Category Archives: Military

Happy Birthday USCG – The Eagle has Landed!

Well, happy birthday to our United States Coast Guard – 222 today! Looking great…….thanks for protecting our shores and helping to keep us safe.


The USCG Cutter Eagle normally homeports in New London, CT at the USCG Academy, but has been moored at US State Pier 9 on Long Wharf in Newport, RI this weekend. I really wanted to get the chance to visit while it was open to the public, and I was glad to make it down there, despite mid-90s heat and a fair bit of humidity!

Tall Ship Eagle – a beautiful three-masted sailing Barque, and the only square-rigged sailing ship in US government service – acts as a training ship for our USCG Academy cadets.

Apparently Eagle was built in 1936 in Hamburg, Germany as a training ship for German Navy cadets, but after WWII was taken by the US as a war prize!

And what a prize indeed – a beautiful ship.

Happy birthday once again – thanks to all who serve in the USCG!


Happy Birthday America!

Hope you all have a wonderful July 4th celebration!

It’s raining cats and dogs here in the Boston Metropolitan region, but there will still be history and celebration to be had today!


Goodbye June

Well I hope July is a little less chaotic, that’s all I can say.

June took a nosedive as the 2nd week began. I knew it was going to be busy – I had a work-related trip to Fort Collins, Colorado. My annual exam committee meeting where we put together the certifying exam for the specialty field in which I work. It’s always a 3-day weekend fraught with angst – long days cooped up indoors at the vet school while we debate what should or shouldn’t make it onto the exam. But it was fruitful, as always. And also really nice to once again catch up with the great folk who make up the committee. This is all voluntary work, so you can imagine it tends to attract more benevolent and less egotistical folk! Always a bonus when you’re trying to gather collective opinions.

As if that wasn’t stressful enough, over that same weekend I began to experience some similar symptoms to what I’d experienced last year. The acid feeling. After a few days, I decided to take some Prilosec. Ye Gods…..the cure was worse than the disease!

I took it for 4 days and couldn’t handle the side effects. I was nauseous, headache-ridden, groggy, and ridiculously tired (even when driving – not good). So I stopped, and felt much better the next day. However, a couple of days later, I developed the most horrendous rebound acid imaginable. I’ve heard about this in relation to folk who’ve taken the drug long-term, but didn’t expect it to hit me after 4 days.

Fast forward about 10 days, and I’m now beginning to emerge from the acid bath! Things are much better now, so hopefully that’ll continue. I’ve read that it can take a month in most cases (longer for some) for things to settle down. Meanwhile I’m taking care about what I eat and drink. I’ve been off coffee for 3 weeks now, and I’m mostly restricted to either water or chamomile tea for drinks. And being a staunch coffee drinker, you can imagine the chamomile tea isn’t cutting it for me! I only drink decaf usually, but even that is quite acidic, so needs to be avoided. Mealtimes are highly exciting – oatmeal, wholewheat bread, egg whites, chicken and brown rice, bananas, and melons have become my staples. All of these I eat anyway, but usually I get to have other things too! But not right now in this new phase of acid reflux……

Apart from the burning……we’ve had some nice stormy weather here in between the hot days (that I despise so much). I love stormy weather – not only for the cool relief it brings me, but for the great skies it brings too.

Work has been too busy, lots of deadlines that have left me working evenings and weekends. So I have to get creative when the weather is nice. Last weekend I decided to take the laptop to Starbucks (with my chamomile tea) up in Bedford, north of Boston. I worked for much of the day there, and took an hour or so off before heading home, and meandered around Minuteman Park since the weather was beautiful.

Oh, and on a fun note, I got to play the Queen in a skit we put on at work earlier this month! It was hysterical, a big group of us did it in honor of a fellow vet who was leaving our division after being there for 12 years. To say we made fools of ourselves is an understatement, but she did enjoy it!

I hope June has been less eventful for you! Here’s to a more peaceful July.


Memorial Day Thanks from Boston Common

If, like me, you’re privileged enough to have a day off today, it’s because of the sacrifices of members of our Armed Forces who died serving their country.

May their service and sacrifice never be forgotten.

We have a beautiful Memorial Day tribute in Boston right now. For the 2nd year running, a garden of flags blankets the ground in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Flagstaff Hill on the Common.

33,000 flags are currently planted, in honor of Massachusetts’ servicemembers who’ve died in conflicts dating back to the Civil War.

It’s simply breathtaking to see.

The flags were planted last Wednesday and will remain there until tonight.

I also paid a visit to our local Massachusetts Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery to say a small thanks to those who rest there.

Be sure to thank a servicemember today.

The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA

Continuing on with the road trip that I took from Boston to Nashville, and back, this month for a conference! Starting from the beginning…..

A Quick Tour through Virginia
Snippets of Civil War in Knoxville

Nashville’s Civil War History at Fort Negley
Nashville’s Centennial Park
Some of Nashville’s Military Burial Places
Old Salem

The Booker T. Washington National Monument

While driving through Virginia on my way out to Nashville, I saw a sign for the National D-Day Memorial. Well you know what a sucker I am for all things history, so this seemed like it would be right up my street, and a “must see” attraction.  Since there was no mention of how many miles away it was, I took the  exit and stopped to grab a coffee and estimate the detour time. I discovered that it was about a 45 minute drive away. Sadly I couldn’t fit an extra few hours into that particular day.

On my way home, however, I drove much the same route, and when I once again came upon the sign, I decided to go for it.  It was only late morning, and I could easily fit an extra 3 hours into my travels – yes it would mean I’d be getting to my hotel late that evening, but that really wasn’t a problem. I had no idea when I might be out in that area again in a car, and I wasn’t about to miss out on the opportunity to visit now. Getting to the hotel late seemed like a small price to pay.

And was I glad I decided to make the trip! The National D-Day Memorial is simply breathtaking.

It’s not just “a monument” – the place is huge – a whole series of monuments that depict the timeline of events at that time.

The memorial is also set within fabulous grounds, with a beautiful English-style garden at the back.

You need at least an hour to do any justice to the place, so don’t just try and swing by for 10 minutes, or you’ll be very sad to have to leave so quickly! And to add to its beauty, it’s located on the top of a hill, with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop. A wonderful location to soak up all the history.

Although I’m a history buff and tend to be slightly biased about places like this, I can honestly say that I think this memorial should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to see. Everyone should make the trip, not only to see this beautiful memorial, but to pay a small tribute to those who gave so much for us during WWII.

And in the center of the memorial grounds is an oval arrangement of plaques that list the name of every one of the 4,413 Allied soldiers who died in the invasion. Very poignant to see.

Go and visit whenever you get a chance – if you’re not somewhat local to the area, it’s a little off the beaten track, but I promise you will not be sorry that you made the trip. It’s located in Bedford, VA because this was the town that suffered the highest losses per capita on D-Day. And even though there’s been some controversy over that claim, who cares! It doesn’t need to be proven or disproven – Bedford clearly lost a relatively large number of soldiers that day, as did many other regions of the country. What matters is that we have a monument like this in the first place. And the location is just beautiful. Very fitting!

I had the added benefit of absolutely glorious blue skies when I was there. The memory of my visit will be hard to fade. I can’t wait to go back one day with M, I know he’ll love it.

Some of Nashville’s Military Burial Places

Continuing on with the road trip that I took from Boston to Nashville, and back, this month for a conference! Starting from the beginning…..

A Quick Tour through Virginia
Snippets of Civil War in Knoxville

Nashville’s Civil War History at Fort Negley
Nashville’s Centennial Park

While everyone else at the conference was using their occasional free couple of hours each lunchtime either hunting for cowboy boots, or buying country music CDs, I was out wandering around cemeteries!

By Monday the wind and rain had appeared, but I was lucky enough to be able to get out when it was still only raining quite light. Still on my quest for local history, I started out at Nashville National Cemetery. It was established as a US Military Cemetery in 1867, so it acts as the resting place for military servicemembers dating back as far as the Civil War.

Next I took a wander around Mount Olivet Cemetery. It’s a huge cemetery (I’d have been lost if I hadn’t had a GPS with me!) where many political and business leaders are buried. And it’s also home to Confederate Circle.

This is a plot of land originally purchased post-Civil War by the women of Nashville, for burial of Confederate soldiers who died in nearby battles. The beautiful Confederate Memorial stands tall in the center of this area.

Finally I spent some time at The Hermitage – home of President Andrew Jackson. Out in the grounds at the back of the house they have a small burial area called Confederate Soldiers Home Cemetery.

It contains 484 graves of veterans, all laid out in a circle around a central monument, with four paths extending out from it – representing the St. Andrew’s Cross. Most of the veterans died while in the nearby Confederate Soldiers’ Home where soldiers who had served honorably in the Confederate Army were cared for.

At the edge of the cemetery you can see the Old Hermitage Church. This was a church that President Jackson provided for the neighborhood in 1823 after the original one burned down.

Although the weather wasn’t great for sightseeing, it did end up being perfect for the mood it created in the cemetery photographs.

So another fun lunchtime was had by me, chasing down some history!

Nashville’s Centennial Park

Continuing on with the road trip that I took from Boston to Nashville, and back, this month for a conference! Starting from the beginning…..

A Quick Tour through Virginia
Snippets of Civil War in Knoxville

Nashville’s Civil War History at Fort Negley

The sunshine and blue skies that I’d experienced upon arrival in Nashville were short-lived. Obviously it didn’t matter because I was confined to a conference center all day, every day, and at least it remained dry on the Sunday when I did manage to get a couple of hours free to go for a wander with my friend Alys.

Alys is a fellow Brit who works in the same field as me, she’s head of a lab in Edinburgh where I worked for a while back in 2005. I was excited when she told me she was flying over for the conference because we’ve not seen each other since September 2005. She was only there for a couple of days though, so we had to cram all our catching-up into a Saturday evening out at The Bluebird Cafe. I’m not a fan of live music (I much prefer being able to chat to my friends), but when in Nashville……and this place reportedly has a great reputation as one of the best places to hear music in the town. It was a good experience, although I was just exhausted after all my travel, plus a three hour committee meeting until 9pm that night. So listening to music for a couple of hours and not getting to bed until after midnight just about killed me off!

But anyway, I bounced back the following day, and Alys & I caught up in a quieter environment the next day – a local Starbucks for coffee and cake! We also wandered around Centennial Park so we could visit the Parthenon.

You’d be forgiven for doing a double-take and wondering if we’d been transported to Athens, but no, we truly were in Nashville!

The Parthenon is the centerpiece of Centennial Park, and is a full-size replica of the original in Athens. It was originally built as a temporary exhibit for Nashville’s Centennial Exposition in 1897, as a monument to the original masterpiece. Years later, however, when its original plaster fell into disrepair, it was decided to refurbish it as a permanent fixture! Today, in all its full glory, it’s also home to Nashville’s art museum.

John W. Thomas stands in front of the Parthenon. He was the President of the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition, and the President of the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway.  According to his statue, he was also “a worthy man in all the lines of life”.

Across from the Parthenon there is a wonderful Civil War Confederate Monument with the engraved caption “”Duty Done Honor Won”.

And although Nashville certainly isn’t Athens, their Parthenon is still very impressive! I’m certainly glad that we managed to catch the park while the weather was still ok for walking around.

Nashville’s Civil War History at Fort Negley

Continuing on with the road trip that I took from Boston to Nashville, and back, this month for a conference! Starting from the beginning…..

A Quick Tour through Virginia
Snippets of Civil War in Knoxville

I arrived in Nashville on a beautifully sunny morning, still with the blue sky above. Since the weather was so lovely, and since I was already mobile, I decided to make the most of the opportunity and “do something”, rather than just check into the hotel at 1pm.

So I headed off to Fort Negley Park. The remains of the fort are located a couple of miles south of downtown. This was the biggest inland fort built by the Union during the Civil War – it covered 4 acres of land, and was 600 feet long by 300 feet wide.

It was named after US General James Scott Negley, the provost marshal and commander of Federal forces in Nashville.

This is where the Union Army captured Nashville in 1862, and the fort made the town the 2nd most fortified in the US – second only to Washington DC. They used a series of forts to circle the city, with Fort Negley being the largest. Quite early on during the war, the Union Army decided that capturing the town was going to be critical to their success, so they set to it and didn’t waste any time fortifying the city.

Apparently about 2,700 African-American men were used as laborers to build Fort Negley over a period of about three months, yet only about 300 of them were ever paid. Strangely though, the fort itself was never actually directly attacked during the Battle of Nashville, in which over 9,000 were killed.

Although Fort Negley was abandoned by the military after the war, it remained the cornerstone of one of the town’s oldest African-American communities.

Over the recent years, the crumbling fort has been somewhat rebuilt, and is now a public park, with a visitor center at the entrance where you can get all the scoop on its history.

Its location is wonderful too – right at the top of the hill, not surprisingly. You get to see great views across into Nashville to the north. An amazing place for any history buff to visit.

But also just a lovely location in general to head for a walk, even if Civil War history isn’t your gig.

I was really glad I decided not to just check into the hotel early – it was a great spot to spend an hour or so, and soak up the history, as well as the sunshine.

Snippets Of Civil War In Knoxville

Continuing on with the road trip that I took from Boston to Nashville, and back, this month for a conference! Starting from the beginning…..

A Quick Tour through Virginia

After leaving behind the history of Virginia, I continued southwest toward Knoxville for another overnight en route to Nashville.

Another long drive, but I discovered that driving through the Shenadoah Valley region on a day with picture-perfect weather just can’t be beaten. And a good night’s rest afterwards left me ready for the final leg of my journey. But first I had a couple of stops to investigate in Knoxville.

I started out at Knoxville National Cemetery. It was established in 1863 during the Civil War, to bury Union soldiers, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. It contains casualties from the battle of Fort Sanders and the East Tennessee Campaign, including Union General Joseph Cooper.

The lighting was lovely, and I loved the shadows cast by the headstones on the ground. I’m always fascinated by history, and cemeteries are a wonderful way to connect with the past. There’s also something very powerful about being in a military cemetery where the majority of graves are identical. It somehow highlights the enormity of losses moreso for me than when I scan a cemetery of vastly different graves.

And you can’t miss the 60 foot Union Soldier Monument in one corner of the cemetery –  one of the largest Union monuments in the southern states, completed in 1901. When I first arrived, it was still quite early and the sun was relatively low in the sky, so I caught it in wonderful light. Such a beautiful monument, and beautiful resting place.

Next stop was Fort Dickerson in the town. Knoxville’s role in the Civil War was kind of interesting – it ended up being a key city in the middle of a contentious area that was well known for divided loyalties. Most of the area was anti-secession, siding with the Union cause, and making Confederate military control very tenuous.

Fort Dickerson is now part of a city park in the town, but was one of the Union forts built to protect the southern approaches to Knoxville. Confederates under General Joseph Wheeler attacked it November 15-16, 1864, but were turned back. The city is doing a great job in preserving what remains of the site.

Across from the site you also get to experience great views of Knoxville and the Tennessee River.

So another lovely, sunny start to my day, and perfect blue skies for photography as well as driving.

On to my final destination of Nashville next.

A Quick Tour Through Virginia

So I just returned this weekend from a bit of a road trip. 2,478 miles roundtrip, to be exact. Last week I attended a conference in Nashville, Tennessee, and I’d been pondering ahead of time about driving instead of flying.

I live in Massachusetts, so it’s not a quick drive, but I thought it might be a great chance to see some places en-route that I’d not seen before. And I know it’s not for everyone, but I really love driving. I could quite enjoy being a trucker, I think! Just cruising long distances, listening to my in-car (or truck!) satellite radio……

Anyway, I’d kept an eye on the weather situation – it can be touch and go this time of year in New England, you just never know when the snow is going to make its appearance. And since we had that early snowfall at Halloween, it was anyone’s guess as to what might happen. I decided I could book a last minute flight if necessary, but it turned out that luck was on my side.

My first stopover was Winchester, VA. I arrived a couple of hours later than expected, courtesy of my GPS making some poor judgement calls….But after a good night’s rest, I set off again, but not before taking in some of the local sights and history.

In Winchester I visited Abram’s Delight, Winchester’s oldest home, built in 1754. The Hollingsworths were one of Winchester’s most prominent families. Abraham Hollingsworth was given 582 acres of land here back in 1734, and built a log house originally. Then in 1754, his son Isaac replaced it with this stone house. Inside you get to see some of their family heirlooms and original belongings from the mid 18th century.

Continuing west, I hit the Strasburg region, along with its beautiful scenic views across Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. Belle Grove Plantation and the Battle of Cedar Creek are important pieces of this region’s history – the site of the 1864 Battle of Cedar Creek, one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War, effectively ending the Confederate invasion of the north.

A wee bit further along I came to the New Market region. Swung by New Market Battlefield with its Virginia Museum of the Civil War. Wish I’d had a day or two to spare to investigate this place, especially while the weather was like it was. It’s the site of the Battle of New Market during the Civil War – the only time in US history when a student body, the Virginia Military Institute Cadet Corps, charged to victory in combat, chalking up a win for the Confederate Army.

Then it was all business as I continued my journey, heading for my next stop, Knoxville. As usual, there were numerous coffee stops, and I was very excited to find a Dunkin’ Donuts Self-Serve store within a rest stop in Woodstock, VA!

One of my troubles with DDs, as much as I love their coffee, is that they add the cream for you. It seems that most Americans like cows in their coffee, since if left uninstructed, DDs serve me anemic coffee. I’ve mastered the art of getting something that looks brown (only took me 5 years), by asking for my coffee with “just one cream” – they tend to add about 5 to the large sized coffees.

But anyway, I digress – the self-serve option was wonderful, I got to add my own cream at DDs for the first time ever!

Clearly I’m easily pleased…….obviously I don’t get out enough!