Developing Leaders Through the Lessons Life Gives Us

Stray Voltage

Moon over troubled waters

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 0 comments

A couple nights ago we had been working all evening on the boat, stowing stuff away, trying to figure out which breaker had to be in which position so that switches on the walls actually worked, that sort of thing. Fun stuff for new boaters. After dinner I decided to take a shower. In the middle of getting into the shower I decided to check something in the engine room first. Translation: I went stark naked from one end of the boat to the other, hoping that no neighbors were outside of open windows, to check on something I had worked on earlier. I flipped on the lights for the engine room and noticed water on the inside of the window. My knowledge of boats is limited, but I am pretty confident water is supposed to be on the outside of the boat, and that was definitely water and definitely inside. I cracked the door open and saw that a water line had come disconnected at the far end of the engine room and was spraying all over like a poorly attended fire hose. “What the hell”, I thought to myself, “at least I’m not gonna get any clothes dirty” and I advanced into the spray. A quick side note: if you hook your boat up to shore water, ensure there is a regulator on there somewhere. Boat plumbing ain’t high pressure. The errant line was of course all the way at the back of the engine room. It is a walk in space, 5’6” ceiling. I am 5’8”, which explains all the cuts and bruises on my head, but that’s a different story. I crawled up on the battery box, grabbed the water line, found where it was supposed to be and took it all apart so it could be reassembled, hopefully to hold together. As is normal in these situations, I dropped something and it went down into a couple inches of bilge water. Crouched down on my knees, my head and arms well below knee level as I tried to find this little piece of brass by feel with water spraying across my back, I heard my wife yell down the stairs. “Honey, is everything ok?” I could hear her coming down the stairs, just steps from looking into the engine room. Imagine her view. With muttered apologies to Ray Stevens I yelled out “Don’t look, Ethel!” But it was too late. She done got a free shot. I heard the scream and I think she fell in her hurry to get back up to the salon. I thought it was funny and started laughing, dropping that damn brass thingie again. It took a while but finally the water was under control, everything cleaned up and I headed back towards the shower. As I stomped through the salon, the remnants of my dignity dissolving with her barely controlled laughter, she said “Honey, you promised me we could watch the moon over the water. I hope that’s...

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The good ship Liberty – Pt 1

Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 0 comments

Buying a boat is somewhere between the nuisance of buying a car and the irredeemable pain in the ass of buying a house. And that’s just the paperwork. We closed on the good ship Liberty on 10 June. It is a 44 foot DeFever trawler, slow as Christmas to an eight year old but reliable and sturdily built.  Most importantly, it has lots of storage, and my beautiful bride the beauty queen needs every bit of it. The inspection of the boat went well, no real issues, and we were ready to take possession on 11 June. Then that whole “reality” thing . . . . The morning of 11 June the starboard motor wouldn’t start. We tried to boost it with the generator, which started first try. That didn’t work, so we shut down the generator. Using jumper cables from the trunk of my car, we jumped the starboard engine from the port engine, and finally both were running! Except the damn generator wouldn’t start back up; we had shut it down just because it was loud, now it wouldn’t even tick over. Clearly there was a reset button somewhere in  need of attention, but damned if I could find it. I was desperate to see both engines and the generator all running at the same time before I let the broker completely off the hook, and to some extent I succeeded.  I mean, all three engines ran till we turned them off.  Then that stinkin’ starboard engine still didn’t want to start. And by the way, the center bilge pump quit working, we had nasty bilge water deck deep in the engine room. The survey (a fancy nautical term for inspection) said the fore and aft bilge pumps were questionable.  Be damned if they don’t both work perfectly, it’s the center one that’s fried! Day two of boat ownership involved several hours of bilge pump replacement, switch trouble shooting, bilge switch replacing, cursing and alcohol consumption, more switch trouble shooting, breaker replacement, another freakin’ bilge pump replaced, a couple hours trying to figure out why there are two switches for one bilge pump, more cursing, a lot more alcohol, and finally, against all logic and common sense, the damn thing started working. Yea verily, the angels were singing. There was a day three of boat ownership, but the after effects of day two render it un-rememberable. There was a day four of boat ownership as well, but we’re not gonna talk about that. Not now.  Not ever. Just . . . don’t ask. Ever. Day five through ten of boat ownership was strangely reflective of day one. Too much water in the bilge, electrical systems not working, moving stuff onboard, cleaning the deck, moving more stuff onboard, moving more stuff into storage. This is so much more fun than worrying about lawn sprinkler systems, watering the garden, mowing the grass, and maintaining the pool.  I’m really gonna enjoy living on a boat.   Share this:FacebookLinkedInTwitterPrintEmailLike this:Like...

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Memorial Day

Posted by on May 20, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 0 comments

It was the week before Memorial Day in 2013 when I was asked to write a Command Message commemorating that weekend. It was written with an audience of uniformed service members in mind. The below is the result. As our Army emerges from a decade of war we are rightly focused on the future and the myriad challenges that it will bring.  The unstoppable march of time brings change, but despite that change one thing remains constant – the courage and dedication of our Soldiers.  For over 200 years America has given its sons and daughters to the unending cause of liberty. From the freezing winds of Valley Forge and the Huertgen Forest to the blistering heat of Khe San and Iraq, Soldiers have given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today. The fought for the flag and they died for their fellow Soldiers, men and women no different than you and I. Their sacrifice deserves to be recognized. This Memorial Day take the time to commemorate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  It was 1868 when GEN John Logan, Commander of the Army of the Republic, designated 30 May as a day to place flowers on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Today in parades and celebrations all around this great land the tradition of remembering our fallen heroes continues. To many Americans Memorial Day is a welcome day off from work, a time to celebrate the arrival of summer with barbeque and fellowship. For some it has a deeper meaning. Memorial Day rekindles the pain of losing a loved one, a friend. It makes the prideful fires of knowing a true hero burn even brighter. It tightens the bonds that hold us together as brothers and sisters in uniform. As you read this, remember the names of friends, fellow Soldiers, lost in the past decades. We should celebrate this day with pride, representing the Military and this Nation to all who know us as Soldiers.  Keep yourselves safe. Reach out to your fellow Soldiers, make sure they know that our military family is always there. The only thing worse than losing a brother to war is to lose him at home. Do your part to take care of our brothers and sisters in uniform. In General Order #11, GEN Logan stated “If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us”. That solemn trust has passed through generations and now lies with us. Keep your heart warm in that trust, and God bless our Soldiers. Share this:FacebookLinkedInTwitterPrintEmailLike this:Like...

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Bubbas

Posted by on Apr 19, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 4 comments

After my last post I got a message about my use of the word “Bubbas” to refer to my fellow Veterans. Someone thought it was kind of funny, and I guess maybe it is. There is a story behind it. Let me tell you what happened. In 2003 I was assigned as a full time Soldier working at a Reserve Center. At that time the ground war in Iraq had just ended and Mother Army needed augmentees to fill all the random jobs that inevitably cannot be anticipated. One of  my responsibilities was filling those jobs. They came in as requisitions to be filled, and we referred to the individual positions  in a requisition as “fills”. We would review personnel rosters to find the right people with the right skill sets, give them a call, and cut orders to send them overseas. If you got a call from me it was a bad thing; you would soon spend 400 days away from home. The most common response when we called to send someone overseas was “When do I leave?” There was complaining, sure, but rarely did anyone try to get out of it. I was truly impressed by those men and women who, with normally less than thirty days’ notice, were uprooted from friends, family and job to go into harm’s way. One young man we sent came home early. He had a wife and two kids. I met them at his funeral. They are good, good people, the kind of folks you want as friends and neighbors. After the funeral when I got back to the office it started again – “Sir, we have another 8 fills.” I realized we had become complacent, inured somewhat to what we  were really doing. We had stopped taking it seriously; our culture had shifted subtly and we needed realignment.  The people we selected were husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and their lives would be forever changed. They aren’t fills. Referring to them that way diminished the importance of their sacrifice and in so doing diminished our responsibility to them. We as Veterans have a near  familial responsibility to each other, and none of us should ever do anything to minimize that role.  They, my fellow Veterans, are and will always be my brothers and sisters. My bubbas. Share this:FacebookLinkedInTwitterPrintEmailLike this:Like...

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Seduced by dollars – finding my way

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 4 comments

Today we put in an offer on a boat. We’ll see if they accept. As soon as we take ownership I’ll put some pictures up. The boat, though, is not really what this is about. Recently I wrote What happens when dreams are realized, thinking on paper about setting goals too low and the idea that sometimes, you just have to jump and trust that a net will appear. That phrase is significant. Let me explain. When I retired from the Army in 2014 I found my dream job – corporate trainer for an HR consulting firm. It was everything I wanted except a challenge. It took five months to get so completely bored that when someone offered me more opportunity I took it. From trainer to corporate headhunter, but that second job didn’t work out either. The culture of the company was a terrible fit for me, so I looked around a bit and found another position – safety, training, and compliance. It was hard work, I enjoyed it, but the company got bought out and my position pretty much went away. Instead of a pay cut, I accepted my fourth position in 15 months managing an aftermarket automotive shop, dealing with leather and other cool upgrades. A change in leadership shortly after I got there and I was fired, the first time in my life. In my first 15 months post retirement I had four different jobs and made a ridiculous amount of money. Seduced by dollars, I accepted offers based on income and made excuses for poor cultural fit, corporate turnover, etc. After all that I took time to write a book and tried to retire completely. Retirement sucks, don’t do it. I had to find a way to get back in the game but I had finally learned enough about me – at 50 years old –  to know what I wanted to do. I had spent 24 years taking care of my Soldiers. That had become a part of my DNA, something I am compelled to do. The problem is, there is no money in it. So I jumped, trusting that a net will appear. In January we made the decision to quit looking for work and find a way to contribute to our community. In February we pulled some dollars together, drew up plans, did a lot of writing and thinking and research. On the first of March I started Galveston Bay Veterans Network, 501C3 in application status, and dedicated my time to helping Veterans, and others who are in need, to integrate into their community. It’s not just jobs; housing, mental health and addiction, housing from renting an apartment to emergency housing, all those things that allow people to feel a part of their community. It is a network, and I am working to become a bigger part of it. The goal is to reduce the isolation and separation that many Veterans feel and see them become not just functioning, not just...

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Networks and bad decisions

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 3 comments

Let me tell you a story. It’s not long. It is a story about a Veteran, about bad decisions, about hope, and about coming together. Last Friday an email went out to a group of folks who try to find ways to help out our Veterans. The Veteran Services Coordinator at a local college – name withheld to protect the identities of those involved – had a student come in to his office and ask for assistance. I’ll just say that this schools is lucky to have someone so dedicated in their Veteran Services office – he is a great guy and a great friend. This guy, we will call him John, was living in a storage unit, walking the two miles or so back and forth to school, and living off of a very small stipend his education provided (not GI Bill eligible). A couple of emails and phone calls later and I had an appointment with John at the Veterans Services office for 830 Monday morning. John wasn’t there. We finally got in touch with him about 845, he was a mile or so away at a McDonalds and wouldn’t make it on time. That didn’t seem a good enough reason to cancel the meeting, so I drove to McDonalds and we talked for about 45 minutes. John left the Army in 2011. Things didn’t go well as a civilian. His first arrest was for assault stemming from a family disagreement over money. His life spiraled down and he got desperate. An opportunity presented itself and he tried to steal a truck. John isn’t a thief, he failed miserably, but ended up serving 90 days in the county jail. That cost him his job. It took a few months, but he found another one – working at a Waffle House. He couldn’t afford an apartment and was staying at a cheap motel for about $200/week. His job earned him less than 300. He was spiraling further down, could see that the minimum wage job would not sustain him, so he walked off that job to try and find another. A year went by and he couldn’t find anything. By this time he had lost his driving license due to an unpaid ticket, lost a place to live, lost his family, and lost hope. Most of us have been through job search and can relate to how demoralizing all of the rejections can be. Once you lose hope there is no reason to continue. Drugs are a palliative, nothing more than a temporary respite. Addiction follows, and the spiral continues. John has managed to avoid addiction, but he is balanced on a razors edge. He needs hope, he needs to believe that he can become the man he wants to be. That first email came out on a Thursday. Within hours the network had offered up around $300. That money was never collected, because by Tuesday John had a bed at a local shelter and a bus pass...

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