Athletes, Soldiers and False Analogies

Jan 22 2015

Published by under lessons learned

Soldiers watch Super BowlThe Super Bowl is approaching and we’ll naturally see some type of tribute paid to the military – maybe a flyover before the game; military members bringing out the flag; or, an ad for a beer company who hopes that showing respect for the military will cause people to crack open a cold one.

This is all good. I think it’s nice to see our military members appreciated, as long as it isn’t patronizing or for obvious commercial purposes (sorry Bud and Miller). And I think it’s great that the NFL, NBA, etc. think about including these tributes.

What irritates me is when the individuals involved in sports (athletes, coaches, general mangers) start comparing themselves to military members. What ticked me off recently is hearing the new GM for the Jets say he was “ready to go war” with his new coach. And a former tight end with the Broncos talked about how he “would take a bullet” for the team’s new coach.

We’ve heard stories of a soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save his comrades, so to hear an athlete say he’d take a bullet for a coach is insulting to those who really are prepared to actually do this act.

Granted, people such as athletes, coaches, and GMs are dedicated, ambitious, disciplined, and, in the athlete’s cases, in good physical shape (well, except for baseball players and kickers). But there’s a big difference in an athlete’s dedication to his team and sport (and a large paycheck) and a soldier knowing that he or she might be required to die for his or her country. Athletes, coaches, and GMs are paid to entertain – they won’t be in a position to possibly die for their country.

I realize that sports are just entertainment, yet when I hear people in that industry make these comparisons it does irritate me because it diminishes what our active duty members are doing out there – for a lot less money and a lot less publicity (and while having Congress call for cuts to their benefits).

I think the time to compare athletes and servicemembers is when we’re discussing those athletes who have sacrificed their careers to serve their country – Pat Tillman, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, etc.

Hopefully, we’ll have a good Super Bowl (if the Patriots can stop cheating) with post-game comments confined to how hard someone played and how happy they were to win – and not some false analogy to being a soldier.

I forget where I read this, but this seems to sum up the topic: “Comparing millionaire athletes who play a game to underpaid military personnel who are often called upon to risk their lives on a daily basis is not wise.”

Image caption: U.S. Soldiers of HHC, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, stand for the National Anthem prior to Super Bowl 44 at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Feb. 8. Super Bowl 44 pitted the NFC Champion New Orleans Saints against the AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts.

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Boys in Shorts

Jan 16 2015

Published by under school is in session

We’ve had a stretch of cold weather here in Colorado Springs – a few days below 10 degrees and quite a few between 20 and 30 degrees. As my middle schooler gets ready for school, I’ve thought a few times of our days in Germany when I used to get the kids ready for kindergarten and elementary school in winter. The winters there were cold as well and I used to make sure the kids were dressed warm for their walk to school.

And the kids were dressed like all others – prepared for cold weather in a warm coat, warm pants, and gloves.

Now, with the kids making their own clothing choices, I compare past dressing habits to my youngest boy’s current middle school dressing habits. The temperature can be 70, 50, 30 or 20 and he wears shorts to school. And he isn’t alone: the majority of boys stick to shorts year round. At least they have jackets on, but shorts in 20 degrees?! Mary Claire and I have given up trying to change this habit (although to be honest part of me is a proud dad thinking: “Yeah! Good job guys – these are tough boys!”).

And I realize it is a boy thing. My daughter didn’t do this in middle school, and the girls I see at the middle school are in long pants. Maybe this is part of that girls maturing faster than boys theory.

But my oldest son did the same thing when he was in middle school. He attends a Catholic high school now and they don’t allow shorts, although I think he’d have dropped the habit anyway. He’d rather look sharp than bold.

A reason for the difference between Germany and here could be that most kids there walk to school. Here we’re a drive-the-kids-to-school culture so they only spend a few minutes in the cold as they go from car drop off to the warm school interior. However, another reason could be that common sense is more common over there.

The difference certainly isn’t due to any weakness towards cold weather. In Germany the boys were playing soccer in snow, rain, and freezing weather. It was something naturally done. Here, in the states, we have practices and recess cancelled due to cold weather, or I overhear moms asking “isn’t it too cold to play soccer today?” – the same parents whose kids wear shorts to school in even colder weather.

The irony of all this though is that we keep the house at 68 degrees, and my middle schooler will come out and complain about how cold it is. And, yes, he is in shorts.


 Photo on Flickr by Doug, “CK Wolves versus SK Falcons.”

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Never Leave a Fallen Comrade Behind

Jan 09 2015

Published by under Uncategorized

I was looking through news sites on the web (killing time in the hospital when my dad sleeps) and I came across an interesting article by Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. She attributes her life being saved because her helicopter crew lived by the Warrior Ethos: “I will always place the mission first. I will never quit. I will never accept defeat. I will never leave a fallen comrade behind.”

Her’s is a great story, and she relates too that she keeps that ethos in mind in terms of taking care of our veterans who are now in the care of the VA.

I also came across an article on the new members of Congress and how we have a few who are veterans. Seth Moulton and Ruben Gallego are Marines (one is never a former Marine, correct?) who served in Iraq. Lee Zeldin was in Iraq with the Army. And Martha McSally was the first woman fighter pilot to fly in combat.

What a great group of supporters for our military veterans and the milfam.

As I read about them though, and the issues surrounding budget cuts to the military, I hope these mil veterans in Congress will keep in mind Ms. Duckworth’s thoughts on applying their military ethos while serving in Congress. Specifically, look to not leave their comrades behind as they consider cuts to the military budget – in other words, support their military comrades by not balancing the budget on their backs

As a first step, they can read MOAA’s President Norb Ryan’s comments in the Wall Street Journal last week about the unfairness of targeting member benefits over wasteful spending.

Or, maybe look at cost saving options such as one medical corp for all services.

Or, they can look within their own ranks and listen to Rep. Joe Heck’s comments as the Military Personnel Chair who “called on the Pentagon…to cut waste and cost overruns on weapons systems before looking for savings by trimming pay and benefits for the troops.”

As part of the milfam, we can all welcome the veterans who are new members of Congress – and hope they keep in mind the thought of not leaving their comrades behind as the members look at military budget issues and the effects on military members and veterans.



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Seasons Greetings to MilFams Everywhere!

Dec 23 2014

Published by under end of year reads

Sorry to be late in writing a column, but as I was set to start my piece a couple of weeks ago, my dad entered the ER with a stroke. He’s 91 and it had quite an impact. I’ve been hanging out with him since then, and unfortunately, some things I need to do have been postponed – grading, MOAA blogging, Christmas shopping, etc.

During this time, my daughter turned 16 and my son turned 18 – quite the milestones. And my 18 year-old has started receiving acceptance letters from colleges. I look at my dad, one of the last of the WWII generation, whose flights took him over Okinawa, and then look at my son, who just had an ROTC interview in thoughts of an Air Force career, and think that it seems like yesterday we were IMGP0386taking him to his pre-school classes at the local off base Montessori school in Okinawa.

But here at home we are at the end of the year and approaching the holidays. On a downside, judging by the actions of Congress, there don’t appear to be many holiday gifts for military members.

Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act that includes some items impactful on individual members. It’s a complicated and huge bill (1,648 pages!), but MOAA has condensed those pages into comprehensive key points that can affect milfams.

Hopefully though, Congress will keep their promise and keep in mind the words of MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, USN (Ret):

“We cannot continue to try and balance the budget on the backs of the very people who bear the burden of security for this nation and who have given so much over the last 13 years.”

On a happy holiday note, follow this link to an article with some great photos of military members giving and celebrating the holiday season!

And happy holidays to all – enjoy the season and I promise to get back to writing consistent columns. Oh, and write your Congressman over the holidays and tell him or her to “keep their promise.”

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Dec 04 2014

Published by under military matters

Man, I am late to the party – I just learned about the #KeepYourPromise movement started by MOAA and other military related organizations. The hashtag movement came about in response to the Senate Armed Services Committee proposing tightening the Pentagon’s budget on the backs of service members and retirees (again).

You know the drill – proposals such as cutting housing allowances, increased Tricare fees, adjustments to the health plan. And I’m sure in there somewhere is the idea of changing the retirement plan into a 401K program similar to the private sector (never mind that civilian government employees, including our elected officials, enjoy a pension based retirement program or that the vast majority of 401K programs leave retirees woefully unprepared financially for retirement).

One result of the #KeepYourPromise campaign was a pretty funny picture of former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking members to do more but accept less – you can see it here.

MOAA is again working hard to stave off the cuts on members. And it appears to be working. The Hill has an article on milfams bombarding Congress on this issue.

And, the House, per MOAA President, retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, “helped blunt the blow to military families and retired beneficiaries.” The House apparently didn’t want to take the military for granted.  MOAA has a good article on this action here.

But, the proposed cuts aimed at individuals keep coming. Per the Military Times, Congress has decided to cut funding to the commissary by $100,000,000 next year. As a result:

“… the plan would shrink the commissary savings compared with average off-base grocery prices to about 10 percent from the current 30 percent, with shoppers having to cover the difference out of pocket.”

As MOAA Spouse asks on their Facebook page: Will you continue to shop the commissary? Will you? Go to their Facebook page and let them know (scroll down a bit for this item – but do peruse the other bits of info posted).

I’m a little baffled at these proposals because I side with MOAA on these types of actions. MOAA has pointed out in the past that these proposed cuts and attempts to make military job benefits the same as a civilian (even given the obvious differences) will just hurt recruitment and retainment.

Who knows though, maybe newly elected Congressmen like Seth Moulton will step up and speak for the service member and retiree. He’s a former Marine officer and a “veteran of four tours of duty in the Iraq war “ and has three degrees from Harvard (wow!). Seth says he wants “to shake up the system.” A good place to start is stop putting the cost burden on military members and families.

You can read about him here and here.

And with MOAA keeping up the good fight, we should be encouraged. But do go to the MOAA Spouse Facebook page and answer their question about your further commissary usage given the upcoming loss of savings.

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College Applications and Sage Advice

Nov 20 2014

Published by under school is in session

Sign_saying_Common_Application_MembershipThis article spurred me to write today’s column: Applications by the Dozen, as Anxious Seniors Hedge College Bets.

The article talks about how some seniors are shotgunning their applications to a lot of colleges in order to hedge their college admission bets. One student is applying to 29 colleges! One applied to 56!! And the record per Common App is 86!!!

And these apps cost money. One student interviewed said her app fees cost her parents $1,500.

In contrast to the above, my son approached me with his list of 12 and wanted to cut back because he thought I’d have to pay too much (what a kid!).

But, I find it interesting that the parents will allow this. I also find it interesting that the families don’t realize that colleges know that this is going on. That is why schools look for the IQ of an applicant – the Interest Quotient. This refers to if they have visited, met with faculty, done online chats, etc. (I think visiting 29 colleges will be kind of difficult.) It just isn’t common sense to send out this many applicationss – maybe it’s a feel-good thing for the parents to brag about at the club on Friday night.

But these are probably families from a wealthier socio-economic group who can afford it. Better yet though, maybe cut the number of schools down, and with the money saved pay for the apps of some deserving milkids who have the potential but can’t afford to apply to as many schools as they deserve.

Anyway, instead of completing a ginormous load of apps and essays, here is what seniors should be doing right now per college admissions counselor (and milspouse) Kerri Beckert, of Anchor Collegiate – She’s been successfully consulting with families for quite awhile and helped many kids get into selective colleges best suited for them, so she knows of what she speaks:

“As admissions season comes to an end, my biggest piece of advice is to prepare for rejection. It’s going to happen, it’s not personal, and it doesn’t change your life. Colleges reject thousands of qualified, well-qualified, and over qualified candidates each year. Very few students get into every college to which they apply. Chances are rejection will happen to every senior who applies.

Realizing that college is still in the plans, that your life will still continue, and you will succeed, is paramount. Let yourself be sad for a day, and then move on. And most importantly- KEEP IT OFF SOCIAL MEDIA.”

That piece of advice bodes well for Ms. I’m Applying to 55 Colleges My Parent’s Finances Be Damned.

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Veterans Day Planning Guide (Follow the Discounts)

Nov 06 2014

Published by under military matters

VeteransDay_WEBWe have Veterans Day coming up Tuesday, November 11. It’s a good time for all, including milfams, to think about and thank the veterans who have served (thank you! by the way). Both of our kids’ schools will have special Veterans Day assemblies, which is a fun time to see the WWII vets who show up (usually grandparents) and are honored and applauded by the kids.

Along the lines of honoring people who served, many businesses and groups will be offering discounts and special offers on Veterans Day. MOAA has organized these for readers online.

It’s nice to see such an assortment of groups offering something special for vets. If you’re hungry, Applebee’s has free “Thank You Meals,” while Golden Corral offers a free meal and a drink (that would be a non-alcoholic beverage). Denny’s meanwhile is providing a free “Build Your Own Grand Slam.” And, Hooters is providing a free entree (and some “famous Hooters Girl hospitality” – I thought that was all they offered. Hooters has food?).

But if you want something a little more high end than eating wings with scantily clad servers, check out a local McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood and Steaks – they are offering a free meal.

So, you might realize after lunch at Hooters that those “famous Hooters Girls” just weren’t giving you the attention you deserved (isn’t that always the case, those are the times I’d like to take back my 5% tip). Well, maybe you need to step into 2014 and update that look of yours. Take advantage of the free hair cut offer at Great Clips for a new look (step out of that mullet). And then get home and order a new vintage shirt discounted online at Buckles to replace the flannel look.

Now you’re set to head back to those “famous Hooters Girls” – but you know what, you’re looking so good you may as we’ll treat yourself to McCormick & Schmick’s.

Go check out the full range of discounts MOAA rounded up for you and plan your day. Also, here’s a website that has military discounts being offered year round:

So, enjoy Veterans Day, but just remember to bring your military ID.

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A MilKids Gets Senioritis

Oct 30 2014

ET0511My senior in high school (Joe) is up to his neck in college apps, scholarship apps, essays, and ROTC apps – all due either very soon, as soon as possible, or yesterday. But, other than a time management habit that I would take issue with (such as: why didn’t we do this at the end of summer?!), he is doing a great job combining his usual 3-4 hours of nightly homework with writing and rewriting essays, completing tedious applications, etc. Oh, and studying for the SAT Subject Tests.

And even though some might see my actions as hovering, I’m trying to help. Mind you I don’t write anything for him (I want him to get accepted after all), but I am there with him to help where I can in order to see that he achieves his goals and is as competitive as possible for his top college choices. In this economy and in these times, a good college education is really important. And it is a big step in one’s life – what he does in the next year will have a 30 or 40 year impact on him. Plus, as a dad, you want your kids to fulfill their wishes.

One of the things I’ve had to do is fill out the CSS profile for potential college aid. Along with the SAT and ACT, this form is like pulling teeth – it. is. so. tedious. (Did those periods add emphasis or what?) And the SAT and ACTs, as a person in the industry said: these people can suck eggs. I’m all for more colleges going to only apps and essays.

As Joe is combining homework and college application efforts, I’m worried about his grades and how important it is to avoid senioritis. So I went to the milfams’ resident college entry strategist, Kerry Beckert of Anchor Collegiate, for advice. You might remember her from past columns. She is a proud Army spouse based in Germany who is a college admission consultant. You can visit her website here to see the extent of services that a college consultant can offer:

Anyway, she offered the following advice for we milparents of high school seniors, and I thought I’d share those pearls of wisdom:

“I think the most important thing seniors should be doing right now is finishing up their applications by the end of Thanksgiving weekend. WHY? Because just like winter in the Game of Thrones, EXAMS ARE COMING. And what colleges are looking for are good grades in rigorous courses. This means that your final term grades are important factors in admissions decisions. Why not finish your applications before you have to study for exams? A win-win. And, sending applications in ahead of time frees up time to study for exams and gives the student a few weeks to correct any issues with recommendations or transcripts before the deadline!”

I better go chat with Joe. And I may have to check out Games of Thrones. Is that a new heavy metal group?

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Eating Overseas as a MilFam

Oct 24 2014

A great benefit to being a milfam is that we were able to live overseas and experience many different countries and cultures. For us, it was important to take advantage of being in a foreign country and to assimilate our kids into their cultures (Japan and Germany).

So, we put our kids in the local public schools (we lived in Bann, just outside of Landstuhl), signed them up to play sports for the village teams, and tried to visit as many festivals as we could. Little did I know that there was a term for how we were living – living those countries through the backdoor, as the travel author Rick Steves calls it (on an aside, he writes the best travel books by far: readable, affordable, and directs people to the non-touristy path).

One of the outcomes of our military life overseas was being able to eat a lot of local cuisine. We had a favorite izakaya we frequented in Okinawa (Toki’s) and a neighborhood gausthaus in Bann we went to on a weekly basis (Schneider’s). It was great to have friendly owners serving delicious, fresh, and reasonably priced food – which, I’m sorry to say, we don’t find in the U.S.

Here, if the food is fresh, the restaurant is expensive. If the restaurant is affordable, the food is frozen and reheated. One of the joys of our German gausthaus was listening to the pork cutlets being pounded in the kitchen while my beer was being poured at the prescribed time of 7 minutes for a proper beer (or so the owner’s wife told me).

horse_sushiSometimes, we did pull an Anthony Bourdain and Parts Unknown, and experienced some odd foods. In Okinawa, we had fish eyes, sea urchin, horse sushi (with a slice of lard, of course – what’s horse sushi without a good slice of lard), and chicken – chicken liver, chicken hearts, chicken raw skin, and chicken “all over” (the only way our waitress could explain what we just put in our mouths). In Germany, we had fewer exotic foods, but blood sausage made up for the lack of choices. I shudder as I write that.

As we, as Americans, would look askew at some foreign foods, I would wonder what American foods foreigners would see as strange. It seems like American food is so non-exotic that who could complain. Well, my question has been answered. The website has listed 17 “All American’ foods that disgust foreigners“.

I have to say, I do agree with some of the choices. But others…well, compared to the offerings overseas, I don’t quite see how their choices can be seen as disgusting. For instance, grits. I don’t like them, but they’re pretty tame. And American bacon? Come on – I’ve had bacon overseas and nothing comes close to our bacon. Oh, and meatloaf! I don’t think people who eat blood sausage have a leg to stand on complaining about meatloaf.

Other items include cereal, sno-cones, Hershey’s chocolate (okay, after eating chocolate across Europe, I do see where foreigners are coming from with this choice), and bread (which, after eating bread in Europe, I will concede). But bacon?! I hate to bring it up again, and I’m not a bacon-is-good-in-anything type of guy, but how can anyone not like good ole U.S. of A bacon?

Anyway, go the link and see what you think? Do you agree with any of the foreigners’ disgusts? Or, have you had some disgusting food overseas?


Photo credit: “Horse-meat” by IgorbergerOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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Fun Mil News Roundup

Oct 16 2014

Published by under roadside adventures

This week, how about some fun military related news:

Battle with the Koreans
Well, not physical, but with drums (playing, not throwing). Watch this video as the III Marine Expeditionary Force band battles a Korean military band. We’ll rate it a tie for diplomatic reasons.

Army leaders ARE supporting milfams
Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler are all fighting budget and sequestration cuts. Good for them!

Can we hear the same confirmation from the other services’ leaders? Maybe they would speak at a MOAA forum. Perhaps these leaders can read this from MOAA.

MilKid singing on NBC’s The Voice
How about this Army officer’s daughter making it on The Voice! Her father is stationed at Scott Air Force Base. Seventeen years old and she sings like she’s a seasoned pro.

Air Force Milkid nominated for Grammy as Best New Artist with Top 10 Chartbuster – Throwback Thursday
Not to take anything away from Gwen, but let’s recall another famous (Air Force) milkid who was a great singer. As opposed to getting a start via national TV, Katrina Leskanich had to get earn her stripes playing in bars and O’Clubs while her Air Force officer dad was stationed in England. You might remember her band: Katrina and the Waves, and their song Walking on Sunshine. (Did I mention she was an Air Force milkid?)

One of my favorite songs and video: fun, lots of energy, and love the sneakers.

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