Retirement Thoughts

Everyone has some words of wisdom that they want to impart after 20 or more years of service.  The problem is, sometimes those formations get so long, that no one is listening to you anymore, they’re just thinking about how much their back hurts and waiting to eat.  I have thought a lot over the last several years about what I would say during my retirement speech.  These are in no particular order, because I have ADD.


  • In February of 1997 I came home from Garden City High School, and my dad was waiting for me at the front door.  This was something that never happened, because he worked the afternoon shift at Detroit Diesel.  He had a letter in his hand, and it was from The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps inviting me to audition.  I don’t know if I had ever seen my dad so happy or proud at that time.  My mom brought me home early from a church retreat so I could practice for the audition, and my parents bought me a new fife to use for the audition.  Thank you to my parents for everything you did for me, and I love you so much!
  • Thank you to my friends and coworkers who have helped me through the years, you guys are literally the best.
  • Years ago we had to go to an NCO Induction at Spates Hall, and the guest speaker said something that always resonated with me.  He said, “How in the hell are you going to tell your Soldier to polish his shoes when yours look like shit?”  It’s a great point.  Try not to correct people when your house isn’t clean.
  • On that note, it’s always best to go into scenarios such as the aforementioned NCO Induction or Friday afternoon NCODP’s with an open mind.  Being in FDC, 99% of what the people are saying probably won’t apply to you, but there is always some kind of takeaway.
  • Be wary of taking hope away from your Soldiers.  Once they lose hope in the future of their career and the future of this organization, you’ve lost them forever.
  • Remember as leaders that your Soldiers are first and foremost PEOPLE.  It is important for leaders to think about the “big picture”, but you’ll never get your big picture if one of your Soldiers commits suicide.  Know your people, and when they’re in trouble get them help!  Sometimes you have to stop thinking about the mission for 2 seconds and think about the lives of the people involved.
  • When I joined the unit we were pretty much all E6’s, and it was a beautiful thing.  There were maybe 9 E7’s and 2 E8’s.  Our section leaders were E6’s with more time in service than us.  When we received all of the E7 and E8 rank that we have now, it was also a beautiful thing.  It was good for FDC because we were finally getting recognized as the special band that we were.  However, I somethings think that this was also one of the worst things that ever happened to the unit.  It was so divisive.  This is an organization that used to be one of the most loyal places in the world, and we just don’t have that anymore.  You can see it happening every time a promotion is coming up.  People will push their friends in front of a bus just to look better for the promotion.  But that loyalty is so important.  We can’t be an effective unit if we’re constantly stabbing each other in the back.  So instead of stabbing each other in the back, consider having each other’s backs.
  • In the fife section there are people who have a flute background and people who have a fife background (the “Ancients).  When I came to FDC it was easy to feel superior as an Ancient, because I had already been playing a fife longer than a lot of my peers who had been in the Army longer than me.  However, it is important for Ancients to realize that it is easy for college-trained flute players to feel superior to Ancients, because they have a lot of knowledge about music and professionalism.  I’m here to tell you that no one is superior.  You should all be careful when you are sitting on audition panels that your selections don’t sway too far in one direction.  It should be as close to a 50/50 split as possible, because both Ancients and college-trained flutists bring something necessary to the table, and that is a great thing for the fife group in general.
  • Try not to be too judgmental after promotions.  What is a good leader?  Everyone has their idea of what a good leader is, and the common idea in FDC has been a very specific leader type. I would challenge you to think outside that box sometimes.  If everyone who got promoted in this unit had the same leadership style, what a huge weakness that would be.  There are leaders in this unit who meet the common ideal of leadership perfectly. They have their shit together, they are organized and professional at all times, they always know where their people are and what is best for the group.  I would challenge you to think outside the box.  Just as the fife group thrives with fifers from different performance backgrounds, the corps thrives with different types of leaders.  We need leaders who are the best musician on the field, but not all leaders are going to be the best.  I remember doing a Pentagon arrival ceremony when Lonnie Johnson pulled me off the bus and asked me to help him play through the new sound off.  He was the best leader I ever had, but he knew who to ask for help in an area of weakness.  Leaders don’t have to be the best at everything!  That’s why you have such a diverse squad, put those Jimmies to use!  Some of your leaders might seem flaky when it comes to running a section, but they might be the best person for the job as far as moral integrity or creativity.  This unit is amazing and hires amazing people, and we’re all different, and that’s ok.  Stop worrying about becoming a Stepford Wife for promotion, and start celebrating your differences and taking advantage of each other’s strengths.  Support each other through your weaknesses (this goes back to loyalty and not stabbing each other in the back).
  • When I joined the corps, they were concerned with hiring better musicians.  A lot of the old timers were “school of music dropouts”, and they wanted a new caliber.  Those “dropouts” were some of the best marchers I’ve ever had the pleasure of performing with, and I learned a lot from them.  Additionally, they were a far cry better from the infantrymen and draft dodgers who made up FDC before them.  That’s the point.  If we’re doing our job properly, we’re going to continue to hire and train people who are better than us.  When today’s old timers were younger, we were among the best musicians.  However, we did nothing but honor and respect those old timers who trained us.  If we had disrespected our “elders” (so to speak) then we would only be training the newer generations to do the same thing to us.  The corps gets better and better with every audition, and if you’re doing your jobs the way you should, it will continue to do so.
  • Pro tip:  Add a contact into your phone called “Driver” and whenever you’re NCOIC of a mission change the phone number to the driver’s number.  Then when you’re done with the mission, you’ll always be able to reach the driver.
  • Be kind to one another, because sometimes your buddies at FDC are the only friends you’ve got.
  • THE absolute hardest part about working in FDC is watching your best friends leave year after year.  I’m sorry to all of the new people who I haven’t allowed myself to get to know, but I really just couldn’t take that much loss anymore!  When Teddy left in 2001, it was so difficult.  My friend was retiring!  After that, it was a series of difficult losses.  Saying goodbye to Andrea, Susan Brockman, Lonnie, Glen, Cece, Rich-a part of me died each time.  I call it the “Circle of Fife”.  But I will tell you, it is almost like a death.  The friendships are NEVER the same once someone leaves the corps.  I only hope I can maintain my relationship with John once I retire (haha!)
  • Speaking of loss, I loved Susan Moser.  Sometimes we fought at work and sometimes we had our differences, but she had my back during a time when my friends at FDC were the only friends I had (see above).  I will forever be thankful to her for helping me through that difficult time (and then some), and she will be a part of my heart forever.
  • When Karl Sauter retired, he said that he gave the best years of his life to the Army.  This is true.  When I was 18 I used to be able to do a Special GO ceremony after a can of Dr. Pepper and some Cheetos for lunch.  Can you imagine feeling that good? Take care of your bodies, because this job is physically demanding.  If you’re sick or hurt, go to the doctor.  Don’t ‘walk it off’ because that makes you look tough.
  • Try not to discount (all) new ideas from new people.  It is true, there are times that they will come up with a “brilliant” idea that has been tried, tested, and failed already, but that is not to say that they don’t come up with winners.  Was it Jeb or Dave Loyal (or a combination of the two) who came up with a better way of doing flags in than we’ve been doing for decades prior?  We never thought there might be an easier way to do it, we just did it the old hand-blistering way because that’s the way it’s always been done.
  • Don’t agree with the President?  Doesn’t matter.  He’s your president.  Respect the office if not the man himself.  Same goes for your entire chain of command.
  • There are some of you that I really wish I got to serve with longer, because I think we could have had such fun back in the day.  Frankie Frank, Casey, Brooke Stevens, Brian Hublar-you guys are fun, keep at it!
  • Try not to let your passion for this job overcome your passion for life.  If you learn anything from me at all, learn from my mistakes.  When I was a kid I had a poster of TOG FDC hanging over my bed because it was a dream for me to come here.  I wanted to look at my goal every night before I closed my eyes.  The corps was the last thing I looked at at night and the first thing I saw in the morning.  I got here and I lived it.  I gave 200% of myself to this organization, but it really isn’t healthy.  When you are giving that much of yourself to something else, there is nothing left over for anything or anyone, including yourself.  I shut down almost completely, and lost my will to live.  John came home and found me laying down in the shower, where I had been for hours unable to get up.  I wasn’t eating or sleeping, and I lost about 10 lbs in a week.  I ended up admitted into the hospital for extreme anxiety and major depressive episode.  After going through a long outpatient treatment, I almost became the polar opposite of myself and started giving 200% of myself to my family.  And let me tell you, after the way I treated them before I was lucky that I still had them.  Before, they came second always.  There was never a question.  I am so blessed that my family is still by my side.  But I think in order to be successful here, you can’t let yourself sway too far in either direction.  I guess the theme here is balance.
  • Go to school.  How lucky am I that the Army paid for me to get a Bachelor Degree?  Go to school!  Make it a priority.
  • If you think that you’re too good to make a mistake, then you have primed yourself to make a mistake.  One time we were doing a ceremony and when we rounded that last turn before the chute and started marking time, I was feeling great.  When the drum major came up with the stick and we started half stepping, I felt even better.  I was on top of the world!  Then I came up with TUSAB’s 7-count…
  • When I got here the corps was made up of two corps, Corps I and Corps II.  I was in Corps II at first, and then the whole fife group moved to Corps I.  I’ve always served in building 231.  There were no awnings over the seats on Summerall Field.  We played a McDonaugh 11-Hole fife, and later a Cooperman Concert 10-Hole before switching to the Healy.  The fire station was next to Caisson, and we didn’t have cell phones.  After a few years I got a pager, haha!  C-Hall was covered in homasote and repainted blue maybe monthly.  We used to march with a 5-man front in ceremonies indoors and out.  The fife and drum corps completely changed after 9/11.  Before that, we were a peacetime Army.  When I joined the Army, I joined under the “Be all that you can be” slogan.  Since then, I’ve seen “Army of One”, “Army Strong”, and whatever else.  When I first saw the corps perform in 1989, it was a Twilight Tattoo ceremony on the ellipse in DC.  They sang, “When we were needed, we were there.”  I was disappointed that they don’t have that song in Twilight this year.  The daycare center and library used to be in that field where the TUSAB building is allegedly going to be built.  My first barracks room was in a building that doesn’t exist anymore, and is now the education center/library.  They used to make fresh waffles with a waffle iron every day to order at the chow hall, and they were the whip.  Delta Company used to have an actual dog that lived at their company.  He was dirty and kind of gross, but very sweet.  If I had a dime for every time we watched “Tombstone”, “Face Off”, and “Con Air” in the bus, I’d be rich.  When I got here, Spirit of America was on hiatus.  It came back around 2000, and we did it at the MCI (now Verizon) Center, and they did a horse show with the caisson horses which was incredible, with figure 8’s and all kind of stuff.  After their show, they had a couple of Jimmies came out dressed like clowns to clean up the poo, with crazy music playing like Yakkety Sax or something, and after that got the crowd pumped, FDC came out and did our show.  Interesting career bookend:  doing Staff Duty at the beginning and the end of my career.  We used to submit our Sergeant’s Time schedule to the Regimental Sergeant Major so he could go around post and make sure we were where we said we would be doing what we said we’d be doing.  We spent a lot of time in our super secret hiding places down at the bottom of the hill and in Rollo’s van.
  • If you know me, you know that I have a lot more to say, but I’m trying to get out the door for my last DA ceremony ever.
  • I love John and my girls more than I can even say.  Thank you for being mine.

Sustainability of Historical Information

As I’ve been studying Mount Vernon, I’ve found that the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association seems to be doing a great job with sustainability.  When I visited in April, they had masons out constructing a new wall.  They had scaffolding up around the manor house, and they were re-roofing several of the buildings (and as they are historical buildings, they cannot be roofed using the materials of today.  These shingles are handmade and hand-painted wooden shingles, and they have to be replaced around every 30 years.

Mount Vernon-Sustainability and Restoration

I’ve also seen a lack of sustainability really bring a place down.  The McPike Mansion was a beautiful home in Alton, Illinois built in 1869.  Driving past the home today, you can almost taste the potential for continued beauty.  The current owners of the home do not have the ability (financial or otherwise) to sustain this architectural gem, and it is therefore a home fallen into disrepair, almost to the point of becoming an eyesore.

McPike Mansion-A Sad State


Fun with Old Bailey

I thought it would be fun to look up names that have come and gone through my life and see if I could figure out whether it seemed that my name really had come from England as I’ve been told all my life (“the name Dyer comes from England, when people were named after their profession-so our ancestors dyed cloth” is what I was always told).

Interestingly enough, when I did some research on the name Dyer appearing in the Old Bailey (London’s Central Criminal Court 1674-1913), Dyer only appeared in 658 cases as opposed to my Brother-in-Law’s name ‘Walker’, which appeared in 3614 cases.  As I was looking at the names, it became clear that some of the surnames in my family weren’t prominent in England between the late 1600’s and early 1900’s, so I had to create 2 charts just to get the data to show up.  The names with the most prominence were Dyer, Stevens, Lewis and Walker.  The names with the least prominence were DeWitt, Ault, Sloan and Brewer.


More prominence

Less prominence

The Importance of Font

Last week while preparing our Power Point slides, we discussed briefly the importance of a good font selection.  Well, today I have come across a prime example of why font is important.  I’m sure these people were going for ‘final registration’, but now they can file this flyer under FAIL.


I’m not sure I like Softball *that* much



The Greatest Historical Mystery TAKE 2

Today during class, I had the opportunity to present my slides and receive valuable critiques from my classmates.  I tweaked my presentation a little bit, and I thought I would post again so people can get an idea of the before and after of the presentation.


  • One of the comments was, “Why aren’t there more pictures?”  It was suggested that I add a map to the first page, however I felt that would detract from my original intention of drawing people in with a mysterious first slide.  I decided to add a map to the second slide
  • “It’s hard for me to see with the white parts in the middle”.  Once I had the slides up on the large screen, it was easy for me to see that this was indeed true.  I used a different slide style, and changed the font to black (bold in parts) and Times New Roman (because I’m a nerd and it’s my favorite)
  • A few additional tweaks I made were to font sizes


Uh-oh, what happened to the slides?  Something funky, with large chunks of the slides disappearing.  I couldn’t figure it out.  So I converted the slides to PDF, saved them to my Google Drive, and tried again.


I’m constantly trying to better myself, so please check out both of these presentations (remember, the assignment was to have only 3 slides) and let me know if you have any feedback, positive or otherwise.  I would love to give this presentation someday, because I feel I could talk a lot about each bullet point that is up there.

The Greatest Historical Mystery of ALL TIMES

If you ask a historian what is the greatest historical mystery of all times, chances are that they may mention the Lost Colonists of Roanoke. This week’s task was to create a historical slide show presentation limited to 3 slides.  The difficulty here is trying to limit incredible amounts of information to 3 slides.  I felt that the lost colonists would be the best way to make an impact, because it is a moment in history that gets people excited.  What happened to them?  They vanished without a trace.

I used Microsoft Power Point to create my slide show presentation.  After an interesting discussion in class on Tuesday, I tried to ensure that my slides were interesting and informative while not overdone.  In order to embed the slides to my site, I had to first upload the presentation to my Google Drive, and then ‘share’ it, thus creating a link where everyone could see.  Here is the strange thing (a mystery perhaps, much like those lost settlers)-when I created the slide, and when I look at them on my Google Drive, they are all grey.  But when I click the link below, the second and third slides are green. ooooOOOOOOooooo, strange.  I have no idea why it happened.  I hope you like the presentation.



Fun With Charts

Look what I have created with my own two hands (after much pulling of the hair). I have created an interactive chart to embed on my blog. This will help me when it comes to quantifying my data about General George Washington in my Mt. Vernon project.

I used myself as a test dummy. It looks like I could use a trip to my dentist and neurologist. PS-this was a very difficult task for me. I could not get my chart to create in Google Docs. I was switching my data around, trying to get it to be something that the chart maker would like. I enlisted the help of my teenage daughter, to no avail. Then during class I remembered something that Professor Kelly said-highlight the information that you want charted. Duh.

Lucky for all of my fan, I have finally figured it out. Feast your eyes on this:

Embedding a Map

Since we are currently learning about embedding a map, I thought I would go ahead and use this time to start work on my final project. I know that everyone has been waiting with bated breath to see which direction I would go in, but after a somewhat difficult decision, I’ve decided to choose Historic Mount Vernon over Harper’s Ferry. I am more interested in learning about Harper’s Ferry because I’ve only ever been there once, and I just don’t know as much about it. However, the more logical choice was Mount Vernon, not just because of the location to me, but also because of my level of intimacy with the estate. I’ve traveled to and performed at Mount Vernon several times as a child, and even more times as an adult. I have friends that work there. It was the right decision.

So without further adieu (and hopefully no technological difficulty) may I present my map of General George Washington and his local Virginia ‘haunts’. I have a lot more research to do, and several more sites to add to my interactive map, but this is a start. I included Mt. Vernon as well as a few locations in Old Town Alexandria that were frequented or occasionally visited by Washington.


Historic Greenfield Village

My opinion (which we all know what opinions are like) is that Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan-along with the Henry Ford Museum-is far superior to Colonial Williamsburg.  Williamsburgians (is that a word?) will say that Colonial Williamsburg is better because of it’s pure historic value.  The historic houses in CW were built there and remain there to this day.  My problem with CW is that some of the buildings are still privately owned.  So when you go to CW, it’s kind of awkward and confusing knowing which homes and buildings you can tour, and which you cannot.

Greenfield Village is a place that historical purists probably won’t like.  The buildings in GV were taken apart and brought to Michigan and restored with great care.  But I don’t care, and here is the reason.  You can go into every single building in GV.  There is much to learn about there, from George Washington Carver to The Wright Brothers.  I love Greenfield Village.  So when we were asked to do another map project and I had to look at a grand map of the United States and decide where I wanted to mark it, I did so.  I also included pins from where I grew up, both in Detroit proper and then Garden City so you could see the proximity to Greenfield Village I lived.  Click this link, my map is interactive.  The homes pictured in Garden City and Detroit aren’t the actual homes I grew up in, but they are pretty close matches.  I’m also attaching a screenshot of my map so you can see firsthand how wonderful my skills are.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 8.58.20 AM


Google Maps is the Best-True That, Double True

This is the project that I’ve had the most problems with.  I’ve been working on trying to figure out what the magic land of Google considers ‘my place’ for a few weeks now, and I’m not sure if I got it.  But I’m sure going to give it a college try, so to speak!

Here’s my attempt, check out this map ((this is me holding my breath)):


I hope this worked.  In the coming weeks, I have quite a lot of work to do concerning maps while creating my final project.  I’m trying to decide between doing a project on Mt. Vernon (a place I’ve been to several times, and somewhere that I have an ‘in’-a good buddy that works there) and Harper’s Ferry (somewhere I haven’t been to in over a decade, and definitely somewhere I’d like to spend more time).  One of the facets of the final project is to post at least 2 interactive maps, so the difficulty I’ve had with this post is of course daunting.

Our instructions were to go to our google account on and click on “My Place” and then “Create Map”, export the map as a KML file by adding “&output=kml” to the end of the URL for the map I create.  After some discussion in class, it was decided that we were supposed to use Google Earth instead, so I downloaded Google Earth.  I still couldn’t find a “My Place” tab, so I typed “My Place” into the search bar and came up with a general map of my current location.  Then I clicked the “View in Google Maps” icon, and then the “Open in Firefox” tab.  From there I added “&output=kml”, and used the “link” tab to add the link to my blog here.  Fingers Crossed.

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