Military, obits, true crime

Rest in peace, Colin Powell…

Yesterday, the news reported that General Colin Powell died at age 84. He’d been suffering from multiple myeloma and Parkinson’s Disease, and then he got COVID-19, even though he was fully vaccinated. Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects the body’s immune response by making plasma cells go haywire. So even though General Powell was vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease process made the vaccine less effective for him. Add in the Parkinson’s Disease and his advanced age, and it makes sense that he passed.

I’ve seen a number of people lamenting that Colin Powell died, with some blaming unvaccinated people. While I think any regular reader of this blog knows that I am for the vaccines, I don’t think it’s productive to blame the unvaccinated. The truth is, he was battling some serious illnesses even before COVID-19 struck. He was also 84 years old. Even if COVID never existed, his time was probably drawing short. I just hope his passing was peaceful.

General Powell lived a full lifespan, and he made great use of his time. Besides being a highly respected Army officer, Powell was also the United States’ first Black Secretary of State. And he had a long, loving, and enduring marriage to his wife, Alma, as well as loving relationships with his children, grandchildren, and friends. Personally, I think he was a great man, but even great men have to die someday. It’s just life.

Hearing about General Powell’s death reminded me of a very old friend of mine who died at age 21. Her name was Lisa Bryant, and at the time of her death, it had been years since our last visit. Lisa and I both lived on Mildenhall Air Force Base in Suffolk, England, back in the late 1970s. My dad was the base engineer there, and her dad was an Army officer who had gotten a special assignment at Mildenhall (or maybe Lakenheath– I’m not sure). Lisa had an older brother who was my sister’s age.

The Bryants were a Black family, but other than that, they weren’t all that different… or, at least it hadn’t seemed so to me at the time. I just remember that Lisa and I used to play together and attended the neighborhood birthday parties. Somewhere in my storage back in Texas, I have pictures from my fifth birthday party, and Lisa is there.

When our fathers were transferred, our families both moved to Fairfax County in Virginia. I remember going to Lisa’s house for another birthday party in Virginia. After that, we lost touch, mainly because my parents only lasted two years in Fairfax before they decided to move to Gloucester County and open their own business.

I never saw Lisa again, but if we had stayed in Fairfax, I would have definitely known who she was and probably would have known her well. She graduated from James W. Robinson Secondary School, the same school where one of my sisters and two of my cousins got their high school diplomas. My aunt also taught math there for years. Lisa was a big woman on campus in high school, having been homecoming queen for the class of ’89 and making top grades. Although we were born in the same year, she was a year ahead of me in school. If we had stayed in Fairfax, I would have gone to the same high school.

After she graduated high school, Lisa went to Princeton University. She was there on a ROTC scholarship, so she was required to fulfill a commitment to the Army post graduation. Lisa did big things at Princeton, too. She recruited students from the Washington, DC area and founded the cheerleading team. She graduated summa cum laude, and joined Delta Sigma Theta sorority. From what I read at the time of her death, Lisa meant to do her time in the Army and leave the service for a civilian career. She had big plans for her life. Sadly, she never had the chance.

Colin Powell was a close friend of Lisa’s father’s. They knew each other from their Army days. I remember reading that Powell had attended her wake, and his wife, Alma, went to Lisa’s closed casket funeral. The reason her casket was closed was because Lisa was murdered at Fort Bragg. She had gone there for a brief training course before she was to move to Germany for her first assignment. On the evening of July 9th, 1993, she had gone to a bar that was adjacent to her dormitory. That’s where she met Ervin Graves, who was a staff sergeant and ROTC instructor.

Graves had reportedly asked Lisa to dance with him. She said no, which was entirely appropriate. Not only was she an officer, while Graves was a non-commissioned officer, but she also had a boyfriend. Graves was also a married man. When Graves persisted in trying to get Lisa to dance with him, she decided to go back to her dorm. Graves was staying in the same dorm.

Lisa called her boyfriend, who was in California. She’d used the pay phone, because she didn’t want to bother her roommate. While she was on the phone, Graves attacked her, marching her to his dorm room where he meant to rape her. She managed to break away from him as he was attempting to restrain her. He responded by shooting her four times in the face with a 357 Magnum he inexplicably had with him in the dorm. She died in the hallway of her dormitory, right in front of the door to Graves’ dorm room.

Prior to the murder, Ervin Graves had been an exemplary soldier. He’d been a member of the Old Guard, where he had participated in presidential inaugurations, led parades, and been part of many ceremonies, both solemn and festive. His family was reportedly shocked that he was accused of a crime. His wife and sons were devastated. And Lisa’s family, especially her parents, were also extremely devastated. It had been many years since I had last seen Lisa, but even I was totally shocked when I heard about her death. She was a woman who was going to go places.

My mom called me at college to tell me about Lisa’s murder. I didn’t find out about it until a couple of months after it happened. People Magazine, which I used to read religiously, ran a story about Lisa. I remember later reading that Colin Powell and his wife were there to comfort the Bryants in their time of need. That always stuck with me, especially since Powell was such a powerful and famous man. But before he was an important man, he was also primarily a soldier, and when one of his brothers needed him, he was there.

In an article I read about Colin Powell’s death, Washington Post reporter, editor, and author, Bob Woodward, wrote that he’d spoken to General Powell in July. Powell reportedly said, “Don’t feel sorry for me, for God’s sakes! I’m [84] years old,” said Powell, who died Monday. “I haven’t lost a day of life fighting these two diseases. I’m in good shape.”

Even up to the end of his life, Powell remained personable and friendly to Bob Woodward, even though his wife didn’t like him speaking to Woodward. He offered his thoughts on President Biden’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Powell wisely noted that we had to get out of Afghanistan eventually, and that with the massive drawdown of troops in recent years, it needed to be done expeditiously.

When Woodward asked who was the greatest man, woman, or person Powell had ever known, his response was immediate. He said, “It’s Alma Powell. She was with me the whole time. We’ve been married 58 years. And she put up with a lot. She took care of the kids when I was, you know, running around. And she was always there for me and she’d tell me, ‘That’s not a good idea.’ She was usually right.”

I know not everyone approved or appreciated Colin Powell’s politics or even his leadership, but I think of him as one of the good ones… While he had been a Republican throughout his career, he was not a Trump style Republican. He didn’t approve of Trump’s tactics. And when Woodward told Powell that one of his journalism students had asked, “What does the truth accomplish?”, Powell’s response was:

“This is scary… You just scared the hell out of me if this is what our kids are saying and thinking. Where are they getting it from? Media?”

I tend to agree with Powell. It IS scary that so many people are willing to overlook the importance of the truth, or the need to have good and decent– humane– people in power. Colin Powell was basically an honest man with integrity and strength, and he deeply loved and was loved by many. My heart goes out to his family, especially his wife, Alma, as they mourn their great loss. I’m sure the Bryant family is mourning, too… but maybe if there is a place after life, General Powell is with Lisa now.

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expressions, lessons learned, musings, YouTube

“You should never meet your heroes…” or should you?

A couple of days ago, when I was watching the movie, Camp, I was reminded of a famous saying. “You should never meet your heroes…” ostensibly because the reality of who they are will always be a disappointment. The character, Vlad, actually says those words when he runs into his hero, Bert Hanley (played by real life musician, Don Dixon), who is rip roaring drunk. Vlad idolized Bert Hanley for being a great musician and songwriter, but he didn’t know that Hanley was a cynical drunken asshole. And he was disappointed when he found Hanley, who was supposed to be directing the camp, completely bombed. Adding insult to injury, Hanley vomits on Vlad as he tries to help him up. Real class.

I ran into that quote myself a few weeks ago on the Cruise Critic messageboard. I was reading SeaDream Yacht Club’s board and joked that I really wanted to meet a regular poster named Jim Avery. And another regular poster wisely pointed out, “You should never meet your heroes.” He’s probably right. I’ve met a few people on SeaDream cruises who were posters on the messageboard. Some of them legitimately turned out to be people I wish I’d never met. I love SeaDream cruises, but I have to admit that it’s a line that attracts a fair number of entitled twits. In all fairness, though, some of the other passengers probably think I’m a twit, too. Especially when I’m in the piano bar. 😉

Some of the people on SeaDream probably think I’m not unlike this guy… I even have a similar physique.

I do love being on a SeaDream cruise, though. I haven’t been on one since 2013. I honestly thought we would eventually do another cruise with them, but Bill was going to be retiring in 2014, and I wasn’t sure what his employment prospects were going to be. Also, I knew that he would likely be starting a new job with limited vacation time. Then we ended up moving to Germany, and the rest is history. We have done three more Hebridean cruises, though, and Hebridean is as expensive as SeaDream is. I booked those cruises because of the themes and itineraries… and unfortunately, thanks to COVID, I’m not sure when we will be cruising again. So I will probably never meet the famous Jim Avery. I might be better off for that, since he might turn out to be a mean spirited jerk. Or maybe he won’t. Maybe I would think he’s funny and witty. I may never know.

Wonder if, when she has a quiet moment, Anna regrets being a “super fan”…

This topic comes up, in part, because Katie Joy on her YouTube channel, Without a Crystal Ball, did a video about how Anna Duggar was a “super fan” of the Duggar Family, back in the day. Katie Joy talks about how Anna admired the Duggars, having seen their public persona. She was dazzled by their images. I wonder if she now thinks the reality of being a Duggar is anywhere akin to what she imagined when she first saw Josh and his family. Especially now that it looks like Josh is going to be heading for prison soon. Maybe he’ll manage to get off, but I have a feeling he’s going to be wearing a striped uniform soon.

Then again, sometimes the opposite is true, and you should meet your antiheroes because they’re not nearly as bad as you think they are. You think someone is a real jerk, and it turns out they’re the opposite of being a jerk. Reality is often unlike what we think it is. I’ll give you a real life example.

For years, I thought Bill’s daughter was as hostile as her mother is. I was angry with her for a long time, mainly because she and her sister rejected Bill and refused to speak to him. It pissed me off that a man who is as kind and loving as Bill is, was being treated the way his daughters treated him. I was tired of people giving them a pass for that behavior.

But then Bill started talking to his daughter again, and he started to learn about what was behind that seemingly cruel behavior. And now I know I was wrong about Bill’s daughter, and fully admit that I was wrong. She’s turned out to be a very resilient and empathic person, much like her dad is. She is the very opposite of her mother. It had only seemed like she was a mean and judgmental person. The reality is, she’s not like her mother at all.

This week, Bill’s daughter wrote to Bill expressing her worry and dismay at seeing the crisis in Afghanistan. She wanted to know Bill’s thoughts on the situation. Bill explained to her that he never went to Afghanistan; he did his time in Iraq. But he has many friends and colleagues who served in Afghanistan, and they are devastated by the news. It’s heartbreaking to see that all of the time, money, effort, and lives spent on Afghanistan have seemingly gone to waste.

Bill’s daughter has decided to do what she can to help. She says she’s learned how to say “Hello” in Farsi, which is lovely, although Bill wrote back to tell her that most Afghans speak Pashto or Dari. She says that she knows that it means a lot for people to hear their language. Bill’s daughter is even putting together hygiene kits for refugees. She’s turned out to be a very good person, in spite of everything. She’s finding out that her dad and grandmother, both of whom were demonized for years by her mother, are actually excellent people who love her.

I often wonder what it’s like for Bill’s daughter now. She missed knowing Bill and his mom for most of her life. She was told many lies. Now she’s old enough to seek the truth, and she’s been brave enough to do it. I’m sure that as exhilarating as it is to know Bill again, there’s been a lot of pain. It’s not easy to find out that your mother lied to you, took advantage of you, and was completely abusive and horrible to so many other innocent people. Bill’s daughter has children of her own, and I know she wants to protect them from her mother. That’s got to be hard, especially when so many people have bought into the false story.

I have also gained more respect for Mormonism. I still don’t like the doctrine and I think it does a lot of damage to people who can’t fit into the mold. A lot of people have been harmed by people in the church. But Bill’s younger daughter managed to find good influences in the church, and some good hearted members helped her escape an abusive situation. Granted, she could have found help elsewhere, but in her case, it was the church that helped her. Going on a mission humbled her and broadened her horizons. She started to see perspectives that had been kept from her for so many years. In her case, the church actually helped her grow. It filled a need for her like the Army filled a need for Bill.

Now that I think about it, the Army has also damaged a lot of people… like those who fought or died in Afghanistan for what seems to be naught… But was it really all for naught? I read that some Afghan girls on a robotics team were rescued from Afghanistan. If not for the war in Afghanistan, would they have been rescued? Would they have ever had the chance to study robotics or be on teams that were successful in North America and Europe? What about the other girls who got the chance to go to school during our twenty years in Afghanistan? If not for the war, what would have happened to them?

What about the people who were born because of the war? There were romances between Afghans and Americans. Surely, there are people who exist now because we went to war, just as many people died because of the war. Those relationships help bridge understanding of the cultures. They add stories to the collective… and everyone does have a story. The war seems like it was a huge failure on many macro levels. But on micro levels, maybe it wasn’t. I’m reading about people in Afghanistan defying and protesting the Taliban, despite their fearsome reputation of being brutal in the face of defiance. Would they be doing this if not for the war? To be honest, I think Afghans are the only ones who can save their country from the Taliban. It can’t be up to any other country.

I think sometimes we get lost in what appears to be, rather than what is. It happens when we worship an image over what’s real. Or when we assume we know the truth about something when we really only have some of the information. The situation in Afghanistan looks very bad right now. I can’t deny that. But there are always other perspectives and other ways to look at things. Every new situation brings with it new opportunities. Hell… Bill’s daughter is using the situation in Afghanistan for inspiration. She’s learning a few words of a new language in hopes that maybe somehow, she can help someone. Maybe she will be an actual hero to someone, rather than a hero based on an image, reputation, or facade.

Maybe a lot of people view the United States as “heroic” on some level. And sometimes the USA is heroic. But more often, it’s comprised of fallible people who are living life as best they can. They look to their heroes for inspiration. Sometimes, that view is much better than reality is. And sometimes reality is better than we’d ever hoped or expected.

Well… I guess it’s time to wrap this up. Arran and Noyzi are breathing on me, hoping for a walk. The sun is finally out this week, so I guess I better take advantage before the weather turns shitty again. Have a happy Friday.

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true crime, Virginia

Double repost: the tragic case of Crystal Ragin

Here are two posts that originally appeared on the Blogspot version of this blog. I wrote the first one, not knowing anything more about the case than what little was in the paper. One of Ragin’s relatives sent me a private message. She was initially upset about my comments, but then told me more about what had actually happened and asked me to write more. So I did… and I am including the second post with the first. As usual, these posts are mostly unedited and appear “as/is” from 2014.

This is a truly tragic story…

I like to read The Daily Press sometimes.  It’s the newspaper I grew up with and I used to read the paper version of it every day when I was growing up.  Today, I check it a few times a week to see if anything interesting is going on in the area where I grew up.  Today, there was a very sad story about a woman who made a very poor choice in husbands.  Now she and three of her four children are dead.

Fort Eustis Army Sergeant Crystal Ragin was an exemplary soldier who was going to go to school to become a drill sergeant.  She was well-known for being very good at her job, responsible, punctual, and very hard working.  A mother of four, she had been married to her second husband, John Moses Ragin, since 2006.  They met in South Carolina, when Crystal was a guard at the prison where John Ragin was serving a 15 year sentence for manslaughter.  He had killed his childhood best friend.

Once John Ragin was released, Crystal, who by then had joined the Army, was free to marry him.  She did, and he became a father figure to the three children she had with her first husband, Mike Burton.  Then Crystal and John had a child of their own, I’Kaos.

John Ragin was apparently a very jealous and controlling husband.  He insisted on Crystal calling him often.  He never wanted her to go out alone.  He demanded that she live according to his wishes, which included swearing off eating meat.  He was very suspicious of the men Crystal worked with in the Army.

On August 19, 2011, John Ragin had apparently had enough.  He brutally murdered his wife and her three older children, Sierra, La’Kwan, and Rasheed, stabbing them 74 times, and setting their home on fire.  Then he took I’Kaos and went back to South Carolina, where he was arrested the next day.

Ragin now may face the death penalty and his son is being raised by his maternal relatives in South Carolina.  What an awful thing for that family to have to deal with… and what a terrible legacy that little boy now has.

I’m sure Crystal Ragin was a wonderful woman, based on the article written about her.  I wonder why she was attracted to John Ragin.  I can’t imagine finding a killer attractive, but I realize that these things aren’t always based on logic or common sense.  Sometimes people can change…  or so they say.  I can’t imagine I’d want to have my children around someone who had done time for killing someone, but I know that sometimes there are mitigating circumstances.

I just think it’s very sad that this woman, who had four beautiful children and a promising career, ended up with someone who obviously couldn’t control his rage or impulses.  I don’t know what Crystal’s reasons were for choosing to marry John Ragin.  It would be easy for me to blame her for being unwise.  But really, she just sounds like someone who trusted someone who was ultimately untrustworthy.  She and her kids paid the ultimate price for that choice.  Her young surviving son will now have to carry on with a father in prison or dead and a mother and siblings who were brutally murdered.

My experiences being Bill’s wife have taught me that people sometimes make very poor choices when it comes to finding mates.  Bill made a bad decision to marry his ex wife and he paid a dear price.  But at least he’s still alive and healthy.

Reading about this case reminds me of the old story about the scorpion and the frog.  A scorpion wants to cross a stream, but doesn’t know how to swim.  So he asks the frog to help him.  The frog worries about being stung, but the scorpion points out that if he stings the frog, they will both die.  So the frog trusts the scorpion and halfway across the stream, gets stung.  As the doomed duo start to sing, the frog asks the scorpion why he did it.  The frog says, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.  It’s nature.”

With some of these people, I have to think that it’s in their nature to be violent and controlling.  In some cases, no amount of love and understanding can overcome that.  I wish Crystal’s family much peace.    

AND the follow up piece… Originally, I had a link to the 911 calls regarding this case. Unfortunately, those were taken down. Listening to those recordings really drove home how dangerous John Ragin was and how Crystal Ragin and her children were completely failed by the Newport News police department.

How the police failed Crystal Ragin and her kids…

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Crystal Ragin, a soldier at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia who, along with three of her four children, was brutally murdered by her husband, John Moses Ragin on August 19, 2011.  The lone survivor was the youngest child, a boy named I’Kaos, Crystal Ragin’s son with John Moses Ragin.

I must admit, what I knew about that case was based on one article I read in the  Daily Press, which is the local newspaper for the Newport News area.  Though I was born and raised in the Hampton Roads area, I haven’t lived there since 1999.  I only occasionally read the news that comes from there, and that article from the Daily Press was the first I had heard of Crystal Ragin.  This morning, Ragin’s former sister-in-law contacted me on Facebook and asked me to take another look at the story.  So I started reading more about the tragic relationship between Crystal Ragin and John Moses Ragin.  What I’ve learned is very disturbing.

In June of 2011, John assaulted Crystal and threw her to the floor.  She hit her head on a dresser.  The week of the murders, Crystal faced John in court on the assault charge resulting from that attack.  A judge found that there was enough evidence to convict John, but for some reason, decided to defer sentencing for two years.  This decision was especially strange, since Crystal Ragin met her husband in a South Carolina prison; she was a guard and he was an inmate serving time on a manslaughter charge because he’d shot and killed his best friend in 1991.  He was released in 2005 after serving just 14 years.  John Ragin already had a history of violence that, somehow, the court didn’t take into account.

After the hearing, Crystal Ragin filed a protective order against John, saying she “feared for her life”.  As it turns out, her concerns for her life were entirely valid.  However, it took over 24 hours for a Newport News Sheriff’s Department Deputy to attempt to serve John Moses Ragin with the protective order.  Between the time the order was granted and a deputy made an initial attempt to serve it, John Moses Ragin stabbed his estranged wife and stepchildren 74 times and then tried to cover up the crime by setting their apartment on fire.

By the time the deputy had arrived at the apartment to serve the papers, it was already a devastating crime scene.  This makes me wonder, too, how was it that the deputy didn’t already know about what had happened?  Don’t the police agencies communicate with each other?  Or was it the deputy who initially discovered the crime scene?  Given that there was a fire involved, I wonder why no one called the authorities until after the fire was out.  Didn’t the other residents at the apartment complex notice the fire?

Crystal Ragin called 911 on August 18, 2011, while she was at a Shell gas station with the kids.  John Moses Ragin confronted her and wouldn’t let her leave.  According to a Daily Press article, John Ragin was confronting Crystal because he wanted his son, I’Kaos.  He planned to take the boy to South Carolina and was blocking Crystal from her truck because she wouldn’t let him have their son.

Crystal told the 911 operator that there was a pending order of protection she had filed that hadn’t been served.  In the background, you can hear John Ragin repeatedly telling Crystal to “stop lying”.  He sounds very menacing, yet Crystal is very calm as she speaks to the 911 operator.  She sounds like a well trained soldier, keeping cool in a crisis.  I think if I had been in her shoes, I would have been hysterical.  I can’t imagine how very terrified she and the kids must have been.

Though Crystal Ragin had a protective order pending against John Moses Ragin, when a police officer arrived at the scene where he had been threatening her, they let him go. The second call is from maintenance supervisor Johnny Kennedy. He’s calling about the apartment that the Ragins shared, which looked like it had been on fire. Mr. Kennedy could see a body and was calling to report his findings.

Officer E. Jenkins of the Newport News Police Department was one of the police officers who came to the gas station after Crystal made her 911 call.  Officer Jenkins describes Crystal Ragin as obviously scared and “shaking”.  He called a dispatcher in an attempt to find the protective order that had not yet been served.  Somehow, despite looking for 35-40 minutes, the dispatcher was unable to find the pending protective order.  John Ragin claimed he knew nothing about it and, in fact, he said he and Crystal had had sexual intercourse the night before.

Crystal denied having sex with John Moses Ragin and claimed that he was “crazy.”  The police officer offered to escort John Ragin to the apartment so he could pick up his belongings.  Somehow, that didn’t happen and Ragin was able to get to Crystal and her kids, where he violently ended their lives.

I read an article from May 2012 about how angry Crystal Ragin’s family is about how the protective order was handled.  Apparently, because the protective order was signed late in the afternoon, the police department’s policy was to wait until the next day to attempt to serve it.  Ragin’s family asserts that the Newport News Sheriff’s Department’s tardiness may have played a direct role in the murders.  I don’t have any direct experience with Newport News police; I’ve never even gotten a speeding ticket in Newport News.  But if it takes them 24 hours to act on a protective order, I have to wonder how much good the order would have done in this case… or any other case, for that matter.      

Though it’s terrible enough that John Moses Ragin killed four people, it’s even worse that they really suffered before they died.  Crystal Ragin was stabbed 18 times.  According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn, one of the stab wounds went through Ragin’s face, “from one side to the other”.  Crystal Ragin’s daughter, Sierra, was burned so severely that her lips “curled back from her teeth”.  Sons La’Kwan and Rasheed were repeatedly stabbed.  Their deaths were not instant.  The medical examiner who testified in this case described the conditions that led to their deaths, noting that there were stab wounds in their heads, necks, and torsos.  Some of the wounds were so deep that they actually went through the bodies.  Rasheed was only six years old and weighed just 40 pounds, yet he had 27 stab wounds.

John Moses Ragin was charged and convicted with three counts of capital murder in the deaths of the children.  In the death of Crystal Ragin, he was charged and convicted of second degree murder.  He was also charged and convicted of felony arson and unlawful stabbing.  Though the death penalty was considered in this case, shockingly enough, Ragin was sentenced to three life sentences in the deaths of the children, 40 years for the death of his wife, a life sentence for arson, and five years for each count of unlawful stabbing.  The jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision to sentence Ragin to death, so he will spend the rest of his life in prison. 

I am no fan of the death penalty, though I stop short of saying that it’s never appropriate.  I have no idea why the jury wasn’t able to come to a unanimous decision for death in this case.  John Moses Ragin is obviously an extremely violent and dangerous man and it’s very clear that he’s guilty as charged.  Moreover, Crystal Ragin’s family was hoping he would get the death penalty and clearly made their wishes known to the court.  Yet there were people on the jury who did not feel the death penalty was appropriate, so by law, the judge had to sentence Ragin to life in prison.

Perhaps the people of Virginia can take some comfort in knowing that John Moses Ragin will never be a free man again.  He’ll likely eventually end up at a supermax prison in Virginia’s coal mining country.  Though things may have improved there since 1999, it’s my guess that Ragin’s time won’t be easy if he ends up going to either Red Onion or Wallen’s Ridge prisons.  Given Ragin’s propensity toward violence, it won’t surprise me if he winds up in Wise, Virginia with the worst of the worst, like Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the D.C. snipers.  

In the wake of this case, the Newport News Sheriff’s Department now serves protective orders at night.   
As for Crystal Ragin’s family, there have already been more casualties related to this case.  According to Crystal’s former sister-in-law, two family members have already died with broken hearts.  The family has known no peace since the terrible day they lost Crystal Ragin and her three oldest children.      

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celebrities

Lori Loughlin now has an inkling of what I went through…

Happy New Year, everybody. Here’s a quick post before I head off to enjoy the first day of 2021.

This morning, I noticed an article about the actress, Lori Loughlin, who very recently got sprung from prison after serving nearly two months for her part in in the nationwide college admissions scandal. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California on false pretenses. They, along with actress, Felicity Huffman, and a bunch of other well-heeled parents, got busted in 2019.

Huffman chose to plead guilty and do her 11 days of time at a federal lockup in Dublin, California in October 2019. Loughlin and her husband, however, continued to fight the charges. They finally admitted to their crimes in May 2020, and settled over the summer, probably when it became clear that if they went on trial, they might have to go to prison for years. Loughlin reported to prison on October 30 and was released December 28, 2020, a couple of days shy of the two months she was supposed to serve.

Lots of people were very disappointed that she’s out of prison. I, for one, am glad the ordeal is over for her. I don’t think prison was appropriate for this crime. Our culture locks people up for everything, and we have so many citizens incarcerated for non-violent crimes. It’s turned into a for profit racket. In any case, it’s over for Lori, and now she can focus on living her life and maybe getting back to her career. She won’t repeat this crime, so I think we can all feel safe that she’s been released and she’ll put this behind her.

Anyway, as I was reading about Lori Loughlin, I noticed that the article mentioned that she’s now focused on her husband’s eventual release. Thanks to COVID-19, Giannulli can’t have visitors. But he should be getting out of the joint by April 2021.

It occurred to me that Lori and her daughters now have an idea of what military spouses go through when there’s a lengthy deployment. My husband went to Iraq for six months, starting in January 2007. I was alone for six months in a brand new house we had just moved into on Fort Belvoir. I couldn’t visit Bill, and like Lori Loughlin, we kept in contact by phone and email. An added stressor was the fact that Bill’s boss’s predecessor was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq, just a couple of weeks before he was scheduled to come home. I knew that was highly unlikely to happen to Bill, but it was still a grim reminder that things can still go wrong, even when it seems like you’re home free.

When he was at war in Iraq, I missed Bill terribly and worried about him constantly, but the time flew by… and one thing Lori won’t have to worry about is getting a visit by two uniformed service members there to tell her her husband has been killed. I mean, it’s possible Mossimo could die in prison, but it’s highly unlikely that will happen. If it does happen, she won’t be informed in person by conspicuous bearers of bad news, although I’m sure it will be all over the news. Military spouses with deployed husbands and wives have to worry about that possibility all the time. Mossimo is also in California, rather than a far away Middle Eastern nation.

I’m sure she’ll be okay. It won’t be long until springtime is here, and she’ll have her husband home with her again. They can work on rebuilding their lives after this mess. And– perhaps an added positive. I don’t have to see the constantly recycled stock photos of Lori in her tan pantsuit or grey dress with a sweater anymore.

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narcissists

Assholes at the wheel…

This morning, Bill told me kind of a funny story about one of his former Army bosses. This guy was legitimately an abusive asshole. Almost everyone thought so. He had a reputation that reached far and wide among everyone who knew him. Woe be unto anyone who had to work directly for him, because he would put those guys through hell. Bill experienced it firsthand in a war zone.

The sad thing was, guys like Bill’s former boss were frequently rewarded for being assholes. Nice, reasonable, compassionate guys like Bill were often seen as weak leaders. However… Bill’s asshole ex boss was eventually very publicly fired from his job weeks before he would have been a general, so there’s definitely a fine line of how far the asshole routine can go.

Years ago, when we lived in northern Virginia, Bill’s former boss used to visit the “slug line“. The slug line, for your information, is a place where commuters needing a ride into northern Virginia or Washington, D.C. could wait for someone to pick them up. It was a win/win. The riders would get a ride into the city and the drivers could use the “high occupancy vehicle” (HOV) lanes without risking a ticket. If you’ve ever experienced D.C. area traffic, you understand why that’s a good thing.

So anyway, this former boss of Bill’s… I’ll call him Zeus (clearly not his real name)… had a habit of showing up on the slug line to pick up people he knew. There were certain guys he targeted. He didn’t pick up just anyone. He’d get guys who worked with him or were in the Army. Then, he’d spend however long it took to get to the city berating the guy. He’d deliberately provoke arguments with them or get them involved in a stressful discussion about work.

Now… the guys didn’t have to ride with Zeus. They could take their chances that someone else was going their way, although that might mean they’d be late, or it would take a lot longer to get where they needed to go. More often than not, those poor dudes would suck it up and ride with Zeus, who usually outranked them and got off on harassing them.

Bill went to war with Zeus and experienced that kind of abuse 24/7 for about six months. He used to call me from Iraq and tell me stories… I knew it was really bad when he said his boss reminded him of his ex wife. I was pretty pissed off about that, too, since I didn’t want my husband to come home from deployment with mental issues other than what he might get from being at war. I do remember telling Zeus that if he got Bill killed, I’d be coming after him. He was a bit taken aback by that, since most wives didn’t speak to him in that way. But hell, I don’t care… The Army never issued me a paycheck. He never let Bill forget what I said, although to his credit, he did make sure Bill was never put in really dangerous situations.

Zeus loved to play little sadistic mind games and deny his people a break from his very special kind of narcissistic abuse. My husband is extremely kind and patient, but even he has his limits. After awhile, Bill started adopted little habits to deliberately irritate Zeus, who would force him to take his meals with him and deny him days off. Bill eventually became a bit passive aggressive, and then got more actively aggressive. At one point, Zeus sent Bill to Qatar for a three night “vacation”, which basically meant going to a small U.S. post there, sharing a room with a guy who snored a lot, and weathering 120 degree heat. But at least in Qatar, Bill could visit the markets and have an allotted two beers a day at the bar.

I will never forget the sight of Bill at Ronald Reagan International Airport in August 2007. He was in his uniform, fresh from the war zone. When he saw me, he looked absolutely overjoyed. He almost knocked me over with a big hug. It was like a movie moment. People stood around and watched our reunion… and then we went home and did a lot of fucking for about a week. After that, we had to pack everything up and move to Germany the first time. Great God Almighty, he was free at last! But it was kind of a short lived respite.

Zeus wasn’t done screwing with Bill after their war time experience. In February 2009, we were enjoying life in Germany. Bill had just gotten home from a “TDY” assignment somewhere. It was Valentine’s Day weekend, and we were headed to Chodovar, which is a cool beer spa in the Czech Republic. I was all excited about that… and then Bill got a cryptic email from his war buddy. It turned out he’d fucked with Bill’s career and recommended him by name for a job at Fort McPherson in Georgia. Fort McPherson was slated to close, so a move there would mean another move very quickly. We ended up being there for just 16 months before we had to move to North Carolina for another 28. Plus, we were loving Germany, and didn’t want to leave. I was really upset with Zeus.

Fortunately, although the chain reaction of three moves in five years was a big pain in the ass, it wasn’t all bad. In Georgia, we lived in a nice town and adopted our adorable and much missed Zane, the wonder beagle. Bill also learned how to brew beer, and we made some good friends. Then we moved to North Carolina, where we picked up Arran, and got to meet even more friends. Our year in Texas wasn’t so bad, either, although I was delighted to move back to Germany. It’s crazy how that worked out for us, and I’d say about 90% of our second experience here has been fantastic. Some of you know about the other 10%… but even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Zeus went on to lead a large battalion of 750 people to Iraq a few years later… and he spent the whole year of his deployment egregiously abusing people. He was especially tough on anyone who didn’t appeal to his sense of aesthetics. I remember hearing about how he’d go through the trash cans of guys he thought were too fat, dig out any sweets wrappers he saw there, and show them to the entire group. He hated dealing with women, and would either outright dismiss them or be very insulting to them. This was even though he has daughters of his own. He would not allow female doctors to examine him, for instance. I have a female childhood friend who is now a colonel and she had dealings with him. She said he was a complete asshole to her, too.

About six weeks before Zeus was to come home and be promoted to general, his mother died. He went home on emergency leave. While he was gone, people in the battalion he was regularly abusing started working to get him relieved of command. They made complaints and offered proof of the abuse– there were 74 complaints lodged against him and two congressional inquiries. And by the time Zeus was back in Iraq, he was very publicly fired. There was a long article in the Army Times about him and everything. It was very embarrassing.

Guys like Zeus seem like they win a lot, just for being assholes. Nice people tend to let assholes get away with a lot more than they should. Frankly, I think Bill should have complained about the way Zeus behaved when they were in Iraq. It was the first time for both of them, and a lot of people saw how Bill was treated. A couple of people even spoke up about it… but when you’ve been an abuse victim, which Bill and I have both been, you get taught not to speak up when you really should. It’s a tough habit to unlearn.

One thing that Bill and I have been learning is that sometimes, you have to sound the alarm. Maybe if Bill had said something about his former boss, that guy wouldn’t have had an opportunity to harass such a huge group of people in Iraq. Being at war is tough enough when your boss isn’t a narcissistic creep. Maybe if Bill had stood up to his ex wife, his daughters wouldn’t have experienced as much hell as they did being raised by their mother. I can also think of times when I should have been a lot more assertive, although in truth, I tend to be better at that than Bill is. I have a much shorter temper.

It’s easy to cop out of standing up to bullies. Sometimes it seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. But not standing up to bullies is implicit permission for them to keep being bullies. We’re trying to change our habit of not speaking up more loudly when we should, so that major catastrophes can be avoided and other people don’t have to suffer. Sometimes, you have to let people reap the natural consequences of their bad behaviors. And sometimes, you have to put the wheels in motion… not unlike Zeus did in the slug line, when he’d pick up guys to harass on the way to work.

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