Off the Dial

Catching up with the USO’s Jack Ahart

In November, our good friend Captain Jack Ahart took on a new assignment.  He's the retired Navy man who started the Charlotte USO office and quickly built it into a huge success.  Jack's in Dubai now, starting up USO Chapters in the Gulf region.
Before he left, he asked me to join the advisory board of the Charlotte USO.  We've got our first meeting tonight and I'm excited and honored to be part of this great group.
Jack agreed to stay in touch with us through my blog.  I sent him a few questions earlier this month (you'll notice a little bit of dated info), so here we go:
How did you spend Christmas?  The aircraft carrier Teddy Roosevelt was in port at Dubai and I had Christmas dinner with the Troops on board the carrier.  I was able to raise some money and with the Director of USO Dubai, we bought a number of WIIs and PlayStations, games for them, and some Ipods.  The ship then put the names of all of the enlisted personnel, E-6 and below, in a hopper and during the day names were drawn for the prizes.  The ship was at the pier where the USO Dubai is located and besides having some Carolina sailors on your show, there was a live band for the Troops, cell phones to call home, and computers to e-mail home.  It was a great day watching everyone having fun and enjoying the holidays.
How did our Troops spend their holiday time?  Those in Dubai were able to go golfing, to the Malls, and just sight see.  I called all 8 of the USOs in Southwest Asia to wish them a Merry Christmas and each of them had a turkey dinner for the Troops and a place for them to relax.  
Are you settled in yet?  I am still apartment looking and living in the hotel, but hope to get an answer on an apartment I like this week-end.  Once I am all moved in, I expect all of you to come visit.
What are you eating?  The food choices here are pretty global.  There are the local choices, which are not bad, plus Indian food, Pakistani food, and a number of American restaurants, such as TGI Fridays, KFC, McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Tony Romas.  I have had to try them all so that I will know where to take Al when he comes over.

What has surprised you so far in Dubai?  The first thing that jumps out is the amount of construction going on.  There are large cranes everywhere.  The second thing is hearing English and Arabic being spoken at the same time at meetings or while shopping.  Dubai is a very interesting city and I am enjoying myself here.  I also think that I will be able to accomplish a lot here for the Troops.

Are our Troops talking about the change coming in Washington?  What seems to be the feeling as the Obama administration comes in?  When I visited the Troops at the 3 USO Centers in Kuwait last month, the underlying concern was pulling out of Iraq before the country is truly democratic and capable of defending itself. Many of them that I talked to fear that all they have done and sacrificed would end up being in vain.  Having been in Viet Nam, I certainly understand their concerns.  As for the Troops feelings about the Obama administration, I really did not hear it mentioned much, the big concern was for the Iraqi people and being able to finish their mission.  Having served under 6 Commander-in-Chiefs, I can tell you that the military will serve whomever it is to the best of their ability regardless of their political leanings or possible philosophical differences.
Are you following the Panthers?  Will you be able to watch the game Saturday night?  I am definitely following the Panthers and was able to see their last game.  With the 9 hour time difference, a 1:00 game on the east coast is on at 10:00 p.m. here.  What time do they play on Saturday?  If it is an 8:00 game in Charlotte then kickoff here would be at 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning, and indeed, if I can find a place to watch it, I'll be there!!  The problem is that for religious reasons, the week-end here is Friday and Saturday, so I would end up watching it a 5:00 a.m. on my Monday morning,  oh well, it is the Panthers and well worth it.
Anything you'd like to add?  I just wish to thank you, Al, Charles, and Jim for all you do for the Troops.  I would also like to thank you for agreeing to be on the Charlotte USO's Board of Directors.  I know that you will be a great addition.  Please give your family my regards and tell everyone hi for me.



Thoughts on Jan 20th

Al asked me during the show today what stood out most to me during the inauguration.  I hadn't thought about it before he asked, and my answer sort of surprised me.  It was the way in which Obama seems to have inspired young people to get involved and re-engage in our political process. 

My mom has told me that she was very much inspired by Bobby Kennedy.  That when he was killed, she didn't vote for years.  I've heard other people in her generation talk about being inspired by the RFK or JFK.  I don't think my generation has had somebody like that.

I'm 37, so I guess that makes me Generation X.  Watching the crowds watching the inauguration yesterday it occurred to me that people my age didn't have a larger than life inspirational figure like either Kennedy or FDR or even Reagan when we came of age.  Our first presidential choice was between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.  Our first political experiences mostly had to do with scandals and petty party fights. 

You could argue politics has always been that way, but every once in a while a politician takes the stage, seems to rise above it all and asks citizens to do the same.  It makes a difference whether you're 17 when that happens or 37.  If you're younger, I think it sticks. 

We've talked about the election a lot with our 7-year-old daughter, Lea.  She's been interested and curious since she realized "a girl" was running last year.   She ultimately voted for John McCain in her school's Kid Vote election – she liked that he had more experience. 

We had a snow day here, so when I got home from work Slade had the kids in front of the TV.  That was terrific. I walked in right when Obama was starting his speech.  Lea came over and whispered in my ear, "Mommy, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream came true."  She sat down next to me and we listened to the new president.  Two minutes later, Benny had enough and that was that.  But I think Lea will remember this election and the promise of this moment. 

Thanks to the Charlotte Observer

I'm still responding to all of the wonderful emails and calls regarding the article that ran last week about my family's struggle with type 1 diabetes in the Charlotte Observer.  You can click here to read it.  This is a picture from the article.  I'm trying to check Benny's blood sugar while he's already digging into his snack.

BennycheckIt's always great to get more information about there about type 1 (juvenile) diabetes and I thought the writer, Beth Sussman, did a great job.  You never know how you're going to come across in these things.

I heard from lots of people living with type 1.  Armand, who's been using a pump for 20 years, Deann with a daughter diagnosed just this month and lots of other local families who share our ups and downs. 

We've been having better luck recently with Benny's inset – that's how the pump connects to his body (we call it his "button.").  He'd been pulling it out and fighting us on putting a new one back on.  After talking with some adults who wear a pump, we think he's been pulling it out because it gets itchy – sort of like an old band-aid can - so we've been trying to moisturize his skin a little bit more. 

Putting the button back on is getting better too.  We've finally been able to convince him that the lidocaine cream that dulls any pain won't hurt him.  I don't know why he started thinking that it would, but it's been a struggle.  Last couple of button changes have gone much, much better.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it continues that way.

If you'd like to learn more about diabetes or the great work of JDRF, check out their website here.  Thanks to all my friends, new and old, for reaching out.

Post Panthers (not a pity party)

It's no consolation, but all my New York friends are just as bummed about the Giants as I am about the Panthers.  It certainly felt like the entire city of Charlotte was hung over Sunday. 


The best part of Saturday's game happened at Bank of America Stadium half an hour before kickoff.  (This picture from Jeff Siner at the Charlotte Observer)  Jerry Richardson stepped onto the field and greeted players and coaches.  Slade and I watched him just envelope Steve Smith in a bear hug.  He greeted Coach Fox and Jake Delhomme, talking to and hugging his guys.  We could see him joking around with the Arizona players before he left the field.  I've never met Mr. Richardson, but you can't help but get emotional about his story.  All of Charlotte and the Carolinas is pulling for him.

Maybe the best thing to do is to stop thinking about the playoff game that might have been (the eagles! here!) and turn some attention to other great Charlotte events coming up.

Next up for us is Fight Night, January 22nd. This is a great, high end event that benefits children's charities throughout Mecklenburg County.   Al & I will be there – we're even auctioning a table off on our website. 

Charlotte Restaurant Week starts up on the 24th.  This is the second Queens Feast where high end restaurants set up a great menu for $30 per person.  A bunch of the chefs are featured in my book, so I'm going to have some fun with them.  We're going to tape a few cooking segments this week – they'll be posted on the WBT website during CRW.  Hopefully, the chefs won't ask me to cook with them.

Also on the 24th, The Charlotte Checkers have their annual Family Fun Day for JDRF.  We love bringing the kids to this.  The players and everyone involved is so great to the families.  Benny's not really around other children with diabetes very much so I love being able to show him how many other kids check their blood sugar and wear pumps.  It's pretty cool.

Finally, we'll end the month with one of the best award dinners you'll ever go to.  WBT's Hometown Hero Banquet.  Each week throughout the year we give an award to someone who makes a difference in our community.  Doesn't have to be someone who's saved a life (although it often is).  Can be what Al likes to call, "that secret favor-doer."  When you get all these folks in a room together, it's an amazing feeling.

Okay, so maybe all that doesn't really add up to a Super Bowl game for the Panthers. But better to get out and try to do some good than to dwell on Saturday night.  Boy, that was really a crummy game, though.  Only six months 'till training camp!