one veteran’s delayed benefit

Serving honorably in the U.S. military, a veteran who was deported to Mexico, Hector Barajas, gets well-deserved news: U.S. citizenship. ( )   And he did not just while away his time in Mexico,  but served fellow deported U.S. military veterans – opening a Tijuana VA Clinic.   With all the nonsense about non-citizens demanding rights and privileges of citizens, as well as their supportive legislators and lobbyists who brazenly chastise this country and citizens, it seems that justice is finally at hand for someone who put skin in the game.  Barajas -Verela had been brought to the US when he was seven.   In 1995, he enlisted in the Army and served in the 82nd Airborne.  He had an incident with a firearm in 2002, resulting a year in prison and was deported.   After Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the United States has seen more veterans with substance abuse, civil and criminal issues.   A deportation should not have been punishment for an honorably discharged veteran.   After California Governor Brown, pardoned him last year,  it enabled Barajas to obtain citizenship.

150 year history: citizenship for service

In 1862,  a law granted expedited naturalization to foreigners serving in the U.S. military.  If you were willing to die for America, you should be able to become a citizen was the rationale.  Unfortunately, between 1875 and 1917,  racism clothed in a quota system hindered the Asian-born from the same privileges.  But the Spanish-American War brought change to that thinking.  For most of the 20th Century, ending in 1992 with the end of an American military presence in the Philippines,  Filipinos could enlist in the military.  They would gain skills, have a successful career and earn a retirement.  It was a path to citizenship due to a government immigration policy that serving during a conflict could enable naturalization.    In 1990,  an Executive Order by President H.W. Bush declared that any military member, Active Duty, Guardsman or Reservist could apply for citizenship without a residency requirement.  And since July 3,  2002, President George Bush signed an Executive Order that all non-citizens serving since September 11, 2001 could immediately apply for citizenship.  Its provisions included veterans of past wars and conflicts. But apparently, in 2009,  the U.S. again amended the policy of enlistment and subsequent naturalization to only those who were in legal possession of a Green Card at the time of enlistment.

It is a fairly complex issue when a state government refuses to follow Constitutionally-granted federal laws on immigration.  Worse, for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation continued support or calls for repeal,  persons affected are not just students at prestigious universities using scholarships, taxpayer support, and university grants,  but also  honorably-serving military member (s).   Many of these foreign-born enlistees have skills, particularly in certain language dialects, and received entry by virtue of the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program.

President Obama’s Administration is praised for DACA, under him began restricting the enlistment of those subject to the legislation.  By introducing more-stringent vetting, the Executive Branch wanted to identify potential security risks, those with a history of criminal behavior,  and those with ongoing foreign allegiances.   The issue now is under review by President Trump,  but ending the DACA program and potentially deporting the now-adult children will harm those who want to – or are now serving in the military.  Politics may again ‘trump’ the President.   While President Trump may truly want to treat “Dreamers” with respect and fairness, there are Congressmen who may force the issue. =

It is perhaps up to those of us who have served honorably in uniform, to let our elected officials -most of whom have not served in uniform – know that grandstanding about  DACA, is not just about rebellious state officials, lobbyists with agendas, and one group of students using resources that are denied to legally-entitled students;  this also affects our brothers and sisters in uniform.  With all the televised nonsense about foreign flag-waving, non-citizen students, laborers, and tenured professors demanding rights and privileges,  I will gladly support a foreign-born sailor, soldier, airman or marine who want to serve the nation he resides in, becoming a citizen before any of them.


dangerous intentions

The Sunday paper, actual newsprint, is still read in my house.  Peruse is probably a more exact term, but I grabbed onto two stories today that declare what a dangerous world we live in, and how some are fighting back.

pexels-photo-272337.jpegNo, this is not a tale of evil-doers thwarted by good-guys,  but rather the story of how a book can get an entire Government flustered, and a raygun available to police forces.   Apparently, the Japanese on Okinawa are irritated that a BIBLE was part of a display honoring Missing In Action and Prisoners Of War in a military hospital.   We all should know the terrible things that this particular book stirs up. To one who sees self-improvement, it is Truth, Love, Honor,  Selflessness.  To them, it is the possibility of overcoming the weaknesses of mankind:  Hatred,  Fear, Doubt, Hypocrisy, and Betrayal.  To believers, it is voluntary primer from a supreme Intelligent Designer.  But for some who seek Power over others, there cannot be a still higher power.

 And then, a featured story of the drone-killer ray gun catches my eye.  This is a tool to prevent danger to the State, and its law enforcement, from the foolish person who flies a drone in the path of aircraft.  When drones are sold in 7-Elevens, online, and in department stores,  everyone has the freedom and means to be hazardous to others.  Law Enforcement has to police another misbehavior of some, to whom words (law or rules) or norms (common sense) have little power.

So which is it?   Words have Power, or they do not have power?  The State doesn’t seem to know either.  If someone reads and practices the Torah, Buddhist texts, Hindi theology, or Book of Mormon, my family and I are not threatened.  At least, in the western world, it is all voluntary.  The Word of Christ has never hurt another soul.  People, alone, are capable of that.

misanthropic callers

“He loved the people just as much as he feared and detested persons.”
― Sinclair LewisIt Can’t Happen Here

Once I was accused of loving people that I came to know individually, but detested people in groups.   And then I came to a spiritual renovation which, painfully at first, changed my whole worldview of humanity.   There are bad people. There are people striving to help others.  And the whole of humanity in between.

20171217_102102.jpgFor twenty-five years in the online world,  I have been fairly well isolated from the dregs of humanity that poison your computers with viruses, and ploys to get sensitive information.  And yet we all – hundreds of millions of us – have been exposed to scams,  theft, and fraud by failures of government and commercial companies to protect our finances and our personal information.

In forty years, I have had bank accounts drained twice.  Family and friends have had credit maligned for items purchased in places we never visited nor lived.   Or received email from Nigeria, or China,  or your sister-in-law, with pictures and links we should never click.   Then Facebook and Russians or other ne’er do wells started to manipulate the public, through data analytics  of our habits and friends.   Trading a Windows-based computer for an Apple or a Linux one only slowed the criminals for a time.

censorship-limitations-freedom-of-expression-restricted-39584.jpegOnce my father-in-law got calls on his cell phone reportedly from my son needing money, and apparently gleaning details by way of social engineering,  I knew the scams were getting more sophisticated.   And then my son, on his work phone, got called to extort his emotions by false claims of an injured family member.  And I have had, on the very phone I was holding, a call incoming supposedly from me.

The milk of human kindness, and positivity for fellow man was in danger of being soured.  But the God whom I serve, I have faith will burn the dross of humanity, whether emailing, calling, or manipulating software from Alabama, Mumbai,  Mexico or the Baltic.   The times of testing have always been upon us.  And for this old Sailor,  I don’t have the means or the heart to launch Tomahawk missiles.  4347_1153409602051_4092653_n

But I do have the means to needle, cajole, inspire and support family and friends by getting the message out through a blog.  Report and record, where possible, these frauds.

And should they be politicians pestering you for your vote,  persistent contact to insist on protecting us from technology abuse should help.  After all,  weren’t the Russians able to cajole you in the voting booth?

when stubbornness is not civil

Whenever there is authority, there is a natural inclination to disobedience.  – Thomas Chandler Haliburton

What is it about human nature that wants to disobey authority and then complain that the “authorities” do not give a fig about what people want?!

lakejennings15With the hot, dry weather of summer in San Diego upon us,  and following a very wet Spring generating a lot of brush and grasses,  fires can start and grow like mad.  Today,  one such fire was apparently sparked by a vehicle  traveling on the highway where grasses were very close to the roadbed.  What became four hundred acres ablaze were tackled by firemen, trucks,  fire-retardant dropping aircraft and water-dispersing helicopters from afternoon into the evening.    Now it is bad enough that reporters and cameras were present to chronicle this fire,  but these reporters stated, in the same breath,  a MANDATORY EVACUATION for nearby residents AND  some  remaining behind to defend their homes with garden hoses.  “Mandatory” had some meaning once upon a time.  But today, there is an overall lack of trust in authority of any sort.

I get it.  My house.  Memories.  Possessions.  Stuff.    But WHOSE life gets put on the line when the “stuff” hits the fan – and the fire threatens to envelope the homeowner and home?   It’s the same response from those who live in the hurricane zone along the Eastern seaboard and Gulf of Mexico.    Are first responders required to go after people who refuse to leave their property?   I believe it is part of the oath they take to protect and serve.   In the meantime,  it looks like it is going to be a flaming Summer and Fall.  I might want to buy another garden hose,  or up my homeowner’s insurance.


Civilians say the darndest things

Men do not make conversation of the sort that women tend toward.  Outside of the walls of a Chiefs Mess, or among men in my church small group,  men do not normally express emotion.  And in those settings, it mainly has to do with frustration or some mis-steps in leadership situations that an  older or more experienced Navy leader (or church leader, given the situation) can provide counsel.    But in the normal daily venues that men gather, in a workplace, at a football game, or in a social setting, I have never heard men discuss emotionally about relationships, weight gain or loss, or the onset of  ‘life changes’.     Continue reading

a sentry’s recollections

In the Navy I stood a lot of watches.  For those not familiar with our terminology,  “watchstanding” is an assignment for a specified number of hours, to monitor area security, equipment performance, duties according to one’s training and seniority,  or other duties “as assigned”.

As a young Sailor (I capitalize the “S” following a Navy custom),  my first watches were patrols of the recruit barracks I was assigned from the first days in the Navy forty years ago.  We patrolled for safety mostly, but it was also to train us to be light sleepers, and accustomed to getting up within moments to carry out duties.

Later assignments, once I had been in uniform for a year or so, was assignment to the base gatehouses, sometimes the Main Gate but more often the mostly deserted back gate.  Watches – as a student during that time – were mostly starting at midnight, “balls to four” or 4 AM, because I had a class schedule that ran two sessions until early evening.   One night, I was assigned to be a floor watch,  sitting at a desk in a quiet corner of one of the middle floors – decks, we called them – and with the lack of air, humidity, and heat -in a Florida summer,  I dozed off.  A thump in the back of the head and a shout in my ear – the Base Duty Officer that evening was an old Senior Chief – and I was wide awake.  Never dozed off again – ever – while on watch.

Ten years later ( I had left and then gone back into the service) , on my first shipboard ‘tour’,  I was a Petty Officer of the Watch, in port.  Every Navy ship, while moored has a security station, at the brow -entry gangway- to provide protection, announce visitors, note the commanding officer’s arrival and departure, and check for authorized ship’s company to depart or return.   As a Third Class Petty Officer, I was limited in the scope of my assignments, but once I earned my next rank, Second Class Petty Officer,  I sought to train and qualified as the Officer of the Deck (in port).  The OOD is responsible to that day’s Command Duty Officer (CDO) who monitors compliance to the commander’s orders while in port.  On a subsequent ship, I again performed that OOD role until as a Chief Petty Officer, I had oversight of the shore enlisted personnel in my capacity as the unit’s Senior Enlisted Leader.

I was fortunate that during my tenure aboard the various ships I served to have few altercations but for a couple inebriated Sailors.  My watchstanding duties which normally required me to be armed, including at various times carbines or shotguns as well as a 45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, were mostly routine.  But failure of security cannot be allowed. A case, where failure of security personnel at the Norfolk Naval Base a few years ago, allowed a deranged civilian truck driver onto the base and onto a pier, ultimately resulted in the death of a Sailor – and the assailant.   That Sailor gave his life defending his shipmate, a POOW who was attacked and disarmed. Another Sailor performed his duty to eliminate the threat.  Particularly in the post-September 11th world,  there are more random dangers, criminals, mentally unstable people, and web-enabled terrorists on friendly shores.  Being wary of the threats in foreign ports,  assignments for the 18- to 38 year old Sailors ( and Marines, Soldiers and Airmen) who stand watch at their posts are now a matter of serious professionalism.

As a result of being in that environment, witnessing a lot and fortunately only hearing some of the stories,  I have a lot of respect for law enforcement officers today.  The job of securing your assigned watch can be routine, dull, aggravating and demanding.  And there aren’t a lot of second-chances to get it right when dealing with a dangerous world.  To protect us they stand the watch.

Patton can’t wallop away “fatigue”

An article I read online about veterans who are suing the military to upgrade their discharges, indicates an ignored mitigating factor was their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It was a stigma for soldiers in many conflicts to suffer ‘combat fatigue’ and the military did not have any mental health programs to help their suffering.  World War II’s most infamous case of a leader who abused soldiers suffering what we know today as PTSD, was General Patton.

I do know what it is like to live with someone who suffered with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Thirty years ago, I was in a relationship with a woman whom I came to learn was not schizophrenic but rather suffering from PTSD.  In the course of dealing with her middle of the night terror attacks, suspicious looks, angry stares, horrible accusations and anorexia,  I was not trained, nor was I sufficiently mature enough, emotionally, to help.   At the time I was in the Navy, stationed at an installation outside Washington, D.C.   Over a period of several weeks everything came into the light.   My job performance started to suffer badly.  I was exhausted;  one Monday,  I failed to go to work at all.   And then,  banging on my door, my supervisor, a Chief Petty Officer in whom I confided my struggles,  had come to check on us.

Instead of being brought before NJP – nonjudicial punishment,  my supervisor verbally reprimanded me, and took charge- giving me direction about how I should lead my household.   In the late 1980s,  mental health, counseling – family or marital, and the host of ills that military members succumb to in combat  was still in its infancy.  And if PTSD was hardly recognized in the civilian population, how much less so for our veterans.   I found resources for us to attend counseling.  I would love to say that everything turned around and became goodness and light.  It did not.  Less than ten years later, I learned that she had succumbed to her health problems.   For those suffering mental health issues,  it is always continuing steps in recovery.  But the sufferer has to be as engaged in getting healthy as those around him or her remain committed to helping.  It is time for the military – and the VA – to make every effort to alleviate the mental health issues that were aggravated or incurred as a result of military service.   It is only right to help warriors with tools and understanding who are suffering.