Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer

Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer
They sent me here just to watch...

Friday, November 14, 2014

'Tis the Season

And so the season of the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day gives me pause to contemplate our nation, our legacy, and our future.
We are still the land of the free.
We have an all volunteer force drawn from the home of the brave.
We have fought in every clime and place so we may enjoy peace at home.
We have repelled evil, liberated the oppressed, and sometimes fought just because we were sent.
Our political leadership has sometimes missed the mark.
The young men and women who go in harm’s way hit what they aim at.
While our political masters may sway with public opinion, the Soldier’s course is straight.
The Marine charges ahead without question.
The Airman rigs the laser guided bomb with surety.
The Sailor sets to sea without looking back.
The Coastguardsman will rescue in waters and weather unbounded.
Our fighting men and women remain the best in the world.
No other forces are better trained and equipped.
No other services lead from the front like we do.
No other country teaches their officers to care for their troops as they would their own children.
Our resolve and effectiveness are sound.
Our national leadership remains adrift.
What then can we say of our future?
Do we know who we are as a nation?
Do we know which battles to fight?
Are we so comfortable at home that our nation can be at war and we hardly notice?
Congress has relinquished the power to declare war.
The president acts unilaterally.
The people complain but get on with their lives.
There was a time when the course of this nation in international events was felt by all Americans.
Rationing, converting civilian plants to meet military needs, and even the draft brought our wars into the homes of Americans.
That’s where they belong.
When we go to war, the entire nation must go to war.
It must be a national effort.
Everyone must contribute.
It must be a difficult thing to begin and something that must not be done lightly.
When we go to war we go to win.
The entire nation must pay the price.
There is no safe haven.
There are no unilateral decisions save winning once we have decided to go to war.
It has become too easy to go to war.
It has become too easy to spill the blood of the volunteer.
It has become too easy to just live as if we are not at war.
Our future is darker because we can go to war too easily.
This most fundamental tenant of government has been taken away from the people in the land of government by the people.
Soldier, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines stand ready to fight any enemy at any place at any time. 
They go to win.
They will pay the price.
Those who send them have forgotten the price.
The future of this nation lies less in what rights we hold on to and more in what price we are willing to pay for government that wields the most powerful military in the world as an instrument of personal not public will.
We the people should be less concerned about how our leaders impact our jobs and interest rates and more attentive to what they do in our name as they dabble in warfare.
We have the best armed forces in the world.
Honor, courage, commitment are real words with real implications for these men and women.
The valor of these patriots is unquestionable.
The blood spilled to maintain the land of the free and home of the brave is sacrificial.
The legacy of this nation in unmatched in all of history. 
We have preserved the union.
We have fought our battles on someone else’s shore.
We have kept our citizens safe.
But in the process, we have buffered them from responsibility.
We have let them complain without action.
We have sent too many men and women to war without the consent of the governed.
That fault lies not with the president who orders the troops.
It lies not with the legislature that only whimpered slightly when it’s powers were usurped.
It lies with each of us who remains comfortable while our servicemen fight and die and hold the line.
We complain of the long lines on Black Friday.
Now is the time to be a citizen of this republic once again.
Now is the time to step out of our comfort zone and become a government of the people again.
Now is the time to send elected officials home who serve only their interests.
Now is the time for men and women of courage to take on the mantle of leadership at all levels.
Now is the time to put God first in our lives.
Now is the time to serve others over ourselves.
Now is the time to have eyes to see not only the liberties that we enjoy but the cost attached to them.
Now is the time to take stock of our lives and our duties and fill the void in the latter.
We have been protected and pampered far too long.
We must keep our nation strong.
But we can no longer afford to pamper ourselves.
We must once again understand words like:
We can look back and be proud of our nation’s legacy.
We must look forward with honor and courage and commitment if our children’s children are to look back with pride also.
It is the season of contemplating our legacy and our future.
I choose honor and courage and commitment and service and sacrifice.
I choose to live as the creature we know as an American.
Will you join me in preserving all that is good about this country as we take on the current century?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tired of the status quo

I cast my absentee ballot today.

I was pleased that our town hall knew not to charge for notarizing it.  Sometimes small town government gets it right.

I was disappointed that candidates of both major parties and the two major parties themselves seem to be retreating to the worst positions within the parties.

I believe the people want representatives that will work together for the common good, but our choices seem fixed on seeking the extremes.

Wherever possible, I selected an independent candidate.  I know that few have a snowball’s chance, but I want whoever is elected to know that their time is running out.  Soon enough there will be enough people who have had enough with the status quo.

I want representatives that will work for the common good not for the extreme ideals of either party.

If you are out there and called to make a difference in 2016, start building your grass roots base now.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The end of the Man Cold

I think men have taken about enough of this so called “Man Cold” abuse.

When we are sick, we are sick.  How about you girls give us a break?

If there is a sound in the middle of the night, who has to grab the baseball bat and go investigate?  

Who has to try to get back to sleep after saying, “I thought you weren’t going to dry your exercise shoes in the dryer anymore.”

If the kid selling candy for his band uniform, space camp, or book of the month club gives you that sweet smile, who ends up pulling $20 out of their wallet?

If you finally settle into a Sunday afternoon nap and a scruffy looking man is knocking on the door, who is awakened abruptly to answer the knock?

Do you want to know if your man is really sick?

Tell him that two of his buddies are at the door with their fishing gear.  If he doesn't get up to check this out, he is sick.

Take care of him instead of making fun of him.

Otherwise, when your car breaks down in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter and you call your husband to tell him, he might reply:  “Oh how cute.  You have a car cold.”

I think that any woman using the term “Man Cold” should be shot at dawn, but in a genuine act of mercy I would agree to reduce the sentence to daily floggings.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines: A mixed bag of fun and frustration

I have spent close to a year at sea.  Granted, most of it was courtesy of the United States Navy.  There is something special about falling asleep off the shore of one country and waking up near another country or continent. 

Marines and sailors are billeted in close quarters but time at sea is always fun, well, mostly fun.
There are the occasional plumbing problems, rough seas, or long periods at sea without resupply.  You can only eat so much carrot-raisin salad before you are ready to invade a small country just to get some meat and potatoes.

Having long ago retired as a Marine officer, I decided it was time to go back to sea.  This time it would just all be for fun.  I booked on Carnival.  It offered a 5 day cruise out of Galveston, Texas.  Booking and room selection was fairly easy online.  I added some excursions and then I added their internet service package.  I paid about $90 for internet for this short week but thought that it would be worth it to share some photos as we traveled.

For all of the good things on this cruise, the internet was very disappointing.  I was never able to upload a single photo and received next to nothing in downloads.  By mid-week, I was locked out of the service altogether.

It was sort of like having the ship capsize and nobody really cared about righting it.

The cruise director made a general announcement apologizing for the service going down, but my service was never restored.  I was told by Carnival service people on board that the company would send me a survey to address my concern.

I enjoyed the cruise, have booked more cruises with Carnival but have to say that I am very disappointed at the integrity level of the Carnival operations in general.

After my first contact with Carnival was ignored, I again contacted them about the problem.  A few days later, I received an email that said we are sorry that you were disappointed but we are not going to do anything about it.

As with many things in this life, you get a mixed bag.

The cruise was great and even included a special performance by Matt Gumm.  Matt is a comedian that I have seen many times in Branson, Missouri.  He was the highlight of the cruise and happened to be a guest who just offered to entertain us.

The food was good and the wait times were not long.  Guy’s Burgers and Pirate Pizza were the favorites—even over the fine fare at the evening meals.  The staff was always upbeat and did what they could to make sure that everyone enjoyed the cruise.

Like I said, I booked again but this time a little wiser.

When I was aboard ship as a Marine, integrity was everything; not so much with Carnival.  I am skeptical about any promises made by the Carnival management.

I still expect to have a good time on my next cruise enjoying so many things done in first class fashion, but always with one eye open to see what less than honorable ploys are afoot to make the cruise more profitable by selling something that won’t be delivered, replaced, or refunded.

Caveat emptor

Friday, May 23, 2014

For Memorial Day

The Gettysburg Address is one of the most memorable speeches even given by a world leader.  As we approach this Memorial Day and take a moment to remember those who gave their last full measure of devotion some 151 years ago, let us take a brief moment to remember them.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

President Abraham Lincoln

November 1863