08 March 2017

Do you have a Bucket List?

I mentioned often that something was on my Bucket List to do someday.  I would hear about something and make a mental note to myself that it would be a good thing to add to the Bucket List.  As time went by, quite a few things popped up and quite a few things were forgotten.  As my memory has gotten worse, even more things have slipped away.

I finally sat down and physically wrote out a Bucket List.  As I sat there looking at it, more things came back to me and the list kept growing.  I also noted the things I have already completed like Stonehenge and the Grand Canyon.  I struggle about whether I want to put something down that is very unrealistic like New Zealand.  It's not so much the cost but the very long and uncomfortable flight.  Part of me says, "Why not?  It's a wish list".  Another part of me says, "No, it's a priority list of things to do before I get too old".

Life is fragile and fleeting.  I just heard recently that two more of my high school classmates have crossed over just this year alone.  I still think about that good friend who passed away last October due to cancer.  He was 2 years younger than I. Another friend, also the same age, is also suffering from cancer and I don't know how long she will be around.

Three trips are planned already for this year.  Bucket List - Family - Bucket List.  I'll write more about the Bucket List trips after they happened and we have the results.  The Family trip will be to visit my 90 year old Dad.

If you're curious, I have 10 things on my Bucket List at this time.

18 February 2017

I also wanted to add that retirement so far has been everything that I hoped it would be.  Time has passed so quickly as it tends to do when you're having fun.
It's now been one year since I've retired...

I find myself missing life in the Army quite a bit.  But I know I'm not physically able to keep up so that's it.  What I do miss is the camaraderie.

I just heard that one of my former soldiers has been selected for non-retention.  In plain language, he's being booted out.  He has enough years so he can retire from the National Guard.  That means when he turns age 60, he will draw a small pension and receive Tricare Medical for himself and his family.

Now having said that, I'm actually kind of miffed that he was allowed to retire.  Most soldiers make it to the rank of SPC/E4 by the end of their first enlistment.  By the end of their second enlistment (6 years), they're at least a SSG/E-6.  After that, rank gets tougher.  But let me put it this way, if you retire at the end of 20 years with the rank of E-6/Staff Sergeant, most soldiers will look at you and wonder where you screwed up. 

If you retire as a Sergeant First Class/E7, it's like getting a "C" in college.  Master Sergeant/E-8 is like getting a "B".  Sergeant Major/E9 is like getting an "A".

This former soldier retired after 20 years as a Specialist/E4.  So some started talking about what a nice guy he is and that it's a shame the Army Guard is allowing him to retire at the low rank of E4.

Let me confess to you here, because it's pretty much anonymous, I'm mad that he was allowed to retire.  I thought he should have been kicked out a decade ago.  That he should not have been allowed to retire.  The Army National Guard allowed this substandard soldier to stay and now when he turns 60 he will receive a life pension for being substandard.  Now it won't be much and some people are already carping about how anyone who retires deserves more.  Ugh.

Now let me admit that I have a great deal of appreciation for the Army.  I'm not Caucasian but I have never felt that the Army has treated me in a racist manner.  On the contrary, the Army has been color-blind long before the rest of society.  The Army has told me that if you meet these benchmarks, you will be retained and promoted.  If you do not, then you may be eliminated.  It was in black and white before me.  I knew exactly what I had to do to go to the next level.  It didn't matter what color I was, if I met the requirements for the next level, I would move forward.

There came a point that I no longer wished to go higher and declined.  I wasn't promoted but since I refused to do what was required, no surprises there.

So what brings up these comments is that this former soldier was told everything he had to do to get promoted and retained.  One of the requirements was WLC school.  He refused to go.  He was given numerous opportunities to go and he refused.  He was ordered to go but still refused.  I wanted him kicked out 10 years ago but he's only now being eliminated.  Guess who is crying that he's being unfairly treated?  I have absolutely zero sympathy for him.

I wanted to add that in my case, there have been individuals appointed over me that have treated me badly or with racial prejudice.  But the US Army has never done so. 

16 October 2016

People are strange.

I was just chatting with an old friend that I recently reconnected with.  It is a college friend that I lost track of after she got married.  For some reason, her husband took an instant dislike to me and forced her to cut off contact 30 years ago.

About a year ago, we bumped into each other via Facebook when we both friended a mutual friend.   We have exchanged some messages but have no intentions of connecting in person.  Well, let me speak for myself, I have no intention of connecting in person.  Initially we talked about getting together for coffee if we were ever in the same town.  But as we conversed, I have gotten very vague about my travel plans and constantly keep "forgetting" to pass my phone number.

Do you know someone who is in an angry, bitter marriage?  One where the other can nothing right?  That even the act of saying "Good morning" seems to spark an argument.  So why do they stay together?  I have no idea and have no wish to find out.

They live in a warm, sunny state and the husband refuses to even consider moving.  She has an adult child from a previous marriage that lives in a northern, colder state that she wants to visit.  So she will be taking their mutual adult child along on this visit.  So what sparked this mornings argument that she has sent me scathing messages about?  Her husband expressed concern about their child not being ready for the winter cold.  Really?  I thought that was a reasonable concern and said that I was glad to hear he was concerned.  Better than him not being concerned, right?  Well, that earned me a scathing "You men all stick together..." message.

Okay, cease fire!  Cease fire!  I don't care nor do I have an interest in what you guys are arguing about.  Don't drag me into your mess and drama!  Now I'm plotting how to start "unfriending" people on Facebook.  I've warned our mutual friend that I might have to unfriend her as part of the situation.  She understands.

I guess I just shake my head and wonder why people stick around in a relationship like that.  Life is too short to be in an abusive or stressful relationship.

Life goes on...

26 September 2016

6 Months Into Retirement

The summer has pretty much flown by.  I got in another great road trip and the adventure continues.

One evening a while ago, the wife and I were chatting about things.  I mentioned to her that an Army buddy had recently suffered a stroke and I was thinking about going to visit him.  I asked her if she wanted to go.  She declined because she had never met him and didn't want to interject.  Plus she knows that we will be mostly talking Army stuff and she would rapidly get lost.  As I mentioned a possible travel itinerary to include flying into Buffalo, NY., she commented that Buffalo was near Niagara Falls and that it was a bucket list item for her.  I said, "Let's go!"

We flew into Buffalo and spent 3 days at Niagara Falls.  That was a really good time!  Niagara Falls is a tourist trap and can be quite expensive but we looked at it as not something we will do again in the near future.  Besides, it's a bucket list item!

Afterwards, the wife flew home and I drove on to visit my buddy.  It was a good visit but sad to see how the stroke has affected him.  We talked about the old times.  We talked about how confusing it was to deal with the VA.  His mind is still sharp; it's just his physical body that has limitations.

When we ended our visit, I roamed on to other places.  I decided to spend a few days just driving thru the northeast area.  I have no idea when I will ever, if ever, return to that part of the country again.  What a great roadtrip!  I took the back roads.  Friends had told me to stick to the main interstate or I will never get to where I'm going.  I thought about it for a bit before deciding that it was the journey and not the destination.  So I took the back roads.  Let me tell you, I would do it again in a heart beat!

For a while, I was second guessing myself about whether I should have stayed working (active duty) a bit longer.  The extra money would have boosted my savings and increased my final retired pay by a small amount.  Every little bit helps.  But as life goes by, I realize more and more that I made the right choice.  I have enough to get by and it's all I need.

I see friends my age that are terrified of retirement.  Some because they haven't planned well for it and will financially suffer.  Others because they have nothing to do outside of work.  One friend mentioned that he and his wife hate to travel.  So what will you do when you retire?  He replied, "I'll get another job."  Now everyone should do what they want to do.  If he finds more fulfilling times in work, then so be it.  I have to admit that I just thought that sucks.

12 August 2016

And another one is gone....  

A friend just told me that he and his wife are getting a divorce.  They had been married for 25+ years and now it's over.   I know a good part of the blame is on him.  After a tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, he had become rather short tempered.  Now understand that he is very intelligent, hard working, and honest.  But he has gotten rather brusque and has absolutely zero tact.  If you did something dumb, he will tell you bluntly in no uncertain terms.  If he gave you advice, you ignore it, and then things fall apart - he will tell you "I told you so" in no uncertain terms.   But in credit to him, he is one of those guys that can fix just about anything mechanical.  He will take a minute to think about it and then have a plan to fix it.  He is right significantly more often than he is wrong.

Having said that, I can see where being married to him would be tough.  Still, it's sad to see it end.  I had hoped that perhaps a cooling off period and some counseling would help.  But she has already found comfort in the arms of another man.  I can't say I blame her either.

So I was sitting here wondering what changed him.  What was the turning point.  I'm sure the stressors of going to war was a big part of it.  He was not a fobbit nor was he Infantry.  But he spent his time on convoys and got into much more gunfights than I did.  He spent a lot of time as a gunner. Between you and me, I think he got to liking the feeling when you toggle a stream of machine gun fire at a human being.  I don't think he would ever go bad.  What happened on the battlefield stayed on the battlefield.  But when you come back home, there is a certain emptiness.  Almost like a drug withdrawal.  "Killing is not hard.  Learning not to like it is the hard part."

15 July 2016

Retirement has been pleasant so far.  I've still yet to receive any retirement pay but I have enough money in the bank to keep going for a while.  I had planned for a delay but not this long.

I went on a 4,000 mile road trip in April and had a wonderful time.  I'm thinking about another one.  I had to cut my last one short because I had cracked a tooth.  I'm feeling good at the moment so maybe I should go while I can.

Initially I thought I would be zooming all over the place.  I would be going places and seeing people.  I thought I would be bored sitting at home.  But truthfully, I've been pretty happy being at home.  I'm not spending money on gas or eating out.  I am getting to that long list of chores that I have put off for decades.  It's kind of fun rummaging thru boxes.  Some have brought back memories, some have revealed long lost toys,  and others have gone into the trash.

I have been making it a point to get out and exercise at least every other day.  Some days I get wrapped up in a project and the next thing I know it's time to start preparing dinner.

Oh, I have some interesting news that I'm trying to verify.  I have always had the belief that my grandparents on my father's side were killed in WWII.  I know my dad had a large family and most of them were killed in the war.  I was recently emailing with my brother and he mentioned meeting my grandmother on my father's side back in the late 70s.  I was really surprised and told him that I thought they had been killed in the war.  My brother told me that my parents met him in the old country and introduced him.  They had thought about bringing her back to the USA but she was suffering from dementia and no one was sure she would survive the trip and new environment.  I asked my brother if he had any idea what happened to our grandfather.  He said that if he remembered correctly, our grandfather had gone to Chile with a friend.  No one heard from him since.

I wonder how many other people feel the same about their blog as I do.  I have a Facebook account but I tell my true thoughts here.  On FB, other than a love of photography, I doubt you would be able to tell much about me.

Another thing I'm debating.  After I got those idiots at the personnel section to do their job and complete my retirement packet, I haven't been back to Camp Murray.  I have not been back to visit former co-workers nor have I had the interest to do so.  But I'm wondering if it's best to just fade away or whether I should maintain some connection.

14 May 2016

A surprise from my older brother.

I have always looked up to my older brother.  He was a better student than I.  He was a better athlete than I.  He always seemed more practical and logical than I.  For much of our life, I think the only time he said I had an advantage over him was when he commented, "I think Dad thinks about you more than me."  Why is that?  "Because you amuse him and he's always wondering what crazy thing you're up to next."

My older brother was quite popular and I was forever known as "N's younger brother."

After he graduated from college, he was commissioned into the Air Force.  He wanted to be a pilot but couldn't pass the flight physical.  So he went in to Personnel.

I entered my rebellious stage.  My parents tried to get me to join the Air Force because if N did it, then it was a good idea.  So I joined the Army and became a Combat Engineer.  You should have seen the look on horror on their face when I told them my job was to "blow stuff up".

My brother would send them pictures of him wearing his dress blue uniform and visiting some exotic place.  I sent them a picture of me out in the field, no bath for 3 weeks, and holding a block of C-4 plastic explosives with a lit fuse.  Now there was no blasting cap on the end of that fuse so it was safe.  As soon as the picture was taken, I pulled the burning fuse out and went back to work.  But I got a letter back from Dad telling me to stop doing stupid stuff.  :-)

My brother left active duty as a 1LT after 4 years.  Get this, at the time he was the second most highly decorated 1LT in the entire Air Force.  A fricking personnel officer!  I was pretty skeptical but read his citations.  Let us say simply that he stood up for what was right instead of going the easy path of being a "yes man".  He stuck his neck out to protect his troops and was right.  He finally had enough of the BS and left the Air Force.  I did not even come close to matching him in performance.

A few days ago and 30 years later, he and I were chatting.  The topic of burial plots came up.  I told him that I intended to be buried at the VA Cemetery in Kent, WA.  It's a bit out of the way but it's a nice place.  N said that he was still trying to decide what he wants to do.  I reminded him that since he served 4 years on active duty, he was eligible for burial in a VA Cemetery.  In his case, that would be the VA Cemetery in Kaneohe, HI.  He was quiet for a moment before saying that he didn't qualify.  I was surprised.  What?  To qualify, you just have to serve honorably.  He answered, "Yeah, but I only served 4 years and I didn't go to war.  You earned it, I didn't."

The conversation continues.
Those idiots in G-1 are starting to piss me off....

My retirement packet has finally gone forward.  I have been told by Big Army HRC (Human Resources Command) that it will take at least a month to process it and a couple more weeks for it to hit the system.  Why so long?  Because they have tens of thousands of soldier, active and reserve, who are applying for retirement.  

The woman at HRC asked me why I didn't submit my packet sooner.  Because of idiots at our G-1??  She then asked me why they waited so long.  Because they're idiots and lazy??

She told me that HRC recommends that the retirement packet be submitted a month ahead of the actual retirement date.  She also said that some people actually submit 2 months ahead.  I asked her how far out can the DD 214 discharge orders be done ahead of time.  She wouldn't give an exact time but said that if they knew your retirement date, there is no reason they can't do it ahead of time.

So I went to our G-1 and asked them why they didn't do the packet sooner.  The sergeant I was dealing with replied because I had just retired and they can't submit the packet ahead of time.  I told him that HRC told me that the packet can be submitted ahead of time and he said, "Well, she's wrong."  Okay, so the person at Big Army that processes the retirement packets is wrong and he is right.

Long story short, my packet has finally gone forward.  In each instance that I have dealt with these people, they did not work of any kind until I was standing in front of them and looking very unhappy.  I'm sorry to interrupt your texting session but this is my medical coverage and retired pay that I'm insisting on.  Not one thing they have told me was true.  I mean that, not one thing.  I went to the Colonel to complain and he just shrugged and said, "Well, they're doing the best they can."  No, no they're not.  Someone needs to fire everyone and start from scratch.  Unfortunately, I do not have the authority to do so.

01 May 2016

Are you surprised?

I have officially left active duty as of yesterday (Saturday, 30 April).

I had been told months ago that my final paycheck would be held for a few weeks until all financial obligations have been resolved.  Okay, got it.  No problem as I planned for it.  Imagine my surprise when I received my final paycheck on Thursday.

Now I submitted my retirement request in November 2015.  Along the way, I asked people at Human Resources Organization (HRO) and at our G-1 Personnel Retirement Services office if I was "good to go".  Each time, they looked me in the eye and said I was fine.

So on Thursday afternoon, I went in to ask if I should be concerned that I received my paycheck.  The person at Retirement Services asked, "Why shouldn't you receive your pay?"  I told him that I was told that my final paycheck would be held for a few weeks.  He looked at me in surprise and asked, "Are you getting out?"  I replied that I was retiring.  So this guy from Retirement Services says, "What?  When are you retiring??"  I reply, "The day after tomorrow."  The look of surprise on his face told me that I was in trouble.

I was going to detail the frustrations and confusion that transpired.  It was then followed by finger pointing, buck passing, and denials.  At one point they tried to blame me because I didn't provide a copy of orders to the Retirement Services Office.  I started laughing because these are the guys who are supposed to create the order.  So you guys are blaming me for not giving you a document that you produce?

After two hours, it finally came down to them having some work to do.  I'm going back on Tuesday to check because they have the day off tomorrow and surely we can't expect them to come in on a day off to do some work that was supposed to have been done months ago, right?

The final insult to injury is that they told me that since my ID card has expired (and I have some medical procedures coming up at the military hospital and will need a valid ID card for it) I could get a transition ID card that was good for 180 days.  Would my wife be eligible to get it as a dependent?  Absolutely came the reply.  So before I asked my wife to come down, I decided to get my card first.  After waiting an hour, I was called into the ID Card office.  After a few gyrations, it was determined that because they have not removed me from active duty status, I'm not eligible for a TA card.  Oh great...you made me wait an hour to now tell me that I can't get it.  The sergeant was very apologetic so he offered to renew my ID card and my wife's ID card with active duty cards.  I looked at him in surprise!  Is that legal?  He said, "Yeah, it's fine because you're not getting anything that you're not already entitled to."  So I asked how long can I get it for?  He said, "It will expire tomorrow."  What a waste of time!  I told him that I am not going to have my wife come down here and wait for an hour to get an ID card that expires tomorrow.  What idiots!

Later I was telling a co-worker about all this and he said, "Are you surprised?"  I guess I expected more when all the times I came in to check and these people looked me right in the eye and said I was good.