Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Devil Wears My Sister’s Face

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I don’t re-post other blogs often, but this is one that I think is important.

As a Chaplain I have helped care for many people who have been the victims of abuse by spouses, parents, other older relatives or by “friends” of the family. Some is physical, some sexual and most also involve emotional abuse. However, little is written about abusive siblings, though it is quite common, usually these siblings are also the victims of abuse who take out their anger on the only people they can, usually younger or weaker siblings. Thankfully I was never abused by any family members. However my wife Judy suffered a lot of abuse, verbal and physical abuse by her father, the same and worse by her sister and had a mother who allowed it to happen.

This is Judy’s latest blog over at the Abby Normal Abbess site, which I encourage you to visit. It is quite powerful.


Padre Steve+

Abbeynormalabbess's Blog

When I think of the Devil, I see an angry, red, scowling face. I don’t see a mythical figure. I see my sister. This is the only part of her I ever saw.

“Nobody will ever love you. Nobody will ever want you. Nobody will ever be your friend. You’ll never be anybody,you’ll never do anything.” So went the litany of non-affirmations she heaped on me constantly. She drew an imaginary line down the middle of our bedroom, and I was never, ever, allowed to cross it, unless it was to reach the closet, or one of the two doors leading out of our bedroom. She was older than me. She knew me better than anyone. She had to know what I was really like. I believed her. Sometimes, I believe her now. When I entered a room, she wrinkled her nose, like she smelled a foul odor. I was…

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Iraq, ISIS and Al Qaeda: Sowing the Wind…

In recent days I have been reading the statements, speeches and documents of senior members of the Bush administration justifying the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Until it invaded Kuwait in August 1990, that regime was considered an ally against the Iranian Mullahs. But that changed when he invaded Kuwait, following an American diplomatic miscalculation which he interpreted as our acquiescence to his plans.

Of course like Paul Harvey used to say, we know “the rest of the story.” The administration of George H.W. Bush assembled a coalition and obtained the support of the United Nations Security Council to drive Saddam’s forces out of Kuwait. Interestingly enough the coalition included Sunni and Arab, Shia regimes including that of Syria. Twelve years later following the Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the son-of-Bush, George W. Bush and his administration desperately tried to link the most disparate group of nations to the actions of Al Qaeda; Iran, a mortal enemy of the Sunni Al Qaeda extremists, North Korea, a rogue nation in its own right, but with no proven contacts with the terrorist group, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a rather unique regime which managed under a secular mantle to unify a disparate country well enough that hundreds of thousands of Shia Arabs gave their lives in nearly decade long war with Shia Iran.

The imbecilic decision to attack Iraq, despite all the evidence to the contrary, and the knowledge that the previous Bush administration rejected the idea of overthrowing Saddam and occupying the county was disastrous. Likewise the decision to lump the Shia regime of Iran, which realized the militant Al Qaeda threat and was working through back channels to cooperate with the United States against it, was stupid. The decisions destroyed the balance of power in the region and eliminated the one relatively, though admittedly despotic secular state that opposed both Al Qaeda and Iran ran contrary to an sane understanding of geopolitics and national security.

After eight years of struggle the United States withdrew its military forces pursuant to an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration with the Shia dominated government of Iraq. The rest is history. That government under Prime Minister Maliki did all that it could to keep itself in power while marginalizing the largely secular Sunnis who rose to drive out Al Qaeda in the Anbar Awakening helped bring about the resurgence of the Al Qaeda terrorist extremism, in its new and more lethal form of the Islamic State.

Too late the Iraqi government, Iran, the United States, Europe, the United Nations, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have woken up to the threat. ISIS now controls large chunks of strategic territory in Iraq and Syria, it is dismantling Al Qaeda and supplanting it as the terrorist organization of choice for young Jihadists around the world. The brutality and single minded devotion of of ISIS to radical Salafi and Wahhabi Islam makes Al Qaeda and the Taliban look like the Boy Scouts. It is well funded through black market oil and through rich benefactors in the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia and its recruiting efforts are bringing in volunteers around the world.

Now the world is faced with a beast that need not have been created. But, the hubris of the Bush administration to destroy the long standing balance of power in the region, eliminate Saddam and alienate Iran, just when we needed both; as well as the short sighted religious devotion of Sunni- Wahhabi and Salafist fundamentalists who funded Sunni militants and terrorists with petrodollars for two decades has opened the door to Pandora’s box. The beheading of American Photo-Journalist James Foley, the killing and persecution of Christian and Yadizi minorities who have lived in Iraq for millennia and the slaughter of Shia Moslems by the ISIS Caliphate demonstrate the level to which ISIS will go to achieve their ends.

There will be no quick end to this war. It will be a war of unimaginable duration, brutality and excess because it will be a war of radically opposed ideology infused with fanatical religion and even racism? The West, too long in denial of the importance of ideology in war, despite having fought ideological, religions or racial wars will be slow to appreciate this fact. However, when it does after yet another massive terrorist strike, the media will whip Americans and Europeans into a frenzy and the gloves will come off and the battle will be joined. The war will take years, maybe decades and the effects will be felt around the world. The brutality will drive moderates to the extremes and it will become a clash of civilizations, probably only rivaled in brutality and destruction by the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

Of course none of this is what I want, and I do hope that I am wrong, but I sense that it will play out this way. The details are yet to be decided, but this ideological war, the offspring of the American hubris of the second Bush administration, European greed and the shortsightedness of wealthy Sunni Arabs in promoting a dangerous brand of Islam have brought us to this point. All of us have sowed the wind and now, we will reap the whirlwind.

In such a conflict I wonder about the words Joshua Chamberlain spoke at Gettysburg almost a century and a half ago: “…men made in the image of God, marred by the hand of man, and must we say in the name of God? And where is the reckoning for such things? And who is answerable? One might almost shrink from the sound of his own voice, which had launched into the palpitating air words of order–do we call it?–fraught with such ruin. Was it God’s command that we heard, or His forgiveness that we must forever implore?”

Peace Padre Steve+


Filed under Foreign Policy, middle east, national security, Uncategorized

Updating Links on a Lazy Saturday

It is a lazy Saturday up here with Judy and our dogs Molly and Minnie in Hampton Roads. So i took the time instead of doing any serious writing to update the links on this page.

I have added or modified the link categories to help make them easier to navigate. I broke up the News and Weather section into News which links to major US media outlets, World News, Local News and Weather, Political Commentary and Weather. I have added numerous sites to the links including many more news and political commentary sites, much more world news, beefed up weather and sections on history and what I call “just for fun” which has links to a bunch of my favorite comics.

I want to draw special attention to my wife Judy’s blog. Her site, The Abbey Normal Abbess She has some fascinating insights on life and great art which I hope that she will post more of in the coming weeks.

Have a great weekend!


Padre Steve+


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Obituary for HMCS Hayes-Jones

Shipemates and Friends of HMCS Hayes-Jones

The Link to the obituary is here:

The text alone follows should the link notr work.  I had trouble with the funeral home link yesterday.

HMCS D’juna Marie Hayes-Jones

May 3, 1965
August 5, 2009

MCS D’juna Marie Hayes-Jones, 44, passed away suddenly on Wednesday August 5, 2009 in Portsmouth, VA. She was a resident of Chesapeake, VA and was born in New Orleans, LA on May 3rd 1965. She joined the Navy on March 28th, 1983. Throughout her distinguished career, she received numerous Letters of Commendation and Appreciation for her superior performance. Her educational achievements included Occupational Therapy Assistant School, Senior Enlisted Leadership, Executive Medical Department Enlisted Course, Career Information Program Advisor, Senior Enlisted Academy, Patient Administration Course, Command Management Equal Opportunity Program Manager, and Bachelors Degree in Management from American Intercontinental University.

Her duty assignments include Recruit Training Command, Orlando, FL; Hospital Corps “A” School, Great Lakes, IL; Naval Hospital Beaufort, SC; Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, CA; Naval School of Health Sciences Bethesda Detachment AHS, Fort Sam Houston, TX; Naval School of Health Sciences San Diego, CA; Naval Hospital Yokosuka Japan; Naval Hospital Millington, TN; Naval School of Health Sciences Portsmouth, VA; Leading Chief Petty Officer, Physical /Occupational Therapy, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, CA; Instructor Training School, Norfolk, VA; Senior Enlisted Leader, Administrative Directorate, Naval School of Health Sciences Portsmouth, VA; Senior Enlisted Leader, Patient Administration Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Senior Enlisted Leader, Directorate for Nursing Services, Portsmouth, VA.

HMCS Hayes-Jones’ personal awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two awards), Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal (six awards), National Defense Medal (two awards), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation (two awards), Overseas Service Ribbon. She also distinguished herself as Enlisted Technical Leader for Physical/Occupational Therapy Technicians and Sailor of the Quarter on two occasions.

She had a passion for jazz music and art & crafts. Senior Chief Hayes-Jones would have had her retirement ceremony on August 28th, 2009. She leaves behind two children, her husband and her shipmates. She was a great Sailor, mentor, and friend who will be deeply missed by all who knew her.

“Fair Winds and Following Seas, Shipmate” Survivors include her husband, Earnest Jones, Sr.; a son, Earnest Jones, Jr.; a daughter, Danika Jones; her father, Gerald Hayes, Sr.; her brothers, Gerald Hayes, Jr. of Knoxville, TN, Aristede A Hayes of New Orleans, Jarrett G. Hayes, Sr. of Jacksonville, FL, Rubien M. and wife Roshanda Hayes of LaPlace, and a step-brother, Capt. Kapell Eugene USMC of Lexington, KY.; her sisters, Yunaka Gerrell Baham of Katy, TX and Gerilyn Michele Hayes of San Marcos, TX; a Godchild, Bradley Stokes of New Orleans; her Aunts, Gail Vessell of San Francisco, CA, Yolanda Vessel, Lou Vanna Pope and Holly Jarrell; her Uncles, Rudolph Hayes, Sammuel Hayes, Floyd Summers of Los Angeles, CA and Rogers Vessel, Sr.
Preceded in death by her mother, Evelyn Summers Hayes, maternal grandparents, Calvin and Dorothy Adler Summers; Paternal grandparents, Willie Hayes, Jr. and Samuel and Ruby Hayes McCray; Great grandparents, AC and Mable Williams and godmother, Dorothy Stokes.
The visitation and funeral services will be at Greenoaks Funeral Home in Baton Rouge, LA on Thursday from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. and on Friday from 8:30 a.m. until time of services at 10 a.m. Burial will be in Port Hudson National Cemetery in Zachary, LA.

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Where were You When…? The Death of an Icon and Its Impact in Our Lives

Note: This post is one where I invite readers to share any memories they have of Michael Jackson’s death or other events that involved the deaths of cultural icons as well as significant events that either affected you or made a deep impact on your life or that of people that you know.  I will approve all comments except those identified as spam by WordPress.

The death of Michael Jackson yesterday was one of those events in life that when they occur leave a lasting impression on people. Even people who were not fans of Michael will remember because Michael Jackson was a cultural icon.  When icons die, or tragedies occur they tend to leave a lasting mark.  You can be talking to anyone and if they were alive when one of these events happened and quite a few or most people will be able to tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing at the time of the event.

I am 49 years old, though patently I don’t really look my age, nor do I act it.  Being that I am nearly half a century old it means that I have seen a fair amount of life.  Since I am passionate about life and a keen observer of life, society and culture being a historian as well as member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park parish I remember a lot.  I’m told by some that I have one of those phonographic memories.  You know the kind where you get a thought in your head and it keeps going and going round and round at 33 1/3 RPMs.  I will remember this because we had just arrived at the Capital Hilton and were preparing to go out for dinner with Judy’s cousin Becki at Murphy’s of DC to celebrate our anniversary.  I had just checked the news when I heard that Michael had been found down and was in cardiac arrest.  Since I have seen a lot of these cases roll into ERs that I have worked in I knew that Jackson had very little chance of coming out of this alive.  Most news sites were reported that he was getting CPR and had been taken to UCLA Medical Center.  Then I checked the website of Matt Drudge, the Drudge Report following a look at CNN.  I opened the page and Drudge’s trademark old fashioned police siren light was flashing and below it in red was “WEBSITE: JACKSON DEAD!” and had a link to the celebrity gossip site TMZ.  TMZ actually reported the death over an hour prior to most of the networks.  It also turned out that TMZ’s report was pretty accurate.  Later other sites began to announce the news pretty much confirming TMZ’s initial report. I saw the report on CNN as we walked to get a cab to the restaurant with Becki.  It was kind of surreal as Michael Jackson, despite his eccentric actions and nearly continuous controversy surrounding his life, was a larger than life figure.

So events like this get etched on people’s memories like images of the Virgin Mary on grilled cheese sandwiches or pizzas.  These have been reported by the faithful and offered for sale on E-bay so they must be authentic right? They are something that you reallymust  remember. Talking with Judy and Becki at dinner we began to recount where we were at different moments events over the past 30 years or so.   For me the events are often linked to other seemingly inconsequential events going on in my own life. As I have said before we have lived a life  much like the characters in the show Seinfeld so some of these things may not be as funny to you as they are for me.

Some of the things that I remember which stand out include the following events.  If you remember where you were at these events please feel free to comment or add your own in the comments section.  This is one of those rare times when almost everyone has a memory that surfaces because a current event triggers the memory of that particular event.

For me I’m going to first each back to is the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King on April 4th 1968.  That was strange because we lived in the little town of Oak Harbor Washington where my dad was stationed.  The town was small and isolated by being on an island.  We saw the news reports that night this time I believe we were watching NBC’s Huntley and Brinkley give the news. This was way before Cable news and so it took a while to get the story out.  As a little kid I was astounded that anyone could kill a minister and I knew that Dr. King was a leader in trying get blacks the same rights that whites enjoyed.  The next day our teacher at Oak Harbor Elementary School, Mrs. Jackson talked about it with us.  This was follow just two months later by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy following his California Primary election victory.  I remember the news reports the next day and how upset that my parents were about his death.

The next event was Apollo 11 Moon landing, the “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind” moment on July 20th 1969 where Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Lunar Module on the “Sea of Tranquility.”  I was a kid and on summer vacation still living in Oak Harbor.  We were at home watching Walter Cronkite report the event live when it happened.  That was an amazing event.

The next really big thing for me was the Marshall University Football team plane crash in Huntington West Virginia where at 7:35 Pm EST a Southern Airways DC-9 crashed into a hillside just short of the runway killing the team as well as numerous boosters, alumni and Huntington notables.  This was kind of person for us.  I had seen that team practice at the old Fairfield Stadium across the street from my grandparent’s house the previous spring before we returned to California to rejoin my dad after he had found us decent housing.  We were watching the evening news in Long Beach California when the local announcer interrupted the story he was working on and announced the crash.  My mom knew a number of people on the aircraft and was devastated.

I’m going to jump forward a bit, to the fall of Saigon on April 30th 1975.  This was a bitter day for me.  My dad had fought in Vietnam and I knew kids who had lost their fathers in the war.  I had experienced a Sunday School teach telling me that my dad was a “baby killer” for being in Vietnam in 1972 and I felt that we had let the South Vietnamese down and that it was the fault of those in the media, on the street and in Congress that had ensured that our men died in vain.  I think that was the point that I decided that I was going to enter the military.  I still cannot look at Jane Fonda and some of her fellow travelers without feeling a sense of anger.

Jumping again a few years I remember the fall of the Shah of Iran and the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran by so called “students” on November 4th 1979.  The takeover which lasted 444 days began in my sophomore year of college.  The humiliation of the country and the poor response of President Jimmy Carter confirmed that I would enter the military after college.  I won’t forget the nightly updates on ABC hosted by Ted Koppel which became the long running show Nightline. I would stay up every night to get the updates.  When the hostages were released this was cause for celebration, but the damage was done.  Of course we saw the pro and anti-Ayatollah  protesters on our university, Northride a big business school responded to a pro-Ayatollah by driving the protestors off campus.  So much for riled up MBA students and Science geeks huh?

When Elvis died on August 16th 1977 I was a getting ready to enter my senior year of high school.  In fact only a week before I had won a copy of a blue vinyl copy of his last album Moody Blue in a local pop radio station give away.  I was on a church high school trip when the news came over the radio.  The man driving the car a real estate agent who was a deacon in the church started to cry, I mean like really cry almost like Middle Eastern mourning kind of crying.  As someone who is less expressive of such emotions being a Romulan at heart I was mildly taken aback, after all it wasn’t like they had dated or anything.  I had seldom seen men cry before and this was some pretty emotional stuff.  My mom had the same kind of reaction I discovered on my way home.  I guess it was the generation thing.  He was the icon of his generation and changed both the style and the performance of music.  It was Elvis that I immediately thought of when I first saw the news of Michael Jackson’s death.  I guess the fact that both were known as the “king”, that both died young and unexpectedly and that Michael was briefly married to Lisa Marie Presley makes their connection a bit stronger than otherwise expected.  I wonder if there will be stories that Michael is really dead or if it was staged to get him some privacy.  I’m sure that conspiracy theorists will be looking into this as both a death and a disappearance.  On a side note I visited Graceland in 1983 on my way to Fort Knox Kentucky and sat in the “pink Jeep.”  Judy had a Tonka pink Jeep when she was a kid.

The attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan on March 20th 1981 stands out.  I was a junior at cal State Northridge and was taking my lunch on the lawn outside of the office where I worked as a peer counselor.  I was getting ready to go to class as I watched to really good looking girls go walking by me talking.  I didn’t notice anything unusual until the past me and continuing to watch I noticed that each had their hand down the back side of the pants of the other one.  I had never seen this before.  Of course having grown up in California I knew homosexual men and I had heard of lesbians but this was the first time that I ever noticed women of that persuasion like doing some affection or foreplay in public.  Since then of course I have had many friendships with both male homosexuals and lesbians but this was one of those moments that sticks out in my mind.  Anyway, as I walked back into the office to grab my books for class the office TV was on announcing the attempted assassination and what I will never forget is watching retired General Alexander Haig as Secretary of State have a news conference where he stated “I’m in control.”  Of course he wasn’t the next in line and though he thought that he was he was not in control, even of himself that that point.  I don’t think that then Vice President George H.W. Bush was very impressed nor were the actuals in the line of succession.  So the shooting of President Reagan is intermixed with my first view of lesbian touching and seeing a General go out of control to be in control.  As Mr. Spock might say to Captain Kirk, “Captain I find this fascinating.”

In January 1985 I was a young company commander in Wiesbaden Germany.  The Space Shuttle Challenger with 7 Astronauts aboard blew up shortly after launch.  It was already the close of the business day in Germany when this happened.  I had the First Sergeant release the soldiers a bit early and set the duty, the Charge of Quarters, the Assistant and the Duty Driver.  I was staying late as always to take care of maintenance management and personnel reports when Specialist Lisa Dailey rushed into my office.  Lisa was the Charge of Quarters or CQ that day.  She knocked on my door and said “Sir the space shuttle just blew up.”  She had been watching it live on the new AFN broadcast of live stateside TV news broadcasts.  If I recall this was the time slot of the Today Show, and yes it was when there was only one AFN broadcast channel.  I looked up from my mountain of reports and said to her, “Specialist Dailey, space shuttles don’t blow up.”  And she said, no sir it just did, I was watching it and it is on TV right now.”  So I got up from my desk and walked at a brisk pace down the hall with my spun up specialist and looked on in horror as I saw a replay of the launch.   I was stunned as like I had told Lisa “space shuttles don’t blow up.”  However this one did and it was sobering.  I should have believed Lisa, she was a great soldier and the last time that I heard from her is doing well working as an RN in Southern California.  I had an eerie reprise of this when the Space Shuttle Columbia blew up on re-entry.  At the time I was waiting for the arrival of General Peter Pace who was to be our guest speaker at the Battle of Hue City Memorial Weekend in Jacksonville FL. He was delayed a couple of hours by an emergency meeting of the Joint Chiefs.

Fast forward a few years to the bombing by Libyan agents of Pam Am flight 103, the Clipper Maid of the Seas over Lockerbie Scotland, on December 21st 1988.  I had left active duty for seminary a couple of months previously and was engaged in a nearly futile job search in oil and real estate busted Texas.  I had completed the share of my morning futility mailing our more resumes, making more calls and picking up more job applications.  As always I would take a football out and punt it as far as I could to relieve the stress.  I had already found out that breaking things that you actually need when being accosted by bill collectors is not good a good way to deal with stress.  In today’s current economy I suggest anyone is such straits pick up a football and punt the crap out of it rather than taking anything out on home appliances, electronics or loved ones.  Eventually things will work out as sucky as they may seem now; the Deity Herself has assured me of this.  Anyway, back to the plane crash.  This really was weird for us because barely two years prior we had flown the same aircraft back from Germany when we were reassigned to the states.  We remembered this because then they showed the photo of the nose and cockpit area we saw the name of the aircraft.  I looked at Judy and said, does the name of that airplane look familiar?  If I recall correctly she said something like “Oh my God” and I said: “Remember back in Frankfurt when I saw the name of the aircraft prior to boarding?” and how “l liked the way Pan Am gave pretty names to its aircraft.”  It was funny because we both vividly recalled waiting for our flight and what we said about the aircraft.  That was totally weird and surreal almost like an X-Files thing as I thought back to details inside of the aircraft and the trip home from Germany.

We were in Fort Worth for the first bombing of the World Trade Center and the destruction of the Branch Davidian Compound outside Waco.  Both times I was at work and watched the events unfold on the televisions of our ministry’s television production department.  The Branch Davidian stand-off and attempted seizure of by Federal Agents used M-751 Combat Engineer Vehicles from my National Guard unit.  The vehicles were not manned by Guardsmen but Federal agents.  Later that summer I saw a couple of the vehicles which still had white paint scratches on them from the Branch Davidian building.   In 1995 I was home getting ready to go to work in Huntington West Virginia when the Murrow Federal Building was destroyed by Timothy McVeigh.

There are quite a few others that I could mention but will finish with the destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers on September 11th 2001.  I had finished a couple of counseling cases and put out some other brush fires as the Chaplain for Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division.  Leaving my office for a belated PT session at the French Creek gym I was closing out my internet explorer.  On the Yahoo home page there was a small news line that said “Aircraft crashes into World Trade Center.” I shrugged and figured that some idiot private pilot had flown his aircraft into is by mistake and when out to my car.  I got in my 2001 Honda CR-V and some guy on the radio was blathering about it being an airliner and then I heard a chilling line that I will never forget. “Oh my God another aircraft has hit the second building.”  I went over to the gym and stood staring in disbelief at one of the TVs with a bunch of Marines and Sailors.  I shook my head, ran back to the office and changed over to my cammies and when to the Battalion Headquarters where we were informed of what the command knew and then set to work taking anti-terror precautions as no one knew what might happen next.  Camp LeJeune became a fortress.  There were checkpoints at key locations throughout the base.  Patrols were set up and we remained in lock-down for almost 4 days.  That is a day that I can never forget, over 3000 Americans and others killed by Islamic extremist terrorists out to ignite a world war.

So those are some of mine.  What about yours?  Feel free to add your posts here and get a discussion of these and other notable events including the death of Michael Jackson going.  It will be interesting to see and I will approve all posts to this article, excepting of course spam posts.

Peace, Steve+


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Wear of the FWU-“Faggoty White Uniform” or Summer Whites

fwu-crete-2002Me in my FWU’s as a LT on USS Hue City CG-66 off Crete July 2002

We in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Navy have now transitioned to our summer uniforms.  I’ve talked in depth about the NWU or Navy Working Uniform which is now an all year working uniform.  While this is not the most traditional Naval uniform, we do still maintain some traditions.  Both enlisted sailors and officers still have white uniforms for the summer.  Enlisted in the pay grades E1-E6 wear the Service Dress White, or the Cracker Jack uniform for Dress occasions.  A new service uniform which looks similar to the Marine Corps Charlies with black versus olive green trousers is replacing the short sleeve summer white and long sleeve Winter and Working Blues.  So for the enlisted the Cracker Jack remains for dress occasions, the Summer Dress White and Service Dress Blue for summer and winter respectively.

Navy Chiefs and Officers have three, make that four variations of whites.  We have the Summer Dress White which is short sleeve, Service Dress White, which is the choker jacket worn with ribbons.  The Full Dress White, which is the same with large medals and ribbons as well as white gloves.  Lastly there is the seldom worn Tropical White which includes shorts and knee socks, a very colonial British look if you ask me, though the thought of the sun maybe reaching my legs and allowing them to tan while I am at work is an interesting thought.  Since when summer hits I normally am in shorts almost every day when not in uniform, I think shorts with the Whites would work fine here.

However, here lies the problem.  White is white and it is nearly impossible to keep clean.  If you sneeze and blow a huge luggie that ends up on them, it will be seen.  If your coffee is too hot and some drips on the uniform, it too will be seen.  Please do not even think about trying to eat a chili dog, wings or ribs in any of these uniforms.  If you end up making a splort on them it will be there for all too see and someone will be asking who the homeless dude masquerading as Captain Stubing from the Love Boat is. So when wearing any of these summer uniforms caution is required, and if you are eating, probably a bib.  However I am not sure if Naval Uniform Regulations permit you to sport a bib or not.  I suppose that if it was a Go Navy bib it might be okay, but otherwise I believe that it would be frowned upon as violating the decorum of the Wardroom.

Additionally, every time I wear this uniform I can hear the theme from the movie Top Gun playing in my head.  I’m sure that my dear Judy would kill me of I were to walk up to her in a bar or Officer’s Club singing You’ve lost that Lovin’ Feelin.’ Neither the humor or the singing would be appreciated as I think that they should be.  Likewise every time that I wear this uniform, especially when I was serving with the Marines I can almost hear Colonel Nathan R Jessup (Jack Nicholson) of A Few Good Men snear at me and say:

“You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in that faggoty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some f**king courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely.”  (sorry if anyone is offended by the language but it is the line from the movie and yes Marines can and do often talk that way, sometimes using the F-bomb as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective and sometimes even an action verb  in past present and future tenses in the same sentence. After all I am sure that the Deity Herself will forgive them as she will have Marines stationed on post around the Pearly Gates.)

Thanks to Colonel Jessup I have thought of the Summer Whites as the Faggoty White Uniform or by the acronym FWU since I arrived at Camp LeJeune North Carolina in 1999.  I figure now that we have the NWU this will work.

Today was my first chance to wear this uniform since last year.  I have to admit that it looks pretty good on me, especially with my weight loss, which I do plan on maintaining and continuing.  As I walked through the hall I could hear the Top Gun Theme going through my head and Colonel Jessup growling at me.  When I was stationed with the Marines I would ask what uniform we might be wearing for a certain ceremony.  If the answer was Your Summer White I would say, “Oh, the Faggoty White Uniform” often drawing looks of amazement and comments of “That’s really bad Chaplain,” followed by a laugh.   Now I simply call them the FWU.  Let’s keep things simple.  As long as I don’t run into Colonel Nathan R Jessup anytime soon I should be okay, at least I am not scheduled to go to Gitmo anytime soon.

At the same time this is a classy uniform.  Sorry to say, or beat the hell out of anything in the Army or Air Force inventory, and only is really outdone by the Marine Service Dress Blues.  It is traditional.  You can go to any Navy around the world and find a similar uniform.  I find this kind of cool.  I do like tradition and hope that the wear test of the Service Dress Khaki uniform is successful and that it will be brought back by the Navy.

So anyway, those are my thoughts about the uniform change.   A final note.  I went and saw the Tides tonight.  They won their 9th straight beating the Durham Bulls 8-2 and moving into first place in the Southern Division of the International League.



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Right Wing Intolerance

Disclaimer: Just because I am talking about Right Wing intolerance does not mean that I think the politcial left is immune from such behavior, nor do I believe that all liberals are tolerant. I recognize that there are Left Wing groups and individuals as intolerant as those on the right.  I am after all fair and balanced.

Today something totally weird happened to me on Facebook,  I made a throw away question and response on a friend’s likewise throw away comment.  Some guy who was a friend of a friend of my friend on my friend’s Facebook  friends list jumped my ass.  He was brutal, called me stupid, a douche bag, idiot and several other things after I said that I was a “liberal.”  He made derogatory comments concerning my intelligence and listening skills and when I made the comment that he had set off a severe PTSD reaction (I was trembling so badly that I had to take an anti-anxiety medicine to calm down) he made repeated derogatory comments about my condition and medication even saying that “too bad there is no medication for stupidity.” This young man did not know me from Adam yet he ripped into me assaulting my character, intelligence, and mental stability. This kid was ruthless, but he had learned well. He sounded just like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage.  The young man blamed the whole incident on me and commented “that people like me start wars.” I have no thirst for war after Iraq, but evidently this young man thinks that I am a war monger. Of course I didn’t make anything better when in the midst of my PTSD defense reaction I called him an asshole, but he was an arrogant young ass.  My friend, who has known me for years dropped this young man from his friends list. Afterward this young man sent me a personal message blaming me for getting dropped from my friend’s friend list.  I had apologized to my friend for breaking the decorum of his post by calling the young man an asshole, but I never suggested removing him as I did not know his relationship to my friend.

This young man unfortunately represents many who spend three to six hours a day or more listening to conservative talk radio.  I used to do so myself, but had to give it up after my time in Iraq when I realized that many of these commentators had no earthly clue about what was going on over there.  I also realized that in order for them to keep up ratings and make money and stay on the air that they have to keep people continuously spun up and agitated.  If someone listens to that kind of message, regardless of the ideology espoused by the commentator, one will be spun up and agitated, ready to go to war with anyone who does not think that way.

When someone on Facebook sends you a message you can view their page.  This young man claimed to be a Christian with his political views listed as “Anti-Democrat.”  However, the Christian faith is about reconciliation. This young man has obviously been listening to more conservative talk radio than wrestling with Scripture or Christian belief. I hate to say it but the philosophic and scientific foundation of Capitalism is that of Charles Darwin and the survival of the fittest. It is pure and simple social Darwinism. Sorry that is not Christian, but my brothers on the political right often see at as something intrinsic to the Christian faith, when in fact it has been condemned by Popes.

I had another young man a few months ago who is an active duty officer in the military drop me from his friends list after I suggested he be careful in being too vocal about his political views.  Active duty officers may vote, we may support political candidates, but we always, even when the President is different from our Party treat him with the respect and deference that the office and our oath demands.  When I see right wing news sites like World Net Daily encourage military men to disobey lawful orders I am troubled.  Those who encourage young men and women to disobey orders in a combat zone will abandon them once they have done so and been punished under the UCMJ.  Then they will move on to another topic leaving the men who risked all for what these people encouraged them to do sit in jail, or are discharged;  be it a Other Than Honorable, Bad Conduct or Dishonorable discharge. The right wing groups will raise money keep people spun up, but leave these men and women hung out to dry when they are finished with them.  Such action by supposed “Christian” conservatives is unconscionable, immoral and in fact unchristian.

I can definitely say that I used to be a conservative, back in the days that it wasn’t popular after Nixon left office. Bill Buckley, George Will and Ronald Reagan were my political mentors.  They were men of principle, gentlemen and though they disagreed with their opponents on the political left never made ad homonym personal attacks.  They remained friends with their opponents on the other side of the aisle.  I do still have some conservative leanings, I am pro-life but think based on what I see in medicine that there are some definite “gray” areas.  I was appalled at the Vatican’s decision to excommunicate the mother and doctors of a 9 year old girl who had become pregnant with twins by her stepfather.  The girl was discovered to be pregnant when she got sick and was about to die at about the 4th month of the pregnancy.  The mother and doctors rightfully decided to save the child’s life which had been endangered by the criminal actions of the step father, who by the way was NOT excommunicated, the Brazilian government is prosecuting that horrible excuse of a man.  When I see this action on the part of a church, any church I am appalled.  I cannot see Jesus doing this to anyone, especially the people who elected to save the life of a child.  Those who know anything about medicine know that at 16 weeks with a mother in extremis that any babies born will not be viable and will die anyway while at the same time likely killing the nine year old.  Does this make me pro-abortion?  I don’t think so, but evidently the Vatican does.

I left the Republican Party last year.  It was hard.  I had been a Republican since I was 16 years old.  I worked for Gerald Ford’s campaign before I could vote.  I cheered for Ronald Reagan, voted for George Bush. Had many issueswith Bill Clinton, but was troubled by actions of people rising to power in the Republican Party. I voted reluctantly for George W. Bush and wish that the Democrats had run someone other than John Kerry in 2004.  I became critical of the Bush administration for many things which I will not go into here, but they are subjects often targeted by Libertarians and by those that some in the Republican Party refer to as “Paleoconservatives .”  One of my chief complaints about the “Christian” right is that it looks to me that its leadership is simply an appendage of the Republican Party.  I wonder if back in the 1976-1980 time frame had Christian leaders across the board ensured that they were represented inboth political parties if the Democrat Party would have gone as far left as it did.  I also wonder if this would have kept both parties honest in dealing with social issues, including, but not limited to abortion.  I have seen some “Christians” impose ideologies such as free market capitalism and war against Islamic nations and support of the former President and Republican Party agenda as tests of ones Christian faith and practice.  I wonder about that because I think it has gutted the witness of the church in the world. I guess tis makes me a liberal now.  Oh well…if I am I’m a liberal for Jesus.

So that is my story after being once again beaten up by some mindless drone who claims to be both a Christian and conservative.  I’m definitely a Christian, but cannot claim to be a conservative in the current topography of the political landscape.  As was the case in a Bloom County Comic strip back in the 1980s, Opus the Penguin was labled as a liberal, and the lable stuck. I guess I am a liberal now. Oh well…


Filed under Uncategorized

The Stigma of PTSD

I have PTSD.  I came back with it from my tour in Iraq.  I’ve mentioned this indirectly in previous posts.

Honestly, when I went to Iraq I knew about PTSD, however before I went there I really didn’t understand it, despite having been a trauma department chaplain in an urban trauma center. I knew people who suffered from PTSD but presumed that it is not as bad or prevalent at it really is among our veterans.

It actually took me a while to figure out what was going on with me.  My assistant and I traveled about all of Iraq’s Al Anbar province working with small groups of Americans working with the Iraqi Army, Border Forces and various police and other security forces.  I worked out of a base where when I first arrived a Army helicopter went down and I was greeted with a memorial ceremony for the 5 soldiers killed.  This was followed in rapid succession by a number of mass causality events where I was busy praying for and anointing Marines and Soldiers wounded by insurgent attacks along the very roads that I would be traveling on.  In my tour I experienced a lot, while we never were in a convoy that got hit, we did take small arms fire, had rockets fly over us and had aircraft come under attack by ground fire and shoot back. We also traveled in convoys of no more than three American HUMMVs and maybe a couple of Iraqi vehicles occasionally having to examine suspected IEDs and go through areas that were rife with insurgents.  Additionally we were in meetings where corrupt Iraqi officers were relieved by their Iraqi commanders with the US advisers present.   All participants in these meetings were armed except me.  Since I came back I have seen several reports of advisers being killed or wounded by renegade Iraqi troops while engaged in humanitarian missions.   All of this took a toll, the wear and tear of constant travel in dangerous areas with minimal protection worm me down without me even realizing it.  About  two thirds of the way through the tour we came back from a mission and some idiotic bureaucratic thing was brought up at our base of operations.  I lost it.  I was kicking HESCO barriers (big wire and canvas containers that held sand and dirt to protect soft buildings from rockets and mortar fire and cussing when my assistant, RP2 Nelson Lebron puled me aside and said “Sir, you need to get some rest, it’s not worth being upset, they’re idiots.”   He was right, but it took me a while to realize what was going on with me.  I couldn’t sleep at night and when I came home was in a constant state of anxiety, sleeplessness and was terrified by noise, light and crowds.  Situations in traffic sent me into rages.  Hyper vigilant I could not relax. The noise of helicopters and sight of certain types of helicopters sent me into flashbacks.  Nightmares were common while living with a constant state of anxiety, depression and  even paranoia became normal. Even church was painful to visit. A church convocation where I had to fly through Orlando International Airport so traumatized me that I was a wreck for weeks to come.  When I came back to my unit from Iraq I found that my personal gear had been moved out of my office and placed in a trailer as the unit was going through a major reorganization.  It was not personal on their part, but I felt cast aside by the Navy when I returned.   While it was not personal I felt rejected and without a home.   Due to the effects of PTSD on my Sailors who had been to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times I was asked to start working on ways to help those traumatized by combat and the loss of friends.

In spite of this I pushed myself hard.  I couldn’t believe that there was anything wrong with me.  Then the fires in the Great Dismal Swamp began shrouding our area in a pall of smoke the color of which looked like a sandstorm and the smell like burn pits or the acrid smell of burning debris in Iraqi towns was overwhelming. Driving by a cow pasture or sewage treatment plant sent me back to Iraq.  During a presentation by a national expert which I had arranged for my unit on the effects of trauma and combat I struggled to keep myself together. My unit doctor looked at me a the end of the day and said. “Chaplain you don’t look good.”  I told him “I’m not, I need help.” Thankfully he listened, as did my command. My CO was shocked, I was experienced and well trained, and I was falling apart.  My doctor helped me to get the help I needed. My command was brought into the situation and both my old CO and new CO expressed thier support to me. The new CO asked me where a chaplain went for help.  I met Dr Elmer Maggard at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center and started to get help.  When I transferred to be a staff chaplain at Portsmouth my department head, Chaplain Jesse Tate pulled me aside and told me that he knew my work and would support me in my recovery.  He has been good on his word.  Other chaplains at Portsmouth have been supportive even on my bad days.  My work there on the ICUs with our staff has been healing as I meet others who have experienced PTSD or combat stress reactions.  The sharing of experiences and stories of Iraq among people who have been there is healing.  Sharing time with Vietnam vets has become important for me too.  There is a brotherhood that those of us who have seen danger in a combat zone share which is deep and timeless.

I’m getting better. Chronic pain, fatigue and anxiety are moderating somewhat.  Thanks to a fair amount of medications I can sleep much of the time.

Is there a stigma to PTSD?  I do think so, thankfully at least the Navy is starting to get things right in dealing with it. I hope that the other services are doing better as well, but I am not sure.  Army statistics seem to indicate a major rise in the suicide rate for soldiers.  My guess is that  I do think that among many there is a stigma.  Getting psychiatric or psychological help is still seen by a lot of people as a sign of weakness…some things never change.

Part of my healing process is to let others know about this.  I cannot sit back while those that I served with suffer at the hands of cold bureaucracy and discrimation by others who only believe that visible physical injuries matter.  George Patton be damned but people traumatized by combat are not weak, and those who espouse Patton’s philosophy in dealing with men and women injured in this manner can go to the infernal regions.

Does this mean that I would not go back to Iraq or to Afghanistan or some other combat zone?  No, I would go and even volunteer if my particular skill sets were needed.  I would do it for myself and my fellow Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen who serve, not because I am enamoured with war,  but because they are my brothers and sisters, fellow warriors who selflessly serve.  I can honestly say that I hate war.  I have seen what it does to people and nations, I’ve seen suffering and death both of Americans and Iraqis.   Unfortunately this war will not be over anytime soon.

Today I saw an article on CNN’s web page about two Army Generals who have decided to share their experience of PTSD.  God bless them.  The link is here:

I’m lucky.  While things have not been easy I’ve gotten help and support.  I know others who have not. God bless these and others who have come out about their experiences.  Keep them and all of the rest of us in your prayers.


Filed under PTSD, Uncategorized