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Living the Dream and Dreaming to Live: Dreams and 34 Years of Commissioned Service


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As I mentioned yesterday in my short article about my dad that I would watch the movie Field of Dreams. I did that last night. As always I found the message of the film compelling and relevant for me today. 

Thirty-four years ago today I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. In the decades since that time I have to say that I am the beneficiary of following dreams that have come true. I always wanted to serve in the military no now after almost thirty-six years of service, including the time before I was commissioned I am still living my dream, and dreaming to live. 

When I was commissioned back during the Cold War  I figured that I would do 20 years or possibly a few years more and retire as a Lieutenant Colonel, or maybe even a Colonel. Back then I even harbored thoughts of becoming a General. That didn’t happen and through a fairly unusual set of circumstances I ended up leaving the Army Reserve before being considered for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, reducing in rank and entering the Navy in February 1999. I wanted t get back on active duty and my window had passed in the Army, if I remained there I would have remained a reservist, not that there is anything wrong with that but it wasn’t my dream.  

So now after a total of nearly 36 years in the military, and almost 18 1/2 in the Navy I still dream. Now my dreams don’t include promotion to Navy Captain or far less Admiral. My dreams are simple; living life, speaking truth, and not sacrificing my integrity just to try to get ahead in a system whose ideals are so much like mine but reality, at least in the Chaplain Corps falls far short of, so I have simply decided to follow my dreams which include teaching, writing, and maybe speaking out regarding causes that I think are important. 

Unlike Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham in the film, I got to bat in my version of the major leagues and my military dreams did come true. I don’t need any more than that. There are men and women who would have loved to had my career in the military and as I celebrate the anniversary of being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army some 34 years ago and being a Commander in the U.S. navy today. The dreams I have now are different and I will like Ray Kinsella and Terrance Mann in the movie will listen to that mysterious voice and follow it, because to paraphrase Doc Graham, it would be a tragedy if I didn’t.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Remembering My Dad on Father’s Day

                                                          My Dad, Aviation Storekeeper Chief Carl Dundas in 1967 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a very short post today. I have felt a bit melancholy this Father’s Day weekend. I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago this week, though the infernal disease had taken him from us pretty much a couple of years before. I miss him and I owe more than I can imagine to him. I owe my love of the Navy and baseball to him, as well as my sense of right and wrong and my willingness to fight for what is right, even if it pisses some people off. 

My dad spent 20 years in the Navy. He retired in 1974 from the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, CVA-19. He served ashore in Vietnam at a city called An Loc in 1972, enduring the siege of the city which lasted 80 days. 

I miss him. I know that he would be proud of me and I’m sure that he would not always agree with me. I wish he was still around so I could watch ball games with him and have a beer together once in a while. My fondest moments with dad were playing catch in my back yard, and him trying to teach me how to pitch, catch, and hit a baseball, as well as the countless baseball games that he took me to. Before his Alzheimer’s disease got so bad that we couldn’t take him anywhere I made a visit home and took him to a Stockton Ports game with my brother and his boys. I guess that had to be just before I went to Iraq because after I came home his deterioration was rather shocking and I realized then that we would never play catch again. 

There’s an Irish proverb that says “We never get over our fathers, and we’re not required to.”  I won’t get over mine. He wasn’t perfect and I know that I often frustrated him, but he loved me and he let me know it. I may end up watching the movie Field of Dreams tonight because of how it speaks to me about my dad. There is a scene at the end of the film where Ray Kinsella played by Kevin Costner talks with a younger version of his dad on that magical field. 

Ray asks his dad “Is there a heaven?” His dad, who had passed away years before replied, “Oh yeh, it’s the place where dreams come true.” Seeing his daughter playing on the porch Ray replied “Maybe this is heaven.” 

I don’t have kids, we were never able to have any. But as I write this I see my wife Judy sleeping and have my Papillons Izzy and Pierre passed out on the bed, Pierre in a little ball and Izzy stretched out with her legs and feet in the air, with Minnie under the bed, I realize that this too might be heaven. 

So in honor of my dad, Carl Dundas, and all the dads who helped make their sons dreams come true. 

Until Monday,

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Repair Our Losses and Be a Blessing to Us: A Night at the Congressional Baseball Game


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Baseball legend Bill Veeck once noted:  “Baseball?  It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat.  Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes.  It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion.”

Baseball is essential to the American spirit, it is complex and for people like me it is a religion, a true Church in which I find refuge. Likewise, as I get older and more disillusioned with the Christian Church and religion in general I tend to agree more and more with Annie Savoy in Bull Durham when she says   “The Only church that truly feeds the soul, day-in day-out, is the Church of Baseball”


I, like many people turn to baseball in times of trouble. My frequent trips to the ball park after Iraq were places of solace where I could escape the terror of my PTSD.


Last night I went up with Chaplain Vince Miller to see the Congressional Baseball game at National’s Stadium in D.C. It was  a last minute decision. My friend messaged me Wednesday evening and suggested it. He got the tickets, we got permission from our bosses, rearranged our schedules and I got the hotel and drove up. When he contacted me Wednesday he felt that it was something that we needed to do, and I immediately agreed. There were two reasons for this; First some long overdue self care that you can only have from people who are friends who have lived the same kind of life you have, but second because both of us thought it was important in a deeper way. 

After yesterday’s attempted assassination of Republican members of Congress both of us felt it necessary to go to show our support for our elected representatives from both parties. Both of us felt the need to be there for the members of Congress as Americans because both of us still believe in the ideals and the promise that still resides in the people of this country. 

I believe that we can vehemently disagree about policy, but the answers are found at the ballot box and by deciding to become friends again. Likewise I believe that one of the best places for that is the baseball diamond where last night members of the Democrat and Republican Senate and House faced each other as friends during a baseball game, the proceeds of which benefited charities in the Washington D.C. Metro area. 


Wednesday’s attack was an attack on America itself, our institutions, and based on the violent rhetoric and intense anger of many people it could have happened to either team. So last night’s game was a balm for the soul of the nation and I hope a sign of better things to come. Maybe it took something like this to realize that we have ventured too far down the road of hate and intolerance to continue that direction.

Walt Whitman wrote that baseball is “our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”


The game was fun to watch both sides played hard but the sportsmanship, camaraderie, and friendship showed. From the crowd there were few boos or catcalls from either side of the nearly 25,000 fans of both teams. Before the game the members of both teams went to second base and took a knee praying for their colleague Representative Steve Scalise and the police officers wounded in the attack. Even President Trump struck the right note in his remarks which were broadcast on the center field scoreboard. Among the fans of both sides there was absolute courtesy that was so unlike the intense and often mean spirited partisanship that has consumed the nation for the past decade or more. I know that I can only hope that this will continue.

The Democrats overwhelmed the GOP with a barrage of hits while their pitcher Representative Cedric Richmond of New Orleans threw a five hitter, and struck out seven. GOP shortstop Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania who had been moved from third base due to the shooting of Scalise  showed excellent defensive prowess making a number of outstanding defensive plays.


But on another level this trip was good for me and for Vince as well. We had both thought it important to show our support by going and we likewise both knew that we needed the time together to take care of each other, but it became bigger than that. After the game we went for a nightcap at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant near the stadium. While we were there two members of Congress, Republican Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina and Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas of California came in and we both greeted them and thanked them for coming out to play the game after what happened yesterday. Ever gracious both autographed baseballs for us and Cardenas extended an invitation to visit him in his House office.

The fact is that we in the military deal with losing friends to senseless violence everyday, but this is not what normal people deal with, including the men and women who serve in the House and Senate. To go out and play a ballgame after your colleagues were attacked is not an everyday event and there had to be some amount of fear for anyone that went out onto that field, perhaps for the first time in a long time members realized that they too could be the target of political violence. I think that that shook many people to the core, and I believe that it took a measure of courage for them to play the game after the attack, but I digress… 

Our time with both of these Congressmen was important, they were surprised and pleased that two Navy Chaplains completely changed their plans and travelled 200 miles to watch them play baseball. It was also interesting because Vince is from North Carolina, and Representative Walker was a pastor for many years, and the family of Congressman Cardenas had been migrant workers around Stockton California, my home town. I’m not going to speculate but I am going to assume by how they treated us that it meant a lot to them that we and so many others stood with them last night. I think they realized as many others did, that this is about all of us, Democrat and Republican, and as I said before I hope and pray that this might signal a new and less hateful era in American politics. 

When we went back to the hotel we talked about the mystery that is the work of the Holy Spirit of God, not the fatalism of providence, but the mystery of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and those around us. It was about more than us, and to quote Jake Blues “we’re on a mission from God.” 

So I’m going to leave you with the mystery of the Spirit that worked in the hearts of two Chaplains who needed some time to take care of each other had our lives intersect those of a lot of nice people, 

So anyway, let us try to all do better. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Dangers of Political Violence: The Lesson of the Reichstag Fire


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday a man named James T. Hodgkinson opened fire on members of the Congressional Republican baseball team as they practiced for their annual game against the Congressional Democrats which is a charitable event that helps a number of local agencies that help children. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was critically wounded and several police officers were wounded during the exchange of fire in which Hodgkinson was killed. I was shocked and infuriated by his actions. Political violence and the attempted assassination of any elected official in a democracy where we still have the ability to remove people or parties from office at the ballot box is never justified. I would call his act an act of terrorism just as I have other acts by so many others. 

But unlike other times when a white shooter killed or wounded multiple people based on their race, religion, or politics I was joined by many GOP leaders. Sadly, some like Newt Gingrich, Repreantive Steve King and a host of Right Wing pundits blamed it on “typical left wing violence” while ignoring the constant attacks and threats from Right Wing extremists including members of the militia movement, the KKK, and various new-Nazi and Alt Right groups and individuals. 

At least President Trump, for the first time in his presidency urged unity and extolled the best part of Americans working together. I was pleased to here his words which I think were genuine, and I hope that this will be a moment that defines his presidency in a positive way for all Americans. That being said I have reasons to doubt, not that I want to but because of his past actions which I will mention later in the article. 

From was we know Hodgkinson was very active politically and quite angry at the GOP and President Trump but until today no one, even friends who knew him well would have expected him to cross the line to commit political violence. The congressman from his district from Illinois said that Hodgkinson was angry in his communications about issues but never crossed a line for the office to think that he was potentially dangerous. However, he had a history of domestic violence, destruction of property and a number of other issues. One of Hodgkinson’s Facebook posts from 2015 was a editorial cartoon criticizing Scalise. Hodkinson had been in the D.C. area a couple of weeks and had been spending time at the YMCA near the ball field where the shooting occurred. The former Mayor of Alexandria saw him a number of times and reported that he appeared to be living out of a gym bag and had offered to help Hodgkinson get a job.

I’m sure that there will be more information about Hodgkinson coming out so I will not go into any more detail or speculate why he committed this act, but I will discuss the very real dangers to civil liberty and legitimate peaceful political dissent that his act could lead.

Despite my initial optimism about how the President Trump responded today and many of his advisors have shown spoken in very authoritarian language about political dissent, demonizing their opponents, first during their GOP opponents in the primaries, then all who opposed them during the general election and afterwards. The president even blessed violent acts committed by his supporters during the campaign. Any time a protester physically responded to bullying or intimidation at Trump rallies they were set upon and then were blamed for the resulting violence even if they were the victims.

But what I am afraid is that acts such as Hodgkinson’s will result in draconian measures to limit dissent. People forget that it was the action of a single Dutch Communist acting on his own to burn down the Reichstag that gave Hitler the ability to pass the Enabling Act in March of 1933. That act gave his government unprecedented authority to arrest and detail opponents without due process rights, as well as to shut down opposition newspapers. It was followed up by other laws during the course of the Third Reich which further restricted political opposition. Often people arrested in the round ups would be acquitted of any crime but then upon release would be taken by the SA or SS to concentration camps.

Another incident was the assassination of a junior German diplomat at the German embassy in Paris in November 1938. When he died Hitler gave Josef Goebbels permission to launch a pogrom against the Jews now known as Kristallnacht. Hundreds of synagogues were burned, thousands of Jewish businesses looted, and hundreds of Jews killed, with thousands rounded up and sent to concentration camps.

The problem is that individual acts of violence against leaders who are predisposed to authoritarian responses give those leaders license to suspend laws and civil liberties on what are called exceptional circumstances. The attack by Hodgkinson could easily be construed as an act of political terrorism. As Timothy Snyder noted in his book On Tyranny:

“Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power. The sudden disaster that requires the end of checks and balances, the dissolution of opposition parties, the suspension of freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Do not fall for it.”

That is a warning to all who think that individual acts of political violence can be excused or tolerated, they end up threatening the liberties of all. While I do not think this particular attack is a Reichstag Fire moment, the next one might be and anyone who thinks that their act of violence will help the country is sadly mistaken. For that matter it is also possible that a group or individual sympathetic to Trump could create a false flag incident in order to prompt him to suppress legitimate dissent. 

Like I said we will find out more as the days go by about the shooter, the attack, and the possible executive or legislative responses to it, not to mention possible violence against protestors or politicians committed by armed Trump supporters who have often threatened to respond violently to any attack against Trump or the GOP.

This is a very dangerous moment. I do pray that Representative Scalise will recover from his wounds and hope that I will not see progressives rejoice regarding the crime committed by Hodgkinson. Likewise as I mentioned earlier in the article I am heartened by President Trump’s response yesterday and I pray that it will be something that defines the rest of his presidency. I may oppose many, if not most of his policies and actions, as well as hoping that the investigation of his advisers interactions with the Russians goes forward; but I will never continue to hope and pray for the best for our country and yes even for him. That being said I am very wary based on his past words and actions and will never give up my right as an American to speak openly and honestly. I learned that lesson from many great American military men including General Smedley Butler and Colonel David Hackworth. Dissent is still an act of patriotism no matter what some people claim. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Deaths, Funerals, Baseball, Tornadoes, and an Izzy Emergency


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Baseball great Leo Durocher once said, “You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it might rain.” Those are words that can apply to almost anything in life as I was reminded of last week. Friday and Saturday were pretty hectic in my World and I have been moving fast and flying low.

My original plan, before my friend and coworker Mike passed away, was to continue moving things from my current office to my office at the base that I transfer to this month, and then meet a friend for the exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Norfolk Tides Friday afternoon. 


That of course changed. Friday morning began with a visit to the wife and son of Mike as the area was being inundated with torrential rain. As I said the other day I felt like I knew them just from what Mike had shared with me at work. To have to meet them for the first time in this situation was sobering. They are such nice people, as they told me of his last minutes alive I was reminded of what a good man he was and how much I will indeed miss him. Later in the day the funeral home called me and said that Mike’s widow asked if I would conduct his funeral. I am honored to be asked. 

I drove back to work after the visit as the rain continued without let up. When I got what I could do there done I drove back through the rain to meet my friend at the light rail station in order to go to the ballpark. When I got there the rain was still pouring down and I was really wondering if the game would be rained out. As I sat in my car waiting I looked at the local weather radar and saw that the worst was then passing through and that there was a break in the system. 

By the time we got to Harbor Park the weather was clearing, bit when I looked at the field there was standing water in the outfield and the warning track and foul corners looked like lakes. The ground crew was already working to dewater the field and remarkably they had the field in good shape and the game began just a few minutes after the scheduled first pitch. It turned out to be gorgeous baseball weath, as if the God of Baseball was smiling on us, and the game was good. We left it a bit early in the bottom of the 6th inning thinking that it was a 7 inning exhibition and as we left the ballpark the clouds were building up and the local EMS and news were broadcasting that the area was under tornado watch. 

Judy was planning to have a girl’s night out with a friend so I drove over Gordon Biersch and took my place at the bar. Shortly after I got there the National Weather Serice issued a tornado warning for Suffolk, which then was extended to Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. As I sat at the bar with my fellow Northern California friend Rick, the storm hit, the rain was crazy and mixed with a lot of hail. Judy ended up canceling her night out and it was good she did. The area she was going to had an EF-2 tornado touch down. When it was safe I went home, my personal weather station recorded almost 5″ of rain for the day. 

Things calmed down overnight and on Saturday morning we took our youngest Papillon, Pierre to get his bandages off his leg from his knee surgery as well as getting Izzy her first couple of her annual vaccinations. When we got home I went out and did our grocery shopping and looked for a present for a another friend’s birthday. By the time I got home and we had dinner I was just hoping to relax a bit before working on my taxes. About 9:00 PM Izzy came up to me snorting and coughing. I looked at her and saw that her face was swollen twice its normal size. I immediately scooped her up and was out the door on the way the the emergency veterinary hospital in under a minute; nothing like having worked in emergency rooms a good part of your career to understand that such hints are abnormal and potentially life threatening to motivate you to move fast. They took her back and it turned out to be an allergic reaction to her leptospirosis vaccine. She was given an injection of Benadryl and a steroid and came through everything fine, but it was scary. Izzy has been my therapy puppy since we got her. We have nicknamed her “Nurse Izzy” because of how sensitive she is to us and other people who are sick or depressed. She is a gem and I cannot imagine not having Nurse Izzy with me. For those who don’t have dogs this may sound strange, but she has been a lifesaver for us. 

It was almost 11:00 PM by the time I got home with Izzy. Upon arriving she ran into the house and started playing with Minnie and Pierre and doing what we and other Papillon parents call the “zoomies.” 

Sunday was a day for chilling out, breakfast with Judy and friends followed by some time with my friend who was having the birthday. This week will be busy, Mike’s funeral, my taxes, and a number of other things that got pushed back amid all the craziness last week. Even so, all things considered things could be worse, it could be raining. 

Have a great start to your week. Love those around you and hug a furry friend if you have one. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Seven Days Until Pitchers and Catchers Report: Patriots Win Super Bowl

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

My friends there are only seven days until pitchers and catchers report and life really begins again, for this my friends is the true harbinger of spring. If you like me need to keep track a link is provided below, but I digress…

http://whendopitchersandcatchersreport.com/

But anyway, in a world of so much uncertainty and woe, baseball is what helps keep me sane, or at least some semblance of sane. As Sharon Olds said back in 1987 “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” Since Donald Trump now has access to our nation’s nuclear weapons, this is a very important thing to me.

But truthfully I am thanking whatever deity may be out there baseball is coming back, even though it is just spring training. You see for me, that is comforting because baseball is more than a game to me. I agree with George Will, the vociferous conservative critic of President Trump, “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.”

By the way speaking of games I watched one last night, the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at a magnificent and inspiring concert starring Lady Gaga.

Have a great night,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Cubs Win Epic World Series and Remind us of All that Can Be

cubs-world-series

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The late W.P. Kinsella wrote: “Baseball is the most perfect of games, solid, true, pure and precious as diamonds. If only life were so simple. Within the baselines anything can happen. Tides can reverse; oceans can open. That’s why they say, “the game is never over until the last man is out.” Colors can change, lives can alter, anything is possible in this gentle, flawless, loving game.”

For five hours last night all the cares of the world didn’t matter. Not the raging anger of Donald Trump, not the election, not the wars and bloodshed in the Middle East, not terrorism, not the economy, not anything…  except what transpired on the baseball field in Cleveland. In Game Seven of an epic World Series two teams with a combined 174 years of not winning a World Series battled into the 10th inning as the weather got worse and the rain began to fall. The tension throughout the game was electric, the mood swings as the Cubs took a 5-1 lead and then the Indians scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning to tie the game took one’s breath away.  Watching these two teams battle it was if time itself no longer existed, just the game, a game which transfixed the nation as no sporting event has in recent memory.

Kinsella wrote something profound  in his classic baseball fantasy The Iowa Baseball Confederacy: 

“Name me a more perfect game!” Matthew Clarke had been fond of saying to his son. “Name me a game with more possibilities for magic, wizardry, voodoo, hoodoo, enchantment, obsession, possession.” 

I have to agree, this World Series showed all of us something that no other sport can match in terms of tension, magic, and enchantment. People like to say that NFL football is exciting, but compared to this wonderful game, but the NFL has has degenerated into brutal test of strength, of declining talent, terrible injuries that the owners don’t seem to mind, with the joy taken out of it.

Instead last night we saw talented players play their hearts out, pitchers exhausted from overuse, hitters coming up big, and fielders making spectacular plays. The drama was played out as if it were a story out of ancient Greek mythology as immortals battled in front of watching mortals. I  wished that it could have gone on forever and that both teams could have won, but that is not baseball. A game may go into extra innings, but when it is over, it is over. Unlike politics when the game is over there is no recount: when the final strike is called, there is no court of appeals. As Bill Veeck said:  “Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.”  But that being said there is always next year; which brings with it a hope that springs as eternal as the luxuriant green grass on the enchanted diamonds in every corner of the nation; diamonds whose foul lines theoretically extend to infinity, and whose perfection calls us to something better.  Those fields await us all if we believe.

This World Series, in particular this Game Seven also called us back for just a few hours to a better time, a time of hopes and dreams that have always captivated American, a goodness that dwells within us just waiting to be released again. And it can be again, if we decide to release the cynicism and hatred that has built up over the decades which has been on such display during this election.

What happened last night reminded us of Kinsella’s classic line in his book Shoeless Joe which became the film Field of Dreams: 

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

Congratulations to the Cubs and to their faithful fans. 108 years is an eternity to wait for this, and thank you to the Indians, and there fans as well, and maybe for you it will be next year. But whatever, this wonderful game reminded us of the fact that American is great, because America is good, and baseball reminds us of that good, and what could be again.  As Walt Whitman wrote: “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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