Aboard the USS Constellation

USS ContellationUSS ConstellationSeveral years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of being invited aboard the USS Constellation CV-64 for an overnight visit. What an incredible experience!

We were flown from San Diego to the “Connie” (which was about 100 miles off the California shores) aboard a C-2A Greyhound, which is part of the COD squadrons “Carrier Onboard Delivery” service to the fleet. The CODs provide mail, parts, and in our case, invited visitors to the fleet.

USS ConstellationUSS ConstellationOnce on board the COD, we were seated facing backwards in a very tight space. Helmet and goggles, (cranials) were provided, along with flight vest and restraint harnesses, which went over the shoulders and waist to hold the passenger firmly in place during the

Once on board the Constellation, we watched “flight ops” during both the day and night. I have to tell you, watching an F-14 Tomcat being catapulted from the ships flight deck into the darkness of the night, with it’s two afterburners glowing like diamonds will be something I’ll never forget.

Cliff on the USS ConstellationHowever, the real highlight of my visit was meeting some of our nation’s young men and women who carry out their military duties in such a professional and dedicated way. If the future of our country is in our youth, then we have nothing to fear. For these sailors are an amazing group of highly professional individuals who work together as a solid team to accomplish the tasks and missions of an aircraft carrier.

I would like to express my appreciation to Deputy PAO Joe Ciokon, and our tour guides, AOC(AW) Mike Bornstein, Lt. Darryl James, Chaplain Ben Orchard, LTjg Flack Maguire and LTjg Mike Murray for their expert and highly informative tour of the USS Constellation.

At the White House

First Lady Barbara Bush and Cliff BemisFirst Lady Hillary Clinton and Cliff BemisDuring the 1990’s, I was privileged to be a part of a group of volunteers who gather in Washington, D.C. at the most famous address in the nation, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and decorate this grand house for the Christmas Holidays.

The White House Flower Shop staff, headed up by Nancy Clarke, works throughout the year with the First Lady to decide the “Christmas Theme.” Beginning on the Monday  after Thanksgiving, the volunteers join the regular staff for a week full of hard work, and great fun. We make each evergreen wreath, hang the hundreds of feet of fresh garland, and trim the trees in the Executive Residence, as well White House Christmas Decorationsas the East and West    Wing Offices. The volunteers come from all over the country, and some have been giving their time for more than 20 years, beginning with the Carter White House Christmas DecorationsAdministration.

My first year was during the Bush Presidency. Mrs. Bush would often come down late at night, attired in a jogging outfit, with her constant canine companion, “Millie” at her side. She was always curious as to what we were doing, and to see how we were progressing. And would often join in the decorating fun.

White House Christmas DecorationsFor several years, I have been the fortunate one to put the star or angel on top of the tree in the Oval Office. In that moment, I realize I’m the only person in the country to have such an honor.

copter2The Presidents who have occupied this historic room have run the gamut from the very great, to less than. It is hallowed ground, and life changing decisions which have affected every citizen of the world have been made here. It requires and demands dignity, honor, and respect.

If you are ever in Washington during December, make sure you stop in for one of the Christmas White House Tours. You’ll see a bit of my handiwork wherever you look.

copter1White House Christmas DecorationsAs a “footnote,” each volunteer pays for his or her own transportation, housing, and meals during their D.C. stay. No taxpayer money is spent on this yearly project.