Thursday, November 27, 2014


In August, I wrote about Ferguson. Since then, there's an indictment and predictably, things are worst, riots: talk to a white person, they see it one way. An African American, another way. Can anything be done? No, not really. We, at least, ought to do a few cosmetic things. More training for police would be a start. And, let's stop looking like an assault team. How about this? When a gun has to be used, why can't the cops shoot a person in the hand or arm or shoulder. Hopalong Cassidy could shoot the gun out of a bad guy's hand. And, shooting kids! Why is firing the weapon the first thing done? In a recent shooting, the police killed a 12 year old after 3 seconds of arriving This is training. It is time to get on top of it. And, more diversity. Watching TV and seeing all those police white faces gives cause for pause. 

The idea of talking and resolving seems as foreign as "flying to the moon", which we've done but sitting down with the races proves more difficult. However, this thought hit me. The military. What an example. The military has pretty much solved the racial issue. Eliminated race? Mostly. There may be a few pockets of institutional racism but it is vastly better than the civilian community. 
And plain and simple, a racist won't make it in the military very lomg. 

Solving the race question is mountains better in the military. And why? Simply, soldiers have a shared experience. Undeniable. They have been through the same training and get the picture. Promotions. hassles, all look alike. There are issues with the military: too small, women finding their place, other things; but race is not one of 'em. The military is as color blind as you are apt to find anywhere. And for enlisted soldiers (navy/army/marines), there's a little of us (all races) against the "man," Officers. (white, black, whatever).

How to translate this to the civilian world? Don't know how to do it. If we had some sort of mandatory community service. (Draft) for all youngsters, it would help but that is not going to happen. It wouldn't have to be the military but it could be. The military has always been a gateway for upward mobility. Minorities have done well in the military because of the color blindness. 

 Ferguson as representative of where we are in the race question, here is a chance to be creative. Will we do it. I'm not hopeful. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


Maureen Dowd had a great piece, "A Cup of GI Joe," in last Sunday's NY Times. She profiled Walter Schultz of "Starbucks" fame. I am a big SB's fan. But, let me tell you: it is one thing to support the troops, another one to be willing to serve. And, I am not sure, we can base a view of the military on Schultz's enthrallment with West Point. It sounds like they "snowed" him. 

While I applaud his enthusiasm, is he aware that each Cadet's education cost the taxpayer a million bucks.  I'm not sure we get our return back. Going to West Point may be a sacrifice but not much. The vast majority of Americans who care and not all do, need to
know that we have created an aristocratic officer corps and a common man enlisted soldier. In the draft army, we had a good cross section of officers, OCS, ROTC, and the Point. Not so much now. 

And, thanks to Ms Dowd that she singled us Nam vets out. The country messed over us and many have not forgotten it. 

And while my talks with West Point graduates, are limited, the Academy grads, great education and see you later. I have long thought the three academies could easily be combined. 

All of us vets applaud the "support the vets" however, should be much broader-doesn't address what we are seeing in the country. Ms Dowd has the right statistic; less than 1% serve or even know anybody who serves. 

What nobody seems to see is the "youth" crisis in the country. Kids need to have some idea of what it means to be an American. How about a "tour in the Marines" is a euphemism that I often use. For me, it means kids need a purpose, somewhat outside themselves. The best one to me for kids is some sort of manditory Community Service, something akin to the draft. Doesn't have to be the military but could be lots of choices. 

Do I think there is any possibility. NO. We don't have the political will. Milt Friedman and the then SecDef, Melvin Laird, sold the country a bill of goods on the draft. Although I have read lots about it, not sure what his motives were, unselfish I am sure; but, the unintended consequences is what we have now with the military and our wars. 

The lack of political will is baffling. Kids don't vote anyway and so there's not like some galvanizing wedge issue. F..king weird. What the hay! 

We have a small military, coming from an even smaller portion of our culture. Americans by in large are uninvolved, loving to say they support the troops as long as they don't have to serve themselves. At sports events, soldiers (meaning all services) are outwardly revered. Everybody loves the soldier. 

My comments are very subjective. I think the AVF (All volunteer Force) is successful in terms of numbers but based on repetitive tours, we are going to be dealing with health issues with vets (of the AVF) for years. Plain and simple. We can argue the bullshit till we are blue in the face but with social media, these soldiers of the AVF are filing claims even before they leave the battlefield and rightly so. 

So, here's the grand finality for now as my old military buddy would say, "When you are up to your arsh in alligators, it is hard to remember that your initial mission was to drain the swamp." One "alligator" among many, is the All Volunteer Force with all it takes to support them. 

Prognosticators can haul out all the statistics they want but in the final analysis, the fall out from our ill defined wars, repetitive tours and health issues of vets will be with us for the foreseeable future and there's no disputing that. 

Saturday, August 02, 2014


A young photographer discovers his family to be a family who wrote the book on "dysfunctionalty." A world of money and very affluent kids who feel privileged is the backdrop. They have incorporated parental values into their own. Talk about a f..ked up scene. 

Dylan, the photographer is himself a self aware pot head. This is really scary for a grandpa with his oldest granddaughter going off to college. 

Parents ought to see this. In a sense though this may be mainly just over the top but don't think so. Dylan's Uncle: Steven Gutenburg, 
plays the part of a Wall Street tycoon who gives new meaning to the world of hypocrisy and the "f" word. I am blown away. 

I didn't even mean to watch this movie but became mesmerized. It is kind of a coming of age movie but more. The financial collapse is the final undoing of the tranquil indulgences. The "material" issues go dark and are vaporized. The movie keeps trying to find a redeeming character.  Dylan comes close but his constant pot smoking doesn't do it for me. 

This is an aside but holds that ever kernel  of truth. The kids in this movie are pretty pathetic. Even if only nominally accurate, they are way too many. A joke among my friends when we see these kids is that they need a tour in the Marines. More truth than fiction. These kids of Affluenza have no direction, trade on the perceived influence of a relative and would've know discipline if it ran over them. Sound like a candidate for the Marines. F..king A. 

Our country was sold a bill of goods by the late Economist Milt Freeman and at that time Mel Laird who was the secretary of Defense. I have no doubt that these are honorable men  who had no earthly idea of the unintended consequences of their ill defined cause would unlease.  Maybe they did. I've actually read that Friedman held the philosophy that the draft was actually incompatible with compulsory service. Laird may have simply been duped. Quite the opposite is true. Is there anything more compatible than a fair and comprehensive draft. I don't think so. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Vo Nguyen Giap, the tenacious North Vietnam leader who would not die— finally hits the road at 102. Vo Nguyen Giap and the victory at Dien Bien Phu essentially drove France out of Vietnam and, of course, in our stupidity, we replaced the French. Giap did not drive us out, rather waited us out.

The definitive book about Giap was written by my good friend, Cecil Currey. When I read of Giap’s death, I immediately thought of Cecil. He had sent me his biography of Giap called, “Victory at Any Cost.” I am not very interested in Giap, but in my good friend Cecil.

Cecil passed March 12, 2013. The last time I talked with him, he was on the way to Vietnam to visit Giap as they had developed a close relationship. Cecil was a hero in Vietnam. And, I will have to say that Cecil was one of my heroes.

We beat around the Army together as Chaplains for a long time. Without a doubt, he should have made general, but he refused to be politically correct if it sacrificed the truth. Cecil is a perfect example in our modern volunteer military, the best leaders rarely get to the top. In my own faith, I take comfort that Giap and my good friend are somewhere philosophizing. .

Monday, February 10, 2014

The draft


I am still thinking of the young soldier severely wounded in action, showcased at the State of the Union speech. It made even the greatest skeptic like me pause. Very inspiring. Ten minutes of ovation. And, rightly so. The “talking heads” have basically said, “this is the thing the president’s speech will be remembered for.” I hope so but doubt it. Politics has a short attention span. 
Here is where the rub comes for me, an old soldier. Applauding at a televised media event with a smidgen of politics thrown in is one thing. Serving your country by being in the military is another story. I would like to know how many congressmen/women have served or if their children have. 
This isn’t a hit on those not serving. With a volunteer Army, they can choose. What we have now is a military made up of only an extremely small segment of the American society. Most affluent parents don’t want them to be in the military, in potentially harms way. I certainly wouldn’t if I had boys. 
When my generation came along, we had to deal with the draft. It was part of our culture. The draft ain’t going to ever happen again. That train has left the station. And, we are the worst for it. We were sold a bill of goods by economist Milt Friedman and then Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird. Friedman actually said something like, “in a democracy having compulsory service is unAmerica.” We were duped. We now know from collateral damage that it is the opposite. 
We will continue to applaud Army Ranger, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg who almost paid the ultimate sacrifice. Soldiers like SFC Remsburg bare the brunt while other young men and women, his age, sit on the sidelines. 
The flip side of the coin is to acknowledge that our f..k ups contributed to his being put in harms way in the first place. It doesn’t take anything away from his sacrifice, just hi-lites our stupidity. Americans who care should be incensed, if not ashamed, that we have played a part in SFC Remsburg’s sacrifice and no amount of applause will make up for his loss. 
10 tours in Iraq/Afghanistan? How the f..k did that happen? I can tell you: a small military necessitating repetitive tours, senior commanders on the ground being stupid—strategies that have little or no chance of working. I could go on and on. Yes, we can applaud but any way you slice it, we all are complicit in the tragedy of SFC Remsburg’s story. God bless him.