Thursday, March 15, 2012

Army Vet Brothers - Nick Palmisciano

Spent the better part of the day on the road to Durham, North Carolina to meet and work with the guys from Ranger Up. As of late, I've not spent too much time hanging out with a group of my male fellow veterans but I needed this. Getting on the road and having some time to catch up on a few personal phone calls, do some thinking and sing a few songs at the top of my lungs (much to Diesel Dog's bemusement/amusement) is what my buddy Scotti refers to as "rubber meets the road" therapy. He told me I needed a road trip months ago.

Although 4.5 hours from DC is probably not going to qualify as a proper 'road trip,' it's managed to achieve what a 15 minute cat-nap would... just enough to reinvigorate me till the next opportunity, I hope.

When I finally got in the AO (area of operations) I rounded the corner and saw the warehouse. With excitement, I walked into the building and felt like a little kid getting to satisfy much of my long-held curiosity on what the RU operation looks like. As someone who claims to own more RU 'chick shirts' than anyone (please feel free to challenge me on this), I found it incredibly cool to see how far Nick and the team have grown the business.

I first met Nick Palmisciano, Tom Amenta and Kelly Crigger back in 2009, I believe, at the Milblog Conference. Matt Burden of Blackfive had mentioned to Nick and me, separately, that we needed to meet. After perusing RU's awesome shirts for military/veterans and reading through some of the blog posts, I came to the immediate conclusion that RU was almost perfect... for guys.

At the pre-Milblog Conference party, I saw a group of guys in MMA-like t-shirts standing in a row across the room. I knew who Nick was in an instant. All I remember is walking straight up to him and saying, "I love Ranger Up but you guys need some bad-ass chick shirts."

I'm not sure what was going through Nick's mind at the time but if I remember correctly, what he said was "You must be Genevieve."

Mark Seavey, Princeton, Matt Bernard, Nick/AG
My memory is worse now than it ever was (and it was pretty bad way back when), but all I remember from that weekend was an early panel with TSO from This Ain't Hell (who wrote a very complimentary blog about the first time we met at the Soldiers Angels Gala in 2008), Matt Bernard who blogged anonymously and founded Brinestone, a man we will refer to as "Princeton" and myself in which the latter of the male species made some (not at all vague) disparaging remarks about the business/actions/motivations of another of his ilk, hereafter referred to as "Amherst," who was not present to respond. Low blow, in my book. I wanted desperately to respond but knew that the one general consensus in that room was the festering disaffection for Amherst. In the brief moments where I considered saying nothing, I looked down, read my name tag and realized that I was not Army Girl but was in fact, Nick Palmisciano... "Don't forget," I told everyone, "...If I say anything you don't like, my name is Nick Palmisciano." :)

There followed some warm (heated is such a strong word) debate on this and other topics like the portrayal of veterans to the American public. Princeton, most likely not knowing his audience as I did (or simply not caring), seemed to dig himself neatly into a hole which I'm told he recovered from on one-to-one conversations following the panel, quite the charmer as he is.

Feeling a bit out of my league as, you know, not having an ivy name and it being my first such panel discussion, I was beyond nervous. Bloggers, especially milbloggers, are an extremely opinionated and sometimes unforgiving lot. You really must always be on your toes, as many a reporter or rogue embedded 'journalist' has learned. (Even milbloggers have their inter-family rivalries.) But I had little to worry about because whenever I looked out at the audience, I saw a row of very intimidating former Army Rangers standing at the back of the room. I felt safe up there. After all, no one was going to mess with Nick Palmisciano... even if he was in a skirt.

That was the beginning of what I have often referred to as a sibling-like fondness and affection for Nick and the Ranger Up guys. He's far more well-versed and experienced in business (which I bug him about often but not nearly as much as I'd like) and he shared the same passion for service to country and values of leadership as I did. (Warning: If you can't handle a few f-bombs, skip the link.)

In many ways, I respect and look up to him like the brother I never had and as siblings do, we've had our issues. I will humbly admit here that in the past, not only was I an outright brat on one or a few occasions (to be fair, he was at times more "snips and snails and puppy dog tails"!), but I went through a very loooong "phase" in which I quite often imposed my opinion and unsolicited 'tough love'-type advice. On more occasions than I care to disclose (and with various friends and family members) I was an outright bitch... in the not-so-cool definition of the word.

Recently and especially since the passing over of Lex, this is something that I feel quite guilty about. Never mind the sometimes inevitable drifting apart or kind words left unspoken. I fully believe that little else compares with the guilt maggots that eat at us from the inside, borne from poisonous eggs fertilized by criticism, judgment and the inability to forgive ourselves and others. I believe, but cannot confirm yet, that the simplest (but perhaps hardest to administer) restorative to this affliction is, "I'm sorry." Which is what brings me to the nature of this post...

Nick and I haven't seen each other in a while and I'll admit that while initially nervous, it wasn't long before I felt at ease. I don't really know how to explain what it feels like to be surrounded by my brothers in arms or fellow male vets. It's a strange but respectful mix of family and professional... the only word I've ever been able to offer that comes close is 'camaraderie' but even that fails to differentiate between the awesomeness of hanging with sisters in arms/vets and brothers in arms/vets. They're equally incredible for different reasons.

Nick, Garrett, AG, Tommy, Raven, Matt, Kelly, Patriot Center, 2009
I don't know what it is about Nick and some of my more forgiving friends that has weathered us through everything from simple misunderstandings to arguments bordering on unforgivable. Maybe they grew up with more siblings/larger families and learned to coexist? Perhaps they saw through my poor behavior and loved me for who I had/have the potential to be? Or, you know, mayhap they're just crazy and like the abuse! I suspect it might be a mixture of those to varying degrees, with a heavy influence of experience in the military. As an aside, I've yet to do so here but suspect I will in time, delve deeply into why and how it is that soldiers can absolutely abhor one another for an entire deployment, and yet meet up at some later time and act as if they were old and dear friends.

Whatever the reason, I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to express my regrets and apologize to Nick. He made it such that I didn't feel the need and thereby made it easier to do so which speaks volumes of his character and the type of man he is.

For the record, the irony and selfishness of needing to apologize does not escape me...

Update: Make sure you check back for what I was doing in Durham at the Rhino Den in the first place... to be continued.



  1. Camaraderie works. If you've been in, you get it. If not, how do you explain music to the congenitally deaf? As for navel gazing, you should check it periodically for lint and other stuff that doesn't belong there. And then move along to other things. Don't dwell.

    Nice post.


  2. Let us all not forget that I defended you on that panel against Princeton as well. Despite the fact that the pitcher of water in front of me there was an effort to fight off the hangover from an absolutely torrid affair of drinking the night before.

    Even as the token righty on that panel, I thought Princeton was out of line.


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