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A Time to Heal

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our

heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove

ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.

Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and

pure manners.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;

from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend

our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes

brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue

with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust

the authority of government, that there may be justice and

peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we

may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.

In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,

and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;

all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

From the Book of Common Prayer

 

The tragic events of Saturday January 8th 2011 have revealed the best and the worst aspects of our society. From the heroism of individuals and the kindness and prayers offered by many in this time of darkness to blame being spread about by those seeking to demonize their opponents once again.  The tragedy was scarcely hours old when partisans on the left and the right without any real evidence sought to blame the actions of Jared Lee Loughner on those Americans that have become their enemies.

In the midst of a real war against enemies that attacked us we have engaged in a political civil war that is only equaled in hatred, bitterness and rancor by that which consumed the nation in the years preceding the Civil War or in Germany’s Weimar Republic. Led by a new class of take no prisoners’ political pundits and talk show hosts politicians of both major parties have allowed the tenor of political debate in the land to descend to the crassest, hateful and even violent rhetoric imaginable.  Ordinary citizens now see those that disagree with their party or ideology as enemies and not fellow American citizens worthy of their respect and forbearance.  Both sides have had elements resort to physical violence and intimidation at polling places, local party headquarters and political rallies.

Preachers of many faiths and opposing ideologies have allowed their pulpits to become bastions of bombast and do all that they can to ensure that others know that God is on their side and not the other.  By doing this they make a mockery of faith before a watching world and all for the sake of a share in the spoils of hard wrought political victory.  The words of Jesus to “love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” are lost on such preachers who are no better and perhaps worse than the pundits, talk show hosts and politicians that have done the same. Men and women of faith should know better. It seems they forget the passage of Isaiah quoted by Jesus “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Quite simply while our military wages a war abroad and police agencies seek to prevent more attacks we have allowed ourselves to declare war on each other.  Without a shred of evidence from the accused as to why he committed this crime we have labeled the other side responsible for the attack of a madman based on hearsay while ignoring the few things that the accused had communicated. This isn’t public debate or political discourse it is civil war.

In fact the verbiage used by the political combatants is that of war. There is a culture war, a war against the family, a war against the elderly, a war against the poor, a war against immigrants, a war against workers, you name it the terminology is there, it is if we are waging a Jihad against each other. People talk of armed revolution, the shedding of blood or military coups and some actually pray prayers for the death of political leaders of whom they disapprove. The difference in 2011 than in 2007 is that the ideologues making these statements are from different parties; now the target of the anger is President Obama rather than President Bush.

What it all comes down to is that it really doesn’t matter if Jared Lee Loughner is a liberal or conservative. We have strong reason to believe that he is mentally ill. But even still his ideas that he espoused on his web posts didn’t occur in a vacuum.  Loughner’s may be mixed up and at times nonsensical but they still come from somewhere because as screwed up as some of his ideas are they occur in saner form on a daily basis.  In our hate filled political and social climate where adversaries don’t measure the impact of their words on the maladjusted or the mentally ill Loughner probably picked up a mixed bag of hatred and make it his own.

On Wednesday night President Obama gave what I thought was the best and most thoughtful speech of his Presidency. He made the speech about the people not him and he brought words of comfort to a hurting community. He mentioned the political climate in passing in these words referring to the hopes and dreams of the youngest victim Christina Green:

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle…. I want us to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

The speech was in my view having always admired President Ronald Reagan was “Reaganesque.”  I have not shed a tear during a Presidential speech for a very long time, perhaps dating back to the Challenger speech.  I was touched by the President’s words and have included the link here.
http://www.nowpublic.com/world/barack-obama-tucson-speech-transcript-video-arizona-memorial-2747009.html#ixzz1AxvgVzXg

I think it is fitting that we also remember the closing words of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address given not long before he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln knew that the great divisions in the country that resulted in the Civil War would not go away with the defeat and dissolution of the Confederacy as they were too deep and in fact in some ways still with us today.  But with words seldom equaled by an American President he said.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

It is time that we choose to work to heal our divisions as Americans, as people of faith and people that believe we have been and still can be that shining city which has been a beacon to freedom loving people of all races, nationalities, creeds and colors. We are better than what has been represented by members of the media, pundits, politicians and yeas preachers.  I hope we can again learn to love and respect one another again even though we may not agree and may we lay down the language of hate and replace it with love.

In the words of this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us

through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole

human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which

infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;

unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and

confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in

your good time, all nations and races may serve you in

harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ

our Lord.  Amen.

 

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under faith, philosophy, Political Commentary

Fort Hood Memorial and Veteran’s Day…The War Comes Home via a Traitor to His Oath

fort hood memorialSoldiers rendering Honors to Fallen Comrades at Fort Hood (MSNBC Photo)

The killings of 13 Americans and wounding of 30 others by Major Nidal Malik Hasan has left a bitter taste in many American’s mouth.  It was an act of treason by a man who apparently became a “self-radicalized home grown terrorist.”  Influenced by his religious beliefs which even some of his Moslem Imam’s thought were troubling and for which they would not approve him to serve as a volunteer lay leader for other Moslem soldiers, Major Hasan attacked his fellow soldiers.  He walked into a processing center for soldiers and opened fire allegedly shouting “Allah Akbar!” as he began his 4 minute rampage firing over 100 rounds from two weapons, one a “cop killer” type of pistol.  It appears that in the year prior to this terrorist act that Major Hasan not only made statements approving of suicide bombing, statements against U.S. Service Members of the Moslem faith fighting other Moslems and vehemently opposing the U.S. involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Many of these statements were around other Army personnel and evidently Army investigators had been watching him.  As an officer who at one time was a company commander and also helped the administrative oversight of various criminal investigations I wonder how Major Hasan was not fully investigated and called into account for his statements which were in direct contravention to his oath as an Army Officer, his Commission which as a Regular Army Field Grade Officer was actually approved by the Senate, and his Hippocratic Oath as a Physician to “do no harm.”  Major Hasan is not the first soldier, Moslem or otherwise to kill his fellow soldiers.  What makes his case unique is that he is an officer and a physician.  I personally think that is why he was never called to account for his words by others in the Army.  The fact is that no one ever assumes that an officer or a physician could or would actually commit such an act.  This was one of the hardest things for me in comprehending Major Hasan’s crime, simply put “officers do not do such things.” Maybe I’m old fashioned and my sense of honor as an officer borders on archaic but how such a man could swear the oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic “ could kill his fellow soldiers is beyond me.  I read his power point presentation given to his class last year which is posted here:

http://a.abcnews.go.com/images/Blotter/Hasan_2007.pdf

The presentation is troubling because of the more fundamentalist understanding that Major Hasan shows even in relationship to Moslems that he considers “moderate.”  “Muslims may be seen as moderate (compromising) but God is not.”  And “We love death more than you love life!” Having attended the Jordanian Army Peace Operations Training Center and gotten to know senior Iraq officers while serving with our advisors I can say that Major Hasan has a different take on this than many Islamic officers in the armies of Arab nations.  How Hasan was able to present this and have had documented contact with known radicals without being at least questioned shows an incredible lack of forsight by the FBI and Army investigators.

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/official-nidal-hasan-unexplained-connections/story?

I pray that he faces justice and of there are any accomplices that they will also be cause and pay for this.  At the same time I pray that the xenophobic ramblings of some who see all Moslems as the enemy are curbed and that they will not incite violence against the innocent in the name of revenge.

Fort Hood conducted a memorial service today for the fallen.  I listened to a lot of it on the radio as I was out.  I was impressed by the remarks of General Cone, General Casey and President Obama.   I think that given the circumstances that the words were fitting and appropriate especially since tomorrow is Veteran’s Day.  The link to the text of the President’s speech is here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-memorial-service-fort-hood

However I do think that a couple of parts of the speech stand out enough to post here:

This is a time of war.  Yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle.  They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great state and the heart of this great American community.  This is the fact that makes the tragedy even more painful, even more incomprehensible.

For those families who have lost a loved one, no words can fill the void that’s been left.  We knew these men and women as soldiers and caregivers.  You knew them as mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; sisters and brothers.

But here is what you must also know:  Your loved ones endure through the life of our nation.  Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched.  Their life’s work is our security, and the freedom that we all too often take for granted.  Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — that is their legacy…

These are trying times for our country.  In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis.  In Iraq, we’re working to bring a war to a successful end, as there are still those who would deny the Iraqi people the future that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much for.

As we face these challenges, the stories of those at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon.  Theirs are the tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call — the call to serve their comrades, their communities, and their country.  In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility.  In an era of division, they call upon us to come together.  In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.

We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it.  We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way.

We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.

We’re a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses.  And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God.

We’re a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal.  We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today.  We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality.  That’s who we are as a people.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day.  It’s a chance to pause, and to pay tribute — for students to learn the struggles that preceded them; for families to honor the service of parents and grandparents; for citizens to reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made in pursuit of a more perfect union.

For history is filled with heroes.  You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Vietnam; a sister who served in the Gulf.  But as we honor the many generations who have served, all of us — every single American — must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who’ve come before.

We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.

This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in the time of certain danger. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.  They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places.  They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains.  They have extended the opportunity of self-government to peoples that have suffered tyranny and war.  They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and all stations — all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life.

In today’s wars, there’s not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops’ success — no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed.  But the measure of the impact of these young men and women is no less great — in a world of threats that no know borders, their legacy will be marked in the safety of our cities and towns, and the security and opportunity that’s extended abroad.  It will serve as testimony to the character of those who served, and the example that all of you in uniform set for America and for the world…

Long after they are laid to rest — when the fighting has finished, and our nation has endured; when today’s servicemen and women are veterans, and their children have grown — it will be said that this generation believed under the most trying of tests; believed in perseverance — not just when it was easy, but when it was hard; that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.

The speech which I heard on radio moved me.  A president acknowledged what I have believed about our current military.  We serve because we believe in the ideals of this nation and unlike wars past, the “Good Wars” where there were homecoming parades after surrender ceremonies we come home to a nation which mostly has not been at war, a nation that we have protected and served in harm’s way when most Americans were told to be patriotic after 9-11 by President Bush by “going shopping.”  In the midst of all we serve, many of us volunteering for more, not because we like war, but because we believe in our country and in helping others come to know freedom.  I know that amid the political cynicism that is so rampant that such idealism is derided by those who only see America as a force for evil, but such is not the case.  By and large our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen serve not for college money or to simply have a job, but because we care about the country and know that by serving now that we will likely end up in a combat zone.

We serve in unpopular wars and our sacrifice is to many people just a news bite in between economic, entertainment and sports stories.  There are those on the left who despise us as much as they did those who served in Vietnam. Likewise there are those on the right who have no compunction about using us in the military until we are spent without sharing a whit in our sacrifice, without ever having put on a uniform much less seeing combat.  Some are politicians seeking a way to increase their power; others are people that I used to listen to on the radio all the time whose answer is to automatically suggest bombing or invading another country.  They say many kind words about us who serve and occasionally sponsor events to “help” military families, but none suggest any real shared sacrifice on the part of the nation.  In fact sometimes they have a negative effect on those who serve because their words are believed as gospel by many and if a combat veteran disagrees with a popular radio talk show host he can be told that that he is “politically correct” “weak” or even a “pansy” by people who shop till they drop under the protection provided by we who serve.  Having had this happen to me recently I know it is the case and the blowhards who drive goad people into such idiocy can go to hell.

So we fight the wars alone while contractors such as Halliburton and the company formerly known as Blackwater get rich lining their pockets with tax dollars doing jobs that at one time were done by the military in an era when much of the nation had a personal interest in the outcome of the war.  We fight the wars and deal with the trauma while others beat the war drums without regard to cost and for the first six years of the war continued to reduce the size of the military.  The previous administration had to be forced by congress into increasing the size of the active Army and Marine Corps and to stop cutting the Navy and the Air Force.

I am glad that unlike Vietnam that the majority of people seem to care about the military and our servicemen and women, even if they disagree with the national policy regarding the present wars.  For that I am grateful and blessed for the outward show of support by many stands in stark contrast what our brothers and sisters who served in Vietnam faced.

This has been and will continue to be a long war.  We have been at war over 8 years since 9-11 as opposed to under 4 years of American involvement in World War II.  The overwhelming burden of the war has been on the backs of an incredibly small segment of the American population.   If you look at the numbers it is well under one percent of the population of the United States that has served in Iraq or Afghanistan.  This is not a shared sacrifice.

Today is Veteran’s Day.  Take the time to recognize the sacrifices of not just those who fought in the big popular wars, but for those who have endured the unpopular and unglamorous wars such as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  I have made two combat deployments as well as numerous trips in and out of theater. When the time comes and my boss thinks I’m ready to go again I will go to serve alongside my friends and comrades many of whom are serving in harm’s way now.

I ask readers of this website to remember the fallen in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other fronts in this ongoing war including the home front which felt the effect of the war when Major Hasan attacked his fellow soldiers.  Remember the fallen, care for the wounded and the families of those who have lost their lives, being wounded in mind body or spirit and those who have served in wars past as well as this war.  Our brothers and sisters who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam are growing fewer in number daily and “we, we happy few” who continue this fight need all the support that we can get.

I have been in California this week helping with my parents affairs.  My dad is in a nursing facility here with Alzheimer’s disease.  During my last visit he still recognized me and for a few minutes I had him back. Now he no longer knows who I am.  He is a retired Navy Chief and toward the end of his career served at An Loc where he endured that siege in the spring of 1972.  I thank God for my dad’s service and example that helped lead me to chose serving in the military, something for me that has lasted more than 28 years in service with the Army and the Navy.  I pray for God’s peace and mercy on him as he lives what little life that he has left.

God bless all of our veterans, the living and the dead as well as all of those who serve in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Pray for our country and the military.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The World Series: Cliff Lee was Amazing and the Yankees come back, the Influenza Outbreak, a Visit Home, and Honors to the Fallen by the President

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

large_2aj-burnett415A. J. Burnett dominated the Phillies in Game 2

Last night we were treated to one of the best pitching performances in the history of the World Series.  Phillies start Cliff Lee who has had an incredible playoff run.  In four games he has pitched 33.1 innings, winning 3 games, two of which were complete games.  In those games he pitched 30 strikeouts and on 3 walks and only given up 2 earned runs.  His ERA through game one of the World Series is a minuscule 0.54.  Last night was a fantastic demonstration of pitching as Lee controlled the game from start to finish defeating his former teammate C.C. Sabathia who was good but not good enough giving up 2 solo home runs to Chase Utley before being pulled after the 7th.  One can compare his performance against the best hitting team in the Majors to the greats Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Don Larson.  I remember seeing Gibson’s game back in 1968 on TV and I am forever amazed at his intensity as hit mowed down batter after batter.  On the other hand Lee was the epitome of the “just another day at work” that was so evidenced in his lackadaisical catch of a pop up to the pitcher’s mound and his quick behind the back grab of a pitch hit behind him.

Honestly I was surprised but not disappointed.  I do not have a dog in the fight so to speak since the Giants, Orioles, A’s or Angels are not in the series.  However I appreciate a great performance even when it cuts down my well thought out statistic based prediction. Lee was until last night a career 4-4 against the Yankees but had, again until last night a whopping 5.02 against them.  I predicted that it would be a close game but that I thought it would be Lee who gave up the key hits or have mistakes committed behind him which would in turn bring on the bullpen which the Yankees would demolish.  Instead it was 180 degrees out as Sabathia gave up the key hits and the Yankee bullpen melted down.  To top it off the Yankees were completely baffled and shut down by Lee almost being shut out save a Jimmy Rollins throw into the bullpen which allowed Derek Jeter to score the Yankees only run of the game with one out in the bottom of the 9th. I’m watching another pitcher’s duel tonight, at least through 7 innings between Pedro “I’m the most influential player to play in Yankee Stadium” and A.J. Burnett. Burnett dominated the Phillies big guns and Pedro has like Sabathia last night given up 2 solo home runs to Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui and was pulled with 2 on and no out in the bottom of the 7th.  Mariano Rivera came on to get a six out save and the Yankees won 3-1.  The amazing thing to me is the dominance of pitching so far.  The fact that Ryan Howard stuck out 4 times tonight and Alex Rodriguez 3 times last night shows just how dominant the pitchers have been. Both were having an amazing playoff run and at least the first two games have had their fires extinguished.

mariano-riveraMariano Rivera got a 6 out Save

The first two games give me some hope. I would prefer a 7 game series that is a well played drama filled classic for the ages.  That is my hope anyway as they are the best teams in baseball and it would be fitting for the series to live up to that status.

I just got over a bout with a stomach bug yesterday, on Monday I was doubled over in pain and the stuff lingered a couple of days.  Turns out that this is going around and a lot of folks are going down with it as well as Influenza A, B and H1N1, the Swine Flu.  I personally know several people who have been hammered by the Swine flu and am seeing a lot more influenza related cases in our ICU including a number of young people on ventilators.  A cursory look around the news shows a lot of kids getting sick and so far at least 100 schools being closed due to influenza outbreaks and it is only October.  Look for a long and difficult flu season. This may not be as bad as 1918 but anyone is a fool to make light of it or efforts to keep people from getting it.  I think such people are damned fools who jeopardize their lives as well as the lives of their families, friends and co-workers, from what I see in my little corner of the world this will not be fun.

Speaking of not fun I am going home to go assist my mom and brother with some of my dad’s affairs. He remains in the nursing home and continues his slow downward trend defying the doctors who said that he would be dead months ago.  The emotional cost on my mom, brother and to a lesser extent I because I don’t have to deal with this up close every day has been exacting. It is painful.  I received a e-mail from an old friend this week who described what his family went through as his dad wasted away in mind and body before their eyes.  I will be glad to see everyone and will spend as much time with dad as I can, hopefully I will have him with me for at least a few minutes.  I am not looking forward to having to go through belongings or some of the administrative or banking tasks that will need to be done.

APTOPIX Obama Fallen SoldiersPresident Obama Honoring the Fallen at Dover

Late last night President Obama did something that earned my admiration.  I know some will see his action as cynical or opportunistic but as a career officer and Iraq Veteran who has served under five Presidents I saw it differently.  I think it is the first time that a President has greeted and rendered honors to the fallen at Dover in my career.  I could be wrong but I don’t think that any of the President’s that I have served under have ever met an aircraft bearing 18 fallen Americans.  He didn’t have to do it, but it is my opinion that any wartime leader who has not experienced the enormity of the loss of Americans that he has sent into combat has not fully assumed the mantle of leadership.  Part of that mantle is to be there in the times of suffering. One source close to the President told ABC News reporter Jake Tapper that  meeting with the families at Dover and seeing the return of the fallen was was “one of the most profound experiences of Mr. Obama’s young presidency.”

It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day, not only our troops but their families as well,” Obama said later Thursday, hours after his return to the White House. “The burden that both our troops and their families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts, and it is something that I think about each and every day.”

I do appreciate all that President Bush did in visiting the wounded and caring for the families of the fallen, there is no disrespect intended by me toward the former President as he had to make many tough and often unpopular decisions during his presidency including the surge in Iraq that along with the Anbar Awakening that helped turn the course of events in that unfortunate land.  He took heavy criticism from the Left and parts of the Right for that decision as well as scaling back efforts in Afghanistan. I do hope and pray that the President’s decision, whatever it ends up being will bear success and help the security of the region and peace to Afghanistan and I certainly do not want him to be like Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam and commit us deeper into to a war without counting the cost ahead of time.  That is a tall order, but for the sake of our troops is something that we should be able to pray will happen.  To quote one commentator: “No matter what your political views are or your position on the wars, we should never forget those making the ultimate sacrifice.”  Thank you Mr. President for remembering these men,  Ten men were lost in the crash of an MH-47, 7 Army Soldiers and 3 DEA agents and 8 soldiers killed when an IED destroyed their Stryker Light Armored Vehicle.  I close with their names:

Killed:

1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington

Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y.

Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas.

Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind.

Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo.

Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La.

Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill.

Pfc. Christopher I. Walz, 25, of Vancouver, Wash.

From the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia

Chief Warrant Officer Michael P. Montgomery, 36, of Savannah, Ga.

Chief Warrant Officer Niall Lyons, 40, of Spokane, Wash.

Staff Sgt. Shawn H. McNabb, 24, of Terrell, Texas.

Sgt. Josue E. Hernandez Chavez, 23, of Reno, Nev.

Sgt. Nikolas A. Mueller, 26, of Little Chute, Wisc.

From the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Sgt. 1st Class David E. Metzger, of San Diego Ca

Staff Sgt. Keith R. Bishop, 28, of Medford, N.Y.

From the Drug Enforcement Agency

Special Agent Forrest N. Leamon, Woodbridge Va.

Special Agent Chad L. Michael, Quantico Va

Special Agent Michael E. Weston, Washington DC

Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them

May their souls, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen

american-flag-2a

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Surviving Birthdays, My Closet of Anxieties, Rumors of Revolution and Coups and a Losing Streak Ended

anniverary 2009I didn’t mess up the Abbess’s Birthday this Year…Cheers!

I am terrible at doing birthdays…mine included.  Unfortunately this can be detrimental in my primary and many other relationships.  In particular I have made my fair share of messes when it comes to birthdays, especially those of Judy.  This began shortly after marriage and there have been a number of times that I regret, especially in choice of gifts.  A large part of this was due to selective hearing on my part in what she wanted and to what she would refer to as the “damage to the brain caused by the male hormone.”  The biggest of the goofs was when in seminary I got her the Bible that I wanted…not smart. I will not add to the fire of my self-immolation here by describing the others.  I can say that like a pitcher has hung one too many curveballs in the center of the plate to good hitters and seeing it go over the fence, the memories flash through my mind beginning in the middle of September until the birthday is successfully negotiated.  It is like making sure that I get the last out before I can rest.

This year went well.  In fact it has been like an extended celebration for her milestone birthday. We brought her college roommate here for 6 days, we had lunch with her friend Diane and dinner at Gordon Biersch together and breakfast today with her friend Pat and her father today.  Saturday evening we will make the close to the week by having a number of people over for dinner and cake.  Even the gifts that I chose were things that she wanted or actually liked.  The key to me successfully negotiating a birthday is to actually listen to what she wants.

We have had a couple of good days of leave and enjoyed our time together.  The cool thing is though she has reached this milestone, she neither looks nor acts her age.  Since I neither look nor act my age most of the time, though I am feeling it more, I think that we are a good match.

closet of anxietiesOpen for Business

At the same time the week has seen my “Closet of Anxieties” open up again.   Part is obviously  PTSD induced and part life induced.  My mom as always has managed to add stress to my life.  My dad continues to slowly circle getting worse in the nursing home.  My German friend wants me to come to Germany in early December but I am nervous about making the flight.   I was able to handle flying much better before Iraq.

left wingers

Finally I am concerned about things going on in the country as some people on the political right are advocating a military coup or violent revolution to overthrow President Obama.  The scary thing as these are not people on the nutty fringe but people more in the mainstream of current conservative thought. What is even more alarming is that a lot of these folks are also prominent Evangelical Christians.  One should never forget that many German “conservative Christian values voters” supported Hitler because they so hated the left. Hitler, like many right wing politicians in this country played to their fear and hatred of the left for their political support.  I’m afraid of the same thing happening here.

A good article about this is found at blogger Polycarp’s site which is linked here: http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2009/09/phyllis-schlafly-endorses-bloody-revolution-columnist-plans-for-armed-coup/

bundesarchiv_bild_146-1970-051-65_kapp-putsch_berlinThe Kapp Putsch

To me the political situation is looking more like the Weimar Republic every day and unlike the folks cited in the article I don’t see President Obama as a Nazi or Marxist.  I think that people are playing with fire in suggesting bloody revolutions or military coups.  If either happens there is no going back. They will have to coin a phrase “destroyed the Constitution in order to save it.”  What is scary for me to see a national columnist like John Perry writing in the mainstream conservative news online publication Newsmax.com , suggest a military coup when the military is engaged in two wars.  The military is perhaps the most trusted institution in the country and to look to it in time of war to overthrow the government in a partisan action is madness and even borders on treason.  Even if this Wolfgang Kapp wannabee was able to get some misdirected military leader to pull a Lüttwitz[i] and attempt to seize power.  Such an attempt would be futile and doomed to failure.  Such an attempt could never gain the support of the entire military and would be dependent on many younger soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who do not necessarily support the or are as radical as those pushing this on the political right.  The military is not a reactionary or monolithic institution despite the wishes of some on the right.  When one sees this kind of talk combined with street brawls at political town meetings and people carrying semi-automatic weapons at rallies where the President is speaking one sees a recipe for disaster that could destroy the country. If this continues  and at best poison the political and social atmosphere for decades to come.  I felt the same way when people on the left suggested a military coup against President Bush a couple of years ago.  We have a political process that has worked relatively well for 200 plus years.  Yes we are divided and having problems but nothing is insurmountable if we decide to work and play well with each other.  We have survived as a nation so long precisely because we have had the wisdom to step back from the brink, with the exception of the Civil War and we all know how well that turned out for everyone concerned.

044Jeff Fiorentino in Norfolk

However tonight a final source of anxiety was lifted when the Orioles broke their 13 game losing streak against the Tampa Bay Rays tonight.  O’s lefty Chris Waters, who I have met a number of times in Norfolk got the win and Jeff Fiorentino came up big with a 2 out RBI single that provided what would be the winning run.  It was good news for both players, Waters needed the win just to regain confidence and hopefully get another look by the O’s and other teams.  Fiorentino is now being talked about as having a place on the 2010 Orioles.  He certainly has earned it.  With the win the Orioles go home to the confines of Camden Yards to finish the season against the Blue Jays.

Peace, Padre Steve+

Note: The last time I posted something about faith and politics I had a couple of really nasty and personal comments by those on the right all but calling me a non-Christian and Marxist traitor.  This should be fun.


[i] Wolfgang Kapp was a German politician who worked with disaffected radical elements of the Army to attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic in 1922.  He gained the support of General von Lüttwitz who commanded the military district around Berlin and used a radicalized Freikorps, the Erhardt Brigade which was slated by the Army for demobilization to attempt to seize control of the government.  The attempt floundered but hindered future cooperation between the Army and the Majority Socialists where the Nazis began their rise to power.

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, History, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, Political Commentary, PTSD, things I don't get

Going to War: Interlude July 4th 2007

This is the second installment of my account of my account of mine and RP2 Nelson Lebron’s deployment to Iraq in 2007.

Our mobilization proceeded the next couple of days as we received our immunizations, were issued DCUs and other clothing needed for the deployment.  Nelson and I of course were already well outfitted by our unit, EOD Group Two.  In spite of this we drew additional uniforms, brown t-shirts, socks and a host of miscellaneous gear.  Thankfully as I have mentioned, EOD had outfitted us well including boots of our choosing, not the standard issue boot being provided to the rest of the sailors.  I had a pair of Blackhawks and a pair of Magnum 5.11’s, both much more comfortable than those issued.  Wills and powers of attorneys were drawn up by JAG officers, our “page 2s” the record of who we wanted notified in the event of our demise were verified and updated, new dog tags ordered and a myriad of forms filled out, sometimes for the second or third time.  In the weeks prior we had completed a fair number of online courses on Navy Knowledge Online to orient us to operations, health and safety issues and for Nelson classes on the M-16A2 and M9 Pistol.  The 4th was a day off, probably more for the staff then for 120 or so of us getting ready to go overseas.

After completing everything we needed on the 3rd I went home and Judy and I took in the Norfolk Tides game against the Syracuse Sky Chiefs at Harbor Park.  Before the game I chatted with Tides General Manager Dave Rosenfield and let him know that I would be missing the rest of the season as I was going to Iraq.  Dave is a good guy and since at the time things were not going well, we were experiencing heavy casualties which were being displayed on every broadcast news outlet available to humanity, I could see the distress in his face as he told me to “please take care of yourself and be safe.”   My usher buddy Skip, a retired Navy Chief and a number of vendors, Kenny the Pretzel guy and others wished me well.  As the National Anthem Played that night I stood at attention, my Tides cap over my heart as the anthem was played.  It was one of the most emotional anthems I have ever experienced.  It was not that it was sung by a star or even played that well, but it was that I was going to Iraq to serve in an unpopular war, ordered by a once post 9-11 popular President whose star had fallen because of how Iraq was turning out.  The war was presented as lost and a disaster and here I was getting ready to go after volunteering to go to Al Anbar Province, the most contested and violent part of Iraq.  The surge was just beginning and the Anbar Awakening was yet to be noticed by anyone. Al Qaida Iraq and other insurgents were taking a severe toll in Al Anbar.  I had been told by Chaplain Maragaret Kibben that the mission was to get out bewyond the wire when no one was getting to take care of the advisers.  I imagined being convoys and my vehiilce being hit, and at the same time still knew that I had to go.  Tears were in my eyes as I mouthed the words to the Star Spangled Banner looking at the flag flying above the scoreboard above right center field.  Judy stood next to me.  It was then that some 26 years of service came down to the real world.  Even though I had been to the Middle East numerous times and even served on a boarding team in the Northern Arabian Gulf, this was different.  I was preparing to go “into the shit” as my Vietnam era brothers would say.  In fact I was going out not with a unit, but as the first Navy Chaplain to serve directly with advisers since that war accompanied by the most prepared assistant in the world.  I was pretty sure that I was the most prepared Chaplain for this assignment, I was as ready as one could be for deployment.  I was physically ready, in some of the best shape of my life, I had graduated done everything that I could thing to do to be ready.   I had even  made sure that I read Chapter 5 of the History of Army Chaplains in Vietnam as part of the massive amount of  reading that I did  for the deployment.  Part of this chapter dealt with those men who served in this capacity then.  We watched the fireworks show that followed the game and

The Tides would go on to win the game 4-3 and I would go home with Judy.  The 4th was spent continuing to get ready even though I was theoretically off for the holiday.  There are always checks and double checks to ensure that everything is just right when you deploy.  This was really hard on Judy as she watched me getting ready.  When you deploy, especially to a combat zone there is a certain amount of emotional detachment that most couples go through.  It is a form of self preservation, you tend not to want to ask or deal with the hard questions of what happens if….

Of course Judy had in the previous months insisted that I take on additional life insurance which I did, just in case I would get schwacked in Iraq. I’m rather superstitious and felt that while this was a good move to protect Judy that it might be inviting trouble for me.  We had of course talked a bit about the deployment; I was much more excited than she could ever be.  The lot of the military wife in wartime is to endure her husband’s choice to serve their country in time of war.  As deployments draw closer the emotional distance widens even as emotions deepen.  It is the inverse of what happens when emotions deepen as people come together.  That last 4th of July was one of being alone together even as we went to of friend Pat and Jim’s house for a cook out.  Following that we went home and spent a quiet evening before going to bed.  My DCUs from EOD hung on my closet door as we turned off the light and spent a fitful night sleep.

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Filed under iraq,afghanistan, Military, Tour in Iraq