Veterans Day Remembered: Forced Fun

(Presented as a message sermon at the First United Methodist Church of Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York, Sunday, November 11, 2018 by Montgomery J. Granger, Major, US Army, Retired. Video: https://www.facebook.com/pjfumc/videos/502873243555742/ Start at about 19:20)

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Good morning!

Happy Veterans Day!

Would all the Veterans here today please stand? Thank you for your service and Welcome Home!

Let’s please remember, Memorial Day is for remembering those who either gave their lives in battle or who have otherwise passed on. Veterans Day, today, started 100 years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, and known as Armistice Day at the end of World War I, is to show appreciation for those served and who are still with us.

I would also like to remember Army Veteran Shirley Leonard, and my good friend PFC Wayne F. Hurley.

I am a former US Army Medical Service Officer who started as a combat medic, and then after five years as an enlisted soldier went to Officer Candidate School and then served 17 more years as a Medical Service Officer, the last 9 of which were with a Military Police (Enemy Prisoner of War) Brigade Liaison Detachment, whose job it was to take care of bad guys, which we did with Christian spirit and professional acumen, contrary to what you may have heard from the mainstream media. After 9/11, from February to June, 2002, I served at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint Task Force 160, in charge of coordinating medical, preventive medical and environmental services for detainees and the guard force at Gitmo. I served again from February to June 2003, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then again for 14 months, from October 2004 to December 2005 for a tour to Iraq, where again I found myself coordinating services for detention operations there, in Baghdad, at Camp Victory, in Abu Ghraib (after the scandal there, my unit was sent to help clean it up), in Al Basra, at Camp Bucca, and in Ashraf, at Forward Operating Base Spartan.

In deference to my father-in-law, a Korean War veteran with the Air Force, and who is at home today dealing with COPD, among other things, he would want to know how long my message was going to be. 15 minutes Bob, and you can start timing me now!

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Fair warning, this is a participation message, and may have some repeat after me moments.

Forced Fun

Forced fun is when you are ordered to do something that if you weren’t ordered to do it you probably wouldn’t do it.

November, 2008, a month before I retired from the Army after 22 years of service, including nearly 2 ½ years of deployments since 9/11/2001, and I had never participated in a parade. This time there was no escape.

Like a Commander’s Ball, no one could get out of it. With a wink and a nod the command had made it abundantly clear that from the very top general in the region, “everyone” would participate in the annual Veterans Day parade in New York City.

The uniform of the day would be the battle dress uniform, at this time it was the pixeled pattern we called the Lego pattern of light green and tan. It would be cool, but according to the powers that be, not cold, so no field jackets or anything worn on the outside of the uniform. You could however put layers on underneath and wear gloves. But if one person wore gloves, everyone had to wear gloves. If one person forgot their gloves no one could wear gloves.

Head gear would be the black beret; in other words, cold ears.

With temperatures in the 40’s in the morning prior to the march we would be shivering a bit.

There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” in the military. This was no exception. The parade would start at 11:15, at around 26th Street and 5th Avenue, and then conclude at 46th Street, a distance of a little over a mile.

Report time? Zero 8:30, or 8:30 a.m. for you civilians.

“Don’t complain,” I told a colleague, “we’re getting paid and we’re not getting shot at.”

“Hooah!” Came the answer. Hooah! Is Army speak for just about anything except “No.”

For example, “How are you?” Hooah! “How’s the chow?” Hooah! “Did you get the beans and bullets?” Hooah! “Good morning,” Hooah! Question: Hooah? Answer: Hooah!.

I know you want to, so go ahead and try it one time: Hooah? (Audience: Hooah!)

So, from now on, when you hear my question, Hooah? You may answer back, “Hooah!” It will let me know your still with me. Hooah?

That’s the Army for you, simple and direct, efficient and effective. No wasted words or energy.

“Conserve the Fighting Strength” was the Medical Service Corps motto, and we put that to work every day.

I remember at the parade that not everyone had brought their gloves. Bad news. Good news: we could wear our gloves if we brought ‘em BEFORE the parade started. We could also go, a few at a time, to local coffee shops or kiosks and get coffee. That helped.

When it was time to march a strange feeling of nervousness grew amongst us. Some had been in parades before and told those of us who hadn’t that it was no big deal. Just look straight ahead and march. We would be singing cadence, so the march will go by quickly, and before you know it it will be over.

We heard drums and a band, and we saw costumed high school students with batons and flags and instruments. Giggling girls and serious boys, scrambling to form up.

We had been standing in formation for over two hours. Army people can never just stand around in a blob, looks bad don’t you know? And when we stand in formation we always keep one foot anchored to the ground in line so that if need be, in an instant we can form up and look like perfect little soldiers.

The commands were given, “Group, at-TEN-SHUN! Right, FACE. Forward . . . MARCH!” And off we went, left foot first then right. “Left . . . Left . . . Left, Right, Left.”

The cadence caller warmed up and then began to sing. When you sing in the Army it’s more like military rap. Most guys can’t carry a tune, so the caller usually just sticks to monotone and simple words:

“One, two, three, four,” was the call, and the reply, from almost all veterans and folks who’d been in 10, 20 or 30 years, was “You can’t count to five!”

And you can imagine the echo amongst the tall buildings coming from hundreds of soldiers.

“One, two, three four,” “Can’t count to save your life!”

So you get the idea, when cadence is called, the caller sings and the group repeats. So, let’s try that.

“Here we go again (Audience Repeats), same old stuff again (AR), marchin’ down the avenue (AR), one more mile and we’ll be through (AR). I’ll be glad and so will you!” (AR) Excellent! Easy, isn’t it? You could all be soldiers! Hooah!

On we went, singing our souls out, loving the tremendous echo we were sure traveled all the way down to the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan.

We stopped and started with those ahead of us, never longer than a minute or two. It seemed that whenever we got into a rhythm we’d have to stop.

Police stood at intersections, intermittently allowing foot and vehicle traffic to sever the parade stream, and then as quickly let it flow again.

Between 26th and 34th streets there seemed to be a decent crowd of people watching with interest and clapping from the sidewalk. That gave us a warm good feeling inside, despite the chill. There they were, perfect strangers, standing, smiling, clapping and waving.

“It’s great to be an American,” I thought. Hooah?

As we moved further uptown, the crowds thinned and then got sparse, as the band up ahead moved off at the end of the route, by the time we reached the end, only passersby were left, walking and going about their business, not seeing a mass of hundreds of uniformed soldiers marching, and then dispersing.

My wife and family were waiting for me at the end, and we smiled and hugged.

We all came to see Daddy in the parade, and to attend a free showing of the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular, at Radio City Music Hall, sponsored by the United Service Organization or USO.

Walking to the theater, my wife told me how shocked she was that when we, the soldiers got to the end no one but them and other families were clapping. In fact, she said, one woman passerby came up to her and asked what was going on. “It’s a parade,” she said to the woman. “It’s Veterans Day.” “Oh,” the woman said, and then moved along.

It’s Veterans Day.

In line for the show, which stretched around the block into Rockerfeller Center, there were many uniformed folks all around, from all branches of service.

I actually ran into an Army chaplain I had known from my service in Iraq. We were both very surprised to see each other, as the Chaplain was from Atlanta, Georgia, but had come north to visit family who had obtained tickets for the show.

The Chaplain and I had served together at Forward Operating Base (or “FOB”) Spartan – “Come home with your shield or on it!” Was the motto, a nod to the ancient warrior class of Greek Spartans. The metaphor was honor. Come back with your honor or don’t come back alive. Hooah?

These were serious dudes we served with. The FOB, a security and detention operation of Active Duty Military Police, had the reputation for being the most disciplined FOB of any American outpost in Iraq. And it was so.

Strict Army discipline was observed. Attention to detail was the order of the day. Paying attention to detail in a war zone saves lives. Hooah?

The FOB was so, well, Spartan, that we had to have daily LOG runs, or logistical convoys for supplies, such as beans, bullets and water. Twice a week we made two trips a day. The spring and summer of 2005 were perhaps the most deadly up to that point in Iraq.

Insurgents were pushing in places like Falluja, Baquba, and the Airport Road in Baghdad. IED’s, or Improvised Explosive Devices were common, sometimes hidden inside the dead carcasses of large animals left roadside, frequently stopping log convoys such as those to and from FOB Spartan.

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I was on convoys to and from our log base once or twice per week to coordinate medical, preventive medical and environmental services for FOB Spartan.

The log base was Camp Anaconda, about an hour from our FOB and over the Tigress river, in the land of the birthplace of civilization and the stories of Babylon, and the Garden of Eden.

Compared to FOB Spartan, Anaconda had civilization. Swimming pool, Movie Theater, mall, barber shop and fast food. It was an oasis.

I remember entering the MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation hall) there for the first time.

Lots of board games, video games, ping-pong, magazines, TV, DVD check out, popcorn machine and Movie Theater.

There were no tickets, and no charge for anything.

Army soldiers and Marines wandered inside, dusty, sweaty and tired. And some with that look in their eyes, the look coined in WWII as the Thousand Yard Stare. The person was there, but not there.

When I entered the movie theater inside the MWR, a large room really, inside the airplane hanger-sized building, it was pitch black, between scenes in a movie. When the flicker of the film returned it lighted the faces of dozens of soiled, exhausted men, almost every one of them . . . fast asleep.

The convoys certainly took it out of you, whether an 18 hour schlep to Al Basra to inspect a detention facility at Camp Bucca, or an hour long ride to and from Anaconda the stress of not wanting to “Get blowed up,” took all of your energy. Hooah?

The stress was so intense that it was common for drivers and soldiers to fall asleep at the wheel once inside the wire and before parking the vehicles. Energy drinks such as Red Bull were encouraged.

***

The Chaplain and I hugged, and asked about family and introduced everybody to each other. It was really great to see her.

She was a staple at FOB Spartan, offering Bible study, prayer groups and two Protestant services on Sundays, one traditional and one contemporary.

I was more familiar with the traditional services, so I attended those at first, and then I got curious about the contemporary services, which ended up reminding me more of my mega church experiences as a young Christian teen growing up in Southern California.

I’ll never forget one Sunday when the Chaplain invited everyone to a baptism.

She had convinced a visiting group of combat engineers to dig a hole, about four feet, by four feet, by four feet, lined it with a tarp, and then filled it with water. She had ministered to some of the Pakistani cooks at the FOB dining facility, and several wanted to convert to Christianity! Now that’s doing God’s work! Hooah?

Did someone say “Crusade?”

No, we did not, but Christian soldiers were there to accomplish a mission, and even created one there in the arid land where God put the first of us.

Beside the door to the tent/chapel was a wooden sign with the 91st Psalm painted on it. Many of us there had the 91st Psalm, what we called the Psalm of protection, printed on camouflaged scarves we kept with us on convoys.

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That worked for me.

Prayer also worked. Hooah?

I’d like to thank the Worship Committee again for asking me to share my thoughts with you this Veterans Day Sunday.

If any of you know a veteran, ask them about their favorite Veterans Day, or their most memorable. If they can’t think of one, help make a memorable one for them.

It’s OK to ask us about our service. It shows interest and appreciation, and it makes us feel . . . normal. Many of us have some fond remembrances and some funny stories. Yes, there were some scary parts, but talking about it helps us make connections that are important, especially with family and loved ones.

I hope this was better than forced fun for you, and that through my stories you’re able to see veterans as normal people, and not just as a group of folks who are mysterious or scary.

We are just like you in most ways. And one thing many veterans have in common is the belief that every day is truly a blessing. That God’s gifts are sweeter and more vivid in the light of day after service.

What a blessing it is to be safe, secure and not worrying about getting “blowed up.” Hooah?

Thank you!

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(Major Granger is the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior” http://sbprabooks.com/montgomeryjgranger/ )

Fall

Sugar Maple

The sugar maples caught fire this week

Spewing leafy flame about the yard

Burning bushes are lit

Searing fence lines and fields

Crisper air has bit my nose

And colder winds through the forest blow

Evergreens are standing stiffer

Shivering silently in the new winter breeze

Birds tweet and soar

Searching now for winter homes

Children run, house-to-house

Seeking tricks or treats

Pixies, witches, monsters and heroes

Flit, fly, hobble and sprint

Bright shining sun

Warms less than just a week ago

But feels good upon my naked face

Eyes closed and full of hopeful thoughts

Setting sun brings winter’s chill

Soon an hour earlier we will run

Wood cutting and bundling up are near

For fall and winter’s promise are here

The Democrats Have No Clothes

Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing Senate Judiciary Committee

“But the Emperor is naked!” Cried the little boy, after being told that the Emperor was wearing the finest haberdashery in the land.

The boy, like most of us, can see right through the chicanery.

One after another, charlatans are coming forward in an attempt to sell us wares that simply do not exist.

How long will it last? As long as the Republicans allow it. As long as the American People allow it.

The Republicans can act now, ignoring the myth-makers and their tall tales of a good, honest man who has a dastardly past. They can call the vote. Anyone voting against Judge Kavanagh’s appointment will surely become vulnerable in the mid-term elections this November or thereafter if their terms are not up now.

Americans can make their feelings known via the ballot. Vote Democrat if you believe in nudists and fairy tales, and vote Republican if you like lower taxes, more jobs, energy independence, stronger military, fair trade, a wall, America First, etc.

The allegations against the Judge have all been handed over to the Democrats, the media, or nefarious attorneys at law. Why none to proper law enforcement, aka, the police?

None of the allegations have enough who, what, where, when or why to proceed in a legal case. Although the alleged victims have a right to sue in court for redress, none has done so. Why?

Why indeed. The motives are apparent, just as the bare skin of the Emperor with no clothes. The Democrats are naked, and apparently, they do not care. They should.

The Democrat’s nudity on this issue should be a grave concern to them, as #WalkAway activists are questioning the sanity of their party and moving by droves into the middle, where President Donald Trump waits triumphantly to snatch them up into the #MAGA mantra and onto the steaming #TrumpTrain!

Naturist Democrats have finally destroyed any hope of ever coming back from the death of rationality in their party. There is no Democrat platform. There are no new Democrat ideas. Democrats are currently living in pure fiction, and getting worse by the moment by holding up pathetic lies in order to stir their base.

Unfortunately for the birthday suit Dems, the only ones left in their base for them to court are either illegal aliens or Alt-Left Pagan utilitarian humanist nut jobs, who for a fee are willing to harass an innocent Republican Senator and his wife out of a D.C. restaurant, chanting, “We believe survivors!”

Remember the “by any means necessary,” and “get in their face” Democrat leaders? Soon, they will be the only ones left, campaigning to the mirror, ignoring their own naked reflection in the looking glass, and then falling in.

Independence Day for Patriots

This July 4, there is much to celebrate, with the economy, world peace and Supreme Court nominations looking good, but there is also a lot to keep battling for, such as better race relations, border security and fair news coverage among them.

We are it seems, in a constant state of war for independence; independence from harassment, fake news and un-American activities.

Democracies are messy (and please, no nonsense here about the United States of America not being a democracy, but a Constitutional Republic. The two things are not mutually exclusive. That’s a semantic argument, not a substantive one.). Democracies sometimes fight themselves, but all should be in an effort to improve the QUALITY of our little experiment.

During times of war (and we ARE in a Global War on Terror), there are two acts for which there can be no forgiveness and no quarter; they are sedition and invasion.

During the Revolutionary War traitors were hung or shot on the battlefield. Bowe Bergdahl would not have lasted two seconds had he been retrieved from his desertion back then.

After signing the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin stated that “If we do not hang together we shall certainly hang separately.” He was not kidding or using hyperbole.

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When the 56 Signers of The Declaration of Independence attached their signatures to that document, each knew they were committing treason against the British Crown.  If caught and captured, they risked death. But death would not be swift. It would be by hanging to the point of unconsciousness, then being revived, disemboweled, their body parts boiled in oil and their ashes scattered into the wind. Our Founding Fathers valued freedom, for themselves and their posterity (us), to the extent that they found this fate worth the risk.

Five signers were captured by the British and brutally tortured as traitors. Nine fought in the War for Independence and died from wounds or from hardships they suffered. Two lost their sons in the Continental Army. Another two had sons captured. At least a dozen of the 56 had their homes pillaged and burned.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-five were lawyers or jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers or large plantation owners. One was a teacher, one a musician, and one a printer. These were men of means and education, yet they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.

Today we have manifest treason morphed into sedition (conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state) in the form of acts against a duly nominated and then elected president, our democratic election process and our democracy itself.

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Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials have broken sacred trust with We the People. They have abused their standing and power in an effort at a soft coup. It is ongoing, but slowly the curtain is being pulled back to reveal yet more disturbing facts than we could have imagined just a few short years ago.

The Deep State has robbed us of our national pride. The Alt-Left have driven divisive pillars all around us in an attempt to corral our patriotism and then destroy it. The Mainstream Media perpetrate divisive propaganda and fake news.

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Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., used the American flag as his symbol for the Civil Rights movement. His dream of Americans judging each other based on our character (our words and deeds) instead of the color of our skin, or origin, or religion, etc., if far from realized.

Selma to Montgomery, Alabama Civil Rights March

Having grown up in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Southern California, I can tell you even though things weren’t perfect; there was far less racial vitriol than there is today. Rev. King’s dream was becoming a reality.

Today, Rev. King might say that anyone who would divide us for any reason is UN-American. Rev. King was about loving your neighbor as yourself. He was about togetherness and celebrating similarities.

Americans are generous, benevolent, kind, hardworking, fierce and persistent. We are persistent in our belief that all men (and women) are created equal, but that equality must be protected and preserved by the character of our people. Rights are not given so much as they are earned through citizenship. Opportunity is not a gift; it is a hard-won prize of effort and conviction.

The Justice Department and FBI scandals of today should be met with the same consequence that befell Major John Andre, Benedict Arnold’s accomplice, who was captured and then hung.

John Andre's Execution

In time of invasion or sedition, the President can suspend habeas corpus (legal due process) and have invaders and traitors tried under the rules of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in a military commission.

We are at war (Global War on Terror), and traitors (FBI, DOJ officials) and invaders (unlawful border crossers) abound!

In 1942, during WWII, six of eight German saboteurs were caught dry foot on US soil, were denied habeas corpus, tried by military commission (unanimously approved by the Supreme Court), and then executed by electric chair less than eight weeks after their capture.

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What then is the difference between the German saboteurs (who were proven to have the means and intent to kill and to destroy property in the name of the Third Reich, and were found guilty of breaking the Geneva Conventions) and those who illegally cross our borders, or unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us being held at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and who still perpetrate deadly terror throughout the world, including on our own soil?

In Boumediene vs. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision (the swing vote and decision written by Justice Kennedy, who has announced he will be retiring from the bench by the end of July), it was mentioned that the US presence at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo), was tantamount to “de facto” US territory, which laid the groundwork for detainees to petition for habeas corpus, as if they were on actual US soil.

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In the early 1990’s then President Bill Clinton used Guantanamo Bay as a detention center for unlawful immigrants from both Haiti and Cuba. Conditions were harsh, just like they were for the first detainees in the Global War on Terror at Camp X-Ray for three months, until better accommodations at Camp Delta could be built in April of 2002.

If the current law of the land considers Gitmo to be de facto US soil, then there is no bar to sending those accused of sedition and invasion there to await trial by military commission.

Why then is the penalty less, or non-existent for those who now would take away the freedom, independence and liberty fought for and won with the blood of our forbearers and framers?

Now more than ever we must rally to the side of our President, who, despite sometimes unsavory characteristics, has made the pledge of his good name, livelihood and life to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help him, God.

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On this Independence Day, please be mindful of your combat veteran neighbors, and be thrifty with your fireworks if you have them. Remember those who helped create this great nation pledged (and some gave) the full measure of their existence so that WE may be entrusted with carrying on with the hard work of preserving this great Union, with all of its pitfalls and tribulations, wonder and beauty, but to see through the fog of war and the false pretenses of un-America activities.

This land is our land, and we need to protect it with the conviction and vigor that motivated the original 56 patriots. This day is for them and for us; it is Independence Day for Patriots. Let’s act like it.

Now is the time for Trump’s Gitmo to flourish

Now that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement from the bench, President Donald Trump can revisit the matter of Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), in which Kennedy cast the deciding 5-4 vote, and wrote the majority opinion, which gave unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us, housed at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to petition for habeas corpus, or due process rights.

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One of the main points of contention in Boumediene came down to whether or not the 45 square mile slice of extreme southeastern Cuba, is considered Cuban or US soil. The Court could not deny that geographically and politically, Guantanamo Bay is Cuban territory, but, playing fast and loose with the facts, nonetheless declared it “de facto US territory.”

Habeas corpus was denied unlawful combatants held at Gitmo via President George W. Bush’s 2006 Military Commission’s Act. Detainees and their attorney’s argued that since the US controlled the territory and were holding them “indefinitely,” that their clients should be afforded due process of the law and challenge their internment. This is way oversimplifying the decision, nonetheless . . . .

Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare dictate that only lawful combatants (POW’s) are entitled to extra legal privileges and certain treatment. Unlawful combatants may be shot on sight on the battlefield and have ZERO rights.

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In early 2002, after it was determined that unlawful combatants could not be safely and securely held in-country in Afghanistan (see The Battle of Qala-i-Jangi), the detention facilities at Gitmo previously used to isolate trouble makers among the early 1990’s Hatian and Cuban boat people, was available and could be used to house over 250 War on Terror detainees temporarily while a more suitable facility was constructed. Detainees were moved from the initial facility, called Camp X-Ray, to the new facility, Camp Delta, in April of 2002.

The initial Camp X-Ray was used for only 3 months, but was and still is the image the Left chooses to perpetuate when they cry abuse and torture of detainees at Gitmo.

What the Left will never tell you, and even hid at the time, is that the detainees were treated much better than even our own US troops who guarded the detainees and who served there.

Unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us who were and are housed at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are given FREE Qurans, prayer rugs and beads, directions to Mecca on guard towers and detention cell floors; halal and special holy holiday Muslim meals including lamb and baklava; services of US military Muslim chaplains, white robes, beards; world class health care including dental and vision services; special medical equipment not available to host country personnel was/is flown in for them; TV, DVD’s, books, games, sports, an artificial turf field and communication with relatives and loved ones.

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To those who would cry abuse at Gitmo, NONE of the 731 detainees who have ben released, nor the 40 currently interred have been beheaded, executed, 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.

There is no moral comparison between how detainees are treated at Gitmo and how our enemy treats captives.

Back to Mr. Trump and how he can take advantage of a retiring Justice Kennedy.

Mr. Trump can write a new Military Commissions Act (MCA). The current one, written in 2009 by then President Barack Hussein Obama and his head of the Department of Justice, Eric Holder, gave unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us virtually the SAME rights you or I would enjoy in a federal court of law.

The outrageous standards of the 2009 MCA completely ignore the written language in the Geneva Conventions and Law of War, which stipulate that if a Prisoner of War (POW), or detained person is accused of war crimes, they are to be tried with the same standards as US troops would be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). That is fair, and legal.

What Bush and then Obama created was MCA Light and MCA Extra Light, respectively.

Bush did it so that the US would appear to be more fair than required, and Obama did it so that the legal process would be so arduous and complicated that people would just eventually throw up their hands and then let the bad guys go! Letting the bad guys go was Obama’s mantra during his eight, free-styling years in office, which saw him release the “worst of the worst” of our captured enemies, some of whom went directly back to their previous deadly deeds, including one who had a hand in the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, on September 11, 2012.

Trump has PROMISED to “fill up” Guantanamo with “some bad dudes.” That’s great, but how they are treated there and how those accused of war crimes are prosecuted matter.

In 1942, six of eight German saboteurs who were caught dry-foot on US soil, were denied habeas corpus, tried by military commission under the UCMJ, and then executed by electric chair, all within eight weeks of their capture. At the time, the US Supreme Court unanimously approved the denial of habeas and the establishment of a military commission, as per the Constitution and the Law of War.

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The system can and has worked, but not if everybody needs their fingerprints on a way to prevent justice from being done.

So, Mr. President, I implore you to take charge. Search for your new Supreme Court Justice and then ask the candidates whether they would overturn Boumediene v. Bush. If the answer is “yes,” then you have your man/woman.

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From there, craft your new Military Commissions Act, or revert to the original that took care of unlawful combatants during WWII. You could even use the law to deal with invaders (aka illegal immigrants) from other countries. It would be too easy to call them invaders, deny them habeas rights, and then prosecute them under the new MCA. After all, who’s to say whether or not these invaders are not also unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us? Besides, there is a war going on, the Global War on Terror, and it’s about time we started acting like it, and the timing just couldn’t be better.

 

 

Sacred Day for Sacred Causes: Fisher House Hits Milestone for Heroes and Their Families

The Fisher House Foundation is best known for its network of more than 77 comfort homes where families of ill/injured military members can stay while their loved one is being treated.
 
Most recently, Ken Fisher, CEO of Fisher House Foundation lead the Foundation’s efforts to cover death benefits of families of fallen heroes during the government shutdown. Ken has never worn the uniform himself, but comes from a family with a long history of serving those who have served:
 
The Fisher House Foundation was founded almost 30 years ago by Ken’s Great Uncle Zach Fisher and has since served more than 300,000 families and can house up to 1,000 families per night in homes across the country.
Fisher House Grand Opening
 
Zachary Fisher also founded the Intrepid Museum Foundation to memorialize the WWII aircraft carrier and honor the men and women of the armed services. Ken continues to serve on the board and is the museum’s largest supporter.
 
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has provided more than $150 million in death benefits and scholarships in support of fallen military personnel lost in service to our nation.
I had the privilege and honor of interviewing Ken Fisher to see what’s new with The Foundation, and why Memorial Day is so special.
Fisher Ken
Ken said, “Memorial Day is a sacred day for this country, because we honor those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. While Fisher House’s core mission is to provide free housing for families of hospitalized service people and veterans, we were made aware that families of the fallen had no place to stay at Dover AFB when a loved one’s remains are returned for a Dignified Transfer. We built a Fisher House for the families of the fallen at Dover, because we didn’t feel that the options previously available were worthy of the sacrifices they had made. We also provided a non-denominational spiritual center where they could go to pray, or meditate. For many of the families, it has been one of their first interactions with the military, so it’s our hope that we not only helped ease their burden, but we also created something dignified and comforting. So far some 2400 families have used the Dover house. It is the one house I want to see empty.”
 
When I asked Ken to tell me about his uncle Zach, he had this to say, “My Uncle Zach taught me many things – specifically the true meaning of giving back.  Military and veteran families too often are forgotten but the entire family serves. He taught me the true meaning of patriotism. I remember him being asked if he had any regrets – and his response was that he didn’t – he was too busy counting his blessings. That’s the way I feel. What was a desire to continue a legacy turned into a fierce passion for my wife and me.”
 
When I asked Ken how his Uncle Zach became involved with the Intrepid, this is what he had to say, “Zach learned that the Intrepid, an Aircraft Carrier that had served in three wars and was a primary recovery vessel for NASA was going to be decommissioned and scraped. Intrepid lost some 270 sailors and aviators from Kamikaze attacks or in the skies above her. He viewed it as a piece of history that needed to be saved. It was a massive undertaking, with so many hurdles to overcome. But in true Zach fashion he succeeded. Today, it is one of the only Air, Sea, and Space Museums of its kind  – 1 million visitors each year come to Intrepid, including school children in New York City who visit for STEM education projects. It is an honor and privilege to serve as its co-chair.
 
I asked Ken where the idea for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund originated, and why keeping the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund vibrant was important to him. Ken told me, “Zach did so much, including giving grants to families of our fallen soldiers.  After Uncle Zach passed, my father and my late cousin, Tony, started the Fallen Heroes Fund to supplement death benefits. When it was founded in 2001, these families only received about $6,000, of which a large portion was taxed. While it’s impossible to put a value on a life, that was clearly inadequate. So Fallen Heroes supplemented this by giving an additional $25,000 to these grieving families, most of which were on food stamps. I think the Foundation brought this to national attention – and soon after, Congress enacted legislation to increase the gratuity and remove the tax. Families now get $100,000 very soon after their loved one’s passing. It certainly doesn’t make up for their sacrifice, but it’s a big step toward rebuilding their lives.
 
“My father repurposed the Fallen Heroes Fund to a project-driven organization that built the Center for the Intrepid at Brook Army Medical Center, a physical rehab center, and The National Center of Excellence (NICoE) in Bethesda, to deal with PTS and TBI, the unseen wounds of war.  They now are building “Spirit Centers” that allow these men and women to get care closer to home.”
 
Ken’s father is the families’ only veteran – he served in the Korean War.
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Finally, I asked Ken what his vision for the future of Fisher House was, and what was next for the Fisher family. He had this to say, “Our goal is to continue to build Fisher Houses wherever one is needed. My vision is to stay true to our mission, and honor our donors by doing exactly what their donation was intended to achieve. For us, that means easing the burden on families during a most difficult time in their lives. I would give that advice to anyone in their work to give back.
 
“We want to remain a family-centric organization and we will continue to work hard to maintain our A+ Charity Navigator rating.  I am so proud of what we have achieved and what the future holds.”
 
And we are proud of you and your dedicated family and partners!
 
Memorial Day is a time for reverent appreciation for the fallen. It can also be a time after which we can re-focus on those who are still with us to help give them and their families the quality of care and life we wish we had, were we in need.
 
Please visit The Fisher Foundation web page and help build the next Fisher House!

Retreat

Retreat

Retreat is the hardest sound a soldier hears.

The bugle calls and pierces a warrior’s heart.

Forward, ever forward! His courage calls!

Moving back is antithetical to everything he knows.

When he is called, however, he goes,

Because a good soldier always does what he’s told,

Regardless of how his heart feels.

“Live to fight another day,” the shrill sound beckons.

“But this was my day to die,” the warrior thinks.

“This was a good day to die.”

– m.j.granger ©2018

Fixing the VA: What a Disney Approach Could Do

Drastic measures need to be taken with the VA, and the Disney Way may be the best approach.

Beyond the comical mouse & friends, lies the pinnacle of business acumen. Individuals and companies spend big bucks each year to learn the secrets of Disney customer service, management, logistics, maintenance and more at Disney Institute, aka, Disney University.

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Everything about the Disney Company is special, and successful. Of course, it’s all about the people, but then there’s the rub, isn’t it? The people make Disney special as much as the methods do.

I remember my father telling me repeatedly, as we frequently stopped a project to head to Sears for yet another Craftsman tool, “Right tool for the right job.”

One could easily say the same about people, or more specifically, employees. I say, “Right person, right job saves time and money.”

Disney invests in the person. Disney invests training, health care, benefits, frequent raises and vertical movement. Disney means quality. Disney means care. Disney means success.

What part of this does the Veterans Administration not need?

Exactly, they need all of it and more, fast.

Sending VA executives, managers, health care professionals, technicians, clerical and volunteers to Disney Institute may seem unnecessary and overkill, but why shouldn’t our veterans receive five star treatment and customer service? Remember, it’s about people.

Disney could help in other ways as well. The whole VA experience could be Disneyfied, from automated appointment making, to streamlined pharmacy operations; smartbands and housekeeping, parking, cuisine and yes, even entertainment. If the point is to get the veteran to the VA, then why not make it into a place that they want to be?

Short of having Disney characters in costumes at VA hospitals, Disney could infuse a little magic into the experience with state-of-the-art technology, from entertainment opportunities, moving walkways, fresh fruit and vegetable kiosks, petting places (where small mammals could be handled by vets for stress reduction), fitness centers, fitness pools, Jacuzzi’s, spa’s, bowling alleys, movie theaters, restaurants and coffee joints. OK, and maybe a meet & greet here and there?

Too frivolous, you say? Too expensive? How about the honorable veteran who wrote you a blank check for everything up to and including his or her life so that you can stay at home with your family and maybe take a trip to Disney World while he or she was out in the damn boonies getting their arses shot off?

Now whistle Dixie!

How do you infuse a quick fix while we rotate VA staff through Disney University? You activate medical National Guard and Reserve troops. Most medical personnel in the military are Guard and Reserve personnel. These part-time warriors are full time civilian health care professionals and workers, and could easily assimilate into the world of the VA medical system.

In fact, years ago, when I was serving with a US Army Hospital Reserve unit, we worked our drill weekends in the local VA hospital, and sometimes at the local state university hospital. Like fish in water, these reservists would fit right in. One big military family.

National Guard and Reserves typically do one weekend of service each month and then two weeks of training in the summer to meet minimum participation requirements. Why can’t this service be done in VA hospitals and medical facilities?

When I was hired by Disney back in the mid 1980’s for my dream job as a Davy Crockett Canoe ride attraction host, I went through Disney University (orientation). I will never forget the speech we got after watching the Disney Story in a small screening room. The lights came up and the trainer said, “So, what product does Disney sell?” Silence. “We sell happiness!” came the answer. “How do we sell happiness? By treating each person who walks through the front gates as if they were a guest in your own home.”

That was it. That was the secret to the Disney Way.

So, what’s so wrong with giving vets a little something they really deserve? A little happiness along with their health care. Vets have already paid for their E ticket, park hopper and annual pass; what’s left is a little TLC.

Alabama vs. Villanova: Championship Basketball Recalls Magical 1982 Season

Today’s ‘Bama vs. ‘Nova matchup is more than just another basketball game. Second round NCAA tournament slot be damned, this is Alabama’s National Championship.

The Crimson Tide basketball program has not been a storied dynasty of multiple national championships; in fact, Alabama has never won a national championship in basketball, and advanced to the Elite Eight only once after defeating number one seed Stanford and then Syracuse on their way to losing to eventual National Champion Connecticut in the 2003-2004 season. But over the years it has been competitive.

The program has produced many successful NBA stars, among them, Robert Horry, Antonio McDyss, , T.R. Dunn, Gerald Wallace, and some more notorious than others (Latrell Sprewell). Alabama players have played with 9 NBA championship teams, earned six All-Star selections, six All-Defensive Team honors, and three All-Rookie honors.

The Elite Eight showing and brief number 1 national ranking in 2004 notwithstanding; arguably the Tide’s best was the 1982 team. Their highest national ranking that year was 5, and their overall record of 24-7 was best in the SEC, and they defeated a loaded Kentucky team in for the conference championship.

‘Bama’s Achilles heel that season though was inconsistency and turnovers, something that may haunt this year’s team if they are not careful. But when the Tide was on they were virtually unstoppable. Point Guard Ennis Whatley (1983 NCAA All-American), who went on to play 12 NBA seasons with 7 NBA teams, was magic on the floor and played toe-to-toe with one Michael Jordan in the Midwest Regional Semifinals in 1982. Jordan and Whatley were freshman. Ironically, Whatley later played two years in Jordan’s shadow with the Chicago Bulls before moving on to the rest of his journeyman’s NBA career.

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Ennis could get the most stoic crowd on their feet with his showmanship, no-look passes and incredible ball handling and leaping ability. I have never seen a more physically talented player, although ‘Bama’s current point guard and magician Collin Sexton is inching toward that pedestal. Ennis could and would dunk the ball on breakaways.

At power forward, Alabama had Eddie Phillips, a finesse player when needed, but a Phi-Slamma-Jamma in crunch time who could produce thunderous dunks if left alone for even a blink of an eye with the ball near the hoop. Eddie was the quiet leader of the team and could play with nearly every other best player they faced at his position.

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Another phenom on the team was Bobby Lee Hurt, center, and constant presence in the paint. He could just as soon block your shot as look at you. All-Time leading Alabama field goal percentage leader (63%), he had the sweetest and almost automatic turnaround jump shot I have ever seen, to this day.

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Setting up in the paint with his back to the basket, his too-long arms stretched high above his 6’9” frame, getting him the ball there was an almost guaranteed bucket. His method was always the same if someone was on his back, fake one way with an elbow in the chest, pivot away and then release a high arching, impossible to block, soft-as-a-feather shot which would more times than not elicit a sweet, “String music!” call from long time SEC basketball analyst and announcer, Joe Dean, as it swished through the net.

Bobby Lee frequently got the better of SEC opponent, Charles Barkley, aka the “Round Mound of Rebound,” whenever ‘Bama played Auburn. Sir Charles was confounded and rejected many a time by Bobby Lee, though they were a well matched pair overall.

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Rounding out the frequent starters were Mike Davis, guard and reliable shooter to Whatley’s flash and dash, and Phillip Lockett, a 6’ 11” goal keeper who could match up against the best big men in the paint, but knee issues saw him needing frequent stints on the bench. With Lockett, Bobby Lee and Eddie Phillips on the floor at the same time virtually no other team in basketball at the time could match up.

The Midwest Regional Semi-Final vs. a stacked North Carolina team, who were the eventual tournament champs, included Jordan, Matt Doherty, Sam Perkins and James Worthy. The game was see-saw. When Jordan was out, Whatley and ‘Bama crept in. When Jordan was in, North Carolina pulled ahead, as if shifting into another gear. The margin of defeat for ‘Bama was five points.

Jordan

Only a freshman at the time, Jordan was obviously the best player on the court, and probably in all of the NCAA, if for no other reason than his leadership, as he was mature and confident beyond his years. The Tar Heels lost two games that season, and only beat Georgetown by a point in the championship game, but Jordan was Mr. Refuse-to-Lose. Dominant, defiant and breathtaking.

The college game has changed however, since 1982. It is faster, brasher, more entertaining with current hairstyles (Alabama obviously leads this category), super talent and acrobatic displays unlike any before.

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Alabama has perhaps two of the best players in the game today, both freshman and both with nothing to lose. Collin Sexton and John Petty can explode and blow open any opponent.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana Tech at Alabama

But taking care of the basketball will be an essential key to defeating a Villanova team that just does not make mistakes.

Villanova is not big, and ‘Bama can go bigger (6’9” Donta Hall, 6’11” Daniel Giddens, 6’ 9” Galen Smith). Villanova is not deep (tending to stick to a seven man rotation), and ‘Bama has depth, experience and talent. Villanova can and does shoot the three point shot well, and ‘Bama tends to rely more on penetration and opportunity shooting inside the three point line. Good team defense on both sides should help add up to a classic tournament nail-biter.

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Historically, this is usually as far as an Alabama basketball team gets. But these are the days of surprise and opportunity. Alabama is scrappy, impossible to intimidate, and just might put together something special this afternoon, for this is their championship game. A win today would propel this team into the stratosphere of Alabama Basketball, and then everything else after would just be gravy on the biscuit.

I know, I know, one step at a time. But having watched that 1982 ‘Bama vs. NC tournament game, and having attended the University of Alabama from 1980-1985, I have Alabama basketball on the brain, and it’s been that long (2004 notwithstanding) since I have felt this excitement.

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Roll Tide, ‘Bama! Make us proud!