Sunday, June 29, 2008


A military guidon is a rectangular shaped cloth with insignia that indicates company or platoon designation.   A triangle removed on one end makes it "swallow-tailed".  The regulation size is 20 X 27 3/4 inches. The above photo is a miniature guidon of Troop A, 2nd Squadron, 17th Airborne Cavalry.  The regulation size would display crossed swords as well. 

This airborne cavalry unit was established in February, 1964 when the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division was formed.  This "Always First" Brigade trained in Iran, the Mojave Desert, and other places in the United States. In May 1965, the division was alerted for deployment to Vietnam. On July 29, 1965 the Brigade arrived at Cam Ranh Bay, Republic of Vietnam.

I arrived five months later as a volunteer on January 3, 1966 with rank of private first class and M.O.S of 11-B (infantryman).  I served with Troop A as a "boots on the ground" soldier until December 15, 1966. The standard tour of duty was 12 months and new troops arrived often to replace the wounded, killed, or soldiers with completed tours.  Combat operations continued until 1972 when the 101st Airborne Division was withdrawn and returned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The U. S. policy of Vietnamization transferred most of the division's armaments and equipment to the ARVN forces.  The departing paratroopers left behind helicopters, artillery, trucks, jeeps, and base camp supplies and equipment as they flew home on military and contract commercial airlines.

The veteran's association was chartered in 2003 under the name Alpha Troop. I became a member this year and attended the 2008 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee from June 18-22. There I met 25 veterans who served in Troop A from '69 to '71 as helicopter pilots, crewmen, or infantrymen.  The activities and meeting were structured, well organized, and executed following a plan and agenda.  A hotel meeting room served as our gathering place for meetings, reflections upon the past, friendly talk, and for sharing family and life experiences after the military.  

Most Alpha Troop members were around my age of 61, retired, and with grown children.  We probably came from 12 states from coast to coast plus Puerto Rico. The careers of these veterans included retired military, Shell Oil, ExxonMobile, J. C. Penney, self employed businessmen, engineering or defense industry employees, and one large scale farm operator.  All were patriots and solid citizens of our country.  About sixteen wives and four children accompanied the veterans to the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Nashville where we met.

I'll continue my reaction to our meetings and activities with next week's update. The image below is that of a bumper sticker which was for sale at the meeting.

Have a good week!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Go Greyhound! ????

I recently traveled by Greyhound bus from Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Nashville, Tennessee to attend the 2008 reunion of Troop A, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division.  I served in this U. S. Army company in Vietnam in 1966 and the unit remains activated to this day and has fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This was my first time to attend a reunion.

Due to gas prices and my desire to attend the reunion of people and experiences from the past, I dreamed up the idea to travel the 491 mile trip to Nashville by Greyhound and relive the experience of riding a bus.  The round trip fare was only $92.00 which compares to $200.00 for gasoline alone if I'd driven my car which gets almost 20 miles per gallon.  In addition, there would have been depreciation costs on my car plus $22.00 per day parking at the hotel.  This made the bus fare very attractive.

The disadvantage of the bus was the departure time on my return trip home. The departure time in Nashville was 12:45 AM on Sunday June 22.  Yeah, that's right, 45  minutes after midnight following the main dinner of the Alpha Troop Association meeting.  I checked out of my hotel room by noon on Saturday, attended reunion functions all day, attended dinner Saturday night until 11:00 PM, and then went to the bus station.  Since I'd checked out of my room, there was no place to relax for a nap during Saturday's unscheduled time. I changed clothes in the hotel men's room to get ready for dinner and again to prepare for the bus ride home following the elegant dinner.

When I decided on the bus travel schedule, I thought a late night departure would suggest few people on the bus and I could relax and sleep.  Wrong! When I arrived at the bus station, it was packed.  In addition three police cars were there and five officers were inside the terminal questioning four young travelers who apparently had been fighting.  Three females and one male were taken away to the police station.  After an hour and some confusion about which line of people was correct for the bus with destinations to Knoxville, Waynesville, Asheville, and Winston-Salem, we began loading the bus. When we loaded and departed the bus station, every seat was occupied plus three people lay prone in the aisle.  Those three would have had a 12 hour wait for the next bus if they weren't allowed to board this one.  

(Greyhound doesn't take reservations. Date and time of ticket purchase doesn't matter.  The first people in line at boarding are the first ones on the bus. However, re-boards are asked to go to the front of the line.)

From 1:00 to 5:00 AM the Greyhound sped through the dark night to Knoxville. My expectation of sleep vanished.  The woman next to me slept well as she sprawled out, snored, twitched, and invaded my space.  The aisle next to my feet was filled with a stretched-out 60 year old man whose body tilted side-to-side as the bus entered and exited curves along Interstate 40.
The row behind me was filled with the four young people who had been taken away by the police, then released.  They bragged among themselves how they responded to the questions by police and about possible charges they discussed with law enforcement at the station. Their destination was Winston-Salem.

Lesson learned:  Unless you're destitute or living on a very tight budget, choose to travel by personal auto, commercial airline, or train.  Another option is to stay home.

I now have bragging rights that I sacrificed.  I reduced traffic congestion on the highway by one car and prevented the consumption of one barrel of oil.  (50 gallons of gas would have been used if I had driven my car on the 1,000 mile round trip.)

I had a great time at the reunion.  I'll report about the reunion later.

Have a good week!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Legacy of Ashes

I now understand why my wife chooses romance novels and books with happy endings when she reads for pleasure.

I just finished reading Legacy of Ashes, The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner, 2007. It was a depressing look inside the agency with its history of directors and their relationships with presidents, bad intelligence, morale problems, high turnover among employees, and often improper involvement in other countries' affairs. I always held the CIA in high esteem. If one can believe this book, my high regard for this agency is unwarranted

Not long ago I read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, 2007. Again, a disturbing history of extreme Laissez Faire philosophy of managing societies and the impact on people and culture.

Several years ago I read Stolen Valor : How the Vietnam Generation was Robbed of its Heroes and its History by B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley, 1998. This book is about myths surrounding Vietnam veterans and fake heroes. There are thousands of people who wear medals and claim war experience that are lies. Some people in high positions of authority presented themselves as decorated veterans and later were discovered as fake. The problem is so widespread that Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act which makes it a crime to falsely present oneself as a war veteran.

My point here is that too much reading can bring insight that is disturbing about mankind and his organizations.

My next book to read promises to be uplifting. The title is Quiet Strength a Memoir Tony Dungy.  It was given to me by a family member as a gift for Fathers Day.

Have a good week!


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Holly Tree

Last Saturday, with the help of friends, I sawed an unusual tree into boards and blocks. There were three logs from a very large holly tree. The tree grew near a house that was built in 1852 in the Seward community of Forsyth County in North Carolina. Family from the home place estimated the holly tree was planted between 1900 and 1910. The house is under renovation and one sibling will soon return to the home where she was born and reared.

The picture at the top shows one log. Burl covers the log and made the trunk larger than the diameter at the stump. This is very uncommon since most trees are larger at ground level and taper above ground. Burl is an abnormal growth much like cancer where wood cells don't grow in normal ring pattern.

The first picture below shows three logs loaded onto a trailer for transport to the mill. The bottom two pictures show large blocks cut in preparation to turn bowls from this wood. Siblings from this home place requested turnings from this tree as mementos of their childhood yard.

Click on pictures to enlarge the photos.

Have a good week!