First Marine Killed in GWOT Remembered

IMG_1633[1]38 years ago, on November 21, 1979, United States Marine Corporal Steven J. Crowley, who was guarding the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was shot and killed by radical Muslim extremists, becoming one of the first casualties of the Global War on Terror.

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Muslim extremist “students,” having heard a false story about the U.S. occupation of the mosque at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, gathered weapons and then boarded buses that would take them to the embassy.

Once at the compound, the Islamists stormed the complex and then set fire to debris collected on the first floor of the main building.

US Embassy Islamabad

CPL Crowley was shot once through the head, just above his left ear, at approximately 1:10 p.m. local time, while on duty protecting the embassy from the roof of the main building. He was taken into the building and then brought to the safe room, or vault on the second floor.

At approximately 3:25 p.m. CPL Crowley was pronounced dead in the embassy vault, after an oxygen tank that was providing his threadbare connection to life ran out.

This group of Islamist “students” was later to be funded by none other than Osama bin Laden himself.

Steven was a tall, fit, blond-haired blue-eyed, chivalrous and cordial 19 year old graduate of Comsewogue High School, in Port Jefferson Station, Long Island, New York, who loved to run on the Cross Country and Spring Track Teams and who was a member of the Chess Club.

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Steven Crowley Park, in Port Jefferson Station, was named for this brave neighbor of ours, and by cleaning up the park each fall we honor him and his brave and selfless service to our country. Cub Scout Pack 120 (Boy Scouts of America) has been cleaning up the park each fall at least since my 22 year old Eagle Scout son was a 6 year old Tiger Scout, 16 years ago and counting.

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We tell the boys about Steven and his sacrifice to his country and to all of us.

Steven is a hero to all the nation, and his death marks one of the very first casualties in the Global War on Terror. The incident that precipitated Steven’s murder at the hands of Islamists shook the Muslim world just the day before, on November 20, 1979.

Overzealous Wahhabi’s seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca for about two weeks. Saudi Arabian commandos, with the help of French and American intelligence, eventually retook the mosque, ending the incident. But the erroneous story that the U.S. had seized the mosque incensed hordes of Islamists throughout the Muslim world.

The incident at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad was merely the first in a series of events that eventually led up to the attacks by Islamists on the United States on September 11, 2001, killing more Americans than died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, or died at Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Since then our enemies have mutated into the current Islamic State, but many other Islamic terrorist groups have emerged as well, each one determined to eliminate Israel, kill all infidels, and establish a worldwide caliphate.

In Steven’s memory, and for us, and for generations to come, we must fight the forces of evil that continue to harm us and our allies. Until all Islamists are dead, or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must defend ourselves by any means necessary.

Thank you, Steven for your service, loyalty and sacrifice. We shall never forget your chivalry, integrity and self-less service to this great nation. Amen.

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What if NYC Terrorist was bin Laden?

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The question is asked because even though President Donald Trump initially said that the man who killed 8 and injured about twice as many in an Islamist rampage on the Lower West Side of Manhattan bike lane using a rental truck should be sent to Gitmo and tried as an enemy combatant, but then later changed his mind, saying it would take too much time compared to a Federal prosecution.

He had it right the first time.

If the NYC terrorist is an unlawful combatant in the Global War on Terror, then he belongs at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (a.k.a. Gitmo).

The problem is Obama’s 2009 Military Commissions Act, which gives unlawful combatant detainees accused of war crimes virtually the SAME rights you or I would enjoy in a Federal court of law. That’s why it’s taken years for several accused detainees to come to trial.

The Law of Land Warfare (U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10) and the Geneva Conventions allow accused war criminals only the same rights as an accused U.S. soldier would have under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Giving accused terrorists (unlawful combatants) an opportunity in U.S. Federal Court to be read Miranda rights, go free on technicalities, go to a Federal prison where they can spread their rhetoric and recruit other inmates and then eventually be set free puts us all at risk. Expediency should never come before security.

Gitmo is legal, and it is a small but essential piece to the big puzzle of how we defend ourselves in the Global War on Terror.

Trump needs to get Gitmo right and use Gitmo as a tool in our efforts to defeat the Islamist threat. He is fence-sitting, and it doesn’t suit him or his objective of winning the Global War on Terror.

Imagine for a moment that Osama bin Laden had been captured instead of killed in a raid. Would the President believe he should be tried in Federal court or a Military Commission? Why?

If Osama bin Laden had been captured it would have been the ultimate test of legal and political wills.

We are either at war or we are not at war. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) provides the legal permission to wage war against terrorists. It allows us to capture, interrogate and retain detainees. Once captured, the Law of War and Geneva take over as guiding edicts on treatment and privileges for those detained and those accused of war crimes.

Would bin Laden have been tried in Federal court or a military tribunal?

His status as the leader of al Qaeda and the planner of the attacks of September 11, 2001, would make him the top commander for the opposing forces. Surely if anyone could be tried for war crimes it would have been him.

Why then is there even a debate about the status of those who followed his example and perpetuate the jihad against the infidels?

Lawfare and politics.

Using the liberal legal system of the United States against us is not a new tactic, and has been practiced vigorously by our enemies since the very beginning of the Global War on Terror, shortly after the attacks of 9/11/01.

An al Qaeda manual captured by British intelligence prior to 9/11 revealed our enemy’s protocols if captured. They should lie about their treatment, claim they were abused and tortured, disrupt detention operations, threaten and harass guards and demand a lawyer.

That last part has proved most advantageous. The result? 730 Gitmo detainees have been released. None have been executed, beheaded, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive, all things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies.

Never mind that at least 30 percent of released detainees are either confirmed or suspected to have returned to the fight. My concern is more about the 70 percent of released detainees we don’t know about. Where are they, your neighborhood, trying to rent a truck?

Even in a game of Capture the Flag the jailer knows not to release captured members of the other team until the game is over. Why then has our strategy been to release unlawful combatants before the end of hostilities? That’s not a winning formula, and it sends a message to the enemy that we are inferior and weak.

Some released detainees have been paid off by their governments of origin and profited from published book proceeds. So, if you survive the jihad and get captured by the Americans, you’ve hit the jackpot!

Former Gitmo detainees were allowed to claim habeas corpus, even though precedent dictated that even lawful combatant POW’s could not challenge their wartime status in civilian court. How then did we get from there to here, where an obvious and confirmed case of jihad has been turned almost matter-of-factly into a civilian crime? Expediency?  Convenience?

My patience with the POTUS on this one is running thin.

If your gut tells you that the NYC terrorist should be held and tried at Gitmo then so let it be done.

If bin Laden would have been taken and then tried at Gitmo, then so too, should the lowest member of the group.

If not, then we are not at war with unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us; we  are victims of random, disconnected violence, and should study the childhood of every terrorist and attempt to empathize with their disadvantaged upbringing and feel sorry for them and others like them, and then bear our throats for beheading.

Bergdahl and Honor

The US Army Values are Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl apparently forgot these when, on June 30, 2009, he deserted his unit in Afghanistan, where he wanted to, in his words, “make the world a better place.”

SGT Bergdahl also forgot that he was wearing the uniform of the United States Army, and that armies fight wars. He signed up. No one forced him into service, and no one forced him to continue service if at any point he decided he had had enough.

In the Army there are legitimate avenues of redress of grievances, and now more than ever before. Your chain of command, the Chaplain, a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer, or even the highest commander above where you think your problem lies.

SGT Bergdahl had whipped himself into an almost psychotic state of isolation, from his unit, from his battle-buddies and even from himself. In the end, the enemy seemed more desirable than the mess he had made in his foxhole.

The circumstances under which SGT Bergdahl was released, the trade of five Taliban leaders, notwithstanding, there is a reckoning on the way. That trade has its own implications of treason, but for another time.

As we enter into the penalty phase of military legal proceedings to determine not whether or not he is guilty of the crimes of desertion and  misbehavior before the enemy, for he plead guilty to those charges, but what punishment he will receive.

Some say SGT Bergdahl has suffered enough.

Some say he is not fit to live, let alone wear the uniform.

Several witnesses have testified about their war injuries and losses they claim happened because of Bergdahl’s desertion.

There were rumors but no evidence that SGT Bergdahl had given the enemy critical information about the unit and its operations and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). This would allow the enemy to anticipate the unit’s movements and tendencies, deadly information.

Some say while searching for SGT Bergdahl they were hit and men died. One man, a former Navy SEAL, claimed tearfully that his service dog was killed on one such mission.

In my opinion, all this testimony is over-engineering. It’s all good, but shouldn’t be necessary to complete the project. He deserted in time of war.

How do you maintain good order and discipline if you allow folks to just walk away?

There is no claim of insanity. There is no plea bargain. There is no excuse.

The punishment for desertion can be death.

The reason for this goes back to the beginning of human conflict. If you run in the face of the enemy you have abdicated your responsibility as a member of the group to help keep the group safe.

In our own Revolutionary War and subsequent conflicts, such as the Civil War, it wasn’t so much power and punch that won the day as which side would run first.

Name a war or conflict, and what wins the day more times than not is the will to win or survive. Fight or flight.

This is why the American Army is so effective; we are trained that in war the mission comes first. We are trained to never leave a soldier behind. We are trained be good teammates. We are trained to care for each other, help each other and protect each other. And in the foxhole, when the bullets are flying, it’s about you and your battle-buddy, fighting for your lives.

The bigger picture is that you are defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, part of the oath of enlistment that SGT Bergdahl breached.

But if you allow soldiers to run and then suffer no consequences, what are you telling everyone else who swore that same oath. What then does it mean?

In our politically correct, social media, “If it feels good, do it” society, oaths and promises seem blasé and passé. In fact, they are our life’s blood. If we let one instance of obvious and blatant desertion slip through the cracks, what then do we do with the next one, or the next?

Kneeling for the national anthem and the absence of even one American flag on the opening night of a national political convention are not simply warning signs, they are signs of the apocalypse that feed the idea that SGT Bergdahl did nothing wrong. That he is innocent of desertion because he was oppressed and that somehow his actions were free speech.

It’s not about any of that. It’s about loyalty. The number one most important Army value, and value in life.

The acronym constructed out of the Army Values is LDRSHIP (Leadership). The Army aspires to train every soldier to be a leader, because in the American Army, even E-Private Zero, Snuffy Smith is expected to carry out the mission if all the leaders above him are incapacitated, in the spirit of Audie Murphy, the highly decorated farm boy turned hero from WWII who was battlefield promoted from sergeant to second lieutenant and saved many lives with his heroism, over, and over again, all at 5’4” and 112 pounds.We owe it to the memory of all those who gave their lives in defense of this great nation. We owe it to those who were injured and may have died while searching for Bowe Bergdahl, and we owe it to the future of this nation that Bowe Bergdahl’s punishment fit the crime.

The only question that remains is whether or not the military court hearing the evidence against Bowe Bergdahl will see it that way.

Blowing Up #TakeAKnee

Alejandro-Villanueva

If I spit in your face do you really want to hear what I have to say?

Of course not.

The same tactics used by the Alt-Left, ANTIFA, Democrats and Leftists of all shapes, colors, sizes and genders are taking hold in the National Football League.

Please don’t be confused. NFL players are not self-motivated to #TakeAKnee. They are tools of the Alt-Left.

This is the same Alt-Left who attacked through the entertainment industry at the 2016 Academy Awards, infecting many black actors and entertainers who chose to boycott the award ceremony.

One black actor who chose to attend, despite the hubbub, was Oscar Winner Louis Gossett, Jr., who, when asked on the red carpet before the ceremony what he thought of the protest, simply said, “We are all part of the same family, the American family.”

Louis Gossett

I have a feeling that if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were alive today he just might say something similar. Although Dr. King was famous for civil disobedience, he never shamed his country by taking a knee in anything other than prayer.

I can’t help but recall Dr. King’s famous quip: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

The content of their character.

Dr. King’s dream may not be yet fully realized, but it won’t get there any quicker by what’s going on in the NFL today.

There was a time when the American flag represented freedom and liberty to all Americans. Dr. King never marched without it, and it was a symbol of love, togetherness and justice for all.

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Adrian Cronauer, American Entertainer once said: “Martin Luther King, Jr., didn’t carry just a piece of cloth to symbolize his belief in racial equality, he carried the American flag.”

But the objective of the Alt-Left is to divide and conquer.

Now that everyone is in the middle of visceral and passionate responses to #TakeAKnee, few can see clearly to help us understand and then pull us out of our collective cultural nose dive.

Like any politically charged issue, we are talking past each other and not to or with each other, and no one is listening because everyone is right, in their own subset of political thought.

When someone pushes, there is push back. When someone is told what to do, they resist. Exactly what the Alt-Left thrives on.

Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys (a.k.a. “America’s Team”) tried the linked arm, #TakeAKnee before the National Anthem, and then stand for the Anthem ploy. Nope. We weren’t having it. Compromise did not work. Who is more important, your players or your fans? Because you can’t have it both ways.

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Mike Tomlin, Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, tried sequestering his team for the Anthem. Nope. Alejandro Villanueva (Address: P.O. Box 6763, Pittsburgh, PA, 15212), a former Bronze Star decorated US Army Ranger snuck out of the tunnel, put his hand over his heart and sung. He sung like a hero, a patriot, a true American.

Coach Tomlin’s goal of trying to protect his players from having to make a political choice (“Do I stand or do I kneel?”) by keeping them inside during the National Anthem was based on a false premise: that standing for the Anthem is a political statement. It is not; it is a patriotic statement.

Trouble was, the Alt-Left influenced Tomlin, who promptly made Villanueva apologize for not being a good teammate or player, and for being so personally selfish as to color outside the lines of what is acceptable . . . to the Alt-Left. The forced apology reminded me of fake confessions produced by ISIS and al Qaeda before beheading their captives.

Villanueva’s Pittsburgh Steelers football jersey (#78) is now the number one seller among all NFL jerseys (let’s all keep it that way), even better than Odell Beckham, Jr.’s, jersey. That’s right, OBJ, the multi-millionaire twenty-something superstar receiver for the New York Giants, who, after scoring a touchdown recently got on all fours like a dog and then lifted a hind leg as if to take a pee. He said it was in defiance of a statement made by President Trump.

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In contrast, last year, during the Colin Kaepernick controversy, Rashad Jennings, a black athlete who plays for the NFL’s New York Giants, channeled Frederick Douglass (who loved to play the Star Spangled Banner on his violin) in his support for the National Anthem and the American flag. Jennings told the Daily News he was “proud to stand” for the song.

NFL: International Series-New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams

President Trump at a speech recently in Alabama, wondered aloud what a patriotic NFL owner might say to a “son-of-a-bitch” football player who disrespected the flag and Anthem. “He’s Fired,” he said, “He’s FIRED!”

That of course threw gasoline on the Alt-Left fire.

No one who supported Trump before that statement had much bad to say about it. No one who hated Trump before he said that had much surprising to say about it. But emotions and rhetoric erupted. NFL ratings went down.

It used to be that the NFL went to commercial during the National Anthem. Then things changed which included a rule that said everyone would stand, helmet in the left hand and right hand over the heart, facing the flag, not talking and showing respect. In fact, NFL Rule A62-63 states just that.

As a business model it’s never a good idea to alienate your customers. But it appears that the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell (and the Owners) are betting the fans will return after all of this blows over. If they alienate their players they may strike, refuse to play, or refuse to play well. Then they would lose. Losing would be bad for business.

Remember, standing for the National Anthem to honor America is not a political statement, and it’s not about oppression, free speech or Donald Trump, it is a display of patriotism, togetherness, you know, like the national motto: “E Pluribus Unim;” From Many, One.

Selma to Montgomery, Alabama Civil Rights March

The Alt-Left has a history of shunning the American flag and patriotism. Opening night at the 2016 Democrat National Convention (DNC) saw not one US flag on display. Not until that fact hit the national news and social media like late summer hurricane did several flags finally appear on the DNC stage, but virtually nowhere else. Not one delegate displayed the flag nor were there any flag-like clothing or hats worn, nor any flags on signs or posters. The flag has always been about politics to the Alt-Left.

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In contrast, there was hardly a corner of the 2016 Republican National Convention without a US flag, and various versions of red, white and blue seemed to be everywhere.

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Message imagery.

To the Alt-Left, the American flag has become a symbol of the Right, by default; another tactic of the Alt-Left to easily identify the enemy. That’s right, law abiding, gun toting, bible thumping, flag waving Americans are the enemy to the Alt-Left. If you wear the flag in any form you are a target.

Our battle is a moral battle, it’s right or wrong, good vs. evil, not black or white.

In solidarity – black, white, brown; man, woman; young, old – stand proudly for the flag and Anthem. After that, speak with your American brothers and sisters about whatever you want. Just please avoid spitting in their face or peeing on their shoe to get their attention.

True Americans are better than that.

Politicizing standing for or properly respecting the National Anthem, our flag or any public tradition is simply part of the manipulative agenda of the Alt-Left aimed at controlling the thinking of the People. Not this time, and not these People.

The Alt-Left says you have to pick a side, a “Yes” or a “No.” I say, be like Louis Gossett, Jr., and remember who you are, a member of the American Family. You are not who the Alt-Left says you are or should be. We’ve all come too far for anything else to make sense.

 

 

 

Of Flags and Football

 

Marcus Peters

Imagine that you invite me over for dinner, and we’re going to relax in the living room before the meal. You tell me I can sit anywhere I like, except for the big easy chair in the corner, because you say, that was your deceased father’s chair, and no one has sat in it since his passing.

I walk over and then sit in your father’s chair.

You are in shock. Then you are incredulous.

“I asked you not to sit in that chair!” you say.

“I know,” I say, “but this is a free country, and I have a right to sit wherever I like.”

I continue, “When I was growing up my father had an easy chair just like this that he never let us kids sit in, and I’m tired of people telling me where I can and cannot sit. There’s no law against me sitting here, is there?”

You get the point.

In fact there is a law that says we “should stand” for the National Anthem:

36 US Code, Section 301 – National Anthem

(a) Designation.— The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

(b) Conduct During Playing.—During a rendition of the national anthem—

(1) when the flag is displayed—

(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;

(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and

(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

(2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

(Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263Pub. L. 110–417, [div. A], title V, § 595, Oct. 14, 2008, 122 Stat. 4475.)

Although the law does not specify a criminal charge nor penalties for not standing for the Anthem, it is nonetheless illegal to sit for it.

So who would enforce this affront to national patriotism? Local governments may pass ordinances that establish penalties if they so choose. What a rude awakening it would be if, for example, Kansas City Chief’s cornerback, Marcus Peters, who sat for the Anthem in a Thursday night NFL football game, was arrested on enforcement of a Massachusetts ordinance requiring adherence to the law.
Who would come out of the woodwork to bay in his defense? How many other NFL players or Hollywood stars would come out and offer to pay his bail?
In my humble opinion, jail would be too easy for him and others who pretend to be disgruntled over this or that. A public mocking, me thinks, would be in order. Put them in the public square in stocks! Make them work in veterans outreach programs, or clean toilets at the VA. Something that might get their attention as to why people like me may have had a violent reaction to his antics that fateful Thursday night.
There I was, watching the end of the pre-game show, nestling up to the almighty tube, in the comfort of my own home, my castle, my abode, when the music of one of the most beautiful songs a veteran can hear began to play. A song that still brings a tear to my eye, as the music and the flag bring me back to deployments at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Iraq.
While the music plays I can’t help but reflect on my and the sacrifices of millions of Americans, today and in years past, of my own ancestors who fought in the American Revolution and the Civil War. I think about those who died on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, or those who were killed storming the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. I think of the Koren War veterans, the Vietnam veterans, the Desert Storm, Enduring and Iraqi Freedom veterans, and today’s proud and wonderful volunteers.
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As this is going through my mind, and I am anticipating a really good football game, I see this scum-of-the-earth, two-bit wannabe, sitting on the bench with his helmet on! It’s bad enough you can’t stand, but you double-down and keep your head covered as well?
I had the worst Post Traumatic Stress episode I can remember.
I served 22 years in the Army, National Guard and Reserve, from October 1986 to December 2008. I was an enlisted combat medic for five years and then became a Medical Service Corps officer and finished as a major in rank. I spent about 2 1/2 years away from my family for three deployments between 9/11 2001 to December 2005.
I was angry for a time because it seemed like no one even knew or cared that there was a war going on. Then it hit me. that’s why we do what we do, we oathkeepers and sheep dogs. We do it so that everyone at home can go about their daily lives, unafraid and free.
I had some difficulty adjusting after Gitmo, and then after returning from a 14 month Iraq tour. I wanted to drive in the middle of the road. I shook and jumped at loud noises and fireworks. I have tinnitus. I didn’t sleep well.
All in all, it wasn’t that bad though, and the symptoms didn’t last that long. My loving and devoted family were always there for me. I am truly blessed that way.
I wrote a book  for catharsis, and then had it published. My friends and colleagues and Tweeple are all so very kind and supportive. I am truly blessed, and every day is a blessing.
AGitmo
Until I saw number 22 sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem I was happy, relaxed and excited about the game.
Until I saw number 22 sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem I loved professional football, head injuries and last season’s nonsense with Colin Kaeprinck notwithstanding.
Until I saw number 22 sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem I had my stuff together.
Then, it happened.
I lost it. Literally lost it.
I jumped up and started cursing uncontrollably. It was just me and my wife in the room, so I don’t think the kids heard anything. I was lit!
I turned the TV off, cursed the player, whose name I did not know until after the Anthem was over and NBC Sports announced it. I had turned the TV back on in hopes of taking a photograph of the player. They showed him again at the end, standing, looking around for some approval or recognition from someone, anyone. Nope. “You’re on your own, buddy,” I thought.
I turned the TV off again and then fumed.
How dare he? How could  he? Doesn’t he realized countless American patriots, including African Americans and all races, creeds religions and color DIED so that he could defy US Code and sit on his brains during the Anthem?
I shook, I blathered, I spat, I paced, I sweat, I breathed fire.
I didn’t even react that way when Kaepernick pulled his stunts last year. He went from knee to sitting out of “respect” for the military? Not good enough. I boycotted the San Francisco 49ers. Not hard to do in New York.
A few other players did similar stunts, but now it’s gotten wide-spread with the Seahawks, Packers, Rams, 49ers, Raiders, Eagles, Browns and Chiefs all having at least one player sit, eat a banana or show some other sign of protest (disrespect) during the National Anthem.
NFL.1
Let me explain to you just why I had that reaction. I have figured it out. We watch football in our homes. And like the “My Father’s Chair” scenario I painted for you in the beginning of this piece, our home is our personal, private domain, where we control everything that happens. We invite the NFL into our living rooms, dens and bedrooms for our own pleasure and entertainment. So when some knucklehead SITS for our National Anthem on TV, it is happening in OUR HOME.
That is offensive and disrespectful, just as if I had told Marcus Peters not to sit in my fathers chair . . . not only did he sit in it . . . he defiled it.
If any of these guys called for a press conference to discuss their pity-party snowflake fake news butt hurt NO ONE would come, and NO ONE would listen. They are a privileged few.
Less than one percent of all high school football players ever play football on scholarship in college. Less than one percent of all college football scholarship players ever make it on an NFL team. Who are they kidding? Who do they say they represent when they sit? Why can’t they start a fund, or a charity? Donate time and money to causes they care about. Why disrespect all patriotic Americans on national TV?
It’s a drive-by assault on American values.
And the NFL? Completely complicit. The NFL FINES players for wearing the wrong SOCKS on game day. And if a player SITS during the national Anthem? Nothing. Whose values do the Commissioner of the NFL and NFL owners (who are also complicit) pretend to represent when they allow players to SIT for the National Anthem?
The NBA has it right. They require players to stand for the National Anthem. But for how long?
If anyone doubts that standing and showing respect for our National Anthem isn’t the internationally respected norm, witness this video of world champion Jamaican, Usain Bolt, interrupt an interview to show his class and respect for our Anthem.
Usain-Bolt-Stops-Interview-For-National-Anthem
There was a college basketball coach who invited some veterans to a practice one day, and then told the players how and why they will stand for the National Anthem. Watch it. Have your kids watch it. Send it to your favorite NFL football player.
buzz-williams-and-virginia-tech
Of flags and football. It’s about RESPECT.

To Save a Life

Resort Pool

Family vacations don’t often start out so dramatically, nor finish so profoundly, but lately it seems I have had a summer of visceral experiences surrounding what most might consider “leisure time” with the family.

Our first day at the resort pool recently, while minding my own business with my own children, ages 21 – 8, and with my wife, I was snapped out of my vacation mode daze by the lifeguard’s whistle. A young girl, apparently swimming alone in about four feet of water, was drowning.

Too far away for me to get there before the lifeguard, I watched in stunned amazement as the lifeguard wadded quickly to the girl’s side and then lifted her out of the water.

The girl had no flotation device, but clearly had no clue how to swim or float on her own.

No parent came running to snatch her up.

The lifeguard brought the girl to the edge of the pool and then assisted her up and out, where the girl was met by an older sister. The girl was coughing and was wide-eyed but otherwise seemed fine.  Just moments before she was clearly in distress, gulping water while trying to suck in air as her head bobbed up and then slowly down into the water, limbs uselessly flailing.

This brief moment of horror triggered memories of similar experiences over the years with my own children in pools. My wife and I are extremely vigilant, but realize our limitations. From young ages we exposed our children to water, their grandparent’s pool playing a prominent role.

My four boys are all Boy Scouts, the two oldest are Eagle Scouts and have aged out of the boy program, the next boy is a Life Scout working on Eagle, and then the youngest is a Tenderfoot Scout, just turned 11 years old. For all of them, the first Eagle Scout required Merit Badge they earned was the Swimming Merit Badge. My oldest son also earned the Lifesaving Merit Badge.

Swimming Merit Badge

We also gave our children swimming lessons from very young ages. We live on an island. It seems like every other family has a pool or a family member with a pool. How could one not teach their children how to swim?

My wife and I are so paranoid that if one of our children is invited to a pool party, my wife goes and then stays, at pool side, every second our child is in the pool. Helicopter parents?  Maybe. Alive children? Definitely.  My wife was a lifeguard as a teen, but takes no chances, even when the odd pool party includes a teenage lifeguard. She’s there.

Every summer it seems there are stories about toddlers or other young children drowning in pools on Long Island. We don’t even have a pond in our backyard. Not taking any chances.

At the last pool party my 8 year-old daughter attended, my wife told me she stayed pool side even when our daughter was high and dry doing something else. She said she did it because no other adult was watching the children, even though there were toddlers in the pool. She said one mother, after putting “water wing” inflatable arm flotation devices on her toddler child said out loud, “There, now I don’t have to worry about you,” and then walked away.

Is it millennial parenting? Is it naivete? Lack of common sense?

A first time parent colleague of mine with a month-old son told me that millennial parents were avoiding mini vans because that’s what their parents had. He included himself in that category. Are millennial parents also rejecting helicopter parenting because that’s what their parents did?

When my wife and I had just two children, at a time when our second child was super rambunctious, we went to a water park for kids. While moving from attraction to attraction we used a harness and, for lack of a better term, a leash on him. We felt that because of the crowds, and our resistance to using a stroller (we practiced attachment parenting for all of our children), we felt the leash would give him the freedom to walk (OK, “toddle”), but also keep him relatively safe. Also, we wouldn’t lose the little rug rat among all the others!

Wouldn’t you know it that my wife was verbally assaulted by a young lady who obviously had no children of her own, for being a “horrible person” for putting a leash on our child?

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The following year, this same child, without the leash, went missing at the very same water park. I had taken the two boys into the changing-slash-men’s room. We took adjoining stalls and I told the boys to wait for me, “outside the stall door,” and then we would all leave together.

I changed quickly and then found my oldest son waiting outside the stall. “Where’s your brother?” I asked him. He didn’t know. Of course, panic sets in almost immediately when you think you’ve lost one of your children. I calmed myself and then figured the younger boy was still changing. He was not. After a frenetic search we discovered he was not in the facility at all. He was gone.

If you’ve ever lost a child, one of the most difficult things you do is tell your spouse you’ve lost a child. It didn’t go over well. Cooler heads prevailed, however and we began searching together by making concentric circles around the place we last saw him. The park was very crowded and was about to close. The thought of him being taken and never seeing him again began to creep into my mind and soul as we searched and couldn’t find him.

Eventually we got fairly far from the changing room and in our desperate exasperation happened to notice the Lost Child building. My wife and I looked at each other and then nearly sprinted to the place.

We saw him through the glass in the window. He was being spoken to by an attendant who was on bent knee to get to his level. My son was in tears. But he was safe, and we had found him.

He told us he thought I meant for him to wait outside the restroom. So he went outside after being the first one to finish changing. He looked around (while we searched for him inside) and then figured we had gone to meet up with his mother, who was changing in the women’s facility. He went the wrong way and then found himself lost in the middle of a very large bustling crowd. He said he began to cry which was when a very nice woman with her own child asked him if he was lost. He said he was, and then she took him to the lost child area.

A happy ending, but a terrifying experience for both parents and child. One we will never forget, and one that caused us to re-double our efforts. We both neurotically count to five – the number of children we have – when we are out and about with everyone . . . most of the time.

Of course, none of us are immune from these things, no matter how vigilant or careful or caring. One gets distracted, and it only takes a split second.

So on this most recent trip, experienced as we are at staying relatively close in crowded areas, and never feeling comfortable splitting up, we lost one again.

This time, after seeking shelter from a sweltering Central Florida sun, we left the coolness of a souvenir shop to visit an attraction. All of us that is except for the 10 year-old. He had apparently found something very interesting in the store to look at, looked up, and then noticed we had all left him behind.

Instead of panicking and running out of the store looking for us and then getting hopelessly lost, he stayed put. He positioned himself near the entrance to the store and then waited.

My wife, who immediately rushed back to the store, found him grinning at the entrance. When they met up with us outside the attraction he calmly stated that he knew exactly what to do because he had recently earned the Boy Scout Search and Rescue Merit Badge, which taught him to stay put in a visible area if he got lost. Bingo.

We survived heat indexes of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and our vacation was coming to a close, when we sought out the refreshment of the resort pool prior to leaving for our flight home. It was the coolest day of the whole vacation, overcast, not too humid and only around 75 degrees. A blessing!

We had all walked and average of over 9 miles per day in the amusement parks; seeking shelter most days from noon until four or five in the afternoon.

My body ached. Every part of my body ached, including my head, as I had picked up a wicked sinus headache the day before.

My plan was to sit in the hot tub for fifteen minutes and then jump into the pool, over and over again.

By the third time I was feeling much better. I highly recommend this for any ailment!

I had just gotten out of the hot tub for the third time and was wading into the now very cool water of the pool; kind of in a temperature transition daze, really immersed in the experience and the pleasure of feeling better than I had felt since starting the vacation, and then I saw him.

The drowning toddler wasn’t far away, and he was looking straight at me, right in the eyes, which burn into me as I recall this. The eyes said, “I’m dying and there’s nothing I can do about it, please help me.”

I had seen the look in my own children’s eyes, when, as many parents have experienced, your young child starts taking on water and then disappears underneath the surface. You quickly yank them to the surface, they cough a bit and then everything is fine. Lesson learned.

This boy had water wings on, but he had splayed his arms out so far that the flotation devices were actually preventing him from keeping his head above water, as his head became the unsupported center. The water wings supported only his little arms.

He gasped and then gulped as he began taking on water, a lot of water, and then he disappeared under the surface.

I took two steps toward him, heard the lifeguard’s whistle blow, and then pulled him out with one hand, then grasped him under the armpits with both hands holding him up as if to say, “Hey, I have someone’s child here.” He coughed and gasped, but seemed OK, despite his wide, terrified eyes.

The millennial father came around from behind me just then, grabbed his son from me and then said, breathlessly, “Thanks.”

The lifeguard, who had jumped in, apparently seeing what I saw about the time I saw it, turned and then got back out of the pool. She went on about life-guarding everyone else. Not a word or a glance. Par for the course?

I didn’t even turn to watch the father leave with his son. I was feeling kind of stunned by the whole thing, which probably took place in a span of about five or six seconds. I knew what he was feeling and I didn’t want to exacerbate his embarrassment by engaging him.

The boy was safe, that was the important thing.

The parents had been fortunate that the lesson they learned that day was not a tragic one, but only a near tragic one.

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Life comes at you fast, but then so can death. It is God’s blessing when we are in the right place at the right time, and then do the right thing. How long will it be now before I can truly relax in a resort swimming pool?

Just please remember, these things are not “accidents.” Every tragic or near tragic incident has precipitating events, some controllable, some not. Hopefully, this story will help some “hands-off” parents think twice.

There’s nothing embarrassing or un-cool about doing what you feel is best and safe for your children, no matter their age or experience. We know our kids best, and we have to live with the consequences of our actions or inaction’s.

Our most important job as parents is always to protect and keep our children safe and secure. Letting go as they get older is another story. But for now, let’s be safe out there, our children’s lives depend on it.

Tragedy on the Gridiron

Tragedy

(Updated as of 8/15/17).

Very recently in my community there was a tragedy on the high school gridiron. A 16 year old high school junior, attending an off season football strength and conditioning camp, was struck in the head while participating in a Navy SEAL-like teamwork, strength and endurance drill with a 10 foot long “telephone pole” type wooden log.

There are few specific details publicly available, only that it happened while five boys, including the victim, were participating in the drill and that the victim was said to be in the middle of the group and the boys were raising the log over their heads. Was the grass wet? Did the boys lose their grip?

In any case, the boy was struck in the head during the morning workout. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The same hospital where all five of my children were born, now ages 21 – 8.

“Can you imagine,” my wife said after learning of the tragedy, “dropping your child off in the morning at a place you would think he would be safe, and then getting a telephone call that he had died?” I cannot.

This part of Long Island is no stranger to high school football fatalities. Less than three years ago another young man, who was playing in a local regular season high school football game collided with an opponent, head on, collapsed and then died from his head injury.

As a former football player and athletic administrator, I can tell you that head injuries and injuries in general are a painful reminder that we can never be “too safe.” I remember vividly a rainy night football game played on natural turf, where the field conditions were less than desirable, and within five minutes of each other two players were removed from the field with broken bones. It happens that quick, and without warning.

But there is something different about this fatal injury.

U.S. Navy SEAL training techniques have become more and more popular as slowly over the past several years, the Navy SEALs have become more and more demystified through movies and books that take us inside the elite group’s training and performance methods.

The Log Drill is a series of physically, mentally and emotionally challenging maneuvers in which a team of about five men perform these drills with a log weighing approximately 400 pounds. If everybody does their share, that’s 80 pounds each.

When was the last time you lifted 80 pounds over your head? Could you lift 80 pounds over your head? Why would you lift 80 pounds over your head? What part of playing football requires a player to lift 80 pounds over his head?

Yes, these are strapping young men, strong, with endurance and fortitude, being taught how to work as a team, the hard way.

As an athletic administrator for public school programs on Long Island, I emphasized to coaches that the student athletes who chose to participate in their programs did so because they enjoyed playing the sport. I told the coaches that it was vital to remember that their student athletes were kids and not adults, no matter how much like men they looked, and not to treat them like college or professional athletes. It would have never occurred to me to tell them not to treat them like elite warriors.

I encouraged my coaches to study child psychology and to employ those principles in their coaching style. I encouraged my coaches to “Always make practice fun.” “End each practice with a fun activity, so that they go home happy and wanting more, and feeling good about themselves.” Drill and kill makes for unhappy players.

In the professions of physical education and athletic coaching safety must always be the first consideration. Physical educators are trained to always inspect the gym or teaching space and the supplies and equipment to be used prior to teaching their lesson. Good coaches do the same. But at what point does common sense kick in? At what point do you say to yourself, “Gee, I wonder what would happen if one, just one of these boys slipped and the 400 pound log came crashing down one of their heads?”

We call what happened a “tragedy” because it is a classic example of what a tragedy is. Some call it a “tragic accident.” Some will call it negligent. And that will be for the police and lawyers to figure out. But those of us with military experience (I served 22 years in the Army, as an enlisted Combat Medic and then as a Medical Service Corps officer) know that a dead soldier is an ineffective soldier. So we teach and train safety first, especially out of the combat zone. In the combat zone, we say “Mission First, Safety Always!”

As soldiers, we knew what we did was inherently dangerous, and could cost us our life, limb or eyesight. But in a civilian setting, where children are involved and looking up to and trusting the adults around them who are legally in loco parentis (“In place of the parent”), to keep them safe and healthy as a parent would, my opinion is that there is never an excuse for potentially putting their life at risk for the purpose of team building, conditioning or any other reason. Nothing we do as adults responsible for the health, safety and welfare of a child should ever potentially cost them their life.

We are deceived by the size and athleticism of today’s young student athletes. We forget that our public school interscholastic education programs are just that, interscholastic education, and not life or death scenarios.

Coaching egos and over training have taken the place of always doing what’s in the best interest of the student athlete. We allow false dreams of college and professional success and fame to cloud better judgement as more and more youth’s who participate in athletics are tracked to one sport over another, with year round training and travel leagues. Less than 1 percent of high school athletes ever play on a college scholarship. Less than 1 percent of college players ever play in the pros. And the average career in the pros lasts only from 3-5 years.

Football is the modern equivalent of war in the minds of some. We “Fight, fight, fight!” “Kill, kill, kill!” “Rip ’em apart!” Believe me, when General George S. Patton, in a speech to his troops during WWII implored his men to grease the wheels of their tanks with the guts of the enemy, he wasn’t talking to teenagers preparing to play a game.

The rhetoric and techniques used by youth coaches need to be developmentally appropriate. I’ve had coaches disciplined for inappropriate language, tobacco use and other behavior detrimental to the proper development of young student athletes, yet on any given day you could walk through even a youth league practice and shouldn’t be surprised the hear things that would make your mother blush.

Foul language and Navy SEAL drills don’t grow hair on the chests of young men. Using fun cooperative games, sports and activities leads to better teamwork and leadership skills than making them put a 400 pound log over their heads.

Youth leaders need to work smarter and not harder. Even the pros are reconsidering bulk work outs in favor of resistance training. Lean core fitness, speed and quickness drills, push-ups and sit-ups yield a far healthier and effective student athlete than over-working bodies and muscles to the point of musculoskeletal failure or injury. Form is more important than weight. When the body is tired and fatigued it is most susceptible to injury. Why didn’t these “coaches” know this?

Last few points. In a local front page news article about this tragedy, public school athletics officials were quoted as saying there was “only one out of season practice rule” for interscholastic student athletes, that they not be forced to participate in out of season activities. That is in fact only half of the regulation. The other half is that out of season workouts need to be open to anyone.

This is from the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), Inc., Bylaws and Eligibility Standards, page 130, Section 22. (NYSPHSAA is to governing body of New York State public high school athletics and is affiliated with the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations (NFHS); the local governing body in Suffolk County, New York, where the tragedy occurred, and which answers to the state association is Section IX).

“c. School sponsored activities conducted out of the sport season such as general
conditioning, weight training, weight lifting, intramurals, recreation, open gyms, club
activities and camps are permitted: 1) if such programs are not mandated by coaches or
school personnel; 2) if such programs are available to all students.
“d. Non-school sponsored activities are permitted if such programs are not mandated by
coaches or school personnel. It is recommended that no school equipment be used for
these programs as per State Comptroller Opinion 85-37.”

(Corrected from 8/12/17 version.) So a “non-school sponsored activity” (the strength and conditioning camp that contributed to the death of the 16 year old) can be mandated through a booster club, by non-affiliated coaches and trainers – just not the actual team coaches.

This off season work out had nothing to do with the school district’s official activities. The booster club sponsored the activity. According to the article, each boy had to pay $325 for the camp. Since it was “non-curricular” the state law (New York State Commissioner’s Regulation 135, Guidelines for the Coaching Requirements, pp. 48-73) requiring coaching certifications for anyone working with the student athletes in a scholastic setting didn’t apply. There could be any nut case working with these boys who were hired by the booster club. And oh, by the way, the bulk of that $325 went to salaries for these fitness and conditioning “specialists.” These things you won’t find in the article.

Public school districts need to take a hard look at what activities they allow on their premises, and booster clubs need to hire licensed teachers and coaches for their extra season camps if they are going to use school facilities.

After this tragedy, if this was the case, there is no excuse for allowing non-certified coaches/trainers to work with public school student athletes, ever. If a parent wants to seek out a “professional” trainer for their child on their own, that’s their business, but for public schools to allow and facilitate it is unconscionable. If a “trainer’s” only qualification is that they were a Navy SEAL, or college or professional athlete, an alumni perhaps with no other proper coaching qualifications or certifications, take a pass. No disrespect intended.

Intentions aside, without the proper training and coaching style, it’s only a matter of time before tragedy or negligence strikes again.