First Marine Killed in GWOT Remembered

IMG_1633[1]40 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 (Islamists), becoming one of the first casualties of the modern Global War on Terror (GWOT).

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Muslim extremist “students,” having heard a false story about the US 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 24 year old Eagle Scout son was a 6 year old Tiger Scout, 18 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 US had seized the mosque incensed hordes of Islamists throughout the Muslim world.

The incident at the US 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.

SOS for a British Comrade

Never let it be said that we stand by and watch our comrades in arms struggle when we can give a helping hand. As military men and women, we have a common bond, and although we’ve not always been best of friends with the British, this time of year makes us reflect on our comradeship.

Therefore, I would be grateful for all my brothers and sisters at arms out there to please join me and help keep the legacy of a local World War I hero from being desecrated by a government council in Scotland.

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Captain Ralph Hudson

Captain Ralph Hudson died 99 years ago, but there is no eternal peace for him after an unbelievable decision was made on the eve of Remembrance Sunday*. Now it seems that this Duke of Wellington Regiment’s soldier has one more battle to fight . . . from beyond the grave.

As part of his legacy, trustees for Captain Ralph Palliser Milbanke Hudson’s estate, left a piece of land to his local church to be used for burials of resident parishioner’s at no cost to them, but Scottish Borders Council (SBC) have just stopped the practice of free burials which first began in 1925.

Buried alive while marking for the Artillery opposite Messines in 1915, Captain Hudson suffered horrific injuries after surviving the German shelling and gassing.

Five years later, he sadly succumbed to his injuries and the Wolfelee estate between Jedburgh and Hawick bequeathed land to Hobkirk Parish Church in 1925 in his memory, which would enable local parishioners to have free burials.

There are around 60 plots left in the cemetery extension at the church, but the Scottish Borders Council has slapped funeral charges of up to £1000 on future burials; a move which has provoked anger among locals.

One of the locals who now lives on the estate is author and journalist Yvonne Ridley. You may know her as a former captive of the Taliban back in 2001, but she has also served as an officer in the Territorial Army.

She said, “I’ve looked in to Ralph’s family history and he was born in the same county as myself. We both served in the military as Captains, although thankfully, I saw no action unlike Ralph, and we both ended up living in the same house albeit a century apart.

“He, like me, valued the people in his adopted community in the Scottish Borders and his legacy should be preserved. I’m not even sure what the council is doing is legal and once we find the original documents or copies relating to the deeds we will prove this.

“I believe we have right on our side and if this council wants a battle then it will get one. They should remember the ‘Dukes’ motto: Fortune Favors The Brave!

“There will also be US soldiers reading this who are just as angry as me and I would ask for your help. Of course, the decent thing for SBC to do would be to capitulate and honor Ralph’s memory and legacy. This is, after all, the month of November when we remember and honor our war dead.

“Perhaps this is something the council bureaucrats would do well to remember.”

Before his death, Captain Hudson wrote a book on the history of Wolfelee, published by his family after his demise.

A preface to his History of Wolfelee says, “He was buried by a German shell whilst marking for the Artillery opposite Messines, and never really recovered from his injuries, dying from heart failure on March 25, 1920.”

SBC remains unrepentant. A spokesperson said after a council review in 2014 the authority saw that “Hobkirk was recognized as having been providing burial ground without a charge.

“The premise on which the ground was being given free was researched, including scrutinizing titles, historical records and Council-held files.

“What was established was that there was no legal basis on which the ground was being provided free of charge and that the Council was entitled to charge for the purchase of burial plots within Hobkirk.

“Charging was implemented at the start of the 2015/16 financial year and the rates are reviewed and updated annually as part of the budget setting process.”

However, campaigners say they are more determined than ever to get justice. Ms. Ridley added, “We are taking legal advice and will continue our fight for Ralph’s legacy.

“The council may want to forget all about the heroics of Captain Hudson but we will not and neither should parishioners because they have to walk past his grave for Sunday worship every week.

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Farmer Donald at Captain Hudson’s Grave

“We will definitely be planning a fitting memorial to mark the centenary of his death and expect it could turn in to quite a significant event. Hopefully SBC will re-think its policy on this occasion and do the right thing.”

She urged anyone who wants to support Captain Hudson’s legacy should write to SBC’s Chief Executive Tracey Logan at her email address (Tracey.Logan@scotborders.gov.uk) and urge her to overturn the council’s decision to trash Ralph’s legacy.

Captain Hudson was born in October 1891 in Sunderland, the only son of Ralph Milbanke Hudson and Eliza Westropp Hudson. After graduating from Cambridge, he was commissioned into the West Riding Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant. The regiment was also known as the 3rd Duke of Wellington’s.

That year he went on active service to France in January 1915, but, in the same year, was invalided home after being shelled, gassed and temporarily buried alive.

He published a book of “Trench Yarns” under the pen-name “Peter” as well as a History of the Hudson family home, Wolfelee, published posthumously.

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Captain Ralph Hudson and bride, Annie Charleston Goninan

He married Annie Charleston Goninan at Hobkirk in 1918 but never recovered from his injuries, dying from heart failure two years later.

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in helping the campaign to preserve Captain Hudson’s Legacy or have more information about him please contact the author. There will be a wreath laying ceremony for Captain Hudson a few days ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

*Remembrance Sunday is held in the United Kingdom as a day “to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts”. It is held at 11:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in November.

 

Why Harriet Tubman Should Get Her Own Denomination

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said recently that the Obama era plan to switch the picture on the US twenty dollar bill from President Andrew Jackson to abolitionist Harriet Tubman has essentially been tabled until after President Donald Trump leaves office. Maybe not even in circulation until 2028.

Now that’s what I call kicking the currency down the road!

Why the hubbub? Why the consternation? Why the sighs of relief?

It’s as if people have been lead to believe that it is an either/or proposition.

C’mon, folks! Think outside the (cash) box?

Harriet Tubman was a US Army pensioner. Heck, she led ARMED raids on slavers! This was no demure American hero. This lady ROCKED!

Pictured here on a mock-up of the current twenty dollar bill (sans Jackson) the artist has depicted Tubman as the brave, fearless, determined leader that she was.

Hand outstretched to lead those whom she saved to freedom and liberty. Pistol at the ready to deter or enforce against those who would stop her. Harriet Tubman was the quintessential American individual.

Depicted in history books as almost a school marm, Tubman’s real life embodied the honor, integrity and fortitude of a true leader.

For Jackson’s sake, some love him (Donald Trump), and some hate him (social justice warriors). A swashbuckling populist war hero, Jackson was rough and ready.

Ironically, he actually, probably shared numerous personality traits with Tubman. Both were passionate about their beliefs and convictions. So much so that they had many admirer’s and followers. Jackson could probably boast as many enemies and detractors, though even to this day.

Tubman in her own right, can probably not be criticized, and is a consensus choice for posterity through her living image on our currency. I for one would be extremely proud to carry “Tubman’s” in my wallet!

But herein lies the rub!

Why not give her her own denomination?

Doing so would eliminate angst among the Jackson-lovers clan (of which I am one, truth be told, middle-naming my fourth son after him), and would aspire the Tubman crowd to higher heights with . . . drum roll, please . . . a TWENTY-FIVE DOLLAR BILL!

That’s right, twenty-five! Why twenty-five? Because it’s a great number! We have quarter dollars (four of them equal a George Washington – $1 bill).

Four Tubman’s would equal a Franklin ($100 bill). Four $25’s would take up less space in the wallet than five $20’s. Fewer bills overall would need to be produced. ATM’s could carry more money!

At first, you could make 25 percent fewer Jackson’s, introducing Tubman’s slowly to gauge acceptance and utility. As the stats come in you could adjust the minting and distribution accordingly.

Think of the PR coup President Trump could enjoy! Keep the Jackson twenty AND produce the Tubman twenty-five! Have your cake and eat it, too!

Trump could engage the public with a “National Twenty-Five Dollar Bill Design Contest!” Come one, come all, and design the next new currency!

Using the traditional format for continuity, the possibility of colors and fonts and security details could abound.

My pick would be the hero Tubman in the picture. It’s perfect in every way. Her descendants could be the final arbiters of the design.

If you agree that Harriet Tubman should have her own denomination, and that it should be $25 (five more than Jackson!), then share this blog post on social media, email, with friends and neighbors!

Tell President Trump and Steve Mnuchin that there is a way forward that would be a win-win for everyone!

 

 

“No Call?” or IGNORED Call: How to Fix It

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Let’s be CLEAR, the no-flag penalty in the New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams NFC Championship game played on January 20, 2019, was NOT a “no call” or a “blown call,” it was an IGNORED call.

Rex Ryan, on ESPN, called it “The worst no call in the history of sports.”

An understatement.

We’ll let the investigative reporters follow the bouncing ball on potential funny business on why the call was ignored. The rest of us need a solution.

The NFL could solve this problem for all eternity by changing the rule to allow such plays to be reviewed in the “booth” or at NFL Headquarters. They could call an emergency owners meeting, hash it out and then voila! no more egregious IGNORED calls.

However, the NFL could solve the immediate problem, one which if they don’t could well be their death knell, and for what? Ratings? Money? Certainly not prestige.

Insinuations about a rigged game for ratings is up front and personal on social media. Los Angeles vs. New England is a much bigger draw then New Orleans vs. Kansas City.

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But the NFL could again, call an emergency owners meeting and then decide to re-play the game from the point of the IGNORED penalty, after awarding the penalty.

Simple, fair, and lifesaving for the NFL.

But, the won’t do it.

The game is over, and just like the kneeling pox that devastated many loyal NFL fans two years ago, the NFL feel that “this too, shall pass.” They are too big to fail.

They have announced their Super Bowl teams and with blinders and earplugs in place, they will soldier on.

They will move forward without integrity. It’s no fun to watch a game that isn’t fair. It’s not watchable if there is no oversight on such egregious events. Fans will not tolerate a rigged system, nor entertain such shenanigans.

If you believe it was a “missed” or “blown” call, consider this: The referees were either incompetent or insubordinate. They either couldn’t make the call or wouldn’t make the call. Neither is acceptable. It was IGNORED.

The photographs and video do not lie. There is no escape from the facts. The truth may yet to be revealed.

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Until then, raise your hand if you’re going to watch the Super Bowl this year, or any NFL moving forward if this is not fixed the right way, now.

Sex and the Boy Scouts

Boy Scout Oath

I was never a Scout. But I’ve been a Scouter (adult leader) for over 16 years, and my two eldest boys are Eagle Scouts. My third son, a Life Scout, has completed all of his Eagle Scout required Merit Badges and is working on his Eagle Scout project. My fourth and final son is a Second Class Scout and loves the program probably more than his three older brothers put together. My only daughter is a Junior Girl Scout and loves every minute of it.

My fourth Scout is pure boy. Usually a path-of-least-resistance expert when it comes to chores and homework, but when Scouting is the subject he is front and center and full speed ahead.

Last summer, his second summer camp with the Troop, he earned more Merit Badges than any other of his 42 peers, and caught (and then released) his first fish.

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Yesterday, I received this letter in an email from the Chief Scout Executive, Michael B. Surbaugh:

I am writing to you today in anticipation of news reports that will speculate about the BSA’s financial position. We have an important duty, and an incredible opportunity, to focus as an organization on keeping children safe, supported and protected, and preparing youth for their futures through our nation’s foremost program of character development and values-based leadership training.

To do so in perpetuity, we are working with experts to explore all options available to ensure that the local and national programming of the Boy Scout of America continues uninterrupted. We have a social and moral responsibility to fairly compensate victims who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting, and we also have an obligation to carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities through our programs.

We care deeply about all victims of child sex abuse and we are steadfast in our belief that one incident of child abuse is one too many. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in our programs. As you all know, we have always taken care of victims – we believe them, we believe in fairly compensating them and we have paid for unlimited counseling, by a provider of their choice, regardless of the amount of time that has passed since an instance of abuse. Throughout our history we have taken proactive steps to help victims heal and prevent future abuse. I want to stress that at no time in our history have we knowingly allowed a sexual predator to work with youth, and we always seek to act swiftly when alerted to abuse allegations.

Please know that these matters continue to have the full attention of the highest levels of our organization, and we will communicate transparently as there are developments or updates to share. I wanted to update you today due to the news speculation, and I want to assure you that our daily mission will continue and that there are no imminent actions or immediate decisions expected.

Thank you for your continued support of the Boy Scouts of America.

Michael B. Surbaugh
Chief Scout Executive

Then today, I read news reports that Scouting BSA was going bankrupt.

Articles written about it cited a drop in membership, from 4.0 million members at it’s height, to about 2.3 million members today, and falling.

The articles speculated that changes in the organization for the last five years or so played a major role in dwindling participation. Changes that betrayed the founding principles and morality of the decidedly religious organization.

Heck, I had trouble with Scouting since they got rid of red in the uniform several years ago! I still haven’t bought the “new” shirt, sticking with the red embroidery and patches.

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The articles speculate that the major changes, allowing openly gay Scouts in 2014, and openly gay Scouters in 2015, caused a huge exodus.

Boy Scouts had no rule against gay Scouts or Scouters joining the organization prior to the change, but forbade expressions of sexuality by anyone in scouting, which meant, an openly gay or heterosexual person would not be allowed to participate.

All this meant was there there is no hand holding, hugging, kissing, or other PDA (Public Displays of Affection) in Scouting. In fact, in the Youth Protection Training (YPT) required of adult leaders, touching a Scout is forbidden, and is associated with grooming behavior, which sexual predators use to desensitize their targets and condition them for future more intimate touch.

In short, there was no human sexuality in Scouting, either in the program or in interactions between boys, between Scout leaders, or between the two. None. Not part of teaching boys about leadership or community service. And that was a good thing.

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Then the real show stopper: Girls in Boy Scouts.

Nothing against girls, I was mostly raised by my mother, had older and a younger sister, am married to a woman and have a ten year old daughter. I love and respect the females in my life and I appreciate their unique contributions to family life.

Scouting has always been a family program through Cub Scouts anyway, with many moms as leaders, and with female siblings invited to participate in activities and events.

However, once crossed over into Boy Scouts during the second half of a boy’s 5th grade year, girls were not allowed to participate. Puberty was the common sense cut-off. And moms faded into Troop Committees for the most part, leaving uniformed leadership positions to men.

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In my younger days I participated in church camp, which was always co-ed. As an adolescent boy I can tell you there were probably three things I was most interested in, girls, girls and girls.

Later, when I became an older teen and then young adult, I was a church and other camp counselor for co-ed as well as single gender camps. The co-ed camps were barely manageable due to the natural order of things. Boys and girls were attracted to each other, all-the-time.

As an educator of over 32 years, I have read the studies and seen first hand that males and females learn best apart. I taught high school health education in New York City public high school for several years, and the curriculum would probably curl your toes. There is no place for human sexuality in Scouting.

We separate boys and girls for sports and other activities at around 12 or 13 years old. Again, for good reason. Boys and girls are different. Biology is a fact.

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Scouting had a remedy for girls preferring a more adventurous experience than usually offered by Girl Scouts by offering a co-ed Venturing Program that focuses on adventure-type activities for older teens and young adults of both genders, supervised and led by male and female adults.

As for gay Scouts and Scouters, probably most Boy Scout Troops knew or suspected a gay-leaning Scout here or there, and maybe even a gay leader. But no one cared because sexuality was not part of the program. Sexuality of any kind was not allowed to be discussed or displayed.

YPT has always been front and center as long as I have been a Scouter, and two-deep leadership principles strictly adhered to. Scouting is serious about youth protection. And now, apparently, is serious about abuse remedies, expenses be damned.

All that is fine, but how do you put the sexuality genie back in the bottle?

How do we save Scouting?

The Mormon Church has announced that they will no longer sponsor Scouting BSA Troops beginning in 2020. That’s about one third or more of the remaining membership.

Founded by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, a devout Christian, Scouting was never shy about its religious grounding. In fact, one of Baden-Powell’s famous quotes is: “Scouting is no less than applied Christianity.”

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In other words, Scouting was not PC. Scouting was about rough and tumble, using ones hands, learning skills and teaching boys how to DO things, through the teachings of God. Scouting was the one place you could count on other than church and the dinner table that boys would be taught citizenship, something I was graded on in elementary school in the 1960’s but apparently fell out of practice in the self-esteem era. Scouting seemed timeless.

Scouting is non-denominational, and accepts Catholics, Jews and Protestants, Buddhists and Muslims. Scouting teaches reverence and respect.

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The changes in Scouting over the past several years have betrayed the founding philosophy that made Scouting what it was.

Will we survive this? I don’t know. I’m trying not to panic.

The road forward will be difficult, especially if those who lead the national organization continue down the path of social progressiveness and do not listen to traditional Scouters and alumni.

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As alternative programs for boys gain popularity and take hold, especially through church groups, Scouting BSA will fade into something amorphous and strange. I fear it’s only a matter of time before they change or get rid of the Oath and Law altogether.

Change for change’s sake is never a good idea. And saying it’s best for the organization to change in order to reduce litigation fees is a cop out and a sellout.

In my opinion, our boys and our society deserve better.

 

Heather Nauert: Nominee for UN Ambassador

Heather Nauert State Department Spokeswoman

Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson, was nominated today by President Donald Trump to be the next US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Heather is a dedicated wife of a Morgan Stanley executive and mother of two sons. A graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism, this Emmy nominated talent has had many high profile media stints, including hosting morning and special report shows.

Her last media position, News Presenter for Fox News’ Fox & Friends, is what she was doing when I met her.

Heather and I followed each other on Twitter for a time, and then I received a direct message from her asking if I would be interested in coming on Fox & Friends as an expert on the incarceration mission at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

I accepted the offer, and over the next several years made occasional appearances for live interviews on Gitmo, and even did a segment on Bret Baier’s Cuba special.

My book, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” published in 2010, details my time at Gitmo as the ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group officer, Joint Task Force 160, from February to June, 2002, and was promoted on the show.

Heather and the hosts on Fox & Friends who interviewed me, including Brian Kilmead, Steve Doocy, Tucker Carlson, Ed Henry and Pete Hegseth (also a fellow Gitmo alumni) always treated me like, well, a friend.

Before and after segments, Heather would call me over to her desk in the studio and she and I would exchange pleasantries and chat about our families. Always brief, but always sincere and appreciative.

A fan of Fox News and especially Fox & Friends, I enjoyed the professionalism and talent of these people who always made me feel welcome and appreciated when I was on.

I was happy and excited for Heather when she left Fox for the State Department in April 2017. Again, as spokesperson for the Secretary of State, first for Rex Tillerson, and now for Mike Pompeo.

Heather’s delivery as spokesperson is always confident and reassuring, and her press releases informative and on point. She is a very pleasant, but no nonsense communications expert.

If appointed to the position of UN Ambassador, I have no doubt that Heather will be an effective and efficient communicator. She will take care of the business of the United States in the UN with grace and aplomb, and represent Americans with the very highest standards of excellence and diplomacy.

I know that Heather will excel in this role if for no other reason than because of her loyalty to duty and country. Heather is a full blown patriot from all American roots in the heartland, of Rockford, Illinois, not far from my birthplace in Geneva, IL, and where my father was born and raised in Rockton, IL. My mother was born and raised just across the border on a farm in Beloit, Wisconsin. I can attest with full confidence that the Midwest values with which Heather was surely raised, she will be honest and true, no matter the circumstances.

Before obtaining her master’s degree from Columbia (where I am also an alumni; from Teacher College), Heather attended  Keith Country Day School in Rockford, IllinoisPine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, then Arizona State University. After landing an internship hosting a country music video program in Washington, DC, she stayed there to finish school, earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Mount Vernon College for Women.

Heather has worked as a government affairs consultant on issues including health insuranceSocial Security and taxes. She was also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Her time in the State Department has been successful and impressive, having dealt with sticky issues of significant importance time and again, from Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen and Gaza border protests to a tense situation between Canada and Saudi Arabia, where in response to calls for US involvement in a dispute, Heather said, “It is up for the Government of Saudi Arabia and the Canadians to work this out. Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We cannot do it for them.”

I have no doubt that Heather will make all Americans proud carrying the torch of freedom and liberty through democracy as an example to all nations in the UN.

Congratulations on your nomination, Heather. I know I speak for a lot of your followers and fans when I say we will be hoping and praying for a painless, smooth and successful confirmation process.

How about let’s get out there and remind our senators what we think about Heather and that we feel she is the absolute best person to represent our interests in the largest, most important diplomatic organization on earth.

 

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/ )