Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Real McCoy

Houston McCoy On August 1st, 1966 a twenty-five year old man took several firearms onto the observation platform of a building at the University of Texas. He killed sixteen people that day - his mother and his wife, three innocents in the building itself, and eleven more from his perch twenty-eight floors up. Among his victims was twenty-two year old Austin police officer Billy Speed, shot to death in the company of other cops responding to the shooting. Thirty-two people were wounded

Picking his way through the carnage, riding an elevator up toward a madman, Houston McCoy led fellow Austin officer Ramiro Martinez out onto the deck. There, the two confronted the man McCoy would refer to ever after only as "the sniper." Both McCoy and Ramirez fired shots that hit the murderer - in the end both received credit for the rounds that ended the killing.

Officer McCoy left law enforcement and became a flight instructor. He battled alcoholism and PTSD. His children remember him as the man who raised them in the country, to be self-sufficient and drive "anything with wheels, once we could see over the steering wheel." Friends called him a "great police officer, and a great friend."

Houston McCoy died on December 27th, the same day as General Norman Schwarzkopf. Fitting - both of them rejected the label "hero," preferring to be remembered as men who answered the call of duty.

Rest in peace, Officer.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On Earth, Peace

Joseph's Studio 6" Nativity Set Holy Family - New for 2012And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  Luke 2.

This blog is dedicated to James Davies, Jennifer Sebena, Celena Hollis and all of the other police officers who gave their lives this year. May their friends and families, in their pain this holiday season, feel the warmth of love and friendship from those around them.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A New Rope

"The food on this ship sucks."
"Say something positive, huh?"
"I'm positive the food on this ship sucks."

My perfectly-cooked lamb chops nestled affectionately against a small dollop of mashed potatoes. The sauce, a red wine reduction, clung to the meat and lent just a hint of dark cherry. Across the table, my wife looked lovely, radiant.

We were sailing for Jamaica on the Freedom of the Seas, a gorgeous 3400 passenger beauty. We'd suited up for dinner - she in a great red dress and me a tux. I'd had a ceviche appetizer, half a glass of Kendall Jackson Cabernet and I was feeling damn content with myself. Then...they walked in.

Monday, December 17, 2012

More Than Words

"And I looked and I beheld a pale horse,
And his name that sat upon him was death, and Hell followed with him."*

The New York Daily News captured the scene - "The Connecticut mass murderer used an assault rifle to slaughter his 26 victims, spraying dozens of bullets into a helpless group of first-graders ..." Within this one sentence battle lines have already formed. Someone will write, if they have not already, that the rifle used was not an assault weapon.

So the hell what.

The rifle I carry at work is, as a practical matter, indistinguishable from the one used in Connecticut. Both are direct descendants of the AR-10, designed by employees of the Armalite Corporation in the 1950s and marketed to the US Military as their next generation shoulder weapon. Among the design features was increased magazine capacity (30 rounds being common), an ergonomically-friendly pistol grip, recoil-reducing mechanisms and a straight bore-to-shoulder alignment that makes the weapon easier to control - that is, remain on target - during rapid fire.

Over the decades, with many years of combat experience to draw on, the modern rifle incorporates a dizzying array of options depending on mission requirements. I have chosen a holographic optic that projects an aiming ring onto a small glass square (the red dot moves as the device's perception of bullet impact point changes), a small flashlight attached to the handrail, a soft pistol grip and a competition trigger. Why? Because my job may require engaging in an armed encounter with someone shooting a weapon at me, as has happened in the past to several of my coworkers. As happens all over our country, every day.

Why would such a weapon be freely available, so much so that one disturbed individual after another can acquire one, arm themselves with it and wade into a gathering place shooting indiscriminately? Some Pro-Gun Absolutists maintain that mass executions are the price we pay as a free society.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Packing the Gear

"My orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved Corps."*

Packing is either a tasty preamble, a way to set sail before actually leaving or.... A nightmare of missing buttons, meaningless checklists and a gnawing up-at-two forgot-my-freakin'-head sensation. Since all the big-boy and big-girl bloggers occasionally do a random thoughts post (I can dream, can't I?).... This might be a random crash and burn, but it will be something to do while I'm trying to decide whether two pair of cargo Dockers will be enough...or too much.

- Guidebooks will tell you "Don't let the dogs see the suitcases." One says put the suitcases in a room a week before, another says bring them out randomly so the dogs don't associate suitcases with separation. Really? I sling my work gear carrier (it's not a man purse, it's my Go Bag) and the dogs get that just-ate-a-dead-mouse-I-found-out-back look. Honestly, they are too intuitive anyway. I get spooled up to get the hell out of Dodge and they know something's about to them.

- Some of the coolest articles of clothing I own I bought after forgetting to pack something.

- No two Hawaiian shirts are alike. I need them. Seriously!

- Along the same lines, print and camouflage are perfectly acceptable combinations on vacation.

-So why am I bringing only plain and plain?


- Pack Grandpa, he deserves the vacation.

- Looking for a picture to post with this, I Google "Funny packing pictures." There aren't any.

*Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, Full Metal Jacket, 1987