The following is an after action report for my time spent volunteering in Ft. Dix, NJ, while attending a ceremony to see off approximately 3,000 National Guardsmen, This past Saturday, June 14th:
After Action Report- Ft. Dix, NJ
My day started way too early, just after 0400 on Saturday morning. This was prior to driving down with to NJ to carpool with Elyse to her folk’s house on Friday night and staying up pretty late hanging out with Rich. Elyse and I stopped by Karl and his wife’s house on the way down, to drop off a megaphone that is almost as big as I am, with which to yell at Moonbats at Ft. Monmouth, NJ, like he does every Saturday. After catching up and settling down, we all got a few hours sleep. Just a few…
We were up at 0:dark-thirty, dressed and hit the road. I was having problems with my contact, which turned out to be defective (and not a scratched eye), and ended up doing my whole day with one in and one out. That was weird! We arrived at the base about 0600, drove around looking for the field for a while, and as soon as we found it, we went to work. Set up behind the bleachers, I started mixing lemonade and iced tea in big Army green coolers and other such stuff. By the time I made it to our tent, Rich was effectively supervising and I helped sort cakes that had previously been cut.
In our tent, we served Keebler and Girl Scout cookies, Home made coffee cake, angel food cake with pineapples and coconuts (sooooo good!) and pound cake, Entenmann’s cakes, pies and pastries and had tubs full of candy and Beanie Babies for the kids. I sort of assigned myself to this task, going back to my southern roots, I decided that these people were too good to serve themselves, but rather, I invited them in and served them whatever they wanted and as much of it as they cared for. They just needed to stick out the place that was handed to them.
I was assigned a few volunteers, the most adorable young men, who were Cadet Airmen, and I taught them the basics of said southern hospitality, and they really got into it. They officially announced the coffee cake was the best thing to try, because it was made with love. They don’t know it, but I say that about home made food all the time. Their names were Cadet Maj. Peter Daigle, Cadet 1st Sgt. Mark Untizs, Cadet Airman 1st Class Dan Krakower, Cadet Sr. Airman Steve Young, Cadet TSgt. Justin Zacher, Cadet Airman Basic Ryan Werner, Cadet Airman Basic John Mane, Cadet MSgt. Mike Cunningham, all under the command of Commander Captain Ulrich Gordon Lewis.
These young men took orders well, I’d like to thank their commander for a job well done there, and they were easy to manage. A big help when we would get several people at a time. I instructed them to hand out the plates and load it up with everything, and they followed my lead where being outgoing and customer service oriented went.
It was fun to get to know the people I was working with, joke around with the Cadets, many volunteers were there, and I was primarily around ARMS and Eagles Up. While I worked, as Rich reported, he handed out flags to so many people, and I loved watching the kids come get candy from us, after having received a flag from Rich, somewhere down the field. Elyse helped load stuff up and did a lot of networking to meet other folks, and get the Eagles Up name out there. I am surprised she didn’t get more sunburned!
After a while, I left my men at the table to continue serving and Elyse and I went to take pictures. Because of my one-eye thing going on, she took more than me, because I couldn’t see (I’m pretty blind). We watched and waited and cheered and yelled when our troops went marching by, and the crowd roared with love and those men and women walked ten feet tall. After standing in the heat for hours and then going to march, they paraded around the field for all to appreciate. It was truly moving.
Watching these brave men and women marching, I was filled with gratitude for them, and was so honored that I was able to be there and help give back to them. They sacrifice so much for our country and for me to be here in my climate controlled environment typing this, and I was just humbled by them. I was also very sad to know that some won’t make it back home alive. Some won’t come back physically whole people, or will be psychologically different people. This is the risk they take for us. They know full well what they’re walking into, and they volunteered to do it. I wouldn’t have taken any amount of money to be out there that day, supporting my men and women in uniform.
When the ceremony was over, we had quite a bit of food left over, and were puzzled over what to do. “Give it away!” Elyse’s mom said. I asked her, “Whole cakes?” She said, “YES!” Well, okay! I loaded up my arms, six and seven boxes at a time, and proceeded to walk all over the field, both behind and in front of the bleachers, handing out cakes to anyone who didn’t have a box in their hands. “Free cakes! Take one, God Bless you!” is what I would tell the soldiers, thanking them for their service (and for taking a cake). I did this over and over until there were no more cakes to give. We then had to deal with candy- donated were tubs of candy but divvied into Ziploc bags with about 7 or 8 pieces in each. Rather than hand a bag of candy out at a time, which could have taken hours, I grabbed a whole tub and walked around looking for kids. When I found them, I yelled, “Free candy!!” They looked at me like I was joking, and I assured them I was not! They came from everywhere, happy to dig into the bucket of sweets, and the parents were very happy about it as well. I did that again, until there were none left.
After cleaning down, being in the sun all day and busy working with very little sleep, we sat around and chatted while watching the Guards come with their huge forklift trucks to get the pallets of ice, bottled water and other soft drinks. Elyse and I watched this girl, who slugged those bags of ice and carried the heaviest things like any other man would. THAT was neat to witness. It was nothing to her- all in a day’s work.
In the end, this was, like Rich and Elyse, one of the most moving things I was ever able to be a part of, and it affected me deeply. The first time I went to DC, March 17, 2007, I felt that feeling; that humble yet proud feeling. I had it again the following September. This was that same feeling, only a bit different, in addition. It was like looking at the ocean or the mountains for the first time; that feeling of being very small, maybe even insignificant, in the grand scheme of things. But the awesomeness of being able to see those things is really something that you take with you. And I had that sort of feeling this weekend. It’s one of those things that you can take with you when it’s your time to go. I got to go there, serve them, to witness the love and admiration from the family and the pride and bravery of those men and women that numbered just under 3,000.
I can’t help but continually admit that I am a lucky person; and especially after taking part in that.