink. Micah career was filled with helicopter crashes, rolled jeeps and late night phone calls calling for him to return to base to go on a mission. Micah left the Army with the intention to return to school. He was back and finding his way when the death of his brother in Iraq led him to hear the call to duty once again. It is difficult to be a sole surviving son- the want to serve your country balance with the need to respect your mother’s wishes. So, he joined the Coast Guard. He became a Helicopter mechanic, tearing down, inspecting and rebuilding the unit’s helicopters every two weeks. Micah left the Coast Guard and went to MCC to become a paramedic-. Being a first responder is natural for Micah; he is efficient, and capable- keeping a cool head in the time of crisis. Wanting more for his family, Micah is studying to become an ER nurse.
Micah is the heart bursting proud father of a 4 year old son. Micah is helping me on a project about the reintegration process for returning veterans. He has found the answer to how to continue to serve his country and respect the wants of his mother and father. I thank you Micah for all you have done, and all you continue to do.