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General Private

Veterans History Project Deposition

About a month ago, I was contacted by someone through NextDoor, a site where you can connect to neighbors in your area, asking if I’d like to tell my military story for the Veterans History Project.
What follows is my story, from the day I enlisted in Dallas, through Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Southern Watch. I thoroughly enjoyed reliving many of the experiences as I remember them, including all of the foul language and stupid pranks. As I explained in the deposition: I try not to use that kind of language anymore, and I’m really pretty ashamed of some of the things I did while I was in the military. But, I spoke from the heart and used the terms and phrases now as I did then.
So, please keep that in mind as you read the following:


Q: Let’s see. Today is February the 15th, 2016. And we’re here at the offices of Winstead, P.C., at 401 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas. And this is an interview — a veteran interview that will be provided to the Library of Congress. And with that we will begin. Would you please tell us your name?
A: Full name?
Q: Yes.
A: Okay. Charles Walter Stricklin, S-T-R-I-C-K-L-I-N.
Q: And, Mr. Stricklin, what’s your date of birth and where were you born?
A: I was born in Shreveport, in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, and my birthdate is May 5, 19xx.
Q: And can you tell us your periods of service and your rank at entry, and then upon discharge?
A: Okay. I entered the U.S. Navy on 2 December, 1987. Whenever I went to boot camp, they considered me a Seaman Apprentice, which is an E-2. My — I was honorably discharged to the Reserves on June 23, 1993. And at that time I was a Seaman, or a DSSN, which is an E-3.
Q: Mr. Stricklin, what motivated you to serve? And in particular, with respect to the U.S. Navy, what led you to the Navy?
A: Okay. If I can back up just a little bit. My highest rank achieved was, actually, a 3rd Class Petty Officer, an E-4. And my rank — excuse me — my rating was a Data Systems Technician, which is — a rating is just basically your job and what you’ve been trained to do.
What motivated me to join the Navy, quite honestly, is because I was broke. Prior to that, I had been working primarily in the food-service business. I had been a waiter, a head-waiter, a restaurant manager, assistant manager, in a number of different restaurants, mostly in the Shreveport area.
On January 1, actually, 1987, I had moved to Dallas/Fort Worth, the north part of Dallas, right — and I worked in Addison, Texas. And I had moved there because I had gone — well, basically, that was whenever the first Reagan recession happened.
And I did vote for Reagan, and I’m a staunch conservative. And he’s kind of one of my idols, but it’s true that his — right off the bat, in his administration, there was an oil — there was a recession, plus there was a bust of the oil market in the East Texas area and Shreveport. And that affected Shreveport at the time.
So I went from making really good money, to where I was barely making a $300-a-month rent. And so I moved to Dallas, mainly because — if you’ve ever lived in Shreveport, it’s a nice place to retire and a nice place to raise kids, but, if you’re in your 20s, you do not want to live in Shreveport. And so that, combined with not making the money that I wanted, I moved to Dallas to take a waiting — you know, a serving job.
Turns out money was not very good there, either. And I was having trouble making rent. And my mother suggested to me that I go see a recruiter. And at the time I was very against joining, but I went down to see the recruiter.
I scored very high on the ASVAB scores. And they offered me a — what they call a push-button crow, which is: I would attend an A school after boot camp. An A school is where you learn basic electronics and logical theory and things like that. And then, at the end of that A school, you would be advanced to an E-4, Petty Officer, 3rd Class. The only catch was you had to enlist for an additional two years. So, instead of four years, it was going to be a six-year enlistment.
However, they were telling me that at the end of this — you know, “Whenever you get out, after six years, with your training, with your electronics training, you will be able to command a salary of 30 or 40 grand right at the very beginning.” And at the time $30,000, in 1987, is a lot of money. It’s still nothing to sneeze at, but still it’s a lot of money.
And so I’m seeing, on one hand: I can’t make rent and we’re in a recession. And they want to, you know, basically pay for my room and board and food and everything else, plus I’ll get BAQ, barracks-
something — I forget what it stands for, an additional amount of money for being a 3rd Class Petty Officer or above. And if I choose to get out after six years, I’ll being making a lot of money. It was kind of a no-brainer.
Another catch was, I had to make my decision right then and there. And I waffled for a couple of minutes. Then I finally decided, you know what? I’ll do it. And before I know it, I was raising my right hand and swearing an oath.
Q: Now, you deployed from the MEP station in Shreveport?
A: Yes.
Q: Tell us about the experience of getting off the bus at your first, I guess, destination. I believe that was boot camp.
A: Uh-huh, yeah.
Q: And what was going through your mind as you were introduced to boot camp in the military?
A: Right, right.
Well, I was paired with — it turned out to be a really good friend, a guy named Steven Vincik from Pineville, Louisiana, we both flew out from Shreveport to San Diego, nonstop. And we get off the plane, pick up our — what little bags and stuff we had. And they had a — I don’t know what he was. I don’t know if he was a Seaman or Petty Officer or what, but he was an enlisted person. And he directed us to this really dirty, dark-blue bus, school bus. And we climbed on.
And up until that point, it was not — other than the obvious markings, it didn’t feel like military. It was more like, you know, “Could you please step on here?” “Okay. Just go” — you know, everything was polite and whatever… whatever…
So the airport is right next to what used to be the boot camp. And then, just to the north of the boot camp is still, to this day, Camp Pendleton, which is where the Marines do boot camp. And so it was a very short drive. We just left the parking lot of the airport and went right next door. And we pull up to this — what looks like a junior high school or something, with like metal poles and things.
And then that’s whenever it kind of started. Then that’s whenever they started yelling at us and telling us to get off the bus and everything. And we had to line up. And we all were lined up.
And there was a row of about, I don’t know, maybe four pay phones. And we were told that we were — there was no cost, but we were told that we had to call somebody. You have to call your wife, you have to call your girlfriend, you have to call your mom and dad, somebody, tell them that you arrived, and then hang up the phone. Couldn’t talk, you couldn’t, you know, “I’m doing fine.” It was just, “Hi, Mom. I’m here at boot camp. Gotta go.” Click.
From there, we were herded into a — what looked like a gymnasium or something. They started asking us questions like, “Do you play a musical instrument? Is there anyone here who speaks Spanish? Is there anyone here who is really good at typing?” things like that.
And I found out later that that’s where they decided who went to — I think they were called 1st Division, which is the division that is like us. They were going to have their own company. Maybe it was 1st Company. But they were the ones that played at, like, the commencement ceremonies and things like that. So if you played a musical instrument, especially like a brass instrument or something, they’d nab you and send you over there. If you were good at typing, then you were put to work, basically, doing paperwork and stuff like that. And I wasn’t really any of those things, so I was formed up into a different company.
And I’m trying to think of the number. And I cannot, for the life of me, think of the number of the company. I think it was the year and something else. It was like 8722, or something like that.
And we were, basically, just thrown into a barracks, you know, bunk beds and all like that. And that was it. No instruction, no nothing.
We were all just, you know, “Where are you from? What’s going on?” and like that. And I don’t remember staying up too late, but I probably stayed up later than I should.
And that’s whenever the fun started. That’s whenever it really started, the military experience. Should I continue or —
Q: Well, let me ask you: Basic training is designed to, as we discussed earlier, tear someone down and build them back up. And at that point in time, I believe you’re 27 years old?
A: Yes.
Q: You had a fairly significant amount of life experience —
A: Yeah. It was the last year I could have joined.
Q: — in comparison to someone who, maybe, was 18 or 19.
A: Exactly.
Q: And you had a career before you went into the military, with the food service jobs that you had. So I’m sure that, at some point in time very early on in that process, six years begins to seem like an awful long time.
A: I don’t know. I mean, the additional age helped with perspective. I wasn’t naive enough to think that it was going to be easy. I actually never found so much that they spent a lot of time breaking kids down, because, in fact, I have talked to — I talked to, past tense, my company commander years later. And he explained to me that at that time, at that period, kids were coming into the military and their self-esteem wasn’t that great in the first place.
It’s not like, you know, the greatest generation or something like that. These kids were coming in, and they just were not what like my father’s generation was like. So they didn’t spend a lot of time breaking us down.
And really, whenever you get right down to it — I don’t know what it’s like — you’re Army, or ex-Army. I don’t know what it’s like in the other services. But in the Navy, basically, boot camp is learning to follow instructions and folding clothes. That’s it.
Q: Is there anything that stands out in your mind about boot camp and that period of time?
A: Oh, yeah.
Q: Any story you want to share?
A: I actually have told people I am going to do this, especially now that my parents have passed away, because it does require a lot of foul language, but I do feel like I’m going to write all this down because sailors collect them as love to collect sea stories and they love to boot camp stories. And I’ll share as many of you want.
I was going to tell you that the next day, after I got in, was whenever the fun started, because I’m woken up at like, I don’t know, 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. And what I later learned was called “RCPO” — Recruit Chief Petty Officer is what it stands for. The RCPO basically started — you’ve seen the movies where they throw the garbage can down the aisle? They didn’t do quite that, but they did make a lot of noise. And “Get up! Get up! Get up!” You know, “Get ready!”
And so we’re all throwing our stuff together and getting out of bed and all like that. Keep in mind, we’re still in our civilian clothes. We haven’t been officially formed up into a company yet.
And all these kids and myself, we’re all being startled awake and everything. And you know you’re in boot camp. And so what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
“Sir, yes, sir!”
“I’m not sir! I’m RCPO!”
“Sir, yes, sir!”
“I’m not sir! I’m RCPO!”
And, of course, we didn’t know what that meant. We just thought, you know, here is this guy, and he’s waking us up.
So we’re just, you know, huddled out into this parking lot, basically, this marching area, and that’s when someone comes up. And it’s — the first actual sense of military training kicks in. Someone comes out and starts explaining, “Okay. You stand there. You stand there. All right. Now stand out and hold your right arm out,” you know, “straight. You should be that far away from the guy next to you. Okay. Now you stand behind him.” And so we all formed up into formation, our first idea of a formation.
And from there we file out, and we start walking — or marching probably a good — at least a half mile, maybe more, to the — to the galley — to the — yeah, it would have been called “the galley.”
And then from there — please forgive me, but I’m going to tell it exactly how it is.
THE REPORTER: Go ahead, exactly.
A: So, from there, we all line up into the cafeteria, basically. And we’re told that we are supposed to be looking at the back of the guy’s head right in front of us. And it’s called “nut to butt,” “Get nut to butt!” And we’re not to turn around, we’re not to, you know, talk to anyone, we’re not going to look ahead to see what we’re going to eat. You look at the back of the guy’s head in front of you. And then he steps up in line, then you step up. And you just – you just file up, and you get what you need.
And then we’d go through. And you get a good choice. You can pretty much get anything you want. Everyone got eggs and cereal and orange juice and all like that. And then we filed into our long tables. And the rule was that we all sat down — just whenever we got there — we sat down. And then, whenever the next row or the row across from you — whenever the first guy sat down there, everyone had to get up and file out. So you had about five minutes to actually eat. And so you had all these guys just wolfing everything down.
From there, we filed up again — formed up again and marched back to the barracks. And that’s
whenever — that’s whenever we started the process of getting our shots and getting our military ID made and things like that. And then eventually we formed up into an actual company and were assigned a company commander.
So, going back to the RCPO thing, later on in boot camp, as you were about to graduate, there is a thing called “service week,” just to get ahead for a second, where you’re farmed out to various areas to help to do things. And in my case I was working in the cafeteria, doing things like bringing food up to the front and stuff like that.
But one of my company shipmates was picked to be an RC3 — I mean, an RCPO for a company that was forming up. And I told them, I said, “Look, do me a favor. Whenever they — whenever you wake them up, and they start calling you ‘Sir'” — because you don’t call an enlisted person “Sir.” (You only call officers “Sir.”)
Now, in boot camp, you actually call a Petty Officer and above a “Sir.” But we were all Seaman Apprentices and stuff. I said, “When they call you ‘Sir,’ I want you to yell, ‘I’m not Sir! I’m RCPO!'” And he’s like, “What? What are you talking about?” I said, “Trust me.”
And the next night, he comes back and he says, “You were right! They were so scared!”
So, anyway, that was my introduction to boot camp.
Q: Now, you went to school — there was a school — a follow-up school at the same location there in San Diego?
A: Uh-huh.
Q: And what’s the name of that school?
A: That was Combat Systems Technical School Command.
Q: And did you go as, basically, a group from your basic training class to a single —
A: No. It was all based on what was decided beforehand.
Q: Did you have a graduation ceremony for basic training?
A: Yes.
Q: Did anyone show up for you?
A: Myself? No.
Q: Same thing for me. I was actually dating my wife at the time. And she lived in Dallas, and I was at Fort Sill. And I think I was one of a handful of people that didn’t have any family or friends. And I regret that I had not pushed some of them to at least attend, because the lead up to it, I didn’t think it was that important, but, you know, you’re there and you see everyone else with their loved ones, after going through boot camp. And I sort of regret not making them come to see me.
A: It never really bothered me. You know, I knew that they weren’t going to fly out for, you know, an almost 30-year-old man’s, you know, enlistment/commencement thing.
Can I back up just a little bit about boot camp?
Q: Yes.
A: Because there are some funny stories.
At the very beginning — and, again, forgive me for the language. I don’t — I don’t talk like this. I have done a lot of things in the military that I now regret, especially as a Christ-follower. But, I mean, still, to do it justice and to do it accurately, you have to use the vernacular.
One of the ones — I’ll just knock out a couple of really funny boot camp stories.
Q: Please do.
A: One of the ones is: Everything is referred to differently in the military. This isn’t a floor (indicating). This is a deck. That isn’t a wall, that’s a bulkhead. And the trashcans around there are not called “trashcans.” They’re called “s**t cans.” I mean, they are called “trashcans,” technically. If you ever ask and you’re in polite company or whatever, you’ll say, “It’s a trashcan.” But it’s not a trashcan. Everyone calls it a “s**t can.”
And that was impressed upon me whenever our chaplain called it a s**t can. And I’m like, Whoa! They must — they must really take this seriously.
Another one was: Whenever you are in the — you’re forming up as a company, and you haven’t been issued your first sea bag issuing, with your dungarees and your boondockers and things like that. You’re still walking around in jeans and a, you know, Motley Crüe T-shirt, or whatever you’re wearing. And they do give you these crew socks, these tube socks, basically, to wear. And you’re supposed to take everything, your wallet, your keys, whatever, you know, and you’re supposed to put it in your sock. And then you tie the sock around your belt. And so you never have anything actually on your person. You just have it in this sock, until you can get a seabag issued and everything.
And from that comes the phrase that you’ll hear sailors talking about, where someone has it all together, or something like that. They say, “That guy really has his s**t in one sock.”
There’s another story where you’re getting all of your shots and all like that. And you haven’t been PT’d. You haven’t been really run — because, at the end of the boot camp, you’re supposed to be able to run, I think, a mile in five minutes or something like that, maybe a mile and a half or something like that. It’s called The Liberty Run because, if you do it, if you pass that, you graduate and you go on liberty. If you don’t, then, you know, you have to basically stay in boot camp for a while. But, anyway, they can’t make you run or exercise at all, until you’re physically cleared, basically, and you get all your shots.
So the day before they first start running you and exercising you, they give you a Bicillin shot the butt. And it’s supposed to be that all the running and everything works it into the muscles, and it doesn’t hurt as much.
Trust me, it hurts, because — it doesn’t hurt when they give you the shot — It hurts you the next morning. And you just wake up and you feel like someone shot you in the butt or something.
But you line up outside this Recruit Training Command bathroom, or head. And you all go inside, like maybe three or four at a time. And they have Corpsmen in there. And you’re supposed to bend over the sink and then drop your drawers, and they give you a shot. And then, you know, whatever. And then you pull up your pants and you walk out.
Someone somewhere — Great Lakes — Orlando, wherever — my understanding is it’s been going on for decades — Someone decided that it was going to be a prank that they were always going to play on whoever’s behind them in line that they’re all going to walk out of there grabbing their groin and telling the people that hadn’t been in there yet that they are about to get a square needle in the left nut. And, you know — and everyone perpetuates it, year after year after year, company after company.
Q: Did you expect that treatment?
A: Yeah, I was scared. I was like, Why would they do that? And then I go in. And they say, you know, “Drop your drawers.” And I’m like, “Okay.” You know? I figured this is the military. They’re not going to do anything they don’t have to.
And then he explains to me, “No, I’m just giving you a Bicillin shot in the butt.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.”
What else? Okay. Last one, and then I’ll — I swear I’ll go on.
We’re supposed to stand at attention any time that an officer or a — our leading petty officer or company commander or petty officer of any sort — basically anyone who is not a recruit walks in or walks by or something like that. And it can get kind of — I don’t know what the word would be, but “stressful” comes to mind. But I don’t know. You just — it becomes ingrained in you. And I guess that’s probably the purpose.
And, like I said, we do The Liberty Run. And then, after that, we graduated.
And there’s usually about a week or so there where we’re kind of on our own, where we can freely go to the cafeteria or someplace. We’re still expected to queue up and not talk and stuff like that, but we’ve got a little bit of freedom. And our company commander is usually not going to be there. He might show up during the day, just to make sure everything is cool, but at night he no longer stays in the barracks with us.
And, for some reason, there’s this one kid, this one little black kid — I can’t remember his name. I want to say it’s King, but I’m not sure. He slept closest to where the company commander would have his office and his rack. And sometime during that period, in the middle of the night — must have been like 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning — he literally pops tall out of his rack, stands at attention, and yells, “Attention on deck!” and then falls back into his rack and goes — I mean, he never really woke up, just, you know, “Attention on deck!”
And we’re all like — because it’s now been ingrained in us, and we’re, like, standing at attention. And we’re like, “Why are we standing at attention?”
So, anyway, those are some of my — the ones that come to mind. I’ll get off that subject now. Some funny times, though.
Q: Are there any traits that you — whether it’s a food you enjoy, or fast eating, or wearing the stays on your socks, is there anything you’ve taken from the military?
A: I still fold my clothes — I still fold my clothes the exact way that you’re taught. You know, like the T-shirt is bottom over the top, folding the sleeves. And then you do it over, and you do it over to where — and then that way, so it makes, basically, like a large rectangle.
Folding clothes is really important to a sailor because you have to be able to get all your clothes inside the rack. And if you don’t, if you have like anything, bed sheets or anything like that that are loose, those are things that can clog up the tubes, the drains, that they sink down into the area when they are trying to clean up after a fire, or if you’re in flooding or something like that. So it’s very important — you know, we laugh about we learned how to fold our clothes, but, to a sailor that’s very important.
And it just got to be — in fact, I got to be what they called a locker Petty Officer, which is an unofficial position, but me and about ten other guys would actually stay back, whenever the company was off doing — like eating or something like that. Our Company Commander would bring in donuts and coffee and stuff like that. And we would go through every rack to make sure everything was folded correctly. So, yeah, bottom line is: Attention to detail, attention to detail, attention to detail. Everything is attention to detail.
And that is something that I do to this day. I’m a detail-oriented person. And it’s all because of the Navy. I mean, yeah, it — it changed me.
Q: Tell us about your training, your military specialty, and what you learned to do.
A: I was a Data Systems Specialist. That rate doesn’t exist anymore. I was — well, the A school is just — excuse me – is just electronics theory: How to read a resistor, what a diode does, that sort of thing… how to troubleshoot a power supply or how to detect a current, that sort of thing.
And I liked the way they did their training. I’m actually in the process of getting certified — alternate certification to become a teacher. And I would like to think that I would do some of the things that I learned — or the processes that I learned in the Navy.
One of them is, at the beginning of each class, they would say, “By the end of this class, you should be able to do this, this, and this.” And they would tell you exactly what you’re expected to learn. And then, whenever you take the test, you’re given three questions on each one of those learning objects. You have to answer two of them correctly. If you don’t in any of those learning objects, like learning objective A, B, C, and D — let’s say I get two questions right on A, B, and D. I’ve got to go back and retake the part of the class about C, until I know how to do it.
I — I liked that. I think that was a smart way of doing things.
The other thing I remember about training, especially A school, is that we were not allowed to go outside of the base in civilian clothes, unless we — I think it was after a certain week we had to have a grade point average of — I think it was something like 90. It was really high. And — and I didn’t make it. I was like 87, or something like that.
So, for the longest time, anytime that I went out into San Francisco or something like that, I had to go out in my summer whites or my dress whites. So I don’t have to tell you, walking around San Francisco in your summer whites, what that’s like.
Q: So if we see someone walking outside in their summer whites on leave or liberty, whatever you call it, we can assume that they have not scored a 90 or higher on their tests?
A: Well, in that situation, yes. But, I mean, a lot of times — and I can understand this, especially if they’re on leave: You’re proud. You just — you know, you’re military, and you can show your — the teacher that didn’t think you’ll ever amount to anything that you’re — I’m at least good enough to get into the Marines or something, you know. So, yeah, if you’re wearing a uniform, it doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing.
Q: Tell us about the transition from school to ultimately — well, leading up to deployment and what you went through.
A: Okay. I — A and C school was about — I want to say — nine months. And I went into boot camp at the beginning of December. And so that would have been what? End of January, I think, is whenever I graduated. From there, I went to Mare Island Naval Station in Vallejo, California, the Combat Systems Technical School Command.
And then I think it was probably almost December of ’88, of course, I flew out to Hawaii. And I arrived during the day. I remember that. And my Company Commander — no, excuse me. My Leading Petty Officer, Richard Morris, Chief Petty Officer Morris, picked me up at the airport, gave me a lei, which is customary in Hawaii, made the terrible joke that everyone always makes about, “Now you’ve been leid.” We climb into his car, and he drives me to the barracks on Pearl Harbor Naval Station, checks me in, let’s me know what’s expected of me as far as the following morning, and where to be and whatnot.
And then that’s where I meet my roommates — or at least one of them. One of them was a First-Class Petty Officer, who was an Operations Specialist, so he was an OS1. And he basically took over one entire side of that room. And, you know, with the exception of occasionally hearing him, we never even knew he was there.
The other guy was an Electronics Warfare Third-Class Petty Officer, EW3. His name is Craig Abbott. And to this day, he’s one of my very good friends, although he lives in Australia, but we converse every once in a while.
And the very first night, he basically said, “You know what? We’re going out!” And I just remember us both walking around all over Pearl Harbor. We went to McDonald’s, and we went to the Base Exchange, the Enlisted Men’s Club, and stuff like that.
And then the next day we wake up, and I dress out in dungarees and everything. And we climb aboard a dirty blue bus, where we’re transported to the dry docks, and I report to my work center.
Q: Now, does the USS Worden does not initially deploy?
A: No.
 She was in dry dock for almost – in fact, I think about a year. I am going to have to look it up. But she was getting a New Threat Upgrade, where her radars were being upgraded, the software was being updated, missile rooms were being updated. And she had huge chunks cut out of the hull. They were — I think her boiler rooms were entirely redone. So they were constantly bringing in equipment.
And in my case I was — you know, being an electronics person, I wasn’t really involved in the actual adding of equipment or anything. So they assigned me to the Fire Watch Division. And so each day I would go down to, like, bilges and things like that, with welder’s goggles and a little patch saying I was a fire watch, and a big CO2 bottle and a water bottle. And I would stand around and watch welders from the shipyard come in, weld for 15 minutes, tell me to watch it for the next 20 minutes or half hour or something like that. And then, after that, come back after lunch.
Of course, they were all Hawaiian. It was like, “Okay, Brah! Come back after lunch.”
Q: Now, can you just give us a little description of the type of vessel or ship and, I guess, the characteristics?
A: Sure. The USS Worden, this iteration of it, I guess you would say, her keel was actually laid in 1960, the year I was born. And it was originally commissioned as a light Destroyer. So it was — “DLG-18” was the hull number. And whenever I got to it, it had been reclassified as a cruiser, so it became CG-18.
It has a — it’s a Leahy-class cruiser, with a Belknap hull. It’s primarily an anti-air platform, although it does have some subsurface or anti-submarine capabilities. It had a — what they call a — these were added during the upgrade, but it had what they call a 48 Echo, or 48-E, radar, big, black panel rotated up at the top, had a range that was just crazy.
You know, I can’t go into too much detail, but it could see very, very far. It’s not quite as good as the new-ages class, but it was — it could see a long way. And then it had two double missile launchers, forward and aft, one forward and one aft. They called them double-armed bandits, or two-armed bandits.
Those are the ones that you see that have the little — they run the missile out on the rails, and they turn around like that (indicating). And so we had one — one forward and one aft.
And then, for each one of those, they had what they call a 55 Bravo radar, which was a fire-control radar. And they looked kind of like cones — or little drums, with cones on them. And those are the ones where you radiate — it’s hard to explain, but you basically control that missile as it’s being fired through each individual radar.
And then they had — let’s see. They had four harpoon missiles on either side, facing opposite directions. And then we also had some torpedoes on the sides. We fired, primarily, SM-1 and SM-2 missiles. We were non-nuclear. And — although, any time anyone asked, we were required to say, “I cannot confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons on board the USS Worden,” specifically that phrase.
But, no, it wasn’t nuclear. It was a boiler configuration, had two boiler rooms, one forward, one aft.
Trying to think of what else. That’s primarily it.
Oh, yes, also had an ASROC system, A-S-R-O-C. I have no idea what it means. Basically, it’s a big box, and it sat right behind the forward missile — forward missile house and the bridge, or the actual structure of the main deck. And its job was to fire, basically, torpedoes a great distance, in order to deliver them quicker than if we were to just run them off the rails on the side. And so, basically, like, if we identified a subsurface target that was pretty far out there, we would just raise this box up and then fire a torpedo out, with a little missile. And then it would knock whatever the propellant is off. And it would — a parachute would come down. And it would just float down. And when it hit the water, the parachute would off, and then it would start searching.
And whenever we did tours of the Worden, which we did if we were in a port or something like that, or a Dependent’s Cruise, we used to love to tell people that they were looking at the largest toy that the Mattel Corporation ever created.
But, yeah, that was — we were primarily anti-air. We were really good at it. But the submarine stuff, no, not really.
Q: Tell us about your deployment and, I guess, how you found out about it and what it was like to mobilize very quickly.
A: I was just wondering if you wanted to eat.
Q: Oh, yeah, yeah. You want to take a break?
A: I’m good, but if y’all want to eat, you just go ahead.
Q: Well, I thought — I thought, if we would just go for about another 20-25 minutes, that would take us to a little bit past the hour, you know, with a full hour. And then –
THE REPORTER: Okay.
Q: — we would just conclude and just break. Is that okay?
A: That’s fine with me. Like I said, I’m good. I love to talk.
Q: So tell us about the events, though, that led to the —
A: I was just saying, I’m concerned for y’all, because I don’t want to bore y’all to death, or if you have other things to do.
Q: No, no. That’s — you’re not boring us at all.
A: Okay.
Q: And so tell us, going back to just the events that led to the deployment, what you found out and how quickly everything came together.
A: Yeah. I mean, we already — right after we came out of dry dock, we spent several months doing workups, stressing out the boilers, stressing out all the systems, basically, to make sure everything works.
After that, we went on a Dependent’s cruise. So we got the wife and kids, or boyfriend/girlfriend, whatever.
Well, back then, it wouldn’t have been a boyfriend, not officially, anyway. And then — oh, gosh, I’ve got to tell y’all about my Page 13. It doesn’t really fit into here.
Q: That’s fine.
A: Well, okay. I’ll back up a little bit. I can’t believe I’m telling you this, but it is — I mean, it’s in my military records. So, I mean, it’s not like a big thing.
The night before I actually joined — and I told you I didn’t have any intention of joining, right? The night before I went down to see the recruiter, I had smoked pot. And so, whenever I’m having to raise my right hand and all like that, I’m thinking to myself — and especially whenever they do the piss test, I’m like, “I have to come clean.” You know?
And, of course, back then they ask you — and this is what kind of prompted it in my memory. They ask you a couple things: “Have you ever used drugs? And are you a homosexual?” And I had to answer “Yes” to the “used drugs” because I knew it was going to show up in my system.
And back then they didn’t have the zero tolerance that they have now. They had, basically — they actually had rehabs in most naval stations and things like that. So if someone had an alcohol problem or drug problem or something like that, they would go and spend a month or two in rehab, which isn’t very fun because it’s actually behind barbed wire and everything.
But my point is, it wasn’t zero tolerance. But they told me that I had to sign a Page 13, which is a military, you know, record, basically saying, yes, I did smoke marijuana, and if I ever popped positive, then I am out that day, you know. No ifs, ands, or buts. You are gone.
And then, after that — of course, they do periodic piss tests, even out — whenever you’re on deployment. And they do it every month. And they choose a number randomly that’s supposed to be the last number of your Social Security. And I could have sworn that the number 9 came up a lot more often than some of the other numbers. But, yeah. So, anyway, yeah.
And I used to swear — also, whenever I joined, my hair was probably about as long as hers is right now (indicating). And I used to swear that the day I got out I was going to light up, I was going to start growing my hair long. And here it is 25 years, 20 years, whatever it is, and I haven’t done either. In fact, if it ever — this is probably too long for me right now (indicating). If it touches my ears, it freaks me out. And the whole point of pot now is like, “Why did I ever do that?”
But, anyway, to answer your question, talking about the deployment, this would have been Desert Shield/Desert Storm. So, right off the bat, my — oh, I also remember that while we were in dry dock, while we are in overhaul, was whenever — I want to say either Grenada or Panama happened. And the buzz was, you know, “They’re going to hurry us up. They’re going to do away with the trials and everything. They’re going to send us down there for that.” Of course, that was just BS. That was total nonsense. But we were all, you know, “Oh, they’re going to send us out.”
So, anyway, we go through the workups and the Dependent’s cruise and all like that. And I take a month of leave, and I go home for the first time. This is now two years into my — well, a little — no, about two years in, just about. And so I’m going home. And, of course, that’s whenever I have to wear my dress whites and everything for the photographs and everything. And I have to admit I enjoyed some of it.
And so, while I’m at home, Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. And then, suddenly, all of the greetings and conversations go from being, “Oh, you know, that’s really nice, Charles, that you’re in the Navy” and all like that, to, “Are they going to send you over there?” to which I always had to answer, “Well, we had already planned to go, anyway. So, yes, I can imagine we’re probably going to be there.”
So I come back to Hawaii and report back to the ship, knowing full well the day that we’re leaving — I don’t know what it is now, but it would have been mid September, I think, of 1990. And then — maybe October. I’m not sure. And then knowing full well that whenever we leave we’re leaving for the Persian Gulf.
And we stop for, I want to say, maybe four days in the Philippines, at Subic Bay Naval Station. And we bring on some people and have some equipment looked at for the last time. And then, from there, we go to Singapore. But before we go to Singapore, we dip down below the Equator, so that we can do the Crossing of the Line ceremony. And that’s whenever I went from being a worthless pollywog to being an honorable and trustee Shellback. And I can show you the card, if you really want to see it.
And that was a hoot, too, because — I won’t go into it, for time. But that’s where you do things like you wear your clothes inside out and upside down, and you crawl around on your hands and knees. And you’re supposed to, you know, bark like a dog. And they’d make you eat slime.
And it’s totally different now. It’s — in the politically-correct world, Crossing the Line has become like it is if you do it on a cruise ship or something like that. But back then they used to take fire hoses and cut them into strips about three-feet long. And then they attach a handle. They call them shillelaghs. And they basically whack you on the rear end constantly for that entire day.
Plus, there is some stuff where you do, the night before or the day before, called “The wogs’ rebellion” that were just hilarious, things like they assign the wogs stuff to do so that they won’t rise up and do a rebellion.
And in my case, I was the Starboard Horizon Watch. And I was supposed to stand out on the starboard bridge wing and make sure that the horizon didn’t go anywhere.
Q: Meaningful task?
A: Oh, yeah, some funny, funny stuff.
But then the next day, you know, is the Crossing of the Line ceremony. And one of the things that I really remember from that, and it’s really kind of beautiful in a way, is: We were supposed to — we were standing on our hands and knees, and we were facing out toward the water. And we’re making, I don’t know, 20 knots or something. And the Shellbacks, who were dressed as pirates and things like that, are telling us that we need to start calling for Flipper.
And so just imagine 2- or 300 guys all wearing their clothes inside out and upside down on the side of the wings of the ship going, “Flipper, Flipper, where are you, Flipper?” And I kid you not. I don’t know what you call them, a flock or whatever, of dolphins or porpoises come up alongside us and start dancing and everything with us. I still remember that.
But, anyway, after the Crossing of the Line ceremony — it was just, basically, a few nautical miles’ dip. And you’d just turn around and head back to Singapore.
We spent, probably, about a week in Singapore, beautiful, great town — or city/state. It’s both. It’s both a city and a state. It’s like Manhattan is to us, beautiful, nice people. It used to be a British colony. So it’s kind of weird seeing all these Asian people walk up to you and take your order in a British accent or something like that.
I fell in love with one of them just because of that.
And they have a fantastic mass rapid transit system, a really good zoo, not a lot of night life because, basically, they don’t — that’s the place where they basically fine you $500 American, or something like that, if you are chewing — they actually — they forbid you to bring in gum, for one thing. But if you, like, throw something on the ground, litter, that’s a $500 fine. That’s where the kid got actually paddled as punishment for keying a car and all like that. But they’re really nice people.
You see signs in every — you know, like Malaysian and something else, and English, whatever, like four different languages, but really great people.
From there, we left and were headed to the Gulf. We come in –
Q: Were you apprehensive at all about — I mean, you knew what you were going into, right, as far as the –
A: Anyone who wasn’t was stupid. I mean, everyone was. We had to sign our — well, we didn’t have to — well, I guess we did. We were strong-armed, basically, into filling out wills. And we were issued our gas masks that we carried in kind of a holster-type thing that we had on our thighs. And we had the canisters in the bag, but we hadn’t opened them. And they actually open up with one of those key things, like a tin, where you open up the thing.
Here’s another funny story: I forget exactly where it happened. I think it was down, like, in the Gulf of Oman or something, prior to the turnover. And I want to say — I don’t know if that was — okay.
When any sailor passes away for any reason, and it’s before they can be — you know, before you can pull into a port or before you can airlift them out or whatever, they put them in a body bag and they put them down in what they called “the reefer,” which was basically the refrigerator.
And the refrigerator, or the reefer, has a chemical alarm on the top of the ceiling of the rafter. And we had a chemical alarm malfunction, prior to us taking the little canisters out of the seal. And to this day I remember I was on the 03 level, on the starboard side, in a little area we had right behind Combat Information Systems. And we hear the chemical alarm go off. And I’m standing there talking with OSC Collins, who was a crazy guy, but he was a good guy. And he and I both look at each other. And he just goes, “Oh, s**t.”
And he goes — he doesn’t have to go very far. He has to just go through to the next, you know, area — the next whatever and close the door behind him. I have to go through Combat Information Systems, over to the port side, down into officer country, back through where the OSs hang out, open up an actual door to the
outside — so I am going to have to go outside the skin of the ship in a chemical alarm situation — close the door behind me, go into my work center, close the door behind me, before I’m supposed to be in battle station.
And, you know, like I said, I’m running down there. The whole time — because battle stations, you’re supposed to get there within, like, two minutes.
Wherever you are on the ship, you’re supposed to be where you’re supposed to be within two minutes. And so we’re all running. And I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, crap. I’m going to have to go outside the skin of the ship. And we’re under chemical attack. I’m going to die.” And by the time I get down there, they’re all saying, “False alarm, false alarm,” or whatever. And then I started hearing reports of these kids all starting to try and key open their canisters to put them on, because we haven’t been told to put them on yet. And they’re cutting themselves. And so the next day we had people walking around with Band-Aids and stuff.
But, anyway, yeah, we pulled into the Gulf of Oman. And I remember this. It was Halloween. It was October 31, 1988. And I want to say that we did a turnover with the USS Horne, which is also a Leahy-class guided-missile cruiser. I think they were CG-19 or 17. I don’t know.
So, anyway, she had been doing her WestPac in that area. And she was done. And she was about to head home, I think, to San Diego or something. I will have to look that up. And so that’s — that period there is where their officers and their crew talk to our officers and our crew, and they say, “This is what we’ve been doing. This is what we’ve seen. This is everything that’s working,” blah, blah, blah. Sometimes they even transfer crew, you know.
And at that point, of course, Bush had gone to Congress and had gotten the authorization. And the military buildup was just immense. People were just flying in from everywhere. And the next thing you know, we’re bringing on people like — I cannot remember his name, but he was a postal clerk, and he was a reservist. He wasn’t an actual active-duty guy. He was a reservist.
And that poor guy came in from a ship that was there before us. He did an entire tour with us. And I think he did an entire tour or two with another ship after we left. So he spent, like, a year or
something — granted it’s easy work sifting through letters and stuff. But, still, that poor guy had to leave his job and his family for, like, a year. That’s just one example.
But, anyway, we did the turnover down in the Gulf of Oman. And then, after that, we went up through the Strait of Hormuz. And I don’t have to tell you that’s — you know, that puts you on edge. That’s whenever you are basically in the highest ready condition that you can possibly be, short of being in battle stations.
And at that time, you know, of course, Iran had had the revolution. We were not very friendly with them, still aren’t. But, you know, they are almost mortal enemies with Saddam Hussein and Iraq, so they’re kind of “gloves off” to us because they know that we’re about to kick Saddam’s ass. So we weren’t that worried that they were going to fire a missile at us, but we were a little worried.
And then, after that, we went up to Bahrain, where we pull in and spent a couple days, I think. And that’s where we — I forget the name of the command, but it’s basically where Norman Schwarzkopf and people like 
that — you know, that’s where they were based out of, was Bahrain.
And then, after that, then we spent all of our time in a little square area there around a little island called Farsi Island. And we called it “the batter’s box.” And we would just basically tool around in that area all the time. And our job was to splash any aircraft that came out over the water — “feet wet” is what they call it — any aircraft that we couldn’t identify.
And while we were doing this, the entire fleet was massing up down in the bottom of the Gulf in the area around Dubai. So we were the — pretty much the only ones that were just floating around in this little area.
It’s right equal with the lower border of Kuwait, just — you draw a line out in the middle of the Persian Gulf. That’s where we were. And so, until hostility started, that’s where we spent all our time. And we were just always looking for a plane to come out and sink it, splash it.
Q: Is there anything you can share with us, as far as the most memorable occasion while you were on deployment in the Persian Gulf?
A: I met Dick Cheney, who at the time was the — what is that? — Secretary of Defense, I think. I 
met — I actually had dinner with — I say “had dinner with.” He sat at my table: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell. And in Cheney’s case, I actually presented the divisional head.
A little side story: Basically, I am a clean nut. I’m a clean freak. And they put — one of the things that they told us in — the recruiter is that petty officers don’t do all the crap work. They do all — you know, they’re Petty Officers. They’re, you know, advanced. They don’t have to do all that. That’s all for Seamen and Seamen Recruits and stuff. Well, guess what happens when you’re the least senior person in a division where everyone’s a Petty Officer? You do tours on the mess decks and you clean the head.
Well, I made the mistake of doing a really good job of cleaning the head. And so, whenever anyone important came on, they basically made me do it. And I had also done some things to make it work, because we had brought in some stainless steel and stuff like that. And I had found that you use linseed oil to clean the stainless steel and all like that.
So I actually had to stand outside of that divisional head. And when the Secretary of Defense came around, I had to say, you know, “DS3 Stricklin presenting 1-2-252-L,” or whatever it was, you know, that division. And I just remember him — of course, he was nice. And he was like, “Hello, Petty Officer Stricklin. How are you?” and all like that. And he kind of — I don’t remember the exact phrase or what he said, but he, in effect, said basically, “Can you believe that they have me inspecting the bathroom?” And I’m like, “No, sir, not really. I don’t understand it.” And he kind of smiled and went on his way.
But I’m sorry. I forgot the question.
Q: Oh, no, no.
A: I am just laughing inwardly here.
Q: Not knowing specifically, you know, what you did and what you were allowed to share with us, I just was wondering, you know, what was memorable to you about that tour. You know, in wartime –
A: Oh, yeah.
Q: — there are important responsibilities out there.
A: Well, we might as well just get on to the war, right? I mean, once Desert Storm started, that’s whenever the whole mission changed and everything. The Worden actually pulled off to the side, to the East.
If you look at Iran, there is a little bump there, a little — I don’t know what to say it, but the border — the coast kind of does like that (indicating), like an S. And we were still in international waters, but we pulled off to where we were 12 miles or so off the coast. And we could actually see Iran off in the distance.
We actually had an Iranian gun boat come up. And they were about as far away as, maybe, that nearest building over there (indicating), closer maybe. And I just remember that, you know, they just looked at us. They had harpoon missiles on theirs. And we were just kind of like, you know, “Hi. (waving) You’re next.”
But, for the most part, you know, our work was done. We were really just — that’s not entirely true, because we did — we set up what they called “delousing lines.” We added these three lines where, whenever they flew out sorties, they had to line up and go through these little funnels, or these little queues.
And we had to do what they called “interrogate friend or foe,” IFF. And we sent out a little signal to them. And they had to respond back with a certain encrypted signal saying, “I’m an F-18 belonging to Saudi Arabia” or something, and basically one of our guys. And the idea was, perhaps, a jet might try to slip in and then attack the carrier group or something. So, I mean, it’s not like we weren’t doing anything, but our primary job was basically just to — you know, we took a second step from everyone else. At that point, I mean, the night of the Desert Storm — I want to say it was January 20th, I think. I don’t know. I can’t remember it exactly. Of course, it was local time. It wasn’t — to you guys, it would have been like the day prior, I think, or — no, the day — whatever.
Anyway, but I just remember that night everyone knows it’s about to go down. And OSC Collins, the guy I was telling you about, was going around everywhere, “We’re lighting tea lamps tonight. We’re lighting TLAMS tonight.” TLAMS are Tomahawk missiles. We didn’t have any Tomahawk missiles, but the point is he was excited because we were about to go to war.
And that night — of course, they are all telling us, “Get a lot of rest, because the next few days you’re going to be really busy.” So I tried to sleep. And we’re kicking back. And you see people on the mess decks, playing cards and stuff. And then, later on that night, I wake up — and I did my shift, generally, from midnight until noon the following day. And I think I started a little early, because I think hostility started right at midnight on that day, and started work at, maybe, 11:00.
And I go up into Combat Information Systems, where normally it’s only Operation Specialists and ETs and DSs and people like that. And it’s — I wouldn’t say it’s packed, but it’s busy. And there are a lot of people up there. And they even had engineers up there and stuff like that.
And I’m thinking, you know, “This is different. This is interesting.”
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. My — okay. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to go long, but this is all coming back to me.
My equipment — my specialty is basically what they call “Link 11.” And my equipment did what basically — it’s a huge modem. And it takes all of the information that the ship has in her database about this track: Is it air? Is it surface? Is it subsurface? Is it neutral? Is it hostile? Is it one of ours? What’s its bearing? What’s its speed? Do we know any information about it? Do we know what ship that is? Do we know what their capabilities are? And it takes all that information in the computer system, and my equipment turns that into data tones, like actual audio tones. And it encrypts it first. And then it turns it into one of 32 frequencies.
And I won’t go into the specifics, because it’s boring. It’s really ingenious the way they did it, but basically it would take those tones and it would broadcast it over the radio to the other ships in the carrier group.
It’s kind of hard to explain. Imagine that this is the carrier (indicating), and it’s in control of the carrier group, of the battle group. And imagine that this is us, and imagine that there is a frigate out in front. Each one of these ships has their radar group, or radar area. By sharing all the information, it’s basically a local area network.
All of a sudden — these ships, instead of seeing this much radar (indicating), all of a sudden, they see that much radar (indicating). I mean, this is almost before the time of AWACS and stuff like that, satellite imagery. So it was very important that everything worked.
Well, our ship at the time, I think, was the — I don’t know what the term was, but basically we were the administrator of the network. And we would go through and we would poll each ship, you know: Do you have any information? Yes. Okay, send it to me. Do you have information? No. Okay, next one.
Well, my equipment started to malfunction. And it wouldn’t poll correctly, so it wasn’t getting all the information. And I don’t have to tell you that people were pretty stressed out about that. So they come to me and they say, “You need to fix this!”
Well, normally, I would get out my oscilloscope and I would try to figure it all out, but I had done something that technically was illegal — or not illegal, but, you know, not authorized. And I had started collecting a series of cards that my equipment used. They basically used, like, ten different types of cards, but just a whole bunch of them. So I just had one spare of each one. And I went through this card rack on this piece of equipment. And I was just Easter-egging everything.
I was, like, pull this card out, put this card back in (indicating). Does it work? No. Okay. Take that out, put the original back in indicating). Take that one out, put that card in, the test card in, known good card. Does it work? Yes indicating). Okay. Take that out, put the original card back in. Does it work? No indicating). Okay. Take that out, put that test card back in indicating). Does it work? Yes. I have a known bad card in my hand here.
So I go to my Department Head, who at the time was standing as — I think he was the Command Duty Officer at the time, basically, controlling CIC. And I told him, “Look, I know for a fact this card is bad, and that is what’s causing the problem.”
What was his name? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’m taking up too much time.
He looks at it as if he could somehow, you know, see electronics or something. And he tells me to clean the leads and put it back in, see if it works. And I look at him. And I’m like, “Yes, sir,” you know: incredulous.
And so I basically walk over there, and I don’t do it, you know. And then I go back and I say, “No, sir, it didn’t work.” And he’s like, “Well, okay. Then use the card that you put in.”
So I got everything working literally hours before war is about to start.
And then it actually starts, and they announce it over the 1-MC. And I remember listening in my workstation over the BBC. And I’m listening to, like, Peter Arnett and these other people. And they are in Baghdad. And they are talking about how everything is quiet, no bombs, no missiles or anything. “Everyone here is hunkered down. They don’t want us leaving the hotel,” and all like that.
And I hear word that the Tomahawks had been launched. And, in fact, I remember I left out the back exit of my work center, on the port side. I’m on the 02 level. And I can see the USS Leftwich, off of our port quarter, firing Tomahawks. And all the guys out on the main deck of the 01 level, they are like, “Yeah! Yeah! America!” and all, you know.
And then I go back inside, and I listen to U2, ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’. And I’m listening to the BBC, and I’m thinking, “You don’t know what’s about to hit you.”
And then, later on, during the actual hostilities — because the way they would do it is: They would fire a whole buttload of Tomahawk missiles (indicating). And then they would fly their sorties out from the carrier groups. And the sorties would go out and hit all their targets and all like that. And then they would come back through the degaussing lines, or delousing lines, depending on how you want to remember it. And then, once they landed on the carrier group, a whole new set of Tomahawks would take off.
And I remember I used to be able to go out on the bridge wings at night, and I’d see these little white streaks go over the clouds of all these Tomahawks and everything. And at the time we had — I don’t even know what they were, but they — from my understanding, they were CIA, but they were — we just called them “the spooks.” And they were — they had, like, these containers that you see on railroads and things like that. And it was actually welded to our signal bridge, up on the 03 level — or, actually, that would have been the 04 level.
And they were the ones that were hearing — they got all the good information, basically. And they were the ones that also got the Super Bowl scores before anyone else. But they were the ones that were hearing about all the really good information. And they were probably the ones that were seeing the luckiest man in Iraq, you know. You saw the guy where the missile hit the bridge, and this guy got out in time, and all like that.
So, anyway, we would hear from them about some of the stuff that was going on. But, for the most part, it was just BBC, and you would go out at night and see the tomahawks fly over. So it was a weird — it was a really weird couple of weeks there, just a really weird couple of weeks knowing that we were just bombing the s**t out of someone.
Q: What was the trigger for — I would just call it “being released.” In other words, at some point in time, there was a replacement ship that came in and took your position, and then allowed you to then return from deployment.
A: Yeah. It would have been, I want to say, late February. And let’s see.
Oh, okay, here it is. Because I’ve got a list of the times. Aerial bombardment of Iraq started at 1:40 local time — at 1:40 A.m. local time on the 16th of January. And then we turned over to the USS Horne — oh, okay. So we, actually, turned over originally from the USS England, who was also a Leahy-class guided-missile cruiser. And then we turned over to the Horne, H-O-R-N-E, on 13 February, 1991. And then, from there, we left the Persian Gulf.
And then, five days later, we had a beer day — what we called a “steel beach picnic,” because it was on steel, basically. And that’s whenever our ship had been out at sea for more than — I think it’s, like, more than 60 days, or more than 30 days, or something like that.
And so what they basically did was: That was the day where we’re chopping through, like, the Indian Gulf, or Indian — I guess it would be the Indian Gulf, on the way back to Singapore.
And you go out on the fantail, in shorts and a t-shirt, or whatever you want. We have a band playing up above. And they hand you two beers. And they are, like, really cheap beers. And I wasn’t a beer drinker, anyway. So I think I gave mine away, or may have drunk one, or something like that. And I think — I want to say that they actually gave us one of the medals, like the first — maybe the Saudi-Kuwaiti liberation medal, because there were two Kuwaiti liberation medals. And I’m still fighting to get the Kuwaiti version of it. But the Saudis had already given us this really gaudy-looking medal. And I think they handed it to us then, along with the two beers. And we were not allowed to come back into the ship, unless we had finished those beers, or given them away, or thrown them overboard, or something like that.
And I remember — I don’t remember the name of the ship, but it was a destroyer. And she was coming along on our starboard side. You know, she was transiting back with us. And she was eligible for a beer day. She had been out the same amount of time we had. But her commanding officer wasn’t having any of it.
And so here we have 455 guys on the Worden, you know, listening to rock and roll and drinking beer and doing hotdogs and stuff like that. And then this poor Destroyer over on the other side that’s business as usual. And we were like, “Hey.” And they’re like, “Screw you.”
Q: I have just a couple of closing questions.
A: Sure.
Q: One is: Obviously, you were put in these situations with a lot of people from different walks of life, different racial backgrounds, different points in their life, different ranks even. What can you say, generally, about your experience as far as the caliber of people you came across and just sort of the environment you were in?
A: Some of the best people in the world. The bad ones were all, like, self-terminated. You know, they all end up screwing up somehow. I mean, we did have this one guy who came out of that — and this is sad. He was a Boatswain’s Mate. He had a drinking problem. I don’t remember his name. But he got up — he practically made Chief. He was a First-Class Petty Officer. And then they knocked him down, knocked him down, knocked him down. And he ended up, after he got out — he was dishonorably discharged.
I don’t know why I’m focusing on him, because most everyone was really great people. But, to finish this story, this guy actually shot up a school in, like, Seattle, or someplace like that.
But most of them, though, the bad apples, they all washed out earlier. They washed out before they got to the Worden, or, if they did, they washed out before we went on deployment, or something like that.
Now, keep in mind that I was there all the way through, not only Desert Storm, but we went back the year later for what they call “Southern Watch,” which was the enforcement of the no-fly zone. So I did two WestPacs in the Iranian Gulf. So I am thinking of everyone during that period.
But we actually have a Facebook group where we stay in touch with each other. And I know one has gone on to be a teacher, one has gone on to be a psychiatrist or psychologist, who helps with the V.A. My friend, Craig, is a very successful Realtor in Melbourne, Australia. We have reunions. I mean, these are some of the best guys in the world and some of the most upstanding people in the world, most patriotic men I have ever met.
You know, did we have disagreements? Yeah. I mean, it’s like a family. You fight with your brothers. And there were a lot of them that were real jerks. But, yeah, I mean, they’re great guys. And I’m honored to have served with them.
I’m getting off on a cliff.
Q: And then finally, you know, this is — this will be in the Library of Congress. Some day, someone — you know, hopefully, America will still be great and around in 500 years. But for someone who comes back many years down the road to read the transcript or hear this recorded conversation — you know, maybe they have family members who served with you, or maybe just are looking and stumble upon this particular interview. But as someone who has served, and in particular who has served in combat, what would you say to future generations as far as — whether you believe it’s important or not, but military service and the contributions that you and your fellow servicemen and servicewomen made?
A: I have actually told people that there are several things that I think that every person ought to do in life. One is to wait tables. I think everyone ought to wait tables, or at least some sort of customer service, you know, customer-facing service job because you — I mean, I really am partial to waiting tables because you have to learn time management and have good memory and be able to deal with people and things like that.
I also think everyone ought to run a business — or start their own business, even if it fails, which mine did. But you have to learn how to manage your time and to deal with more people and, in some cases, make payroll and things like that. But you have to kind of learn to appreciate the capitalist, the entrepreneur mindset.
And another one that I think that everyone ought to do is to serve at least some period of time in their country’s military because you learn discipline, you learn — primarily discipline, but you learn all these other things, time management. And you learn to focus on what’s important. You learn attention to detail. And, also, you learn how important it is to protect your country and to serve your country and — I’m sorry (tearing up).
It’s a great experience. You — it changed me.
And in a funny note, I always used to tell people that the Navy — my time in the Navy was a lot like high school because there were a lot of good times, and there were a lot of bad times. Overall, I’m glad I did it. You could not pay me enough money to do it all over again.
Q: Well, thank you. On my own behalf, on behalf of this program, and certainly on behalf of just as many people as I can speak for, I thank you very much for your service. And I appreciate it.
 

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General

Countries Where I’ve Traveled

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General

My list of preferred Austin restaurants

A friend has family visiting Austin next month, and has asked me to provide a list of area restaurants that I prefer, so here goes!
I’ll try to include primarily locally owned restaurants, although a few are national or regional chains, albeit with local roots. I’ll also try to include only those restaurants where I’ve actually eaten, although there may be a couple that are still on my to-do list.

  1. Franklin Barbeque – Without question my number one choice. And it’s “Franklin Barbeque”, not “Franklin’s Barbeque”. Listed by Bon Appétit Magazine as one of the world’s most important restaurants, it opens each day, except Mondays, at 11:00am, and by noon they’re sold out. Lines begin forming at about 8:30am, and can sometimes go around the block. Don’t worry, though, about an hour before they open, an employee begins walking back through the line and learns what you plan to order, (Hint: Say, “A little of everything”), and they can also bring out a cold beer or two to help bide the time. It’s not a bad idea to bring lawn chairs, though. Trust me, any standing around and waiting is well worth it!
  2. Frank – Again, just “Frank”, not “Frank’s”. (What is it with Austin and possessive nouns?!) Purveyors of artisan hot dogs and cold beer, with the occasional live music thrown in. Parking downtown is horrendous, though.
  3. Annie’s Café and Bar – I don’t know how trendy or historic this nice little restaurant downtown is, I only know I stumbled upon it one night waiting to enjoy jazz at the nearby Elephant Room. Very nice atmosphere and food.
  4. Threadgill’s – 24 hour Southern comfort food. Go to the original on Lamar Street… That’s the one where Janus Joplin used to perform, before she’d go on be famous.
  5. Matt’s El Rancho – Family owned for over 50 years in South Austin, Matt’s El Rancho is a must stop if you’re in Austin.
  6. Manuel’s – Definitely not TexMex! High cuisine Mexican food.
  7. Torchy’s Tacos – Austin has this thing about tacos, I’m not sure what it is, but this former food truck chef has gone on to open up at several locations, all of them damn good!
  8. French Quarter Grill – One of my personal favorites, a nice, little family owned restaurant specializing in étouffée, gumbo, and many more dishes you’d find in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
  9. Kerbey Lane Café – a 24-hour diner that started by catering mainly to UT students, you guessed it… on Kerbey Lane. I’m excited that they’re about to start construction on a new location a few blocks from my apartment, but for now, the one on Guadalupe Street is probably my favorite. Or, go to the original one on Kerbey Lane. For breakfast, have the migas and/or the pancakes… they’re awesome!
  10. P. Terry’s – P. Terry’s is a no-frills burger place, with high quality, mostly local ingredients. Think of it as an Austin In-n-Out, but arguably better, and with no lines around the block.
  11. Cajun Pizza Place – Offers pizzas with a distinctive Cajun flair, also fried shrimp po-boys, muffulettas, and authentic Cajun boudin. The owners are related to the owners of Pizza Village in Lafayette, Louisiana, the only pizza place I’ve been to where they frequently have waiting lists to be seated most nights. Ask for The Joe, which is pepperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage, hamburger, and shrimp at the Pizza Village. At the Cajun Pizza Place, that’s the same as The Crusher, except you substitute shrimp for the jalapenos.
  12. Chuy’s – Chuy’s is a national TexMex chain with headquarters in Austin. There are more tradition TexMex restaurants out there, but Chuy’s is a place I prefer, possibly because of the kitschy atmosphere.
  13. Freebirds – Started in California, Freebirds is a nice place to get a burrito, and in my opinion, better than Chipotle. Better tasting, better atmosphere, and slightly better politics.
  14. Chi’Lantro – Korean Mexican BBQ… let that sink in for a minute. Lines start forming when the truck rolls up.
  15. Café Java – This is a little bistro about a block away from where I live that I like to go to for the occasional breakfast, and I love their Cajun Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
  16. The Salt Lick – Before eating at Franklin, Salt Lick was my favorite BBQ.

Honorable mentions: Rudy’s, County Line, Bill Miller, Pok-e-Jo’s, and El Mercado. I understand Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew is also supposed to be very good, although I have not been there… yet!
I’m sure there are many more deserving to be on this list, some I’ve been to, some I haven’t, but consider this one man’s partial list of good places to eat while in Austin, Texas.

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General

My Genetic Makeup

My Genetic Makeup
Source: 23andMe

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General

14 Things About Austin I’ve Learned from Living Here

In March, I will have lived in North Austin for two years. If you’ve ever lived or visited Austin, Texas, then you’ll know what I mean when I tell you it’s decidedly different from other large cities, even within Texas itself.
Here are 12 things I’ve learned while living here:

  1. Austin isn’t as nearly politically liberal or progressive as you’d might think – If I’ve heard that “Austin is the Berkeley of the South” once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. And while the Austin City Council is extremely liberal, and the area around the University of Texas and South of the river tend to be a little… “out there”, the further North you move, the more libertarian and conservative you find people. So far, the most “progressive” lunacy I’ve been forced to endure are the Austin paper and plastic bag ban, and the frequent trolling for money downtown and in Barton Creek by President Obama (and the subsequent traffic jams from shutting down traffic).
  2. Traffic and parking is terrible, nearly anywhere you go – I’m fortunate to live less than 2 miles from where I work, and a little over 5 miles from where I worship. Fortunate because, when I have to travel anywhere else, I’m guaranteed to find heavy traffic and frequent gridlock. I avoid downtown like the plague. If you visit here, either allow a lot of time to get where you’re going and/or avoid the major highways.
  3. There are some serious foodies here! – Particularly BBQ. The Austin-area is home to Franklin BBQ, The Salt Lick, County Line, Pok-e-Jo’s, Bill Miller and Rudy’s. As well, the nearby town of Lockhart is known as the “BBQ Capital of Texas”, with four BBQ pit restaurants, each with their own fierce proponents: Black’s, Chisholm Trail, Kreuz Market (pronounced ‘Krites’), and Smittys Market. And that’s just BBQ! Austin has lots of excellent restaurants (and food trucks) that prepare every conceivable type of food imaginable. Other notable restaurants/local chains include Chuy’s, Freebirds, Frank (Not Frank’s… Frank!), Kerbey Road Cafe, just to name a few.
  4. This is a fantastic place for small business and entrepreneurs, particularly tech – I think it may have started when Michael Dell began making computer systems out of room 2713 of the Dobie Center residential building when he was a student at the University of Texas.
  5. Austinites pride themselves on being different – The catch phrase de rigueur in Austin has been “Keep Austin Weird” for years, and although every passing day it becomes more and more like other large cities like Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, most residents still like to think and behave in, let’s just say, novel ways.
  6. Californians are moving here in droves, and that is not necessarily a good thing – Austin is expected to double in size in the next decade, and although people are moving to Texas from every other state in the union, Californians fleeing the overly taxed, overly regulated, imploding economy that is California (and that their politics brought about) prefer Austin because it is to Texas what Berkeley is to California. So, Californians bring three things to Texas: Traffic, increased housing prices and liberal politics.
  7. It’s pronounced “Man-chack” – There is a small town Southwest of Austin named Manchaca, and there is a road leading there named, appropriately, Manchaca Road. One would naturally be inclined to pronounce it “Man-chock-a”, but they’d be wrong. It’s pronounced “Man-chack”. Say it the wrong way and you’ll quickly be revealed as a newcomer.
  8. Lots of celebrities call Austin home – Or at least one of their homes.Nicolas Cage, Billy Bob Thornton, Willie Nelson, Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Robert Plant, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Matthew McConaughey, Lance Armstrong, Dan Rather, Mike Judge, Kyle Chandler, and Connie Britton are just some of the celebrities that call Austin home. And if you ever see one say, in Whole Foods or somewhere, do not make a big deal out of it!
  9. There are 1.5+ million bats here – I haven’t seen them at dusk, when they wake up and go hunting for flies, mosquitoes and other insects, but I know they live underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge and elsewhere. Each night, they devour 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects, making it safe to go outside nearly anytime and not be eaten up by those pesky mosquitoes. Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America and one of the most unusual tourist attractions in the world.
  10. There are fans of the University of Texas Longhorns everywhere – Everywhere you’ll see burnt orange cloths and the longhorn symbol. Whatever you do, do not go to Plucker’s or any sport bar when there’s a UT football game on unless you’re joining the masses to cheer the team on.
  11. Everything is on an incline – Well, almost everything, but being near the edge of the Texas Hill Country, there are a lot of hills and valleys nearly everywhere you go.
  12. Everywhere you’ll look you’ll see stone and concrete walls surrounding fields of grass – Those are called “retention ponds” and they’re there to catch runoff rain water to prevent flooding. They could’ve built a sewer system, but noooo! I think it’s something to do with the soil, preventing them from building lower-level parking garages and such.
  13. Get ready to deal with panhandlers – They’re everywhere! Many of them, when you give them anything other than cash (a sandwich, socks, etc.) will scowl at you, proving that they feel they’re feeling entitled to your continuing to subsidize their addiction to alcohol and drugs. Never… nevernever give panhandlers money!
  14. Everyone eats breakfast tacos – What I would call a breakfast burrito, Austinites call breakfast tacos, and you can find them everywhere.

Austin is different from any other place I’ve ever lived, and it has a distinctive character that I really love. These are really just a few of the ones I’ve been able to identify and articulate.

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General

John Stricklin’s Will

 
John Stricklin's WIll
I John Stricklin of the County of Hardin and State of Tennessee, planter, do make and publish this my last will and testament, hereby revoking and making void all former wills by me at any time heretofore made. And first I direct my body to be decently entered in a manner suitable to my condition in life, and as to such worldly estate as it hath pleased God to entrust me with I dispose of the same as follows. First I direct that all my debts and all my funeral expenses be paid as soon after my decease as possible out of any money I may die possessed of as may first come in the hands of my executors from any portion of my estate real or personal. Secondly I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Martha during her life the following property to wit my land containing fifty acres be the same more or less lying on the big branch a fork of Horse Creek with its buts and bounds together with all the household and kitchen furniture and all the farming utensils belonging to said plantation also one wagon and yoke of steers seventeen head of hogs one rifle gun one scythe [sic] and cradle and one set of blacksmith tools to have and to hold for her use and benefit during her natural life and at her death what is left to be equally divided between my two sons William C. Stricklin and Jesse Stricklin after paying one dollar to each of the other heirs to wit Thomas Stricklin, Jack?, John Stricklin, William B. Stricklin, Elizabeth Lance?, Dicia Dulea?, Martha Akins, Sally McCarn, Nancy Mills, Mary Stricklin, and Agatha Stricklin. I do hereby make ordain and appoint my beloved son William C. Stricklin Executor of my last will and testament. In witness whereof I John Stricklin the said testator have to this my will written on one sheet of paper set my hand and seal this 17th day of July in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and forty eight.

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Zombies 101

One of my favorite television shows these days is definitely AMC’s The Walking Dead, and I haven’t generally been a fan of the whole “zombie” genre, although I really liked Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later… and I am Legend. With The Walking Dead, though, I’m not really sure the writers adhere to a certain set of rules regarding how zombies behave. So, I thought I’d write a set of guidelines on the subject. Enjoy!
Things zombies can do:

  1. Zombies can hear
  2. Zombies can smell
  3. Zombies can move… slowly
  4. Zombies can grab things using their hands (if they have hands)
  5. Zombies can bite (if Michonne hasn’t already removed their jaws)
  6. Zombies can growl
  7. Zombies can move their head and limbs normally

Things zombies cannot or do not do:

  1. Zombies don’t circulate blood
  2. Zombies don’t sleep
  3. Zombies don’t run
  4. Zombies don’t jump
  5. Zombies don’t swim
  6. Zombies don’t reason
  7. Zombies don’t get tired or rest
  8. Zombies don’t lay down or sit down
  9. Zombies can’t climb (stairs, slight inclines are okay)
  10. Zombies bodies don’t regenerate on a cellular level
  11. Zombies don’t communicate with each other
  12. Zombies don’t “play dead” or in any way misrepresent anything

Things I’m not sure if they can do or not:

  1. Can zombies see?
  2. Can zombies feel? (touch, not emotions)
  3. Do zombies salivate, chew and/or swallow?

All these observations lead me to these conclusions and questions:

  • There has to be some sort of low-level brain function, otherwise they could not move, smell, hear or know when to grab or bite.
  • If zombies can chew and swallow what they bite, then they must salivate and be able to digest their “food”. And if they’re able to digest food, then they would need to defecate and urinate. And since you don’t see stains on the fronts and backs or their clothes, I’d assume that they cannot salivate, chew, swallow or digest their food.
  • If they cannot do the most basic function of eating, they must simply be biting their victims and tearing their flesh and muscles, and then letting them fall away.
  • If they are able to swallow, but do not digest food, then their stomachs are becoming full. If that’s the case, would they still feed? What would happen if they did?
  • I maintain that the walker that bit Hershel violated rules 14, 15 and 19, so this is a case where the writers screwed up.
  • If their bodies don’t heal (rule 17), then eventually the flesh and muscles will decay, the ligaments holding the bones together will wear down and the body will fall apart. If that’s the case, their numbers will begin to dwindle after a few months (years?)
  • Rule 8 is critical. If zombies don’t circulate blood, how do they infect their victims? Also, when the body falls apart and the skull is simply laying there on the ground, will the brain continue to function, or will it shrivel up and die?
  • If everyone has the virus within them, does that mean that if Rick, say, simply died of non zombie-related causes, would he become a walker anyway? If that’s the case, why did it suddenly start happening now?

Other questions cross my mind when I’m watching The Walking Dead, like:

  • Even though it’s rural Georgia (presumably North of Atlanta), why doesn’t anyone think to go find a Walmart or a Sears somewhere? They’d have guns, ammo, clothes, medicine, tires and other car-repair equipment, building supplies and some non-perishable food.
  • If the group has been living in these conditions for months, wouldn’t the beards be longer? Wouldn’t the arm-pits and leg hair be longer? Wouldn’t they all be stinking? Presumably people’s teeth will be rotting out soon, because no one’s brushing their teeth.
  • What about women’s menstrual cycles? I know women survived for thousands of years without tampons and pads, but how would Maggie and the others deal with the problem?
  • If couples like Glenn and Maggie are having sex, are they considering what they’ll do if the woman becomes pregnant, or are they using condoms?
  • If the zombie apocalypse comes, and public utility workers either flee or turn, will the plumbing still work? I assume the electricity will not, but I’m not so sure about the water.
  • How did the group get inside the prison? Presumably the guards had the building locked down, wouldn’t you think?
  • Why don’t you hear more people praying or talking about God? This is Georgia, after all. Some people would be praying, others would be questioning why God would allow this to happen.
  • Where do people urinate and defecate? Especially inside the cell block? When the prisoners were in the kitchen they did their “business” in the refrigerator, but that may have been because there was no bathroom in the kitchen area. If the plumbing still works, then a bathroom would be preferable, but if it does, wouldn’t it have working sinks at least, allowing everyone to wash themselves?
  • I assume that, given the makeup of the groups, that no obese people, blind people, deaf people, mentally or physically-handicapped people or people with medical conditions that require medications (Type I Diabetes, asthmatics, people needing dialysis, etc.) haven’t survived. Neither have most children and teenagers.
  • Why doesn’t anyone listen to a radio? Surely there’s someone, somewhere, who’s trying to find out if there’s life elsewhere.
  • If you snapped a zombie’s neck, it wouldn’t “die”, but would it be able to walk?
  • Wouldn’t the second floor and above, or an island be the best places to be safe?

Yes, I know The Walking Dead is fictional and I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief, but stories should be cohesive and logical, to the best of their ability. That said, there aren’t a huge number of flaws in the show thus far.

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My Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-BriggsType Indicator® assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. These preferences were extrapolated from the typological theories proposed by Carl Gustav Jung.
The original developers of the personality inventory were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. They began creating the indicator during World War II, believing that a knowledge of personality preferences would help women who were entering the industrial workforce for the first time to identify the sort of war-time jobs where they would be “most comfortable and effective”. The initial questionnaire grew into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which was first published in 1962. The MBTI focuses on normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences.
I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment again in October, 2010, and the results, shown below, indicate that my MBTI type is ESTJ, which stands for Extroverted, Thinking, Sensing and Judging.

Where I focus my attention: Extroversion
People who prefer Extroversion tend to focus their attention on the outer world of people and things.
The way I take in information: Sensing
People who prefer Sensing tend to take in information through the five sense and focus on the here and now.
The way I make decisions: Thinking
People who prefer Thinking tend to make decisions based primarily on logic and on objective analysis of cause and effect.
How I deal with the outer world: Judging
People who prefer Judging tend to like a planned and organized approach to life and prefer to have things settled.
ESTJ  Description

  • Decisive, clear and assertive
  • Logical, analytical and objectively critical
  • Adept at organizing projects, procedures and people
  • Likely to value competence, efficiency and results
  • Likely to prefer proven systems and procedures
  • Focused on the present, applying relevant past experience to deal with problems
  • Usually seen by others as conscientious, dependable, decisive, outspoken and self-confident

 
I’d say that pretty well describes me, would you agree?

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Alexander Stricklin July, 2002 – December, 2011

Shortly after the breakup of my engagement in July of 2002, someone left a box in the alley beside or behind a co-worker’s home in Benton, Louisiana. Inside that box was a small, grey kitten who was probably only a few days old. My co-worker, Susan, knew that I was a “cat person” and began to urge me to adopt this sweet, little ball of fur, whom she’d named “Allie”, since, at the time, she’d thought the kitten was a girl-cat.
Susan brought “Allie” up to work with her, contained in a large cardboard box with a towel over the top, along with some food and water, and placed it alongside her desk, to take care of it while she worked. This was when Alexander and I first met.
A few days later, we had to change the name from “Allie” to “Alexander” when it became clear the kitten was a boy-cat. A few days after that, and I was taking Alexander home to meet Samantha, and I was wary of how, or even if, they would hit it off.
It turns out I needn’t have worried. Although the veterinarian suggested it might take a few days of smelling each other underneath the door, by the next morning Alexander was cuddling up to his new surrogate mother.
20111215-011431.jpg
Alex was always a climber. When he was still a small kitten, he would lunge and latch his claws into my jeans (or underwear), scurry up the back of my t-shirt and stand, triumphantly, on my shoulders or sometimes, on the very top of my head. Soon, he was climbing up kitchen counters, dressers, the top shelves of closets, on top of the refrigerator… When I bought a carpet-covered climbing tree that braced itself against the eight foot-tall ceiling, he would scurry up and down it like you and I open doors.
Alex also liked to hide in dark places. One day, again while still a kitten, I came home and was unable to find him. Imagine my shock when I realized he’d climbed up into the very back of my recliner! He continued to hide in that small space until he became too big to fit through the small flap at the bottom of the recliner that gave him access to the stuffing. Another time, I woke up to find he’d not only gotten under the covers with me, but he’d crawled down to the very bottom of the bed and curled up next to my feet. And just a few days ago, he’d wrapped himself in my quilts and blankets on the floor at the bottom of the bed.
Alex and I have always been cuddle-buddies. He would curl up next to my face, or underneath my arm, or between my legs, when we slept. As I’m a flip-flopper when I’m asleep, he would frequently grumble as I switched positions for yet another time.
But we loved each other… Once, I woke up to feel his raspy, tongue against my scalp, and I realized he was giving me a bath, as a sign of affection.
To those who didn’t know him, all this sounds like a sweet, pleasant cat, but Alex was often what I called a “little stinker!” When he was about 9 months old, I took him to the vet to be neutered, and they called me to come pick him up the next day, telling me, “We’re scared of him!”
Alex (and Sammie) have their full claws, and Alex could charge and hiss and spit like no other, even at the very last. Once, when my sister and a friend helped me move from one apartment to another, we’d moved all of the furniture and things out of the bedroom where the cats were, and when it was time to move the cats, Alex had to be covered in a blanket and hurled into the carrier, but not before severely scratching my sister. That night, he was given the nickname, “Psycho Cat”, and no one but myself was ever allowed in his territory.
He could also shed that beautiful, grey hair like no other cat I’ve seen. When I washed my clothes or sheets I’d frequently pull enough fur out of the lint filter to knit a new cat. Despite medicine and diet changes, he continued to periodically throw up hairballs that were as big as he was. So, when he started to throw up in the middle of the night a few nights ago, I wasn’t worried. When I’d come home from work and find him curled up in his bed in the back of the closet, I wasn’t worried. When I picked him up and cuddled with him one afternoon and he complained a little when I lifted him by his abdomen, I wasn’t really worried.
I should have been.
Feline Hepatic Lipidosis is a disease that affects previously overweight cats, (at his prime, Alex was a muscular 20+ pounds), where fats begin to build up in the cat’s liver, and the cat stops eating. Once they stop eating, their body begins to metabolize fat, just as we humans do. Our livers (and theirs) are not very efficient at processing fats, so eventually the liver fails. This is what happened to Alex. Had I noticed the signs and gotten him to the veterinarian sooner, he might have been saved, but it would have been costly, and knowing Alex the way I did, he wouldn’t have tolerated the treatment.
Alex would often let me pick him up and hold him against my chest for about 30 second to a minute before he’d strain to be let down. The last few days, he’d allowed me to hold him for several minutes without any push back, and I’d be the one to eventually want to end the hug. Today, he quietly stepped into the carrier that he’d normally hiss and spit and fight against with all of his might, and I carried him the short distance to see the doctor. He was visibly anxious, but he allowed me to stroke his face as we waited for Dr. Coker to enter the room. After discussing his condition, and watching Alex begin to fight to the bitter end, she asked me to step outside while they sedated and examined him.
Within minutes, Dr. Coker stepped outside and told me the prognosis. We stepped back inside the examination room and saw Alexander, eyes wide open, lain on his left side, laboring to breath and still wanting to fight these humans who he thought were hurting him, even though they wanted so much to help him. The doctor explained that it was time to put Alex to sleep, and we discussed how it’d be done, what we’d do with the body, etc.
When I’d left to go to the doctor, I was living with three senior cats, so I knew they’d all be passing in the next couple of years, and I’d attempted to prepare myself. Now, I have two.
When my father passed away, I was by his side, and I’d shed no tears then because he’d lingered on in pain for over five years. When my mother passed away two years ago, I was also by her side and shed no tears then because, again, we’d recognized that she’d come home to die and if anyone I’ve ever met was prepared to meet her Maker, it was my mom. Of course, I sobbed like a baby when I was at their funerals, but during the actual death I was able to contain myself.
But with Alex, when what the doctor was telling me began to really sink in, I used up what was left of the tissue papers were available in the exam room.
The doctor and her assistant left the room for a few minutes to allow Alex and I to say goodbye to one another. I draped him with my arms with his back to my chest, just like we did sometimes when we cuddled in sleep together, and I told him how much I loved him, how I knew he wouldn’t be in pain anymore, and I kissed him repeatedly behind his ears, just like he liked.
The doctor came back in, and had to sedate Alex once more, since the first shot was wearing off and he’d begun to struggle again. After it took affect, she shaved first his hind leg, then his front leg, looking for a vein. Poor Alex’s blood pressure was so weak, it took several tries before she was able to administer the drug.
And with that, he was gone.
I’ve been “owner” to four cats in my life thus far: Smokey was a Burmese cat that was brought home one afternoon by my mother after I’d been told by my father that I could not have a dog. As much as I’d loved Smokey, I’d not been given a choice as to his joining our family, and everyone knew he was really my mother’s cat, anyway.
Samantha was given to me by my former fiance’s youngest daughter because, after the breakup, she was concerned that I would be lonely. As much as I still love Sammie and as sweet of a gesture as that was, once again I had not been given a choice.
When I moved back into my childhood home to save on expenses and care for my mother as she began chemotherapy, I bonded with her cat P.C. (“Prince Charming”) and that simple fact gave my mother great pleasure to know that my kitty-cat “brother” and I had bonded so well. When Mom passed away, it was a given that I would continue to take good care of P.C., which I do to this day. But once again, he is not “my” cat and I had no choice in the matter.
Alex was my cat. I’ve known him practically his entire life. He was the cat that only I understood, and that only I knew. I chose to adopt him, and as much of a troublemaker that he was, I’m still absolutely heart-broken that he’s gone and that I won’t be able to love on him every day when I come home or wake up.
Alex was placed in a small, cardboard coffin and brought home. As the sun set, I dug a grave at the back of my property and buried him next to Smokey.
I know he is no longer in pain. I know my remaining cats can sense my loss. I know there is little else I could’ve done. I know that we all die eventually. I know that tonight is going to be one of the hardest nights I’ve experienced in a long time. And I know that I’ll always miss my sweet boy.

Categories
General

My top 5 StrengthsFinder 2.0 themes

So many “personality” exams focus on fixing our shortcomings instead of identifying and developing our strengths. Going against that trend, I recently took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, and it identified the following five strengths or themes as my top five: Input, Intellection, Communication, Responsibility and Learner.
It also created an action plan for me to follow for each of my top five strengths:
Input
People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
By nature, you may be well-read in certain fields. Sometimes you gather information that benefits you personally and/or professionally. Perhaps you comprehend what you read, catalog it in your mind, and somehow document it. This might prevent specific individuals from saying you are ordinary, average, or plain. To some degree, you care about what particular people think of you. You might want them to regard you as knowledgeable, believable, and accomplished. Because of your strengths, you sometimes feast on the written word. Perhaps others find you poring over — that is, studiously reading — a book to acquire a few simple facts or to deepen your understanding of a favorite topic. Because you are well read, you might be able to provide people with certain kinds of information they need. Driven by your talents, you have acquired a sophisticated vocabulary, comprised of technical, subject-specific, or complicated words. Whenever you describe the intricate steps of procedures, you are likely to rely on this terminology. Your attention to detail works to your advantage when you are addressing experts. Because you comprehend the meanings of their words, you can talk about how things function in a language they understand. Instinctively, you periodically are comfortable having time to yourself. Perhaps these interludes provide you with an opportunity to read. Whether you are sitting on a quiet beach or in a crowded airport terminal, you might be able to create your own space with a book, magazine, newspaper, document, or correspondence. Gleaning certain kinds of information, inspiration, or insights from these sources might make your relaxation a bit more pleasurable or your delays a bit more tolerable. It’s very likely that you tend to express your doubts about various ideas, theories, or concepts. Using your brainpower, you put aside your emotions while calmly absorbing as much information as you can. Even though you may have never experienced a particular situation, event, opportunity, or dilemma, you exhibit the mental capacity to project yourself into it. Lively conversations with intelligent individuals stimulate your thinking about abstract or complex topics.

  • Look for jobs in which you are charged with acquiring new information each day, such as teaching, research, or journalism.
  • Devise a system to store and easily locate information. This can be as simple as a file for all the articles you have clipped or as sophisticated as a computer database.
  • Partner with someone with dominant Focus or Discipline talents. This person will help you stay on track when your inquisitiveness leads you down intriguing but distracting avenues.
  • Your mind is open and absorbent. You naturally soak up information in the same way that a sponge soaks up water. But just as the primary purpose of the sponge is not to permanently contain what it absorbs, neither should your mind simply store information. Input without output can lead to stagnation. As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them.
  • You might naturally be an exceptional repository of facts, data, and ideas. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to position yourself as an expert. By simply following your Input talents, you could become known as the authority in your field.
  • Remember that you must be more than just a collector of information. At some point, you’ll need to leverage this knowledge and turn it into action. Make a point of identifying the facts and data that would be most valuable to others, and use this information to their advantage.
  • Identify your areas of specialization, and actively seek more information about them.
  • Schedule time to read books and articles that stimulate you.
  • Deliberately increase your vocabulary. Collect new words, and learn the meaning of each of them.
  • Identify situations in which you can share the information you have collected with other people.
  • Also make sure to let your friends and colleagues know that you enjoy answering their questions.

Intellection
People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
It’s very likely that you have new ideas whirling around in your head much of the time. You are very interested in solving problems, conceiving new concepts, designing plans, or understanding everyday matters. Driven by your talents, you sometimes sit down with a book simply because you are eager to discover new ideas. Through the printed word, you have made the acquaintance of some very interesting fictional characters and real people. Because of your strengths, you are sometimes a critical reader. That is, you occasionally take apart writers’ ideas and examine them bit by bit. Afterward, you might be able to judge whether specific thoughts have merit. To some extent, your scrutiny of the printed word, rather than your emotions, guides your decision-making process. Instinctively, you may be fascinated by the printed word. Particular books, magazines, newspapers, correspondence, or Internet sites intrigue you. Whether you choose fiction or nonfiction, you might feast on facts and insights into human behavior. Ordinary and extraordinary experiences, philosophies of life, or research findings might captivate you. Guided by your interests, perhaps you can add a few ideas to your storehouse of knowledge when you take time to read. By nature, you might be well-read in particular subjects. Some people whom you have befriended may turn to you for guidance. By referring to something you have read, occasionally you can help a person see a specific situation or a particular problem from a different perspective. For you, reading might be a key that opens the door to a world of fresh ideas. Maybe you collect them; never knowing whether something you read will benefit someone else.

  • Consider beginning or continuing your studies in philosophy, literature, or psychology. You will always enjoy subjects that stimulate your thinking.
  • List your ideas in a log or diary. These ideas will serve as grist for your mental mill, and they might yield valuable insights.
  • Deliberately build relationships with people you consider to be “big thinkers.” Their example will inspire you to focus your own thinking.
  • People may think you are aloof or disengaged when you close your door or spend time alone.
  • Help them understand that this is simply a reflection of your thinking style, and that it results not from a disregard for relationships, but from a desire to bring the most you can to those relationships.
  • You are at your best when you have the time to follow an intellectual trail and see where it leads. Get involved on the front end of projects and initiatives, rather than jumping in at the execution stage. If you join in the latter stages, you may derail what has already been decided, and your insights may come too late.
  • Engaging people in intellectual and philosophical debate is one way that you make sense of things. This is not the case for everyone. Be sure to channel your provocative questions to those who similarly enjoy the give and take of debate.
  • Schedule time for thinking; it can be energizing for you. Use these occasions to muse and reflect.
  • Take time to write. Writing might be the best way for you to crystallize and integrate your thoughts.
  • Find people who like to talk about the same issues you do. Organize a discussion group that addresses your subjects of interest.
  • Encourage people around you to use their full intellectual capital by reframing questions for them and by engaging them in dialogue. At the same time, realize that there will be some who find this intimidating and who need time to reflect before being put on the spot.

Communication
People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.
Because of your strengths, you sometimes enjoy being the person who gets people talking. When outsiders or newcomers have little or nothing to say, you might find a way to involve some of them in the dialogue. Instinctively, you select the right combination of words to convey your ideas or feelings. In the middle of discussions, your vocabulary provides you with precise phrases and terminology. You probably express yourself with ease and grace. By nature, you may feel comfortable speaking to a variety of individuals or audiences. Chances are good that you may gravitate to groups whose members love to exchange information, ideas, opinions, stories, or jokes. Perhaps you have an easy time sharing your thoughts and feelings with people. Driven by your talents, you are comfortable telling others stories about your personal habits, qualities, experiences, or background. Your forthcoming nature probably enables others to share their thoughts and feelings with you.

  • You will always do well in roles that require you to capture people’s attention. Think about a career in teaching, sales, marketing, ministry, or the media. Your Communication talents are likely to flourish in these areas.
  • Start a collection of stories or phrases that resonate with you. For example, cut out magazine articles that move you, or write down powerful word combinations. Practice telling these stories or saying these words out loud, by yourself. Listen to yourself actually saying the words. Refine.
  • When you are presenting, pay close attention to your audience. Watch their reactions to each part of your presentation. You will notice that some parts are especially engaging. Afterwards, take time to identify the moments that particularly caught the audience’s attention. Draft your next presentation around these highlights.
  • Practice. Improvisation has a certain appeal, but in general, an audience will respond best to a presenter who knows where he or she is headed. Counter intuitively, the more prepared you are, the more natural your improvisations will appear.
  • Identify your most beneficial sounding boards and audiences — the listeners who seem to bring out your best communication. Examine these individuals or groups to learn why you are so good when you speak with them or to them, and look for the same qualities in potential partners and audiences.
  • Keep getting smarter about the words you use. They are a critical currency. Spend them wisely, and monitor their impact.
  • Your Communication talents can be highly effective when your message has substance. Don’t rely on your talents alone; take your communication to the level of strength by developing your knowledge and expertise in specific areas.
  • You are gifted in fostering dialogue among peers and colleagues. Use your Communication talents to summarize the various points in a meeting and to build consensus by helping others see what they have in common.
  • If you enjoy writing (I do), consider publishing your work. If you enjoy public speaking, make a presentation at a professional meeting or convention. In either case, your Communication talents will serve to assist you in finding just the right way to frame your ideas and state your purpose. You delight in sharing your thoughts with others, so find the medium that best fits your voice and message.
  • Volunteer for opportunities to present. You can become known as someone who helps people express their thoughts and ambitions in a captivating way.

Responsibility
People who are especially talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.
Instinctively, you are occasionally willing to be vulnerable. Perhaps you claim your talents or admit your weaknesses. Your openness may help some people know you better as a person. Your straightforward style may convince others you are honest, dependable, and reliable. By nature, you sometimes do what you said you would do even when it means being inconvenienced. Although your pace may remain measured and easy, you might be determined to honor your promises to certain individuals. The quality of the relationship you have with someone might determine which commitments receive your full and prompt attention. It’s very likely that you sometimes ponder what you could do better. You may find some new ways to deliver on the commitments you have made to certain individuals. Perhaps keeping promises is one way you might enhance the quality of your work. Driven by your talents, you sometimes are honest with yourself about yourself. You might be candid about your limitations when you are talking with certain individuals. Perhaps you are comfortable admitting you need to do some things better, more completely, or more perfectly. Chances are good that you try to finish the tasks you agreed to do. Perhaps you even overcome some unexpected problems. Occasionally you work longer hours when it is necessary. Maybe you do whatever you can to avoid breaking the promises you made to people.

  • Emphasize your sense of responsibility when job hunting. During interviews, describe your desire to be held fully accountable for the success or failure of projects, your intense dislike of unfinished work, and your need to “make it right” if a commitment is not met.
  • Keep volunteering for more responsibility than your experience seems to warrant. You thrive on responsibility, and you can deal with it very effectively.
  • Align yourself with others who share your sense of responsibility. You will flourish when working with people who share your determination to get things done.
  • Tell your manager that you work best when given the freedom to follow through on your commitments — that you don’t need to check in during a project, just at the end. You can be trusted to get it done.
  • Push yourself to say no. Because you are instinctively responsible, it might sometimes be difficult to refuse opportunities. For this reason, you must be selective. Ask for more responsibility in only the areas that matter most to you.
  • You naturally take ownership of every project you are involved in. Make sure that your capacity to own does not keep you from sharing responsibility. Allow others the opportunity to experience the challenges of ownership. In doing so, you will contribute to their growth and development.
  • Learn to manage your Responsibility talents by considering whether you really are the person who should be handling a particular issue. Defer to your existing responsibilities and goals before undertaking additional burdens, as you may end up skimping on quality if you have too many tasks or competing demands.
  • Partner with someone especially talented in Discipline or Focus. This person can help you stay on track and prevent you from becoming overloaded.
  • Working with a like-minded, responsible colleague is satisfying for you. Be sure to clarify expectations and boundaries so that each person can feel ownership for his or her particular tasks — without stepping on each other’s toes.
  • Responsible individuals like to know they have “delivered” on their commitments, so create metrics and goals to gauge how effectively you meet your obligations. Also, make sure you have explicit and concrete expectations so that there is no question regarding quality outcomes and so that you can hit the mark as promised.

Learner
People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
Because of your strengths, you ponder your decisions rather than react without thinking through things. You weigh the possible ramifications, consequences, outcomes, and effects. You aim to understand the basic “whys” and “hows” of a situation, problem, or opportunity. People trust you to be cautious. They expect you to raise important issues that require further consideration. It’s very likely that you occasionally sign up for rigorous courses of study rather than enroll in easy classes. This might satisfy your need to master things that do not come naturally. Perhaps you trust you can handle unpleasant or difficult assignments. Maybe the struggle to expand your knowledge, broaden your skills, conquer your limitations, or fix problems motivates you to welcome academic challenges. By nature, you frequently examine the factors leading up to an event. Therein you discover the reasons why things happened the way they did. A number of individuals and/or groups probably appreciate your logical thinking style. Driven by your talents, you sometimes enroll in difficult or demanding classes.
You might aim to expand your knowledge or challenge your thinking about certain things. Instinctively, you probably identify the traits or experiences that distinguish one person from the next. Once you familiarize yourself with someone, you can often predict with accuracy how the person will react in different situations.

  • Refine how you learn. For example, you might learn best by teaching; if so, seek out opportunities to present to others. You might learn best through quiet reflection; if so, find this quiet time.
  • Develop ways to track the progress of your learning. If there are distinct levels or stages of learning within a discipline or skill, take a moment to celebrate your progression from one level
  • to the next. If no such levels exist, create them for yourself (e.g., reading five books on the subject or making three presentations on the subject).
  • Be a catalyst for change. Others might be intimidated by new rules, new skills, or new circumstances. Your willingness to soak up this newness can calm their fears and spur them to action. Take this responsibility seriously.
  • Seek roles that require some form of technical competence. You will enjoy the process of acquiring and maintaining this expertise.
  • As far as possible, shift your career toward a field with constantly changing technologies or regulations. You will be energized by the challenge of keeping up.
  • Because you are not threatened by unfamiliar information, you might excel in a consulting role (either internal or external) in which you are paid to go into new situations and pick up new competencies or languages quickly.
  • Research supports the link between learning and performance. When people have the opportunity to learn and grow, they are more productive and loyal. Look for ways to measure the degree to which you and others feel that your learning needs are being met, to create individualized learning milestones, and to reward achievements in learning.
  • At work, take advantage of programs that subsidize your learning. Your organization may be willing to pay for part or all of your instructional coursework or for certifications. Ask your manager for information about scholarships and other educational opportunities.
  • Honor your desire to learn. Take advantage of adult educational opportunities in your community. Discipline yourself to sign up for at least one new academic or adult learning course each year.
  • Time disappears and your attention intensifies when you are immersed in studying or learning.
  • Allow yourself to “follow the trail” by scheduling learning sessions during periods of time that will not be interrupted by pressing engagements.