Veteran’s Day

I attended the Waterville Elementary School PTO meeting tonight.  After the official meeting was over the second graders sang a couple of songs as a tribute to Veteran’s Day.  I’ll admit, I got a little misty eyed during the singing of “God Bless the USA”.  Being a veteran myself and currently serving as a selective reservist in the US Navy, I immediately began thinking about how much I love this country and how proud I am of every single American who serves or has served in the military.

At present I have a few friends who are deployed overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait.

Chief Petty Officer Diana Fleshman

Ltjg Dave Martin

Petty Officer Bryan Wood

Petty Officer Dennie Martin

And numerous other fine sailors from NOSC Chattanooga.

Happy Veteran’s Day and thank you for all that you do!

Hooyah Navy!

Give!

This past Friday my family and I went to eat at a local pizza buffet.  There was a total of six of us.  My dad paid for my mom, my nephew and himself while I paid for Annie, my daughter and myself.  Dad paid first and he used a discount card which gave him a dollar off his purchase.  He handed me the card but I decided to use my military discount instead to see if I could get a better deal.  My total purchase ended up being a dollar “more” than my dad’s order.  lol  We both kind of scratched our heads and questioned what had just happened.  If anything, our bill should have been the same, but in reality, my bill should have been lower since my military discount was better than his $1 off.

As the cashier looked at our receipts he determined that he had accidentally charged me for an extra childs buffet and was more than willing to refund me the money.

Now, I’m not tooting my own horn or anything here, but I am telling this story so that maybe someone else will do the same thing in the near future.

Instead of taking the refund, I asked the manager, who was standing there, if they would just keep the money and donate the meal to the next child that came through the line.  He assured me that he would.

A few moments later a nice gentalman came up to me and shook my hand and told me thank you.   It made my night!

The next time you over pay a little more for something think about donating the overage to the next person.  Or better yet, the next time you go through the drive-thru window, pay for the car behind you.  Can you imagine how it would feel to pull up to the drive-thru and find out that the person ahead of you just bought your meal.  That some stranger took time out of their day to pass along some generosity to another stranger.

As we get closer to Christmas I ask that all of you think about paying thing forward.  Slow down and realize that there are people out there that could use a little helping hand.  Not only will it make them happy, but it does something good for your soul too.  God gave his son for our sins and that’s what He asks us to do for others.  So this season, give!

Camera Equipment and Tips

Friends often ask me what kind of camera I use.  Before I answer them I usually ask them why they want to know and 99% of the time, the reason is that they love my images and want to be able to make images like mine.  A lot of the times these same friends have a good, quality DSLR camera similar to the one I shoot with.

The reason for this post is this; the cameras that we have today are 100 times better than most of the film cameras people were using just 10 years ago.  The camera doesn’t make the image, the person behind the camera makes the image.

If you want to learn how to use your DSLR to it’s maximum let me give you a few tips.

1.  Read your manual.  Learn all you can about your camera.  Become one with it and it won’t lead you astray.

2.  Stop using the pre-programmed modes.  Use the “A”, “S”, or “M” modes.  These will give you greater control over how your image looks.

3.  Read and view professional photographer’s blogs such as Joe McNally, Scott Bourne and Chase Jarvis.

4.  Visit my buddy Stephen Zeller’s DSLR Workshop page and watch his tutorials.

5.  Get off your butt and shoot.  The more images you make, the more you will learn and the better you will become.

For those of you who are wondering.  I shoot with a Nikon D300.  I usually have either the kit (18-135mm) kit lens attached to it or my 50mm f/1.8.  You don’t need all that crazy expensive equipment to make beautiful images.

MobileMe Calendar Beta

For a while now I have been using MobileMe to sync my contacts and calendar events across all of my electronic devices.  I currently have two desktops, two laptops and two iOS devices that are being sync’ed using MobileMe.

For the most part I really enjoy adding a calendar event from my iPhone and having it show up on my desktop within a few minutes.  It’s really handy.  The one thing that I don’t like is that, for some reason, I sometimes get either a duplicate calendar event or I get a duplicate calendar on Microsoft Outlook.

All I ask from MobileMe is to sync my calendar and my contacts.  Please make it easier and don’t duplicate my events and contacts with every upgrade you make.  Before I upgraded my MobileMe calendar to the new beta I had one calendar.  Now, I have one calendar on MobileMe and I have two calendars in Outlook.  My Outlook calendar has a “calendar” and a “calendar from mobileme”.

I’m not happy with it and If Google would come out with a way to sync contacts over the air I would switch to Google and would save myself $99 a year.

**Update**

I just completed a “downgrade” of MobileMe Calendar Beta and all is back to normal.  If you do the same I recommend closing Microsoft Outlook while doing the downgrade and then restart your computer afterward.

Just Another Patrol…

Nine years ago I was stationed on the USS Louisiana SSBN-743 Gold.  At that point in my naval career I was a young Petty Officer Third Class.  I had a wife and a little two year old baby girl.  We all lived happily in Kingsbay, GA and life was, for the most part, good.

As with all SSBN submarines, we were on a set rotation with another crew (the Blue crew).  We would have the boat for a set number of days and then we would give the boat to them and vice versa.  Sometime in early August of 2001 the blue crew arrived home safe and sound.  It was our turn to fix the things that had broken, paint the boat, conduct scheduled maintenance, load the food and our clothing and head out on patrol.

The primary mission of an SSBN submarine is strategic deterrence.  That sounds like a daunting task I know and at times it can be.  We worked hard, but we played hard too.  During that time in 2001 the Louisiana was commanded by Commander D. G. Ruff, one of the finest submarine commanders I have ever had the pleasure of serving under.  He was fair, funny and had the type personality that made people want to serve him.  Under his command the Louisiana excelled.  We won numerous awards and was even given the Battle Efficiency award.

So as time approached for us to get underway in late August the entire crew was ready.  We weren’t always ready to get underway, but we sure were ready to stop painting and doing all that maintenance though.  We kissed our wives and our children and climbed down the hatch and into that steel tube we would call home for the next ninety or so days.  We had no idea that this patrol would be very different from those before.

As I sat by the fathometer in  the control room I can still hear the sound of the ships whistle sounding as the Control Room Sup announces that the “ship is underway”.  And so it begins…

We get into our routine of being on shift for six hours and being off for twelve hours.  Some of us sleep during those 12, some watch movies, some work on qualifications and some fix things that have broken, but all of us, at some point, train.  Training is a vital part of the submarine navy and that is what we were doing on September 11th, 2001.

It was around 1300 or 1400 Zulu when we received a message from our boss, the Commanding Officer of the Atlantic Submarine Fleet.  The message was something about the World Trade Center being bombed or having bomb threats made against it.  Either way, the message was hard to understand, but training ended and proverbial crap hit the fan.  This patrol was not Just Another Patrol.

We were ordered to load torpedo’s and do a number of other things that I can’t get into.  As the hours went by and by listening to an AM radio station that the Radioman piped through the ship we found out what had happened.  It seemed that some selfish SOB’s had taken some planes hostage and crashed them into the WTC.  Sleep did not occur for many hours as we all listened in horror of what was happening to our families back home.  Some crew members had family in New York.  Our form Executive Officer was station at the Pentagon and the list goes on.  The worst part was that we couldn’t “see” what happened.  All we could do was to listen to the reports and imagine what was going on.  We couldn’t call our wives or hold our children.

It was an intense patrol.  We performed well and I have never in my life been more proud to be a submarine sailor as I was during that patrol.

We arrived back to a different Kingsbay.  100% vehicle checks were in place.  No outside visitors could come on base.  It was total ciaos.

That underway changed everyone in some way or another.  For me, I became a little more resolute.

I continue to serve my country as a Navy Reservist and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.

Where were you on September 11th, 2001?  Do you have a story?

A New Chapter

My daughter Emilie just turned eleven a few weeks ago.  She has entered into the new world of middle school.  She tried out for and made the school soccer team and she is growing faster than I ever thought possible, but this is not the “New Chapter” that I am speaking of.  Sure it is a new chapter, but it’s not the “New Chapter”.  The New Chapter of my life that I am talking about is that of fatherhood.  You see, I am going to be a dad again.  Yes, that’s right, I am going to be a dad again.  I know, I know.  It sounds crazy and I honestly never thought that it would happen.  I was perfectly content raising my little girl, but apparently God didn’t see fit for me to just have one child.

So, here it is.  Annie and I are having a little girl.  We are naming her Eliot Faith Bryant (EFB).  As unplanned as this was I am starting to get excited.  Bryant blood is great blood to have running through your veins and this little girl is going to make me just as happy and proud as my little Emilie has and will continue to do.

Patiently we wait…

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The Closet Collapse

Last night we were all sitting in the living room when we heard a thunderous crash. We had no idea what had happened. We all actually thought that it was thundering outside. Later yesterday evening as I went down stairs I was greeted with a large pile of clothing and stuff in my closet floor. The closet organizer that had been there for nearly twenty years had given way to the pressure and weight of all my clothes and other items stored on it.

Habitat for Humanity – Century Village

I was afforded yet another opportunity to document exactly the kind of things that the Navy Reserve does to help out the local community.  A few months ago I was encouraged by the Reserve Center Commanding Officer to take the lead on setting up some kind of community service event for the unit that I am in.  So I contacted the local Habitat for Humanity in Cleveland, TN to volunteer my group.

I contacted Habitat via email and was greeted by the Volunteer Coordinator Annie Kinworthy.  I briefed Annie on who I was and who we were as a unit.  I provided her with a list of dates that we would be available and she happily “penciled” us in.

A couple of years ago, Habitat acquired some land off of 20th St S.E. in Cleveland and began developing the first Habitat for Humanity neighborhood where every home in the neighborhood would be a Habitat home.  They named this new development “Century Village”.  It was cleverly named this because Habitat would build their 100th home in this neighborhood.  Annie allowed us to be a part of this wonderful endeavor.

The first time we volunteered this year we helped put a roof on one of the homes.  Approximately ten to twelve sailors came to lend a hand.  This weekend however we did much different things.  One group of sailors assisted in installing vinyl siding on a storage building behind one of the houses.  Another group assisted in installing shutters on three of the houses.  One group put down landscaping material on two of the houses.  A couple of the guys put together some lawn mowers and put in a couple of mail boxes.  We were also able to see the nearly finished home that we put the roof on.

The best part about helping with these homes is meeting the owners.  Seeing the smile on their faces as they arrive to help us build their house is a great feeling.  Some people think that these homes are just given away to poor people but that is very far from the truth.  Miss Kinworthy explain to us that the families must put in 500 sweat equity hours before they are given the keys to their home.  Those hours include helping to build another family’s house.  The new owners must also acquire an interest free loan and then Habitat actually sells the house to the new owner at cost.  These homes are certainly not given away.  The families work their tails off.

Next month, on Saturday, September 11th, the Navy Reserves will once again be in Cleveland helping build another home.

Not only do we help the oppressed people of foreign countries from murderous dictators; we also bring smiles to local families, both of which make me very proud to be a United States Sailor.