Man, it’s hard to even know where to begin. Sorry for the length of this one. I tend to be verbose, and had a lot to say. I’m really not overstating here how much I loved my weekend. (I will add pictures tonight, but the text should be good for now.)
OK, the Milblog conferences are always my favorite things of the year (with the possible exception of the Lalla Open Golf Tourney I go to every August.) Partially because I get to see my little honey bunny with her Orange Fist of Purity and Justice, but more so because I get to be around a lot of people that I almost universally have respect for and actually enjoy being around. For those who don’t know me well, I am not by nature a very social guy, I like my quiet basement. But, I’m also very Alpha Male-ish, so when I do go out, I try to really go out. And the Milblog conference is the best of both worlds for me.
So, might as well address this one chronologically, starting Friday. (This will be part sophomoric, and part serious, if you want all of either, might I recommend Greyhawk for the latter, and the King of Sophomores and Sapphics, Sniper for the former. Sniper’s title alone had me giggling like a little girl: Knee Deep In Grenade Pins And Empty Guinness Bottles, The MilBlog Conference 2009 )
I checked into the Hotel at Friday morning. Perfect venue. Near to bars and restaurants, metro right there, and very cheap by DC standards. Jamie, Caro and I went to the Pentagon to attend a briefing with the Public Affairs Officers for all the branches and the DoD. We were met by all the milbloggers there, and proceeded in. Got a quick tour of the building, which I had been to plenty, then met the principals. The Army is so far ahead of the other services it is ridiculous, and that makes me proud. I will however give HUGE props to the Coast Guard guy who was gung ho as all hell to get people to cover what they are doing. And it is a challenge I intend to not only take upon myself, but also one I am planning to evangelize about. The CG really is doing great things both here and in the GWOT (OCO) and they deserve some stories. I plan to give them some. I was allowed to ask a question of the Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren (A former DEM Congressman), and while I won’t get into it, his answer was perfect. Honestly exactly what I had hoped to hear, and it was not a softball question by any stretch.
After that it was back to the Hotel for the screening of the movie AT WAR, and some drinks. Actually, drinks first, and my compadre Sniper joined me, as did Jonn. More on that again later, but we went up to watch the movie.
I’m going to only address this part quickly. Not because I have nothing to say about it, but honestly, the movie hit REAL close to home on a lot of stuff. There haven’t been many days since I came back OCONUS that I haven’t wanted to go back. I’ve applied for numerous jobs to get back there, even as a civilian. I finally got an offer to go there as a sort of spook type, but it was after I met Caro, and my priorities had slightly shifted as it were. Nonetheless, this movie didn’t remind me of there, IT TOOK ME THERE. It was little things, watching the ANA at their antics, the “thunk” of outgoing M203 rounds, hearing the soldiers talk in a normal timber as all around them things are decidedly not normal. Luckily, my amoeba sized bladder and profligate consumption prior to the movie gave me a valid excuse to leave a few times, but let’s be honest, I could have held it. I won’t watch this movie in a theater, but I hope all of America does. When it goes on sale though, I will be buying at least 10 copies, 1 for me, 1 for my family and close friends, and 1 for a few Members of Congress that NEED to see this movie. Again, I will have MUCH more on this later. The Dude at 27 seconds in, and a Canadian company commander who is never seen without a giant chew in totally steal this movie. If we lived in a just world, those two would be celebrities and Perez Hilton would be drawing penises on a cardboard box underneath a railroad bridge.
Anyway, after that, we settled in for the drinking. Remember a few weeks ago I posted that thing about the LGF/Spencer & Geller War, and I said that one of the principles on logic for that post was that the friend of my enemy is my enemy. I didn’t actually believe that mind you, I was making a point. But I don’t know how much more vivid an example of the fallacy of that I can get than Friday night. I hung out largely with 3 people. 1 was Southern Democrat. If anyone didn’t know by now, SD is one of my best friends, neither southern nor democrat (he’s to the right of me) and a huge supporter of the military as well as a CIB recipient. The weirdest thing about this jackass is that he really is a war hero, but he doesn’t think he is. But trust me, if you ever get engaged by the Tali’s, you want him next to you with an AT4 (not too near, cause he really is backblast Jones). The second person was Sniper. I really don’t know how to describe him better than to say he’s just not right….in the head.
And the third was Alex Horton, of Army of Dude. Admittedly at one point I REALLY didn’t like him. When we were running against him in the Milblog voting, he said he was the only enlisted guy, which I took umbrage with. He responded that he meant of the bigger blogs, which struck me as even worse. I mean, I knew we were small, but he didn’t have to tell me that. So, I just assumed he was cocky, and since Kos, VoteVets and others were pimping him, he must be a bad guy, right?
Well, actually, hell no. After having met him, I almost wish I had voted for him. First off, remember, it was 3 of us who served together in a platoon in combat, and some dude from a different unit, different politics, even a different war. And he fit right in. As if he’d been there with us, only we got to tell him stories and he us that we had never heard before. Alex has the most appropriately named blog ever. He really is “Dude.” I commented to Jimbo later in the weekend how much I liked spending time with Alex, and Jimbo pointed out that Alex is like our inner Joe. (Army guys will get that.) He’s sort of the voice of everyone who wore the sham shield. He’s smart, articulate, and sees the big picture. But he’s also Joe, the dude who knows what that is going to mean to him, and low enough on the totem pole that it is his responsibility to say, “Man, this idea is shit” and get away with it. If you don’t read his blog, you should. I am honestly setting aside a few hours this weekend to go through every one of his posts. At the risk of sounding like I am giving him a tonguebath, if just for Friday night, was proud to have him with us in the band of the CIB drinkers. And I hope he gets a chance to become a writer, because he could very well be the voice of Joe that we all want and need.
(As an aside, I love you, our readers. BUT YOU ALL FUGGIN SUCK. Alex told me he has roughly 200 readers a day. We have about 1200. How did he beat us in voting? I want to come into each of your houses, pull your mouse clicking finger out of your noses and break it.)
Anyway, a few words about other milbloggers I spent time with. (Might want to skip if you are looking for bad stuff, because I revere all these people.)
I spent some time talking to Mr and Mrs Greyhawk. Now, Greyhawk made me internet famous, so I’ve always been grateful and looked up to him. Although everyone says he looks like House, I think he looks like Sam Elliot. He’s like New Cav to Elliot’s old Cav. Obviously Mr. Greyhawk is younger, but he sort of has the same persona. I can’t see him giving a Knute Rockney speech, but I can see him in a low voice urging the guys forward, and us scrambling over each other to do it. And his wife, man o man! Some people look like they belong together because they look alike and stuff. These two look like they should be together for the exact opposite reason. But just the nicest couple, and some kind words from Mr. Greyhawk about my panel absolutely made my weekend.
Tankerbabe is the Anti-TSO. I don’t like hugs, and am non-confrontational. Tanker would make me hug her or act wounded, and then would blame me for damn near everything from the heat in the bar, to the preppy douches to the bartender not being quick enough. There really is no accommodating her, there is only persevering. And you will never show me someone with a bigger heart, or a bigger part of that heart going to the troops. The troops love her, and they should. I wish she got slightly less joy from making me blush, a fairly easy proposition to begin with, but she’s great.
Same with Boston Maggie. Man she is awesome, although, again very huggy. Honestly, I don’t even like to hug Caro in public. Not sure why. I like contact, but not hugs. And Maggie, more than even most women, scares the ever loving shit out of me. I’m a political guy by nature, so I seek accommodation. Not Maggie! When the Navy guy tried to feed us a bullshit pie, Maggie threw it at him. And that dude left that meeting knowing EXACTLY who Maggie was. And I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a USS Boston Maggie DDG-1000 being launched to appease her. And her voice is so classically Bostonian that I get homesick listening to her. Anyone who couldn’t understand her needs to come to my next family reunion.
Three of our most devoted followers were there, Ponsdorf, Concrete Bob and Olga. Olga is a sweetheart, right up until you tell someone she is from “Ukraine or some such place” and then she turns into a very scary woman. Listening to her and Sniper babble on in Russian was rather disconcerting, since I had no clue what he was saying, and with Sniper that is always a bad thing. (He once gave a note in Russian to a troop who was getting a haircut from a Russian chick barber on base, unbeknownst to the troop, the note asked for a rub and a tug or somesuch thing. Neither the Russian lass nor the subsequent MPs found the note as funny as we did.) Concrete Bob is my chief rival for the affection of my gal, but his devotion to our cause is unparalleled. He’s throwing a “Victory in Iraq” day, and as Matt (Blackfive) once told me “Whatever Bob wants, I will help, because he’s just that good of a guy.” Ponsdorf the same thing. I know Ponsdorf posted yesterday that he was disappointed that more attention was not paid to Vietnam guys at the convention, and believe you me, the last thing I want to do is disappoint him. I hope I wasn’t the cause of any consternation. In my opinion, the Vietnam guys are the ultimate winners in society. They got screwed at every step for the past 40 years, and they still individually came out on top by every conceivable metric. He introduced us to Scott Swett as well, and I am hoping that my coblogger is going to take up the challenge Scott issued to us to write a book on what we have seen and what we have found with regard to the IVAW guys.
I spent some time with CJ and Bouhammer as well. Because this post is getting long, I won’t write as much about them, but they are the ideal NCOs in my opinion. They don’t need the Army Values Cards hanging on dog tags (although I bet they have them) they are the Army values. Yankeemom is a sweetie as well. I spent some time talking to her, but only went to her site for the first time yesterday, and a damn fine site it is.
2 other quick folks, Greta, and I am not sure where she blogs is a sweetheart and except for one of our wounded warrior buddies, I’d say she’s the smiliest (is that a word) person on the planet. And JD Johannes who should need no introduction. Meeting him cracked me up immensely, and I will post a review of his movie “Baghdad Happens” soon.
I’m sure I am forgetting some people, but will add later. And no, I’m not talking about the Blackfive guys. Y’all should know how I feel about them by now. I was particularly proud to hear Matt, Jimbo and Jonn all joking about how This Ain’t Hell is now the farm team of Blackfive. We’re like the Pawtucket Red Sox of Milblogs, or so I would like to think. However, Jimbo and Sniper together. Holy shee…..it was simply a manner of one talking until he had to breathe, and the other would pick right up. I limit Caro to 20 minute phone calls, because long talks make me nervous. These two used more words in an hour than I used in 2004. Also, Jimbo is an ass.
Anyway, the conference itself I felt was excellent. I didn’t care for my additions, but am told I did just fine, so am content. My first panel was getting back to our roots. And all 3 panelists were much better than I was. Maggie, Alex and Rebekah Sanderlin of Operation Marriage all had excellent points that they voiced with better brevity than I managed. Perhaps I inelegantly stated what I wanted to, but I see no reason to go back to the Golden Days on Milblogging as it were. TAH changes slightly every day, and we just sort of keep coming back to our bread and butter. The one thing I wish we could do is introduce our readers to others guys, both in country(s) and here in the states. Guys like Claymore here, and Sporkmaster and my 1SG in Iraq need to have their stuff read, and if we can provide the platform, all the better.
The Veterans panel could have been 3 times as long, and we might honestly have run over on that one. The disparity in opinions on that one was phenomenal. I made a joke to start it that looking at my co-panelists, I was obviously there to represent the 25% of veterans who couldn’t secure a backup job as a model. Between Hegseth with his movie star looks, Genevieve just being gorgeous and Matt Bernard of A Soldier’s Life (more later), I was definitely the Shrek of the panel. The debate regarding PTSD and IAVA between Hegseth and Eve was awesome, must see TV as it were. I didn’t get a chance to weigh in, but it might surprise some to note that I would have backed Eve. I think that IAVA’s Community of Veterans and their “You are not alone” campaigns are excellent. Wish I had thought of them frankly.
Either way, I thought Matt stole the show. As he spoke I kept thinking, this guy is the “someone you should know” from our panel. And it was without surprise I discovered that Blackfive had already included him in that vaunted category back in 2006. Go read his story. I’m not going to go into what he does and what he talked about now, because I hope to have video later, and you all should view it yourself since I will not do it justice.
Anyway, then the serious stuff went out the window, or down the esophagus as it were, since we were off to O’Sullivan’s. Now, I told you before I am relatively shy. O’Sullivan’s was my home for 2 years when I got back from Stan. It wasn’t a “drink to drown the PTSD” thing, it was logistics. I got out of work at 4:30, and law school started at 6:00 or 7:00. What to do, what to do? I know, I’ll go drink with some hot Irish chicks behind the bar! They play DKM and Flogging Molly, have a small clientele, and are as kind as can be. If you live anywhere near Arlington, drop in there, and say Hi to Karen and Marie O’Sullivan. (For the love of God though, do not go hiking with Marie if you are out of shape.) Anyway, O’Sullivans is one of the few places I feel genuinely comfortable.
And apparently, everyone else felt that way there too Saturday night. The drinking was epic. The food was epic. And surprisingly, the bill was not. I think our buddy Padraig the bartender squared us away. Either way, the Soldier’s Angels and Matt Burden picked up the tabs, for everyone. So this generosity is in context, there were like 35 people eating and drinking for 6+ hours. And not just Milbloggers, thanks to the date with Jamie we were lucky to have 2 of our brothers with us. Hard for me to pick my favorite moment, the wounded warriors with the 9 hot chicks from a bachelorette party, or watching the Soldier’s Angels lady from Germany that had been there when these heroes came into Landstuhl with their injuries as she saw them again for the first time. Honestly, I get teared up just thinking about it.
My liver gets tore up thinking about it too. For some reason every time I am around Jimbo and Matt, the next day I sweat a lot, have a headache, an aversion to the sun and loud noises, and wake up wondering whose dog it was as crapped in my mouth. Odd how that happens, no?
Anyway, it was a perfect weekend. I spent it with people I know, respect, and feel an overpowering fraternity with, whether I knew them or not. It’s always a humbling experience for me. And it’s one I always wish I could share with all of you. It would have been great to have more TAH readers there, if only so you could feel what we all felt.
Anyway, I know the comments will fill up with responses like “How long have you known you were gay”, and “like to push in dude’s stools do ya?” but I am a pretty sensitive guy, and weekends like that really move me. So take your best shots (even you Claymore) but for me, that was the best weekend I could have spent, and with no better group of people.
For a recap of what everyone else thinks, go to Greyhawk.
Lastly, a HUGE THANKS to Lindy Kyser and Jack Holt at the Army and the DoD respectively. They gave me an email addy for my new buddy LTC Nathan Banks, and I will be bugging the crao out of him from here on out.