Friday, February 09, 2007

Day FIVE...Why I'm stressed out...

Several folks have made good-natured wisecracks at me in reply to my blogs, and they've received VERY nasty responses from me.

I apologize.

I know you guys only tease out of love.

While I cannot EXCUSE my conduct, allow me, please, to EXPLAIN my conduct.

Let me begin first with these words...known as "The Sentinel's Creed":

My dedication to this sacred duty
Is total and whole-hearted.
In the responsibility bestowed on me
Never will I falter.
And with dignity and perseverance
My standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise
And the discomfort of the elements,
I will walk my tour in humble reverence
To the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect,
His bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day,
Alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
This soldier will in honored glory rest
Under my eternal vigilance.

These words are the words we live by in Funeral Honors. While, yes, this is the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the words and the sentiment applies to all soldiers of Military Funeral Honors. I refer everyone to line six...

"My standard will remain perfection."

This is not a combat duty. There are no allowances. There is no room for error. There is no such thing as "close enough".

I may have performed close to 100 funerals since October, but every time I'm out there, with every fold of the flag, or every trigger pull, or every step I take with the casket, I remind myself that it might be my 100th funeral, but for the deceased and the family of the deceased, this is a one-time occurrence. Those who have served deserve no less than perfection.

This is the most important job I've ever had, and it means more to me than almost anything else in the world. I WILL maintain the standard.

So...yeah...I come back to my room at night and I'm unwinding and stressed out from training over and over and over all day, and I read some trite little comment from my friends, and I feel as if the weight of my mission...of my SWORN being belittled. I should know better, but when you're immersed in it, it's not so easy to come down from that, and I snark off at you.

I'm sorry.

I am one of the Silent Sentinels. It is my solemn honor...nay, my PRIVELEGE to escort those fallen warriors to the gates of their Valhalla. It is my job to provide comfort to the grieving family in the form of pride and dignity. And if it kills me, I will make sure that every corner I fold is crisp...that every casket I carry remains level and even...and that every volley I fire is in perfect synch.

My standard will remain perfection.

That's why, when members of the Old Guard salute an officer, our salutation is "Line Six, Sir!"

That's why I'm stressed...because I never cared this much before.

Bear with me.

"Line Six"

Day FIVE..."Couldn't stand the Weather!"

Frozen and nasty this morning. Managed to sneak into the gym again today for PT. No organized sports, though. We hit the weights and cardio machines. I did some free weight exercises I thought up exclusively for funeral details. Take a 50-lb dumbbell and hold it in either hand with your hand by your side as if you are at attention. Then, lift the dumbbell to waist height and hold it before lowering it down. Do 20 reps then switch hands. Keep doing this back and forth for as long as you like.

Another exercise I came up with, hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands, and hold your hands out in front of you just below your waist height. Do NOT bend your back or knees. This is to simulate having to hold a casket in front of you while you side-step it over the grave. Then raise the dumbbell to shoulder height and lower it down. Do as many reps as you can.

After screwing around with this, I did 10 minutes on the stairmaster and 10 minutes on the strider.

I'm not sore in the mornings quite so much anymore.


So...on Tuesday, we spent all day learning the casket sequence.

Wednesday, we learned the six-man flag fold.

Today, we put it all together.


and over...

and OVER!


My arms ache, my shoulders ache, my hands are cramped from holding the flag in a death grip...

Oh yeah...we also learned how to deal with 'surprise' conditions, like obstacles in your route, carrying the coffin from the hearse to the grave site. Yeah. Know what we do? Raise the coffin UP, over the we walked all around the interior of the gym with the coffin at shoulder height. no no...NOT actually ON our shoulder HEIGHT.



I hurt.



It's 21 degrees out this morning. We had a winter weather advisory for this morning, so we pre-arranged to do PT inside the gym this morning, and our instructors made sure the OCS dickheads didn't knock us out of our slot.

Don't fuck with the Old Guard, I tell ya.

So...we're in the gym and we were given a choice of sports to play, and almost everyone agreed on Dodgeball. A few went over and shot some hoops, but none of the rest of us wanted to mess with anything that required that much skill, so Dodgeball it was.

I tell ya...I wonder if I want to pursue promotion and higher levels of leadership after all, because it would appear that once you reach a certain rank, your sense of humor gets revoked.

We have a Sergeant Major and a Master Sergeant in our class, both female, and neither one of them have a sense of humor worth a damn. On top of that, every morning in class, we have to halt what we're doing while the SGM rattles off some impossibly long war-story...not one that even really has a point except to illustrate EXACTLY WHAT THE INSTRUCTOR JUST SAID!!!! You know? They're not FUNNY...not poignant...just one of those, " this one time..." situations.

But today we're playing dodgeball, and the balls we're using aren't the foam balls...they're the rubber, multi-purpose balls like you remember from gym class growing up. Thrown hard enough, these balls can really sting, so we made a rule..."NO HEAD SHOTS". Now...of course, accidents can happen. A couple of different times, the Master Sergeant got hit somewhere between her elbows and her shoulders...and let's be fair...she's SHORT...but she'd start yelling at the person who threw the ball. Hell...this woman went down to the floor a couple of times to dodge...hit the floor in a ball, and STILL complained about head shots. How the hell are we going to hit anything else when you're in a ball on the floor facing us?

Oh well...I only have to tolerate her crap for about another week and then I'm home.

After, of course, a night in Memphis.

Day THREE...Guess who's coming to lunch?

So...I had lunch with someone today I totally did NOT expect to run in to. CSM Gattis, the state Command Sergeant Major.

(For civilian types, that means he is the highest ranking Sergeant in the State of NC. You don't just work your way up to it, you have to be appointed by the governor. It's a leadership position on the STATE level. The only person he answers to is the Adjudant General, who is the top commander for North Carolina)

Turns out there's a conference at the PEC, and there are state CSMs and high-ranking officers from all over the country hanging out here. CSM Gattis recognized me from when he was a 1st Sergeant and later the CSM of my old aviation battalion. We chatted briefly, and he mentioned that he'd come by later in the day to observe our training.

Today was the six-man flag fold. Imagine six people coordinating their movements with nothing more than a twitch of the wrist or signifigant glances to signal one another. There's not much I can say about it except it's extremely challenging. We only ever got up to the point that we could go through the procedure without 'stops' ONE TIME before the day was over. took two hours to walk us through the procedure the first time. The other two teams didn't even manage to get everyone through!!

While the CSM was observing, I was given the opportunity to speak with him some more about the program in NC and express how dedicated so many members of our team are to the passionate we are about what we do...and he was genuinely impressed. While we stood apart from everyone talking about Funeral Honors, and CSM Gattis asked me about my personal feelings about the program. He said he could see I was a much different soldier than the guy I used to be in the Aviation unit and how he knew CSM Jackson would not have let me into the program, much less sent me to school unless I had showed the potential to be a leader. When he shook my hand, he presented me with one of his Coins.

Now...again, for those of you who aren't military, let me explain what a Coin is. A Coin is a medallion with some sort of distincive identification on it for a specific military unit or in some cases, individuals. In most cases, these things are custom ordered and only high-ranking officials have access to them. I've only ever recieved one other coin in my career, and that was from the 10th Mountain Division, for serving with them in Afghanistan. I also was able to acquire a 1st Cavalry Division coin, but that was not for me...the commanding general of the 1st Cav gave me a coin to present to Dorian Britt, the Cadet First Sergeant of the Imani Leadership Academy the year I was deployed, as a reward for being Valedectorian and Class President.

So...yeah. To get the State Sergeant Major's PERSONAL Coin is kind of a big deal.

I'm really loving this job.

Day THREE...One mile, no sweat...

Two miles...better yet!!!

Okay, not really, but I did two solid miles this morning with noticeably less trouble than I've done in the past. The semi-frequent workout sessions with Justin and Wes are really paying off. This morning it was all the way up to 43 degrees, which is downright balmy compared to yesterday and monday.

Our class leader is a Warrant Officer who seems to be a bit unsure of himself. I've been trying to be supportive of him in that respect...but, hey...he IS a damn warrant.


(Never salute a warrant officer. It just confuses them.)

Day TWO...A riddle for you all...

Question: How long can the honor guard carry a coffin full of weights?

Answer: All damn day, if we have to.

Today was the first day of hands-on instruction, and we learned the 6-man casket detail. I tell ya...for those of you who don't know, the level of precision involved in doing military funeral honors is extremely high. It's difficult enough to get six soldiers to execute a facing movement at the exact same time. Now, imagine those six soldiers are holding a solid oak coffin, full of weight, and when they all turn, they have to release their outside hand and hold it in a very precise position so they are all identical.

Now they have to continue to STAND there while the instructors inspect and evaluate each one of us before we can proceed to the next step, which is coordinating our movement to turn the coffin EXACTLY 90 degrees using only 5 side-steps...this is still only holding with one hand.

NOW add the factor that ONE member of our team is 6'4", and one member of our team is 5'0", AND we are required to keep the coffin LEVEL.

Now...start doing that at 09:00, stop at noon for lunch, pick back up at 13:00 and stop again at 16:30.


Thank heavens I've done as many funerals as I have. When it became my turn to work the 'honcho' position...that's the guy who calls all the commands for the casket team, I recieved some serious praise on my performance. Granted, other members of my team recieved praise as well...but I'm not worried about THEIR grades...just mine.

I'm getting to know a couple of other members of my team. During lunch I sat with SGT Patera. I found her interesting because she's an MP in Nevada National Guard who had been to Iraq, and in her civilian world, she used to work security for one of the major casinos in Las Vegas. She gave it up to do Military Funeral Honors, cutting her pay in half. Turns out she does it for the same reason I's closure. Like me, she lost friends over there...friends she made in different units...and never really got to say goodbye.

I think it might be time for me to let go of working with kids...maybe not, but maybe so.

What I do is important...whether it's a 19-year-old KIA from Afghanistan or Iraq, or a 90-year-old man who never saw action, but who SERVED.

That's what it's all about, really. WE SERVE. Whether it's for 2 years or 40, we devote every day of our lives to being prepared to travel anywhere in the world, leave our families and friends behind, and give our lives if we have to.

Yeah, this might be the most important thing I've ever done.

Morning 2...I hate officers

I hate officers...

Morning...Day 2...

We were supposed to go to the gym to work out this morning...organized sports on Tuesday and Thursday...and when we got there we discovered that we'd been 'bumped' by an O.C.S. class (Officer Candidate School).

Fucking officers. They're not even actual OFFICERS yet, and they're already throwing their weight around. Amidst the groaning and moaning, I did point out that the Funeral Honor Guard works OUTSIDE in ALL CONDITIONS, and while it was wrong of the O.C.S. guys to muscle in on our gym time, we should not be averse to training outside.

Sooooooooo...we went outside for PT...and played ultimate 30-degree weather. I managed to completely turn my right ankle and almost turn my left because there were some holes in the field we were playing on.

Everyone was well-motivated and enjoying themselves...nobody took it too seriously...and at one point I intercepted a long pass. When I turned around, the smallest female in the class was coming at me wide open, and she couldn't stop fast enough.

Now...this soldier is about 5-foot-nothin'...a hundred and nothin'. In a nanosecond, I realized if she hit me, she'd bounce right off and possibly hurt herself. So, instead, I made this exaggerated 'whoa!!!'...let her impact, and we both went right over, ass-over-teakettle. In a display of athletic prowess that I have never before posessed and will never EVER be able to duplicate, I still managed to get the frisbee out of my hands and down the field before I impacted. However, my dedication to physical comedy got the better of me and I managed to screw up my shoulder a little bit.


I shouldn't feel this old...I'm only 35.

Day one with the Old Guard

First day with the Old Guard...

Ah...the 3rd US Infantry...The Old Guard...

These guys DEFINE "soldier". Talk all you want about Airborne, Rangers, all those guys... talk all you want. Yeah, they're all tough...but it takes a SPECIAL kind of soldier to maintain all the toughness of the Airborne, the Rangers, and still maintain the personal discipline required to execute something like Military Funeral Honors with pinpoint precision. That's the Old Guard.

That's who is training me for the next two weeks. These guys don't play.

A TINY bit of the classic Chris Jones class clown came out this morning after Physical Training (heretofore referred to as "PT"). One of our instructors had to address the class rather tersely in regards to the fact that several of them didn't run the entire second mile. After stressing that this was a military course and that we were here to learn the highest and most stringent of military standards, I piped up with, "You gotta be in good shape when you're carrying a coffin full of 'fat boy'."

As soon as I realized I'd said it out loud, I regretted it. "This is not the place for 'that guy'," I thought to myself, "this is where you're supposed to be SGT Jones, the old-school Drill Sergeant-type."

Fortunately, everyone laughed at what I said, and the instructor chuckled and said, "You're absolutely right, Sarge. This job takes more stamina than any other job!"

**Whew** So...the clown poked his stupid noggin out for just a second and didn't manage to completely invalidate or discredit me. I vowed to myself to have better control.

--At this point, my intrepid readers, I must insist that those of you who take personal delight in tearing me down on a regular basis for my choice to be talkative, or 'out there', or 'on', most of the time...just keep your snotty little comments to yourself. If you've not been paying attention lately, it's been quite some time since I was like that and I finally got sick and tired of wisecracks to the contrary this last RenFaire season. Comments to that effect from ANYBODY will result in a big 'fuck you and fuck off' from me, and then me ignoring you for pretty much the rest of time.--

So...into the classroom we went, after breakfast. Most of the morning was spent in one briefing after another. We had the obligatory "Welcome to PEC, here's what you can and can't do." briefing, then we sat through a mind-numbing hour of information on all the vast education benefits provided by the National Guard. Now...I am delighted that the National Guard provides so well for soldiers seeking an education...but most of that hour, I sat there wondering, "What the HELL does this have to do with Military Funeral Honors?" Nothing...I know. I know that this was an hour of instruction that EVERY class at PEC receives while there, but I felt like valuable time was being wasted on something that MY STATE should be doing.

After that, we sat through 75 minutes of discussion with two therapists on Stress Management. Turns out that doing funerals every day is a very stressful job. During this little session, I discovered that I'd done more funerals than pretty much anyone else in the room, what with having done 1 or more, on the average of 5 days a week since mid-September. I listened to other folks talk about how the most stress they dealt with was finding people to do the funerals that were requested...stuff like that. I countered with, "You know what stresses me out? When I'm about to present the flag to the son or grandson of a deceased WWII hero, and the little THUG hasn't even bothered to dress he's sitting there in his oversized jeans that hang down to his ass, his basketball jersey and his fucking baseball hat all tilted to the side, and the PUNK doesn't even bother to SIT UP STRAIGHT as I present his folded flag to him! STRESS is what happens when I choke down the impulse to kick his chair out from under him, send his punk-ass flying ass-over-teakettle and call him a disgrace to his grandfather's memory."

Everyone just sat quietly for a moment before the therapist said something like, "Yes...I can see where that might be stressful."

Afterwards, during lunch, several of us sat together swapping stories like that.

After lunch, we finally got into what we came here to do. We learned a bit of history in regards to Miltary Funeral Honors, and the began training. The hardest part for most folks is going to be un-learning most of the TRADITIONAL drill movements that the Army taught them so they can learn the very different drill movements used for Funeral ceremony.

All in all, however, a smile played around my face all day, just barely, because I am truly in awe of my instructors...these guys...GENUINE "Old Guard" soldiers...Silent Sentinels, guarding the gates of Valhalla.

This school is going to be one of the toughest I've ever done.

Day ONE...morning.

Day One...Morning...

(Sung to the familiar runnning cadence tune)...

Up in the morning at a quarter-to-six...

Yeah...well...nothing polite rhymes with six, so we'll stop there.

19 degrees outside.



Ran a mile, then 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, then another mile. I thought _I_ was out of shape! Several folks didn't even bother to RUN the second mile. *sigh*

This looks like it's going to be fun. I haven't brought out my 'class clown' face yet, and I don't think I will. This school means too much to me.

Talk to you guys tonight.

My newest job, my newest passion, my newest blog.

There are several days worth of blogs to catch up on. Make sure you read them in order...

In late September I began a new job. Those of you who have read my blogs know that Imani Institute was betrayed by folks we trusted, and we lost our charter.

Because I am not a certified teacher, and because we didn't get the word until two weeks before the start of the school year, I was not able to be picked up by another school.

After chilling for a week or two and "regrouping", I was putting the word out amongst friends in the National Guard to see if there were any 'active duty special work' openings. Those can be a genuinely SWEET deal. I was approached by SFC Gradus from my National Guard unit to give the Honor Guard a try.

Several years ago, Congress decided that military funeral honors would be made available to ALL VETERANS, provided they were honorably discharged of course. No longer did it have to be some retired high-ranker, or someone Killed In Action. We now honor ALL WHO SERVED. The National Guard was tasked with making this happen.

Well...rather than having a million different Guard units out there doing funerals a million different ways, the Guard decided that each state would have a MFH (Military Funeral Honors) coordinator and central office, and that ALL states would follow the same Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for conducting funerals. To this end, an SOP was written and a school created at the National Guard Professional Education Center at Camp Robinson in Little Rock, AR. Writing the SOP and teaching the course are none other than soldiers from the 3rd US Infantry, "The Old Guard". For those of you who don't know...these are the guys who work at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C., and who set the HIGHEST standard for MFH. States send a few soldiers to the school each year and those soldiers are expected to come back and train the rest. These slots are very coveted.

Well...I've been doing funerals since mid-September and I work at LEAST five days a week on average, and this duty consumes me.

Recently, I earned one of the coveted slots at the school, and I am currently in Little Rock working my ass off.

This is NOT the old Chris Jones. There have been changes. This SGT Jones cares about being a soldier, he cares about being an NCO, and he cares about his current mission, the highest of honors.

These are his chronicles.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Day of Signifigance...VERY LONG BLOG!!!

I've been seriously trying to decide whether or not to blog about my wedding or not.

I mean...there have been a few blogs already posted that put the reader RIGHT THERE. I suppose I could add a bit more insight into a few things.

Truth be told, I worry that I won't be able to capture the emotion of the whole experience. But, I shall try.

First, let's beging with a bit of a recap for everyone. Mahealani and I met about six years ago (or so) when she showed up at the Renaissance Festival on the arm of her then-boyfriend. I was acquainted with the dude, and we were fairly friendly with each other. I was in character, so I, of course, flirted with her. Not much...just enough to get a smile. I remember later that day, they sat right in front of me at the joust. I was perched on the fence, like you see in one of my pictures, getting the crowd worked up, and Mr. Boyfriend heckled me. Sooooooooo...I proceeded to take him apart verbally. No malice or anything...he was expecting it. He probably even said, "Watch this." to Lani. After getting him to blush in embarrassment, I looked Lani dead in the eye and winked at her.

The next year, Lani was supposed to be part of our cast. She attended a meeting or three, and then situations arose that prevented her from joining us. She DID show up on the final weekend, and she was a sight to take your breath away. I admired her from a distance, and then she wandered out of my life for a bit.

A year later we had a party for a member of our cast, Jayna, who was finally going 'on the road' as a Ren performer. I had just been through TWO nasty breakups in a row, and Lani shows up. Guess what the FIRST THING she asks me is?

"Where's your other half?"

I turned to her and said, "I don't HAVE another half, thank you." I was rather terse with her, and turned and walked away. Silly me...everyone ELSE knew the whole ugly I assumed she did also. My mistake.

So later, I was sitting with a young lady named Kaylin, who I had known since my first season. Kaylin was about 8 or 9, and Lani comes up to me and, in an attempt to be friendly, makes a wisecrack about 'younger women'. Well...I'm INSANELY protective of Kaylin, so I, naturally, found this to be very un-funny. I believe my exact words were, "Isn't there someone else you could bug the shit out of besides me?"

Yeah. forward many months. I've been flirting with this girl online for a few hours. I know she's part of the Renaissance cast, but all of a sudden, I discover that I'm not flirting with the girl I THINK I've been flirting with! DAMMIT! I'm flirting with the girl who pisses me off all the time!

Somehow, however, we manage to keep each other intrigued until about
3 AM. This goes on every night for about 2 weeks. Finally, the time rolls around that I have to go away with my National Guard unit for two weeks. I knew I was going to be in the woods of Fort Bragg for two weeks with neither cell phone nor internet access. Lani lived with her parents at the time, which was close to MY parents. So I tell her that I'm going to be at my parents house on Friday night and I'd like to go out with her. She accepts.

The date went very well...and we ended up making out on the hood of my car in my parents driveway until about
5 AM. Kissing, and talking, and more kissing. She gave me her phone number and left. I packed up my gear and drove to Raleigh to join my Guard unit.

I made it about three days before I borrowed Tim Beckett's phone to call her. She gave me wonderful news. She had been accepted to NC School of the Arts in
Winston-Salem, just 20 minutes up the road from my place! She asked me, " you want a girlfriend in September?" I said, "Hell no. I want one NOW. I can't stop thinking about you. I want this NOW."
We agreed that we were an exclusive couple right then and there on the phone.

That's how we started.

This is how we almost ended.

I won't bother you with psychobabble excuses or anything like that. I know that even though you guys are all my friends, we ALL like to judge. It's in our nature. We critique everything from performances to costumes to someone's behavior in a crisis. Most of the judgements have been passed already, and truth be told, I don't really give a damn what anyone else thinks, because it's in the past and it's done.

I had an affair that lasted for just over a year. For the first half of the affair, the other woman didn't know I was engaged to Lani. After she discovered the truth, we continued the affair. After a little more than a year, I got caught. No details are important at this point.

Lani ended our relationship. However, we continued to spend time together. I won't speculate as to the why's and how's of that. I just know that she was no longer wearing my ring, and if you asked her, she and I had broken up. But we couldn't tear ourselves away from each other. You hear the word 'soulmate' tossed around A LOT. I honestly think she and I truly are. Despite all the hurt that BOTH of us were experiencing at the time...we could NOT stay away from each other. Hell...Lani was coming over MORE often now that we were 'broken up'. I didn't understand it, but I was glad for it. I realized that while I COULD live without was no kind of life. I was alone and empty when she was apart from me.

From January to June I lived this 'limbo' existence.
"Chris, are you and Lani still together?"
" why is she at your house almost every your bed almost every night, telling you she loves you?"
"Beats the hell out of me."

For six months it was twin existences. Privately, it was like it had always been (except for the occasional crying/shouting fit), but when we got in front of friends, she would be cold and snippy to me, like she thought she was expected to be.

In June, she graduated. After spending some time at home, she came back to
Greensboro to spend some time with me. After a wonderful intimate evening together, we were lying in bed and I commented on us being 'back together'. She said that we weren't...and I ...went...BALLISTIC. After employing a few rather creative analogies that I'm still quite proud of, I told her to leave in the morning. If she wanted to insist that she wasn't sure if she wanted a boyfriend, then I certainly wasn't going to continue to act like one for her. She left on Friday morning.

Sunday afternoon she was back. *smile* She borrowed money for gas so she could drive up to see me and tell me that she wanted us to be together.

I'll spare you the language of romance that was employed, but Shakespeare would have wept.

Not long after we OFFICIALLY reconciled (and all the world rejoiced), I brought up the subject of our recently cancelled wedding. Mahealani thought we should put it off for a bit longer, but I calmly reminded her that I'm 35 years old, and I have no desire to be much older than 50 when my kids graduate high school. She saw that I had a good point, and that we really had no need to put the wedding off any further, so we decided to go with our original date, December 2nd.

But...wait...Chris...your date was December 1st!

Yes, intrepid readers, it was. The ORIGINAL scheduled date was December 2nd, but we got SCREWED out of our original venue by Castle McCullough, and in disgust, I asked for all of my money back. We decided to move the wedding from
High Point (convenient for all of our Rennie friends) to Clayton, NC which would be much more convenient for our family. We love our friends, but we decided to put our family first.

We went down to my old hometown of
Wilson's Mills, NC (between Clayton and Smithfield) and started making plans. The ORIGINAL plan was to have it at my church, with the reception in the fellowship hall. We ended up nixing that plan for a few reasons. So...after an exhaustive search of the area, we found this beautiful venue in Clayton called the Wagner House. The Wagner House is an old historic home in the middle of downtown Clayton. Well...given the relatively short notice, our original date of the 2nd was not we bit the bullet and went for Friday, the 1st. We knew that some folks wouldn't be able to make it...but we didn't have much choice...and while our friends are important, our priority was our family. Our families were able to deal with the new schedule, so we plowed forth!

No matter what happens...I'm never marrying again. I don't ever want to go through wedding planning EVER AGAIN! I PRAY I have sons so I don't have to plan a wedding for my DAUGHTER!!!!!

Anyhow...after alot of hard work, the fated days arrived.

Now...I say DAYS, plural, because anyone who has BEEN married knows that the ONLY people who only have to deal with a singular wedding DAY are the guests who didn't actually DO anything but show up. For anyone actually INVOLVED in the wedding, it's a MINIMUM of 2 days, sometimes 3 or more.

The rehearsal was on a Thursday. I made sure I was off duty early on Wednesday. Lani and her girls took off Wednesday afternoon to head down to
Raleigh to be bachelorettes and such. That was fine, because I had a big surprise for her anyhow. Lani's dad came up and brought her BED.

Now...Lani's BED is a sight to behold. She had bought it many years ago and had not really been able to use it because shortly after she bought it, she moved back in with her parents, and this BED wouldn't fit in their house! Once she and I were together, it never moved up here for a variety of reasons. Truth be told, she was getting to the point that she thought she'd NEVER see the BED again.

The BED is a gianormous cherry four-poster job. It's HUGE. It's LAVISH. It's DECADENT. To quote Wes, "The damn thing looks like it belongs in a Phillipino whorehouse!"

Well, my wedding gift to Lani was having her dad sneak up here with it after she left so we could install the thing in our bedroom. By coincidence, Wes, Hugh, and Fisher came over as we were putting the damn thing together and they lent a hand or two. Then Dad and Shannon (Lani's brother) had to leave, so we all hung out, smoked hookah, drank and generally had a good time.

Thursday... rehearsal day.

I slept in a few hours then got up and began the mad panic. I spent the entire day with a comprehensive checklist of everything I needed to do before heading out of town for the rehearsal...I checked, double checked and triple checked everything and STILL spent the entire day with this whole, "I've forgotten something important" feeling.
I picked up Lani's rings from the Post Office, then my own ring from the jeweller. They had been told not to let me read the inscription, so I didn't. Once I had the rings, I handed them to Doug and told him to guard them with his life. We had lunch at Red Robin, and then waited for David Gauldin and the Sheltons to arrive.

Once we were all assembled, we all headed to the mall to grab the tuxedos. There was a mild panic, as Justin's tux had a short jacket and everyone else had a long one. There was good reason behind the mistake, and it was quickly handled. The replacement jacket would be waiting for us in
Raleigh. We sighed in relief and hit the road.

Lani and the girls had secured rooms at a Comfort Inn in Clayton. I had tried to find a hotel nearby, but was frustrated by their rates, which seemed a bit unreasonable. I figured, since I was going to be paying more than they were worth...why not go in the OTHER direction? So, I contacted the Embassy Suites in
Cary. Lani and I were supposed to stay there on our wedding night before we embarked on our honeymoon, so I just added Thursday night to the reservation and tacked on a second room for the Sheltons. Ahhhhhhhhh...the Embassy Suites. There is nothing but good to say about the place. Lani and the girls were so jealous. We had an indoor pool and jacuzzi, cooked-to-order breakfast, HUGE rooms, it was perfect. We grabbed the quick complimentary cocktail before jetting out the door to head to the rehearsal.

Now...the rehearsal was scheduled for
6 PM. Ordinarily, it takes 25 minutes MAXIMUM to get from Clayton to Cary down I-40. However, we got stuck in the most God-awful traffic snarl you've ever SEEN on 40. It was worse than typical rush-hour. Sooooooooooo...we ended up being about 45 minutes LATE for rehearsal. Bear in mind this entire time, I'm going INSANE. I mean, I was SERIOUSLY freaking out. Justin and Doug and David were doing their best to keep me cool, but I was seriously losing my mind. Well, it turns out that the girls were caught in traffic as well. Our families were at the venue with Billie, my minister, and when we all arrived, it was a very QUICK rehearsal. Heather Watkins stepped up as the wedding director and did a wonderful job, even yelling at us when we weren't paying attention. The wedding ceremony itself was really going to be quite simple anyhow. We were doing something funky with the entrances, but that's just about it. So after a very quick rehearsal, we all headed out to my church for the rehearsal dinner.

Mom had arranged for an Italian resturant named "Ragazzi's" to cater the rehearsal. It was divine. We had lasagna, chicken
marsala, salad, bread, and my sister had made this amazing penne chicken alfredo. Yum. We ate ourselves senseless. My mom and Lani's mom had brought a BUNCH of pictures from our childhood. Everyone was looking at my pictures and wondering, "Who the hell is this? What happened? Geez! He's actually SMILING!" At the rehearsal dinner, there was a bonding of 'girls'. See Jeff and Heather Shelton had brought their two daughters, Teagan (9) and Tira (3?). Teresa, one of Lani's maids of honor (she had 2), brought HER two daughters, Nicole (4) and Samantha (2), and my nieces were there, Libby (6) and Julia (4). So...while we were socializing, there was a powwow of little girls running around the place like a knee-high tornado. We stuffed ourselves stupid, and then Dad got everyone's attention to say a few words.

I've seen Dad get emotional. He doesn't do it often. That's not to say my dad is cold or anything. On the contrary, my dad is one of the warmest people I know. But I've only ever seen him become 'overcome' a few times. This was one of those times and I am very proud of how unashamed the men in my family are of their emotions. Dad told everyone of how I always seem to come through every trial 'smelling like a rose'. I honestly think that was his subtle nod to the fact that despite my mistakes, Lani and I were still marrying. As he spoke, he mentioned that he knew I was a 'special' child. Of course, I sighed visibly while everyone else chuckled. Then my mother spoke, and she also used the word "special". Well...that started it. She apparently forgot what kind of friends I have. As everyone, in turn, took their opportunity to say kind words about me, they all found a way to mention how "special" I was. At one point I thumped my head on the table and said, "I truly hate you all." Then Lani's dad spoke about how wonderful his daughter is. He was uncharacteristically brief in his speech. Of course, Lani's grandmother made up for it. *smile* I love that woman, but she loves to talk. To wrap up the night I took a moment to acknowledge all of my friends and to thank them specifically for all they had done to help me and Lani through our tough times, and then Lani did the same for her friends. We cleaned up the remains of dinner and parted ways. David, Doug, Justin, the Sheltons and I headed back to
Cary to the Embassy Suites where, to our delight, we discovered the pool and jacuzzi were open 24 hours! We relaxed for a VERY long time before grabbing Big Blue, the hookah I brought home from Afghanistan, and heading outside to smoke. Of course, the wind was hellacious, so we ended up not smoking. We did, however, sit outside and drink and chat. I got a tear-filled phone call from Lani telling me the hotel management was trying to kick them out of their hotel. I talked with her for a bit, we mapped out a back-up plan in case we needed it, comforted her, and sent her to bed. Turns out there was no need to panic. Chrissy handled it beautifully.

We woke the next morning and joined the Sheltons for a ridiculously wonderful breakfast. Then we headed upstairs and napped for a few hours. Promptly at 10, Wes arrived. What can I say about Wes? Absolutely nothing bad. He's a helluva guy. Fiercely loyal to his friends, wise beyond his years, friendly to the world, and as country as biscuit gravy. Wes had volunteered to be our driver for the rest of the day. He arrived in his black suit and had his 'attitude' on. When Wes decides that he's going to 'work for me' for a day, it's like he throws a switch in his brain! It's 'yes sir' and 'no sir' and he behaves like he actually works for me.
Douglas, with no small ammount of relief, handed the rings over to Wesley to guard for the rest of the day. We climbed into Wes's car. David followed in his truck and Jeff and Heather agreed to meet us at the Wagner House at the appointed time.

We took a short trip to Crabtree Valley Mall to pick up Justin's coat, for me to get a haircut, and for EVERYONE to get a cigar or two, then we headed to Clayton once more. THIS time, we arrived on time. The gentlemen were sequestered in an upstairs room where we changed. My father arrived, and we were all brought champagne. I raised a toast to my father, and to a few friends who had passed away and were attending the wedding in spirit, if not in body. After we were all dressed, we headed downstairs and loitered about on the front steps. It was pretty fun, also, because there was a wedding REHEARSAL scheduled at the house in the back yard at roughly the same time as the wedding, so guests of the rehearsal were walking up, seeing us in dress blues and tuxes and thinking, "Shit...was it today???" While we were getting ready, Lani's mother brought us genuine ceremonial leis that had been shipped from

Many of our friends showed up, a few didn't. That's okay, though. We knew that we'd thrown alot of stuff out of whack with the scheduling, that that was fine. Everyone was there in spirit. Lani was, of course, taking longer to get ready than we'd anticipated, so the wedding started about 20 mins later than planned. *sigh* In all honesty, that HELPED our state of mind. It added a sense of normalcy to everything. Doug said, " it's just like a morning at RenFaire."

Finally, the moment came! Heather summoned us all inside and we lined up. The music began and my mother and Lani's mother entered arm-in-arm. They walked up to the front and each lit a candle, to be used when me and Lani lit our unity candle. After they were seated, Billie led the men in.

I had decided I wanted the men to make a bit of our own entrance, since it's my wedding too. *smile* Lani and I had decided early on that we did NOT want the typical "dum-dum-da-dum" wedding march. Ick. We used a Celtic song, titled "Hear Me." It's a duet where the man sings the first verse in Gaelic.

" Torramat do noebaingil a Christ meic De
Bi ar cotlud ar cumsanad ar lepaid co lli
Na millet ar cumsanad ar cotlud lainn luath
Demna erchoit aidmilliud aislingi co nuath"

Translated, it means...
"May the holy angels, Oh Christ, son of the Living God
tend our sleep, our rest, our warm bed.
May no demons, no ill or terrifying dreams,
disturb our rest, our ready and swift repose."

While this first verse was playing, the men entered with the minister, and we gathered in a circle for a brief prayer, asking God to be welcome at our wedding and to bless the whole thing. Then we stepped to our individual places. Then came the second verse of the song, the woman,singing in English:

"It's winter on the island, the hearth is cold as stone.
Like a house deserted, I'm roofless and alone.
Where is your voice? Where is your touch, your breath, your guiding flame?
Where is the light I miss so much in this gently falling rain?"

As this verse played, the bridesmaids entered one by one. They each were wearing two handmade leis. One by one, they each presented their corresponding groomsman with one of the leis they were wearing. It was really cute to see Doug bend nearly double so Robin could reach around his neck with the lei that had been made for him. There was a heartwarming moment when Teresa, Lani's best friend since High School, entered. Her 2-year-old, Samantha, ran over to her as she walked down the aisle, and wanted to stand with her. Fortunately, the little sweetheart didn't burst into tears when she was told she had to sit in her seat. What a sweet child.

The third verse began. The man and woman sang together:

"I hear your voice calling through the silence of time.
I hear you through darkness when stormy seas run high.
Hear me! Hear me! The sun will rise again.
Hear me, I'm by your side! Our voices speak as one."

I've heard tons of stories from grooms who told of having to 'catch their breath' when they first saw their bride coming down the aisle, and I always dismissed it as good storytelling. But I can tell you now, with all honesty, that is exactly what happened. Everyone in the room gasped when Lani appeared at the back of the room with her father. As she walked towards me, we couldn't help but sing the words of "Hear Me" to each other softly. Most folks in the front of the room could tell that's what we were doing, and the waterworks began. All of the bridesmaids were like Niagra Falls, except for Chrissy, who I honestly think was all cried out by that point.

True to ourselves, Lani and I were unable to make it through our own WEDDING without cracking a joke or two. She was wearing a floor-length veil, which I personally had never seen before, and when I had to go digging through it to hold her hand, she said, "I'm in here somewhere!" and I replied, "I bet the fabric was on sale, huh?"

Billie led us through a short but very reverent service. At one point, he paused, and we all thought he'd cracked himself up, but in truth, he himself had gotten so choked up he had to pause and compose himself! Billie has seen me through a great deal. He was there when I began my life as a Christian, he performed a special service for me each time I was called away to war, and he has always been my closest counsel. I think he felt as if he was marrying one of his own sons. When it came time for us to recite our vows, Lani and I had written our own.

In all honesty, I had struggled with the idea of what to say for several weeks until the night before the wedding. I was going over some notes in my head for the Royal Guard training, when I remembered the seven core values I constantly stress to them over and over. I remembered how I tell these kids over and over that these values are more than just guidelines...they should become the WAY OF LIFE for them. So I felt it was only appropriate that I pledge these virtues to my new wife:

Loyalty to her and her alone
Duty as a husband and head of household
Respect to her above all else
Selfless Service as her husband
Honoring her and our marriage in all things I say and do
Integrity as a husband
Courage to face all trials with her.

Everyone who knows me recognized my vows immediately and they were deeply moved, because they know that being a soldier is very important to me, and those values are my mantra. For me to make the same pledge to Lani made it very clear how she is the center of my world.

Then came Lani's vows. She stood there smiling at me as she spoke of faithfulness, comfort, devotion, passion. I wish I could tell you exactly what she said but I was moving in a dream. Billie called for the rings, which we placed on each other's fingers, then we lit our unity candle. After that came the blessing of the "Truce bell", which is a Celtic tradition. Finally the moment came. I was asked claim my bride with a kiss and WOW what a kiss! Billie pronounced us man wife and we skipped down the aisle to the tune of The Lost Boys singing, "Life is Good."

The reception was a party like no other, and the honeymoon was magic.

I could write on that, I suppose, and maybe I will...but I've told the most important part of, despite my greatest failings, I managed to make the most wonderful woman on Earth my wife forever.

Monday, November 06, 2006

All Choked Up...

It was a pretty good weekend, all-in-all. The weather was great. Sunny and COLD.

While it seems like the whole 'cold' thing would be bad, it's worse for us if it's warm, because we're wearing heavy costumes, running around, dancing, singing, and even on a day that doesn't get above 55 degrees, you sweat like a Scotsman reading a book.

The Guardsmen are serious hits this year. They don't get much reaction in the mornings at the front gate, but that's usually because there aren't many folks out there yet. The folks who are are too timid to play with them. That's okay. This year is all about establishing the reputation and getting a 'comfort zone'. Next year, everyone can just look out. There's going to be a Black Lions explosion at CRF.

One of our former Guardsmen, Steven (Seda), has been a big supporter of the Black Lions. He was introduced to the guys last year when they performed a precision rifle drill on Student Days, and thought it was the coolest thing he'd ever seen. When the cadets presented our shield to the King, Seda was tasked with carrying it, and he carried it very reverently all day.

Well, this past weekend, Seda approached me and told me that he wanted to take the oath of the Black Lions. Of course, I was honored, and Lolly (our Queen) had the Guards bring him in front of her. I asked him the following questions:

1. Do you understand that COURAGE is not the absence of fear, but
rather, it is bold action in the face of fear?

2. Do you understand that to live with INTEGRITY is to conduct
yourself as a gentleman, even when you could get away with doing

3. As an ADULT member of the Black Lions Battalion, one who would
lead these young men and women down the right path, do you
understand that one cannot hold the torch to light the path for another
without also lighting your own path as well?

Seda, of course, answered yes to all of these questions, and then recited the Black Lions Prayer. I then took a moment to explain to the audience a bit of the history of the Black Lions and what we stand for, inviting any adult anywhere to join us in taking the oath and reciting the prayer.

Of course, because I'm a great big sap, I became emotional. Enough so that several of the guards approached me and asked if I was alright.

Sometimes I wonder if they understand what they all mean to me, and what the existence of the Black Lions means to me. To see them do well in the Academy, and to perform well as the Royal Guard means so much more than one would guess at first glance. It means they're making good choices, far better choices than most urban teenagers make these days. They consciously reject the mentality of most of their peers and embrace responsibility, integrity, discipline and respect. When I see young men and women whom I love so sincerely making the right choices and turning their backs on the darkness...the very EVIL that is choking society, I get emotional.

THIS is Dr. Loftin's dream come to life. Not just a corps of Middle School Cadets at Imani...but the existence of the ideals and values OUTSIDE the walls of the school. I know he grabs a ringside seat every weekend and watches. I can hear that low, rolling laugh of his when these kids are standing around learning the dances of the Elizabethan Royal Court and congratulating each other and themselves on how well they did it...and I know there ARE tears in Heaven, because I know Doc cried when a tent full of complete strangers who'd never HEARD of the Black Lions all recited the Black Lions Prayer along with Seda when he swore to take up the torch and lead down the path of what is right and good.

So...yeah. That's why I get choked up. Because every one of these kids is worth every tear of pride that I shed.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I am a Black Lion...

Today the Imani Institute Leadership Academy classroom (The Lion's Den) was cleaned out.

Today, SFC Jones and GySgt Gauldin cleaned out their offices.

Hard drives were wiped clean.

Documents were shredded.

Posters were taken down.

Boxes were filled one by one and taped shut to be stored away.

Imani Institute Charter Middle School was betrayed by those we trusted...those we put our faith in...those we PAID to DO A JOB.

The cost of that betrayal? Imani Institute must now close its doors. And with that, the Black Lions Company has fallen.

But we are soldiers.

We have not surrendered. We have merely been forced to withdraw and regroup.

The Black Lions Company serves as the Royal Guard at the Carolina Renaissance Festival. We recently set up a MySpace page, and our main profile picture is that of a soldier giving the universal tactical hand-and-arm signal to "Rally".

That means, "Fall back to a safe point. Regroup. Get ready to attack again."

We fight against the Darkness.

We are the soldiers of the Black Lions Company, and we have NOT surrendered. We merely rally here while we regroup, bandage our wounds and prepare our next attack.

Do NOT underestimate us.
Do NOT consider us 'finished'.
Do NOT assume you've seen the last of us.

I am a Black Lion.
Integrity is my way of life.
Discipline is my Religion.
Respect is my faith.
I am a Black Lion.
All others look up to me.
All others want to be like me.
I set the standard.
I am a Black Lion.
If you try to distract me
I will become more disciplined.
If you try to break me
I will remain strong.
I am a Black Lion
I have no time for anger.
I will not be provoked.
My body is sacred to me.
It will not be polluted.
My mind is my greatest tool.
It will not be corrupted.
I am a Black Lion.
I am loyal to my pride.
To disrespect me is to disrespect them.
To disrespect them is to disrespect me.
I am a Black Lion.
I am a Black Lion.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Angel Dream...

She likes a glass of orange juice first thing in the morning
She likes to be made love to as the day is dawning
She likes to breathe the air from her balcony outside
She says it gives her freedom, and clears her mind for a while

She looks at me with loving eyes, she sees into my heart
She says she’ll always love me, even if we are apart
She colors in my life in blue and in green
Her eyes hold the keys to the palace of my dreams

Angel Dream
This angel’s heart has been given to me
This can’t be real

I look upon her angel face framed by her dark hair
She says I leave my scent on her even when I can’t be there
The strength I see within her, the softness of her hands
Oh how I love the ground upon which this woman stands

When I feel I’m tumbling down, she’s there to break my fall
Like an angel on
my shoulder, she’s been there through it all
Sometimes I feel so lucky to know someone so good
I wonder what I’ve done to deserve this kind of love

Angel Dream
This angel’s heart has been given to me
This can’t be real

Angel dream
This angel’s heart has been given to me
This can’t be real

Sometimes words get in the way
Of all the things you have to say
Of all the things you have to do
Then reality creeps up on you

Don’t let the words get in the way
Of anything you want to say
You can never fail if you know you tried
So for your dreams bleed your heart dry

I tell no lie to you
My Angel Dream.

I can see her, I can see her
And I can feel, I can feel
All her love, all that love
Shining down, shining down on me.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Rock and Roll Heaven?

I just finished listening to one of my favorite "Righteous Brothers" tunes, "Rock And Roll Heaven"...and I got to thinking...

In their single, “Rock and Roll Heaven”, The Righteous Brothers imagined that heaven, being full of dead rock stars, must have “a hell of a band”. For years, the notion of heaven as a sort of celestial amphitheater has captivated generations of slack-witted rock fanatics. One need only ponder the logistics for more than a second to realize this notion, however rosy, is deeply flawed and most assuredly false. In fact, if there is a “Rock And Roll Heaven”, one can rest reasonably assured that they’ve got a terrible, disorganized and awful sounding band.

Of course, there isn’t a “rock and roll heaven” any more than there is a “tool and die heaven” or a “claims adjustment heaven”. Some godless blue state residents could convincingly argue that there isn’t even a “regular heaven”.

So, let’s assume, for the sake of this piece, that there is, in fact, a rock and roll heaven. When was it established? The very second the phrase “rock and roll” was coined? Did a section of heaven previously known as “music heaven” or “black american music heaven” suddenly change its sign in a flash of light? Are there bouncers? Who watches the gate? Saint Peter? If it’s Saint Peter can you only get in if you travel with two other guys who are different than you? With all of that star-power, one would think they’d need a pretty big venue. So, the actual concert hall has got to be as big as…well, how many dead rock fans are there, anyway?...Let’s say 100 billion…so that’s like a million RFK stadiums. That’s a pretty big venue, with a lot of really crappy seats. Who gets to sit in the gold circle? Does Alan Freed, who coined the term “rock and roll”, get better seats than Sean Raleigh, a mill worker from Spokane who crashed his El Camino into a tree in 1978? Sean loved rock and roll more than his own children. Why does he get stuck in the nosebleeds?

And what about the music? Rock and roll is all about sex and drugs and itself. Heaven, being the dominion of God and Jesus, probably frowns on those subjects. Are all of the groups forced to censor themselves like they’re on the Ed Sullivan Show? Does Ed Sullivan enforce the rules himself? He’s up there, too, you know. If the Rolling Stones ever die, would they be forced to sing “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”? Is Brian Jones allowed to perform that song now or does he have to wait until the rest of the group gets there?

And once the Rolling Stones are assembled do they play with Brian Jones? Ron Wood? Mick Taylor? That black guy who plays bass now but isn’t really in the Rolling Stones? Jesus, imagine the clusterfuck when Lynard Skynard takes the stage with all fifteen of its original members and all forty-five of its subsequent members. It’ll look like some kind of backwoods hillbilly ugly pageant, all hair and beards and silly hats. Will the Grateful Dead have all seventeen keyboard players playing at the same time? Will anyone know the difference? Will there be drugs in heaven? There better be, if the Dead is going to play. Jesus may look like a Deadhead, but even he thinks the Dead sucks unless you’re way high. Does Stu Sutcliffe get to be in the Beatles again?

Remember that old Sunday School conundrum about how if you lose your leg in life, it’ll be waiting for you in heaven? Will the Stray Cats still have all of their tattoos? Will Chuck Berry be old or young? Is Elvis fat or skinny? And if he’s skinny, does that mean he can’t sing “Suspicious Minds” because he recorded it when he was getting fat? Johnny and Joey Ramone rarely spoke in the last years of their life. Are they all buddy-buddy now?

And with all of this rocking and rolling going on, when are these people supposed to find time for other heavenly pursuits like bowling and lawn darts? Is Janis Joplin allowed to take some time off to macramé or is she expected to do three shows every day without fail? If she does get time off, who fills in? Heaven never closes, either. It’s like Vegas without the strippers and Middle Eastern dudes (They’re in AllahLand).

And everyone in heaven is equal right? No one is any better than anyone else. We’re all children of God and he doesn’t favor one over the other, right? Then who keeps Mark David Chapman away from John Lennon? Or Marvin Gaye’s dad away from him? On the flip side, are there still groupies in heaven? Does John Bonham get to cram sharks in ‘em? Do they have sharks in heaven? Does Keith Moon get a hotel room that resets every time he leaves so he can trash it again? Which Cher is going to be there? The ugly 60s one? The hot 70s one? The glitzy 80s one? The serious actress one from the 90s? The plastic gay icon from the 00s? The cyborg from the 10s? The hologram from the 20s? Does Sonny get to sing with her or will he choose “Senate Heaven” instead?

When are these people supposed to practice? Is Kurt Cobain really going to want to play with Robbin Crosby from Ratt or will he sulk and pout and bitch about how lame everything is for all eternity? Is Mia Zapata going to sing some corny version of “Roll Over Beethoven” with Bill Haley, Ginger Baker and Sid Vicious? Every song is going to sound like the awkward “jams” at every Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Not to mention they won’t know what to do until Paul Schaeffer dies. Does anyone really want to hear from Jim Morrison again? Do all of the dead hillbillies who loved Dimebag really want to sit through the Beach Boys just to hear their hero shred?

Who decides if you’re allowed to play? What’s the criteria? Fame? Fortune? Record sales? Will it be harder to get some local Douchebag drummer from Indiana who ODs on meth into rock and roll heaven than getting a camel through security at a WuTang concert? That hardly seems fair. Are local Douchebags who die before they “make it” doomed to play crappy showcase gigs and Tuesday night openers for all eternity? If there really is a God, they will.

And finally, if there is a rock and roll heaven, what the fuck are all of these drug-taking, groupie-fucking degenerate rock stars doing there anyway? If there’s a rock and roll heaven, then there’s got to be a rock and roll hell, too, but that’s a whole other kettle of dogma.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

It's not that I'm not a patriot...

I mean, for goodness' sake...I fought for our country! I've spent the past 18 years of my life as a serviceman for the good ol' USA.

But my friends are treating me like a pariah for not being a slobbering, rabid fan of the USA in the 2006 World Cup.

Truth be told, I don't think the USA should have gone to the World Cup...and I really hope they DON'T win! Which, judging by their performance against the Czech Republic, doesn't seem to be a real concern.

You may ask WHY I would not support the USA in the World Cup?

Well...first of all, the USA is the ONLY country in the world who doesn't seem to know what the sport is CALLED! No...we call it 'soccer'. We're the only country in the world that doesn't seem to know that the name of the sport is FOOTBALL (or Futbol, or some other variant), BECAUSE YOU USE YOUR FUCKING FEET!!!!!

No...we use the name "Football" for a completely DIFFERENT sport where only ONE guy ever uses his feet...and guess what? Most of the time, that guy is recruited from a FOOTBALL team from somewhere else in the world. The sport WE call 'football' is actually more like RUGBY, but it's Rugby with a bunch of superflous lame-arsed rules and pads.

Secondly... what if we won? You know, the rest of the world already hates us. Americans are treated like crap in every other country in the world. If you travel to Europe, you better claim to be Canadian, or the waiters will spit in your soup when you're not looking. If we WON the World Cup? We wouldn't get a moment's peace. We wouldn't be able to travel outside the US without catching crap everywhere we go.

Combine those two reasons with the fact that the general attitude of Americans seems to be, "Yeah, if the US wins the World Cup, we're gonna start making everyone else call it 'soccer'."


Hey's that sort of arrogant, screw-the-rest-of-the-world attitude that makes everyone else HATE US!!!! So, yeah, we're the strongest, but we're also the youngest. A little bit of RESPECT for the rest of the world would be in order perhaps? They HAVE been doing this longer, for goodness sake.

That's why I don't fully support the US in the World Cup this year...because we have yet to earn the respect of the rest of the world in a GREAT MANY AREAS, this being one of them. When we can learn to play nice with other kids, then maybe we deserve to be in the league.

Like I said...I'm a patriot. Heck, I bet I'm more patriotic than most folks reading this right now. I never fail to stand for the National Anthem, and I remain at attention until the last note is played...tears rolling down my cheeks. I love my country more than anything in the world. It is my pure love for the US that allows me to see her flaws with clarity, and love her DESPITE them, while at the same time, hoping to do my part to help her OVERCOME them.

Thank you and goodnight.

P.S. -- at the time of this posting, I'm seated on my couch in front of the TV getting ready to cheer for the US in their match against Italy.