Military musings

It has been a long time since I was in the military myself, and even longer since I was a “military brat,” a child of someone in the military. But, from time to time, I reconnect. This week was one of those times – and I don’t mean just about the mission in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden. I have indeed participated in the spirited discussions that share information, ponder the tactics and explore the details of the Pakistan incursion – the successful mission. But I have also helped in a small way to prepare a Vietnam-era retrospective video for the Elk Rapids Rotary Show as well as listened to an excellent presentation about our own Coast Guard Air Station in Traverse City.

Some of the welling feelings I’ve known all my life. The military has a certain espirit-de-corps that you don’t often find elsewhere. Young people out on exotic adventures. Veterans reminiscing about Okinawa in the 40’s, Libya or Cuba in the 50’s and so on. Part of my childhood passed in Asia, where stories about Pearl Harbor, Douglas MacArthur and Soviet aggression were part of dinnertime conversation. I’ve known both the remarkable exuberance of the successful mission and the crushing depression of failure. And the stories that follow.

Other things about the military have changed significantly. For example, racial integration started before I was born. But the standout change in the military, for me, was brought home by comments aside about how difficult it is now to get into the military. In the military I grew up in, it was easy to join. Stories abound among my family and family friends about underage boys joining up and good kids from broken homes making it in the military. My own father joined the army after his father died — leaving him parentless – and difficult circumstances resulted. In those days, you could escape your past and get a fresh start.

Today the military is much more professional. Increasing sophistication of technology as well as strategy, tactics and deployments have helped create an educated military full of lifelong learners. The quality of the people, not just the number of guns, project American competence as well as power. But now, the entrance requirements are much different. Kids often must have spotless records to even have a chance of getting into the military. The knocked-about kid likely gets rejected for a single infraction. One “driving under the influence” (DUI) can mean good bye to military service. Where once the military was a haven for the down-on-their luck, it now can be just another unattainable aspiration – another disappointment. Couldn’t get in. Couldn’t experience the espirit-de-corps.

What a profound change this has been in my lifetime. My own father likely could not have joined  today’s military. No wonder parents today fret about their children’s future. What is to become of the less-than-perfect child?

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Don Weeks passes

Breaking News

We have lost two of our own this week. First, Matthew Marker. Now Don Weeks. Don passed away yesterday afternoon after a very brief, abrupt illness. There will be no memorial service. Memorial contributions can be made in his name at the Elk Rapids Area Community Endowment Fund at the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.

Don owned the Camelot Inn and was very active in the Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club, to list just a couple of community connections.

Thoughts and prayers go out to the Weeks family. He was a good friend to me and to our community.

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Marker memorial service

Planning is underway for a Saturday or Sunday memorial service in Elk Rapids for Matthew Marker, possibly at the Historic Township Hall. Details soon.

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More about Matthew Marker

The Elk Rapids Progress has published more information on this tragedy. Editor-in-chief Samantha Tengelitsch also sent this note:

We’re trying to raise money for the family as the cost of transporting the car and rig home is $2,000 plus the costs associated with the funeral. The vigil was beautiful.  (Source: Samantha email)      Progress article

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Adolescent alligator

Note from Magnum Hospitality:

PearlsEmblemThis month, Pearl’s is celebrating its 13th year of business in beautiful Elk Rapids and we want you to celebrate with us! We’ll be having an event on Saturday May 14, but we’re offering a coupon good for 13% off your bill for the duration of May. You can wish us a Happy Birthday, but leave the gift giving to us!

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Will high gas prices affect tourism?

We’ve been here before. As gas prices climb, there is the unavoidable fret that tourism will suffer.

GasPumpHigh prices at the pump are forcing visitors to cut back on their vacation spending, a trend local tourism officials hope will turn around before summer.  Record-Eagle

I don’t have statistics at hand. Does overall tourism actually fluctuate depending on the price of gas? It’s certainly plausible, but with all the reasons for not coming from elsewhere, how significant is it?

Note that the article focuses on “cut back on vacation spending.” To that point, I can still remember my father saying, regarding our cottage-rental business, that we did about as well in poor years as good ones – that during bad times, folks who wanted to go to Europe came to Elk Rapids instead. In many ways, Elk Rapids remains an inexpensive destination. Cottage rentals are fairly low priced. E.R. is not as far as the Upper Peninsula. Once you get here, there is much to do that doesn’t involve driving a lot – especially if you want to enjoy the water.

What would be the top 10 reasons for not coming to Elk Rapids this summer? Would high gas prices be on the list? if so, how high?

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Citizen of the Year

Congratulations to Maribeth Westcott who is Elk Rapids Chamber Citizen of the Year. I have known Maribeth for years and can attest that the Chamber pick is a good one.

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