Picking Up Prostitutes

A work story

I have the most fervent desire that when I retire from the government I will be remembered for having picked up a prostitute in a government van.  And I know what you’re thinking here.  If you don’t work for the government, you’re thinking, “isn’t that what you guys are doing all day anyway?”  And if you are a government employee, you’re thinking “why, that would be an unauthorized passenger – you are in so much trouble”.

The federal government owns a quarter million or so vehicles administered by the General Services Administration, or GSA.  They are referred to as GOVs, for government owned vehicle, which is an abbreviation, not an acronym, and is always pronounced Gee-Oh-Vee.  As you might imagine, there is paperwork involved in using one, but in our organization we’ve streamlined the process to where you can stroll out the door with the keys to a $30K vehicle with stunning ease.  But there are still rules to follow in their use.  No texting.  Use regular gas. No unauthorized passengers.

I drove a GOV cargo van to Fayetteville, NC to meet a work crew on some hazardous waste site that I cannot now recall.  Fayetteville is the quintessential military town, home of Fort Bragg and the 82nd airborne.  In singer Gamble Roger’s stage banter he quips something along the lines of “there’s a mobile home sales lot on every block, a massage parlor on every corner, and the baptist churches have SWAT teams”.

On the way into town, I see a woman standing next to a car on the shoulder, looking like she needs a ride.  Being who I am, I figure I can bend the rules a little and give her a ride a few miles into town.  I pull over, she jumps into the passenger seat, and I pull off.  She cheerfully announces, “Hi, I’m a prostitute”.  This crosses even my thresholds and I mutter, “Oh cheez, I can’t be picking up a prostitutes in a government van”.  She tells me, “I need three hundred dollars to get my car out of impound”.  Apparently the car on the side of the road was not hers.  If she had led with the plea for cash, I might have thrown in ten bucks for the cause, but the prostitute thing has me in a negative state of mind.  I tell her emphatically “Well you’re not getting it from me!”  Her; “Well, let me out then”.  Me; “OK”.  I stop and she swings down out of the seat.  As she’s closing the door, she feels compelled to tell me, “You shouldn’t be picking people up in a government vehicle”.  Me; “Well thank YOU, Miss American Citizen”.  My parting comment might just have been in my head, two miles down the road.

So, there really wasn’t much to the whole episode, which took place over about a minute.  But elsewhere in our region, another employee from our office had his own episode of vehicle malfeasance cooking.  You know how if an organization allows employees some latitude and freedom, there is always SOMEONE who has to push to find out EXACTLY where the lines are drawn?  Said individual took a spouse/girlfriend in a government vehicle to a conference, left the conference early, and toured the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way home.  As you might guess, lines were crossed here and management was forced to map them out.  In fact, lines had been crossed so enthusiastically that an all-hands meeting was called to explain exactly just where those lines were drawn.  No surprise, this was basically no unauthorized passengers and no  diversions from efficient routes to destinations.  (In a stunning lack of self-awareness, I just realized as I write this that the person who has to find out where the boundaries are may actually be me.)

Since I was off having my own vehicle extravaganza in Fayetteville when all this occurred, upon my return the boss called me into his office for a private meeting so he could tell his superiors that the entire staff had been reacquainted with the vehicle usage rules.  When he finished his spiel, I couldn’t resist querying “Hypothetically speaking…” and related my Fayetteville experience.  I fared better with this than I anticipated.  By my boss’s interpretation, you can offer a ride to aid an American citizen in distress.  But you have to put them out of your vehicle when you find out that they are a prostitute.  Woo-hoo –  I’m practically a model employee.  

I made further ‘hypothetical’ queries.   You can tie up your vibracore workboat in front of a waterfront Hooter’s.  And you can take a government vehicle some reasonable distance to a horse track for evening entertainment.  In my boss’s estimation, these are both legitimate business establishments.  Pretty much the only thing I could ferret out that you couldn’t do is drive twenty miles into the Everglades on a day off to rent a canoe, or park a van at a strip club.  The Everglades thing surprised me since this would be educational for people doing environmental work.  And I’m not sure if it’s fair to imply that the strip club is a non-legitimate business establishment, but the optics problem is clear.  And for the record here, although I tied my workboat up at a slip in front of Hooter’s, I ate at Macaroni Grill; I took a rental car, not a GOV, to watch the ponies; and the only time I’ve been to a strip club with a GOV, it was daylight and there was a monitoring well in the parking lot.  

To clarify about our ad hoc ‘aid to American citizens rule’, this occurred several years ago, before citizenship became such a heavily charged political issue.  I think pretty much what was meant in the discussion was ‘american taxpayer’. If you’re paying for the vehicle, it seems you should be allowed some direct benefit from it, even if we’re not going to hand you the keys.

Other government agencies may not follow this rule and I’m betting GSA disapproves.  To this point, I was bicycling on a sunday evening through a seaside national park when I ran across a soldier that had gotten mired off of the road trying to pull someone else out who was stuck in the dunes.  I told him I’d come back with our four-wheel-drive truck and see if I couldn’t pull him out.  By the time I got back a National Park Service officer had arrived with blue-lights flashing and turned the scene into a big fracas, ticketing everyone involved for being off the roadway.  Seeing my government plates he doped out what I was up to and flagged me over.  Trying for a trifecta, he demands “Are you authorized to be using this government vehicle for this purpose?”  I tell him my boss says we can use a government vehicle to help american citizens.  He was visibly taken aback, to the point of being wide-eyed, “What? Really? Things don’t work that way in our organization”.

I found this exchange sadly disappointing.  So if you are a taxpayer and in need of aid, your mileage may vary depending on what government agency stumbles upon you.  Our guys are generally good for a push to the side of the road, or a pull out of a ditch, or a battery jump.  Can’t promise a ride, though, especially if you’re a prostitute.  Sorry.

If you know my long-suffering wife Becky, you may wonder what she thought about all this.  Since we have an open marriage, I related the experience to her when I got back from Fayetteville.  To be clear here, by ‘open marriage’ I mean that we share everything openly and not that we’re each free to openly pick up prostitutes.   “What was she wearing?”, Becky quizzes.  “I don’t know, a white blouse and bicycle pants, maybe?”,  I tried to recall.  Her eyes narrowed.  “Did she have a bicycle?” she wants to know.  I tell her no, not sure where this is going.  She walked off, shaking her head sadly and muttering “You shouldn’t be allowed out in public”.

Oh, and one last thing.  If you’re a GSA employee, or my new division director, or even an irate letter-writing sort of taxpayer, these posts are totally fictional.

A Foregone Trip

A Foregone Trip

Just Stuff

I’ve been itching to get out on a bike tour.  Any tour.  No matter how un-scenic and miserable and soul-robbing.  I’m on a bike every day, but I’ve just been feeling the need to throw another 60 lbs of stuff on it and ride it till I’m exhausted.  

So I thought I’d have my co-workers drop me off with my bike around Fort Valley on the way back from a work trip to Tampa, and then spend a couple days getting home.

I broach the idea with Becky.  She raises an eyebrow, “on the week of our anniversary?, really?”  Oh, gentle reader, did I not mention that part?  It’s just our 37th, which is like the gypsum anniversary.  Or maybe cardboard.  Sensing the need to backtrack, and quickly, I tell her, “That’s OK, this wasn’t a high priority.  With the short days it would have been a cold and dark and lonely trip anyway.”

“In that case”, Becky says, “you should go. In fact, I insist.  As punishment for coming up with the d*mb*ss idea of going on a bike trip on your anniversary.”

Well she eventually relented.  So now I don’t have to go bike touring in December and sit through 15hr nights in the dark.  A good wife helps you keep things in their proper perspective.

You younger women out there – you see how that works?

Cave Rescue

Just Stuff

Becky and I were driving on I-75 in Florida recently. I glanced in the side-view mirror and thought I saw a billboard promoting ‘CAVE RESCUE’ with a rescuer rappelling down a vertical shaft. Certainly there are caves in Florida as the whole place is karstic, but most are flooded, and cave rescue seemed like the most unlikely thing to promote on a billboard. On a second look, it turned out that it was a billboard for a roadside strip club:

CR1

You can see how I would have made the mistake. I showed it to Becky, and she thought it was sweet that my mind tended to run down the non-prurient track. A few miles later we ran across another billboard and I told her “and see, she’s crawling through a low passage to save someone”:

CR2

This earned me the raised eyebrow with the squinched up face (the dreaded ‘stink-eye’) and a “Don’t push it buddy”.

EOTSGTAB

A rafting story

I think I got that abbreviation right.  That would be the ‘End Of The Season Get Together and Bash’ which last I checked remains an ongoing event.  The working title for the first one, though, was ‘First Annual Hog Roast and Cucumber Fry’.  We never actually fried any cucumbers but I threw that in there as a sop to the vegetarians.

The first event was back in 1977.  There were the three rafting outfitters on the Chattooga and there was something of a cultural divergence developing.  The Nantahala Outdoor Center attracts these startlingly high-functioning people.  If you had an Olympic bronze medal in kayak slalom and a masters degree in outdoor recreation, you could get a job at the NOC as a waitress.  They were commonly racists, i.e. people who race.  WildWater tended toward bright-eyed college-student types.  More charitably, this would be people destined to be productive members of society.  And then there was Southeastern Expeditions, where Claude Terry had pretty much cornered the market on stoner-hippy-oddball raft guides.  After a stint at the NOC in ‘75, go figure, I had settled in at Southeastern.  

A few words about Southeastern Expeditions at the time.  Owner Claude Terry had scored a really nice piece of property about a mile from the river with frontage on Hwy 76.  There was still a sign for the property’s previous incarnation; the Whispering Pines Country Music Park.  It was commonly just referred to as ‘The Pines’.  There was a humble little building down on the road that was serving as a kitchen/dining room.  It is now the retail part of the operation.  Housing for raft guides was scattered around the property, almost exclusively guide-owned tents.  Facilities consisted of a five-hole co-ed outhouse inherited from Whispering Pines.  Southeastern Expeditions guides have always been known as ‘the Five Hole Gang’.  There was also a communal shower of more recent construction.  If you were looking for a common defining characteristic for a Southeastern guide, it would have to be a lack of bashfulness.  Guys reading will know from whence I speak when I note how annoying a passel of women can be when they get together.  I learned at The Pines that, surprisingly, they are just as annoying when they’re naked.  I started showering in the middle of the night.

I had a bunch of different things going on at the time.  I was driving a school bus for a kids camp and shoeing a few horses.  On weekends I’d guide a couple raft trips for the paltry 25-bucks-a-trip wage of the era.  During the week I kept Southeastern’s vehicles running.  The best part of the job was that several times a week somebody would mire  a truck in the mud at a put-in and walk out to report their plight.  I’d hike in and drive the vehicles out.  There was some luck and a trick involved, but I batted 1000 at it for the season.  And I had a few other irons in the fire, none of which were making me rich.  But I was living in tents at Southeastern and on my sister’s property, so living expenses were not high.  I was busy and happy, but not overtasked and had time on my hands.

Raw competitiveness wasn’t so much a thing in the 70’s, so the standoffishness between the staff at the three rafting companies could be attributed to the cultural gaps.  I figured what we needed was a party to lubricate relationships.  Preferably with alcohol.  I divvied it up so: Southeastern would provide a hog, WildWater would cook it, and NOC would bring a keg.  There was immediate buy-in.  I don’t remember paying much attention to side dishes, but all the outfitters had awesome cooks (shoutout to Southeastern’s Mars Skipper here), and they all apparently bailed me out on that point.

Providing the hog became the last remaining hurdle.  It’s hard to convey what shoestring operations the Chattooga outfitters were at the time.  I mentioned the skimpy guide wages.  Claude Terry had started Southeastern with a couple rafts and a discarded phone company van (which was still serving as guest housing).  The NOC crowd was still carping about Payson Kennedy making them dig a hole for a septic tank because there wasn’t money in the budget to rent a backhoe.  So coming up with money for the pig wasn’t the trivial matter of passing the hat and everyone anteing up.

I remember John Hicks being around that year, waiting for Claude to realize that he needed a responsible adult running the place.  In the meantime we had Muskrat for head guide.  I’m sure there is a story behind the moniker, but I never heard it.  Muskrat’s given name was Scott Fitzgerald Pendergrast the third.  But just Muskrat for short.  To be fair, Muskrat was doing a decent enough job running the place (but see ‘Quaalude Falls’ for my assessment of the level of decision making required). And like 50 or so other people, he gets bonus points for hiring me.  But he was definitely following a different drummer.  Like a progressive jazz drummer.  Muskrat was kind of scruffy around the edges, and on any given evening he might or might not decide to wear clothes to dinner.  [Note from the future: I ran into Muskrat 30+ years later at Claude’s retiring EOTSGTAB.  Not like he was wearing khakis and a button down shirt, but he was pretty civilized looking.  He was then managing real estate transactions for a government entity.  And he was just Scott, but I think he still answered to Muskrat.  If you find yourself across the table from him at a real estate negotiation, you should find out.]

NOC and Wildwater were in South Carolina, but Southeastern was in Rabun County on the Georgia side of the Chattooga.  In the 70s Rabun County was beginning the change from a textile/sawmilling/moonshining economy to a tourist economy, and the transition was a little frictional.  Add to these changes the local feelings, which we’ll understate as disappointment, when they saw how they were depicted in the locally filmed ‘Deliverance’.  So rafters and outsiders in general could be unpopular in the area.  A year or two earlier Eric Esche had been showered with confetti in his bunk when a high-powered rifle round fired from a pickup outside The Pines shredded his shelf of science fiction.  And so it was no great surprise that Muskrat’s VW Beetle with its Atlanta plates picked up a few close-range shotgun rounds when he left it parked at a trailhead.

This digression is relevant in that I negotiated with Muskrat that I would fix his car for him if he would buy a hog.  I imagine the car wasn’t running or the few perforations wouldn’t have bothered Muskrat.  The technology of the era, particularly on a Beetle, was actually decipherable and I was able to render it mobile again.  These were the happy years on the river, before the long-term drought, where paddlers cavorted in the runoff from 100” of rain a year.  Which explains the mushrooms growing in the car’s floor mats.  These went away when the car dried out, but this probably remained a car you didn’t want to spill a drink in.  

I was no genius with bodywork and paint, but I knew a guy in Tiger who was.  Uncharacteristically, Muskrat’s VW was tricked out with chrome rims and steering wheel.  The paint guy was a Beetle aficionado and I traded him the chrome parts for the body work and trading back some plain-Jane parts.  I didn’t ask Muskrat about the trade but he didn’t seem to care when it came back.  

Armed with the handful of cash Muskrat had promised, I set out to actually procure the hog.  I heard about a guy just down the road from The Pines who had hogs.  Knowing-a-guy and hearing-about-a-guy were the Google of the pre-internet era.  Cash exchanged hands and I left with the hog in the back of my pickup.  The hog rooted out the screens in my camper top and otherwise rendered the truck bed unsuitable for sleeping for some time.

On the day before the party, Buzz Williams from WildWater showed up with a minor entourage.  Buzz dispatched the hog with a .45 pistol, which was something of an anomalous possession for a raft guide.  His crew got a fire going and boiled a drum of water.  They field dressed the hog and scalded the hair off.  The vegetarians amongst us were pretty unhappy about the whole process.  In later years this was all vastly simplified to purchasing a butchered side of meat.  The WildWater guys got a low fire going and settled in for a 24hr siege of slow-cooking.  

NOC brought their promised keg, and the staff from all the outfitters showed up for the party.  I had invited some non-hostile locals and they also showed up for a total crowd somewhere around fifty or a hundred.  Food was eaten and beer was consumed.  Eventually things wound down long after dark, and people drifted off, generally in pairs.  All in all, it was a great end of the season get together and bash.

 

Of Seizures and Shotguns

A Paramedic Story

Lee Durham and I were cruising around in the ambulance when we got a call to a kind of scruffy neighborhood for ‘fightin’ seizures’.  We headed down there with the usual fanfare.  As you probably suspect, there is no medical condition of fightin’(g) seizures.  So it wasn’t at all clear what would be going on when we got there.

I jumped out of the ambulance at the address and Lee set out to find a decent place to park it in a congested lot.  When I walked in the door of the apartment, there were two huge women sitting on a guy, who was trying to wriggle (unsuccessfully) out from underneath them.

My first life-saving act was to tell the women to get up.  They were going on about how the patient, the guy they were sitting on, had been trying to get hold of a shotgun.  I was interviewing the patient, trying to see if there was anything actually medical underlying all the noise.  One of the women shows up with the alleged shotgun.  Now the patient does want the shotgun, because the woman has it.  She’s just waving it around with one hand and doesn’t pose a threat for the most part, but the patient is a question mark.  So I’m staying between him and the shotgun.

Lee opens the door and walks into this mess.  Rather than turning around and running, Lee grabs the shotgun from the woman, jacks the shells out of it, and sets it outside the door.  The patient is standing in an opening to a hallway.  He looks into a bedroom, darts in, and yanks open the top dresser drawer.  I didn’t see a gun, but it sure seemed like a real possibility.  There were a couple of things I could have done at that point, but I chose to run into the bedroom and tackle the patient.  Lee also had a couple of choices, but he rushed in behind me and dived into the melee.

I had the patient in a full nelson and Lee had a few more loose ends.  Whenever the patient struggled we’d rub his head into the floor.  Somewhere in the confusion we had called for police backup and we waited what seemed like 20 minutes for them to show up.  When the police arrived we let the patient up and the whole scene was much calmer.  The cop searched the dresser drawer but there was no gun.  I still believe the patient thought there was one.  Since everything was calm now and there didn’t seem to be anything actually medical going on, we all just left.

This call was unusual enough to be worthy of the telling, but was not particularly exceptional.  Any medic reading this is thinking, ‘Oh yeah, we ran this call once where…’  And any medic on my shift I could have trusted to back me up like Lee did.  I tell my current federal employee co-workers that none of them rise to that standard.

Lee went to med school and is now an immunologist.  If you’re his patient, you can take solace in the fact that while quick thinking may not be required in the day-to-day battle against germs, Lee is the guy if something comes up.

Quaalude Falls

A River Story

In 1977 I was working for Southeastern Expeditions as a raft guide on Section IV of the Chattooga River.  I’ve never been one to let management lead an easy life and as a raft guide I punished the trip leaders, claiming that their job entailed making two decisions: 1) where to eat lunch (which would be Ravens Rock-every day) and 2) when (which would be when we got there).  So finally they said ‘OK then-YOU be trip leader’.  No big deal.

The Saturday trip started OK, but things went downhill rapidly.  My entire crew was loopy and untrainable.  Before we got to Woodall Shoals several people had fallen out of my raft in the tiniest of rapids.  A girl took her bikini top off to drape herself across the raft tube and sunbathe.  In distant retrospect I realize she must have also had her life jacket off and there’s a rule against that.

The guides all compared notes at Woodall Shoals.  Just about everyone had lost people out of their rafts.  Some investigation revealed that about 25 out of 30 customers on the trip were from Geralds’s singles bar in Atlanta and they had all dropped Quaaludes before the trip.

If you haven’t heard of Quaaludes before, they were a recreational drug of the 70’s. US manufacturer stopped in the 80’s due to universal abuse and the lack of a legitimate medical purpose for them.  Classified as a hypnotic, like most recreational drugs of the era they pretty much just made you stupid.

So there was a decision to be made and it wasn’t about lunch.  There is a road out at Woodall Shoals, blocked off about a half mile from the river.  Since this was the pre-cellphone era, a guide would have to run out several miles, and organize vehicles to pick us up.  We would have to haul all the gear up to the road block and it didn’t look like our luders would be a lot of help with that.

So I decided to head down the river with them.  We eventually realized that we couldn’t let the luders sit on the side of the raft and started just piling them in the bottom.  Arguments ensued: ‘You’ve got four straight people in your raft and I don’t have any; fork one over’.  So the straight customers got distributed among the luder rafts so we could negotiate the river.  I imagine it wasn’t what they anticipated for the day.  I’d love to hear their telling of the trip.

When we got to five falls we stuck with conveying the luders in the bottom of the raft as it didn’t look like they could safely walk down the banks.  We would double up the straights and have them hike back up to run each rapid two or three times. Complaints like ‘I have to run Corkscrew again?’ were heard.  We finally made it past the last significant rapid, Shoulder Bone, and most guides thought they could let their luders sit up on the tubes of the raft again in preparation for trying to whip them across the lake.

In the last trivial rapid before the lake, pretty much all of the luders fell out of the rafts into the river.  They just kind of oozed out and bobbed on down to the lake where the guides had to find and retrieve theirs.  We didn’t drown any, but I’m not sure we were guaranteed it would turn out that way.

So there you go.  Just in case you were curious how that last little non-rapid on Section IV was named Quaalude Falls.  To date, I have not since forayed into management.  I feel like something bad would be bound to happen.

Rangers

A River Story

In 1975 I was a raft guide for the Nantahala Outdoor Center on Chattooga Section IV. At the beginning of one Saturday morning trip, I was sleepily giving the raft guide talk to a bunch of young guys about ‘paddle-forward-paddle-backward-keep-your-feet-up-don’t-lose-your-paddle…’.  One of the guys interrupts, ‘I BEG YOUR PARDON SIR, BUT WE’RE FAMILIAR WITH THIS CRAFT, SIR’.  In retrospect, I realize that my entire life prior to 23 years of age was lived in a pre-coffee haze.  So I raise one eyebrow and give a sleepy, skeptical ‘Really? Zat so?’  From our self-appointed crew representative, ‘SIR, YES SIR.  IT’S AN RB7, SIR. A SEVEN MAN RUBBER BOAT, SIR.’

Well, indeed they were familiar with that craft.  Turns out they were army Rangers, just graduated, and just coming off of a peppermint schnapps celebration (said celebration having ended maybe minutes earlier).

Where could you go wrong with a brutally strong crew that understands teamwork and knows how to follow orders?  Navigating rapids was a piece of cake.  Corporal Kowalski, with a gorilla build and body hair to match, contributed his own approach in the rock gardens.  He would lean over the front and push the nose of the raft right or left around the rocks.  From my seat he looked like The Hulk swatting the rocks out of the way.

When we made it to Seven Foot Falls, we went early in the string of rafts and had the expected flawless run.  We were sitting in the raft watching the rest of the rafts come through and Sergeant RB7 turns to me and says ‘So that’s it?’  Well, OK.  The water level was good, but not high, and Section IV is good solid whitewater, but maybe not hair-raising if you do it right.  Apparently the crew was not getting their adrenaline fix, so I nudged the raft off the shore and let us drift out of the pool of beached rafts.  We floated around the next bend after Seven Foot and tucked behind a rock that towered 20 feet or so over the left bank.

Never a word was said, but they all slipped out of the raft as a group and climbed up to a vantage point behind the top of the rock.  When the next raft of unwitting Atlanta suburbanites slid under the rock, the Rangers went into full ‘death from above’ mode and leaped into the raft.  In a flash, they grabbed paddles, lunches, and first aid kits and disappeared into the undergrowth.  I’m just glad they didn’t slit all the customer’s throats.  They regrouped and made another attack or two. Now they were amused.  I hadn’t thought about it till now, but I’ll bet my fellow guides were really irked with me.

When we got to Five Falls, we had good runs of First Fall and Corkscrew, no surprise.  We were sitting in the pool above Crack-in-the-Rock waiting our turn when a crew broached a raft on the log in right crack, and wrapped the raft around the log.  I’d never seen anyone do this before and never since, so this was a good piece of work.  I was eyeing the problem and dreaded dealing with it.  This was before the Z-drag technology was developed, and I figured the guides would be fighting with it for an hour trying to drag the raft off the log.

I turned to sergeant RB7 and said, completely in jest, ‘why don’t you guys take care of that?’  BAM, they were in the water and all over that raft.  I wouldn’t have thought they would have been effective in the effort, not really being whitewater types, but we come back to that brutal strength and teamwork thing.  They had the raft off the log in less than five minutes, with no casualties.

The river was at 1.85, just above the Sock-em-Dog cut off of 1.80.  Owner Payson Kennedy was actually on the trip, and I made the case for us running Sock-em-Dog, as I was pretty sure we would sail over it.  Payson turned us down (probably wisely) and it turned out that a rafter from an unguided missile drowned in the rapid later in the day.

So the crew is grumpy again about having to rope the raft around Sock-em-Dog. For a consolation prize I pushed us off early again, ran Shoulder Bone, and drifted down to that left bank rock that juts over the river.  This one is only about eight or ten feet high, but they were still able to amuse themselves mounting an attack on slow-to-learn raft crews.

‘Ambush Rock’ below Shoulder Bone is pretty much a part of river culture now, but far as I know my Ranger crew in 1975 was the first to utilize the possibilities.  If you’re on a Section IV trip and you want to up the ante, there’s always that ambush point just below Seven Foot Falls.

In all truthfulness, after this raft trip with the Rangers, I have felt safer as an American.  I swear I don’t know why anyone would ever screw with us.  I am sincerely grateful that a) people of this caliber are defending our country, and b) someone is keeping them off the street.