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Cadet - 7. Cadet Third Class • II

“Excuse me, ladies. Are you the group that requested a military escort?” Edrice had approached the three college-aged women, whispering to Ritch to play along. “Cadet Sergeants Edrice King and Richard Peterson reporting for duty.”

Ritch was barely able to contain his chuckle. Instead, he straightened his back and squared his shoulders. Ed did say to play along, so he was simply following orders. The smoothness of his new friend’s move impressed Ritch; Cadet Third Class King had game.

While chatting at the party on Sunday, Edrice mentioned he and a high school friend were headed to Kings Dominion on Tuesday, and invited Ritch to join them. The next day, he called to cancel. His friend was sick, so they did not have a ride to the amusement park. Ritch solved the problem by borrowing one of the family’s vehicles.

The tallest of the girls tossed her hair around while staring at the two young men in sneakers, cargo shorts, and Air Force t-shirts. “Cadet Sergeants? How come you’re not in uniform?”

“We’re on break from the Academy.” Considering the shirts they wore, Ritch did not feel the need to identify which academy.

His assumption proved faulty when one of the other women decided to display her ignorance. “The Academy? Is that the one in Annapolis? A guy I went to high school with goes there.”

The urge to smack his forehead, or hers, was difficult to resist. “Nope, that’s the Navy. The United States Air Force Academy”—Ritch and Edrice pointed at their shirts—“is in Colorado Springs, Colorado.” Considering her confusion between one military academy and the other, Ritch specified the state in case she was not swift enough to figure it out based on the city’s name.

“So are you guys like pilots? Can you take us flying in your planes?”

Neither cadet was able to refrain from chortling. “It doesn’t work that way, darling.” Edrice pointed at Ritch. “He’s been a pilot for a while, but as far as I know, he doesn’t own a plane. Neither do I. We’re in our second year, and the most the Academy has issued us are uniforms and a laptop.”

“I bet you guys look hot in your uniforms.” The longhaired blonde ran a finger down Ritch’s chest and flicked the tip of her tongue over her upper lip.

“Maybe we could wear them for you some other time?” Ritch would not have minded bedding any of the three; the women were hot. “Where are you girls from?”

“Richmond, but we met our freshman year at UVA.”

“Virginia’s a good school.” Edrice had approached the trio while the girls stood by the International Street fountain, a short distance from the main entrance. He pointed at the structure dominating the promenade. “How about we start at the tower? We can get a look at all the rides and decide what order we’re gonna attack them.” Although the girls had not explicitly agreed to explore with the cadets, they appeared enthusiastic.

One of the park's signature attractions, a one-third replica of the Eiffel Tower, offered visitors panoramic views of the park and surrounding countryside.

Their first actual ride was Dominator. At over 4,000 feet long, the rollercoaster provided more than two minutes of gut wrenching action, at speeds exceeding sixty-five miles per hour. Their screams reached a crescendo each time the cars inverted, and they hung upside down while rocketing through steel curves.

“I’m glad breakfast was a long time ago.” Ritch helped steady one of the girls, as she stepped back on solid ground. “The people in front of us might not have appreciated me puking.” He was being facetious in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the women; the effect of gravity would be more pronounced in a fighter, and he was ready for that.

“Forget the people in front, Peterson. Those of us in back would have been the splattered ones.” While Ritch sat in the same row as one of their new friends, Edrice was sandwiched between the other two in the seat behind. “Just wait ’til you’re pulling Gs in a jet! You better carry a barf bag with you.”

“You guys are gross. Where should we go next?” A little vomit conversation was obviously not going to scare the girls away.

The remainder of the morning, the five rode as many of the attractions as they could. Running from one to the other, often laughing, they talked about themselves and their schools.

Ritch had been to the University of Virginia once while in high school. Although at the time, he already knew he wanted to attend the Air Force Academy and was confident he would receive an appointment, the visit had been informative and enjoyable. Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president and school’s founder was his brother’s hero, and Ritch had accompanied CJ during one of his annual pilgrimages to Monticello. The President’s home was a short distance from campus, and his brother-in-law, Owen, had wanted to tour it.

In contrast, the girls had zero knowledge about the Air Force Academy. Not surprising after the earlier location confusion.

“The Academy’s like a small private college,” Ritch explained. “We only have about 4,000 students. How big’s UVA?”

“I think it’s like twenty thousand.” The girl who confused the Naval and Air Force academies proved her major in drama was a good fit. Her imagination could run wild. “Are your dorms like tents? What do you do when it gets cold? It snows a lot in Colorado, right?”

Edrice stopped laughing before Ritch could, so he picked up the thread. “It snows more than you can imagine! Last year, we got a storm at the beginning of September. That’s waaay early for First Snow. As for what we do when it gets cold? We light a big bonfire, everyone gets naked, and we dance around it ’til we start sweating.”

Ritch’s shove was hard enough Edrice stumbled and nearly fell. “Don’t listen to him. He lies.” Ritch decided he liked King. A lot. The guy was smooth with women and had a wicked sense of humor. They might be in different squadrons at the Academy, but Edrice would make a perfect wingman.

“We have regular buildings, indoor plumbing, and heating. Heck, we have around 250 classrooms and labs, a handful or two of research centers, an eight to one student to faculty ratio, an average class size of sixteen, and nationally recognized programs.”

Ritch had memorized the statistics in preparation for speaking with students at Sidwell Friends School—his Alma Mater—interested in the application process. It had been a good meeting. His dads had characterized his willingness to help typical of an incipient old boys network. Prep schools were notorious for the strong ties its students developed with each other and the institution.

“Do you have like regular classes?”

“Hell yeah!” Edrice had recovered sufficiently he was able to speak without laughing. “Although, we definitely have fewer choices than you do, and we also have military instruction. We end up with something like 150 semester hours compared to about 120 at other schools.”

“Ugh! How do you find time for studying? For anything?”

“We squeeze it in between classes, marching, polishing our shoes and belt buckles, and whatever sports we play, and clubs we belong to. Cadets don’t have a lot of privacy or free time, darling. We don’t leave base that often.”

During their time together, the exchange of personal information had the girls loudly doubting what they heard about the Academy experience. “I mean, they can’t force you to wear white underwear all the time, can they? That has to be illegal.”

The comment convinced Ritch few people had even a basic concept of what it was like to be in the military. “I‘d show you, but I’m commando today.” The three prospective victims giggled as his phone vibrated.

“What up, Papa?” Ritch held the phone to one ear while covering the other one with his hand. The squeals from multiple quarters made it hard to hear. He swore Kings Dominion was the screaming capital of the world.

“Where are you?”

“Ed and I are in line for a ride. We met some girls we’ve been hanging with. What’s going on?” Ritch expected Brett to make some snotty remark about the girls. Instead, his father’s next sentence came as a shock.

“I just got a call from the cops. Your buddy, Bruce Donovan, was arrested last night.”

 

At the Academy, cadets were responsible for running and operating their wing. It provided an unparalleled opportunity to understand the importance of respect amongst peers and how to be an honorable, well-balanced officer. All cadets learned how to use a chain of command, how to function as part of various military formations, and how military units organized to accomplish collective tasks.

Cadets took on additional leadership roles, and higher-level operational and support jobs, as they rose in class year. In parallel to active duty life, first-class cadets held the positions of officers, second-class operated as non-commissioned officers, and third-classers acted as junior NCOs. Fourth-classers were followers and functioned as airmen.

Cadet First Class Trevor Ward had been promoted to Colonel when assigned to oversee most of the incoming basics’ classroom work. Ritch was somewhat surprised when he received a message asking him to see Ward as soon as he returned to the Academy.

“At ease, Peterson. You’re not in trouble.” Ward tried to calm Ritch’s nerves. It was unusual for someone of his rank to call in a cadet from another squadron. “Did you have a good time back home?”

“Yes, sir. Spent most of it with family. I hadn’t seen anyone but my dads since Christmas. My niece now knows my name, so that was lit.” Ritch smirked. “And I got to have a little fun.”

“I understand you had Donovan and King over on the Fourth?”

The reason for the meeting became clear when Ritch recalled Donovan was in Ward’s squadron. “Yes, sir. This is about Donovan, isn’t it, sir?”

Ward smiled while nodding. “Wanna tell me your side?”

“Not much to tell, sir.” Ritch suddenly felt relaxed; he had nothing to hide. “They both came over for the party. King and I hit it off, and we went to an amusement park together two days later. While at Kings Dominion, my dad called me to let me know Donovan had been arrested.”

“Did he mention why the police called him about it?”

“The officers found a bottle of painkillers prescribed to my dad in Donovan’s car, sir.”

“How do you think those pills ended up in Donovan’s possession?” The words were crisp and devoid of emotion. Ward frowned while speaking.

Ritch faced a dilemma. He knew Donovan claimed the pills were given to him after complaining of back pain. Ritch could back him up and probably save Donovan’s Air Force career.

However, the Academy’s honor oath stated: We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Donovan had obviously stolen the painkillers—Brett thought they were in a bottom drawer in the master bathroom but could not swear to it. If Ritch lied, he would be breaking the oath twice: once by being dishonest, once by tolerating a thief.

“I assume he stole them, sir.” It hurt to know he had in all likelihood destroyed his fellow cadet’s military career. He had already told a police officer the same thing, so he was certain it would be on their report whenever the Academy got its hands on it.

“You’re aware he claims you gave them to him?” Ward’s tone was serious but not accusatory.

“Yes, sir. But, as I told the police, I didn’t even know those pills existed. They were from when my dad’s helicopter crashed at the Pentagon. Hell, I wasn’t even living in Washington then.”

“This the father who was a Marine?”

For the first time in a while, Ritch cracked a smile. “He’d hurt you if he heard you say that, sir. You have any idea how often I was told, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine?’ He’s retired.”

Ward chuckled. “Yeah, I know. But I still like to give the jarheads I know a hard time.”

“May I ask a question, sir?”

“I don’t know.” Ward’s intensity had melted away; his placid smile was a welcome change from the previous frowns.

Ritch was confused. “Excuse me?”

“The answer to your question is: I don’t know. You were about to ask what’s gonna happen to Donovan, and I honestly don’t know. But I have my suspicions.”

“Is he gonna be dismissed?”

“I don’t know, Peterson. For real. The final decision’s not mine. I only know what my report will recommend.”

Ritch later discovered Donovan had returned to campus and been confined to quarters. The police had called the Academy to confirm his enrollment and revealed the reason for their interest. Every cadet knew the Academy was strict about drug usage. Although it had not happened to Ritch or his roommate, Will, they knew of others being subject to surprise urine tests at the crack of dawn. And stories about how up to a thousand cadets were tested upon returning from Thanksgiving had circulated through every squadron. Cadets discovered using illicit substances were quickly dismissed.

As far as Ritch knew, Bruce Donovan never made it to a class at the Academy again.

 

The Air Force’s 98th Flying Squadron was stationed at the Academy. Housing its aircraft at nearby Peterson Air Force Base, its mission was to provide parachute training. The basic program taught some 1,200 students per year. The majority were Academy cadets with ROTC undergraduates also participating.

Nicknamed Wings of Blue, squadron members served as instructors and jumpmasters. Anticipation made Ritch and Will wake up earlier than usual on the first day of AM-490.

Airmanship 490 was the Academy’s Basic Freefall Parachuting Course. The only certified program in the world where students make their first jump without assistance, Ritch eagerly anticipated the order to stand in the door.

“I can’t wait until we get the wings, and I can rub them in CJ and Ozzie’s faces.”

“You still holding a grudge, Peterson?” Will had heard about his roommate’s trip to the Oshkosh Air Show in Wisconsin two years before, and how he had been unable to join his brother in a parachute jump, because he was not eighteen at the time.

“Damn right, I am. CJ could have probably talked his way into me jumping with them. They did tandem jumps, and my brolaw broke a wrist when he landed. I’ll show them.”

“Unless you break something yourself, and they give you crap about it.”

“Shut up, Bender.”

The course used piggyback container systems and square parachutes for both the main and reserve. Since the program’s institution, equipment had evolved from the old round chutes to steerable ones, and cadets learned how to properly pack their own. Nevertheless, they went through two separate inspections before boarding the plane the day of their initial jump. Every cadet also carried a radio, so the ground crew could assist with steering and during landing.

“Let’s go!” The smile on Ritch’s face, as he high-fived the instructor, could not have been bigger if he had tried. Two years of sulking because CJ and Owen had been able to skydive were about to end. Slapping the Jump Wings painted on the wall, he followed the rest of the group out the door.

Will turned his head momentarily to glance at his roommate. “You scared at all?” Cadet Third Class William Bender appeared somewhat nervous.

“Bro, really? What’s there to be scared of? All we’re doing’s jumping out of a perfectly good plane and trusting a piece of fabric and some string to keep us from splattering all over Colorado at terminal velocity.”

“Shut the fuck up, Peterson.”

The cadet behind Ritch shoved him hard. “You’re an asshole.” His chuckling took the sting out of the words.

Outside on the tarmac, the dozen cadets about to make the first of their required five jumps stood single file to board their plane. Ritch tried to recall what he knew about it. The de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, was a 19-passenger Short Takeoff and Landing airplane, built by Viking Air in Canada. All its bells and whistles had made it a popular commuter passenger airliner as well as a cargo and medical evacuation aircraft. He had discovered the Twin Otter was favored by commercial skydiving operations too, and was used not only by the Air Force, but also by the United States Army Parachute Team.

“Can you fly one of these?” Will asked before boarding.

“It might take me a bit to get familiar with the controls, but I should be able to in an emergency.”

“Good. Not that I don’t trust the pilot, the plane, or the instructors, but at least you could take over if we had a problem.”

Ritch shook his head and grinned. “Not if I already jumped!”

“I’m going ahead of you.”

Cadets spent over thirty plus hours of ground training to learn the skills necessary to safely complete free-fall parachute jumps. Each one would be from an altitude of 4,000 feet, and following successful completion of their fifth jump, cadets would be rated Air Force parachutists. They would also earn the right to wear the basic parachutist badge on their uniforms.

As they boarded, a jumpmaster visually checked over each cadet one final time. For one, he tightened the straps on the blue backpack containing the parachute. On another one, with a grin, he straightened the olive coveralls’ crooked collar. The rest received a pat on their black helmets.

Near the end of the queue, Ritch visualized the actual jump and what he would have to do to land safely. Mentally reviewing what he had learned while hanging from straps in a cavernous hangar was an attempt to contain his excitement.

“See you on the ground.” Ritch bumped fists with the cadets on either side and closed his eyes. Hearing was the sense he paid attention to as everyone took a seat and the pilot taxied down the runway. The symphony of metal and machinery brought a smile to his face. The desire to be in control of the aircraft nearly overwhelmed the anticipation of what was to come.

Much of what happened as the plane climbed was fuzzy; what stood clear in Ritch’s mind afterwards was the exhilaration. The thrill of standing in the door ready to fly.

He had read that Charles Lindbergh, the famed pilot of The Spirit of St. Louis, wrote he was not completely sold on the idea when contemplating his first parachute attempt. “The thought of crawling out onto the struts and wires hundreds of feet above the earth, and then giving up even that tenuous hold of safety and of substance, left me a feeling of anticipation mixed with dread, of confidence restrained by caution, of courage salted through with fear.”

In contrast, Ritch felt his destiny calling. He was meant to be in the sky. Whether it was piloting aircraft or gliding with arms and legs spread, this was where he belonged. The few seconds of freefall left him breathless. His body tingled as he dropped and the wind buffeted him.

The sudden jerk upwards when he pulled the cord to open the parachute led to a grunt followed by a gasp. He looked up as the wind caught the bright yellow, fabric rectangle, and it spread over his head. His smile grew huge until a voice in his helmet snapped him back to reality.

Following the radio commands, he pulled on the parachute’s steering straps, maneuvered towards the landing zone, and surprisingly remained on his feet when he landed. Most other cadets tumbled sideways when they hit the ground.

“FUCKING A! LET’S GO AGAIN!”

 

The end of the third summer session coincided with the completion of Basic Cadet Training. Ritch, his roommate, and a group of fellow cadets watched the doolies return from Jack’s Valley, recalling their own experience twelve months before.

“You think we looked as exhausted as they do?” Will used his phone to capture the new cadets’ return march. It would become a popular post on YouTube.

“I’m not sure what the fuck we looked like, but I definitely felt as tired as they appear to be.” Ritch shook his head and grinned. “Fools probably think it’ll be easy going from now on.”

Sometime later, Ritch met a couple of them at the boxing team’s first gathering. At twenty-two, Alp Vurdem was older than the other doolies, and hairier than any other cadet in the gym. A member of the Turkish Air Force, he was one of the fifteen or so international students accepted into the Academy each year. Most hailed from NATO countries like Turkey. Big and solid, Vurdem would box as a heavyweight. Ritch thought the man resembled Sasquatch.

In contrast, Simon Bremen—a featherweight from the Tampa Bay area—stood about half-a-foot shorter than Ritch. There was a need inside Ritch to protect the guy. He vowed to keep the promise he made to himself the previous year. He would not allow new team members to suffer the sophomoric hazing he had gone through.

Regulations prohibited bullying and hazing, yet both happened, particularly within athletic teams. Although criminal charges were eventually dropped, swim team members had been expelled due to hazing a couple of years before. Initiation into their team fraternity included nudity and sexual innuendos someone labeled an R-rated campus farce.

In contrast, the boxing team welcomed new members by having them face off against seniors. Most doolies took a beating from more experienced and often larger cadets. Ritch had ended up with a few body bruises and a black eye, but had kept his mouth shut. He did not want to whine about the treatment at the time, but was ready to speak up on behalf of the new arrivals.

“Hey, Madson, can we talk privately for a couple of minutes?” Ritch draped the jump rope over his neck and reached for a towel to wipe the sweat of his face. His relationship with his superior was good, and proper protocol was often ignored in the gym.

Cadet First Class Roy Madson was the highest-ranking member of the boxing team. “What up, Peterson?”

“I have a present for you.” Ritch retrieved a paperback from his bag and handed it to the man.

Bullies Beware by CJ Abelló? Isn’t that your brother? I heard the name when your friend led the discussion of the documentary at the beginning of summer.”

“Yep, CJ’s my older brother.”

Madson looked suspicious. “Why are you giving me this, Peterson?”

Ritch did not hesitate. He had thought about and practiced what he wanted to say. “Because I thought you’d find it interesting. Because bullying and hazing are the same. And because I would like you to protect the doolies and not allow them to be hazed like I was last year.”

Roy looked around the nearly empty gym and spoke in a low tone. “Keep your voice down. We don’t need others hearing what happens within the team.” He motioned for Ritch to follow and walked towards the exit.

Outside, he led Ritch away from the building before turning around and facing the younger man. “Look, Peterson, the initiation’s tradition. I don’t entirely agree with it. If you recall, I wasn’t a participant last year. But it is a rite of passage. If I were to stop it, the upperclassmen might riot.”

“It’s tradition until someone puts a stop to it. One of the best lines in the book is something my brother and my parents harp on constantly: ‘Beliefs don’t make us better people, actions do.’ It’s in the final chapter.”

“That might be true, but I don’t think I can do anything under the circumstances.”

Ritch stared at his sneakers for a moment and took a deep breath. “I discussed this with my parents. You’re in command, and you can give orders to stop anything from happening. If you don’t, I’ll quit the team.”

“WHAT? You can’t do that, Peterson. You might not have seen a lot of action last year, but you’re important to our competition this time around. I won’t allow you to quit.”

Ritch was borderline pissed off. “Yeah? You’re gonna push your weight around for that but not to protect others? Respectfully, that’s fucked, sir.”

“I’m being realistic, Peterson. You don’t have to participate in the doolies’ initiation, but you can’t quit.”

At that point, Ritch came close to throwing a punch. He was that upset. “Watch me, sir. I’ve been boxing since I was a kid because my father wanted me to be able to defend myself. I joined the team because I thought it’d be cool to participate in intercollegiate athletics. But boxing ain’t my life. I could walk away right now, and I’d be fine playing intramural whatever for the rest of my time at the Academy.” Participating in organized sports was a requirement.

Ritch took a deep breath to calm himself. “Look, I’m following the chain of command but when the coach, the staff, or even the damn Superintendent ask me why, I won’t lie. I took an oath, sir.”

“Careful, Peterson. If you piss people off, you could find yourself attending junior college somewhere in Bumfuck, Oklahoma. And you’d have to pay back a shitload of money to the government.”

“Really, sir? You haven’t seen my high school grades, involvement, and SAT scores, right? I could have probably gotten into any university I wanted to. And when I explain why I’m transferring, that I tried to protect fellow cadets, I’ll have schools begging me to go there. Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, paying back the government wouldn’t be an issue. I’m a millionaire, sir.”

Ritch disliked bragging about his wealth, but he had to get his point across. He knew he was walking a thin line with his threat. It could backfire and cost him the military career he so badly desired. The opportunity to fly jets into combat for his country. But his upbringing would not allow him to stand by and not speak up. He was willing to sacrifice in pursuit of what was right. He trusted his instincts, which told him Cadet First Class Roy Madson was an honorable man, who would do what was right.

 

“Sir, may I ask a question?” Cadet Fourth Class Simon Bremen and Ritch were the only two left at the table; other boxing team members had drifted off after finishing their meal.

Ritch was enjoying a final cup of coffee and wondered why the doolie had lingered. “You can use my name when we’re alone, Bremen. What’s on your mind?”

“I, uh… I heard before this year there was a secret initiation for boxers, but you put a stop to it this time around, sir?” The cadet, merely months younger than Ritch, sounded scared but remained respectful.

“Relax, Bremen, don’t ever be afraid to ask questions.” Ritch tried to figure out how best to answer. “All I did was mention I didn’t like the activities doolies went through to Madson. He’s in command. It was his decision.”

Ritch was glad Madson had grown a pair, called a meeting of upperclassmen, and laid down the law. Incoming freshmen were not to be harassed. Based on their body language, Ritch figured out who agreed with the change, and who opposed it. He knew who to keep an eye on. He was ready to intervene if he saw anyone pester the doolies, except for normal Academy practices. Heck, he was the first to yell at the rookies if they screwed up.

“Thank you anyway, sir. He met with us privately and admitted he was opposed to the hazing, but it was you who lit a fire under his butt—his words—and encouraged him to act.”

“As I said, all I did was express my opinion.”

“Yeah, but you got through to him, sir.” Bremen swirled the scraps remaining on his plate with a fork before raising his eyes to look at Ritch. “The reason I stayed behind is I was elected by the other fourth classers to talk to you. They all admire your guts and wanted me to thank you on their behalf. We all wondered why you did it, sir.”

“That’s easy. My family. My dads and my brother drilled me about bullying being wrong, and the need to step in, if I saw it happening. Hazing’s the same as bullying.”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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My thanks to Mann Ramblings, Parker Owens, and WolfM for their assistance. The story is better that it would have been without their assistance.

Story Discussion Topic

Welcome to the discussion thread for CJ’s series. All things CJ are fair game, I simply ask you be respectful of others. I will actively participate in the discussion. Ask questions, speculate about what’s coming, or bitch about what happened. We’re now open for business!    

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Chapter Comments



Great chapter, as always, Carlos.  I always look forward to your stories. 
 

I have to ask you.  How much time have you spent in WI?  I know you live in FL, but your mentions of WI are so spot on, whether Oshkosh, the Harley company on Capitol Drive or the farming area where Harley’s family lives.  Being from the area, I love when you mention the places I love deeply.

Edited by Clancy59
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Hey @Carlos Hazday- another great chapter.

Ritch is indeed a great role model for the doolies and they will continue the "new" tradition of no hazing/bullying when they progress further.

I'm not 100% convinced that Mr Donovan has disappeared for ever - he may well consider Ritch to be the reason for the loss of his career (even though it was his own fault).

I always look forward to a new chapter from you when you have a story going - you are definitely one of the top authors on here.

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Another really good chapter with Ritch letting his upbringing show! I am certain the Dads are proud, and I bet his Mom and Dad would be too, if they were living. As for the skydiving, it is still on my bucket list. I sometimes wonder if sixty-nine is getting too old, but most days I'm thinking "nope."

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Ritch talking about how wrong hazing is and that it should be stopped was very powerful, he is right in saying that it doesn’t matter that it has been going on for years it should be stopped, also all the in your face yelling at cadets, students etc is also bullying and nasty it should be stopped, there is no need for it. Talk to a person calmly and you will get them to pay attention and take notice of what is being said.

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16 hours ago, WolfM said:

Another wonderful chapter. Thank you, Carlos. I so want to be adopted by that family. Not because of the money or the fact the dads are total DILFs. lol. They're just a cool family and teach their kids right.

They could set an example for the rest of the world 

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On 2/12/2021 at 6:54 AM, dughlas said:

A most excellent chapter. Ritch sticks to the life lessons he's been taught with honor and integrity ... did we truly expect anything other. Oh, and accomplished something he can torment his brother with ... jumping out of a perfectly good plane for a minimum five times.

He may be younger than CJ, but like with most brothers, the competition's intense. CJ pulled a similar stunt at Walls, but he was bombastic and public about it. I tried to show Ritch, with similar intentions, handled it differently. He did it in private and followed the chain of command.

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@Kitt

Before I embark on the next long story, I'm toying with a couple of shorter things. One of them has a bunch of my boys cliff diving in the Mediterranean. You don't want to join them?

I'll probably repeat myself, but I'm a firm believer kids learn as much or more by watching their parents than by what they're told.

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