Celebration Of Service Friday (#29)

*I usually focus on people for my Celebration Of Service articles but military symbolism is worthy of reflection. I ran across this bit of history and thought it was interesting, so I decided to share it.

The Story of “Old Abe,” famous Wisconsin War Eagle on 101st Airborne Division patch

By Capt. James A. Page (reprinted from http://www.army.mil, article 91178)


FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2012) — The Screaming Eagle insignia of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is perhaps the most recognized and famous shoulder sleeve insignia in the United States Army.

However the history and symbolism of the patch is often forgotten. The eagle on your shoulder is not just any American Bald Eagle, but instead, it commemorates the most famous animal mascot that ever served in the United States Army.

In 1861, an American Indian named Ahgamahwegezhig — or Chief Sky — a member of the Flambeau band of the Chippewa tribe, cut down a tree in an attempt to capture two American Bald Eaglets in their nest. Chief Sky later traded the surviving eaglet to Daniel McCann of Eagle Point, Wisc., for a bushel of corn.

McCann took the bird to Eau Claire, Wisc., and briefly kept it as a family pet. Caged inside a modified oaken cask, the bird grew larger and quickly became too expensive to feed. McCann actively sought to sell the as yet unnamed bird to the many units of Wisconsin troops passing through the area enroute to their muster site at Camp Randall in Madison, Wisc.

After many unsuccessful attempts to rid himself of the bird, McCann eventually sold the eagle for $2.50 to Capt. John E. Perkins, commanding officer of a militia company called the “Eau Claire Badgers.” Part of the money was, reluctantly, given by local tavern-keeper S.M. Jeffers.

In light of their newly acquired mascot, the unit renamed themselves the “Eau Claire Eagle.”

Perkins’ unit entered federal service and was re-designated as Company C, 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The Eau Claire Eagles’ mascot was adopted by the new 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment which was quickly nicknamed the “Eagle Regiment.” After much deliberation, the mascot was named “Old Abe,” in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

During its time awaiting muster into Federal service at Camp Randall, the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment purchased a special, shield-shaped perch on which to carry their mascot. It was here, in Madison, Wisconsin where “Old Abe” was named in honor of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.

The 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment spent its entire military service in what was then known as the Western Theater of the American Civil War comprising: Missouri; Arkansas; Tennessee; Mississippi; Louisiana; and Alabama. “Old Abe” was present during all of the 8th Wisconsin’s battles and was carried into combat by a sergeant on a special perch alongside the 8th Wisconsin’s National and Regimental colors.

Seeing “Old Abe” atop his perch during the battle of Corinth, Mississippi, Confederate General Sterling Price remarked, “that bird must be captured or killed at all hazards, I would rather get that eagle than capture a whole brigade or a dozen battle flags.”

During “Old Abe’s” service, the 8th Wisconsin participated in many battles, expeditions, and pursuits of Confederate forces. Among these were the battles of: Iuka; Corinth; Island Number 10; Big Black; Champion’s Hill; the Red River and Meridian expeditions; and the Battle of Nashville. “Old Abe” was there every step of the way.

The 8th Wisconsin’s most famous fight came in June of 1863, when the regiment participated in a futile frontal assault along Vicksburg’s Graveyard Road. “Old Abe” and his regiment, then part of Mower’s Brigade, failed to penetrate the center of the Confederate fortifications near a 90-degree bend in the Confederate defensive positions known as Stockade Redan.

Their enlistments having expired, the men of the 8th Wisconsin were mustered out of federal service in late-1864. The 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment was no more. On Sept. 26th, 1864, a contingent of 70 8th Wisconsin veterans marched “Old Abe” to the state and presented him to Governor James Lewis. “Old Abe” was donated to the people of Wisconsin by the loving comrades alongside whom he had fought for four years.

In 1865 an enterprising Chicagoan, capitalizing on “Old Abe’s” fame, sought to enlist him in support of the United Sanitary Commission’s efforts to provide aid and comfort to wounded Veterans. Thus the “Army of the American Eagle” was formed. Children were “enlisted” to sell paper photographs of “Old Abe” in much the same way that schools raise funds today. Proceeds from the sale of these photographs went to benefit local veteran’s charities.

The Wisconsin War Eagle’s post-war life was punctuated by frequent nation-wide travel in support of veteran reunions, patriotic gatherings, Soldier relief benefits, and special exhibitions during which he achieved a rock star-like status. In 1876, “Old Abe” again toured the country as part of America’s Centennial Exposition.

“Old Abe” lived out the remainder of his life in an aviary in the Capitol building. In 1881, a fire broke out in a paint and solvent storage area near “Old Abe’s” aviary. A month later the famous Wisconsin War Eagle, weakened by fumes, died in the arms of his handler, George Gilles.

Many newspapers and Veterans groups wondered aloud “what would become of this famous, flesh and blood war relic?” Upon his death, “Old Abe” was preserved and exhibited in the Capitol building’s Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall until a fire destroyed the display in 1904. Sadly, only a few of “Old Abe’s” feathers survive, carefully preserved by the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum in Madison.

Today, large sculptures of “Old Abe” stand atop the Wisconsin monument at Vicksburg, Miss., and atop the entrance to old Camp Randall, now the main entrance to the University of Wisconsin’s football stadium. Since 1865, Wisconsin-based J.I. Case farm implement company has used “Old Abe” as part of their corporate logo. “Old Abe” also serves as the mascot of several Wisconsin high schools.

Since 1921, “Old Abe’s” head, in profile, has served as the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). A large-scale diorama of the 8th Wisconsin’s Color Guard, complete with “Old Abe,” is on exhibit in the atrium of the division headquarters building on Fort Campbell.

Official Centennial portrait of "Old Abe" the War Eagle (Courtesy Robby Cohen Collection)

Official Centennial portrait of “Old Abe” the War Eagle (Courtesy Robby Cohen Collection)

Cold Irony

*Warning – This post is off topic.  I tell you that because I dislike going to a place expecting one thing and being confronted with something entirely different.  I write because I enjoy it.  It’s an outlet for me but not everything I think about has to do with working out or the gym.  If you’re here for the gym posts, thank you for stopping by, but this is one you can skip.  See you next time!


Conclusion of my reflections these past days – If you want wall to wall news coverage, cries of condemnation, outrage and tears from a heartbroken public, don’t go to all the trouble of killing millions of innocent human beings.

Just kill an animal.


Snacks!  My favorite thing!

A question we all ask!

A question we all ask!

I love to eat and despise being hungry which means I need to pay attention to the amount and type of calories I consume.  If I eat too much (which would be easy) I’ll suffer the consequences.  “Hello flab” is NOT something I want to say when I look at myself in the mirror.

I don't want to see a fluffy physique in the mirror!

I don’t want to see a fluffy physique in the mirror!

I recently found a lovely, little snack called a Kind bar.  They are delicious and made up of great ingredients. They’re portable which is important to me since I’m often most hungry when I’m out and about.  Kind makes all kinds of bars but these are my two favorite types.  They are fairly low in sugar (5 grams for the Chocolate and 6 grams for the Honey Smoked BBQ ).  There are many other flavors but they typically have more grams of sugar than I like to consume.
20150730_075933-1These are some of my favorite snack items.  If you need something great to tide you over between meals, give them a try!

Celebration Of Service Friday (#28)

 “I’m so very thankful for your willingness and courage to serve our country.  Thank you for all that you do.  May God bless you each and every day as well as those you love.” Ashley A

 quote reprinted from outstate.com

Air Force

Details, Details (Workout Plan Revisited)


A few people have asked me about a more detailed description of my current program so I decided to post it here.  Followers of this blog know that I’ve re-vamped my program so that I don’t do nearly as much heavy lifting and I’ve come up with a way to give myself more freedom with regard to my program. I’ve found it’s easier for me to follow without exhausting myself by the end of the week, it’s much kinder to my joints…and best of all it’s more FUN! 

Right now I’m on week 5 of a 12 week chunk.  I’m rotating between two distinct approaches.

Weeks 1-3, Plan A

Weeks 4-6, Plan B

Weeks 7-9, Plan A

Weeks 10-12, Plan B

My checklist for Plan A is below (I’ve posted this before).  

Plan A - Example sheet

Plan A – Example sheet

On this plan I have one week to complete workouts targeting the listed muscle groups.  I’ve given myself permission to do as much or as little as I want to each day and I can do the exercises in any order at all.  This allows me to control my workouts according to how much energy I have on any given day.  If I’m feeling happy and full of vim and vigor, I check a lot of exercises off the  list.  Some days I’m less interested in pushing myself and I’ll do fewer exercises.  

For Plan A, I always do at least 4 sets for each exercise but sometimes do as many as 10.  Many of the exercises only get done once a week so I make sure to really tax the muscle.  Some exercises (calves, pull ups, overhead press, biceps, push ups and abs) are done multiple times during the week.

In addition to the lifting, I walk my puppies at a good clip each morning and I do 15 minutes on a row machine (at a high level since it’s for my back/shoulders not necessarily for cardio training) for 5 days.  

My checklist for Plan B is below.  

Plan B - My very professional checklist

Plan B – My very professional checklist

This is a high volume plan and the one I’m doing this week. It’s only Thursday so the checklist isn’t complete yet.  You can see I’ve done abs, triceps, push ups and shoulders this morning and I will do my pull ups, calves and biceps as the day goes along.  Since I’m working the same muscles 5 out of 7 days of the week (my choice of days), I just do  3 sets of each exercise per day.  In addition, I’ll do one exercise from the “Add One” list each day.  I tend to do more sets ( 4-10) when taking from the “Add One” list since those exercises are only being done once a week.

Plan B includes walking the dogs and rowing (high level) 4 days of my choice out of the week.

My walking companions!

My walking companions!

I’m not currently doing anything special with my diet.  I’m consciously making good, healthy food choices most of the time.  I stick to low carb, medium-high protein choices a lot of the time although I enjoy my indulgences (wine, blueberry pancakes, chips, biscuits, baked potato, french fries) now and then.  

July Progress Photo

I’m happy that I’ve been able to keep some muscle on my frame while not lifting as heavy as I used to.  My biggest fear in switching my program around was that I would end up looking like a broomstick with little spaghetti arms and legs.  I’m not as muscular as I once was but my new program is sustainable.  I love my workouts again, and that means I’m winning the biggest part of the fitness battle!

Funny muscle pose!

Funny muscle pose!

An Open Letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter

Update – My letter was written on Friday, July 17, 2015.  At that time, it was reported that in addition to the four Marines who had been killed, a policeman had been injured and a member of the U.S. Navy had been shot and was in surgery.  There was little information about their condition at the time.  I assumed from the tone of the reports that both would survive.  On July 18th, 2015, Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith succumbed to his injuries.  His death is yet another that can be added to the lengthy (and growing) list of American citizens ambushed and killed by Islamic fundamentalists.

An Open Letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter

July 17, 2015

Dear Mr Secretary,

Four United States Marines are dead.  Sergeant Carson Holmquist, Sergeant David Wyatt, Lance Corporal Skip Wells and Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan were killed on Thursday, July 16, 2015 by Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.  Soon thereafter, you issued a statement indicating that our Marines were lost in “a senseless act of violence.”

Let me clarify the issue for you.  This act was not “senseless.”  It was purposeful.  It was an act of jihad undertaken in the name of Islam.  The attack was carried out in accordance with fundamental Islamic ideology.  It’s an ideology specifically oriented toward creating terror in order to dominate and ultimately defeat the infidel.

Infidel.  That means you, Sir.  Unfortunately, that also means me, my children and the rest of the population who do not ascribe to the same ideology.  Hence, my objection to your prevarication with regard to this matter.

As the current Secretary of Defense, you know this.  I can’t imagine that this is a new concept for you.  Therefore, I implore you to stop with the obvuscating, mealy-mouthed labeling of an obvious, Islamic inspired terrorist attack as “a senseless act of violence.”

Perhaps you’ve mistaken us for imbeciles.  Your refusal to properly and clearly define what led to the deaths of those Marines, changes nothing except to make you look pathetically weak and to shred your credibility in the eyes of the public.

I implore you; halt with the politi-speak.  Grasp your dignity around you, stand up and say it like it is.  You, Sir, owe it to me, my children, the rest of the American citizens and most of all to the memory of those four Marines.

Celebration Of Service Friday (#27)

william carney 1

(This story was reprinted from http://www.homeofheroes.com)

moh_army.gif (14321 bytes)


The True Story of the First Black


Fort Wagner, South Carolina

July 18, 1863

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie “Glory”–an epic based on the true exploits of black soldiers during the Civil War.  One of the most gripping portions is the assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina.  Just two weeks after General Grant’s victory at Vicksburg a large Union force gathered outside the walled Confederate fort on the beach at Fort Wagner, an obstacle considered essential to Grant’s plan to capture Charleston.  From the bay six ironclad Union ships began the bombardment.   Lying on the sandy beach within 1000 yards of the fort were members of the Union infantry including the 600 men of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry.  Behind them was the 6th Connecticut, but on this day it would be the black soldiers of the 54th who would lead the assault.

The Civil War was almost two years old when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.  With that historic step, for the first time, black American’s were encouraged to enlist in the Union Army.  Among the enlistees was a young man named William Carney.  Born on February 29, 1840 at Norfolk, Virginia, William Carney’s mother was a slave to Major Carney.  Prior to the Civil War there was no program for educating young black men in the South, but Carney was fortunate enough at the age of 14 to attend a secret school where he learned to read and write.  Emancipated when Major Carney died, young William Carney had moved to Bedford, Massachusetts and began preparing for a future as a minister.

When volunteers were requested to man the Union Army in 1862, and following President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, William Carney temporarily set aside his plans to enter the ministry.  He later stated, “I felt I could best serve my God by serving my Country and my oppressed bothers.”  He became a member of, and trained with, the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry’s C Company.  Most of the soldiers in the unit were conscientious and focused on the task at hand.  Union General Ullman later said of the men in the all-black units, “They are far more earnest than we…They know the deep stake they have in the issue.”

The assault on Fort Wagner would be the first real test of these young black, Union soldiers–everyone of them a volunteer.  Though the 54th Massachusetts was Federalized, it was an entirely separate regiment.  Despite Lincoln’s Proclamation and widening acceptance of these “soldiers of color”, some prejudices and preconceived notions still prevailed…even in the North.    So it was that the brave but un-battle-tested young men of the 54th found themselves lying in the sand, waiting for the order to lead the advance on Fort Wagner.   Among those brave soldiers was 23-year old Sergeant William Carney.  

As evening began to fall the order came.  The brave young men jumped to their feet and charged at a run towards the enemy stronghold.  The Confederate defenders were prepared for them and cannon fire and bullets flew through the air, devastating the advancing 54th.  Heedless of the danger and often fighting hand to hand, the 54th continued the advance.  Ahead of them Sergeant John Wall carried the colors, the red, white and blue of the United States of America.  Suddenly a rifle bullet dropped Sergeant Wall and the flag began to fall to the ground.  Sergeant William Carney  threw his rifle aside and grasped the colors before they touched the ground.

cw_fortwagner.jpg (13378 bytes) The 54th attacking Fort Wagner. (From the Granger Collection)

Another rifle slug sliced through the air, this one hitting Sergeant Carney in the leg.  With soldiers falling all around him Carney mustered the strength to ignore the pain in his leg, hoist the colors high in the air, and continue to lead the advance.  Somehow he gained the entrance to the fort and proudly planted his flag…but he was alone…everyone else either killed or wounded.  The solitary figure and his flag pressed against the wall of the fort for half an hour as the battle raged on.  Then an attack to the right of the fort’s entrance drew the enemy’s attention away from him.  He noticed  a group of soldiers advancing towards him and, mistaking them for friendly troops, hoisted his flag high.  Again gunfire split the air as Carney realized all too late that they were Confederate soldiers.

In that moment of danger Carney remembered the flag that represented all he held dear and was fighting to protect that day.  Rather than dropping the flag and fleeing for his life, he wrapped the flag around the staff to protect it and ran down an embankment.  Stumbling through a ditch, chest-deep in water, he held his flag high.  Another bullet struck him in the chest, another in the right arm, then another in his right leg.  Carney struggled on alone, determined not to let his flag fall to the enemy. 

From the safety of the distance to which they had retreated, what remained of the valiant warriors of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry watched the brave Sergeant struggle towards safety.  A retreating member of the 100th New York passed Carney and, seeing the severity of his wounds said, “Let me carry that flag for you.”    With indomitable courage Sergeant Carney replied, “No one but a member of the 54th should carry the colors.”  Despite the sounds of rifle and cannon fire that followed him, Carney struggled on.  Another enemy bullet found its mark, grazing his head, but Carney wouldn’t quit.

Amid the cheers of his battered comrades Sergeant Carney finally reached safety.  Before collapsing among them from his many wounds his only words were,“Boys, I only did my duty.  The flag never touched the ground.”

cw_carney.jpg (14813 bytes) Photo Courtesy of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Several months later Sergeant William Carney, propped up on a cane from the injuries to his right leg, posed for a picture holding the flag he had risked so much for that day at Fort Wagner.  The following year he was discharged from the army for the disabilities of his wounds.  William Carney never realized his dream of becoming a minister.  Moving back to New Bedford he worked for several years as a mail carrier.  After that he worked as a messenger in the Massachusetts State House. 

It was not unusual for acts of valor accomplished during the Civil War to go unrecognized for many years.  More than half of the 1520 Medals of Honor awarded for heroism during that period were not awarded until 20 or more years after the war.  On May 23, 1900 Sergeant William Harvey Carney was awarded his Nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.  Though by that time several other black Americans had already received the award for heroism during the Civil War and the Indian Campaigns, Sergeant Carney’s action at Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863 was the first to merit the award.

William Harvey Carney died at his home in New Bedford on December 9, 1908, and is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery there.  His final resting place bears a distinctive stone, one claimed by less than 3500 Americans.  Engraved on the white marble is a gold image of the Medal of Honor, a tribute to a courageous soldier and the flag he loved so dearly.

William Carney

Wednesday Smile


Don’t Stop!

Every now and then something unexpected happens that interrupts your normal routine.  If you’ve been involved in sports or fitness training over any period of time, you’ll inevitably have to train through an unanticipated injury.  I’ve been incredibly lucky over the years.  I haven’t had any big problems but I’ve had to work around a left shoulder that prevented me from heavy upper body work for a few months,  a terrible glute pull that stopped me from doing any sort of deadlifts for over a year, a couple of hernia surgeries (not caused by lifting) and the normal short-term variety of aches and pains (knee, wrist, neck).  


I’ve learned that the trick is to make necessary adjustments so I don’t put additional stress on the tender parts but not to stop or severely restrict my lifting.  When I couldn’t do deadlifts because of the glute pull, I discovered that I couldn’t do lying hamstring curls either because it used some of the same muscles.  I laid off the deadlifts and the hamstring curls but did extra calf and quad exercises.  That didn’t do anything in particular for my hamstrings or glutes but it kept the rest of my legs in great shape until I could resume doing very light deads and hamstring curls.  That took a full year so I had to be patient.  To this day, I still don’t do heavy deadlifts because my previously torn glute will let me know pretty quick that it doesn’t appreciate it.  

Act like a kid.  My son fractured a bone playing soccer and we're on the way in to get a cast on his arm later today.  Has it slowed him down at all?  Nope.  I caught him with his Lacrosse stick out, ready to go play.  Kids don't give up and plant themselves on the couch when they have injuries and neither should you!

Act like a kid. My son fractured a bone playing soccer and we’re on the way in to get a cast on his arm later today. Has it slowed him down at all? Nope. I caught him with his Lacrosse stick out, ready to go play. Kids don’t give up and plant themselves on the couch when they have injuries and neither should you!

Injuries and sore joints pop up but don’t let them stop you from moving in a positive direction.  You might not be able to keep on with your normal routine but don’t despair.  If you can’t train upper body, train your lower body.  If you can’t run, try walking.  There’s always something you CAN do.  


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