Thursday, November 26, 2009


Private Tollison looked down at his tray. There was turkey, gravy, green beans, yams, mashed potatoes, and cranberries. It looked delicious. Thanksgiving dinner, the first one he hadn't spent at his mother's table. Everything looked perfect, but it wasn't mom's. He longed to be with his mother and father once more.

Reporting out of Basic to a new unit a week before Thanksgiving was a less than ideal situation. His assignment out was the 204th Brigade Support Battalion, Fourth Infantry Division. So he was in Fort Carson Colorado, and it felt a million miles from his home in Alabama. Only God and the Army Chief of Staff knew what he was going to be doing here, but on this day it didn't really matter. Here he was, far from home, alone, a little afraid, and looking down at a plate of food he didn't want to eat.

He looked around and only recognized one other person in the cavernous mess hall, and that was a casual relationship. They had gone through basic together, but hadn't bonded much. At least he knew his name. Tollison felt alone, unloved, and uncared for.

Tollison then felt a hand rest upon his shoulder. Instinct turned him towards it.

It was his battalion CO, who had taken command only 2 days prior.

"What's wrong, soldier? Not good enough?" he said with a light hearted smile.

"Looks great Sir, but..."

"But what, private?"

Tollison looked around. At the front of the hall, he saw the table where the CO had been sitting. At it were what appeared to be his wife and 3 kids. Next to them was an older couple. Probably the LTC's parent's or in-laws.

Seeing the CO and his family together gave him hope. Here was a Lieutenant Colonel, with multiple war zone tours under his belt, and he was spending this precious holiday with his soldiers. There must have been a lot of places he'd rather be, but here he was. This was a man he could follow. He knew what sacrifices the colonel must have made over the years to be where he is today. Seemed like someone who had his back. If the CO did, the other soldiers in his platoon must as well.

"But nothing, Colonel Bertulis. I'm just proud to be here. This sure looks good."

"It is, private Tollison. Enjoy. And in the spirit of the day, thanks for being here."

"Thank you, sir. I will." he replied, as he picked up his fork and dove in.

The Colonel was on to the next soldier, talking to him and thanking him too.

Maybe this Army wasn't a bad choice after all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I suppose I'm technically a milblogger, but I don't really blog much about the goings on in the armed forces. Quite frankly, there are several folks out there who do that WAY better than I could ever hope to.

Being a Navy kid, I grew up all over the place. Florida, Rhode Island, DC, and even Naples, Italy. Some of my fondest memories, though, are of Brunswick Maine. We were stationed there from '76 to '81 (1st to 6th grade for me), and I consider it my hometown as much as anywhere else. I made friends there that I still see several times a year. One of them, Jason was the best man at my wedding, and his brother Adam was a groomsman. I've known them since I was 7 years old, and are as much a part of my family as my blood relatives. Jason even went so far as to have a son with the same birthday as me.
Brunswick is where I was in Cub Scouts, built my first tree house, and made my first model airplane. I would still have that plane, too, if I had not been playing with it at a friend's house, only to have his mom drive over it with her car. It was a 1/72 scale P-51D Mustang. Dad and I went Bass fishing on a lake with an Algonquian name that was hard-pressed to pronounce at age 9, and probably couldn't do much better with at 39.

Memories like that run deep.
Having said all that, I have to say I was a little sad when my sister sent me this.

Bases open and close all the time, as national defense priorities and missions change. Brunswick was the epicenter of maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) during the cold war. With the Soviets gone, there isn't much call for tracking what's left of their submarine fleet. Heck, we don't even call it ASW anymore. The venerable* P-3 Orion now hunts for drug smugglers off South America and performs stand-off intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) all over the place. For an ASW guy like my dad, Brunswick was the place to be back in the day.

For me, I was just a kid, living my life and waiting to see my dad climb down that ladder and run across the tarmac after a 6 month deployment. Actually, I don't think his feet ever touched the rungs. When that last P-3 lifts off today, I'll be thinking of the leaves, snow, woods, fishing, firewood, Jason T, Adam, Ann-Marie, Ben, Seth, Judd, Darcy, Jennifer, Kent, and Jason H. And shedding a bittersweet tear or two.

* There's an old saying in military aviation: When people start referring to the airplane you fly as "venerable", it's time to update your resume.