An Open Letter To Huntsville

December 14, 2009 By
Posted in News

Now that I’m safely out of Huntsville and reunited with my kids, I wanted to take a moment to address the people of Huntsville.

I want to start with the fact that Huntsville is probably the best place I’ve ever been stationed. The people are kind and generous and generally very supportive of the military. The city itself offers more community activities than I’ve ever seen at any other place I’ve been. The concerts in the park stand out above all else.

There was never any lack of finding things to do in the evenings or on the weekends. The Space and Rocket Center offers free entrance to military families and we took advantage of it for sure!! My kids LOVED going to Sci-Quest and Early Works museums – so much so that we bought annual memberships.

Downtown Huntsville is so full of history and fun. We discovered a little late, though, that the ducks and fish like being fed. We would often find ourselves downtown watching the baby ducks follow their mothers around the edge of the water as the beautifully colored fish swam beneath them, occasionally nipping at their feet I think. In the past two years we’ve been to more parades and hockey games than our past 15 years combined! Huntsvillians know how to fight boredom. The trails are to die for! I loved losing myself in thought as I navigated the miles and miles of trails spread around the city. Monte Sano will be sorely missed.

Huntsville is also the city that introduced me to geocaching! Geocaching is a world wide scavenger hunt in which players hide and seek “caches” of various sized using GPS units and a little imagination. Huntsville lays claim to about 1,000 of these, but I only found a few less than 400. As a matter of fact, it was this hobby that helped me find the trails where one can find numerous Earthcaches, or geologic sites.

As a very active person in my community, I also found a lot of kindred souls as I sought to express my political opinions on a variety of levels, from local to federal. I enjoyed hanging out with the group at the corner of Airport and Whitesburg as we waived the American flag and supported our troops in opposition to the hippies across the street who were ignorant to the sacrifices our troops are making on their behalf. But, I enjoyed seeing them exercise the freedoms those men and women have laid down their life for. I attended my first Tea Party there and was honored to have been able to contribute to its success (I’ve since repaired my archaic system to prevent further power outages). Finally, rallying with like-minded, constitutionally supportive Americans against government run health care and similar stupidity.

Unfortunately, I had to end my time there earlier than I would have liked, in large part due to the terrible education system I was confronted with. The interesting part of it is that we never had any problems with the school system until this school year. When we had issues with something at the school, my wife and I approached the principal, Mr. McAllister, and felt fairly confident that the problem was taken care of. When we had issues, he listened to us – or at least made us think he did. Even when he knew I was upset about something, he still invited me into his office to discuss it. We talked about discipline issues, bullying, and class sizes. And we did it like adults.

When Principal Williams took over, all this changed. We attempted numerous times to get a meeting with her, but couldn’t get one until my wife cornered her at an open house and pretty much demanded a meeting. We expressed some concerns we had and were “assured” that she would do her best to work with us. When school started, not ONE of the issues we discussed were fixed. Because of the lawsuit, I can’t get more specific than that. But, it was obvious that there was a new sheriff in town and she didn’t much care about parental concerns. The attitude we got was that SHE was top dog and we better get in line. She tried implementing a few other policies we and other parents weren’t happy about and we let her know. Then, the uniform issue came up.

What happened with regard to the uniform issue is well documented. I won’t further elaborate due to possible legal action to be taken on my behalf. I will say that the school system continues to shoot itself in the foot every time they open their mouth about this. The truth will come out, I promise you. I have lived my life dedicated to the principles of honor, integrity, personal courage, and duty. It is the duty of every American to stand against any out of control government system, especially when that system is charged with the education and care of our children. We surrender our kids to the schools for eight hours a day, five days a week most weeks. We expect that those charged with this sacred responsibility at least respect the opinions and contributions of the parents, their employers, at all times. Every government employee must understand this obligation to the people no matter how large or small their charge.

As a Soldier, I am charged to defend the citizens of this nation and will do so to the death if needed. I will never place them in danger. I pledged an oath to the Constitution of the United States of America and honor that oath to the dying breath if need be. However, I prefer to make the enemy die for their country first.

I, CJ Grisham, do solemnly affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

I want to thank the people of Huntsville who have provided so much support to me and my family recently, through their prayers and thoughts. My father, a retired Navy Command Master Chief, taught me early in my career to always makes the hard right decisions over the easy wrong ones. I got where I am today doing just that. I haven’t always made those with whom I work happy, but I’ve never done anything wrong. Some people in the military don’t like being told they’re wrong and they definitely don’t like being told “no” by a junior Soldier. The letters, emails, and phone calls I’ve received have been encouraging since this issue has been made public. I’ve spoken with fellow parents, educators, citizens, and even military officers who have told me face to face they support me. I can’t thank you all enough and I’ll forever remember Huntsville as a supportive and patriotic city.

I’m not a coward. I can’t tell you how many people have suggested I simply give up and save my career while on active duty. They tell me I shouldn’t make waves until I retire, then I can speak up all I want. That isn’t my style. I don’t want to leave behind a worse off Army. I don’t want to leave behind a worse off country. I’m a right and wrong guy, not shades of gray. When I see something wrong, I seek to fix it. I don’t ignore it and leave it for the next person to deal with. That causes me a lot of stress, but my hope is that it eases someone else’s. I’ve never done it before and I won’t start now.

The way I see it, a school system that doesn’t listen to parents – and in fact seeks to destroy them – that disagree with them is a problem. A school system that is inclined to ignore parents while supporting their own at all costs is a problem. A school system that values relationship with companies over relationships with citizens is a problem. I tried fixing these problems within the system, filing official complaints and working my way up the school’s “chain of command.” My official complaints – required by policy to be answered – went ignored. Other parents’ official complaints went ignored. More than ten of them were filed with Dr. Shipman and nothing ever came of any of them. I spoke before the board both publicly and behind closed doors on numerous occasions trying to resolve my issues and those of other parents but nothing ever came of it. I tried to make it easy to make this all go away by simply asking for an apology and a covenant to listen to parents in the future, but nothing ever came of it.

I’ve been backed into corner from which the only escape is possible litigation. I’m thankful and relieved that the law offices of Wolfe, Jones, Wolfe, Hancock & Daniel, specifically Wayne Wolfe and Joel Jaqubino, have agreed to take this case and have expressed optimism about it. I couldn’t have asked for better representation or more competent legal professionals.

5 Responses to An Open Letter To Huntsville

  1. CJ, I’ve got to respect a man who fights with the courage of his convictions. And just as much, I admire your wife for fighting by your side. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. You’ve chosen a tough road, but as you already know, usually the right thing is the hardest thing to do.

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  3. MissBirdlegs in AL

    Very nice letter, CJ. Relieves my mind a little that you enjoyed Huntsville before this latest fiasco – I feel so badly that all this happened to y’all in AL. Yes, doing the right thing rather than the easy thing is sometimes hard, but usually best all around. I just hope this gets resolved without any more heartache for y’all.

    Delighted that you’re all together again! Hugs!

  4. Thank YOU, CJ, for everything. When I have worked in the school systems, I always reminded the parents I worked for, that if THEY don’t speak up for their children, then who will? I could go on here because children are one of my lifelong passions, but you already know how I feel.

    You done good, and I DO stand with you.

  5. Huntsville Resident

    CJ,

    Thanks for you sacrifice at home and abroad! Huntsville is better for it on both accounts.

    Hopefully, the schools in Huntsville will get better. But when they are importing liberal “teachers,” hiring overbearing principals and officials can’t tell the truth then it is not encouraging.

    Huntsville AL Resident

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