What my dad was doing at age 18

My father enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on his 18th birthday, in the fall of 1971.

This photograph was taken to commemorate Boot Camp graduation. Most of these young men shipped out to Vietnam shortly thereafter. Many never returned.

Toward the end of Boot Camp, Dad was selected for additional training as a 0331 Machine Gunner, so he never made it to Vietnam; at the conclusion of his training, new Marines were no longer being deployed.

I keep his USMC yearbook on my coffee table; I store his dog tags in the top drawer of my desk; I carry his patriotism in my blood.

Thanks, Dad.Dad USMC 1971 jpg

Join DCA Honor Flight Volunteers on 10-11-14

Y’all! Here’s your chance – one of the final chances of the 2014 Honor Flight season.

Join us at the WWII Memorial on Sat Oct 11, any time between 9 am and 4 pm, to greet more than 300 WWII and Korea War Veterans. (Yes, that’s Dad Sturgis, who flew to town to participate in an Honor Flight greeting in September.)

Check out the Facebook event for complete details on our 10-11-14 event, and check out this post for ways you can support Honor Flight.

From the Washington Times: “Coal miners: the forgotten men”

Christmas.1985My father spent over 20 years working in the coal mines of southwestern Illinois. He could undoubtedly talk circles around any of our elected officials on the topic of coal – on energy, safety, technology, and so on.

[Pictured here: my father, mom, sister, and me, Christmas 1985, early in my father’s coal mining career.]

During those 20 years, my father saw a lot of developments around coal. Now retired, he follows the issue closely to this day, as Recording Secretary for United Mine Workers of America’s Local 1820.

My father joined a few hundred others last week and boarded a bus in St Louis for the long ride to Pennsylvania, where he and thousands of others expressed their disappointment with the EPA.

It’s a complicated issue, and even those without a family connection to coal should take a serious look at it. To that end, an editorial in today’s Washington Times is worth a read. Excerpted here: Coal miners: the forgotten men.

A hundred years have passed since the American economist William Graham Sumner described “the forgotten man” of society. “He works, he votes, generally he prays — but he always pays.” A century on, there is no better description of the thousands of Americans who have toiled for generations in America’s coal mines, and who are now paying dearly for the energy follies of President Obama.

The White House has been scheming to “bankrupt” coal, a plentiful and affordable source of energy, to make way for the trendier alternatives that win the applause and admiration of billionaires from New York and San Francisco. They never have to think about their impact on coal country.

This past weekend, several thousand forgotten men marched in Pittsburgh to protest the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to further reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants — a policy intended as a death sentence for coal.

Read the whole piece here.

Happy 33rd anniversary, Mom and Dad Sturgis!

IMG_1154

HAPPY 33rd anniversary, Keith and Angie Sturgis!

Quite an accomplishment, particularly in 2014. We three kids have spent our entire lives reaping the blessings of your commitment to one another. We benefit from your example and your shared determination to stick together, through thick and thin, and we know enough to know that it’s far from easy.

wedding anniversary quote

We admire and appreciate the qualities you demonstrate to each other… love, trust, partnership, tolerance, and tenacity. As soon as I saw this image I knew I had to share it.

(I plan to follow up with more on this living example of love and commitment, but for now, please enjoy this picture of two of the happiest grandparents in the entire world.)

Love you, Mom and Dad. Thanks for everything.

Props to St. Clair Township Board Members Carroll, Sturgis, & Barnes

NOTE: Several people chose to anonymously post inappropriate comments on this article, including personal attacks on my family. As a result, comments have been disabled.

I support free speech, but this is MY blog. I pay the bills, I make the rules, and I am not interested in providing a forum for cowards.
**************************************************************************************

Dad.Sturgis.Controversial.NRA.shirt Last week, the St. Clair Township Board made the local news for standing up to a local union.

I’m writing about it here because it provides, at an incredibly local level, an illustration of the power of common sense, as applied by local officials. [Full disclosure: one of the members of the group in question is Keith Sturgis, pictured at right, who, yes, happens to be my father. I first wrote about his experience as an elected official in July 2013.]

For my east coast friends, St. Clair Township is the small corner of southwestern Illinois where I grew up. It’s just outside of Belleville, Illinois, which is just east of St Louis, Missouri. It encompasses 20 miles and has an estimated population of 35,000.

Anyway. Back to the point.

Last week, six sewer and clerical employees, as represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 148, continued a series of unrealistic demands of the St. Clair Township. These union folks were simply carrying on their trend of asking for more pay, benefits, and special treatment – regardless of the health of the local economy – and received a jolt when they were not met with unquestioned approval.

The Township Board, by a vote of 3-2, rejected the union’s demands.

Read the story in the Belleville News Democrat: St. Clair Township employees unhappy with board decision contract.

The article notes that the plan, as proposed by the Board, “includes pay increases for the three male sewer employees and no increases for three female clerical workers.” So where’s the beef? A primary point of contention, called “unfair” by the union, is that union employees will be required to pay, in part, health care premiums for themselves and any dependents. In short, these employees are being treated less like union princes and more like Average Joes.

The article indirectly quotes my dad:

Sturgis said the cuts are not a personal attack on employees, but meant to bring benefits in line with what is offered to workers in the area and represent taxpayers.

[Union employee/clerical worker Susan] Gruberman said the township does not have any financial difficulty.

The township’s total budget is $3.3 million, with the sewer fund being the bulk and having $759,000 of revenue over disbursements last year.

And, more importantly, Gruberman said the Local 148 workers get paid from sewer revenue and not tax revenue.

Sturgis said the sewer fund may have a $1 million surplus, but the money is tied to future obligations related to sewer service in Belleville and Swansea.

Make sense? Just because there’s money in the bank doesn’t mean you should spend it, folks. The thing is, this goes against the grain of union doctrine.

It’s important to note that my father, in addition to his role as a Township Trustee, is the recording secretary for United Mine Workers of America’s Local 1820 – yep, he’s a union man, past and present. He worked underground, swing shift, as a coal miner for over 20 years to support my sisters and my mother and me. Yes, unions were different then, but this doesn’t change the fact that my father’s professional and personal experiences are deeply impacted by union theology.

Why on earth are these citizens throwing a fit about paying 20% of their health care premiums? Because they’ve never been faced with such a reality. Their world is insulated, and is therefore quite different from the reality of their neighbors, privately employed citizens of St. Clair Township.

As my father wrote to me in the email about this very article, “Accountability is what makes our country strong, and our families strong….Accountability. Union or not.”

October 26: homeward bound

addilyn.9 monthsOur baby genius niece, Addilyn Ruby, will soon be nine months old and she’s going to take her first steps any day now.

I’ve averaged one flight home for every 6 weeks of her life and while that’s not nearly enough time to snuggle this baby genius, it’s a blessing to be able to visit somewhat regularly.

This weekend I’m flying home to see the baby the family, and, as usual, will be Instagramming away (my sister made the explicit promise, while pregnant, that both aunts may take “as many pictures” as we want).

Follow along on Twitter for the most fun – and wherever this weekend finds you, make it a great one!

A citizen is “concerned” with my father’s right to free speech

family-tree.jpg

First, a little context: I grew up in southwestern Illinois, in St Clair Township, where my parents still live on 10 rural-ish acres. Pictured here, my parents and sisters and I are in front of the homestead atop the stump of a giant Oak tree, which was felled in a severe storm  fell shortly before my dad’s 60th birthday in November 2012.

Dad.Sturgis.Controversial.NRA.shirtMy father, Keith Sturgis, is a family man, a proud USMC Veteran, and a patriot, who worked hard to instill a fierce appreciation for our country and its freedoms in his three daughters  – and anyone else who would listen.

My father isn’t a politician. In 1971, on his 18th birthday, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After that, he went to the coal mines, working over 20 years underground. Then and now, he serves as the recording secretary for United Mine Workers of America’s Local 1820 – but he’s no politician.

But, as of a few months ago, he is an Elected Official in the St Clair Township. In 2012, he entered his first-ever campaign, joining the Common Sense Team as a candidate for St Clair Township Trustee. He won, though most of his team didn’t, though their platform of reduced spending and increased accountability was popular with voters.If you’re still with me, hang on, because here’s where it gets interesting:My father attended his inaugural St Clair Township board meeting in late June 2013. On July 3, I received an interesting email from my dad. (Subject Line: You’ll Get A Kick Out Of This One.)

“The St Clair Township Supervisor just called to say a person was concerned that I was wearing an NRA shirt to the Township Board Meeting.

… So I told him to have that person address me to my face, and we’ll see how that goes.”

Seriously?

In America?

In my lovely, borderline-po-dunk hometown in Illinois?

A citizen feels threatened by three letters on a garment worn by an unpaid township trustee.

Who happens to be my father.

And those three letters happen to mean more to my father – and to me – than they might to, say, your average resident of St Clair Township.

Dad had the audacity to wear the orange shirt that he’s pictured in above. This shirt is a discontinued style…  I’m 95% certain I purchased it at one of the sales hosted at NRA HQ, where I worked as a Senior Media Specialist until 2010, but I can’t be sure.

Shortly after I was hired at the NRA, my father called to request that I send him a few business cards because, as it turns out, he wanted to hand them out to pretty much everyone he knew.

It’s the only time I can remember my father asking me for anything.

Dad.OliverNorth.KBRThere’s another picture of my father  wearing his offensive shirt: this  one, which I posted on Facebook in May of 2008. I posted it in the middle of the chaotic festival of freedom known as the NRA’s Annual Meeting (in 2008, it was held in Louisville, KY) and I wrote the following caption: “three marines, three personal heroes: Dad, Lt Col Oliver North, KBR.”

My father took time off work to serve as an unpaid volunteer during the NRA Annual Meeting – in 2008, and in 2009, and in 2010 – and also at several CPACs. He worked a booth for 3 days talking to folks about the NRA’s flagship blog, NRAblog, which I happened to help create.

In Louisville, when I saw Lt Col Oliver North talking to past NRA President Kayne Robinson, I took the opportunity to locate my father and arrange the three Marines for this photo. And today, especially, I’m awfully grateful I did.

My father doesn’t question anyone’s right to free speech – but you’d damned well better not question his.

Dad.Sturgis.FB.NRA.