Tag Archives: stripes

Americans are Not the Übermenschen: We Are the Wretched Refuse

billmurraystripes

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

In the wake of President Trump’s remarks about “shithole” countries I have top put in my two cents. The fact is that most Americans, even the whiter than white, are descended from people who were the “wretched refuse” of their countries of origin. As Bill Murray said in the movie Stripes:

“The hell’s the matter with you?! Stupid! We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse.” 

I’m sorry Mr. President, your family and mine our no different, our ancestors escaped countries that they felt that they had no future. In my family that included members of the Scottish nobility who weren’t high enough on the nobility scale to inherit much and as such went to the colonies to use their name and money to their advantage; or others who fled poverty, famine, and religious persecution: Irish Catholics, French Huguenots, Welsh coal miners, indentured servant English farmers and herdsmen, just to name a few. At least to my knowledge none of my ancestors were dodging the draft or conscription to get here, not that there is anything wrong with that, but I digress…

I hate to be so blunt but anyone that thinks that the United States is some kind of white nationalist homeland is sadly mistaken. The most kind word to describe people who believe that bullshit is ignorant; the worst, deliberately deceitful and evil.

So when the American President makes comments about Haitians, Hispanics, and African immigrants as coming from “shithole countries” one has to remember how the Irish, Germans, Italians, Poles, Russians, Greeks, Jews, and Eastern European immigrants were viewed and treated when they came to this country. While were at it let’s not even talk about the Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Indians, Arabs, various Latin Americans, or Mexicans; the latter who lost 40% of their country to an expanding and imperialistic United States after the War with Mexico.

The United States of America is not an ethnicity, it is not a race, it is an idea; a proposition that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Abraham Lincoln certainly understood this to the extent that he was willing to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and push through the 13th Amendment and in his last public remarks voiced support for Negro Suffrage, something that infuriated John Wilkes Booth that it moved him to assassinate Lincoln.

That being said if we are really Americans. If we are truly part of that “wretched refuse” then we should never forget the words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address where he said:

“It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

The remarks of the President which he denied, but have not been denied by the White House and testified to by Democrat and Republican Senators who heard them are despicable, racist, and conduct unbecoming for an American President. In the military I have served alongside men and women from every country that the President has called shitholes, every single one of them has more integrity, honor, and courage than the President, some have given their lives in defense of this country while many of them still serve this country in harms way. Many came as immigrants or were the sons or daughters of immigrants: all of them volunteered to serve and none dodged the draft like the current occupant of the White House.

The fact is if you are an American, unless perhaps you are a direct descendent of one of the great American Indian Chiefs or Shamans, you, like me are part of the wretched refuse.

So with that I wish you a good day.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under civil rights, culture, film, History, movies, News and current events, Political Commentary

DNA Tests and Family Mysteries

e-pluribus-unum

“We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! Here’s proof: his nose is cold! But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more lovable than the mutt.” Pvt John Winger (Bill Murray) Stripes 1981

A few weeks back I spit into a test tube and sent it in to see what it revealed about my DNA. I thought that it was pretty clear cut as people on both sides of the family have done a lot of research into the subject even publishing books. Pretty much I am a Mutt.

Now the DNA test revealed some things that I was pretty sure about. According to it about 70% of my DNA make-up comes from the British Isles. I have parts of the family from England, Scotland, Ireland and the Outlaw Josie Wales. That much was pretty sure. We have records of these relationships, some extending back to about 1060 in Scotland on my dad’s side of the family.

My mom had said for years that part of her grandmother’s family was Scandinavian though she did not know exactly where they came from. The DNA test said that about 20% of my DNA was Scandinavian. Now the trick is to find out where they originated and how they got to be part of me.

Finally I was thrown for a loop by the last 10% of the DNA. I expected something out of Western or Central Europe, French or German based on some family histories and speculation, as well as the outside possibility that one of my slave owning ancestors, and yes I had them could have brought some African DNA into the mix. I was prepared for any of those possibilities and none of them bothered me in the least. I thought that they might be fun to research.

However the final 10% of the DNA was Eastern European, which could be the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia or any of the Balkan States. That is a mystery because none of the records or accounts that I have seen indicate any Eastern European ancestry. However it is there and it is a mystery.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. Could there be an anglicized misspelling of a name that we thought was English but is Eastern European, I do think there is a possibility of that. Likewise there is the possibility that a connection exists that we do not know about.

Of the next few days and weeks, we will be doing some digging into the family tree to figure out the gory details of this discovery.

What is interesting is that no matter how things work out or what we discover, the fact is that most Americans whose families have been in this land ever since we wiped out most of the Native Americans to take it are a blend, sometimes of races and ethnicities that we never could imagine. I for one think that is a strength and something that we should be happy about. Not the part about wiping out the Native Americans, that is pretty awful and shameful, but rather that most of us are a blend of God knows how many races, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Having seen the results of inbreeding, cultures that have stopped evolving and religions that would kill in the name of God I think it is pretty cool that somehow in spite of ourselves sometimes that we are E pluribus unam- Out of many, one. 

Have a great night.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, philosophy

Some of Padre Steve’s Favorite Funny Movies of the 1970s and 1980s

I don’t know about you but no matter what your age some of your favorite movies might just come from the time when you were in High School or College. For me that was the 1970s and 1980s.

I have always been a fan of slapstick and silliness and in my book some of the most creative and even hysterical films ever made came out of that era.

Of course there are all of the Mel Brooks films which I have mentioned in previous articles.  I absolutely love Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs and History of the World Part I.

But I also love others such as Burt Reynolds films like the Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run films where Reynolds teamed up with people like Dom DeLouise, Sally Field and Jackie Gleason as well as The End, The Longest Yard and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

There were others such as Foul Play with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn, Stripes, Caddie Shack and Meatballs with Bill Murray. Then there were was the Pink Panther series with Peter Sellers in the role of Inspector Clouseau, in a great series of comic misadventures.

Then there are the military dark comedies such as Kelly’s Heroes and the movie version of M*A*S*H, Private Benjamin and Catch 22.

I cannot ever forget the Zucker, Abrams, Zucker films, Airplane and Airplane II, the Naked Gun series with Leslie Nielsen and spoofs like Hot Shots and Hot Shots Part Deux. Then of course I cannot leave out films like the Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, Animal House and English imports like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Some of favorites include sports comedies such as Major League, Bull Durham, the Longest Yard and Slapshot, and cop comedies such as 48 Hours, and Beverley Hills Cop and then films like Trading Places.

I love these films because I get a laugh out of them and on days like today where I had to undergo more cognitive testing ordered by the Neurologist to see if the Mad Cow is getting me.

So anyway those are some of my favorites and if I took a boit more time I probably could add to these in a big way.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

Padre Steve’s Favorite Fun “Good Times” Songs

I love music and there is something about the less serious of songs that make them really fun to listen to.  Since I have written about my favorite songs of the 1970s and 1980s as well as my favorite love songs I started thinking about my favorite funny songs.  Some are connected to movies but other were songs that somehow or someway that found their way into my life.  So here they are in all their humorous glory.

The first on the list is Herman’s Hermits – I’m into Something Good http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxDh2sYQRpo which came out in 1965 and the video from the movie  The Naked Gun with Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrhzt51UYZA

Manfred Mann Band

Another feel good song was Manfred Mann’s – Do Wah Diddy which came out in 1965 and when it was used in the movie Stripes became a song that in some places was actually used as a marching “Jodie” in some Army units  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj9fofFGXKc The Stripes version is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZPIU0wGVkQ It is hard to believe now but this came out about the time I enlisted in the Army and the uniforms take me back to my ROTC pre-commissioning “advanced camp” at Fort Lewis Washington.

Since I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s the drug culture was a part of life. I never was part of that scene being a ROTC nerd but had many friends who dabbled in various types of drugs in that era. Ringo Starr’s No No Song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVGerWFYotQ was a classic of the era.

Not to be outdone by a Brit the American band Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show – produced a number of songs that dealt with all sorts of experimental behavior, many of which were written by children’s author Shel Silverstein.  At the Freaker’s Ball http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hs5MAWinxqQ which came out in 1974 was one of the more outlandish of the mostly outlandish songs that they came out with in the early 1970’s.

One of the classic “feel good” songs ever produced was Three Dog Night’s – Joy to the World which came out in 1970 http://video.nate.com/209973994 I remember this one from back in 5th grade when I lived in Long Beach and it was on the AM radio.

Jim Croce’s Bad Bad Leroy Brown http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaVPASJmeMU was a fun song which I remember on the radio as well when I was in junior high school.

One song which came out in my sophomore year of college when I first started dating Judy was Rupert Holmes – “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrcQqCii4Rk This too was a fun song which in some ways epitomized the era.

When I was in high school there were a number of songs that were great to groove to including K.C and the Sunshine Band’s Get Down Tonight http://www.myvideo.de/watch/1959599/KC_And_The_Sunshine_Band_Get_Down_Tonigh, and the Commodore’s Brick House


Blondie’s- Island of Lost Souls http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7gqErYW0K0 is a very quirky song which I fell in love with the first time that I heard it. It is one of those songs that once I get it in my head it is frequently hours or days that I find myself singing it or humming it walking down the halls at work or in my car.

The Johnny Cash- A Boy Named Sue http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n–1wR4L7zg came out when I was in grade school. I think I remember it from at least 5th grade but I am not sure. I think of this song every time North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Il hits the news, instead of a “Boy named Sue” I think of the “Boy named Kim.”

How can I not go without an Abba song? They had a number of quirky and fun songs to match many of their more serious ballads and love songs.  The song When I Kissed the Teacher http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VR4LJjCBWE0 is one of those that I thought about anytime I had a really good looking and nice teacher in high school or college.  Somehow learning is easier when the teacher is a really hot lady with a nice personality. I don’t know why but it is.

Elton John’s – Crocodile Rock http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2Ta0qCG8No hearkened back to the 1950s and was always a favorite fun song for me.

Since I am in the Navy and grew up in a Navy family the Village People’s In the Navy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InBXu-iY7cw has always been a favorite.  The ship featured in the video is the USS Francis Hammond FF-1067 a Knox class frigate. The song still shows up on occasion in things dealing with the Navy.  I can’t remember a funny song about the Army when I was in although we did use Do Wah Diddy on occasion.

The Monster Mash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9Dz5yui0Rc was always a favorite at Halloween.  This version was produced by the legendary Dr. Demento.

Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irp8CNj9qBI was a totally quirky song and was featured in the movie Wayne’s World http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTheG–2NE0

The Go Go’s Vacation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo8S3iFdzUc was a great song of its era and is still fun to listen to even almost 30 years later.

Lindsey Buckingham’s – Holiday Road http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nLiQBV6A7c was the into song to the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation and that version is featured here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a6e0qhfzu0&feature=related

Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Time Warp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yarYjuN-m8I was one of many fun songs from that cult classic.

The band Sha Na Na was a nostalgia type band which launched not long after the movie American Graffiti during the 1970’s nostalgia for the 1950s. The band was one of a number of acts including movies and the series Happy Days which helped introduce my generation to the music of the 1950s giving us something in common with our parents, imagine that? Their song Sha Na Na http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NyK3df0xaw is a classic of that genre.

The Bangles Manic Monday which came out in 1986 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s48kuKLf0mE was yet another of the quirky classic 80’s feel good songs by a girls band.

Weird Al Yankovic produced many parody songs including Eat It http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyfcOriVKBM a parody of Michael Jackson’s Beat it.

My dad was transferred from Long Beach to the Bay Area in 1971.  We moved to Stockton the birthplace of the “drive by shooting” which is about 8 miles from a little town called Lodi.  John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival did this song about being stuck in Lodi California.  The Song Lodi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks4PkmoRnMo is one of those songs that you really appreciate if you have ever been to Lodi.

Ray Parker Jr.’s song Ghostbusters became an iconic song from the 1980s when it was featured in the movie Ghostbusters starring Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis and Sigourney Weaver. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4uxIo4t7xM&a=fnwJqf_wcQA&playnext_from=ML

Of course when it comes to fun you can’t leave out the Blues Brothers Everybody Needs Somebody to Love http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCTJeT2i9QU was just one of many feel good songs in this classic which introduced many of my generation to the great blues artists and the songs Shake Your Tail Feather http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN5V-6yCbpg and Aretha Franklin’s Think were classics from that movie.

The Monkey’s Daydream Believer http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xo9pi_the-monkees-daydream-believer_music is one of those catchy songs that once you hear it is hard to get out of your mind.

Katrina & the Waves Walking on Sunshine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eONhto0x_nI is a great feel good or happy song from the mid 1980s.

Of course no one can ever leave off Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpzV_0l5ILI from any collection of fun songs although I think I like this version from the Blues Brothers better  http://www.myvideo.de/watch/3656690/The_Blues_Brothers_Jailhouse_Rock

So anyway, I do hope you enjoy these fun songs from the past.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under music

Padre Steve’s World: Top 10 articles of 2009

I began Padre Steve’s World Back in February of 2009. I started it mainly as a place to write about my experience in the Iraq War and my struggle with PTSD. It initial was, and on occasion still is a vehicle to help integrate those experiences into my life so that I might experience some measure of healing.  When I began this site I really did not expect it to become what it has become.

Now as anyone knows I am a member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish and that the Deity Herself speaks to me through Baseball.  That combined with the fact that I am a historian somewhat of a military theorist means that I love statistics.  I also love to look at facts, data and interesting stories and try to make sense of them. I do this with baseball of course, as well as how leaders can apply lessons of the past to present conflicts and recognize dangers of their possible courses of action.

I am an introvert but writing has helped me get out of myself.  I have ended up writing about people in my life, significant losses experienced at our medical center and how others have made a difference in my life.  As the site matured I found that I was writing less about me and more about other people, history, theory and various social and political events.  Of course the latter frequently stirred up a lot of crap in me so at times, especially dealing with subjects such as “The Lies of World Net Daily” or former Navy Chaplain, defrocked priest, convicted criminal and professional liar Gordon “Chaps” Klingenschmitt.  The site also allowed me to spend a lot of time sharpening my academic research skills as well as writing about baseball.  So this has become something more than a navel gazing site where I pick out the lint of my soul for all to see.  While my experiences pervade a lot of what I write as no one can write in a vacuum one’s experience, training, culture and worldview all influence what we write about and how we interpret events, they are not the central focus of the site anymore.  I think I have about 40 different subject areas that I post on now and who knows if that number will grow.

During this past year I have met a lot of people in person and online and had a good number of people post some very kind comments as well as some very challenging ones.  On the rather amazing side I have had people from my past, like the UCLA Army ROTC “Chief Lord of Discipline” Colonel Bruce Lawson find me and look me up as well as the son of the late Master Sergeant Harry Zilkan who was out training NCO as well as others.  I have had visitors and comments from around the world including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Singapore, Australia and Russia.  In all I have had over 700,000 views of the site since February and thousands of clicks on individual articles.  The comments that touch me the most are those who comment that what I write has touched them, helped them or provided them added knowledge about a given subject as well as those that in my more difficult times have offered me encouragement and prayed for me.  Through this I have also come across some very good bloggers and writers that I enjoy reading.  It has provided me a new network of acquaintances and associates to bounce ideas off of and have input from.  So I have to say that this has been a very helpful thing for me this past year and has given me ideas that I hope will one day will get published.  I have over the past year discovered some topics that I would like to publish and a I am ruminating on those even now.

My top 10 articles this year are listed here, as you can see they represent a wide range of topics:

Star Trek, God and Me 1966 to 2009

The USS Enterprise NCC-1701 B

I posted this on May 29th 2009 and to date it has 6827 hits.  This was done on a lark and kind of took on a life of its own. There is a reason that Star Trek is so popular after over 40 years.  It is that it touches people’s lives and the stories, though set in the future are about the human condition and people can relate to them even now.   I know I do and that was the point of this article. The post still gets 10-40 hits a day.

The Ideological War: How Hitler’s Racial Theories Influenced German Operations in Poland and Russia

Einsatzgruppen at Work

I published this article on September 14th 2009 and it now has gathered a total of 3649 hits. This article is a revision of an academic paper that I wrote for my Masters Degree in Military History.  I have studied modern German History, 1870 to the present for many years; in fact the bulk of my undergraduate history studies involved the topic.  In particular the period from the fall of the Kaiser in 1918, the German Civil War, the Weimar Republic and the Nazi Period have been my specialty.  When I posted this I expected that it would primarily be read by history wonks like me but it seems to have gained a substantial number of readers and still picks up a decent number of daily hits.

Halloween Book Burning Update: Bring the Marshmallows Please!

Pastor Marc of Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Book and Bible Burner and Heretic Confronter in Chief

I posted this on October 25th as a follow up to an article about a little Baptist Church that was hosting a book burning.  I found the subject fascinatingly terrible and had to write about it.  Humor blended with satire, history, religion, sociology and a bit of dare I say sarcasm created a monster.  This is my fastest growing article.  It’s funny how that “Old Tyme Religion” can get you going.  To date this post has 3292 hits.

The Forgotten Cold Warriors

Icon of the Cold War: The Berlin Wall Goes Up

I wrote this back on July 26th 2009 as a tribute to those who served in a truly forgotten war, the Cold War.  It now has gathered 2906 hits. As a Cold War vet myself like my dad I have felt for many years that the American government and both political parties have done little to recognize those who served, frequently in harm’s way during this conflict that spanned the globe over a period of 40 years.  I imagine that the same is true in Russia and the former Warsaw Pact nations. The article still gets a decent number of daily views, not like the top three but still a good number showing me that a significant number of people have feelings for those who served as well as their own service during the Cold War.

D-Day- Courage, Sacrifice and Luck, the Costs of War and Reconciliation

Omaha Beach at Low Tide

This was published on June 6th 2009 as a tribute to those who served and gave their lives on D-Day and during the Normandy campaign.  It talks about the reconciliation between Allied and German soldiers after the war and I relate it to my own dealings with the Iraqi people and military.  It voices my hope that one day Iraqi and American veterans can have the kind of reconciliation experienced by some of those who fought so hard against one another during the brutal Normandy campaign. To date it has 2887 views. 

Operation “Dachs” My First Foray into the Genre “Alternative History”

Field Marshall Erich Von Manstein

This article was posted on August 9th 2009 and was a rewrite of a paper I wrote in one of my Masters Degree classes.  It was inspired by Kenneth Macksey’s alternative history “Disaster at D-Day.” It was unusual in the fact that I wrote an alternative history as if it had actually taken place using real sources, people, places and events and writing as if the “what ifs” had actually occurred. In this case that would be the success of the March 1943 attempt on Hitler’s life had succeeded.  It has 2314 hits to date and still gathers a decent number of hits making me wonder if it has potential for expansion as a possible book. 

Cowboys Stadium meets Seinfeld: A Scoreboard and a Nose that You Can’t Miss

Cowboy’s Stadium and its Massive Scoreboard

This post combined my twisted sense of Seinfeld like humor into what I think is a pretty witty post about the monstrous scoreboard at the new Cowboy’s Stadium in Arlington Texas.  It seems to get a decent number of hits whenever the Cowboys play.  I wrote it on August 30th 2009 and it has 1570 hits to date.

Turning Points: The Battle of Midway, Randy Johnson Gets his 300th Win and Chief Branum Gets Her Star

SBD Dauntless Dive Bombers at Midway

This article was posted on June 4th 2009 and dealt with three different but for me interrelated events.  The first was a tribute to those who fought at the Battle of Midway, the second future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson getting his 300th career win as a member of the San Francisco and a fallen Shipmate, Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Pamela Branum who was posthumously promoted to Senior Chief at her memorial service.  To date it has 1449 views and a significant number of comments.

These Boots were Made for Walking: The Navy NWU Suede boots

The NWU and its Boots

This was one of my earlier posts done on April 18th 2009 and provided my review of the new US Navy suede work boot which is worn with the Naval Working Uniform or the NWU.  It has surprised me that it has garnered 1332 hits.  It was a follow up article to a humorous article that I had written previously about all the different kinds of camouflage uniforms in use by the US Military entitled: The NWU- Now we all have different camouflage.

Memorable Recruiting Slogans and the All Volunteer Force


This article was a humorous look back at some of the military recruiting slogans that have been around since the beginning of the “All Volunteer” military in the mid 1970s.  I posted it on May 4th 2009 and it now has 1084 hits.

Other Articles of Interest

Since I have posted well over 300 articles to the site since its creation I have listed some other articles that I thought were significant below:

Baseball in Between Life and Death in the ICU

Mortain to Market-Garden: A Study in How Armies Improvise in Rapidly Changing Situations

The Treaty Cruisers: A Warship Review

Sometimes You Wanna go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts-Thoughts on 26 Years of Commissioned Service

You Win a Few, You Lose a Few. Some Get Rained Out. But You Got to Dress for All of Them

Remembering the Veterans in My Life…Memorial Day 2009

Alzheimer’s Disease, Ghost Fleets and Waiting for the End

Reformation Day: How Martin Luther and Hans Kung Brought Me to an Anglo-Catholic Perspective, a Book and Bible Burning Reaches Ludicrous Speed and Yankees take Game Three 8-5

My Brotherhood of War

Connecting…Baseball and Having My Dad Back for a Few Minutes

Lessons for the Afghan War: The Effects of Counterinsurgency Warfare on the French Army in Indo-China and Algeria and the United States Military in Vietnam

The Uncomfortable Legacy of Colonel General Ludwig Beck

A Christian Defense of the Rights of Moslems and Others in a Democracy (or Constitutional Republic)

I like Jesus very much, but He no help with Curveball

Comebacks in Baseball and Life: 27 Outs- the Baltimore Orioles teach us a Lesson in Life

Here’s to you Jackie Robinson

The Demons of PTSD: Abandonment

Doubt and Faith: My Crisis in Faith and Why I am Still a Christian an Advent Meditation

Padre Steve’s World Series Prediction and Book and Bible Burning Update

Dien Bien Phu- Reflections 55 Years Later

Brothers to the End…the Bond between those Who Serve Together in Unpopular Wars

World Series Game Six: Duel of the Old Dogs

The 2009 Season at Harbor Park…the View from 102 a Season in Pictures

I guess that is enough for anyone who wants to poke around on the site.  There is a place to subscribe to this site via e-mail if you want as well as a place to subscribe to comments.

I look forward to a good year of writing as life goes on.  I pray that you have a wonderful New Year.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

Padre Steve’s Highs and Lows of 28 Years Service

Ooops, this should have posted the 25th…all references in the post though it posted today are for the 25th.  The meltdown was the 24th, not my duty night.

Note: I think that I have pretty much recovered from last night’s mini-meltdown, though tired have has a good day working some stuff that is pretty cool that could be a positive thing for Navy and VA Chaplains.  I think success does help mitigate some of the effects of a meltdown.  If today had been crappy and I hadn’t had a good talk with Elmer the Shrink it might have continued.  Now with some sleep I could be cooking with gas even though my house is all electric.

On to the Post:

Soldier Once and YoungEnlisted in National Guard 1982

“So we’re all dogfaces, we’re all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army. We’re mutants. There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us – we’re soldiers. But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years!” Bill Murray as John Winger in “Stripes” 1981

Well sports fans I am at the hospital tonight celebrating 28 years of service in the military. It really doesn’t seem like any more than 27 ½ but who’s counting right? And when I look back at the Army I joined I am reminded of Stripes.

I think that I have pretty much recovered from last night’s mini-meltdown, though tired have has a good day working some stuff that is pretty cool that could be a positive thing for Navy and VA Chaplains.  I think success does help mitigate some of the effects of a meltdown.  If today had been crappy and I hadn’t had a good talk with Elmer the Shrink it might have continued.  Now with some sleep I could be cooking with gas even though my house is all electric.

So 28 years ago today I went down and signed my name on the dotted line.  It was August 25th 1981 two months after the release of the movie Stripes and two months before I saw it with Judy at the $1 movie theater.  On that end of summer day I went down and signed my contract with the Army ROTC program at UCLA with the Chief Lord of Discipline himself, the Captain Bruce Lawson swearing me in.  He had just finished PT and though still in his PT clothes administered the Oath of Enlistment.  It was not much on ceremony but it was a start.  In fact most of my promotions in either the Army of the Navy have not come with much fanfare and I’m actually pretty okay with that so long as I get paid and get to do what I love doing which is being a Priest and getting to serve now as a Navy Chaplain.  So I followed with a trip down to the National Guard Armory on Victory Blvd in Van Nuys to enlist in the National Guard. Since I was not a scholarship student I was allowed to simultaneously enter the Guard.  So the 25th was kind of like a double header for me, I did the oath for the Guard later in the afternoon. It’s like Tommy Lasorda once said: “I love doubleheaders. That way I get to keep my uniform on longer.”

So I went in to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery and met the Company Commander, Captain J.J. Kramer, now a retired Colonel I believe and Major Charles Armagost, the Full Time Unit Administrator and Adjutant.  Wearing his green fatigues the good Major administered the Oath for the California National Guard, which differed from the Federal Oath in that it also included words about obeying the Governor of the State and the Laws of California etc…Following that I was walked down to the supply room where a rather rotund Sergeant began issuing me uniforms and field gear.  I got my first gift of US Military designer clothing and was told to report the Thursday after Labor Day for a “Battery Dark Night.”  So began my rather auspicious career.

I remember being in uniform in those early days without a single ribbon or medal to my name.  I’d look around and see all the guys who had served in Vietnam and some in Korea as well with all kinds of ribbons, medals, unit citations and qualification badges.  I would look at them and once I remarked to Judy that I wish that I would have a lot someday.  She accused me of whining, something that I feel is a mischaracterization of my attitude about not having anything and something that now with a full chest of ribbons, medals and qualification pins that she is not hesitant to remind me of and tell others about.

2LT Dundas 1983Look Mom One Ribbon

So what has transpired in 28 years?  Here are some of the highlights and a few lowlights of the of this adventure.

In 1981 it all began and things happened fast, within two weeks of enlisting I was driving an M-151A1 Jeep to Ft Irwin CA as part of battalion advance party and then spending the weekend learning to call in artillery fire. After going through hell and being destroyed and rebuilt by SFC Harry Ball, Drill Sergeant US Army like Richard Gere was in An Officer and a Gentleman I somehow got commissioned in part due to the forbearance of Major Lawson, the former Captain Lawson who has sworn me in.  Judy asks if I had my own “Puget Sound Deb” when she sees the movie with me that winter. However just prior to getting commissioned during my last annual training period at Camp Roberts I led team of Ersatz East German Kommando’s on raids against battalion rear area as the opposing forces.  I was almost run over in may M-151A1 by an M-548 Ammo Carrier during a strafing run coming down hills firing blanks from machine guns like the Rat Patrol and dropping Smoke and CS grenades in the vehicle’s path.  Later we captured the battery Operations Center during a firing mission. None of this made them happy but the Forward Observers and I had a blast.

After I got commissioned I attended the Medical Department Officer Basic Course at Ft Sam Houston TX and suffered for Jesus for 9 weeks in the Riverwalk Marriott hotel in downtown San Antonio. After this I spent 11 glorious weeks at Ft Knox Kentucky which by the way is in a “dry county” or at least it was back then  going through a 6 week course after being bumped by Saudi Arabian exchange officers.

557th comany command 1985Company Commander

From January 1984 through late December 1986 we were stationed with the 557th Medical Company Neubrucke and later Wiesbaden. Was a platoon leader and became company XO when our XO checked into a psych ward before Winter REFORGER. While in the field was promoted but o one realized that fact until we came out of the field in mid- February. In a late night hastily arranged ceremony which I had to drag Judy in from bed to see I was promoted and got my first real medal. In September I became a “relief pitcher” Company Commander when my new CO got fired. I was told “Lieutenant; clean up that Company.” After 7 months, and having to adjudicate close to 50 Article 15’s, and kicking a bunch of drug users out of the Army I was relieved by a Captain and I had my first and last Change of Command ceremony. Became a personnel officer at our group, pissed off the boss and had a miserable last couple months in Germany. However I completed my first row of ribbons made some really good lifelong German friends and learned to drive really fast and really good and developed a fine appreciation of good beer.

In 1987 I attended the Military Personnel Officer Course at Ft Benjamin Harrison which is in Indianapolis and continued on to Fort Sam Houston where I was assigned as the Adjutant for the Academy Brigade, Academy of Health Sciences.  I got promoted right after I got there and since Judy had not arrived I had the world’s best platoon sergeant, SFC Cynthia Carter help pin on my new Captain bars. Judy was quite happy that Cindy got to do this as she really liked her.  My Brigade Commander wondered what was up with that, but it was an honor to have her do the pinning. While there I worked on AIDS/HIV personnel policy and became “CINC AIDS” at the Academy. While there I collected my second Army Achievement Medal and an Army Commendation Medal.

Berlin WallBerlin Wall 1986

In 1988 I left Active Army to attend Seminary and was appointed as an Armor officer in Texas Army National Guard.  I was told by my boss LTC Jim Wigger that I was moving from the “frying pan into the fire as the chaplains were a cutthroat bunch” and that the “Medical Department was not even in the same league as the Chaplains.” When the Division Chaplain found out that a seminarian was getting ready to drive tanks he pitched a fit and had me enter the Chaplain Candidate program.  In seminary I attended  the Chaplain Officer Basic Course at Fort Monmouth NJ. As Deputy Course leader and Company “First Sergeant” pissed off lots of chaplains and seminarians. Thankfully I was backed up by LTC Rich Whaley who saved my ass for the first time and not the last time.  I met my friend Fr Jim Bowman who kept me from doing anything really stupid. In 1992 I graduated from seminary was ordained and become a chaplain and assigned to 111th Engineer Battalion in Abilene. That year I got thrown out of the Chaplain Officer Advanced Course when school changed a policy on Chaplain Candidates awaiting final approval to be chaplains to enter course. After Billy Martin style tantrum Rich Whaley saves my ass a second time.

In 1993 I went back to Chaplain Officer Advanced Course, made amends and did the appropriate penance.  Meet up with Fr Jim Bowman again. In the fall of 1994 finished the final phase of the Chaplain Officer Advance Course.  Happiness is Ft Monmouth in your rear view mirror. In the summer of 1984 I viewed the O.J. Chase live on miniature TV in M-577 Command Track with Lakers playoff game in split screen while at Fort Hood.

In January 1995 I moved to Huntington WV to take a job as a contract ER Chaplain.  I transferred from one former Confederate Unit to another going from the Texas to the Virginia Army National Guard.  In December I was promoted to Major and transferred to the Army Reserve and got rid of the 410 mile one way trip for a drill.

New MajorNew Major December 1995

In July of 1996 I got mobilized and sent to Germany to support Bosnia mission, lose job. While in Germany get to do a lot of cool stuff, got a bunch of medals and though the Chaplains there wanted me to be brought on regular active duty get told I am too senior to transfer to Regular Army. I actually think that the guy who made the decision remembered me from Chaplain School and did not want someone like me in “his” Chaplain Corps. Upon my return from Bosnia support the Reserves assigned to Ft Indiantown Gap PA as Installation Command Chaplain where in September 1998 I got to close down help close down the Federal side of things and transfer chapel and congregation to National Guard care. In October I returned to the reserves like a journeyman ball-player being sent back to AAA from the Majors. In December the Navy offered me a deal to play “in the show” on active duty and I took it, went from being an Army Reserve Major to Navy Lieutenant. My friend Father Fred Elkin was my first detailer and offered me a choice of East Coast or West Coast Marines when I asked for a ship.  We now serve together and get a good laugh about that now. It did turn out to be a good thing for me. One of the cool things about my time in the Navy has been since I have blown myself up enough in the Army and seen others do likewise that I know where the career “land mines” are and how not to step on them. This has been a great benefit to me.  It was like changing from one league to another in the middle of a baseball season.  The old stats don’t count for or against you when you start playing in the new league.

After Navy Chaplain School I was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp LeJuene NC. From then on my life has been going non-stop.  I was chaplain for 4 different battalions in the Division where Father John Kaul used me as a “relief pitcher” in situations where chaplains had either been fired for doing illegal or immoral things or replacing people who had to move on short notice orders. Did CAX at 29 Palms on multiple occasions and did a deployment to the Far East, Okinawa, Japan and Korea.  Collected more medals got my “old” version Fleet Marine Force Qualification. I was assigned to HQ BN 2nd MARDIV. 9-11 -01 attack happened. A couple of months later I reported to USS HUE CITY CG-66 in Mayport.

Dundas of the DesertDundas of the Desert 29 Palms 2000-2001

Not long after reporting went on the final work up exercises prior to deployment, deployed to the Horn of Africa, Northern Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and Mediterranean.  Was an advisor for a boarding team in Northern Arabian Gulf and made 75 boardings of detained smugglers.  We almost got to see the Indians and Pakistanis get in a nuclear war, that was a bit sporty and we supported air operations in Afghanistan. After a period in the yards during following deployment as well as work with the great Marines who served in the Battle of Hue City I checked off the ship in October 2003, again collecting more medals and ribbons.

Boarding partyBoarding Party 2002

I went to Norfolk where I was assigned to the Marine Corps Security Force Battalion and my Commanding Officers, Colonel Mike Paulovich and Colonel Donald Rogers sent me about the world to care for our Marines.  Over that time I probably averaged 2 trips a month out of the area, many overseas to Japan, Hawaii, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Bahrain, others to places far and wide in the Continental United States.  Colonel Paulovich and I probably worked more closely together than any commander that I have ever worked with and we went through many difficult times in that assignment. We are still friends to this day.  One of the cool things is the people that we work with. I was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in April 2006.  This meant that I had spent almost 16 years of my career wearing Captain or Lieutenant bars.  I again collected more ribbons and medals for the time with the Marines and was one of the first Navy Officers to get the Fleet Marine Force Officer Qualification pin while completing Marine Command and Staff College.

Belleau woodBelleau Wood France 2004

I then went to Navy EOD Group Two in Little Creek where I was the first chaplain assigned to EOD.  While there I got to go to Jordan to the Jordanian Army/UN Peace Operations Training Center and to Sicily.  I was snatched up to go to Iraq in July 2007 and served the most meaningful operational deployment of my career serving our Marine, Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Justice and Homeland Security advisors to the Iraqi Army, Police and Border Forces in Al Anbar Province.  I came back from Iraq with a great case of PTSD, a gift that keeps on giving.  I checked out of EOD in September 2007 again with more medals and ribbons to my current assignment at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth where I get to do what I am passionate about as a Priest and Navy Chaplain serving in a teaching hospital.

My Tom Clancy lookIraq 2008

Looking back it has been a long and strange trip and it is still an ongoing journey.  People ask me how I keep going even with the PTSD and it’s like Tommy Lasorda says “Guys ask me, don’t I get burned out? How can you get burned out doing something you love? I ask you, have you ever got tired of kissing a pretty girl?” Speaking of which now that I am on the way home after 31 or so hours at work I probably need to do with Judy when I see her.

Steve Summer Whites 2008July 2008, Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Navy?

Peace,  Steve+

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Let’s Not Do Dumb Things

Back in the day when I was a young Army Medical Service Corps Brigade Personnel Officer, I had a Brigade Commander whose moniker was “Let’s not do dumb things.” The man was a really good commanding officer.  He was down to earth and cared about the troops being trained at our command.  He was a common sense kind of commander and was not terribly difficult to work for.  One day however my C.O. came in with stitches on his head.  It turned out that my C.O. and broken his own rule.  He was out with the Undersecretary of Defense for Health Affairs, the Army Surgeon General, a couple of other American Generals as well as a host of Colonels, hosting a bunch of Chinese Generals for a diplomatic-military dinner.  My C.O. who was a beer drinker decided to do the hard stuff that night.  He got flat assed drunk, made vulgar and derogatory comments to the Chinese guests and then went to the head (latrine, bathroom, WC, or powder room  for non-Navy types) fell, hit his head on a urinal and knocked himself out.  That mornig he was fired.  Not by our Commanding General, not by the Major Command, or even by the Army Chief of Staff.  No he was fired by then SECDEF Casper Weinberger.  When fired he was 2 months short of completing his command tour.  His reputation was destroyed and he retired quietly and without fanfare a few months later.

Now I know that we all are inclined to do dumb things at one time or another.  This is due to my doctrine of “the Total Stupidity of Man.” Sometimes the dumb things that we do are simply minor infractions which Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light will darn us to Heck as punishment.   Other times they really get us into big time serious trouble. Sometimes we do dumb things and somehow get away with them either because no-one noticed or because someone was gracious enough not to blast us out of the water for them.  Sometimes being lucky is better than being good. The key here is not to keep doing them until they are noticed and when we get blasted out of the water.

This was the case for me when I was a young Army Chaplain.  Back when I got thrown out of the Army Chaplain Officer Advanced Course, I can honestly say that I did a number of dumb things.  The consequences were relatively minor although embarrassing and I am forever grateful to Chaplain Rich Whaley for bailing my sorry ass out of the bind which I found myself.  Damn, you say.  Padre Steve got thrown out of the Chaplain advanced course.  Yes he did and it was dumb.  You see I was selected to go to the advanced course when I was still an SS Officer.  No, no, no, not Waffen-SS, but the Army Staff Specialist branch.  It is a branch set up for officers training to be Chaplains or JAG Corps.  In seminary I had already done the Chaplain Officer Basic Course where I was the assistant course leader for 159 chaplains and seminarians.  I had not come off active duty too long before this and was still very undeveloped as a clergyman.  I was however not far from being a Company Commander and Brigade Staff Officer.  My emotions often overflowed as I saw chaplains do things that in the rest of the Army that you would be crucified for doing, much like Jesus without any salvific purpose.  Once in the Basic Course I had a young seminarian tell me that he didn’t have to obey orders from the student chain of command because his class adviser, a Major in the Chaplain Corps told him so.  He snottily told me that Chaplain so and so was a Major and that I was only a Captain.  Resiting the temptation to rip the young man’s throat from his neck, I said “We’ll see about that Lieutenant.  I then went up threw my cover across the milquetoast Chaplain’s office, blasted him on the chain of command and how it worked.  I told him in pretty rough language that he was going to get people killed. As I ranted he  tried to hide behind his desk and others in the outer office dove for cover I stopped and said: “Thanks so much sir, now I have to go to confession. ”  I then went and told Rich that “I cussed out so and so.”  Rich stammered, “You did what?”  I then explained the situation that Chaplain so and so had told a Lieutenant that he didn’t have to obey orders from the student chain of command.  Rich then said “He did what?” and told me that he would handle it.  He made the incident go away. That too was a dumb thing, I should have gone to Rich in the first place, but I was young and dumb.  Anyway, moving on there was also the time in a class that another seminarian had me so pissed that I stormed out of the classroom and was in the hallway ripping my pin on rank off my collar.  My dear friend Father Jim Bowman who commiserated with me the entire length of the course, and who I still stay in contact with grabbed me.  Father Bowman asked: “What the hell do you think that you are doing?”  I “Yelled back, I’m done, this isn’t the Army that I joined!”  Jim jammed my collar devices back into my collar and said, “You can’t leave.” I said “Why?”  Jim said “Because I can’t leave and you won’t either.”  It was like Stripes where Bill Murray tried to escape boot camp and Harold Ramis tacked him and kept him from leaving.  I think that they exchanged similar words.

Boy I chased a rabbit there…going back to the Advanced course.  I was still an SS Officer, not that kind of SS Officer but the Staff Specialist like I told you before.  So anyway, I showed up orders in hand as well as a letter from the previous Director of Training signed on behalf of the previous Commandant of the School authorizing me to be there.  Unfortunately for me there was a new sheriff in town.  The new Commandant denied me entrance into the course.  His reasoning was that though my Chaplain paperwork was sitting on a desk in DC awaiting the final stamp of approval that since there was a chance that my application could be denied that he didn’t want me there.  Who knows, maybe he got wind of my previous antics.  I was pissed.  Actually I think that most of of us who attended the  Chaplain School spent the better part of our time pissed about something.  However, instead of being smart,  I threw a Billy Martin type of home plate argument and was tossed.  Thankfully they didn’t stop me from becoming a Chaplain and they allowed me to come back for the course a couple of months later.  This was likely again due to the intervention of Rich Whaley.  Rich saw in me potential to do good.  I was like “Wild Thing” in Major League. Rich helped get me straightened out.  A couple of years later I was promoted to Major.  Then I took it off to come in the Navy in 1999.  The point is that I did a number of seriously dumb things that could have gotten me punished under the UCMJ and or thrown out of the Army.  I’m grateful as hell that Rich was there to save my ass.  A lot of people don’t get that kind of support and protection and do get hammered.  I was lucky beyond belief.  I lived to tell about it.  Many don’t.  My job now is to help young guys and gals not step on the same land mines that I did.

I’m not going to go through the list of idiotic things that I have seen other Chaplains do in the Army and Navy.  I could but that would that would be unseemly.  What I will mention, based on my experience is that I had to learn a lot the hard way that I hope to keep young Chaplains and other Officers from trying them out themselves.  I don’t like to see fellow chaplains and  officers do things that embarrass them, their service  or hurt their life and careers. In the case of chaplains, God and the Church, or God and whatever religious organization that they belong.  Heck I won’t even put a Jesus Fish on the back of my car for fear that God might get the blame for something that I do on the road.

However, doing dumb things is not limited to chaplains or the clergy, though we do such things quite well thank you.  Others do them too.  Politicians, sports stars, business leaders and others do them as well.  I’ve noted a number of ways that I have done dumb things.  At the same time I hope to have learned from them.  I will and I’m sure that you my readers know that we will all do dumb things.  I’m not a fan of Calvin’s “Total Depravity of man” theology but I am pretty sure that there is a “Total Stupidity of man”  which you can make a great case for from the triad of Scripture, Tradition and Reason.  In fact I am positive that the Deity Herself even tonight has kept me from writing some really dumb things.

So let’s not do dumb things.  Pray for me a sinner,

Peace,

Steve+

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