Well, here we are the end of St Patrick’s Day and I have to say that I have basically took the weekend off. I slept more than I was awake and did as little as possible. I read a book, a baseball novel called Chin Music by Lee Edelstein which I will review tomorrow Monday night for TLC Book Tours. I also spent a good amount of time with my dog Molly, giving her walks and enjoying her joyfulness.
I did go over to the Emerald Isle St Patrick’s Festival, braving the crowds, which some say might have been 20,000 or more to take my place at Rucker John’s. What amazed me was the manner of how many people celebrate St Patrick’s Day. I am not a tea-totaler by any means and do enjoy my time at the bar with friends. By I go for the fellowship, the friendship and the relationships. I enjoy good beer, wine or the occasional whiskey, brandy or Jaegermeister, but cannot understand why people would come out with the sole purpose of getting drunk and acting like fools. There were very few of us that were regulars there last night as the festivities commenced and I was embarrassed to watch Marines from our local bases act completely foolish, being vulgar, rude and causing the management of have to cut them off.
Last week was difficult, very busy and dealing with the effects of yet another suicide of a young sailor. I will be working in the early part of the week to conduct the memorial service for the young man, a veteran of Afghanistan whose demons were evidently more than he could bear, and to care for his shipmates. That suicide angered me. Not that I am angry with that young man and his choice to kill himself, but it angered me that so many young men and women, active duty, reserve, national guard as well as retirees and veterans who have left the service die every day.
The fact is that I don’t think that we as individuals, the military, the veterans administration or society are doing enough. I am tired of it and have resolved to do whatever I can to do what I can do to as an individual, a Chaplain and military officer to stem this tide. I may be pissing into the wind, but having been to the brink and stared into the abyss of hopelessness after I returned from Iraq I cannot just stand by and lament the situation anymore.
I have also been thinking about Iraq and all of the lives lost or destroyed, American, Iraqi and others, the treasure spent and the promises broken. As a veteran of that war I hope and pray that all the lives lost and treasure wasted will not be a complete waste. I pray that some good will still come from our misbegotten invasion of Iraq. Iraq remains a part of my thoughts and my dreams, and rarely a night goes by that my mid does not go back to Iraq, the men that I served with and the Iraqis that I got to know.
In the midst of Iraq I was reminded that yesterday was the anniversary of the My Lai Massacre and my distant connection to it. Of course that massacre was one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of the US Army. I remember when the news broke about it and then remember what my first class advisor in Army ROTC at UCLA had to say about it. He was there after the massacre, his unit providing protection for those investigating it. His words about it and how bad it was remained with me.
In 1997 I was serving as the Chaplain at Fort Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania when I was requested to conduct the funeral for Colonel Oran Henderson, the man who commanded the brigade to which the men that conducted the massacre belonged. Henderson was tried and acquitted of a cover up at the longest running court-martial in US history. However, his career, which before My Lai appeared that he was destined to be a general. That destiny died at My Lai.
The tragic thing is, a that Henderson, who was a hero in many ways, a man who in World War II, Korea and Vietnam was wounded and conducted himself honor, failed in this crisis. At the time a thorough investigation conducted by him that sought justice rather than a whitewash may have helped the county and changed his legacy. When I think of him I know that what we do matters, especially as military officers. Ethics is and has to be a central part of our life and faith. When we forget that, when we allow the utilitarian necessities of careerism and defend the institution even when it is wrong we like Henderson fail. That may be one of the lessons that we did not learn in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan which will continue to haunt us. I’ll probably write something about My Lai and its relation to current conflicts and the necessity of military professionals to always seek the higher level of ethics in how they approach war.
Like I said, there is so much to write about and to discuss. I want to write some on the upcoming NCAA Basketball Tournament, a bit about baseball as well as some of the things happening in regard to North Korea, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan and the first days of the new Papacy of Pope Francis, which may turn out to be as surprising papacy as we have seen in decades, at least since Pope John XXIII.
Well, that is enough for tonight. Tomorrow I will post the review of Chin Music and we’ll see what the rest of the week portends.
Peace and blessings