Tribute To A Hero

The Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony of Commodore Dennis A. Schulz

Finally, the day arrived to depart for our long-awaited, highly anticipated trip to San Diego where we were to attend the Change of Command and Retirement ceremony for our dear friend, Commodore Dennis A. Schulz. This auspicious affair took place aboard the deck of the USS Midway, serving her final mission as a spectacular Aircraft Museum in downtown San Diego’s Navy Pier. Majestically draped in red, white and blue for the occasion, this magical ship took my breath away as Brian and I approached to come aboard for this rich, traditional naval ceremony. From the moment we gathered with other guests to await an official arm of escort to our seats on the flight deck, we drew in the history we were experiencing first-hand and felt deeply honored to be Dennis and Karla’s friends.

Our personal history with the Schulz’s dates back to the 6th grade where Karla and I met in Mr. Wiesler’s band room at Franklin Middle School in our hometown of Shawano Wisconsin. We went our separate ways after high school when she went to college in Oshkosh and I played music and traveled. It was in college that she met Dennis, a young, handsome military man with a heart set on a brilliant Navy career. They had two beautiful sons, Douglas and Dennis, early in their marriage as they traveled the world per the Navy’s orders. I always marveled at Karla’s commitment to Dennis’ career, especially when it left her alone with her little ones in places like Japan for many months at a time when Dennis was on deployment to who knew where. She was so dedicated, brave and strong, an equal counterpart in every one of Dennis’ heroic exploits. Karla always understood the value of Dennis’ difficult work, and she and Dennis raised their boys to understand it, too. The Schulz’s are one of America’s best examples of what makes our military great, our country strong, our families safe, secure and free!

So that brings us to this very special day on the deck of the USS Midway, where the sun beamed bright over 200 invited guests and meandering museum visitors who were about to witness one of our Navy’s most formal, awe-inspiring traditions fraught with pomp and flair. I tried to pay close attention to all the sights and sounds going on around me, most of which I didn’t even understand the significance of, but knew were in keeping with the strong Navy tradition of this Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony. The dress was bright service whites and swords; the flags lining the back of the platform whipped in the wind, the Navy Band played; the Side Boys proudly formed their human passageway; the boatswain’s or bosun’s pipe whistled; a brass bell tolled; the Colors were paraded by a High School Naval Training Corp. I sang Duty Calls before the official ceremony began. Brian sang, beautifully, the National Anthem. Rear Admiral John R. Hines, Jr., Deputy Commander of the Third Fleet, spoke eloquently and with great wit, honoring Dennis’ 27-year stellar Naval service, his eyes reflecting great admiration for this highly decorated hero. Well-deserved Awards were presented by Admiral Hines to Karla for her tireless support of Dennis throughout her 24 year marriage to her Navy man. Preceding the heart of the whole ceremony, which is the formal reading of official orders by the relieving officer and the officer to be relieved, Dennis gave a brilliantly crafted speech that, to the word, perfectly reflected his giant personality as a celebrated Officer, a dutiful husband, a doting dad, a loving son and brother, an awesome boss, a funny friend, a wild-hearted surfer, a faithful Neil Young fan, and all around wonderful guy. There were few dry eyes after that one! The breaking of Dennis’ Pennant and the hoisting of the new guy’s Pennant on a distant flagpole towering high over the Midway’s historic flight deck marked the official Change of Command of Tactical Air Control Group ONE at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego. More pageantry followed as Dennis was presented with the traditional Shadowbox filled with mementos of his career, as well as his Command Pennant. Then a glorious reading of the heart-stirring poem Olde Glory was read as a tightly-folded American flag was passed in slow motion from one uniformed service member to the next, as each performed perfect, deliberate about faces and crisp salutes, until it reached the honored retiree at the poem’s end. Dennis, then, proudly delivered Old Glory to the lap of his lovely bride with a kiss. Awesome! The ceremony concluded with a Benediction given by the Chaplain who married Dennis and Karla, retired Commander Gary Simons. Finally, Commodore Dennis A. Schulz was “piped over the side” for the last time. Dennis broke with tradition in this last detail in that instead of enjoying the honor of the Side Boys’ final salute and whistle of the Bosun’s pipe alone, he departed through the honored Side Boys pathway with his beautiful “other half,” Karla, on his arm and their handsome sons, Dennis and Douglas and their lovely girlfriends, Andrea and Tiffany, close behind. How perfectly fitting!

The tears welling up in Karla, Douglas and Dennis’ eyes during the ceremony confirmed what everyone already knew, that they believed that all of their sacrifices were well worth it! Russ (US Navy, Retired) and Marilyn Schulz’s tears said that their son had filled his father’s footsteps very well, indeed. The misty eyes of Dennis’ two elementary teachers who flew in from HAWAII made clear their belief in his greatness all along. The tears of all of us who had the privilege of being in attendance at this hero’s military farewell shouted a resounding “Well done!!!” to this really great guy who had his heart set on a brilliant Navy career. We salute you, Dennis. Long may YOU run!!

A lovely reception on the ship’s Elevator Deck followed the ceremony, where we all got to relax and visit, sharing stories of how our acquaintance with the Schulz family had fortuitously landed us all on the USS Midway on that beautiful, sunny day. Now as if that weren’t enough celebrating…What would a Schulz Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony be without a grand party to top it all off? Those of us who know Karla, know that when she throws a party, its top shelf all the way. This celebration, the day after, took place poolside, in Dennis and Karla’s back yard, and was certainly the best ever. Fully catered, staged and decorated, everything was perfect from the fabulous food and almost-too-beautiful-to-eat-cakes, to the party band, the easy-going, laughter-filled conversations, to the romantic sight of Dennis holding Karla in a slow dance.

We wouldn’t have missed this event for anything. As we drove away from their home that night, we were honored with a “Schulz Family Salute” from the curb. How precious is that? How lucky are we?

Please click on the photos to view images of Dennis’ 27 years:
Dennis-2.jpg Dennis-1.jpg Dennis-0.jpg

Jackson Becker – Texas Ranger

Jack has moved up the batting order during his career as a Texas Ranger. Now batting #3 and Dad is convinced it is because of games like last night. He came up to bat three times and got a single, double and home-run. Look at the determination on his face, we are so proud of our youngest! Please take the time to click on the image/link below and watch Jack’s home run at-bat.
Click this to watch Jack’s At-Bat

Captain Dennis Schulz

Until we have a chance to write a more detailed report, I have to give a quick “Shout Out” about our incredible time in San Diego. Singing Duty Calls (Toni) and the National Anthem (Brian) for the Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony for Commander of Air Tactical Control Group One, Captain Dennis Schulz is on the top of our list of favorite events of all time.

What an honor to participate in the pomp and circumstance of this ceremony and all its tradition.

Please enjoy the photos:

Captain Schulz – A Decorated Hero

The Schulz Family holding their awards from President Bush & Navy

Toni standing on the deck of the U.S.S. Midway on rehearsal day.

It's Summertime – Where are they now?

Hey there, we came to Poplar Bluff (where we once owned a house) and have set up camp on the outskirts of town in the Camelot RV Campground. We’ve come back for the summer so that both our boys can play baseball with the same friends as last year.

Jack is playing 35mph Pitching Machine baseball in the Christian League for the “Texas Rangers.”

Ben is playing 44mph Pitching Machine baseball in the Poplar Bluff Civic League for team “” I am assistant-coach.

We’ll be in Poplar Bluff through mid-July when their seasons end and then head out for a 9-month run: starting with five weeks in Wisconsin, out to Washington & Oregon, a month to travel through California, up for a few days in Vegas, to the Grand Canyon and Sante Fe and back to Texas in time for Christmas, Florida in January and who knows from there.

Breakdown #2: Pit Stop in San Antonio

On our way to a Newsboys concert in San Antonio from Georgetown, we found ourself with a distinct difficulty to see.

Toni, a smashed window and a bedliner.

The Beckers and Lodens were on our way to an awesome concert on Apr 12th in San Antonio. All 10 of us were enjoying the ride just south of Austin when Jackson came up and sat in the front seat with me. Within a few miles, I saw an object about 5′ x 2′ x 2 inches flying between two semi’s in front of me. Jackson said, “What is that?” I said, “It looks like metal from that semi.” The object was hovering in the lane to my left.

With 10 in the RV, I couldn’t “lock them up” without risking serious injury, so I yelled to hang on and started slowing down. A 3rd semi, on my left, came past me and his air pressure made the object rise up and I thought, “It must be cardboard.” But the semi’s air pressure also caused the object to move over into my lane. I had no room to move left or right and the object was dead in front of my window. Once again it looked like metal and the sound it made as it hit the window sounded convincing…as well as the shattered window.We went back to look at the object and found that it was the hard-plastic tailgate section of a pickup truck’s bedliner. No damage to the chassis, just the left/driver’s window. Luckily we were only 1 mile from a Monoco RV Dealer…what a blessing! We rented a 15 passenger van and made it to the concert in time for the first song!

What a great concert!!!

Newsboys Concert
Peter, lead singer, and the Newsboys put on a great concert!

It took them 5 days to get a new windshield in and install it, plus they installed a new air conditioner in our main cabin as well (under warranty). So, all in all, our 2nd breakdown was just as easy to bare as the first one.

Not Striper…Catfish!

We left Georgetown on Monday morning and picked Aunt Dianne up at the Austin airport. The boys were standing in the doorway of the RV as we pulled up to the “Arriving Passengers” area, they threw open the door and yelled in unison, “All Aboard for the Lake Conroe Express!” Aunt Dianne greeted them with a hug and a “Hey, that’s where I’m going!”

Aunt Dianne came and joined us on the road!

We stopped for lunch along the access road of Hwy 71 near Bastrop, Tx, and in the middle of our meal there was a knock on the door. I went to answer it and there stood a 72-year-old angel. Here name was Eva Marie and since we were parked out front of her home, she wanted to make sure we didn’t need anything. I visited with her and was touched by her in so many ways. She came to the U.S. from Germany after WWII with her husband, she was a survivor of torture by the Russian Army: she shot a Russian soldier who had finished raping her and was then raping her Grandmother. The soldiers took her, and buried her alive with other dead bodies. I didn’t hear how long she was buried, but the images of words describing how she was dug out have lingered. Eva has been on my mind since, she is now a widower, and lonely. I’ve written a note, and hope that the postmaster at Bastrop is successful at delivering a cryptic address. God blessed me with another soul to remember.

As we drove along Hwy 290, Hwy 6, and Hwy 105…the flowers were brilliant. Fields of blue like I had never seen in my life, and just past that were fields of every color as the Blue Bonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Bindweed, Indian Blanket, Scarlet Flax, Yellow Flax, Greenthread, and Mealy Sage were intertwined for a beautiful painting. It was incredibly, awesomely, gorgeous. We had to stop and take photos (along with hundreds of other travelers).



While at Lake Conroe, we stayed at the newest KOA in America. It was a beautiful campsite and we enjoyed ourselves very much. We spent two days on the lake with two different guides. The first day, the guide took us catfishing because the hybrid/striper/white bass fishing had been slow. We caught 17 catfish between 1.5 and 3 pounds. It was fun as each of us hauled in a couple. The second day on the water we fished for bass for a couple of hours and that didn’t prove worthwhile so we went back to catfish…but two hours later we still had no fish in the boat. We had a great time even though we were skunked.

Here is Jackson, proud of his big cat.

Fishing Scores

Horses, Bulls & Cowboys Were the Opening Act for Aly & AJ

Last week, Toni noticed that the “Rodeo Austin” (a three week event – 7th largest Rodeo in U.S.) was in town and that on Tuesday night, Aly & AJ were doing a concert. We bought tickets that same day and last night was the big night.

The rodeo was wonderful, complete with Buckin’ Broncos, Calf Ropin’, Steer Wrestlin’ and Bull Ridin’. But 25 minutes after the last cowboy made his ride, the middle of the arena was converted into a circular revolving stage. The two girls were driven out in a convertable with the top down and took the stage.


2007-03-Texas-045.jpgFrom the very first note to the last, our family enjoyed the duo’s energy and instrument playing. These girls are barely 18 and it’s so refreshing to see them out there. Their voices aren’t as strong as their CD suggests, but they write their own songs and their guitar and keyboard skills are more than enough to overlook that and enjoy.

A great night in AUSTIN!