Folks I normally don’t ask for donations or money. But I’m making an exception today for one of the best organizations I know and for one of the best causes I know. The organization is Soldier’s Angels. The cause is their “Valor IT” fund raiser – now heading into its final weekend.
Soldier’s Angels is an organization of volunteers which adopts individual soldiers and keeps them in the things they need during their deployments. They also work extensively with the wounded and the families of the wounded. They have representatives in Germany who care for our wounded when they arrive from the theaters of war. They fly families there to be with their loved ones. They are, in short, one of the most magnificent volunteer organizations going.
Valor IT is their brain child. Back a few years ago, they hooked one of our wounded who was not doing as well as everyone hoped with a lap top and software that could translate his spoken word. As he later said, it made him feel whole again and reconnected him to the world and his loved ones. More importantly, it made all the difference in the world to his recovery.
So now SA has a drive every year to buy and give laptops with that voice capability (if necessary) to our wounded warriors. And the difference it makes is, as with the first one, unbelievable.
With today being the birthday of the United States Marines (Semper Fi Marines) and with Veteran’s day on tomorrow, I ask you to consider a small donation to the cause. You can go to Soldier’s Angels here. Just click on the laptop icon and you’re on your way to helping to change the life of one of our badly wounded warriors.
If you’ve already given thank you for doing so. If you haven’t, please consider doing so – you don’t know how much good it will do and how very much it will be appreciated. And, as mentioned, it is the perfect way to say “thank you” for Veteran’s day.
OK, this is a personal one.
For decades I’ve avoided school reunions because I wondered what in the world I’d have in common with people I went to school with 40 or so years ago. Other than being in the same place at the same time simply by happenstance what have we shared?
But this past weekend something pretty special happened. Let me set it up for you.
When I went to college, the rather backward college administration of the time was completely against Greek fraternities and sororities. They simply weren’t allowed. Period. No matter how often the administration was petitioned, the answer was an unequivocal “no”. According to the thinking of the time, only degenerates were in fraternities. And, on top of that, the college was in a “dry” county – but that’s a story for another time.
As you might imagine being denied what they desired didn’t sit well with a bunch of rambunctious college kids who wanted fraternities. So in 1964 two “men’s social service clubs” were created by some brash young students ostensibly to “promote social activities on campus”. Of course as you might have guessed, they were very thinly disguised fraternities. Like, paper thin. Inventive folks adapt to the reality in which they have to live. They called themselves the Squires and the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, a tragic car accident with multiple fatalities ended the Squires a year or so later. But the Cavaliers survived and grew. Pledge classes came and went and with them new members and new stories. The group literally became legendary. I had to chuckle, because the most oft repeated remark I heard this weekend was something along the line of “it is a miracle we all survived.”
In fact, we still are convinced “Animal House” was written about us. If you ever want to meet the real Flounder, I have his phone number.
Anyway in 1976, with a new and more enlightened administration, Greek frats were allowed and the Cavaliers transitioned into an actual Greek fraternity (one with which they had informal ties for years). That was the end of the Cavaliers as a formal organization and the end of an era. But for those who were members it was such a unique and close knit bunch that it was only a matter of time, and frankly age, that drove a core group to decide it was time to find each of us again and bring us all back together – somehow, some way.
In 1994, word went out that we were going to gather at the college for a homecoming game and then we’d have a dance afterward. I couldn’t wait. Years had passed and I’d wondered about these guys a lot.
As it turned out it was, well … ok.
It was all too hurried. Because of the full schedule of events and the fact that everyone was staying in different places, I really didn’t find myself fulfilled in the way I had hoped. It was a “hi, great to see you again, bye” type weekend. There were wives I didn’t know and, well, it was just too civil and civilized for an old Cavalier. It just didn’t do it for me. And it sort of confirmed my theory about school reunions.
After that I concluded that you just can’t go back and had pretty much written off any further reunions. But I had to admit a certain disappointment deep inside. With that decision, I understood that I had probably seen a bunch of guys I had known well and who’s friendship I still treasured for the last time. For most us, our association in the Cavaliers was about as close as you can get to the bond between combat vets without the combat. Forged in the joys and disappointments of emerging adulthood, the hell-raising and partying of young collegians and in the shadow of Vietnam, it became a true brotherhood.
Unfortunately I lost sight of that the last time we met and my disappointment caused me to turn away from future attempts to gather the clan. But as I mentioned earlier, age has a way of changing things. The focus on making a living and the trials and tribulations of raising a family slowly subside and you spend a little more time reminiscing. Fond memories of people and times come unbidden to your mind. And you begin to wonder again how they are and how they’re doing.
To make this long story a little shorter, I finally decided to give it one more try. This particular event was in its 6th year in Gilbert, Arkansas where one of the guy’s family has a second home that he opens up to everyone for that particular weekend [thanks Billy].
Gilbert, as you can see by the sign and the pics, is a very small and rustic town on the banks of the Buffalo River that lives mostly off the dollars of fisherman and kayakers and canoers. Once the season is over, it’s pretty much deserted. And, gazing at Main Street, you might have figured out the season is over. The quiet there is amazing.
In that setting, and with just the guys, we had the time to sit back and let it rip. It was perfect. The weather was cold and gray, but the brotherhood, camaraderie and laughter was warm and sunny. I saw guys I haven’t seen in 40 years. And there was an immediate comfort level among them that I hadn’t anticipated given my last experience. It felt like I had seen these guys just last week. None of the awkwardness you might expect with the years that have passed. We slipped right into the kidding and banter that used to flow so easily back then. The jokes flew, the beer flowed and the laughter bellowed. In fact, my ribs cramped up from too much laughing. The characters of my youth still survived. The personalities that I so enjoyed back then were with me again, and frankly I reveled in it (and yeah the beer helped – get over it). The time – 2 days to hang-out with each other – made all the difference in the world. No schedules, nothing to hurry too. It gave us the time necessary to reconnect with our brothers and to meet and begin to bond with those we don’t know as well – the guys who came afterward, added to the legend and kept the brotherhood the great organization it was until the end.
But there was one clinker in the deal – I’m not 19 anymore and while the mind was willing the bod said “screw you, slow down and make sure you get some damn sleep”. Heh … the good news is I wasn’t the only one.
All-in-all though it was a fabulous family affair where we were fed like royalty (thanks guys for the fantastic brats and burgers on Friday night and the to-kill-for catfish on Saturday) and treated like kings. So Toma, put me on the list, I’ll be back for “Camp Cavalier VII”. Thanks to all of the unsung brothers who worked so hard to make it such a fantastic and fulfilling event. And now that I’ve taken “Rassberrie 101″, I and the other “Goldies” are ready for the more advanced course (for the regular readers, that’s waaay inside baseball).
Sometimes you can go back.
I‘ll be off the net for the next couple of days attending a reunion of a bunch of guys some of whom I haven’t seen in 40 years. I’ll probably be back up and running on Monday. This crew I’ll be with will most likely not have me in much of a condition to blog. I may pop in and throw something up, but right now, plans are to enjoy the camaraderie and the beer.
I’m sure my co-bloggers will pick up the slack.
See you on Monday.
Metro Atlanta went through a deluge yesterday and right now you can’t get out of town in certain areas. Western Atlanta received up to 15″ of rain yesterday (20″ since Friday) and I-20 on that side of town is closed as the Chattahoochee has flooded it out. The Yellow River has also jumped its banks (as well as Sweetwater Creek) to make the metro area a mess. The ground is saturated and more rain, not the volume of yesterday thank goodness, is expected today. 8 have died in the flooding.
I‘ve been to Alaska, and seen the glaciers, bears, eagles, whales, and about 30 inches of rain. But, now I’m back, and regular blogging about motorcycle goodness will begin in due course.
In the meantime, I leave you with this little video I slapped together earlier this evening. It’s still a bit rough, but I put it together in about an hour. I’ve got hours of video, so more will be forthcoming.
I got a call yesterday at about 3pm from Keesler Air Force Base, home of the Hurricane Hunters.
“Hey, can you get to Andrews AFB by Sunday morning? If so we’ll fly you through Hurricane Bill!”
Heck yeah. So I go about doing all the things you have to do to get ready for such an adventure and at about 10am this morning I take off toward DC. About 30 min into the drive, my Airforce PAO contact on the scene calls me to makes sure I’ve got the mission time and we talk about what to take on the flight. She’s talking a flight of 11 to 14 hours. I’m pretty much covered on all the gear I need, but she suggests I pick up some food to take with me since there will be no in-flight meals. OK, I can handle that.
So I continue on toward Andrews when I get a second call.
“I hate to have to call and tell you this, but the National Hurricane Center has canceled tomorrow’s tasking and the mission is scrubbed”.
Ah well, Bill was just a Cat 2 storm and apparently losing a little bit of steam. I made ‘em promise me they’d keep me at the top of the list for the next storm. I definitely still want to join that rather exclusive club of people who’ve flown through the eye of a hurricane – on purpose.
Important safety tip: When entering the secured terminal area of an airport, ensure you do not have a pistol round in your possession when the TSA personnel conduct the entry search. This will cause a…delay.
I‘ve gotten to know Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit through a couple of trips he and I have been on together – one at a Milbloggers Conference in DC and the other at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.
Jim’s a great guy and a formidable blogger. Jim lost his mother this week. I want to send my sympathies to him and his family. Go by and give your condolences as well. May she rest in peace, Jim.
Matt Burden of Blackfive has announced the formation of something near and dear to my heart. A foundation to, well, let him explain:
So, a few of us decided to start our own foundation – non-partisan – to work with both sides of the aisle to solve veterans issues. We decided that we need to include every generation, every branch of service, in order to stand firm, back to back, and defend our family.
The Warrior Legacy Foundation is born.
The family he’s speaking about is the military family. And that family includes everyone, from service members and veterans, to those who have someone in the service to those who simply want to support the military and the veteran community.
This foundation’s membership is open to all – veteran or non-veteran – who are interested in supporting a group dedicated to ensuring the problems veterans face today have a powerful advocate willing to spend both the time and money necessary to see those problems solved.
The WLF becomes official on Memorial Day. But you can join now. Please do and support this new and worthy effort. This is the chance to make your unofficial support official.