a veteran gets “Media” love

In the past week,  the tabloids and other media was agog over the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry of Britain.  The Duke of Sussex, KCVO (Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order ). Several of my friends on social media posted “enough already”- type memes and commentary.   I probably have a unique viewpoint among them,  in that a “Combat Veteran Gets Lots of Love by the Media”.

Unique among the current British Royal family,  Prince Harry served in combat, in Afghanistan, not just in uniform.  His presence was kept secret for several weeks by the British press.   In typical fashion, some in the media cannot keep secrets.  The Australian press revealed that the Prince was in Helmond province.  Against the Taliban and Al Quaeda,  publishing the whereabouts of a high-value target such as the Prince was unwise, yet the prince continued to serve in theater.  After serving in the British Army for ten years, he has continued to serve in a leading way but for charitable work.

Unintentionally,  I believe,  the news media has made a combat veteran a star.   For a guy with army service, and little chance of ever becoming King ( he’s fifth in line behind his elder brother and  family),  I think it is pretty cool.

image source: Esquire magazine

Biography

Charitable work, past and going forward:

The Telegraph

Wild About Harry by Remembering Lives

a motto for marriages

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  Philippians 2: 1 – 4

Your spouse did not come in your seabag

Up through the late 1980s,  the military services did not yet offer the kind of training and support that married service members need.   When training was introduced,  the first programs were the ombudsman that informed the unit commanders about the family support systems for the military members in their unit.   Classes through the Family Service Centers in life basics, credit, budgeting, child-rearing, shopping, nutrition, and employment opportunities for the military spouse started a little more than two decades ago.

Is marriage outdated?

For 2017,  the U.S. Government (CDC) issued these statistics for marriage and divorce in the United States:

Number of marriages: 2,245,404
Marriage rate: 6.9 per 1,000 total population
Number of divorces: 827,261 (44 reporting States and D.C.)
Divorce rate: 3.2 per 1,000 population (44 reporting States and D.C.)

One-quarter as many divorces as weddings in 2017!   While divorce statistics have declined a bit, the number of people cohabiting and not getting married may be part of the statistics.  And what factors contribute to divorce?   Without going into the data,  it is probably the same things that people all say – financial difficulties, different goals and attitudes, infidelity,  mental or physical abuse,  health issues, and so on.   People whether gay or straight, and if examined, probably in any other country,  have the same issues.  A lack of common, unifying principles, beliefs, or values that treat each person with  respect and  worth.

The recipe for a failing marriage is actually based on our human nature.  Take two self-interested emotional people and put them legally together.  Remove intimacy,  common goals, and a support network of family and friends.  Add long separations due to the nature of the military job, a culture that is generally foreign to a civilian spouse, and the dangers that any day,  a training accident or hostile action can mean a complete life change for either person in a marriage.

Semper fidelis is not just a Marine motto

Always faithful.  Regardless of someone’s spiritual understanding or lack of one,  there are means to learn how to not merely survive, but thrive as a married couple.  It does take effort and common goals of both persons – daily – to have a successful marriage.  And it is not enough to be a member of the same spiritual, ethnic, or career community either.  It is the commitment to learning, practicing what one learns, treating one another with respect and love and honoring your vows.

Self-paced training

This week, our fellowship in church began a series of lessons from a book by Dr. Gary Smalley,  If Only He Knew, for husbands and for wives, For Better or Best.    The married men began with lessons on checking our tongue, by not spouting off sarcasm about things that irritate us,  and not sharing your “fix it” strategies when your spouse is sharing her frustrations and needs.  These only serve to alienate our children and spouses at home, and those attitudes can also negatively impact your work environment.

A second part of the introductory workshop covered protecting our spouse physically, emotionally, her honor, financially, and with sound principles.  To which were also included our spiritual involvement.  A husband should provide a safe and secure home by regular upkeep or maintenance.  Vehicle maintenance, especially with working spouses is also part of that physical protection.  Emotionally, we should learn to recognize the signs when our spouse is burdened.  Sometimes, husbands can neglect the shared responsibilities for childcare and home.   For most of our spouses who also have careers, this can be overwhelming. It is also a fact that many people suffer chronic depression, so recognizing the symptoms and seeking care for a spouse may be a responsibility of the husband.

Protecting a spouse from negative attitudes or disrespectful comments by other family members is protecting her honor.  Financially,  husbands need to protect our spouses – whether or not they are a two-income family- by setting sound financial goals, spending habits, communication and mutual agreement.  Too many people “fly by the seat of their pants” spending more than their income each month.   And then there are the sins that plague us as men – greed, lust, selfishness, envy, and arrogance or pride that if we men do not actively control – or apologize when something occurs – they can ruin our marriages.

Additional study

The first book  I read on the subject of developing a vibrant marriage was  Strengthening Your Marriage, by Wayne Mack which I bought a few months before I got married eighteen years ago.  This was the basis of a class that friends of ours, married then six years, taught us starting while we were engaged and then for  several months into our marriage.   In a future blog post, I will summarize the lessons from this book.

Over nearly two decades, our church has held several “marriage workshops” for members and invited guests.   The principles that the speakers have shared  cover the mistakes that even biblically-centered couples made.  And the successful application of the principles in this article’s biblical quote.  While I know that Christian couples who do not actively work at the principles for a strong marriage can fail,    I am aware of couples married for decades who do not attend church but with the help they got and the lessons they learned from biblical principles and these sorts of helpful books and seminars,  grew closer to each other and to God.

A culture of complacency?

Four American Special Operations soldiers who died in an ambush in Niger were reported to have died as a consequence of improper planning, training, and taking unnecessary risks – a “culture of complacency”.  Summarizing details in a classified Pentagon report, military officials found  “low-level commanders, eager to make their mark against local militants in Niger, “took liberties to get operations approved through the chain of command,”  ” according to the Wall Street Journal article today.

In the collisions between U.S. Navy warships and civilian freighters in 2017, the Navy found the same consequences of complacency,  not following procedures, and overconfidence.  In recent articles describing mishaps in Air Force and Marine Corps aviation,  both cite decisions regarding decreased training hours for pilots, as well as decreased material support and funding resulted in increased mechanical failures and pilot error,  particularly in the last several years.

For years, much of the attention paid to combat-action, training or mission-related casualties has focused on politics, funding (budget), and defense contractors, but less has been paid to warfighter training and culture.  In the last twenty years both the warfighters themselves and the military services have “adapted” by the social norms of the day.  Competitiveness, rigorous thinking, physical prowess, and unity of singular national identity ( e.g. American, not  hyphen American,  or French, not Algerian-French) has been debased internationally in favor of equality, fairness, tolerance, and individualism. Regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or spiritual concerns,  a warrior culture has to be obsessive and unyielding about unity, training, respect for and obedience to authority, to mission and to nation.   A warrior commander has to be  pragmatic about readiness, mission planning, and risk.   While there is always some acceptance of risk in any effort, there is no room for overconfidence, personal ambition, or politics in military operations.

However, with human beings comes human weakness.  From the American ambassador during the Barbary Wars (at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century) who diverted support from the U.S. naval commanders  interdicting pirates because he was not consulted, to the battlefront commanders who did not receive accurate enemy strength numbers when advancing on Tora Bora during the initial Afghanistan campaigns (with some fault from communication issues), character, training and planning shortcomings have resulted in unintended casualties.  While it is true that military forces, particularly among the NATO alliance, have become better trained, better equipped and more unified, particularly in communications (Blue on Blue, or “friendly fire” incidents declined), veterans, families of currently-serving members, and the public need to press our civilian leaders to make the necessary changes from the ground up. Better leaders make better institutions.  Better institutions makes better people. Better people make better warriors.  Better warriors make better decisions.

 

fairy tales and fast cars

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Getting gas this afternoon for my wife’s 2016 Kia Sorento, a couple guys were chatting it up at the 7-Eleven gas pump.  I took them for car-guys.  Both men were Forty-ish, one looked a professional (that is, car-guy Neiman-Marcus  Sunday casual), and the other guy – who probably HAD money – looked like a grease monkey mechanic.  Both drove Datsun Z cars,  the former, a  jet-black early ’70s 240Z, and the other, an orange (“burnt sienna”?)  260Z.

“That’s a 240Z, isn’t it” I stated.  It’s always important for a car-guy to have other guys recognize your car – particularly a 45-year old sports classic. The “grease monkey winked, ” no. it’s a 350″.  But to anyone who was driving before DATSUN became Nissan, a 240Z or a 260Z were the cars that parents of the Millennium “Fast N’ Furious” movie franchise fans might have driven on Friday night or weekend road rallies.  I road in a 240Z twice in forty years.  I was in the Navy in 1979, when my buddy Ron owned one.  We drove around San Diego in that car for a year before he had the money to get the car modified to be a street-legal (barely) racing car.  A weekend after getting the car back, he had to park the car off the Naval Training Center grounds until he got all the proper papers to get it registered.   And sometime around midnight, a drunk Marine careening out the base Main Gate slammed into it  totalling the car.

The last time I road in a Datsun 240Z was six years later.   I road with a co-worker between Tucson and Phoenix at a 100MPH (160 Km) when our employer sent us to do a job up there.

But I had always wanted a fast car.   In 1978, I had been looking at sports cars,  but being young, single and in the military, I had money but not much sense.  I found out when I tried to sit in the sports cars, that I was like Cinderella’s stepsisters – I would have to cut a body part off to fit.  To get into a sports car, whether a Triumph TR6, or MG, or other two-seater, I  needed my legs cut off at mid-calf to shoehorn in.   So I focused, daydreamed, even obsessed over American steel.   In the 1970s,  San Diego was a smorgasbord of muscle cars – Firebirds, Camaros, Pontiac GTOs, Mustangs, Dodge Chargers and Plymouth Barracudas among them.

I transferred to Pensacola, Florida in 1978.   Where gasoline was 67 cents a gallon,  the South was almost equal to Southern California for the muscle car selection.    I thought I would buy a Camaro.    I was almost ready to part with cash,  burning a hole in my pocket, until one of my friends noticed something a little unusual with the 1973 Camaro (like the one pictured).   Bondo in a quarter panel.  Bondo in the trunk.  Rust!   Rust meant that this car had spent considerable time in the winter snows of the north and Eastern seaboard.  So I found and bought my second choice which was a 1973 Chevrolet Nova like the one pictured.  It had a six-cylinder engine, and though I had started to work a deal to swap in a Corvette motor a local guy had for sale, the deal never went through.  Pity.   I could have driven 140 MPH on weekends from Pensacola to New Orleans.   Or more likely been a guest of Roscoe P. Coltrane (Dukes of Hazzard) real-life southern sheriff counterpart somewhere between Florabama, Alabama and Gulfport, Mississippi.

There probably was a fairy godmother looking out for me.   In 1980, I drove a friend’s 1970 Chevelle SS around 130 MPH along the I-5 one very early Saturday morning between Anaheim and San Diego,  I didn’t have another chance to go fast until my drive in a 1972 Corvette Stingray in Tucson.  And my buddy only allowed me the one test drive.  Not that I was a reckless driver.  If I kept driving fast cars, I was a little too much of a lead foot to make it out of my Twenties.    That Chevy Nova may have been just the pumpkin I needed to have my life today.

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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. ( https://www.nbcsandiego.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Deported-Army-Vet-Granted-U_S_-Citizenship_San-Diego-478353393.html )   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.

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Honor and lament: Southwest Air 1380

12 Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:

As fish are caught in a cruel net,
    or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
    that fall unexpectedly upon them. Ecclesiastes 9: 12

https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/18/us/southwest-emergency-landing/index.html

Grieve for the Dead and her Family

A passenger on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 died in a freak accident yesterday.  One of the engines on the Boeing 737 had a mid-air explosion and shrapnel entered the passenger compartment causing depressurization.  Seven others were injured.  According to the British tabloid The Sun yesterday,  she was Jennifer Riordan, an Albuquerque banker with Wells Fargo.  Seems like such a brief statement, to be identified by a person’s occupation.  Whose lives did she change.  Whom was encouraged or loved or cared for.   Yet, a husband has lost his wife, and their children have lost their mother.   Let the community rally around the living  and that the airline company moves quickly to do everything possible to care for them, the injured, the other passengers and crew.

Honor the Pilot’s Skill

The flying public, myself included,  take for granted, after sixty or more years of travel that nothing will disrupt our cocktail and peanuts, the in-flight Wi-Fi or movie.  But silently we depend on the professionalism and skill of the pilot and crew.  Hundreds of lives at 35,000 feet depend on a machine and an operator.   The pilot of the aircraft,  Tammy Jo Shults, has been a pilot in commercial aviation for decades.  Prior to that, according to news reports, she was one of the first female naval aviators and of a smaller, more exclusive group of skilled aviators – pilot of an F/A-18.  The skill of our commercial and military pilots is without a doubt exceptional.   More than a hundred passengers and crew owe their lives today to the skill of the crew in landing at Philadelphia.  That no other lives were lost is a credit to cool professionalism.  Yet I hope she is comforted as well as lauded for handling that emergency so well.    Military training or long years in commercial aviation: no one wants to lose someone on their watch.

An instant changes everything

Every day, a split-second can be the difference between life, death, or serious injury.  The decisions we make affect us.  Yet we are not always in control.  Nobody can predict what the day will bring.  In a complex machine that is a commercial airliner, a bolt that passed inspection may have sheared causing mayhem.  A tree limb weakened by a harsh drought may crack and fall on a sleeping camper.  A wrong turn or an earlier than normal start to a work commute may result in an accident with someone distracted on the way home.  A routine medical procedure that saved a hundred lives that week, may result in a rare complication where someone died.

Twenty-five years ago, a Sailor I served with on a Navy destroyer, was driving a Navy van on a pier during a snowstorm.  The van skidded and drove off into the harbor and that sailor died.  His body was not discovered till months later.   And last year, another Sailor, in a horrible collision at sea, tried to get everyone out of a berthing compartment.  To save his shipmates, he told others to seal the hatch and sacrificed himself for others.

Life of Faith, or Fear

Life is unpredictable.  As a follower of Jesus Christ,  a retired Navy Senior Chief, and a devoted husband and friend,  I hope I may respond as my faith and training enable me.

remembering 4 Army chaplains

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends..  John 15: 13

 

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honoring the WWII sacrifice of 4 chaplains (1948)

 

Valor and sacrifice cannot be identified by a gene, nor can someone learn through force of will.   But there are many stories that inspire others.  This is one such story from World War II that also inspires people as an act of faith.

On February 2, 1943, the USS Dorchester was transporting 902 servicemen from Newfoundland to Greenland when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat.   Many of the men were not wearing their life jackets that made it difficult sleeping, and others because the engineering room made their quarters too hot with all their gear on. With the ship power out, the rapid sinking meant many would drown in the icy water.

Four Army chaplains passed their life jackets to others in line.  Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed perished with 670 of their fellow servicemen.  Survivors reported hearing them singing to encourage the wounded and dying as the ship went down. Many were killed in the explosions and fire from the torpedoes, and the others from exposure and drowning.  Only 230 survived the sinking.

Read more about their sacrifice here.