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Ghost Dog Central

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Time for something a little less serious. People that have read my writings on this site over the past year know that I love dogs, and that my wife and I have had some very interesting furry babies throughout our thirty-two yearlong marriage.

We have two Papillions now, Minnie Scule and Izzy Bella. We had two dachshunds who both lived over 15 years, one of which, our Wire Hair Dachshund, Frieda, paid my wife and I visits after she had to be put down. Frieda, God love her was a total pain in the ass and fought us for sixteen years because she was the alpha dog and we were just the incompetent help. We figured that after that that she had a job helping to run Purgatory.

A few months after we lost Frieda, and we still had our fat smooth hair dachshund Greta, and Judy was at the vet and a lady had a small puppy in her arms that looked to Judy to be a red long hair dachshund. The puppy was a rescue that had been found covered in tar alongside North Carolina Highway 24 near Cape Carteret. Judy told the lady that we had lots of experience with dachshunds and that they could be quirky and gave the lady our number. A few days later the lady called and said she could not keep the puppy as her older dog could not handle her.

We went out and we met the lady and met Molly. Molly was not a full blooded dachshund, but a beautiful mix. When her fur grew out we figured that she was a Papillion-Dachshund mix, and according to many people appeared to be a designer dog. She was beautiful, and had a wonderful personality. It was love at first sight for me, she became “daddy’s baby.”

She, like Judy had to deal with long separations from me as a military pup, and when Greta passed away in 2003 she became an only dog. After I came home from Iraq terribly goofed up, often depressed, hyper-vigilant and sometimes nearly suicidal from Iraq, Molly helped keep me alive. When I was stationed as a geographic bachelor in Camp LeJeune, Judy had a partial Achilles tendon resection, and for about a month had to come down to my place in North Carolina because our home has far too many stairs and she could not navigate them. Of course Molly came with her, and Molly decided that she did not want to go home. Home could not compete with being able to go to the beach, or chase deer and other wildlife which existed right outside my door.

This did not impress Judy and so because we loved Molly’s Papillion temperament we got Minnie. But while I was in North Carolina Molly had to have surgery to remove a painful, but benign tumor from her right shoulder. The surgery was done at the same vet where Judy had Frieda put down when Frieda’s renal failure became acute. I got home with Molly who made a fast recovery and that night I sensed something odd. I sensed Frieda, and I began to see small dog sized shadow figures. Frieda had come back. When Molly and I returned to Virginia, Frieda came with us. I have occasionally felt her presence and seen the same shadow figure. When we came back from North Carolina Molly began to show the effects of Kidney disease as well. In February, knowing that Molly’s condition was getting worse we got our other Papillion, Izzy, a little dog who is very much like Molly, laid back, playful and exceptionally sweet. Though she was blind and sick, Molly was good to Izzy, and Izzy was always sweet to Molly.

We lost Molly on May 11th and it was very difficult, but Minnie and Izzy have been great. Since we lost Molly I have felt Molly’s presence in the house and in the car where we spent so much time together. However, something happened Monday which was fascinating. Molly returned in an unusual way.

Judy goes to help a friend’s little boy get to the bus stop a couple of days a week. To do so she gets up earlier than me and then I get up. I have terrible insomnia and all sorts of weird crazy dreams, and night terrors as a result of my time in Iraq and my battle with PTSD, and mornings are difficult. I was never a morning person, but now I’m really not one. When I was in Carolina, Molly would get up on the bed and if I hit the snooze alarm too many times would either nudge me, kiss me, or bark at me to get me up. Monday I had hit the snooze alarm and as I rolled back over I felt a dog walking on the bed. I thought that either Minnie or Izzy was up so I looked up and there was no dog. So I rolled back over. The alarm went off again and I hit the snooze. A couple of minutes later I felt dog steps on the bed, and then had a nudge in my back. I got up, and since no dogs were there I realized that Molly was back. I thanked her, and got up.

I miss Molly, but it seems that she is going to remain a part of my life, anytime that I hit the snooze too often. 

Call me crazy, but I can live with ghost dogs.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Last Night at Rucker Johns: The Place Where Everyone Knows My Name

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Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away?

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Yesterday I did my final check out at Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune and today the movers came. It was too hot and humid. with the door open to allow their access while doing cleaning I felt sick by the time that they left. After resting a while I went to the bar at Rucker Johns restaurant. It has become over the past year and a half my local version of “Cheers.” A place that everyone knows my name.

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I have written about leaving my duties at the hospital recently and I will miss the people there. I will stay in contact with quite a few. They are friends and colleagues, some who have walked through difficult times with me and I with them.

That being said for many years my life has been centered on work, and quite often when done with work I would withdraw to be alone. This was the case more often after Iraq, especially when I took up my assignment at Camp LeJeune. I would go to work and then go home. The only time that didn’t happen is when I would drive the 50 mile one way trip to Kinston to see the Kinston Indians baseball team. I met wonderful friends there, a number of whom have remained in contact, and one couple, Jerry and Toni Brophy have become like family.

Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name,

and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.

Having a place where people know you and care about you matters.

Apart from that the isolation for the first year and a half was at times maddening and even dehabilitating. When I did see Judy it was as if we were miles away from each other. By the summer of 2011 both of us wondered if our marriage would survive.

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In December of 2011 Judy and I spend a month together after she had surgery on her Achilles Tendon. It forced us together and when she went back to Virginia our dog Molly decided that she wanted to live with me. In that month and over a couple of other visits Molly had discovered the joys of chasing deer and going to the beach and like any kid she decided that she wanted to be where it was really interesting.

Molly brought me back to humanity and in the process I began to seek contact with actual humans again. Since Judy and I have a place like the bar in the television show “Cheers” in Virginia Beach I sought something similar here. I found it at the Rucker Johns bar. There I met some wonderful people, Mike, New York Mike, Eddie, Dave (Ito), Wild Bill, Bill the future mayor, Lisa, Hancock, Felicia, Brian, Ron, Terry, and the bartenders, Billy, Christi, Tara, Caitlin, Grace, Michelle and Lexi and managers, Mark, Chris, Jeff, Wallace and Mark. There were others as well. They all welcomed me. We bought drinks for each other and this week I don’t think that I paid for a meal or a drink.

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What I loved about this group, especially the core “4 O’Clock Club” was that they were real. In fact it was funny for the first couple of months they didn’t know that I was a Navy Chaplain or Priest. I find that advertising such things often puts a distance in relationships. especially in light of how many clergy treat people that don’t go to their churches or those that hang out at bars. Sad because Jesus seemed to hang out with the very people that many clergy have treat shamefully.

So initially the folks at Rucker Johns got to me as “Steve” the guy who wears Baltimore Orioles hats, jerseys, jackets and t-shirts every day. I think I can were something different every day for a month without breaking my Orioles habit. Soon I was going every day that I was in town, I found that I wanted to be around them, they were real, refreshing and fun.

They found out inadvertently that I was a Chaplain because New York Mike knew the secretary of our Legal Officer. She broke the news to him that I was not only a Chaplain and Priest but a Commander too. My cover was blown. Soon some began to call me Father Steve, Padre Steve or still just Steve. But our relationships grew. I was in the various NASCAR and Football pools, threw my money in on the Powerball lottery and played cards with them.

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Tonight they gave me a t-shirt signed by all of them. The picture speaks more about it than I can write. I have received many going away gifts in my career, but this is something specially, because it had nothing to do with my position in the military. It was about friendship and still is. I plan of framing it.

Almost everyone I knew was there tonight. It was a wonderful time. I will miss these people and this place, a place were everybody knows my name.

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It is so much like Cheers and I will miss it. The theme song to that show speaks to me in so many ways. The last verse of the song, which did not air on television said:

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

I found that with the 4 O’Clock Club at Rucker Johns. In the morning I pack my car and drive home to be with Judy and my friends in Virginia Beach. But I will miss my friends here and I do plan on coming back whenever I can to this place, where everybody knows my name.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Monday Musings: The War at Home

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Last week was quite challenging at work with sequester and other things going on. Needless to say I was busy but it was at the same time quite rewarding, though not without pain of seeing a number of people that I know, respect, care for and even love go through their own various hell on earth. That I guess is part of ministry, being connected to people in good times and in bad and even when you have no answers, can provide no healing or effectively change their situation. All I could do in each case was to be there for them, with them and where possible provide assistance however limited.

The events of the week coupled with my own impending transfer to a new duty assignment have left me even more introspective than usual. I have been thinking about those times in my life where things were happening that I had little control of, or where maybe even my my choices or decisions brought about difficult times.

I began to think about the time just before I reported to my current billet. I was still struggling with PTSD and though faith had returned it was still quite fragile. I was selected for promotion on the 22nd of June, my dad died of complications of Alzheimer’s Disease on the 23rd, we had his memorial in California on the 26th and the day before I returned to Virginia I was told that I was coming to Camp LeJeune and that I had no choice in the matter. Promotion sometimes brings unexpected change.

At the time I really didn’t want to come. I wanted to finish my last year at the old billet and move on to a ship or possibly something that would get me to Afghanistan, where I believed that I would be “back in the fight.” Instead I went from one hospital serving as a staff chaplain to another serving as the director of Pastoral Care. It was a move up, but not the one that I wanted.

However I was in the front lines, just in a different way. Camp LeJeune and the Marines and Sailors who serve aboard it has been part of the war since the beginning. We have many wounded warriors, men and women, wounded in mind, body and spirit. To see the young men and women with prosthetic limbs, walking in pain with canes or crutches, others with facial disfigurement, blindness, massive scars from burns is humbling. To see these young men and women wearing the Purple Heart Medal, or awards with a “V” device for valor in combat action is truly humbling. To see others suffering in mind and spirit, many struggling with PTSD, TBI, and dealing with various forms of depression, despair and sometimes succumbing to alcohol or drug abuse, including prescription pain medications for chronic pain and even attempting or completing suicide has shown me that the effects of war extend far beyond the battlefield and that this war will go on far longer than the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Major General Smedley Butler wrote in 1932:

“But the soldier pays the biggest part of this bill.

If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit  any of the veterans’ hospitals in the United States….I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are about 50,000 destroyed men- men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital in Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed home.” 

Yes this will be with us a very long time.

In a sense I was again in the front lines, this time seeing a part of war that will need to be addressed for a very long time. It has made me much more sensitive to the victims of war and suspicious of people who have no “skin in the game” who constantly advocate war as first response. This will be with me and influence my life and ministry for the rest of my life even after I retire from the Navy in a few years.

I am down to a few weeks left in this assignment before I go to teach mid-grade and senior officers going on to important Joint billets, men and women who have been likewise in the fight for the past dozen years and many of whom will rise to senior leadership before their careers are over. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I hope to make the most of it.

Anyway, I have an earlier than normal day tomorrow I shall close for the night.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under iraq,afghanistan, leadership, Military, ministry, Pastoral Care, PTSD, Tour in Iraq

A Memorial Service as Tragedy Strikes Camp Lejeune on the 10th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Iraq War

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“God didn’t put us here for that pat on the back. He created us so he could be here himself. So he could exist in the lives of those he created, in his image.” Chaplain (Captain) Fr Francis Mulcahy M*A*S*H 

The past week has been difficult at Camp LeJeune. We lost a sailor, a hospital corpsman who died by his own hand last Monday. He was a veteran of Afghanistan and his death came as a surprise to his friends, family and shipmates. Today we conducted his memorial service. It was a full house. His family travelled to be here and his friends, those that served with him while he was assigned to the Marines as well as his current shipmates were there in abundance.

It was a time to grieve. The young man was beloved by his friends, respected and cared for. However something that none of us will ever know or understand overwhelmed him. It may have been the trauma of war, maybe something else, but he maintained a facade that kept his friends, family and shipmates away from whatever despair drove him to take his life.

It was a time for all of us to grieve. It was as William Shakespeare wrote in McBeth a time to “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er wrought heart and bids it break.”

But even as we grieved the news filtered to the base that 7 Marines assigned to the Second Marine Division were killed, and a number of others injured when a mishap occurred where they were training in Nevada. Evidently either a mortar round either exploded in the tube or as it was being handled during a live fire exercise. They join the thousands of men and women who have died or been wounded in preparation for, the conduct of or the aftermath of their service in Iraq or Afghanistan. The death of each one leaves a void in the heart of a loved one, friend or shipmate.

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Staff Sergeant Ergin Osman KIA Afghanistan

I have lost friends and shipmates in all phases of both wars and their aftermath. Some have died in combat, others while supporting combat operations of natural causes or accidents, some have committed suicide, including a Priest and Chaplain who served in both Vietnam and Iraq. Still countless others endure injuries or illnesses that will eventually kill them.

Likewise there are far too many more who have sustained terrible injuries to their minds, bodies and spirits that time will never heal. The young men and women that I see every day, those with the physical wounds of war and those with the unseen but sometimes even more disabling injuries such as PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury or Moral Injury remain in the fight, sometimes with the sole mission of recover or remaining alive.

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Ten years after the war in Iraq began and twelve and a half years after 9-11 and the invasion of Afghanistan the costs continue to build in lives and treasure. In Iraq almost 4500 American and over 300 other coalition casualties, more than 500 contractors and nearly 10,000 Iraqi Soldiers and Police and countless thousands of Iraqi civilians have died. US wounded alone number almost 35,000 in Iraq. In Afghanistan there are over 2100 US dead and about 1100 NATO and Coalition dead, hundreds of contractors, and thousands of Afghans with over 17,000 more American military wounded. Every day nearly 20 veterans take their lives while thousands of others struggle with physical, psychological and spiritual wounds of war, wounds that don’t heal even as they find that they no longer fit in the country that went shopping when they went to war. The costs of both wars now are building into trillions of dollars, costs that will continue to grow even after the wars wind down.

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Two time Congressional Medal of Honor Winner Major General Smedley Butler, US Marine Corps wrote:

“What is the cost of war? what is the bill? Major General Smedley Butler wrote: “This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all of its attendant miseries. Back -breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years as a soldier I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not only until I retired to civilian life did I fully realize it….” (See War is a Racket: Remembering Major General Smedley Butler USMC and Why He Matters

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Likewise Lieutenant General (US Army Retired) Hal Moore, who is immortalized in the film We Were Soldiers and book We Were Soldiers Once…and Young told West Point Cadets in 2005:

The war in Iraq, I said, is not worth the life of even one American soldier. As for Secretary Rumsfeld, I told them, I never thought I would live long enough to see someone chosen to preside over the Pentagon who made Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara look good by comparison. The cadets sat in stunned silence; their professors were astonished. Some of these cadets would be leading young soldiers in combat in a matter of a few months. They deserved a straight answer.

The expensive lessons learned in Vietnam have been forgotten and a new generation of young American soldiers and Marines are paying the price today, following the orders of civilian political leaders as they are sworn to do. The soldiers and those who lead them will never fail to do their duty. They never have in our history. This is their burden. But there is another duty, another burden, that rests squarely on the shoulders of the American people. They should, by their vote, always choose a commander in chief who is wise, well read in history, thoughtful, and slow-exceedingly slow-to draw the sword and send young men and women out to fight and die for their country. We should not choose for so powerful an office someone who merely looks good on a television screen, speaks and thinks in sixty-second sound bites, and is adept at raising money for a campaign.

If we can’t get that part right then there will never be an end to the insanity that is war and the unending suffering that follows in war’s wake-and we must get it right if we are to survive and prosper as free Americans in this land a million Americans gave their lives to protect and defend.”

Needless to say, Moore, a West Point graduate has not been asked back.

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Thousands of young Americans, as well as NATO or other Allied nation soldiers, including Iraqi soldiers that I knew and Afghans that I have not worked with have died or been mangled by these wars. Yet too many Americans, Europeans and others that have sent young men and women to these wars have no stake in the game.  Most people continue with the mundane aspects of peacetime life while their political, religious and business leaders plot even more war. Syria, Mali, North Korea, Iran…where will it end?

Today we mourned a shipmate and friend at Camp LeJeune even as we wait to see who else that we know have been killed or injured in this latest training accident. I was honored to be a part of the memorial and happy to be of help to the families and friends of my sailor. At the same time I too grieve and wonder just how many more will have to die before the madness ends.

I left the base after the ceremony, and saw the massed trucks of the local and national news networks parked outside the gate like vultures. When I got home I hugged my dog Molly, I love that little dog, she has helped save my life after my time in Iraq. I then went for a four mile run on the beach and then had a couple of beers with my dinner while at the bar with my friends at my local watering hole.

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The old regulars there have nicknamed me “Father Mulcahy” a name that some people at the hospital have also given me. Maybe it is that I ear round steel rimmed glasses. Maybe it is because I will join in the occasional poker game , football, basketball or NASCAR pool, which by the way I won the NASCAR pool this week. Or maybe it is just because they didn’t know I was a Chaplain or Priest until a mutual friend and co-worker told one of them. Until then I was just Steve, the guy that wore the Orioles and Giants baseball gear. Now I have become their Priest and Chaplain, funny how that works. Regardless, it is a nickname that I cherish, because when I was growing up Fr Mulcahy symbolized so much of what I thought was good in a Priest and Chaplain. The writers of M*A*S*H made him very human. But I digress…

As we mourned today I was reminded of something that Helen Keller said, something that I think no matter what any of us grieve is true. “We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world–the company of those who have known suffering.”

Pray for me a sinner.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, iraq,afghanistan, Military, Pastoral Care, philosophy, PTSD

Remember those that Came in Peace: BLT 1/8 and the Bombing of the Beirut Barracks

In the early hours of October 23rd 1983 I was awake. I could not sleep. I was a new Army 2nd Lieutenant attending the Junior Officer Maintenance Course at Ft Knox Kentucky following the completion of the Medical Service Corps Officer Basic Course enroute to my first assignment in Germany.

 

I had gone out with friends earlier in the evening. Since Ft Knox was located in a dry county we made a trip up to a restaurant in Louisville followed by a trip to a bar and dance club for drinks. All of us that went were either newly married or engaged and none of our wives or soon to be wives were there we were on good behavior. After a dinner and a few drinks we went back to Knox, each to our own quarters.

 

 

It was late and since I couldn’t get to sleep I turned on CNN, which at the time was a rather new thing in news. I think that it was about 2AM that CNN broke in with the news that the Marine Barracks had been bombed. As the day developed the extent of the catastrophe became apparent, the barracks was destroyed and 241 Marines, Sailors and Soldiers were dead, with another 60 wounded. It was the worst single day loss suffered by the Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Battalion Landing Team 1/8, built around the 1st Battalion 8th Marines had been assigned as part of the UN Peacekeeping Force following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The BLT was billeted at the Beirut International Airport and at 0620 a truck driven by a suicide bomber containing explosives equivalent of over 12,000 lbs of explosives blew it up in the lobby of the building. Rules of Engagement prevented the few sentries on duty from engaging the vehicle until it had already crashed through the barbed wire and was lodged in the building.  The explosion blew out the support structure of the building and caused it to pancake upon itself trapping those inside. About 2 minutes after the attack French Paratroopers of the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment were hit by a truck bomb at their barracks about 6 km away. 58 French Paras were killed and many more wounded in an attack that caused more casualties in a single day since the French campaign in Algeria.

In the days and weeks following the attack a series of minor American and French airstrikes and Naval gunfire attacks were launched with little effect. President Reagan withdrew the Marines and the UN and French also withdrew their force. The attacks and the limited response gave the Iranian backed Hezbollah militia new swagger and respect. Hezbollah is now one of the most deadly opponents of the United States, Israel and the West.

Fast forward. In January 2000 I am a relatively new Navy Chaplain and get no notice orders transferring me from the Second Combat Engineer Battalion of 2nd Marine Division at Camp LeJeune NC to the 1st Battalion 8th Marine Regiment as a “relief pitcher” when their chaplain was removed from his duties. On a wall of the HQ building at Camp LeJeune was a mural drawn by Marines which honored their predecessors who died in the bombing. In the 5 months that I was with the battalion before going on to  another battalion as a “relief pitcher” I got to appreciate the sacrifice of the Marines, Navy Hospital Corpsmen and 6 attached Army Soldiers. Today I serve at the Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune. The Marines of the Fleet Marine Force are part of who I am. I am proud to have served with both the 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment.

At Camp LeJeune there is a memorial every year at the Beirut Memorial. Many veterans , survivors of the attacks and relatives of the fallen attend. I was not able to attend this year but remember attending it in 2001, nit long after the 9-11 attacks. There are 241 trees , one for each of the fallen planted along Carolina Highway 24 outside of Camp LeJeune.

The Beirut expedition showed the limitations of military power as well as the wisdom of President Reagan and Secretary of Defense Casper Weinburger not to get even more involved in another country’s civil war. The decision to withdraw was prudent, especially since the Cold War was reaching its apex and the Soviets were deeply involved in Afghanistan and the Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini was becoming more bellicose. The sad thing is that we did not realize those limits before the bombing nor had given the commanders on the ground rules of engagement that might have prevented the bombing. Instead the military chain of command was blamed for the loss and the politicians that orchestrated the intervention got off scott free.

Let us not forget the sacrifice of those 241 American Marines, Sailors and Soldiers and the 58 French troops who died in those attacks 29 years ago.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Foreign Policy, History, middle east, Military, national security

Reflections on 9-11-2001: How the Day Changed Me….

We are coming up on the 10th anniversary of a date that changed the country.  I wrote about it last year in an article entitled 9-11-2001: A Date that Will Live in Infamy 9 Years Later.  This year I am going to post a couple of short reflections leading up to the anniversary on how that event changed me.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was getting out of my office at Camp LeJeune after an early morning counseling case and some administrative duties I was getting ready to head to the French Creek gym.  I was about to close out my browser when I saw a little note on the Yahoo.com homepage: “Airplane crashes into World Trade Center.” It was about 0900 that tragic morning.  I thought to myself, “some dumb ass just crashed his Cessna into the building.

The day was clear and absolutely gorgeous, a slight north wind and low humidity, a well deserved break from what had been a hot and humid summer.  Not that I had seen much of the Carolina summer having returned from a deployment to Okinawa, Mainland Japan and Korea in late July. When I got to my car the local talk radio station was broadcasting a second or third tier national talk radio host and he was screaming “oh my God another plane just flew into the towers!”

I drove over to the gym where I joined a large crowd of Marines and Sailors transfixed as we watched the towers burn.  I went back to my office showered and went over to my battalion headquarters and was there when theSouthTowerwent down at 0959.

Since then a lot has changed.  I have made two deployments and traveled to the Middle East many more times.  I came back from my deployment to Iraq with a serious case of PTSD and a health distrust of the media, politicians, preachers and especially the talk radio hosts that I used to listen to as often as I could.  I remember being in Iraq in between missions to the far reaches of Al Anbar Province and watching the news on the televisions at the dining facility and wondering just what war that they were covering.

Before Iraq I could be considered a pretty solid “conservative” but now I really don’t know what I am.  Some call me “liberal” and in fact I was told to leave my old church last year because I had become “liberal.”  However, despite what some of the talk pundits and right wing preachers say just because a person is “liberal” does not mean that they are unpatriotic or do not care about our country or freedom.  After serving in Iraq and seeing how certain people have equated patriotism with adherence to their political agenda I wholeheartedly believe that a person’s patriotism has nothing to do with their politics or their religious beliefs.

Before IraqI was jaded by what happened to my dad’s generation after Vietnamwhen liberals called returning Veterans “baby killers” or “Nazis.”  In fact I had a Sunday school teacher tell me that my dad was a “baby killer” in 1972 and in 1981 had some ass at UCLA call me a “ROTC Nazi.”  As a result I had little love for the Left.  After September 11th I followed the “conservative” talk radio crowd and Fox News more than I had ever before.  The emotions that they stirred up were primal.  But experience and reflection caused me to get beyond the pain of my past and the emotion of the present.  Just as I detest those that characterized my dad’s service or my service as being criminal I also detest those that say one cannot be critical of those that advocate for war regardless of the human and economic cost or actual strategic benefit.

I rejoiced when our SEALS killed Osama Bin Laden and every Al Qaeda leader that we have ushered into the arms of Allah.  They have caused unmitigated suffering around the world, not just to us but to their own Islamic neighbors and deserve no pity and since they refuse to give quarter should be shown none. If that sounds harsh I can’t help it. The attacks of 9-11 and the wars that have followed are personal.

At the same time I question the strategic purpose and value of the campaign in Afghanistan.  I see it as a potential disaster on the order of Stalingrad or Dien Bien Phu should the Pakistanis shut off the supply routes that constitute the major support to our troops there, especially if they did so in the winter months.

At the ten year mark I grieve for those that have lost their lives as well as loved ones in the attacks or in the wars that have followed.  On September 11th 2001 2977 people were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or on United Flight 93 which went down inPennsylvania.  One of those killed at the Pentagon was Lieutenant Colonel Karen Wagner was a classmate of my in 1983 at the Medical Service Corps Officer Basic Course.

Since then 4474 American military personnel have given their lives in Iraqand 1760 in Afghanistan.  NATO or coalition allies, excluding the Iraqi and Afghani military or police forces have lost another 1270 military personnel.  Another 45,170 Americans have been wounded.  I know a decent number of those wounded and some of those that have died.  The losses are intensely personal and to think that we have lost well over twice the number killed on September 11th 2001 in two wars, many that were children aged 8-12 years old on that tragic September day.  Of course the numbers do not count those that died by their own hand after they returned from the war, a number that grows daily.

I have been changed by that tragic event. I still shudder when I see the video of United Air Lines Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower or see the videos of the towers crashing down.  They are hard to watch and while I will observe the anniversary with prayers and a lot of reflection I do not know how much of the continuous media coverage of the anniversary that I will be able to watch.

The events of that tragic day changed me, and changed countless numbers of other Americans as well as others around the world.  While we yearn to return to the days before9-11-2001 that is impossible, there is too much water and too much blood that has passed under the bridge.   I know I can’t go back.  Maybe that is good.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, iraq,afghanistan, national security, traumatic national events

Irene is almost Here and things are a Little Bit Sporty

Calm before the Storm

Irene is getting close, winds increasing and rain has been pelting us hard since mid-afternoon.  From what I can make out there is some damage already in the area as well as local flooding. e lost main power at the hospital and have been on diesel backup for a couple of hours now.  A tornado warning was just lifted.  Most computers are shut down I have my laptop and mobile hot spot and am shooting this out before I shut it down since I am on battery power.

Prelude: The Dunes

I have been out and about the hospital most of the day after I secured the Island Hermitage the best that I could this morning.  A decent number of our essential personnel and duty personnel with families have them here in empty patient rooms or on cots in offices.  Morale and people’s spirits are pretty good.  I have been in every area that is operating visiting our folks, patients, families and staff.

The Angry Sea

One cool thing is that we converted our gym to the Pet Hotel for our people that have to be here. We have a lot of dogs a couple of cats and a rabbit.  The service members or families have to see after them with a few of our staff assisting with the help of the Army Veterinarian and his techs. The Army is the only serve with Vets and provides them to the rest of us.

We turned our chapel into a movie theater for the kids until we lost main power, hopefully power will be restored by morning.

The rain in our area will probably be in the 7-10 inch range by the time Irene bows out but some places north of us will get in excess of 20 inches.  I went through Floyd in 1999 and he caused major flooding throughout the area.  I expect Irene to do the same.

For those that have never experienced a hurricane they are something.  The incredible calm before the storm and topical weather makes you think you are in paradise, but within hours the sea begins to boil, the rain begins to fall and the winds begin to howl like a demon on steroids.

Lights Out

Irene has lost some of her punch but she is a huge storm.  She should be past us by this time tomorrow on her way north. I do not envy the people in the Northeast who never have been through something like this.  For places like New York this could be really bad. But Glenn Beck says that Irene is a “blessing.” Maybe he should hang out in one for a while.

Pray for all of those impacted by Irene.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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