(Before the ceremony began, as we were standing around chatting -- I was startled to see U.S. Navy Reserve Chief Petty Officer Jennifer Sporl-Palmer approaching me. Jennifer was there with me after I collapsed in the hallway, as recounted below. Her presence there was a gift from God, a pure and simple “nice thing” He did for the both of us, in my humble opinion.
You see, She hadn’t been scheduled for “active time” that day, but had felt something moving her to request the time and travel down from her home up north to “pull” some duty – and she didn’t know about the retirement ceremony until her arrival Sunday evening – God is Good – and there was lots of hugging.
And, after the ceremony, as I was leaving the building, I ran into a SF Lt. Col and Doctor in the side-hall, who “just happened” to be there to pick up his watch and some other items he’d accidentally left behind when he been there for his promotion ceremony the previous Friday – the Items had been discovered by one of my event’s attendees, and turned in to the CCA staff. But here’s the cool part – he was the man that rendered immediate aid and treatment to me there in the hallway, six months earlier, when I collapsed – if I'd started to leave a few seconds ealier or later, we wouldn't have met -- is my God awesome, or what?)
(Here's the "Program" -- it was a single folded sheet of paper -- the "cover" is the "picture" and text -- the "Sequence..." is the inside right [without my additions in parathesis] the "bio" was inside left, and the creeds and song were on the "back")
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
Chaplain Mike Lembke
US Southern Command Chaplain
Pastor Treavor Pound
Redland Church of the Nazarene
(My Pastor was, as one might expect, very kind, and told the assembled [about 30 or 40 people, I guess] about my miraculous survival from a transected Ascending Aortic Aneurism (elsewhere recounted on this site) and finishing his remarks by reading the sixth chapter of Micah, which itself finishes with my favorite old testament verse [6:8], “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”)
Mr. Raymond Sarracino
US Southern Command Public Affairs
(More kindnesses from Brett Brookins, President of chapter 95 of the Green Knights MC [the “SOUTHCOM” chapter], who hugged me after his remarks, leading to me getting up and hugging every-other speaker after theirs – except Jose Ruiz, because the chain on my “Biker wallet” got caught in my chair and I couldn’t get up in time; also speaking were Lt. Col. Kimesha McCullum [who also did “Mistress of Ceremonies” duties] Ray Sarricino, Bob Appin, and Rich Crusan, which made it begin to feel a little like a “memorial” service, except we were laughing a lot more, I guess. The “funeral” feeling came from how nice they were talking about me…)
PRESENTATION OF AWARDS/APPRECIATION
(gave me a medal, and a whole bunch of stuff for my "love me wall")
REMARKS BY HONOREE
(When I was introduced for “my turn” I made a show of going to my seat and recovering about an inch-thick sheaf of paper – which got an immediate “laugh” from the audience, because of my well-deserved reputation for talking on and on and on…)
"OH – RELAX – IT’S A JOKE – ONLY A LITTLE MORE THAN HALF OF THESE HAVE ANYTHING ON THEM – (laughter)
IT’S A JOKE…
I WANT TO THANK COLONEL MCCULLUM AND RICH CRUSAN AND THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE SOUTHCOM PA SHOP WHO HELPED PUT THIS TOGETHER, ESPECIALLY SINCE -- AS SOME OF YOU HAVE SEEN ONLY LAST WEEK – I AM FULLY RETIRED FROM BEING A PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER – I USED TO BE A PLANS GUY – PART TIME -- AND A PRETTY GOOD RELEASE WRITER -- BUT IT TOOK ME FIVE TRIES TO ACTUALLY COME-UP WITH A COMPLETE AND ACCURATE FACEBOOK POSTING INVITING FOLKS TO THIS CEREMONY – AND I WAS TRYING – BECAUSE I WAS KIND OF EMOTIONALLY INVESTED IN THE TURN-OUT TODAY.
(At this point, I noticed Rich “standing by” with the bouquets which are, traditionally, given to Wives and Daughters at “military” retirement ceremonies, and I interrupted myself to present them to Evelyn, Jennifer Lucas Manner and Adria Harris, remarking as I did, that my “team” took excellent care of a forgetful old man)
AND I FIND MYSELF DEEPLY MOVED BY THE TURN-OUT TODAY
NOW – SINCE THESE ARE REMARKS THAT I OBVIOUSLY PREPARED IN ADVANCE – FOR YOUR BENEFIT – NOT MINE – AS MOST OF YOU KNOW – I DON’T NEED NOTES TO SPEAK – I JUST NEED THEM TO SPEAK IN A WAY THAT WILL GET YOU OUT OF HERE BEFORE CLOSE OF BUSINESS.
ANYWAY -- YOU MAY BE WONDERING ABOUT THE SINCERITY OF AN OPENING LINE – WRITTEN IN ADVANCE – THAT SAYS – “I’M DEEPLY MOVED” -- BUT – HEY – I WAS A PLANS GUY – PART OF THE TIME – AND I KNEW THAT I WOULD BE DEEPLY MOVED – EITHER DEEPLY FLATTERED OR DEEPLY EMBARRASSED – BUT DEEPLY MOVED – EITHER WAY. AND NOW THAT I SEE Y’ALL ---
(I crumpled up a couple of sheets of my “speech” and threw them on the floor – more “laughs”)
HEY – I WAS A “PLANS GUY” -- PART TIME – (throw away another – more “laughs”)
WHEN COLONEL MCCULLUM TOLD ME SHE WAS WONDERING WHETHER SHE SHOULD KEEP THE SMALLER ROOM SHE ORIGINALLY RESERVED OR ASK FOR THE M-C-R – I TOLD HER THAT LOTS OF PEOPLE HAD ASKED ABOUT THE CEREMONY AND THAT SHE’D BETTER RESERVE THE M-C-R – THEN AS I BEGAN TO SPEND SOME OF THOSE LONG DAYS HOME -- ALONE – EVELYN HAS A JOB SHE LIKES -- I STARTED SECOND-GUESSING MYSELF – SEE -- IN RETIREMENT – YOU DON’T HAVE WORKING GROUPS TO DO THAT FOR YOU – SO – I STARTED SECOND-GUESSING MYSELF – I WAS A PLANS GUY – PART TIME -- AND SOMEBODY’S GOT TO DO IT – S0 -- I STARTED SECOND-GUESSING MYSELF -- AND THINKING -- “WHAT IF ALL THOSE PEOPLE WHO WERE ASKING ABOUT THE CEREMONY WERE JUST BEING POLITE – WHAT IF NOBODY BUT MY FAMILY SHOWS UP --
(we should have kept the smaller room)
WELL -- I WAS RIGHT…
THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE – FAMILY.
YOU ARE FAMILY TO ME – AND THAT’S NOT JUST ONE OF THOSE TOUCHY-FEELY KIND OF “TEAM-BUILDING” PHRASES THAT SOME SO-CALLED LEADERS AND POLITICIANS LIKE TO THROW AROUND… YOU ARE FAMILY TO ME.
I CALL YOU THAT, SINCERELY – NOT BECAUSE I’M A LEADER – I’M NOT -- I HAVE, ON OCCASION NOTICED PEOPLE FOLLOWING ME – BUT I THINK THAT WAS JUST MORBID CURIOSITY. (Laughter)
AND I’M NOT RUNNING FOR OFFICE – BECAUSE IF I DO GO BACK TO WORK AT SOMETHING, I WOULD PREFER HONEST WORK. (Laughter)
BUT I KNOW YOU’RE FAMILY -- BECAUSE – JUST LIKE MY BLOOD-FAMILY AND MY IN-LAWS – AND MY CHURCH FAMILY -- I DIDN’T CHOOSE YOU – SOMEBODY ELSE DID THAT FOR ME.
OH SURE -- I CHOSE TO ENTER THE ARMY MORE THAN 44 YEARS AGO AND TO REENLIST SEVERAL TIMES – UNTIL THEY CAUGHT ON AND MADE ME STOP --- BUT THE ARMY’S GOT THIS REALLY NEAT DEAL – YOU CHOSE ONCE – AND THEY TAKE CARE OF ALL THE REST.
AND JUST LIKE MY BLOOD FAMILY – AND MY IN-LAWS – AND MY CHURCH FAMILY – I HAD TO FIRST LEARN TO GET ALONG WITH YOU, AND THEN – AND HERE’S WHERE CHOICE REENTERS THE PICTURE -- I CHOSE TO LEARN TO LOVE YOU
THERE’S YET ANOTHER WAY THAT YOU RECOGNIZE FAMILY – I BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE TIME AND THE ABILITY TO THINK WHEN THEY ARE VERY CLOSE TO DEATH -- ONLY THINK OF A COUPLE OF THINGS – HOW TO AVOID IT – AND FAMILY.
I BELIEVE THAT -- BECAUSE MEMBERS OF THIS FAMILY HAVE HONORED ME BY SHARING SOME OF THEIR MOST PROFOUND EXPERIENCES -- AND BECAUSE I’VE BEEN HONORED TO INTERVIEW AND TO OTHERWISE HEAR FROM HEROES WHO FACED DOWN DEATH FOR THE SAKE OF THE FAMILY ON THEIR FLANKS AND BEHIND THEM -- AND BECAUSE I’VE BEEN THERE -- CLOSE TO DEATH – REAL CLOSE -- MYSELF -- MORE THAN ONCE.
ONE OF THE MORE RECENT TIMES THAT HAPPENED I COULDN’T HAVE PLANNED BETTER – IF ONE WERE TO PLAN HOW TO COME CLOSE TO DYING WITHOUT ACTUALLY DOING IT -- I COULDN’T HAVE PLANNED BETTER -- AND I WAS A PLANS GUY -- PART TIME – BECAUSE IT HAPPENED IN THE PRESENCE OF MY MILITARY FAMILY – AND THAT MEANT THAT I GOT THE MOST EFFECTIVE AND TIMELY LIFE-SAVING HELP IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR ME TO GET.
YOU CAN READ A TRANSCRIPT AND HEAR A RECORDING OF ME RECOUNTING THE DETAILS OF THOSE EVENTS TO MY CHURCH FAMILY AT MY BLOG – BECOMINGWHOLLY.INFO – IT’S THE ONE CALLED “CARRIED TO THE TABLE” – BUT THAT ACCOUNT DIDN’T INCLUDE SOMETHING THAT I DIDN’T FIND OUT UNTIL LAST MONTH WHEN I CAME BACK TO SOUTHCOM AFTER BEING “OUT OF IT” FOR NEARLY SIX MONTHS.
WHEN I COLLAPSED IN THE MAIN CORRIDOR OF THE RED SECTION – WHERE A BUNCH OF THE “SPECIAL” PEOPLE HAND OUT – SOME OF MY BROTHERS IN BLUE FROM THE SECURITY SERVICES SAW ME DO THAT AND IMMEDIATELY DIALED NINE-ONE-ONE – EVEN BEFORE BOB APPIN – WHO WAS RIGHT THERE WITH ME – COULD GET DOWN THE SIDE HALL AND FIND AN OPEN OFFICE TO MAKE HIS OWN EMERGENCY CALL. WITHIN MOMENTS, AN AMBULANCE WAS ON ITS WAY, A NAVY CHIEF HAD MY HEAD IN HER LAP AND ANOTHER SAILOR HAD MY FEET ELEVATED – WHILE THE CHIEF AND SEVERAL OTHERS PRAYED OVER ME.
DID I MENTION THAT I USED TO BE A PLANS GUY – PART TIME?
I PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE SPENT MORE TIME PRACTICING AND PERFECTING THAT SKILL – BECAUSE I JUST COULDN’T COME UP WITH ANY PLAN TO GET THRU THESE NEXT PARTS WITHOUT – MAYBE -- BREAKING UP A LITTLE.
AND THAT’S KIND OF UNCOMFORTABLE – FOR ME ANYWAY -- AND PROBABLY FOR SOME OF YOU AS WELL – BUT I DID PLAN TO DELIBERATELY USE A COUPLE OF THREE LETTER AND FOUR LETTER WORDS OF ANGLO-SAXON ORIGIN –- SORRY – PASTOR --- THAT ARE SURE TO MAKE SOME OF YOU EVEN MORE UNCOMFORTABLE.
AS A MATTER OF FACT I ALREADY USED ONE OF THEM – YOU’RE PROBABLY SO USED TO HEARING IT THROWN AROUND HERE THAT YOU DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE – BUT – JUST A LITTLE WHILE AGO --I DROPPED THE “L” BOMB – THAT’S RIGHT – I SAID IT AND I’M NOT GOING TO APOLOGIZE FOR IT – I LOVE YOU PEOPLE.
BUT – I WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND I’M NOT USING IT THE WAY IT’S FREQUENTLY USED AROUND HERE – LIKE IN “MAN – I JUST LOVE THIS PLACE” OR “I LOVE THE RED-BEANS AND RICE AT THE AWOL CAFÉ” OR “I LOVE THE SMELL OF NAPALM IN THE MORNING” – I WASN’T USING THE “L” WORD SARCASTICALLY OR LIGHTLY -- I REALLY DO LOVE MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN ARMS – AND MY BROTHER AND SISTERS IN MICROSOFT POWER-POINT.
I LOVE YOU – NOT THE BRANCHES OR THE SYSTEM OR THE “APPARATUS” – IT’S OFTEN ROTTEN, AND IT’S MOST SENIOR “LEADERS” WILL SOMETIMES MISUSE YOU AND YOUR SERVICE -- BUT I DO LOVE YOU.
I CHOSE TO LOVE YOU – EVEN WHEN I DON’T LIKE SOME OF YOU – PRESENT COMPANY’S ALL IN THE “LIKE” COLUMN – BY THE WAY – AS A MATTER OF FACT I LIKE THE PRESENT COMPANY AND A FEW OTHERS THAT EVIDENTIALLY COULDN’T MAKE IT TODAY – I LIKE THE PRESENT COMPANY SO MUCH THAT IT’S IT KIND OF BREAKING MY RECENTLY REBUILT HEART TO HAVE TO SAY GOODBYE.
I CHOSE TO LOVE YOU – AND I DO THAT – PRIMARILY – FOR TWO REASONS.
ONE – I THINK IT’S THE BEST WAY TO FULFILL THAT OATH I FIRST SWORE MORE THAN 44 YEARS AGO – AND TWO – I BELIEVE IT’S A SACRED OBLIGATION TO LOVE YOU – IT IS BOTH MY LORDS COMMAND – AND THE RIGHTEOUS RESPONSE TO WHAT THE BEST OF YOU – THE BEST OF MY MILITARY FAMILY – HAVE SHOWN ME ABOUT WHAT MEN AND WOMEN TRULY DEDICATED TO SERVICE CAN BE AND DO.
THAT BRINGS UP THAT THREE LETTER WORD I MENTIONED I PLANNED TO USE – A THREE-LETTER WORD THAT MAKES PEOPLE EVEN MORE UNCOMFORTABLE THAN THE “L” WORD – BECAUSE IT’S THE ABSOLUTELY EXPLICIT WORD FOR THE SAME IDEA – THAT WORD IS “GOD”.
GOD IS THE VERY DEFINITION OF SACRED – GOD IS THE ONE WHO GIVES MEANING TO THE CONCEPT OF SERVICE – BECAUSE IF "SERVICE" IS NOT MOTIVATED BY A HIGH AND OBJECTIVE MORAL STANDARD – GOD’S STANDARD – IT’S SELF-SERVICE. IT’S PSEUDO-SERVICE.
I “SERVED” SELFISHLY LIKE THAT FOR MANY YEARS – BECAUSE OF ALCOHOLISM AND OTHER ISSUES. YOU CAN READ MY EXPANDED “WARTS AND ALL --BIO” AT MY BLOG – IT’S TITLED “MY LIFE AS A REMF” –AND ONCE AGAIN – BY THE GRACE OF GOD – AND I MEAN THAT EXACTLY AS I SAID IT – BY THE GRACE OF GOD – A GROUP OF SOLDIERS – PART OF MY MILITARY FAMILY – SAVED MY LIFE. THEY WERE MY PATH-FINDERS THAT SHOWED ME THE WAY BACK TO SERVICE AND EVENTUALLY BACK TO GOD.
ALMOST EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED THAT “IS OF GOOD REPORT” EVERYTHING THAT IS TRUE AND RIGHT AND WORTHY OF MUCH CONTEMPLATION – EVERYTHING THAT TENDS TO LIFT ME UP AND MAKE ME WANT TO BE A BETTER MAN – WAS PREACHED TO ME IN CHURCH – OR TAUGHT TO ME IN NCO ACADEMIES -- OR SHOWN TO ME BY MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN MY MILITARY FAMILY.
YOU ARE THE BEST THAT HAVE EVER SERVED – AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT.
YOU’VE SUSTAINED THE FIGHT LONGER AND BETTER THAN ANY OF US THAT WENT BEFORE YOU -- AND I PLAN TO CONTINUE TO WATCH AND LEARN FROM YOU AS YOU – AND I HAD TO RETYPE THAT AS I WAS TYPING THIS OUT – I HAD TYPED “WE” -- I PLAN TO CONTINUE TO WATCH AND LEARN FROM YOU AS YOU FACE DOWN EVEN HARDER TIMES AND ENEMIES BOTH DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN.
I USED TO BE A PLANS GUY – PART TIME -- AND MY PLANS FOR MY RETIREMENT INCLUDE TWO MAJOR ACTIVITIES – TELLING EVERYONE I CAN GET TO LISTEN TO OR TO READ MY WORDS ABOUT THE GREAT AND GRACIOUS TRIUNE GOD THAT I SERVE – AND CONTINUING TO TELL THEM ABOUT ONE OF THE GREATEST EXAMPLES OF HIS LOVING KINDNESS TO ME – THE PRIVILEGE AND THE HONOR OF BEING PERMITTED TO SERVE AMONG SUCH AS YOU – TO SERVE “IN THE COMPANY OF HEROES”.
I ALSO PLAN TO KEEP LIFTING YOU UP IN PRAYER TO HIM – ALONG WITH MY OTHER FAMILIES – MORNING AND EVENING AND IN-BETWEEN – I PRAY THAT HE MAY BLESS AND MAGNIFY YOUR SERVICE – AND I PRAY THAT THOSE OF YOU WHO MAY NOT KNOW HIM WILL COME TO KNOW AND TO ACCEPT HIM – BECAUSE YOU ARE MY HEROES AND I DO LOVE YOU SO –
AND I PLAN TO BE THINKING OF FAMILY WHEN I LAY DOWN THAT LAST TIME – THINKING OF MY HEAVENLY FATHER -- MY LORD AND MY SAVIOR – MY PRECIOUS WIFE – MY KIDS -- AND MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST AND IN HERE -- IN MY MILITARY FAMILY.
THAT’S MY PLAN.")
Mr. Stephen D. Lucas
Mr. Stephen D. Lucas enlisted in the United States Army on January 13, 1971. In March 1971, PFC Lucas graduated from basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. In March 1972, SP4 Lucas graduated Advanced Individual Training as a Personnel Management Specialist. He earned the rank of SP5 while serving in his first duty assignment in the 1st AG & Finance Company, 1st Infantry Division. In 1981, he attended and graduated from the Defense Information School (DINFOS) Basic Broadcast Course and was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant.
During his 22 year military career, he served in overseas assignment in Germany, Italy, Korea, Panama, and Turkey as well as assignments stateside Georgia, Kentucky and Massachusetts. He served with the 1st and 8th Infantry Divisions, in the US Army Signal & Science Center and School, in the US Armor Center and School, in the American Forces Korea Network and culminated his military career at the Southern Command Network, Panama serving as the Operations Sergeant and “Acting” First Sergeant of the organization.
In January 1993 after his retirement from active duty, he became a full-time student at Florida State University at the Panama Canal Branch of the university. He began employment as a non-appropriated fund employee with US Army South and was soon hired by US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) as a contractor to teach Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Experienced Rider’s Course to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines of the command.
In September 1997, he returned with SOUTHCOM to Miami, Florida prior to the return of the Panama Canal to the government of Panama.
In April 1998, he was selected for a Public Affairs Specialist position in the SOUTHCOM Public Affairs Office where he worked for nearly 17 years. He became an oracle of Public Affairs doctrine, policy and regulation and command history. He served under eight different SOUTHCOM commanders: Generals Wilhelm, Pace, Speer, Hill, Craddock, Stavridis, Fraser and Kelly.
He has been an institution for those who have worked with him and known him within SOUTHCOM. His departure leaves a void that will take time to fill.
His first retirement assignment location is the Redlands near Homestead, Florida where his post commander will be his lovely and devoted wife, Evelyn.
The Army Civilian Corps Creed
I am an Army Civilian – a member of the Army team.
I am dedicated to the Army, its Soldiers and civilians.
I will always support the mission.
I provide stability and continuity during war and peace.
I support and defend the Constitution of the United States
and consider it an honor to serve the Nation and its Army.
I live the Army Values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service,
honor, integrity and personal courage.
I am an Army civilian.
The Soldier’s Creed
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough,
trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies
of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
The Army Song
First to fight for the right,
And to build the Nation’s might,
And the Army Goes Rolling Along.
Proud of all we have done,
Fighting till the battle’s won,
And the Army Goes Rolling Along.
Then it’s Hi Hi Hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence long and strong (Two! Three!)
For where e’er we go,
You will always know
That the Army Goes Rolling Along.