December 2007



Six and a half years went by pretty fast now that I look back at it. But then it seemed to trickle by when living it. I was just biding my time till my contract was up basically. When my contracted time was over, we were in the middle of a “stop loss” which meant that your end of contract was not up till the “stop loss” was lifted. This was done to bulk up on military personnel. About three months after my contract was up I was able to get out. The morning I found out that the “stop loss” had been lifted, I was actually at drill. We were getting ready for a PT test. I can not tell you how excited I was.

I cant say that I didn’t learn anything during my time at drill. I learned a lot. A lot about myself. Some good and some bad. I had plenty of opportunity to learn what I can handle stress wise and physically. I also learned how quickly I adapted to my environment, my surroundings. I quickly yielded to the draw of cigarettes, alcohol and the life that went with that. I considered it a social activity. It got so strong that even certain songs I heard on the radio triggered a desire to have a smoke. After drill, that was how we “unwound”. There are many times that I am just thankful that the Lord protected me from dangers that I should have faced.

Through all this there was one person that I could say was a true believer. I confided in him a few times, but I believe he saw through me, yet still showed me love and was gracious to me. He was the one that was a constant reminder of how I should be walking if I was a believer. Many times I tried to avoid him because I desired other company. But I know why he was there.

I guess I’ll get to my views on believers being in the military. In training, everything is about killing, unless its about saving the life of your fellow Marine, who also is there to kill. Now, kill is a strong word. You get the feeling of wrongful intent. Many can argue that some killing is necessary…if it saves the lives of the innocent. But I don’t think anyone really has a strong grip on why the U.S. is active in any military action. Now this may seem like paranoia but I think there is some truth to it. Regardless, it comes down to the point that a person in the military is either actively or indirectly supporting the killing of other humans. I believe that scripture speaks contrary to this in the New Testament, regardless of the situation. Yes, government bears the sword. That doesn’t mean that we are to desire to be a part of that. It only instructs us to obey and respect the government we currently live under to the point that it veers from scripture. This means ANY government. So this means that if you live in Iraq, North Korea, or China, it applies to you. Does that mean that these believers are to serve in the military of those countries? They are getting told that to be in the military is a patriotic thing also.

So if we have believers from an opposing nation, fighting against the U.S., then we have believers killing believers. Even if this wasn’t the case, a believer in the military would be aiding in the destruction of souls destined to hell. I don’t believe that is a part we as believers ought to be playing. Rather, are we not called to bring the message of truth, the Gospel, to all men? We are to live peaceably with all men, we are to love our enemies. Are we not citizens of another kingdom and just pilgrims here in a foreign land? What business do pilgrims in a foreign land have with the affairs of the government of that land? Our lives should be lived unto Christ, reaching others for Christ…I see no room for engaging ourselves in military affairs in the light of being patriotic.

Many may argue that God gave us this land and we are to protect it. Let’s stop and take a good look around our nation. What are we really protecting? Our “way of life”? What does the American “way of life” look like? Is it what God desires? Is it really something we are to seek to protect? Can we still not carry on our responsibilities as believers if we lived in an oppressed nation? Isn’t the U.S. turning into a nation that oppresses believers? What is this “freedom” that the United States is protecting? The freedom to live like Sodom and Gomorrah is what it seems like. The United States is falling so far away from God that we are becoming a mission field that many other countries are sending missionaries to…and for good reason.

I’ve written on a very controversial topic, and I certainly have not exhausted the arguments. I am not desiring to debate. I am just giving you my thoughts on these issues as of now, and where my heart is. I may comment more on it in the future.

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I can remember as a child dreaming of riding on motorcycles. My neighbors had them, then again it seemed they had anything they wanted. I think that they actually got bored with them so much so that it was like doing a chore to let us ride with them. I could never understand it. Anyway, as I grew, I had various opportunities to own a motorcycle but it just never panned out. I guess I never pursued it enough, or God was keeping me from something at that time of my life for a good reason.

Two or three years ago, a friend of mine pretty much gave me my first bike. It was an 82 Yamaha Maxim 550. It had its issues, but I was able to ride! For once in my life I could feel the torque with a twist of the throttle, feel the pressure of the wind on my chest as I gained speed, it was great. Then shortly after riding it, it decided to stop working. It went to a shop where it sat for almost a year. I figured, that was my “luck”, finally get a bike and cant ride it! Then finally, I got it back. It still has issues. Wont start very easily, and multiple problems with the carbs. It now sits in my shed ready to be repainted and SOLD!

Last summer I was able to purchase a cheap Chinese enduro bike made by Lifan. This seemed to be the best of both worlds of riding. I could be legal on the road and yet slip off to a forest trail if desired. I was so excited. I had made quite a deal through the internet and went downstate to pick it up. It ran great there in the dealers parking lot. I trailered it up and was on my way. When I got to my brothers, I just had to get it down and take it for a test spin up and down his little lane. When I started it, it revved so high that bolts were just vibrating lose. I literally saw bolts falling to the ground one after the other! I was so beyond disgust. I felt that I had made a horrible mistake (and would later come to that conclusion). I quickly called the dealer who was very helpful and told me what to do. SO I fixed it and tried to replace all the bolts. As time went on, i saw the lack of quality in Chinese bikes. Things broke with normal ware. I guess I got what I paid for. Only once did I ever test it on a 4 hour trip along some power lines through the state forest. That was fun!! I am surprised to this day that it actually held up. Sure, things broke, but I was able to ride it home. After that, I decided to sell it. It was getting to be too much of a hassle. I sold it on ebay for a respectable price considering what I knew about it. I made sure that the buyer knew everything about it also and he even test drove it, so I felt better about that. I couldn’t believe he wanted to pay as much as he did for it but I wasn’t going to object!

Well, after I sold the dual sport, I also sold 2 Jeep Cherokees. It was hard to part with one, but it was necessary. Now I was in the market for a bike that was reliable, yet low cost. I just waited. I didn’t really pursue anything aggressively. One day I got a phone call from my father-in-law, he had seen a bike that was one of the models I was interested in, on the side of the road. He had stopped and talked to the owner about it and felt that it was a great bike for the price. My father-in-law, has been riding for a long time. So I trusted his judgment.

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I was headed down to Lancaster area that weekend to help my folks with their house they had bought. It needed some renovations, so I was going down to help. What was great was that the bike was only 10 minutes down the road from them. SO I was able to stop in and take a look at the bike. During a lunch break I went and took the bike for a spin. t was so smooth, and had a lot more torque than I had expected. I was sold. After “himming and hawing” with the seller, I walked away with the bike and a newer trailer to carry it home on for the same price they were advertising for just the bike.

This bike has no problems what so ever. It is clean and in great shape. Its a 1997 Suzuki Marauder 805cc. It has run great for me. I am satisfied with the power…not too much, but yet still plenty of it! It is also not obnoxiously loud, but yet still has a nice rumble to it. The last time I checked, I was getting about 40 miles per gallon. Not bad! I am sure there are some more fine tunings that could be done to stretch the mileage a little more. The few rides I have gone on have been with people from a church I used to attend. It has always been a nice relaxing and enjoyable time riding through the scenic roads of north central Pennsylvania. I also have taken a few rides with my wife and it handles great. We decided that if we were to purchase a bike, that it would be able to carry us both so we could enjoy it together. We are so excited for this summer!


Me and RolaGas Chamber

After boot camp was over, I was sent to combat training for a month. This is where I picked up the bad habit of smoking and chewing tobacco. Not only were there times that there was nothing to do, but it seemed a way to cope with things…and “everyone else was doing it”. Lame excuse I know, but nevertheless I started. So after combat training (which was basically learning how to survive when in battle) I was sent to Alabama for my school. I was to be a 5711, or Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defense Specialist. I have heard that they have changed the name since then. This school was located on the back of an Army base called Fort McLelland, which I believe no longer exists. It sat on the edge of the little town of Anniston. The marines were housed in a building on the back of the base. Marines and Soldiers are typically known to not get along…..rivalry, pride… you know that sorta thing.

At N.B.C. school I spent two and a half months learning about all different chemicals, biological agents and radiation techniques used in war. How to recognize them, identify them,deal with them, map them, and also to instruct our units on protection and decontamination.

I can remember one time, for training, we went into a nerve agent chamber. We were all suited up but when we entered the chamber, I had a tickle in my throat. I couldn’t hold back and I coughed, which broke the seal of my mask. Now, before we got to the chamber, we walked through an area where they were doing a medical drill of taking care of someone who had been exposed to this stuff…pretty scary. I was pretty nervous by now thinking that I had just exposed myself.

We all entered the chamber which was then securely sealed and locked behind us. We circled round an old Army jeep up on blocks. We were given a little talk about what was to happen in this class. I was freaking out inside, I felt like I was gonna pass out. I decided to take a knee..I didn’t want to be the one who made a scene, but again, I didn’t want to die from being too scared to say something and waiting till I started doing the funky chicken either. Sure enough it was just my mind playing tricks on me. I got control of myself and proved to myself that I was ok. I learned a lot about the power your mind has over your body in the military!

From the other side of the room, a door opened and out came came two people all suited up carrying a tupperware-like container of syringes filled with a neon colored (or so I remember it) fluid. They dropped a few dabs on each fender. After they had left samples on the jeep, a vapor alarm on the floor in the corner went right off. This is because the vapors of this particular agent are heavier than air. This was the real deal! I knew then that if I had been exposed, I would have been done with by now. We began the exercise of identifying what agent it was exactly by using the little i.d. kits we were given. Basically its some strips of chemical paper that you dip into the liquid, and according to the color the paper turns, you can tell what the agent is. In this case it was Sarin.

Some of the time in school was learning how to teach, as we were to be instructors as well. So, we got plenty of time in the gas chamber, learning how to run one and getting plenty of exposure to it. The agent used in training gas chambers was one agent that you could build up a toleration of  if one was exposed to it frequently. Also, the more confident you became in the equipment your wearing the better you can accomplish the tasks you need to do. We got to a point where we began having unmasked push-up competitions in the gas chambers. I’m sure I will pay for it sometime in the future…breathing in all the chemicals…pretty stupid. These gas chambers were filled with CS (chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile) gas . I primed a gas chambers by sticking a candle under an upside down coffee can, then on top of the coffee can we would break open a CS capsule and sprinkle the powder on the can. It would cook the powder and give off a misty smoke that held suspended particles in the air. The room would then begin to have a cloudiness to it as the CS powder cooked away. There was a formula you’d use to calculate the size of the room, humidity, and the temperature inside to figure out how many capsules to use. There was always a mean desire to make a chamber extra “hot”. Even if we didn’t we were usually accused of doing so by those that we put through the chamber.

This job was kind of nice. At first I was the only NBC guy in my unit. SO I had a bit of respect. I was able to tell officers and high ranking NCO’s what to do, at times, because if they didn’t, they could get seriously hurt. So I had the reason to get quite …hmm whats the word… direct…with them. And they , in turn, expected it. It was a good character molding experience for me as I am naturally a non-confrontational, slightly introverted person. I sort of found a new side to me when put in front of 100 Marines that I had never met before, and was giving them a class that was to be taken quite seriously.

Before I leave the discussion of my time in Alabama, I do want to say that it was not the proudest time in my life as I look back on it now. It was a time of self-indulgence and feeling the pain of trying to live a double life. I’ll talk more on this in a later post about the people I met in Alabama.

I spent the rest of my time in the Marine Corps attached to a Marine Wing Support Squadron in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. I would travel two hours, whether from home or from school, to get there and spend the weekend in Wilkes-Barre or in the field. Every year we would spend two weeks time in the deserts of California, except for one year, I went to Fort Worth Texas. Usually there was nothing for me to do in my job during the two week trainings, so I would always become a motor transport guy and help out in the motor pool. It was fun, and thats the job I wanted before I joined anyhow! Not having much to do, can be dangerous too. Your most likely to get chosen to do jobs no one else wants to do. I was careful to always make myself busy…doing more enjoyable jobs. Trying to make my self become needed. So when given a job, I’d do it to the best of my ability and then do more, so that no replacement would suffice, and that having me not around would hinder the work flow.In being able to be in this position, I got many opportunities to fly in helicopters and shoot various weapons. I guess they were the perks.

Our ride!Hummer

Some where near Death Valley

I would also always try to “get in” with the rear party. Our unit was split intothree groups for training. And each group participated in a different phase that overlapped at some point. The advanced party went over a week early to set up, then their second week was normal training with the main party. The second week of the Main Party’s training, the rear party would show up. After the 2nd week of normal trainnig, the main party would leave and the rear party would pack up and turn equipment in. The advantage was, that rear party was always only a few guys, who were friends mostly, and everyone else was gone. So we had it down to a good group of hard workers. We would bust our butts getting everything cleaned up and turned in and then take the last 2 or 3 days and take leave…which normally meant going to Newport Beach. As you can foresee, there is nothing good about a bunch of marines on leave at Newport Beach. We put the meaning of “party” in a different context.

I n my next post. I will go over my current thoughts on my experience in the Military. I have given you enough to see where my life was at. I hope it is not glamorizing anything, because that not my objective, but rather to be honest about things. I dont see a need to get into detail of the past, other than what has been done in my life since then!


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Boot camp was, well, an experience. I don’t believe I can relate the whole experience into a blog. But I’ll do what I can. It was a completely different environment. At first, it was quite comical to see grown men screaming at you. I guess it was just too expected for me. But after a while, it wasn’t so funny. Because I was willing to submit myself, because I had made an oath, a contract, I was willing to obey and be under their authority. So the yelling was usually a result of doing something wrong…which ended up in some sort of discipline.

Boot camp was all about physical exercise and team work. Take about 60 guys from all walks of life…and I mean ALL walks of life and make them live together for 3 months under excruciatingly stressful conditions. Teamwork had better be a result or things will be bad…real bad. I had three different rack mates (the recruit who shared the bunk either above or below you). The first one, Evans, was impossible. I’m glad I had him first. It made the rest easy. He was impossible…oh did I say that already?

Evans was a very large black guy. I am not sure where he was from, but he was the laziest person I know. He was slow also. At first I didn’t care. I figured that it was his loss. I learned fast that his loss was my loss also. So I began doing his work for him. After I got my stuff done I started right in on his to get it done. If not, we’d both pay. The hardest part was that he didn’t care that others were doing his work for him. I think he took advantage of it. And even at times tried to use a sad guilt trip of an attitude to get more help. It was wearing me thin to say the least. Evans finally got moved to another bunk, I don’t know why, I was just glad.

My next bunkmate was great. Windham was his name. He had a laid back personality, too much sometimes, but was neat and able to do his own work. His rack, trunk and uniforms were all neat and in order, he got stuff done quickly too! He was also easy to get along with. I remember one night during mail call, the senior drill instructor read the envelope of a letter that was to him. It read “To: Jeremiah the Bullfrog”. Every night after that he was ordered to sing the song at lights out. He had a great voice, and he knew the whole song too! It was a nice distraction from where we were. I can still hear him singing in the dark to this day…and it makes me smile.

What we learned in boot camp could be divided into several topics: Receiving (which I explained in the previous post) Forming, Drill, Physical Training (P.T.), Academic Training, Core Values, Close Combat, Confidence Course, Combat Water Survival, Field Training, Marksmanship Training, Field Firing Range, The Crucible, Transition Phase, Graduation and Family Day. More detail of these training topics are here. We had no weekends off, or visitors day until the day before graduation, and that was only for an hour or so.

Our punishments were physical exercises to the point of not being able to go on. This was called “quarterdecking”. A Navy term for the front deck area of a ship. It was called this because it was usually done in the front area of the squad bay, called……the quarterdeck. I came away with out too many visits to the quarterdeck, but the times I was there, I will not forget! It was a common technique for the D.I.’s to make the recruit who brought the discipline upon us sit or lay down comfortably while the rest got wore out. I can remember sometimes, the D.I. would make that recruit actually call out the orders as to what exercise we had to do. There were always one or two recruits that usually ended up in that position. They were not well liked to say the least! I can remember one time while on the quarterdeck, the one recruit who got us there was in front of us sitting down, calling out orders…and it seemed to me that it didn’t bother him..he actually liked it. I don’t think I had been more angry at someone before.

Tomorrow, I will get into more of my 61/2 years and away from my initial training memories.


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I decided to separate this post into a few episodes. If I tried to put it all into one post, you would get tired of reading, or you wouldn’t have enough time to read it, and then be able to leave a comment. I am going to talk about a time in my life that I don’t talk about much for various reasons which I may get into a bit later.

For 6 1/2 years my life was owned by the United States Marine Corps. Now don’t get the wrong idea, I was not active duty for all of those six years. I was in the Reserves for most of it, and documented as a reservist for all of it. I don’t want to make it seem like I was in active duty the whole time…I know some would be offended if It seemed like that’s what I was doing. But, never-the-less I was still owned for that whole time. If they wanted me somewhere, all they had to do was tell me, and my civilian life would stop. Fortunately, my civilian life only stopped one weekend a month and two weeks ever summer. Unless you count all my training when I first got in, which lasted about 7-8 months.

This is how it all started. I was about 20 yrs old, going to a community college not quite sure where I was headed. I had two dreams in my head. One was to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, and the other was to become a Pennsylvania Game Commission Conservation Officer. I believe it was the former that I should have pursued…though its not too late! For the latter, I knew that military experience helped on the testing required for the job.

I remember, like it was yesterday, a friend from the community college was telling me that he had just joined the U.S. Marine Corps. I was interested to hear about his experiences. He lent me his boot camp video tape (of which I still have today) and I became enthralled in the idea of becoming a Marine! As I look back now, I think I just wanted to do something amazing, an adventure, something to talk about, brag about. So, he led me to his recruiter and we talked. I thought I’d be smart about it and also talk to recruiters of other branches. While all of them offered more money, none of them offered the pride, the eliteness, and “the few the proud” status! I was sold! I figured if I was going to submit myself to anything like this, I had better do it all the way and join the Marines. So I did, against my fathers wishes I believe. I remember him saying “I don’t think you know what your getting yourself into!” And he was right, but I really think he was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it. That was what spurred me on even more. To prove myself. (Does all this sound of the flesh to you?)

I was on my way to Paris Island in February of 1997. Initially I was supposed to have been there in January, but something happened with my “guaranteed” job and I had to pick a new one (bait and switch I believe was the case), and that delayed my departure till February. I remember that morning quite well. My recruiter was coming to my home at 4 am to pick me up. My Mom and Dad woke up early and I got a hot breakfast (frozen waffles). Then it was goodbye. I think I did quite well, didn’t come close to crying. I was just too nervous about all the unknowns.

I finally got through all the paperwork and what not and was on my way south. I remember the quiet bus ride to Paris Island. I hadn’t slept all night because of traveling. I think they plan it that way. The bus rolled onto base. Everything that I looked at seemed to have a weird “military owned” feeling to it, even the grass, the pavement…everything, even me, but not on the inside.

It was still dark out…the bus stopped….and we waited nervously….a big man entered the bus and starting screaming for us to get off the bus and we had better do it quickly! We began going through processing. This included paperwork, medical evals, uniform issue, haircuts and finally the “last chance” confession time. This is where they’d scare you into telling anything and everything about yourself that you might think you did wron and never told anyone. They waited till you had little food and sleep to do this. It’s amazing what comes out of people. You almost want to admit to things you never did, to just get over with it.

Wow, this is already too long and I didn’t even get started!


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As I write this, I am sitting by my wood stove in my den. It is quite toasty in the house. It’s mid-December and a howling wind is outside, with snow on the ground…and I’m in shorts and a t-shirt! What makes this all possible? Wood!

There is clearly too much to write about wood to fit it in one little blog post. So I am just going to comment on it from my perspective and appreciation. Wood satisfies in so many different ways. Some people work with it to make things from it, like fine cabinetry or furniture from the forest that is quite a work of art and architecture.There are a host of products that can be made from these things that just seem to grow right out of the ground. Some for noble and some not. Like black locust for fence posts. Not the most noble purpose but it sure is useful for keeping cattle in…inexpensive, hardy and durable. Or, some curly maple to make a beautiful flintlock rifle from.

Another application….or use rather, is that of using it for heat. Our house is an old double planked farmhouse. So it has its share of drafts, and its lack of proper insulation. Still, we can easily get sweatted (is that a word?) out by our wood stove. After tinkering with it and having a friend give me some advice on how to run it efficiently, we can heat our house a lot more inexpensively than with that vapor made of gold that we call natural gas.

Some may call me crazy but for years I have wanted to “have to” chop wood. For many of you who have had to do it for most of your lives would say “Your crazy!”. Maybe I am, but I am being honest. Now that we have our chimney up and working, we have been able to enjoy heat from wood. Since we wanted to get started right away, we actually ordered a cord; cut, delivered and stacked for $130. Not bad! However I am still looking to purchase a tri-axle load of logs, or find a place where they’ve fallen already and someone is willing to let me cut them up and haul them away. I don’t know how many situations are existing like that right now, but I’ll find out.

So this would require a lot of cutting and chopping. I am aware of the work involved. Not only will I get warm by chopping wood, but I will benefit a second time when its in the stove! One job I had in years past was clearing small mature wooded lots for the dreaded “new development”. One fellow would cut down the trees and we’d both go to town on them till they were small enough to burn in a fire place. So I am aware of the work involved. And, let me say this, its good work! I have a friend who is in his sixties and has worked with wood all his life (forester). He still gets truckloads of logs and splits them…by hand. No log splitters for him. His response to to the question “Why?” is “If I don’t move it, I’ll lose it.” Thats his muscles, his health, his body! I took that advice to heart. The guy can easily be mistaken for 10 years younger than he really is!

So I end my simple rant here, staring into the flames of our wood stove, ever thankful for wood.


Aerobic EquipmentUniversal Machine

So, yes, I use a “gym” or a “fitness center”. I never know what to call it. My brother gets a kick out of being critical of what one would call it. He said to me once mockingly, “You gotta call it a gym to be tough” and again later saying that calling it a fitness center is effeminate.  I see his point, even if he was joking around…but I dont really care what people call it, it’s just the place I go to…because its FREE!

Anyway, so on to why I go at all. This will relate to a previous blog about working in an office . I used to work a lot harder, by that I mean physically. I could eat a horse (sorry Becky) and not gain a pound! To this day, I believe I still have the same appetite but not the same physical schedule. Thus the need for this facility. Its not a fancy L.A. Fitness that’s for sure. IT sits in the basement of the “Fiscal Building” but it has all the needed equipment and its clean and in good shape.

So, I try to get there early in the morning or I take my lunch hour late and come here. Its a nice time to be alone and work those sleepy muscles. There was a time that I started not caring about my body, I was quite content to gorge myself and get large. But then I started thinking about my kids and how I never wanted to be too tired or out of shape to play and work with my children. And what kind of an example would I be about caring for this temple that God gave us? Yes the flesh will go away, and I know bodily exercise profiteth little when compared to exercising godliness, but my body is  something that God gave me and I believe I should take care of it, just like many other things in my life.

My grandfather was a good example of this. Whenever we slept over his house, every morning we would get up and do calisthenics. We would do jumping jacks, stretches and all sorts of exercises right there in the living room in our pajammas! He lived to be 98yrs old. I am sure there are many other reasons for a ripe old age like that, but exercising his body was something he did daily. I think its worth taking note of it.

So I must say that I have been seeing and feeling results. I feel better and have more energy. My back doesn’t hurt from sitting all day anymore, and I don’t get winded doing more demanding jobs anymore. I am thankful to have a facility like this free to me as a county employee, where I can go and usually have the place to myself.

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