Archive for the ‘General’ Category

This Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the day that forever changed the fabric of our nation.  The 9/11 attacks which killed 2,977 people touched the lives of every American.  While I personally did not know anyone who was a victim of the attacks, I spent the next 13 years experiencing the further effects of that day.  Prior to 9/11, it had been many years since I had seen the towers, even though I grew up seeing them on a very regular basis, from the New Jersey side, with the Statue of Liberty in clear profile with them.  The only time I have seen the area since has been from an airplane taking off or landing at Newark International Airport while heading out TDY somewhere for the Army.

My sister-in-law, whom I did not know at that period in time, lovingly changes her Facebook profile photo each year to that of her dear friend from school, Tonyell McDay, who lost her young life during those senseless attacks.  While I do not know anyone personally who died, everyone I know from that day forward either lost someone on 9/11 or during combat action in the years following.  9/11 is not a day that requires anyone to go more than two or three degrees of separation in order to connect any individual to someone directly affected.

In the days, weeks, months, and, early years after that day, there was a loud call from the citizens of this great country to come together in support of the survivors, the friends and families, as well as the recovery efforts in the time that followed.  Patriotism became a unifying banner across the nation as we identified the perpetrators of this horrific attack and began to take action to avenge the fallen.  As the days unfolded, we as a country experienced Patriotism in the truest sense of the word; it encompassed empathy and compassion for our Nation and those directly and indirectly affected by the attacks, and, in the sense of pride in our Armed Forces as we moved off to war to avenge this senseless attack.

In subsequent years that all-too-real, yet indefinable feeling has waned.  Not for the victims of the attacks or remembrance of the attacks themselves, but for the idea that is this great country as a whole.  For a very short period of time of the last decade and a half, the nation stood as what I can only imagine the Founding Fathers envisioned when they created the concept of what this nation should be.

Instead of building and improving upon that brief moment, we have let it slip us by, and we have squandered an opportunity born of tragedy.  I have been fortunate enough to witness the rise of some truly great leaders, both in the military and civilian world.  I speak of people capable of transformation, advancement and vision, yet, it does not seem as if it is possible for them to rise to the point, either from circumstance or personal belief, that they can move to the position where they can truly influence this nation on a different path; a path that will take us away from being a country that can only seem to come together as a result of tragedy rather than as a way of life.

As we draw closer to the 15th anniversary of this infamous day, we are being sucked further into the circus that is our run-up the the Presidential election, and I have to say that it is a bitter disappointment that we, as a nation, can only present to the world a shallow pool of candidates as a representation of a nation which at one time stood together in solidarity in the aftermath of tragedy.  Today we stand fractured with the narrative in control of a two-party system and a media which refuses to recognize that there are viable candidates beyond this crop of weeds that presents itself as a garden.

Patriotism is a feeling, an ideal, an intangible that means something different to everyone but has a common thread that runs through it which evokes a passion and emotion particular to each individual.  Unfortunately, in its inability to be defined, patriotism is  susceptible to the vitriolic narratives of party candidates, presented in a never-ending stream of sound bites to a gullible public by news outlets on a 24 hour loop.  We as Americans, are responsible for this because we are willing to accept what has been placed before us as our only options, latching on to the buzzwords which speak to the issues we see as personal to us, rather than demanding the service required by their offices they hope to achieve instead of leadership and service.

This Sunday we should reflect and remember, and pray if that is what you need.  As we do so, do not do it just for those we lost on that day.  Also do it for what we have lost since then, that brief period when we as individuals came together as one, regardless of the differences we possessed or the beliefs we harbored.  Open your heart and soul, clear your mind and really try to get in touch with that day and the emotions it evoked.  When you wake up Monday morning and get ready to start your week, as you read your paper, watch the news or listen to the radio, think about your reflection from the day before and ask yourself if this is the best we can do, are these people who are pushing our buttons to try and draw us to their side, the best we can do or is it okay to settle because they are all their is?  If you are even remotely capable of capturing a small part of what you felt on September 11th, 2001, then you will probably say that we are headed for disappointment instead of greatness, stagnation rather than excellence.

Remember our fallen and those who still suffer from that day and all the days since.  They deserve better from us, they deserve the us that rose from the ashes in the aftermath, not the us we have allowed ourselves to become.

BTAR

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I have been struggling this last year to write anything of worth.  I just do not seem to have it in me since I went out on retirement leave last October to put thoughts to words.  Writing my annual 9/11 piece seems to be just as difficult a process as anything else I have to to put down over the last few months.  Do not get me wrong, the thoughts are there in my head, the act of getting them down has been failing though.

In my first year of civilian life I had hoped to write this one with just a little bit different perspective to influence my words.  After all I started this whole thing three, almost four, years ago to help clear the anger out of my head and do something a little more constructive with my limited creative side than simply allowing dark thoughts to take up space and fester in my head.  At the end of the day, if it were not for 9/11 and all that has changed because of that day I do not think I would have entered this medium as a form of therapy.  Chances are good I would have never realized that I needed some sort of outlet and like many other Americans would have lived a much different life.

Something I have come to realize in the 14 years since the attacks is that we not only need to remember what happened that day and those we lost, we need to also remember the person we were prior to that day as well.  We all changed, for some it was a significant change, while for others it was hardly noticeable. Some of us in the ensuing years have come to realize the type of person we really were, while others, too many others, have become lost in themselves and barely resemble the who that they were before the attacks.

Many, too many, of my Brothers and Sisters have chosen to end their story long before the last chapter is written.  It is commonly accepted that 22 Veterans per day end their lives.  22 souls who could no longer wander, trying to get back to who they were or come to grips with their experiences but were unable to.  It may be that for some, they either could not remember the events that led to their experiences nor the thoughts and reasons why they took those steps in the days and years after.  It is possible for many it is the polar opposite, they remember all too well how they were changed that day and forever are tied to their actions in the ensuing years, unable to make a break away from their personal changes or simply unable to accept them.

9/11 changed many things for many people.  Some of us stayed at war until we left the service; for many they remain at war even though they are a long way away from their days in combat.  The country latched on to a short-term, intense patriotism, supporting revenge, justice, vengeance or any other adjective to describe what has continued as a conflict without end.  I do not blame anyone for this, we all lost someone or something of ourselves that day and America is known as a nation you do want to have to defend your backyard from.  We need to remember that day because it is the day we all moved as a nation, from who we were to who we are now.

The lives of our current and future generations was radically altered in the days since 9/11.  After the initial closeness and drawing together, we have exploded outward and become polarizing and extreme.  The thing that initially brought us together in our grief, morning and collective desire for vengeance has also shattered our old way of life, turning it into something almost unrecognizable at times.  We always disagreed, but eventually there was some form of compromise for the country.  Now there is a hostile polarity from which compromise is only reached from a position of dominance and for the good of the party.  The ignorant have a greater voice than the wise, who are often labeled in the antithesis of what is considered an American.  People who believe everyone should have a fair shake at accessing anything as anyone are called socialist while people who would have you believe the belief system is the only way and it is how we should be governed are totally ignorant of the fact that is the same philosophy as those who decided to attack us that day.

We do need to remember.  The many lives lost.  The friends and families of those lost.  Those who witnessed the acts live or on television.  The heroes who lost their lives moving to the destruction to help others to live.  The passengers who chose a farmers field rather than to be used as a fourth weapon of destruction.

Most of all we all need to remember who we were before that day, individually and collectively.  We may not have been any better people than we are today, but we are all radically altered in the years that have followed.  Just a couple of months after the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 next year we will be choosing the next leader of the country.  We need to decide whether we want to continue the cycles and dynasties that we have allowed or if we want to try something new and see where it goes.

Remember the events of 9/11 and the people we lost that day and in years since.  History will judge our actions since then as a nation and whether that pivotal event portended our downfall or our ascension.  Patriots Day is a day of reflection brought about by noble actions in response to a most ignoble event.  Take a moment in your busy day today and think about that day, the memory is yours, reflection is good.  Time may close some wounds but it does not mean they are healed.

A very good read courtesy of Military Outreach USA.

Is 22 a Real Number?.

Our country used to have a set of big brass balls that it hauled around the world, clanging with the sounds of freedom and democracy.  Whether this benefited any besides us is irrelevant.  We cast our stones in the biggest mold we could find back in 1776 when we told old George III to stuff the Monarchy and declared our independence (fortunately we share a great relationship with our cousins across the pond today).  This week however, our brass ones quit clanging and for all intents and purposes were “hacked” off with threats from a nameless, faceless enemy believed to be the third member of a despotic family who rules their country through fear, intimidation, death and a complete brainwashing of the population.  Today, Uncle Sam stands, swollen like a eunuch with a tame eagle on his shoulder, not staring out with the look of pride and defiance that we all know, but one of shame and humiliation.

Admittedly, until today I had not paid too much attention to the Sony email issue and the follow on threats that have ensued over the course of the last week or so.  Today, as a veteran, I am pissed and disgusted at how our country has handled the situation.  This is not something I actually blame on the government, even though it has allowed the environment to foster and grow for the last 50 years or so, no this is solely to lay at the feet of us citizens and the control we have allowed corporations to maintain over us thanks to fear of our litigiousness and politically correct and misguided mindset.  Essentially, corporations allowed themselves to be held hostage to an indeterminate threat due to fear of being sued should something, possibly, maybe happen if they allowed a movie, a comedy at that, open to the public on Christmas Day.  That paints us as pathetic creatures, because no matter what they say, this was not about what could happen, it was about what it would cost in the aftermath, not in human capital, but in hard currency and stock prices.

We the people of this once proud nation, who thumbed our noses not once, but twice, at our former Masters of the Empire, have allowed ourselves to be subjugated by a tinpot dictator who uses the knowledge of nuclear physics that his country possesses not to provide power and comfort to his people, but to periodically demonstrate to the world that he can create a destructive mushroom cloud.  I am ashamed, not for my country and the ideals that I and my comrades in arms fought and continue to for, but for the representation we have now allowed the world to see.  It is pathetic and disappointing.

Whatever our faults have been through the years, both our successes and failures were done with fearlessness and the desire to not be limited or deterred by what lay in front of us.  Now, we have become the prison bitch of a pudgy little fucker who would not last 15 minutes in one of his many prison camps.

The Interview would have done pretty well, it has the right people in it and was hyped up enough that the Rogen/Franco COMEDY would have been another hit for the duo, and for Sony pictures.  That is really pretty inconsequential when you get down to it.  What is, in my mind, is the fact that we let a country which lives like Europe of the Dark Ages influence corporate economic decisions, because our own people have set the precedent for personal economic gain by suing for everything and anything rather than taking it out on the actual perpetrators, not to mention that there is no specified threat, just the implication that there is one.  To a certain extant I do not even have much in the way of anger for Sony, it is hard to blame them for yanking what would have been a money-maker when the theaters were refusing to show it.  I can only hope they pull a U2 and freely put it on everyone’s playlist on every streaming service available, for free.  The best thing that could happen is that it shows up on Kim Jung Un’s I-Tunes playlist and he cannot get rid of it without his hackers creating a patch to remove it.

At the end of the day North Korea made a power play and it was not our government that took the loss.  It was our nation.  We as a people let corporate America’s profit and loss statements dictate what we are able to view because to them it is a much more acceptable loss to simply not show the movie than to make payouts for something that may or may not happen, great environment we have set up for ourselves America.  Let’s see what happens if they hack NASCAR or the NFL’s emails.  It is time we refill our sack with some new, improved titanium balls, and set the old brass set that was clipped of up on a shelf as a reminder of where we have gotten ourselves to and where we need to go from here.  We all to often excuse big business for their decisions simply for business sake.  Just like the multitude of other ways they have screwed us over the last few years, too big to fail, etc.  Business, like the government needs to be held accountable to the people.

Time to nut back up America, look out for the common good rather than how you can gain personally and make corporations live or die by what they provide you, not fear of litigation.

I have just under three weeks left of my transition leave before I wake up a civilian for the first time in over 20 years.  So far, the transition from soldier to civilian has been pretty easy; I have been so busy that I have not had a whole lot of time to wallow in what is soon to be my past life.  I was very fortunate to land not one, but two jobs and have been putting in the hours ever since.

There are many detractors and naysayers about what the Army provides transitioning service members, but I am not one of them.  I thought that all along the way, there were things that I needed to do, that I was provided a rough outline to accomplish.  Other than a few mandatory checkpoints along the way, I was able to pick and choose when and what I would follow.  Even if there was something I chose not to do, I at least gave it a once over in case I needed to take advantage of it later.  The one experience I will have to wait on is my VA compensation, that will be a few months into the new year before I get even the tiniest insight as to how that will go.

I managed to pick up a ton of skills over the years and the key to landing my positions was putting it together coherently in my resumes and tailoring them to the positions I was looking at.  There may be a similar thread throughout any one of the resumes I sent out, but they were all organized with the language of the position I was applying for.  I am not so naive as to think that I have found my dream job, with a dream company, but I have entered the field I want to pursue, even though prior to I had no idea that was what I was looking for.  I am enjoying learning the Loss Prevention/Asset Protection discipline and I am coming to realize that it has as many possibilities available as my career in the Army did.  There are so many areas of interest within it that just like my prior career, you get trained for one thing and the next thing you know it is time to look at the next area.  I look forward to moving from novice to journeyman.

A few bits of advice for those looking to start or are in the transition process:

1.  Outside of rare instances, your resume alone will not get you hired.  It will open the door, but it is up to you to walk through it and let them know you  are who they are looking for.

2.  Organize your job searches.  Keep track of who you applied to and when.  Make sure you know which resume you sent to them.  Windows computers provide this neat thing called a file structure, use it to your advantage.

3.  Follow-up any interview with a Thank You letter.  It pays dividends.

4.  A good cover letter attached to your resume will fill in the blanks and add a personal (not too personal) touch.  A resume is a statement of fact, cold, possibly a little embellished, but it is a dry read.  A cover letter adds a sense of YOU to it.

5.  Do not be afraid to ask for a critique or explanation if you are not hired for a job.  Some companies are kind enough to send you a rejection letter without being called in for an interview.  Use this as another opportunity and ask to speak with the HR department.  Explain you are just transitioning, ask for what you could have done differently, then make those adjustments and re-apply; this lets them know you are serious and it answers a few of the questions for them they may have when you score that interview.

6. Do your research before the interview.  Make sure you understand who you are applying to and frame your answers to their questions based on their culture and philosophy.

7.  Dress the part.  Wear a suit and tie.  The right image from the get-go lets them know that you may be coming in low, but you intend to rise to the top.

8.  When applying do not put in salary requirements on the application, especially if they are not advertising a range in the announcement.  Let it work itself out in the interview/hiring process.  I received a couple quick rejections on applications because I was putting salary in, as soon as I stopped putting it in, I received more call-backs.

9.  Do not under-value yourself, but do not value yourself out of a field you want to work in either.  It is a fine line for us service members.  We have tons more management experience than most professional managers in the civilian world, but we are breaking in to fields that are new to us.  Even good managers and interviewers can feel threatened by a potential new hire.  Use your savvy, be aware of your surroundings and who you are taking to, and most importantly how you are talking to them.

10.  Assume the interview began the moment you parked your car and that it does not end until you are well out of sight of the building.  Always present yourself in a professional manner.  To paraphrase my last job “assessment is an everyday event”.  Be relaxed, just not too relaxed, be sure but not cocky, if you do not know an answer, at least make them think you will find it out.  The biggest thing is to leave a great impression and make them wonder where else in the company could your bad-ass self do wonders for them.  Don’t be a one trick pony.

These are just a few things to pass along while my mind is still fresh, and keep in mind these apply to someone who is actively seeking on their own, it is a whole different ballgame if you are being actively recruited for a position.  There are no universal rules for landing a job, but there are a few constants.  The biggest one to remember is that it is all up to you, no one owes you anything and no matter how irreplaceable you were in you last job, you are going to be the FNG in the new one.