Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Stats 'n' Stuff

This week, in honor of Memorial Day, we thought we'd present to you some little known facts about our Armed Forces and the heroic actions of its members past and present. Enjoy!

US Army
"This we'll defend"
  • Nation's oldest and largest military service established as the Continental Army June 14, 1775 to fight the Revolutionary War with George Washington in command.
  • While ten companies of riflemen were established by the Continental Congress in 1775, the oldest Regular Army infantry regiment, the 3rd Infantry Regiment, was constituted June 3, 1784, as the First American Regiment.
  • Private 1st Class, Stephen C. Sanford, U.S. Army received a citation for the following: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with the 2d Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 172d Stryker Brigade Combat Team, on 19 November 2005, during combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Private Sanford displayed extraordinary courage during the evacuation of casualties from a home in Mosul, Iraq, while under intense enemy fire. Although shot through the leg during his squad’s initial assault attempt, he accompanied his squad during their second assault. Once inside the house, he provided a heavy volume of suppressive fire while the casualties were evacuated. He continued to engage the enemy while escorting the wounded Soldiers from the house. He returned to the house a second time to provide vital covering fire and security for the final withdrawal of the casualties. When the last Soldier leaving the house was shot in the neck, Private Sanford, with complete disregard for his own safety, moved to the Soldier and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. While attempting to revive the other Soldier, he was shot twice more in the back. Protecting the fallen Soldier, Private Sanford returned fire and killed an insurgent while receiving two more potentially fatal gunshot wounds. He continued to return devastating fire on the enemy while helping his wounded comrade until he was incapacitated by his own loss of blood. Private Sanford’s gallant deed was truly above and beyond the call of duty and is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service, reflecting great credit upon himself, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, the United States Army, and the United States of America."
  • Famous soldiers include Mel Brooks, Art Carney, Julia Child, Tony Randall, Jackie Robinson, Rocky Marciano, Henry Kissinger and Elvis Presley.

US Marines
"Semper Fidelis"
  • Formed as two battalions by Captain Samuel Nicholas on November 10, 1775 in Philadelphia as naval infantry.
  • Conducted America's first amphibious assault landing during the Revolutionary War gaining control of a British ammunition depot and naval port in New Providence, Bahamas.
  • Developed helicopter insertion doctrine and were the first branch to widely adopt maneuver-warfare principles emphasizing low-level initiative and flexible execution.
  • Vietnam was the longest war for Marines with 13,091 being killed in action, 51,392 wounded, and 57 Medals of Honor awarded. Due to policies concerning rotation, more Marines were deployed for service during Vietnam than World War II.
  • Famous Marines include Don Adams, Glen Bell (Taco Bell founder), Drew Carey, David Dinkins, "Nate Dogg", Steve McQueen, Felix Rigau Carrera (1st Puerto Rican pilot and 1st Hispanic fighter pilot in the U.S.M.C), and Shaggy.

US Coast Guard
"Semper Paratus"
  • Established August 4, 1790 by US Congress as the Revenue Cutter Service and is the nation's oldest seagoing service.
  • Has been involved in every American military conflict since the War of 1812
  • Revenue Service Cutter, the Harriet Lane, fired the first naval shot of the Civil War
  • The US Coast Guard Women's Reserve, or SPARS, was created on November 23, 1942 by Franklin D. Roosevelt to free Coast Guardsmen from stateside service in order to fight overseas. Coast Guard cutter Spar (WLB-206) is named in honor of these women and one of the new Legend class ships, the USCGC Stratton in honor of first director Capt. Dorothy C. Stratton, is forthcoming.
  • Douglas Albert Munro is the only Coastie to recieve the Medal of Honor "For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty as Officer-in-Charge of a group of Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a Battalion of Marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, on September 27, 1942. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered Marines, Munro, under constant risk of his life, daringly led five of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy's fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its two small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave up his life in defense of his country."
  • Famous Coasties include Jeff Bridges, Nathan Bruckenthal (first Coastie KIA since Vietnam), Marlene Dietrich, Blake Edwards, Alex Haley, Bruce Melnick (first Coastie Astronaut), Cesar Romero, Mel Torme, Rudy Vallee, Victor Mature and Gig Young.

US Navy
"Non sibi sed patriae"

  • After a brief stint as the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War and disbanded by Congress due to budget cuts, the US Navy was re-established in 1797.
  • The navy conducted the U.S. military's first ever large-scale amphibious joint operation during the Mexican-American War by successfully landing 12,000 Army troops with their equipment in one day at Veracruz, Mexico.
  • During the Civil War, both American Navies were the first in the world to use ironclad warships in combat. The Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862, which pitted USS Monitor against CSS Virginia, became the first engagement between two steam-powered ironclads.
  • James Lawrence, captain of the frigate USS Chesapeake, is better known for his famous battle cry. While engaged the blockading Royal Navy frigate HMS Shannon in a fierce battle June 1, 1813, accurate gunfire from the British ship disabled the Chesapeake within the first few minutes. Captain Lawrence, mortally wounded by small arms fire, ordered his officers to "Don't give up the ship. Fight her till she sinks!" as he was carried below. His crew, however, was overwhelmed by a British boarding party shortly afterwards and James Lawrence died of his wounds on 4 June 1813, while Chesapeake was being taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia, by her captors.
  • Famous sailors include Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk, Jesse Ventura, Bob Barker, Harry Belafonte, Tony Curtis, L. Ron Hubbard, Paul Newman, MC Hammer, Montel Williams and Regis Philbin.

US Air Force
"Above All"

  • Initially part of the United States Army, it was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 and is the youngest branch of the US military.
  • The Tuskegee Airmen, formally known as the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps, were the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces. By the end of WWII, they were credited with shooting down 112 Luftwaffe aircraft, sinking the German-operated Italian destroyer TA-23 by machine-gun fire, and the destruction of numerous fuel dumps, trucks, and trains. Their squadrons flew more than 15,000 sorties on 1,500 missions and the unit received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission flown March 24, 1945, escorting B-17s to bomb the Daimler-Benz tank factory at Berlin, Germany.
  • The Airmen of Note is the jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force and one of the few remaining big bands touring the US. It was originally created in 1950 to carry on the tradition of Major Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps dance band and has attracted 18 professional jazz musicians from across the United States.
  • Famous Airmen include Buzz Aldrin, Sunny Anderson, Charles Bronson, George Carlin, Dr. Seuss, Morgan Freeman, Clark Gable, Marvin Gaye, Charleton Heston, DeForest Kelley, and Chuck Norris.
So while you're enjoying the smell of juicy meat grilling beneath the hot sun in a bright blue sky, lounging on a raft with cool water lapping at your toes and an old song from way back when playing on the radio or you're at the mall hunting for the latest holiday bargains this weekend, just take a moment to remember those who have come before you to fight for the freedom you enjoy today and those who continue to do so. Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Life

Apologies for missing another post but Paul and I have been on a bit of a roller coaster with this whole baby thing lately. Just when we officially started to slam the door on the idea of a natural conception, the good doctor sticks his foot in the way. It seems while all my tests have come back normal, Paul's has been a bit inconclusive. Not that this necessarily means anything but thanks to the fact the past two doctors we saw have been incompetent quacks, his tests weren't run correctly and the results are invalid. So he's been asked to do them again this week and we'll see what happens. Of course we hope he's perfectly fine, nobody wants to hear there might be something wrong with them but if the tests come back and say exactly that, well at least we have a definitive answer and possibly a chance to fix the problem. If however these tests do say he's fine, that will finally shut the door as we've exhausted every possibility.

We've also decided that if modern medicine concludes we're both perfectly healthy and they don't know why we aren't able to conceive that it would be a big mistake to throw money away on IVF or the IUI we've been trying to raise money for. The way we see it, if modern medicine says you're fine but Mother Nature is saying no, no you're not then any attempts to bypass her would just end badly. We've already dealt with an inexplicable Ectopic Pregnancy and have since dealt with inexplicable infertility, obviously there's something going on that today's doctors and scientists just haven't discovered yet.

So the next step will be adoption and while we would love a little baby, the only way to get one is through private and international adoption agencies which are just light years out of our budget. So for the past year we've been entertaining the idea of adopting a child or sibling group through the Department of Health and Human Services. The process is a bit invasive but not nearly as lengthy or expensive as it would be for a baby. We went to an information session where they explain about the adoption and foster care system (ideally they'd like all potential adopters to be foster parents as well but for people like us who would eventually transfer out of state which could mean having to return any child or children in our custody back over to the state, it just isn't an option). If you're still interested, you take home a large packet of forms which ask questions about you and your family, have you get a release from your doctor saying you're mentally and physically capable of having children in your home, ask for three references who they will contact later and gives you instructions about getting your fingerprints done for the required background check. This is pretty much the only expense in the process and costs (here in Maine) $55 for every person living under your roof over the age of 18.

A few weeks later (depending on where you are and how busy they are) you'll hear that it's time for the home study and should make an appointment for the visit. They don't just ambush you one day for a surprise inspection, contrary to popular belief, and it's not a white glove thing. They're basically checking to see that you have adequate space for the child or children, that it meets safety and fire regulations and isn't roach or rodent infested (if you live like the people in that show Hoarders, I wouldn't bother applying). It also gives them the chance to go over your application, ask questions and get a better understanding of you and your family. It is illegal in the United States to reject any applicant based on religion, race or orientation so if you feel the the visit is turning or has turned in that direction, immediately contact the office and file a complaint. There have been times unfortunately when an uber Christian rep will get indignant while interviewing an openly gay or non-Christian couple or a rep will vehemently try to steer a couple away from the idea of adopting a child or children of another race but in all cases the home office is extremely apologetic (and appalled in most cases) and usually the Department head will come out to meet with you again themselves. I understand that in a majority of these cases the offender is either removed from that department or fired altogether but you have to speak up!

Anyway, once you're finally approved it's just a matter of choosing the child(ren) you wish to adopt and developing a repor with them. Some time during this process you and your significant other (you don't necessarily have to be married any more but you do have to show strong evidence of a lasting and solid relationship) will be required to take parenting classes. While raising children in general can be very taxing at times, there are extra hurdles when it comes to adopting children and these classes aim to help you deal with them. You've got emotional and psychological hurdles (many children have anger and abandonment issues due to events from their past and some may even hate you in the beginning and blame you for not being able to go home and see mom and dad again even if they were removed years before), you have to learn disciplinary actions (many agencies have you sign a form refusing to use physical discipline especially because of the child(ren)'s possible past history with domestic violence) and how to adapt your life now that this new person (or people) is in it. During the home study, if like me you indicated you grew up with physical discipline (ie your parents beat your ass when you set fire to the living room rug at age 7) they'll want to go a little more in-depth with you about it and ensure you're open to other methods of discipline.

As Paul and I know little to nothing about raising children and would most likely end up becoming a family of 4 or 5 overnight, we eagerly welcome the classes! This will be the most challenging adventure we've ever had to date and our paperwork is ready to send however, for the moment we've put the process on hold. Due to Paul's saga with his shoulder (long story short, he injured it badly during a deployment two years ago and reinjured it a few months ago but doctors are unwilling to do more surgery and have adopted a wait and see approach. You'd think after 6 months of minimal results from injections and therapy the time sit on your ass would end but apparently not. He's seeing a new doctor in the firm this week but if he ums and ahs the same way, we're switching him out to an orthopedic specialist who actually knows what the hell he's doing) we're unsure about our immediate future. Will the Coast Guard get so upset that Paul is taking so long to heal that they'll discharge him? Will they decide to transfer in a replacement and transfer us out again once he's back on the active list? Will we stay in the region long enough to be able to buy a house and therefore have a much more stable lifestyle to raise these poor kids in? We hope to have all these questions answered within the next six weeks at which time we'll look at the adoption question again.

So, thank you for riding the roller coaster that is our life. We hope you enjoyed the trip and will come back again soon! As it will be Memorial Day weekend, I'll probably post something very patriotic next week:)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


With the official start to summer only weeks away and thoughts turning towards vacation and travel, Paul and I have been thinking about our more interesting travels and the two that stick out most are when we traveled across the United States, twice! As you can imagine, travelling over 3000 miles in 4 days means having plenty of interesting encounters.

Our first trip occurred in November 2003 when the US Coast Guard issued orders from Portsmouth, VA to Seattle, WA. Our intent was to load up our gold (erm, excuse me, champagne) Chrysler LHS and drive to my parents' house in New Jersey for Thanksgiving and shoot across 80 to avoid most of the snow and higher elevations that Route 90 would've led us through. However, 6 hours later our huffing, wheezing and shuddering car told us it was time to make alternate arrangements. Since childhood I've been in love with old movies that showed the good ole days of train travel which seemed much more elegant and comfortable than it is today but it was an experience we both wanted to try. So we said goodbye to my parents at NY Penn Station and embarked on the first leg of our journey to Chicago. Money was a bit tight so we ended up riding Coach which was a HUGE mistake! If you've never ridden Amtrak, when you ride Coach on a long trip such as this you have the option of paying $30 per person extra to eat in the dining car or, if you're like us and riding on a limited budget, you're stuck with rubber burgers and slimy turkey but you do have access to beer and wine to forget your troubles:-p A word to the wise, whenever you're riding Coach on Amtrak do yourself a favor and pack some sandwiches, you WON'T be sorry! Another problem was the train stopped several times in the night and every time those doors opened the cabin was blasted with ice cold air! 18 hours later we pulled into Chicago shivering, exhausted, hungry and our backs full of knots:(

Happily, we were able to afford to travel the next leg of the trip in the Sleep Car as I was NOT about to spend the next 3 days in absolute misery! When we disembarked we gimped over to customer service to discover our bags would be moved on to the next train for us so we wouldn't have to be stuck lugging them around for the next four hours between trains. So since neither of us had ever been to Chicago or anywhere in the Midwest before, we figured we'd take a little tour of the city. Of course as soon as we stepped foot out of the terminal we discovered WHY Chicago was known as the Windy City! We were instantly hit with a blast that felt as if someone had smacked us in the face with an icy washcloth but after sitting on that train for almost a day we had to stretch our legs and decided to hold out as long as we could. I have to say at this point if you've been to one city in America you've just about been to all of them. The few blocks we wandered could've been in Philadelphia or lower Manhattan. We did get to see Route 66 and the Sears Tower (as it was known then) and we were hoping to find Oprah's studio but hot food and drink started to sound real good about then so we headed back to the terminal.

Paul had his old reliable burger and fries while I went Asian after being accosted by the lady behind the counter of virtually every Asian food place in any food court in the country screaming at me "YUMMY YUMMY BOURBON CHICKEN!" Thanks to our accommodations, after lunch we were able to hang out in the First Class lounge with free Wi-fi, big leather chairs and complimentary bar where I discovered hot chocolate went very nicely with a rum and coke chaser;)

We settled into our roomette on the train which at the moment consisted of a flip down table and two armchairs and was far more comfortable. As the train rolled on, our attendant gave us a quick rundown of the amenities of our cabin and asked when we'd like to have dinner. Shortly after, as we got comfortable I managed to blow out yet another outlet by plugging in a little fan for some air but this time I only took out that one fuse and not the whole train;) Being the foodie that I am, I fully enjoyed the dining experience during our trip. You're sat with two other people, which takes getting used to, and order anything from roast chicken to steak which comes with salad, beverage and dessert for dinner. Afterwards we had drinks in the observation car where the night sky above exploded with stars! In the meantime our attendant was preparing our room for the night which involved pulling the armchairs together to form a twin bed, pulling open an overhead cabin to reveal another twin bed with a safety net so you don't fall out and mints on the pillows! We sped through the Rockies around midnight and I looked out to see snowcaps and dizzyingly deep crevices bathed in moonlight.

The next morning as we enjoyed a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast our room was made up again. In Montana we were given the chance to get off the train for an extended period while they changed engines and crew. Finally at about 10am on the third day we got our first glimpse of the Cascade Mountains, Mt. Rainier and our new home for the next three years, Seattle!
As we were unable to post last week, I'll be continuing the second cross country journey in a second post. As we ended up driving this journey in the 3rd tiniest car in creation, it was a much MUCH more eventful ride in which we thought at least once a day we were going to die! Stay tuned:)