Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wow, rough week...

This week seems to be lasting an eternity. I don't mind hard work, or long hours, but this week is more difficult than most.

My typical day starts with the alarm at 6:15am. I get Josh, Jonah, and Ethan up and ready for school (including making breakfast and lunches). Getting three boys ready for school is like herding cats... We leave at 7:40am and I drop them off at school. I then swing by Nemo's and grab a drink (usually a vanilla latte with a small squirt of mocha, or a vanilla ameribreve). I get to Ft Carson at approximately 8:30am. I work there as a Project Engineer for RK Mechanical until roughly 5:00pm. I leave and typically go home. That gives me a little while to talk with Tracy and play with the kids (they always want to wrestle or spar). I leave at 6:50 and go to Intel where I complete the water chemistry labwork. It includes obtaining approximately 20 samples of different water systems throughout the site, and then going to the lab and doing mad scientist stuff. I leave Intel at 3:00am and go home. This week has been especially tough because Robert has been sick. I have gone to Nemo's after Ft Carson and closed the store (cleaning, counting out the cash drawer, doing transfers of financials from POS to accounting software, etc). I then have to go straight to Intel from there... I can get through the weeks without really being tired, but I have to admit I'm hurting a little tonight...

The water pump went out on the Jeep several weeks ago. I was able to get to the shop, so I left it there and had Intellitec take a look at it. They determined that it needed a new water pump, thermostat, upper and lower radiator hoses, and a new overflow resevoir. I have been driving my truck (69 Chevy) instead. I needed to get to an auto parts store and buy the parts, and Intellitec was going to perform the work for free (they are an automotive technical college in the same center as us). Well, I got to Intel a couple of nights ago and noticed that "burnt antifreeze" smell. I took a look, and believe it or not, the water pump was going out on the truck! It was steaming and leaking, but had not completely bit the dust just yet. I completed my water testing scope and went home at midnight, instead of at 3:00am, not knowing if I would make it home or not. I ended up making it there. I called in sick at RK Mechanical yesterday (not untrue... I had a touch of a stomach bug that has been going around, which Josh had last weekend in full force). I arranged for our neighbor to take the kids to school, and then I walked to Enterprise (about 3 miles away) and rented a car. I then went to the shop and took the Jeep to the closest repair shop I could find, which was only a block away. I then went back to the shop and worked for awhile, then ran to Sam's club, and completed some other errands that we had been putting off for awhile. I then went back to the shop and worked Robert's closing shift, then went to Intel last night. The shop finished the Jeep today, and I picked it up, then walked about three miles from Enterprise back to Nemo's (with Josh... he wanted to go with me), then worked the closing shift, and now I'm on my final night at Intel for the week. It is nice to have cars that I paid cash for, but it can wreak havoc on your schedule when things break... Oh well...

I have not taken many photos in 2008 due to the complete lack of any free time whatsoever. Our weekends have been nearly as busy as the weekdays lately. I took a quick shot of the cafe the other day, and I was going to post it here. This computer will not recongnize my CF card reader for some reason, so posting the photo will have to wait. But in the meantime, I'd like to post a link to one of the most visionary and creative photographers I've ever seen. His name is David Nitsche and he uses very simple imagery, with exceptional lighting to convey his ideas. He tries to convey emotions, world problems, and addiction issues with props and lighting techniques. Here is one of his anti-drug images:
(click on the image to see a larger version)

Please take a look at his site at:

Copy and paste this link:

It will be worth the several minutes you might spend there...

OK, gotta run and get some stuff done.
Remember to hang tough, keep your heads up, and drink Nemo's coffee!

P.S. I forgot to mention that there were additional headlines on the Drudge Report today about the demise of Starbucks. More corporate decline as a direct result of Nemo's Coffee shop opening, as I have posted and mentioned before! (Honestly, Starbucks will be fine, and I think they are a great company. I just like to pretend that their recent challenges are due to competing with us!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Just a couple of quick things...

I have no time to be blogging right now, but wanted to say a couple of quick things...

1. Today's sales were well over $700, which is our first day in 2008 over the 700 mark. It is nice to see sales levels returning to pre-holiday numbers!

2. We received our first offer today from someone that wants to buy Nemo's Coffee! Of course, it is not for sale, but it is nice to see that others see the value and potential in what we have created!

3. The building owner notified us yesterday that they are going to proceed with the building remodel. Interesting... It will help to increase our sales if the building looks new and fresh, instead of like a 45 year old, "very tired looking" strip mall.

Gotta run,

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One additional thing about employees…

Oh yeah…
One additional thing about employees…

If one of your employees catches the flu, they will absolutely come to work, hang around being miserable for an hour or so, and then say they need to go home because they have the flu. Approximately 50% of your staff will then pass the flu around for a week or two.

If one of your employees happens to catch a minor cold, they will call in sick to avoid giving anyone else their cold.

For some reason, they prefer to share the flu, ebola, yellow fever, intestinal parasites, and everything else that will cause the most difficulty with your schedule.

The thing about employees…

Well, we are nine months into this business effort, and we have learned a couple of things about employees. If you are thinking of starting a business, or have one, our opinions might help…
1. No employee that you hire will ever be as passionate about your business’ success as you are. You can interview a number of people and hire well, but face it, they are not the owners!
2. Even the best employees will typically have other priorities in their lives. They may have a second job, they may be going to school, or they may have children. Whatever else is going on in their lives, you can pretty much bet that your store is not their biggest concern.
3. Even good employees with strong work ethics will not look for ways to perform above and beyond how you have trained them. If you train them well, they will perform well. You cannot expect that they will go looking for additional tasks and responsibilities if you have not put it into writing as an expectation. Owners do that, but employees do not. If you find that you have hired an employee that exhibits owner-like qualities with regard to motivation and performance, pay them well and try to keep them! Basically, remember this: Their goal is to make a few dollars. Your goals are to have friendly, interactive, honest, hard-working, self-motivated, amazing individuals who will do everything and more than you want them to, correctly and quickly every single time without any input from you.
4. So, how do you get the most out of your employees? Here are a few things we have learned.
a. If you find that a new-hire appears to perform in a mediocre way, do not think that they will get better over time. We hire everyone on a 90 day probationary basis. They know that we will evaluate their performance and that we may or may not keep them after the 90 day probationary period (or sooner if things do not look like a good fit). We made the mistake of keeping some average to below-average employees because we had spent time training them. Believe us… if someone is not average or better, cut your losses and move on. Find someone else.
b. Company policies are only respected if you enforce them. Just because it is written down and given to them does not mean that they will adhere to it, or even acknowledge that it exists. We had a no personal internet use policy. It seemed that nearly every employee would get on the internet at the point of sale computer at some point during their shift. If you reminded them of the policy, they would reply with “I’m just checking email” or “It is slow and I don’t have anything else to do.” If you allow that to happen even one time, then your REAL company policy is that internet use is OK. We eventually crashed a point of sale computer because someone downloaded internet gaming software and installed it. I had to replace the computer in order to get our point of sale up and running again. Guess what?? …you cannot sell things without a cash register! As a result, we had a company meeting and clearly told all of our employees that personal internet use is absolutely not allowed, and that it will be a zero tolerance issue resulting in their immediate termination. There, that fixed everything, right? Well, it only took a day or two before I caught an employee on MySpace. He had gathered other employees to show them his profile. So, we not only lost the productivity of one employee, but he had two others gathered around as well. I told him to close the Internet Explorer window and reminded him of our zero tolerance policy we had just reviewed several days before. So I was in a situation where I had to fire someone on the spot, but I started considering impact on the schedule, how would we cover the gaps, how long would it take to hire someone else, what about the lost training time and proficiency this employee had developed over six months… The concerns/thoughts went on and on. I pulled him aside, told him he would absolutely not receive any other chances beyond this one, and told him to go back to work and never use the internet at work again. My actions effectively told him and all of our other employees that our REAL store policy is that we do not have a zero tolerance policy, and that we really don’t have ANY store policies. My concern for impact to the store by losing an employee effectively told everyone that it is just a big free for all… DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE IN YOUR STORE! Not long afterward, we found some personal internet material printed on the store laser printer, but the culprit forgot to take his prints! It turned out to be the same person, and we terminated him at that time. Our lessons learned… If you have a store policy (and you will have many), they must be enforced the first time and every time. If your schedule is completely screwed up for awhile, just deal with it. That is better than having every employee think they can do whatever they want.
c. Don’t over pay people to begin with. We wanted to attract and keep quality individuals. We decided that higher pay rates would help accomplish this more than anything else. Minimum wage is $6.85 per hour. We started people with no coffee shop experience at $7.50 to $8.50 an hour. People with coffee house experience got $8.50 to $9.50 an hour. There, now we have a great staff, and they will all appreciate their pay rates and do a great job for us in return, right? Oh yeah, and we will never have any turnover, correct? WRONG… When you work with people over years and years, you get to the point where you can interview and hire pretty well. Does that mean everyone will be a great hire? No. Will everyone perform up to the expectations and potential they exhibited through their interview and past experience on their resume? No. We ended up paying people way more than they were worth. Our new strategy is to bring people on in the $6.85 to $7.50 range and test them out. If they turn out to be great employees, you can always give them a raise. It they turn out to be average performers, you will regret paying them more than they are worth, and lowering their pay is not really an option. If they are sub-par, get rid of them as soon as possible. Don’t try to “fix” a sub-par employee. Additional training and time on the job will not improve their character or their work ethic.
d. Expectations, expectations, expectations… First of all, don’t expect employees to read your mind. The level of effort that you put in as a business owner will not be replicated by your employees. Even the good ones just don’t have the same investment in the business that you have. That doesn’t mean they are not good employees, it just means that they are not owners. OK, so we should give our employees verbal direction, and that will fix everything, right? No. You can lay out your expectations verbally, and you will be lucky if 5% of it sticks. Even the best employees will not remember and implement your verbal instructions. I have found that detailed duty rosters work pretty well. We have an opening duty roster, a mid-day duty roster, and a closing duty roster. At first, we tried making the lists of responsibilities and tasks and just posting them. OK, now the shop will run at the utmost efficiency, with the highest possible employee productivity now, right? Absolutely not. We found that we had to constantly refer our employees to the duty rosters to keep them busy. It is amazing how many people would be willing to spend hours on end just standing at the cash register and do nothing except trade money with people. If there is a lull in customers, they are mostly willing to politely stand there and wait for the next one, no matter how long it might be. Wow, that is true dedication to customer service, isn’t it? We found that reminding certain employees 20 or 30 times a day to do something productive by reviewing the duty rosters gets frustrating after, oh, maybe a few minutes… So, the best way to utilize a duty roster is to have people initial for completed tasks, and to verify that the tasks have been completed by inspecting the results. The duty rosters are like company policies. If you do not actively enforce them, then they cease to exist in the eyes of most employees.
e. Don’t promise employees a specific number of scheduled hours. If you have a gap in your schedule that needs filled, and it will take 24 hours per week to fill that gap, don’t tell the new employee that those 24 hours are theirs. Remember, they are in a probationary period! Hire them and schedule them for the 24 hours, but if their performance is not good enough, cut the hours back and fill them with someone else. Even if you have a good employee who performs well and is filling 36 hours a week in your schedule, do not assume that things will always remain the same. They may decide to go back to school and cut their availability. If they are truly a quality employee, you can expect your customers to try to recruit them. If something enticing pops up, you can bet that they will go do it. You may lose them, or they may just want to cut their hours. We award hours on the schedule based upon performance. Perform well = lots of hours. Perform poorly, and we cut hours until they decide to go and find somewhere else to work.
Well, I’m sure I could spill more of my thoughts on employees into this blog, but I need to get some other things done. One last thing, though… The above issues do not apply to everyone. You will find some great people, and they will be a joy to work with. You will also find some people who interview well, and turn out to be the bane of your existence! If you have a bad hire, don’t get concerned about it. Let them go, or cut their hours until they quit (that would be the non-confrontational way). Also, great employees will sometimes fail you, and crummy employees will sometimes make you proud. If you expect a staff to perform wonderfully, with little or no input, you will have many headaches. You have to realize that you must manage your staff, daily, sometimes hourly. Get used to it, or you will be miserable.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Getting ready for taxes...

Well, it is time to start pulling together documents for our accountant. This is going to be quite a job...

Let me say this... if you are thinking of starting a business, or have recently, go take a book keeping class at a local college. You don't have to get an accounting degree, but learn the basics of business administration. We didn't do that, but we use Quickbooks Pro and Quickbooks Point of Sale. There are some things we did not know how to do with regard to book keeping, and we have put it off. What I intended to be a month or two delay has turned into nine month delay of learning some basics. I have taught myself to do quarterly reporting for city and state sales tax, use tax, state and federal withholding, unemployment insurance taxes, etc as well as to process payroll, among other things. We have done well with the things we needed to learn for day to day operations, but I have this nagging list of questions written down that I need to learn about Quickbooks, and book keeping in general. Now that 2007 is over, I need to schedule some time with our accountant's assistant and learn a few things. I will then have to go back and complete the book keeping tasks for nine months worth of data. Time goes by much faster than it seems... Learn what you need to know now so it is not such a big job to get caught up later...

I typically ignore all the celebrity garbage in the news. For some reason, the media has decided that the misbehaviour of celebrities is more important than telling us about the good things going on in Iraq (if you have family members or friends in the military, you know that many of them feel good things are happening and that it is a worthy cause). Hearing that Heath Ledger died this week was a very sad thing for me. I usually could care less, but I think he was an amazing young talent and it makes me sad to know that he is gone. It sounds as though he had issues with addiction, resulting in issues with his relationship, as well as problems sleeping. Who knows what caused his life to head in the wrong direction, but I feel the loss of many great future movies that will not happen now. I know that sounds petty compared to the loss of his life and how it will affect his daughter, his ex, his parents and sister, etc... If you have never seen the movie 'The Four Feathers' go find a copy and watch it. I would be surprised if it does not make your list of favorites... Even as silly as 'A Knight's Tale' is, Tracy and I have watched it over and over again with Josh, Jonah, and Ethan. It is a fun story that our whole family can watch together and enjoy. So many young actors are about good looks and crazy behaviour, not about true acting talent. He had a gift for acting, and it is sad to see him gone. My prayers go out to his family, especially for his daughter.

Tracy and I regularly have conversations with the boys about good choices, bad choices, consequences, choosing friends, peer pressure, etc. We don't yet know if he died from an overdose, but we will be talking with the kids about it and using his tragic end as a way to teach our children about good choices in life. We won't be able to make choices for our kids, but we can send them into adulthood with the knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil, rewards and consequences, etc... If you haven't had a conversation with your kids about those types of things, you might want to give it a shot.


Nemo’s Update…

Well, it has been awhile since I last posted. Our lives are very hectic right now, and that makes it tough to do anything beyond the necessities… We worked 100 hour work weeks when I was in the nuclear field on submarines in the Navy. That was spread out over all seven days in the week, with no additional family responsibilities. I thought I was busy then, but I see now that it was much easier than what I am doing now. Everything is going well, though, and I have a couple of months left… We can do it!

Tracy has been a trooper, running the shop by herself. I think it has been more challenging than managing a Starbucks store, but she is doing great. Right now, she is working on staffing the store. We had to replace a couple of people, while cutting back on labor to match our current revenue levels. I’m not putting too much stock in January numbers, due to the fact that January is typically slow in retail business. People are worn out after the holidays, and many have New Year’s resolutions that they are trying to maintain. Everyone is back in force by February, though, buying lattes and pastries!

Sales are bouncing back from the slow holiday times, but we have not quite gotten back to the break even point. We got our 5000 fliers and they came out amazing. We are starting to distribute those…
Tracy is working on a plan to provide standing orders of product to both Intellitec campuses (Automotive college in our center, as well as their IT/AutoCad/HVAC campus across the street, and their corporate headquarters across the street).

As far as milestones go, we went over $100,000 in total sales a couple of weeks ago! I need to take a look at total customer counts, but I am guessing it is in the 25,000 range.

Gotta run…
Take care,

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Unlocked Memories...

I’ve been reading a book called “Heroes Among Us” and it consists of first person accounts of the actions of Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and Silver Star Medal winners in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Some of these stories are amazing, and it makes me wonder what motivates them to engage in what seems impossible, only to pull it off against all odds. One thing I find similar in most of the accounts is that the soldiers involved accepted the fact that they were going to die, and they were able to continue against insurmountable odds because they made that decision. If they tried to figure out how to execute their missions, and stay alive, they probably would never even make the attempt. Staying alive would seem impossible, and having that point as part of their decision making criteria would render them ineffective and unable to go on. Logic and common sense would dictate self-preservation instead.

Reading their accounts brings back vivid memories of some of my experiences as a US Navy Diver, when I served on submarines from 1983 to 1995. I was a Reactor Operator and Electronics Technician in the nuclear field, but most of my experiences that have helped define who I am today came through my training and missions as a US Navy Diver. To be honest, I should not be alive today. I can think of two occasions where death seemed imminent, and should have claimed me. I can think of many more occasions when I was in life threatening situations. I also was in a situation where I saved the lives of several other people, who would have died without my involvement. Both experiences, facing death and saving another’s life, help to define who you are as a person. Those experiences add a dimension to your character that you probably would never have without going through those experiences. You gain a perspective that is not available in any other way.

I am in no way trying to compare my experiences with those of soldiers in a combat situation. The things I did during the Cold War were dangerous, risky, and life threatening at times, but I was never in a combat situation. My experiences related more to extreme sports than they would compare to combat. The things I did were no different than some of the high-adrenaline extreme sports that people choose to do. Going into a combat situation, with a kill or be killed mentality, is something I can’t pretend to understand. I can only imagine that adds a whole new level of stress to the situation that is beyond most people’s ability to understand. I was only in difficult situations. My enemies were the elements of my surroundings, and my own limitations of strength and will power. Imagine being in extreme situations with other people also trying to kill you…

I have considered writing about some of my military experiences for years, but I just never have. My life threatening experiences occurred in the late 1980’s, so we are talking 20 years ago. Wow, where does the time go? I only occasionally think about those experiences, and over time, the details seem to have faded. In recent years, I would think about those experiences in general terms only. While reading through some of the accounts of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, my own high-stress, death-defying memories came flooding back into my mind. The crisp details have somehow been allowed to surface, coming back to me in full force. Reading about these high-stress, impossible situations has somehow unlocked the feelings, the tastes, sights, sounds and smells that were involved in my experiences. I remember the smell and taste of the salt water in the Arctic Circle, I remember the feeling of sliding down the smooth metal surface of the submarine, and hitting the water twelve to fifteen feet below. I remember the incredible strain of climbing the Jacob’s ladder, supporting my weight and 150 lbs of gear using only my fingers. The 2 inch square wooden slats that slide into the canvas sleeves of the Jacob’s ladder are all I had for a hand holds. You are not able to wrap your fingers around the slat and grip it like a bar. Imagine a 280 lb wooden door that you have to lift straight up vertically. Your fingers have to grasp the door like a clamp, squeezing down on the surface of the door, instead of wrapping around and lifting. That is what it is like to climb a Jacob’s ladder fully loaded with dive gear. I remember the non-skid surface of the submarine digging into my knees and lower legs, and feeling the blood trickle down. When you are in difficult situations, your brain seems to operate faster than normal. Your perception is that everything going on around you seems to slow down. You notice absolutely everything in slow motion, and your brain records all of it with a clarity that you do not normally experience. Over twenty years, all of those high stress induced memories have gone dormant. Reading about other people being in those situations has somehow brought my memories to life again. I can close my eyes and feel the pain, smell the salty air, hear the churn of the main engines below me, feel the rumbling vibrations through the hull of the submarine, I can hear the screams of the topside crew, of the people who fell into the 29 degree water with no exposure gear… all of it, just like I am still there. I can remember the individual bulging veins on the Captain’s forehead and neck due to his stress of having multiple unprotected men overboard in the Arctic Circle, with 20 foot white caps hitting us. Those people were going to die within fifteen to twenty minutes without help. The currents were doing their best to carry them away from the ship, which would have meant certain death for them. I remember, from another situation off the coast of Sardinia, returning to consciousness 135 feet under water, with my face mask full of water and having no idea where I was, how I got there, or how I was going to get to the surface. I remember being in the harbor in Naples, Italy, furiously working to free 4” in diameter ropes that were fouling our propeller and SPM… with a sea-going tugboat propeller spinning six to eight feet above my head, trying to keep us from running aground. I remember how white my knuckles were due to my tight grip on the SPM housing to keep from being sucked into that enormous propeller. The turbulence it created was massive… I could feel the vibrations travel through the water, and just continue through my body. I know what it feels like to be a tomato about to enter a food processor… I remember with stunning clarity of looking over my right shoulder and seeing the mouth of an eight foot long Blue Shark coming right at me, then hitting me and pushing me through the water off the coast of Andros Island. I recall the subtle differences in shades of color of his skin around his mouth and the color of his teeth…

Wow, my mind is churning over all the details that are flooding back… I’m going to have to spend some time and organize my thoughts and write about these events in a way that makes sense. Stay tuned and I’ll sort out all of these different events and write about them in detail…

Apparently, my coffee shop blog is turning into my coffee shop and everything else in my life blog! LOL

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

OK, enough Patriotism for now. How about some Nemo's Coffee stuff?

I've been buried with working two jobs and have not spent very much time at the shop. That may explain why my posts have not been very regular...

We expected the Holiday season to be slow, and boy did it ever live up to (or down to) those expectations. New Year's week had approximately $1300 in sales, down from an average $3000 in sales before the Holidays hit. Numbers like that could really get under your skin if you didn't expect it...

We had to let one of our employees go for repeatedly violating our internet usage policy. We have had one Point of Sale computer crash due to a virus because of personal internet use (against store policy). After replacing the computer, we had a staff meeting and trained all of our employees that unauthorized internet use will result in immediate termination. We can not afford to have our Point of Sale go down, and it is also a productivity issue.

After several additional verbal warnings, we finally had to let someone go due to personal internet use on the Point of Sale computer. As a result, I am picking up some extra closing shifts at the shop, on top of the Ft Carson Project Engineer work and the Intel Water Chemistry Control Scope.

I was very encouraged to see our sales at nearly $700 today! I am very much looking forward to getting back to our pre-Holiday averages. Tracy is working on new schedules with the goal to limit labor $$, but still provide excellent customer service. Our Assistant Manager has taken another full time job (as an events coordinator manager) and is going to go back to part time with us. Tracy recently hired Sarah and Megan, and they are currently being trained.
With our new labor scenario, our break even budget requires daily sales of $590, instead of up in the $700 range. I believe we will achieve that break even point pretty quickly, bouncing back from the Holiday crash.

I completed work on a tri-fold, double sided brochure in full color that includes a full drink and food menus, as well as general information about Nemo's. I will save them as PDF's and upload them here the next time I am home for more than a few minutes. Tracy and I planned to have 500 copies printed, but I ordered 5000 instead. 500 would have cost just under $200, and 5000 copies cost $380. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. We are going to begin distribution of those brochures to surrounding buildings as soon as we get them. I am ready to start marketing and growing our daily regulars...

My Jeep overheated the other day on the way to work. I had the pleasure of causing a major traffic backup on Union Blvd right next to the Olympic Training Center during rush hour. It looks like it needs a new water pump and thermostat, as well as a new overflow reservoir. Since we share a center with Intellitec's automotive campus, we talked to them about using it as a project car for their instruction (ie, gets worked on for cost of parts only, no labor). They just started a new semester, so they can't look at it for a couple of weeks. That means I'm driving "Sanford" to work instead! I have a '69 Chevy pickup that I love, but my friends nicknamed it the Sanford and Son pickup when I worked for a consulting group. I was remodeling a rental house at the time, so my truck always seemed to be full of remodeling debris. Pick on me all you want... I love old trucks!

Well, I need to get started on my water testing here at Intel. It is going to take me until 1:30am. That means I only get to sleep from 2:00am to 6:00am tonight.
Gotta run...

Alliegence... Follow Up

Google any of the following:

Brad Kasal - Navy Cross
Anthony Pryor - Silver Star
Timothy Nein - Distinguished Service Cross
James Coffman - Distinguished Service Cross
Eric Stebner - Silver Star
Nathan Self - Silver Star
Christopher Russell - Silver Star
Mark Mitchell - Distinguished Service Cross
Daniel Hibner - Silver Star
David Hibner - Silver Star
Thomas Parks III - Silver Star
Brian Chontosh - Navy Cross
Justin Lehew - Navy Cross
Luis Fonseca Jr - Navy Cross
Paul Smith - Medal of Honor
Dennis Caylor - Silver Star
Jeff Adamec - Silver Star
Timothy Tardif - Silver Star
Joseph Perez - Navy Cross
Patrick Quinn - Silver Star
Scott Montoya - Navy Cross
Thomas Adametz - Silver Star
Leandro Baptista - Silver Star
Neil Prakash - Silver Star
Jeremy Church - Silver Star
Jason Dunham - Medal of Honor
Raymond Bittinger - Silver Star
William Thomas Payne - Silver Star
Josh Ryan Szott - Silver Star

Sunday, January 6, 2008


At the last event I attended where the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, I was a little dismayed to see how many people were not standing up, not placing their hand over their heart, and many who were not listening or having a side conversation. These are just traditions meant to pay respect, but if our culture is losing the simple traditions, then how much so is our culture actually losing the concept of Allegiance?

In Medieval times, a pledge of allegiance was meant to the death, and many paid with their lives in order to maintain their allegiance to a cause, a country, or to a King or other leader. I was thinking about how many people don’t concern themselves with our Pledge of Allegiance, or worse, those who mumble their way through it and don’t really think about what it means.

I started thinking about what I would be willing to give my life for… It is a fairly short list, but this is what I came up with:
My family
My country
To protect/save others in need

If you are wondering if I just finished watching the Three Musketeers or King Arthur, the answer is no. It just seems like the older I get and the more I experience and learn, my sense of what is important in this life migrates back to the substance of character. When we go to the grave, all we take with us are our accomplishments in life, and who we were as a person.

If you have been reading my blog all along, then you know that Tracy and I are Christians. We have faith that our actions in life have repercussions that last an eternity. The time we spend in this life may seem long, but is actually just a passing moment in the grand scheme of things. I believe we will all kneel one day and acknowledge Jesus as Lord (be it for Him or against Him). We will have to account for our lives and I’d like my account to be one of substance, not one consisting of the frivolous pursuit of the insignificant. That leads me to believe that development of character is more important than striving for a new car, a bigger and better house, or being consumed by material pursuits. There is nothing wrong with those things if they fall in the right order of priorities, but they should not cost you your integrity, your compassion and generosity, or the belief in something larger than yourself.

You may be wondering what in the world this has to do with a coffee shop blog. Well, the answer is ‘absolutely nothing’. I just wanted to take a minute and thank our troops all around the world who have pledged their allegiance to our great country, and bigger than that, I wanted to publicly announce my allegiance to Jesus. I know some of you who read this blog are Christians, and some of you are not. Either way, I would encourage you to do some soul searching, think about what is most important to you, and determine where your allegiances lie. You may choose to change some of your priorities based on those thoughts…

The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.