Category Archives: life

Lying and Dying Every Single Day: Trump Continues at the Final Debate

Friends of Padre Steve’s

I reluctantly watched the train wreck of a debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. To his credit the President pretty much to the debate format, a first in this election season, although he did try to steamroll the moderator more and more as the debate went on. He looked angry, for some reason, I thought his orange tint was a shade darker, it made his angry eyes stand out. But anyway, I digress.

As far as the debate went some issues were discussed and both men stuck to their script, Biden did nothing to harm his campaign and despite a few times where he to a lesser extent than the President uttered a few phrases of  word salad, but generally stayed on topic and hit Trump pretty hard a number of times. The President’s best line of attack was was near the end of the debate he attacked Biden on the transition to a non-fossil fuel driven economy and the push for zero emissions. Of course the Vice President’s ideas make sense and the United has to lead the world in this direction. But Trump used it to try to make his case as a friend of the oil industry, especially in Pennsylvania and Texas. I don’t know how many votes he swayed with the argument but it was really the only time that he might have got some people to not abandon him, but in doing so he also dehumanized poor and mostly black or Mexican people who live in the communities Just outside the fence lines of refineries and plants. He insinuated that they benefitted through jobs at them, but that is not the case. Most currently employed oil workers, are suburbanites who make enough money to live well away from the toxin spewing plants and refineries they work. As always the President lied about the effect on the economy, and the people who would be effected by the change, heck even the oil companies are beginning to diversify into wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

Unfortunately lying is his baseline and he seldom deviated from it. Biden made some factual errors but they did not come across as outright lies. Likewise,

I had to start drinking early because the President lied continuously and with such warp speed that I could not keep track of all of them. His heartlessness was revealed so many times that as Priest and Christian I was overwhelmed at his repetition of so many disproved conspiracy theories, absolute lies, and the realization that Donald Trump does not care about the lives of any person than him, even his supporters based on his answers to the disaster that his administration had been regarding the Coronavirus 19 pandemic. The President claimed that cases were going down, that excess deaths were down, deaths were down, and that vaccines would soon be here and distributed by the military.

He told of his make believe world with a happy ending, when with COVID-19 there is no happy ending, no magical silver bullet that is going to make it go away. On the day of the debate the United States record its highest number of infections ever, and Friday the infections soared by almost 6,000 more than Thursday, 81,210 new infections and over 900 new deaths. The worst rates of infection were per million people were as follow: North Dakota, South Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nebraska, Idaho, Utah, Texas, Nevada, Illinois, and Oklahoma. Those are the top twenty. Sadly, most of the infections and deaths in these states were not in the initial surge, but after months of negligence and political malfeasance of the Trump Administration, and the mostly Republican governments of these states, many of which opened quickly, reopened schools, and for the most part have poor public health systems and few intensive care beds. The spike in deaths hasn’t begun yet, but they will and the President will again be shown to be a liar, whose refusal to deal with facts, attacks the scientist and doctors that tell the truth, and attempts to mislead every American.

During the debate he spoke like Hitler in the last months of World War II that said that Germany would be delivered from defeat by new miraculous weapons, and a split between the Allies, when every German military leader and industrial expert knew that Hitler’s Germany was doomed to defeat. Like Hitler, he blames those who were responsible for his early successes at fault for his defeat, and blames the professional military and intelligence officers, diplomats, scientists, and even long term followers for being disloyal not to the nation, but to him.

He promised an effective way vaccine that neither the drug companies or any experts will be available in sufficient numbers until next summer or fall. Then he promised that this miracle vaccine would be distributed by the military. That my friends is complete hogwash. Our military is not designed to distribute millions of vaccines across the country. Our medical departments have been cut to the bone by the Trump administration in order to provide more “trigger pullers” and our reserve and National Guard medical personnel have civilian jobs, most of which involve staffing medical centers, research institutions, hospitals, clinics, and private practices all of which are already engaged in the battle against COVID-19. and by the way the readiness and maintenance readiness of the transportation assets needed to get the vaccines to the places they can be used absolutely suck. Contrary to what President Trump says all the time, our military has not been rebuilt. It is broken by nearly two decades of incessant and unnecessary wars, and those wars broke our ability to sustain our military at the levels it needs to confront the Soviet, Chinese, North Korean, and Iranian threats, additionally he has undermined our alliances with long term allies and diminished the trust in the world of American leadership.

So a few more words about his claims of the military being able to distribute a yet to be proven and produced vaccine is a lie. Heck, we in the military are being told that we won’t have Flu vaccines available for military personnel until late December and being told to go to civilian providers to get our Flu shots. Neither do we have a full fledged COVID-19 testing program in the military. If you want to know why units are sequestered and cannot deploy, or ships have to disrupt deployments because of COVID-19 outbreaks We don’t have them, and even if a safe COVID 19 vaccine is developed the chance that it will be distributed quickly by a military logistics system that is under immense strain to supply our troops around the world is mindless jibber-jabber.

I have to ask how many million vaccines will be produced, how they will be distributed by a already stressed military supply system. The fact is that the virus is blowing up all over the country especially in Red States that resisted almost every aspect of the science and ensured that their citizens would be more exposed and more vulnerable to the virus, and this includes states who Governors might be Democrats but whose legislatures and courts are controlled by Republicans is a ridiculous defense of those states policies that put people at risk.

As of today there are over 8.575 million people who have been infected, almost 230,000 who have died, and if you count the number of over average deaths probably drives the death total to almost 300,000. Trump said that the numbers were down. It is not. Trump claimed that Virus infections were going down, as were deaths. But that is not the case, we are going into the third spike of the first wave of the pandemic because the Trump administration and its congressional, state, White Nationalist  and Christian Nationalist supporters ensured that any meaningful action to stop the virus would be undermined, because their political and Racist and religious political power demanded that it be so. Look at the statistics. Ethnic minorities, the elderly, and the poor are the majority of the deaths and infections. Those numbers are now beginning to include a lot of White people in states that have done the least to protect their citizens and have the least medical capabilities to handle the onslaught. Yes, the major metropolitan cities in the Northeast were hit hardest in the early days of the pandemic, but in comparison to the new areas, are doing well. That is not good enough but their preventative measures have been undermined by the President’s propaganda and an emotional and spiritual fatigue created by months of life disrupted by the virus.

Of course there was the propaganda put out by Trump on how children’s being separated and locked up by his administration were “being very well cared for” while locked in cages at the border.  I’m sorry, the Nazis said the same things of the Jews incarcerated at the “humanitarian” camp of Theresienstadt concentration camp, from which nearly 90% were sent to the death camp of  Auschwitz.  

When Biden brought up that over 545 children, forcibly separated from their parents at the border will likely never see their parents again because of Trump’s policies, Trump said “Good.” The fact is that the President has never, every condemned any violent acts, or previous illegal activities that international courts led by Americans would call Crimes Against Humanity, are not only tolerated, but encouraged, because the American President said so.

I am going to end for the night. I cannot be silent as a Christian, politics does not enter into my equation, but morality and human decency do matter, as do the best humanitarian aspect of my faith. The German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.” 

Likewise, if somehow I think that because I am a White Military Officer and remained silent that I will be spared because of that, I would be misguided and an imbecile. There is no safety for anyone today, even for those who most fervently believe what President Trump says. If you are one of them, and your really thing your liebes matter to him, they don’t and you are believing a lie.

The anti-Hitler martyr of the White Rose resistance Sophie Scholl wrote:

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place aswide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

Thats a fact. We have a President who is lying while people are dying every day In increasing numbers because of his lies, especially his supporters. That my friends is not a lie. Ask yourself, do you really trust him, or have you subordinated you’re morality, ethics, and respect for yourself to him, for what?

i do not stand in judgement over anyone. I believe in justice tempered by mercy. But as for me I have to echo the words of German Major General Henning Von Tresckow, a key planner in the anti-Hitler plot who on learning of his failures killed himself if the face of Soviet forces:

“We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.” 

Trump by no means is Hitler, but he acts a lot like him in terms of behaviors, words, and attitudes, especially in regards to minorities, the poor, his opponents, and even his supporters.

So until next time When I go back to my Battle of Leyte Gulf series, have a good night and please be safe. Even if you agree with the President and plan on voting form him, matters less to me than your lives and safety. I am tired of death, especially deaths that are completely preventable by the simplest actions such as the proper wear of face masks, social distancing, and hand washing. Those are not tyrannical measures, they are simple common sense and proven by science.

So until next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, Climate change,, Coronavirus, Coronavirus 19 Pandemic, COVID19, crimes against humanity, History, holocaust, Immigration and immigrants, laws and legislation, leadership, life, ministry, national security, nazi germany, Pastoral Care, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion, spirituality, things I don't get, war crimes, war crimes trials, world war two in europe

A Quick Note in the Midst of Life, Nightmares, Night Terrors, and Editing my Book

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been a strange but good day. I was off from work because our military personnel Were given the gift of time off because over the past year we have had no sailors charged or convicted of Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence. That being said I went to bed late last night because I was doing my editing. When I went to bed and got to sleep I had a number of vivid and violent nightmares related to war, PTSD and betrayal. I got up so tired that after a couple of errands and appointments with Judy I took a nap, and the violent nightmares continued. Between last night and the time I got up from my afternoon nap I ended up throwing myself out of bed onto the floor four times to not just to defend myself from attackers but be an agent of vengeance against them. Thankfully my rearrangement of furniture prevented serious injury.

The nightmares were vivid. They included people I did and didn’t know, one strangely who never figured in any violence against me, but a retired Chaplain who I once considered a friend who used my knowledge to help his advancement in the Chaplain Corps. However, he and his wife had used my wife to care for their kids for more than a decade and a half when they were too busy, only to toss her away, and me when we were no longer profitable to them and their kids no longer needed the rides to school provided by Judy without charge regardless of the time, effort and gas money expended, or career advice given by me that helped him get promoted.

But he was in the nightmares, in them didn’t seem to do anything than pay me scant attention and walk away in doctors office waiting room just before people tried to kill me.

Somehow his presence in those nightmares alerted me to danger, and thus armed I was able to defend in my nightmare myself using guns and arrows against assailants who I injured but did kille because they proved the truth to me. I let them live because they were not the real threat, and I had maimed them for life. In fact we gained each other’s respect and friendship despite our differences, but my former friend was another matter. He didn’t appear again in those nightmares but he might again. Maybe he is simply a metaphor in my dreams.

I haven’t had anything to do with him years, and I cannot remember the last time I saw him. Even though he lives a few miles from me we don’t run in the same circles, I think that is because he wants to retain the respectability of his large mainline Protestant denomination, and to keep his complicit silence on so much of what he knows to be true of the secret dark heart of the Chaplain Corps. Likewise, people like me are becoming every more in  military Chaplains, remaining  true to our Ordination vows, and ours Oath to the Constitution to provide for all the rights to their religious beliefs without prejudice. Even so I speak the truth, at least as I have seen and experienced it and am not afraid to do so.

I am fascinated by the violent nightmares and in my former friends role in them, for those who betray us are not usually open opponents, but those that we once opened up to because we thought we were on the same side. But when such a person ghosts you, and then shows up prominently in your nightmares you have to think of their motivations. At this time I think it is because he is a spineless weasel under the thumb of his shrew of a wife, but I could be wrong, and since only Judy would know the details their identity remains safely concealed, as it should.

So anyway, until tonight’s sleep, be it pleasant or terrifying I wish you the best.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, life, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, ministry, PTSD

The Loose Threads Will Remain, if We Try to remove them Our Life Tapestry Wouldn’t Be the Same

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

It is interesting to think about life, what has transpired, and what might have been if only…

Over the past year I have set more retirement dates that Brett Farve. Finally in 9 days I will officially be retired from the Navy, but not quite. I will be in a retired -retained status which means that I will remain on active duty while not counting against the number of officers on active duty. So I have been quite reflective because finally after so many twists,turns, detours, and turnabouts, my military career is almost at an end. When I finally retire, retire on December 31st I will have served 39 years, four months and five days of unbroken service in the Army and its National Guard and Reserve components and as an active duty Navy Chaplain.

That is a lot of time and I often wonder about all the “what if’s” of my life and career.

Like anyone I wonder about all of the “what ifs” and “might have been” parts of my life. Of course there are many, going back to things that I could not control, such as the choices that my parents made regarding career, family, and home. Then there are my own choices, choices that I made, some for better, and some maybe for worse. Then there were the choices of men and women in my life and career that impacted my life and the decision that I made.

Some of my dreams, and nightmares too, involve those decisions, particularly the ones that I could not control; but then there were those decisions, particularly regarding my military career choices, that come back to haunt my dreams. Those can be troubling; the things that I volunteered to do and the costs of those to Judy as a result of those decisions. Many of those decisions, particularly my decisions to volunteer for certain deployments and operations have come at a great cost to both of us.

But then I am reminded that none of us have a crystal ball that allows us to see what the result of our decisions will be; none of us are God, or some other omniscient being. We make our decisions based on what we know, and what we think might be the outcome of our decisions.

Judy and I have been watching a marathon of Star Trek the Next Generationepisodes of late. We are currently in the midst of season six. One of the episodes that we watched the other night is called Tapestry where Captain Picard is killed, but given a chance by the being called the Q for a do-over, a second change at life. Picard ends up regretting the do-over, it alienates him from his friends, and turns him in to a different person. Instead of a starship captain is a nondescript lieutenant junior grade doing a job that he hates.

tapestry2

The resultant decision leaves Picard distraught and he complains to Q:

Picard: You having a good laugh now, Q? Does it amuse you to think of me living out the rest of my life as a dreary man in a tedious job?

Q: I gave you something most mortals never experience: a second chance at life. And now all you can do is complain?

Picard: I can’t live out my days as that person. That man is bereft of passion… and imagination! That is not who I am!

Q: Au contraire. He’s the person you wanted to be: one who was less arrogant and undisciplined in his youth, one who was less like me… The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who did not fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember. That Picard never had a brush with death, never came face to face with his own mortality, never realized how fragile life is or how important each moment must be. So his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. He never led the away team on Milika III to save the Ambassador; or take charge of the Stargazer’s bridge when its captain was killed. And no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe – and he never, ever, got noticed by anyone.

It is a fascinating exchange and one that when I wonder about the choices that I have made that I think about; because when all is said and done, my life, like all of ours is a tapestry. On reflection Picard tells Counselor Troi, “There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of. There were… loose threads – untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I… pulled on one of those threads – it’d unravel the tapestry of my life.”

I think that I can agree with that. All the things in my life, the good things and the bad, as well as the paths not taken have all been a part of the tapestry of my life. I would not be who I am without them; and that I cannot comprehend. I would rather be the flawed me that is me, than the perfect me that never existed. Thus, all of those threads are in a sense precious and even holy.

It really hit me today, that even though I didn’t reach the pinnacle of my career hopes and dreams that I have been pretty damned blessed and that I am so happy over the way things turned out. I have had so many great opportunities and adventures, and in my final duty station I have had gotten to see my life, Priesthood, and ministry reborn, while at the same time the old hurts, wounds, disappointments and bitterness have faded. I’m happy doing what I do and who I am doing it with. As the great Lou Gehrig said: I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

I will be continuing to work in Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory until it is complete which I think will be Friday or Saturday. I hope to put something here tomorrow but won’t promise anything because the book has to get done, sent to my agent and to a German Reporter seeking to run sections of it in Die Zeit, one of Germany’s largest newspapers in the hopes that one of her book publisher contacts will get it published there too.

Thanks for your patience, prayers, and encouragement.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, life, Military, star trek, us army, US Navy

The Troubled Hero of Little Round Top: Gouverneur Warren, PTSD and Moral Injury

gkwarren

                             Brigadier General Gouverneur Warren

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am posting another section of one my draft Gettysburg books that I am waiting in order to finish since I am trying finish “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” by the end of the week. I’m also doing a lot at work even though I still need to accomplish my pre-retirement administrative tasks in the next week so I can officially retire on August 1st even though I will be remaining on active duty in a “retired retained” status until the end of the year due to the COVID19 emergency. It is a really strange time.

My PTSD has been acting up with all sorts of weird and frightening dreams, but the last two nights our new little Papillon puppy, three pound Maddy Lyn, who is really “Mommy’s girl,”  decided to sleep cradled against my body with my arm cradled around her, and she didn’t leave. I haven’t slept that well in months.

I understand strange transitions in stressful times while dealing with PTSD and Moral Injury, the Moral Injury coming from my return from war,  feeling ostracized by superiors in the Chaplain Corps, being sent to dead end assignments as soon as I had been selected for Commander. One of those happened to help some of my healing but caused problems in my marriage because with the exception of weekend or holiday visits every two or three weeks I was separated from my wife. When I finally came home we had been physically separated for ten of the previous seventeen years.

My next assignment allowed us to begin to get to know each other again, and allowed me to reconnect to my love of the academic world, teaching, and writing. I was happy at the Joint Forces Staff College, but my next assignment was changed without my knowledge, and I had no chance to change it or retire. It seemed like a final act of retribution by the then Chief of Chaplains, who scrupulously managed the careers of those she wanted advanced and those she always talked about “off ramping.” Because I went public with my PTSD, I violated a key unwritten tenet of being a clergyman or military chaplain: “thou shalt not admit to weakness or spiritual crisis.”

I was told by predecessors at it not to take it, but I couldn’t refuse it because I had been played. I would have to do two years at it before I could retire. But in that time I had no support from my command and had a parishioner try to get me tried by Court Martial for a sermon I preached. I have told that story too many times to go through it again.

That being said, I didn’t expect to go this long about me. I got caught  up in my own stuff, in which I find many connections between my experiences which I find a lot of personal connections with Gouverneur Warren and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Thankfully, I was cheered by out three puppies who decided to have a Papillon War, with me playing with them. So until tomorrow, 

Peace

Padre Steve+

                          The Troubled Hero of Little Round Top

Throughout this study we have been looking at how leaders at various levels in conduct of campaigns as well as battles make decisions. Likewise we examine the lives and character of those leaders as it applies to their actions at critical points of a battle. In this chapter we will examine three officers whose lives, character and actions at Gettysburg, specifically at Little Round Top exemplify two of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Desired Leader Attributes, “to anticipate and adapt to surprise and uncertainty” and the principle of Mission Command, to “operate on intent through trust, empowerment and understanding.” It is from those perspectives that we will look at this part of the battle, but we would be amiss if we did not address the nearly mythical status to which this action has risen.

The actions of three men at the Battle of Little Round Top; Brigadier General Gouverneur Warren, the Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac, Colonel Strong Vincent, commanding Third Brigade, First Division, V Corps and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, commanding the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment of Vincent’s brigade are very important to the outcome of the battle, but also for what they teach us about leadership and the profession of arms. This chapter focuses on Warren, in particular with his work with the Commander of the Army of the Potomac, George Meade and his actions to secure Little Round Top on July 2nd 1863, the next will deal with Chamberlain and Vincent.

The battle at Little Round Top is an iconic part of American History and in particular for the Army, a key element of how leadership has been studied. It has achieved nearly mythical status due to the actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain which have been told many times in history, fiction and in film, particularly Michael Shaara’s classic historical novel The Killer Angels and its film adaptation Gettysburg. While these accounts are certainly inspiring and allow us to experience the emotion and near spiritual quality of what Chamberlain writes, there is much more to learn.

That near spiritual quality and mythic status that we accord Gettysburg is important, for in large part it is why we come to the battlefield, and why we study. Chamberlain said it well many years after Gettysburg at the dedication of the Maine Monuments:

“In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls… generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.” [1]

So as we endeavor to look at the actions of these leaders on that fateful day it is important to recognize that we cannot totally separate those actions that helped decide the battle from the mythos that surrounds the story. [2] Likewise, it important to acknowledge that we cannot separate their character and the totality of military leaders lives from their actions on a particular battlefield. Unlike Chamberlain Warren does not engender myth, and that is why he is often overlooked by many casual students and observers of the Battle of Gettysburg.

For the purposes of this study it is important to note that Warren was not a commander during this action, he was, like most senior officers today, a staff officer. Many times students of military history and theory are inclined to dismiss the contributions of staff officers because they do not have the overall responsibility of a battle, or the glamour of the limelight of the commanders that they serve under. However, for military professionals, especially those serving on senior staffs who prepare campaign plans, contingency plans and crisis plans the study of officers like Warren is essential.

The Federal Army at Gettysburg, like its Confederate opponent had a wide variety of officers serving in its ranks. Many of its senior officers were graduates of West Point. Many had served together in Mexico and in the various campaigns against Native American tribes. Those who stayed in the Army during the long “peace” between the Mexican War and the outbreak of the Civil War endured the monotony, boredom and often miserable conditions of isolated army posts, long family separations, as well as low pay, slow promotion and often low social status.[3] In light of such conditions, many resigned their commissions to undertake various professional, business or academic pursuits; in fact Samuel Huntington noted that in the years before the Civil War that “West Point produced more railroad presidents than generals.” [4] However, on the outbreak of the war returned to service whether in the service of the Union, or the Confederate States.

When the war began the Army underwent a massive expansion, which it met through and the call of up militia and raising new units from the various states. In the expansion many officers were appointed who had no prior military service, or if they did it was performed years or even decades before the war. Some of these men were simply patriots who rallied to the flag, others due to a sense of righteousness about their cause, while others were political opportunists or appointees. In the north this was a particular problem as “professional officers were pushed aside and passed over in the Union, the higher commissions going, in the first stages of the war at least to officers called back into service or directly appointed from civilian life, many of them “political” appointees.” [5]

At times the lack of experience, training and sometimes the poor character of these men was tragic. However, many of these men performed as well or better than some of their regular army counterparts at various levels of command. At the same time a good number of Regular Army officers were allowed to assist states in the formation and training of these new units, one of whom was Gouverneur Warren. Gettysburg would provide opportunity for the best and worst of all of these types of officers to succeed or fail. In this chapter we will look at one of the regular officers and two of the volunteer whose lives intersected on July 2nd 1863.

Brigadier General Gouverneur Warren was typical of the many professional officers of the old army. An 1850 graduate of West Point, Warren was a bright student who had absorbed the teachings of his professor, Dennis Hart Mahan as the core of his own military thought, both in his senior year in college and through reinforcement as a faculty member. [6] Warren was commissioned as a Brevet Second Lieutenant and because of his high standing in his class was assigned to Corps of Topographical Engineers. He spent his first seven years in a number of assignments which took him throughout much of the country.

Warren’s work involved exploring and mapping for various enterprises including the project to help tame the Mississippi River, and the exploration of the Great Plains and Black Hills where he developed a sympathy for the various Sioux tribes he encountered noting on completion of his mission in 1858, writing that He had never heard a Sioux chief express an opinion in regard to what was due them in which I do not concur and that many of them view the extinction of their race as an inevitable result of the operation of present causes, and do so with all the feelings of despair with which we should contemplate the extinction of our nationality. [7] Following his years in the west he returned as faculty to West Point where he as an Assistant Professor, shared mathematics instructional duties with Oliver O. Howard and resumed his relationship with his former professor Mahan. [8]

On the outbreak of war Warren was granted leave from his duties at West Point to serve as Lieutenant Colonel of Volunteers in the 5th New York Infantry Regiment, also known as Duryee’s Zouaves. Where Duryee was appointed as a Brigadier General, Warren became its Colonel, serving with it during the Peninsula campaign where he was eventually given command of a provisional brigade and promoted to Brigadier General, serving as a Brigade Commander in at Second Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.

At Chancellorsville he was pulled from his brigade duties by Hooker who employed him with good effect to assist his engineering staff, first with mapping and then building the fortifications that stopped the ferocious Confederate storm on the second day of battle. [9] In less than 48 hours Warren’s troops threw up five miles of the most formidable entrenchments yet constructed under battlefield conditions. [10] Edward Alexander, Longstreet’s artillery officer noted that when the Confederates came upon the fortifications after Hooker’s withdraw that “they were amazed at the strength and completeness of the enemys fortifications. [11] Following the battle Warren was appointed as Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac on May 12th 1863 by Hooker. When Hooker was relieved of command and was replaced by Meade on June 28th 1863, he was kept in that position by his fellow engineer Meade rather than being promoted to a division or being assigned as Meade’s Chief of Staff. As this turned out it was a wise choice.

Warren along with Major General Winfield Scott Hancock arrived at Cemetery Hill on the night of July 1st. As Meade organized his defenses he not only depended on his advice about the ground, but “consulted him constantly at headquarters or sent him off on matters of highest importance.” [12] Meade respected Warren and had offered Warren the chance to serve as his Chief of Staff, a position that Warren, like Seth Williams, the Adjutant General declined that offer indicating that he had too much work in their departments to take on the burdens of a new job. [13] Lee appreciated Warren’s calm, absorbed, and earnest manner, his professional skill and sound judgment.[14] These qualities would serve both men and the army well on July 2nd.

When Sickles moved III Corps forward during the afternoon without permission moved his Corps forming a vulnerable salient at the Peach Orchard leaving the southern flank in the air, Meade was aghast. Warren who from his reconnaissance of the previous day and the morning knew the position better than anyone recognized that something was badly awry on SicklesThird Corps front  matters there were not all straight. [15] He had sent an officer to discover to investigate Sickles’ front and that officer reported that the section of Cemetery Ridge assigned to III Corps was not occupied.[16]

Meade and Warren discussed the situation and realized that III Corps “could hardly be said to be in position” [17] and knowing VI Corps was now close at hand order V Corps, at the time his only reserve into the position vacated by Sickles. They went forward and seeing the empty spaces Warren told Meade “here is where our line should be” to which Meade replied: “It’s too late now.” [18] Warren, whose familiarity with the whole of the battlefield gave him concern about Sickles’ corps dispositions suggest that Meade send him to the Federal left, “to examine the condition of affairs.” [19]

Meade concurred with his Engineer and in dispatching him he also gave Warren the authority to take charge as needed saying “I wish you would ride over there and if anything serious is going on, attend to it.” [20] Again Meade’s choice of Warren for the task demonstrated the trust that is essential in command. The two officers worked together seamlessly and as Coddington described their relationship that day: “Meade chose him to act as his alter ego in crucial moments of the battle, and Warren rendered services for which Meade and the country were to be eternally grateful.” [21]Warren would not see Meade again “until the attack had spent its force.” [22]

little round top map

Hunt noted that “The duty could not have been in better hands.” [23]When Warren arrived on Little Round Top he found it unoccupied save for a few signal corps soldiers. Warren immediately recognized the tactical value of Little Round Top and noted that it was “the key of the whole position.” [24]Warren saw that the Confederates were massing not more than a mile away and that there were no troops on the hill to stop them. He believed that an area “of woods on the near side of the Emmitsburg Road as “an excellent place for the enemy to form out of sight” [25] which was exactly what Major General John Bell Hood’s division was doing, as Henry Hunt noted “The enemy at the time lay concealed, awaiting signal for the assault…” [26] To test his suspicions Warren sent a messenger to Captain James Smith’s 4th New York artillery battery on Devil’s Den to fire a single shot into the woods. Warren described the situation:

“As the shot went whistling through the air the sound of it reached the enemy’s troops and caused every one to look in the direction of it. This motion revealed to me the glistening gun-barrels and bayonets of the enemy’s line of battle, already formed and far outflanking the position of any of our troops; so that the line of his advance from the right to Little Round Top was unopposed. I have been particular in telling this, as the discovery was intensely thrilling to my feelings, and almost appalling.” [27]

warren lrt

Upon confirming his fears Warren resorted to ruse and action. He order the “signalmen to keep up their wigwag activity, simply as a pretense of alertness, whether they had any real signals to transmit or not…”[28] He also sent messengers to Meade, Sickles and Sykes, the commander of V Corps asking Meade to “Send at least a division to me” [29] instructing the messenger, Lieutenant Randall Mackenzie to tell Meade “that we would at once have to occupy that place very strongly.” [30] Sickles refused on account of how badly stretched his lines were, however George Sykes of V Corps responded sending Captain William Jay to find Barnes commander of his 1st Division. The messenger could not find Barnes, but instead came across the commander of the division’s 3rd Brigade Colonel Strong Vincent. Vincent knew that Barnes was self-medicating his “pre-battle anxieties out of a black commissary quart bottle” and was already “hollow from skull to boots” and demanded “What are your orders? Give me your orders.” [31] Upon learning that Sykes wanted a brigade to proceed to Little Round Top Vincent responded immediately to take the initiative and ordered his four regiments up Little Round Top without waiting for permission. Vincent told Sykes messenger “I will take the responsibility myself of taking my brigade there.” [32]

Meade’s choice of Warren was demonstrated in how Warren continued to act with alacrity and decisiveness throughout the afternoon. “As the Union line began to crumble on Little Round Top, Warren, vested with the authority of Meade’s chief representative, emerged as the right man at the right place at the right time.” [33] Warren did not stop with sending messengers, but seeing the danger building he noted that the northwest face of the hill was still unoccupied and open to attack. Warren forgot “all about a general’s dignity” he “sprinted down the east slope of the hill like a rabbit.” [34] There he found Brigadier General Stephen Weed’s brigade which he had previously commanded. Since he did not see Weed, but he found Colonel Patrick O’Rorke of the 140th New York and ordered him to follow him up the hill, saying “Paddy…give me a regiment.” [35] When O’Rorke said that Weed expected him to be following him Warren took the responsibility telling O’Rorke “Bring them up on the double quick, and don’t stop for aligning. I’ll take responsibility.” [36] O’Rorke followed with his gallant regiment with the rest of the brigade under Weed following. Warren’s actions were fortuitous as the 140th New York and Lieutenant Charles Hazlett’s battery of the 5th Artillery arrived at the crest just in time to repulse the advancing Confederates. In the fight the brigade would take fearful casualties and by the end of the battle, Weed, O’Rorke and Hazlett would all be dead, but with Vincent’s brigade they held on and saved the Union line.[37]

Warren continued to urge on the Federal troops despite being wounded, in the words of a reporter who observed him in “a most gallant and heroic manner, riding with utmost confidence over fields swept by the enemy’s fire, seemingly everywhere present, directing, aiding, and cheering the troops.” [38] Once he was assured that Little Round Top was secure he proceeded to rejoin Meade “near the center of the battlefield where another crisis was at hand.” [39]

Warren distinguished as a Corps commander until he ran afoul of the fiery General Phillip Sheridan in 1865. Sheridan relieved Warren of command of V Corps following the Battle of Five Forks where Sheridan believed that Warren’s Corps had moved too slowly in the attack. The relief was brutal and ruined his career. Warren was a professional soldier and took the relief hard. Unfortunately as a topographic engineer he was an outsider to many in the army and not fully appreciated by Grant or Sheridan who in their haste at Five Forks destroyed his career.

After the war Warren resigned his commission as a Major General of Volunteers and returned to his permanent rank as a Major of Engineers. He served another 17 years doing engineeringduty and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1879, but his past always haunted him, even his sleep. He wrote his wife while supervising a major bridge construction project over the Mississippi River in 1867: “I wish I did not dream so much. They make me sometimes to dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish never to experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.” [40]

He sought a Court of Inquiry to exonerate himself but this was refused until President Grant left office. The Court eventually exonerated him but he died three months before the results were published. Embittered he directed that he be buried in civilian clothes and without military honors. His funeral was attended by his friends Winfield Scott Hancock and Samuel Crawford, his oldest army friend and mentor Andrew Humphreys was called away before the service due to the sudden illness of his son. [41] The Washington Post noted that Warren “had gone “where neither the malevolence nor the justice of this world can reach him. He had enough of the former; and denial of the latter not only embittered his closing months of his life, but undoubtedly hastened his end.” [42]

Warren’s actions on that hot and muggy July 2nd exemplified the leadership qualities that we as an institution strive for, and from a leadership perspective demonstrate how the Chairman’s Desired Leader Attributes and the principles of Mission Command“the ability to operate on intent through trust, empowerment and understanding” should work in a relationship between seniors and subordinates. But his life also serves to remind us of the ethics of our profession. Loomis Langdon, who served as the official recorder for the board of inquiry wrote of Warren:

“I had never met General Warren till he came before his Court of Inquiry…I learned to value his good opinion – and while I admired him for his great patience, his wonderful energy, habit of concentration, his vast learning and untiring application, I loved him for his tenderness, gentleness and charity, even to those whom he believed had combined to do him a cruel wrong; and I admired him for his nobleness of character and his courage and unselfish patriotism.” [43]

It is easy for military professionals to become totally focused in our profession, especially the details of planning and process to forget the humanity of those that we serve alongside. Warren is one of those complex figures who are not easy to categorize. His biographer Jordan wrote that:

“Warren was a man with fine intellect, widely read, and of keen sensibilities. He was also an excellent engineer, mapmaker, and scientist. He was a soldier who cared much for the safety and welfare of the men under him, and he was sickened by the appalling carnage of the war in which he took such a prominent part. He was arrogant and proud, and he hesitated hardly at all in putting down those of his colleagues he regarded as inferiors. His mind’s eye took in much beyond what was his immediate concern, but this gift worked against him in the hierarchical realm of military life. Warren was prone to long sieges of depression, and he himself agreed that others found him morose and unsmiling…” [44]

Warren

In reading military history is far too easy to isolate and analyze a commander’s actions in battle and ignore the rest of their lives. I think that this does a great disservice to the men themselves. In time of war gives up something of themselves and sometimes even heroes like Gouverneur Warren are destroyed by the actions of institutions that they serve.

                                                        Notes

[1] Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence. Chamberlain’s Address at the dedication of the Maine Monuments at Gettysburg, October 3rd 1888 retrieved from http://www.joshualawrencechamberlain.com/maineatgettysburg.php 4 June 2014

[2] Note: My use of the terms myth, mythology or mythos should not be considered negative, and the use of the terms does not mean that there is not some degree of fact or truth in them. The definitions of the term mythos are important to understanding my use of the term here, first it denotes a traditional or recurrent narrative theme or plot structure of a story, and secondly a set of beliefs or assumptions about something. (See the Oxford American Dictionary.)

[3] Taylor, John M. Duty Faithfully Performed: Robert E Lee and His CriticsBrassey’s, Dulles VA 1999 pp.37-38.

[4] Huntington, Samuel P. The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London 1957 p.199

[5] Ibid. Huntington. The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations p.213

[6] Jordan, David M. Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren Indiana University Press, Bloomington Indiana 2001 p.6

[7] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.30

[8] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.33

[9] Sears, Stephen W. ChancellorsvilleHoughton Mifflin Co. Boston and New York 1996 p.372

[10] Hagerman, Edward. The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare. Midland Book Editions, Indiana University Press. Bloomington IN. 1992 p.91

[11] Alexander, Edward Porter Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A Critical Narrative 1907 republished 2013 by Pickle Partners Publishing, Amazon Kindle Edition location 7007

[12] Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster New York, 1968 p.332

[13] Sears, Stephen W. Gettysburg. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston and New York 2003 pp.129-130

[14] Ibid. Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, p.332

[15] Ibid. Sears Gettysburg p.262

[16] Tredeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2002 p.319

[17] Ibid. Tredeau. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, p.319

[18] Ibid. Tredeau. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, p.320

[19] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.90

[20] Ibid. Tredeau. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, p.320

[21] Ibid. Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, p.388

[22] Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion Vintage Books a Division of Random House, New York 2013 p.260

[23] Hunt, Henry. The Second Day at Gettysburg in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War Volume III, The Tide Shifts. Edited by Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel Castle, Secaucus NJ p. 307

[24] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.92

[25] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.92

[26] Ibid. Hunt The Second Day at Gettysburg in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War Volume III, The Tide Shifts. p. 307

[27] Pfanz, Harry F. Gettysburg: The Second Day. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1987 p.206

[28] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two Fredericksburg to Meridian Random House, New York 1963 p.503

[29] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.92

[30] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion Vintage p.261

[31] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion Vintage p.262

[32] Longacre, Edward Joshua Chamberlain: The Soldier and the ManCombined Publishing Conshohocken PA 1999 p.127

[33] Ibid. Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, p.395

[34] Swanberg, W.A. Sickles the IncredibleStan Clark Military Books, Gettysburg PA 1957 p.214

[35] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.93

[36] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two Fredericksburg to Meridian p.504

[37] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren pp. 93-94

[38] Ibid. Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, p.388

[39] Ibid. Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, p.396

[40] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.249

[41] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.309

[42] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.308

[43] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren p.309

[44] Ibid. Jordan Happiness is Not My Companion: The Life of G.K. Warren preface pp.x-xI

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Long Two Days, But Back with More Tomorrow

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been a long couple of day in which about 12 hours of each were spent on the road. As you know from my posts last week, we lost Judy’s emotional support and therapy dog Minnie Scule from Kidney failure at the age of 8 1/2 last Monday. Judy was distraught, depressed, and crushed by the loss of Minnie, who since she was an 8-9 week old puppy was Judy’s constant shadow and companion. She was an extremely complicated, funny, at times demanding and obnoxious pup, but she was sweet, and the bond between Judy and Minnie was amazing. As such our next two Papillons, Izzy and Pierre pretty much bonded with me and formed their own security, observation, and wrestling team.

A very special friend of ours saw what was going on with Judy and bought her a little Papillon puppy from her breeder. I had to get special permission to take Judy to New Hampshire and back, but this morning we were rewarded with little Maddy Lyn. She immediately bonded with Judy and rode on Judy’s shoulder the whole trip home. She is so smart, sweet, and adorable it is amazing. She is definitely Mommy’s girl, and in some things she acts a lot like Minnie. In others not, but I wonder if Minnie travelled up with us in spirit to giver Maddy some pointers.

As you can see from these pictures there already is a bond between them. By the way, she was great on the trip and is making herself at home here. As for Izzy and Pierre, who have transitioned from being the younger dogs, this is their first time having a puppy. Maddy follows  them around and it is so funny.

I am grateful for the support I have from my command, their willingness to give me permission to travel out of the area, and for the kindness of so many people.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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No Joy in Mudville: Our Mighty Minnie is Gone

 


Minnie and Me on a Mission from God

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

John Grogan wrote:

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.“

I find it is amazing how true that is. We have been blessed by some of the most amazing dogs who have each occupied our lives in fascinating ways. They have been lovers, consolers, jokers, and defenders. All had or with our two remaining Papillons, Izzy Bella, and Pierre, have carved out distinct places in our canine-human pack. I live to come home and see them jumping up and down, barking and waging because I am home. In fact they start looking for me even before I get home because they know the routine.

We have been owned by six dogs in our marriage, each with a distinct personality and place in our pack, beginning with our German Wire Haired Dachshund and Dowager Queen Frieda. Frieda could be sweet, but she was cunning and had an attitude. We loved her but it was kind of like Stockholm Syndrome because while Frieda loved us, she was her own dog, and we were the bumbling help. If you have ever had a difficult and headstrong Dachshund, imagine that pup being a 28 pound German standard size one, bred as a hunting dog, with not an ounce of fat on her, big boned, lots of muscles, teeth like that of an Alsatian, and jaws that could lock down. She was incredibly smart and devious, and we referred to her as the Queen. That being said she was incredibly gentle to children and old ladies. Judy and Frieda had an almost psychic bond, it was like Frieda was always inside Judy’s head. We lost her in early 2001 at the age of 16 1/2 years, and three days. She shared Judy’s birthday. When Frieda died I was deployed to Okinawa, mainland Japan, and Korea. Judy did her best to keep her alive for my return but it didn’t work out. When she died, Judy recalled that it was like her mind was alone. However, Frieda never really left our lives, we both had paranormal encounters with her, and sometimes I catch out of the corner of my eye a Frieda sized shadow figure. Go figure.

We got our second pup, also a dachshund but a smooth hair red dachshund designed to American, not German specifications. We named her Greta, and she was sweet, but a thief and chow hound. She was mommy’s girl, completely codependent and attached to Judy. She was sweet, and when she saw little girls when we walked her she would roll over to get her belly rubbed. She was smart, sweet, but somewhat dour in personality, but she could be funny without meaning to be. When we got her Frieda retired from watch dog and patrol duties and handed them off the Greta. Frieda was like someone who retired from the military at 20 years and lived to be 120, collecting retirement and demanding her due. We lost Greta on June 22nd 2003 to cancer, 17 years to the day before we lost Minnie.

Six months after we lost Frieda, we got Molly. Molly was a rescue found of North Carolina Highway 24 in Carteret County. When found she was covered in tar as the highway was being widened and repaved. Judy met the lady and Molly at our vets office and since Judy thought Molly was a dachshund told the lady that we had a lot of experience with dachshunds and to call us if she needed advice. We it turned out that Molly, who was estimated by the vet to be about six months old was too much for this lady’s old dog which suffered from hip problems. She asked if we would consider taking her and I said why not. However, Molly wasn’t fully dachshund, she was a dachshund-papillon mix. She had the long dachshund body, slightly longer legs, the beautiful long fur coat of a long rich red hair.her body was that of a dachshund but her legs, ears and tail didn’t look at all like a dachshund. Being a mix she was fascinating, one day she could be the cheerful Papillon, and the next the “what the hell do you want Dachshund.” But she was smart, somewhat devious and mischievous, but always good for a long snuggle and kiss fest. She was a daddy’s girl, but Judy’s protector during a period where I was deployed or away from home more often than not. In late 2010 I was assigned to the Naval Hospital at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina and I rented an apartment under a beach house on Emerald Isle. While there Judy and Molly would occasionally visit, but in early 2012 Judy had to have an Achilles’ tendon resection surgery. Since our home in Virginia is nothing but stairs, we decided that she should do her first month of recuperating with me, because my apartment was ground level and had nary a step to be found. Molly came down and during that month, decided that regardless of what mommy was doing that she was going to stay. On Emerald Isle she could chase deer, squirrels, foxes, and go for walks on the beach. She also had a daddy who would take her for rides which usually ended up with her being rewarded with a Molly Burger from either Hardee’s of McDonald’s. However, not long before I was reassigned back to the Hampton Roads area in late 2013, Molly went blind from a  genetic disorder. One day she was snapping Dragonflies out of the air, and the next she was running into things. But, she adapted to blindness marvelously. We bought her a visor to protect her eyes and she used it like a blind man’s cane, tapping her way through the house without missing a beat. However in early 2014 she developed Kidney Disease and died in May 2015, just over the age of 14. It was a good thing that Molly came to live with me, because in those years I was so wracked with PTSD that had she not been waiting for me that I could have easily driven my car into a tree and ended my life. Molly saved my life more than once.

However, because we loved the Papillon side of her personality, and because if she stayed with me Judy would be alone, I decided to look for  Papillon puppy, and I found Minnie. When the breeder sent me the picture of a very tiny yet confident and cocky puppy, I knew that she was the one. Judy named her Minnie Scule because fro what she read she didn’t expect Minnie to get over 7-8 pounds. When we got Minnie she was just 2.4 pounds with tiny little legs and a somewhat oval body. Judy nicknamed her the piglet. However, Minnie took to sitting on Judy’s shoulders like a parrot would do with a Pirate. But Minnie kept growing and at one point she was all ears, legs, and tail, a gangly puppy. But then she started to fill out and for most of her life weighed between 13-15 pounds. She had a huge personality. She talked like Scooby Doo, and was demanding like a Frieda, but much sweeter about it and without Frieda’s armament. I encouraged her worst habits. She was a thief, could be defiant, and was not always obedient unless food was involved. But above all she was mommy’s girl, not that she didn’t like spending time with daddy who would walk her around the lake in our neighborhood and let her chase ducks and geese, and as any good spaniel would do, jumped into the lake in pursuit. But Judy was always first in her heart, she was her shadow and constant companion.

Monday, was sad day in our household, Judy and I lost our Minnie Scule to Kidney failure and probable sepsis this evening. Over the past few months she has been battling it, but over the past couple of weeks she would have good days and bad, some days she would eat and other times not, and and her weight went down from about 14 1/2 pounds to by today less than ten.

But it was last week when things started to get really bad. She stopped eating and no matter what we tried we couldn’t get her to eat. So we began to make daily visits to the vet where we would drop her off for tests, IVs, medication, and really everything the vet could try to attempt to reverse the course of the disease and to try to get her to rally. On Saturday it seemed like she might be rallying but Sunday morning she was worse. While at home we did everything the vet had us do and more, but even had she staged a rally, she might have just lived another couple of weeks or months.

Last night was weird. She usually sleeps next to Judy or between her legs. About 3 AM Judy got me up because Minnie wasn’t on the bed. We looked everywhere and couldn’t find her and she wouldn’t respond to us. I finally found her curled in some clothes in a pull out bin on my side of the bed. I have heard the stories of dogs who knew it was time to die by leaving home and going into the woods, but since she couldn’t get out and was really too week to go anywhere else in the house she went to that spot. I got her back in the bed, and we both petted her for a long time and told her how much that we loved her.

Today we took her in for a last ditch effort, but I could tell that her breathing was labored and heartbeat too fast, and she was pretty much skin, fur, and bones. Not long after I got out of my latest set of knee injections at the Naval Medical Center I got a call from the vet who has been seeing her since she was a 2.4 pound puppy. He was not hopeful at all but gave us some options which included taking her to a 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital where she could receive round the clock care, but I didn’t expect that to do anymore and asked if at the end of the day we could take her home and see how she did. He was agreeable to that and agreed to meet us in the morning as he had to leave early, leaving her in the care of another very good and experienced vet who we also really like. About 4 PM, the other doctor called and said that she had gotten significantly worse. So we made the decision that it was time. We got to be with her and the doctor who had been hers since the beginning came back to the office to be with us.

Minnie was on Judy’s lap, completely limp, With no energy at all, and her breathing worse than in the morning. She lay completely limp in Judy’s arms as we petted and talked to her, then mustering whatever strength she had left she shifted her body in order to be in a place where she could see both of us, and then collapsed again in Judy’s arms. She Expended her last ounce of strength to see us. She knew that it was time. She was so weak that the injection took just seconds to put her out of her suffering. She died in Judy’s arms with me beside her. Despite, that her face looked calm, and she never lost her beauty. It was hard to believe that she was gone.

We had dinner and Judy went to bed with Izzy going up to be with her while Pierre, the daddy’s boy that he is came downstairs with me as I tried to answer the hundreds of condolences and heartfelt messages that we received in less than a couple of hours. They were all heartfelt and genuine. I could just barely reply to a few because I was just trying to hold the tears back. So I went through my email I had a really kind message from Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. When I read it I burst out crying. It was one of the kindest, most considerate notes on a personal loss I have ever received from anyone. He found out through a mutual long time friend that Minnie had died, and his words had the depth our soul, character, and spirituality that are lacking in so many Christian churches and other religious organizations.

Mikey is a friend, and his organization defended me when one of my retired parishioners at my old chapel attempted to have me tried by Court Martial for a sermon that I preached, in which he made bold faced lies about what I said. But the command conducted an investigation and I lawyered up with the best, the MRFF. The attorney handled the investigation well, and the investigating officer interviewed over half of the congregation present that day. None corroborated the lies of my accuser and the investigation was dropped. What was interesting was that one of the questions asked was how each parishioner viewed me. Active duty personnel, a tiny minority in the congregation had no problems with what I preached on that day, and regardless of their race they defended me to a person. The retiree population was another matter. Blacks viewed me and my preaching favorably, one even saying that my words that day “sounded like the voice of God.” But the Whites, though not backing the accuser, all said that they thought that I “was too liberal to preach in a military setting.”

I found that perplexing because when I preach I use the texts from the lectionary and apply basic Catholic theology and social teaching to them and couple them to what is known as the Anglican triad, of Scripture, Church Tradition, and Reason. Then I preach a sermon firmly grounded in these. As well as history, since I also happen to be a historian, but I digress. The point is, that Mikey came to my aid when most Christians, including some members of the Chaplain Corps would have thrown me under the bus. I respect him, and I love him.

His note meant so much, not that the other expressions from so many others mean anything less, because I appreciated all of them, and as I said I was fighting back the tears when I read them.

Mikey noted something else in his reply to my reply on his first email. He noted how much his dogs were like family, and that they tended to be better friends and more loyal than most people. I have to agree with that. Others, going back to the Greek philosophers have said much the same thing.

Charles Darwin noted: “Man himself cannot express love and humility by external signs, so plainly as does a dog, when with drooping ears, hanging lips, flexuous body, and wagging tail, he meets his beloved master.“

When I think of Minnie, and our other pups, I think of that. She was a joy, I shall never forget her and I will always miss her. If I get to heaven, I know that she will be waiting for me, with Molly, and maybe Frieda and Greta, and providing that if I outlive them, certainly Izzy and Pierre.

Until whenever,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Day to Promote other Blogs and Work on my Book


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today has been a day for me to promote some excellent blogs that I follow. I posted them on this site and posted them on Facebook and Twitter. Most deal with history, although others deal with art, music, archeology, architecture, law, humor, and current events. They include American, French, and English bloggers.

We have also been taking care of Minnie as she makes her slow but now steady recovery. I expect it will take longer, but she is looking and acting better.

I have also been working on editing my book.

So I will end here and wish you all a good night.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Sleep is a Unicorn: The Worst Thing is to Try to Sleep and Not To

Pearls Before Swine Comic Strip for August 07, 2017

Pearls Before Swine (c) Stephan Pastis

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.” I have lived

Ever since I got back from Iraq in February 2008 the night has been a time of time of terror. Insomnia, nightmares, night terrors, and dreams that were so bad that I often found myself attacking imaginary images, and more than once threw myself out of bed in the middle of them, on more than one occasion had to go to the emergency room to treat physical injuries from these festivities of anxiety and terror. A lot of time I would avoid going to bed until I was falling asleep.  Back then I could agree with Dr. Seuss who wrote: “Sleep is like the unicorn – it is rumored to exist, but I doubt I will see any.” 

Being career officer and having spent time in the badlands of Iraq I have related to military veterans from previous wars who suffered from insomnia and nightmares. Guy Sajer wrote in his book The Forgotten Soldier, “Only happy people have nightmares, from overeating. For those who live a nightmare reality, sleep is a black hole, lost in time, like death.” United States Army General Gouverneur Warren, a hero of many Civil War battles including Gettysburg wrote to his wife after the war “I wish I did not dream so much. They make me sometimes to dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish never to experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.”

However, things did get a bit better once I was treated for sleep apnea and one of my sleep doctors began treating me for REM sleep disorder and nightmare syndrome. Medications were adjusted, but even so  good sleep was still at a premium but the nightmares and night terrors continued.

Judy who suffers from Childhood PTSD due to being beaten by an older sibling on a regular basis and also suffers. Nightmares and anxiety at night decided to try a weighted blanket, which are advertised to calm nighttime anxiety, and all the body to release serotonin to allow better and calmer sleep. She could not get over how it improved her sleep and let me try hers. I could not believe the difference, so she ordered a second one for me. I have now had about 5 nights of good sleep. My dreams are becoming less nightmarish, and I feel rested rather than exhausted when I get up in the morning. As W.C. Fields said: “Sleep! The most beautiful experience in life. Except drink.” 

Pearls Before Swine (c) Stephan Pastis 

I honestly don’t know who they work, but I don’t need to understand in order to know that for me, and Judy that sleep is getting better, and like Pig in Pearls Before Swine I now find bed to be a place of comparative safety.

So thanks to Judy who insisted that I, the consummate skeptic, try her weighted blanket, I am now sleeping better than I have for well over a decade. This doesn’t mean that I will not have nights where  my PTSD demons return, but I think they will become fewer, and hopefully less intense. As James Spader playing Raymond Reddington on the Blacklist told an agent going through a traumatic event:

“There is nothing that can take the pain away. But eventually, you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares. And every day when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think about. Until one day, it’s the second.”

I find that oddly comforting, and hopefully using this weighted blanket those nightmares and that pain will go away, until it is no longer at the first or even the second thing that comes to mind when I go to sleep and wake up. I am glad that Judy pushed me into trying it, I am also glad that I am finally beginning to really take her advice seriously.

So if you suffer similar sleep issues to us, you might want to think about trying one of these out.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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A New Thread in the Tapestry of My Life: Serving People in the Age of COVID-19


Friends of Padre Steve’s World

It is interesting to think about life, what has transpired, and what might have been if only…

Like anyone I wonder about all of the “what ifs” and “might have been” parts of my life. Of course there are many, going back to things that I could not control, such as the choices that my parents made regarding their lives, career, family, and home. Then there are my own choices, choices that I made, some for better, and some maybe for worse. Then there were the choices of men and women in my life and career that impacted my life and the decisions that I made, again for better or worse.

Some of my dreams, and nightmares too, involve those decisions, particularly the ones that I could not control; but then there were those decisions, particularly regarding my military career choices, that come back to haunt my dreams. Those can be troubling; the things that I volunteered to do and the costs of those to Judy as a result of those decisions. Many of those decisions, particularly my decisions to volunteer for certain deployments and operations have come at a great cost to both of us, the struggle with the effects of PTSD even ten years after my return from Iraq is still very real.

But then I am reminded that none of us have a crystal ball that allows us to see what the result of our decisions will be; none of us are God, or some other omniscient being. We make our decisions based on what we know, and what we think might be the outcome of our decisions.

If only my knees hadn’t been too badly injured and slow to recover I would have been out of the Navy, probably teaching history (now online) at the college level while relegating my calling as a priest to the background. But after that I  couldn’t retire, but due to a administrative error in calculating my statutory retirement date as I expected in April. I am now scheduled to retire in August, but with Coronavirus there is even uncertainty about that, and frankly I couldn’t care less, because I would rather serve and be in the thick of the fight than sitting on my ass or doing something that provides for me and Judy, but does not help in the time of crisis.

Between last spring when I first put in my voluntary retirement  paperwork working in the most miserable tour of all my time in the military, and doubting my call as a Priest, something miraculous happened. The screwed up knees and administrative mistakes ended up renewing my call and ministry among people I would never have expected to be serving. But even with that I never expected that I would still be serving on active duty at the age of 60, providing needed and valued ministry to people of all faiths, including atheists, in the midst of the novel Coronavirus 19 pandemic that is infecting some of them, or infecting and killing their family members, friends, or others that they know. Of course I take all of the guidance seriously to protect those I serve as well as Judy and me, but a new thread has been woven into the tapestry of my life. I felt the renewed call not long after I arrived, but this has solidified it.

I love the television series Star Trek the Next Generation. One of my favorite episodes is called Tapestry. In the episode Captain Picard is killed. He is then met by the being known as Q, played by John De Lancie for a do-over, a second chance to reverse a choice that he made as a young officer.

On Q’s promise that his choice will not alter history Picard takes the chance and he ends up regretting it. In his second chance to avoid the incident that allowed him to be killed he alienates himself from his friends, and turns him in to a different person, unwilling to take chances and doomed to insignificance. When he returns to his new present he finds himself alive but a different person. Instead of a starship captain is a nondescript lieutenant junior grade doing a job that he hates as an assistant astrophysics officer.

tapestry2

Distraught Picard complains to Q:

Picard: You having a good laugh now, Q? Does it amuse you to think of me living out the rest of my life as a dreary man in a tedious job?

Q: I gave you something most mortals never experience: a second chance at life. And now all you can do is complain?

Picard: I can’t live out my days as that person. That man is bereft of passion… and imagination! That is not who I am!

Q: Au contraire. He’s the person you wanted to be: one who was less arrogant and undisciplined in his youth, one who was less like me… The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who did not fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember. That Picard never had a brush with death, never came face to face with his own mortality, never realized how fragile life is or how important each moment must be. So his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. He never led the away team on Milika III to save the Ambassador; or take charge of the Stargazer’s bridge when its captain was killed. And no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe – and he never, ever, got noticed by anyone.

It is a fascinating exchange and one that when I wonder about the choices that I have made that I think about; because when all is said and done, my life, like all of ours is a tapestry. On reflection Picard tells Counselor Troi, “There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of. There were… loose threads – untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I… pulled on one of those threads – it’d unravel the tapestry of my life.”

I think that I can agree with that. All the things in my life, the good things and the bad, as well as the paths not taken have all been a part of the tapestry of my life. I would not be who I am without them; and that I cannot comprehend. I would rather be the flawed me that is me, than the perfect me that never existed. Thus, all of those threads of my tapestry are in a sense, precious and even holy.

I’ll keep all of them, but of all I will remember this thread, as well as my combat tours, and life and death in ICUs and ERs the most. Suddenly at the age of 60 life has begun again. As the late great Sid Caesar once said:

“A great NOW will be a great WAS! A bad NOW will always be a bad WAS, and all you can hope for is a Great GONNA BE!”

As old as I am and as long as I have served, my future is yet to be written, and the tapestry of my life continues, even as new threads are woven into it. Every experience in my life has helped make me the person that I am. A friend of mine from my high school years sent me an email after I explained the experiences behind my writings, and noted “maybe all of that prepared you for such a time as this.” It was an affirmation by someone who doesn’t always share my political, social, or interpretation of the Christian faith that I am doing what I need to be, in such a time as this.

Value the tapestry of your life, and always find something good to life for and work towards.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, Coronavirus, faith, life, Military, ministry, philosophy, star trek, Tour in Iraq, US Navy

Going Forward into the Past: Coronavirus-19 Easter 2020 and Going Back to Our Roots

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This kind of returns to the theme of the article I wrote on Good Friday. On the first Good Friday the followers of Jesus fled the scene and hid. The same was true on the first Holy Saturday, and yes, even the first Easter Sunday. If it had not been for the appearance of Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and a woman named Salome coming to anoint his body according to Luke, Mary Magdalene alone according to John,  or Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus according to Matthew and Mark just to visit the tomb we can remain assured that the male followers would have remained in their spider holes until they were sure that it was safe to come out. Regardless of the account it was one or all of these women who found Peter and John, who ran to the tomb to find it empty. Then they returned to discuss the matter with whoever of the disciples they could find, except Judas Iscariot who was simply hanging around and rotting, but I digress.

What is important is that they pretty much remained in hiding until Jesus made his first port-Resurrection visits to them. Even then, they didn’t do much in public and were not engaged in preaching or knocking on doors to share their faith. One of the disciples, a man named Thomas expressed his doubts until he met Jesus face to face when Jesus made one of his appearances. During the encounter challenged by Jesus to put his hands in the wounds on his hands and side. Personally, I think it would be good for all Christians to experience doubt, or even what Saint John of the Cross called the Dark Night of the Soul, or the total absence of any feeling of the presence of God. However, in our Americanized profit before prophet materialistic and success absorbed church, that message is a hard sell. Perhaps the Coronavirus 19 pandemic will change that, but only time will tell.

I think that what is happening now with the Coronavirus-19 pandemic has shaken our faith in the illusionary comforts and successes of this life. I think that this illusion of control needs to be shaken to the core, especially for the Christian, regardless of tradition, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical, or Pentecostal/ Charismatic. German theologian Jürgen Moltmann wrote:

“In a civilization that glorifies success and happiness and is blind to the sufferings of others, people’s eyes can be opened to the truth if they remember that at the centre of the Christian faith stands an unsuccessful, tormented Christ, dying in forsakenness.”

This is not a denial of the resurrection, but a realization that while Christ is risen, that we still live in a world that is afflicted by the actions of human beings to exploit it, destroy it, and exploit and dehumanize other human beings in quest of power and profit. It is the obligation of the Christian and other people of faith to stand up against respond to the plight of suffering people, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted:

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

Tonight I read the story of a Pentecostal Church in Beckley West Virginia devoting its Easter weekend to using 3D printers to manufacture face masks and shields to CDC and FDA specifications for local hospital workers who are desperately short of PPE. I was blown away. They understood that the mission of Christian, the Church as well as other believers in such as situation is not just simply praying or gathering, but rather doing what they could to act, to do something more than gathering, praising, praying, or celebrating while others suffer and die.

I have learned and still am learning what Bonhoeffer so eloquently wrote not before he was killed by SS at Flossenburg on the personal order of Hitler:

“During the last year or so I’ve come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness of Christianity.  The Christian is not ahomo religiosus, but simply a man, as Jesus was a man…I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called priestly type!) a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one.  By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities.  In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world—watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is metanoia; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian.”

I truly believe that this pandemic is an opportunity to re-learn what our ancestors in faith knew from experience: That faith is most real when there is little worldly to hope for, when our illusions of worldly power, and with it the power, and exclusivity of the Church are broken down by something smaller yet more disruptive and deadly than the leaders of our greatest cathedrals, or most massive megachurch stadiums could ever imagine, because what we worship is not spiritual, but material treasures. We, and I mean me as well, have often found our worth in our possessions, those things that we think we own or or think we possess.

This horrible pandemic is by no means over. It will most likely continue to wash over our planet like tsunami waves disrupting our lives and killing many. Between each wave there intervals of comparative quiet, until the next wave hits. This will continue until a vaccine is developed and provided around the world. That could take a year to eighteen months. During that time our lives will be changed in ways that none of us can imagine.

But in the midst of this, when ways out seem so fraught with danger, on Easter we have to remember hope. As Moltmann wrote:

“Believing in the resurrection does not just mean assenting to a dogma and noting a historical fact. It means participating in this creative act of God’s … Resurrection is not a consoling opium, soothing us with the promise of a better world in the hereafter. It is the energy for a rebirth of this life. The hope doesn’t point to another world. It is focused on the redemption of this one.”

That is the task now, not just of Christian, but of all people of faith as well as those who do not believe in God or any higher power. We have to focus on the redemption of the real world, and doing everything we can to alleviate the suffering of others and not abandoning them, as we hope that others will not abandon us in the hour of our need. As Bonhoeffer noted we have to see the world through the eyes of Jesus in Gethsemane.

If people of faith, Christian or not, respond by loving and caring for those who before we didn’t think were worthy of the love of God, or probably more accurately believed were unworthy of associating with us, then maybe people will believe our message again.

When I was a teenager growing up in the middle of the Jesus movement in the 1970s there was a Christian Rock Group out of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa named Daniel Amos. Written by Terry Scott Taylor, the Song, Losers and Winners  https://genius.com/Daniel-amos-losers-and-winners-lyrics  reminds us that being a Christian, or for that matter any member of any faith, that God cares for everyone, regardless of who we are or our status in life, and we should too.

I ain’t namin’ names
But I sense that some pride remains
And I do not want to exclude myself
But I had to take a look
In the light of God’s own Book
So see if this sin ain’t yours as well
Do you hail the gifted ones
And the others do you shun?
Do you speak to only those you chose?
Well, God’s love, it has no bounds
Has no ups, and it has no downs
Goes out to those who win and to those who lose
Now, clubs and cliques, they choose and pick
And they make their interviews
Screen the undesirables
And turn down clowns and fools
But Jesus died for sinners
Losers and winners
Yes, it’s proven by His love for me and you
Do you give the highest place
To someone ’cause you like his face
And turn aside those you deem less than yourself?
Well, love that is natural
Can be less than satisfactual
For we all are one, no less than anyone else,
Now, clubs and cliques, they choose and pick
And they make their interviews
Screen the undesirables
And turn down clowns and fools
But Jesus died for sinners
Losers and winners
Yes, it’s proven by His love for me and you
So until tomorrow, let that sink in. The Jesus I believe in loves and cares for everyone, and his command is that his followers do the same.
So in this unusual for our age Easter and Easter season let us remember that it is not about us and our superiority, prosperity, privilege, pride, or worldly possessions or honor that we live. Nor is about our theology or who we believe God, is, or what our doctrine teaches about the Deity Himself or Herself, but it is for others, regardless of our faith, their faith, or lack of it, for we all are human beings on the Big Blue Marble that we call Earth. We live or die together.
Until tomorrow or whenever,
Peace,
Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, Coronavirus, Diseases Epidemics and Pandemics, faith, life, ministry, News and current events, Religion