If you’re interested in my publications, please visit my publication list on my website. I’ve identified stories that about Women at War and Women Veterans. Enjoy!
At the end of the day in the military, the flag is lowered in a ceremony called Retreat. I dug out a video of it so you could see the actual ceremony. As a private, most of the time I never saw any ceremonies, though this one is easy to see if you’re in the right place at the right time.
Retreat is done when the post flag is lowered at the end of the day. On Fort Lewis, this was the one in front of I Corps. The bugle is a recording. Soldiers in uniform stop and salute; anyone in civilian clothes stops and comes to a position of attention.
Depending on where you are on the post, the bugle recording can actually be quite hard to hear. A lot of times, I wouldn’t hear the first part because the wind was carrying it away, but the cannon — that’s pretty hard to miss! Still, sometimes after that cannon fired, I still couldn’t hear the bugle, so I would have to wait an appropriate amount of time before going on.
The only thing you don’t want is to be on the muzzle side of the cannon. I was walking past I Corps one day, and they had soldiers out with a cannon, practicing for a parade. So I wasn’t expecting them to actually fire the cannon.
I think I must have jumped two feet. The cannon is LOUD.
We’re time traveling today, going back to Desert Storm, when the war was about to start, and then to a few years ago on the left coast of the U.S.
It was tough during the days leading into the war in December of 1989 and January of 1990. We knew what was coming. The problem was that we didn’t know when or how. Aside from the AM/FM radios we had, we were pretty isolated. No internet, no phone, no contact with the outside world.
All we know was that the war deadline was fast approaching and neither side was blinking. We thought The Enemy would come over the horizon and attack us, and it wasn’t helped when they actually fired scuds at us. We were parked near a Patriot missile battery, so we were actually a target.
It was almost a relief when the ground war started and we knew where the shooting actually was.
Fast forwarding to a few years ago. I went on a vacation to Las Vegas.
I didn’t go there to gamble, but to see the adult attractions like the Titanic Exhibit at the Luxor and the Mob Museum at the Tropicana. In searching for the link, I discovered that the museum moved late last year. There are some awesome photos with the article to check out.
Like most everything in Las Vegas, the museum was very interactive. I walked through, talking with characters in mob clothing from the 1920s. It was a lot of fun. Then I got to the last leg of the museum.
A blast of machine gunfire goes off.
You never forget.
Traveling back from California became a challenge. My first flight from Burbank to California was canceled, so I routed to Salt Lake City. This scene was so awesome there was a bunch of us at the windows taking pictures.
One of the airport employees said that it was pretty cloudy out. Apparently you can see more mountains when it’s clear!
The airlines are now letting us operate some electronic devices during take off, so I took this photo from the plane as we flew out of Salt Lake City.
I was lucky I got out when I did. A friend flying out from Denver just two days later had three cancellations, finally got to another airport, and then that flight was canceled. It was not a good weather time.
This part of Morro Strand Beach is two miles away from the Cayucus pier.
This was taken from the parking lot. I saw the ground squirrels on the rocks — evidently they burrow under the rocks — and started to take a picture. Suddenly one of them scrambles off the rock and heads straight for me. ”Rabies” is going through my head, and going through the squirrel’s is “Tourist! Food!” This was taken at about three feet away from him. I couldn’t go anywhere near those rocks because the squirrel would come out hoping for a squirrel treat.
This was taken of Morro Rock from the beach. Only visible from the beach is the old man. If you look carefully to the right, you’ll see an outcropping of rock that looks like an man’s face looking up at the sky. The seagulls line up on the line of his face, facing into the wind. The debris on the beach is giant kelp.
Had to include a better shot of Morro Rock, though this wasn’t taken from the beach. As you can see, the shape of the rock changes quite a bit, depending on the angle. It’s a very distinctive feature of the area and can be seen from almost anywhere — unless it’s foggy out!
Bet you just thought I was talking about police officers or law enforcement. In the Army, police means a different thing.
Especially if you’re a lower enlisted soldier.
It’s a work detail to pick up trash, and a pretty common one. If we go to a field site, we’ll go on “police call” to pick up any trash deposited. We line up in a row and walk forward, picking up anything we find. Usually it’s a lot of cigarette butts because army cigarette smokers (both male and female) tended to be terrible litter bugs. One time I chewed out a smoker friend who tossed a cigarette butt away carelessly:
“Hey! Go pick that up! We’re going to have to police it later, and I’m not picking up your trash.”
In Desert Storm, police call was a different experience entirely. We’d come in the middle of the night to a reception area at the port. Pretty much it was a place for the units to stay until their final destination was ready. So a lot of showers and shaving areas to accommodate the constant influx of soldiers.
Evidently the last unit, or two or three, hadn’t done police call. Soldiers are terrible with litter. It’s not the place they live, so they will discard pretty much anything where they are standing. Water bottles were everywhere, smashed down with boots, and clogging the water. We also found washcloths, used razors, shampoo bottles, etc.
The shower stalls were even worse, because really, the male soldiers didn’t care. And it was specifically the male soldiers. Once they didn’t have anyone to keep an eye on them, some of the men seemed to de-evolve, not only leaving all their trash in the showers, but even using them as a latrine. We started passing on cleaning those up beyond the water bottles, because it was really bad. The showers for the women were a luxury for us to clean up because the female soldiers left them clean.
Keeping locations clean is part of what’s called Field Sanitation. Free Republic says the following in The Nitty Gritty section:
“Field sanitation is a lost art,” according to the briefing. “Units need to deploy with materials to build showers and latrines.”
Since the end of the Cold War, the Army has conducted large-scale deployments to southwest Asia, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo. The notion that somewhere in the middle of this high operational tempo units have forgotten how to take care of field sanitation might strike some observers as odd.
Environmental restrictions at home posts are partially to blame, according to Hiemstra. “There are limitations in most training areas today about digging a slit-trench latrine – you can’t do it,” he said. “Those are environmental considerations … because you’re using that same terrain to train in all the time, and so there are hygiene considerations.
“If you look at our training in the United States, we rely a lot on fixed-latrine kinds of facilities, even if it’s a port-a-potty,” he said. “Then you go into a very austere theater like folks are in in Afghanistan, and the local port-a-potty contract isn’t there anymore.
“There’s a specific discipline that goes with being able to take care of yourself in the field for a long time,… [and] we don’t train to that standard in normal training here in the States.”
The article doesn’t address the other problem. Soldiers, if they’re faced with an issue, will come up with unusual solutions with the tools at hand. We had guys building swimming pools so they could cool off.
Yet, without direct orders, the first thing that went for most of the male soldiers was basic hygiene.
I come back from sunny Southern California and get not one, but three snowstorms, plus snow in Denver, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
This was taken from the Mall, which stretches almost to the Capitol and back to Lincoln’s monument. It was 23 out, and yet, there were still tour buses driving around. Brave tourists!
The sky is a pretty blue here, but it’s a prelude to a snow storm that came in the following day, just in time for rush hour. The weather always knows the most inconvenient time to misbehave.
This is the Reflecting Pool out in front of the Capitol. I was really surprised to see those seagulls out there. The pool was nearly frozen over, except for a small patch of water. The seagulls just perched on the frozen sections. Unlike the ones in Morro Bay that wouldn’t even move for a car, these took off at the slightest sight of Human. I was trying to photograph the one in the air, but he took off. Still got a nice shot of him though!