Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday: news and notes

Mark got most of his out-processing done yesterday. Just a few more on Monday. I scraped his Fort Bragg decal off his old truck and FEDEX'd to him. That could have been a problem had his brother scraped it off and thrown it away.

I'm on the road to D.C. tomorrow for a round of meetings next week. I was hoping to take my camera gear with me but my back - while much better - put the kibosh on those plans. A little point and shoot will have to do. I expect that there will be more trips to Washington if we have any success with Congress and the White House Council of Environmental I will have a chance to go to Arlington National Cemetery.

When I get back, Mark will have just over a week left. Can't get over it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday's news and notes

Mark has received his out-processing papers and is gathering signatures. Maybe it is really just 15 days. It will be a big adjustment for us and for him' but a happy one.

The question becomes do I still continue blogging? After all, I won't be a one percenter anymore. Maybe I will change the name to The One Percent of the Ninety-nine Percenters who gives a damn.

At any rate, I am sure we will have some wonderful stories about the VA to talk about.

Next week, I will be blogging from the nation's capitol again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memorial Day redux

This is an older post but with Memorial Day just past, I thought it appropriate to post it again:

By SGT Mark M.

I consider myself lucky. Lucky to be alive. And
that's it. That's what it boils down to.

If those mortar rounds had landed a little closer. Had those bullets
been aimed just a little bit lower. Had those three
IED kill teams got me instead of me them. In the nearly
16 months I served in Iraq, my unit of about 700 men
lost 13. We came home with 13 fewer men - brothers - than
we had left with. About three times as many wounded. Though I
didn't know any of them personally, it was hard just
the same.

Memorial services. God I hate them. A paratrooper.
A battle hardened veteran is supposed to be almost
numb and without emotion. I think back to standing
there in the desert in a mass battalion formation
surrounded by barbed wire and 10-foot tall concrete
blast walls at one of those damn services.

Always a light desert breeze and fiery golden sunset as a back
drop when we honored our fallen brothers. Every man
there quietly swallows hard pushes those emotions deep
deep inside. Tear ducts screaming for permission to
shed tears, teeth bite down hard and from the outside
little shows the battle waging inside.

It's the end where most lose it. Roll call. A senior NCO begins
calling names. One after the other: “HERE FIRST
SERGEANT!. . . HERE FIRST SERGEANT!’’ until the name
of the deceased is reached. Nothing but silence as
they attempt to call his name three times.

Two days ago was a nice day here. Breezy and cool, great
blue sky overhead with a brilliant sun to warm the
skin. I walked the short distance to my battalion
headquarters running a errand for a platoon sergeant
in my company. Walking inside, by happenstance, I ran
into an old battle buddy. I'd known him from the
beginning of my Army career. Him, me and three other
guys had all gone through basic together, airborne
school and came here to Bragg. Medina, Blaske, Coats,
and Baez, good friends eventually separated by the war.

“What's up man”

“S'up Middlebrook?

“Oh you know man, livin' the dream.”

Smiling and continuing on without stopping. Truth is, I didn't really
want to talk to him all that much. I'd only made it five steps past him...

“Hey man, listen.”

“What's up?” Turning to face him.

“Hey, sorry to be the one to tell you dude. You know
those couple guys that got killed in 1/73 (a cavalry
battalion in my brigade) the other day?”

“Yeah. . .”

“One of them, man, was Baez.” Hit me like a punch to
the chest.


“Yeah man, Baez is dead.”

I wasn't sure how to react. I was in shock and didn't truly believe it. Safe and
sound in the United States, a thousand of miles from that damn desert, and the war ripped me right back. Hell, I may as well be still in Iraq because that unmistakable feeling took hold of my soul.

Spc. Miguel A. Baez was killed in action in Balad, Iraq by an improvised explosive device as he entered a house. He was set to come home to his wife and four children next month. He died on his last mission outside the wire.

An all around great guy. Hell of a sense of humor. After all the things the Army put us
through, I never heard him utter a word in anger. He was a very devoted family man and if you asked him about his kids his eyes would light up and a smile always followed.

How did I survive and Baez not? He had so much more to live for. If I could change places, I would without hesitation. But that is the way it seems to be. Those lost are always most missed.

I will never forget him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. His memory will always occupy a place in my heart.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day

More than 1,000 people turned out to pay respects to Jacksonville area veterans at yesterday's Memorial Day Ceremony. Mark, his girlfriend and Gayle attended. I couldn't go because I unceremoniously blew out my back this weekend (chiropractor this afternoon)so I missed seeing Mark in his Class A's with his SGT stripes. It was heartwarming to know that so many people still take the time to remember what our service men and women have done for us.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Prayers for Memorial Day

Christ Episcopal Church in our neighborhood has a support network for military families. This year they honored 31 men and women who are currently deployed, soon to be deployed, just back from deployment or ending their military careers. Thirty-one from our area. Amazing.

Thanks to our friend Madeleine for keeping us all together.

From the Washington Post

Old Army Buddies
The Lasting Bonds of the Last Draftees

By Michael R. Auslin
Sunday, May 24, 2009

A few years ago, my father suddenly announced that he wanted to give a substantial sum of money to someone who had fallen on hard times. The intended recipient of this charity, which was not insignificant for our family, was not a relative, a neighbor or a work colleague. It was one of my dad's old buddies from his Army service in the 1950s, who was ill and in need of help. I still remember being amazed that my father could feel such empathy for someone with whom he had served in peacetime nearly half a century earlier. Yet for him, helping a former comrade in arms was a sacred charge.

Today, as a new Greatest Generation emerges in Iraq and Afghanistan, a unique Ameri can species is beginning to disappear: the Old Army Buddy, the men who served in the U.S. armed forces in the 1950s and early '60s. They were the soldiers who protected American interests at the height of the Cold War, yet for the most part never fired a shot in combat. Most of those remaining are now past 70, and when they go, so will the last links to an era of mandatory national service that helped shape mid-20th-century America.

From the 1940s through the early 1970s, a generation of Americans accepted compulsory military service as a responsibility of citizenship. In war and in peace, Americans of different economic classes and ethnicities served together, forming relationships that lasted a lifetime, even when the vets had little else in common. With today's all-volunteer force, our military is more professional, but the mixing of different groups has diminished, and American society has lost the sense of the virtue of national service.

For the rest of the story, click here:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Water, water everywhere

Song of the day (from Credence Clearwater Revival):

Long as I remember
The rain been comin' down.
Clouds of myst'ry pourin'
Confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages,
Tryin' to find the sun;
And I wonder, Still I wonder,
Who'll stop the rain.

If it doesn't stop raining soon, there will be no flags for Memorial Day. 9.2 inches through Thursday although by rain gauge has been over-topped twice.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Soggy Wednesday news and notes

Memorial Day weekend Looks like Mark may make it home for Memorial Day after all. He is starting to get ready to out process and has gear that needs to be cleaned and turned it before he is released.

Mom and Dad, the pupmeisters, would also like a relief day from Glider, although he really isn't much trouble. Our yard is not puppy friendly and we have to watch him as we make it safer for him.

He now has his own website at Glider

The Weather Channel is still here. This storm isn't as bad as TS Fay but I fear a good portion of the weekend will be spent picking up debris. Earlier, Mike Seidel was saying that if you were heading to the First Coast (the Beaches) for the weekend, you had better stay away. However, they have backed off that as the storm moves toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Memorial Day Ceremony The notice I received this week about the ceremonies at the Veteran's Memorial Wall said seven more names had been added to the wall this year.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Weather Channel

Has come to Jacksonville Beach. We are all doomed!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Armed Forces Day Redux

About the only thing I got right yesterday was the fact that Armed Forces Day was's always the third Saturday of May. However, the first Armed Forces Day was proclaimed by President Truman in 1950. So next year will be the 60th anniversary. I guess I am in denial over my age.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Armed Forces Day

Yesterday was Armed Forces Day. Not a peep in the media about it here as far as I could tell. If Wikipedia is correct, yesterday was the 50th anniversary. My flag was out, but then it always is.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Australian shepherd mauls koala bear

Oh, the horror of it all!

You need to turn the sound up for the full effect.

(Sorry, life's a little boring around here.:))

The One Percenters: by the numbers

384 posts.
17,401 visitors worldwide.
Phrase that draws the most hits: "Deployment information." (although Australian shepherd drew a number of hits from, you guessed it, Australia)
28 days before The One Percenters rejoins The Ninety-Nine Percenters.
28 days before Mark substitutes the VA for the U.S. Army (things ought to be really interesting then).
6.5 seconds. The amount time we have to usher Mark's dog outside after he wakes up.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Who needs TV?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New dog in town, part two

For our border collie Olustee, playing Frisbee is a bit harder than it used to be.

New dog in town

SGT Mark's dog Glider takes on the resident alpha female Nickie.

Winding down: Iraq war journals

I started keeping a journal shortly after Gayle and I were married 35 years ago. I didn't write very often some going months or years between entries. But when Mark joined the Army four years ago, I started writing regularly, almost daily. I will come close to completing six journals by the time Mark is out in a month. The question will be after he leaves, what will there be to write about? Our lives, absent the war, are pretty boring. And boredom is not so bad.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Winding down: Post it notes

I've kept the names of soldiers and Marines I knew who were deployed on post it notes stuck to my computer. And one-by-one, slowly but surely, I am happily taking them down. It's a great relief to have these guys home....a relief to all involved.

Monday, May 11, 2009

TPC: Military Appreciation Day

Receiving some positive media attention

Sailors heading to the Patriots' Outpost

President Bush (41) rides by.

Watching the 18th fairway

Representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

With sons having to head north to Ft. Bragg and south to Port St. Lucie today, Mother's Day was held here on Saturday. Sons ran the show (as they should) buying and preparing the day's dinner. Mom was thrilled.

Not sure whether any pictures will be posted since there was some shots of tequila consumed later in the day (not by Mom or Dad).

Happy Mother's Day everyone.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

First meeting

There is a sentiment that he may be part Ewok.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's official

Mark received his orders today. Thirty-seven days to go.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Military Day

Today is the final practice round at The Players Championship, one of golf's premier events. It's also the tournaments Military Day where active duty military are given free tickets and they can attend a ceremony honoring their service. Gayle and I will be heading over this morning with cameras (today is the last day you can carry a camera at the course)for pics for tomorrow's blog.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The pupster Glider

Settling in.

39 days to go

SGT Mark's packet has cleared brigade and been accepted at the transition office. Orders will follow shortly, possibly by Thursday and in slightly over a month he returns to Florida...for good.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Waking up SGT Mark to let him know Glider has left the ranch:

Pit stop:

Big pool, little dog. Already been in twice:

Checking out the new digs:

Smoozin' with the new fam:

Height comparison:

Settling in:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Military Appreciation Day

A big shout out and thank you to my Dolphin Cove neighbors and volunteers who hosted the 4th Annual Military Appreciation Day. It means a lot to our neighborhood military families. Quite frankly, I've never heard of another Jacksonville neighborhood that has ever done this. Thank you.

For those who were at the event and are new to The One Percenters: You are welcome to copy the photos to your computer and have them printed. If they are used in any publication the credit line should read: Photo by Mark Middlebrook, The One Percenters.

If you want a larger print, contact me at

A good crowd showed up for the ceremony.

Mark Shaw, who once tried to teach SGT Mark how to play the piano, opened with the Star Spangled Banner.

Nease High School NJROTC honor guard.

Remarks from Master Gunnery SGT James Muller, USMC (Ret).

Presentation of a flag that flew above the USS Arizona Memorial to Guest of Honor Master Chief Arthur Riker, USCG (Ret). Riker spent 28 years in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Lt. Col. Paula Roderick, USAF (Ret) reads the names of those who are currently serving or have served. She is reading Mark's name in this photograph.


Service flags.

One of the Moms has a daughter in 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne, currently in Iraq. Here's the banner before the ceremony.

And after.

DJ Marvin Sullivan

Free cake.

Tangling with the free cake.

The Marines set up a tent with a strength test.

Doug Fort and crew from Monster Dogs. (they were great)

Chicken dancing.


The Tournament Players Championship cranks up here in Ponte Vedra Beach Monday. Mark's battle buddy Ty is an avid golfer and wanted to come down and see the tournament. So Gayle and I bought two tickets as sort of a thank you to Ty for being there for Mark. But schedules got screwed up and it turned out they couldn't come. We hadn't planned to go this year....given the economy and we ended up with two tickets for the week.

But last night Mark said that he and Ty are heading south for the third round of the tournament.

However, we are somewhat suspicious.:)

We know Ty would like to go to the tournament but we suspect Mark's motivations to come home have more to do with the little ball of fur that we are picking up tomorrow in Polk County. After all, it's the first dog he has ever owned.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Mark has posted Glider's bail money and we will be off to spring him tomorrow or Sunday. Puppy pics to follow.