I usually hesitate for a second, when people ask me in which branch of the military I served.
“Well, actually three branches, but I retired from the Army.”
The follow-up questions usually include wanting to know why I served in so many branches. Simple answer: I followed the opportunities.
Which leads me to the reason I found myself in Bend, OR.
In 2006, the professional organization of my career field held its annual conference in Honolulu, HI. This was during my break in military service, when I was working as a civilian for the U.S. Olympic Committee. I somehow convinced my boss to send me to Hawaii to attend the conference, and that is where I met Ann. A mutual colleague at the time figured that since we were both military, we must know each other. Never mind that I was prior enlisted…and worked on aircraft…in the Navy. Ann was an Army officer in the medical field. “Sure, we’d have run into each other!” I thought sarcastically to myself, even though I knew there’s no way for civilians to know how unlikely that scenario is.
Sometime during the conference, we were finally introduced. After a few minutes into the conversation, she knew that I still felt drawn to military service. It’s been a while, but the conversation went something like this:
Ann: “Have you thought about coming back into the military?”
Me: “Yes, I tried to get back into the Navy as an aviation physiologist, but they said I was too old and wouldn’t grant me an age waiver.”
Ann: “Well, we (the Army) would take you as a Dietitian up to the age of 41. How old are you?”
Me: “38, but I’m committed to supporting Team USA for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”
Ann: “OK, we’ll keep in touch.”
Not only did we keep in touch, we ended up becoming friends over the ensuing years. I was a guest speaker for the graduate program of which she was the director (and, many years later, in which I would become an instructor), and I even attended her military retirement ceremony and party. But before she retired, and a few months before I left for the Beijing Olympics, at the ripe old age of 40 years old, she set me up for an Army entrance physical exam- and I passed. When I returned from the Olympic Games, I started the arduous military entrance paperwork process, resigned my position with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and 13 days before my 41st birthday, I was commissioned into the U.S. Army!
Fast forward to 2022, and I’m on my Harley, headed towards the home of the one who made my military retirement possible. Before going to Ann’s house once I hit the city of Bend though, I had to stop in at Jake’s Diner to say hello and patron the establishment of one of my San Antonio CVMA brother’s shipmates. Double D and Jake had served in the Navy together, so if I was gonna grab a meal, it might as well be from the business of a fellow Navy veteran! Unfortunately, Jake wasn’t there, so I left him a note and took a seat at the counter. The place is super popular, so there was a bit of a wait for food, but no worries, I chatted with a nice lady named Micky and the time flew by! Oh, and the food was totally worth the wait 🙂
After my killer brunch, I found my way to Ann’s place. It didn’t take us long to pick up right where we left off, even though we hadn’t actually seen each other since 2008! I met her husband Larry, and immediately felt at ease and at home. She set a leisurely pace for my visit and was the consummate tour guide. An avid hiker, she went easy on me for sightseeing and took into account that my hips and feet can’t take much hiking these days. I use the term “hike” very loosely on this blog…it usually means a short stroll in the woods 😉 Our driving tour started off on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, where we made a stop at Sparks Lake to get out and stretch our legs.
From Sparks Lake, we headed east towards the Deschutes National Forest and Newberry National Volcanic Monument. As Ann navigated her car up the 4-mile, twisty, washboarded National Forest dirt road to Paulina Peak Observation Site, at an elevation of 7,984 feet, I was thankful to not be on my motorcycle! We enjoyed the scenic view of Paulina Lake while we ate a picnic lunch, then walked to the other side of the lookout to get a bird’s eye view of the Big Obsidian Flow, the youngest lava flow in Oregon (1,300 years old). –FS & USDA website
After taking in the great views from Paulina Peak Observation Site, we drove down to walk around the Big Obsidian Flow and see it up close. It’s hard to describe how massive it was. With shiny black glass (obsidian) mixed in with pumice everywhere!
I absolutely enjoyed my time in Bend and was so thankful for Ann and Larry’s hospitality. Hopefully it won’t be so long before we get together again, maybe even in NC! With the help of Ann’s expert travel planning, I departed for California with a modified route to circumvent the wildfires. Southward bound!
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