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:
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Lemonade Stand

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One day Jack announced that he wanted to make some money. Clearly he had made the connection between wage earning and toy acquisition. Flushed with the entrepreneurial fever, he decided he wanted to have a lemonade stand. Of course that meant – right now – at four o’clock on Thursday afternoon. It was a determined spirit that we weren’t going to be able to redirect so we ran with it. We talked to both boys about the great idea of a lemonade stand and encouraged them to make a plan instead of throwing one together. They created a fail proof business plan that included:

1. Advertising – colorful hand drawn posters announcing Saturday’s event

2. Demographic Analysis – thirsty grandmas and grandpas galore walking dogs, riding bikes and golf carts past our RV all day long = ca-ching, ca-ching

3. Cost of Doing Business Report – how much will grandma pay for that glass of lemonade that she charged 2 cents for (fresh squeezed) at HER lemonade stand?

4. Purchase of Supplies – having qualified for a small business loan from dad

5. Setting up Shop – creating that irresistible atmosphere

6. Crash Course in Customer Service – salesmen must be freshly showered, nicely dressed, handsomely coifed AND remember that grandmas are persnickety about germs – no sneezing, scratching funky body parts or spitting while serving!

On Saturday at 9:30 a.m. the shingle was hung and the boys’ lemonade stand was open for business. Passersby were enticed, lured actually, with the sweetest invitation to stop by for a cold one. They had regular or sugar free, treats for FeeFee and IOUs available. Some walked by and smiled. Some weren’t thirsty. Some had schedules to keep and this 3 minute lemonade stand stop was not on it. Others skidded their golf carts to an abrupt stop to get in on the fun. Most couldn’t help but rush back with money to get to know these two little boys who had a wonderful idea. Even the community police officer stopped by. Joey, a tough, retired New York under cover cop (a big teddy bear actually), caught the thrill of the event instantaneously as he pulled up and demanded a permit from the boys. Next thing you know he had them spread eagle on the squad car scolding them over the charge of “having and illegal lemonade stand on the premises!” He couldn’t pull himself away. He shared several stories of his exciting law enforcement career but painfully recalled how it demanded so much time away from his wife and three children. One day, in the middle of his busy life, he got a call telling him that his wife and 14 year old son were killed in a car accident. Joey totally got the lemonade stand. And so did we.

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Ben and Jack were bored to distraction by 1:20, just ten minutes shy of closing’ time. They learned a lot. The boys were each a cool $21 richer by 2p.m. That night while Jack lay next to me saying his prayers he thanked God for the lemonade stand and the money it made and he added, “God, you can always have my lemonade for free.”

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A Whole Mess o’ Snapper!

This HAS to be the Becker record for fish caught in one afternoon! Every time I looked out the front window one of the boys was reeling in a fish. The final number today? 25 Mangrove Snapper AND they threw back more than they kept! The water off the dock is so clear and blue that, earlier today, they spotted a “giant grouper.” Ben convinced Brian to put a grunt-fish on a large hook and it actually took it! Brian fought the grouper for an exciting couple of minutes but then it got under a dock and broke the line. The grouper came back a little later in the day but wasn’t interested in the bait. Sadly…it is not among the whole mess of fish you see in the following picture.

We are settled at Bluewater Key, about 10 miles from Key West. Yes, back in the Keys, and we are waiting for a visit from my sister, Debbie, and her husband, Ned. They arrive tomorrow night and will celebrate Jack’s sixth birthday with us before leaving on the 20th.

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Fish Score
Brian Ben Jack
Round 1 15 6 10
Round 2 6 15 11

Can't Get Enough of Florida It Seems

TITUSVILLE FLORIDA:From Texas, we drove back across the southern states once again all the way to Florida where we landed in Titusville, on Florida’s east coast, very close to the Kennedy Space Center. We all enjoyed having Sissy with us. We rang in 2007 by going to a late showing of Eragon which let out just before the midnight hour. We spent two days touring the Kennedy Space Center which is SO incredibly awesome I could write a whole blog about it. The rest of the time we just enjoyed hanging out with Sissy. We were sad to see her leave.

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FIESTA KEY FLORIDA: After Titusville we drove down to the gorgeous Florida Keys for some serious fishing. The last time Brian and I were in the Keys was in the mid 90’s with about 20 kids from the youth group. We hooked up with Scott Welch’s (our Pastor friend from Tampa) youth group and biked the Keys, staying at KOA’s along the way. We reminisced about those good ol’ days as we set up for the next 7 days of fishing, swimming and more fishing. The Gulf was our back yard! Each morning the boys were out there catching Mangrove Snapper for dinner. They even reeled in a moray eel, stingray and a puffer fish! Those were just for looking at and letting go of course. What a marine life education they are getting. Ben studied the south Florida ecosystems for school and we enjoyed a hands on field trip to the Theatre of the Sea facility where they touched and actually got a smooch from a dolphin and a sea lion and watched a colorful Parrot show. They were taught about conservation and responsible fishing to help preserve the natural habitats of the vast array of marine life in the Florida Keys.

Brian booked a 6 hour sea fishing trip on a VERY, VERY WINDY day. The boat rocked and rolled, swaying wildly with each swell. Did I mention it was a VERY, VERY WINDY day? Thanks to a family from Canada we had dinner with the night before who gave us sea sick medicine, I did not violently spew all my innerds into the sea, not once, the whole trip. Brian was not so lucky. Jack passed out within an hour and awoke an hour before we made it back to shore. With eyes fixed on the horizon, not an easy thing on a VERY, VERY WINDY day, I enjoyed the amazing blue of the sea and the hypnotic effect of the sun sparkling across the waves. Oh, and I enjoyed watching Ben and Brian catch very big fish and thinking about eating very fresh fish for dinner. In all they caught enough to freeze for another day.

ORLANDO FLORIDA: It was a little tough to pull ourselves away from such a spectacular place but we had an exciting time ahead with Grams and Papa at their condo in Orlando. Each year Grams and Papa spend three weeks at Orange Lake Resort and the family is always welcome to join in on the fun. The last time we were there is when Jack was only one year old. He barely remembered the place but Ben remembered well the pool and putt-putt golf area. This visit was timely because the RV was scheduled for maintenance. I must say it was nice having a little more room – especially in the shower. Jack gets so excited now when he can spread out and play in the tub! After school time we’d head to the pool and on the last day Papa took us to a water park on the property. The boys played hard but it’s hard to wear Papa out. He’s such a kid! One night Grams and Papa treated us to dinner at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament where we got to eat with our fingers and watch Knights on beautifully dressed horses entertain and compete for the King and Princess. That was lots of fun! We thoroughly enjoyed our week at Orange Lake with Grams and Papa.

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH FLORIDA: On Sunday, January 21, Brian and I did music at Scott Welch’s church – Fresh Start Church – in Oldsmar (Tampa). We always enjoy what Scott has to say, how unafraid he is to tell it like he sees it. He is refreshing to listen to and to talk with because he’s always stretching, growing and wrestling with stuff. It is so nice to have a friend you can say things to and know that he’s not judging you, he trusts you and he accepts you just the way you are. I strongly encourage you to check out his sermons online at http://www.freshstartchurch.com and see what I’m talking about. This time we got to meet his wife, Lori, and have Tijuana Flats lunch after church with them, their kids, Keenan and Marissa, and several people from his staff. Once again Scott let us stay in his condo on Indian Rocks beach while the RV was in service and once again it was such a blessing. The weather turned pretty cold and rainy which made fishing less of an option but it is a wonderful thing to be able to look out your windows and see the ocean. I could get used to that.

ORLANDO AND TITUSVILLE (AGAIN): We spent a couple of nights boon docked near the Parents’ condo in Orlando. Most of the time was spent at Orange Lake hanging out with mom, dad, Aunt Dianne, and mom’s cousin, Caroline, who’d come to visit from Fredricktown Missouri. As the Missourians headed back to their wintery Missouri, we packed up Aunt Dianne and headed back up to Titusville. Aunt Dianne spent five days with us there. We got lots of great hanging out time with her even though the weather continued to be rainy and cold. The boys KNOW that if they ask Aunt Dianne to play with them the answer is likely to be “Sure!“ so they took full advantage of her playful self. She’s not going to settle for watching them play video games or watch TV, she’s going to insist on something more inventive and imaginative and she’ll spend hours doing it. I really admire her for that. (Check out her website http://www.diannebecker.com and see for yourself how inventive and imaginative she is.) For a school field trip we went to the Jungle Adventure Nature Park where we got real close to Florida Panthers, Black Bears, Gray Wolves, White-Tailed Deer, tropical birds, and other reptiles and mammals. We petted a baby alligator and the boys had a four foot Python wrapped around their necks. We took a jungle swamp cruise and were surrounded by dozens of alligators. We saw how Spanish Conquistadores lived in the 16th Century at a Replica Spanish Fort and went on a Live Guided Exploration of a Native American Indian Village Replica. Before we took Aunt Dianne to the airport we went on an airboat ride on Lake Tohopekaliga (the lady in the bait shop couldn’t even pronounce it so have at it!) We experienced the central Florida everglades with its native wildlife in style, flying (at times) in a very loud airboat through the wetlands, catching glimpses of exotic birds, turtles and alligators in their own natural environment. The boys fished a while but caught nothing and then we were off to find a spot to have dinner before dropping Aunt Dianne off at the airport. We found, of all things, a German restaurant and ate stuff like wurst and schnitzel and goulash. It beat BK or Denny’s all to heck. We said goodbye to Aunt Dianne and headed back to the RV.

North Carolina

Three wonderful people live in the Raleigh-Durham area: Aunt Caroline Becker-Long, Drew Brown and Tyler Hansbrough. We had a great time visiting with Brian’s Aunt Caroline in her home as well as in many local restaurants. Aunt Caroline is always up to something interesting like traveling or a project that keeps the whole Becker clan well connected. She’s just plain fun to be with. For years she has served on the Eno River Association so we visited the beautiful Eno River where we saw the remnants of the old Cole Mill operation. We also visited Duke University campus and toured the Duke Chapel. I was intrigued by the downstairs crypt where we saw casts of the Duke founding fathers lying in state. Strange.

Dinner with Aunt Caroline

Many years ago Drew Brown was a youth in the youth group that Brian and I led in Poplar Bluff. We have always thought highly of Drew and after spending time with him in his home turf we are doubly impressed with him. Drew rolled out the red carpet for us and treated the four of us to a Tarheels game. It was amazing to witness how plugged in Drew is in the Greensboro-Raleigh-Durham area where he is a successful attorney in Greensboro. He is as well known and well loved there as he is in Poplar Bluff. He’s such a great guy and we had a blast with him.

And speaking of that Tarheels game… What a thrill to see Tyler Hansbrough play! Everybody knows that I’m not much of a sports fan BUT it was so exciting to see Tyler and witness the wild Tarheels home atmosphere with Drew. Tyler’s mom, Tammy, was in town and we were glad to visit with her for a while after the game and say hi to Tyler. The boys got a pic with Coach Roy Williams and were psyched to see Tyler and Tammy again. Ben and Jack have fond memories of the Hansbroughs from living in PB. Tammy would pick them up and take them to her house where they got to play with those giant boys, Ben and Tyler. It was special to reconnect with them as well as Drew and Aunt Caroline!

As we headed west toward Missouri for some family time Brian planned a special stop for me. We spent a couple of nights in Asheville, NC. where I got to spend a day touring the Biltmore Estate. Biltmore House took six years and 1,000 men to build; it opened its doors on Christmas Eve in 1895. With a 390-foot fa̤ade, the House has more than 11 million bricks, 250 rooms, 65 fireplaces, 43 bathrooms, 34 bedrooms, and three kitchens, all of which are contained in over four acres of floor space. The massive stone spiral staircase rises four floors and has 102 steps. Through its center hangs an iron chandelier weighing 1,700 pounds and containing 72 electric light bulbs. At its completion, Biltomore House was one of the most innovative and technologically advanced homes in the world with indoor hot and cold running water, elevators, indoor heating, a fire alarm system, refrigeration, electric lightbulbs, and 10 Bell telephones Рall unheard-of luxuries at the turn of the century.

Guess what the boys did while in Asheville. Fished 🙂

A Perfect Texas Christmas

We had such a great Christmas!! It is always a huge blessing to spend time at my sister Jenni’s in Texas. This time we had nine wonderful days including a memorable Christmas celebration with the Loden family. Each time we visit my sister’s family we know many memories are going to be made. We love where they live, we love hanging out with them, we love how welcome they make us feel, we love the fun we always have whenever we’re together. Once again, the kids immediately got swept up in the fun of playing together, eating up each moment of play time they had to spend. Christmas weekend was filled with baking and cooking for the big feast, shopping for last minute gifts, and wrapping. How much fun is doing all of that with a sister?! On Christmas Eve, the gifts were placed around the tree and they stretched across the room up to the landing of the upstairs stairway! Wow!! Christmas morning was wonderful – everyone was blessed. Later in the morning Larry’s mom and dad, Earlene and Jim, arrived and a little later still Larry’s brother, Mark, his wife, Lee, and their daughter, Ruby, came to celebrate. The whole day was festive with beautiful decorations, fun gifts, tons of yummy food and lots of conversation and laughs. One gift (of many) that stands out as the big hit was a parachute man that each boy was given. All the boys – including the big boys – had a ball launching those things into the air – as high as possible – landing them in several trees. Alexandria rescued Jackson’s from a tall tree with a ladder and long branch, much to Jack’s joy. We had another perfect time with the Lodens!

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One of the very best presents showed up a couple of days after Christmas, sending Brian to the Austin airport to pick it up. The story began several weeks earlier when Brian asked Jack what he’d like from Sissy this Christmas, Jack said, “Like probably a Hot Wheel car or some cowboy boots size 12 or maybe that you could come and visit us because that would be a great surprise, more better than anything else.” Now how can you say no to that? So when Brian arrived back at the Lodens’ home, the boys opened the door to find their Sissy, Elizabeth, beaming back at them! Perfect just got even more perfect!

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To Dallas In December

A trip through the Lone Star State is just not complete without seeing the Dormadys in Dallas. What a treat to visit them a second time on this RV adventure. But first, this story about our parakeet, Lizzie. About half way from Missouri to Texas our little Lizzie, started squawking and freaking out. I put her on my shoulder to try and calm her when I saw blood and noticed that she was frantically picking at it and pulling feathers out. It looked like a job for a professional, so we located a bird vet in Dallas right on the way to the RV park where we’d be staying. She was an exceptional patient the doctor said as he pointed out that she’d severed a pin feather, definitely reason to bring her in. Then he convinced Brian that the food we’d been feeding her was less than optimal and encouraged another high perf brand. All this took about 40 minutes but he returned with a mended little blue bird and a bill….for 213 SMACKERS!!!!! Lizzie cost $10 – do the math. And the food they recommended which cost $25 a bag is disgusting and Lizzie would rather starve to death than switch from her less than optimal seed mix! I should have been a bird vet.

Anyway…we stayed at the Grapevine RV park where we stayed the last time we were in Dallas. We got to see lots of all the Dormadys. I went to a ladies Christmas party at Lisa’s church, Gateway (http://www.gatewaypeople.com) , and enjoyed it very much. We ran into a young woman from their worship team that Lisa and both think is extraordinary. Her name is Kari Jobe and I encourage you to listen to this amazing worship leader for yourself by visiting her website http://www.karijobe.com. We enjoyed hanging out at the Dormady’s house and doing some Christmas shopping at Grapevine Mills. Our boys enjoyed a sleepover in the RV. We got to celebrate Mike’s successful year as line coach of the Colleyville Heritage football team. And those twins!! How cute are they?!! God has been good to the Dormadys, moving them to this exciting town, placing them in an awesome church and settling them all under the wing of His faithfulness.

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We had the great pleasure of having dinner with Mylon and Christie LeFevre, two people who have had a major impact on my life. We feel very fortunate to be partners with them in their ministry. As a matter of fact, if you’ve been wondering where to tithe or donate lately, I highly encourage you to consider participating in this pure work of God in the world at this time. Check out their website http://www.mylon.org and see what you think. They are two of the truest hearted people I have ever met and I’ve witnessed personally how strongly God moves through them. And for those of you reading this who live near Sikeston Missouri, they will be ministering at the Powerhouse of God Church on February 25, at 6pm. This is where I encountered their ministry a few years ago and, as I alluded to before, it was life-changing. GO SEE THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tell them Toni and Brian sent you. J

Brian and I got to attend church at Eagle Mountain International Church in Fort Worth. Because our connection to a “church” has been hit and miss over the past several years, we are grateful that Kenneth Copeland Ministries has been accessible to us through their TV and internet broadcasts. Creflo Dollar Ministries also rocks – FYI!!!!!

Early Christmas In Missouri

The first Sunday in December found us in Nashville which gave us the chance to visit The Peoples’ Church. Brian and I went to a Sunday School class that we really enjoy. After church we got to have lunch with Nathalie (the amazing vocalist on my Cds) and Daniel Whisnant and her parents. We decided to head back to Missouri right after lunch in hopes of making it to PB in time to watch the cousins perform in their Christmas play at church. And make it back – we did. The kids really enjoyed the drama and we hauled the three thespian cousins, Kaylin, Andrea and Coulton, back to Williamsville in the RV.

Though there was no white blanket of evidence of winter, the temperatures were a dead give away. One night while nestled, all snug in our beds, we ran out of propane and woke up to chilly noses and toes. No white Christmas celebration with the family but a very special celebration anyway. My sister-in-law, Pam, received scary news at a rather routine Dr. appointment which revealed that she had a cancerous growth contained within the walls of her kidney. Meaning: surgery to remove the growth by removing the kidney. Pam, my sister-in-law, is a very strong woman of faith. No one wants to receive the news, let alone go through the ordeal of invasive surgery, but Pam’s true colors beamed through as she met the challenge with faith and grace. The surgery was the ticket to a clean bill of health and Pam is getting back to full-swing duties as wife, mom, choir director, teacher, Bible study leader… Thanks God. Anyway, our early Christmas with the Becker side of the family was very special this year with so much to be thankful for and to celebrate.

We had a great time at the semo.net Christmas party held at Las Margaritas. Brian and I are always grateful for the exceptional people who help run the company. Each one is special and vital to semo.net’s success. Not being a techy in any sense of the word, I, personally, admire all of them highly for their knowledge. In our travels, whenever people inquire about Brian’s ability to run the company from an RV, I never miss the chance to brag on the amazing people he has working for him in PB.

Though the time in PB was brief we did enjoy spending time with some of our favorite people. We really appreciate the time we get to spend with our friends when we are back home.

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We decided to head to Texas on a Thursday. Packing up and last minute errands took most of the day. By the time we reached PB it was dinner time so we parked the RV out in front of Hardees South. Then we realized that because our satellite doesn’t track well we were going to miss “Survivor” and we just couldn’t have that! We decided to linger in Hardee’s parking lot and watch “Survivor” before taking off. We even had visitors! Bobby, Grace and Garrett Hudson happened to be in the neighborhood and stopped by. These are the times when I realize that my home is a big truck rolling down the road with everything I own, not to mention everyone I love, in it. On this chilly night our home was smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping traffic shooting up and down Westwood Boulevard. At least until Survivor was over.

 

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Colonial Williamsburg – The Birthplace of America

We knew that a visit to this historic city would be cool, but it was much cooler than we imagined it would be. As we began our tour of the old colonial village, the boys stepped back into the 18th century with a change of clothes; a period style shirt, a shoulder pouch, a tricorn hat and a musket. When dressed they were given this written greeting:

Dear Young Gentlemen,
Welcome to Williamsburg! I hope that you and your horse are well rested, and I trust that you did not meet with any villains or robbers along the way. I am happy to say that the roads in Williamsburg are free of such scoundrels!

I am sorry that I cannot greet you myself, but there is urgent business I must attend to. We have run out of shot for our cannons. I am taking my horse to Kemp’s Landing to see if cannon shot can be had there. Our cannon are useless without shot! We are as defenseless as field mice.

Have you considered becoming a soldier? I ask this because I have heard much about you. I have heard that you are a good scholar, you never protest or complain, you never speak ill to your parents and you are trustworthy and brave. Indeed, I have heard that you are a gentleman of honor. Our company of soldiers needs lads such as you!

If you wish to join our short drill, report to the sergeant on the porch of the Guardhouse beside the Magazine on Market Square at Eleven Thirty of the clock.

I must bid farewell for now. Please accept my hearty thanks for your help! I hope you find Williamsburg to your liking. My regards to your parents.

I Am Your Most Humble Servant,
Richard Dawson

And so that is just what we did. Ben and Jack knocked on the great big door of the Guardhouse and when the sergeant answered the door, each boy said after announcing his name, “Reporting for duty, sir!” Then the drill began. Whew! The orders came fast and furious. They kept up as best they could. The sergeant named them the Awkward Troop.

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The weather was very cold with a soft mist falling so to warm up a bit we bought a delicious hot apple cider and a gingerbread cookie from a local merchant. We entered the village courthouse and heard how legal matters were handled in the 18th century. Outside stood the stocks where an offender in that day was secured by the hands and head and left in public to be ridiculed or abused. Then we toured the home of Peyton Randolph, cousin of Thomas Jefferson and key revolutionary figure of the day. The traditional dinner featuring a main course of cow head on a platter elegantly displayed on the Peyton dining room table made our mouths water for the meal that awaited us in the Williamsburg lodge…

With just a few more steps to go before reaching our Thanksgiving feast destination we heard a voice from a car driving slowly by saying, “Hello Beckers!” What a pleasant stroke of synchronicity! It was Leslie Henson and her two daughters, Rachel and Mary Keeling, from Poplar Bluff. Rachel and Mary were in our youth group back in the early 90’s. What is the chance of that?

Our meal was out of this world! We gave thanks for all our blessings. It was one of our most memorable Thanksgiving celebrations to date.

Our short stay in Williamsburg also allowed us to hook up with our good friend, Archie Wright. Archie is a part of the Jerusalem School and a really good friend. We enjoyed dinner at Outback with him, his friend, Tara, and her son, Taylor.