Forty-two years ago, a kid from a dysfunctional family got off a bus from the airport at the entrance to the U.S. Navy Recruit Training Command, San Diego. The following eleven weeks for me and my fellow recruits physically, mentally, and spiritually reshaped us into a military unit and family. Through shared sufferings, goals, and mindset, we changed from unruly civilians into Sailors.
The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof. – Richard Bach, novelist
After a few years in the military and several more as a civilian, the Navy again became my “family”. Abandoned by an unhappy wife (she later was diagnosed with mental illness), my military family was preferable and predictable. During the years that relatives would not talk with one another – or with me, one divorced parent lay dying in hospice and the other was living purposely alone in the Sonoran desert. I rarely spoke with one of my mother’s siblings, never with the other or her daughters, and only after my mother’s passing have I deliberately and earnestly sought conversations and visits with my father’s relatives.
Here’s a news flash: No soldier gives his life. That’s not the way it works. Most soldiers who make a conscious decision to place themselves in harm’s way do it to protect their buddies. They do it because of the bonds of friendship – and it goes so much deeper than friendship. Eric Massa
Over twenty-six years in the military, twenty years of fellowship in my church, eighteen and a half in marriage, and in fourteen years with a company where I just retired, did I develop a trust, a bond, mutual respect and joy with people I was related to only by common experience. My marriage is a gift of trust and joy shared not through shared DNA; it was her children accepting me and them accepted as “our kids” – proving that DNA does not define family.
35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13: 35 (NIV)
So when you see two or more veterans gathered together, laughing, crying, and swapping stories, they likely are not related, nor may they even be from the same service, or of the same generation, but all have common experience. They are family.
Every November, my friends and I go (tent) camping in Yosemite National Park before the first snow. All of us are members of the same church in San Diego, but more than just “members”, we all make an effort to be united as Brothers, in Christ. This is more than just a Sunday worship service, or playing a game of Mexican Train together in a warm room of a Yosemite Valley hotel. We have each others’ back and watch out for each other.
While my spiritual brothers and I share a bond of common faith, it is not the same as the brothers – and sisters I have served alongside in the military. For twenty-six years, I wore the uniform and swore my allegiance to serve the Constitution and nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. And through several conflicts, long deployments, and looking out for families while others were deployed in war zones, all were responsibilities my peers and I shouldered. Many of us spent holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries away from loved ones.
While we give thanks for all the blessings we have in this life, these do not come without responsibilities to act justly, practice gratitude, give generously, and to treat others with respect. As military veterans and patriotic citizens, we are also compelled to stand against those who would tear down what we have worked – some at the risk of bloodshed – to preserve.
So on this Thanksgiving holiday, I think of all that my family has been experiencing this past year. I have gratitude for my God, and my fellow veterans and their families. Whether we are serving together now in the army of Christ, or served ( or still serving) in the uniform of our country. May you have a safe and joyful holiday.
All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.
~John F. Kennedy , Newport dinner speech before America’s Cup Races, Sept. 1962
I have never learned to sail a wind-driven vessel, nor do I recall the difference between a sloop and a ketch. That said, it does not mean I have no familiarity with ships, storms, life aboard ship, or the special bond that seafaring men (or women) have as a crew at sea. For eight years out of a twenty-six year Navy career, I was a member of ships company, on a Virginia-class cruiser, a Spruance -class destroyer, and a converted amphibious transport dock-turned-command ship (for the U.S. THIRD Fleet). I have spent months at sea repetitively in the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, Mediterranean, and Caribbean Seas. Perhaps the readers of this blog, merchantmen and military navymen (and women) have also looked upon Naples, Italy with Mount Vesuvius as a backdrop in the early morning. As a Petty Officer on a ship that was one of the very first Navy visitors after forty years of the Cold War, made port in Varna, Bulgaria. On deployment to enforce blockade of Saddam Hussein’s illicit oil trade after the Gulf War, transited the Suez Canal and made circles in the Red Sea. Like the apostles of Jesus two millennia ago, I walked the streets of old Jerusalem, visited Cyprus and Crete, Turkey and Greece. Gazed upon the ruins of ancient seafaring civilizations four thousand years old. I’ve ridden trains on a day’s liberty time as a Pacific Fleet sailor between Yokosuka and Tokyo, Japan, and as an Atlantic Fleet one from Marseilles to Paris, France.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a gray mist on the sea’s face, and a gray dawn breaking.
A man I have known casually for years at a place I have written about many times, Liberty Tobacco, a cigar lounge in San Diego, California, is another Old Salt. We both have long careers in the electronics industry and worked at some of the same places in San Diego. But tonight we learned that we have been to the same places underway on ships, and to shore stations around the country. Twenty-five or thirty years ago is a long time in an age where, in a social media-world, memories last minutes or perhaps hours till another attention-seeker replaces them.
We shared memories of the school buildings for our respective Navy trades being across from one another on the shore of Lake Michigan. We were assigned to electronics schools ( perhaps five years apart) at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center north of Chicago. And we both have been through the fire-fighting trainer in Norfolk, Virginia. This is a large complex of buildings built to resemble shipboard compartments where fuel-oil fires are set ablaze. Into the heat, dense smoke, and real danger, crews are trained to combat them, and to become familiar with all the tools and roles needed to fight and preserve a ship. At sea, there is only your shipmates to keep your vessel afloat.
Other memories of putting to sea on your first ship get dusted off and refreshed while talking. The times standing watch on the ship’s Quarterdeck in the middle of the night alongside the pier in Italy, you can chuckle about the garbage barge alongside – with something moving (not human) in the shadows. Or noting wharf rats the size of cats rooting around a dumpster in the dark at the head of the pier. And realizing what “rat guards” on your mooring lines are designed to block.
Memories of winter rain in Panama that will soak you to the skin in minutes. One of the wettest places on Earth, the year-round rain recharges the waters in the Canal Zone powering the locks on each end of the Isthmus. Swapping stories of liberty visits in ports ten time zones away from home that are extended to a month when a casualty occurs. For one it was the ship’s screw (the propeller, in civilian-speak). Without a shipyard and drydock, this enormous thing had to be replaced underwater by specially-trained teams. For the other, when a gas-turbine engine has to be flown from the USA and replaced in the Netherlands Antilles. Due to a prior transit in a freshwater river in the Northeast USA, killing the built-up marine growth – and then immediate transit to the Caribbean resulted in the cooling inlets for that turbine being choked by dead organisms and engine destroyed by overheating.
The sea speaks a language polite people never repeat. It is a colossal scavenger slang and has no respect.
While some of my friends have experienced sea-sickness on a harbor ferry in San Diego bay, and worn the medical patches when first putting to sea on cruise ships and small frigates, these aids may become unneeded when accustomed to life at sea for months at a time. With merchantmen and Navymen, the camaraderie of sharing shipboard stories, having weathered hurricanes and strong gales in the mid-Atlantic and off the western coast of Mexico transiting from the Panama Canal, the memories seem only days old instead of a quarter-century. My shipmates and I have marveled at the different colors of ocean water, the patterns of currents, bright sunshine and placid seas turn gray-black and stormy within hours. I’ve been concerned for brightly color birds alighting on our ship as we leave port and then been still there twenty miles to sea. Crossing the Equator and the International Date Line, as a Navyman I have been both Pollywog and seasoned Shellback during the traditional ceremonies of the “Shellback Initiation”.
And some of the other ‘initiations’ like standing a first watch on the bridge – learning to always check your binoculars handed to you, especially at night. Some salty Bosun’ mate (Boatswains mate) may have first smeared a little shoe polish in the eyecups. Or being especially vigilant while manning instruments and reporting conditions during underway replenishment. Any sailor will acknowledge the gait at sea is unique, an adaptation to simply performing your duties while the ship rolls in heavy seas. Huge waves breaking over the bow of your ship become commonplace. Watching a smaller vessel in your group seeming to disappear in the trough of the waves and then pop up as the waves crash by. While performing maintenance on deck, looking out and seeing a small sailboat, manned by an individual sailor, pass alongside hundreds of miles from shore.
The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. Jacques Yves Cousteau (brainyquote.com)
For the many who are serving or have served honorably in uniform, we have a bond that few understand. For those who have spent several months, several years, or a working life, at sea, we have another strong bond that years and decades later we recall clearly. Perhaps it is indeed the stirring of the salt in our blood, the sea spray on our skin, and the experience of working together in times of routine, in danger and in emergencies when we all realize just how we are and will always be, Sailors.
When I was a younger Sailor, traveling from foreign port to foreign port, I encountered a lot of outgoing people engaged as vendors, tour guides, shopkeepers and restaurant owners. Often their families were the wait staff that ran these places or made the things that provided their living. When your livelihood depends on people, there is an advantage in being a “people person”.
When I was a kid, I was actually an introvert. A gangling kid with poor eyesight, I was not the best athlete nor a glib talker and jokester. From several moves, a lot of activities that caught my interest, studying people, and experience in several professions from ranching to construction, furniture sales and auto parts counter work, I got to talking with and taking an interest in people. I worked as a bartender and waiter before I went into the military. One of my dreams, long before I became a technical worker in the telecommunications industry, was opening a bar or restaurant based on what I visited in foreign places. A kind of dive that had “atmosphere”. With all that experience of these exotic places and tourists from every part of the world I thought it would be fun. I had been working in bars and restaurants prior to my military service so it was somewhat familiar. I learned to speak, or at least communicate in three foreign languages, Spanish, French and Russian.
The service industry depends on people-skills as well as a strong work ethic. Marketing. Being a good listener as well as an observant and diligent service provider. And have a good memory for people’s names, their likes, and so on. In France in he early 1990s I saw the “smash sandwich” vendors – paninis as America now knows them – and thought it was a novel idea to bring to these shores. With the buxom women staffing these kiosks, the Toulon vendors served a lot of sandwiches. In Turkey, shoeshine boys mobbed visitors, appearing at the dock where our ship’s water taxis deposited them. These kids knew how to say “shoe shine” and make small talk about sports, whether you were an American sailor, a Brit, an Arab or perhaps even Chinese tourist. Even sailors wearing sneakers were not overlooked by boys with pats of shoe polish. In the markets, almost every vendor spoke some foreign tongue.
Interviewing, like selling, takes skill and people-smarts
Just as there are people who do not understand the difference between “selling” and “buying”, there are people who do not understand that the interview is a skill that one perfects. Preparation, listening, knowing what and how, to answer a question is part of the interview. Confidence, balanced with humility, and understanding the requirements of the job being sought as well as knowing something of you prospective employer, can win the interview.
Technical professionals I have coached have earned an offer of employment, not only from their preparation, but knowing how to “answer the question being asked” with sufficient detail, but not enough to get bogged down. It is a marketing opportunity to show that you will be an asset to those doing the hiring, but not telling them as much. And to win their trust, through your personality and likeability.
I know others who are successful gardeners, pool men, insurance agents and financial counselors. Some are musicians. Others are artists and writers. And still others with a love for and enough experience in hunting, fishing, camping or motor sports, they made professions as guides and teachers. And they connect with their clients and employers, with the same people-smarts.
Commitment and self-improvement
Practicing interviews, such as the “elevator talk” or meeting people in social settings, is valuable. Listening to people’s names and observing details about those you converse with, not only makes the other person feel valued, but aids in your ability to connect with your message.
Books I have read recently and recommend to everyone, engineer, actor, or military member in transition, include How to Start A Conversation and Make Friends, by Don Gabor (Simon & Shuster), and the classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People , by Dale Carnegie. Another great read and short, is The One Minute Sales Person, by Spencer Johnson, MD, and Larry Wilson (Harper Collins). There are also many good books and websites on personal development, the interviewing process in the social media age as well.
In a job interview, a prepared and confident person builds a relationship and earns trust with the interviewer and the employer. Beyond the hiring process, as an employee or consultant, you continue being a student of the company, the people you meet, and learning by asking the right questions. There is also the times and places you can market yourself for new opportunities in the company, and by demonstrating value – increasing the bottom line, can use the same interviewing skills to ask for raises as well.
As a manager, you are still engaged in the sales profession. Whether as team leader, morale booster, mentor, recruiter or discipline agent, you still show the “customer” the value of the company and role that person fills, which provides their needs and their relationship to the team.
People do not want to be “sold” but they do want to “buy”
Just as someone who shops for a new vehicle, kitchen appliance, or bringing on a new team member, the skill is in recognizing what motivates, interests or is valued by the customer. A customer looking for the security of business insurance is not going to respond to the agent’s ‘hot buttons’. And an employer is not going to be encouraged by a prospective employee’s focus on pay rate, vacation earned or working hours.
Interviewing requires diligent effort and practice. But the military member also has what many other applicants lack. Focus. Endurance. Attention to detail. And maturity. As well as experience working under stressful situations and deadlines. So take charge and carry out your mission. Interview, interview, interview. And I have benefited from fifty years of practice. I am no longer gangling, nor introverted. I have been a recruiter and meet people everywhere I go. Though my best friends will tell me I am still not “glib”.
Fair Winds and Following Seas. – Senior Chief (Ret.)
* Wikipedia repeats the quote attributed to Ronald Reagan that a politician is the second-oldest profession. Prostitution is frequently quipped as the “oldest” profession.
Military, Active, Reserve or Retired:
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Time for Physical Training! PT (Weight training, cardio, core strengthening)
Commence Holiday Routine.
Other than Monday, I took the whole week off making up for the push we had at the end of the Quarter last month. Time to catch up on honey-dos, and sort through the stacks of stuff piled on my desk in recent weeks. Probably have four books and two magazines that I want to read- mostly personal development topics that I need to read through. Plus about a hundred blog posts to read and respond to. Who has time to commute, slave away, and commute back – and have a life outside those parameters? Thus, the needed Stay-cation.
I wanted to say thank you to my blogging community friends who have hit the “Like” on my accidental wisdom 500 times. Ninety folks following have journeyed with me so far.
Check out my page on Facebook, if you are interested in joining my health and fitness challenge for the summer. Salty Dawg Fitness Group page
The dictionary defines concert, so the director said Saturday night, as “a musical performance given in public, typically by several performers or of several separate compositions. (2) agreement, accordance, or harmony.” It was an opportunity to enjoy an evening with a thousand fans of symphony music. From the audience standing and singing the Star Spangled Banner to a medley of famous themes like the Sound of Music, the night and the performance were wonderful. And the point in the concert where the conductor asked military veterans to stand and be honored was wonderful.
The night was planned several weeks ago for our friends and us, to have dinner and enjoy the season-opening concert, San Diego Symphony at Bayside – on the waterfront downtown next to the Convention Center. The evening featured famous American composers and included masterful choral singing. Yet the night was unnecessarily in competition with a harbor cruise “party boat” going back and forth in the harbor all evening. While the symphony conductor was the picture of grace and civility, the operator, just offshore of our venue, was deliberately negligent, blaring the distracting beat, “ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum” over and over, and over again. The conductor made light of it, and yet many of my fellow veterans in the audience (from 20 to 80 years in age) were visibly ready to form a boarding party.
It was a great metaphor for the “endangered species” of civility – particularly in America in 2018. On the way home by trolley, a young person zigged and zagged to step in front of us “old people” ( I spent 4 seconds before inserting my card in the ticket-dispensing machine) to try to get her trolley ticket first (until I harrumphed and she demurred). On social media, a person makes a comment both insulting the fans and actually containing some painful truth, of a particular topic (politics), and gets his (insert characteristic here) questioned. But the comment was deliberately meant to provoke anger.
I regularly encounter both Prius and BMW drivers who act as though they are the most important dignitaries on the road -tailgating, careening across lanes – to get two car lengths ahead – in rush hour. When I hold a door open as a courtesy for females (as I do for males) even among my workmates, there is a occasionally a woman under thirty who seems irritated that I did so. But age is not a predictor of civility. I see men my age with yard signs or bumper stickers that declare other human beings idiots, criminals or ignorant. It is common now for people to pick “sides”. There is no tolerance for differing opinion. And there is no standard where dialogue has to be reasoned, calm, and well-supported by easily (verified (and unbiased) observers.
How do we revert to civility norms?
I think that this decline in civility has both been inflamed by social media as well as our education system. For fifty years we have groomed people to believe they have the right to say what they want without consequences. A Utopian desire for harmonious acceptance, order, and a pain-free existence for everyone everywhere is not through government control. Either some are forced (Constitutional guarantees are repressed by power-brokers; disagreement is labelled “hate speech”) or are bribed (“living wage” increases worker support, recipients of “public assistance” are encouraged to remain on the “dole”) to be obedient, and the result is a lack of civility toward those who have different views.
One christian’s viewpoint
Most among the secular world see the faulty application of Christian theology by many as evidence of a faulty theology rather than faulty human beings. Any government that promotes officially-sanctioned multiple languages, cultural norms, legal precepts, and political ideologies, is not elevating civility among dis-unified people but instead further isolating individuals and groups into opposing factions. History is full of these lessons. “Balkanization” is a term where multiple ethnic, religious, linguistic, and religious fracturing is present. The first World War all the way through the “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslav (Balkan) states in the 1990s were due to this fracturing. Fear and paranoia of people who will not assimilate is thousands of years old. But governments that accommodate the noisy separatists and neglect the “deplorables”, risk permanent balkanization. It has been the national identity, as “Americans” regardless of all the other factors, that has maintained unity in the United States since the Nineteenth Century. The resurgence of socialism in American culture, in the absence of a truly spiritual understanding of brotherhood, respect, looking after the ill and the truly desperate, leading a peaceful existence and having a strong work ethic, is not going to achieve a concert in America or elsewhere.
Secular proposals to restore civility in America
Americans can try to restore a civil culture through man-made effort. But how do people restore civility?
Restore ONE NATION: Celebrate our diversity in ethnic heritage but unify everyone who comes here – through the established immigration policies – to become AMERICAN. Stop using hyphen american in all our identifiers.
Establish ONE language. All business, education, judicial dealings, social interaction should be performed in English. Teach different idioms and language, but everyone who wants to be a resident must read, write and speak English in everyday situations. Make it mandatory to pass an oral and written exam within 24 months of arrival – with intent to remain – to reside in the United States, and become a citizen. Make the language a requirement to obtain any public assistance.
Restore the ONE culture. Quit the divisiveness of public – and public-funded institutions promoting ethnic separatism. Whatever color, race, creed, or political leanings, celebrate differences in the context of making the “melting pot” better.
Prohibit any public official or lobbying group on behalf of any non-citizens, extra-national allegiances, from campaigning to support non-citizens, foreign governments, or business interests seeking to change immigration policies without a national vote.
Restore GOD and belief in a Creator as acceptable teaching. Permit use of public property for the exercise of religion as with any other use. Get government out of the Belief business.
Spiritual beliefs that do not contradict the good order an unity of a nation, are not legally barred.
Atheism does not trump the rights of others to practice their spiritual beliefs in private or in public spaces.
Non-government employers and places of employment that express particular religious beliefs cannot be forced through legal redress to change policies (adding “abortion coverage” to a health plan for an employer that publicly “pro-life”). Employment conditions are still voluntarily accepted by both parties – employer and employee.
Public (government) employees are barred from expressing support for, or opposition to, insulting, belittling, or deriding a particular religious belief.
The judicial branch of government only decides whether an action violates the law, not whether it is moral, ethical, proper, or the “intent” of the law-makers
No elected official can refuse to enact voter-approved legislation that does NOT
cause physical harm to individuals or groups
bar individuals or groups from activities that do not seek to cause harm (violence, rebellion) or deny others their human rights
No institution of government can be used to manipulate public information, sentiment, or coerce support for a particular national political entity in power. This also means no institution of government can be manipulated to deny another political entity the fair and equal opportunity in elections.
No entity or institution serving the national interest – media service, local, state or national educational institution (public or privately-funded) can bar exercise of the Constitutional “freedom of speech”.
Civility is a voluntary ideal but some focused practices could improve civility:
Practice, starting in the home, schools, and social organizations that disagreement with the policies of a government official does not condone any action, outburst, or display abusing that office.
Accept the outcome of elections. Bring change through the ballot box.
Public figures or celebrities should not incite street protests and violence against law enforcement and other public safety officers.
Leaders of religious orders should promote peaceful doctrines, respect for authority, and practices among their adherents.
Engaging in personal attacks on or inciting abuse of the family members of a government official should be restrained by peers and not promoted as entertainment by media business, celebrities, and public officials.
The VA has released guidelines for 100 percent financing, up to $35K, for work to rehabilitate- repairs a home including energy-efficiency upgrades. Work has to be completed within 90 days of start. Courtesy of the SourceWeekly.
The Medical Care Foster Home program. With all the news about homelessness, Government bureaucratic failures and indigent veterans, some good news for aging veterans. But why do you have to DIG to find out about it? In an Iowa-based online journal, a report that looks at a Maryland veteran’s residence that fosters other veterans. An alternative to nursing homes and living on the street Foster care in a private home. It’s a $20M annually-funded program that is currently in 42 states and Puerto Rico. And it has oversight- the licensed caregivers can shelter no more than 3 individuals in a home, and meet strict guidelines, are reviewed, must have various certifications and annual recertification/ training, and each veteran fostered is part of a VA-funded healthcare program, with onsite visits and audits. (Not at all like that story in Southern California years ago where a “caregiver” with a criminal past cheated an older veteran out of his savings – in his own home- until he died from neglect. She’s serving time in prison.)
quality of life
If you look through Google News for specific topics, one can find good things in all the noise that is generated these days. And services that individuals and universities -or their employees do to help encourage veterans. As a thankyou to local veterans, the Laramie Boomerang reports that the University of Wyoming in Laramie, is holding a second -annual Vets to Nets clinic on its tennis courts this weekend (June 23 – 24, 2018).
tip-top VA nursing care
With all the promised “hope and change” from the last President’s Administration, care for veterans by the VA was plagued by abyssmal failures across the nation. In the last two years, there have been some very significant changes, when leadership down throughout a facility are focused on quality care. One story that highlights superior care and service to veterans is a VA nursing home in Poughkeepsie, New York.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them; – Proverbs 1:32
Another blogger I follow published a story of a workman in a farming community who ignorantly, but purposely, set a blaze to burn cut brush in very dry conditions. It was a day with a light breeze. And it was next to fields that provide this blogger’s animals’ feed. Another quick-reacting farmer cut a fire-break that minimized the destruction that would have been – to the surrounding fields and forest.
My wife recounted by phone to me mid-day a terrifying encounter on a highway with a fool speeding behind her by inches, screaming, throwing the “finger” around, and swerving around and slamming on brakes. Worse still, he was taking pictures of her with a cell phone. A maniac on a mission to kill himself or others. She was shaken but unscathed. And her passenger, returning from a cardiac treatment, safe as well. And the often-maligned law enforcement officers were not present to intercept “road rage”.
A train operator in a large metropolitan center on the U.S. East Coast was distractedly using a cellphone while a train was traveling through an area too rapidly to navigate a turn. Of course it crashed. Because the automated speed-control feature of the track had not been installed at that time. In the IOT (Internet of Things), we are not yet at the future our futurist movies depict. But then fallible humans design them.
A Navy ship with a highly-advanced navigation console, but relatively unfamiliar operators and overly confident command authority, collided with a commercial ship. It resulted in death, destruction, and ruined lives and careers. This week, a social media post by a popular American television star, blatantly and undeniably abhorrent, resulted in firing and the show’s cancellation. A fool’s big mouth resulted in lost jobs for all those behind the scenes.
Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil. – Plato
People are often responsible – or irresponsible – for many problems that beset us. Many times, of course, the things that plague mankind including influenza or wildfires, earthquakes or volcanoes are beyond human control. But then, building a community on an active earthquake fault or on an island (Hawaii) created by an active volcano is by human design.
These behaviors and consequences are reasons to find comfort and instruction in the Proverbs of the Bible, wisdom of the ancient Greek philosophers, or other contemplative authors. Human behavior has been the same for thousands of years. Only the technology has changed.
Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ~C.P. Snow, New York Times, 15 March 1971 via http://www.quotegarden.com
2 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,2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,4 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.
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.
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.
#2. If you’re gonna be stupid, you’re gonna be strong!
Flashback to 1977
My Navy career had a lot of great life, management, and leadership lessons. Many are undecipherable to those who have not been in military service but range from teamwork, testing physical and mental limits, courage, decision-making, and taking responsibility before being given authority. In Navy boot camp, the first thing learned is obedience to authority. Line up, no talking, do not move, and other commands. A second is quickly having situational awareness, introduced to recruits around 0400 (4 AM) on their first morning with a barracks wakeup. On my first morning, a metal trash can was hurled clattering across the floor. That, and a simultaneous yell of “Get your @#$ up!”, by the Company Commander.
For 9 weeks recruits are converted from civilians into military service men and women. Attention to detail was another lesson. A military uniform is worn is a precise manner and everything from stray threads to “gig lines” – proper alignment – and cleanliness are inspected. Deviations from the expectation often result in exercise – pushups, situps, 8-count body-builders. In addition, some “special attention” is paid, verbally, to the offender. However, everyone in the unit is afforded the same attention. To build cohesion, the expectation is for others in the unit to help their shipmate improve for the good of the unit as a whole. Making one’s bed, or rack, had to be done in an equally precise manner. Proper stowage of uniform items is also according to regulations. It was the proper folding and stowage of underwear that earned me “special attention”. I had reversed the left-right folds prescribed by the company commander. For that and other misunderstandings, I became the “Polack” – an endearing term – to the company commander until I graduated and became a “Shipmate”.
Thirty years later (2005)
Half a lifetime later, I was again in training. This time it was as a Navy Reservist selected for advancement to Chief Petty Officer (CPO). There is a century and a quarter of tradition in the Chief Petty Officer ranks, where these senior enlisted men and women train and mentor enlisted sailors and junior officers. Officers provide the mission and the direction. Chiefs take their direction and delegate the execution to sailors they place in charge of their division. Chiefs oversee their divisional petty officers, and they in turn, place more junior petty officers in charge of division Workcenters made up of several sailors. The purpose is to identify and mentor sailors to gain leadership skills and advance up through the ranks. To be a trusted member of the Chiefs’ Mess, a First Class Petty Officer, who may be technically proficient, has to be trained to think and act, not for self-promotion, but to delegate and mentor more junior sailors. Also, it is a Chief who deflects criticism, rebuke or conflicting directions given by a junior officer to an enlisted person in their division. It is the Chief who relies on advice from the years of expertise within the Chiefs’ Mess, to lead sailors, handle interpersonal conflicts, maintain discipline, and mentor junior officers to perform to the Commanding Officer’s expectation of warfighting proficiency.
As a Chief Petty Officer Selectee, prior to the promotion ceremony each September, each undergoes a period of training (exercise, team-building, lessons in leadership, traditions and CPO history) and builds camaraderie within the Mess. This formally begins when selection results are reported. And there are invitations to Chief Petty Officers, both on Active Duty and Retired to participate in the “Season” to build the sense of identity as a Mess.
To this very day, I still chuckle over the introduction of our trainer, a Chief Petty Officer who carried a bullhorn with a frequently-used siren. He combined exercise with Question and Answer sessions. We had “homework” every day, including Navy lore, songs, and so forth. We were supposed to share everything we learned and help our fellow Selectees with tasks and such. If we “failed” the answer or task, our trainer had a memorable response:
“If yer (sic) gonna be STUPID, yer gonna be STRONG!”
And then, “DOWN and give me twenty (push ups)!”
Everybody laughed, labored, and “suffered” together but everyone learned. And everyone got stronger, leaner and became a member of the Mess. But then, in the last ten years, politics, social pressures, and a lack of clear direction ( a military needs clear objectives), also affected the leadership at the deckplates. But being a member of the CPO Mess, “Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy”, is the recognition I will treasure for life.
I think a lot of the issues that were reported during the last ten or fifteen years within the leadership – the Chiefs and the Officer community – was due to abandonment or at least a minimalist approach, to training the Chief Petty Officers and mentoring junior officers. I hear it is returning to the tried and true.
Measure your success not in terms of monetary gain, power, influence, or education: there are always people who have more than you; the opposite holds true as well, in that there are always people with less that are more content, peaceful, and healthier with less.
Always give your best effort in your work, whether in employment or in your craft. There are plenty of others who stop at “mediocre” and complain about “fairness” when others work smarter, harder, and seek to do more. Make “Invaluable” is an adjective others would use to describe you as an employee.
Treasure an inquiring mind. If one stops learning, lifegrows dull and colorless.
Be considerate of others. Your impact may generate positive changes for individuals and communities.
Social media is often argumentative or belittling. Seek understanding, not to be understood. When encountering confrontational people who will not accept differing opinions from their own, turn away, tune out, and go play with your family, friends or dogs.
If you borrow, treat others’ belongings, tools or work with respect or courtesy. If you lend, do so prudently and with understanding that it may not return.
If an employer, treat your employees with courtesy, integrity, and compensate them fairly. If an employee, treat your employer respectfully.
In social settings or with co-workers, do not participate in gossip, slander, or bullying. The one who offends today may be the subject of other’s offense tomorrow.
In personal relationships, treat one another with kindness, respect and mutual affection. Be quick to apologize, and treat the other person as you would want to be treated.
Be open to accepting a spiritual component for your life. Balancing life and work successfully is as much, or even more, a spiritual attuning as human effort.