Sunday, August 31, 2008

Meeting Iwo Jima Veterans at the Museum

Today at the museum, I met several Iwo Jima Veterans while I was working the Iwo Jima Immersion. I didn't have my camera on me when one gentleman walked through so I feel kind of bad for not documenting his visit. Let me introduce you to who I did meet.

First we have Cal Shoop (dark shirt) who landed at Green beach with the 5th Division. He was in 3rd Battalion, Golf company (G), 28th Marines. Next to him is Guy Rowe who landed at Yellow beach with the 4th Division. He was in 1st Battalion, Charlie company (C), 23rd Marines.


I have started 'warning' Iwo Veterans and their families that the Iwo Immersion may be emotional for the veteran and if they feel they need to 'escape', I tell them what door to use. I also make a point now of checking on them when they come out of the Higgin's boat. When I went to check on Mr. Shoop, he said, "That was much more enjoyable than my first trip to Iwo."

I chatted with Mr. Shoop and Mr. Rowe for a bit. They talked about all the Japanese that seemed to be everywhere and how hard it was to take out their positions. The Japanese had dug into the island and reinforced its tunnels with re-bar and concrete. On top of the concrete, they piled sand. The sand acted as a buffer for bombs being dropped from the Navy bombers. The only way you could take out one of the Japanese positions was to "blow" the sand off with a couple glancing bomb drops and then hit the bunker directly with another bomb. For Marines on the ground, they threw C2 explosives into bunker openings. An 8 man squad of Marines would take turns firing into the opening of a bunker, to ground the enemy (make them take cover). Each guy would fire 8 shots into the opening, in turn, while another Marine would crawl up and drop the C2 charge in.

Mr. Shoop said his favorite were the airplanes because they would come in and take out Japanese positions. He remembered laying out pieces of orange colored plastic to mark where the US lines were and the Jap lines were. Pilots used these marks to find their targets.

Later that afternoon, I met George Bernstein who landed at Red Beach with the 5th Division, HQ 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines. I asked him to smile while standing next to a photo of an intel map of the island and he said, "Smile? We lost too many guys there to smile about it."


After I photographed him, a nun from the Philippines walked up to him and shook his hand saying, it was such an honor to meet a Veteran of Iwo Jima. I didn't get a picture of that as the next paragraph will explain...

I would have chatted with Mr. Bernstein more, however, as I was getting his information down, I turned to see my next group standing in the open Higgins Boat waiting for something to happen. YIKES! So I ran into the boat and dropped the door to start the movie. I explained to everyone that I was talking to an Iwo Jima veteran and I was very sorry. A few people said it was quite all right that they didn't blame me a bit. I think a couple of them sought him out when they came off the Higgins boat.

It is just such an honor to meet these gentlemen who survived quite an ordeal. There are so few of them left, fewer each day. Its a blessing that I can meet them and record their visit.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blindsided By Veep Pick

O.k. I'll be honest, the first time I had heard of Sarah Palin was last spring after she gave birth to her fifth child Trig.  I think she became the first Governor to give birth while in office.  I had found the story encouraging -- not because she was a Governor and a mother -- but because she was 44.  I guess as I get closer and closer to  40 and I'd like to get married and have children  - - I get encouraged when I read about women in their 40s having children.  So that was initially what I found inspiring about her.

Yep, I know, fluffy.

What do I think about her selection as McCain's running mate?  I was asked that today while quilting with co-workers.  I think its kind of neat, I find it interesting, I was surprised - - I don't really know what to think, to be honest.  I don't know much about Palin.  I suppose like everyone, I'll be doing a bunch of research on her.

I was surprised how quickly her selection was attacked by mainstream media - - especially MSNBC.  I was watching it last night and was kind of taken aback by a few of the attacks.

 They keep concentrating on the fact that her only political experience was being a small town mayor.  But currently she's the Governor of Alaska.  That was getting mentioned as an afterthought and then was followed by the 'chaser' - - "what could possibly go on in Alaska".

If I were from Alaska, I'd be insulted.  Just because its ranked 47th out of 50 for population doesn't make a politician from this State incapable of leading on a national level.  I mean, what do people in the lower 48 think --  that everyone in Alaska lives in igloos and are North Pole rednecks?

As Governor, Sarah Palin is responsible for managing the State's budget (by this I mean she is the final sign-off of the appropriations bill sent to her from the state law makers).  In 2007, Alaska's budget was ranked 32nd in the US with $5.5 billion in expenditures. If Alaska overspends its budget, its not the State's budget director who gets blamed, but the Governor.  Just like when our federal budget goes in deficit - - its not Congress' s fault but President Bush's.

How much money were McCain, Obama and Biden responsible for managing in 2007 or in 2008 for that matter?

She got ripped about being pro-life and for choosing to have her fifth child whom she knew could possibly be downs syndrome.  What is so wrong with being pro-life?  What is so wrong with choosing to have the child you are carrying when you know it has a disability, deformity, or life threatening condition.  Are we being told by MSNBC that the lives of children who are imperfect are not worth carrying to term?   She's Catholic.  Catholic doctrine  - - actually Christian doctrine states that life begins at conception.  She's sticking by her beliefs.  What is wrong with this?  As a side, Joe Biden is also Catholic and he is Pro-Choice.  In an interview with the Catholic Bishop of Denver during the DNC, the Bishop said that because Biden was not living to the standards and teaching of the Catholic Church, that if Biden were a member of the Denver Diocese, Biden would not be able to take communion.  Geraldine Ferraro's priest refused to serve her communion because of her Pro-Choice stance.  But this whole topic is enough for another blog.

Palin's stance on oil drilling. First, oil is a big revenue maker for the state of Alaska as well as for Alaskans who work in the oil industry.  So of course she's going to back an industry that is good for her state.  What politician wouldn't do this?  FYI, the Russians don't have a problem with drilling for oil in the Arctic - - they may even infringe on US territory to do it.

Then her stance on Alaskan Wildlife and what should be endangered or not.  Honestly, I think there are a bunch of groups out there that are appalled that Palin is herself a hunter.  There are groups out there that would like to ban all hunting everywhere.  Regarding oil drilling hurting the environment of wildlife... The Russians don't have a problem with drilling for oil in the Arctic.  So, are we o.k. with not drilling ourselves and then buying the oil we need from Russia?

Regarding foreign policy experience.  Alaska borders on Canada and Russia.  I'm sure there are agreements regarding hunting and fishing that have been made.  In addition to that, I'm sure there are other trade agreements, many states have these with foreign countries.

I'm not one to blindly follow what I'm being told by the press, political parties, or political organizations.  So, that leaves me with a lot of research to do going into the elections in November.

Either way, its going to be a historical election.  We are poised to either elect the first African American man to the White House or we'll have our first female Vice President.  Regarding the oldest president elected - - Ronald Reagan still holds that record at 70 during his first term and then 74 for his second term.

Friday, August 29, 2008

US Side of Afghan Airstrike Controversy

The US refuted Afghan claims that a US Air Strike killed 90 civilians.

Just to give you some background on this, last week, US special forces (US SF) a long with Afghan Army (AA) forces engaged Taliban fighters, to include a Taliban commander, Mullah Sadiq. The combined Afghan and US forces conducted a raid on a compound and when they began taking heavy small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire from the compound they called in an air strike. Prior to the strike, women and children fled the compound from a rear entrance. The compound was hit, and 25 militants including Sadiq were reported killed, five civilians were also killed (two women and three children). US SF and AA forces then entered the compound and found a woman and child who were wounded and they air lifted them to a US hospital for treatment. The scene was video taped and photographed by Combat Camera to help confirm targets and to, probably little did they know, provide defense for their actions.

Local Afghan leaders reported that 75 civilians had been killed in an air strike on a village and that most, if not all killed were women and children. US spokespeople denied this based upon the reports given by the US SF who had entered the compound immediately after the attack.

Afghanistan's leader came out and denounced the attack. The number of killed went from 75 to 90.

Then Kharzi fires a couple of his military commanders over this.

Then the number killed went to 95.

Now, I do realize that people can die later from wounds. However, the initial reports of the numbers killed and the gender and age of those killed does not match the after action observation and photographic evidence taken by combat camera.

To top it off, the UN sent an investigator in and they found 'convincing evidence' regarding the the numbers killed. How, I'm not really sure since it seems that all the UN investigators did was talk to people. Convincing evidence in my book is you have 95 bodies.

A U. S. military official said the US military can not find the evidence evidence supporting what the Afghan government is accusing them of. In fact, all the evidence the US military points to the contrary. The US military is going from aerial photographs taken from an unmanned aircraft that was flying above during the operation; I'm sure they also have video taken by the KC 130, the photos taken by combat camera immediately following the operation, the additional post operation evidence that there are no signs of a large number of recently dug graves and that there were no injuries reported at local hospitals.

Now, I also want to point out that the Afghanis say the villagers were gathered not for some militant planning session, but for a memorial service for a person killed last year. Interesting as this raid occurred around 1 a.m. (yes that would be 0dark100 in the morning). Since when do villages have midnight memorial services? And if this was the case, why would they be firing at US SF and the Afghan military with small arms and RPGs? In addition to this, from what I know of the US military and close ground support, when they call air strikes in, there is a person on the ground that can confirm the targets and they are talking directly with the pilots of the aircraft. In addition to this, I've seen the video recordings taken by the aircraft from other missions (all open source, I don't have access to classified stuff like this) so I have an idea of what the pilots see and the fact that so many woman and children would be killed just seemed odd.

This is a link to a video of a KC 130 air strike on a compound in Afghanistan (not the one in this controversial attack). When you watch, notice the chatter between the ground controller (he's the guy on the ground with close visual contact with the target) and the pilot. The pilot does not fire unless he's told to, he's given the 'lay of the land' as far as what is an o.k. target and the ground controller reminds him several times to not hit the mosque. They even stop engaging (stop shooting) at an insurgent when he runs for and into the mosque.

Why isn't the press asking the questions I've just asked above? This just frustrates me that the Taliban sensationalizes stuff and makes the US look like cold blooded killers. Why are people more apt to believe the Taliban over the US military and Afghan military that were there, on the ground? What evidence did the UN get, do they have bodies? Do they have graves? Or are they just taking the word of villagers. A lot of people will say things if someone threatens to kill them.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Putin, Medvedev, What the Heck Are You Smokin'?

Like is it psychotropic? Because you both, actually every Russian diplomat quoted in the news, sound completely insane.

Now, you are saying that the Russian invasion of Georgia was instigated by the United States in an attempt to make one US Presidential candidate look better than the other. First of all, if you all fell for this alleged US instigation - - you guys are the political morons that you accuse Georgia and the US of being. You want to be a super power again? What super power lets itself be manipulated in such a way as to make one of another country's presidential candidates look better than the other.

Let me guess, since you are going to cut your imports of US pork and chicken, you will blame the long food lines and empty meat counters this winter on the US. Somehow you will blame the hardships you are imposing on your own people on the United States.

Oh - - and when you cut off heating oil and hold Eastern Europe hostage this winter - - you'll blame that on the United States too. Oh, ya, the United States is really going to twist your arm and force you to cut off the oil pipelines.

And then on Russia Today television news, they report you guys got the Shanghai convention to sign some declaration backing your support of Ossetia and Abkhazia's independence. Do you think those other countries live in some vacuum? That they wouldn't hear or read that you guys are promoting their backing of your actions? So, when China releases a statement that they and the other countries of this Shanghai group are 'concerned' about the situation and that they didn't sign any declaration backing your position, what is that? Another conspiracy of the United States?

Dudes, no one. Not one country that means anything, oh, let me qualify that, no country with a sane leader, has supported Russian actions.

I love your foreign ministers quote last week that Russia was prepared to sell Syria more arms as long as this does not disturb the regional balance of power. WTH?! Of course that will disturb the balance of power in the region. Are you trying to FORCE Israel into a preemptive strike somewhere? But I guess if you were to do that - - it would be the fault of the United States.

Grasshopper and Dew Drop

I noticed this guy as I was running out to my car for work in the morning.


Clintons Upstaged by Bidens


That is what I thought in regards to both Beau Biden's intro to his father and Joe Biden's speech.

You know, the press is talking about how Hillary had the speech of her life last night and how Bill hit one out of the park - - Their speeches did not compare to the Bidens'. If Bill was out of the park - - it was a little league park. Man, I really thought the Biden's brought it tonight. I'm going to do some predicting - - I would not be surprised if we don't see Beau Biden running for national office in the next few years.

I have to laugh at myself. The last three weeks, most of my friends were going to bed really late every night because they were up watching the Olympics - - I'm now going to bed really late because I'm staying up to watch the Conventions.

National Museum of the Marine Corps Sets New Benchmark in Visitor Survey Results


So who visits the museum? That is what the Museum set out to discover last fall as we approached our first anniversary. They conducted zip code surveys in the bookstore, exit surveys and another survey administered by the American Association for State and Local History.

Before I share the results museum adminstrators shared with volunteers, let me share that the museum raised the bar as far as high marks.

The top score in the AASLH survey was a 10. The museums strengths included the following:

Recommend to others 9.4

Well Kept 9.6

Understand that Museum Work is in Progress (the museum isn't done yet) 9.5

Felt Welcome 9.4

Overall Rating 9.5


Where do our visitors come from?

In the first year there were 548,875 visitors.

Most of the visitors were from the mid Atlantic states or states with a high Marine Corps presence (i.e. California, Florida, Texas, Ohio).

68% of the visitors were military

There was a 60/40 split between men and women.

42% of the visitors were between the ages of 40-60
36% of the visitors were over 60

(Note on above stat, my mom always asks if I ever meet any single men at the museum. Um, yes and I get hit on all the time by World War II and Korean War Veterans, so no one I would be interested in dating. My mom then said, well maybe one of them is rich, maybe you could be like Anna Nicole. O.k. ya, not what I'm aspiring to in my life.)

Most of our visitors came because they are/where in the Marine Corps or have a connection to the Marine Corps (45%). Another 25% said they came because they like learning about history and the final 25% said they visited because they thought it would be a 'cool' place to come for an outing.

The most important ideal visitors left with was pride and understanding of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Photos are of the Commandant of the Taiwanese Marine Corps (top) and Gold Star Families (bottom).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Did She Just Vomit In Her Mouth?

O.k. I'll be perfectly honest, I can't stand listening to Hillary Clinton. I didn't bother watching the Convention last night but thought I should at least watch her remarks.

Now, did she just vomit in her mouth when she said "Proud Supporter of Barak Obama?"

Actually, it looked like she was fighting back vomitting everytime she said his name.

I really don't have any other comments on what she said because something about her voice ends up sounding like the adults in Charlie Brown videos - - wahwahwahwahwah.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The DNC and Michelle Obama's Speech

While work has pretty much consumed my life, I did find the time (made the time) to watch/listen to the speeches given on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention. Politics and world events have always been an interest of mine. Its amazing how everything in this world is connected.

So, cutting to the chase, my impressions of last night and specifically Michelle Obama's speech. One thing that impressed me last night, were the strong women in the Democratic Party from the delegates who supported Hilary that were being interviewed regarding their plans to vote for McCain instead, to the congresswomen and Govenors to Nancy Pelosi and then the Obama family. There are some strong female movers and shakers who are not afraid to speak their minds (even if its opposite of what the Democratic Party would like).

My impression of Michelle Obama. First of all, I've really been annoyed with the attacks on her throughout - - many of the same attacks McCain's wife Cindy has endured in his various bids. Why is it, that if you are a successful woman in your own right that it is a negative? Why should a woman's success and power diminish that of her husband's?

I came across this quote yesterday, "Show me the man you honor, and I will know what kind of man you are." - Thomas Carlyle.

Well, I think you can substitute that first 'man' with 'woman'. I think men who pick strong, successful women as their spouses are themselves, strong, successful, confident. I think the wives of both Obama and McCain say a lot about the kind of men they are.

The Obama story reminds me a lot of my own family. While part of my family has been here since the founding of this nation, other branches are new immigrants. On my dad's side, I am third generation American. My father was the first person in his family to go to college. My grandfather worked in the local limestone quarry and organized labor and was a local Democratic party official. My mom's father was the son of Methodist ministers and farmers. My maternal grandfather was the sole provider of his extended family during the Great Depression. He worked building the highway system in Northern Ohio and sent six kids on to college. My uncles are all very successful and left small town Ohio for big cities. My dad returned to teach school. We never had a lot of money and my parents really struggled but they raised myself and my sisters to be women of character, to value God and education and our country. Two of us have advanced degrees and have left Ohio and all three of us have successful careers.

When I listened to Michelle Obama, I really could connect with her. I appreciated the personal look into their family, into her life. My impression was, wow, in this country, you really can come from a working class family and make-it. You don't have to be part of the elite, the son or daughter of lawyers, doctors or politicians, to be successful.

My impression last night was a refreshed Pride in the United States. Here is the speech.

Other links that you might like are:

The DNC home page.

And I really like Fox News' Politics page.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Copy of DSC_0052

I have no idea what kind of bug has just lost its life. I will admit I screamed when the spider scurried down the web and pounced on the exhausted victim. The bug struggled for a second and then the paralyzing poison kicked in. I felt bad for the bug. But that is just nature, that is what I told myself as I snapped pictures.

There are three of these spiders living on my front porch. I don't know what kind of spiders they are. They are huge! Their bodies are about the size of a quarter and when their legs are out stretched, they are about the size of half a dollar. They spin these gorgeous, gigantic webs that strech the expanse of the columns on my front porch. I think they could trap small birds.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

End of Summer BBQ


Well, its been a while since I've done anything social. I had a BBQ at my house this weekend with the women in my small group Bible Study and men from a couple of the men's small groups. Above is a photo of everyone enjoying themselves on my deck at the end of summer BBQ.


Above is my deck before everyone arrives. And below is an arrangement I put together in a small square vase of flowers from my garden.


The other half of my deck.


Some of my friends in line for burgers and dogs in my kitchen.


A little after 7 one of the gals from my small group arrived. Shortly after her arrival one of the guys arrived.

Then Ranger escaped.

So the next guest arrives while I'm trying to wrangle Ranger into the house using the garden hose. I tell him, kind of point blank, to go ahead and into the house but leave the front door open. My first three guests listened to me chase Ranger up and down the block. I say listen because Ranger howled and growled at me the whole time. My friend C said it sounded like he was possessed.

"We couldn't believe that was the same cat that had so kindly greeted us and wanted us to pet him."

So anyway - - I got Ranger back in the house and then it was an ordeal to get him to go upstairs and to a bedroom. Everyone laughed as I continued to chase him around the dining room table and told him to go up stairs. He hissed and growled all the way. Needless to say, I was a sweaty mess after this. My hair was flat, my make-up had run off my face. So there are no pictures of me at my BBQ.

After eating, we played catch phrase. I have to share this story because it goes down as one of those - - "What not to say in mixed company" kinds of stories. One of the guys is describing the phrase he got and he says:

A couple does this when they are being intimate.

People shouted out: Kiss, hug...

The guy replied: No, two words, you do this into a kleenex.

silence ... until I said,

Blow job? (you are suppose to shout out the first things that come to mind based on the person's clues - - my brain was in competitive mode).

Of course this sent everyone into a laughing fit along with protests that the answer I blurted out wasn't Christian and what happened to this being a family friendly game - - and good thing I didn't say that at game night at church.

The phrase the guy was trying to get his team to guess was: Hanky Panky.

It was a fun night. Everyone left around 1 a.m. so it was very hard getting up this morning. I've had about three Cokes today.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cheek To Cheek With "Mad Dog"

Copy of Cheek to Cheek With Mattis

Here I am with General James "Mad Dog" Mattis aka "Warrior Monk" Mattis. Thanks Denny (my fellow museum Photo Dog") for taking this picture. My first comment on my appearance - - what the heck happened to my make-up? Why does it seem like I never have any on? My second comment - - I flippin' hate the humidity of Virginia and what it does to my hair - - and finally - - Could I have stood a little straighter and rolled my shoulders back? Good grief I look like a slouch! Maybe I was slouching because I could have sworn I was taller than him.

Now, I just have to say, General Mattis is a Marines Marine. He doesn't throw any punches and the impression I've gotten from people is that he calls it as he sees it. Granted, that can lead to some controversial - out - of - context quotes. For instance this one:

"Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot," Mattis said, prompting laughter from some military members in the audience. "It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

He is also famous for a slogan "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy" Which was lifted from Roman Dictator and General Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (78BC).

The evening General Mattis spoke, he also quoted from several other historic figures, of course, since I didn't have my notebook, I couldn't write stuff down (lesson learned on my part). Why do I mention this? The historical study of generals, dictators, political thinkers, and military operations is something I truly admire about Marines in general and Marine Corps Officers in particular. While I know this study goes on in other military branches, I've witnessed an embracing of history among the Marine Corps that I've not seen in other services. Why do I think the study of history important? Somewhere I remember learning that if we don't know our history, we are cursed to repeat it. I think that is true.

Now some of you may also be wondering about General Mattis' other nickname "Monk Warrior". General Mattis is a bachelor. I have also met other Marines (i.e. Major A, most recently) who embrace this lifestyle while on active duty as they feel they are unencumbered and have less to worry about when they are not married, thus, they can take greater risks, and more challenging assignments.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Saddleback Controversy

Wow, I guess within 24 hours the Obama Campaign was accusing the McCain Campaign of cheating.

Now, if McCain was cheating - - I'd have expected him to have done better. In my honest opinion, I thought that Obama did a better job reaching the American public that was watching via television. Both sides were given some of the topics to be covered. If McCain had heard Obama's answers, I'd have expected him to make some very pointed comments during his segment to discredit or counter him. I'd have also expected him to be more relaxed - - less stiff. If McCain was play acting that, he deserves an academy award. And you know, both sides can watch the video - - just like you and I and can quickly formulate counter arguments.

By the way, here is a link to all the cuts from the forum:

I'd have posted them here but I'm having some minor flash player issues.

What makes me mad about the "Cheating" attack - - I feel like it is not only slamming McCain's integrity -- but its questioning Rick Warren and Saddleback Church's integrity. By questioning the Pastor's integrity and that of the church, I really feel its questioning the integrity of all Christians. Its a Satanic attack pure and simple.

Now, I know there may be some people reading this blog that now think I'm a crackpot because of that last comment. But I call it as I see it. I am really thinking there is some agenda that Evil doesn't want addressed or doesn't want taken seriously. Maybe its abortion, using fetal stem cells, gay marriage, the war on terror, a resurgence of Russia, genocide, a southern slide in the moral compass of our nation, our national irresponsibility in regards to resources both natural and financial, or just plain Evil.

Does our nation have the guts to stand against Evil in the world - - even it if means standing alone? Even if it means sacrificing?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Any Thoughts on the Civil Forum at Saddleback?

My initial thoughts are:

1) Obama is more dynamic speaker than McCain

2) I thought McCain seemed a bit 'uncomfortable' with his Christianity. Obama was much more comfortable weaving his faith wth his answers. Honestly, I don't think McCain could have picked a Bible verse out of thin air to apply to an issue like Obama did with the "least of my brothers'.

3) I did like how McCain had short and sweet answers. I'll behonest, I drifted off a couple times while Obama was 'building' his answer.

4) I think as far as issues that are important to Christians, McCain was more aligned. However, going back to #2 he seemed more comfortable with his Christianity.

5) The questions related to moral failure - - man what a tough question. I liked that McCain mentioned the failure of his first marriage - - he had been cheating with Cindy prior to his divorce and married Cindy like a month or so after his divorce. Obama, I liked how he talked about how when he was younger he did drugs and was selfish (I almost thought he was going to say something about how many women he'd been with before being married).

The one issue I didn't like either answer was in relation to stem cell research. Everyone focuses on using stem cells form fetuses that are going to be discarded - - but no one ever seems to bring up using stem cells from cord blood. After every birth, the placenta and cord are thrown out - - unless you made pre-arrangements for it to be frozen or donated. Absolutely no life is lost by harvesting stem cells from cord blood.

I really liked this format and the fact that each candidate had the same questions and had no idea how the previous candidate answered. There was no one-ups-manship. I hope this type of forum will continue with future national elections and maybe another one closer to the elections - - with a different set of questions.

What did you all think?

The Eco System That Is My Backyard


That jumble of gray fuzz is a nest of birds in one of my planters. The parents have had a nest in the planter all summer. Since it is the end of the summer, I thought there would be no birds in the planter, so I took all of them down and started watering them under my sprinkler. The adult birds went nuts. Actually, the mama bird was sitting in the nest at the time and scurried out when she started to get sprinkled on.

After the planters sat under the sprinkler, I let them sit on the ground the rest of the day to get some sun. When I got home that night. The adult birds were still going nuts. So I peered into the planter/nest.

My heart just stopped. There was one little yellow head shaking in the middle of the nest and it looked up and opened its mouth. Oh, crap! I didn't think there would be eggs in the next this late in the summer. And they were in the process of hatching. I put the planter back up on its hook. The adult birds were much happier about this situation.

Sunday, I looked in on the nest and to take a few pictures. I counted at least 4 little mouths. When they realized I wasn't their mom, they shut up and snuggled in, still and soundless. I think there are at least four maybe 5. Prolific little birds.

Its been a week and I looked in today and the fuzz has turned to something that looks more feather like and it looks like their eyes have opened. I don't want to 'flash' them with the camera again as I'm afraid I might blind them.

I've been sitting here all day doing laundry, weeding my gardent, paying bills and I hear the mama and papa birds when they return with food for their babies. As soon as an adult enters the planter, the babies all start up. They are SOOOOO loud. Holy cow, it sounds like I have a dog squeaker toy outside.

Its been interesting to watch the adults - - it has been constant back and forth tag team feeding. They don't make a bee line for the nest. They do this evasive manuver that goes from top of the fence to hydreanga to top of the fence to top of another planter to top of their planter and then into their planter. Its been non-stop since 8 this morning - - and I'm sure they started feeding them earlier than that. They are very good parents.

The nest is very well constructed. Its dug down into the plant and it has a dome over the top so that the birds fly into a side opening. The dome is made out of twigs, grass, moss and down and is quite water proof. The water from the sprinkler beaded on top and ran right off.

I am so glad I didn't drown the hatchlings.


When I pulled out my trash for yard waste, this unhappy toad was displaced. He just hopped under the other trash can. He is SOOOO lucky that Ranger didn't notice him.


The other morning when I left for work, I opened up my front door and found this big yellow moth sitting there. It was huge! I put a coin next to it to give you all an idea of how big it was. I've never seen a moth like this and will have to research to find out what it is.

Then I turned to go out to my car and there was this moth. It was so beautiful sitting on my petunias!


You know, it really is amazing how much beauty God has placed in this world but we are often in too much of a hurry to notice it. I'm so glad, in all of my recent busy-ness that I actually noticed these things.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Commissioning as Officers of Marines

There are events at the museum where it is difficult to be a neutral observer and I have to swallow my own emotions. Today was one of those events, the commissioning of new Lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps.

At 1300, the future leadership of the Marine Corps filed in and took their seats.


I was able to fit through the small space of the railing around the base of the mast to be dead center for the ceremony.


I will admit, I thought there would be more pomp and circumstance as they filed in.

To my left, a woman with four little girls in matching dresses said, "There's daddy!" as she pointed to a Marine 3 rows in front of me. The Marine waved back at his little girls. The woman lifted up each of her daughters so they could see their dad.

The youngest said in her little munchkin 3-year-oldish voice "I don't see daddy."

"He's right there." her mom pointed.

The little girl was looking at me (I was trying to take a picture). So I lowered my camera and pointed to her dad who was waving. She lit-up like a little fire cracker, "I see him! HI DADDY!" All of the future Lieutenants smiled at the exchange.

The event opened with the benediction - - I'm so glad they haven't taken God out of this. I sure hope no one files some civil liberties suit to eliminate it. But that is a subject for another blog.


Benediction was followed by the national anthem. I have no idea why I get all choked up when the Star Spangled Banner is played. I tried to get a shot of the American flag framed by the Marines standing at attention. I couldn't quite get it.


The General who spoke had a son who was part of the class. His father joked that he knew they were trying to keep that under wraps but the Colonel in charge of Officers Candidate School (OCS) had "outed" him. The General spoke to the parents, as a parent. He had gotten the same form letter they all got letting them know their candidate was safe and the Drill Instructors really liked them. He said he laughed because he knew what his son was going through because he had once been the Commanding Officer (CO) of OCS.


As he looked out over the sea of future Lieutenants, he said, "Relax. You all look way too serious. You should be happy, you made it. Lets see some smiles!"

Immediately all of the future Lieutenants leaned forward or relaxed their shoulders from their previous ram-rod straight postures. I swear I heard a collective sigh of relief.

The General noted that Marines Had graduated from Basic Training on Friday and that the lives of those men and women sitting there would surely intersect with these new enlisted Marines. The Lieutenants could expect to be leaders of these new Marines, some may even lead them into battle.

That was sobering. These man and women had joined the Marine Corps while we are at war. They are certain to see combat in the next year or so. Some of them have already seen action as prior enlisted. You can tell who these Marines are by the number of ribbons they were wearing. Its a sobering thought to realize that the future for some of these Marines may include being wounded in battle or that they may give the ultimate sacrifice for their country. But for now, it was a happy occasion.

As the Marines stood to take their oath, the General reminded them that they were taking the same oath that the President of the United States took as well as other government officials. The General pointed out that they were not swearing allegiance to a political party, a military branch or even to the President. They were taking an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

For some reason, the gravity of that really hit me. We swear to uphold, protect and defend a set of ideals. A set of ideals that were once so radical, yet to us, now, seem so common. It just amazes me that this 'code' has remained relevant for so long.


So after the oath there was a closing prayer and the new officers and their families were 'set loose' to find a spot to pin on their bars.

Which leads me to some of the emotional moments of the day.

The first family that I approached about photos gave me the "brush off". However the mother asked me for advise on how to take a good picture in the harsh light. I suggested they use a fill flash but suggested they do the pinning in a different location, Semper Fi memorial park in front of the "Once a Marine Always a Marine". The Lieutenant agreed. I also told them my photography services were free.

Here is what I think is "The shot". It could use a little cropping.


I also like this one of his mom kissing him. You can be the toughest Marine in the world but you will always be your mom's baby.


Now it is also tradition that the first person to salute you is to receive a silver dollar. Here, his dad is giving him his first salute.


I left them and made my way to another family by the General LeJeune statue pinning the bars on their new Lieutenant. In my opinion, the is "The shot". This is his younger brother pinning the bar on his shoulder.


Here is the happy family.


His brother gave him his first salute. All the women in the family were sniffling behind me.


The Lieutenant presented his brother with the silver dollar and they embraced.



Grown men do cry.

Of course all the ladies were really sniffling. I couldn't look at them because I was swallowing a huge lump myself.


This whole process repeated 2 hours latter with the second half of the class. The OCS class this summer was the largest since the Vietnam War. The museum can not accommodate all of the families, the candidates plus the regular guests at the same time. In fact, today, parking reached capacity, as did the museum. The Marines on duty as well as security had to stand outside the doors to prevent new visitors from entering. Seven out of 10 candidates in this class made it through and were commissioned.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Too Look Good, Make Sure Your Enemy Is As Dumb As Bricks

That was some advise that General Mattis gave junior officers at the Distinguished Marine speakers' series at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.


First of all, let me just say that this event was unlike previous Speakers' Series events.  I was expecting 100 or so people, cocktails up at Tun Tavern, move into the Mess Hall for dinner and then file down to the Scuttlebutt Theater for the speaking.  Tonight - - it was a grand event.  Many in attendance were Marines and foreign officers attending one of the professional schools at Quantico, corporate VIPs, and a smattering of civilians such as myself.


When I got there, I was informed that I was to cover General Mattis.  How the heck did I draw that?  Holy Cow!  I will admit I was shaking a bit on my first few shots.  I will include some of my favorite shots of him working the crowd. (Below, gee I think he knows I'm following him).


One thing I regretted not taking with me was my notebook.  He gave a great, down to earth talk about the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.  As I listened I kept thinking - - 'Oh, remember that.' and then he'd say something else and I would be thinking "Remember that too!"  I was kicking myself for not bringing my little point and shoot digital that I can take video.  His speech was peppered with his signature humor that the Marines just loved.  The title comment is case in point.  It was made in reference to the Taliban Generals.

The key word that he stressed and I took away as the theme for his speech was "Trust" and how that played an important roll with our allies in gearing up for the invasion of Afghanistan.  He spoke about how it can take a long time to build that trust and how it can quickly be compromised.  He used the example of intelligence and how for the first 30 days of the invasion, we were sharing with all the allies involved and then all of a sudden orders were given that intel was to only be shared with the British, Canadians and Australians.  This of course angered the other countries involved in the fight.

My impressions of General Mattis are that he is a down to earth guy, very personable.  He worked the crowd before dinner and after he spoke.  He made time to shake hands and have a photo taken with everyone who wanted to meet him.  Yes, I got my photo taken with him and I'll share as soon as my fellow volunteer sends me what he took.

Below, General Mattis speaks with some students at EWS (Expeditionary Warfare School). 


Greeting some foreign military officers who were in attendance.


Speaking with an NCO and Col Dick Camp (ret).


Rubbing elbows with the VIP guests.

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At the end of the evening, posing with the gentlemen that were at my dinner table.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Back from The Abyss and Museum Updates

I'm back from the dark black abyss that is a software implementation. My sanity is so far intact, I think. I now have withdrawl symptoms from not having had the opportunity to keep up with what is going on in the news. In addition, I want to know where the heck the summer went? Its flippin' August already! It can't be August! I've only gone to the pool three times this summer. Then I'm finding out about all the life changing things going on in my friends lives - - I was only 'gone' for two months and gone-gone for the last two weeks, right? I call this the Rip Van Winkle effect.

Let me catch you up on the progress at the Chapel site at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Mid July, this is what the Chapel parking lot looks like from the front door of the Chapel.


August 2nd, it doesn't look a lot different, well, maybe that big pile of dirt is smoothed out now.


Mid July, looking at the parking lot from the top of the walkway to the chapel.


August 2, I took this photo along the fence line a little to the left of the above photo so I could get more of the lot in. It is taking shape.


Mid July, looking down the stretch.


August 2 , looking down the stretch, again, I moved a bit further down the fence line so I could get a shot of the length of the lot.


At the end of September, just in time for the cold winter months, the docent corps will be moved out of our digs inside the museum to the temporary construction trailers. That will mark the beginning of Phase 1 A buildout that will build the galleries for the Revolution up through World War 1.