A Memorial Day Letter to Dad

Dear Dad:

In these times, I question what to do at Memorial Day. What, with the War on Terror and all the other stuff happening, it seems honors for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines occur every day. It makes me wonder why we even have a Memorial Day.

I remember what we did as a family every year when I was a kid. You and Mom loaded me into the back of the family truckster with a bunch of cheap plastic flowers from Alco. Then, we’d drive a couple of hours to a host of different cemeteries in Missouri where we unloaded the cheap flowers near the headstones of past family members–most of whom I’d never met.

We’d always meet other family members there. Uncles and aunts, cousins, great uncles, great aunts, and a few I just couldn’t figure out. As long as you said they were family, that was fine with me. You’d talk with them about the people whose names were on those graves. Stories about a grandmother smacking you with a switch. Memories of being fired from the railroad repeatedly by your uncle, and then rehired moments later. Thoughts of how your dad reacted when you enlisted in the Army on our country’s entry into WWII. Memories of your mother reading. They were cute stories, and some were even funny. I remember those. Some of the memories weren’t so good, but don’t worry, I’ve forgotten them all the same.

I remember the plastic poppy you’d buy at the same cemetery every year. It stayed on the dash of our car until you replaced it the next Memorial Day. You’d try to explain it, but I never really understood. Not as a kid.

Most of the men from our family had flags near their headstones. You said it was because they served in one war or another. I thought that was cool. You always mentioned what branch of the service they were in, and what war. It seems there was one just in time for every generation. It made me wonder what mine would be.

I remember you talking with my uncles and your cousins about your war. Everyone had a story. Most made us kids laugh. I’m sure you guys had stories that weren’t funny, but you never told those. ¬†There were a lot of tales.

I want you to know that I liked yours the best.

You weren’t a General, and you didn’t command an Army. You didn’t win a lot of medals, and you were never cited for bravery. You were never in a film, and your name is not on a monument. But, you were mine.

Annually, Uncle Jim would argue with you about who had it harder in the war. Uncle Jim was at Normandy, but you spent four years in north Africa. Neither budged. You both held your ground, and the discussion invariably ended the same as it did the year before. I know now that neither of you could win. After all, it was about war.

When you talked about all those things, I listened. I know you believed that all I thought about was lunch or when we’d finally leave for home (I could be a fidgety little cuss), but I was listening. Really. I remember everything you said about your uncles, and your dad. I remember each member of our family who was a veteran, and even your friends. You taught me why they were important.

Of the lot, though, you’re my favorite. You always will be.

I know now that Memorial Day is important. Not because of what you said, but because of what you did. It makes me proud.

Your son,


PS. I’d give almost anything to hear one of your stories again. I miss you more than you will ever know.


I See Things…

I have one recurring post theme called “Azimuth Check” which essentially indicates a post about a potpourri of different issues. Now, I’m starting another recurring post called “I See Things…” These posts, published on no particular schedule, will show various things that I see–typically a picture or scan–that I find amusing, disturbing, or both.

The first may only interest those out there with an understanding of military justice and post-trial procedure. As I was shredding old case files (which I do 2 years after a trial ends), I found this record of trial cover sheet from a case out of Fort Riley. Can you spot the problem?

That’s right. It says 7th Infantry Division (Light) and Fort Ord. For those of you who don’t know, Fort Ord closed as an active Army installation in 1994, 15 years prior to the trial listed in this picture. Granted, my client won’t receive any relief from this discovery. First, his punishment was extremely small, and second, it is only a cover sheet. However, it makes you wonder about the templates and software being used by Army court reporters and chiefs of justice.

Go Ahead, Call Him Shirley

Events of the last few days have caused me to think about blogging, blawging, and shooting my mouth off. There are always consequences in doing one or more of the aforementioned three things. Sometimes the consequences are personal, and sometimes they are professional. Either way, there are consequences for pretty much every action we take–we just don’t notice most of them.

A friend of mine faced consequences for his words. His name is Paul Shirley, and he grew-up in my community in Kansas. I remember both he and his brother, Matt. Although, it has been 20 years since I’ve seen either in person. Paul is two years younger than me, if memory serves me correctly.

Luckily, I was able to follow Paul, even from my college dorm in New York. He grew many inches in high school before settling at 6’10” and walked onto the basketball team at Iowa State University. There, he became a 3-year starting power forward for some of the most successful ISU basketball teams in school history. In the end, he became a 2nd Team Academic All-American and finished with two consecutive Big 12 titles. Paul experienced success in almost everything he did, except rowing. Paul sucks at rowing.

He went undrafted after college, but landed in the NBA where he was a solid roleplayer for the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, and Atlanta Hawks. Eventually, he ended his career playing for several European professional teams.

While length of bone and coordination helped him to succeed in sport, his true gift is writing. I know. I’ve been reading his blog posts and articles for many years. He started writing while still playing in the NBA, and this morphed into a gig as a “freelance blogger” for ESPN. His column, “My So-Called Career: Paul Shirley’s Basketball Journal,” traced his movement from team to team and city to city. Just looking for someone to pass him the damn ball.

Eventually, he published a book, Can I Keep My Jersey: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond. An enjoyable read, it follows his odyssey through 11 teams in professonal basketball. The book, coupled with his ESPN column, signified a sharp upward path for his writing career.

Then, everything ended with the Haiti earthquake of 2010. Paul wrote a post at the collaborative blog, the Flip Collective, on his views on the outpouring of support/requests for support from Haiti. The post is direct, controversial, and harsh. It talks about showing restraint as humans and accountability in charitable giving. It places much of the blame for Haiti’s suffering upon the choices of the Haitian people. It states openly what a lot of people were thinking, and what many others didn’t want to acknowledge.

He was vilified for it. He was cursed, demonized, and threatened as a result of his writing. Anonymous commenters peppered the blogosphere to cast arrows at him. A few days later, ESPN “fired” him as a freelance blogger for ESPN.com. In the eyes of mass media markets, he was poison.

I understand his post. I also understand the arguments against it. The purpose of my post is not to discuss its merits. Instead, I want to discuss his ownership of it.

Paul never backed-down. To this day, his post remains for public consumption. Nothing was removed or edited. He did respond, but only to affirm responsibility for his words. It showed guts, even in the face of public outcry and cyberflogging. That’s a rare commodity these days. He knew there were consequences for actions, and he accepted them as a reality of life. He accepted every strike from the lashing.

Oh, by the way, he never sued anybody about it, either.

Paul didn’t publish his post under a pseudonym or the name Anonymous. He published it as “Paul Shirley.” Most of the responses, on the other hand, came from people named YouSuckShirley, RubberChicken, or Anonymous. To think, I once thought Frank Zappa strange for going with Dweezil and Moon Unit.

Paul continues to blog at Flip Collective, along with his brother, Matt. As far as I can tell, he travels a lot and enjoys life. He blogs about his observations on everything from music to to politics to travel (and even basketball, sometimes). All of the Haiti stuff is now utterly 2010, and the water has flowed under the bridge. The debates ended (except now that some asshole attorney who went to his high school opened old wounds).

Fear is an ugly thing. It causes us to pause. It makes us hesitate. It forces retractions and deletions. It mutes our sensibilities and ability to communicate the same. Through fear, we stop taking chances. The only shots we take are the easy ones, and soon we forget the big brass ring and settle for the plastic ones within easy grasp. Sometimes, the fear is of losing one’s online brand (whatever the hell that is). Others, it is losing friends. Most often, it is a fear of losing the green stuff from their wallet.

It motivates people to change their name to Anonymous, or RubberChicken. Even worse, it causes people and entities with listeners and clout to turn away, choosing to face safer topics–things without risk. They choose a limp existence.

It’s a damn shame. Cause that ain’t living, man.

Paul continues to blog with aplomb. He is fearless, and everything he writes is unabashedly attributed to “Paul Shirley.” He’s never done otherwise.

Do the world, your country, and your clients a huge favor. Be fearless, too.

Fort Leonard Wood Community Terrorized by Idiot

Big news today in the Ozarks of Missouri. Some guy is running around in the vicinity of Rolla, St. Robert, Waynesville, and Ft. Leonard Wood. Supposedly, he has an AK-47 and is pissed-off/strung-out for some reason. Schools are locked-down, cop cars are doing a hunt-down, and the Tastee Freez had a melt-down.

I’m not sure if they’ll ever get him. It seems he knows a bit about escaping stuff and helping others to escape stuff. See for yourself.

Shouldn’t a Lawyer Be Doing That?

There are a collection of web sites called BooKoo that largely cater to military communities. It is basically an online free garage sale. Occasionally, businesses will advertise such things as photography, pet care, housekeeping, handyman services, landscaping, and (my personal favorite) boudoir photography. Mostly, it consists of people selling motorcycles and moldy couches.

Military members and their families frequent these sites, and they exist for almost every decent sized installation.

Recently, a man in the Fort Riley area placed the following ad:

What especially troubles me is his willingness to “help with” the papers. His profile mentioned nothing about having a license to practice law, and it seems to me that assisting in the preparation of divorce papers constitutes the practice of law.

Now, I’m neither a divorce attorney nor an estate planning lawyer, but I suspect my hunch is correct. Of course, I may be wrong, and it might be that he just doesn’t like to mention his law license in his ads on BooKoo.

However, Mr. Lorepop appears to be a man of many talents, as his other BooKoo ads suggest.

What’s Wrong With Driving and Shaving? Oh, THAT Kind of Shaving…

I imagine being a traffic defense lawyer can be boring, even tedious. The same stuff day after day. Speeding tickets and an occasional first DUI, over and over and over again.

Knowing this, even these guys can get the occasional day-brightener. Like this. I don’t feel a need to comment further. The article speaks for itself.

First, the newspaper article (click on the image for a larger version):

Second, the mugshot:

Have a great weekend.

Azimuth Check: Osama Fever!

Here’s yet another potpourri of brain droppings from my nefarious mind.

Did we miss an opportunity?

The neanderthal side of me is happy to know (presumably) that Osama bin Laden is dead. The evolved side of me sees this as a missed opportunity.

At this point, there are conflicting stories about whether he was armed or not, using a wife as a human shield, or just sitting on his bed saying “can a dude get some privacy around here?” Absent evidence to the contrary, I’ll assume that the SEAL raid operated as conscientiously as possible.

Let’s assume though, for a moment, that he could have been captured alive. If so, then we missed a golden opportunity to show the world that we are a class act. I wanted the world to see a textbook-quality fair trial. I wanted us to show the world that we believe, truly, that all people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” I wanted him to be prosecuted, and I wanted him to be defended. I wanted the world to see a prosecutor working quietly and professionally. I wanted them to see a defense attorney (or team) working diligently to preserve their client’s rights. I wanted a judge to oversee the proceeding and demand the proper execution of the rule of law. I wanted a jury to consider facts fully and fairly. I wanted the world to see him treated with dignity, respect, and due process despite our very human urges to see him suffer and summarily die. I wanted complete transparency.

That type of decency and restraint would send a powerful message.

Of course, I also liked the idea that, if found guilty, he might spend his remaining days in Colorado completely shuttered from all human contact in a SuperDuperMax Prison.

Osama Water?

Consider this:

Osama was buried at sea. That sea, presumably, was the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is roughly Southwest of the Pacific Ocean, and the two bodies of water connect in numerous locations.

The human body is primarily water.

Osama’s body will decompose, and the water from his body mixes with the water of the Indian Ocean.

Air currents flowing from the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean sweep in a Northeasterly direction, scooping water vapor from the oceans and providing rainfall to much of North America.

Much of this rainfall dumps on the Rocky Mountains, trickling-down through cool, crisp mountain streams.

Just think about that the next time you crack open an ice-cold Coors Light.

Final Piece of Internet-Driven Correspondence

Undoubtedly, you’ve seen oodles of interviews with government officials talking about Osama’s death and the state of terror adjudications by our government.

In each, a reporter asks a question about “torture.” The government officials respond by talking about “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

I can’t take it anymore.

It makes me want to sneak into the office of a federal official and leave a spontaneous rectal waste deposit upon his elevated horizontal workstation.

Congratulations. You Got Blood.

Last night, a team of Americans finally got their man, Osama bin Ladin. The President made the announcement via television, and flashmobs appeared in various locations to celebrate this monumental occasion.

We got blood. What could possibly make us happier.

Finally, we got the man who masterminded (along with his substantial and diverse team) the attacks of 9/11 as well as a host of other terrorist endeavors. He is dead. He can no longer contribute.

Now, al Qaeda has a martyr. They have an image, an idea, to rally behind. They have a fallen leader who sacrificed his personal comfort, safety, and opportunities for them and their religion. He evaded the most powerful military/intelligence force for the last 10 years. Because of his hiding, we surmise that any terrorist activities looked to him for inspiration, not direct leadership and guidance. To them, he was likely a face used for inspiration. Now, he is their martyr, and he gets the cult of personality that accompanies the same. Juxtaposed on this ascension are the flashmobs celebrating on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I remember pictures in the NY Times of Somali crowds dragging the bodies of two US soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu in the mid-90s. The crowds cheered the fact that they did something to hurt the American war machine that occupied their backyard. I remember my anger and the resolve to serve faithfully and honorably in the Army in order to oppose that type of behavior. The image of those American bodies remains an indelible mark in my mind. It was strong. I imagine a similar resolve now in the minds of many Islamic fundamentalists.

We make romantic the rallying cry “Remember the Alamo!” Now, terrorists across the globe have theirs.

So, what are we celebrating?

His death does not bring back any of the people killed because of his horrible plans.

His death does not bring our troops home or give time back to those who gave years of their life in a place they never wanted to be.

His death does not abolish the TSA.

His death does not invalidate the Patriot Act.

His death does not kill terrorist networks across the globe.

His death does not cleave the head from terrorist organizations.

This was not an act of peace. This was not an act that promotes healing or goodwill. It does not provide atonement.

But, we got blood. The sight and smell intoxicates.

Party on.