I thought it might portend good fortune yesterday morning when my companions and I departed Mission Bay (San Diego) for a couple hours of fishing. A mermaid was taking in some pleasant weather in the middle of the channel. She hadn’t much to say as to where to find hungry fish. Perhaps she was just dreaming of our region’s famous fish tacos; the boats all sitting off La Jolla didn’t seem to have any better luck. (A mutual friend of ours once reminded me that the hobby was not called “catching” as it takes skill and proper timing.) But i will still go as often as I’m invited. A career Navy man, I need to put to sea every so often to refresh my retired Sailor “Saltiness”. And seeing a mermaid, gives me another sea story to share with my readers.
Asking civilians or military recruits what discipline means and most think of a response to their improper behavior. Though misbehavior as a child may have resulted in a paddling, the intended lessons ideally instill self as well as interpersonal responsibilities and life skills. A dictionary defines discipline as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience; (2) activity or experience that provides mental or physical training“. Military recruits are taught obedience to orders, attention to detail, and military-purposed routine from their first moment of bootcamp. Drill instructors shout instructions, demand pushups for inattentiveness, toss trashcans in barracks and rouse sleepers at “o-dark thirty”, to create responsive servicemen and women out of “undisciplined” civilians. Training includes the smallest details like folding underwear, cleaning surfaces by removing the least individual dustball, paint chip or strand of pubic hair, or repeating memorized creeds and military orders. Infractions are dealt in a number of ways individually but also as a unit. With the goal of developing a soldier, apprentice or disciple out of a layman, punishment can be misinterpreted. Unless it is associated to a lesson or skill, temporary acceptance can be due to fear and not an individual’s commitment. One such goal of recruit training is to create interdependence. Individually or in a group, people who wholeheartedly commit, imitating to the smallest detail an expert in karate, a multi-millionaire businessman, or a United States Marine, will change positively. And those positive changes may still be seen 20, 30 or 40 years later in one’s life.
You're a grand old flag, You're a high flying flag And forever in peace may you wave. You're the emblem of The land I love. The home of the free and the brave. Every heart beats true 'Neath the Red, White and Blue, Where there's never a boast or brag. Should all acquaintance be forgot, Keep your eye on the grand old flag. -George M Cohan, composer
Composer George M Cohan wrote these lyrics more than a century ago, at a time when the United States flag was a rallying symbol for a nation of “Americans” formed out of immigrants. Over millennia, flags have been the banners under which people have rallied to wars of liberation and independence, as well as peaceful demonstrations for equality. Some deliberately provoke anger as their banners recall times of injustice or genocide. Though any student of history can dwell on the sins of a nation, the United States being no exception, the advances in medicine, agriculture, industrial output, other sciences, in education and literacy, in the United States made our national ensign a symbol well known in every part of the world. As a veteran and history buff, the history of the American flag is interesting and remains a symbol of pride. How did our national ensign emerge?
For a century prior to the Revolutionary War, the American colonist flew a derivation of the ensign of Great Britain with various symbols that were historically significant in Britain, such as the cross of St. Andrews or the cross of Saint George. The Union flag, which first flew on British naval ships in 1634. With several changes instituted and then reverted by monarchs for the next century, the colonist adopted flags with these designs and colors, until the unrest prior to the revolution, variations on merchant ships and to rally the colonists to their aims for independence carried mottos in Latin such as “conquer or die” or other provoking mottos (p. 135, Naval Ceremonies, Customs and Traditions, Naval Institute Press, 2004) and designs such as the Pine Tree. The Philadelphia Troop of Light Horse when it escorted General Washington to New York to take command of the Continental Army was first to bear thirteen stripes, representing the original colonies, in alternating blue and silver stripes. Commodore Hopkins raised a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag with thirteen stripes, a rattlesnake, and this motto on his ship the Alfred on 5 December 1775. During the bicentennial Independence year in 1976, it flew again as the jack on all Navy ships. In 2002, in response to the War on Terror, the “Don’t Tread on Me” jack was again flown. John Paul Jones, of whom so much of early American naval tradition rests, was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the new American Navy on 22 December 1775. From commissioning, in the company of Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock, he went aboard Commodore Hopkin’s flagship, the Alfred. Directed by John Hancock, with the Commodore and ship’s captain ashore, as senior officer John Paul Jones directed the first “American” flag, be hoisted from the mainmast. This is significant as the first American flag flying from a warship. From historical accounts, this ensign was likely the same flag raised by Washington’s troops in Boston a couple weeks later. The adoption of the national ensign, with the 13 alternating red and white stripes, with stars in a blue field representing the union occurred on 4 June 1777. As for John Paul Jones, he received orders to command the Ranger the same day, and afterward he always believed his future and that of the new national ensign were linked. In the sea battle with the HMS Serapis, both ships were severely damaged. As he transferred with surviving crew to the captured British vessel, the last view of sinking Bon Homme Richard was the “defiant waving of her unconquered and unstrucken (sic) flag as she went down” (report of John Paul Jones, ibid, p143).
With the admission of new states into the ‘united states’ in the last years of the Eighteenth Century, the design of the nation’s flag was subject to some controversy, over the number of stripes and stars. The final design was established by Congress and signed into law in 1818 by President Monroe. From that time forth, the stripes remained fixed as they appear today, but an additional star would be added to the blue field for every new state admitted.
I, like most veterans I know frequently wear at least one article of pride to commemorate our prior military service. Some wear articles that support a veterans’ organization, or something with embroidered patches that convey their affiliation. Some like me wear a t-shirt with a bald eagle and “veteran” statement. Others may display a seal for their particular branch of service and “Retired”, or the service mascot and commentary. A veteran’s favorite may sometimes take a good-natured jab at a rival service. We have bumper stickers, license plate frames, or a coffee mug with something that tells others we were in the military. Most veterans I know rarely go anywhere uncovered, which for the uninitiated means we wear a ballcap (or other head covering) we first adopted in the military as part of the uniform. And at least once a day in my travels around San Diego, I will see and acknowledge another veteran wearing a “Desert Storm” or “Vietnam” or “Afghanistan” service commemorative cap or window sticker on their vehicle.
What is your favorite way to commemorate your service, or for that of a family member?
Under a lifelong commitment to protect national security of the United States, describing what my military peers and I did for a living was often reduced to generalizations and debunking some misconceptions that Hollywood movies make about protecting national security. Though there were some 1960’s-era generals at the time unopposed to being ordered to use nuclear weapons, the satire Dr Strangelove, lampoons that a rogue can instigate WWIII. Or at the dawn of the Computer Age, that a young civilian might connect to a DOD system, as in War Games, discounts that computers even then were isolated in secure networks. (However, a spy on the inside remains a hazard.) While thrilling, that rogue cells within the Intelligence bureaucracy could operate with efficiency and lethality outside of oversight, as in the Bourne films, seems too incredible. (However, the efficiency which the Russian security apparatus can eliminate political enemies highlights what sanctioned operations can achieve.) In Crimson Tide, a nuclear submarine commander (with a dog aboard(!) and officers might be near mutiny over whether to launch nukes is horrifying, but the crew selection and training process, security protocols and backup systems exist to prevent that. On the other hand, a glimpse into a typical mission day in the life of a nuclear-armed B-52 bomber is interesting in that it seems routine. For the last thirty years, nuclear war has seemed to be an artifact of history, but during the Cold War, military professionals conducted their duties in their flying “office”, preparing for a very real potential between nuclear-armed adversaries.
By accident, today I found a short film posted to YouTube, narrated by James Stewart, the renowned actor and WWII bomber pilot (and a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve) from 1959- the year I was born. For the last sixty-plus years, training has continued in that deterring war is most effective by trained and equally-lethal forces. With tensions rising again, with Russian aggression against Ukraine and China’s military reach growing, training will continue. Just as this short film depicts, each military professional does his or her duty hoping to go home at the conclusion of the “work day’.
A fisherman, a boat captain, and me put out from Dana Landing just before first light on a gray Saturday morning. The fisherman was experienced, the boat’s owner, a former Navy man but not a fisherman, was hoping for a large catch and me, a retired Navy Senior Chief, neither boat owner nor fisherman, was keeping a weather eye on the horizon. With choppy seas ahead, the fisherman brought along Dramamine. (We all took it.) Had I brought along any bananas? To the fisherman’s question, I responded none.
luck and bananas
Apparently, sailors should not bring bananas on a voyage if we wanted fishing luck. With eight years at sea in the Navy, the thought crosses my mind, had I “ever” seen bananas in the fresh fruit available on the mess decks? Apples and oranges, I remember, but never bananas. Sailing superstition links bananas to lost ships and cargoes. (I looked it up online.) I heard that overcast days are pretty good days for fishing. Our companion, a passionate fisherman, who knows where he has had success and what signs might mean good fishing, provided me a rod and reel. He also showed me how to properly tie a weight and hooks. The rest was left for me to figure out. Fish are not waiting for the unsuspecting fisherman to drop his line and jump on the hook.
seabirds and dolphins
Nine miles off Pacific Beach at mid-morning, the swells were past tolerable, and the overcast remained. With a couple larger boats in the distance, and seabirds, pelicans and dolphins for company, we found some floating kelp and put down our lines again. We took it for a good sign when the captain caught a seabass and the fisherman brought up a rock cod a little later. We decided against going farther out. (One of us admitted to being queasy.) We put down our lines again off Sunset Cliffs and determined the fish finder was not malfunctioning; it had not detected fish all morning. (The seabirds told us as much as neither tern, gull nor pelican were seen retrieving fish from the water at any point.) Back in the channel leading to Dana Point Landing that afternoon, I snagged two mackerel. No fish were worth keeping.
I learned a few things from our adventure. Overcast days do not suggest good fishing weather. The lack of bananas does not conversely bring good luck. Neither does bringing a large cooler. Dolphins do not mean lots of fish are about. And a bad day fishing is better than a good day working. Twelve hours after suggesting to our wives we’d be fishing “three or four (hours)” we got home. The fisherman is one I admire. He intended to play softball all the next day. I slept for ten straight hours. And might go to bed early tonight. But I have Craigslist and OfferUp dialed in; I’m looking for a rod and reel at the right price.
Use of white phosphorus is horrendously evil even for an enemy combatant. Use of napalm is only slightly less evil. When a regime has little regard for the suffering it causes, the ends justify the means. Only if the regime is not held to account, that is. When a modern military like Russia’s is deployed against Ukraine, a neighboring country under a pretext that nobody believed, and their expected quick occupation turns into an implacable David against a Goliath, weapons are turned against civilians even more readily.
A Military War Dog, or Military Working Dog, (MWD), is a canine that has been trained to protect humans in dangerous situations,
Source: K9 Veterans Day
Our plans for an after-church lunch with friends at our house was almost cancelled today. “Almost”, in that the guest list coming for lunch, as well as one of the hosts (me) changed. Friends who were planning to come felt ill this morning and asked for a raincheck. With no plan, or so I thought, just as church concluded, another Navyman like me, invited me to come out on his boat that afternoon.
I immediately accepted. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in recent years with Mike other than at church. Plus, he said, getting a little “sea” time, for me, a retired Navy Chief, would put a little saltwater back into my veins. Another of our friends, also a Navy veteran, was supposed to be joining us. However, calling to verify he was on his way, we learned his spouse had also made lunch plans. Her guests were at their house.
This Senior Chief and “Cap’n” Mike went bouncing across San Diego Bay in the powerboat and getting some needed fellowship. The time put much needed salt spray back in this Old Salt.
The Department of Veterans Affairs publishes a weekly newsletter that I receive in my email. I noted this week, some information that may not be widely known by spouses of deceased military veterans. Depending on the veteran’s time on Active Duty, a surviving spouse facing financial hardship may apply for a VA pension based on certain criteria. One such is whether the veteran served before or after September 7th, 1980, and whether at least one day was in “wartime”. A YouTube video provides an overview.
Continued from Part 1:
After christening and launching of a naval ship, commissioning is the next major ceremony in its life. The builders turn over the ship to the Navy, to an authority who will bear responsibility until the ship is commissioned. Prior to commissioning, no pennant, jack nor ensign is flown from the ship and no honors are rendered, other than courtesies upon his or her arrival. Honors are rendered at his departure. The ship is turned over to the commanding officer who accepts her and assumes command. Invitations reflect the host of the ceremony, including the crew among the hosts. Invitations are issued in the form, “Commanding Officer and Ship’s Company” or “Commanding Officer, Officers and Crew”. This is the first time that the title “USS” or United States Ship may be used as it is a commissioning ceremony. Established practice is to have a basic, official ceremony and when the ship is officially in commission, to continue with official speeches, personal remarks, and presentations. It is during this latter part of the ceremony that officers and crew are on duty and manning their station as in-port watches. This process adheres to Navy Regulations regarding commissioning. Officers fall in aft by dress parade stations on the quarterdeck or at the fantail, and the crew is marched aft, by division, to assigned stations. The ceremony begins with an invocation by a chaplain. The executive officer reports to the prospective commanding officer that the officers and crew are at their stations and everything is ready for the commissioning ceremony. By seniority, the official party, the admiral or designated representative and the prospective commanding officer arrive at their places on the ceremony platform. The officer conducting the transfer reads the orders delivering the ship and the orders to commission the ship are relayed from the commanding officer to executive officer to the navigator. At the “attention” signal, the national anthem plays, and ensign, commissioning pennant, and jack are hoisted at the same time. The commanding officer reads orders to assume command and orders to set the watch. The Officer of the Deck takes his (her) station and makes the first entry in the ship’s log: ” The ship is now officially commissioned.” Speeches, addresses and presentations by the official guests continue; the ceremony concludes and the official party departs. A reception usually follows.
IMAGE CREDIT: US Navy photo by MS1 Ernesto Bonilla, USS Daniel INOUYE, DDG-113 (navy.mil)
Over the last year and a half, record-low interest rates have left many people wondering whether or not it’s time to buy a home. However, interest rates are only part of the picture. With many buyers on the market – and in most areas, limited housing inventory – prices are rising fast almost everywhere. Buyers need to have competitive offers in order to have a chance at getting the property they’re hoping for.
Many veterans might think that they can’t compete in this market, but you may be surprised. You don’t have to have a massive down payment saved up to make a move on a house right now – and indeed, there are VA-backed options that may require no down payment at all. Finding a home might be easier than you think, especially with a real estate agent on your side. Here’s a look at what veterans need to know when entering the housing market right now, presented by Truths-Half-truths, and Sea Stories.
Investigate Your Housing Market
The first step you need to take in any house hunt is researching what’s happening in your local housing market. Remember, listing prices can be deceiving. It’s relatively common for homes to actually sell for substantially less – or, in this market, often more – than the original listing price. Sort homes by “sold” to get a better sense for how much properties are actually going for in your market.
This process will help you get a good sense of your foundational options. You can start to build a rough budget based on the prices you can expect for properties that fit your wants and needs. It’s also a good way to start narrowing your search down to the neighborhoods that best fit your price range.
Get Finances in Order
Once you have some basic housing market research under your belt, you can start looking into getting preapproved for a mortgage. As a veteran, you have more options to choose from than the average civilian. In addition to the conventional and FHA loan options, you can also investigate VA-backed loans.
These loans, offered by private lenders, can help you to get into a nicer home with a lower – or in some cases, zero – down payment. Most low- or no-down-payment plans come with private mortgage insurance or PMI. This increases your monthly rate without contributing to paying back your loan or interest, so it’s just money lost. VA-backed loans, however, don’t have PMI, so your monthly payment all goes toward your investment. Also, research VA interest rates today before you decide this is the route you want to take.
Start House Hunting
Once you’re pre-approved for your mortgage, you can start looking for a home in earnest. As we said above, markets are highly competitive right now, so you’ll need to be prepared to make quick decisions. Create a “wants and needs” list you can use to quickly and consistently evaluate homes you tour. If they don’t cross off all the needs, you can move on. If they meet “needs”, but offer very little in the way of “wants,” you should probably pass as well. High scores in both categories, however, signal a winner.
This part of your search is going to be far easier with a trustworthy real estate agent on your side. The right housing professional can make finding properties, scheduling tours, and making offers a breeze. Local experience is a must, but you should also prioritize finding an agent you get along with. Although you don’t need to be best friends, you’ll work one-on-one with your agent a lot through your house hunt, and it’s best to have a good rapport.
These steps should be plenty enough to get you started on your house hunt. Owning a home is one of the most exciting steps you can take in life, and we hope this article inspires you to explore your options and get started. Soon, you might be holding the key to the home of your dreams!
Photo Credit: Pexels
Editor’s Note: Cody is an IT professional by trade. He reached out to me last year about submitting a Guest post. One thing lead to another, schedules got mired in events. With all the COVID issues mostly behind me and excuses run through – I am belatedly publishing his submission. Good advice for anyone seeking to get into the home market, particularly now that prices are not exploding upward daily. You can read more about all thing’s tech – how to keep up with your Iphone -savvy pre-teen and other wisdom at Cody’s site Tech Deck – The Internet’s Tech Experts