Goodbye, Uncle David

January 22, 2014

Today, I was greeted with the news that school is delayed until noon, due to snow in Norfolk.  My excitement about a leisurely morning was dashed by news of my Great Uncle David’s death.  I’m again reminded how unprepared any of us are for losing a loved one.  Although Uncle David’s health was failing for years, he always seemed to bounce back.  But, now, he’s gone.

Like many military children, I grew up around the world and was not always connected to my extended family. My Dad’s father passed away when I was about eight. I’ve heard stories of his great character and draw pride from how he was a highly respected member of the community and a great provider for his family.

On my Mom’s side, Uncle David was like a grandfather to me.

Uncle David was a veteran.  In his day, in southwest Georgia, the good jobs were either working on the railroad or going into the military.  He was Army Strong! decades before I was born.

Uncle David’s eyesight was failing as I finished up college and began my career.  Despite this, every time I visited him, I’m certain he could see me.  He could visualize the places I served…Germany, Fort Hood, Fort Bliss…many places he’d served in the ’50s. Understandably, he was excited about the election of Barack Obama. Though blind, he would “watch” the news daily.  After the 2009 Inauguration, I visited Georgia and told Uncle David about my experiences at the White House.  He was proud.  Not a chest-thumping kind of proud, no, he was more sober-spirited and measured in his enthusiasm.

For the past decade, I’ve only seen Uncle David in his home or the hospital. But, that was just fine. His presence set the scene.

Other than my immediate family, Uncle David was my biggest champion and supporter. I drew inspiration from his legacy, but I feel he drew some inspiration for living from the stories of my life.

If I’ve ever learned how to treat older people, it’s because of the example my Parents set by how they treat Uncle David. If I know how to be treated by an older person, it’s because of how Uncle David treated me.

Society doesn’t build monuments for ordinary men like Uncle David, but the esteem and pride he built in me is monumental.

I will miss you, Sir.  And I hope to live a personal and professional life that continues to make you proud.  And, as you would say about driving and life, I’ll be sure to “keep it between the ditches.”

In life, we only have a few people who are permanently fixed in our corner. Take care of them. Tell them you love them. Visit when you can.  Make them proud.

Twenty-three things I’ve learned in my 30s

June 22, 2012

1.) Despite the staggering statistics, opinion leaders and national media will not place the dropout crisis or murder rate high on their agenda. Better to spend money on education than jails, I say.

2.)  At times, silence can resonate louder than words.

3.)  Mentors really, really matter.

4.)  Love is powerful.

5.)  The music I enjoyed in my teens, I still enjoy today. And now I even enjoy music from my parents era.

6.)  Not everybody likes to see people, especially peers, become successful.

7.)  Healthy diet, hydration, and adequate rest are important to reducing stress and boosting mental acuity.

8.) Whoever said, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” probably just hasn’t lived long enough.  Harsh words from loved ones can leave deep scars.  But, alas, the old adage, “Time heals all wounds” is still true.  Or is it?

9.) Good photographers are born that way. They can just anticipate action and see the shot. But, everyone can take good photos if they simply learn how to use their camera settings and understand the basic principles of photography.

10.) Thank you cards mean a lot.

11.) Parents mean well but you can’t always live out their every dream.

12.) Skill-based volunteering is a great use of time and is invaluable to non-profits and young people.

13.) There is good in some of life’s most challenging situations. It might just take a while to see it.

14.) Senior leaders are typically avid readers.

15.) People across the world have much, much more in common than differences.

16.) The New Testament has great guidance for how to live and treat others.

17.) Quiet time is good for self-reflection.

18.) Be wary of people who always want to take shortcuts in life.

19.) Everything I’d want to watch on TV, I can see with basic cable.

20.) True beauty comes from within and radiates outwards.

21.) Bureaucracy can stifle innovation.

22.) Military officer talent must be cultivated and managed.

23.) The NCAA’s BCS championship needs to be scrapped. Also, athletes should get  a small stipend.

I could go on…but I’ll stop now.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and not necessarily those of the Army or Defense Department.

Beat Street: A song that predicted the future

August 1, 2011

Thanks to the wonderful invention that is XM radio I was listening to Backspin and heard one must be one of the greatest songs of all time:  Beat Street.  Yes, the same Beat Street title track from the 1984 film.  The first versus from the song primarily deal with the movie’s lead character Ramon a New York graffiti artist.

But, my primary purpose of this post is to illustrate how history repeats itself and that Melle Mel is a modern-day prophet.  Did he predict the current economic crisis?  The Global War on Terror?  Famine?  Fracking?  Facebook?  Hmmm…just click on the links on the lyrics.

On unemployment…Note: This song was written when Black unemployment was about 18%...nearly the rate 28 years later

You search for justice and what do you find?
You find just us on the unemployment line
You find just us sweatin from dawn to dusk
There’s no justice, it’s, huh, just us


A newspaper burns in the sand
And the headlines say ‘Man Destroys Man’
Extra extra, read all the bad news
On the war for peace that everybody would lose
The rise and fall, the last great empire
The sound of the whole world caught on fire
The ruthless struggle, the desperate gamble
The game that left the whole world in shambles
The cheats, the lies, the alibis
And the foolish attempts to conquer the sky
Lost in space, and what is it worth?
Huh, the President just forgot about Earth
Spendin’ multi-billions and maybe even trillions
The cost of weapons ran in the zillions
There’s gold in the street and there’s diamond under feet
And the children in Africa don’t even eat
Flies on their faces, they’re livin’ like mice
And their houses even make the ghetto look nice
Huh, the water tastes funny, it’s forever too sunny
And they work all month and don’t make no money
A fight for power, a nuclear shower
A people shout out in the darkest hour
Sights unseen and voices unheard
And finally the bomb gets the last word
Christians killed Muslims and Germans killed Jews
And everybody’s bodies are used and abused
Huh, minds are poisoned and souls are polluted
Superiority complex is deep rooted
Leeches and lices, and people got prices
Egomaniacs control the self-righteous
Nothin’ is sacred and nothin’ is pure
So the revelation of death is our cure

Hitler and Caesar, Custer and Reagan, Napoleon, Castro, Mussolini and Began, Genghis Khan and the Shah of Iran,

Men spilled the blood of the weaker man.
Peoples in terror, the leaders made a error
And now they can’t even look in the mirror

Cause we gotta suffer while things get rougher
And that’s the reason why we got to get tougher
So learn from the past and work for the future
And don’t be a slave to no computer
Cause the children of Man inherit the land
And the future of the world is in your hands
So just throw your hands in the air
And wave ‘em like you just don’t care
And if you believe that you’re the future
Scream it out and say oh yeah (Oh yeah)
Oh yeah (Oh yeah)
Beat Street Breakdown, rrrrhaa!

Army needs Social Media help…from civilians?

June 9, 2011

Today, there was a great article in Wired.  It was about the Army’s proposal to hire Social Media experts for Afghanistan operations.  This was not a Wikileak; it is a real request for proposal for civilian public relations experts.  (The request is also for well-qualified Dari and Pashtu speakers to participate in the Social Media mission–thumbs up to getting strong linguist for this program.)

I guess I shouldn’t be totally surprised.

Heck, you can read about the Department of Defense spending $384.4 million on Strategic Communications in 2011 or about the billion plus spent on Information Operations for the past few years in a report by the Center for International Media Assistance.  For those keeping score…$384.4 million is enough dough to pay tuition for 50,000 high school graduates to attend college this fall.  The Politico reported that the DOD actually requested $988 million for communications funding for 2010…it didn’t pass.

The reason why this Afghanistan Social Media decision pains me so much is because the minimum qualifications that the Army is looking for–bachelor’s degree and Secret security clearance— is equal or even less than the qualifications of the 150+ public affairs officers we have on active duty.  And of those public affairs officers, several of them have earned Army-funded graduate degrees from top schools like Georgetown the official grad school for Army public affairs officers, UNC-Chapel Hill, Middle Tennessee State, and USC’s Annenberg School. And we even send officers and sergeants to work at Google each year.

Are none of them good enough to run a Social Media program in Afghanistan?  Heck, who’s running these seemingly successful sites right now?  See them here, here, and here.

If you’re still reading this post you’ve probably come to conclusion that I’m courageous or crazy…perhaps both.

Don’t get me wrong here, I agree there is a great need for continued investment in online communications and engaging audiences domestic and international through Social Media. I just think this should be done by training people already in uniform to accomplish these goals.  Really, by the time most photos, tweets, and blog posts are approved by the layers of strategic communications folks at big headquarters in Kabul, Baghdad, Kandahar, it’s a bit too late or too far removed from much of the populace we are trying to influence–many of them are illiterate or don’t have access to the internet.  Meanwhile, the terrorists and Taliban types are able to cause mayhem and make it go viral because they post from the point of origin–often on mobile phones.Soldiers online

I propose the Army purchases smart phones and commercial internet for their public affairs staffs at the brigade combat team level and arm them with the same communications tools as the terrorists.

Last time I checked, a 3G iPhone runs about $200 $49.  If you bought one for every 100 troops in Afghanistan (about one per company-sized unit), the total costs would be about $200,000  $49,000 + usage plans.  The troops already know how to use smart phones & Facebook.  After developing a policy for what to post and battle drills for when to post, I assure you a positive and tangible impact will be made in our information war.

Where there’s no cell coverage…use a Bgan antenna.

Ideally, we’d shift to training more Afghan journalists so they can tell the story of their country and of their security forces through their own lens.  Developing skills for local reporters should be long-term goal.

Well, I’ve said my $0.02.  I’m not critical of the mission, just the method.  I believe we have people, Soldiers & Department of the Army Civilians, who are ready, willing, and able to accomplish the communications goals for the Afghan War.  As an added bonus, after Army folks complete this task they will retain the experience for future operations.  Seems like a cent-sible solution to me.

Honest two-way communication is the best to build relationships and influence people.  I believe in the Defense Information School’s motto:  Strength through Truth

I figure I can’t get fired for this post, however, I might just get orders to Afghanistan. I’m ok with that.

DISCLAIMER:  Views expressed here are the authors own and not necessarily the views of the Army or Department of Defense. Nor is the post an official statement of the U.S. Army.  Just one guys opinion.

Hyundai’s Missed opportunity

December 30, 2010

Ahh ha!  Just as I hoped Hyundai is going to market the new Sonata Hybrid during the Sun Bowl in El Paso on Dec. 31.  It’s odd the local dealer’s website has 2010 models on the landing page, however, sales are up.  That’s a benefit of being the host city for the Sun Bowl.  Notre Dame vs. Univ. of Miami.  (Watch on CBS at 2:00pm Eastern)

They’ve filmed commercials touting the Sonata Hybrid’s technological advances.  The vehicle goes on sale in January 2011, according to Hyundai officials.

“The spot makes a point about how all technology evolves.  Hybrid Sonata capitalizes on the learnings of hybrid models that have come before it, and advances the technology so that it’s practical and affordable for a broader consumer audience – not just early adopters,” said John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America.

You can watch the commercial here.

Surprisingly all of the Hyundai folks I’ve spoken to in El Paso this week know almost nothing about the Sonata Hybrid.  Perhaps, it’s because Hybrids are predicted to be a small portion of the company’s aggregate sales.  According to auto supersite sales of Hybrids were down 8.1% in 2010.

Either way, I suspected this day would come and go and Hyundai would miss out on having it’s first Sonata Hybrid sale on the last day of 2010.

Think about it.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid blues

December 14, 2010

I hoped to be the first El Pasoan, Texas, and possible American, to own a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. My plan was brilliant and a win-win for Hyundai. You see, Hyundai is hosting the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 in El Paso. This years game pits Notre Dame vs. University of Miami, better know as “The ‘U’.”

Anyhow, I wanted to buy a Sonata Hybrid and have it presented/delivered to me as part of the game festivities. There are hundreds of Soldiers from my post participating in Sun Bowl activities. I’d wear a nice Army uniform and could drive off with a bunch of Soldiers in the car. It’d make for great tv:  war vet, wears blues, goes “blue” w/ Sonata Hybrid.

No Blue Drive for Christmas

But, alas, the executives at Hyundai have dashed my dreams. Actually, the probably never heard of my big idea. Sadly, they’ve decided to not have the Sonata Hybrid available until Jan. ’11. No tax credit for purchase.

This despite the official Hyundai USA website still claiming the car will be sold in “Q4 2010“:

SONATA HYBRID: Better technology makes for a better planet.

Hyundai continues their commitment to being the most fuel-efficient automaker on the planet with the first ever hybrid from Hyundai….

Available Q4 2010

Really, Hyundai, really?

Instead of Blue Drive…I just have the blues.

Can’t you at least make an exception for one vehicle to be sold on national TV on Dec. 31. I’m ready to buy.

11 impacts of the 2010 mid-term elections

November 8, 2010

Just my hunches…No particular sequence…impacts of many of these will take effect years from now…

1.)  The dominance of the GOP in state legislature elections will have a significant impact on redrawing congressional districts based on the 2010 Census.  Expect less southern democrats as a result.  Gerrymander will become a household word.

“In gerrymandered election districts, the voters don’t choose their politicians – the politicians choose their voters!”

2.)  When democrats re-take the house, whenever that occurs, there will be an unprecedented number of CBC members as committee chairs.

3.)  The 2010 re-election map for President Obama will focus on the Western State Strategy plus Pennsylvania/Virginia/North Carolina.  The groundwork for this was laid with the 2008 DNC Convention in Denver.  The fight for 270 will rely less and less on the tired narratives of Ohio and Florida.

4.)  Perhaps Stephanie Cutter or Karen Finney will become WH Press Secy.???

5.)  The U.S. will take a more isolationist approach to foreign policy.  Wars and foreign aid cost lots of money.  Tougher to justify during economic hardship in the U.S.  Also, xenophobic rancor seems to be more acceptable than ever.

6.)  Entitlements reform will result in raising the Social Security Age.  Though this probably won’t take effect until 2030.

7.)  There will be more incentives for nuclear power plants; however, less federal incentives for consumer purchase of hybrids and electric cars.

8.)  Political parvenus will continue to dominate the media.  The media will continue to fixate on two of the eight elements of news: conflict & oddity.

9.)  All types of federal appointments will continue to be blocked.

10.)  Spanish-speaking media will become more and more important for federal elections.

11.)  Despite the nearly 14,000 murders annually of Americans by other mostly Christian, English speaking Americans, none of the leaders in Washington will make domestic crime prevention a major priority.  Not to mention the 20,000 plus killed by drunk drivers.  Sad.

***Like everything else on this blog…these views expressed are my own and not necessarily the positions of the DOD or Army…thanks for reading***