I consider myself a late bloomer, when it comes to writing.
The Empower Network Blog opened up my memory bank and highlighted a life, lived in varies stages.
Oscar, Tony, and Emmy Award winner Viola Davis said that the greatest stories will never be told. They are buried in the graveyards along with all the people who never told their story. This is my story, and my legacy. What will be yours?
Phase one – I was born in Detroit MI and worked on the [auto assembly line] while I was still in high school. It wasn’t easy but I guess it laid the path of me wanting more, and being willing to do more. I would catch public transportation and ride the bus to school to the other side of town because my dad didn’t want me to go to the neighbor hood school.
When I came home, I did a little homework, then caught another bus to get to work on the other side of town (I was working a full eight hours on the middle shift). As it was near the end of was my senior year, I only did it for a few months. What I learned is that, I didn’t want to live the life of a factory worker. The money was good but the work was tedious (my spirit was wounded, but I was still alive). I just knew, I wanted more, but didn’t know how, I was going to get there.
I was home along, when the [1967 Detroit] riots broke out. I was living with my dad at the time, and he was out of town that week-end. It was a major event and a turning point for the city; 2,000 buildings were destroyed, 7,200 people were arrested, over 1,100 people were injured and 43 people were killed. It was also a turning point for me. I saw it all, and only looked and I didn’t do anything stupid like get shot or arrested. As a results I was able to move to the next phase.
The intersection of west Grand Boulevard at 12st Street in 2008, forty years after the the long hot summer of 1967.
Phase two – I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I had worked on the factory floor and this was my way out, I knew that if I joined the military, I would be able to attend college on the GI Bill. My classmates were being drafted and sent to Vietnam, I enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to West Germany. The heated battle was being fought in the jungles of [Vietnam] in Southeast Asia, but the Cold War was still fully engaged in Europe. This was the time before the Iron Curtain was lifted and the Berlin Wall came down.
Before I got there, I stopped off (90 days) in [Libya North Africa.] Col. Muammar Gaddafi was forcing the US out of the country at this time, but the base commander made sure there were no major international incidents. However I was one of a few, young enlisted personnel that took some grievances to the base commander. He said he could understand our grievances, because he had been a Tuskegee Airman but we still had to do our job, and if we didn’t, there would be a “price to pay”.
That base commander went on to become the first African American Four Star General in United States Air Force. His name was [Daniel "Chappie" James.]
Phase three – I finally leave Detroit and go to Philadelphia to attend college. I interrupted my brief military career (with a hardship discharge) to take care of my dad who had a stroke. He got a little better and a friend of his said he would take care of him because they knew I wanted to go to school.
While at Drexel University I maintained that blue collar attitude and military mind-set. I became a double major; Marketing and Retail Management are closely related, so I loaded my schedule each term and carried a full course load of 18 to 20 credit each term. When I was asked why, I chose Drexel? My answer was, they had a co-op program which allowed students to get real world experience in their chosen field while attending college.
Phase four – I graduate from college with a degree and a commission as an [Army Officer]. It was not planned but evolved. I had a work study position with the Program for the Advance of Veteran Education (PAVE) because I had prior military service. As I was helping other military veterans navigate the educational process with the Veterans Administration, I saw a sign that read “R.O.T.C., the more you look the better it looks”. I looked and I looked again and finally, I signed up! It meant a few extra dollars for school, additional college credits for prior service and that I didn’t have to go through all the basic training stuff because I was prior military service.
I chose to became a Quartermaster Officer. Being in logistics meant I would be responsible for managing “men and material”. My first assignment took me to the top of the distribution chain – New Cumberland Army Depot near Harrisburg PA.
In fact, I was in charge of a 200 civilian workforce as the Week-end Director for Supply when the country had it’s first nuclear accident at the [Three Mile Island] reactor which was right down the road. I called my superior and we decided that it would be safer if everyone stayed inside, to continue their work, instead of being released to go home and risk being exposed to whatever radiation was outside.
Three Mile Island currently uses only one of the nuclear generating stations. The other generation station has not been used since the accident.
I went back to Germany as a member of the [Seventh Army Training Command]. I had three assignments at all three training areas while there; Headquarters & Headquarters Company, Executive Officer, Grafenwoehr Training Area (tank and artillery ranges), the Accountable Officer for the Supply Support Activity Center at the Combined Arms Training Center in Vilseck, and the Director of Industrial Operations at the Combat Maneuver Center in Hohenfels. The last two assignments also included German Nationals employees of which I read the oath to, and they signed documents that they would support the US forces that were stationed in Germany.
The was the official logo for the 7th Army Training Command which is now, the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command.
I returned stateside and went to [Ft. Lee VA] the Home of the Combined Arms Support Center; the Quartermaster , Ordnance, and the Transportation schools. then to [Ft. Bragg NC] the Home of the 82nd Airborne Division and the XVIII Airborne Corp. Training missions took me to many places. But, I will always remember the Temporary Duty Assignment to Key West Florida in the dead of winter, and the time I saw a mass exit out of a plane during an airborne operation.
Phase five – I got out of the military service and started working for a living in Philadelphia, after my a snack vending business failed in Fayetteville NC because my GI customer base kept leaving for military engagements. I worked sales and marketing jobs and didn’t do anything special, except I was always looking for more.
I was near retirement age, when I found the Empower network. I wanted to do something on the internet that would keep my mind active. I had been a staff and logistics officer for many years, so I knew how to put my words together. But when I learned about blogging, it opened up the flood gates. I got busy with my blue collar attitude and now, advanced military mind-set!
A friend of mine in Philadelphia stated that I had so many blogs, I could write a book. He was still working and I was retired and had the that military discipline to blog daily. With over 600 blogs I had a library of material. That idea brought me to the next phase of putting the words together in a physical book form.
Phase Six – I was suppose to attend a Gerry Robert course on, How to Publish a Book and Grow Rich but I had to go out of town. When I got back, I ordered the home study course and saw Gerry do his presentation from South Africa. Within three months I had my manuscript. A year later on Veterans Day, the Gerry Robert program came back to the Philadelphia area. Their key-note presenter was also a military veteran. On top of that he was a former State Senator and House Majority Whip.
I may be on the last phase, but hopefully but not the last page. Alex Haley, the writer of ROOTS knew he was meant to do something, but he didn’t know what, and when he figured it out, he didn’t know how. I also met Alex Haley once during a seminar many years ago. I thought about tracing my roots for a minute, but it was just a passing thought.
My moment of clarity came to me at my mothers funeral. I knew I was the ninth of 14 and my mom had it rough growing up in Mississippi. Her mother died when she was only eight and she only knew, of her father. What he did, is leave her his legacy. As a native American, he kept track of all his kids. And when mom was born in 1919 she was the last of 33.
I dedicate my book to her and her independent spirit: Standing in the Shadows, Listening to the Greats!!! A Blog Novel of true stories of ordinary people who overcame all kinds of odds to become extraordinary, who then turned around to help others. What is going to be your reason for blogging? What stories do you have, that you want to be passed down to the next generation? What will be your legacy?
P.S. If we get a chance to work together on a project, you know I think outside the box. It got me off the assembly line and took me half way around the world; seven countries on three continents in two branches of the military. When I write, it leave it all on the page, because I know, some have left it all on the battle field. I studied war, now it’s time for peace. I invite you to join me in this last chapter.