Tim's December 2015 Checkpoints Class News Article

HELLO ’68!! Season’s Greetings! As politicos in the nation’s capital deal with “top priority” issues like climate change, please take a few moments during the upcoming holiday season to remember those in harm’s way as first responders on the home-front and to those defending our way-of-life thousands of miles away from the comforts we enjoy. May God bless them all!

                              “Kerry Killebrew Enjoying A Mountaintop View Along the Appalachian Trail.”

68ER DOES APPALACHIAN TRAIL (AT): Whilst some of you were rocking back on your Lazy Boys to watch an exhilarating show from one of the 569 channels offered by your local cable company, our classmate Kerry Killebrew was involved in a major “walk-about” from Georgia to Maine. As Kerry writes, “I was part of a group of 12 hikers (5 ladies & 7 men, average age 55) who participated in the 2015 AT Expedition. As a group, we completed four 60-mile prep hikes (three days each) on the AT over a period of two years just getting ready for the real thing and making sure we knew what we were getting into.

The AT is a 2,189 mile hike from Springer Mountain, GA to Katahdin Mountain, ME. We started in Georgia on 2 May 2015 and finished on 18 September at the top of Katahdin Mountain. That's 140 days or 4 1/2 months. The AT runs through 14 states (GA, NC, TN, VA, WV, MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA, VT, NH, & ME). Many asked why I did this. I hiked a lot as a scout before and during high school, but my real interest in hiking began in 2002 when I backpacked south to north through the Smoky Mountains with one of my sons and a friend from Knoxville, TN. I backpacked through the Smokies again in 2011 north to south and found out about Warren Doyle's 2015 AT Expedition. I applied and participated in the prep hikes in 2013 & 2014. As a runner for the past 40+ years, I was interested in the physical challenge and just enjoying being out in God's creation for an extended period of time. The challenge exceeded my expectations. . . .

The hike was supported by a van that carried most of our equipment (tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, and bins for food, clothes, and essential miscellaneous equipment). We just "day-hiked" each of the 140 days with a pack (15 pounds instead of 35-40 pounds) that had only what we needed for the day (lunch, water, jacket, rain gear, & emergency supplies). Basically, we hiked each day (average 17 miles) to the van where we camped for the night. We didn't stay in shelters along the trail because the van had to be at or near a place each night where the AT crossed a road. Communication through I-phones was better than expected because we could generally count on calling and sending text messages and pictures from mountain tops and when we stopped in towns for resupply. My biggest challenge was weight loss. I lost about 22 pounds in the first 6 weeks (~1/2 pound a day but didn't notice it at first). I had to start eating a lot of high calorie junk food (lots of snacks) to give me the 4000-6000 calories needed for the long hikes each day. Now that I'm back home, I still need to regain about 15 pounds to get back to normal weight. It was an awesome experience, in many aspects harder than expected, but with many great memories.” Kerry, thanks for sharing your story and some serious weight-loss tips.

                                    “Count the Helmets Author and His Bride” - Neal and Sharon Starkey

FORMER ’68 USAFA ALL AMERICAN FOOTBALL STAR BECOMES AUTHOR: As ‘68’s first class scribe, Neal Starkey knows something about reaching out and communicating with others. While creating a living legacy for himself as a student athlete in the 1960s, he was able to recognize leadership, team work, a positive culture, and commitment that transcends the fields of friendly strife. In Neal’s own words, "Count the Helmets is the completion of a thirty-year goal to write a highly accurate story about the people that made up the 1985 AFA Falcon football team, its coaches and players, their journey through an extraordinary 12-1 season, and how their shared experiences at the academy resulted in the development of leaders of character, in a culture of commitment, and a climate of respect, ready to serve their country.” (Scribe Note: The book’s featured photo shows the helmets of all 11 AFA team members involved in the tackling of a single opposing player.)

Again, from Neal, “the success of this book, however, will be measured by how well it helps potential cadets, from every possible culture and background, better understand the culture and values of the Air Force Academy, allowing them to make a better, more informed choice about whether the AFA is the right place for them—or not."

Beyond his book, Neal is reaching out to Superintendent, Lt Gen Michelle Johnson to offer some ideas from the graduate community that she can use to help fix problems at USAFA that we’ve all seen over the past decade or so… maybe longer. Neal writes, “I’m plagiarizing Warren Buffet’s recent very short-and-to-the-point answer to a young reporter’s question: ‘What is the secret to your success?’ His answer was simply… ‘Start earlier.’ My challenge to General Johnson will be to: (1) Recognize the huge difference in cultures and values that exist… now more than ever… between cadet candidates and any/all in-coming new classes; (2) Address that gap with more historically-connected Character-Leadership-Discipline-Commitment-Teamwork examples; (3) Deliver a much-improved message earlier in the decision cycle (as early as 9th Grade); and (4) Utilize generational-friendly technologies (versus just another glossy advertisement on the Web)… to deliver this challenge.” Neal, good luck in your discussions with the “Supe” and thank you for sharing your thoughts about recruiting new cadets for our alma mater.

                                        “Greg and Kathryn Paquin Thankful for Happier Days Ahead”

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS: More than a year ago, Greg Paquin was fighting for his life during a quadruple bypass operation. And, now in Greg’s words, “I seem to have gotten better!! I’m still loving retirement in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. After 7 years and 3,500 hours in C-130 B's, E's, and H's, I still can't get away from them. We are on one of the low-level routes for training flights out of Little Rock. It does leave me somewhat nostalgic, I must say.” We all join Kathryn in giving thanks for answers to prayers in Greg’s recovery.

THAT’S A WRAP: Best wishes to one and all for the blessings of this special season. Mind the flak; keep ‘em flying, and keep those cards, letters, e-mails, and photos coming in to Pat Russell and me. Ciao for now. Tim

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