Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. – John F Kennedy
Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the sneak attack on the United States of America, that resulted in the murder of thousands of men, women, and children. On that day we, as a nation, and the world first learned that a death-cult comprised of fanatical Muslims would use commercial airliners to bring down a symbol of American enterprise, the towers of the World Trade Center, and a kamikaze strike into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. This was also the first time our enemies would learn that American civilians aboard another flying would-be weapon, would willingly and aggressively fight these fanatics, to bring down the aircraft before reaching its target.
The stories of bravery, from these men and women, from members of the New York Fire Department, Police Officers, and civilians and victims in this tragic series of attacks is well-known. We also remember the hundreds of men and women who have suffered life-threatening illnesses from combing through all that poisonous debris – to find, identify, and bury their fellow citizens murdered on that horrible morning.
What Americans should do on this anniversary is to tell our elected representatives that we will no longer tolerate disrespect for our institutions, the purchase of loyalties from non-citizens at the expense of citizens, or the rewriting of history. Further, we oppose the diminishing of American accomplishments, disobedience to the Constitutional-granted powers and laws, and the blatantly self-seeking and pandering politicians. We should instead honor our dead. Support our veterans who, over eighteen years of conflict have suffered and lost. Be proud of our history and our institutions. And fly our national ensign proudly so the living will never forget.
In the 1960s, Saturday morning cartoons were a favored diversion as I had my bowl of Fruit Loops (or oatmeal, when my mother intervened in my breakfast). The cartoon lion, Snagglepuss, had a trademark saying whenever he faced a challenging situation. ” Exit, stage right” or “Exit stage left, even!” However, I was never one to flee from demanding tasks. I think of Snagglepuss now as a classy way to exit this career and explore some new roads.
I am old enough to remember a simpler time, for kids anyway, when the American work ethic was the envy of the world. Parents, neighbors, and teachers taught me values and work ethic. I already had figured out about hard work, respecting others, and making your own way in the world, since I earned money from before and after-school jobs since I was 14. After a few years in the service, and then four years in college, I went back into the service in 1987 and remained in uniform until 2010. The unit held a great ceremony, gave me a nice party, and a wonderful shadow box of my military memories. I was already working at Viasat, so I had my second career already figured out.
I retired from my second longest career today. Well, technically, my last day is tomorrow, but our division threw me, and a co-worker also retiring in August, a retirement party. This latest career was the closest I have come to the camaraderie I felt in the Navy. And now, what does a two-career veteran do at age sixty?
Start my own business, or more accurately, support my spouse who started a business. I am sure the Senior Chief or the Engineering technician can tackle just about any business issue.
In the military services, it might still be a part of recruit basic training to train for chemical attack. In boot camp in the 1970s, I was marched into a gas chamber with sixty other personnel, all wearing our gas masks, and exposed to tear gas. Learning then that my mask had a poor seal, I very quickly ended up with tears and snot streaming inside the mask, hacking and choking when they had us pull it off for “full effect”! And I realized I would have been a casualty. And my poor carcass? filmed for a “here lies stupid” lesson.
That training has never left me. Even on a Thursday evening just before bedtime when my spouse in a fit of cleaning mania, liberally doses the bathroom off our bedroom in chlorine bleach. She happily scrubbed the mold and grime away. I wanted to be a good husband, and though I wanted to go to bed desperately, I offered to help. But the lesson I learned was to stand out of the way. I thought she wanted toothbrush to scrub the sink. In the best tradition of Chief’s wife (I’ve been long retired) she was scrubbing with a toothbrush to get the difficult grit!
No, she wanted a new toothbrush. For herself. At that moment I felt lower than whale excrement. And that’s something I haven’t thought about since it was applied to us in the first days of boot camp forty years ago. It’s okay she says. I can go to bed now. Except that the chlorine gas that she grudgingly opened a window to release – when I mentioned it – is already making me sneeze two rooms away. But it is okay. I probably would have died in boot camp anyway. My dumb#$# should have taken one for the team.
On the sixth of June, 1944, seventy- five years ago, more than a hundred- fifty thousand Allied troops became heroes on D-Day.
My late mother was a 12 year old schoolgirl living on the shores of the Belfast Lough in Northern Ireland. She told me of a foggy early morning probably a few days before the invasion when she saw many ships in the Lough only to disappear a day later. That capped a brief visit days earlier of an American cousin in her mother’s family, a Merchant Marine, who she later learned had been decorated for bravery in the Battle for Malta in 1942.
While some may think that Northern Ireland was far from the Blitz – the campaign the Nazi waged against Britain – German bombers attempting to destroy or disable aircraft manufacturing and the Belfast shipyard from April through May 1941, destroyed a considerable part of the city. A thousand were killed, many were injured and more than 100,000 were left homeless. Once the Nazis started their campaign against the Soviet Union in June 1941, they diverted their bombers.
My mother and family were fortunate in that their home was not bombed but the family retail business was unable to recover from the bombing of the city and the economic conditions which persisted all through the war and the remainder of the decade. And so my mother’s family became emigres to the United States in 1948 (other relatives had been living in the United States since the mid-19th Century).
Reading some of my old letters my late mother kept in her scrapbook, I appreciate jogging memories of my initial service in the Navy forty years ago. At the time, I was stuck in limbo, waiting on orders, waiting on a medical evaluation, and bored. I had spent eighteen months training for a career as an electronics technician in San Diego, in Illinois, in Florida and again in San Diego. When I had received an opportunity to attend the Naval Academy, a medical evaluation accompanying the selection board was possibly going to prevent that. In the meantime, I was assigned to support a correctional unit on Naval Training Center San Diego, to guard and escort sailors confined and others pending transfer to the Naval Brig.
“January 13 1978
I was paid this morning and I have finally got some money in my pocket after being in the depths of poverty for the last week. I’ve been keeping a budget book to account for every penny. Setting aside a $120 to send to you to save for me, I spent most of my last paycheck on a stereo receiver and headphones. I got a great deal as the stereo store said it was a trade-in and not brand-new.
I have been chugging away at BE & E. My Learning Supervisor is better at getting the material across to me than reading the book. And I am frustrated at the computer based training – that I am taking remedial tests every time.
Next weekend I am thinking of the YMCA’s military special to Disneyland – everything including bus ride and ticket, for $14.75…. “
When I read these letters I recall that my focus was split between very difficult technical training, spending money slower than earning it, having a good time, and the things a sailor thinks about: cars, girls, staying out of trouble, and so on. And taking care of my mom.
“February 18, 1978
…it’s been a week since I was home for that short visit…. I’m expecting to finish BE and E School (Basic Electricity and Electronics) in seven working days and then ice and snow! (I was scheduled to transfer for further training at the Great Lakes NTC north of Chicago) I have been trying to spend money and save it at the same time….
I bought two books ” How to Buy Stocks” and “How to Build a Fortune Investing in Land””
“July 3 1978
Class 7825C, ET/A school Bldg 520, Great Lakes Training Center: Thunder and lightning this weekend. Thank you for the ever-increasing moral support. It helps this “screw-up” when I seem to be trying and trying over these multiple -choice tests and I miss the question because I don’t put down my first choice but over think them! Why can’t I learn! Some solace in that I got my PO3 raise today. A whole $10.
Congratulations on your new friend and you both seem to be on the same “astral plane”. And my little sister has a boyfriend! She is growing up fast. I ran into a friend who is very close to a bachelors degree having taking a lot of courses through the CLEP tests. He’s looking at Officer Candidate School and making some career-connections with several officers involved in the program. He’s shared with me several of the courses and tests to take should the Annapolis thing not get accepted. Studying electronics harder will give me a mental breakdown. I need some thing different.
I looked at that Naval Academy application. I think they want someone who is a cross between O.J. Simpson and Albert Einstein, not me!”
In the year between my initial training in San Diego, and returning back to San Diego, I had been undergoing technical training and screening for a government security clearance. Between the training, standing watches, and liberty in Chicago and Milwaukee, I was also trying to figure out if I could afford a TransAm like one in the movie Smokey and the Bandit. It was nearly eleven thousand dollars. I couldn’t. I did learn a lot about weather. Playing pool in the barracks. Guys who were playing some role-playing fantasy called Dungeons and Dragons. A summer music festival at the Navy Pier in Chicago. And working on cars. Being in the best physical shape of my life while in Pensacola, Florida. Running several miles a few times a week that started from a dare between roommates in the barracks while attending CT – school. A circuit of the base, inside the fence was about four miles. We would run it twice a night.
“Letter dated August 2 – 5, and 8, 1979
It’s the second day of August, and in one day following the
most insane twenty-four hours I have yet spent at TPU (ed: Transient Personnel Unit), I think I shall be ready for the funny
farm very soon.
Let me tell you some of the the goings-on at our “Hotel California”. Yesterday, we got a new boatload of lunies (sic) plus one who is trying to put one over on us that he’s nuts, and he is getting my goat.
Another case is my boss Chief Heller. His retiring soon and he continues to drop in
on Bldg 23 if only to holler and cuss everyone.
It is just as if he’s giving out a daily dose of castor oil.
Still another example was last night’s supposed-to-work-flawlessly relief of the day watch. A PO1(Petty Officer First Class) who knew he had duty never showed up, and despite all my efforts couldn’t be found anywhere on-base. No one knew who I was looking for- even though he was supposedly assigned to the same working area! So, as a result, an overworked PO2, a good friend of mine, was forced to stay all night as well as his morning workday.
In addition, I was forced to work late (a 13-hour day) which
it turns out shall be my regular working hours.
It was either that or work 10 hours plus have an extra watch in TPU
every three days.
Today was continued insanity when, in the early afternoon, one of our “mental” cases went berserk and smashed a wood-covered (barricaded) window with a chair. He demanded to go to the brig or he would do more damage! It’s a good thing I don’t sleep there- I don’t know if some night I might get my throat cut by one of these scumbags.
Tonight I went to the PO Club with two friends, George, who works in the NTC Police/Decal Office, and June who also works there. We all had a good time. But what occurred later is interesting. Well, June got very drunk, I was sober and George nearly so. June had to be talked into being escorted to her barracks. George (who went with her) in her car and I followed behind in mine. June wandered all over the road at speed and I sped up to catch her. And out of the dark an NTC (Naval Training Center) police vehicle pulled ME over. Luckily, he was a friend but since I was “rocketing along” at 20 or 30 MPH, he wouldn’t let me drive back to TPU. A quarter-mile walk later I was sober; June was the one all over the road – I’m sure the cop saw her. That will be the last of my “good Samaritan” gestures.
August 5, 1979
Yesterday I finally bought the 10-speed bicycle I was [going to get you] shopping two weeks. I’m sure you will love it, as a matter of fact I wanted to buy one for myself from the same people. Now I have only one detail to work out and that is how to get it home. Two possibilities are open to me, but I don’t know how much it will cost me to ship it, so if you don’t mind I am going to wait till I hand-deliver it.
In other news I have been heartened by a lot of mail, especially yours and from Nana, but I’m going through a lot of ups and downs. I’m almost at the end of my rope as far as this Restriction/ CC (Correctional Custody) “babysitter” job goes. Today I got yelled at for these a@#$@#$ goofing off even as I have been trying to imitate Attila the Hun with them .
I’m starting another entry in the ‘journal’ after putting the
pen down for two days. I am just putting down thoughts as they come to mind. My
mind is awfully screwed being run ragged.
I think I will drop this topic in favor of other topics to ramble on
Tomorrow I’ll begin packing a few things for the trip to San Francisco and I’m going to hopefully make a weekend out of it. What is your reaction to the earthquake this week? It think it is about time for the city to fall into the sea?
It’s all a bit tedious. I’ll hopefully be home sooner or later. “
These letters bring back some of the missing names – and the memory -recalling the faces of those Chiefs at TPU. These memories seem as fresh as having occurred yesterday. The more I recall of those months in school, in training, and time at the transient barracks, I am amused by the complaining, angst, self-righteousness, stubbornness, and shock of having to work long hours. In this particular letter, the reference to “Hotel California” my mother probably would have missed – her musical taste was stuck in the early 1960s and she never heard of the Eagles. But I was fortunate that my mother, who pursued a second career as a college English teacher around that time, and worked a full-time nursing job, never pointed out my ‘overworked’ complaints. As I look back after forty years of military and civilian jobs – on my youngest co-workers and their peers – their complaints about fairness, working conditions, and emotional safe-spaces are more their age than something “we” never did.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those (A)who are the called according to His purpose. –Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
No Company Commander, nor Drill Sergeant ever whispered a gentle wake-up to new recruits in basic training or boot camp during my time in the service. The whole point of basic training for recruits is to completely change mindsets and hearts to hear and obey, instantly, the calling. It isn’t the Lord’s voice that one responds to the best of their ability, but to His representative on Earth during that time: the Drill Sergeant or Company Commander. The “encouragement” that a recruit, fresh off the farm, the beach, or the street receives during the first several weeks of military service, instills instinctive responses, physical prowess, self-discipline, and a basic knowledge of the traditions, responsibilities and expectations of each member of a team. At a certain point, each military member makes the decision to embrace that way of life, engage fully, remain devoted, and give one’s best efforts to the team. Or they part company, either expeditiously before the end of recruit training, or after three, four or more years.
11 Light shines[a] on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. 12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name. –Psalm 97: 11 -12
For those who have been through the maturation process of military training, and thrived, the recognition of authority, wielding it, and being instilled with a single-focused purpose of a spiritual life, is more natural. I think that is why a lot of the imagery in the Bible, Old Testament and New, involves soldiers. As a disciple of Jesus, in my own life experience I understand rigorous training, discipline, and obedience to authority. We have the tools, the teamwork, and the mission to execute. But I am grateful that my christian missteps do not result in “marching parties”, “demerits”, or being found in the receiving end of some “fan-room counseling”.
Thank God that Jesus speaks Truth in Love. If we all respond to that, the hurled trash can “attention-getter” in the barracks hall might not be a wake-up tool anymore.
American sailors on liberty in Pusan, South Korea before 1999 used to talk about going to Texas Street. Dive bars and cheap eats.
When I visited Pusan in 1999 while aboard USS CORONADO, I remember a Russian carrier in port. Russian bar girls. To avoid uncomfortable conversations, my shipmate and I had a line popularized by Steven Segal: “I’m just a cook!” Didn’t see any Russian sailors. But I picked up a few words in Russian.
I don’t know what it’s like today, but I left there thinking the bar district had become “Russia Street”.
Learned a little bit about being stationed in South Korea. I learned how to order a Starbucks in Korean. “Grande Mocha”.
And I know not to enter any Asian establishment with a “barber pole” out front. Was told they were “massage” parlors. Wonder if they also do haircuts?