Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trip to Kumamoto

While my ship was in Nagasaki, I went on a tour to Kumamoto, Japan. Let me tell you it was amazing! I want to show you some pictures of where I went. I can't post all the pics because I think it would tell me that there were too many, because I think I took about 250 pictures total this day. So anyway, here they are:

The Suizenji Jojuen Garden

"The Suizenji Jojuen Garden represents the 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road. The Fresh springs in the garden release clean, cold water, which flows there from Mt. Aso via underground currents. In 1636 Tadatoshi, the third Lord of Hosokawa, began its construction as a tea retreat, and he also built a temple here for Priest Gentaku. This temple is called Suizenji. This beautiful Momoyama style garden evolved durring the reigns of the fourth and the fifth Lords. In all it took about 80 years to complete. Jojuen was named after a character in a poem written by Tao Yuanming."

Isn't it beautiful? The Hill in the back is called "Mount Fuji," although it most definitely is not, it is supposed to look like it.

This is commonly known as a Bonsia Tree. Amazing isn't she?

One last view of the beautiful Garden before I leave. I kind of wish I could have gone up into a helocopter, so I could take a full picture of the whole park!

Kumamoto Castle

"Kumamoto Castle (熊本城; -jō) is a castle in Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan that has been opened to the public for tours. A large, and in its day, an extremely well fortified Japanese castle. The donjon (castle central keep) is a concrete reconstruction built in 1960, but several ancillary wooden buildings remain of the original castle. The castle was besieged during the Satsuma Rebellion, and was sacked and burned after a 53-day siege.
In nearby San-no-Maru Park is the Hosokawa Gyobu-tei, the former residence of Hosokawa clan, the Higo daimyo. This traditional wooden mansion has a fine Japanese garden located in its grounds. The signature curved stone walls known as musha-gaeshi, as well as wooden overhangs were designed to prevent foes from penetrating the castle. Rock falls were also used as deterrents."

Huge isn't she? I was amazed by the brick walls leading up to the actual building. Can you imagine how long it would have taken to lay every brick?

These were the steps leading up the palace. I could just picture the Japanese Soldiers marching up these stairs to lay siege.

This is the outer gate leading up to the palace-grounds. Huge doors!

Palace grounds. I think the people who built this caslte were pretty paranoid. They had so many defenses. Two sets of walls, so that when one was penetrated, they still had a second one that they could defend. It's amazing to me that it was actually attacked, and captured many times!

I felt kind of sorry for this guy. He had to stand here and let people take pictures of him, and take pictures with him. I didn't want to embarass him anymore, buy going up to him and taking a picture with him. I was content to stand at a distance and take a picture.

Monday, February 23, 2009

General Douglas McArthur, Corregidor, Philippines, and my Step-Grandfather...

Corregidor is a tad-pole shaped island sitting right in the center of the opening to Manila Bay. This approximately 2 sq. mile island has been the subject of much conflict over the last 90 years. The Earliest recorded occupation of this Island was by the Spanish from the early 1500s till the end of the Spanish-American war in 1899, at which time the United States attempted to colonize the Philippines. This was followed by what we know as the Philippine-American War, which lasted two years. In the end America took control of the Philippines, and thus took control of Corregidor.

In 1908, a Regular Army post was established on the Island, called Fort Mills. Thus began a 150 Million dollar project to establish the island as a military fortress. Concrete Emplacements were built with guns as big as 14 inches.

Barracks’ were also built on the Island, including the Mile Long Barracks which was one largest Barracks built at it’s time.There was even a movie theater, a High School, and Elementary School built for the families of military men stationed there. At the advent of the Airplane it was realized that much of the battlements on the Island would be ineffective against an air-strike. So the Malinta Tunnel was established. This tunnel would be able to house most of the Islands resources in the event of an Air-strike.After the December 7th, 1941, “A Date which will live in infamy…” General Douglas McArthur would use the Island as his Allied headquarters during the Battle of the Philippines. It was during this time that the Filipino government would be relocated to Corregidor as the Japanese began to invade the Philippines. Eventually the President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon was forced to flee the Island for fear that it would be taken as well. On his departure Quezon urged McArthur to flee with him, but General McArthur refused.

McArthur continued to stay at Corregidor until he was ordered by President Roosevelt to flee the Island. On March 11th, 1942 General McArthur left the Island under cover of darkness, stating as he left: “I shall return!” Upon leaving he reluctantly handed over control of the Island to Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright. McArthur continued to try and control events on Corregidor from his new location in Melbourne Australia, by ordering American forces to not retreat, but unfortunately General Edward P. King disobeyed the order and surrendered the Island when he saw they had no shot at victory. This led to what we know as the Bataan Death March, which resulted in the Death of 5,000 Filipinos, and 1,000 Americans.

Upon gaining control of the Island, the Japanese rebuilt many of the defenses in an attempt to defend the island in the event that America would try to retake the island.

Washington asked McArthur to rescind his promise to return to Corregidor by skipping over the Philippines in their conquest to retake the Pacific, but McArthur stood his ground, and eventually Washington agreed to allow him to retake the Philippines.

On October 20, 1944 General McArthur fulfilled his promise by returning to the Philippines. Corregidor was eventually recaptured and McArthur returned to the Island. At which time he ordered that the American flag be flown on the Island until it could one day be replaced by the Philippine flag.

It was from Manila that General McArthur stationed himself to continue his conquest to retake the Pacific. This led to the eventual surrender of the Japanese onboard the USS Missouri.

Eventually on July 4th, 1946, the Philippines were granted independence. It was at this time that the American flag was respectfully lowered on Corregidor, and replaced by the Filipino Flag.

You are probably wondering at this point why I took the time to explain to you the history of this amazing Island. Well the reason is because I have been there. I saw the Island, and I can tell you it was an amazing experience. I’m actually kicking myself because soon after I stepped off the Ferry Boat, I realized that I had left my cameras’ memory card in my computer, and thus did not have enough memory to take more than 20 pictures. So I told one of the other girls in my group that I would like to copy some of her pictures so I could have some way of remembering the Island.

Anyways, as if the Island wasn’t cool enough on its own, upon returning to my ship, I decided to do some research. I remember that I had heard that my Step-Grandpa on my Mom’s side had served over in the Philippines during WWII. So I did a search for the ship he was on, the USS Cleveland, and as it turns out, the USS Cleveland was one of the ships that bombed the Island in an attempt to neutralize the Japanese before sending in the ground troops. There is actually a very good chance that I walked on some of the same roads that my Grandpa, Charles G. Collins, a young sailor at the time in the United States Navy, walked about 60 years ago.

It is at this point that I feel a sense of sadness though…because my Grandpa Chuck passed away some years ago, and I never had the chance to share these memories with him. Oh the questions I wish I could have asked him!

I would have to say that Corregidor is probably one of the coolest places I have ever been to! Between the huge 14 inch guns, and the ruins of Barracks once packed with young soldiers, and many other amazing sights to see, it was truly an amazing experience for me. I even walked into one of the ruins of a Barracks and I could see what was the remains of a bathroom, and an indoor pool probably used for training and recreation.

If only I could take you all there with me to see it, I guarantee it would be as unforgettable for you as it was for me. I just wanted to share with you this wonderful experience that I was able to engage in. I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit of history that you may have never heard before!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Typical Day Underway on the USS Blue Ridge

My typical day on the USS Blue Ridge when we are underway begins with the sound of my cell pone alarm clock under my pillow at 0500. I put it under my pillow because I don’t want the noise to wake up the other guys in my berthing, because I know I always get up much earlier than most of them. The time I get up varies depending on whether I am going to work out that morning. Most mornings I’m too tired and just keep sleeping.

Depending on whether I took a shower the night before, I might shower in the morning. I also of course shave and brush my teeth. A proper military shave is clean and neat. The sideburns cannot extend any longer than the middle of the ear. A mustache is allowed, but must not extend past the sides of the upper part of the mouth. I have actually tried a couple of times to grow one, but each time, I only lasted a few days, because I realized that I would just look silly with a ‘stache.

After that I put on my coveralls and my flash gear. My flash gear consists of two canvas fire retardant gloves, and a fire retardant face and head covering. These must be worn in a strap on our belt at all times just in case we have a “Casualty.” A “Casualty” is some kind of emergency.

After this I go down to my shop and check my email, then I go to “chow.” Lately my ship has been making steaks for breakfast! Yes, you heard it right, steaks! Some days they are delicious, other days, they are okay. I usually have blueberry pancakes, and a T-bone steak.

After this I usually just waste time until quarters at 0700. Quarters usually consists of my LCPO, my DIVO, my LPO and my WCS (LCPO – Leading Chief Petty Officer, DIVO- Division Officer, LPO- Leading Petty Officer, and WCS- Work Center Supervisor.) putting out things that we need to do during the day. Such as things we need to fix, or maybe certain meetings that we are required to attend.

At 0730 after Quarters we have cleaning stations till 0800. Cleaning stations for me is for me to clean the upper and lower vestibules for my shop. This usually takes me only about 20 minutes, so the rest of the time is usually spent straightening up the shop.

The rest of the morning could be spent doing a number of different things. Whether we are doing drills or just working will affect my morning. If we are doing drills we might go to GQ (General Quarters). For my GQ station I go to Repair 3. My job in my repair locker is an on-scene-phone-talker. I follow the fire-fighting team into the area to fight the fire, and establish communications between the fire-team and the repair locker. It’s a fairly easy job.

If we go to GQ, this will usually take us all morning. If we don’t go to GQ, my morning will be spent helping the other guys in my shop fix things, or possibly do maintenance. From 1100-1300 we have lunch. I usually try and get in line early so that I can go and take a nap for the rest of lunch time. Sometimes, if the food looks unappetizing, I will go to the ships-store and buy something to eat. Especially when we go underway, the food gets pretty bad sometimes. We probably have rice at almost every single meal. I have gotten into the habit of getting the rice, and drenching it with hot sauce. Sounds funny I know, but I’ve become a pretty big fan of Hot Sauce!

The afternoon is usually spent doing pretty much the same thing as the morning. At 1700 we have dinner, again, just like lunch, I will either eat what they have, or I will buy something from the ships store. Dinner lasts from 1700-1830. Usually after this our day is pretty much done. We may work on some little things, but this is usually when the Xbox is broken out in our shop, and the guys will start playing "Call of Duty." I usually won’t play, but once in a while I’ll jump in on it!

I am usually the first one to go to bed in my shop. By about 2000, I’ll start checking to see if I have any last minute work to get done, if not I will probably head for bed. I brush my teeth, and hop in my rack, throwing my cell-phone, and my MP3 player under my pillow. This is when I read my Bible. I usually read 2 chapters in the Old Testament, 1 chapter of Psalms, and 2 chapters in the New Testament. When I’m done I usually put my ear phone in one ear, whichever ear is not on the pillow. This is in an attempt to keep the noise out. Lots of people in my berthing are not as noise considerate as I am. Depending on how my day went, I may fall asleep immediately, or I may take about 20 minutes to fall asleep.

I get up the next morning and start it all over again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

About Me

Well, you can probably tell by the title what this is going to be about. I originaly wrote this to be in my profile "about me" box, but it told me it was too short at first, so I lengthened it, and then it told me it was too long. So I decide to leave that box blank, and write a blog about my life up to this point. It's kind of like a Mini-Autobiogrpahy actually:

I was born July 23, 1987 at Grandview Memorial Hospital in Sellersville Pennsylvania. My Dad had told my mom that after they almost lost my older sister, they were not going to have anymore kids, but my mom really wanted to have at least one more. So she begged my dad, and finally he caved. From that argument, I was conceived.

As a child I was fairly well behaved. Actually from what my brothers and sisters have told me, I used to always side with my mom on everything! I was the picture of a “Mama’s Boy.” They said I used to sit next to Mom when she was reprimanding them and just nod my head in agreement. Looking back I think I would even be annoyed by that if I was the older brother.

Anyways, at about the age of 5 I made a profession of faith, but I know I didn’t really understand it fully. I just knew that everyone else in my family was saved, so I wanted to be too…

On August 1st 1995, I finally got saved. I remember my sister and I were praying in her room before we went to bed, and Sara was praying that I would get saved. I remember during the prayer, asking myself what was holding me back. So afterwards I asked my sister if I could get saved, so she took me to my Dad and he led me to the Lord. I actually remember one thing my dad did when he was talking to me that night…if you know my dad, you know that he’s really cheep right? Well, he was trying to show me the example that Christ offers to us salvation that we don’t deserve. So my dad hands me a dollar, and asks me if I deserved it, and I told him no. After that I ask him if I could keep it, and he said no…that’s my dad for ya!

Well, the years went on, and I was living the life of an average Christian Kid, going to church every Sunday, but just kind of skating by…

I had heard every story so many times, that I had allowed myself to have the attitude that I’d heard it all before. It wasn’t until the 8th grade that I really began to surrender my life to the Lord. Up till that point I had gone through the gambit of jobs that I was considering in the future. None of which I can tell you were being a Pastor or a “Navy Man.” I’d always determined that I was too weak to be in the Military, and that there was no way I could stand up in front of a hundred plus people every Sunday and preach a sermon! Anytime anyone would bring up the subject of being a pastor, I would say “no way!”

Well I have discovered some things over the years, and that’s that God has a tremendous sense of humor. I remember one time I was talking to my mom about my future, I had gotten to the point where I realized that none of the Jobs I was considering really fulfilled my desires. I knew I wanted to help people, I liked to get up in front of people and act and sing, and I liked to teach. So my mom brings up being a pastor again. Of course I gave my usual reaction: “No Way!” So my mom asks me, “Aren’t we supposed to be fully surrendered to whatever God wants for us?” She continued… “I know that it seems like every job you’ve wanted kind of had an aspect of it that was similar to what a pastor does.” So I had to admit that she had a point. So I told her I would pray about it. So I did… for the next couple to months I prayed about it a lot! Finally one night in my bed I was praying, and I remember asking God straight up if he wanted me to be a pastor. Right at that point my heart started pounding really hard. I felt like God was trying to tell me something. So I remember breathing out really heavily and saying “You do want me to be a Pastor don’t you?” Immediately after that I felt this peace. I could almost hear Christ’s still small voice saying “Yes, that is my will for you.”

So of course natural course after that is planning about what college to go to. I decided based on a bunch of colleges I had visited that the best one was Northland Baptist Bible College in Dunbar WI. The Problem now was…how do I pay for college? I did everything I could to try and find scholarships, but in everything I did to try and find a way to pay for it, I didn’t feel like God was behind it. So I remember in the fall of my senior year my family was watching a speech by President Bush, and he was thanking the troops for all they’re hard work, and sacrifice, and I remember at that point my heart pounding really fast. It was just like when God was trying to tell me he wanted me to be a pastor. I tried to reason with God in my mind, by telling Him I couldn’t do that, but He wouldn’t let up. It was almost as if I could hear Him saying “Why not…my grace is sufficient for you…” I tried to ignore it and went up to bed, but I couldn’t get rid of the feeling. I tossed and turned for about 20 minutes before I finally said, “alright God, do you want me to join the Military?” Again like before, I immediately got this peace in my heart, and could almost hear God’s voice saying “Yes, that is my will for you.”

Well, about 2 and a half years later and here I am. In the Navy stationed on the USS Blue Ridge in Yokosuka Japan, living the dream. Well sort of…the Navy isn’t easy sometimes, but I know it is right where God wants me. He has blessed me with a wonderful Church, with wonderful people, and a wonderful pastor! I am truly blessed. My plan after I get out is to move to Wisconsin while I’m going to college. After that, I really don’t know what Gods plan is for me…but I can tell you one thing, whatever it is it will be Gods will and not my own. For God’s perfect will is always accomplished. When we are surrendered to Him, He can help us to do what we thought impossible! I would like to close this mini autobiography with my favorite passage of scripture:

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
I John 5:1-5