The fun never ends at the Watcher of Weasels place

In a sec, I’ll link to the cool blog posts I get to read today as part of my gig on the Watcher’s Council.  However, I also wanted to give you a heads up about a debate the Watcher’s Council hosted on the merits of the President’s decision to repeal DADT during war time.  Since the debaters — Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye and Tom White of Virginia Right! — are civil and logical, you’ll probably find it very interesting.

And now to this week’s nominations:

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

How does the military feel about Libya?

Under George Bush, our troops were told that they were going to Iraq and Afghanistan to protect American interests.  One can, of course, quibble with whether those wars have served American interests (which is not a quibble I want to have at this post).  But the point I want to make is that our young men and women were told that they were putting their lives on the line for their country.  They were protecting and defending.

In Libya, Defense Secretary Gates has stated explicitly that Libya itself has nothing to do with America’s vital interests, although it’s in a region that is important.  As best as I can tell, he hasn’t taken the next step, which is to say that what happens in Libya, though, will necessarily affect America’s interests in that region.

Obama has come out with a mountain of mush which boils down to a claim that the U.N. thinks this is a good idea for protecting some people in Libya, and we want Qaddafi out of there, although we won’t do anything actually to get him out of there, because that’s not our mission, even though we plan on having him leave.  We’ve since learned that significant sectors amongst the people who want Qaddafi out even more than Obama does — i.e., our allies — are Al Qaeda. For people with long memories, we’re fighting Al Qaeda all over the world, with American troops actively under fire in Afghanistan.

With those thoughts in mind about Libya — it’s an internationalist mission with no clear goals, that doesn’t necessarily benefit America, that sees us helping the same people who are trying to kill our guys in Afghanistan, one has to ask whether American troops have a sense of mission here?  Are they feeling the warm glow of altruistic humanitarians who are in the line of fire for people who have little to do with America and her interests (or are even routinely trying to kill Americans?  Do they have any sense that they are fulfilling their mission to protect and defend” if the people they’re protecting and defending are neither Americans nor American allies?  Or are they simply people who are doing their jobs, without a whole lot of mission analysis?

I’m a highly politicized, conservative, anti-Obama, pro-American, middle-aged armchair warrior.  With that bias, I know that I would not be happy to have my life on the line so that Libyan oil can flow to France and Al Qaeda can take over the Libyan government.  But that’s just me.  Do any of you have any sense about the boots on the ground thinking?

Michael Yon takes on Rolling Stone

Years ago, in another life, I dated a man who had worked for Rolling Stone and personally knew Jann Wenner.  (My ex-boyfriend claimed that a well-known Rolling Stone photographer was the one who introduced him to and got him hooked on cocaine.  I have no idea if he was telling the truth or not, but it made for a good story.)

My old boyfriend had cleaned up his act by the time I met him, and was decently reticent about his past, but it was pretty clear from the few stories he told that (a) Rolling Stone personnel, at least at one time, had embraced the drug culture with gusto and (b) that it was a sleazy, counter-culture magazine.  Today, all you need to do to know that it is still a sleazy, counter-culture (read:  anti-American) magazine is to buy a copy at the store — or, better yet, leaf through one and then abandon it without bothering to buy it.  As for the drug issues that were once a part of the magazine’s culture, perhaps the drugs’ legacy lives on and helps explain the shoddy, vicious journalism that routinely emanates from that saggy, flabby, 1960s era hangover.

Don’t believe me about shoddy, vicious journalism?  I understand that.  My old boyfriend’s stories about the magazine’s past are pure hearsay.  But right now, today, Michael Yon has actual percipient witness journalism on his side when it comes to challenging Rolling Stone’s most recent smear piece about our troops in Afghanistan.  Read Yon and your blood will boil.

Huge kudos to Yon, not only for his own journalism, but for his willingness to take on one of the old media’s sacred cows.

There are some things you simply don’t farm out — and national security is one of those things

I am cheap.  Very cheap.  That means that I’m a bargain hunter.  I like used books and cheap clothes.  I prefer to buy American but, if my pocketbook tells me that America isn’t a good deal, I’ll usually follow my pocketbook.  Usually, but not always.  If buying something from another country would put me in danger, I don’t do it.  That’s why I don’t buy canned goods or, indeed, anything that goes in my mouth, from China.  The t-shirts may be shoddy, fading and ripping quickly, but they won’t poison me.  The food just might.  (I’d like to avoid Chinese honey, too, which is chock full of antibiotics, fungicides, and industrial pollutants, but the fact is that most of the major manufacturers that use honey as an ingredient buy cheap Chinese honey.)

Not only will I avoid products that will harm me, I’m also unlikely to pay someone for service if I know that the person’s agenda is hostile to mine.  You don’t have the local thief install your burglar alarm.  I don’t even need active hostility to back off.  I also won’t buy service from someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in doing a good job for me.

None of the above is rocket science.  It’s good old-fashioned common sense — which, of course, is the one thing government lacks.  This current administration, especially, seems to go out of its way to abandon common sense.

I mention all this now because of a news story that the MSM is ignoring, but that should matter to everyone concerned both with American national security and with the American economy.  Here’s the deal:

There may be additional heartening employment news in the same sector [Boeing got an air tanker deal], following a request by the U.S. Air Force to identify suppliers for a new kind of airplane that can perform the light attack and armed reconnaissance (LAAR) missions that are being requested by our military leaders.

The new aircraft’s purpose is to allow our U.S. pilots to more effectively execute the tactics, maneuvers and procedures that are needed for the type of counter insurgency warfare that we are currently seeing in Afghanistan and other conflict zones around the globe. In turn, these American pilots will train their partners and developing nation counterparts to fly these same planes and defend themselves, with a goal of reducing the need for U.S. military presence in the region.

Two companies are vying for the Air Force contract — Hawker Beechcraft, a Kansas-based company, and Embraer, a Brazilian owned and operated company.

The Red State article to which I linked explains that Hawker Beechcraft has a good history and a good product.  I’m sure that’s true.  I’ll even stipulate that Embraer also has a good history and a good product.  My question, though, is why in the world our government, which has never before been constrained by bargain shopping and common  sense, is willingly giving another country the blueprints for and access to one of our military products?

Here’s a perfect anecdote to illustrate my concerns:  Think back to 1976 and the Entebbe rescue mission.  The Israeli military’s raid on Entebbe to rescue hostages is one of the great stories of derring-do, intelligent planning, heroism, and creative thinking.  But it was also made possible by one significant fact:  More than a decade before the hostage-taking, an Israeli company had built the airport.  This meant that Israel had the plans.  As it happened, back in 1976, the fact that a non-Ugandan company had this type of information was the best thing that could have happened, helping the good guys win, and soundly defeating and humiliating the bad guys.

In this case, though, we’re the good guys.  I’d classify the Brazilians as the neutral guys for now, although their decision to follow in our footsteps and elect an anti-capitalist president is worrying.  While I believe and hope that Americans can and will shake off the Obama’s pernicious socialism, it’s not so clear that Brazil will.  If Venezuela is any guide, once socialism is firmly ensconced in a Latin American government, that government is no friend of ours.  Even without that specific scenario, though, the fact is taht one never knows what will happen in another country.  Right now, we’re witnessing events in the Middle East that caught the West entirely flatfooted.  Today’s friend is tomorrow’s enemy.

The whole friend/enemy thing is tolerable if you’re talking about buying t-shirts and canned foods or tables and cars from your frenemy, but it comes much more fraught when you’re talking about national security.  The optimal situation is one in which no country, Brazil included, knows too much about a “new kind of airplane that can perform the light attack and armed reconnaissance missions that” are part of modern American military tactics. Ten years from now, when the world has shifted, we may find ourselves bitterly regretting placing that information in another’s hands.

In addition to the security angle, there’ s also a matter of steering tax dollars, especially during a big recession.  It’s one thing for the marketplace to make decisions about where the money flows.  If I want to send my money to China, well, that’s my choice.  If enough people do that, than China gets rich or American companies figure out how to compete.  The government, though, is not the marketplace.  We’re not talking millions of customers making market-responsive decisions.  Instead, we’re talking about a huge, unwieldy, unresponsive bureaucracy taking millions and millions of dollars that taxpayers are forced to hand over to the government, and then sending it far, far away from the taxpayers.  This makes sense if the American market cannot supply the product — but we know that, in this case, the American market, made up of American taxpayers, is perfectly capable of providing the product.  There is therefore, no economic reason to ship our security over seas.

My congress people are Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Lynn Woolsey.  In other words, contacting them is about as useful as using tweezers to move mountains.  If you’re in a district that boasts slightly responsive congress people, though, let them know your concerns about this deal.  Sending military airplane manufacturing out of the country is bad for national security and bad for the economy.

Harvard reinstates ROTC

Forty-one years too late, but it’s finally happening:

Harvard University is welcoming the Reserve Officer Training Corps program back to campus this week, 41 years after banishing it amid dissent over the Vietnam War.

The Cambridge, Mass., school’s change in policy follows the decision by Congress in December to repeal the military ban on gays serving openly, an official familiar with the arrangement said Thursday.

Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Friday are scheduled to sign an agreement that will recognize the Naval ROTC’s formal presence on campus, according to the official, who wasn’t allowed to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Another jihad attack, this time against the American military *UPDATED*

My condolences to the family and friends of the two airmen killed in Germany.  And my best wishes for a safe and speedy recovery for the two airmen who are seriously wounded.  And a plague and a pox on the media which tries so desperately to hide that this was not a random crazy man, but yet another assault in the Islamists’ ongoing war against the West.

The New York Times has reluctantly included in its report on the shooting a statement hinting that the shooter was a Muslim.  However, it not only buries this fact in the last paragraph, it never states it explicitly, choosing, instead, a tortuously oblique way of reporting that the shooter was dedicating his attack to Islam:

A man whose office is near the site of the shooting, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his business, said witnesses told him that before opening fire the gunman shouted “God is great” in Arabic. Mr. Füllhardt said he could not confirm such reports.

I hate when our troops die, but I especially hate it when they are sitting ducks on the receiving end of a terrorist attacks.  These are men who are trained to fight and are committed to battle, and there is something almost insulting when they are attacked on the home bases or on buses in noncombat nations.  For a warrior to die like a civilian highlights the enemy’s evil, because it always seeks out soft targets.  I know that sounds stupid, ’cause dead is dead.  I guess this goes back to the Jewish thing of saying “never again” to the way in which civilians were meekly herded to their deaths.  It hits me viscerally.

Hat tip:  Jihad Watch

UPDATE:  The shooter’s uncle spells it out:  Devout Muslim.

Keeping our Navy strong

Read this.  Then, if you’re moved to do so, donate to this.

Is the military a good way to turn boys into men?

I love my son dearly and he dearly loves me right back.  He’s bright, exceptionally well-coordinated and, if I do say so myself, he’s very good-looking.  He’s also selfish, hyper-competitive, lazy, ill-mannered and a total slob.  I have been working for years on all those traits and there has definitely been some improvement, but we’re not even halfway there.  Thankfully, as he’s not yet teenager, I still have a while to work on him.  I’m worried, though, that the traits I mentioned all tend to worsen, not improve, as young boys turn into young men.  As a parent, I foresee I tough road ahead of me.

I often find myself saying to myself, “Boy, the military would be good for my son.”  With a coercive power I can’t hope to equal, it would teach him discipline and neatness.  Also, because of unit cohesion, it might take him out of his selfishness.  Lastly, the military’s hierarchical nature would be good for such a hyper-competitive person, because there is clearly delineated room for upward movement, complete with external proof (ribbons, stripes, etc.) that the person is improving.

Even as I have this thought, though, the mother-voice in the back of my brain says, “What are you doing, woman?!  Do you actually want to send your darling little boy to a tough, often cruel environment, one in which he stands a much better chance of being killed than if he stays safely at home with you?”

Well, right now, while he’s still a beardless little boy, and the questions are hypothetical, my higher brain answer to that mother-voice is “Yes, yes I do want him to go to the military.”  (By the way, I’ve probably just qualified myself for a visit from Child Protective Services for admitting that I think the military would be good for my child.)

Here’s my thinking:  People need meaning and purpose in their lives.  Some people are internally driven.  They define and seek out their own goals.  Others, especially young men, drift.  Nowadays, that drift is made worse by computer gaming.  I know a man who was a top college student in the computer sciences, with computer companies frantically wooing him.  He ended up getting a great starter job, and quickly rose through the management ranks.   Then, something terrible happened to him:  his mother inherited a lot of money.  He knew, as of that moment, that he too would inherit a lot of money one day.  He no longer needed to work.

All of us dream about insta-wealth and early retirement, of course.  We imagine pursuing our passions, and believe that will give us complete pleasure.  Maybe that’s true.  I don’t know.  All I know is that, at 28 years old, this man quit his job and started a new life playing computer games.  That’s all he does:  exercise and computer games.  That’s all he’s done for twenty years.  He doesn’t seem very happy to me.  He’s playing his games, which is what he wants, but mostly he seems lost.  When I look at him I see a stunted life and wasted potential.  He’s never grown up.  Given the opportunity, he opted to remain a 13 year old boy forever.

This man is the most extreme, but not the only example, I know of a young man who simply decided to stop living and growing.  One of these young men, however, and I’ve written about him before, was moved by 9/11 to join the military.  He’s served in Afghanistan and Iraq; he’s lived under horrific conditions; he’s been under fire — and he’s as happy as he’s ever been in his life.  His life has meaning.

It seems to me, therefore, sitting with my smooth-faced little boy, that his life will be a happier one if he can find meaning in it.  There is no meaning in life as a computer gamer and slacker.  You fill your time, but you may as well be a cow chewing cud, or a pig rooting around in the mud.  We humans are better than that.

In a way, women have it easier, because having babies forces them to grow up, to look outside of themselves, and to have responsibility.  But in this day and age, young men don’t have responsibility thrust upon them through fatherhood.  Assuming the mother doesn’t abort, she still makes limited demands on the guy.  Certainly, few women nowadays demand marriage, and the notion of dad standing there with a shotgun is truly dead and gone.  The military, however, does thrust responsibility on young men, and they seem to be the better for it — assuming, of course, that they survive the experience.

All of this is not quite as hypothetical as it seems.  My son has always been military mad, and still talks about going to a military college one day.  He’s too young to understand what that really means, but it’s definitely part of his mental make-up.  While I won’t ever push him to the military — that’s a path I think a young person has to find by himself — my current thinking is that I won’t argue him out of it if that’s what he decides to do.  Certainly, I think it would help him with a lot of the behaviors and personality traits that currently prevent him from (yes) being all that he can be.

I’d be very interested to hear from active duty military people, vets, and the parents of current and former military people.  Am I blinded by the beauty of the uniform, or am I on to something here?

UPDATE: To all the students who have been leaving such thoughtful comments on this post: Thank you. I’m really quite impressed by what you’ve been saying and by your taking seriously the points I made. As you can see, it’s been a long time since I wrote this post. My son is quite a mature teenager now and, I’m happy to say, has outgrown a lot of the behaviors that mothers find so frustrating. I think he’s still too easy on himself, because he’s still not cultivating all his natural gives, but he has turned in a nice young man who has a very strong internal moral compass. I know — and this is the highest praise I can give him — that when he faces moral dilemmas in his life, he will make smart, moral decisions.

Two posts I’d like you to read

I keep getting called away by real life, so let me quickly apprise you of two posts I think you’d enjoy.

The first is at Wolf Howling.  WH is inaugurating a series examining 15 battles that were turning points in history.  His first post is about the Battle of Chipyong-ni, Feb. 13-15, 1951. If you are a history buff generally, or a military history buff specifically, I cannot recommend any better writer than WH.

On a completely different topic, David French writes about the ongoing Christian genocide in the Muslim world.  The MSM doesn’t want you know, but all citizens of conscience, Christian or not, should be aware of what’s happening, and should put pressure on their home governments to make efforts to stop these crimes against humanity.

Are America’s veterans really in such bad shape? *UPDATED*

I am deeply suspicious of studies showing that America’s veterans are in worse shape — more drug addicted, more alcoholic, more insane, suicidal, more homeless — than the rest of the population.  I was sold that bill of goods in the post-Vietnam era and it was a lie, meant to malign the military establishment and the wars they fought.  So I’m taking with a huge grain of salt a story in USA Today stating that the Obama administration is reporting that vets are substantially more likely to be homeless than the general population:

Military veterans are much more likely to be homeless than other Americans, according to the government’s first in-depth study of homelessness among former service members.

About 16% of homeless adults in a one-night survey in January 2009 were veterans, though vets make up only 10% of the adult population.

More than 75,000 veterans were living on the streets or in a temporary shelter that night. In that year, 136,334 veterans spent at least one night in a homeless shelter — a count that did not include homeless veterans living on the streets.

The urgency of the problem is growing as more people return from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study found 11,300 younger veterans, 18 to 30, were in shelters at some point during 2009. Virtually all served in Iraq or Afghanistan, said Mark Johnston, deputy assistant secretary for special needs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

You can read more here, but it’s in the same vein, pointing out that only minorities beat vets for homelessness.  I have two comments about this study purporting to show that our vets are greater losers than the average American citizen:

1.  The big number — 16% of homeless adults were vets, even though vets are only 10% of the population — comes from a one night study!  Am I insane, or is that a totally un-random sampling?  Also, this was a one night study more than two years ago.  Again, am I insane, or could the situation have changed since that single night two years ago?

2.  As I’ve pointed out in an old post regarding studies purporting to show that veterans, as a group, are more likely to commit suicide, there’s no indication that this study adjusts for the facts that veterans are a predominantly male group, in their late teens and 20s.  With regard to suicide studies, that demographic is generally more likely to commit suicide, so comparing veteran suicide statistics to suicide statistics for the population as a whole is fundamentally dishonest.  I wonder therefore if this one night study done two years ago adjusts for the fact that, as with suicide, homeless people sare ubstantially more likely to be men:

  • 61% Single men
  • 15% Single women
  • 12.2% Women with children
  • 4.6% Other women
  • 5.3% Other men
  • 2.3% Men with children

That means that a predominantly male military is statistically more likely to produce homeless people than some other institution that has a more balanced male/female demographic.

I’m betting that there are lots of homeless veterans in America because there are lots of homeless men in America.  It’s a problem for the nation as a whole, especially during bad economic times — economic times, I might add, that are bad because the administration now pushing this study has been yanking money out of the private sector as fast as it can.  To try to use this problem to tar our military and our veterans is sleazy and dishonest.

UPDATE:  Spartacus’ comment deserves to be shared up here:

It’s always good to question true randomness and statistical significance of sampling, and to mentally shift the numbers around to see if there are unreported reasons why the data are the way they are.  But it’s also important to question the data.  And I would like to suggest that therein lies the true explanation for why so many homeless people report veteran status:


Homelessness and panhandling are strongly correlated.  And panhandling being basically a sales job, in which one sells oneself as an object of pity, “veteran status” is extremely widespread — who couldn’t help but feel sorry for someone who had a bright future ahead of them until they got all traumatized by horrors they saw in the jungles of Southeast Asia while trying, patriotically, to serve their country?

Ever wonder how that panhandler on the corner next to the offramp could be a Vietnam vet, but only look about forty?  Is it the living out in the elements and keeping his liver well-lubricated with Old English 800 that keeps his skin looking so youthful?  No.  He never particularly applied himself studying history or math, so the discrepancy doesn’t occur to him, and he heard from others that you get more money if you dress up in a forestland-pattern camo field jacket (available in many sizes at any Goodwill store) and put “Vietnam vet” on your sign.  Ask him what his MOS was, and he’ll draw a blank.  What unit did he serve in?  What AO when downrange?  What does it say on his DD 214?  Don’t expect lucid answers.

And it is a lazy (or ideologically biased) “scientist” who will simply accept these responses at face value, even when they are quite the statistical anomaly.

Oh, those cwazy uniforms; or, no wonder Valerie Jarrett was confused.

May I quote myself, writing about the beautiful and moving Battle of Midway Commemoration in San Francisco last year?

The event was a formal one, which is much more beautiful than a civilian black tie affair.  The women, of course, presented a familiar and pleasing picture.  They had on lovely dresses ranging from safe (but always elegant) black to a rainbow of jewel-like colors.  Their hair was piled high or cascaded down in graceful ringlets, curls or curtains of silky hair.  Their make-up said, appropriately, “Here I am and aren’t I lovely?”  I expected that.

It was the men who were such a treat — and a surprise.  To me, “formal” means black tie.  It’s a good look, since it’s the rare man who isn’t elevated slightly by the dignity of a black jacket, pleated shirt, and neatly tied black tie.  Add in a cummerbund, and he’s ready to face anything.  I am, therefore, not complaining about traditional formals.  It’s just that, after having seen Navy formal wear, traditional men’s formal wear will, forever after, seem a little bit bland.

As I knew, but had never seen, Navy formal wear is white.  The uniform therefore brings the light in a room up, rather than down.  On their arms and shoulders, the officers wear the golden insignia of their rank.  I know now, although I didn’t understand that fact when I walked in, that many of the men present boasted an Admiral’s rank.  There was no shortage, however, of other ranks, whether chiefs or captains or lieutenants. The young men and women in attendance who had not (yet) attained the higher ranks were nattily attired from head to toe (or, if they were women, from head to knee) in whites.  The only exceptions were the two tall, trim, young Marines who were resplendent in their dark blue uniforms, lavishly decorated with gold and red.

Every uniformed guest had a variety of “mini-medals” on his (or her) left chest, over his (or her) heart.  The higher the rank, or the longer the years of service, the more of these exquisite medallions adorned the wearer — exquisite both because they are beautiful on their own terms, as mere objets, and because each represents a special level of accomplishment, dedication or bravery.

I’ll admit to being a girl (an aged girl, sadly) who still gets a thrill from a uniform.  I can’t help but think, though, that my possibly silly attitude ranks higher than that shown by White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.  She clearly believes that one uniform is pretty much like another — and that none are that special:

According to our tipster, Jarrett was seated at the head table along with several other big-name politicians and a handful of high-ranking military officials. As an officer sporting several stars walked past Jarrett, she signaled for his attention and said, “I’d like another glass of wine.”


White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, who was seated next to Jarret, began “cracking up nervously,” our tipster said, but no one pointed out to Jarrett that the man sporting a chestful of medals was not her waiter.

“The guy dutifully went up and got her a glass of wine, and then came back and gave it to her and took a seat at the table,” our tipster said. “Everyone is in tuxedos and gowns at this thing, but the military people are in full dress uniform.”

“There was no shortage of waiters either,” the tipster added.

It’s great to know that the world’s knowledgeable intellectuals are firmly in control of Washington, D.C.’s levers of power.

Hat tip:  American Thinker, which got it from Instapundit

Our troops *UPDATED*

Go to this post at Doug Ross’s site (a post that is kind enough to mention me), and look carefully at the picture of a clutch of US servicemen.  If you click on the picture, it takes you to an Ace post that doesn’t mention the picture, so I don’t know the story behind it.  Do any of you know the story?  Is the caption on the picture accurate?  If so, it’s a testament to human decency.

UPDATE:  Thanks to NavyOne, I can tell you that it’s the real deal.  (See the comments to the Blackfive post.)  If our troops don’t prevail, you can bet that the problem lies high up, at the top of the chain of command.  They’re not the problem.

Marines to the rescue AGAIN

Okay, to be precise, this was a former Marine, but it was still a Marine to the rescue, in the wake of a street shooting in San Francisco’s Mission District.  As a witness wrote:

Hey. I live right at 20th and Dolores. I ran out the door on Friday night when I heard the poor guy moaning to find him, two onlookers (who had called 911), a few police officers, and — here’s the thing — a barefoot Marine kneeling over him, resuscitating the guy.

It was actually one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen — this guy, just a former Marine in the neighborhood who had heard the shots and ran outside. He found the victim no longer breathing, diagnosed the problem (it’s called a “sucking chest wound”) and used a discarded plastic bag that one of the police officers handed him to bring the guy back to life. It was truly amazing.

I don’t actually count any Marines amongst my “real world” (as opposed to cyberworld) friends. Growing up in SF and moving in professional circles in Marin, one just doesn’t meet people who have served their country in the military. My loss.

My point exactly

When I blogged about Capt. Owen Honors, I made the point that we cannot have delicate flowers in the military.  Moral, decent people — yes.  Delicate people — no.  It turns out that at least some of the gays and lesbians serving on the USS Enterprise fully understood this point.  Kudos to those men and women.

Captain Owen Honors *UPDATED*

Because I was away, I missed the whole first impact of the Owen Honors thing, but for glimpsing a horrified PC headline on CNN while waiting for a flight.  That millisecond of MSM-manufactured finger-pointing was enough to clue me in to the fact that, if CNN disapproved, I probably wouldn’t be that shocked.

Having watched one of the videos at CDR Salamander’s place (along with an excellent post about the PC hysteria going on right now), I have to say that the only thing that shocks me is the fact that the liberal media watch dogs, people whose worship at Lenny Bruce’s obscene shrine, were able to pretend such outrage.  This is the Navy, for goodness sakes, not a floating DAR meeting.  Capt. Honors is trying to reach guys (for the most part) — young guys, who have been raised their entire lives on an obscenity-laced diet of rap videos and Hollywood movies.  I actually thought the video was funny, and I’m usually quite prudish (0r, at least, uninterested in vulgarity)!

Bottom line:  if our military can’t take some weak, silly, mildly offensive jokes, how in the world can it take bullets and bombs?  We’re supposed to be training fighters here, not delicate flowers.  We want, of course, to have a moral military, made up of people who aren’t monstrous, violent, raping killing machines, but there’s a huge difference between inculcating decency in our forces, and turning them into a ladies garden party.

As for the military high command, which reacted with knee-jerk speed by destroying Capt. Owen’s career, I don’t think it did itself any favors.  When will traditional forces realize that the liberals in this country can never be appeased?  A less extreme response would have been proportionate to the low level of the offense, and would not have fed the perpetual outrage machine on the Left.  As it is, conservatives, with their abject overreacting keep conceding liberal points, even when the liberals really have no point at all.

UPDATEMax Boot nails it:  the “humor” was mild compared to what normally crosses young people’s radars; Capt. Owen (as OldFlyer said) should have comported himself with more dignity; and Owen’s real sin was to mis-read the PC signals.

DADT: Now what

1.  Bruce Kesler looks at the ramifications of the repeal of DADT.

2.  The Ivy Leagues say they’ll allow military recruiters back on campus (which at least ends their hypocrisy of taking federal feds but denying the feds access).  See here and here.  I wonder if that will have a measurable effect on future recruitment.

DADT repealed *UPDATED*

The military is in for some big changes.  It remains to be seen whether they increase its effectiveness, whether they impair its functionality, or whether they prove to be utterly meaningless changes that affect the military not one whit.  I’m not a big one for making non-essential changes during wartime (and this is a social, not an essential, change), but my preferences do not count here.

UPDATE:  The big question now is whether all those colleges and universities that barred military recruiters, ostensibly because of DADT (think Elena Kagan), will now welcome the military back with open arms.  Incidentally, on facebook, where my gay friends are all celebrating DADT’s repeal, their updates and their friends’ comments indicate that they still revile the military and would never join.  That’s cool, but I’d hate to think that this whole thing — a thing that fundamentally transforms America’s fighting troops — was done merely to make a point.

The bodyguard of lies

A lot of what came out in Wikileaks was, essentially, gossip and speculation.  Some of what came out, however, was hard, dangerous fact — such as the State Department’s gathering information about vulnerable American sites around the world, sites now known to anyone who reads Wikileaks.

Deroy Murdock writes about one other hard fact:  the fact that, during war time (and we are at war), a military must have its secrets.

Of course, Assange knows this.  He’s weird, but he’s not stupid.  He doesn’t want us to win this war.

Semper Fi!

Blackfive links to Lieutenant General John Kelly’s tribute to the Marines, a tribute made more moving if one knows that Gen. Kelly’s son had died in combat a mere four days before his father gave that speech.  General Kelly’s speech culminates with a moving description of the last seconds in the lives of Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter who, without fear or hesitation, stood down a suicide bomb truck, saving 50 lives in the process.  We know precisely how they responded because, by happenstance, a video camera caught their last moments on earth. Each won the Navy Cross posthumously (although I think they could equally well have been candidates for the Medal of Honor).

On my “real” facebook, I put up a link to Gen. Kelly’s speech.  My facebook friends ignored it entirely.  Some, I’m sure, never saw it.  But some, the ones who comment routinely on my posts, were strangely silent.

My suspicion is that liberals don’t know what to do with this kind of story. It makes them uncomfortable, I think. For them, their whole relationship with the military is a bit like stealing: they refuse to pay emotionally for the military (meaning they deny it their support and admiration), but they still enjoy the benefits the military confers on America (namely, freedom).

I just don’t see how this is going to work

A Congressional panel is advocating the removal of all restrictions between women and the front line.  Aside from the same problem that arises with gays at the front line — the possibility of sexual jealousy interfering with unit cohesion — there are a few biological realities that I see as problems:  (1) women pee sitting down, although there are doo-hickies that get around that; (2) women have periods, which are, to put this as nicely as possible, messy; (3) women are targets for Islamist men who already think that Western women are asking for rape; and (4) women get pregnant, which ties in with the sexual jealousy and risk of rape issues.

I know that, when the whole world is a front line, as happened to resistance fighters during WWII, women have served in active combat and acquitted themselves well.  Those have been battles of necessity, though.  Absent the exigencies of an all-encompassing enemy, I simply don’t see any practical virtue to putting women on the front line.

Another good reason to elect ex-military people to political office

I am something of a sybarite.  Not in a big way, but in a little way.  I like two creature comforts:  a very comfortable bed (a liking that grows more important as I get older and suffer from fairly chronic insomnia) and I like to have my own bathroom, complete with all the amenities.  Give me those and a computer, and I’ll be a pretty happy person.

I read in the WSJ today, however, that a lot of the incoming Representatives (i.e., Republicans) are planning on saving money and showing their commitment to their home towns by camping out in their offices.  My first thought was, “that’s laudable.”  My second was, “I”d never do that.”  I did get a little insight into the kind of people who can make this (to me) sacrifice, though, when I read this (emphasis mine):

Earlier this month, freshman lawmakers drew lots and chose the three-room suites they and their aides will inhabit in one of three House office buildings.

For many of them, a key selling point was not proximity to the House chamber, where they’ll vote, but to the House gym, where they’ll shower.

Rep.-elect Tim Griffin, an Army reservist, stood near the gym in the Rayburn House Office Building and used some compass software on his phone to navigate the paths to potential offices.

There’s your answer, right?  After the rigors of the military, an office near a shower is tolerable.  For me, after the luxuries of suburban life, anything less than mine, mine, mine is hard to contemplate.

Liberal think

After watching the 60 Minutes profile of Sal Giunta, Medal of Honor recipient, a liberal I know had this to say:  “It was boring.  It sounds as if all he did was drag back a dead body.”  I’ll be the first to admit that the 60 Minutes profile managed to be surprisingly dull, but it strikes me that there is a very different mindset between those who appreciate military valor and those who don’t, and this mindset transcends even poor reporting.

An interesting point about our Medal of Honor

In this moving article, William McGurn makes the interesting point that the Medal of Honor goes, not to troops who kill, but to those who save.

And more on the obsession with dead soldiers

Yes, I know I keep coming back to the same theme — the media’s obsession with dead and wounded soldiers, as opposed to active warriors — but I can’t help feeling that there’s more here than just a stupid and irritating media.

Melanie Phillips, who writes about a similar trend in England, may have put her finger on part of the problem, which is that the media, and the Left, view the soldiers as sacrificial lambs in an unwinnable war on behalf of an undeserving nation.  How different from my view, which is that they’re are warriors successfully (so far) holding the line between civilization and barbarism.  It’s a winnable war, and a war we should win — if we believe in our cause.

Our de-aspirational society; or, a society aiming for victimization and tawdriness

More than a hundred years ago, writing in a deeply religious era, Robert Browning observed “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”  Perhaps it’s no surprise that today, in a society with a pop and media culture dominated by secularists who have abandoned entirely the notion of heaven, our young people are encouraged, not to reach for the stars, but to engage in base behavior, bounded by the lowest possible common denominator of victim identification.

Any0ne over thirty (or, maybe, forty) will no doubt agree with me that our popular culture has changed dramatically in terms of the goals it sets for young people.  Certainly there is nothing today that compares to The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conservation, a guidebook written by Jesuit scholars back in the late 16th century that George Washington  studied with regularity and reverence.  Fast forward approximately one and a half centuries, and you have Harry Truman, reading over and over again a book entitled Great Men and Famous Women.  These were aspirational books that had as their purpose teaching young people to abide by moral principles and to think big, whether in personal interactions or in lifetime goals.

Literature generally, right up until my childhood, aimed high.  Every American child, myself included, must have read Parson Weems’ highly fictionalized The Life of Washington.  If you read that, you knew that you too could be president if you were incredibly hard-working, brave and honest.

In the 19th Century, young boys were nourished on a steady diet of Horatio Alger books.  While Horatio Alger’s private predilections may have been unsavory (there were strong indications that he was a little too fond of young boys), none of that came through in his popular works.  Instead, in book after book after book, young boys were told that if they were honest, hard-working, good-natured, and brave, they could slowly, but surely, ascend America’s social and economic ladder.  Girls got exactly the same message from Louisa May Alcott’s delightful works.

Whether in works by these iconic authors, both of whom dominated American popular culture for decades, or in books by all the other writers targeting American children, for the better part of a century the goal was always the same:  children should aspire, not necessarily to fame or fortune, but to a rock-solid middle class lifestyle, marked by a high moral tone.  The message was remarkably egalitarian:  all who embraced America’s moral and work ethics could achieve this goal.

These works were by no means great literature.  Indeed, Horatio Alger is a dreadful writer, but there’s something charmingly earnest and inspiring about his plots.  In the 20th century, the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, for example, were churned out by the dozens using a factory scheme, but the message never varied:  diligence, bravery, good cheer and honesty were the tickets to success.

Books nowadays are another story entirely.  Every week, after a trip to the library, I sort through the books my 13 year old daughter wants to check out, and am horrified by what our nice suburban library has on the teen shelf.  The most innocuous books merely give the teenage protagonists permission to be whiny, self-absorbed and manipulative.  No matter the issue, the answer is “feelings, nothing more than feelings….”  The more troubling books seek to inform the children’s sexuality, whether by encouraging early sexual behavior or by messing with gender constructs.  And while there are a few uplifting books hidden amongst this pile of dreck, the vast majority of offerings are remarkably self-involved and devoid of any antiquated notions such as generosity of spirit, self-sacrifice, bravery, or core moral absolutes.

One sees precisely the same pattern with non-print media.  When it came to early and mid-twentieth century movies and TV shows, there was certainly a lot of stuff that had no moral message at all, but the available family fare didn’t carry a bad message either.  Children who watched I Love Lucy may not have been thinking in terms of diligence or self-sacrifice, but they also weren’t mastering the arts of snark and disrespect.  Those shows aimed specifically at children during the thirty year period from the 1950s through the 1970s, while admittedly bland or foolish, were innocuous or tried in an entertaining way to enforce core societal values.  Watching the Brady Bunch or Leave It To Beaver taught me about honesty, reliability, and respect for my elders.  The tone towards adults was always respectful.

As with the books, the values in these shows were also egalitarian.  No matter who you were, if you behaved the Brady way, or the Beaver Cleaver way, you’d do okay.  (And if you behaved the Gilligan way, i.e. foolishly, you end up wet and pummeled by coconuts.)  It was all very clear.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and we get a remarkably different pop culture vision for children’s moral and social development.  Whether one thinks of books or television shows or movies, the message is always the same:  being disrespectful to your peers and to adults is attractive; adults are buffoons; men are useless; clever manipulation often trumps honesty; and, at the end of the day, what really counts is your feelings.  If any given episode of Miley Cyrus or I Carly or Suite Life of Zack and Cody actually carries a so-called moral, that moral isn’t that a specific behavior is wrong, but that the bad behavior might hurt someone else’s feelings.  In other words, in the world our media hands to our children, all ethical questions are resolved by a quick glance at ones own navel.

Aside from a moral vacuum, today’s media also offers an aspirational vacuum.  The heroes it sells to our children are athletes or movie stars.  While I may appreciate an athlete’s skills or a movie star’s pleasant screen persona, neither has distinguished himself (or herself) by willingly making a huge sacrifice, perhaps the ultimate sacrifice, on behalf of someone else.  A-Rod may show superb self-discipline when it comes to honing his skills, but he’s doing it to be rich and famous (and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that), not for the betterment of mankind.  This is not a hero by any traditional standard.

Sleazy behavior is also normative.  As any parent of a little girl can tell you, Miley Cyrus morphed from snarkily wholesome to unutterably sleazy.  That’s bad enough, but what’s even worse is the excuse pop culture offers her:  she’s just growing up.  In this moral vacuum, growing up doesn’t mean taking on responsibility or displaying elan, class and sophistication.  Instead, the only thing growing up means is to engage in tawdry acts of public sexuality.  As a mother, it’s a great challenge to explain to ones children that becoming a sleaze-monger is not the normative external sign of maturity.

Worse, when the media is confronted by real heroes — by people who willingly put their safety and even their own lives at stake to advance a cause greater than themselves — it assiduously ignores those people.  I’m speaking, of course, of our troops.  As often as not, when the media pays attention to a service person, it is someone who, in an almost passive way, suffered horrific injuries.  I don’t mean to denigrate these men.  Merely by enlisting, they showed a rare moral courage, and their bravery in coping with terrible injuries is always inspiring. Still, they are only one side of the warrior equation.

The other side, the side the media ignores, is the men who actively leap into the breach.  Outside of the military press and the conservative blogosphere, you’ll be hard pressed to find stories celebrating the truly heroic exploits of such men as Sal Giunta, Bradley Kasal, Marco Martinez, Michael Murphy, Michael Mansoor or Marcus Luttrell.  If the media notes them at all, these stores are forced upon them by the fact that some of those men, whether dead or alive, have had the Medal of Honor bestowed upon them.  As a parent and a patriot, I resent that the media ignores people who triumph over their enemies and focuses only on those who triumph only over their own injuries.  Both should be celebrated, not just the latter.

If the materials made available to American children do tell stories of people actively triumphing over circumstances, those triumphs are very identity specific, and are tightly tied to someone’s victim status.  Thus, in contrast to the egalitarian message of old, that saw all hard working, brave, moral people rise up in the world, my white children are exposed to an endless stream of stories that, with few extremes, trumpet the triumphs only of those people who fall within PC victim parameters.

The problem with these stories is that the emphasis isn’t on virtuous behavior, but on victim status.  Whether in textbooks, required reading, “news” magazines, or movies shown in classrooms, the “value” being advanced is is being black, or being gay, or being Hispanic, or being female. These presentations then go on to say, almost coincidentally, that if one digs deep into the life story of these carefully classified people, one will find some abstract, overarching virtues as well. “He’s gay and — wow! — he’s brave, too.” “She’s black and — this is so cool — she’s compassionate.”

Well, I’m sorry, but being black is not a value. Being Hispanic is not a virtue. Being gay is not an ethic. Each of these is simply a label to help classify a person, because classification seems to be an innate human — and certainly and innate Leftist — need. None of these labels, however, touch upon conduct, morals, goals, bravery or any of the other abstract virtues that can reside in all people.

I’m happy to hear about heroic, brilliant, compassionate, important blacks, gays, women, Hispanics, etc., and I want my children to hear about them too. The focus, though, should be on the “heroic, brilliant, compassionate” parts, which are universal values we want to see all children learn. Only then should we go to the subset idea, which is that, no matter the label you give yourself (or that is given to you), you can aspire to these over-arching values, virtues and ethics.

The ne plus ultra of our de-aspirational society is our President, of course.  Although he’s almost exactly my age, because he grew up as a child of the Left, while I had a steady diet of virtue, he had an equally steady diet of cultural denigration.  Small wonder than that he travels the world, rigorously applying often imaginary virtues to cultures based upon their otherness, with no regard whatsoever for the abstract values that should define all moral societies.  And small wonder, too, that, to the extent he can periodically rouse himself to say something nice about America, that niceness is always tied to the elevation of some victim group.

Our youth can succeed only if they are taught that there is something beyond self-involvement, victim identity, and sex.  Because our popular culture refuses to recognize the abstract virtues of honor, bravery, patriotism, respect, honesty, etc., it is up to us to celebrate those virtues and to tell our children the tales of those who embody them.

Cross-posted in Right Wing News

The heroes the media ignores *UPDATED*

Apropos my earlier post about the media’s obsession with those troops who are mortally or permanently damaged, here’s a story about a warrior who refused to be victimized — a story one can’t even imagine appearing in the MSM.

Truly, I honor and admire all who serve, and I don’t mean to be unsympathetic to those who make ultimate or extreme sacrifices for this country.  I simply resent that the media ignores people who triumph over their enemies and focuses only on those who triumph only over their own injuries (and here’s another example of that).  Both should be celebrated, not just the latter.

And yes, I know that the media’s obsession is both part of its nature (the whole victim thing) and part of its anti-war bias (a warning to all young men and women that war brings only death and destruction). Knowing the root causes of the media’s failure to acknowledge bravery in the field of battle, not just in the recovery room, still gets my goat.

UPDATE:  A bit outdated (from 2007), but a little video about Brad Kasal, the warrior who kept on fighting:

Is it just me, or is there a morbid obsession here? *UPDATED*

Am I imagining it, or when the MSM observes Veteran’s Day, does it do so by focusing on the wounded, rather than the warriors?  I don’t mean to denigrate the wounded.  I honor them and their sacrifice and courage.  Their stories are often extremely uplifting and inspiring.  I just think that it’s interesting that the MSM doesn’t do stories about someone who has done something heroic, and amazing, and Superman-like.  Like Medal of Honor honoree Sal Giunta or Navy Cross honoree Marco Martinez, for example.  Not all veterans are victims.

UPDATE:  This trend seems to extend beyond the obsession with wounded vets.  Apparently conservatives like winners, and liberals like victims.

Veteran’s Day posts (updated throughout the day)

Our president — MIA.

Who becomes a veteran?  (A poem)

Remembering the ones who were forgotten.

I’m a day late, but my respect is unbounded:  Happy Birthday, Marines!

The battles they win aren’t just overseas.

President Reagan’s Veteran’s Day address in 1985.

A beautiful compilation of videos honoring our troops.

Remembering the Vietnam vets.

On a sour note, not everyone appreciates those who fight for freedom.

Michelle Malkin also has a video tribute.

I prefer it when the hero lives to tell the tale, but sometimes heroes die:  the story behind a posthumous Navy Cross.

J.E. Dyer on the end of War to End All Wars, and the legacy it left behind.

American Digest honors our veterans.

One vet’s amazing recovery.

In honor of Veteran’s Day — thoughts about redemption

Since I was a child, I’ve enjoyed a very specific type of book or movie, of the kind that I call the “Getting it Right” genre.  Getting it Right entertainment involves a protagonist who is making big mistakes, and who figures out how to — yes — get it right.  The moral trajectory of failure and redemption is one that that I have always found deeply satisfying.

The easiest example of this genre is, of course, Groundhog Day.  Bill Murray’s character, Phil, is loathsome in myriad petty ways.  He’s not big evil — he’s not killing anyone or even breaking small laws.  Instead, he’s characterized by complete selfishness, plus a heavy dose of arrogance and condescension.  The movie, which sees him trapped in endless iterations of Groundhog Day, allows him to work through his failings until he gets it right, at which point he’s allowed to move forward with his life.

My favorite book, Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, sounds exactly the same theme.  Although Elizabeth Bennett is utterly charming from the first page, she suffers from the fact that her overly quick wit and impulsive personality drive her towards making disastrous snap judgments.  She’s taken in by a con man, and reviles an honorable one.  Fitzwilliam Darcy is less manifestly charming because his fatal personality flaw, an arrogant boorishness, hides his fundamental decency.  The book’s pleasure comes from watching these two bright, misguided people work their way through their own personal failings — in other words, they get it right — allowing them to have a happy ending.

Outside the world of fiction, I’ve often viewed the military as a redemptive experience, at least for those who seek that redemption.  I know where I got this idea:  from my father.  As I’ve written before, he had a miserable childhood.  He was born into abject poverty in Weimar Berlin.  His father had left for America before he was born, and his mother, with three children ranging in age from newborn through 12 years, simply couldn’t find it within herself to join her husband.  After letting him run wild in the slums, my grandmother, incapable of caring for a five year old thug-in-training, placed him in a Jewish orphanage.

From that point on, my Dad’s life had structure, but no love.  He was bright and did well in the Jewish Gymnasium.  He probably would have made a life for himself, but for the fact that, in 1933, Germans collectively went mad.  By 1935, my 16 year old father knew he needed to escape and, when one of his teachers offered to take him to Palestine, my father left his family and Germany behind forever.

A requirement for Dad’s journey to Palestine was to help found a kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee.  He hated the experience.  The labor was incredibly hard and, after years in an orphanage, my dad believed he wanted nothing more to do with communal living.  After sticking it out for three years, he ditched the kibbutz and made his way to Tel Aviv.  There, he did the only thing a young man without family, focus, self-esteem, or an operational work ethic could do:  he started to starve to death on the streets.  Ironically, war was his salvation.

Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.  My father enlisted in the RAF on September 4, 1939.  As a German Jew who had seen the Nazis first hand, I don’t think it ever occurred to him not to engage in the fight.  But the reason he enlisted with such speed was to get food.  My Dad spent the next five years in active combat.  He was in North Africa (El Alamein) and Southern Europe (the Battle of Crete), and all points in between.  His hearing and his digestion were permanently damaged.  He lost friends.  He gained nightmares.  It was the worst of times.

But it was also the best of times.  My father discovered that communal living worked for him when he believed in the mission.  He discovered that he was an adrenalin junkie.  He discovered that he could take responsibility for things.  Despite the horrors of hand-to-hand war with the Nazis, my dad loved being in the RAF (and ANZAC, to which he was loaned). When he left the military, he was a superbly self-disciplined, well-organized human being.  But for his Communism, which meant he was bound and determined to thumb his nose at success, he could have ruled the world.

Had my father been the only military success story of my child, I might have written it off as an anomaly.  After all, I was a child of the Vietnam War, and I was told (repeatedly) that military service turns people into trained, drug-addicted killers.  (Of course, knowing all the high functioning, moral, clean-living vets from my parents’ generation meant that I was never quite able to believe that horrible canard.)

In the mid-1970s, though, I saw another person saved by the military.  This was a young man, a neighbor, who was bright, and utterly unmotivated.  After barely graduating from high school, he retired to his parents’ couch, beer can in hand.  When they kicked him out, leaving him homeless and destitute, he did precisely what my dad did:  he enlisted.  There, in a highly structured, dedicated environment, he thrived.  He went to officer’s training school, and came out a leader of men.  When he eventually left the military and entered the business world, he swiftly made a fortune.

Now I’ve got two anomalies.  Care to go for a third?  I got my third recently, when I learned that a young man of my acquaintance, who could only be characterized as a complete waste of space when I knew him — whiny, ineffectual, spoiled, and deeply unhappy, but also a patriot — enlisted in the Army after 9/11.  He’s still in the Army, in Special Forces, having the time of his life.  To him, danger and hardship are an acceptable compromise for meaning, purpose, structure and camaraderie.  (And indeed, if he’s an adrenalin junkie, the danger is part of the pleasure.)  There is a possibility (G-d forbid) that he might die in battle but, if that happens, at least he will have lived life.  Before, he was just sleepwalking.

I started this post by talking about redemptive, or transformational literature, segued in a discussion about the transformational role the military has played for people I know, and now want to tie the two strands together with one book:  Marco Martinez’s Hard Corps: From Gangster to Marine Hero, a book that was published in 2007, but that I only got around to reading yesterday.

It’s a good book.  Indeed, it’s a much better book than I had anticipated.  Martinez has a good eye for detail and a good ear for dialogue.  I could easily imagine the scenes he described, whether it was tense gang confrontations, the intense and often painful training he went through to become a Marine Infantryman, or the fear, boredom, discomfort, horror and uplift of battle.  Martinez is especially good at describing that way in the men who have trained for war crave engagement to such an extent that they are able to confront and control the fear, boredom and discomfort he describes.

What I especially like about the book is that it’s another in the “getting it right” genre.  By joining a gang when he was 14, Martinez has put himself on a straight trajectory to one of two locations:  prison or an early grave.  Not only was he harming himself, he was harming others.  He admits to incredible violence, to participating in theft rings, and to causing deep unhappiness to his parents.  The one thing that set him apart from other gangsters was that his father was an Army Ranger.  Even as his own life was imploding, he had before him the example of military discipline and purpose.  When he could no longer take the downward path he was traveling, he sought redemption in the hardest of hard:  Marine infantry.

Martinez details the way in which his training was intended to break down completely all previous behavior patterns and to build each recruit into a warrior.  Frankly, I was horrified to read what the recruits go through, but I also understood perfectly why they did.  If you can’t take sleep deprivation, hunger, thirst, a full bowel/bladder and physical pain on your own ground, without gun fire, how in the world are you going to survive battle?  Martinez, and those recruits who stuck it out, understood the same thing:  They were willing to transform themselves from civilians, whether because of patriotism, boredom, the desire to push themselves, or the need to escape an ugly past, even if it meant suffering a training regimen most of us would run from, screaming at the top of our wussy lungs.

For Martinez, basic training was redemption with a vengeance.  By the time Martinez arrived in Iraq, near the end of his four year enlistment, he was a completely disciplined, dedicated warrior, ready to put himself on the front line to protect those of us without the will, ability or desire to fight our own battles.  It was almost logical that, in the heat of battle, he’d engage in an incredible act of bravery to protect his team, thereby earning the Navy Cross.  He had fully redeemed himself.  He got it right.

Not all men and women join the military to redeem themselves.  Not all have to (or get to) face battle.  Not all acquire useful life skills from being in the military.  But without exception, each of our veterans, living or dead, got it right.  Each put himself or herself through the rigors of training, ready to go to the front line of battle, to defend the most basic human freedoms, freedoms which have truly flowered in America for the first time in any nation’s history.

To all the men and women who have served this nation, therefore, whether for their own personal redemption or for that of that nation itself, I say thank you, thank you so much.

Cross-posted in Right Wing News

The US Navy and Coast Guard to the rescue

Our cruise to Alaska went off without a hitch.  I’m hoping that our upcoming cruise to Mexico is equally hitch-free.  For a few thousand people, though, the cruise was anything but peaceful, after a fire broke out in the engine room.  It appears, though, that Carnival Cruise line is handling the situation responsibly with help from the US Navy and the US Coast Guard.

Bless those institutions.  If you feel like adding your blessings, feel free to contribute to the Navy League, a wonderful organization that exists to support all branches of America’s seafaring services.

RIP, Richard C. Epps

This past May, when I had the honor and pleasure of attending the Battle of Midway Commemoration, I noted that some of the Midway warriors in attendance were very frail:

The President of the Mess asked each veteran to stand (or wave) as his name was called.  He then told the assembled gathering the role that the veteran had played in the Battle of Midway.  Each had a tale of derring-do, heroism, ingenuity, and commitment.  Each man, unsurprisingly, went on to serve long after the battle was over, some merely for the remainder of the war, and some for the rest of their careers.  Some of these men were hale, and some so frail they looked practically transparent, but each managed to stand proudly to hear his accomplishments read to the assembly.  Each then received a well-deserved standing ovation.

One of those frail men, Richard C. Epps, sat at my table.  His manifest fragility did not prevent him from gathering with his comrades to honor the living and the dad.

Sadly, Commander Epps passed away the other day.

In his heyday, Commander Epps was anything but frail.  He entered the Naval Reserves in 1940, while he was at the University of Kansas.  Not long after, he was on active duty in a wartime Navy.  He ultimately ended up on the USS Aylwyn.  The following, which I’ve copied from the lovely volume given attendees to the “Battle of Midway Celebration 2010,” describes the Allwyn’s and Epp’s role before and during the Battle of Midway:

The AYLWIN saw action in February 1942 while escorting USS LEXINGTON (CV-2) in raids near Bouganville, and again in May in the Battle of the Coral Sea in company with USS YORKTOWN (CV-5).  The LEXINGTON was lost in that battle, and the AYLWIN rescued 129 of its crew.

While returning to Pearl Harbor from the Coral Sea, the AYLWIN’s fathometer failed.  The fathometer was very necessary when approach port, so Apprentice Seaman Epps was ordered to fix it — the captain thought Epps’ prior training in radar repair qualified him to work on the fathometer.  He got it fixed, inspiring the captain to immediately promote him three pay grades to Radioman3/c!

Upon arrival at Pearl Harbor, the AYLWIN immediately went into drydock due to minor damage sustained from a near miss in the Coral Sea.  While repairs were being made, Epps took notice of the carrier YORKTOWN in the adjacent drydock, on which the repair activity seemed to be especially frenetic.  The reason for that soon became clear as both ships were quickly floated and promptly proceeded on their next mission, the defense of Midway Atoll.  The AYLWIN’s assignment in the forthcoming battle was to serve as screen and plane guard for the USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) in Task Force 16.

AYLWIN was largely a spectator to the dramatic events of the first day of the battle, as the ENTERPRISE launched and recovered its planes and the YORKTOWN fought for its life on the distant horizon.  On the second day, an SBD dive bomber returning from a mission ran out of gas and ditched well astern of the carrier.  AYLWIN came to the rescue, bringing aboard a pilot and gunner from Scouting Squadron 8 who would live to fly another day.  Through the battle, RM3/c Epps manned his battle station in the AYLWIN’s radar console.

Commander Epps went on to serve through the War, continued to serve in the reserve during the post-war peacetime Navy, and action saw active duty in the Korean War.  For those interested, there are a few available copies of his self-published book describing his experiences, Life on a Tin Can: The Pacific War.  RIP, Commander Epps.

Project Valour – IT: there’s still time

Okay, I’m going to have to call people out here.  A little investigation reveals that Team Marine has exceeded its fund raising goal for Project Valour – IT (providing helpful electronics to wounded warriors), while Team Navy has only achieved half its goal.  We can do better!!!  If you’d like to be part of doing better, click here, and give a little or give a lot:

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Soldier’s Angels — Valour IT fundraiser

Just a reminder, now that the election frenzy is over (assuming you’ve voted, the results will be what they will be), that you might want to think about the Soldiers’ Angels Valour-IT fundraiser, which uses donations to purchase helpful technology for wounded warriors.

This year, consistent with my Navy League affiliation, I’m urging you to donate in the Navy’s name:

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