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When people think of a military spouse, they think of a woman married to a service member. But this isn't always the case as nearly 10% of us are men. I was born in November 1978. I am a stay at home dad to two boys, one born in October of 2000 and the other born in June of 2009. I married my wife in June of 2006. In April of 2010 she left to go to basic training for the US Army.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Now or Never.....

To see humility we can't simply look at actions. While "Faith without work is dead", work without a humble and faith filled heart is equally deceased. Humility is seen best when looking in a man's eyes or heart if you question their actions.

When I apologized to Mrs Dempsey, like usual there was something I said that stuck out at me and I haven't been able to get out of my mind. I said "Perhaps if I could have been fired there would be no need to apologize today". When I said that, depending on how it was interpreted, it could have been taken many ways. So I want to clarify........ if I could have been fired I could have blown a whistle and someone could have fought the battle for me. Instead we are where we are and it is what it is. right? I think if we are going to get serious we need to acknowledge that. There will be a time for all the other stuff when the time and place is right.

It has come to my attention in the last couple days that perhaps for some time now people have been rallying around the flag I planted. For not seeing that I apologize and hope you understand I had my head down and was focused on digging. And the deeper I dug the higher the pile grew hindering my view. Not only am I in so deep that I am way over my head, I have also piled it on super thick. What matters is now I see that there have been folks waiting to help me climb out of this hole I have dug so I say if that is you, the time is now to extend your hand. Please forgive me if I don't apologize right away for throwing some of my muck in your direction, but we really do have work to do and real connection happens offline if you haven't heard. If you are unable to look me in the eyes to see my sincerity surrounding the political nightmare I find myself in, then search my heart and the actions of my past. Look at where I have planted my flag in past crusades. Were my causes just?

To even consider that I should run for an elected office it beyond my simple minded comprehension. I would honestly rather help my wife sell her Jamberry nails than spend the next couple of years working in politics. And I think if you know me, you know I am not kidding. But I also think it is no use denying that I might be a politician. Up until 2 weeks ago the thought never crossed my mind. Nor did trying to get a job anywhere in this stuff. It simply isn't how I want to live the rest of my life. However I am willing to commit the next 3 years of my life to pursuing then sitting in a seat in the US House of Representatives for one term if, and ONLY IF, a team is created to raise me up because I simply can't do it for myself. And I won't even try.

The one reason I am willing to do this is because I am used to being the elephant in the room. And my presence alone would create discussions that are long overdue in Washington. Including the undeniable truths about mental health.

Mental health truly is a tough topic to talk about and I am not willing to do it here and now. But I am willing to do it. But if we are truly going to crush the stigma we need to realize that the key component I lack is what it would take to get me there. For whatever reason I am willing to fight for others with ease but I struggle fighting for myself. That's the way it is.

Another thing is I am able to see a problem and give a solution but not easily explain how I get there. In school Algebra and I fought more than me and DeCA. I rarely had a problem seeing the problem and all the variables and providing an accurate answer...... but I couldn't show my work. No matter how hard I tried my brain never grabbed it. And that's where we are today in this political cluster of mine. I can see the seat I want. I can see the problems and solutions of getting there. I can even see the victory and the work/agenda ahead..... but I don't know how to get there and just like Algebra..... it isn't worth that kind of frustration for me to figure it out. It would pain me and I'd always wonder "what if", but if you know my heart you know I will get over it and move on.

The question becomes who really wants me to give this a shot?

I think before we go any further you need to know some firm stances I have. I am much more flexible than I get credit for but there are things I have planted a flag in. Some people might call it a platform but to me it is just things I believe in:

1) Mental Health- This is for obvious reasons. Just being there will keep the conversation front and center. And we will also prove that mental health is not an insurmountable wall, it is just an obstacle.

2) Force Legacy Family issues- these are military family, veteran and force of the future issues all rolled into one. We need to not treat them so separate. The redundancy of resources and programs that overlaps keeps creating gaps. And it has also bred an environment of dysfunction at its best and corruption and dishonesty at its worst. The legacy of the force can not be tarnished by the frustration of its members. And it most certainly can not be devalued by people who don't understand the totality of the sacrifice.

3) Budgets/Economy- I really don't know why I see things the way I do, but I am guessing I got it from my dad. As a lifelong union man he went from the seat of a truck to the seat of an office for Teamsters fighting for the blue collar worker. He only had a GED(like me) yet somehow he made it a career. All I think I need is two years to get us rethinking how we look at things. While I won't say it is going to be easy, I think a different perspective would go a long way and we can make a lot of progress. Perhaps not every weekend off, but that would be the goal. As well as raising the wage and making sure we consider if salaries of athletes, entertainers and executives match the increase, it won't work.

4) Responsible Gun Ownership- this issue will simply not go away. Americans aren't giving up there guns and people will always be flawed individuals who are sometimes bent on harming people. To me if Democrats would stop saying gun control, they may get get owners to the table. Because let's face it, gun control sounds an awful lot like "give me your guns". And on the other side of the issue, we need to realize that access to guns is too easy. I won't say I am a gun law expert or even very knowledgeable, but I know kids are picking them out of the sewers and out of their parents drawers and closets. I know criminals need to look not far at all to get one. So to me, the way to approach this is to begin emphasizing responsible gun ownership in a way it doesn't make guns seem cool or like if you don't have a gun, death will come knocking on your door tomorrow. Currently the two sides won't even come together. And that to me is the most depressing state of the entire thing. Especially considering many who claim their guns as a right are people of faith. But I get it, if I was on the "control" side I wouldn't want to sit at a table with someone armed and hostile either.

5) Marijuana- this is another issue that will be front and center. Weed is legal in DC. And I don't plan on quitting without first seeing if we can get the nonsense behind us. It isn't legal in Florida so I may spend a lot of time around work, but I am also not going to walk in and start demanding weed legalization. Am I a supporter, definitely. But it isn't my cause. Could it be as I learn more, yes. But I want more information first. This can't be something the country rushes in. It is a mind/mood altering substance.

6) Religious Freedom- If you think God wants you in the grandstands at a kids game fighting oppression of religious freedom in THIS country, your worldview might be very limited into what religious oppression really looks like. In this country we can link arms and walk down the street together for our faith(whichever faith). If you are a Pastor/Preacher or a Senator people don't want to have a beer with, you might want to consider getting your flock out of the grandstands and onto the streets. A recent situation allowed Satanists in the gates of a kids football because sitting in the grandstands was where the battle was taken. Are religious liberties in jeopardy? Yes. But where we fight our battles is often times as important as choosing our battles. It is important to remember as we fight for Christianity to be included at school games we are also fighting for other faiths to be allowed since that is what our Constitution demands of us. It was written by men of faith, not written as a document to be taken as the living and breathing word of God.

7) Abortion- I believe it is ludicrous to consider thinking that our nation should subsidize a company that offers recreational abortions. And even worse is saying men(or the Republicans) hate women because of their opposition on this matter. For many of us be do believe this is where life begins. I have become resigned to the fact that there may be times when abortion is medically necessary. I pray to God my family is never faced with that choice, but I recognize it as a very harsh reality of life. If people want people to be allowed to use abortion as birth control, there is enough money in this country those people and companies can subsidize/pay for it themselves in order to keep Planned Parenthood funded. However my stand would want to defund them and find a new provider of services.

8) Obamacare- Call it what you want, but affordable healthcare is a must for our nation. Perhaps the women's services offered by PP, VA healthcare and medicare reform are the path to a system that actually works for the people. I believe more in reform than repeal. However with an alternative in place already could get me to support repeal.

9) Term Limits- The Congressman I would be replacing put forth the framework in which the conversation can begin. I believe his plan doesn't offer enough time for some to produce the fruits of their labor and I am sure history can prove many need some more time than the bill calls for. It would be fun to tinker with and chew on at the table.

Most likely I am overlooking some firm stances I have. But for those on the fence about what my politics are, there they are. And for issues I am not familiar with, I am hoping I have proven I adapt and overcome to information I lack and am willing to dig. So the question that remains is am I someone you can get behind and help prop up? I have fought too many of my own battles in life, real big ones and blown out of proportion ones, to even consider fighting this fight. I won't give up once I get there, but I am going to need the support to get me there and not just pep talks. These last two years have taken their toll on us here on the home-front, but Andrea says lets do it. Just don't ask me to pimp myself out and take on the fight of campaigning like I am just some dude. I have either added value to the conversation and have more work to do or I have been a total ass and I need to get back to working in the dirt. I will be fine with either but I need to know.

I feel I can walk away from the conversation today and we have finally made it to the point where our leaders are remembering it is our American legacy that we our protecting, not the military legacy. That component itself allows me to be able to confidently walk away and hold my head high to chase some sunsets. But I can't shake the feeling that's not what I am supposed to do. Or am I not reading things right?

I can only try to represent the home we left. I can't try to represent people or an area or a culture I hardly know. However I can't simply go back where I come from and say "vote for me". And because of the way my network was built when we entered military life, all I have is a network of people online who may be as frustrated with me as with Congress. If we can find a way to link my past life and the life I am living...... you may finally believe me when I say #TheBestIsYetToCome or #PeopleAreKeys.

If you would like to join me, find me on twitter at @WorldofWayneWoW. I am not proud of all the tweets you may read and some may need to be discussed (and others not), but if I am going to do this I stand on who I am. Not who people have perceived me to be. And I will face the music if that is the other option but I am thinking not only is this my song, but it is my turn to dance as well. #HowBoutYou?

I would love to tell you exactly what I need, but I have never been a politician before so I don't know. And my last name ain't one that affords me the chance to pay for the people who do know. I don't want to run a campaign or a business. I want to work with people. That's what I do. Ask anyone who knows me, they'll tell ya.


Monday, October 26, 2015

I give up. I quit. I'm done. That's it.

Giving up has been my trademark in life. It isn't that I am a quitter, it really is because I get bored or anxious doing one thing for too long. But what I have come to realize is I never quit when the cause is just.

Like most people I have fought battles in my life. To me some of those battles have been full on nuclear, but to others my battles may seem petty. But I stand proud on some of my more victorious wars won. The first was the war for custody of my son. At the same time our nation entered war with those who sought to divide us, I entered a war against my self, the Florida court/Good ol boy system and the odds. It lasted a few years and while the wounds ripped me to shreds, they didn't kill me. In fact, I would say they prepared me for Wayne's World War II.

During my custody battle I learned what community was all about. While I had great support from my family, it was the community support of those around me who helped push me over the edge. They were there enough to make sure I didn't fall off the ledge, but they lifted me up enough that within me a confidence grew to slowly become the man I believe God was creating me to be. And it was that resilience that I learned and the community I used when my marriage fell apart twice in the first 3 years. Once with divorce papers and if I am not mistaken a Sheriff's Deputy to drop them off. While my custody battle and September 11th taught me to hold life close, it was the fight for my marriage that I learned love is worth living for and it is why we fight.

Move along a few years and I entered WWWIII. And my wife entered the United States Army and shortly later Operation Enduring Freedom. A real war. With real life and death. I have no doubt that I would have failed WWWIII had it not been for the life lessons I learned about God and country back where I come from. I knew war was real. I wasn't naive to that. But as some dude from some small rural county with limited view I didn't realize how deep the wounds of those wars we had been fighting were. Of course I was distracted by the life I was living, but I struggle for believing I should have been so ignorant, especially since some of my classmates were(and still are) fighting those wars that began when my son was just 1 years old. Wars that I have to wonder if they will still be raging in just 3 short years when he turns of age to make the choice for himself whether he will serve or not.

WWWIII was made easier by the community I left. While the US military has a sense of its own community that I dare any to try to rival, there was a niche community under-served that I knew a thing or two about. Male spouses and female service members were struggling. I immediately identified it was an issue with lack of purpose for many of the men. And in helping others find purpose, I find one of my own. And looking back anyone would be hard pressed to argue that I wasn't being molded for the role. While male military spouses were by and large just learning the role of single(for awhile) dad, it was 2nd nature to me having been one after winning WWWI and before entering WWWII. I understood the "military spouses lean on each other" concept while also fully grasping the thing that kept men isolated. That thing being men often grow best in the company of other men. Where they can be real. In manly ways. Much in the same way women often grow best with other women and couples with other couples. Birds of a feather really do flock together.

WWWIII was much like the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. While I was fighting on one front to help the marriages of service members by helping create a community for MANspouses, I also had fighting going on on the homefront. Not so much with my family, but internally. I wrestled with my mental health, a deployment where my wife did something that wasn't in the brochure and the distance that was growing between me and back where I come from...... While I found great community in my new role, it wasn't Sonny's ribs or chicken wings and pizza with the guys. At least not for me. It was, but really it wasn't. While I helped others grow both near and far I grew very little myself. Some could say I grew quite a bit in that time, but perhaps grew a hard shell would be a better way to describe it. Because it was the lessons I learned failing at leading in WWWIII that I would say prepared me for WWWIV. It was those moments when I had to find a way to fight WWWIII without the aid of anyone during those long and lonely nights when my wife was wide awake on patrol in a war zone several time zones away and I was left to my thoughts begging for sleep that helped carry me through this last war.

WWWIV felt like me against the world. For the last two years I have found myself understanding politics better than I ever thought I would but still less than I think I should. As the political atmosphere heats up in America with a Presidential election on the horizon, I am thinking what so many thought before me and what many probably thought about me: "what took you so long to take an interest and do something?"

I honestly can't say when it began, but at some point along the way I saw something that told me our veterans and military families are not getting the representation they deserve as our elected and appointed leaders reform how troops will be compensated in the future. While every elected official and veteran lobbyist/advocacy organization says troops are their top priority, I found a flaw in their numbers that has taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life I have learned yet: we all put our pants on the same. Or as I like to say, we all poop the same. We all make mistakes and we are all flawed. And nearly every one of us is willing to compromise a part of ourselves when the cause is just.

Our veterans and military families are a priority to almost all Americans, but there is no denying there is a disconnect. While some may say it is because civilians don't care, I have come to learn it is because they were just like me, ignorant to the military life. Out of sight, out of mind.

Civilians rely on elected leaders to speak for them AND to take care of our troops. Our troops rely on dozens of advocacy/lobbyist organizations. But the problem is, there really isn't one powerful voice for our veterans and our military families. Our elected leaders have to answer to the general public and troops and businesses. Our lobbyist/veteran groups have to answer to their members first, all vet/milfams 2nd and also their business partners. And our appointed leaders...... they work for administrations. There's only so much blaming we can dish out to people who are doing their job as directed from their boss. So it is pretty clear that vets/milfams don't have anyone focused solely on taking care of them and the reform of their compensation that is CURRENTLY happening. Thankfully it seems they may soon get more say of their own as the Department of Defense looks inward for input rather than all the people lobbying them for various things, but if my life experience has taught me nothing else it is that the only way our vets/milfams will have a voice is if they speak for themselves. And somehow, as a nation, we must give it to them. For a medicaid patient on welfare to have easier access to medical care than a veteran is a testament of how flawed our system is that represents troops. I did the medicaid thing. I should know.

So what I am going to give up, quit and be done with? Farming. I asked my wife if it was OK if I went ahead and gave in to the fact that I am sort of like a politician and continued working on this stuff. And since I have her permission, I am going to take my past victories and see where they lead me. And they lead us. We will still work to create a farm, but I am not going to be focused on becoming a farmer. I am going to build off my strengths to first help give the troops a voice that isn't serving multiple masters. And then after that, I don't know. Because I don't even have a plan for giving our troops a voice, but I am going to do what I have always done..... do it anyway because the cause is just.  That is the American way. Well that of American pioneers.

I would say I am running for a political position, but I don't know what seat I want. Or which seat I belong in if I belong in one at all. All I know is my wife told me she fully supports me doing this but no more volunteering. She's tired of me being so invested in this without our family being compensated. (Really... she's right. Her compensation is being eroded- we can't afford it since it appears I am fighting a losing battle and I even work weekends.)

People may say my plan was to do this from the beginning since I accused others of trying to use their political stance to secure jobs, but for those people I say this: Have you ever tried using the platform Donald Trump uses to secure a job? Only an asshole who doesnt care about the money would do that. All I know is my wife, my therapist and Big Dave Etter all seem to think that I may not be a politician but my field has been sown with many seeds and is now ready to be harvested. So I'm all in. I've shown my hand and I wasn't bluffing.

It is imperative that we give the troops a voice in a way that they are not distracted from the mission at hand. And that voice is us. We must keep our promise to the past generation, the current generation and also the future generation.

"When the cause is just then conquer we must. And let this be our motto: In God We Trust."

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dear General Sullivan(AUSA): I owe you an apology

**With all due respect, this is written quite half heartedly**

Dear General Sullivan,

I owe you an apology, sir. No it isn't for including you on the list of people I think should resign, because, well, you felt the same way. So you are resigning. Which I have no doubt has absolutely nothing to do with anything some twit on twitter said. However I am hoping you also are recognizing that while you can't lead us through these tough times, that your guidance may be as important now as has ever been in the history of talking about how we compensate/take care of our troops/vets/milfams.

Before I get to my apology I want to tell you the only story I know of you. I watched the AUSA conf one day on dvids and saw someone preface what they said with a story so here it goes:

It was the night I had spoken at AUSA. It was only 3 weeks after writing this. Which as you can see I was just picking myself back up and here I was trying to speak truth to an audience of people much smarter, selfless and honorable than I. It was a truth I had been learning the 12 years prior to that moment. While y'all were fighting our nations wars, I was fighting my own battles. Although some may call them demons. And many caused by poor choices.

After speaking I was exhausted. I wanted to stay in my room the rest of the day and night. I was encouraged to come to a reception that evening so I could share more of what I had been saying. I proceeded to go down there completely out of my comfort zone and shake hands and give my spiel along the way. However to calm the nerves I ended up having 2 too many bottles of wine and my evening was left with these 5 memories:

1) Drinking a glass and a half of wine while talking to Mrs Chandler for roughly 3 minutes but because it was so surreal it felt like 30 minutes. I walked away thinking "Holy crap. That chic is pretty cool. She's human."

2) While walking to the after party I said to a woman "ma'am, I am a little buzzed, but I have to tell you, you have really nice hair." I promise it was innocent and I can't explain my drunken hair fetish, but since that evening I have also been a responsible drinker. Less than 100 ounces. Although i may have smoked more ounces of pot by now, but that's a different topic.

3) Finding myself in my hotel room having my shirt taken off by another man to which neither of us realized how awkward it was until he was forced to say "do you need help getting your trousers off?". To which I promptly sobered up just long enough to get my pants off myself and find my way to the bathroom. To which the expected happened. And after I cleaned up what needed cleaning I promptly passed out while sitting on the toilet. Which I know that sounds crazy, but it actually wasn't my first time falling asleep drunk on a toilet.

4) A story about you-- Before my crazy came out to party and I was still able to walk unassisted I found myself sitting outside for about an hour with 4 or 5 of your workers. We quickly established that I too was a table setter upper and go-fer and then we got real. We talked life, love, religion, politics and about one of the kindest men they ever met, you. They told me all about how you knew the names of not only nearly everyone that worked with you, but nearly everyone close to those people as well. They told me how you never ask them to do what you wouldn't yourself and often times do things that they should be doing but you insist upon doing. They told me how compassionate you are to all those around you and often go out of your way for the one's people walk around or pass by. They said, and I quote, "he's good people".

5) Don't EVER EVER do something like that without a wingman again. Or the next day you may require a wingwoman for the flight home.

Now as for my apology...... well sir, I want to apologize for thinking that you may have been trying to speak to me through a reporter/interview. I know, it sounds crazy, but sometimes over the last 20 something months it has felt like folks have tried doing just that. Which again, I know it sounds crazy, so if it hasn't happened, let's go, to the funny farm I go. But if there's the chance folks may have tried making sure certain quotes stuck out in hopes I would see them in regards to the commissary, well hold that padded room.

I of course admit I could very well be delusional. But maybe it is the tweets that seem pointed that are throwing me off my game. So I hope you will understand I was a little touchy when you said in an incredibly bold article "we have this continuing dialogue, well, maybe the commissary benefit is too much.....".

When I read that, given my suspicion that people have used social media in roundabout ways to discuss my commissary crazy while speaking AT me instead of contacting me to talk TO me..... well I hope you can understand it set me off a bit. It first and foremost set me off because I have not been saying the commissary benefit is too much, I have said it isn't a "30% off groceries yearly benefit that equates to thousands in savings for the bulk of the force". Now to most folks I know this may seem like a red herring, but if we are reforming military compensation at this time, it is prudent that nobody thinks our troops are being compensated better than they are. Not a lawmaker. Not a taxpayer. Nobody. If we are to maintain a qualified force we need to ensure we can attract them. And as I watch the trends that are happening in America, including a push to #RaiseTheWage, I am seeing the value of our troops compensation package being devalued in the not too distant future at a rate quicker than we may be prepared for thus possibly necessitating the need to rely on our courts as much as our recruiters, again.

President Obama is now saying he wants 2 years of college to be the next big policy change he makes. And that will compete directly with the GI Bill. Of course the GI Bill has intangibles, but I don't know they are enough. At least enough to tell my boys or their friends it is worth going that route. I too support the idea to make continuing education free/affordable. Call me old fashioned but an educated America is an advanced America. And if part of our troops jobs isn't to help protect and provide that opportunity to America's citizens, then I don't know what the hell our families are doing.

I have no doubt your comment about the commissary involved me. But it wasn't until like 2 days later I started to think "maybe he's not trying to speak at me. Maybe he's finally speaking for me."

Sir I don't know what you have been told about me or what you have come to learn about me. My only hope is that you'll understand this wasn't about the commissary. Anything else, true or false, I don't care. It also sure wasn't personal in the sense I began it because I felt wronged. It wasn't until about a year into this I actually felt like this was some straight up bullshit. And it wasn't until about 4 months ago that I understood why.

I now understand that beyond the beneficial aspect of having affordable and convenient groceries on our bases, the commissary also boosts the American economy through acquisitions and contracts. In fact I bet if we drew enough dots we could connect some of the contracts DeCA stands to give up back to the pension my dad is on the verge of losing. Which really, if I didn't stick my ass out there and hold the door to reform open would some of it have happened?

Knowing I contributed to hurting my dads wallet, that's gonna be a tough Thanksgiving conversation should we ever get home for the holiday or they come here. And not because I am worried about being cut out of the will, but because my folks and I already agreed there is to be no will and they are supposed to enjoy their golden years making up for the sacrifices they made for our family growing up and the time they missed out on themselves.

Feeling like I have contributed to the loss of lots of jobs and pensions and stuff...... I don't even know how to explain it. I know I didn't cause it, but I think I earned the right at this point to be an overly sensitive MANspouse when it comes to #TheTouchyCommissary. Because at the end of the day, nobody disputed what I said, only how I was saying it. Which if it wasn't going to matter if the 30% savings was real or not, then why the heck didn't we say it sooner so EVERYONE(including me) could get an accurate view of everything involved so we could contact our elected leaders accordingly? Instead we clung to defending it as if it were some kind of grand "benefit" to the guy or gal stuck in the barracks picking up cigarette butts on Saturday mornings right before a barracks inspection prior to the curfew because some grunt who is squishy got in trouble.

Now sir, I really am sorry for having jumped to a conclusion thinking you were speaking at me in that article. I do hope you understand. I really am just a bit #Touchy on this whole thing. You know, Defense Secretary type folks speaking around me and all. It really is a bit much for this guy to wrap his big ol head around. Because is this going to be my legacy? Is this how they will remember me? As an anus? Because the point I tried making was #DontBeAnAnus and blame people without taking responsibility for what's in our own back yard. And here I am..... look at me now, I am an anus to the maximus.

Perhaps one day I will get the chance to shake your hand and apologize for anything else I may need to apologize for. But as of right now, this is the best I can do. I have planted my flag and I have chosen the song to sing. I can not relent until we address the way civilian compensation for minimum wage earners(our grunts) is ALREADY rising to the point it will be detrimental to the force without acknowledging it and also that vets need a choice. It is ridiculous that the major orgs can not come together as one voice to get veterans access to quality and timely care in local communities where Drs offices are in the same manner a medicaid recipient(like I was) can. Veterans need a choice is the answer. How it will be delivered is the question.

All of that said to say "why does it feel like the people who stock the Cheerio's have had more representation than our troops?".

At the end of the day, I'd prefer my boys not be permitted to serve if they aren't the quality we need serving. And should they choose to serve and be the type who we need at the time they can choose, I want to know the person next to them didn't struggle and was using joining the military as their last resort in life. While there are definitely success stories out there, we have come to learn in the last decade what happens when we can't compete with the private sector on the most basic level. So really..... would you prefer a force filled of troops like me who is soft and squishy? Or do you want someone more well rounded like my wife? It's y'alls call, but I have been saying #IToldYouSo for a long time now. I would really hate to say it again in 5-10-15 years from now. Because I think we all know I will. And then again in 50 Lord willing. It's just how I roll. #TheRealDonaldTrump would approve.

Just Wayne

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dear Mrs Deanie Dempsey: What else can I say?

Dear Mrs D,

Before you and General Dempsey ride off into the sunset to live your dreams as you see fit there is something I want to say to you. I'm sorry.

I don't believe I am thinking too highly of myself to believe this apology is necessary while considering who you are and who I am. At one time you too were in my corner sort of cheering me on. And while I don't know that you ever actually left my corner, I know I did step out into a ring that I believe gives you all the reason to walk away and wonder why you would have ever stood there for me in the first place.

There are many apologies that I am sure I owe, but out of all of them I want to make sure that you know that I am sorry for offending you and dishonoring your ranks by taking my filter off. I am well aware that I have offended many and I won't say I don't care, because I do. However the one thought I can't shake is that my actions have offended you and absolutely everything you(and many more) stand for.

As you have taken us along your journey as our military version of The 1st Lady (as a CSM's spouse told me she refers to all y'all who have a CSM) you have demonstrated and highlighted the absolute best of our community. And you have done so in a way that is completely contradictory to how I have conducted myself. I often find myself asking myself as I see your posts "how does she do it? How does she hold it together so well. Nobody knows the craziness of politics and military combined like her. Very few have seen the tragedies of the world unfold so intimately. And I know she actually is as authentic in her compassion for our community as she appears, so how can she hold it together so well?"

When I became a MANspouse, I didn't know there was a problem in the community with getting men together. Nor did I know that our female vets have had a harder go of it. And I definitely didn't know it was possible for my wife to deploy in the role of someone on a CST to a remote outpost w/out getting the CST training. Sure I knew she could deploy, but what she was asked to do wasn't in the brochure at the time. So to put it mildly, I really didn't know a lot about our community prior to becoming part of it, but the more I learned about the community/people the more I fell in love with it/them. And I think my draw was that I was being inspired by the kind of people I wanted to be like when I grew up. I was being influenced by people who influence people for a living more or less and I began helping positively influence people by using the tools I had been equipped with before my wife enlisted. I had, as they say, "arrived". So you can only imagine how humbling it was when I realized I wasn't the leader I thought I was. Perhaps it is lucky for us I recognized that before really screwing something up with more or less a DoD or VSO/non profit endorsement in some sort of official capacity. But then again, perhaps if I could have been fired there would be no need to apologize today.

I am sorry overall for acting like a complete anus. I did try really hard not to be one and that is why I first came up with using the word anus instead of the one I want to use and have come to use. My intention was never to become so enthralled with politics that I could form coherent sentences regarding legislation. I didn't want to understand the inner workings of politics. And I never wanted to fully grasp how twitter works. But for whatever reason, I couldn't walk away. And for that I am specifically sorry. However I do wonder why in the 20 something months pretty much nobody from our community reached out to me and said "what is it you are really trying to say" or "how are you doing? How are you really doing?".

I don't think it takes a degree in psychology or social work to know I have been struggling with this commissary issue. And with as sacred as we make the "got your 6" campaign sound, I am left wondering if what I have experienced is indicative of more serious problems we have. Where we rely on 140 characters to tell our stories and to raise awareness instead of the tried and true method to pick up the phone or meet face to face(both things I advocated for before I learned hashtags). I did have a few supporters and a couple people pseudo check in over the last year and a half, but not to what one would expect for someone who goes from a community partner/leader to a community outcast mostly overnight. I understand dealing with a rowdy individual isn't fun and there's few volunteers for the job, but isn't that what we often have to do when looking for the #22ADay or #TheUncounted? I mean really, it wasn't like I didn't have a track record of dropping my marbles, so I am left wondering why I was left wondering for so long if I was crazy or correct.

Ma'am, I really am terribly sorry for being an anus and not being the type of spouse who exemplifies the life the way you do. I really do have a lot of respect for the profession our spouses are in and how I feel we should represent our spouses and our nation as people married to service members. I have basically broken every code among the silent ranks that was ever spoken of. And every time you post to facebook, this conviction fills my heart because it is one of those things where if you and I were closer(like family), you'd probably slap me for being such an ass. However I have to ask you, what alternative did I have? I tried everything else you're supposed to do in politics and that was my last resort and what everyone else was doing, I just targeted a different group for some of the shared responsibility that needs to go around.

I don't really expect you to accept my apology. For one, I'm not sure this will get to you. And 2, I am not too sure how apologetic my words came across. I am pretty sure I will catch some flack for even writing you, but I hope that you would consider my heart really is in the right place and that I struggle with effectively getting out what it is I am trying to say. But what I am really wanting to say is I am sorry for letting you down and not living out what I believe. I hope you will forgive me. Or at least I will have the opportunity to prove people didn't make a mistake when they welcomed me in to our community. I hope one day we could sit across the Bunco table from one another and I won't have to worry if you wanna slap me.

Very respectfully,
Just Wayne

PS...... hopefully this won't be taken the wrong way but you have got incredible arms. In my mind I picture you and Marty(as you make sure to refer to him) practicing like Karate or judo together.

PSS..... For a second I was thinking of throwing some Waylon Jennings at you but this is the most appropriate song I can think of all things considered and politics aside. This is our song.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dear Dale Earnhard, JR: I am SO SO Sorry(again)

Hey Dale!

Pretty exciting season so far you guys got going on. Thankfully we moved into our new home and when we did we got upgraded on our cable package for free and now we can tune in each week. Seeing Kyle make The Chase is exciting. He is who my wife roots for and I don't know if it is because her dad hates him so much or because she loves the fact he has a DILLIGAF attitude on the track. While I do believe she enjoys rubbing it in her dads face every time Kyle doesn't wreck, I believe it is his attitude and mentality when it comes to the task before him that really draws her in. She is a lot like him in that hard charging, no nonsense way of going about things. But I guess you kind of sort of got to be when you are a female NCO in the Army.

Anyway..... the reason I am writing you is to apologize. I know, I already apologized once. But that was for something totally different and I figure that is behind us anyway. And this apology, I am gonna say it with a lot more humility. So here it goes:

Dale, I am sorry that I said to you to make sure that everyone knew "Real Hereos Wear Dog Tags" before last years race when you had the SuperMan car at Charlotte. I am pretty confident that my tweets made me look like a twit who doesn't realize that you too are a hero.

When we define the word hero, unless we are reading it out of a dictionary, we are all going to define it differently. While many of our troops are in fact heroes, when I made my comments to you I took away what you do for JR Nation, our country and for me. Because what you do on a daily basis, especially over the last few years, it is heroic to a great number of people. And I feel ashamed for having ever insinuated otherwise.

Now I am pretty sure you ain't lost a wink of sleep over this, but I honestly have. Because over the course of the last year or so I have given a lot of thought to the folks back where I come from in Flagler County, Florida. And I have also thought much about how all over the world all of us homo sapiens pretty much all poop the same. Which is another way of saying we all put our pants on the same.

For the last 20 months or so I have been following you pretty closely. Not stalker closely, but enough to know you appreciate your truck driver, enjoy Bud Light, play super sized jenga and wouldnt rather be any other place than at the house with Amy and your dog and maybe some friends. Of course on the track it is easy to see what you do but as I have tried observing you off the track, you are even more of a hero than I thought, because you are an ordinary man who does extraordinary things. And most of those things happen off the track.

As popular as you are, you could always put your time in and go home, but you don't. You realize with the power you have been given comes a great responsibility. Not to save people from burning buildings or a crime, but to give them hope and inspiration all while letting them know your britches aint got too big to stop and say hello like most southern/country folk do. You epitomize southern hospitality in the fact it seems when you are greeting others, they are all that matters and you greet them with a smile.

Another heroic act I noticed was the way you have helped get the guys(and gals) together to start a conversation about giving racers a voice. Now I am no expert on bucking the system and getting the good ol boy network to come to the table, but you(and others) really seem to have brought folks together. Which if you ask me, will be better for the sport. (As long as you guys remember the deal with NBC sucks for casual fans) I have never heard the announcers talk much about your education so I am sure you have questioned at times if you are qualified to help in these negotiations, any humble man would, but I want to assure you that few people are as deeply invested in what you do as you and yours. So it is important that you speak up for yourself as your future depends on it. But I want to caution you about knowing your role and your limits. Cuz it's OK if one of the lesser known drivers who can barely qualify works his way towards leading this pack.

But anyway I am getting off point......

As you have welcomed us fans into your life, your home and your relationships you have shown me that what a real hero is, is someone who gives of themselves. And while you may not be chancing making the ultimate sacrifice, you have given up more of your life than I think I will ever truly understand. Although my dad was an OTR truck driver growing up and then worked remotely, I don't understand the sacrifice kids like you had to make while your dad was off entertaining us all. And yes, I would compare the sacrifice you made to that in which my boys make with their mom in the Army(at least on some level). Although you may have had more opportunity than most growing up, y'all still sacrificed. Sacrificed so many can smile(or curse. Some people thought of your dad like people today think of Kyle).

That Nationwide commercial you got going around, the one about all those who have helped get you there, I want you to know that's some deep stuff man. It has inspired me. Every time I watch it I think of someone else who got me where I am. Like the 8th grade teacher who jacked me up against a wall and told me he wouldnt take my shit. Or the manager of a bowling alley who let me pick up trash in the parking lot in exchange for free games, and a 2nd chance. And of course there is my wife, which dude, I know you think Amy is cool and all, but I really got the best lady around. However I think the type of girls we got were cut from the same mold. And God bless them for trying to keep us in line and slowing us down. I'm sure it took a time or two for Amy to get you to put the toilet seat down. Although you seem to be really head over heels about her so maybe you learned a little quicker. The right woman can be a miracle worker in a man's life. But you already know that..... you made a commercial about it.

Well Dale, I will probably start rambling more than I should if I continue so I just want to say again, I am sorry for implying you couldn't be a hero and that nobody else could unless they wore dog tags. You're a hero of mine, Dale. You inspire me to be a better man. And that's pretty heroic.

Stay gold,
Waynus Maximus

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dear MOAAPrez: Feel free to cut in if you would like

Dear MOAAPrez,

Well, I figuratively set the music to play #BackWhereIComeFrom, Flagler County, Florida.

I will stand and dance with you and MOAA on the pay raise. That is $250 cash out of my families pockets. And you know as well as I do cash talks and purchasing power walks. OK.... I admit, purchasing power can be a good thing. But the only time I find it to be good is when I am trying to buy something expensive, like a car or house. Other than that, I do just fine spending my own money and knowing how far a dollar can be stretched. But as far as the pay raise thing, ya buddy, I'm right beside you on that. But we do need more help than the 1% target audience you aimed at with your memo. That's why I challenged the community that grew me up to stand for our troops with us. I am really hoping they will look #BeyondTheCountyLines to see that our troops need their support. But more importantly our troops need them to speak for our families. There's just not enough of us to speak for ourselves.

In my last letter to you I told you I don't want to lead. And that is the truth. So I am kind of hoping you (or someone) would consider cutting in to this dance and taking the lead. If you read my last blog post you will have a head start on some community leaders to contact to see if they would help you raise awareness about this issue in our country. I ASSume a good portion of folks don't realize that a large number of our troops are on the verge of having their income levels eclipsed by minimum wage workers. And I think it is safe to ASSume they won't listen to an anus like me when I try to justify this pay raise. God forbid one of them tells me we get huge discounts on food at the commissary, I won't have a leg to stand on. I don't have any credibility to go to those people I mentioned, although for the most part I have been very friendly with all of them. Some could even be counted as friends.

I think it would be good for you to contact my Palm Coast district City Councilman, Jason DeLorenzo. I shot him an email yesterday letting him know I challenged him and told him I could probably put him in touch with you guys at MOAA if he wanted, but why not just have you reach out to him directly?

I did contact each of the folks I mentioned except for one so we shall see what comes of it. I couldn't find an email address for Superintendent of Schools Jacob Oliva so maybe you could also reach out to him. Because of his job I don't know what he could do, but something tells me there is a teachable lesson in here somewhere for the students of Flagler. But let's face it, I'm not the guy who needs to be teaching it.

I'm not sure yet why the event I created hasn't gone viral. I can't figure out if it's me, them or the lack of usefulness by social media activism that is keeping this thing from blowing up. I would dump ice-water on my head but that one's been played out. Maybe a pie in the face would do the trick. I dunno....

Well.... I am off to start my day. A friend let me borrow a car while we get my truck situated so I am all in for Bunco today. I do hope that you will consider contacting some of those folks I mentioned. I would bet any one of them would be honored to hear from you. And you will find they are all great folks too. One of them even used to have a nickname of "POWER PAW". I will bet you a sweet tea and wings that you can't figure out who within 24 hours of me tweeting this blog post to you.

Talk to you soon I hope!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dear Flagler Friends(Old and New): I have a challenge for you

Dear Flagler Friends(Old and New),

Greetings! This is Wayne Perry. I know for many of you we haven't spoken in quite some time but in case you didn't know, my family doesn't live in Flagler anymore, even though we still call it home.

Four and a half years ago my wife, another 20+ year resident, enlisted in the US Army. She, and by extension our family, answered the call to serve our country during a time of war. While I wish I could sit here and tell you it was a purely patriotic and selfless decision for our family, the truth is we were motivated by the economic crisis my family, and Flagler County, was in at the time. I know I don't have to tell y'all how rough things got for us back home. Many of you lost homes, businesses, jobs, marriages and the life as you knew it because of how bad things got for us after the housing market crashed in Palm Coast. Some of you, like my family, scraped and clawed and did what you had to in order to maintain that home you are severely underwater in. Although we aren't living in Flagler we do still have a home there. It's a home that until recently we (OK.... maybe just me) had every intention of coming home to once my wife ended her service. Because of the way the military does things they ask you to list a home of record and Flagler is home for us. 

About four months ago my wife and I decided we wanted to stay where the Army currently has us, The Evergreen State, Washington. I know, talk about cross country and change in climates, right? But it really is wonderful here. We currently live in a city called Graham just beneath Mount Rainier. It's a true site for a flatlander like me. And being the wacked out Wayne you all know who hails from Flagler County, home of Cracker Day, I call myself a Graham Cracker. I really am proud of where I come from. The plan is to transplant those roots we formed in Flagler, a once rural community, to a rural community here. Believe it or not we are going to dabble in agriculture/horticulture work. I don't think we will be planting any cabbage or potatoes, but for me playing in the dirt reminds me of home. Just minus the snakes, spiders, ants, skeeters, gators and a real #FlaglerCountyProblem, Lovebugs. However two nights ago my truck and I found out we have suicidal elk here. And if you didn't know, elk are a bit bigger than the deer we grow in Florida.

The Army and military have been good to my family. I can honestly say in many ways my family has never had it so good. However, it hasn't been easy. In fact, there's been times it has been pretty darn tough and I questioned whether my marriage, my family and even my life would make it through the trials. By the grace of God all are still intact.

We knew what the risks were when my wife made the decision to join the Army. We knew we were a country at war and that she would deploy, but I don't think we had any clue what this life, a military life, really looked like. We were oblivious to the sacrifices our service members and their families make beyond being wounded or killed just by simply living this unique lifestyle. We knew there would be long hours and an unpredictable schedule, as well as holidays and special occasions missed, but nothing could have prepared me for what this life really entailed. Unless you have served, or loved someone while they were serving, it really is hard to understand the depths of the challenges our families face on a regular basis. Just to give you some sort of understanding as to what life looks like for a military family, once my family makes our move later this year our oldest son will have lived in 7 different homes and gone to 6 different schools across 4 different states in under 5 years. Let that sink in for a minute.

As for the challenge........

Service members, and their families, sacrifice a lot. Even those who aren't being wounded or killed are still giving in a way that I believe most Americans don't fully understand. But I think the reason most Americans don't understand is simply because they don't know. I sure didn't know. There is this thing called the military-civilian gap. It is a gap that I didn't know existed until I became a military family member. I thought I was doing my part as an American to support the troops by standing to sing at the ballgame, putting a magnet on my car, attend the parades and memorial ceremonies as well as shake hands and thank a service member/veteran when I could. Honestly, you would be surprised what a handshake and thank you can mean to a service member or veteran when they are offered with sincerity. And a "welcome home" to our Vietnam era vets who weren't ever truly welcomed home. But a handshake and those other things only go so far. Although you may see a service member/veteran moved to tears when the National Anthem plays, there is a good chance those tears are not for the patriotism being expressed there in that large crowd. Instead some of those tears are most likely for the patriotism that veteran was shown on the battlefield as he/she is flooded with memories of the war they lived. Or perhaps those tears are for the war they brought home.

As a military family member it means something to me when I see flags hung outside people's homes or people attending ceremonies and parades to honor our troops. It is a great gesture when someone thanks my wife for her service. It shows me that people do care. That America cares for our troops.

I have come to realize there really is a military-civilian gap. If you ask someone in the military community what causes that gap you may be directed to a quote that made its rounds a few years ago: "America is not at war. America is at the mall. The United States military is at war".

I used to share that quote. I used to believe in it fully. As my family was challenged by what the war was doing to our new military family/community, I was one of those pointing my finger and saying "THEY JUST DON'T CARE!!!". However in the last year or so I have come to realize that Americans really do care, but they just don't know. Until you walk in the boots of a service member (or wash the uniform they wear) it is easy to be unsure of what the military life truly looks like. I believe the average American is uninformed as to the extent of the sacrifices our families make, but I also believe the average military family doesn't know what life outside in real world America looks like either.

I count my family fortunate to have lived a rather full life as a civilian family before my wife enlisted. It has given me a perspective that most of my peer-age-group in the military community don't fully know. For those who are close to my age, 35, these men and women went from being a college-aged kid enlisting to a war hardened military family. My peer-age-group for the most part are career military families. For the last 10+ years they only know this life as adults outside of their parents home or college. So just as the average American citizen is responsible for that military-civilian gap for not knowing military families, military families are also a bit out of touch with what the challenges are on Main St America (or for us, Palm Coast Parkway).

Closing the gap is important. It would do the military community good to understand better what life looks like for the average American because of the challenges being exhibited with veterans trying to reintegrate from a life as a service member to your next door neighbor. But to fully close the gap we need more Americans to have a better understanding of the challenges facing our military families beyond the scope of war. We need for more Americans to be informed. And this is where my challenge really comes in.

I am challenging you Flagler friends (old and new) to help close that gap. And I have a very easy way for you to continue that.

Currently the Department of Defense is overhauling their budget. Included in the overhaul of the budget is some proposed changes to the way our service members are compensated. While I don't want to make this blog post or my challenge about overall compensation, something above my pay-grade, I do want to focus on one main change being proposed by President Obama and some other elected leaders. They are suggesting capping military pay raises at 1% this year as opposed to the previously planned 1.8%.

I think we can all agree that for what we ask our service members to do, in comparison, they are underpaid. In fact if fast food workers get their way the average McDonalds worker will out earn more than 50% of our military service members. Let me say that again...... the average McDonalds worker will out earn more than 50% of our military service members.  If that happens, or anything close to it, what draw will there be for people to join the military and face deployment with fear of being sprayed by bullets when they can run the fry baskets with only the fear of grease splatter?

Our service members are compensated fairly well, not great, but it's a working man's (or woman's) wage. However I think they deserve more. That is why capping this years pay raise at 1% is not the right thing to do. And I don't say that because I am part of the military community, because we won't always be. I say that because the simple fact is our service members deserve a raise. In my eyes a raise much larger raise than the proposed .8% that is being disputed, but that's a different conversation.

For my family the difference in that planned 1.8% raise and the proposed 1% is about $250 for a year. Not much, but that is almost enough for a plane ticket home. But the message it sends our troops is they don't deserve that extra $250. That they aren't worth it. However I assure you they are. They are worth far more to our country than we may be able to put a dollar amount on, especially considering the unstable nature of the world today.

If being informed is the key to supporting our service members than taking action is the door that key fits in. Our military families need you to push on that door a bit and speak for them. For the most part they can't/don't/won't speak for themselves and in the political arena the only voice they (we) have is you. So I am asking you Flagler friends, friends that stretch from The Mondex to The Hammock, from Princess Place down to Old Dixie, Bull Creek Fish Camp to Snack Jacks, The White Eagle to The Golden Lion, From Finns to The Bimini...... I know Flagler is full of people that support our military so I am challenging anyone and everyone to get involved. Like The Ice Bucket Challenge I am going to nominate some people specifically who I know have substantial influence in Flagler Country, but people who also know me/my family:

Jason DeLorenzo, My Palm Coast City Councilman District 3, my next door neighbor to our "Home of Record" that keeps us as registered voters to the community we call home.

Steve Nobile, Palm Coast City Council Candidate District 2, a guy who knew me when I was getting suspended from school for "breaking wind" as well as after my life changed and I became a father for the first time.

Andy Dance, Flagler County School Board Member District 1, I don't know him too well, but our families know each other.

Jacob Oliva, Flagler County Schools Superintendent, I was there in his classroom in his first year of teaching and after years of bowling/working together I got to know him fairly well. And I can honestly say y'all are lucky to have him at the helm. Really lucky.

Trent Schacke, Lead Pastor Epic Church, there are few people who know my heart better.

I would also like to nominate AMVETS Post 113 who helped me raise thousands for military mental health, VFW Post 8696 where I held one of my first jobs(and tried my hand at the Fife and Drum Corps), Palm Coast Lanes (formerly Coquina Lanes) where I grew up and a lot of folks know me from.

The challenge is to help close the military-civilian gap. The key to doing it is being informed. The door that key fits in is the action that needs to be taken when you push the doors open. What's behind those doors is our elected leaders on the National level who need to hear your voices.

So how do you specifically take action to help close the gap? You contact Representative Ron DeSantis(FL06) at 202-225-2706 and Senator Marco Rubio at (202) 224-3041 and Senator Bill Nelson at (202) 224-5274. You give them this message prepared by Military Officers Association of America(MOAA):

I am calling you to urge you to reject the President's recent use of executive authority in his August 29 letter to Congressional leadership to cap the 2015 military pay raise at 1 percent, rather than the 1.8 percent authorized under current law and needed to match the average American's.
This recent directive by the President undercuts military pay comparability with the private sector - a fundamental principle of the all-volunteer force. It is the second consecutive year the President exercised his authority to cap pay.
In 2003, Congress changed the law to tie annual military pay raises to private sector pay growth for good reason. That's because past administrations and congresses kept capping military pay raises below that standard until they damaged recruiting and retention.

We need to learn from that experience, not repeat it.
America is still at war in Afghanistan, and other conflicts threaten to intensify. The nation should not be heaping new financial penalties on the 1 percent of citizens who already have borne 100 percent of our national wartime sacrifice.
Please ensure that our military troops and their families get the same 1.8 percent raise in 2015 that the average American has experienced. Support a 1.8 percent pay raise in the final 2015 defense authorization bill.

I understand all of that is a mouthful and not everyone is willing to pick up the phone or email people on subjects like this so MOAA has made it simple. If you click here you will be redirected to a helpful tool that MOAA uses to send that message directly to our elected officials. All you will need to do is fill in some basic information and click send, you can even do it from your smartphone. You will need to input your address and phone number so the automated messaging MOAA uses will ensure it gets to our representatives in DC, but outside of an automated reply from our elected leaders offices confirming they received your input, nobody will be calling you or showing up to your door. I promise.

I trust MOAA on this specific issue regarding military pay raises. Our service members deserve better and they can't get what they deserve and have earned without your voices standing up for them. Not enough people have served or are serving to speak for them. Our troops are relying on you to look out for them. I hope our elected leaders will have to go on record saying Flagler Country residents were there for our troops and their families. It would be great to hear them say out of nowhere the phones and emails at their offices were blowing up with Flagler Country residents who are standing for our troops. Standing for them like our troops stand for us. Flagler County could be a voice for our nation if enough residents back where I come from and call home get involved.

I have also created an event on Facebook for this in hopes of getting word to more people in Flagler County without them having to read through this entire blog post. If you click here you will be redirected to the event called Flagler County Supporters Of A Military Pay Raise; and I will also be posting the instructions again on how to make your voice heard.

Thank you so much for giving me all you gave me while growing up in Flagler! My family wouldn't be who we are today without many of you.

Love, peace and chicken grease y'all!

 PS..... I hope you don't consider what I am asking you to do as political because I think when it comes to our service members compensation, all politics go to the side. We simply do what's right. And I believe this is right and hope you do too.

PSS.... If you aren't from Flagler you can still fill out the form MOAA created by clicking here.

I really am proud of where I come from.......