The Catholic Defender: New Orleans and the French Quarter
July 2002 I had some news to share with my Wife, Gigi who was happy with the new furniture I had bought her. I never will forget her face when she first looked at what I bought her, She was certainly supersized but what I had to tell her next would really surprise her. I sat her down and told her I had some news for her. I told her that I have Orders for New Orleans. That was a huge surprise and was she excited, yes she was. I would report to the New Orleans MEPS 20 October 2002 and Gigi was accepted at the New Orleans VA Hospital, and she worked at another local Hospital not far from Bell Chase.
We were housed on the Belle Chase Navel Base on Tarawa Circle, that is where we would be for three years on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. Sometimes I would ride a naval boat across the Mississippi but if I was going to be late, I would take the toll bridge. Taking the bridge over the Mississippi, the MEPS was on a Naval base right on the East Bank which had a strong Coast Guard presence. To get there I had to drive through the French Quarter which at 05:30 in the morning wasn't too bad, but later in the afternoon could be an interesting drive through.
There are a lot of things to see in the New Orleans area. I would recommend the World War II museum as a great place to visit. One of my favorite places to visit and actually participate was the Father Seelos Shrine as pilgrims from all over the world visit there. I spent so quality time there when I had the opportunity. I would tell pilgrims that if they received a blessing to thank the Lord at Mass. There was a lot of that taking place.
New Orleans is probably most know for the Mardi graw that takes place with all the parades, the beads, and the craziness in the French Quarter. If you get caught behind that you might as well find a place to park and wait awhile. There are a lot of fun things to do, great music, great shows, and great food. It will be expensive so you would need to prepare for such a trip. There are some things not so good as well so you need to be careful when you go. They have Gay parades and you do not want to get caught in one of those.
I would spend some time at the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral and this should be a place to go if you visit New Orleans. The sad thing about the Church is that for some reason, you have Occultists parked in the front of the building set to grab pilgrims and visitors. They use Tarot Cards, crystal balls, and what ever they can legally have. It is sad that they stage themselves in front of the Church there.
The MEPS is a whole lot different from any other Unit I was ever assigned with, before arriving there I was told this would be a "chilled" duty where I would have the chance for lots of fun. When I arrived there I had much to fix so while I did have some fun, I also had lots of work as well. By my second year there I was able to raise the standard for the Medical Element. By the third year I was there we earned the first Excellent rating during the 2005 Inspector General visit in 17 years. We were one of six out of nearly 70 MEPS throughout the Country to accomplish that. I took pride that we did it with a young crew with less than three years experience.
It was interesting to see Military Recruiters that would try to get applicants into the Medical Element and floor them for a physical knowing that they would be over weight or have other issues that we are going to find. I had an Army recruiter try to pass an Applicant who was 100 lbs over weight. Boy did he plead with me to pass him. I simply gave him a work out plan to get him in shape. Such is the pressure the Recruiters bare to get their numbers.
Something I was saddened over were the female Applicants, all of them coming through the Medical Element have to take a pregnancy test to pass the floor, if they were positive they were not allowed to move forward. What some of them would do is go out and kill their baby so they would attempt to come back a few months down the line. That was horrible and should not happen but that was beyond my control.
If you ever get the chance of running away ahead of a hurricane, that is no fun. We had a number of hurricanes that would threaten New Orleans, hurricane Ivan most notable. We had to close down the MEPS and grab what we could to go to designated places. My wife and family would meet me at Shreveport as I had supplies I had to carry with me. That was a 24 hour bumper to bumper ride and I was decimated as was my Wife. Ivan ended up passing us by as it headed east into Mississippi and Alabama. That would happen a number of times, but Katrina and Rita would cause damage.
My Chief Medical Officer (CMO) was a devout Catholic and we really worked well together, I leaned a lot from him. My wife was was a Leader for the fund-raisers supporting the Military and their families, we didn't have anyone deploy but what my Wife did aided the moral of the Unit. On Belle Chase, I led bible studies and I taught CCD for the Confirmation classes, this was a small community and I was one of the singers for the Mass. Anyone who knows me would find that certainly unique!
Before Katrina and Rita, we had over 15,000 Applicants that joined are Armed Forces entering the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, the Coast Guard, the National Guard and the various Reserves. That is a high honor to receive volunteers and help build the fighting force defending our Nation.
1 Corinthians 10:31 states, "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God."