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    Soldier keeps up with hobby at home while deployed

    Paperweight

    Photo By Sgt. Marshall Thompson | Sgt. 1st Class Rick Mee, an automated logistical specialist works on contracts in the...... read more read more

    IRAQ

    06.22.2006

    Courtesy Story

    207th Public Affairs Detachment

    Besides missing their families and loved ones, Soldiers miss different activities or hobbies when deployed.
    While some miss riding their motorcycles, fishing or boating, Sgt. 1st Class Rick Mee misses flying and caring for his pigeons. Mee is an automated logistics specialist with the 4th Sustainment Brigade S-4 shop.

    Mee's hobby of raising pigeons started as a child.
    "I grew up in the country," said Mee. "What got me started was, I saw them every day on the way home from the school bus. The guy down the road had them, so every day I saw them. One day I was going by with my dad. He saw me looking at the pigeons. He asked me "do you like them birds?" I said "yes, every day I look at them on the way home from school," I explained. He said that he knew the guy. And so we stopped, and my dad traded him a big turkey that we had on our farm for 20 pigeons, and that is how my hobby got started when I was 9 years old."

    Because he grew up on a farm that he compares to "Old McDonald's farm," Mee said he already knew how to take care of animals, so he took full charge of his pigeons. Some of the pigeons he received in the original flock were doing back flips as they flew. He was amazed by that. "From then on, I just started to read everything I could on them and specialize in just that one breed."

    Since then, Mee has raised, traded and sold hundreds of pigeons. According to Mee, there are approximately 500 different breeds of pigeons of which he has owned 50 different kinds at one time. He finally settled on the Birmingham Roller, a species that can do up to 13 revolutions per second in the air.

    Mee could not keep his hobby without a devoted wife, who assists him and takes care of the birds while he is deployed.
    "Rick organized his pigeon house very neatly before the deployment, so it is not very difficult to take care of the pigeons now," said Olya Luvovna Mee via an e-mail.

    She is used to being around pigeons. Growing up in the Ukraine, her father kept pigeons and when he passed away, she ended up caring for them. She feeds her husband's birds and cleans the cages every day. She also bands the birds and writes the pedigree for them.

    "It is a great hobby, I am glad that he has this kind of hobby, because I like animals too," said Olya.
    Mee thinks it is one of the best hobbies to have. "When I spend, what she considers, too much time with the pigeons, I just remind her that I could be doing other things, and at least she knows that her husband is in the backyard safe, staying out of trouble," Mee said.

    Keeping the pigeons has actually turned into a family affair. The Mees believe that having pets teaches children to be responsible. Even the youngest one of the family, Angelina, 2, likes to help care for the pigeons. "She likes to look at new baby pigeons, touch them," said Olya.

    At one time Mee was actively involved in competing with his pigeons. There are two main competitions each year for the Birmingham Rollers. One is the World Cup Roller Fly in the spring, and the other one is the National Birmingham Roller Club Fall Fly.
    The first is more international, the second only involves competitors from the U.S. and Canada, Mee said.

    The objective at both competitions is the same: get as many of the flock of 20 birds to roll for as long as possible at the same time, while meeting certain criteria, Mee explained.

    Both competitions start off with regionals. Instead of taking the pigeons to a central location, a judge travels from home to home judging how the team of 20 pigeons performs. This species could easily get lost if they were to fly over unfamiliar terrain.

    The overall winner of the competition gets to travel around the world and judge next year's competition. "It is a big honor," Mee said, hoping that one day he gets to judge. For now, he is satisfied with winning the regionals of the World Cup Roller Fly six of the seven times he entered. In the finals, he placed in the top 10 each year.

    It takes a lot of effort to prepare for the competitions. The birds are separated from their parents when they are about 4 weeks old. They are kept in a kit box which has access to a wire cage that extends over the roof, allowing the young animals to get orientated with their surroundings and associate the roof with their home.

    They are also conditioned in a similar manner as "Pavlov's dog" was. Right before feeding, Mee whistles to them. They associate the whistle with eating.

    When they are let out for the first time, they are not given any food for a day and promptly return from the air when the whistle sounds, explained Mee. By the time they are 8-weeks old, they spend a whole hour in the air flying around.

    He cannot wait to retire from the Army and get back to competing full time. While he is gone, Olya sends him regular updates about his birds. "I send my husband updates on the pigeons and pictures of the babies, young birds and old ones regularly," Olya said. "He loves them very much and misses them, so I am trying to keep him connected to his hobby this way."

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 06.22.2006
    Date Posted: 06.22.2006 09:20
    Story ID: 6916
    Location: IQ

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