Sunday, February 17, 2019

Breaking The Ties That Bind

I have not posted on this site for a very long time. The reasons are varied but suffice it to say that I have been compelled to return here because I believe that our democracy and our very existence as a country are in great danger.

As you may know from my previous post, I and my family have a history deeply rooted in the United States Military. Simply put, there has been a member of my family in the military of the United States in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War, up to and including my grandson in the Afghanistan War. I personally have served a career in the United States Army spanning 28 years and two combat tours during the Vietnam Conflict. I tell you this for one simple reason. I tell you because I want you to understand that we (my family and millions of other families) have willingly and with great pride and gratitude sacrificed for our country and most importantly for our constitution. We have, shed blood and millions have sacrificed their lives for our country and constitution. So I hope, by bearing that in mind, you know that I speak not only from some little experience but also from patriotism and love.

Our nation sacrificed material treasure but most importantly blood, and precious life to defend our national ideals of freedom and democracy in numerous conflicts to include two World Wars. We sacrificed millions of lives and unfortunately took millions of lives and millions more were taken by “collateral” damage. I, as a citizen soldier, weep for each and every one of those lives lost and broken. I weep because I share some of the responsibility for some of those losses and to this day those people, soldiers, enemy and friend, and innocent bystander march through my mind reminding me of the incredible sacrifice that was made so that others may live in freedom and peace.

One of, if not the most important results, of the two World Wars was the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. That organization was crafted out of the ashes of conflict and with the overwhelming desire of the participating countries to create an alliance that would endure and ensure lasting peace and would further the goals of worldwide democracies. And that alliance has ensured those goals and accomplished those purposes for over 70 years.

When I write of these accomplishments I write with some experience. I served for nearly 11 years in Germany and Belgium and participated in innumerable military exercises, training and practicing alongside our NATO allies in an effort to demonstrate “our” collective determination to defend democracy and ensure peace against any who would try to destroy it. That organization with the United States leading brought down the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War without armed conflict.

That being said, I write this post today to warn all Americans that that alliance AND our democracy and peace are under attack. It is under attack by countries that have not and do not share our vision of democracy and peace. Countries that perceive the United States and the NATO alliance and hence representative democracy as a threat. Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran to name a few perceive us as a threat and they are aggressively working to undermine democracies around the world with those of the NATO Alliance the primary targets.

Our intelligence agencies and those of our NATO allies have been telling us for several years and with ever more clarity that the Russians and Chinese have been using computer warfare against us for several years and have attacked/hacked the elections in the United States and those of our NATO allies. I, for one, trust ours and our allies intelligence services and I think we should pay careful attention. These are, simply put, acts of war. I will say unequivocally that I trust the intelligence services and not because someone has told me to but because I have worked with them and all Americans have seen the concrete results of their efforts in defending our country.

Some people would have us not believe our military or intelligence agencies, to that I would say this. Our military and our intelligence services are and have always been made up of the most intelligent, patriotic, and loyal Americans that exist. These organizations have a history of saving our democracy time after time after time. They are made up of our mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles. They are made up of our families. They are not made up of politicians or wealthy Wall Street brokers. They join their services to defend our country and constitution just like my family has done and just like your families have done. They are sacrificing every day for their country. I know that everyone who may read this post has a relative somewhere, living or dead, that has served or is serving or who has sacrificed for this country and our constitution. These are the people doing these jobs today.

During my life, I have watched as President after President has addressed audiences and organizations in Europe. I watched as President John F. Kennedy spoke before cheering crowds in front of the Berlin Wall. I watched as Ronald Reagan spoke before another cheering crowd at the Berlin Wall and told Mr. Gorbachev to “Tear Down That Wall”. I was present when Vice-President George H.W. Bush came to NATO headquarters and addressed NATO members. And I have watched numerous other American leaders speak before our allies and almost to a person they spoke of unity and common goals and these speakers always received standing ovations and engendered the respect of our allies and foes alike. This happened because they all knew that we are stronger together and that the free world depends on NATO.

Today, I am very sorry to say, that that has all changed. I have now watched as an American President demeaned the NATO alliance and its members. I have watched as an American President, acting like a child, has shoved another world leader and barged in front of him. I have watched as an American President has casually mentioned taking our country out of NATO as though it were just an afterthought. I have watched as an American President has belittled himself to minor dictators agreeing to a summit meeting with no chance of any true agreement and damaging the work of countless diplomats and world leaders. And I have watched as an American President cozied up to a strongman leader and ex-KGB officer and spoke to him in private without any other Americans present and then destroying the notes from the meetings. And most recently I have watched as the Vice-President of the United States spoke at a gathering of European leaders and after he gave greetings from the American President and later called for cooperation on withdrawing from an arms accord that the United States led in achieving he evoked dead silence in response to both. The later symbolizing the decline in respect for the President of the United States as a result of his actions toward NATO and our allies.

As the last of the members of the Greatest Generation pass on and so living evidence of the past evils and sacrifices fade from memory the threat to our democracies today may seem not so great. I urge you to not be fooled. Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are not our friends.  And regardless of what the American President says, we, the United States are far weaker without our NATO allies and the democracies of the world are in far more danger without that alliance and without it being led by the United States.

Let me close this by saying that I do not write this intending it to be a political document. I write it as an observation that I as someone who has a little experience in the realm of the NATO alliance and what is happening as a result of an American Presidents actions in regards to the alliance. I am not an advocate of the status quo. I am an advocate of alliances that work. NATO was carefully crafted by statesmen and patriots and has worked extremely well for over 70 years and it certainly must and has shifted and adjusted to a changing world but the organization and it's members deserve respect which they have not received from the President of the United States to the detriment of Western Democracies.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Honesty Or With Kindness

Thinking back to my childhood and early adult life the person who stands out a little larger than life, is my grandfather. He was in many ways the most influential person in my young life and what I remember most about him were his kindness and his honesty. He was honest in the way that when he spoke you were put at ease and you recognized the sincerity, not only in his words but in his very being.
As I grew older I began to realize what incredible strength my grandfather must have possessed. I found that it was not so easy to be both kind and honest. Honesty can be a brutal taskmaster and this is especially true if it is not wielded with a degree of kindness and wisdom. Throughout my life, I have faced obstacle after obstacle, both personal and professional, that challenged my ability to be both kind and honest. I often felt inadequate to the task. I often thought, if I tell the truth this person or that person will be hurt or this awful thing or that awful thing will happen. I was simply not wise enough or strong enough and I all too frequently made the wrong decision and with each wrong decision, there was always a painful price to pay. But, also with each mistake was a tiny grain of light. I found that with each mistake if I reflected carefully, there was something to be learned. I found that with learning came a touch of wisdom and with that wisdom I could temper my honesty with kindness. And I found that with each of those events I felt a little lighter and the world seemed a brighter, kinder place much like that place and time I spent with my grandfather.
Now, here I sit, near the age, my grandfather had when I was first learning about his kindness and honesty. Here I sit peering out on the world where truth is becoming an ever more rare commodity. As I peer out I realize that it is because of that void of honesty and kindness that it is a darker, angrier, more bitter, more heartless, and cold place. It is not the place that I or my grandfather wanted our children and grandchildren to inherit. It is a place where fewer and fewer citizens seem to have the strength, to be honest, and kind. It has become a place where truth is in the eye of the beholder regardless of whether it reflects reality or not. It has become a place where people create their own facts and the minds of the many seem to lack the curiosity to question or go in search of the truth.
Sadly I do not believe that America has ever been a true beacon of truthfulness and kindness, but I do believe that it was once a place where its citizens strove to be and possessed the great capacity to be those things. I do not believe that America ever stood with open arms welcoming “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” but I do believe it was a place that the citizens once aspired to do so. The perception has always been different than the reality but the aspirations and capacity of the citizens to achieve these things have always been there.
I believe that Americans still possess the capacity and desire to speak the truth and to exude the kindness that appears to be so lacking in our society today. I believe that the politicians that we have installed in Washington have corrupted our system.
The repetitive failure of our politicians to seek and voice the truth has damaged America, perhaps beyond repair. It would appear that we no longer have leaders that espouse truthfulness or display empathy and true kindness. We have leaders that bend the truth or simply lie to garner the support of the masses for the purpose of gaining and maintaining power and wealth. I believe we have reached a point of critical mass. A point where if, we as citizens do not demand that our politicians speak the truth and hold them accountable it will lead to the total collapse of our republic. It is already leading to the abandonment of the institutions established by our forefathers that have repeatedly demonstrated our countries empathy and compassion for its citizens and those wishing to seek shelter in our land.
I pray each night that we the people shall not “go silently into the night” and will stand and resist and in fact bend those sent by us to Washington to represent us to our will as it is established in our constitution.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Boy From The South Or I'm Not Going Back

When I was a child the county courthouse and the surrounding blocks of shops were the centers of our community. The courthouse was a huge structure of marble and granite and it was surrounded by giant live oak trees. To gaze on the courthouse and the surrounding grounds was to gaze on a cool and serene scene. To this day I still think of that courthouse as one of the two most beautiful structures our community possessed. The post office, one block over, being the other. They are gone now. Replaced by faceless modern structures, that in my estimate, display no architectural beauty what so ever. As I reflect on this building and the pastoral square that surrounded it there is a great and painful sadness in my soul. The source of that sadness lies in two stark facts. The first is that on the lawn of that majestic structure was a monument to the Confederate South. The second was the two, somewhat inconspicuous, water fountains on the lawn. Inconspicuous with the exception being that one was marked "Colored" and the other marked "White".

As I reflect on the frequent warm summer afternoons walking around the town square and holding my mother's hand, it is amazing to me the innocence and naivete with which I saw these things. I realize now that it was sadly, so very "normal". It was "normal" that the town was divided by a highway. It was "normal" that the people of color lived west of the highway and the "white" people lived to the east. It was "normal" that there was a "colored" shopping area and a "white" shopping area. It was normal that there were "colored" toilets and "white" toilets. It was "normal" that the children of "color" went to the schools west of the highway and the "white" children went to the schools east of the highway. And, it was "normal" that over half of my community was living in abject poverty, unseen in plain sight.

I suppose that it is only natural that I, like many others, often reflect on my childhood with more than a touch of nostalgia. I believe that that is quite normal but, I also believe that we do something else that is quite normal, but not normal. We don't all remember those subtle and not so subtle signs. We don't all remember those signs that said, "Colored Only" and "White Only".  Those signs of deep-seated disrespect, viral hatred, and venomous resentment toward a group of fellow Americans that happened to be of a different skin color.

At the age of 18, I did something that so many members of my family had done since the Revolutionary War. I joined the United States Army. This became one of the defining moments in my life.  I entered an Army where, because of the draft, every ethnic and socioeconomic class living in our country was represented. I must mention here that even with the draft, some of our citizens with means and or influence did avoid the draft.

It is not possible for me to describe the following 28 years in this single blog entry so I will simply attempt to express some of the profound effects it had on my life. My entire worldview was about to change.

On the day that I joined the Army, I began an experience of profound consequence.  An experience where the color of mine and my comrade's skin was the least relevant thing in my life. The military taught every soldier that you take care of your "buddy". Your "buddy" was the most important person in your life. Your life depended on your "buddy" and your "buddies" life depended on you. This relationship, this bond, was forged in the fires of war, and for me, it could never be broken. My comrades and I lived and ate and slept together every hour of every day. We held each other in the cold, we pulled each other from the mud and we check every inch of each others body for leeches and bugs. But most importantly we made sure our buddy lived to go home and we did it in any way we had to regardless of the consequences to our own well-being.

During my career, I served in every condition known to man in both peace and war. I served in blistering deserts and frigid tundras. I served with every variation of humanity that occupies this earth and they all had one thing in common. They were, to a person, human beings just like me. Throughout my life and career, I have met people I liked and people I didn't like and people I "really" didn't like. I met people I loved and people I fell in love with, but I never met a single person where I experienced one of those emotions because of the color of their skin or their religion or their sexual orientation or any other human trait.

I don't want my readers to misunderstand. The military was not a cultural utopia. It was, in fact, a part of the great bureaucratic machine. It was a microcosm of American society at large with all of its many troubles. The difference was that all of these cultures and ethnicities, these people, were forced into a single unit and required to conform and blend for a single purpose. The military implemented surprisingly effective programs to promote equality and equal opportunity and understanding. Soldiers had to become one single unit for the sake of the mission and their own survival. The positive side effect of this merging was tolerance and shared values. An environment where all humans could come together with mutual respect and understanding. It promulgated a multicultural society. 

Since November the 9th I have felt profound sadness and anger. My emotions are raw but not as a result of any political discourse. They are a result of the language and attitude of one individual and the group of people who are following him. It is a result of who we are about to put into the office of the President of the United States and those whom he is choosing to fill positions within his administration. They are a result of what these people represent and the lack of core human values they appear to not possess.

Since the election, I have read many articles and opinion pieces that espouse that we must work with those who will soon be taking the reins of power. Writers across the spectrum are saying that those individuals who voted for the President-Elect have simply expressed their grave concerns for our country. That these people have used their vote to express their concerns about losing their jobs and their culture. And, that we must accept the results of the election and move forward.

I agree with much of this. We have been losing jobs overseas and our culture is changing. It is true that we haven't done enough to reform our immigration policies and to stem the tide of incoming undocumented immigrants. It is true that we haven't done enough to craft trade agreements that are fair and that keep good jobs in this country. I understand all of these things and there are many, many more issues I most probably agree with. I want to tell all the people who have supported the President-Elect, I understand. I really do! I want those same things but, I also want an accepting and just society.

In the beginning of this post, I described for you the community that I grew up in and then I told you of my profound experiences upon leaving that community and entering a world that opened my eyes. Now, I tell you that I am profoundly grateful that I left that community. And this is why.

The community that I left, like many communities across the nation, was not really the nice place we all thought and believe that it was. It was a place that we really don't remember accurately and that we remember with false images. We don't look deeply  at our memories.  We no longer see the signs "Colored" and "White Only". In reality, it was a place of segregation and inequality. A place of happiness on one side and deplorable inexplicable pain on the other. I do not want to go back there in reality or spirit.

My disagreement and the disagreement that I believe millions of Americans have with the incoming administration is this. They appear to be blatantly and admittedly misogynistic, racist, homophobic and demonstrably unqualified to be in the positions they are being placed in. I simply cannot accept such people being in charge of my government. I cannot accept going back. I want to move forward to a nation that is inclusive in every way possible. I won't share my country with hate and the President-Elect and his staff is the personification of that.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Story Of Two Men Or Why I Don't Hate

Note: I would just like to let anyone who happens on this post to know that it is very painful for me to write about this. It's painful in bad ways and in good ways.

When I was a very small child, I believe it was when I was about five or six years old, we lived in a small house in town. My father was still living with my family and would be around for about three more years. The day of this first event was an unusual day in that my mom was away and my father had remained home with me. This was something that I don't remember having ever occurred before or ever occurring again after that day. At any rate, we were home and my father was in the house while I was outside playing. At the time we had a big collie named Rex and like most collies, Rex was very protective of our home and in particularly we children. It was early morning and I heard the garbage truck approaching and, like most children would, I went to the side of the house where the truck stopped to pick up our trash. In those days the men working on the trucks had to dismount and pick up and carry the cans to the back of the truck to empty them. As the worker approached the yard, as usual Rex ran to the edge of the property and began barking. I ran and grabbed Rex by his collar and told the man, "It's okay mister you can come in, he won't bite".

After the garbage truck drove away my father called me to the back porch. When I came up to him, without a word, he grabbed me by the arm and whipped me. As my father whipped me he said, "Don't you ever call a ni**er, mister again"! (Please excuse my use of that very painful and insulting word, but I feel it is needed here to emphasize exactly what happened to me that day.)

Fast forward fifteen years. After my parents were separated, my mother, my sisters, and I moved next door to my grandparent's which is where this next scene occurs.  I am in the Army and I have just returned from my first tour in Vietnam and after a month of leave, I will be heading back for my second tour.

I had been home just a few days and had met someone whom I, of course, had asked out. Since I didn't have a car and my mother's car was in use I had to borrow my grandfather's car. Long story short we got a little carried away and I didn't arrive back home until around 5:00 am. As I arrived I had planned to quietly roll into the driveway, park the car, sneak the keys back in the house and go to bed pretending nothing had happened. As they say, "plans of mice and men". As I exited the car my grandfather was standing by the front door. I can, with all honesty, say I had never seen, nor ever saw again, my grandfather so angry. I cannot express that strongly enough. I don't remember much of that conversation which I'm sure included a lot of, don't you know how to be responsible etc but there are some words and an expression I will never, ever forget. My grandfather, who wasn't prone to profanity, said, "son, I don't give a tinker's damn about that car, I was worried sick that something had happened to you". His expression was like a blow to my gut. I felt, so very ashamed and irresponsible at that moment and every time I have thought of that moment since. As ridiculous as it seemed to me in that moment I could not believe how much my grandfather loved me and he worried about me all the time. Here I was between two combat tours as an infantryman and a crew chief/gunner in Vietnam and my grandfather worried that I would have an accident and be hurt.

I tell these two stories together because they taught me two very important lessons. My first lesson was from my father, and that lesson was that fathers don't always love their sons and don't always teach them about love and respect. The second lesson was from my grandfather and that was that men do love and do know how to teach other men about love and respect.

Of course, it was not that one incident with my father or my grandfather that made me who I am today. My grandfather and my grandmother and my mother, and even my father in his backward way taught me about what was right and wrong and how to respect everyone regardless of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation or any other differences. They taught me how to be a decent human being with their day to day actions and language and simply by the way they lived their lives.

And of course, just like most of my posts, this has a political point. My grandfather, grandmother, and mother worked very hard at teaching me and my sisters how to be a decent, respectful, honorable human being and citizen. My family is made up of immigrant men and women trying to make a good life for themselves. Some came to this country earlier and some later, my wife being the latest to arrive.  Members of my family, both men, and women, including my grandmother (in WWII) and my daughter (in the war on terror), has fought in every war this country has fought. They shed their blood for both the North and the South but they always shed their blood and sweat for America and Americans. So please, Mr. President-Elect, don't tell me to turn my back on my fellow Americans. Don't tell me to turn my back on immigrants. Don't tell me to turn my back on anyone because of where they come from or the color of their skin or their gender, or sexual orientation. In other words, don't tell me to turn my back on any human being. That is not who we Americans are.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Impeachment For Our Daughters Sake

I have not posted to my blog for many years. It is not that I have not had something to say but, that I have simply been complacent. With this last election, that is all changing and I once again take up my "pen" to reflect on what is happening and about to happen in our great country.

To say that the election of Donald Trump was a shock to me is an understatement of exponential magnitude. Let me explain this by way of a short story.

When I was about 9 years old my father left our family. He did not look back and he did not, ever again, come forth with any assistance to our family. Of my two older brothers, the eldest joined the military and the next oldest was disabled and, on the advice of our family physician, was sent away to a "home". Yes, it was a time that was that barbaric. So the result of my father and two older brothers departure was that I and my mother, and my four younger sisters were alone. My mother found herself alone with five children and the nearly insurmountable task of providing food, clothing, and shelter for us all. What I think makes this a little more poignant, if not totally depressing, is that my father left while my mother was in the hospital delivering the youngest of my four sisters.

There are a few more details that, I believe, are important in order for one to fully understand the sheer desperation that my mother must have felt. This was all occurring at a time in the late 1950's that was before President Lyndon B. Johnson ushered in of the "Great Society" and the passage of legislation upholding civil rightspublic broadcastingMedicareMedicaid, aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, public services, and his "War on Poverty". At that time there were simply no programs to help an abandoned woman in my mother's position to survive. When I think back on these times, from and adult perspective, I realize just how difficult women's lives were. If we believe that they are not receiving equal treatment today, during that time we must realize that they were little more than a servant class. This becomes quite evident when we look at the types of jobs that were available to women at this time. Not only did they not receive equal pay but the "good" jobs simply were not available to them for the simple fact that they were women.

So my mother started out with a job making just thirty-two cents an hour as a waitress and eventually working up to being a bartender. I must admit that it was thirty-two cents plus tips. Even today, at 67 years old, when I think back to those times my heart hurts. To compound this difficulty my mother had to work these difficult, menial jobs in the evenings from 4:00 pm to 12:00 pm because those were the hours that a waitress or bartender could make the most money and she needed every penny. That left me, a 9-year-old boy, home alone with four little sisters to watch and feed and bathe and put to bed.

I tell this story today because I think it is important to understand what life was like before the "Great Society" and all the programs that, had they existed, could have made my mother's life more bearable. Could have ensured that the food we had was a little more nutritious. Could have ensured we had a little more medical attention. Could have ensured that there would have been daycare for myself and my sisters. All of those things could have made us a little safer and healthier.

My mother was, and at 92 years old, still is my all-time hero. She worked her fingers to the bone to put food on our table, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads and I think she did a good job considering the almost insurmountable obstacles in her way. She lived with misogynists barring her way at every turn. She lived with men making unwanted advances and blocking her way up the promotional chain and denying the good jobs at every turn. But she persevered. She took care of her children and she taught me to respect every human being.

This experience had a profound effect on me. As I grew older and embarked on my career my life experiences left me with a certain perspective that helped me realize that women and minorities and the disabled and those who are a little different had it far, far more difficult navigating life and succeeding than a straight white male in our "American" society. It made me think more carefully and be more sensitive to their plight and it made me want to change myself and help change the dynamic in our society that causes us to be so blind to these things.

Now, in this post and at every other opportunity, I am asking that we all reflect on just what is happening in our country today. We, and by we I mean all Americans, through our actions and lack of actions, have elected a person to be the president of the United States who, by his own admissions, actions, and statements, is a misogynist and racist who has committed sexual assault. And we have also elected a congress whose stated intentions are to roll back or eliminate every program that has moved us toward correcting the injustices of the past and made it possible for those who are most in need to receive the help they need to get ahead and succeed in life. 

I, unequivocally reject Donald Trump's right to occupy the office of the president and I intend to exercise my constitutional right to not accept a person entering the office of the president of the United States who has admittedly committed sexual assault.  I believe that it is congresses responsibility to investigate the actions of the president-elect and move to impeach him if found guilty.

Those are the Sergeant Major's Thoughts on That.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Consider This Or It Takes A Little Time

As I always like to say, I am just an old retired Sergeant Major who spent 27 years servicing my country in the United States Army and by the grace of God I also happen to be a proud citizen of these great United States. So I ask that you take a moment and just consider an old Sergeant Majors' thoughts and reflections.

I believe it is important to first, remind folks that it was not President Obama nor his administration that took us to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The plain truth is that it was President George W. Bush and his administration that took us to war in Afghanistan and it was President George W. Bush and his administration who initiated an unprovoked, and in my mind an unjust war in Iraq. Let us also not forget that it was also the Bush administration who inherited a country with a fiscal surplus and vibrant economy and it was the Bush administration that was at the helm of the ship of state and allowed it to run rudderless into the iceberg that has been the worst recession since the great depression. I therefore submit that it was the Bush administration and their actions that bled our nation dry of our national treasure, both human and monetary, and that has left us with untold human scars and economic misery.

So those are my thoughts on how we got where we were when President Obama was sworn into office this past January. Now I would like to reflect a little on where we are today and where we might go from here. Our President has been in office for not quite nine (9) months and during that time I believe that he has accomplished far more than the media and many others have given him credit for. It is as though the media and the critics must take each and every event and look at this administration through a prism of ebony. It seems as though they report and comment as though it would be a mortal sin to report and acknowledge the real progress that has and is being made. During these past nine months the President has brought this nation back from the brink of an economic Armageddon. He has also arguably taken back much of the moral high ground that was lost in the previous eight years as a result of the Bush administrations misguided foreign policies. And this young President has begun to repair our nations international reputation that was so recklessly squandered by the previous administration.

It is my thought that he has accomplished all of these things while moving on every front at once. I believe he's moved forward on all these fronts simultaneously because he understands that it is all important and must all be done now. I know it is hard to believe after eight years of the previous administration but, as our President has said before, you really can do more than one thing at a time. And he's demonstrating that every day.

In just nine months this President has:

  • passed an economic stimulus plan which has brought us back from the economic brink and he has done it without the support of the right.
  • He has begun the draw down in Iraq and the process of returning that country to the control of its elected government and has shifted troops to Afghanistan where they were and are so desperately needed, and he has done this without the support of the right.
  • He has begun the process of removing a catastrophic and embarrassing blot on the reputation of this nation by beginning the process of closing Guantanamo Bay, and he's doing it without the support of the right.
  • He has initiated a historic reform of the wasteful and ineffective health care system of this country and he is doing it without the support of the right.
  • He has begun the difficult task of joining with the other nations of the world in reducing green house gases and improving the environment and he's doing it without the the support of the right.
  • He has dealt with, and is dealing, with nuclear crisis's in North Korea and Iran and has brought the nations of the world into the process of trying to remove and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. He has even been able to bring Russia, and to some extent China, into this process and he is doing it without the support of the right.
  • And in between all of this he's found time to lobby the International Olympic Committee for the United States. Though unsuccessful in this attempt to get the Olympics to Chicago he was able to multitask on that trip also by meeting with his Commanding General in Afghanistan. Imagine that, multitasking. It's a wonder in the world. And he did it while the right rejoiced at "our" not succeeding in bringing the Olympics to the United States.

Now the President is going through the extremely important task of taking a deeper look at the way forward in Afghanistan. I say "the way forward" purposely because this President seems to always be looking at the way forward and not looking backward. As the he continues to look forward and make progress on so many fronts what do we hear from much of the media and the right? It is certainly not reporting or a reasonable and critical analysis of what is or is not being done or even a reasonable analysis of the way forward. What we are seeing and hearing is simplistic doom and gloom and make or break and of course it's all being boiled down to do we or don't we increase troop strength in Afghanistan. The media broadcast to the American people as though they think we are a bunch of illiterates not capable of rational thought while the conservative shock jocks strive for even more ludicrous charges and accusations to sling at and belittle the President. And they simply fill the airways with vitriol.

We all know that the President has tough decisions to make but unlike his immediate predecessor it appears to me that he is going about that decision making process in a careful, intelligent, and methodical way and it seems to me that he is getting input from all the right places.

I for one take, and will continue to take, what I hear from the talking heads, shock jocks, and shock jokes that call themselves news reporters, commentators, radio host, and political analyst, with much more than a grain of salt and with even greater skepticism. These people are in it for the money and not for the good of our nation. Tears or no tears.

I want to close with just these few thoughts. I for one believe that the President has been and will continue to uphold his oath of office and continue to do the right thing for America. I think the Presidents first nine months in office have made a pretty good dent in the problems created by 8 YEARS of abuse and neglect. I think I'll let him have a little more than nine months to finish up the job.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Morality - Or To Have And Have Not

As a small child my Grandmother often said to me, "remember, for every good you do in this world you receive a good back and for every bad you do you receive a bad back". These certainly were not the words of a great philosopher or even of a country preacher but they were the words of a Grandmother explaining to a small child that you should do good in the world and not bad. The interesting thing is that even as a small child of 4, 5, or 6 I fully and completely understood what these words meant. It wasn't Christian, it wasn't Muslim, it wasn't Hindu or Jewish and it wasn't Agnostic. It was just Grandma guiding a small child down the right path. It was simple morality. It was simple right and wrong. Do good. Don't do bad.

Many years later when I joined the United States Army my Drill Sergeant (Not to be confused with my Grandmother.) gave me something called the "Code of the U.S. Fighting Force" as well as a "Geneva Conventions Card". The first was a guide to how a soldier should conduct himself or herself if a Prisoner of War. The second was a card outlining the Geneva Conventions on how a soldier should treat a Prisoner of War and how a soldier should expect to be treated as a Prisoner of War. To me, now a young man, these documents made perfect sense. They said do good don't do bad.

Today I am an old soldier having enjoyed a long military career. When I look back on that career and all of the wonderful, good, and great soldiers I served for and with I am a proud but not prideful man. We served in peace and we served in war. We served in the hell holes of the world and the paradises of the world but we, to a soldier, always struggled to do good and not do bad. I am proud to say that every one of those soldiers struggled to always do the right thing because that was who we were and what we had been taught. We knew what our Grandma and Drill Sergeant had said. It was what our parents and grandparents and teachers and ministers and yes even drill sergeants taught us. In other words, we, to a soldier, fulfilled our oath to the constitution of the United States of America.

Today as I listen to the rhetoric and reporting on "torture memo's" I find myself heart sick, embarrassed and ashamed beyond words. I am astounded that the products of the greatest generation have descended to these depths of depravity. That we have elected officials and officers sworn to uphold the constitution and laws of this nation who could instigate such atrocities on other human beings.

As a soldier this gives me great pause to think and to also question. For what did we serve and fight and die. Was it so that a group of people, though duly elected and appointed, could take the constitution for which they took and oath to support and defend and use it for toilet paper. Did we fight and die so that they could take the laws of this nation and twist and torture them into something that we the citizens can hardly recognize.

I hear it so often said that we are a "Christian" nation and that we are a nation of laws and of high morals and that we are the "leader of the free world". I must now ask myself how can any of that be? Where in any bible does it say that you should go forth and torture? Where in any law is it written that it is legal to commit "Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment"? Since when does this nation lower itself to the level of committing the self same acts as those committed on us by common terrorist? At what point do we move from "outrages upon personal dignity" to beheading on television.

As a soldier and a citizen I demand that those who instigated and perpetuated the torture of any person be held accountable and that they be held accountable regardless of what job or position they held or are holding. As a soldier and a citizen I demand that my elected representatives take the necessary steps to investigate and bring to justice those who are responsible for these acts. We are indeed a nation of laws and a nation which aspires to set the example and as such we must go to whatever lengths necessary to insure that justice is done. How far is the distance from detainee to citizen? It's not about politics. It's about the Constitution. It's about justice. It's about America. It's about Morality.

Those Are The Sergeant Major's Thoughts On That.