Tag Archives: home

A Mass Murder in My Town, and the Need to Reconsider Gun Restrictions

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight I write about the mass murder that happened in my city, Virginia Beach. It is now my adopted home, I’ll retire from the Navy next year and stay here. Judy and I kind of live the live that Neil Diamond sand of in his classic I am I Said, which is about a man struggling to find home between two coasts:

But nowadays, I’m lost between two shores

L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home, New York’s home, But it ain’t mine no more…

For us the West Coast was home, we grew up there. We imagined that when I retired from the Navy we would go back to California, but after nearly four decades in the military we have found the closest thing we will have to home in Virginia Beach. Actually, it’s more like what Noel Diamond described, Virginia Beach is fine, but it’s not home, Stockton’s home, but it ain’t mine no more.

When Judy and I were dating we were held up at gunpoint with her parents in Stockton, after I left the active duty Army to go to seminary the elementary school my brother and I attended and Judy had her first job at was the target of one of the first mass school yard attacks. Stockton has long had a problem with violent crimes, Virginia Beach and other areas of Hampton Roads have their fair share of violence but we generally feel safe.

I have also been shot at in combat during my Iraq deployment, and as an unarmed Chaplain had to rely on others to protect me.

Of course because of my PTSD I am hyper vigilant, wherever I go I have a plan if a shooter was to enter a place I am at. I plan in advance what I will do if someone starts shooting.

What happened in Virginia Beach yesterday shocked us, these things don’t happen here, at least they didn’t. The victims were about to start their weekend, they were killed by a coworker, who many had known for years. The victims were a mix of races and genders, much like the neighborhood I live in. One thing about Virginia Beach is that many neighborhoods are mixed race middle class neighborhoods in which many residents are military veterans or retirees. Of course there are other neighborhoods exclusive areas of rich white privilege, and old money long time residents whose roots go back hundreds of years, but there is not the racial tension I have felt in other places I have lived.

All of the people killed were part of this community, I didn’t know any of them but the crime has increased my hyper vigilance, but I digress…

The more important thing is a series of questions, and please note that I am not anti-gun ownership, so long that background checks are done, and civilians do not have access to military grade weapons and accessories that can turn a defensive weapon into a instrument of mass murder, as was the case here. The murderer used a .45 caliber pistol, of itself my preferred caliber of handgun for personal defense. I qualified as an expert on a combat pop up range with the M1911A1 .45 pistol while in the Army, something that I could never do with its successor, the M9 Beretta 9mm pistol, the pistol grip was all wrong and anyone worth his salt knows that the grip makes all the difference.

Likewise, I plan on purchasing .22 caliber bolt action carbines for Judy and I to take to target ranges. As far as home defense I want a fully automatic paint gun rifle should someone break into our house. A massive number of hits from such a weapon on an assailant without protective gear would temporarily cripple them and if they tried to flee would make them stand out to the police, without killing them, as much as I might want.

But I have questions:

Why do civilians have access to military grade automatic weapons whose only use is to kill other human beings?

Why are extended ammunition clips allowed to be sold to civilians? Honestly, what is the need. If someone can’t defend themselves with a 9 or 11 round magazine in a semi-automatic pistol, or even a 10 round magazine for an AR-15 class weapon why should they have access to massive magazines which are only used for offensive purposes?

Why are silencers sold to civilians? These are tools of killers and assassins, not home defense.

Certainly this was not what the founders planned when they wrote the Second Amendment, which was designed to allow citizens to be armed and become part of a state authorized militia in a time when the standing Army was almost non-existent and the distrust of standing armies was rampant. But the late Big Tony Scalia completely overturned the original meaning of the Second Amendment which all previous courts had decided in the understanding of Second Amendment. Scalia simply that the clause regarding a well organized militia had no bearing, and the majority for which he wrote in District Of Columbia v. Heller opened the floodgates to the gun apocalypse we are seeing day after day.

Yesterday’s killing wasn’t directed at any particular religious or racial group, it was the work of a disturbed man who decided to kill coworkers he had known for years, using a weapon and accessories designed to kill large numbers of people using the surprise of silence to ensure he killed as many people as possible.

It is high time that we as Americans stand up against laws that enable mass murderers to do their work, and instead fight to overturn the Scalia interpretation of the Second Amendment and return the nation to a sane interpretation of gun rights, because our current system is insane. It allows people to weapons and accessories that are only suitable for mass murder.

Virginia Beach police killed the murderer after an extended gun battle, in which one was wounded and his life saved by his body armor.

It is time to change the laws that enable people like this killer to conduct their massacres. It is called sensible gun laws and regulation. It is not about banning guns, but interpreting the Second Amendment as the founders intended and banning weapons and accessories which only serve to kill other citizens without regard to any other law or morality.

So, at risk of pissing off a lot of people, I wish you a good nigh, or a sleepless and unsettled one if you support laws that allowed this killer and others to obtain the weapons they needed to commit the mass murders which they are responsible for, and the rest of us sit back as bystanders.

Please remember, the victims were not just numbers or names, but real people, with real families and friends who contributed to their communities. They leave behind husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, grandchildren and friends. It is tie for all of us to wake up and stop worshipping the cult of the gun.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Note: Article updated to replace the word clip or clips with magazines when a critic questioned my qualifications to discuss weapons, and my military service, even though I used the word magazines later in the paragraph. This is a common tactic among people who want no restrictions on guns. They attack your character and qualification to write such things. Standard NRA talk.

25 Comments

Filed under Political Commentary

Home Away from Home

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Neil Diamond once expressed a thought that I often wrestle with in his song I am I Said, dealing with the subject of what is home. We great day today with our German friends in the town of Loehnberg which is near the cities of Limburg, Braunfels, Weilburg, and Wetzar in the German state of Hessen. This morning we went with our friend Gottfried to see the town and the castle which belonged to the House of Hessen and Nassau, then we went to Braunfels to see the town and castle, and finished in Wetzlar.

All are fascinating towns from a historic and architectural point of view, many of the houses and buildings have the exposed wood beams that one might find in Tudor period houses in England, while the churches all show different aspects of Romanesque or Gothic design; the castles also represent the periods that they were built well. Laneburg, which is here in Loehnberg was built in the 1300s and destroyed during the Thirty Years War. It has been restored and is used for many events but the city has tried to capture what it was while renovating it. Weilburg was one of the principle castles of the House of Hesse-Nassau, along with Schierstiein in Wiesbaden.

The area is mostly an agricultural center with mines for precious stones and mineral springs scattered throughout. The Lahn river winds its way through the area creating a river valley with steep hills on either side flowing to the Rhine where it ends.

It is a beautiful area, Judy and I have been coming here since 1985 and truthfully it feels the most like home away from home than anywhere we have ever been. Part of this is because of our friends Gottfried and Hannelore and their family, through which we have gotten to meet and know a good number of other people in the area. Likewise, having lived in and visited the area many times I understand the dialect of the people here better than any place in Germany with the possibility exception of Bayern.

When Gottfried Judy and I returned home I decided that I needed to walk and I got in about 10.5 kilometers in 90 minutes walking up and down the hills of the town and on the trails that meander through the town, the farmlands, and the forests around it. The weather was beautiful and had we not had a planned dinner engagement at a great brewery restaurant in Braunfels I might have continued until it got dark. It was exhilarating. But I digress…

We had a great time at dinner, the restaurant, Brauhaus Obermuhle was excellent and I had a great Kuferschnitezel, which is a schnitzel a different type of gravy than I have ever had toped with onion rings. Now I am not a fan of onion rings but combined with the pork cutlet, spices, and gravy, it was an amazing taste experience. Likewise, and probably more importantly, I drank one of every beer they brew except the Hefeweizen so I can give a full report to my brewmaster and friends at Gordon Biersch when we return home. The Pils was very good, and I had a blonde bock and a brown bock, followed by a dunkel, and a Saison. The Dunkel wasn’t bad but was a bit sweet for my taste, the Bocks were both excellent as was the Pils and Saison.

Anyway, when we were finished we returned home, talked on a wide range of subjects and eventually turned in for the night. Judy and I a both continuing to expand our German language abilities and except with each other we spoke little English, and even then I would find myself addressing her in German. Honestly I think that immersion in a language and culture is the best way to learn and appreciate foreign lands. As I have said before, I have gotten good enough over the years and because speak with a mixture of the Hessische and Bayriche dialects, most Germans don’t realize for a while that I am an American.

Tomorrow I will get a long walk or run in and we expect to travel to the university town of Marburg which is significant for a number of events that you will get to hear about tomorrow.

So have a great day, or night, or whatever,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, travel

Finding my Way Home: Nine Years After Iraq


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I was thinking last night  as I watched an episode of the television show The Blacklist, where the lead character, Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader made a comment about Homer’s classic Greek myth The Oddesy where he said, “Odysseus spent a decade at war. But his biggest battle was finding his way home.” I can understand that. Nine years ago I was on my first long distance mission out to the Syrian border in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province. It was the first of many missions in the badlands of that war ravaged province, and seven months later I returned home, but I didn’t. Too much of me was still in Iraq, and in some ways still is, but that being said I think I can finally say that I am home. 

Now let me say, there is still a lot of Iraq in me and if I got the chance to go back I would probably jump at it. I still have issues from my tour in Iraq, the dreams, nightmares, and night terrors have caused more physical injuries than my actual time in country. Frankly, I expect that will never change, so I simply adapt to minimize risk, and to enjoy life to the utmost. That is my reality. I can dwell on the bad and hate life, or I can make the adjustments and enjoy life. 

After a major emotional crash in the spring I decided that the latter was the better choice and I have not looked back since. 

My experiences in Iraq have helped make me the man I am today, and for that I am grateful. I can admit that I am damaged and at the same time realize that I am in the process of becoming whole, maybe for the first time in my life. I have really come to appreciate life and the blessings that I have, especially my wife Judy, my two little dogs, and my friends. Things are not perfect, nor will they ever be, but I am happy and for the first time since I deployed to Iraq in July 2007 can say that I am home. Like the journey of Odysseus, mine has been a long, and for that matter, a strange trip.

Once I get at least one of my three texts dealing with the Civil War era and Gettysburg published, I’ll write my story. 

So until tomorrow I wish you peace, and the joy of making it home.

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

1 Comment

Filed under faith, iraq, Tour in Iraq

Home Behind Home Plate

I am finally home. Yesterday I went back to North Carolina in order to officially sign out of Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune. It was a nice visit. I spent yesterday evening with my friends at Rucker John’s and the Emerald Club and my friend Eddie was gracious enough to let me crash at his place.

This morning I headed over to the Naval Hospital officially signed out, picked up my FITREP and was able to visit a couple of friends who I will dearly miss, Duke Quarles who serves as a Pastoral Counselor and for the first two years of my tour was a great right hand man and sanity checker. I also was able to spend time with Command Master Chief Ed Moreno. There are a lot of Chaplains who are not as fortunate as I have been with some of the Senior Enlisted Leaders who I have had the honor of serving alongside.

Ed is a colleague and friend and we relied on each other. He and I turned out to be peas in a pod and he and our last Director of Mental Health Services Captain Suzy Ghurrani and Public Affairs Officer Raymond Applewhite helped make the last year of my time at the hospital a time of personal healing as well as service to others. Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Joe Burds was another leader who I will miss. he was not available this morning but I do stay in contact with him. As a Chaplain one needs people like them, especially if one has suffered trauma. Too many Chaplains isolate themselves and while they may deal with command issues with members of the command triad seldom develop the close personal relationships with other leaders that I was able to do and at this point in my life and career am comfortable enough to do.

After doing what I needed I got underway and drove back home to Judy and our dogs Molly and Minnie. This evening I was able to go to Harbor Park in Norfolk to sit in my old section, 102 and hang out watching the game and taking pictures while visiting with my old friends at the ballpark. This is a place of peace and refuge to me. It was hard this year not having a local team in the LeJeune area. I missed my time with my friends in Kinston at Grainger Stadium since the Indians moved away.

Tonight I was able to visit with my friends Elliot, Chip, Art and Tom while watching the game. The Tides won the game 3-2 on a walk off single by Zealous Wheeler, Zach Britton pitched 7 strong innings in the win. It was the final part of knowing that I was really home. Next year I plan on having my season tickets again. Tomorrow begins more of the heavy lifting in the house. I’ll visit California to go to my 35th high school reunion and see my mom, brother and his family before checking in to the Joint Forces Staff College where I will be the Ethics faculty and chaplain.

So anyway, enough about me for the night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Home is

20130822-235225.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball, Military, norfolk tides

Home

tom-clancy-look

“Where we love is home,
Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Homesick in Heaven

A couple of months shy of three years away I am finally home. With my assignment at Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune complete I have a few weeks to be with Judy and our dogs before going back to work at my new assignment at the ethics faculty and Chaplain at the Joint Forces Staff College. In that time I will also be helping Judy take care of a lot of things around the house that we have had to put off simply because she couldn’t do them alone. Of course that will take more time than the 3 weeks, but such is the cost of serving and being away from home for years.

I came home whenever possible over the past three years and Judy was able to come down the Carolina sometimes too. However those visits were just that, they were visits and even on the trip home the trip back was already planned. So even with the visits on the whole it was a very long and trying experience for us. You see in the past 17 years or so I figure we have been apart due to deployments, mobilizations, training exercises, schools, official travel and assignments like the one at LeJeune for about 10 years. 10 of 17 years apart and that doesn’t count all the time apart since we were married. I figure that in 30 years of marriage close to 14-15 have been spent apart. This doesn’t count the times where I was doing on call work or standing duty in the local area.

We have missed a lot of time together and it has been difficult. However this not unique to us but is something that really is a unique aspect of military life. I know that I am not alone in this, there are many like me, men and women who have spent the majority of their marriages away from their spouses. The amazing thing is that not that so many of our marriages fail, but rather how many survive. This is not new. Homer wrote in the Odyssey:

“There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”

6095_128718107058_2713239_n

It really is amazing that our marriage has survived the years of separation, the deployments, war and return. It is amazing that we survived despite the many times that I volunteered myself for deployments because of my own need to prove myself worthy of the uniform that I wear and the oath that I took.

My need to serve I think was rooted in the same primal need that motivated men before me to leave their homes to serve their country. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the professor of Rhetoric and Revealed Religion at Bowdoin College who volunteered to serve in the Civil War and won immortality at Little Round Top felt it and wrote about it. Chamberlain, as much a philosopher, theologian and academic wrote about this need that is so much a part of the human condition: “It is something great and greatening to cherish an ideal; to act in the light of truth that is far-away and far above; to set aside the near advantage, the momentary pleasure; the snatching of seeming good to self; and to act for remoter ends, for higher good, and for interests other than our own.”

I have spent too much time away, seeking to serve and act for what Chamberlain called “remoter ends, for higher good.” I am sure, that knowing me that there is the chance that I will answer that primal call again. There is something in my heart that always calls me to the sound of battle, but as a peacemaker, reconciler and proclaimer of the love of God in places that God seems to have abandoned.

295_26912057058_2651_n

However, today I am just glad to be home. To be able to wake up and go to sleep again in the same bed as Judy, hold her, to be with her and to experience life together again. Since coming home yesterday we have spent time together, celebrated my return with friends, rested, relaxed and even went out and saw a movie together. Molly and Minnie our dogs are happy and for the first time in three years I am not spending a Saturday preparing to leave.

Last night I was exhausted. I slept but my dreams were vivid, as they tend to be. However, for once they hey were not nightmares, but they were very real and dealt with me trying to come home. In them I was stuck in a European airport, missing flights, drinking beer and trying to get home. People that I knew from different parts of my military experience showed up in the dream, though they didn’t seem to recognize me. I guess this was because probably they were not the people that I was that close to or send a great deal of time with, but rather people who even when I knew them seemed more concerned about their career advancement than with other people. All were comparatively minor players and acquaintances of my life and career. They were odd dreams because I hadn’t thought thought about most of them for many years. Strange, perhaps it is the “Mad Cow” of PTSD that brought them back, perhaps something different. I don’t know.

I finally awoke late in the morning as the dream ended. Judy was already up, Molly I am told had spent an hour trying to wake me up by barking outside the bedroom door. But I didn’t wake up until the dream had ended with me finally arriving home.

When at last I awoke from the dream I was home.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under faith, Military, philosophy, PTSD