Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The editorial, A Military for a Dangerous New World, in Sunday's NY Times was "right on." I see one gigantic caveat, we simply cannot afford a Volunteer Army with the size and mobility to fight present and future wars. Adding troops? From where? We are paying huge bonuses to retain soldiers with critical skills with no end in sight. And, while the economy is probably going to help recruiting, building up and retaining Forces to the neccesary levels is going to be difficult, if not impossible.

We have yet to face the fact that we have to return to some system of the draft. My suggestion is in the form of community service. Youngsters between the ages of 18-26 would have a choice of a myriad of possibilities such as Teach America or Habitat for Humanity or they could design their own.

If we had some sort of conscription into Community Service where all would serve, enough I believe would be challenged by military service that the size of the armed forces could be maintained. We would always need a military cadre and specialized soldiers but intially, foot soldiers would fill the ranks as their community service. Modeled on a combination of some form of Israel, South Korea, and even Germany'S approach, we could make this work. We are smart people and our plan should be long range.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Read the article on "My Marine"...good article. Reminds me of when I joined the Navy at 17 in my senior year of high school...had no idea what I wanted to do. A friend of mine from Dunn joined with me. I remember telling mama and daddy that I wanted to join...basically they said.."are you sure you want to do this'? ...they had to sign for me since I was only seventeen at the time....I signed in December of 1976 and went to bootcamp July 18th of 1977. Also..did not know that November 10th was 233rd birthday of Marine Corps...November 10th was our 24 year wedding anniversary. wa

Do you ever wish you had stayed in the Navy? Your Dad use to tell me all the time that he wished he had stayed.

I think lots about where we are in our country, as relates to the military. I heard this guy with the VFW interviewed on NPR the other day and the interviewer said something that I have thought for some time: she said something like, "With all our financial difficulties, in the future, are we going to be able to afford this very expensive military?" His reply I thought was very good. He said, "We have a Volunteer Army and we simply have to pay them for their sacrifices. And, we are not talking a hand out but a hand up, meaning that we owe them and their families for what they do.

We do owe them but essentially we have a mercenary force and they are expensive. Would we be better off to institute some sort of Community Service where all had to serve, not necessarily in the military but other stuff. And, hope, of course, that enough young Americans would want to be challenged with the military. I have surely been thinking this obviously. Politically, we don't have the moral will to institute the draft but something similar might work. da

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Recently, I got together with three Vietnam vet buddies to tell war stories, talk politics and kind of “Be” to use a movie line from my favorite baseball picture, Bull Durham. Kevin Costner says to his love interest, “I don’t want to talk baseball, I just want to be.” I understand. With fellow vets, we often simply want to be.

I like to think of vets as a fraternity, especially Vietnam vets. Our usual line is that we fought a war in Vietnam and then we fought one at home. For at least ten years or so, we were virtually silent, reluctant to admit we were Vietnam vets as for some insane view, immediately after Vietnam, vets were identified with the ills of our involvement in Vietnam. For Iraqi vets, they don't have to face this insult as Americans who pay any attention don't want to make the same mistake again. A soldier we understand is just doing his job.

Being a vet doesn’t mean that we all think alike but there is the idea of the shared experience and trust me on this: there is nothing like combat that creates comraderie. Although the other night, we didn’t see eye to eye on politics or most related subjects, however, we did all agree on one subject; the military is in a mess and we fear for its future. It is an institution that we all loved dearly. And, although most Americans who care today talk about supporting the troops, it is somewhat hollow since so few serve. Most don’t even know anyone who is in the military.

During Vietnam, we had the military draft and the country was more connected to the war and to the soldiers. Helped along by the protest movement, most saw Vietnam as something we were all a part of, right or wrong. I, for one, think the protest movement got too much credit for ending the war, still, they were connected. Not so today. We have a Volunteer Army and most people simply see us paying them to fight for us and so it is "next case." A mercenary force? Close. I am a little reluctant to call it mercenary as mercenary denotes a lack of emotion or commitment, at least in my mind's eye. The Voluntary Force is anything but uncommitteed. From where I stand, they are a superb military, well trained and by in large, well equipped. But and a big BUT: unrepresentative of America--a downer in terms of our democracy.

At the very least, we ought to have some sort of National Service. This is truly something in which us old vets totally agree. It doesn’t have to be the military, it could be Teach America, Habitat for Humanity, any nonprofit or the person could choose their own service. This is no novel idea, it is on the drawing board by a few folks but where it has no attention is on the National Stage. And, I think that either of the presidential candidates could make alot of money figuratively speaking if they were to choose this path. As a country, we have not been asked to sacrifice at all for a war that is draining us. We believe it is going to catch up to us. And, for four old vet, we see it sooner than later and by not giving America’s youth an option to serve hurts them and America. Shame on us.

Friday, August 01, 2008


One of the fallacies of the Volunteer Army is that it is successful as an American Institution. Let's face it, few Americans know much about the Institution and participation very minuscule. It is only successful in terms of a mercenary force paid to fight our wars. I have all kind of examples of how most are out of touch. Here's a recent one. A good buddy, a vet, had not even heard of Stop-Loss, an egregious program fostered upon active army soldiers who have done their duty and are ready to depart the scene. They can't; a voluntary Army suddenly is no longer voluntary. Why Stop-Loss? Cannon fodder so to speak; filling the ranks because of shortfalls and the desire to keep experienced soldiers, even against their will. If my friend had never hear of this, those so much uninterested as most Americans, surely haven't.

The active Army, fighting two wars is pushed to the limits, repetitive tours are more the rule than the exception, trouble is everywhere; if not broken, it is close, in my view. The Army is desperate and one of the programs they are experimenting with to attract soldiers is one called The Advantage Fund. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea and I'm for it: giving deserving youngsters who have joined up, a helping hand to buy their first home or start a business. This is a latest wrinkle of throwing money at the problem. Just as an innocuous and idealistic aside, whatever happened to the incentive of patriotism, serving my country, giving back. Forget it. Those ideals have militarily gone the way of brown boots in the Army.

The Advantage Fund is traded for five years in the Army. It is a bonus.
Although this is a pilot program, it underscores the severity of desperation in today's military: try anything to get in bodies. The Advantage Fund has to be attractive but why it and other incentives have their limitations is that when they become the sole reason for someone joining up, then it is somewhat tainted, not from the soldiers' standpoint but from those who dreamed up the idea. Part of the military is emotion: to fight, to put oneself in harm's way. These soldier emotions will hardly be surfaced by incentives like seed money to buy a house , etc.

We only have to look at the Marines to realize how to make recruiting work. They appeal to "being the best, the elite, the few, the proud while the Army throws money at enticing the hesitant.

This is not to disparage those youngsters who choose the Army way. It is taking a chance but obviously they deem it worth it. And, who can blame them, based on their prospects. WHY THEY JOIN is the subject of a a terrific article in the NY Review of Books that I commend to everyone. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21201

Why do they join? Health care, educational benefits, nothing else to do, run out of options--a multitude of reasons with occasionally some voicing patriotism or invoking 9-11. They are youngsters that at least have to be affirmed for joining. The flip side of the coin is that it is pretty pathetic that we have come to this; offering money for blood and life. God bless our troops.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


This is the anniversary of the Volunteer Army: 35 years. I would not have known it had not the Chief of staff of the Army, General George Casey, called our attention to it. Instead of touting the success of the Volunteer Army, he should have been apologizing for leading us down the primrose path.

What the military is charged with at the higher levels is making sure that we are prepared for any military contingency. The generals have failed miserably. During the cold war, they went for a smaller Army and were literally seduced by high tech. They said we were prepared by producing a gaggle of slogans even as Casey has: sustain, prepare, reset, transform--what the hell does that mean? Some civilians have spent days coming up with it. Every new Chief needs some gimmick. How about this, admitting that a Volunteer Military, even though good, cannot sustain us when we are in a prolonged war.

What we now know is that Casey and other generals have been willing to claim success of the Volunteer Army and by doing so have put us in an incredibly precarious situation. They accepted plans for a war in Iraq with an inadequate force, creating untenable choices for our soldiers.

Multiple tours of duty have become the rule rather than the exception. Problems abound, i. e., suicide, divorce, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in varying forms. If our Army isn't broken, it is close. Policies like Stop Loss and forcing Guard and Reserve troops to perform missions for which they are not trained or ill equipped is tantamount to unforgiven--think Abu Grabib. Almost every single difficulty we face with our military today can be placed at the feet of the top Generals , plain and simple.

Although I understand the generals retiring from The Forces and writing books telling their true view: what went wrong, adinfinitum--any way served up, however, comes out somewhat disingenuous. For once, I'd like to see just one general say with clarity and no military speak the real truth is: the Volunteer Army simple is not working, in our present war footing nor will it likely work in the future.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

NO SWEET SORRY (From the concept that parting is such sweet sorry)

My 16 year old recently visited China w/ a group of high school students from her High School. She had a great experience and they were given the dog & pony show by the Chinese. Her school has a sister school in China and we will host some Chinese students this Fall. The kids spent time in central China as well as Beijing. They also went to the Great Wall. I was glad for her to go and glad for her to come home. When we took her to the airport, I could not help but think of the thousands of parents taking their son or daughter to the airport for a "trip" to Iraq or Afghanistan. I had the comfort of knowing that my child (just a couple of years younger than many of our combat troops) was going to be safe and under the watchful eye of others. I knew she would be back in a week. How must parents today feel not knowing if their son/daughter will return or if they do, whether they'll be whole in body and/or mind ? May God Bless them all. BRG, Jr.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Recently, I saw a group of young California National Guard soldiers coming home from Iraq. They were interviewed: great to be home, they did lots of good, helped the people, think they did the right thing. Hope we won't cut and run. As much as I respect the soldiers and their sacrifices and even understand them, it sounded like an official denial news conference. Drives me crazy.

I always realize that soldiers have to believe in what they are doing, regardless of the facts. Even in Vietnam, I can remember feeling that we are really helping these people. It was only after the war and I began to read and understand that I came to know what a farce it was. It does not mean that we didn't do our duty and many Vietnam vets will see it entirely different. And, these soldiers will see their war from a different perspective in several months or years than they do now. I always think that, like Vietnam, we have to get past the very subjective feelings of young soldiers returning from a traumatic experience--simply, they must believe in that experience. It is human nature. However, those of us who care must see the big picture. It is our job.

This is not easy. The soldier has sacrificed in various ways and cannot be told that his/her sacrifices are in vain. For older military types, especially the officers, they will see it more as their job and many even in advancing their careers; but, the young returning veteran will see it more visceral, more present, he has done this noble thing. And, with so few having had military experience, they don't know how to identify with the returning vet or what to say. "I've just returned from Iraq." The response: "Oh."

Maybe a grandmother, I think, who welcomed her grandson home, expressed it best. When asked about her grandson she said something like, "He served his country and I'm proud of him." Absolutely true. He served his country. Our country sent him to war. Regardless of how we feel about the war, we have to affirm what these young troopers are doing. God bless them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


According to an article in Tuesday's local paper, the Marines and the Army are taking into their ranks more felons than ever in their history. As a "second chance" guy, I think it is not a bad thing; many of these guys committed crimes in their youth; much of it was sexual, underage kids having sex with other consenting underage kids. After intense screening, why not give these kids a shot.

Unfortunately, it appears that the motivation is not "another chance" rather meeting recruiting goals. Recruiting is becoming more difficult based on the war in Iraq and especially a lack of encouragement from parents to join up, i. e., thus felons who under normal circumstances wouldn't get a chance, now do.

I really get concerned on where the military is heading and is this "more felons" symptomatic of larger problems? The Volunteer Army has been sold to the public to such a degree that there seems to be no question as to simply accepting that it is here to stay. There are at least larger questions, i. e., is our mercenary Army in a position to sustain two wars and be ready for whatever might come. I don't think so.

In the wonderful movie, Young At Heart, a documentary about a bunch of older folks who are developed into a first class musical ensemble--there's one scene that speaks to second chances. They go to a prison to sing. The prison is peopled with all these young adults, whose lives have gone to hell in a hand basket. Why not give them another chance in the military? In this case, we must trust the military to be on top of this potentially explosive issue. We want soldiers who often have the sorts of personalities that don't seem to fit the normal population, i.e., war is no day at the beach. It is about killing, it is war.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN--Comments on the military draft

It's hopeless to think that there's some way to persuade, wrangle, or force the implementation of the draft to help relieve our Bush-ed all volunteer but now "Stop Loss-ed" military; that's been spread out over 80 countries and fighting 2 wars simultaneously for years with no end in sight. I'm afraid that it's just not attainable by any conventional political means either. In fact, history shows that the draft is instituted only as a last resort and ONLY AFTER we or one of our allies is attacked and suffer grievous enough losses. Then the public outrage leads to the patriotic response of enlisting and the justification for the draft.

Apparently, 9/11 with nearly 3,000 innocent American men, women and children killed on our very own homeland soil and now over 4,000 U.S. Soldiers also killed and 30,000injured in Iraq, still no longer meets the definition of enough grievous losses and suffering. Not to mention the nearly 100,000 VA claims for PTSD and 12,000 deserters and AWOL soldiers who refused to do 3, 4, or 5 combat tours.

Why has our level of tolerance been extended to such an extreme level of cautiousness? Is it just political correctness in order to win the next party elections? Is it our society's desensitization to violence since we've become so accustomed to seeing so much media reporting that focuses on nothing but all the daily ongoing negatives in our country? What will it take to happen for us to act to re-institute the draft?

I say it won't happen until our homeland is once again attacked and not just suffering some losses but very huge losses. To me this is so tragic that it makes me sick to even think of it happening all over again before the military draft is finally implemented. Also, I even have a teenage son and I still think that the draft should have been implemented a long time ago.

Enlisted Sgt. G. P., Class of '67-'69 Vietnam Tet, 101st Airborne Paratrooper

George, a terrific piece of writing. I agree with you: to be perfectly honest, I don't know where we are heading. The lack of realism about Iraq is simply overwhelming to me. I watch lots of news and it is like scores of people are living in parallel universes. Gen Petraeus and Crocker spoke like they simply were delivering prerecorded comments. I thought Petraeus was fairly realistic but simply the "what ifs" were very negating. And, as you know, it is one thing for the generals to talk strategy from a high and lofty perch but another for grunts to have to live it out on the ground. For instance, we had five GIs killed one of the days that Petraeus was speaking. The constant theme of his talk and Crockers and the Congressman who agreed with him was that violence is down. Yes, according to who? Not the five dead GIs or the hundreds of innocent Iraqis killed. I am amazed. I feel like those of us who are trying to face reality are like the apostle Paul, we are kicking against the "pricks."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Why are they joining? I think it's because they have nothing better
in their lives. They're mostly from mid-America where there are no
more jobs for them. No factories or mines and very few small farms
anymore. And most schools don't inspire young people to go on to
higher ed. Comment in a letter to AP


I think it's a little more complicated than your comments. First of all, the military has spent and are spending millions of dollars in Madison avenue type advertising, enticing these kids. And, it is true, that most come from socioeconomic categories that as much as we hate to say, are, lower middle class or lower in terms of opportunity. (Wow, we hate to admit that we have a class system in America--I do anyway). And, let's face it, we have developed a caste system in that our military officers are college educated, often from the Academies, paid for by the taxpayer, of course--they come from middle class or upper middle class families, while the enlisted come from the lower socio economic classes.

And, in many ways, the military is a good deal: good pay, perceived benefits, and often just the discipline that kids need. Ask many parents? So, why do they join? I think that some of it is the feeling of their invulnerability. They don't think in terms of war but in terms of adventure. If I were a youngster with maybe not stellar prospects, not knowing what I wanted to do, then the military would definitely be a possibility. All I could see would be, "I want to be an airborne ranger."

There are many other questions that have to be answered for the military--the biggest one is that the Volunteer Army has been so sold as successful, that it is hard for the American public that cares to think in any other terms. And, we don't have the moral or political will to do what we ought; institute some sort of National Service. Until we have a crisis truly and another course has to be considered, we will continue on in what we're doing. And, the fact that we have almost no leaders, John McCain, an exception, even if he is somewhat tainted in my opinion, (We surely respect his POW time) not just because he is a Republican but has always been in an elite kind of category, i. e., his Dad/Grandfather were Admirals. I would be more impressed if his Dad/Grandfather were Sergeants.

Maybe one scenario is that if we were to get to the point of overwhelming crisis, repetitive tours that are intolerable, not enough enlistees, cannot afford the Volunteer Army, etc., then we might see another course of action, i. e., the draft.

And, let's don't forget patriotism and tradition for some of these kids: although maybe a small number but they're there: and, these kids who are serving are good soldiers from what I see. And, I for one, appreciate their sacrifice. In the long run, most of the kids who've chosen the military are going to feel that there service to the country, even in a sorry war, was worth it. They did something that many of their peers did not.


When I was draft eligible, meaning 18-26, contending with the draft was simply a way of life. You couldn't do anything unless you figured it out. And, "draft dodging" could be a part of it. Most anybody who had the means and was smart could escape the draft: (at least for awhile) school deferment, married with children and naturally the classification of 4F which was a physical thing. And, the stories of how guys got 4F status are legion. It is hard to know how serious most of us took those who dodged the draft. In many ways, at the time, it was more power to them. From a philosophical standpoint, 40 years past Vietnam: we saw our duty and did it--at least it's what we tell our grand kids.

A new term has arrived on the scene; WAR DODGERS. What this means is soldiers who for whatever reason have come to believe the war in Iraq is not worth it. Or as one put it, when he was halfway into his second deployment, "This is what my buddies are dying for." Noway, he deserts. During Vietnam, Canada and Sweden were havens for draft dodgers and deserters. I had a little personal experience with Sweden.

When I was in Europe during the early seventies, I was in missile battalion and one of our officers was this fine, young West Point graduate. He had "orders" for Vietnam and since I was just back, wanted to talk about how I saw Vietnam and what was going on over there. We had a great talk. He asks probing questions and I tried to answer honestly, not supporting all we were doing but discussing the various party line at the time which I believed. We had a moral obligation to keep the North from taking over the South, had to stop communism, the domino theory. (at that time I didn't know enough or had not read enough to know about the corruptness of the South Vietnamese government or Hoi's determination to unite the country which was little related to communism and had to do mostly about nationalism. I only got this years later). The young Lieutenant stood up. Saluted, did an about face and promptly drove his MGB to Sweden where he asked for political asylum. From then on, it became a joke, "unless you want a guy to desert, don't send him to see the Chaplain."

Something is vastly wrong when you have the equivalent of an entire Division of soldiers deserting--since the war began, over 20,000. This may mean from being gone for 31 days which the military categorizes as desertion or forever. This is awful. And, another example of how everything about this war has been mismanaged.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


WHAT'S HAPPENING THESE DAYS WITH THE VOLUNTEER ARMY? For one thing, even the casual observer can tell you that they are to the wall: fighting two wars and political leadership that couldn't find their posterior in a snow storm.

A few things we know: the standards of education have been lowered and we have kids who have been given a pass as to felony arrests. This isn't to put these soldiers down--most perform well and who can be against giving some youngster another chance. However, the fact exists that most volunteers probably come from homes across America who are strugglng; kids who don't have lots of other options. I constantly read where a youngster will say about his reasoning for joining the military, "My parents couldn't afford to send me to college." I know several who are in this category. The very insightful book, AWOL spells this out.

We have an educated officer's corp by in large, to include graduates of the Service Academies (West Point, Annapolis, etc)for which we foot the bill. And, many of them immediately leave once thier obligation is up.

And, for those of us who care and have some knowledge, we applaud our Volunteer Army and the job they're doing which is fantastic. But, the elephant in the room always is the fact that so few Americans are truly invested in our fine young men and women soldiers. So, what can we say about American investment as a whole--yes, really great to support the troops but it is easier when we don't have "skin in the game." Hypocritical? We can't blame those who don't serve as we have a Volunteer Army that we have touted for years as being incredibly successful. Two wars have shown us that there are gigantic holes in the Voluntary Army philosophy, in addition to the fact that our kids who have the fewest options choose the military.

Over the years, I've writen hundreds of letters to politicians, various Captains of Industry with my idea of AllServe. Rarely have any of them responded. It is not politically feasible and they surely don't have the moral backbone. There's really nothing to be gained in what one of my friends called, "forced volunteerism."

We have 1.4 million active duty soldiers and another 1.26 million in the Reserves, including 456,000 in the National Guard. We have 47,000 American troops stationed in Japan, 37,500 in South Korea, and 116,400 on bases all across Europe. A more practical course is coming, I fear: we will be simply unable to financially afford a volunteer military.

Monday, March 31, 2008


I love San Francisco. I originally came out here in the Army in 83 and immediately fell head over hills in love with it. And, the love affair has never ended. However, like a marriage, I have to work on my love and keep it fresh. What invariably happens in marriages is that they become the OMC (old married couple) and the first thing you know, the marriage is headed South. It really is nobody's fault--in some ways, it is the culture. And, the thing that keeps a marriage from being repaired often is the denial process. Well, my love for San Fran does not overshadow the reality of the City. It is the epitome of the left coast and most here are proud of it. Over the years, the City (this is what San Franciscans like to call their town)has been politically wrestled from the Irish and Italians and mostly governed by a contingent of ultra left wingers.

This is a bit of an aside: how did San Francisco become San Francisco? First of all, every weird-do, whatever one's definition might be, in the world has showed up out here. I'm mainly talking about the so called homeless, those who more or less live on the streets, the mentally ill of various degrees, and an assortment of others like teenage run aways and left over hippies. Mind you, I don't view this as all negative. They've got to be somewhere. In some ways, it is what makes San Francisco what it is. And, there are some terrific social programs for those who will take advantage of them.

Here's a relevant question. Why do these marginalized types come to San Francisco? Well, it is a friendly and open and accepting place. And, the climate is tolerable for being outside--never really cold and never hot. And, in this town, part of the charm is that you can be just about anything you want to be. So, why not? And, those who govern the City are by in large, extreme, as compared to the rest of the country. This translates to "way out" only in San Francisco terms. Only Berzerkley exceeds the zaniness of San Francisco.

The flip side of the coin, however, is that it is the most beautiful place in the world. Surrounded on three sides by water. A sun, when it is out, that creates an ambiance of "God is in His heaven and all is right with the world." I have often said that if I ever cross the Golden Gate Bridge and am not awed by the beauty, I am leaving. Thus far, I am not even close.

Sorry to have gotten on this harangue. Sometimes I think that I'm the only moderate human in San Fran and then something happens and I discover there is at least one other following the Biblical admonition of the Apostle Paul of the New Testament and is "kicking against the pricks." The following letter is maybe the best comment that I've ever read on one of my favorite subjects, Community service (The Draft). God bless San Francisco and God bless America.


Paul Tominac, San Francisco

Saturday, February 02, 2008


I was slightly fascinated in reading the news account of Berzerkly ordering the Marines out of town. What was equally interesting is one of the Code Pink protesters is 90. I was impressed, at least she is doing something.

I doubt if anybody with any real smarts or discernment is staying up nights worried about what Berzerkly does or does not do. They are only slightly ahead of San Fran who may eventually catch up. Aferall, Frisco has banned Junior ROTC from the schools. And, from all reports, it is without a doubt the most successful educational program the City has going. The schools are losing population constantly because of an insane school enrollment system (I only know what I've read).

However, we are chatting about Berzerkly here. Blaming the poor young Marines for the quagmire in Iraq is like calling your credit card company and blamng one of the lowly India types in Calcutta because your card was declined. Give me a break.

These young Marines, most probably Iraqi vets, are simply making it: some may even oppose the war, how it is prosecuted, whatever but more than likely, they're young kids who haven't given it much thought even while putting their lives on the line. This is a hell of a lot more than Berzerkelites have ever done.

And, they love being a Marine and want to convey the challenge to others and based on a few of the things that have happened in Berzerkly and neighboring Oakland, the murder capital of the U. S., a tour in the Marines might not be a bad thing. I guess the Berzerkly types had rather them smoke dope and bad mouth their country. If I were the Marines, I'd be happy to be away from the crazies. Sempi Fi.