Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Inspiring Hero!

Richard Ingram received his commission as an Army Lieutenant this month, after completing his degree at North Georgia College and State University. You may ask why this is important...well, because in June 2005 Lt Ingram lost part of his left arm while serving as a Cavalry Scout in Iraq. According to the Army, Lt Ingram is the first person with such severe combat injuries to earn a commission through ROTC.

Lt Ingram was attending school at North Georgia College when the National Guard Unit he served with was activated and sent to Iraq. He was injured when his tactical vehicle rolled several times after being hit by an IED. Lt Ingram is quoted as saying,

"I didn't think there was any way I was going to live through it when the truck started rolling. But it was clear that I hadn't fulfilled my purpose in this life. Even though I was hurt, I knew I'd get to keep doing the things I love so much. I was being given another chance at life."

After recovery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed, including getting fit for a prosthesis, Lt Ingram decided it was time to go back to school and get on with his life, so he went back to North Georgia College and returned to the ROTC program there. His ROTC instructors were impressed with Lt Ingram's physical conditioning, despite the loss of part of his arm. They quickly concluded that he had what it took to be an Army officer and was capable of carrying out any duties required of him. His ROTC professor said, "Lieutenant Ingram demonstrated throughout his time in ROTC that he was more than capable -- both physically and mentally -- to be a highly effective leader in our Army. The professor explained, "Once you spend time observing Richard, you forget that he has a physical disability. He can run faster and do more physical training than most cadets. He will do an outstanding job leading troops in combat, and I know he will succeed in his goal to attend Airborne, Sapper and Ranger training."

So what does this exceptional young officer say about his decision to continue pursuing a career as an Army officer? He says, "I am extremely proud to have earned a commission through the Army ROTC program at North Georgia College, and I look forward to serving as an Army officer.' But he also explains, "I didn't decide to do this just to get a slap on the back. I want to be an inspiration to others who were wounded."

Well, Lt Ingram, in my opinion you're an inspiration to a lot of folks; wounded or not. You've shown that you can set a goal and overcome difficulties placed in your path in order to achieve that goal. Wonderful...and inspiring!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is This When the Zombies Attack?

Andrew Osborn has an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today. The article discusses a prediction made by Igor Panarin, the Dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for foreign diplomats (and a former-KGB analyst), that the United States will suffer an economic and moral collapse in 2010 that will result in the breakup of the Union. Apparently Mr Panarin has been predicting the dissolution of the United States for over a decade, but now that the economy is "messed up," people are taking him a bit more seriously. Should we?

According to the article, Mr Panarin used classified data to formulate his prediction that

"economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.

California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.

Okay...so who is the guy? Well, he's not a member of the fringe-crazy-conspiracy underground. He has a doctorate in political science, has studied U.S. economics, and worked for the Russian equivalent of the National Security Agency. He developed his theory that the US will disintegrate while he was writing strategy forecasts in the 1990's. Mr. Panarin says that the disintegration of the US will not be a good thing for Russia, but still says there is a 55-45% chance that it will happen.

Okay...so is his theory nuts? It seems to me that Mr. Panarin's disintegration theory is more than a bit "extreme;" but like many extreme theories, may have an underlying basis of reality embedded somewhere inside. The US does face challenging times in 2010. Our economy seems to be in a decline, that even President-elect Obama warns may take a long time to fix. Economic stimulus packages, mortgage and Wall Street bailouts, and even the Christmas shopping season have not generated an economic recovery. People continue to be pessimistic about the economy, and have very definite ideas on what will, or will not, work. There is fear of another "Great Depression." We also have a very definite schism between political parties, and we seem to be losing all pretense of civility. We have "red states" and "blue states" with differing interests, outlooks, and political philosophies. Our "red states" feel that the "blue states" have a disproportional influence on national priorities; even though the "red states" are more numerous. As a public, we don't trust our politicians and we want a change in how our politicians (at both the local and national levels) do business...but we still want "our" representatives to "bring home the bacon." We also don't trust bankers, CEOs, and newspaper reporters (and probably shouldn't based on their recent records). For some reason, though, we do trust celebrities. Most of the public also trusts the military, but that portion of the country who wears pink, has attended an Ivy-League school, or lives in the Northeast still lives in the Vietnam-era fear that the military will stage a coup...or something. We are suffering from a "quiet invasion" of illegal immigrants; and cannot figure out how to respond. We have created, and perpetrated, a culture of victimization. Many of our citizens, rightly or wrongly, still feel like they are treated as second-class citizens because of their skin color or their gender or their religion. We avoid risks instead of taking them as challenges.

Okay...so should we worry? Like I said, things are challenging; but I don't think we should necessarily start selling our US Savings Bonds, yet. I don't know if Mr. Panarin understands the basic psyche of the American public. We may have economic and political challenges, but we will still support the "idea" of a national union against all comers. Remember how, despite differences, we pulled together after the 9/11 attacks? Underneath all, most Americans are patriots. We love our successful experiment in representative democracy and want it to not only survive but grow stronger. Like any big family facing challenges, we will argue and fight amongst ourselves; but when an outsider wants to intervene, we will pull together and display a united front. So, while Mr. Panarin's theory is interesting (and good for a bit of a laugh); I don't think we need to fear the Zombies, quite yet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Thoughts

On this Christmas Eve, I'd like to wish all of you who read this blog a very merry Christmas. May you find joy and happiness during this Season, and all year long. As you celebrate with family or friends, please take the time to remember those who serve in your prayers and send them good wishes. There are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coasties who cannot spend the Holidays with their families or friends because they're serving our Nation in places far, far away. There are also our "first responders," the firemen, emergency medical technicians, and members of the law enforcement community who won't spend the day with those important to them, because they're on duty...just in case. So, on this Christmas Eve, I wish you all a very happy and merry Christmas, and I pray for the safety of those who serve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is This Where We Want To Go?

Okay, I know it's the Christmas Season. . .when we're supposed to hold good will toward all men in our heart. I mostly do. I've been trying to change my perspective and be optimistic about life and not so cynical about a lot of things. But, even in this Season of joy and good will toward men, I have to agree with Fox News's Seven Milloy's editorial posted on Junk Science. Mr. Milloy writes about the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to post a "Most Wanted List" of "environmental criminals." He conclusion that, "If the EPA needs a Wanted list, how about making it a “Help Wanted” list in search of Enforcement Division employees with some perspective?" is exactly right. In my opinion most environmental-activist-types need perspective about one thing or another.

Mr. Milloy writes about two of the "environmental criminals" on the EPA's list. One is the "Alfa Romeo Gang" who had the audacity to illegally import cars that do not meet US emission standards. Of course, the gang resides somewhere in Italy. The other "criminal" is the man, Maruo Valenzuela, who loaded the oxygen canisters onto the ValueJet plane that crashed in the Everglades in 1996. Apparently, the EPA believes his action was an extreme criminal act. Mr Milloy explains, "The EPA apparently views the canister loading as 'illegal transportation of hazardous material.' In any event, Valenzuela’s boss and co-worker were eventually acquitted of the same criminal counts. The only reason Valenzuela also wasn’t acquitted was because he panicked and fled to parts unknown before trial. He is, in effect, a fugitive from his own innocence -- but he is wanted by the EPA nonetheless."

There are others on the EPA's "Most Wanted List" as well. Mr. Milloy writes,

"The rest of the EPA’s fugitives appear to be mostly hapless immigrants now believed to be “hiding” oversees in places like Syria, Mexico, India, Greece, Poland and China. They’re wanted for a variety of alleged infractions, including smuggling banned refrigerants, discharging waste into sewers, lying to the Coast Guard about a ship’s waste oil management system, transporting hazardous waste without a manifest, and creating false official documents.

"While the EPA’s fugitives certainly appear to be a motley lot who may have broken a variety of environmental regulations, often unwittingly, one can’t help but wonder whether the EPA’s Wanted list is not only over-the-top, but where the agency is headed."

We should all wonder. I agree with Mr. Milloy; these "environmental criminals" may have broken laws designed to protect the environment, but are they the equivalent of the terrorists, murders, and rapists on the FBI's "Most Wanted List," for example? Of course not. Mr. Milloy believes that "The list’s creation seems a furtherance of the Greens’ larger campaign to plant the idea within the public’s mind that all environmental “transgressions” fall along a criminal continuum." Perhaps. I do think that some of the more "radical" environmentalists (the "greens") may indeed believe that the guy who panics and dumps fuel into a sewer is really the moral equivalent of terrorists. Okay, everyone is entitled to their beliefs and opinions. But what is really scary to me, however, is that (for the most part) "radical" environmentalists don't understand why most people don't think like they do. So, I'm concerned about the EPA's attempt to “track down environmental fugitives,” and “increase the number of ‘eyes’ looking for environmental fugitives” through a "Most Wanted List." I agree with Mr. Milloy, maybe we need to look at where the "radical" environmentalists (and it seems the EPA's Enforcement Division) want us to go when we consider "environmental crime." For example, according to Mr. Milloy,

"In September 1988, the EPA had John Pozsgai indicted for removing more than 5,000 old tires from his property and spreading dirt where the tires had been. Although Pozsgai’s land was bordered by two major highways, a tire dealership and an automobile salvage yard, the EPA considered his land a federally protected “wetland” because of a drainage ditch running along the edge of his property. Though the ditch was mostly dry, it flooded during heavy rain, and the EPA considered it a stream. When Pozsgai filled the ditch without a permit, EPA undercover agents secretly filmed the dump trucks that delivered the topsoil. Though his actions didn’t create any pollution, endanger any species or water quality, Pozsgai was sentenced to three years in prison and fined more than $200,000.

In 1997, nearly two dozen federal agents, armed with semiautomatic pistols, showed up at James Knott’s wire-mesh manufacturing plant in Massachusetts. Knott was indicted on two counts of violating the Clean Water Act for allegedly pumping acidic water into the town sewer system. The EPA publicly condemned Knott and warned that his conviction could result in up to six years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. The case was subsequently dropped when it was discovered that the EPA had omitted vital information from the search warrant information indicating that Knott wasn’t violating the law."

And were do the "radical" environmentalists want us to go with how we consider environmental crimes? Well, it may be that the "Most Wanted List" is just the first salvo in a campaign to get us (the public) to consider any environmental miss-step as a drastic crime. For example, Mr. Milloy says points out that,

"A man in the U.K. was fined $215 for leaving the lid of his trash can ajar by more than three inches. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proposed last July to deputize garbage men to fine people as much as $1,000 for mixing trash with recyclables. Garbage cops, however, pale in comparison to the call earlier this year by NASA’s global warming alarmist, James Hansen, to put the CEOs of oil and coal companies on trial for 'high crimes against humanity and nature' -- a sentiment first broached in 2006 by a blogger for Grist magazine who called for a 'climate Nuremburg' for those who have questioned the need for global warming regulation."

I echo Mr. Milloy's question, "Is this really the direction in which we want to go?"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Standing Watch....

Ms Wheeler, the mother of an injured warrior who is recuperating well at Brooke Army Medical Center's burn unit, posted this poem on the website she uses to update family and friends (and concerned citizens like me) on her son's condition. I don't know who the author is, but it's wonderful. Because I tend to be larcenous when I find something that I like; I'll post it here to share with those of you who read my blog.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

'What are you doing?' I asked without fear,
'Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!'
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said 'Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night.'
'It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,'
Then he sighed, 'That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers.'
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.'

'So go back inside,' he said, 'harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right.'
'But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
'Give you money,' I asked, 'or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son.'

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
'Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.'

Snow Angels

Remember snow angels? Well, I found one in a field of fresh fallen snow in the middle of a National Park somewhere in "flyover country." Fortunately, I was able to get a picture of this elusive creature so that I can share it with you. Snow angels are known for their ability to lift the heart and make even the most cynical adult act like a giddy child. They somehow touch the soul and can bring tears to the eyes of a grown man. In this Christmas Season, I hope this snow angel will bring you joy and happiness. God Bless.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Straight No Chaser!

In 1996, a group of guys got together at Indiana University and formed a group called Straight No Chaser. This year, one of the guys posted an old video of one of their performances on YouTube. After a whole-bucket-load of hits (somewhere close to 9 million so far) Atlantic Records offered the group a record deal to cut a Christmas album. The guys now live all over the world (one even lived in Hong Kong) doing "real jobs" including teaching, television reporter, IT salesman....but they've gotten together to record the album. Based on the videos on YouTube, I hope this group cuts many more! Here's their rendition of the 12 Nights of Christmas. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Army Operations Order

This was just too funny not to steal from Cassandra over at Villainous Company! Anyone who has ever read an Army Operations Order will recognize this....

Army Christmas Operations Order: 12-24-08

Subject: Christmas

1. An official visit by MG Santa (NMI) Claus is expected at this headquarters 25 December 2008. The following instructions will be in effect and govern the activities of all personnel during the visit.

a. Not a creature will stir without official permission. This will include indigenous mice. Special stirring permits for necessary administrative actions will be obtained through normal channels. Mice stirring permits will be obtained through the Office of the Surgeon General, Veterinary Services.

b. Personnel will settle their brains for a long winter nap prior to 2200 hours, 24 December 2008. Uniform for the nap will be: Pajamas, cotton,light, drowsing, with kerchief, general purpose, camouflage; and Cap, camouflage w/ear flaps. Equipment will be drawn from CIF prior to 1900 hours, 24 December 2008.

c. Personnel will utilize standard field ration sugar plums for visions to dance through their heads. Artificially sweetened plums are authorized for those in their unit weight control program. Specifications for this item will be provided by the servicing dining facility.

d. Stockings, wool, cushion sole, will be hung by the chimney with care. Necessary safety precautions will be taken to avoid fire hazards caused by carelessly hung stockings. Unit safety Officers will submit stocking hanging plans to this headquarters prior to 0800 hours, 24 December 2008, ATTN: DCSLOG, for approval.

e. At the first sign of clatter from the lawn, all troops will spring from their beds to evaluate noise and cause. Immediate action will be taken to tear open the shutters and throw open the window sashes. DCSOPS Plan (Saint Nick), Reference LO No. 3, paragraph 6c, this headquarters, 2 February 2008, will be in effect to facilitate shutter tearing and sash throwing. Division chiefs will familiarize all personnel with procedures and are responsible for ensuring that no shutters are tornopen nor window sashes thrown open prior to start of official clatter.

f. Prior to 2400, 24 December 2008, all personnel will be assigned “Wondering Eye” stations. After shutters are thrown open and sashes are torn, these stations will be manned.

g. The ODCSLOG will assign one each Sleigh, miniature, M-66, and eight (8) deer, rein, tiny, for use of MG Claus’ driver who, IAW current directives and other applicable regulations, must have a valid SF 56 properly annotated by Driver Testing; be authorized rooftop parking and be able to shout “On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, up Comet, up Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen”.

2. MG Claus will enter quarters through standard chimneys. All units without chimneys will draw Chimney Simulator, M-6, for use during ceremonies. Chimney simulator units will be requested on Engineer Job Order Request Form submitted to the Furniture Warehouse prior to 19 December 2008, and issued on DA Form 3161, Request for Issue or Turn-in.

3. Personnel will be rehearsed on shouting “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.” This shout will be given on termination of General Claus’ visit. Uniformity of shouting is the responsibility of division chiefs.

Colonel, USA
OIC, Special Services

Everybody Who Still Believes

Code Pink Crazies Honors the Iraqi Shoe Tosser

One of Lt Nixon's rants is about Code Pink's plans to honor the Iraqi Journalist who tossed his shoes (without much success) at President Bush. It seems that Code Pink has announced a "shoe in" at the Federal Building in Los Angeles on Wednesday during afternoon/evening rush hour. The Code Pink crazies ask attendees to bring shoes to represent the Iraqis and Americans who have died "since Bush's illegal invasion." This protest is scheduled to take place at an extremely busy intersection in Los Angles. Stupid plan...to bring shoes to honor an angry Iraqi or Egyptian (or whatever), and schedule such a publicity stunt during rush hour at a busy intersection. I agree with Lt Nixon when he says, "Code Pink didn't have the decency to hold this display of idiocy on the weekend, so commuters will have to watch out for flying Birkenstocks as they exit off the 405."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Red State Patriotism

Ed Lasky has a post on the American Thinker website that will really make you think. The post, titled "What's the 'Highest Form' of Patriotism Again?", discusses an article published in the Washington Post which summarizes a study looking at whether, or not, there is a regional pattern to which states contribute volunteers for the all-volunteer military. As anyone who has served in the military can tell you, it seems that there is a regional pattern; the Red States contribute more volunteer for the all-volunteer military than the Blue States. Is anyone surprised?

According to the Washington Post article,

"Since 1970, the population of the United States has grown by about 50 percent, from roughly 200 million to 300 million. Over the same period, the number of active-duty armed forces has fallen approximately 50 percent, from 3 million to 1.4 million. A far smaller percentage of the citizenry now serves in the military.

Whereas in 1969 13 percent of Americans were veterans, in 2007 only 8 percent of us were.

Even more important than these general demographic shifts is the change wrought by the end of the draft in 1973. Until then, military service was distributed pretty evenly across regions. But that is no longer true. The residential patterns for current veterans and the patterns of state-level contributions of new recruits to the all-volunteer military have a distinct geographic tilt. And tellingly, the map of military service since 1973 aligns closely with electoral maps distinguishing red from blue states.

In 1969, the 10 states with the highest percentage of veterans were, in order: Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Connecticut and Illinois.

In 2007, the 10 states with the highest percentage of post-Vietnam-era veterans were, in order: Alaska, Virginia, Hawaii, Washington, Wyoming, Maine, South Carolina, Montana, Maryland and Georgia.Over the past four decades, which states have disappeared from the top 10? California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Illinois, all big blue states that have voted Democratic in the past five presidential elections. These states and another blue state, New York, which ranked 12th in 1969, are among the 10 states with the lowest number of post-Vietnam vets per capita. New Jersey comes in 50th of the 50 states; just 1 percent of current residents have served in the military since Vietnam.

Mr. Lasky says that Blue-staters may try to pass the lack of Blue-state volunteers as "true patriotism" because they are brave enough to dissent. Probably, they tend to pass everything "military" off as outside the norm. But I totally agree with Mr. Lasky when he says that dissent isn't the highest form of patriotism. The highest form of patriotism is, and always should be, loving your nation so much that you are willing to commit the ultimate sacrifice to defend her.

Friday, December 12, 2008


I think that we, as humans, look for beauty in people, places, and things. Just look at all the money we spend on products, potions, and paraphernalia to make us "beautiful." (Okay, be honest men; while women may spend the majority of that money, guys spend their fair share on "stuff" to make them more attractive or keep them younger looking....) Anyway, we seek after "beauty" in all its forms. Don't we? Something that is truly beautiful will touch our soul and fill our hearts.

I know there are many definitions and forms of "beauty." The look on a mother's face when she sees her children is beautiful. The reverence with which some approach their Heavenly Father is beautiful. The sound of a finely tuned voice or instrument is beautiful. Beauty, in all it's myriad forms, is present all around us. . .we just have to open our eyes and see it.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been surrounded by the beauty of God's creation in a part of the Country that most people "fly over." While one part of me is happy that this part of the Country is "off the beaten path," I'm sorry that so many of my fellow countrymen (and women) consider this part of our great Country to be too desolate to see and too hard to get to. So, let me share some of this beauty with you. The pictures really don't do justice to the scope, color, and diversity of the landscape. Our wonderful Earth is a beautiful paradise; if only we would open our eyes to see.

I hope that as you go about your day, that you'll look for and find beauty in this Christmas season; in all its forms.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"'40% Off--Some Assembly Required'"

Col Oliver North wrote an editorial, published on FoxNEWS.com, talking about the young Marine Lieutenant the Freedom Alliance honored at the Army-Navy football game. The Freedom Alliance is a non-profit organization that provides educational scholarships for children of military members killed in action. This year's reciepient of the "Defenders of Freedom Award" is Lieutenant Andrew Kinard; a true hero. Col North's editorial tells Lt Kinard's story better than I can summarize it. Here it is:

"On October 29, 2006, Lieutenant Kinard was leading his Marines on a foot patrol in Rawah, Iraq — searching for a terrorist bomb factory — when a command-detonated IED exploded directly next to his left leg. The blast blew him into the air and he landed almost 20 feet from the crater. Three other Marines were wounded.

According to those who were there, before the grievously injured officer passed out from loss of blood, he ordered them to set up security, get a head count and start treating the other injured Marines. The platoon Corpsman tried to staunch the flow of blood, but couldn't find enough undamaged tissue to apply tourniquets and the lieutenant was losing blood — from almost everywhere.

A Cas-Evac helicopter airlifted him to the Marine Air Base at Al Asad, then to the Army trauma hospital at Balad, north of Baghdad. Sixty-seven pints of whole blood — more than five times the amount in a healthy adult — were pumped into the failing officer's veins in a 24-hour period.

By the time he was flown to Landstuhl, Germany in a C-17 Nightingale, he had gone into cardiac arrest — and been resuscitated — twice. Emergency surgeries went on nearly non-stop to plug the seemingly innumerable holes punched in his body. The family was alerted and a prayer vigil held. Hundreds of people half a world away went to their knees and begged God for a miracle.

Some miracles happen immediately. This one took awhile.

Four days after being blasted to pieces, Andrew Kinard was in the intensive care unit at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, with his family around his bedside — and still praying. By the time I got back from Iraq, just before Christmas 2006, "Drew" as his Marine and Naval Academy friends call him, had already endured more than two dozen surgeries.

His doctor told me that the 24-year old lieutenant was "getting better" even though he had pneumonia, a blood infection and multiple perforations of his intestines from shrapnel. They had just done one of the many skin grafts necessary to prepare his stumps for prosthetic limbs.

When I walked into his room, his mother and his sister Katherine were with him. His dad, a doctor in Spartanburg, SC, and two younger siblings, Courtney and Will, were all enroute to spend Christmas with their badly battered Marine.
But for all the cards, poster, banners, Christmas stockings, lights, photos and flags, the room would have looked like a scene from a science fiction movie. Monitors, electronic devices, compressors, pumps and assorted tubes, wires and bags of colored fluids surrounded the bed — all the connected to Andrew Kinard. Tiny flecks of shrapnel were still visible on the side of his face. He had no legs. His abdomen was an open hole. And he was smiling. "God is good," he said in greeting.

Over the next 11 months of hospitalization, Andrew Kinard was living proof of that statement. When I would ask him or his family, "How can I help you?" The inevitable response would be: "Just pray for recovery." And so, he also became evidence of the power of prayer.

In April 2007, he flew to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to meet his Marines when they returned from Iraq. Wearing his Marine utility uniform for the first time since being wounded, he greeted his comrades in a special "all-terrain" wheelchair.

Asked by a reporter to recollect the day he was wounded, he acknowledged that his memory of the attack had been dulled by shock and pain. Then he said, "A man asks himself, if something happens to me, when I go into battle, how will I react? Will I be brave?"

As they arrived home, the members of "Alpha" Company made it clear: Lieutenant Andrew Kinard was, without a doubt, their hero.

On October 29, 2007, exactly a year after he was wounded, the indomitable young officer came home. Dignitaries and thousands of well wishers were on hand to welcome Andrew at First Baptist Church, Spartanburg. The following Sunday he spoke at all three services, thanking all for their unfailing prayers.
His recovery will continue for years to come. But on one of my visits to him in the hospital the man who had once played rugby at the Naval Academy said, "I don't need legs. I have my arms. I learned discipline at the Naval Academy. I have my faith and a desire to serve. Maybe I'll go to law school."

Andrew has all of that — and more. He also has a great sense of humor. He has a T-shirt with the words "Marine for Sale" printed on the front. On the back it reads: "40% Off — Some Assembly Required"

Great Story! Personally, I hope Lt Kinard does go to law school. The legal profession needs heroes, too.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Consequence Management

The Commission that issued the "World at Risk" report warned that we could potentially face an attack using nuclear, biological or other weapons of mass destruction "somewhere in the world" in the next 5 years. Scary! So what's being done? Well, the Commission had recommendations, and some of them even made sense. And (much to the concern of some) the Pentagon also announced this week that there would be 15,000 troops dedicated to Northern Command to respond to a weapon of mass destruction attack; 5,000 active-duty soldiers, with the rest of the troops from the National Guard and Reserves. Okay. So how does this help us? Well....the increase in military forces dedicated to NORTHCOM really doesn't help at all in preventing an attack; but it does help in managing the consequences of any attack.

It's clear that we also need to try to prevent an attack from ever occurring, particularly on American soil. But if it ever does, the military is best equipped to help civil authorities manage the results of any attack. Think about it...remember the immediate aftermath of hurricane Katrina? It was the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and active-duty military forces that had the command structure, the training, the logistics, and (frankly) the shear ability to do what was necessary to gain control of the situation and start dealing with the disaster. While we learned a number of lessons from the Katrina response, there is still no reason to believe that civil authorities are any better equipped or trained to deal with nuclear, biological, chemical, or high explosive weapons. The military is, so it makes total sense for the military to be ready to respond to any attack using weapons of mass destruction.

So to those out there who are afraid of the military running amok, or fear another Kent State (for those of you youngsters who don't know what happened at Kent State, look it up), you need to ask yourselves who would do what needs to be done if we were attacked, if not the military. Who has the training to deal with the aftermath of a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon? Who has the chain of command and logistics necessary to ensure that people and needed resources are in the right place at the right time? Who has the equipment that may be needed? It certainly isn't FEMA, nor is it the state or local authorities. Only the military has the ability to do what needs to be done.

So it's a good idea to get the right forces assigned to the right command and ensure that they're properly trained and that they've done what's needed to ensure civilian authorities are integrated into the military's planning. This is too important not to make it work.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The World at Risk

The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism has released its report, titled "The World at Risk." Congress chartered the Commission, co-chaired by Senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent, to look at our progress in preventing weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism. The Commission was also asked to give the next President and Congress recommendations on how to ensure we protect our nation from weapons of mass destruction. According to the Report's Executive Summary,

"The Commission believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013. The commission further believes that terrorists are more likely to be able to obtain and use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon.

"The Commission believes that the U.S. government needs to move more aggressively to limit the proliferation of biological weapons and reduce the prospect of a bioterror attack.

"Further compounding the nuclear threat is the proliferation of nuclear weapons capabilities to new states and the decision by several existing nuclear states to build up their arsenals. Such proliferation is a concern in its own right because it may increase the prospect of military crises that could lead to war and catastrophic use of these weapons."

The Report is very interesting, very frightening, and very necessary. It's been seven years since terrorists used civilian airliners as cruise missiles and attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In that seven years, we have been fortunate that there has not been another successful terrorist attack, despite the best efforts of some miscreants. Our law enforcement and security folks are fantastic and have been able to stop those who have wanted to attack us in some way. Thankfully! But unfortunately, the lack of a successful attack has caused much of our citizenry to become complacent. Some people have regressed into a belief that "it can't happen here." According to this Commission, a terrorist attack can happen here and it might happen here within the next five years.

The Commission makes 13 different recommendations on how we can better protect our nation from weapons of mass destruction. Some are really good, like the recommendation to implement a series of measures to protect against bioterrorism, the recommendation to continue to work with Russia reduce the danger of the use of nuclear and biological weapons, and the recommendation to create a principle advisor at the White House for issues relating to weapons of mass destruction. But the best recommendation, in my opinion, was the recommendation that said,

"As a top priority, the next administration must stop the Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs. In the case of Iran, this requires the permanent cessation of all of Iran’s nuclear weapons–related efforts. In the case
of North Korea, this requires the complete abandonment and dismantlement of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. If, as appears likely, the next administration seeks to stop these programs through direct diplomatic engagement with the Iranian and North Korean governments, it must do so from a position of strength, emphasizing both the benefits to them of abandoning their nuclear weapons programs and the enormous costs of failing to do so. Such engagement must be backed by the credible threat of direct action in the event that diplomacy fails."

I've always thought that Teddy Roosevelt had it right when he said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Well, it may be worth another try to get both Iran and North Korea to stop their nuclear weapons programs. But somehow, I don't think more talking will work. I agree with the commission that the only way diplomacy will work with either country will be if there is a "credible threat of direct action." Neither country will play nicely without Teddy's "big stick."

The Commission has concluded that "America’s margin of safety against a WMD attack is shrinking. " However, the Commission also found that there was "ample and solid ground for hope about the future." I hope so. I hope that our nation's leaders and our nation's citizens wake up and read the Commission's report. I hope that we lose our collective complacency. I hope that we, as a nation, take the steps necessary to protect ourselves; before it's too late (again). The Commission believes that "our nation has immense reservoirs of strength that we have only begun to use, and our enemies have weaknesses that we are learning how to exploit. There is much more that we can do to protect ourselves." Okay, so let's wake up, meet the challenge, and do what we need to do to protect ourselves from the threat of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction against us.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pvt Monica Brown

Yesterday, CBS aired a 60 Minutes story on Pvt Monica Brown, the second woman to be awarded the Silver Star since WWII. Pvt Brown, an Army medic, was awarded the medal for her bravery in risking her life by running through small arms and mortar fire to treat two critically wounded paratroopers, and shielding them with her body while they were evacuated. Both paratroopers survived. Pvt Brown was only 18-years old at the time, and had only 4 months training as a medic. Her story is a good one. If you missed it, you can check out the 60 Minutes story here.

Pvt Brown's story raises the question, again, whether women should be allowed in combat units. Now, being retired from the Air Force (and a woman) I have found no reason that women cannot perform just as well as men in a combat situation. There is no reason that women must be restricted from combat or front-line units (especially when there is no such thing as a "front line" in combat zones like Iraq or Afghanistan). Women are just as competent as men in stressful situations like combat. Just ask any stay-at-home Mom with an active toddler in the house.

Having said that women should be allowed in combat, I also have to say that I do not believe that physical requirements for combat units should be "gender-normed" just to allow women into the unit. In other words, if a woman can pass the same physical standards that the men are required to pass, she should be allowed to serve in a combat unit. If she can't pass, she shouldn't. It's that simple.

What do you think?

h/t GI Kate

BT's Circular Saw

At the side of this blog, I link to a number of blogs that I personally enjoy. The War on Big Tobacco is one of them. Big Tobacco is a "somewhat" irreverent Army Sergeant currently deployed to an unknown FOB somewhere in Iraq. His posts are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, but always well-written. I wanted to highlight one of his recent posts...about a circular saw. Go read it, it's good stuff! Keep it coming BT!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for, well, giving thanks. I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I have three beautiful kids, who are strong, intelligent, and responsible adults. I'm thankful that two of those kids have found wonderful people to join them in their journey down life's road, and I pray that my third child will soon be able to join her life to the person she loves. I am also so thankful for my three fantastic, healthy grandchildren, who are the joy of their parent's lives (and mine). I love my kids, their spouses, and my grandbabies will all my heart. I'm thankful that my mother and father are well and healthy, and that they love and support me (no matter what). I'm thankful for my extended family; my siblings, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, nieces and nephews. A large, relatively close, and loving family is very special.

I'm also thankful for wonderful friends; the kind that will lend your their ear or their house, whenever you need either. I'm thankful for finding love and for discovering happiness. I'm thankful for so much this Thanksgiving. I hope you are, too.

Attitude Adjustment

I had an interesting thought the other day. I almost left my purse in a restaurant. Scared me, because my purse is (like most women's purses) full of "stuff" I need; including a credit card (or two), my debit card, and other personal "stuff." Fortunately, I noticed the lack of significant weight on my shoulder and went back for the thing within 2 or 3 minutes. It was exactly where I left it, on the back of my chair. Fortunately! Anyway, my lack of attention made me think about people. Some people would have seen my unattended purse as an opportunity and felt somehow "entitled" to take whatever the opportunity provided. Others would have seen my purse as a duty and tried to find out who owned the thing and get it back to me. So what makes the two people have such differing attitudes? Is it upbringing? Is it genetics? Is it socialization?

I'm not sure I know why people would have such differing attitudes about an unattended purse; but I see the same sort of attitudes on a larger scale in today's society. For example, some people see government as a place where they can get free handouts. These people label the handouts "entitlements" and think that the government is obligated to give them something for nothing. Maybe that's what's behind the "bailout craze." Everyone seems to want the government to bail them out of bad decisions or difficult circumstances. They want something for nothing, and do not want to face consequences for their own decisions.

Other people believe that government has a duty to provide a certain level of infrastructure and support to our society and its citizens, but they also believe that they have a reciprocal duty to the government or to society. These people know that there is always a cost, of some sort or another. These people know that bailouts will have consequences, at some point in time. They know that bank bailouts, business bailouts, or personal bailouts only postpone the inevitable consequences, and does not eliminate them.

So where did this "bailout-everything" attitude come from? Does it come from the idea that government must "fix" all of society's ills? Does it come from the idea that government "owes" it to save us from the consequences of our bad decisions? If so, where did these ideas come from? What happened to the idea that people are responsible for their own decisions and actions? What happened to the idea of individual accountability? It scares me that we are allowing our society (which is based on freedom, and its counterpart responsibility) to shift focus to a society based on entitlement and lack of accountability. The society that will exist down that road will not be one that we recognize as "American." We need to adjust our collective attitudes before it's too late!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"It was a good day for the Marine Corps."

Military.com had an article on November 18th that described how a group of 30 Marines held off an insurgent ambush in Shewan, Farah Province, Afghanistan and, after an 8-hour battle, defeated about 250 insurgents. It's a great article, but the description of the battle is so good, I'll quote it here.

“The day started out with a 10-kilometer patrol with elements mounted and dismounted, so by the time we got to Shewan, we were pretty beat,” said a designated marksman who requested to remain unidentified. “Our vehicles came under a barrage of enemy RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and machine gun fire. One of our ‘humvees’ was disabled from RPG fire, and the Marines inside dismounted and laid down suppression fire so they could evacuate a Marine who was knocked unconscious from the blast.”

The vicious attack that left the humvee destroyed and several of the Marines pinned down in the kill zone sparked an intense eight-hour battle as the platoon desperately fought to recover their comrades. After recovering the Marines trapped in the kill zone, another platoon sergeant personally led numerous attacks on enemy fortified positions while the platoon fought house to house and trench to trench in order to clear through the enemy ambush site.

“The biggest thing to take from that day is what Marines can accomplish when they’re given the opportunity to fight,” the sniper said. “A small group of Marines met a numerically superior force and embarrassed them in their own backyard. The insurgents told the townspeople that they were stronger than the Americans, and that day we showed them they were wrong.”

During the battle, the designated marksman single handedly thwarted a company-sized enemy RPG and machinegun ambush by reportedly killing 20 enemy fighters with his devastatingly accurate precision fire. He selflessly exposed himself time and again to intense enemy fire during a critical point in the eight-hour battle for Shewan in order to kill any enemy combatants who attempted to engage or maneuver on the Marines in the kill zone. What made his actions even more impressive was the fact that he didn’t miss any shots, despite the enemies’ rounds impacting within a foot of his fighting position.

"I was in my own little world,” the young corporal said. “I wasn’t even aware of a lot of the rounds impacting near my position, because I was concentrating so hard on making sure my rounds were on target.”

After calling for close-air support, the small group of Marines pushed forward and broke the enemies’ spirit as many of them dropped their weapons and fled the battlefield. At the end of the battle, the Marines had reduced an enemy stronghold, killed more than 50 insurgents and wounded several more.

“I didn’t realize how many bad guys there were until we had broken through the enemies’ lines and forced them to retreat. It was roughly 250 insurgents against 30 of us,” the corporal said. “It was a good day for the Marine Corps. We killed a lot of bad guys, and none of our guys were seriously injured.”

Good job, Marines, good job!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy 6th Birthday, Princess!

Six years ago, today, the Lord blessed my daughter with a beautiful little girl. He chose a wonderful, bright spirit to join our family, and for that I thank Him each and every day. Our Princess is a wonder and a joy. She is as talented and as intelligent as her mother. She is sweet, lovable, giving, and funny. She brightens the day with her smiles. I know that every grandmother thinks their granddaughters are the best, the most, and the tops....but I'm lucky enough for it to be true. Our Princess really is a very special little girl. So, I want to use this post to wish her a very Happy Birthday. Even though I'm not there to celebrate it with her, she will be in my thoughts and heart all day; as she is everyday. I love her, as I do all of my family, with all of my being.

Happy 6th Birthday, Princess!!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"The Face of Grace"

CJ at A Soldier's Perspective posted an essay written by an Army Father in a Nov 20th blog entry. I loved the post so much that rather than just linking to it, I'll copy it here. It's wonderful, but I warn you; you'll need tissues.

I found this essay, written by the father of a deployed Soldier, on the American Legion website. It was introduced into the Congressional Record by Frank R. Wolf, R-Va, on September 16th. It's a very touching and inspirational story should be required reading by the defeatists in Congress. Here it is:

“Whatever your political take on the war in Iraq, nothing can alter it more than having a loved one in the midst of it. Nor is anyone’s current perspective balanced until they hear at least some things from a soldier’s point of view.

“My wife and I learned these truths when our son, a 2004 Handley graduate, decided to join the Army in 2006. His reasoning was simple: he wasn’t comfortable knowing that thousands of others his age were sacrificing their own freedoms to protect his. When he signed up to join those thousands, it changed our perspective as well.

“Up to that point, it had always been other people’s sons and daughters doing the fighting. Now it would be our own child. Naturally, no one wants their child to volunteer to go in harm’s way for freedom’s sake. It was something of a conviction, though, when my wife and I had to ask ourselves why it shouldn’t be our own son in the Middle East, why we should be spared the rituals of anxiety, prayer, hope and waiting that tens of thousands of other families over here have already endured.

“In early June, we flew to Fort Hood, Texas, to see our son deploy for a 15-month tour in Iraq. Again, one’s perspective is limited until one attends a deploying ceremony for a unit of soldiers. Spouses, children, parents, siblings and friends, all crowding a gym, all clinging closely to their treasures in uniform, accompanied by flags, prayers, cheers and tears. Our son had joined a ‘band of brothers.’ My wife and I had joined the ‘band of others’ who would be waiting at home. Both those going, and those left behind, carry the war on terror in a personal way.

“Still, those of us left behind need to see something of what our soldiers see, and not only what is offered us in the news. To that end, here is one story our son, Luke, shared with us by phone that must be shared with anyone who claims an interest in what our soldiers are doing in the Middle East.

“Stationed outside a city on the Tigris River, Luke had accompanied his colonel into town as part of a security team, while the colonel spoke with a local sheik. While standing guard, Luke noticed a woman approaching from behind and cautiously turned in her direction, his rifle at the ready.

“An interpreter told our son it was OK – the woman just wanted to touch a soldier. Still uneasy, Luke stood still while the woman reached out her hand and touched his face, tears in her eyes.

“Looking to the interpreter for meaning, our son was told that the woman simply ‘wanted to touch the face of grace.’ It seems this trembling woman, like most of the people in her town, looked upon our soldiers as angels of grace, sent by God to protect her from the violence and oppression her people had come to know up to then. Learning this, our son squeezed and kissed the woman’s hand, and she left, weeping.

“The ‘face of grace.’ How many of us, safe at home debating the politics of the war on terror, have ever seen our soldiers in such a light? How many of us have even read such an uplifting newspaper account of our soldiers?

“To be sure, our soldiers are not virtuous simply by being soldiers. At home in their ‘civvies’ they are as un-angelic as the rest of us. Yet when they voluntarily get into ‘full battle rattle’ (as they call their battle gear) in a hot and hostile land, their job is both protective and sacrificial – as angelic a purpose as humans can take on.

“People like this woman, having suffered years of oppression and fear, have eyes and a heart to see this, and the desire to “‘touch the face of grace.’ Do we have the ability to see our soldiers in the same way? And not merely our soldiers: Can we see the ‘face of grace’ in the police who protect us in every town, day and night? Or in the fire and rescue teams who are ‘soldiers’ in their own right?

“My wife and I obviously pray that our son and his ‘band of brothers’ will come safely home to their personal ‘band of others.’ After listening to our son’s experience, though, we have added the prayer that Americans in every community will be given the eyes and heart to see the ‘Face of Grace’ in all who protect our lives and freedoms – especially in soldiers like our son.”

Where are the New Leaders?

Colonel Oliver North has a great editorial on FoxNEWS. In it he makes the point that the Republican party, specifically, and America, generally, needs to look for new, strong, leaders to take us forward and meet the challenges of the future. I agree. The "same-old, same-old" pork-barrel politicians currently in power just won't do. Most of them have become invested in their own arrogance of power. Sad, but true.

So where does Colonel North suggest we look for these new leaders? In the military. He explains,

"Today, there are only 129 members of Congress who have served in our Armed Forces. Since the end of World War II, the ratio of veterans in Congress has been closer to fifty-fifty. The GOP can fix that by reaching out now to the best and bravest of this generation — the remarkable young Americans serving in our Armed Forces. They are all volunteers, part of the brightest, best-educated and most combat-experienced military any nation has ever had and they don't have false illusions about the way things are in the rest of the world.

From personal experience they know that America is one of a handful of places on earth where you can drink water out of the tap or flick a light switch and the lights will come on. They are aware that in the U.S. you can go to a store and buy almost anything you want; that when you call the police you do not expect brutality to show up at your door.

The young men and women who have served our country in uniform know that America is one of the rare places on the globe where you can get in a car and drive anywhere in the country with nothing more than a driver's license and a credit card. They appreciate that every citizen has rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Military service has taught them that competence, courage, integrity, perseverance, and compassion are rewarded. Those qualities make them natural leaders."

In my opinion, Colonel North has hit the jackpot with this suggestion. We don't need toadies or narcissists who want the power and arrogance that comes the power. We need leaders who know how to serve. We need leaders with experience in evaluating a situation and making a decision. We need leaders with good judgment. The military serves as a crucible for developing the leadership qualities we need in our public servants, at all levels. We need to encourage our citizens who have served in the military to consider extending their service by running for political office; whether it be the local school board, the state legislature, or the US Congress. We need leadership!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wonderful WASPs!

I love the Women in Military Service to America Memorial! It's in a beautiful location at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. The Memorial houses a number of collections dedicated to Women who have served in the armed forces, including a computerized register of women veterans. The Memorial has hosted a number of very important exhibits, and they have just opened a great one!

On November 14th, the Memorial opened a traveling exhibit called "Fly Girls of World War II." The exhibit is dedicated to telling the story of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots or WASPS. The WASP program lasted two years, from 1942 to 1944, and allowed women to train to become pilots and allowed them to fly. They test-flew bombers and ferried airplanes to the war zone. Unfortunately, the program was disbanded after only two years, because Congress wouldn't grant the WASPs military status; they were considered civil service employees until 1977 when they were finally recognized as military veterans. An article on the exhibit opening published in Family Security Matters, quotes one WASP as saying,

“We think it’s marvelous that people remember what we did,” said Scotty Gough, 86, who served with the WASP for only one year because she was one year too young when the program started. “I loved flying so much that if I had had the money, I would’ve paid the Air Force to let me fly.”

“For many, many years people knew nothing about us, and it’s important for generations to know what we did and what we were. We were the first ones to fly for the Army, and that’s why today’s women are flying jets and in the Air Force.”

As a woman Air Force veteran, and the mother of a woman Air Force pilot, I salute these brave women who paved the way for us. Without their contributions to their country, I would not have been able to have served. Without their example and dedication, my daughter would not have been able to fulfill her dream to fly. Thank you WASPs!

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Got Tagged!

Kentucky Woman, over at "Little Drops...." tagged me with a bookworm tag. Me....bookworm? Anyone who knows me knows that I'm seldom, if ever, without a book in reach. I love books. All books. Any genre. I'm sure I single handedly keep several publishers in business. So this "tag" is particularly appropriate for me. Here are the rules:

Pass the tag on to five other bloggers, and tell them to open the nearest book to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. Remind them to use the CLOSEST BOOK, NOT YOUR FAVORITE, OR MOST INTELLECTUAL!

Here's my tag reply:

"The Marines had annually practiced seizing houses in exercises called MOUT, or Military Operations in Urban Terrain, and they knew Fallujah. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with video cameras had flown hundreds of missions, plotting the lairs of the insurgents by watching as bodies were dumped out of cars, and then following the cars back to houses that were marked on detailed maps.

'We rehearsed our squeegee tactic over and over.' Lt. Col. Pat Malay, commanding an assault battalion, said."

From the book "The Strongest Tribe" by Bing West.

So, now I'm supposed to tag 5 other Bloggers. So I'll tag:

Sevillalost at Effective Transitional Lift.

GI Kate at My American-Iraq Life.

Jake at Jake's Life.

Cassandra at Villainous Company.


Airman Mom at, well, Airman Mom.

Let's see what they're reading......

To Pledge or Not To Pledge

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance before starting school classes? I do. As a "military brat" I attended a number of different schools, as my Dad was transferred from assignment to assignment. I most of the schools I attended, we said the Pledge before starting school. At one school, we said it outside in front of the school's flag pole after "lining up" to enter the classrooms. At another school, we said it in the classroom during the morning announcements. At still another school, we recited the Pledge in the classroom with a student leading the effort. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance was an essential part of the start of school, at least until I entered High School.

Well, it seems that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance has become a divisive issue in the small town of Woodbury, Vermont. It seems one parent, a retired Marine, circulated petitions asking that school officials restart the practice of reciting the Pledge before school each day. School officials agreed that the Pledge should be re instituted, but in an effort not to "isolate children in the classroom" they instituted a process where a 6th grader would gather any kids who wanted to say the Pledge and take them to a second-floor gym where they would say the Pledge. That practice didn't sit well with parents who wanted the Pledge, because the kids were asked to give up some of their free time and those who wanted to say the Pledge could be singled out just as easily as those who didn't want to say the Pledge. So the school started a new process. They had all the students (about 55) and participating teachers gather in the school foyer to say the Pledge before school started. The idea being that if there was a large crowd, those who didn't want to say the Pledge wouldn't be as noticeable. Of course, that didn't sit well with the "anti-pledge" crowd. After the Pledge ceremony, about 10 adults surrounded the school board president and had "heated discussions" about saying the Pledge in school. Check out the news story here.

Crazy, isn't it. What's wrong with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school? Yes, it references God, as in "one Nation under." So what! That's not advocating religion of one type or another. So a kid's politics may somehow be different from the norm; but does that mean that there is no allegiance to the Nation? It's crazy! I think I agree with the retired Marine-Major who started the Pledge petitions in the first place. He said, "There's no way a heckler's veto should abridge the constitutional rights of the majority." Absolutely right, Major, absolutely right!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Transition & National Security Law

Yesterday there was a post on National Review Online’s Tank that referred to an essay published in the American Bar Association's National Security Law Report. The author of the essay, Judge James E. Baker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, offers some advice on how the Obama presidential transition team could get a “running start in the areas of national security law and Presidential process.” Judge Baker’s suggestions are excellent and his analysis is superb. I just hope that someone on the Obama transition team reads his article and takes his advice.

Judge Baker makes a point that the passing of the torch of government from the President to a President-elect is part of the rhythm of government. It is something that we, as Americans, take for granted; but hope goes seamlessly. According to Judge Baker, however, the transition period creates both a tactical and a procedural vulnerability. Our Country is tactically vulnerable during the transition of one administration to another because the old administration is hesitant to act or make policy commitments while the new administration won’t have developed its template for handling problems and their campaign rhetoric may not have adjusted to hard reality. We are also procedurally vulnerable. When one administration leaves their offices, they leave little to guide the new administration. There may be no phone lists or points of contact established between action officers. There may be no personnel in place to make decisions (particularly if the decision-maker needs to be approved by Congress). There may even be no offices or infrastructure in place.

So how does a new administration mitigate the tactical and procedural vulnerabilities inherent in a transition? According to Judge Baker, the transition team for the new administration must recognize them and address them. The new team must avoid flushing all the policies and procedures of the old team. Instead, they must evaluate what worked and what did not. The transition team should also do their best to limit the decisions that must be made during the first days of the new administration by getting ready for those decisions in advance. The new administration should learn relevant national security law in advance, as well as the process for setting a strategic legal framework. They should make critical decisions about process before the inauguration and write Presidential Directives to announce those decisions that will be issued the first day of the new administration. Finally, according to Judge Baker, they should set a six-month policy agenda and determine who is in charge. Sounds like good advice to me!

I agree wholeheartedly with Judge Baker’s conclusion, “In some cases, ‘better is the enemy of good enough.’ Not so in transition. We must do better; we cannot risk less at a time when U.S. armed forces are committed to combat, WMD terrorism is a realistic prospect, and pandemic disease incubates.” As I said before, I just hope someone from President-elect Obama’s transition team reads Judge Baker’s essay and has the judgment to use it as a template.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Don't Wait!

One of the “tests” President-elect Obama may face in his first six months may be the threat of another terrorist attack, or (God-forbid) a terrorist attack that actually succeeds against our citizens on our homeland. It’s a reality that, even with a “hope” and “change” President; terrorists are also chanting “yes, we can.” They will certainly want to see how President Obama will respond, or if he will respond. I know that several federal agencies and the military have prepared contingency plans for all types of terrorist threats and attacks. I also know that state and local governments have planned and prepared for all types of possibilities. Even some businesses have done some planning. Wonderful! We should plan and prepare. Have you? Individuals and families need to be prepared to face and react to the very-real possibility that communities, schools, businesses, or homes may be targets. Nothing is safe or sacred to a determined terrorist.

So, I urge you to review your plans and preparations, if you’ve prepared them. If it’s been a while, pull them out, dust them off, and remind your family about the plans you’ve made. If you haven’t prepared a plan, start today! You need to educate yourself and your family on how to respond to various emergencies. You need to decide what you and your family are going to do if an emergency happens. Then discuss your emergency plan with your family (and/or friends). Remember, a good family emergency plan will have several parts, including; a plan for emergency communications, a plan for evacuating, and a plan for staying-in-place. The Department of Homeland Security has a pretty good brochure that will help with your planning, so does FEMA and the American Red Cross as well as several state and local government entities. The important thing is that you decide what can be decided now, and discuss it with those that need to know (even your kids).

Of course any preparedness plan should include making an emergency supply kit, sometimes called a 72-hour kit because most agencies recommend a family be able to survive for 72-hours on their own to allow government agencies to reconstitute and get services back up and running (or if that’s impossible, to evacuate folks out of the area). There’s a lot of information on 72-hour kits on the internet (and even some ready-made kits that you can buy). Most important is for you to figure out what you’re family will need to survive on its own for 3-days; then get those things together in one, easy-to-find spot. The kit should be portable, so don’t include things you really don’t need.

One of the most poignant things about the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center is the story of Rick Rescorla, the Director of Security for Morgan Stanley. After the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, Mr. Rescorla developed evacuation plans for Morgan Stanley employees and made them practice the plans every three months. As a result, when the terrorists used passenger planes as guided missiles and struck the towers on 9/11, Morgan Stanley employees knew exactly what to do and where to go. Despite instructions for people to stay where they were, Mr. Rescorla ordered Morgan Stanley employees to evacuate. They did. Morgan Stanley had 2700 employees who worked in World Trade Center Tower 2, and 1000 employees who worked in World Trade Center Building 5. Because they had an evacuation plan, because they had practiced, and because of Mr. Rescorla’s insight and stubbornness, all but 6 Morgan Stanley employees survived the attack. Unfortunately, Mr. Rescorla was not one of them. The Rick Riscorla and Morgan Stanley 9/11 story is one of the best examples why everyone needs to plan for emergencies. Do it now. Don’t wait. We’re all targets.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's Time for a Pop Quiz

Okay. So the electorate of this great Country has spoken and Senator Obama is the President-elect. According to his running mate and Vice President-elect, Senator Biden, that means “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy . . . watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

Well the “world” may already be testing the new President-elect. The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, announced in his state of the nation speech that Russia will deploy short-range missiles near Poland, apparently in response to Poland’s decision to “play” with us in a missile defense system. President Medvedev explained the need to deploy the missiles by saying, “From what we have seen in recent years – the creation of a missile defense system, the encirclement of Russia with military bases, the relentless expansion of NATO – we have gotten the clear impression that they are testing our strength.” Russia sees the presence of a missile defense system in Poland and in the Czech Republic as a threat to them, rather as a means to neutralize a missile threat from Iran.

It looks like Russia has decided to test President-elect Obama’s strength with a pop-quiz a couple of months before he’s even inaugurated. Russia’s timing is impeccable. They decide to deploy these short-range missiles when we have an unpopular President who is just finishing out his term of office and doesn’t want to take any extraordinary measures and when his successor has just been elected and may not want to “weigh-in” on possible actions or responses because he’s still riding the euphoria of winning the election (and because he’s still almost 3 months away from sitting in the hot seat). So do we have a missile-crisis-in-the-making? How will President-elect Obama answer this, the first, of the world’s tests?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Country First"

"Country First." I think that Senator McCain chose a wonderful slogan for his campaign. When it comes to politics, we MUST put our Country first. Our Country is one of the greatest in the history of the world. (Personally, I'd say THE greatest, but then I'm biased.) Our Country is great because the collective "we," the electorate, chooses who will work for them, who will lead them, who will govern them. Our Country is great because we can peacefully pass the reins of government from one elected official to another. Our Country is great because we can have "change" and "hope" and still put "Country First."

The electorate of our great Country has spoken, and elected Senator Obama to be the next President. So be it. As all of you know, I have my doubts about his judgment, his policies, and his ability to lead; but he is now the President-elect of MY great Country. Because I respect the office he will hold, I will act respectfully to the man who hold it. Don't misunderstand me, I will still speak out when I believe a policy, judgment, or action is wrong; that is my right, obligation, and privilege as a citizen. I will do so thoughtfully and respectfully. (Of course, I do reserve my right to be sarcastic when sarcasm is warranted, and I hope I never lose my sense of humor.) But, I will not be like the "loony-left" has been for the past 8 years and develop a kind of knee-jerk "everything-he-does-is-evil" mentality, nor will I develop some kind of Obama-derangement-syndrome. I will still use my brain and any other God-given talents I possess to listen, evaluate, and consider before I act or speak. If I dissent, I will do so respectfully; because I put my Country First.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


It's Election Day! Our polls opened at 0600 (6am for you non-military types). I was standing in line about 20-25 minutes before they opened, and there was still maybe 75 (or so) folks in front of me. By the time the polls opened, the line was at least 2, maybe 3 blocks long. I do have to say that I was impressed with the poll workers, though. Once the polls opened, though, the whole process went very well, smooth and well-orchestrated, at least at my polling place. Even though the lines are long, you should still go cast your vote! Don't wait! Do it now!

While I was waiting, I heard an interesting comment from one of the people in line behind me. She was talking to someone else and made the comment that she was glad to see a shift in how people thought about voting. She said that in the past, people treated voting like an obligation; something they had to do. But now, according to this woman, people are treating their vote like a privilege; a right they have because they are citizens. If there truly has been a shift in attitudes about voting, I hope the shift lasts! Voting should be a privilege of citizenship, not an obligation.

A privilege is defined as "a right, immunity, benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most" or even "any of the rights common to all citizens under a modern constitutional government." An obligation, on the other hand, is defined as "something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law, etc." Voting is a right we have because we are citizens of this great Nation. Perhaps we vote out of a sense of duty to the country, but doing so is nevertheless a benefit we enjoy because we are citizens. So, I agree with the woman in the polling place line; we should treat our right to vote as a privilege, and be thankful for having the chance to do so. Because it is your privilege to vote; go exercise your right. Vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Seahorse Marines

The Knoxville News Sentinel has a wonderful story about a reunion of the "Seahorse Marines," a group of Marines who flew B-25 bombers in the Pacific during World War II. The Seahorse Marines flew planes the US Army Air Corps discarded. Their mechanics kept them in the air, despite battle damage and a lack of parts. Their pilots flew them on low-level missions and night bombing missions over the Solomon Sea and Bismarck Sea Islands, helping win the War in the Pacific. They lost 9 bombers and 41 crew during their combat in the Pacific, and succeeded in keeping the Japanese bottled up and unable to push into Australia, or go anywhere for that matter. The men of VMB-423, the Seahorse Marines, just had their annual reunion in Knoxville. I bet it was a great time to hear those wonderful stories that we too often forget to take the time to hear. The "Greatest Generation" is called the greatest for a reason, and it's not just because they have great stories. They did great things.

The surviving Seahorse Marines (there are about 50 Marines left from what was a 500 member unit during WWII), tell about flying low-level runs using a plane that some describe as "flying a bank vault." Apparently love-level bombing runs were more fun because there was the excitement of getting shot at. The pilots would fly the plane in the trees or "side slip" through canyons. One of the tail gunners said that he'd look up and see the tops of trees and then he'd look down and see the bottoms of the trees. The radioman and side gunner described the tree-level flying as "squirrel hunting." Okay.... I'm starting to get a picture of the type of young men that made up the Seahorse Marines.

They also loved to do what the Marines called "heckling." On those missions, they'd fly at night and drop a single bomb, then turn and drop another, then another turn and another bomb (you get the picture) until they ran out of ordinance. Heckling missions were designed to pin the enemy down, and they did.

My favorite story, though, demonstrates just how innovative (and sneaky) these Marines could be. Someone found out that a stubby-necked beer bottle made the same whistle as a 100-lb bomb when the beer bottle was dropped out of a plane at altitude. So the Marines would drink the beer before takeoff, fly to a target for a heckling mission, drop a bomb or two, then a couple of those (now) empty beer bottles, then more bombs. According to one of the surviving Marines, "The Japs would get confused in their counting and think the bombing was over. They counted the whistles instead of the explosions. They'd turn the lights back on, and we'd bomb them again." I think I'll agree with the Marine. According to the Knoxville Sentinel reporter, the Marine telling the story "smiled and the rest of the boys around the table, their hats aglitter with seahorses and bombers, laughed at the memory of a night of Marine Corps heckling."

You just gotta love these guys!

Sacramento "Dis's" Vets

CJ at A Soldier's Perspective heard a rumor that Sacramento, California (the State Capital, for those of you who might have forgotten) doesn't have an official observance of Veteran's Day, besides giving state and local employees the day off. So, he called to find out. The result was an interesting post describing the run-around he received when trying to verify the rumor. You really need to read it to get the "flavor" of the run-around. It's classic. Ultimately, CJ was able to verify that, indeed, Sacramento does not have a parade, or other official ceremony to recognize the service of Veterans on Veteran's Day. The city only gives employees a day-off, because it's a Federally-mandated holiday. The city has parades for just about everything else, including a gay-pride parade; but does nothing to honor our Veterans. For some reason, I'm not surprised. . .but then once-upon-a-time I was an Air Force officer living in Sacramento. I've had direct exposure to the "fruits-n-nuts" out there. CJ has asked that fellow milbloggers flood the blog-o-sphere with this info to highlight the craziness in California.

Poo and Flags

So there I was, sitting on my front steps happily passing out Halloween candy, when a very cute little Winnie-the-Poo came climbing up the stairs on all fours. (The front door of our townhouse is actually on the second floor, thus stairs on the outside.) Anyway, this extremely cute little Poo was all of 2 or 3-years-old, and was accompanied up the stairs by his "twenty-something" mom. When the Poo reached me, I put some candy in his bag and he promptly fished it out and put it back into my candy bowl. His mom and I laughed, introduced ourselves, and started visiting while the Poo had a great time handing out candy from my bowl to the various witches, transformers, fairies, and vampires that trudged up the stairs. (Did I tell you how cute he was?) Anyway, during my conversation with Poo's mom, she asked me about the flag in the window by my front door. The flag show two blue stars on a white background, with a red border all around. Poo's mom wanted to know where we were from, because she didn't recognize that Country's flag. I told her that being from South Dakota (originally) I was from Fly-Over Country, but that the flag wasn't a Nation's flag; it was a service flag and that the two blue stars represented my two children serving in the United States Armed Forces. I explained that I flew it because I was proud of the service my children have chosen to provide this Nation and that I was proud of them for making that choice. Despite being a bit embarrassed, Poo's mom was extremely gracious and told me I should be proud of my children. It's interesting, isn't it, how little bright, interesting, and educated people know about traditions involving the military?

The Service Flag has been a tradition since World War I, when an Ohioan and Army captain designed it to honor his two sons who were serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Of course, the flag quickly became a popular way to honor those serving in the armed forces. On September 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman pressed for adoption on the floor of the House, stating for the Congressional Record that local and state authorities had adopted the service flag, and advocated for national adoption, because, "The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother — their children." The flags fell out of use during the unpopular Vietnam conflict, but have since come back into use to honor our service members. The United States Code authorizes anyone who has a member of their "immediate" family serving in the armed forces during any period of war or hostilities to display the service flag in the window of their home. Family members are also authorized to wear a lapel pin to honor their serving children or siblings. Organizations are also authorized to fly a service flag to honor members of their organization who serve. Interested and want to know more? Check out the Pentagon's fact sheet on service flags.

UPDATE Poo's gracious mother has sent me flowers along with a note thanking me for letting Poo help pass out my Halloween candy. She may not have known much about military traditions, but she sure knows a lot about being a nice woman and wonderful neighbor.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama or the Halloween Fairy?

Last night my grandkids dressed up in their Halloween costumes and participated in our Church's "Trunk-or-Treat" program. It was such fun! Both parents and kids dressed up in great costumes. (My absolute favorite was the couple wearing just a t-shirt and jeans, with pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters taped to the t-shirt along with a sign that read "Real Change You Can Believe In.") Anyway, the parents (and a grandparent or two) decorated the trunks of cars or the beds of trucks and passed out Halloween candy to a wide variety of goblins, mermaids, princesses, flamenco dancers, pink rabbits, and superheroes. Tonight, we'll repeat the costuming of kids and they'll "hit" the neighborhood to ring doorbells and ask for more candy, while someone stays home to protect our house from "tricks" by giving "treats."

As you might expect, this two-night candy extravaganza caused my daughters quite a bit of concern over the dietary habits of their children, all of whom have a sweet tooth (or two). So one of my daughters decided to emulate a friend of hers who has "invented" the "Halloween Fairy." You see, good kids who want to help the Halloween Fairy split their candy-take from trick-or-treating in half. After the candy is split, the Halloween Fairy comes to their homes, takes half of the candy and gives it to other children who weren't able to trick-or-treat. There you go . . . 50% less potential for sugar overload.

I thought it was a great idea, at first. But when I told someone at work about it, I realized that the "Halloween Fairy" was just another an example of socialist redistribution of wealth, or the Obama Tax Plan, whichever you prefer. Just like Senator Obama would tax those who earn more and pay taxes, in order to give to those who earn less and don't pay taxes, the Halloween Fairy would take candy from kids who dressed up and went trick-or-treating to kids who didn't. Voila, wealth redistribution on a child's level. Now I know that my daughters, both of whom are fairly conservative, would not necessarily want to teach socialist principles on wealth distribution to their children. They just don't want their kids to have an excess of candy. But it's interesting how such a little thing can be an example of such a big thing. I'm certain my daughters will teach their children good citizenship and strong American values, so I'm not necessarily concerned about the Halloween Fairy's appearance in their homes. But I do have another burning question:
does this mean that Senator Obama is really the Halloween Fairy?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

70 Years Old and Still Going....

"Good heavens, something's wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake," he said, in an appropriately dramatic tone of voice. "Now it's another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing's body. It's large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face. It...it's indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate....The thing is raising up. The crowd falls back. They've seen enough. This is the most extraordinary experience. I can't find words. I'm pulling this microphone with me as I talk. I'll have to stop the description until I've taken a new position. Hold on, will you please, I'll be back in a minute."

It was 70 years ago today that Martians invaded Grover's Mill, New Jersey. News of the invasion was broadcast on CBS radio's program Mercury Theater On the Air. This War of the Worlds broadcast has become a legend for the panic it produced and the conspiracy theories it generated. While the program was a fictional play based on a popular science fiction novel, the newscast format of the program, dance music interrupted by simulated "live" news reports from reporters on the scene led listeners to believe the reports were true. As could be expected, the program, which was broadcast nationally, started rumors and caused some folks throughout the US to panic; particularly in New York and New Jersey. Citizens in one town, Concrete, Washington, panicked as a result of a pure coincidence. At the point in the broadcast where the Martians are invading small towns and killing people with poison gas, a power failure at a Portland Cement plant caused the electricity to go out all over the town of Concrete. There were reports of people fainting, people grabbing their families and heading for the hills, and readying their guns to defend their homes. Needless to say, Concrete made the news.

Naturally, conspiracy theories abound. Some, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, say that the program really was an actual broadcasts of a Martian invasion, and it was later called "fictional" to cover up the fact that the aliens had really landed. Others say that the program was an experiment in psychological warfare designed to allow study of mass hysteria. What ever it was; radio drama, reality, or cruel experiment, it has staying power. You can still listen to the show over the internet. Enjoy!