Well, I suppose it all begins when I was born in 1974 in Buffalo, NY. I lived in Kenmore, NY growing up, until when I was 9 years old, my parents decided we would move to Amherst, NY. I had a pretty normal childhood, I was generally well-behaved and had decent grades in school.
For my 13th birthday, my parents bought me an orientation ride aboard a Cessna 152 single-engine prop plane at the local airstrip. I had spent most of my childhood fascinated with astronomy and the space program, and the last year or two up to that point fascinated with aviation and flying. I was immediately hooked, especially since the pilot let me handle the controls for a bit while we were in the air. After we landed, he handed me a pamphlet that changed my life. It was a recruiting pamphlet for the Civil Air Patrol.
I asked Mom to take me to visit the local unit (TAK Composite Squadron.. TAK stands for Tondawanda, Amherst, Kenmore). This was in 1987, and I was blown away by the impressiveness of the whole thing. The premise to joining was aviation and flying, but I was smitten with the military aspect of it- uniforms, discipline, saluting, marching. A young cadet Sergeant that evening did a demonstration. He had two small boxes, and dropped each one seperately on the floor, to illustrate the difference in sound. Some belt buckles were missing from a box, and it was an object lesson that this organization values integrity.
I begged my parents to join then and there, but alas, my parent's work schedules precluded me from getting a reliable ride to the Friday night meeting. I asked about it on and off for a while. It wasn't until three years later, May 1990, that I asked and I finally returned. They had a paper airplane contest. That young sergeant mentioned earlier was now the cadet commander. I was even more smitten than before, and immediately joined. I was fully absorbed into CAP for the next several years, promoting as fast as I could and attending as many activities as I could. Civil Air Patrol gave me self-confidence and leadership skills. It was (and still is) a close-knit group. The comraderie was great and I've met lifelong friends there.
Upon graduating high school in 1992, I enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I was in the Applied Mathematics program. While maintaining membership in Civil Air Patrol, I planned on entering the USAF. I applied for an earned a three year full scholarship from the AF. It was in the fall of 1994, my 3rd year in school, when I met Valarie through the AFROTC program. We hit it off immediately, and have been together ever since.
December of 1994, I earned the 1,233rd Carl A. Spaatz award, signifying completion of the CAP cadet program. It's the equivalent of the Eagle Scout award, but for CAP. It was also during this time that my relationship with Valarie was blossoming into something more serious.
May of 1997 was an important month for me. Within a one week period, May 23rd to the 30th, I got married, graduated from college and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force. Valarie and I were (and still are) quite happy. We went to Cancun for our honeymoon in July, which was a wedding present from Valarie's parent's. The honeymoon was wonderful, and Valarie experienced her first sunburn while there. Of course, I was cooked like a lobster. We did many exciting activities while there, visiting the Chichen Itza Myan ruins, snorkeling, parasailing, and bartering in the flea markets.
Upon return from the honeymoon, Valarie had been begging for a kitten for months. The RIT apartments did not permit you to have pets, so I kept saying no. I had volunteered for a summer encampment which was held right after our honeymoon, and as a gift to Valarie, I "rescued" our first cat, Julian, from an animal adoption agency. I was able to bring Julian in the apartment while Valarie was in class, but had to leave then and there for the encampment. I left a note directing Valarie to "look under the bed" since that's where Julian hid when I set him free. She found him right away, and was very happy with him.
After serving briefly in the USAF active duty at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Alabama, we returned to the Rochester area in search of jobs. Within a month, I was employed by Xerox as a contract employee. Valarie was working on finishing her Professional and Technical Communication degree.
In the fall of 1999, we kept driving by a stray animal on the side of the road for several evenings on and off. We'd see the green eyes reflecting the headlights from the side of the road. One evening, when I had poured the remnants of the old milk jug into the new milk jug (after Valarie opened the new one, because she thought the old milk was too old), Valarie stormed out in anger to go "buy her own jug of milk". On the way home, she saw the animal again, and pulled over to stop and investigate. It was a kitten that was loose, but Valarie had locked herself out of the car. She was close to home and ran back to tell me about it, and after getting the spare key and unlocking the car, we went back with a flashlight and captured Ziggy, who was the stray kitten with no tags outside in the cold and wet. Understandably, he was squeamish and shy for a few weeks, but became good friends with Julian.
After Valarie worked at Hickey Freeman for a while, she decided she wanted to return to school and complete the Microelectronics Engineering degree she has initially started in 1994. I converted from contract to employee in February of 2000 at Xerox, and have remained there since. Valarie finished her second bachelors' degree, in Microelectronics engineering. She found a full time job at Kodak, right here in Rochester working in the fab there.
Valarie worked for a couple years at Kodak when our lives changed tremendously. She gave birth to Evan Andrew Welsh on January 6th, 2008, and it has been a whirlwind since. After 6 months of leave, Valarie returned to work part time at Kodak. As a means to support the family, I took on wedding photography starting in 2007 as an apprentice, then as a paid primary photographer in 2008. Parenting has changed what we do and our outlook on life immeasurably. We also started attending in the last year a house church, which meets at someone's house with 12-16 people attending.
Buffalo Bills (Football), photography, DJ'ing (dance/trance music), volleyball, Civil Air Patrol, cycling, running, golf, bowling, table tennis, tennis, hiking / camping, traveling, photography, videography, computer games, computers, statistics, national + international politics, philosophy, theatre (occasionally), software development, shooting, military, aviation, piloting, drill team, board games, cards, writing, leadership, museums, documentaries, astronomy, reading, satire/spoofs, cars, hockey, soccer, basketball, skiing, snowmobiling, swimming, amusement + water parks, very tall roller coasters, history, geography.