Winner Of The Losers

One man's life experiences and lessons

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Non-Band Members have Dotted the “i”

Several prominent individuals and couples have been honored by being allowed to dot the “i”. This is considered the greatest honor the band can give to any non-band person, and is an extremely special (and rare) event.  Script Ohio is scribed by 225 band members, but only one person can claim the honor of dotting the “i” in Ohio.  Now, it should be noted, the fourth or fifth year Sousaphone player selected to dot the “i” for that specific game must give up their spot in order for an honorary member to dot the “i”.

Honorary “i”-dotters with the OSU Marching Band:

OSU President (1956-72) Novice Fawcett and his wife, 1971 (which game unknown , if you know, email me)

Comedian Bob Hope, 21 Oct 1978, Ohio State vs Iowa, Won 31-7 (Bob grew up in Cleveland, Ohio)

Coach Woody Hayes,  29 Oct 1983, Ohio State vs Wisconsin, Won 45-27

Retired OSU Ticket Director Robert Ries, 14 Sep 1985, Ohio State vs Pittsburg, Won 10-7

World Heavyweight Champion James “Buster” Douglas, 29 Sep 1990, Loss Ohio State vs USC 26-35 (born and raised in Columbus, earlier in 1990, he knocked out Mike Tyson in Toyko, Japan)

OSU President Gordon Gee, his wife Constance, 16 Sep 1995, OSU vs Washington, Won 30-20

NOTE: Dotted the “i” with the OSU Alumni Band during quadruple Script Ohio


All thirteen seniors of the 2002-2003 National Championship Football team

NOTE: Dotted the “i” at the National Championship celebration on 19 Jan 2002 in Ohio Stadium

Golfer Jack Nicklaus, 28 Oct 2006, OSU vs Minnesota, Won 44-0 (widely considered the greatest golfer, Jack was born and raised in Columbus and is an OSU Alumni)

Senator John Glenn and his wife Annie, 5 Sep 2009, OSU vs Navy, Won 31-27 (retired USMC Colonel and astronaut who became the first American to orbit the Earth, born and raised in Ohio)

CEO of The Limited Brands Leslie Wexner, 3 Sep 2011, OSU vs Akron, Won 42-0 (born in Dayton, Ohio and OSU Alumni)

OSU Band Director (1973-2011) , Dr. Jon Woods, 19 Nov 2011, OSU vs Penn State, Loss 14-20

Ann Droste, wife of retired director and former OSUMB member Dr. Paul Droste OSU Retired band director (1970-83), year maybe 1982 (which game unknown, if you know, email me)

NOTE:  Some accounts say OSU Retired band directors (1970-83) Dr. Paul Droste and Jack Evans, their wives 1982 (anyone with definitive information, please share)

Composer for OSU Marching Band Richard “Dick” Heine (date unknown).  Mr. Heine arranged most of the Ohio State school songs (Buckeye Battle Cry, Fight The Team Across The Field, I Want To Go Back To Ohio State, Chimes & Carmen Ohio, Beautiful Ohio, Le Regiment, and others) and those arrangements are still in use by the band today.  Four decades with the OSU Marching Band, he started as a talented clarinetist.  But it is his association with the OSU Marching Band, culminating in the 1978 album “Hats Off To Heine”

Notable moments of Script Ohio

• 15 Oct 1932: The Michigan band forms the first known script “Ohio” during the Wolverines’ game at Ohio Stadium — a stationary “block” formation.

• 24 Oct 1936: Under the direction of Eugene Weigel, the Ohio State University marching band first performs Script Ohio at halftime of the Ohio State versus University of Indiana football game.  John Brungart, a trumpet player, dots the “i.”

• 23 Oct 1937: Script features a sousaphone “i” dotter for the first time — a tradition that remains.

• 24 Sep 1966: The first double Script is performed.

• 11 Sep 1971: The first triple Script is performed.

• 10 Sep 1977: The first quadruple Script is performed.

• 8 Sep 1979: Six years after women were admitted to the band, Jan Duga becomes the first woman to dot the “i.”

• 29 Oct 1983: Former OSU football coach Woody Hayes dots the “i.”

• 20 Sep 1986: Brungart, 70, returns to dot the “i” for Script’s 50th anniversary.

• 3 Sep 2011: The band performs its largest Script — a quad Script featuring 768 marchers (three-fourths of whom are band alumni).

• 29 Oct 2011: At halftime of the OSU game against Wisconsin, four members of the 1936 band — plus Weigel’s daughter — were honored as part of Script Ohio’s 75th Anniversary.


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The greatest tradition of Ohio State University is script Ohio, usually performed by the marching band during the football pre-game.  Script Ohio was selected as the #1 College Football Tradition.


Script Ohio was first performed by The Ohio State Marching Band on October 24, 1936 at the Ohio State versus University of Indiana football game (see photo of the actual formation). The Script Ohio is the most identifiable trademark associated with Ohio State Football and The Ohio State University Marching Band.  It was devised by band director Eugene J. Weigel, who based the looped “Ohio” script design on the marquee sign of the Loew’s Ohio Theatre in downtown Columbus.

At its first performance, the Script Ohio’s “i” was dotted by a trumpet player, with no special attention or honor being given to the movement. When the trumpet player, John Brungart (1933-36), dotted the first Script Ohio “i” October 24, 1936, the march from the top of the “o” to the top of the “i” was just another movement to complete a formation.  During a field rehearsal in the fall of 1937, Weigel had a spur-of-the-moment idea, and shouted to Glen R. Johnson, a sousaphone player, “Hey, you! Switch places with the trumpet player in the dot.” After several run-throughs with the exchanged positions, the script was ready to be performed.  At the game on October 23, 1937, the marching band, led by drum major Wesley Leas, performed with Script Ohio with Johnson dotting the “i”.  Johnson was in the band from 1937-40, and during all of those years he dotted the “i”.  From that time forward, the i-dot became the province of the big horns.

The script is an integrated series of evolutions and formations. The band first forms a triple Block O formation, then slowly unwinds to form the famous letters while playing Robert Planquette’s Le régiment de Sambre et Meuse.  The drum major leads the outside O into a peel-off movement around the curves of the script, every musician in continual motion. Slowly the three blocks unfold into a long singular line which loops around, creating the OSUMB’s trademark “Ohio”.

The familiar kick, turn, and bow by the sousaphone player at the top of the “i” was an innovation introduced by Johnson at a game in 1938. “(The turn) was an impulse reaction when drum major Myron McKelvey arrived three or four measures too soon at the top of the “i”,” Johnson explained, “so I did a big kick, a turn, and a deep bow to use up the music before Buckeye Battle Cry.  The crowd roared when this happened, and it became part of the show thereafter.”

Today, toward the end of the formation, drum major and the “i”-dotter high-five each other.  Then with 16 measures to go in the song, they strut to the top of the “i”.  When they arrive, the drum major points to the spot, and the “i”-dotter turns and bows deeply to both sides of the stadium.

Each time the formation drill is performed, a different fourth or fifth-year sousaphone player has the privilege of standing as the dot in the “i” of “Ohio.”  The first sousaphone player to have the honor of dotting the “i” was a fourth year student from Delaware, OH, William Coulter.  The dotting of the “i” was ranked the greatest college football tradition by Athlon Sports.  Since then, a sousaphone player has dotted the “i” over 800 times.

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Over the years, I have been involved in the planning and execution of over 100 large Boy Scout functions.  Nearly every event has a patch.  One of the big annual events was the Section Conclave for the Order of the Arrow (nearly 50 weekend conclaves a year across the country) .  As an adult, I twice was assigned to Section SR-3 (Blytheville AFB in Arkansas and Tinker AFB in Oklahoma).  This is a very large geographical section for the Order of the Arrow.  The annual event could bring 700 to 1,000 people together and it would be held at a Boy Scout Camp.

The Area 3 Director, a professional scouter at the time was Richard “Dick” Austin.  A seasoned professional who was responsible for the appointment of the Section Adviser and Section Staff Adviser (professional scouter) to advise the Section Chief (an elected youth).  In an unusual move, Dick chose to hold the Section Staff Adviser himself.  As a youth he was a Lodge Chief and Vigil Honor.


During one of the conclave planning meetings, the youth selected the patch design and theme for the conclave.  Dick was new to the section, as was I having just moved to Oklahoma.  Ironically, 10 years earlier, I was in the same section but living in Arkansas.  Dick consulted the current Section Adviser, Jim Rhoades and me on how many patches to order.


Jim stated with authority and we thought inside knowledge, “We need to order at least 2,000 patches, because we run out every year.”  Dick looked at me and responded, “OK” and I could only concur with a “sounds good”.   Well we ordered those 2,000 patches and ended up with approximately 900 patches UNSOLD! 





Trust but verify.

Be careful, some individuals will speak with such authority and then we follow “blindly” without attempting to verify the answer.  Trust but verify.


Since Dick and I were new to the Section, we relied on Jim’s judgement.  We assumed wrongly that he was speaking from direct knowledge of past orders and sales.  Now Dick and I have had many great laughs about that order of patches over the years.  I even framed one of those patches and gave it to Dick before I went to Europe.

——————————- —————————————————————————————————


Make the experts attend the same meeting.

When you have two or more experts (Engineer, Doctor, Accountant, Attorney, etc), you need to get them in the same room at the same time to review the facts and course of actions.  Then make a decision.


My Dad suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for nearly eight years.  Two years after my Dad became sick, my parents used two attorneys to do estate planning and the attorneys recommendation my parents sell all of their stocks and bonds and put them into Certificates of Deposit and Trust.  My parents invited all three kids to attend the meeting with the attorneys, but the accountant was not available on Saturday.  Then I went back to Washington DC.  Later that week my Dad had gone to his accountant, who with good intentions recommended NOT to sell ALL because of the pending tax ramifications for that year.


The attorneys were correct.  The accountant was correct.  However, 6 years later, the real implication of that split decision would be seen.  The accountant saved $10 to $20,000 in taxes.  However, a minimum of $130,000 was lost to the estate based on a look back period and NOT following the advice of the attorneys.


Countless times when I was in the military, I would make sure the right people and the right information were together in the same room.  When this cannot be done, then cross-check information between them.


It is OK if the experts do NOT agree, you need to see the short-term and long-term impacts, risk and make a decision. 



Dick and I become extremely close friends during my time as Section Adviser and continued after I moved with the USAF.  We have been to each other homes many times.  We traveled to many Scouting events in Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  He came to my promotion to Lt Col.  Dick and his wife Judy even come to visit us in Belgium when I was serving my last assignment with NATO.

Dick will go down for me as being the Greatest Professional Scouter I ever met.  He had the most amazing talent to be able to interact with the local parent of scout leader of modest means or a multi-millionaire.  One is his nicknames I gave him on the side was “Smiling Dick” because he could tell you bad news and his delivery would be so pleasant and with a big smile that it could not be so bad.  While in his 60’s he always slept in his own tent.  Even if there was a cabin or other facilities made available, Dick would pitch his one-man tent and sleep on the ground away from the activities.  He and his wife throughout the years would backpack together in the Pecos Mountains and Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.  Dick was just an amazing person and he was one of my true friends I could rely on to either just listen or give me sound advice.


Dick died 21 Oct 2012 at age 70.  Farewell my friend!




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admin On October - 1 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Coshocton, Ohio – Jun 1983.  Throughout the night, I have been the guide for my close friend Greg.  We were at the Muskingum Valley Scout Reservation, deep in an obscure area of our council’s Boy Scout camp near Coshocton, Ohio.  We loved this camp and most of us have spent over a hundred days and nights here.  Greg has just finished his Vigil to become designed “Vigil Honor” in the Order of the Arrow.  It is early dawn at the final ceremony.  In the dew covered meadow under a 50 foot cliff, an Indian Chief emerges and meets Greg.  Circled waiting for Greg are about 12 Vigil Honor members to welcome him to a select few, honored for their unselfish service to others.  At the end of the ceremony, the Native Indian (Delaware) name selected for Greg is revealed to him for the first time.  From this time forward you should be known as “Mamchachwelendan”, meaning “He Who Endures Pain”.  This was the 25th of June, 1983.


Tom Durbin, Greg Miller, Ed LaBenne, and Pat Durbin the night Greg’s was presented his Eagle Scout on 26 Apr 1985.


Columbus, Ohio – 1982.  Just the year before, I was in the waiting room of Riverside Hospital in Columbus.  Tom Durbin and I were in the waiting room with Greg’s Mom and older brother.  Greg was in the recovery room after surgery for cancer and the removal of a large brain tumor.  The first person to go visit him in the recovery room was his Mom.  I was actually surprised, when she came out, she asked Tom and me to go in next.  It was the first time I saw such a thing.  After he recovered, he spent months going through radiation treatments and lost all of his hair.  I remember being at his house and there was long strands of hair in the waste cans his rooms upstairs, 6 to 7 inches long, falling out from the roots.  The cancer finally went into submission.  Every six months Greg would go through tests to see if the cancer returned.  It was always a relief after negative results came back.  Nearly eight years went by and then the cancer came back with a vengeance.


Blytheville, Arkansas – Apr 1991.  It was a Sunday night and my Mom called me:  “They are praying for Greg at Mass.  He is very sick again.”  I called Greg, and asked him what is going on.  He confirmed he has cancer again and it did not look good.  I told him I wanted to come home to visit him, but I was scheduled to deploy to Diego Garcia and could not take leave.  Greg joked, that he would wait for me to come home and that he was a hard to kill.  We laugh and prayed on the phone.  I told him to wait for me as I was going to come see him when I returned home.



Diego Garcia, BIOT – 21 Apr- 7 Nov 1991.  During my deployment, I would attend Mass several times a week and on Friday night after Mass, we had a very nice prayer group of about 20 people.  Every Friday I would pray for Greg and I would pray specifically for him to live long enough for me to see him again.  After four months of praying for his life, I prayed for the first time that Greg would die.  For on this Friday night I had a feeling that Greg had suffered so much and his pain so great, that the Lord should take him home.  So out loud in front of the entire group, I prayed for God to take home Greg and end his suffering.


The next morning, I had a phone call.  It was extremely difficult to call in those days and Diego Garcia was so isolated.  To this day, I do not know how I got the call from my family.  It was notification that Greg had just died.  I was devastated and I cried like a baby.  I was full of guilt for just having prayed for him to die only a few hours earlier.  I wanted a few hours so that I could call Greg’s Mom.  I would have to use “Cable and Wireless”, which we called “Cable and Heartless” as it cost $4 per minute to call the United States.  I finally reached Mrs. Miller and we talked.  I started crying and I told her I am so sorry.  I told her I prayed for Greg to die last night.  She quickly took charge of the conversation and told me:  “It is OK Ed.  Greg was in such great pain.  He was under heavy medication and he was having so much difficulty, I prayed for him to die too. It is OK, you did the right thing.” 


I wrote several times to Greg during my deployment.  Mrs. Miller explained to me she asked Greg to write me back many times, but he was unable to write.   She told him she would transcribe the letter for him, he only needed to tell her.  Ironically, without her knowledge, Greg did in fact send me a letter (the letter is attached below).  Greg had typed the letter and mail it to my deployed location 30 days before he died.  I was happy to tell her, that Greg did send me a letter!



Mount Vernon, Ohio – Dec 1991.   When I finally returned to my home town.  I went to visit Mrs. Miller and talk to her.  Together we went to visit Greg grave site and then went back to her house.





She thanked me for my help with Greg, including to push him to finish his Eagle Scout and being a very good friend to him.  Greg and I had both been in Troop 332 and very involved in our Catholic youth group, both sponsored by St Vincent de Paul Parish in Mount Vernon, Ohio.  See had two boxes of all of Greg’s Boy Scout belongings and offered them to me.  She told me, Greg wanted you to have these.  Well, I thought about it and then offered to select a few items that were SPECIAL to Greg and I would frame them.  I gave his Mom the patches and frame to her.


At the time, I was a Scoutmaster for Troop 97, in Blytheville, Arkansas.  When one scout, Richard Nace was presented his Eagle Scout, he also would be given the Eagle Scout medal of his great Uncle.  Any Eagle Scout from the 1920’s.  I told Mrs Miller, that we should frame Greg’s Eagle and one day maybe it could be passed down within the family to one of his nephews or cousins.  She agreed.



I never remember Greg ever complaining or feeling sorry for himself during all the years I knew him.  Two times he fought cancer, but in the end, he would find eternal peace.  I often think about Greg and I am thankful he was my friend.


Farewell my friend, “He Who Endured Pain”.


Gregory Dion Miller

Vigil on 25 June 1983

Indian Name:  Mamchachwelendan

Translation:  He Who Endures Pain

Born 23 Oct 1966

Died 30 Aug 1991


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I attended Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon, Ohio.  The student graduation speakers were selected by a panel of judges after try-outs (any student could participate).  My recollection was there were approximately 20 students who made an audition from my Senior Class of 316 students.


In the end, there were three students selected to deliver speeches at graduation:

Edgar LaBenne, Michele Anderson and John Nussbaum.

Here is my speech I wrote and delivered at my high school graduation on the evening of 3 June 1983:  


Graduates, Family, Friends and Faculty.  Tonight marks the end of a phase of time in our lives that will be in our memory forever.  But tonight is not just an end, but a beginning.  Soon we are to be in sole charge of our destiny.  These really awesome responsibilities come early in our life and our preparation is rushed.

In an age of high technology, people can now expect ongoing changes in details and structure of information.  The mark of an educated person will no longer be how much he knows or the diplomas on his wall, rather it will be his ability to continue to learn the new material quickly and thoroughly.

Our education at Mount Vernon will serve as a good foundation for our life’s ambitions.  But we must not stop here.  We must, build upon our foundation and  reinforce our skills and talents.

On our trail in life we need to set goals, have enthusiasm, and confidence.

Goals are essential in life yet many fail to see their importance.  Establishing  goals can be easy. it involves analyzing three things:  objectives, alternatives and results.  Goals must be definite and specific, never vague.  Know what you want and keep it constantly in your mind.  It is extremely important for goals to be realistic too.  Goals can be achieved only if they lie within your potential. Know your capabilities but don’t underestimate them.  You also need to be able to overcome setbacks which can develop at anytime.  Adapt and learn from your mistakes.  When you’re working goals you need persistence, hard work and enthusiasm.

YES ENTHUSIASM!  Many people feel they can’t produce enthusiasm.  If so, they need to use the “as if” principle. This is done by acting as if you are bursting with enthusiasm.  After a period of time this attitude will become imbedded in your mind and it will no longer be necessary to act.  Enthusiasm can make the difference between success and failure.  Charles Schwab said, “One can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.“  Enthusiasm is contagious like the measles and mumps- but it’s good for you.  Enthusiasm can produce faith and faith stimulates action!  The lack of self-confidence seems to be one of the greatest problems affecting people today.  Everywhere we go we encounter people who are afraid, who suffer from insecurity and are unsure of their own powers.

If you want to obtain the feeling of confidence the thoughts that are in your mind are important.  Think defeat and you are bound to feel defeated.  But if your thoughts are positive and consistent, your ability to overcome difficulties are within you.

Ralph Emerson once stated “They conquer who believe they can.”, and he added “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”

The recipe for a successful life lies in establishing realistic goals and maintaining a constant flow of enthusiasm, but the most important ingredient of all is to believe in yourself and your God.

Many of us have been admitted into college or planning to be employed, these opportunities are not given to us only because of what we have done, but for what we are expected to do!

 [PLAYLIST not found]


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admin On June - 18 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

I was the Scoutmaster of Troop 97, Blytheville Air Force Base, Arkansas 1988 to 1991.  I started with 5 boys and we grew to over 40 scouts.  Every month for over 3 years we camped at least 1 time, only missing the weekend that Saddam invaded Kuwait.  We went to seven states to camp, often in a big Blue Air Force bus and ton and half truck for the gear.

We traveled 1 to 2 hours and up to 7 hours when we went to the Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.   We would stop from time to time for bathroom break and of course for snacks.  I found out unregulated, you would have boys spending $5 to $10 on junk food.  It was crazy.  There were always be 3 or more boys that had NO money.  Something that I personally felt I needed to privately address.

It did not take long and I implemented the $1 Rule.  Any boy could get a drink, chips and/or candy, whatever you want for $1.  Only $1.  To ensure 40 boys would follow instructions, the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) or his assistant would be at the cash register directing the affair.  If a regular customer came, the SPL would invite them to jump the line.

I  would make sure every boy had $1, even if it meant coming from our own pocket (other adult leaders were generous as well).   The $1 bill would be discreetly given.  It was my form of wealth redistribution.  LOL.

When my time had come to leave Blytheville, I would given many gifts, but the one that I remember and kept until this day is the $1 bill framed by Morgan Montgomery.  “Mr. LaBenne, I know I owe you more then $1, but I want you to have this one ($1) for always giving me so many $1.”

We both had a good laugh.

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admin On June - 9 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Friends–Kind of long, but some thoughts on my travels and a few cool photos. Enjoy, Ed

8 OCT 2005


Last Saturday I returned home from Africa.  I would have never imagined as a NATO guy, I would be performing a mission in Africa.  But this was my second trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2 months. My first trip to Ethiopia was in late July for a week to set up the contracts for the NATO office, before I flew solo into Khartoum, Sudan enroute to El Fasher in the Darfur Region.


In the Sudan, I performed a recce (site visit) before we would send additional NATO personnel, assess the security situation and establish contracts/agreements for the life support for those to follow in Aug and Sep.


Some kids with me when we stop along a road my first night in El Fasher. An Italian officer took me out to see the “sights”

NATO was asked by the African Union (the AU is an organization of African nations which has its HQ in Ethiopia) to airlift over 3,500 troops from Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Gambia into the Sudan to perform as peacekeepers.  Over 90 days contributing nations (US, Germany, UK, Italy, Greece and Luxembourg) would provide aircraft or funds to contract airlift for 3,500 troops and 500 civilian police).  We also assisted the United Nations during an exercise to train the African militaries in Aug.  Finally, NATO sent a team of trainers into the Sudan to train 114 officers from various African nations during Sep.


Darfur is often in the news, as continued violence erupts in a region (the size of France, which is huge).  It has been a clash of religion, culture, and the haves and have nots.  An estimated 2 million people have been displaced because of the fighting in recent years.  Depending on whose  figures you want to use, between 200,000 and 300,000 have been killed.  The AU has 32 camps throughout the Darfur Region to monitor and protect the people.  I found out these camps were all built with US dollars via the Department of State.  I spent 5 days outside the city of El Fasher, where the AU HQ camp for the military operations in the Darfur is located.  There were 500 troops in the camp, with only 10 non-African personnel in attendance.  We are called  “International Experts” from Western countries. This area is by far the poorest of the poor I have ever seen.  I have been to +40 countries over my career and I can say without a doubt this was the most interesting TDY, and most challenging too (physically and mentally).

A local girl riding a donkey back home for the evening. The primary animal in Darfur was the donkey.


There were really two adventures in the Sudan: In El Fasher and then being stuck in Khartoum for 2 days. Actually the people in the Darfur Region were very friendly and I was very lucky to get to visit an IDP (individual displaced person) camp with 30,000 people, the local markets, and visit an UN guesthouse. I saw hundreds of nomads crossing the land and it just struck me: “Where are they going?”  They were traveling where there were no roads. It was like an episode of the “twilight zone”.  Soccer was very popular with all ages. Children were very interested in seeing and touching my white skin.


The real excitement started after the Sudanese Vice Pres John Garang “died” in a helicopter accident the day before I was to depart back to Khartoum (the capital).  Gararg was a rebel leader for 21 years against the Government of the Sudan and had only been in office 21 days. He was loved by the people in the Southern Sudan (Darfur). There were rumors of riots in Khartoum.  I had to decide do I stay in El Fasher or do I try to get out? I called back to Ethiopia on my SAT phone to confirm if Ethiopia Air was still flying tonight.  I get a call back: “Yes, but 5 hours earlier because of the curfew in Khartoum.” What curfew? The one just imposed from 1800 hrs to 0600 hrs and enforced by thousands of 18-20 years olds, riding 10-12 in the back of pick-up trucks with AK-47s and positioned at key intersections in the city.

My favorite of a mother with her baby on her back as she was making a wall for a family compound in the IDP (individual displaced person) camp.


The day it was announced he died in an accident, riots broke out and over 130 died in two days in the capital (Khartoum), where I had to fly into and out of the country. I did not know the situation on the ground as I prepared to depart El Fasher, but I figured I’d better to get out of the country if I could.  Maybe stupid, but once my mission is done, my focus is always to exit home.


My first chance on an airplane out of El Fasher was cancelled at 0830 hrs because it would not be allowed to leave Khartoum once it landed. I was very lucky to be able to get on the only commercial flight of the day at 1030 hrs.  The takeoff was delayed about 90 minutes and we were delayed again in Nyala before going airborne again to Khartoum.  After finally landing in Khartoum, I could not get to the International Terminal fast enough. When I got there, they had already boarded the flight and would not let me process. I am now stuck in Khartoum.  Not cool.


I was a man with no transportation or arrangements and it less than 2 hours from curfew in a city in turmoil. OK – time to look tough and make sure I watch my back. I was in the Haj (Pilgrim) Terminal which could process thousands of passengers and there were only a handful of locals and me.  I got outside, pulled out my SAT phone and called the only number (be prepared) I had for the US Embassy defense attaché (every Embassy has a few military folks assigned).  I explained who I was and asked for a pick up. “Hang tight and don’t move, we’ll be there to get you.”  Where was I going to go?  In less than 10 minutes (seemed like an hour), an Army Lt Col was there to get me.  He took me to an US Embassy housing compound (very secure) where I ended up spending two nights and during the day I worked in the Embassy.


There were more shootings the next day near the airport (which we have to go around to get between the housing compound and the Embassy) and they locked down the Embassy in the afternoon.  Finally, the lock down on the Embassy was lifted.  We head to our quarters before curfew on Day 2.  On a four-lane highway along the airport, we get a flat tire.  This is not cool either. “I think it’s time for a Hail Mary.”  We make a turn and pull over away from the major traffic.  We are vulnerable from every angle and we know it.  Now it is time to figure out the spare tire on a rented vehicle. There are hundreds of locals within 500 yards. Wish I had a tape, because we could have used it as an audition to be on a NASCAR pit crew.  Here are 3 of us (Army, AF and Navy) trying to figure where everything is to swap out the tire.

A shot of ladies in the IDP camp at the water well.


We are in civilian attire, it is hot as hell outside, and curfew is within minutes. Thank God, we had everything we needed.  Matt is completely focused on changing the tire.  I’m helping, but watching like crazy our surroundings; from time to time people are coming up either asking to help (like they have experience) or asking for money.  I’m trying to keep the locals a few feet away.  Inside the vehicle, there are two small backpacks with M-9s (just in case we have to defend ourselves).  Inside my head, I’m thinking: “Please God, get this guy away from us.” Twice I have to position myself to get into the vehicle just in case, but the threats moved on and we got back to work.  We got the spare tire changed, we jumped back in and make our way to the compound.


Well another wild experience to add to my 18 years in the military.  The Sudan is clearly off my vacation list and desirable repeat TDY location.  Attached are a few photos from the deep in the Southern Sudan in the Darfur Region, near El Fasher.

A pretty neat photo of two ladies who were walking home just as a dust storm was approaching and you can see it behind them.

NOTE:  If I had stayed in El Fasher, the next day, I would have been impacted by a flash flood and 2 feet of standing water the in the military camp I was just in.  Lord knows how long I would have been stuck there.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  It is amazing the efforts around the world to bring peace by the US and our friends.  It is eye opening to see first hand.  I have had young and old people come to me thanking me for what America has done for them in so many countries.  I honestly do not think many folks truly understand the magnitude of the efforts on-going around the world, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But there is no doubt in my mind, I am lucky to be part of the strongest military force in the greatest country on earth.

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admin On June - 9 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

My greatest positive influence while growing up was my involvement in the Boy Scouts.  I earned the rank of Eagle Scout and it was presented to me in a ceremony in my hometown, Mount Vernon, Ohio, when I was 16 years old.  The first Eagle Scout medal was awarded in 1912 (100 hundred years ago) to ArthurRoseEldred, a 17-year-old member of Troop 1 of Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York.  Over the years, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 2 million young men.  Of 100 hundred boys who join Scouting, only 3 will became an Eagle Scout.



A tradition during the ceremony is to give the newest Eagle Scout a Charge (or Challenge).  I asked Mr. John M. Miller, one of our Troop 332 Committee members to give me my Charge.  Over the years, Mr. Miller actually presented several Charges, each one was personally written for the young man.  Below is my Charge.  The photo was from my ceremony, Mr Miller is at the podium giving me my Charge.




Edgar John LaBenne





It’s knowledge, skill and dedication that keeps a great ship sailing safely over the trackless oceans to a safe harbour.  The master of that ship likely started as a small boy, sailing his cat boat on a small lake. With increasing age, his growing enthusiasm for the sea lead him to seek further knowledge in navigation, meteorology, seamanship – all the sciences related to his life’s ambition.  Then came years of apprenticeship, while he practiced his skills.  Finally, he becomes the master of a great ship in his own right.


Mister LaBenne, you are like a great ship.  There is no other vessel quite like yours.  Soon, you are to be in sole charge of your destiny.  These really awesome responsibilities come early in our life.  Our preparation is rushed opportunity to practice our skills is limited, we’re launched into Manhood before some of us are really to hoist sail.


Mister LaBenne, you have blessed with exceptional parents.  They have made great effort to see that you are well prepared for your Voyage.


Mister LaBenne, you are an exceptional person.  You have responded with enthusiasm to your parents wise counsel.  And further, you have shown commendable initiative in seeking and discharging increasing responsibilities.


Now Mister LaBenne, your ship is being provisioned for the Voyage of Life.  Soon you will cast off, glide down the harbour, past the lighthouse and out onto the High Seas, to encounter the vicissitudes of life. Yes,  you will becalmed, drifting aimlessly, filled with doubts.  Other times storms will beset you, some of which you will sail through.  Others you will recognize as being too powerful.  You must prudently change course, lest your ship be wrecked.  And yes, there will be times of fair seas and favorable winds.


Mister LaBenne, you need not sail this sea alone!   Christ will sail with you, if you but invite Him.  And this my charge to you, that never in your life do you think a thought,  say a word or do a deed,  without first reflecting,  “Would He do it this way?”


So, sail on Mister LaBenne.  You have charted a good course.  Hold her steady as she goes.  You’ll weather the storm; you’ll stay clear of the rocks;  you’ll not founder on a reef.  Then, at the end of your Voyage, you’ll happily enter the snug harbour God has prepared for those who love him! Bon Voyage!



Saturday, the seventh day of March

Nineteen hundred and eighty-one

St Vincent de Paul School Gym

Mt Vernon, Ohio   7:30 PM


Written and delivered by John M. Miller



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admin On May - 31 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Below is a piece I wrote coming home one night with seven heros from Afghanistan — a night I will not forget.  Ironically — I don’t even know any of their names — but I will not forget them.  Ed

SEVEN HEROS by Lt Col Edgar J. LaBenne
There are 19 of us leaving Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan tonight.  I know no one else on this flight.  I’m sure some have been here for one-year deployments and on their way home.  One is a doctor from Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany with his surgical equipment I saw during the customs inspection.  I’m sure he was only here for a couple days as he is in green BDU (Battle Dress Uniform), which is very very rare to see down range in Afghanistan or Iraq, as everyone else is in desert BDU.  I’m one of the lucky ones, only 9 days on a TDY in Kabul, Afghanistan supporting NATO.  Most US personnel do 6 or 12 months and there is rarely a day off, it is a constant pace, 12-14 hr days minimum.  On our flight, there are mostly military, but there are also a few civilian contractors.

It is nearly 0445 hrs (4:45 am) in the morning, and it is chilly out.  A 10-ton forklift inches toward the rear of a McChord C-17 with a 463L pallet full of our gear.  We march in two columns from behind the aircraft.   Inside the C-17 it is completely illuminated as the crew prepares for take off and I can see the red and white boxes in the front of the aircraft, forward of three pallets.  Four hours earlier during roll call, we were briefed we will be traveling back to Germany non-stop with wounded soldiers from Iraq and HR.  HR stands for human remains.  Not sure why they use that term.  Seems rather cold to me.  I like hero better, that is what I would prefer.

We wait for the side door to open near the nose of the aircraft.  We all know we have dead Americans from Iraq, but no one knows how many.  Everyone is quiet as we board the aircraft one by one.  Now I can see the stars and bars so nicely draping the cases.   They are anchored down to the floor.  There are seven heroes tonight, silent.

We quietly find seats.  No matter what seat you take, you face the in side of the aircraft and can see all the cargo and the seven heroes. We have seven heroes, who we probably have never met, but we are bound by our service to our country.  They too are in formation, two by two, with the solo seventh.  Three feet in front of me during the entire flight home is one of my comrades in arms, the solo seventh.

You cannot help but wonder:  Is he married?  Does he have kids?  How did he die?  Just yesterday I saw a headline on the CNN website that seven died in Iraq in one attack.  Are these the seven?  There are no faces tonight, just the stars and bars.  Each one returns home equal tonight, there is no rank except hero.

As we get ready to fly, I know there are so many people now waiting this moment in the US for their return, some call them son, grandson, uncle, dad, husband, brother, coach or friend.  I’ll call them heroes tonight.

I’m confident, all 19 of us are reflecting inside on these seven heroes.   How it could be one of us and about the families we have back home.  Personally I do not want to ask the question “Why?”, because there are no easy answers.  As we return home, we all have respect for the dead, but also an appreciation for life.  Our life.  My life.

In a few hours, I will see my kids, ages 6 and 8, Mary and Joshua.  They will ask me about my airplane ride, “How many planes did you take?  Who did you go with Daddy?”  All I will tell them is:  “Only one plane, but I was with seven heroes last night and it was a great flight home!”  And then I’ll give them another long hug, kiss and tell them how much I love them.  Tonight I’ll offer more prayers for my seven heroes and all those who have made the final ride home covered in stars and bars.




—–Original Message—–
From: Judy Andrews
Sent: 08 December 2004 23:46
 7 heroes


Lt. Col. LaBenne:

My name is Judith Andrews and a friend forwarded me your story about your trip to Afghanistan.  I was quite touched by it.  You see, I am the wife of one of those who died in service to our country 3 years ago.  My husband, MSGT Evander E. Andrews, was the first U.S. service member to die in Operation Enduring Freedom.  He died 10 Oct 01 and at his funeral, our son, age 9, was overheard saying my dad is a hero.  Too many today do not see these men and women as heroes, but as those who died in vain.  My heart bleeds and breaks every time I hear that, for I know my husband did not die in vain.  While his death wasn’t in combat, he was in CE and his death was due to an accident, he was there in support of our fight on terrorism.  The Air Force did name the camp he was helping to build, at the time of his death, after him; Camp Andy.  We are proud of him and his service to his country.  Thank you for your thoughts and respect for our fallen.


Judith Andrews

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Winner of the Losers!

admin On May - 31 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

This BLOG got it’s name from the following true story!

Winner of the Losers!

By Maj Edgar LaBenne, Commander, 97th Contracting Squadron


As a 1Lt in 1990, I played my one and only racquetball tournament at Eaker AFB Arkansas.  SSgt Donny Johnson, an avid racquetball player in my flight talked me into entering in the “C” division or novice category, while he was in the “A” division or expert category.  Saturday morning I arrived just as my 0800 hrs match was to start.  I lost soundly to the eventual “C” division champion.  Even though it was double elimination, I contemplated “throwing in the towel” and heading home for some sleep, but I stuck it out and played another match, then another and another in the losers bracket.  Finally I was done and had to dart back home before the rest of the various matches were done.


First thing the following Monday morning, SSgt Johnson summoned the majority of the office together into our area.  He showed everyone his large multi-level trophy and pronounced himself as the base champion (winner of the “A” division).   Next to his trophy was a simple trophy with the word “Consolation”.  It was the 3rd place trophy for the “C” division.  Unbeknownst to me of my good fortune since I was not present for the awards ceremony on Saturday.  SSgt Johnson proceeded to make the presentation and declared “Lt LaBenne is the Winner of the Losers!”


That phrase, “Winner of the Losers” has stuck in my mind for 11 years now.  In fact, throughout my career, it has reminded me to never give up.  All of us face challenges in our careers, both professional and personal – family separation, long hours, tough supervisors (or commanders), missed promotions, endless studying for our job or degrees, divorce, financial hardship, ups and downs of raising children.  Some folks give up under the pressure.  Others buckle down for the ride.


Everyday, each of us needs to be attentive to our co-workers for indicators of stress or problems.  Sometimes people just need someone to listen.  As members of the AF family we do not have to go the road alone.  For those situations more complex, we have other avenues.  There are always folks to help, our base Chaplains, Family Support or Life Skills.   If you are not sure of who can help or what to do, a great starting point is your First Sergeant or Commander.


Even to this day, I have kept that trophy to remind me that I am the “Winner of the Losers”, but more importantly it reminds me to never give up, even when I fall short.  I know I can regroup and continue to pursue my goal – nearly always with success.  So if you are even in or near Contracting, Bldg 318, Altus AFB Oklahoma, stop by my office and catch a glimpse of my trophy and ask to meet the “Winner of the Losers”.  END


NOTE BY AUTHOR:  Today, I still have my trophy in my office at the Medgar Executive Apartelle, Angeles City, Philippines.


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