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." 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.