Monthly Archives: August 2009

Star Trek the Next Generation: Captain Jean-Luc Picard Deals with PTSD

Counselor Deanna Troi: Interesting.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Counselor…
Counselor Deanna Troi: I just find it interesting. Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the man who couldn’t be pried out of his seat for a vacation for three years!
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: It’s Earth. It’s home. Do I need another reason?
Counselor Deanna Troi: I don’t know, what do you think?
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Your help has been invaluable during my recovery, but…look, I’m, uh…I’m better! The injuries are healing.
Counselor Deanna Troi: Those you can see in the mirror.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The nightmares have ended. All I need now is a little time to myself.
Counselor Deanna Troi: I agree. In fact, I’m delighted you’re going. It’s just that…the choice of where you’re going could stand some scrutiny.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: If you wish to believe my going home is a direct result of being held captive by the Borg, be my guest.
Counselor Deanna Troi: Is that what you believe?
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: I hate it when you do that.
Counselor Deanna Troi: Captain, you do need time. You cannot achieve complete recovery so quickly. And it’s perfectly normal after what you’ve been through, to spend a great deal of time trying to find yourself again.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: And what better place to find oneself than on the streets of one’s home village.
Counselor Deanna Troi: Interesting.

I have always found the Star Trek TNG episode Family quite compelling.  The episode (Season 4 Episode 2) deals with Captain Jean Luc Picard’s return home following his capture and assimilation by the race known as the Borg during The Best of Both World’s Part 1 and II (Season 3 Episode 26 and Season 4 episode 1.)

The story is interesting because it deals with some of the issues that people traumatized in combat deal with as they try to find themselves again.  In the story Captain Picard, in a very typical manner of someone traumatized by combat believes that his injuries are healing.  His counselor, Deanna Troi who serves as the Ship’s “Counselor” challenges him on his belief that he has recovered and his choice of where he wants to go to find himself again.

I saw the episode when I was in Seminary not long after completing the Chaplain Officer Basic Course and then saw it again when I was going through my Clinical Pastoral Education Residency.  It was during that process, one in which I was trying to find and define what “home” was, that it really caught me.  I was Captain Picard, the brother who left home to explore and travel while serving in the military.   My brother Jeff was Picard’s brother Robert.  He is the one who stayed home and minded family business.  The parallels then got me and even more so now.  My Residency Supervisor used this to good effect during that time in dealing with the issues of home, but the post combat and PTSD part was yet to come.

Back in the days of my residency I struggled with another of issues related to being a military brat and having begun a career in the Army.  In a sense I was a nomad.  I had lived a lot of places but none were really home, even where I had spent all of junior and senior high school.  Like Picard my eyes were set on far horizons of exploration and adventure of military life.  My brother Jeff on the other hand like Picard’s brother was content at staying at home, being near our parents, getting established in the school district and taking care of his family.   We both chose our own paths and both were right for us.  I still long for adventure and exploration but have begun to settle down.

When it came to the placement of the PTSD in this picture it was after Iraq that I had a crisis in a number of areas in my life and every time I thought that I was doing better and maybe even “getting well” that there was always something that could trigger the memories, bring back the dreams and keep me from sleep.  I can say that a year and a half after my return from Iraq I am doing better in a lot of ways but still having struggles with anxiety insomnia and hyper-vigilance.  I did find out that there is one thing that does not evoke a startle reflex is a foul ball that comes back against the screen in from of me in Section 102 at the Church of Baseball Harbor Park Parish.  Last night while taking pictures right up against the screen I had several balls that hit within a couple of feet of me, one of which hit my camera and knocked it out of my hand.  Anywhere else loud noise, unexpected crashes, things flying past me sends me into a hyper-alert status.

picard familyPicard Meets His Family after Many Years and Wounds Away

When Picard goes home it is not the confident Starship Captain who returns, but a man unsure of himself and where he fits in life.  His encounter with the Borg has changed him and he contrary to assurances to Counselor Troi is still wounded.  When I returned from Iraq I wondered where I fit, I felt like I had abandoned my advisers in Al Anbar when I returned because my relief had to be sent elsewhere do to circumstances beyond my control.  I did not feel a part of my own unit as nothing was the same when I came back.  I felt weak, useless and at the end of my rope after having completed incredible tour in combat of my then 26 years in the military.  Physically I was falling apart; I had several nagging injuries from Iraq that caused chronic pain.  I was flashing back with every moment, fires burning in the Great Dismal Swamp had turned our air the color of an Iraq sand storm while the smell was like that of the ever present burn pits, both military and Iraqi.  Walking out the door one morning with my neighborhood shrouded in smoke I began to melt down.  That day we had a seminar done by a nationally known speaker dealing with trauma and combat with the associated feelings and emotions.  At the end of the day I was a wreck.  My Unit Doctor, Chris Rogan looked at me and said “Chaplain you don’t look good, are you okay?”  I said “no I’m not, I’m losing it and I’m scared.”  That was the place where I finally began to get help.  It has been about 14 months since I started and it is still a process.  We made a trip home that summer and I did not do well.  It was painful and I had great difficulty both in the travel as well as the visit.  When I hear fellow vets talking about the surreal and often painful times that they experience I can understand.  The fact is that you can be with a hundred friends and family members and be totally alone when you return home because it is something that you cannot really share and that they usually don’t understand.  Once again I have been fortunate.  My little brother actually listens to me and lets me vent when I need to.  Of course dealing with our family’s stuff this is a two way street.

not a happy camperVisiting Home and not Doing Well

In the story Picard is offered a chance to leave Starfleet and go to work on a project under the ocean on Earth.  He is sorely tempted to take it but before he can he has an encounter with his brother who challenges his decision.  They exchange words and Captain Picard feeling picked on starts a fight.  During the fight he breaks down about his experiences sobbing in his brother’s arms.  “His brother then said: So – my brother is a human being after all. This is going to be with you a long time, Jean-Luc. A long time. You’ll have to learn to live with it. You have a simple choice now. Live with it below the sea with Louis, or above the clouds with the Enterprise.”

In a sense that is something that all of us who serve after having been traumatized by the experience of wart have to deal with, the physical as well as the psychological and spiritual wounds.  For me it was the realization that I was human after all and the slow realization that this will be with me a long time.  The choice is how I choose to live my life and where I do so.

In the series and subsequent Star Trek: The Next Generation films Picard is forced to deal with his psychological wounds from the encounter with the Borg culminating in the second of those films Star Trek: First Contact. In it Starfleet Command leave Picard and the Enterprise out of the battle leading to this exchange between Picard and his First Officer which deals with the stigma associated with such an injury.

Cmdr. William Riker: Captain, why we are we out here chasing comets?
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Let’s just say Starfleet has every confidence in the Enterprise and her crew – they’re just not sure about her Captain. They believe that a man who was once captured and assimilated by the Borg should not be put in a situation where he would face them again. To do so would introduce “an unstable element to a critical situation.”
Cmdr. William Riker: That’s ridiculous. Your experience with the Borg makes you the perfect man to lead this fight.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Admiral Hayes disagrees.

The stigma associated with psychological injuries is far greater than that of physical injuries.  The unseen injuries are not as well understood and those who suffer them often are broken down by the system as they try to get help and many simply go underground and self medicate.  Last year two Army Generals opened up about their struggles with PTSD. I was fortunate to have people come alongside of me when I went down hard.  People who did not give up on me and kept faith by caring about me when I was and still get down.

See the article at: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/06/generals.ptsd/

Despite this and the efforts of many in the Military to help those with PTSD and other “unseen” injuries, to include medical conditions brought on by exposure to toxins in the combat zone, there is still the stigma.  As the young officer suffering from a rare and eventually fatal pulmonary condition acquired in Iraq as well as yet untreated PTSD “I squarely wish I had lost my legs then than the lung function that I have lost!”

Captain Picard’s story of course is fictional, but it demonstrates to some degree what those who experience the psychological and spiritual wounds of war face when they “come home.”  This stuff doesn’t go away.  Here are some of the comments that I have had from readers who deal with their own or a family members PTSD.

Australian Vietnam Veteran who wrote me said:  “As an Australian Vietnam Veteran with PTSD, I find these articles fascinating. I long wondered why the world had to be such a hostile mongrel place. Then 30 years later I was diagnosed with PTSD and I can now relate to why I have the condition but the world has not changed and medication is of limited use. There are many of us who are still very isolated and have to limit our social contacts. I recently started a Vietnam Veterans group, for members of our small unit, on the web and I found men who were relieved to be part of something and someone they could relate to as they had all but withdrawn from society. Sadly a few of them refuse to take any medication for their medical conditions as they see that as prolonging their miserable existence.”

A family member of a WWII veteran said: “thank you. It’s really needed for women to read articles/memoirs like that. It’s easy to say someone has PTSD, but another to live with and love who has it. I come from a family with rich military history and this is an everyday issue. Never goes away, even after 40 – 60 years.”

A USMC Vietnam Vet that I know wrote: “It’s a bitch at times, and the sleep, or lack of will eventually come, although it will never be a fully restful sleep. The Hyper vigilance seems never to go away. Yes it could be good, but eventually it can be bad…. well do I know both.”

An Army Chaplain from Iraq noted: “I too am a chaplain who felt that he and his assistant were the best equipped to handle the horrors of war – just to find out after being home for about a year just how much I had changed. I was sitting with my daughter in my lap one weekend afternoon when she asked, “Daddy, why don’t you play and laugh with us like you use to before you went to Iraq?” It was the key event that brought everything to a point where I could get help. In the months since there have been good days and definitely bad days – however, my faith remains strong….”

I run into people like this every day in the course at work who deal with this and sometimes it spills over into my stuff.  However I am glad to know that I am not alone.  To those who have helped me since I have be back, Chris, Two Feathers, Limey, Greg, Jesse, Jeff, Elmer, my longsuffering wife the Abbess of the Abbey Normal Judy and my brother Jeff, Colonel P and Janet, the folks I work with, the people at Harbor Park, especially Ray, Charlie and the Vietnam Veterans of America who man the beer stand on the concourse behind home plate and all the others who have come alongside I am grateful.  It is my sincere wish and prayer that all veterans will have such fine people there for them when they hit the wall.

Peace, Steve+

About these ads

Leave a comment

Filed under iraq,afghanistan, PTSD, star trek

Cowboys Stadium meets Seinfeld: A Scoreboard and a Nose that You Can’t Miss

cowboys scoreboardJerry Jones’  Über-Jumbotron

The New Cowboys Stadium opened officially last week as Jerry’s Kids played the team formerly known as the Houston Oilers the Tennessee Titans, or as I will now call them the Toilers. Most people have been focusing on the controversy over the height of the scoreboard from the field, and if it is really in the way of a punter.  Okay, so what? There are other domed stadiums throughout the league where punters have hit the rafters or roof.  I actually could care less if a punt hits the damned thing that is why the NFL has a rule that says something like this: “If a punt hits the ceiling, roof, scoreboard, the Goodyear Blimp, low flying aircraft or a Space Shuttle returning to earth the punt shall be done over” or words to that effect.  So really the whole controversy over Jerry’s Gigantic Über-Jumbotron being too low is a red herring.  Jeff Fisher doesn’t like Jerry and figures that he will make Jerry’s life complicated, especially since Jerry spent something like 43 million dollars on the scoreboard, or the price of three large pizzas and three beers at one of the stadium’s concession stands.

The thing that got me was not that the Toilers punter hit the scoreboard and if it was intentionally done as Jerry’s Kids claim, or if it was unintentional as Fisher and his Punter claim.  It is how the scoreboard appears when you see it on TV and I can only believe that the effect has to be even more pronounced in person.  It is overwhelming; it is all that you see, it is like a really nice looking girl with a nose that is so big that it overwhelms every other facial feature and draws your attention to it so you can see nothing else.    A colleague of mine at work has had season tickets for the Cowboy’s for years.  Every home game she and her husband fly from the East Coast to Mecca to see the Cowboys play.  She has her tickets for the new stadium and she is pretty sure that her seats will be low enough not to have her view of the other side of the field impeded by the Über-Jumbotron.

So back to my point; when I first heard about the scoreboard I thought, big deal it’s only a big scoreboard.   A lot of stadiums, auditoriums and churches have large screen scoreboard.  I think there is a church in Texas that has one that shows the preacher, has his preaching stats on one column as well as that Sunday’s hymn numbers, Scripture readings and the offering count for the previous month noting the biggest givers’ contributions, but I digress as we are talking about the Jerry’s Über-Jumbotron.

This thing is so big that when I briefly flipped past the game I was transfixed by the sheer size of it.  It was all that I could see. It dwarfed everything.  When people say that everything is bigger in Texas, this proves it.  Although one wonders like the old question dealing with the size of a man’s you know what; if size really matters.  Since girls are not as discreet in talking about such things in public I have occasionally overheard conversations in bars, restaurants and malls where women are discussing this rather delicate and sometimes controversial subject.  Once again I digress.

So anyway when I saw Jerry’s Über-Jumbtron I thought to myself “I have seen this before but where?’  Then it came to me…Seinfeld.  The episode where George dates a girl who has a massive nose which the writers focused in on as if it was George looking at her and all that he could see was nose…nothing but nose.  Once again Seinfeld meets life, only rather than a nose it is Jerry’s Über-Jumbotron.  I was astounded at just how large that it is and I was almost mesmerized by it.  I shook my head to break eye contact with the monster before I could be sucked through my TV screen and into the Stadium.

seinfeld noseThe Nose

Like I said, I could care less about the rules and how the scoreboard affects play.  I personally find football only mildly interesting now and a diversion to fill occasional time slots when Baseball season ends.  The only question that I have is about the ascetics of the scoreboard.  I wonder if it will become a distraction from the game itself.  I wonder of people who actually care about football wonder the same thing.  Has Jerry Jones created a monster in putting in such a large and overwhelming edifice in his high tech Temple of Cowboy’s Football?  Or is it like the scene out of the movie ruthless people where Judge Reinhold is talking to a rich couple

buying a stereo:

Ken Kessler: Over here, we have a great speaker, Sentry EV- . Consumer Stereo has just rated this a best buy.  I have a pair myself.

Male Customer in a leather Ferrari jacket: Yeah, uh, what do you think of this one?

Ken Kessler:  The Dominator X- ? The Dominator’s a good marketing idea, but it’s really not a good speaker.  We give it a 100 % markup, so we sell it at 50 % off, give the customer the illusion he’s getting a deal and we still make a bundle.

Female Customer: But it’s so big and impressive!

Ken Kessler: Size means very little. Bigger is not necessarily better. I sound like Dr. Ruth.

Female Customer: You mean the Dominator’s like a, uh–

Ken Kessler: Well, the Dominators are very popular with men who like to have bigger… uh—

Female Customer: Equipment?

Ken Kessler: Exactly!

Have a great football season Cowboy fans!

Peace, Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under purely humorous

Leave no Soldier Behind? I think not…A letter from an IOF Vet and Reader

Note: This is the sanitized version of an e-mail that I received last night from a OIF 05 and OIF 07 Veteran Army Officer who has been awarded two Bronze Star Medals for his service in Iraq and was Medivac’d out of Iraq during his second tour when he was diagnosed with an exceptionally rare incurable and eventually  fatal lung disorder that he contracted in Iraq with two separate Brigade Combat Teams.  Since then he has developed other medical conditions brought on by his lack of pulmonary function.   He is in process of being medically boarded out of the Army and is despairing to the point of having suicidal thoughts and ideations, wondering if it would be better for him to die on active duty so his wife and child would have a better financial support than if he waited to die a few years from now as a medical retiree.  I was able to contact this officer to listen to him at length this morning and afternoon. He has agreed to get help for these thoughts and I have given him the means to contact me any time and he has contracted with me to get help, I suggested a trip to his local medical facility Emergency Room.  He has given me permission to share this as he no longer feels protected enough by the Army to say it on his blog.  Please pray for this man and take care of the Combat Veterans, active duty, disabled or retired that you know.   His letter follows.

Peace,

Steve+

Dear Padre Steve,

This is why I am not posting on line…(I would say things like the following…)

I really do not know how much more I can take! I am beaten down, first by my own body and the diseases that are exacting a high price; second by the fight waged to receive some kind of medical care; third by the callus medical care provided; fourth by the institution of the Army attitude and treatment of “broken” people; by how the institution seeks to downplay and disregard the sacrifices of those who have sacrificed so much–by trivializing the toll of the disease–especially when not clearly visible.

Without a thirteen round prize fight the Army will throw me off the back of metaphoric  5-ton and act like they are doing me a favor by slowing down to 55 mph! “Look, you worthless scum-bag, we are doing you a favor by slowing down. Don’t, worry, you should be OK…we will try and get you off to the side so the tank does not role over you…”

The system, and the people within it, constantly questions your “worthiness” of any consideration. Then if you insist  on getting help for things that you know are wrong with you they double and triple question as if there is no way you could be telling the truth.

It is easy to say that I am at my wits end with all of what is going on in my life lately. The constant fight to receive what is necessary right is darning. I have been dealing with this callused indifference since being Medivac’d in the middle of my second Iraq tour. The system seems to be designed to wear you down so that rather than continuing to fight for the care that you need, just take what little the Army is willing to give.  I found out this week that after I am med-boarded out of the service that I will have to fight the Army all over again to be able to keep my Army benefits when I apply to the VA.  This is happening despite the fact that the Congress recently allowed for this compensation for veterans.

Will justice EVER be given? At what price?

Does the “Army” GIVE A DAMN!? The short answer is NO! There may be some individuals who do. What is experienced is the Teflon affect. Not many, if any, are willing to get dirty and fight for or on behalf on another. People end up getting treated as paper and numbers–not the individual they are, or for the sacrifices they have made. The individual is trivialized through the bureaucratic process that most involved in processing hide behind to separate them from the reality and often pain experienced by those suffering in the system.

I have recently started trying to get help from my PTSD.  A board certified Army physician that I wrote a consult for me to see someone.  I was contacted and told that the people who run the program here no longer take appointments or consults and that I would have to be “triaged” by a medical or psych tech to get an appointment that might be 3 months from now?  I might be dead by then. I don’t feel safe.

People may listen, but they usual will not, cannot, or do not know what to do. So trying to get help is like trying to find a particular molecule of water in the ocean.

This process SUCKS. It is worse than my first, very trauma filled, combat tour in Iraq (OIF 05-07). It is demoralizing. I squarely wish I had lost my legs them the lung function that I have lost!

I am an officer with TWO BRONZE STARS for my Iraq service.  I gave all that I had and my honesty, integrity and faith in the Army that I joined is being called into question.  If it is happening to me, what is happening to junior personnel? Who is their advocate? Is it any wonder that soldiers are committing suicide and unheard of rates?  Shit I have even counted up the money and figured that my family would be better off if I died on active duty than after my medical retirement.  What the hell is up with that? Why should I have to die for the Army to take care of my family?

What do I have to do to be heard? Does God even care? I’m just asking. Thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

Joe Smith (a pseudonym)

1 Comment

Filed under Military, iraq,afghanistan, healthcare, leadership

Analyzing the End of Season Collapse of a Baseball Team

Note: I cover baseball and the Norfolk Tides with a Blog on the Virginia Pilot Online entitled Padre Steve’s View from 102. The link to that site and those blogs is here:  http://hamptonroads.com/blogs/padre-steve039s-view-102 Those articles are not re-posted here.

out at homeGathright Out at Home

Baseball is replete with end of season collapses of teams that had started hot and were in first place. The collapses often take place due to injuries to key players, trades gone bad or slumps that never end.  These collapses are even more troubling when there are not injuries or other circumstances that readily explain them.  The 1964 Phillies and the 2007 Mets had meltdowns of epic proportions in the last month of a major league season.  At the Minor League level there are other factors to consider especially with the added dimension of call ups by the Major League team and trades made by the Major League affiliate which impact the Minor League club’s roster.

strike outThe Melt Down Continues Strike Out

This year the Baltimore Orioles AAA International League Norfolk Tides who were playing nearly .700 ball through June experienced a collapse like I have not seen up close and personal.  Early in the season they were nearly unbeatable. Consistent and clutch hitting combines with excellent pitching allowed them to dominate the league taking series after series and recording a number of series sweeps against good teams. The for a variety of reasons the wheels came off.  At first is was merely inconsistent play and basically playing .500 ball. Then came the collapse and the Tides are only mathematically in the post season chase.

Fiorentino HR against ColonBright Spot: Jeff Fiorentino Should be Tides 2009 MVP

As the season draws to a close with the Tides obviously out of the playoff race even with the mathematical possibility of coming back it will be time for some ruthless evaluation of how the club has been managed since the All-Star break.  It is hard to believe that with as much talent as the Tides still have that they are losing this consistently and this badly.  The Orioles can be blamed for pulling players up and depriving the Tides of talent, however they needed to draw upon the Tides because of the weaknesses at Baltimore.  Certainly the call up of players like Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Oscar Salazar has had an effect on the Tides. Likewise  the number of significant injuries to productive position players such as Justin Christian, Jolbert Cabrera, Scott Moore and Donnie Murphy had a large impact.  The loss of these 7 players deprieved the Tides of most of thier offensive power as did the recent call up of Michael Aubrey.

gathriright buntingAnother Bright Spot: Joey Gathright Bunting for a Hit

But even with all of these losses the Tides are tied for the best team batting average in the International League at .274.  So we cannot simply blame the crash on the loss of these position players and loss of power hitters.  We then come to pitching, Despite the collapse the pitching staff ERA is still only 3.94 and not at the bottom of the league, however the relief pithcers including guys who had been almost automatic in being able to close out innings and games has become very incosistent and in the past 10 games have blown 3 9th inning leads.  Convert those to wins and the Tides are still in the hunt.  Rececnt pitching additions from other clubs with the exception of Jeff George have not panned out. So we can say that pitching is a factor.   Fielding and defense is another matter.  Unfortunately Tides infielders have committed 71 errors.  Three players, Melvin Dorta, Justin Turner and Blake Davis have committed 51 of these and former Tides infielder Carlos Rojas another 9. Though the statistic is not found on the MiLB or Tides Websites, Tides pitchers have committed their share of errors at critical points in games.   On the other hand Tides outfielders Joey Gathright and Jeff Fiorentino have only two errors eachand lead the Tides in batting average, on base percentage and are near the top in slugging percentage among the current roster.

046Is it the Manager?

The Orioles organization will certainly address these on the field concerns.  This is something that thye have been working on and I expect that next years team will be more solid in these areas and  hopefully the Orioles with the addition of so many Tides who now have Major League expereince will not need to dip down so often and give the Tides, Baysox and Keys time to develop tallent.  However the Orioles management may need to take a look at the dynamics of what is happening in the dugout with the field staff including Manager Gary Allenson.  We really have to see if the problem is bigger than just a Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate Events or an organizational problem.  There are many regulars who question Allenson’s choices as a 3rd base coach as well as his inability to pull a pitcher before they get the team in deep trouble.  Yes giving pitchers the experience of trying to pitch out of jams is important, but it should not be done all the time.  Frequently it seems that Allenson has left pitchers in for one out or one inning too long, often with no-one warming up in the bullpen.  The final thing to ask is how Allenson rotates his infielders to different positions on an almost daily basis. I have to wonder if the constant changes in where the infielders are being played is effecting the number of errors being committed by the club especially in light of the fact that the three biggest error producers are the middle infielders. While the Organization may be at fault for some player personnel issues ultimately it is the Manager who makes the day to day calls on the field that determine whether a team wins or loses.

135Injuries: Jolbert Cabrera Being Carried Off teh Field after Breaking Bones in his Foot

The Tides are 10 and 25 since July 20th oin what has been a collapse nearing epic proportions and since the 18th of August have been outscored 65-40.  When one looks at talent, save the inability of the infield to play error free ball;  one has to begin asking questions and getting answers.

The Tides face the Charlotte Knights tonight, with Jake Arrieta facing Jake Peavy.  I will be there in Section 102, Row B Seat 2.

Though the players are here to develop and learn, there is little substitute for winning when building a young team. As Charlie Brown said “Winning isn’t everything, but losing isn’t anything.”

Peace, Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball

Mighty Miss Molly: 15 Pounds of Hell and Terror

Molly Miss LertAlways on Alert

Our current dog Molly is a Dachshund-Papillion mix that we got as a rescue in North Carolina.  She had been found in some brush covering in tar near NC 24 in Carteret County.  Judy met the lady who found her at the Vet when the lady was taking Molly in for her shots. Judy saw the face and body of the puppy in the lady’s arms and did not notice that the ears were slightly askew and that her legs, conveniently hidden were real legs and not Dachshund flippers.  Judy offered to help as we had lots of experience with quirky Wiener Dogs. A few days later the lady called us as Molly was wearing the lady’s older dog out.  We went to get her and Judy gasped in horror when she realized that Molly was not a purebred Dachshund but a mix of undetermined type.  Some thought that she might be Dachshund and Shelty, but after a lot of research and looking around we realized that she was half-Papillion.  This aside I fell in love with the little thing, she was about 5-6 months old and weighed all of 7 pounds and we took her home.

molly alertCome Down Here Squirrel!

Molly’s  face is that of a Dachshund with ears that don’t really know what to do with themselves as they are sort of a blend of Dachshund and Papillion ears with the fringes of a Papillion.  When she is on alert they look like fire-direction radar on WWII Navy ships.  She is a beautiful shade of dark red, her body a bit longer than a full blooded Papillion and her legs a bit longer than a full blooded Dachshund.  Her tail is the curved tail of a Papillion with a large cascading plume. She looks a bit like a small Red Fox; something that one of neighbors in North Carolina thought that she was a Fox pup.

Molly on couchLazy Day

Molly is incredibly smart and though we knew that she was smart we have been discovering this year that she is scary smart in problem solving ability, understanding and perseverance.  We thought Frieda, aka “the Queen” or the “Dog from Hell” was the smartest dog we had ever seen and Molly makes Frieda look average.  Those of our friends and family who have met Frieda can attest that Frieda was scary smart.  Molly is smarter but without the evil edge that Frieda had.  Molly loves to play, if you tell her to get such and such toy out of her huge basket of toys she will dig until she finds it.  Every year at Christmas we wrap presents for her and watch as she opens them and begins to play.

molly and christmas presentsUnwrapping Her Christmas Presents

Molly is also incredibly sweet to us and people that she knows.  She is a suck up and very melodramatic or as we say “Mollodramatic.” We have a friend named Tim who with his wife Diane will watch Molly when we are out of the area and Tim is Molly’s “boyfriend.” It is embarrassing how they make over each other; you’d think that they need to get a room.

Molly2With One of Her Many Toys

You would think that a Dachshund-Papillion mix would have kind of a blended personality and temperament.  Moll is not like that.  She runs either 100% Dachshund or 100% Papillion, there is no middle setting.  Her Dachshund temperament shows when she is not happy about something, she will be positively aloof and even morose.  She will like our Dachshunds take revenge if she is pissed at us for whatever reason.  This usually takes the form of destroying underwear by cutting the narrower side- seam like she was using scissors.  To keep her from doing this we keep a child gate at the foot of our staircase as she is sneaky about things like this.  When she is in Papillion mode she is sweetness and light, almost like “Nermal” in the Comic strip Garfield.  She is also somewhat unflappable very little spooks her and she maintains her own little life.  She is not co-dependent like our Red Dachshund Greta, or as we called her “Poo,” see One Tough Poo, Memories of a Fat and Fearsome Wiener Dog http://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/one-tough-poo-memories-of-a-fearsome-and-fat-wiener-dog/ nor do we have to contend with Frieda’s “you are the inept help” attitude towards us. See Let Lying Dogs Sleep http://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/let-lying-dogs-sleep/

Molly in snow 3 the foxLike a Fox

Molly is also quite the watchdog and fighter.  She does not like big dogs at all and we have to restrain the little shit on occasion.  Likewise when someone comes to the door she about comes unglued in defending the place so much so that we have to use squirt-guns or bottles to put her in her place.  Words will not do at this point, but she does not like getting sprayed.  For a rather fun account of one of these incidents see my post from a few months back entitled Saturday Morning Distractions-Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Door http://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/saturday-morning-distractions-jehovahs-witnesses-at-the-door/I have no doubts that if someone were to ever tyr to break in on us or cause us harm that Molly would actually give her life to defend us and our property.

Molly miss intensityMiss Intensity

However the most interesting thing that we have seen and often the most fun is her relentless protection of her realm in our backyard.  Woes betide the squirrel, rabbit, possum, or bird that comes into our yard.  She has actually caught and killed two birds, she never fails to chase the squirrels, she once cornered a possum at night in the corner of our yard, thankfully I was able to grab her before she could launch her attack and well thankfully the bunnies have not been in the back when she was on the lookout as I do not think that they would fare as well as the squirrels have to this point.  She also takes her time to hunt down flies and other bugs that might get in the house or that she traps on the porch. Her one mistake was eating a spider once which caused an emergency Vet visit as her nose and muzzle had swollen up like Karl Malden.

molly looking up the treeLooking up the Tree at the Squirrels

Having only had things with Dachshund blood, and Judy having Pugs growing up neither of us knew anything about Papillion temperament.  All that we knew were that they were very smart, sweet and playful.  We had not read the part about them being the protective and combative type that she is, until we saw the comic at the top of this post yesterday.  I saw it and about died laughing out loud as it fits Molly to a tee.

Molly Where is the squirrelHunting for Squirrels

Molly certainly makes our life interesting and she is a trip.

Molly againSomebody Knows Molly

Peace, Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under dachshunds, Loose thoughts and musings, purely humorous

Investigate Novitzky and the Prosecutors in the BALCO Major League Baseball Investigation

Baseball players who are accused of or admitted to the use of steroids and other alleged performance enhancing drugs prior to their being banned by baseball have been demonized by the Federal Government and media.  I do not agree with taking them, but at the age of 49 and still having to complete regular physical fitness tests and physical conditioning I wouldn’t mind if someone prescribed me some HGH.  I’ve got enough nagging injuries that hurt that I have to take a couple of pain medications on a regular basis anyway.  If someone offered me the chance to do more than get pain relief I would jump at it.  Major League Ball players get dinged up a lot over the course of Spring Training, a 162 game season and up to a month of post season play.  They also are dependant of their physical condition to make their living.  Likewise our society as a whole has become a nation addicted to enhancing performance.  It is pervasive and not merely isolated to professional sports, especially not baseball.

Over the past 10 years certain people who have no legal oversight to baseball such as IRS investigator Jeff Novitzky have engaged in a gross abuse of governmental power.  In his investigation he has either been permitted or encouraged by the prosecutors of Barry Bonds to break the law.  The prosecutors acted either out of omission by turning a blind eye to Novitzky’s conduct or out of commission by cooperating with him.  Not only has this been shown now repeatedly as court after court has thrown out evidence or dismissed charges against Novitzky’s chief target Barry Bonds.  Yesterday the 9th Circuit Court ruled that Novitzky’s investigative team illegally seized thousands of records without probable cause.  Chief Judge Alex Kozinski stated “This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause.”  Since February leak after leak of names from a list of 104 players who allegedly tested positive on a screening that was only to be used to see how pervasive the use of steroids was in baseball with the understanding that the list would not be made public and in fact would be destroyed.  The leaks obviously are coming from investigators who are the only people with access to the records who have motive to leak information.  The act of prosecutors or investigators leaking the documents that are sealed is illegal.  The consistent leaking to various reporters has    Former U.S. Attorney and chief of the criminal division for the Southern District of California Charles La Bella said: “The information shouldn’t have been seized. People have been unfairly tainted by something the courts have ruled should never have been made public.”

Novitzky, his team and superiors had a warrant to get information on 10 individuals.  They knowingly exceeded their authority without probably cause and seized thousands of records. They then allowed information the courts had to be made public.  What did they find besides the records at BALCO? Under $2000 worth of illegal performance enhancing substances, nothing more suggesting a widespread manufacture or distribution of them.

The apparent collaboration of Novitzky with BALCO prosecutors Jeff Nedrow and Matthew Parrella has tainted the case against Bonds or anyone else whose names have been leaked.  I have to say apparent because there is no proof to this point that Novitzky is the leaker but the evidence based on what he has done so far in breaking the law in regard to the seizure of evidence makes it a reasonable supposition.

The judge in the Bonds case, Susan Illston was openly skeptical of Novitzky’s conduct, saying in open court: “I think the government has displayed … a callous disregard for constitutional rights. I think it’s a seizure beyond what was authorized by the search warrant, therefore it violates the Fourth Amendment.”  Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Kozinski wrote  of Novitzky’s conduct: “The record reflects no forensic lab analysis, no defusing of booby traps, no decryption…Rather, the case agent immediately rooted out information pertaining to all professional baseball players and used it to generate additional warrants and subpoenas to advance the investigation.”

Such conduct by government agents is a moral and legal quantum leap above the actions allegedly committed by Bonds or others.  Their actions may have hurt baseball, but that is for baseball to judge, not the government.  With the House and Senate hearings in which current and former players have been hauled before the committees with television cameras rolling while Congressmen and Senators pontificate making scripted statements in which the players are condemned without actual charges being filed or convicted of any crime.  The Congressional committees have become kangaroo courts where men are held accountable to standards that their accusers are not even accountable to.

I know about out of control investigators.  I have had first hand dealings with men who think that they can bully people and use the law to bring themselves professional accomplishment and personal gain at the expense of people who they have no probable cause to investigate.  When I was an Army Company Commander in Germany in the mid-1980s I had to deal with a unit that had the highest drug positive rate in Europe.  I was told to “clean up that company” by the Group Commander when I took command.  The prosecutor became a friend, at the same time I abided by the laws and regulations governing drug testing as well as choosing the appropriate level to deal with the offense.  However, I was also tested and even more often than my soldiers.  Because of the drug positive rate the CID took an interest in my unit.  Two agents came to my office one day and asked me if I would allow them to place a CID agent in the unit undercover not to deal with the drug problem, but to “investigate suspicions of unit personnel engaging in the black market sale of American cigarettes on the economy to Germany nationals.”  I became suspicious of them.  I asked if they had probable cause or evidence that any of my soldiers were engaged in this activity.  They said they had no proof, evidence or even probable cause, only that black marketing of cigarette was a problem and that they needed to place an agent in order to get the proof.  With them in the room I called my prosecutor buddy and told him what they were asking and he told me that if it was his company that he would make them show probable cause and do an open investigation.  That confirmed my gut feelings about the matter and I thanked him and hung up the phone. I then looked at the agents, told them to give me probable cause and that I would consider it.  I was accused at that point by one of them of covering up criminal activity and that he would get me too.  I simply told them to get out of my office and out of my building and that they wanted to accuse me of a crime to go ahead.  I ever saw them again.  I presume that they tried this because I was a pretty junior First Lieutenant up to my ears in disciplinary problems and agree to what they wanted.  I knew if I did this that that I would destroy any confidence that was being build in the chain of command, destroy the cohesion that I was working hard to build following the relief of the previous commanding officer and subject my soldiers to an inquisition that would destroy my company.

How many journalists or politicians are tested for performance enhancing drugs in their professions?  Would not the public responsibility of both journalists and elected Congressmen, Senators and for that matter non-military or law enforcement government employees actually be more important to society as to whether a baseball player took something to heal from an injury faster or be better at his game?  It is hypocritical for journalists or politicians to hold these men to standards that they themselves are not accountable to.  When those journalists or politicians then embolden out of control investigators and prosecutors who courts have ruled violated the Constitution in their illegal actions, the nation they say that is okay for the government to violate the law and citizens Constitutional rights.

That is the bigger issue than if baseball has a steroids problem, or had a steroids problem before it began its testing system.  Add to this the staggering costs of the Bonds investigation alone, $55 million as of January 2009 plus the monetary costs of the Congressional hearings.   One also is forced to ask what Congress could have been doing with the time, money and effort spent on the hearings.  Are there not more pressing issues to deal with and is this not a warped sense of public service? Should Congress even be worried about this with two ongoing wars, ongoing terrorist threats, and an economic crisis, a political divide that has moved from opposition to pure hatred and a potential H1N1 Flu pandemic on the horizon?  Where are the priorities for these people? Let baseball police itself. It has a testing program now; the allegations are all things that happened 6-15 years ago when the standards were not even clear.

It is time for this to stop.  The prosecutors and Novitzky and anyone else working on this case suspected of misconduct should be investigated and if they have violated the law they should be charged and tried as any other person would be.  It is my view that all of this now is not being done to benefit baseball, but to enhance the careers of men who believe that they are both morally superior and think themselves above the law.  All investigations of ball players that are based on accusations and evidence before Major League Baseball banned specific performance enhancing drugs and supplements substances should be ended now.  It is a miscarriage of justice.

Now if baseball wants to ban players from the game or not elect them to the hall of fame, that is a matter for baseball to decide, not that of Congress and certainly not that of Jeff Novitzkty or anyone else who have disgraced their offices by their utter disregard of the law and the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

Peace, Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under Baseball, philosophy, state government agencies

Padre Steve’s Highs and Lows of 28 Years Service

Ooops, this should have posted the 25th…all references in the post though it posted today are for the 25th.  The meltdown was the 24th, not my duty night.

Note: I think that I have pretty much recovered from last night’s mini-meltdown, though tired have has a good day working some stuff that is pretty cool that could be a positive thing for Navy and VA Chaplains.  I think success does help mitigate some of the effects of a meltdown.  If today had been crappy and I hadn’t had a good talk with Elmer the Shrink it might have continued.  Now with some sleep I could be cooking with gas even though my house is all electric.

On to the Post:

Soldier Once and YoungEnlisted in National Guard 1982

“So we’re all dogfaces, we’re all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army. We’re mutants. There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us – we’re soldiers. But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years!” Bill Murray as John Winger in “Stripes” 1981

Well sports fans I am at the hospital tonight celebrating 28 years of service in the military. It really doesn’t seem like any more than 27 ½ but who’s counting right? And when I look back at the Army I joined I am reminded of Stripes.

I think that I have pretty much recovered from last night’s mini-meltdown, though tired have has a good day working some stuff that is pretty cool that could be a positive thing for Navy and VA Chaplains.  I think success does help mitigate some of the effects of a meltdown.  If today had been crappy and I hadn’t had a good talk with Elmer the Shrink it might have continued.  Now with some sleep I could be cooking with gas even though my house is all electric.

So 28 years ago today I went down and signed my name on the dotted line.  It was August 25th 1981 two months after the release of the movie Stripes and two months before I saw it with Judy at the $1 movie theater.  On that end of summer day I went down and signed my contract with the Army ROTC program at UCLA with the Chief Lord of Discipline himself, the Captain Bruce Lawson swearing me in.  He had just finished PT and though still in his PT clothes administered the Oath of Enlistment.  It was not much on ceremony but it was a start.  In fact most of my promotions in either the Army of the Navy have not come with much fanfare and I’m actually pretty okay with that so long as I get paid and get to do what I love doing which is being a Priest and getting to serve now as a Navy Chaplain.  So I followed with a trip down to the National Guard Armory on Victory Blvd in Van Nuys to enlist in the National Guard. Since I was not a scholarship student I was allowed to simultaneously enter the Guard.  So the 25th was kind of like a double header for me, I did the oath for the Guard later in the afternoon. It’s like Tommy Lasorda once said: “I love doubleheaders. That way I get to keep my uniform on longer.”

So I went in to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery and met the Company Commander, Captain J.J. Kramer, now a retired Colonel I believe and Major Charles Armagost, the Full Time Unit Administrator and Adjutant.  Wearing his green fatigues the good Major administered the Oath for the California National Guard, which differed from the Federal Oath in that it also included words about obeying the Governor of the State and the Laws of California etc…Following that I was walked down to the supply room where a rather rotund Sergeant began issuing me uniforms and field gear.  I got my first gift of US Military designer clothing and was told to report the Thursday after Labor Day for a “Battery Dark Night.”  So began my rather auspicious career.

I remember being in uniform in those early days without a single ribbon or medal to my name.  I’d look around and see all the guys who had served in Vietnam and some in Korea as well with all kinds of ribbons, medals, unit citations and qualification badges.  I would look at them and once I remarked to Judy that I wish that I would have a lot someday.  She accused me of whining, something that I feel is a mischaracterization of my attitude about not having anything and something that now with a full chest of ribbons, medals and qualification pins that she is not hesitant to remind me of and tell others about.

2LT Dundas 1983Look Mom One Ribbon

So what has transpired in 28 years?  Here are some of the highlights and a few lowlights of the of this adventure.

In 1981 it all began and things happened fast, within two weeks of enlisting I was driving an M-151A1 Jeep to Ft Irwin CA as part of battalion advance party and then spending the weekend learning to call in artillery fire. After going through hell and being destroyed and rebuilt by SFC Harry Ball, Drill Sergeant US Army like Richard Gere was in An Officer and a Gentleman I somehow got commissioned in part due to the forbearance of Major Lawson, the former Captain Lawson who has sworn me in.  Judy asks if I had my own “Puget Sound Deb” when she sees the movie with me that winter. However just prior to getting commissioned during my last annual training period at Camp Roberts I led team of Ersatz East German Kommando’s on raids against battalion rear area as the opposing forces.  I was almost run over in may M-151A1 by an M-548 Ammo Carrier during a strafing run coming down hills firing blanks from machine guns like the Rat Patrol and dropping Smoke and CS grenades in the vehicle’s path.  Later we captured the battery Operations Center during a firing mission. None of this made them happy but the Forward Observers and I had a blast.

After I got commissioned I attended the Medical Department Officer Basic Course at Ft Sam Houston TX and suffered for Jesus for 9 weeks in the Riverwalk Marriott hotel in downtown San Antonio. After this I spent 11 glorious weeks at Ft Knox Kentucky which by the way is in a “dry county” or at least it was back then  going through a 6 week course after being bumped by Saudi Arabian exchange officers.

557th comany command 1985Company Commander

From January 1984 through late December 1986 we were stationed with the 557th Medical Company Neubrucke and later Wiesbaden. Was a platoon leader and became company XO when our XO checked into a psych ward before Winter REFORGER. While in the field was promoted but o one realized that fact until we came out of the field in mid- February. In a late night hastily arranged ceremony which I had to drag Judy in from bed to see I was promoted and got my first real medal. In September I became a “relief pitcher” Company Commander when my new CO got fired. I was told “Lieutenant; clean up that Company.” After 7 months, and having to adjudicate close to 50 Article 15’s, and kicking a bunch of drug users out of the Army I was relieved by a Captain and I had my first and last Change of Command ceremony. Became a personnel officer at our group, pissed off the boss and had a miserable last couple months in Germany. However I completed my first row of ribbons made some really good lifelong German friends and learned to drive really fast and really good and developed a fine appreciation of good beer.

In 1987 I attended the Military Personnel Officer Course at Ft Benjamin Harrison which is in Indianapolis and continued on to Fort Sam Houston where I was assigned as the Adjutant for the Academy Brigade, Academy of Health Sciences.  I got promoted right after I got there and since Judy had not arrived I had the world’s best platoon sergeant, SFC Cynthia Carter help pin on my new Captain bars. Judy was quite happy that Cindy got to do this as she really liked her.  My Brigade Commander wondered what was up with that, but it was an honor to have her do the pinning. While there I worked on AIDS/HIV personnel policy and became “CINC AIDS” at the Academy. While there I collected my second Army Achievement Medal and an Army Commendation Medal.

Berlin WallBerlin Wall 1986

In 1988 I left Active Army to attend Seminary and was appointed as an Armor officer in Texas Army National Guard.  I was told by my boss LTC Jim Wigger that I was moving from the “frying pan into the fire as the chaplains were a cutthroat bunch” and that the “Medical Department was not even in the same league as the Chaplains.” When the Division Chaplain found out that a seminarian was getting ready to drive tanks he pitched a fit and had me enter the Chaplain Candidate program.  In seminary I attended  the Chaplain Officer Basic Course at Fort Monmouth NJ. As Deputy Course leader and Company “First Sergeant” pissed off lots of chaplains and seminarians. Thankfully I was backed up by LTC Rich Whaley who saved my ass for the first time and not the last time.  I met my friend Fr Jim Bowman who kept me from doing anything really stupid. In 1992 I graduated from seminary was ordained and become a chaplain and assigned to 111th Engineer Battalion in Abilene. That year I got thrown out of the Chaplain Officer Advanced Course when school changed a policy on Chaplain Candidates awaiting final approval to be chaplains to enter course. After Billy Martin style tantrum Rich Whaley saves my ass a second time.

In 1993 I went back to Chaplain Officer Advanced Course, made amends and did the appropriate penance.  Meet up with Fr Jim Bowman again. In the fall of 1994 finished the final phase of the Chaplain Officer Advance Course.  Happiness is Ft Monmouth in your rear view mirror. In the summer of 1984 I viewed the O.J. Chase live on miniature TV in M-577 Command Track with Lakers playoff game in split screen while at Fort Hood.

In January 1995 I moved to Huntington WV to take a job as a contract ER Chaplain.  I transferred from one former Confederate Unit to another going from the Texas to the Virginia Army National Guard.  In December I was promoted to Major and transferred to the Army Reserve and got rid of the 410 mile one way trip for a drill.

New MajorNew Major December 1995

In July of 1996 I got mobilized and sent to Germany to support Bosnia mission, lose job. While in Germany get to do a lot of cool stuff, got a bunch of medals and though the Chaplains there wanted me to be brought on regular active duty get told I am too senior to transfer to Regular Army. I actually think that the guy who made the decision remembered me from Chaplain School and did not want someone like me in “his” Chaplain Corps. Upon my return from Bosnia support the Reserves assigned to Ft Indiantown Gap PA as Installation Command Chaplain where in September 1998 I got to close down help close down the Federal side of things and transfer chapel and congregation to National Guard care. In October I returned to the reserves like a journeyman ball-player being sent back to AAA from the Majors. In December the Navy offered me a deal to play “in the show” on active duty and I took it, went from being an Army Reserve Major to Navy Lieutenant. My friend Father Fred Elkin was my first detailer and offered me a choice of East Coast or West Coast Marines when I asked for a ship.  We now serve together and get a good laugh about that now. It did turn out to be a good thing for me. One of the cool things about my time in the Navy has been since I have blown myself up enough in the Army and seen others do likewise that I know where the career “land mines” are and how not to step on them. This has been a great benefit to me.  It was like changing from one league to another in the middle of a baseball season.  The old stats don’t count for or against you when you start playing in the new league.

After Navy Chaplain School I was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp LeJuene NC. From then on my life has been going non-stop.  I was chaplain for 4 different battalions in the Division where Father John Kaul used me as a “relief pitcher” in situations where chaplains had either been fired for doing illegal or immoral things or replacing people who had to move on short notice orders. Did CAX at 29 Palms on multiple occasions and did a deployment to the Far East, Okinawa, Japan and Korea.  Collected more medals got my “old” version Fleet Marine Force Qualification. I was assigned to HQ BN 2nd MARDIV. 9-11 -01 attack happened. A couple of months later I reported to USS HUE CITY CG-66 in Mayport.

Dundas of the DesertDundas of the Desert 29 Palms 2000-2001

Not long after reporting went on the final work up exercises prior to deployment, deployed to the Horn of Africa, Northern Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and Mediterranean.  Was an advisor for a boarding team in Northern Arabian Gulf and made 75 boardings of detained smugglers.  We almost got to see the Indians and Pakistanis get in a nuclear war, that was a bit sporty and we supported air operations in Afghanistan. After a period in the yards during following deployment as well as work with the great Marines who served in the Battle of Hue City I checked off the ship in October 2003, again collecting more medals and ribbons.

Boarding partyBoarding Party 2002

I went to Norfolk where I was assigned to the Marine Corps Security Force Battalion and my Commanding Officers, Colonel Mike Paulovich and Colonel Donald Rogers sent me about the world to care for our Marines.  Over that time I probably averaged 2 trips a month out of the area, many overseas to Japan, Hawaii, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Bahrain, others to places far and wide in the Continental United States.  Colonel Paulovich and I probably worked more closely together than any commander that I have ever worked with and we went through many difficult times in that assignment. We are still friends to this day.  One of the cool things is the people that we work with. I was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in April 2006.  This meant that I had spent almost 16 years of my career wearing Captain or Lieutenant bars.  I again collected more ribbons and medals for the time with the Marines and was one of the first Navy Officers to get the Fleet Marine Force Officer Qualification pin while completing Marine Command and Staff College.

Belleau woodBelleau Wood France 2004

I then went to Navy EOD Group Two in Little Creek where I was the first chaplain assigned to EOD.  While there I got to go to Jordan to the Jordanian Army/UN Peace Operations Training Center and to Sicily.  I was snatched up to go to Iraq in July 2007 and served the most meaningful operational deployment of my career serving our Marine, Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Justice and Homeland Security advisors to the Iraqi Army, Police and Border Forces in Al Anbar Province.  I came back from Iraq with a great case of PTSD, a gift that keeps on giving.  I checked out of EOD in September 2007 again with more medals and ribbons to my current assignment at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth where I get to do what I am passionate about as a Priest and Navy Chaplain serving in a teaching hospital.

My Tom Clancy lookIraq 2008

Looking back it has been a long and strange trip and it is still an ongoing journey.  People ask me how I keep going even with the PTSD and it’s like Tommy Lasorda says “Guys ask me, don’t I get burned out? How can you get burned out doing something you love? I ask you, have you ever got tired of kissing a pretty girl?” Speaking of which now that I am on the way home after 31 or so hours at work I probably need to do with Judy when I see her.

Steve Summer Whites 2008July 2008, Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Navy?

Peace,  Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under Baseball, History, iraq,afghanistan, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, PTSD

Going to War: A Reflection so Far, Memories, PTSD and hopes and fears Past and Present

964

As I have been writing of my experience in Iraq it is amazing to me the amount of emotions that I have experienced.  It is strange to feel like I am back there as I write.  I know that this is necessary but at times it is unnerving especially as I talk to friends who are going through much the same experience that I had coming home and sometimes worse.  I have been in e-mail contact with a friend from a NATO ally who has done a couple of tours in Afghanistan.  I can really feel for him as he is in a smaller military with a lot few resources that the Americans to deal with PTSD and other maladies from this war which seems to drag on without end.  Another friend on the West Coast has been dealing with the ravages of both PTSD and TBI and another Army Chaplain friend who has 2 Bronze Stars to his credit deals with PTSD as well as a very rare and eventually fatal lung and brachia condition.  Friends from my medical center are being deployed, I’ve been told that I am too valuable and needed where I am to deploy.  I do understand that at the same time deep in my heart I want to be with my friends from my ICU as they go to war.

The emotions took a big turn as I actually started writing about being in Iraq, beginning with the C-17 ride in to Baghdad.  In some sense the mirrored what I was going through two years ago.  It kind of came to a head the other night when I wrote about the rocket that went over my head at Camp Victory while waiting for my ride to head to the Camp Liberty heliport.  Then there was the flight to Fallujah and I can remember that flight.  I have never really liked flying in general and ancient helicopters in particular. Thinking that many of the CH-46s that I flew in while in Iraq had been in service in the Vietnam era was none too comforting.  They were almost as old as me.  Marine Helicopters are notorious for hydraulic fluid leaks.  The old joke goes” “How do you know when a Marine helicopter is low on hydraulic fluid?”  “When it stops leaking” is not entirely in jest.  I guess you can say that most of my career flying rotary wing aircraft in the Army and Navy has been just this side of terrifying.  I manage to survive every time but it takes forever to come back down from the anxiety of the preparation for and actual flights themselves it is no wonder that I still have problems sleeping and going on alert any time I hear a helicopter overhead.

Faith at times is an ongoing struggle. While I believe I question God more, especially when I see little kids suffering or read about young men and women killed in action or maimed by combat.  I find that I am less compassionate toward those who have not deployed who make suicide gestures and screw with their friends and families and then blow off help.  It angers me that their narcissism takes time and resources away from people who have been in the shit who need help and have to wait to get help.  I also find that religious people who have trite answers for everything really annoy me, especially those that are constantly talking about “spiritual warfare” when they have no clue about war, suffering and death. They are what Luther called the “theologians of glory” and they have no real answers, just platitudes that work fine until a real crisis comes.  Despite this I believe somehow in the God who is willing to be with me in the middle of the Valley of the Shadow of Death and at the foot of the Cross.

One of the things that tears at me now is the deep division in the United States as the obviously enlightened zealots of the extreme right and left push their agendas so hard that it seems impossible to find and amicable solution.  I wonder if we have entered “Weimar America.”  I guess I can understand how the moderates of the conservatives and socialists in Germany were ground to dust beneath the anvil of the Communists and hammer of the National Socialists in the later years of the Weimar Republic.  I really understand the military men who found both alternatives distasteful and tried in vain to seek the middle ground and maybe restore some sanity to the country.  That article is yet to be written.  I think I will call it “Weimar America?”  What really gets me is that both the right and left have dropped all pretense of civility and are now engaging in physical altercations at political meetings or “town hall” meetings and some have even be brandishing automatic weapons near venues where the President is speaking.  I have seen the results of this type of no-quarter politics in the Balkans and in Iraq.  I wonder what the hell all these demigods on both sides are thinking and if they in their devotion to their alleged “principles” would attempt “to destroy the country in order to save it.”   I have become ashamed of the leadership of both political parties as well as the special interest groups that drive the agendas of both extremes, especially as in the case of some who use the Christian faith to justify their actions.  When I see these people in action my anxiety level often returns to what it was in Iraq and on my return.  I can honestly say that the people on the extremes make me fear for my country.  I feel that they are pushing us to the abyss and that I can’t do a damned thing to stop it.  I’ve matured enough to know it is not simply the fault of one side or the other; as both are at fault and it seems that the most extreme on both sides have actually been wanting this to happen, at least from my viewpoint as a passionate moderate.

I have come to realize that my true countrymen are those that I have served with to defend this country and protect others abroad, especially as the insanity continues to spread.  Though I struggle and have to deal with emotions as if they were brand new every day just as I think that I am getting better I know that I have to keep going.  I owe it to my brothers and sisters from the current war and wars such as Vietnam.  Sometimes I wonder if all of us PTSD afflicted vets are the only sane people in the country. We are a brotherhood.  “We we happy few, we band of brothers.”

brothers

I’m glad that I have friends, especially vets from Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf and Vietnam.  Limey and Barney with the Hue City Vets, Ray and Charlie the Vietnam Veteran of America brothers who man the beer stand on the concourse behind home plate, and so many others like my trusty assistant Nelson Lebron who helped keep me safe and sane in Iraq.

In the middle of all of this I grieve for my Vietnam Vet and retired Navy Chief dad who wastes away in a nursing home with end stage Alzheimer’s which according to his doctor should have killed him months ago.

I’d better stop while I’m ahead.  I need to catch myself, maybe have a beer and focus on some baseball for a while before I get ready for work.  I have duty tomorrow and I expect that I will be busy the next couple of days.  I hope when I get off Wednesday afternoon that I will be able to see the Tides play.  I can use the view of the diamond at Harbor Park that helps calm my soul about now. Maybe between no and then I can get in with my buddy Elmer the Shrink.

pub2

Pray for me a sinner,

Peace, Steve+

7 Comments

Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, iraq,afghanistan, Military, Political Commentary, PTSD, Tour in Iraq, vietnam

New Post at Padre Steve’s View from 102

steve on top of the rock3Posted The Slide Continues: Tides Lose 6-2 to Padre Steve’s View from 102 in the Virginia Pilot online.

the link is here:

http://hamptonroads.com/2009/08/slide-continues-tides-lose-62

Peace, Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball, My Other Blogs

Scouts Out: My Neighbors in Section 100

ScoutsGuns up: Scouts and Players with Radar Guns at Harbor Park

“If you don’t find high-caliber marble … you can’t create classic statues” John Schuerholz

One of the interesting views from my pew in the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park section 102, Row B seat 2 is that of the scouts.  I often talk with my friend Elliott the Usher about the nuances of the game including the realm of the scouts, that often unsung group of men who find the raw talent that helps build the team.

Scouts are an interesting breed.  They work for a Major League club, but dwell in obscurity, as any true scout would do.  The seek talent, both raw and developed that will in their analysis help their club.  The scouts travel throughout the minors, colleges, high schools and independent leagues to see what talent might be available.  Sometimes they are former pro-ball players such as Bob Kison who works for the Orioles and Bill Singer who works for the Nationals, both of whom I have met this year at Harbor Park.  In addition to the team scouting organizations the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau provides teams centralized scouting organizations which all have access to.  Currently the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau employs 34 full time and 13 part times scouts in the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico.

I encounter a good number of scouts at Harbor Park.  They as well as player’s wives, families or friends and VIPs sit in section 100 to my left.  In addition to the scouts the Tides and the opposing teams frequently have at least one of their own players charting the game from that section.  I have had a number of interesting conversations about the game with scouts from the Orioles, Nationals, Pirates, Cubs, Mets, White Sox, Yankees and Braves as well as a scout from the Japanese Major League team the Yokohama Bays Stars.  There have been scouts from a good number of teams, including the Korean Baseball League that I have not chatted with prior to games.  One is very careful not to bother them during the game itself as they are looking closely at what is going on.  This is their bread and butter and they need to be respected while they work.

scouts 2Mets and Rays Scouts

Of course the job of the scout is directly impacted by both the current and projected needs of their teams, including the minor league system as well as how the teams are doing at the moment.  Thus from day to day scouts may be scouting individual players, or looking more in general for players that might of help to their team and its associated minor league system.  Once in a while I get to look at the sheets that scouts use in evaluating talent.  Since pitching is always a needed commodity they are seldom without their radar gun to measure the speed of pitches as well as charting pitch type, placement and what happened to the pitch.  It is a very detailed job collecting data on players as well as making first hand observations that could be as important as the numbers in determining whether a play is right for the organization.

The key to the success of any Major League organization is how well its scouting system identifies prospects for the big team.  Teams that are forward thinking spend the time and money to scout players either through the traditional methods or through the Sabremetrics system popularized in the book Moneyball about the Oakland Athletics methods under Billy Beane.  Some teams use a combination of both traditional methods and the more data oriented Sabremetrics. Some teams which are accused of simple “buying” their major league team through free agency like the Yankees actually have a very talented scouting department and minor league system.  The Yankees have built their own middle relief corps from their own system this year.  The bullpen with the exception of closer Mariano Rivera has been a weak spot over the past 8 years for the Yankees and they have remedied this on their own.  Likewise the Red Sox, Rays and Orioles maintain excellent scouting and minor league systems.  The Orioles are the newcomers in this building their team from scratch over the past few years.  In the West both the Angels and the A’s have strong minor league systems as do the Cardinals and Dodgers.

japanese scoutYokohama Bay Stars Scout

Unfortunately many organizations outside baseball, especially churches do not scout or develop talent.  Sometimes it is a organizational approach or prejudice that either seeks outsiders versus home grown talent, mega-churches are particularly bad about this often looking at outsiders to fill the their staffs.  On the other hand older main line denominations often are suspicious of outsiders even those with good track records.  Some Churches such as the Roman Catholic Church intentionally limit those who can serve as clergy to the ranks of unmarried celibate men, with a few exceptions made for married clergy from other churches.  Those men are taken through a process that often discounts any prior ministry they have as of little value and very few make it through the process of being ordained.  On the other side of the spectrum are churches which have no rhyme or reason as to how they choose develop or assign clergy with often very arbitrary means to choose pastors.  Clergy development from identifying young men and women who believe that they have a call to serve;  the nurture and care of these men and women, their education, formation and eventual ordination and assignment are particularly important if the Church is to fulfill its mandate of bearing witness of Christ in the world and caring for the people of God.

One can make application in many other fields.  In the military we typically recruit for most specialties but we look harder for specialties that require a more selective process such as Special Operations personnel.  In the medical field the military employs a very rigorous process of evaluating prospective physicians through medical school, internship and residency.  In specialties which a lot of personnel are required and in which there is a good amount of turnover and attrition many personnel are recruited but at certain career points a good number are weeded out.

Good scouting needs to be part of recruiting.  Talent must not simply be recruited based on test scores, but the whole person.  Organizations that seek excellence will use people to scout for and evaluate talent within their own organization or outside of it.  The goal of course is not to find one person that can play now, but to develop many people to deepen the organization and make it more resilient when it experiences personnel losses or has to make organizational moves. Without good scouting much recruiting effort will be spent and often wasted on people who do not fit what the organization needs at the present or in the future.

Peace, Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball, leadership, Military, Pastoral Care, philosophy