The Car Line

When I was a kid, I rode the bus. At six years old, I stood at the bus stop every morning with my eight year old brother and the rest of the young hoodlums in West Side Subdivision. I stood there each morning enduring the elements. We were poor, so when it was cold, I wore tube socks on my hands. When it rained, I poked my head and arms out of a trash bag. That’s what I did when I was a kid.

My cheese wagon homies...Brent, Billy, and Adam....Notice the awesome Neil's Sports Shop painter's cap.

My cheese wagon homies…Brent, Billy, and Adam….Notice the awesome Neil’s Sports Shop painter’s cap.

I rode the bus every single day until my brother turned 16. It was at that time that he became the proud new owner of a 1971 Toyota Corolla. We had to go all the way to South Carolina to get this fine piece of transportation. Although it looked like a washing machine, it was nicknamed “the turtle” by my three cousins who’d had the pleasure of driving this marvel before my brother.

Every kid in this picture drove "the turtle" except for me.

Every kid in this picture drove “the turtle” except for me.

The past few weeks, I’ve spent most afternoons with Lucy in the car line at Dean Road Elementary School in Auburn picking up her seven year old daughter, Emily, and their six year old neighbor, Sara Beth.

Sometimes, I let Emily drive...

Sometimes, I let Emily drive…

The operation itself is a sight to behold. It’s on par with a full scale military operation. It’s quite impressive to say the least. There are walkie-talkies and everything. The long line of cars is reminiscent of opening night at the Lee County Fair, circa 1979.

Emily and Sara Beth wait on the front porch of the school along with the other riders, while other Oompa-Loompas are marched off to who knows where. I really don’t know where they go, but they follow a teacher and walk past my car every day in an organized manner.

There’s the lady on point who seemingly runs the operation. She calls in the number that’s displayed on each car that corresponds with the respective student or students. She also waves aggressively at people without ever making eye contact.

At some point, the coach makes an appearance, and everyone looks at him as if he’s so dreamy. I know he’s the coach, because he wears a visor. Somewhere along the way, the visor took the place of the whistle, the long-time coach identifier.

Once you make it past the point lady and the coach, you see the kids on the porch along with a handful of teachers and aids who are opening doors and shoving kids into vehicles like Laverne and Shirley on the assembly line at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wis.

From there, we are on our own. It’s imperative to strap the kids in, but we’d better be rolling as we do it. If not, the teachers and aids start flapping their wings in a violent manner. Some of them are going to require rotator cuff surgery at the conclusion of their car line career.

It’s a daily adventure. I’m amazed at the sheer number of cars. When I was a kid, there were only a handful of kids who rode to school with their parents. For the longest, I thought it was ridiculous that today’s kids were coddled so.

Some kids do ride the bus, and I see them waiting in the comfort of their parent’s vehicle awaiting their bus’s arrival. I guess that’s ok. Perhaps the child doesn’t have access to tube socks and trash bags.

Now that I have a vested interest, I no longer see the carline as being ridiculous. We want to do what’s best for those we love. A lot of bad things can happen to a child who waits at a bus stop, not to mention there are some very bad kids riding the bus. The bus driver can only do so much. Thankfully, there are cameras installed on most buses, which certainly cuts down on some of the nastiness that can occur. Sadly, it does not completely eradicate the dangers of riding with bad kids.

It’s funny how our views change as we experience newness in our lives, and that’s a good thing.

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Just in case you were wondering, “the turtle” died before I ever had the chance to drive it. I didn’t have the luxury of owning a car when I turned 16. Nope. I got an alarm clock so I could wake up early every morning to drive my mother to work so I could use the car to drive to school…because there was no way I was riding the bus.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Operation Iraqi Freedom (11 years later)

It’s hard to believe the War in Iraq started 11 years ago this week.

(I wrote this last year for the 10 year anniversary, so if it seems familiar, that’s why)

I was a Second Lieutenant attending the Transportation Officer Basic Course at Fort Eustis, Virginia, when the invasion began.

SFC Milanio used his Photoshopping skills many years ago to do this for me.

SFC Milanio used his Photoshopping skills many years ago to do this for me.

Initially, it looked very promising as the Iraqis seemed very eager for a new day—a day without Saddam Hussein in power. We all remember the toppling of Saddam’s statue followed by the obligatory flip flop slaps to his sculpted face.

Saddam was no longer in power and was now on the run.

In July 2003, his heartless and ruthless sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in a raid in the northern city of Mosul by soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.

Years later, on my third tour in Iraq, I would often see what was called the Perfume Palace, which is where Uday and Qusay committed most of their atrocities against women.

I know there is a special place in hell for them.

By December 2003, my unit, the 3rd Brigade of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, also known as the First Stryker Brigade, was at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Pacesetter near Samarra, a major city within the Sunni Triangle. It was perhaps the coldest, wettest, muddiest places I’d ever been.

I remember when the news broke that Saddam Hussein had been captured near his hometown of Tikrit, just 30 miles from our location.

We were sitting in an old bombed out hangar when one of my esteemed colleagues said that he’d read where Ted Nugent was offering a $1,000,000 reward to anyone who captured or killed the brutal dictator. I quickly chimed in by saying that I’d read the same thing.

We were looking at each other like two dogs exposed to high pitched sounds when I quietly asked where he’d read that vital piece of information. It turned out that we’d both read it from the same source—the wall of a porta-potty in Kuwait.

As you can imagine, rumors were running rampant. We were in an austere environment so communication with the outside world was extremely limited.

We got to call home one day but due to the length of the line, each call was limited to just five minutes. I called my mother, but because of the time restraints and the fact that I stuttered, I let her do most of the talking to maximize the time.

Soon after Saddam’s capture, the rumors of our early departure spread like wildfire. Some soldiers were really excited that we’d be going home sooner rather than later.

Of course that was not the case. We would be in Iraq for eight more years.

After Samarra, we moved north to the city of Mosul to replace 101st.

On April 4, two of my soldiers were hit with a daisy chain IED while out on a convoy in Mosul. SPC Philip Rogers was killed instantly, while SPC Tyanna Felder would succumb to her wounds just three days later.

Felder rogers

A month later, our battalion lost another soldier as SGT Isela Rubalcava, known by most as SGT Ruby, was killed when she was hit by flying shrapnel from a mortar while leaving the chow hall.

The brigade as a whole would lose countless others on that first deployment.

In all, there were roughly 4,487 casualties of war during Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. In previous wars and conflicts, that number would have been much higher but was mitigated by advancements in medicine, training, technology, and transportation.

Between Iraq and Afghanistan there are well over a 1,200 amputees.

Over 32,000 soldiers were wounded in Iraq alone, not to mention the thousands who suffer internally with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The American people supported the soldiers in Iraq unconditionally for the duration of the war and we are forever grateful for that support, but for many, it’s not over. The battle has just begun, and they need your help now more than ever.

You can do your part by contacting your representatives to ensure they work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to end the backlog for those veterans filing claims.

Getting involved with worthy organizations such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Wounded Warrior Project are also ways to show your support for those who served voluntarily so you or your loved ones wouldn’t have to serve involuntarily.

IAVA

Wounded Warrior

Although we did have few bad apples amongst the ranks over the years, the overwhelming majority of soldiers served in a noble manner and made Iraq a better place for its people. Of that, I am certain.

So, on behalf of each and every soldier who has ever had the honor of wearing the uniform, I offer a sincere thank you for your past, present, and future support. We simply couldn’t do what we do without it.

We’re just hoping you don’t forget about us when we’re no longer wearing that uniform.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Proud to have served (in the National Guard)

Chatting with the Alabama Governor Bob Riley at Ft McClellan in 2009 prior to deployment number 3.

Chatting with then Alabama Governor Bob Riley at Ft McClellan in 2009 prior to deployment number 3.

For eight years, I proudly served in the National Guard, the oldest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

National Guard

In December, I submitted my paperwork to transition from the Alabama National Guard to the US Army Reserves by way of the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR). Anyone who has ever dealt with the military, or the government in general, knows that paperwork moves like pond water and pond water doesn’t move. I stole that line from one of my old drill sergeants. I’m sure he stole it from someone else. Anyway, it took a while but finally came to fruition this week. I couldn’t be happier.

For the most part, I really did enjoy my time in the National Guard. I had the honor of serving with some outstanding Soldiers. I also served with and for some outstanding leaders who I’d follow anywhere. On the other hand, there are those I wouldn’t even follow to the bathroom.

I served many years in the Regular Army (yes, that’s what it’s called) but left to join the National Guard in 2006. I was a First Lieutenant (1LT), but prior to leaving the Army, I’d received orders for promotion to Captain; however, my service obligation was fulfilled before I actually received the promotion.

According to the National Guard recruiter for officers, the promotion was still in effect. I’d be promoted to Captain as soon as I got to my new unit.

I inquired about the promotion upon arrival at my unit. We were preparing for Annual Training so there was a lot going on. It was not a priority. When we finally put together my promotion packet, we were told that an official Department of the Army (DA) photo was not necessary. The packet was sent to Montgomery but was returned a few weeks later because the official DA photo was indeed required. I squared away my dress uniform and scheduled a time for the photo to be made at Ft. McClellan. The packet was then resubmitted.

It sat on a desk in Montgomery for several months. I was becoming very frustrated. By now, I had been involuntarily cross-leveled to another unit that was scheduled to deploy to Iraq in the summer of 2007.

We finally heard back from the folks in Montgomery. My packet was denied because my physical, which was up to date with many months to spare when the packet was originally submitted, had expired. I had to schedule a physical at Ft. Benning. That took another few weeks. I was in good shape, but my morale was suffering.

We were conducting our pre-deployment training at Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin, when I learned that my unit’s headquarters in Iraq would be right next to my unit from the Regular Army. Of all the places in Iraq, I was a stone’s throw from my old unit with whom I’d deployed with years earlier.

That was great! I loved those guys and gals, but I didn’t want to show up there as 1LT Fuller. All of my peers from that unit had already been promoted to Captain. I didn’t want to feel inferior, and I surely didn’t want to have to explain my situation to everyone.

Just a couple of weeks before we departed Ft. McCoy, my boss, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Vickers  stormed into the headquarters building and ordered us all into the big meeting room. He was hot!

He walked into the room and we all stood at attention waiting to hear his wrath.

“Lieutenant Fuller, post!” he said.

I was finally promoted to Captain. It only took 18 months.

For the record, I would follow (now) Colonel Vickers anywhere.

Although my service in the National Guard started off rocky, overall, it was a wonderful experience. I served with and for a lot of good people and am proud to have served the great people of Alabama.

Ala national guard

I now hold the rank of Major and am excited to see what my future holds as I begin this new and most likely final chapter of my military service.

Life can be challenging. Life can be frustrating. Some things are simply out of our hands. We just have to hang in there and keep doing the right thing. Eventually, good things will happen.

Be that as it may, if I ever see that recruiter again, I’m going to give him a noogie.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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***Book Signing, March 21 at the Opelika Observer’s office***

If you are reading this, it means you may or may not like my writing. Perhaps I guilted you in to signing up for it….I certainly hope that’s not the case. If you are a fan, then I know you’ll like the three Chicken Soup for the Soul books featuring three of my stories.

I will be signing copies  of the books at the Opelika Observer on March 21 between 11:00 and 1:00. The office is located in downtown Opelika at 225 S. 8th Street next to Gorham’s Barber Shop.

Since Aug 2013, I’ve had three different stories published in books from the Chicken Soup for the Soul series:

“A Lifetime of Stuttering” was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade: 101 Positive, Practical, and Powerful Stories about Making the Best of a Bad Situation

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“Embracing my Uniqueness” was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids: 101 Stories about Good Decisions, Self-Esteem, and Positive Thinking

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Below is a review from www.momsteam.com

Be proud of what makes you different. Jody Fuller is a stutterer. As a kid, he hated that – it made him stand out in school when he wanted to blend in. He stayed silent a lot in class, fearful classmates would tease him about his stuttering. Then in eighth grade he realized being different from everyone else was a good thing! “I finally embraced that difference and ran with it,” Jody writes. “I always volunteered to read and even used oral presentations as an opportunity to showcase my comedic talents… I was in control and would not allow the anxiety or insecurity to control my feelings, attitude, or behavior.” Jody went on to become a speaker, comedian, writer, and soldier. “It’s never easy being a kid. It’s especially tough when you’re different, but it doesn’t have to be,” he writes. “The time to embrace your uniqueness is now.”

“Miracles in Uniform” was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen: 101 Inspirational Stories about Hope, Answered Prayers, and Divine Intervention

Here is the first page....I'm such a tease.

Here is the first page….I’m such a tease.

I really hope to see you there. The books are $15 but that includes a signature, a bookmark, and a hug. If you can’t make it, contact me for information on how you can get your hands on an autographed book…and bookmark.

I’ll have DVD’s available, too, for only $10.

If you have any questions, please email me at jody@jodyfuller.com.

All my best,

Jody