New and Improved

Ft Sam and Brook Army Medical Center Complex

by Celia Hayes

Having been in pretty good health over the last two or three years, it has been that long since I had to make an appointment to see a doctor – which since I am a military retiree, usually meant a long trek into the wilds of Brooke Army Medical Center, or BAMC – or as I liked to call it ‘the world’s largest red-brick Skinner box’. I was better acquainted with the grounds around it though; during a time when I worked in an office nearby. During my lunch hour, I used to walk across the street, flash my retiree ID at the gate, and walk briskly around the footpath which circuited the grounds – skirting the parking lot at the top of the hill, around the back of the tall brick structure, down to the complex of new dormitories, the park at the bottom of the hill, around past where the original Fisher Houses are, and where they were building a pair of new ones, the bright and shiny new dome of the state of the art rehab center, up the hill past the helicopter landing pad, and a wide and empty grass field and back to the gate again.

All that has changed since I worked that job – and I probably couldn’t walk anything like the same route today. The empty field has been filled in with an extension to the main building of practically the same size, and a huge parking garage. Now there are apparently twice the numbers of employees coming onto the BAMC complex daily as there were when I last went in for a routine appointment … so, I was not much looking forward negotiating the acres of parking lot and miles of corridor. But now it seems that the routine outpatient clinic has moved out of BAMC altogether and into it’s own bright and shiny building on Fort Sam itself. This, I feared, would not be an improvement. Fort Sam has been overtaken by changes too.

For those couple of years after I retired in 1997, I thought that Fort Sam was definitely getting pretty shabby. I would drive through and notice that the old warehouses and loading docks were looking exceedingly crumbly, and even the stolid old Spanish-colonial style blocks of dormitories and administrative buildings had the paint peeling off them in sheets. What was the Army coming to, I would wonder, that they couldn’t even send out the troops to slap another coat of paint on those buildings? The old hospital building looked like one of those mock structures that fire departments practice in, and it all looked dispiritingly shabby. Such were the benefits of the peace dividend, and the end of the Cold War.

Such have been the vagaries of current events and the realigning of military missions that things are also looking up on Fort Sam itself. This I discovered, finding my way to an appointment last week at the outpatient medical center, for treatment of a persistent bronchial cough. New units have moved in, the old buildings repurposed, scrubbed up and revitalized – and a number of new ones added to the current inventory. Among them was the brand-spanking-new outpatient clinic, as modern and up to the minute as anything that I ever saw on an Air Force base – which, as the Air Force was the newest of the armed services, usually featured built-to-purpose and relatively modern buildings, rather than the Army or the Navy’s usual century-plus relics. I don’t know what will happen next at Fort Sam – but I am pretty well certain that General Eisenhower and all those other Army officers who passed through early in the last century would not recognize much of it at all.

Halloween for Dogs

Halloween for Dogs

by Celia Hayes

Since our household does not contain any small children, we normally make an effort to dress up the dogs in costumes instead. Cats are normally reluctant to cooperate in this kind of amusement, although I do wish that we could get some of the black cats to pose fetchingly with pumpkins, cauldrons, brooms and witch’s pointy hats. This would so take care of decorating the front porch for tricker-treating. A couple of years ago we did borrow the grandson of our next-door neighbor when he wanted to dress up like the Prince of Persia and our neighbor confessed herself quite unequal to that particular challenge. We fitted him out in a tunic and sword-belt and turban, and I roughed out a sword and dagger from thin plywood, and he was so pleased with the whole effect that his grandmother had the greatest trouble in getting him to take it off and put on his pajamas to go to bed. This is not a problem we have noticed with the dogs.

They don’t seem to care one way or the other, although Spike the Shi Tzu – who craved attention from anyone at any time and for any reason – seemed to like a costume for the attention it gained. She had a whole collection of costumes, hats and accessories, mostly because there are a lot available and on sale at reasonable prices in small-dog sizes. Connor the Malti-poo has inherited the gender-neutral costumes from Spike, and wears them with panache. This year we will dress him up in a purple cloak and fabric-sculpture crown, I think. He’s not particular – he likes everybody and everybody likes him, costume or not.

The Lesser Weevil is a large and rawboned boxer mix, and her costume wardrobe is not as extensive. The bigger sizes in dog costumes are rarer and more expensive … and compounding that is the fact that she is a dog who is as sensitive to being laughed at as your average thirteen year old girl. Given the wrong sort of costume, and the wrong public reaction to it, the Weevil would be hiding under the bed and crying her eyes out. My daughter sometimes amuses herself by dressing the Weevil in a ballet tutu skirt and gauzy fairy wings, but I believe the Weevil has begun to figure out how comic this appears. I think that she probably prefers to just appear as a dog. We’ll probably just dig out the enormous black spider costume for her again; better to be slightly scary than totally ridiculous.

We have seen some very clever dog costumes in past Halloweens and at the Buda Wiener-dog races this spring, where many of those who brought their dogs had made an effort to dress them up – some even as hot-dogs, with fabric ‘buns’ strapped to their sides like long saddle-bags. There were some very clever costumes on display at the yearly dog costume parade at the Christmas celebration at Goliad on the Square, including one white standard poodle who was colored green – to be the Grinch, of course, and a pair of Pekinese dogs dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus.
So, that’s our costume epic for this year – how is yours?

Lackland BMT Graduation Parade

On Parade

by Celia Hayes

The son of our neighbor whom my daughter encouraged to enlist in the military graduated last Friday from basic training. And because my daughter is close to Sylvester’s family, we both went down to Lackland for the graduation parade. There is certainly a great deal more pomp and circumstance laid on for these things now. When I finished basic, early in the spring of 1977, they did nothing much more than hand us our orders and travel vouchers, and tell us to pack our duffle bags and clear out of the training squadron dorm … which we were quite happy to do, let me tell you. I’ve never since been able to endure the sight of concrete block walls and industrial linoleum with out the miserable feeling that someone was about to appear, their heel-taps clicking like castanets and begin shouting at me. I couldn’t have imagined my parents and family schlepping all the way to Texas for three or four days, either … but such was the case when I came back to Lackland for my final tour of duty. It’s all very much expanded now – there is even a regular visitor’s center for the families, in what I recall as the Skylark Recreation center – the recruit airman trainee’s home away from home.

Even then, the place had changed from what I recalled – not that I could recall much, since most of the time I was outside, I was in the middle of a formation with a view restricted to the back of the neck of the woman in front of me. Most of the old WWII-era two-story temporary buildings had been torn down by 1995, and even more of them are gone now. Lackland used to be blocks and blocks of those old buildings, shaped rather like the little white-painted Monopoly hotel tokens, interspersed with a chapel, or a single-story office complex. But all gone now – replaced with new buildings, some of them very imposing.

The old base HQ is gone – now there’s a grand, glass-walled building on the far side of the parade ground. And the parade ground itself – which had a number of historic aircraft on static display around the perimeter when I retired in 1997, now has even more historic aircraft and all of them in much better repair. Seventy years worth of aircraft – trainers and fighters, bombers and transport, jet-propelled and piston-engine, single or multi-engine, and relics of every war since WWII. Some of them are fairly common – but one or two are rare birds indeed; like the Twin Mustang long-range fighter escort. It was designed and built at the end of WWII; two engines and two fuselages, connected by a short stretch of airfoil.

It looks like a sort of aeronautical Siamese twin, but there are only five of them still in existence, and one of them is on display at the Lackland Parade ground. It’s worth a trip to the base for an enthusiast, just to walk around and look at all the classic aircraft. I don’t think there is a place any closer than Wright Patterson AFB which has so many aircraft on permanent display in one small area.

The graduation parades are every Friday morning at 9:00 – come for the parade, stay for the aircraft.

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Our Nations Anthem on July 4th

Happy Birthday America

Happy Fourth of July

by Randy Watson

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States of America. This year is the 200th aniversary of the War on 1812, the inspiration to Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner. Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Ft. McHenry by the British Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Ft McHenry in the War of 1812.

Madison Rising, a conservative rock band, has recorded a version of the Star-Spangled Banner that is one of the most beautiful versions I have ever heard. Madison Rising is on a mission to not only make great music, but also send a message that American culture is alive and well. Madison Rising, named in honor of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States and a key author of the Constitution, The Bill of Rights and The Federalist Papers. The band promotes the principles of liberty, independence, smaller government and personal responsibility. Enjoy.

God Bless America!

“The Star-Spangled Banner”

O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
(Madison Rising chorus)

Because we are the brave
Yes we are the brave
We’ll fight tyranny
In the name of the free
We are the U.S. of A

For those unaware
That flag is still there
It’s our future to save
This land of the brave
The U.S. of A

Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land, land of the free and the home of the brave

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Commemorating Armed Forces

Commemorating Armed Forces Day Message

May 19, 2012

Armed Forces Day is a special day assigned for the commemoration and recognition of military service member’s unique and necessary sacrifices for the good of all. Observed every third week of May since 1949, the holiday continues giving people more insights and opportunities to realize how noble and how great the profession of the military is.

Thanks to all United States Veterans that have served, are serving and will choose to serve in the United States Military. US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, US Marine Corps and the US Coast Guard.

Thank you for your service!

Veterans Land Board Increases Loan Amounts

PRESS RELEASE: VLB now offering $417,000 for home purchases, $100,000 for land

Benefits for Texas veterans continue to grow with unanimous vote by board

VLB now offering $417,000 for home purchases, $100,000 for land

Benefits for Texas veterans continue to grow with unanimous vote by board

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 26, 2012 AUSTIN – Texas veterans can now take advantage of the VLB’s low-interest rate loans to borrow as much as $417,000 to buy a home and $100,000 to buy land.

The Texas Veterans Land Board voted unanimously today to increase the home and land loan limits in the latest expansion of benefits under the leadership of Chairman Jerry Patterson.

“Texas veterans have more than earned this increased VLB benefit,” Patterson said. “Increasing these loan limits gives Texas veterans additional purchasing power to buy the home of their dreams or a find a little piece of Texas to call their own.”

Since taking office in 2003, Patterson has raised the amount Texas veterans may borrow for a home from $150,000 up to $417,000. Buying land throughout the VLB has gotten easier, too. Under Patterson’s direction, the VLB has reduced the minimum acreage that could be bought with a VLB land loan from five acres to one acre, making it easier for veterans to buy lots closer to urban areas. A Texas veteran can simultaneously have a VLB land loan, a VLB home loan and a VLB home improvement loan.

The Texas Veterans Land Board was created in 1946 to help veterans returning from World War II buy land for agricultural purposes. The program has changed over the years as land prices rose sharply and VLB land loan amounts have increased from the original $7,500.

“No other state can match what the VLB offers: low-cost home, land and home improvement loans; skilled nursing facilities and cemeteries – all exclusively for Texas veterans or their spouses,” Patterson said. “And all of our programs are self-funding, which is good news for Texas taxpayers.”

For more information on Texas Veterans Land Board home, land and home improvement loans, Texas State Veterans Homes, or Texas State Veterans Cemeteries, call 1-800-252-VETS (1-800-252-8387), or visit the Veterans Land Board Web site at

Halliburton Begins Construction of Base of Operation in San Antonio

Halliburton Jobs Come to San Antonio for the Eagle Ford Shale

Written by

The Eagle Ford shale operations may be the largest oil field ever discovered in Texas. They are predicting millions and millions of dollars worth of oil and hundreds to tens of thousands of new oil related jobs from San Antonio throughout South Texas. Houston based oilfield giant Halliburton, the world leader in the oilfield service industry with operation in more than 70 countries began work on a $50 million base of operation in San Antonio. The planned 400,000 square foot structure will be located near I37 and Loop 1604 in southeast Bexar County.

Halliburton’s major business segment is the Energy Services Group which provides technical products and services to petroleum and natural gas exploration and production. This new facility will employ 1500 workers to support it’s operation in the Eagle Ford shale. Our many military veterans and military retirees may find employment in the oilfield industry. Many of these jobs are higher paying jobs in the $70,000/year to well over $100,000 per year jobs range and may require specialized training or miniumum of a 4 year or advanced degrees such as a PhD. Texas A&M San Antonio campus is nearby.

Employment will not be limited to the oil fields directly. The facility will require administration and laboratory personel as well as those in the high tech fields, engineers, geologists and chemists. In addition to truck drivers; mechanics and automotive technicians will be required to service their fleet of trucks at the new facility. Halliburton hopes to hire locally 75 percent of the anticipated 1500 employees.

Halliburton’s base of operation is to be fully operational by 2013. Bexar County Judge, Nelson Wolff reportedly said that the precense of Halliburton should aid the region’s economy as a whole and boost demand for higher-end housing. Early seat of the pants reports indicate that San Antonio’s high end/luxury communities such as the Dominion and even Boerne’s Cordillero Ranch are already seeing interest from oil related business professionals wanting to relocate to San Antonio. Even surrounding communitities such as Floresville real estate and Pleasanton may see a increase in demand for housing.

Baker Hughes, Weatherford International and Schlumberger have also announced multimillion dollar facilities to be built in southeast Bexar County and will be hiring hundreds to support their operations as well.


USAA Ranks San Antonio Number Five

San Antonio Ranks Number Five For Military to Begin Second Career

San Antonio came if at number 5 for best places for Military Retirees to launch their second career. USAA and commissioned a study from Sperling’s BestPlaces to match military retirees and their job skill sets.

Overall Top 10 Places

  1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  2. Norfolk, Virginia
  3. Richmond, Virginia
  4. Austin, Texas
  5. San Antonio, Texas
  6. Madison, Wisconsin
  7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  8. Raleigh, North Carolina
  9. Omaha, Nebraska
  10. Manchester, New Hampshire

Terms of Enlistment

Terms of Enlistment, 2011

By Celia Hayes

A while ago, I wrote an essay, speculating on one of the very few rites of adult passage in American society. So many of the previous rites of passage have shifted position so radically as to render them useless. First Communion, Confirmation, Bar/Bat Mitzvah  . . .  marking one as an adult as far as religious belief goes? That happens too early in ones’ teens to be useful. Marriage and setting up a household? Twenties or thirties, even later: too late. Only successfully completing military basic training seems to serve as that hard, bright, shining line between a kid of eighteen and an adult. Basic military training has all the elements of the classical tribal adulthood ritual: isolation from family among your age-cohort, the imparting of the special knowledge, the experience of a mental and physical challenge – and at the end of it, there you are: accepted into the tribe as an adult.

The military is an all-volunteer one now. The draft is four decades gone, and the standards for entry in a time of economic hardship are rather high. There’s no more of a juvenile offender being given a choice of incarceration or the recruiter’s office. Those who enlist today have many reasons for being there, though. Not interested in college, or a career involving serving fast food; a taste for adventure and to see something more that just the home town. Some – especially from military families – want to serve in the highest tradition, and others just want to learn a useful trade and rack up enough experience at it. And some, like our neighbor Michael, just wants to get away. He wants also to be a help to his widowed mother (and three younger sibs) and be a grown-up  . . .  and the military is the fastest way that he can see to get there.

My daughter – who is a friend to his mother, and something of a big sister to Michael – has been helping him walk through the steps to get started. The week after his high school graduation, we both went with him to the Air Force recruiter – just to ensure that Michael would get off on the right foot, and to let the recruiter know that Michael had knowledgeable friends looking out for his interests: I retired after twenty years in the Air Force, and my daughter did two hitches in the Marines – probably another reason why Michael looks to her as a big sister. Michael is Hispanic; he has been raised on both sides of the border, but is inarticulate in English, and I think somewhat embarrassed about that. He is bright, ambitious and did well in school, though. My daughter coached him through the practice exams – and he scored high enough to qualify for about any job he wants, and there is an opening for. This week, he passed the physical, and formally swore in. Of course, he still has to wait for a date to report in for basic training, which may happen around Christmas time. But when it does – we’ll be there for his graduation parade. I know the best place to stand and get a picture, at the Friday Lackland graduation parades.

From the grass in front of the bleachers, just to the right of the reviewing stand: trust me. 

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Message from the President of Navy Federal Credit Union

Created Tuesday, 03 February 2009 14:18

A Message from the President of Navy Federal Credit Union


We are entering an era of renewed emphasis on personal responsibility. As a nation, we are being urged to return to those bedrock values – hard work, fair play, loyalty and patriotism – that have made our country great. At Navy Federal, we honor those values and applaud this focus on personal responsibility.

As your credit union, it’s our responsibility to serve you well with loans, savings and services to help you achieve your financial goals. That’s our commitment to you, our members. And, as a member-owned organization, we depend on fulfilling our shared obligations to each other, our fellow members. We are all connected: when one member pays his mortgage regularly, another is able to get a loan for her child’s education, and yet another gets a great rate on a certificate of deposit. This connection, this cooperative spirit, has been the fundamental basis for our success for the past 75 years.

Now, amid a challenging economy, the commitment to honor debts and obligations has never been more important. Yet, the daily news is often filled with stories of people casually walking away from their debts – and that this behavior might somehow be condoned. Such behavior surely does not belong in any era of personal responsibility, old or new.

At Navy Federal, we expect our members to fulfill their obligations to fellow members by repaying their loans and managing their finances prudently. We understand that this isn’t always easy, but we are here to work with members who may be having trouble. We do this in support of the collective interests of all 3.2 million Navy Federal members. We are all connected.

I embrace this reemphasis of personal responsibility. As Navy Federal’s President, I am deeply committed to our strong, conservative financial practices; they serve us well. As your credit union, we are also committed to making billions of dollars available for new mortgages, automobiles, and education loans. And, to providing outstanding return on savings.

In this spirit, let us all reaffirm our commitment to our fundamental values, to our fellow members, to the continued strength Navy Federal, and the success of our great nation.

Cutler Dawson